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Checking Nutrition Facts Does More Harm Than Good

by | Jun 1, 2016
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 the human 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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What Does Eating in ‘Moderation’ Actually Mean?

by | May 10, 2016
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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Skipping the Dressing Makes Your Salad Less Healthy (and Less Tasty)

by | Apr 26, 2016

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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Why Trying to Make a “Lifestyle” Change Is a Recipe For Failure

by | Apr 5, 2016
Photo by Darnosaur

Photo by Darnosaur

When I first made the decision to stop dieting and focus on eating for health and happiness, more changed than just my body. As I explored new foods and new habits I met an entirely new group of people.

Instead of talking about calories, carbs and cardio, these people spoke about balance, acceptance and a “healthy lifestyle.”

I hated it.

I agreed with these principles in theory––of course you should balance your nutrition; of course you shouldn’t think worse of yourself because of the shape of your body; of course health is a lifestyle and not a short-term goal––but there were no concrete instructions for actually making change.

It felt like a fluffy echo chamber, all philosophy and no action. Maybe there’d be some laughable tips like “eat everything in moderation” (what does that even mean?) or “get plenty of sleep” (pffffff, I wish).

But I wanted to know how to stop when I’d eaten enough and how to pry my eyes away from my computer screen so I could actually get ready for bed.

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Wisdom Wednesday: You Never Regret a Workout

by | Jan 21, 2015
Photo by Randy Son Of Robert

Photo by Randy Son Of Robert

It’s a common misconception that San Francisco is warm and sunny. It isn’t. At least not usually.

As locals know, Karl the Fog is a year-round resident of the City by the Bay.

Karl’s favorite seasons are summer and winter. During the summer he likes to roll into my hood around 4pm, which is why SF residents always bring a jacket when we leave the house. Always.

In the winter Karl doesn’t restrict his visits to evenings, but pretty much hangs around all day.

Born and raised in SoCal, this took some getting used to. It’s normally pretty easy for me to stick to my habits, but nothing saps my motivation like day after day of gray skies.

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Wisdom Wednesday: Flakes Don’t Grow on Trees

by | Jan 7, 2015

Photo by Chicago Man

When I first took my “leap of science” to stop dieting and start eating Real Food, carbs were the scariest thing. I hadn’t eaten anything resembling a grain in years and didn’t know where to start.

So like any good American consumer I went to the cereal aisle and chose what looked like the “healthiest” cereal. It was a brown flake cereal with lots of fiber and omega-3s. It had the word “Nature” in the brand too.

I felt super virtuous.

Little did I know that even then I was being sucked in by marketing and pseudoscience.

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Wisdom Wednesday: Airports and Cakes Don’t Mix

by | Dec 10, 2014

Photo by David Basanta

Recently I was traveling overseas and had a two-hour layover at LAX. Not excited about the idea of eating on the plane, I searched the airport for something resembling Real Food to keep me satisfied for the long flight ahead.

As has been happening at airports more often lately, I was pleasantly surprise to find several decent options and ended up with a tasty pile of beans, cauliflower and roasted squash.


You see, there’s absolutely nothing special about airports. 95% of the time the food is gross––the pizza is just as nasty as the salads. And sitting on my butt in an uncomfortable seat for the next several hours is nothing near a special occasion.

Normally I avoid eating at airports at all costs, but sometimes it’s just impossible not to.

When I am forced to eat in an airport I just try to find the healthiest, least disgusting thing I can get my hands on and anxiously await arriving at my destination and rejoining the world of Real Food.

To me, airports are like purgatory.

That’s why as I was finishing my beans and cauliflower I was so astounded to see someone walk past my table carrying a giant, four layer slice of red velvet cake.

Cake. At the airport.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

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