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FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: Devastating news from CA coast, meditation is better than vacation, and GMOs not living up to hype

by | Nov 4, 2016
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 devastating news from CA coast, meditation is better than vacation, and GMOs not living up to hype.

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.

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FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: Skipping workouts decreases brain circulation, FDA considers what’s “healthy,” and nuts have fewer calories

by | Sep 30, 2016
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 skipping workouts decreases brain circulation, the FDA considers what’s “healthy,” and nuts have fewer calories than thought.

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 »

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FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: The FDA manipulates the media, how to talk about health and weight, and sugar doesn’t make you hungrier

by | Sep 23, 2016
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 FDA manipulates the media, how to talk about health and weight, and sugar doesn’t make you hungrier.

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 »

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FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: The real reason you avoid change, the problem with gluten-free, and how to actually stick to an exercise habit

by | May 20, 2016
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 real reason you avoid change, the problem with gluten-free, and how to actually stick to an exercise habit.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered 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 »

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10 Reasons You Aren’t Losing Weight When You Think You’re Doing Everything Right

by | Apr 28, 2014

Photo by EverJean

Weight loss can sometimes be very elusive, even for a foodist. You already know that dieting will never give you the long term results you want, so you focus on eating real food and going to the gym.

So why are you still overweight?

There could be any number of reasons you aren’t reaching your goals and the best way to troubleshoot is to tackle it like a scientist. Generate a hypothesis, collect data on yourself, and test different solutions until you find what works, because the answer will be slightly different for everyone.

The good news is that there are several common (but easily overlooked) mistakes that may be holding you back. Start here and your issues may resolve more easily than you think.

Whatever you do, resist the temptation to go back to restrictive dieting, which makes it harder––not easier––to achieve your goals.

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5 Reasons I Still Like Fitbit Better Than Nike+ FuelBand

by | Mar 26, 2012

Last month Nike jumped into the high-tech pedometer game by introducing the Nike+ FuelBand. It’s a fun device, and a certain tech dude I know thinks it’s the coolest ever. But I’ve held off on sharing my opinion until I had a few weeks to play with the FuelBand, in order to avoid another early review debacle.

My overall sentiment is positive, and I think the social Facebook integration has A TON of potential. The most obvious comparison is to the failed Jawbone UP, and for the most part I think it is an improvement. The device display is beautiful, and the wireless sync definitely 1-ups the Up. The FuelBand doesn’t appear to break after a week either, which is a nice feature.

I’m disappointed that the device doesn’t have the buzz reminder feature that notifies you when you’ve been inactive for a set amount of time, which was my favorite feature of the Up. The FuelBand also doesn’t even pretend to help monitor your sleep, though I didn’t find that feature of the Up particularly useful since crawling into bed with a bulky plastic wristband isn’t exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep.

All that said, you’re probably reading this just to know whether or not the FuelBand is worth buying over the only true competitor remaining on the market, the Fitbit.

5 Reasons I Still Like Fitbit Better Than Nike+ FuelBand

1. Battery life

I’m a tech geek and being plugged in is a way of life. Frequent charging doesn’t bother me too much, and I expect the cool colors and graphics of the FuelBand to eat a little more battery. But when I know I can get 2-3 weeks of life out of a 20-minute Fitbit charge, FuelBand’s 45-minute charge session for a measly 2 days of activity seems like less of a bargain.

I’ve heard some people get better battery life (a whopping 4 days!), but that hasn’t been my experience.

2. Comfort

The most immediately noticeable difference between FuelBand and Fitbit is how you wear it. Though the FuelBand bracelet is slightly more comfortable than the Jawbone Up, I wouldn’t exactly call it unnoticeable and it still makes putting on long sleeves (aka getting dressed in San Francisco) less than simple. Also, my skin has been pinched in the USB clasp more than once. Ouch!

Most ladies I know strap the Fitbit effortlessly to their undergarments and forget about it. Dudes can clip it to their belt or pockets on their jeans.

3. Style

Another problem with wearing a big plastic bracelet is wearing a big plastic bracelet. It’s not hideous, but it isn’t exactly chic either. Personally I prefer my pedometer to be a concealed healthstyle weapon.

