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The story behind your diet

The story behind your diet

What’s real story behind chronically weighing, calorie counting and dieting? In Journalism 101, we learned the importance of the Five Ws (and one H) in gathering information. Answering the Ws (and H)chronic-dieting—who, what, where, when, why (and how)—is considered essential in understanding the full story. What would happen if you applied them to your weight loss goals? Some Ws (and an H) to consider:

1. Who is it that wants to lose weight? Who is the “you” that’s dieting? Another way to ask this is, who are you, inside your body? The bottom line is, your body is a place for your soul to live. That’s it. Should it be comfortable, healthy, happy? Absolutely. But losing 10 pounds is not the call of your soul. It’s the call of your ego.

I once knew a woman who could light up a room just by walking through the door. Her eyes literally sparkled. When I spoke to her, her attention was so fully and completely on me, that it was as if no one had ever spoken before. I knew she would remember every word I said–and she did. She was so vibrant, deep, warm, compassionate, that it was a very long time before I noticed she was what some people might call “heavy.” Actually, I don’t think she ever noticed she was what some people would call heavy.

Likewise, I knew a woman who was wildly self-assured, sexy, vibrant, alive. She was in her mid 40s, tall, big boned; she weighed close to 185 pounds, and she literally turned heads walking down the street. Her secret: Inside, she loved herself, she was healthy and she felt good. That was enough for her. She knew who she really was, and that her body was comfortable, well-nourished–even if it wasn’t petite.

2. What would happen if you never lost weight? We set so many conditions on our love for ourselves. Unconsciously (or not) one of those conditions may be our weight. “I’ll feel better about myself when I’ve lost 20 pounds,” or “If I can just get rid of this last 5 pounds, I’ll be able to get on with my life.” As far as you know, this is the only life you have, and it’s happening right now. What would happen if you lived it right now, as you are, weighing what you do and wearing the size you wear? Can you love yourself anyway? Pause here, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and ask yourself that question. See what comes up. If the answer is “no,” it may be that learning how to love yourself is a bigger priority than losing 20 pounds.

3. Where do you want to be in ten years? Answer that question, and you’ll have a better sense of your reason for being here. Write down where you’ll be in terms of physical health, family, relationship, spiritual practices, career, home, travel–whatever comes up for you. Chances are really good that “I’ll be X pounds lighter” will come up on your list. That’s okay. Just recognize all the other things that are on your “where I’ll be” list.

How much time, mental energy and passion are you devoting to those aspects of your life, compared to counting calories and obeying the bathroom scale? Maybe you can see where weight loss falls on your list of dreams, goals and visions, and maybe you can assign it a different priority. Losing weight is not your life’s work. Your life’s work is to love, to serve, to be honest, to develop personal integrity, to be kind, to raise healthy children, to grow spiritually, to adore yourself. Which is not to say you can’t choose to shed some excess baggage. You’ll just do it with a sense of perspective.

4. When will it be okay? I once worked with a man who slaved tirelessly to lose 15 pounds. He exercised obsessively, starved himself, became a fanatic about supplements, drank diet soft drinks and coffee throughout the day to blunt his appetite, even took up smoking to blunt his appetite. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But here’s what’s really crazy: once he lost 15 pounds, he wanted to lose another 5. (I should pause here to tell you that the term “crazy” was his, not mine). He felt that being 5 pounds under his goal gave him a buffer, in case he gained a few pounds back.

I realized then that, no matter how much weight he lost, he wasn’t going to be satisfied. It would never be okay, because it wasn’t about his weight, or his body. It was about his sense of self; he was depressed and dissatisfied with his life, and no amount of weight loss was ever going to make that okay.

When will it be okay for you? Ask yourself that question, then listen softly and quietly for the answer. It might surprise you.

