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5 Lessons About Exercise You Can Learn From Your Dog

by | Feb 23, 2015

//instagram.com/p/OFZvGKAedu

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.

Read the rest of this story »

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How To Burn More Calories Without Breaking A Sweat

by | Sep 12, 2012

It’s amazing to me how easy it is to forget to move.

This year was the first time in about 5 years that I found myself gaining weight. It wasn’t a lot, just 5 lbs over 6 months or so, but it was strange for me since I didn’t think I was doing anything different.

I write and think about healthy living all the time, and I absolutely love the food I eat. I no longer crave sugar, and avoiding it isn’t hard. If anything I have eaten healthier than ever during this time, since I started working at home and control 100% of my meals. I’ve been eating the same or better quality food than I always have, and have even improved on my mindful eating techniques.

So what gives?

I didn’t think the problem was exercise, since I still go to the gym 4-6 days a week. My workouts have actually gotten better, and I’ve noticed welcome improvements in several aspects of my physique (thank you kettlebell!). I wasn’t upset about how I looked, I had just gotten slightly larger and didn’t know why.

Then about 6 weeks ago I figured it out: I had stopped walking.

When I was still in my PhD program I had a substantial walk to work, at least a mile each way if I took the campus shuttle, and about 2.5 miles each way if I walked the whole distance (I did this rarely, but tried to squeeze it in when I could). I also worked in the lab, running back and forth between rooms and up and down stairs to get equipment. Though I came home each evening and worked on Summer Tomato until the wee hours of the morning, I was not sedentary.

Even during my brief stint in the corporate world after graduation I had a walking commute to work. But after I quit in January I just stayed at home writing. At first I had a standing desk/table I was using, but logistics and a problematic elbow forced me to move to the coffee shop across the street where most of my work gets done now. This sedentary shift correlates exactly with when I noticed my pants getting tighter.

What’s crazy to me is that this amount of exercise seems so inconsequential it doesn’t even register in my brain until months after the change has occurred (did I mention I was still working out almost every day?). And it’s not like I never think about this stuff, I noticed when I first started walking that I effortlessly dropped weight. How could I forget that non-exercise activity (NEAT) is so important?

It’s easy to forget, but this is good news. It means that it is not a chore to burn more calories—in fact, you will hardly notice. All you need to do is make an effort to be a little more active throughout the day, and work to build more activity into your daily routine.

To solve my problem, I turned to my puppy Toaster. He needs to get out and walk a few times a day, so I thought why not improve both of our lives by making a daily pilgrimage to the bigger, better park that’s about a mile from the house instead of the smaller, dirtier park that is closer and more convenient? He gets more exercise and behaves better, I get my walk in, and we both have more fun. Win-win.

I’m happy to report that my pants are fitting better again and I’m back down to my normal weight.

If you don’t have a dog, there are plenty of other ways to move more. Avoid elevators and escalators, walk to lunch or between floors in your building, do chores more enthusiastically at home and park further away in the parking lot. Just standing up more can make a difference. These things add minuscule amounts of time to your tasks but add up significantly for your health.

Unlike structured, high-intensity exercise, walking and other low-intensity movements don’t make you hungrier. There’s good evidence that increasing your daily activity can burn hundreds of extra calories each day and may be one of the most effective ways to impact your energy balance (i.e. burn more without eating more). This is not true of more formal exercise, which tends to make people hungrier. Importantly, non-exercise activity correlates with body weight in obese as well as normal weight individuals, so everyone can benefit from extra movement.

Even if you already work out regularly you should still strive for additional daily activity. Amazingly, high-intensity exercise doesn’t lower your inclination toward NEAT, but raises it. In one study, scientists measured NEAT 3 days before and 3 days after overweight individuals performed either moderate or high-intensity exercise. There was no measurable change in NEAT until the third day after exercise, when it increased 17% after moderate activity and 25% after intense activity. That’s impressive.

When you’re as busy as I am, it’s easy to make excuses about why extra effort is impossible. But adding a little extra movement to your normal, daily activities is far and away the easiest way to lose weight and improve your health, so why not?

I’ve also found a substantial meditative value in incorporating more physical activity. Several of my most complex problems have been solved during my walks and I’ve been plowing through podcasts and audiobooks, which I swear makes me smarter. Your brain truly appreciates a break from the screen.

Ironically, it took noticing that I was “reading” less to make me examine what was different in my life—I realized I was listening to fewer audiobooks because I was walking less, and put 2 and 2 together. Problem solved.