4. Simplicity

The graphics are kinda cute, and the social part of the app is definitely cool, but introducing a bizarre new measurement unit seems pretty unnecessary. We already have steps and calories, why do we need NikeFuel? I know when I have gone to the gym, so giving me a number that will be predictably higher on gym days doesn’t add much. I suppose it makes it slightly easier to compare activity among friends, but I still think total steps is a more important number to track.

To be fair Fitbit added an extra number in their latest version—flights of stairs—but this unit actually makes sense to me and adds value beyond simple activity. And in case you’re wondering, no FuelBand doesn’t tell you flights climbed.

5. Price

The $150 price point isn’t crazy, but the Fitbit is about $82 on Amazon right now. That’s almost half the price.

What do you think of the Nike FuelBand?

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Summer Tomato Holiday Wish List 2011

by | Dec 12, 2011

Photo by WTL photos

It’s time to start holiday shopping for all the wonderful healthy foodies in your life. My goal this year was to be extra creative and come up with an interesting and useful mix of items that I personally adore. I also tried to hit a range of price points.

Hopefully there’s some stuff in here you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. Happy shopping!

The 2011 Summer Tomato Holiday Wish List

1. Fitbit ($99)

Paying more attention to my daily activity has been the most positive behavioral change I’ve made this year. Since the Jawbone Up is no longer an option, my pedometer endorsement this holiday season goes to the awesome Fitbit pedometer.

Though the web interface and social features aren’t the greatest, there is a beautiful simplicity in the Fitbit’s ability to show you your daily steps at the push of a button. The latest version also shows you how many flights you’ve climbed, a nice feature for those of us who pride ourselves on taking the stairs whenever possible. I wear mine everywhere.

2. Harsch Gairtopf Fermenting Crock Pot – 5 Liter ($119.95)

What better way to get more probiotics into your diet than doing your own lactofermentation? We’ve been making our own sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi at home using this 5 liter fermenting crock pot. The biggest worry when doing this stuff on your own is contamination. This device is clever because you fill the seal with water, which allows gas to escape but doesn’t allow any air inside.

We’ve tried several methods of fermentation at home, and this is by far our favorite. It is way easier than it sounds, and the sauerkraut we’ve made is superior to anything we’ve ever found at the store or the farmers market. Bye bye stomach aches.

3. Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, by Sandor Ellix Katz ($14.48)

If you do decide to dabble in home fermentation (or are just curious and want to learn more before trying it out) you should also pick up this book. It was recommended to me personally by Michael Pollan, and is the definitive and most accessible book on the subject.

4. Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, by Nathan Myhrvoid ($450.15)

Arguably the most amazing food book ever created, Modernist Cuisine combines breathtaking photography with cutting edge science and foolproof recipes. Created by the former CTO of Microsoft, this ostentatiously 1% item is the epitome of awesome for the special foodie in your life.

5. Bodum Bistro Automatic Gravity Activated Salt and Pepper Grinder ($39.74)

This is admittedly a little ridiculous, but the way it works is clever and I think it would make a great gift, particularly for guys getting into cooking (my boyfriend thinks it’s the coolest thing in our entire the kitchen). Basically it is both a salt and pepper grinder that creates perfectly calibrated seasoning by just tilting it over your food. It works really well and I’ve liked it way more than I expected.

6. Sleep Mate ($54.95)

Few things are as valuable as a good night’s sleep. If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping, particularly if you’re sensitive to background noise, the Sleep Mate really can help by creating soothing, ambient background noise. It’s like a blanket for your ears.

7. Withings WiFi Body Scale ($159)

When this scale first came out a couple years ago I thought it was a joke. Why would anyone want their scale to tweet out their weight to the world? But while the social feature got the most attention in the press, it is an optional feature (I opted out) and the scale is actually really cool.

The Withings scale talks wirelessly to your computer, creating simple to understand graphical displays of your weight and body fat over time. It can even tell the difference between different people in the house just by stepping on it. I was skeptical of the body fat readings, but I’ve found them to be very similar to measurements I’ve had from hydrostatic testing. And as long as you weigh yourself at the same time every day in the same outfit (aka first thing in the morning in your birthday suit) then the readings are consistent and can be a great way to track progress over time.