5. Why do you want to lose weight? Ask yourself with gut-level honesty: why do you want to lose weight? Is it because the doctor told you your weight was harming your health, or because that little red two-piece swimsuit went on sale at Neiman Marcus? Is it for your wife, your health, your ego, your high school reunion, your best friend’s wedding? Is it because you’ve decided the ten extra pounds around your middle no longer serves you, or because you still want to fit into the size 4 jeans you wore in your senior year of high school? Once you’re honest with yourself, you can decide just how important it is to you to lose weight and where it fits in the grand scheme of your life.

6. How will shedding pounds serve the world? We’ve already touched on how it will serve you. Now, take it to a deeper level: how will losing weight make a difference in the world around you? Perhaps being lighter and slimmer will boost your health, and make you feel more confident, inspired, energetic and passionate; in turn, that will positively affect your children, your mate, your co-workers. There’s no right answer here; it’s just about being aware and exploring possibilities, and perhaps understanding how your own personal goals fit into the grand scheme of life.

Afraid to eat.

Afraid to eat.

Last week, I read six articles with variations on the good-versus-bad-food theme. Good food? Bad food? It’s funny how we attribute moral properties to what is, essentially, a glob of chemicals in a tasty package. Eating is supposed to provide nourishment and pleasure. But in our diet-obsessed culture, we have attributed to food a sometimes-sinister quality.

afraid to eatHere’s one example: “Annie” was so tormented by her fear of food that she avoided parties and dinner invitations, because she didn’t want to be tempted by the tasty treats. When she ate, she spent the entire meal adding and re-adding the number of calories she was consuming, and continued to do so well after she had finished the meal. She read labels obsessively, and could tell you the calorie count of almost any food–and usually the number of carbohydrates, fat and protein as well. At best, she regarded food with suspicion; at worst, it terrified her.

Dieters are most susceptible to this mindset, but they’re not the only ones. Other fear-inducing foods and ingredients include saturated fat, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, GMOs, gluten, dairy, soy, pesticides, refined carbs, wheat, diet sodas and anything that’s even remotely related to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, inflammation, heart disease or cancer.

It’s important to be wary of some of these. I’m a huge proponent of eating clean foods, and make my living writing about them. Will eating trans fats kill you? Perhaps. If you’re sensitive to gluten, should you avoid bread? Absolutely. But prudence and mindful choices can sometimes go the way of fear.

Think of how children eat. When you offer a child a cookie, he doesn’t think, “Dear god, that cookie was made with high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats! And it probably has 500 calories!” They think “Mmmm. Cookie. Sweet! Crunchy!” They eat the cookie, and have an experience of pure pleasure. Somewhere between the happily ignorant bliss of a child, and the ever-vigilant eye of a nutrition-savvy adult, there lies a middle path, one that doesn’t include worry, stress and fear.

If you find yourself from time to time (or frequently) seized by a fear of food, here are some ways to loosen the grip:

1. Confront your fears. It’s not the food you fear, it’s the potential effect of that food. Write down what really scares you, and carry it to the worst possible outcome. It may look like this: “I’m afraid if I indulge my sweet tooth, I won’t be able to stop. I’ll gain a lot of weight until I’m morbidly obese. I’ll be so fat, I wont’ be able to go on business trips any more, and my boss will fire me. Then I’ll be out of work, and I’ll lose my house, and be homeless.” Or maybe it’s as simple as “I won’t look good for my high school reunion, and my old friends will judge me.” Whatever your fear, when it’s on paper, it’s easier to then decide if it’s reasonable, or out of hand.

2. Get to know your food. When you’re eating, just eat. Don’t watch TV, work on your computer, read a book, drive, whatever. Look at the food on your plate, chew it slowly, really taste it. Be fully present, enjoy what you’re eating, and then move on to the next thing. You’ll soon find that even “off-limits” foods aren’t really that scary. And notice what that food feels like in your body. Do you feel lousy after eating it? Maybe it won’t be your first choice next time.’

