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How To Avoid Getting Sick In Flu Season

by | Oct 9, 2013

Photo by Leonid Mamchenkov

It’s weird for me to even write this, but it has been nearly 3 years since I’ve had any illness.

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Too Many Vegetables? How To Prevent Gas and Digestive Problems Caused By Healthy Eating

by | Sep 30, 2013

Photo by toehk

Maybe you’re embarrassed. Maybe you’ve been too polite to ask me. Whatever the reason, know that you’re not alone.

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Food Labels: The Only Thing You Need To Know

by | Sep 23, 2013

Photo by {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}

It’s no secret that my favorite foods rarely have labels. Whenever possible I recommend starting with raw ingredients from the produce aisle, fish counter and butcher, and building your meal from scratch. Seasonal ingredients from your local farmers market are better still, and tastier to boot.

But I’m also aware that we don’t live in a perfect world, and sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances that aren’t particularly conducive to healthy eating. Eventually most of us will end up staring blankly at the back of a plastic container or cardboard box, wondering what evils will descend upon us if we choose this packaged morsel over another.

Food labels have become stupidly complicated, not to mention misleading. Instant oatmeal mixes have “30% more protein” (huh?). Several brands of granola and crackers at my favorite health food store include “love” on their ingredient list (how is this legal?). Products without any animal-based ingredients proudly showcase that they’re “cholesterol free,” as if it were possible for plants to produce cholesterol (or dietary cholesterol even had a measurable impact on your health). And sometimes it seems like every processed food under the sun has the American Heart Association’s stamp of approval (Thanks guys, real helpful.).

Don’t kid yourself, these labels are not about health. They’re about selling more food at higher prices. The data consistently show that people (that includes you and me) are willing to pay more for a product if we think it has a special health benefit. Unless the system changes, expected to be bombarded with misleading food labels for the rest of time.

Fortunately, navigating the insanity is fairly simple.
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Choose Your Words Carefully to Convince Family and Friends to Eat Healthier

by | May 29, 2013
Cauliflower French Fries

Cauliflower French Fries

Sometimes your own motivation isn’t what stops you from eating healthy, but rather the nags and complaints from the people that expect you to feed them dinner.

Healthy eating is rarely a popular idea, and it’s easy to understand why. What we’ve been told is healthy are boring, steamed, overcooked vegetables and food with no fat, salt or flavor.

So you might find that announcing you’re going to cook healthier can backfire, since no one wants to feel they are being deprived of delicious food.

But those of us familiar with real healthy eating—seasonal, fresh whole foods—know it is actually delicious and much more tasty than the processed junk food that has numbed our taste buds for the past few decades.

So how can we get others to share our enthusiasm?
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Join Me on Lift for Your Foodist Healthstyle Recalibration

by | May 8, 2013
Shopping at the farmers market is one of my most rewarding healthstyle habits

Shopping at the farmers market is one of my most rewarding healthstyle habits

Now that you all have your copies of Foodist I’m sure you’re itching to get started upgrading your healthstyle, and I want to help.

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6 Ways Eating Out Causes Overeating (And How To Stop It)

by | Apr 22, 2013

Photo by Sebastian Fritzon

Among my health conscious friends, we unanimously agree that eating out is the biggest barrier to weight loss.

San Francisco residents are fortunate that local, high-quality ingredients are the standard in almost every dining establishment (same is true for NYC, LA and other US foodie cities). We have gastropubs serving up grass-fed beef burgers, street carts offering sustainable fish tacos and small neighborhood spots dishing up heirloom vegetables and artisan ingredients.

I know, we’re spoiled rotten. But there’s a downside to all these wonderful options.

Ironically, the problem is that everything tastes amazing and is relatively healthy. Also, the menus tend to change regularly (often daily) depending on what is in season. So there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever be able to enjoy a particular dish more than once.

These things make it really easy to justify overeating.

There are many factors that cause us to overeat when we’re out. Here are the most common, and what to do about them.
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FOODIST: My New Book Now Available for Pre-Order

by | Mar 19, 2013

foodist

 

I am beyond thrilled to finally announce what I’ve been secretly working on for the past two and a half years. My first book, FOODIST: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting will be hitting bookstores in May, and is available now for pre-order.

(In case you’re wondering, yes, redesigning your website, planning a wedding and launching a new book is a lot for one person to take on simultaneously. I don’t recommend it.)