8. Bodum Pavina Double-Wall Thermo Tea/Coffee Cup (set of 2, $14)

Not only do these insulated cups look amazing, they keep your tea or coffee remarkably warm without heating the glass enough to burn your hands. We swear by them.

9. Sous Vide Supreme ($399)

By far one of the coolest cooking methods around, sous vide gives you the ultimate control when cooking meats and vegetables. It’s pricey (though it has dropped about $100 in the past year), but if you can afford it and are obsessed with food it is a fabulous addition to the kitchen.

Related: You may also want to pick up the vacuum sealer ($129.99) and some vacuum bags ($19.99) to get started.

10. Nesco 700 Watt Food Dehydrator ($59.49)

Baked kale chips are good, but dehydrated ones are even better and last longer. With a food dehydrator you can make your own dried fruit, vegetables and even beef jerky to your own preferences (cranberries without sugar!). Definitely go with this higher-powered device over the cheaper ones, you’ll get more consistent results in way less time.

Need more ideas? Check out last year’s list.

What do you want for Christmas?

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UPdate: Jawbone Up is still really cool, but far from perfect

by | Dec 5, 2011

After a month I figured it’s a good time to check back in and give you my latest opinion on the Jawbone Up, since a lot of you are asking. I had only used it for five days when I wrote my last review (below), and how I’ve been using it over the past weeks has definitely evolved.

Apparently a lot of people are having trouble with the device. I’m on my second one (my first wouldn’t charge properly and eventually stopped working), but to be fair I’m on my third Fitbit as well. Since I’ve had the new one I’ve had no problems and it works perfectly (so does the latest Fitbit). I wonder if it’s working better because I stopped wearing it in the shower? Who knows.

I’ve heard a few people say they are having issues with the accuracy of tracking, but mine has consistently registered within a few hundreds steps of Fitbit, a difference that is virtually irrelevant. Someone in the comments here said their device counts steps when they drive their car, pushing the numbers very high. I don’t drive so can’t attest to this issue, but I would be pretty upset if it were true. I’ve also heard that a lot of people lose their plug caps, which hasn’t happened to me but would be annoying. To their credit, from what I understand Jawbone has been cool about replacing devices and caps for those with problems.

Hardware issues aside I still think the Jawbone Up is really cool, and I absolutely love the hourly reminders to get off my ass and move around. I set these myself, so the nudges aren’t a prerequisite for using the device, but I think they are by far the best reason to get the Up. (Are you listening Fitbit?)

As a pedometer, the lack of bluetooth wireless syncing bothers me more than I expected. This is especially true since I’m still using my Fitbit, which has a beautiful display of my steps (not to mention calories, stair flights, miles traveled and the time) at the push of a button. Though plugging the Up into your iPhone is easy enough, to get your data you need to launch the app and sync the device. This takes the better part of a minute and feels very laborious compared to the simplicity of the Fitbit that I can check easily without a second thought.

That said I do love that the Up presents my data in a graphical form that has me making progress toward a defined goal (10,000 steps). There’s something innately inspiring about seeing your activity build over the course of the day, and it is even more powerful when you can see it compared with friends (I’ll get more into the social side shortly). Once again, inspiration is probably the greatest advantage of the Up.

As much as I love data, however, I stopped using the Up to track sleep and food. I’m not a big food tracker anyway, but the interface is a bit too cumbersome despite its attempt at simplicity. It just isn’t very intuitive and doesn’t translate well onto my personal eating style (low-maintenance). I’d be interested to hear if any of you have found a way to make the food tracking worthwhile. If not, I’d recommend Jawbone kill this feature or spend some serious time rethinking how to make it work.

The reason I stopped using the sleep tracker is more rudimentary: I don’t like sleeping with a bracelet on. I think Jawbone did a great job of making a sleek, cool looking device for wearing during the day. But when I sleep I have a tendency to move around a lot and I like to slide my arms under blankets, between pillows and other cozy places. In that setting the Up is obtrusively bulky. As much as I love the idea of naturally waking up every morning during the perfect time in my sleep cycle, it won’t happen for me with the current bracelet design.