It’s easy to be lazy and just wait for the elevator with everyone else, even though you know the time it saves you is insignificant. But today I hope I’ve convinced you that it’s worth resisting that urge and making an effort to be more active. Try making it a game or competing with your friends using pedometers like the FitBit for extra motivation.

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Originally published September 12, 2011.

 

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8 Reasons Regular Guys Should Learn To Cook

by | Jul 11, 2012

Photo by f_mafra

Some guys I know don’t consider cooking a worthwhile venture. Besides the occasional stint behind the grill, they’d rather bask in blissful ignorance than feed themselves in more than 3 steps: stab, chew, swallow.

But ask any woman (or man that already knows how) why it is better to be a kitchen savvy dude and you’ll start to see what these guys are missing.

Whether it’s because they think it takes too much time, too much effort or wrongly assume it’s a woman’s job, men who never learn to cook are losing a huge opportunity to take their man skills to the next level.

8 Reasons Regular Guys Should Learn To Cook

1. Chicks dig it

There isn’t a woman alive immune to a man who can make her a delicious meal. Step up to the plate boys, we’re begging you.

2. Life skills are manly

You can fix your car, hunt wild animals and build a camp fire. Shouldn’t you know how to feed yourself without a drive-thru?

3. You’ll save money

Though there’s a good chance you’re single if you never learned to cook (see point #1), a home cooked meal is a much cheaper date night (or singles night) than dinner for two at Chez Fancy—particularly with the 150% wine mark up common at most restaurants.

4. It’s faster than going out

Fancy date meals aside, cooking at home is almost always faster than going out—so long as you know what you’re doing. Once you have a few basic skills down, you can stop wasting your time in fast food spots simply because you don’t know what else to eat.

5. Guy Fieri shouldn’t be better than you at anything

Food Network star Guy Fieri has bad hair, bad clothes and douchey sunglasses, but the dude knows how to cook. Are you going to let him upstage you like that? Of course you aren’t.

6. Your puppy (aka girl magnet) will eat better

My notoriously adorable puppy Toaster loves salad scraps (sugar snap peas are his favorite), eggs, meats, fish, and pretty much anything else we’re willing to share. A balanced diet is as good for dogs as it is for people (just don’t give them onions, garlic or grapes).

7. You might lose weight

Cooking is one of the easiest ways to improve your diet and stick to reasonable portions. This is a recipe for weight loss, if you’re willing to swallow it.

8. You might like it

Cooking is relaxing, fun, creative, purposeful and, hopefully, delicious. Why wouldn’t you want to add this skill to your tool belt?

Why do you guys like to cook?

Originally published June 6, 2011.

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Holiday Gift Ideas For Healthy Foodies

by | Dec 6, 2010

Photo by Jenah Crump Photography

Foodies are fun to shop for, it’s so easy to make us happy.

Offer me an evening of tasty food? I’m psyched. Get me something to cook you delicious food? I’m just as psyched. It’s win win.

Shopping for a foodie who wants to be healthy is just as easy. We’re not about deprivation, so we’re mostly talking about education materials and gym accessories. And of course, more cooking supplies.

This is my list of top healthy foodie gift ideas for 2010. Some are new, and some are old standbys that never go out of style. I tried to cover a variety of price points, I hope you enjoy.

Holiday Gift Ideas For Healthy Foodies

1. Foodzie tasting box, 3-month subscription ($55)

In my opinion, this is the coolest foodie gift idea I’ve seen in years. If you aren’t familiar with Foodzie, it’s an online marketplace for the best artisan food producers. The only problem with Foodzie is that they have so much delicious sounding foods all the time that making up your mind can sometimes be impossible. This solves the problem by sending you a few samples each month, giving you a little taste of everything. If you find something you love, you know where to find more. If an item doesn’t float your boat, no big loss it was only a sample anyway. It’s the best of both worlds.

US shipments only.

2. iPod Nano ($139)

To be honest I was never an Apple fan until they released the iPod Mini. Not that I had anything against the regular iPod, but the only situation I could imagine wanting all my music on the go was at the gym. Regular iPods were still too big, but the Mini changed everything. I’ve had almost every generation Mini and Nano since the original. They’ve all been good but none compare to the current Nano, which is by far the best compact MP3 player I’ve ever used. It’s small, useful and affordable. The perfect gift.