I started working on the proposal for Foodist immediately after graduating in October 2010. At the end of 2011 it was acquired by HarperOne (an imprint of HarperCollins), and I’ve spent every waking minute since then working to create a book that distills all I’ve learned about food, health and life into something accessible to anyone who picks it up.

Foodist is a training manual to upgrade your healthstyle. Based on your comments and questions, and my personal experiences with food and weight loss, it is clear that knowing what is or isn’t right to eat isn’t the hardest part for most people. What’s difficult is actually doing it––finding the means and motivation day after day, year after year, to keep your health and body weight under control for the long haul.

For these reasons, Foodist is designed first and foremost to be practical. It provides detailed instructions on how to take control of your health by structuring your life in a way that makes it easier, not harder, to make the best choices. The end result is that eating better and getting healthy will no longer be a burden or a chore.

The goal of Foodist is to make your life awesome.

You can read more about Foodist over at the official book page (please feel free to share this link far and wide), including all the nice things people like Dr. Andrew Weil, Tim Ferriss and Jamie Oliver had to say about it. You can also pre-order your copy today, which would make both me and my publisher very happy.

Last, this seems like the appropriate time to let you know that my name will be changing soon to Darya Pino Rose, when I marry my true love and soulmate Kevin Rose. Obviously we had to design the book cover well before the release date in May, so the name on the cover today is a tad premature. After the wedding, I’ll officially change my name here at Summer Tomato and on all my social media profiles. I’ll leave it up to you guys to update my Wikipedia page when the time is appropriate ;)

 

Thank you all so much for your years of support, and I cannot wait until Foodist is released into the wild and you can tell me what you think.

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How I Cured My Chronic Insomnia

by | Feb 20, 2013
Photo by Alyssa L. Miller

Photo by Alyssa L. Miller

I don’t use the term chronic insomnia lightly. Have you ever heard of a kid who fakes naps during preschool just to placate the teacher? That was me.

Despite my parents letting me stay up to 9-10pm when I was 8-years old—way later than most of my peers (thank you Dad, you rock!)—I inevitably drove them crazy by waking up at the crack of dawn (literally) on weekends ready to kick off the day.

In high school I averaged maybe 5 hours of sleep a night. Even today I rely on the occasional Ambien to make sure I sleep through a flight or get enough rest the night before an important event.

My insomnia is multifaceted. I have trouble falling asleep because I am very sensitive to light (sometimes I joke that I have invisible eyelids). I’m also very sensitive to sounds and have difficulty getting comfortable.

Once I’m asleep, it’s also way too easy to wake me up. And once I wake up, falling back asleep in less than two hours is nearly impossible. I wake up at any hint of light entering the room, or any abnormal noise.

I’ve tried melatonin, tryptophan, St. John’s wort, camomile, kava kava and antihistamines. Most of them just make me extra miserable because I get groggy and drowsy, but still can’t fall asleep. Ambien has been the only prescription sleep aid that works for me without major side effects, but it is not for everyone and I certainly did not want to rely on it for my day-to-day sleep hygiene.

But with a combination of these techniques, I’ve been able to control my insomniac tendencies and boost my sleep to a solid seven hours a night.

9 Tips To Cure Insomnia

1. Get on a consistent sleeping schedule

This one is probably the most important. The circadian rhythms that control your sleep-wake cycle originate in a part of your brain called the hypothalamus (specifically the suprachiasmatic nucleus, for you neuroscience geeks).

These neurons are sensitive to light and work to sync your biological clock to regular light-dark hours. The more consistent these are, the stronger your body will respond to natural circadian rhythms and the easier it will be to fall asleep when you’re supposed to.

2. No interactive screen time 1 hour before bed

As mentioned above, bright light can impact your circadian rhythms and staring into a computer screen late into the night can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Working and other mental activity can also keep your mind alert and prevent it from relaxing enough to fall asleep.

I am acutely aware of how difficult it is to unplug when you’re a workaholic, but a good night’s sleep does more for my productivity than I could ever achieve in the 12th or 14th hour of my workday, so I’ve learned to disengage well before bedtime.

Though I haven’t had any problems from watching TV or a movie, it’s best to stay away from any devices that require input from you for the last hour before bed. This means you should turn off the computers, smart phones, video games and tablets, no matter how badly you want to level up. Instead, try to quiet your mind by taking a bath, reading a book, having some herbal tea, cleaning up the house, listening to music or practicing meditation.