Back to the app, the social aspect was the part I was most excited about and it kills me how difficult it is to find friends on Up. Why is there no Facebook or Twitter integration? This is baffling. The search function for friends is ridiculously difficult to use, and I don’t think there is any way to discover other friends who are using the device if you don’t already know they’re on there. From what I understand this is a fairly simple feature to add and I don’t understand why it wasn’t built in at launch. I share Alexia’s dream of Up seamlessly integrating with social services, but for now it’s a major social FAIL.

To summarize, I like the Up and still think it has tremendous potential. I still might choose it over Fitbit for that reason (a lot of these issues can be solved with software updates), as well as the buzz reminders. But if you aren’t the social butterfly I am (or if you happen to be an Android user) at this stage Fitbit is still an excellent alternative if you’re just looking to move more for health reasons.

How is your Up working out?

UPDATE from Jawbone (12/8/11):

I receive this email from Jawbone today guaranteeing a full refund, even without returning your Up. They say that have found a few hardware issues and are stopping production until the problems are fully resolved. There will still be software updates as necessary. Here’s the complete letter from the Jawbone CEO:

UPDATE FROM THE CEO
The UP™ No Questions Asked Guarantee
To the UP Community:

Earlier this year, we unveiled Jawbone’s vision to help people live a healthier life with UP. We’ve been thrilled by the passionate response to this product. We heard from tens of thousands of you through emails, tweets, blog posts and on our forums about how you’re changing your lifestyle and becoming consumers of your own health. In just four weeks, UP users have collectively taken over three billion steps, gotten more than 300 years of sleep and captured hundreds of thousands of meals.

While many of you continue to enjoy the UP experience, we know that some of you have experienced issues with your UP band. Given our commitment to delivering the highest quality products, this is unacceptable and you have our deepest apologies. We’ve been working around the clock to identify the root causes and we’d like to thank everyone who has provided us with information and returned their bands to us for troubleshooting. With your help, we’ve found an issue with two specific capacitors in the power system that affects the ability to hold a charge in some of our bands. We’re also fixing an issue with syncing related to the band hardware. Typically, these issues surface within the first seven to ten days of use. The glitches are purely performance related and do not pose any safety risk.

We’ve also received helpful feedback on the application experience, including bug reports, ways to make signup and finding friends easier, user interface suggestions and new feature requests. Your comments are invaluable as we continue to improve, so please keep them coming and check back frequently for updates to ensure you’re always enjoying the latest features and enhancements.

We recognize that this product has not yet lived up to everyone’s expectations – including our own – so we’re taking action:

The UP No Questions Asked Guarantee

This means that for whatever reason, or no reason at all, you can receive a full refund for UP. This is true even if you decide to keep your UP band. We are so committed to this product that we’re offering you the option of using it for free.

The program starts December 9th and full details can be found at http://jawbone.com/uprefund.

For most of you, this program is simply meant to offer peace of mind. Please continue to enjoy your UP band and keep sharing your experience with us. If you encounter any problems with your UP band, contact Jawbone directly for your choice of a replacement and/or refund under this program. It’s that simple.

Jawbone remains deeply committed to addressing all issues with UP, investing in the category and giving our customers the tools to live a healthier life. We’ve temporarily paused production of UP bands and will begin taking new orders once these issues have been sorted out. In the meantime, we’ll continue to release app updates for existing users.

We regret any disappointment we’ve created for our community of users and appreciate the trust you’ve put in us. The fact that you’ve taken the time to talk with us and help us make a better product is simply phenomenal. Our customers have always been part of our team and we’re incredibly grateful for that.

Please know that we’re doing – and will continue to do – everything we can to make things right. This is just the beginning for UP and we are excited to keep improving until we realize the powerful vision of what this category can be.

If there is absolutely anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

Hosain Rahman
CEO
Jawbone

Jawbone Up is the coolest pedometer in the history of the universe

November 9, 2011

I don’t write a lot of product reviews, mainly because I don’t use a lot of products. For my healthstyle I prefer simplicity, and until recently the only health tracking I’ve done regularly involves making sure the same jeans fit me year-after-year. Super fancy, I know.