3. The 4-Hour Body, by Tim Ferriss book ($14.51)

I’ve been fortunate enough to get an early copy of Tim Ferriss’ latest masterpiece, The 4-Hour Body. His first book, The 4-Hour Work Week changed my life by helping me build a food and health writing career while simultaneously completing a PhD in neuroscience. His second book explores the art of bodyhacking. It’s both fascinating and informative. And ladies, I highly recommend getting a copy of this for your man 😉 😉

4. Fagor pressure cooker, ($69.99)

My pressure cooker was my first piece of cooking equipment that really changed what I thought possible. I never had much of an opinion about beans so always bought canned ones if I needed them. But when I discovered the huge difference in taste and texture I got from dried (especially heirloom) beans, I knew I was on to something. The only problem was that beans take forever to cook… unless you have a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker can seem intimidating at first, but it’s actually really simple and was a huge help in building my current healthstyle. This same pressure cooker was $120 last year, so this is a great deal!

5. Crock-Pot Touch Screen slow cooker, ($77.68)

I actually don’t have much experience with slow cookers, but that’s all about to change. After a lot of researching to figure out the best brand, we just settled on getting this Crock-Pot brand slow cooker. I’m really excited about the idea of throwing a meal together in the morning and having it ready when I get home from work. A perfect gift for the start of winter, and another item where the price point used to be $120.

6. Kindle e-reader, ($139)

This isn’t technically a foodie gift, but continuing education (books) is a key component in health and longevity. After getting the latest Kindle, it has been really hard for me to justify going back to reading paper books. It’s even hard to justify the iPad. The newest Kindle is beautiful, lightweight and the only device I’ve seen comprable to a paperback book. The iPad is cool for lots of reasons (Angry Birds anyone?), but it’s much heavier and more distracting if reading is truly your goal. Also, when you wear polarizing sunglasses you cannot see the iPad screen in the vertical orientation. That’s annoying because I love reading outside. And iPads start at $500.

If you want 3G (recommended), the price point is still only $189 for the Kindle. I used mine to download some sci-fi while on the beach in Hawaii. The future is now!

7. In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart, by Alice Waters cookbook ($18.48)

What I like about this cookbook is it doesn’t just teach you recipes, it teaches you to riff in the kitchen. By giving you the basic techniques to do simple things, you learn to develop that sense for what needs to be done next to make a dish great. You’ll finally be able to understand your grandmother’s recipes that call for a pinch of this and a dash of that.

8. Riedel wine glasses, ($37.45)

Fancy wine glasses used to be something you give at a wedding, but how often do those ugly crystal goblets really come out of the cupboard? All the cool kids are using Riedel glasses now, and if you’re anything like me you want to start your collection as soon as possible. This is a great starter kit for the blossoming foodie off at college. Riedel makes glasses for every grape varietal, but this set gives you glasses to cover your basic reds and whites.

9. Breville automatic tea maker, ($249.95)

One of my missions in 2010 was to cut back on caffeine, and tea was my solution. Being the foodie that I am bagged tea wasn’t an exciting enough option to get me to switch from my beloved Blue Bottle Coffee, but loose tea was really intimidating given the need to vary water temperature, steep time etc. This automatic tea maker was the answer to my problems, and I can now make any tea with just two button presses. Oh yeah, and it works with an awesome magnet system that feels like it’s right out of a sci-fi novel. Highly recommended!

10. Bradley electric smoker ($304.95)

I’ll admit, smoking isn’t the healthiest way to prepare food. But it sure is tasty! And I figure that if I’m going to be eating bacon, making it myself is certainly the way to go. I was trying to decide between recommending this and the sous vide. And though sous vide makes some of the finest food in the world, it does require a bit of expertise (and costs a lot more). This smoker on the other hand is simple and straightforward, and we haven’t messed up a single dish yet.

11. Labradoodle Toaster

The gift that keeps on giving. This puppy has sealed the deal on 2010 being the best year of my life.

Toaster

(but you shouldn’t eat him)

Have you received a fantastic foodie gift? Share below!

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Puppy Weekend

by | Nov 14, 2010

There isn’t a farmers market update today because I’m out of town and am having technical difficulties with my camera. But this week I actually have something better than vegetables: puppies!

For those of you who haven’t been following along on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, our new labradoodle puppy Toaster arrived on Friday night. And yeah, he’s the cutest thing in the universe.

Unfortunately, I had to get up early the next morning to catch a flight to visit my family back at home. Amazingly, there are puppies here too! Our German shepherds had their own litter of puppies last week. They just opened their eyes yesterday.

As my dad says, “They’re so freakin’ cute! AND adorable! AND they love to cuddle!”

So as awesome as vegetables are, I figured I might as well share some puppy pics today instead.

Happy weekend!

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