3. Don’t eat too late

Eating close to bed time, particularly a high-calorie, heavy meal, is associated with poorer sleep quality. I’ve also noticed this in myself, and when I avoid late night eating I get better, more consistent sleep. If you’re hungry, try drinking a glass of water and going to bed on an empty stomach instead. You certainly won’t starve to death.

4. Exercise daily

The best sleep I ever got was when I was marathon training at 5am every weekday before school. I fell asleep like clockwork at 10:30pm every night. It was glorious.

Heavy exercise is certainly a great way to invoke sound sleep, but even moderate activity like walking 10,000 steps each day can make a big difference in sleep quality. If you aren’t sure how much activity you’re getting, a Fitbit pedometer might be a good investment.

5. No caffeine after 1pm

This one was hard for me to believe. I’d been a heavy coffee drinker from a young age, and never thought it effected my sleep one way or another. If I was really tired during finals, coffee never seemed to help much and there were a few times when I fell asleep not too long after having a double espresso.

I’m not sure if I changed or if my sleep cycle was just so messed up that I couldn’t detect relevant differences, but now that I’ve switched to drinking mainly tea I’ve noticed that if I drink any caffeine too late in the day it is harder to fall asleep. I try not to drink coffee after 12pm, but 1pm is sometimes more realistic.

6. Use a white noise machine

My old apartment was just two doors down from a bustling freeway off ramp, and as you can imagine the traffic noise was constant. As someone who is very sensitive to noise, this posed a tremendous problem.

I’ve tried sleeping with ear plugs, but I have small ears and find them very uncomfortable. The solution that works best for me to control noise disturbances is the Sleepmate, a white noise machine that is quiet enough to ignore but drowns out most other ambient noise. This thing is a lifesaver if you’re stuck in a noisy neighborhood.

7. Black out shades or sleep mask

I realized early on that I’m sensitive to even the slightest amount of light in a room, even small ones like a laptop charging light.

If you’ve taken care of all the light sources inside your bedroom but are still bothered by light that sneaks in under the door or through the window, consider getting some black out shades or a sleep mask. The shades work great but can be expensive and kind of ugly. If you go with a mask, I find that the cheaper, less cushy ones are the most comfortable. Mine looks a lot like this one for under $2.

8. Don’t drink too much alcohol

Though a small nightcap can often help me relax and fall asleep faster, too much alcohol is proven to disturb sleep and can cause you to wake up early. If you like to party, keep in mind that it may be impacting your life in more negative ways than you think.

9 . Practice mindfulness

Though light, noise and bad habits all play a role in my sleep problems, I’m convinced that at the root of it all is a wandering mind. These other factors just add levels of distraction to my already overstimulated brain.

In our plugged in world, constant interruptions are making it progressively difficult to keep your attention on a single task long enough to get it done. For me, the nightly task that eludes me is sleep.

Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis (e.g. spending a few seconds a day focusing on my breathing or taking the time to eat a bite of food slowly with my eyes closed) gives me the power to truly relax my mind when I’m trying to fall asleep rather than letting it drift to all the things I need to get done the following day.

Mindfulness isn’t easy, but the only way to get better is through practice. Whenever you’re waiting for an elevator, standing in line, walking up stairs, taking a bite of food, take a few seconds to reflect on where you are and how your body feels. Focus on a few breaths, in and out, and get accustomed to letting go of your worries. The longer you can sustain this practice the easier it will be to let go of your problems and get a good night’s sleep.

What helps you sleep better?

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How To Break A Sugar Addiction

by | Feb 18, 2013
Photo by joe.oconnell

Photo by joe.oconnell

“I eat way too much sugar and have constant cravings for it that make me feel like I am addicted … do you have any suggestions for cutting back?”

There is still a debate over whether or not sugar is an addictive substance. From the data I’ve seen and people I’ve talked to, I’d guess it probably is.

But whatever the answer, the important question for most of us is how to kill the cravings that have us eating so much sugar in the first place.

Cravings exist in both the body and the mind, and you will have the best luck overcoming them if you address both simultaneously.

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8 Simple Tips To Avoid Late Night Snacking

by | Feb 6, 2013

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Snacking can be a mixed blessing for anyone learning to eat healthy. On one hand, a small healthy snack after a workout or an hour or so before a late meal can help you avoid making bad, hunger-induced food decisions later. On the other hand, snacking can easily grow out of control and be a source of hundreds of excess calories.

Late night snacking almost never falls into the good snacking category and is usually driven by cravings or habit rather than legitimate hunger. Here are a few tips to help you make healthy post-dinner food decisions and break the habit of late night snacking.
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