That was until a few months ago when I realized that it is very easy for me to lose track of how much walking I do, which I’ve learned is absolutely critical for maintaining my weight. Since then I’ve been tracking my steps with a Fitbit (that I adore), and in just two months I’m back down to what I consider my ideal size.

But as much as I love my Fitbit, the Jawbone Up I got last weekend is way cooler.

What is it?

Like any pedometer, the Up tracks your steps. I’ve been wearing both my Up and Fitbit for a few days and the numbers are very similar.

Instead of clipping to your pants like the Fitbit, Up is a water-proof wristband that you wear at all times. The Up plugs directly into your iPhone sound port, and syncs with an app that displays the data.

It has three different modes: regular, sleep and active. There is a single button on the device you use to change modes. Generally you keep it in the normal mode, but if you are exercising vigorously the active mode will give you more accurate readings. The sleep mode tracks how much sleep you get and displays when during the night you were in light versus deep sleep.

The Up allows you to track your meals as well, which is powerful when combined with the various challenges you can set up for yourself. For instance, if you take a picture of your lunch and you have also challenged yourself to eat something green at both lunch and dinner, you will have the option of giving yourself credit for that meal.

Up is also proactive. It has a built in vibration that can be used as an alarm clock that gently wakes you up at the right time of your sleep cycle around the time you specify. Or if you want to break the habit of sitting at your desk for long stretches of time, you can have it nudge you if you’ve been inactive for a set amount of time.

Why it’s awesome

Where Up has a huge advantage over Fitbit is how the data is displayed. For the most part the app interface is beautiful and intuitive, making it easy and fun to use. You can scroll through your days and look for the patterns of activity, and the sky appears to cycle between night and day as you look back in time.

The social integration is also way better in Up than Fitbit, and it is highly customizable for any goals you may have. Your engagement can be friendly or competitive, so you can set it up for whatever motivates you best. It’s really fun when there are two devices in one house, it’s a constant competition here over who takes the most steps every day (I always win).

The sleep mode is also awesome. While Fitbit has a sleep mode as well, it’s a pain to use and doesn’t give you much insight. The Up sleep data is more similar to the Zeo personal sleep manager, but has the advantage of not requiring you to sleep with the equivalent of a camping headlamp strapped to your face, which is nice. The sleep data is simple and gives you information that is actually useful.

I also like what they’ve done with the meal tracking. This is usually a tough sell for me, because tracking can easily become way too labor intensive to be practical. The Up only requires a picture, but it is also proactive in that it will remind you to evaluate how you feel a couple hours after the meal. The simplicity is key, and I think this could actually be helpful in selectively building and breaking various eating habits.

I think this app has huge potential for habit building. With the challenges and built in reminders, tracking and nudging has never been more simple. And since the key to habit building is repetition and consistency, these tools are incredibly powerful for making meaningful behavioral changes.

Lastly, the Up is surprisingly cool looking and is relatively comfortable to wear. I expected it to look something like the rubber LIVESTRONG bracelets (which fit better on my ankle than my wrist), but the form factor is much more elegant. I got a black band and I love it, but it also comes in bright red, bright blue or silver, and dark brown, dark red and white are coming soon.

Down sides

So far I don’t have many complaints. There is the obvious disadvantage that it cannot be used if you don’t have an iPhone, but I could write pages about why the iPhone is the best thing I’ve ever bought in my life so I personally don’t think this is a major negative.

There are still a few imperfections in the app UI, which can easily be addressed. For example, it isn’t particularly easy to search for friends to add to teams. But presumably all this will can be fixed in software updates.

It would be nice if the Up tracked elevation like the new Fitbits do. I encourage all of you to be taking the stairs whenever possible, and elevation data is a nice feature in that regard.

My last critique is that you can’t see your data with just a push of a button like you can with Fitbit. The Up requires you take it off and plug it into your phone, which isn’t that much of a hassle but makes me slightly less inclined to check my status.

But considering you’re basically getting Fitbit, Zeo and Health Month rolled into one, at $100 it’s hard to beat.

You can order yours on Amazon or the Jawbone Up website.

What do you think of the new Up?

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