3. Choose foods for the benefit. Rather than saying “no” to what you don’t want, try saying “yes” to what you do want. Instead of saying “I can’t drink coffee because it makes me jittery and makes my skin look bad,” try saying “I choose to drink green tea because it’s calming and makes my skin look healthier.” Same end result–but instead of rejecting what you don’t want, you’re choosing instead what you do want.

4. Eat for quality. There’s a lot of nasty food out there, and it’s reasonable to be careful. But if you choose foods for quality, you’ll eliminate many of the justifiable concerns, like agricultural chemicals, trans fats, sugar and so forth. If you enjoy cheese, choose organic varieties, and pay attention to how much you’re eating. If you like sweets, go for raw, unfiltered honey, instead of high-fructose corn syrup. And if you shop for foods without labels–whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried beans–it’s hard to go wrong.

5. Banish forbidden food. The concept, that is, not the food. Unless you have an overriding health concern–you’re diabetic, or allergic to nuts, for example–it’s really not necessary to outlaw any one food. When you make a food off-limits, you only increase the cravings. So if you love potato chips, but you avoid them because they’re fried and high in sodium, have a few potato chips when you crave them.

6. Trust yourself. Speaking of potato chips, are you afraid you’ll eat the whole bag? It’s a common fear. When we fear food, it’s not really the food we’re afraid of. It’s our uncontrolled reaction to it. A spoonful of ice cream turns into a quart, a few cookies turns into a whole bag. That may happen at first. But in my experience, when people allow themselves to remove the labels and indulge in a “forbidden” food, it soon loses its appeal. Once you see it as just another food, you’re on your way to being free.

All Worked Up: Our obsession with food.

All Worked Up: Our obsession with food.

I recently spent a lovely week on the farm where I played out my childhood summers. Sitting in the kitchen, I was awash in memories of my grandmother stirring a pot of collard greens, putting up pickles, cutting peaches for a cobbler, shelling peas into the big tin pail that still hangs in the curtained pantry.

worked-up-about-foodMy cousins were there, and we spent our days as we had in childhood: riding down dirt roads on the tailgate of a pick-up truck, casting our lines into the local fishing hole, and gathering around the kitchen table in eager, puppy-like anticipation of dinner. My most beloved aunt now took the place of my grandmother, but the meal was much the same.

As I was waxing poetic about the field peas and hot cornbread, one of my beloved cousins looked at me and said, with genuine curiosity, “I don’t understand getting so worked up about food.” When I nearly dropped my forkful of fried okra, she explained “I think eating is a nuisance. It annoys me that I have to stop what I’m doing because my physical body requires fuel.”

Well.

I had to wonder: does it make sense to get worked up about food? Admittedly, my viewpoint is skewed. As a food writer and intuitive eating coach, I spend my days creating recipes, researching food, teaching cooking and nutrition classes, and helping people explore their eating habits. But still. I don’t think I’m alone. As a whole, we’re just generally all hot and bothered by food. We’re seduced by it’s loveliness, enraptured by its flavor and aroma, dazzled by its health-giving properties, and wistfully smitten by its rumored ability to make us wrinkle-free, toned and lean, ten pounds lighter by Labor Day and possibly immortal.

I went to the bookstore today, to browse the magazine racks. In the food section, the spreads were like centerfolds: lushly saturated with color, glossy with sauces, the food looked almost indolent. The cover lines read “Desserts to die for,” and “Decadent dinners.” Adjacent to this were the Healthy Living sections. These were the headlines on the magazines there: “Fat-loss formula.” “Your weight minus eight” “Be thinner in 30 days.” “Foods that fight fat.” “The best cancer-fighting foods.” “Blast fat.” “Fat-melting foods.” “Lose 10 pounds this month.” “Glycemic index for weight loss.” “Four-week slim down.” “Drop two sizes.” “Eat more, weigh less.” Later that evening, when I fed our household animals, I noticed that the cat food box read “What cat wouldn’t do anything to be set loose in a deli?”

For the most part, we Americans are just impossibly worked up on about food. It can “blast fat” and protect us from cancer, and a cheesecake is worth dying for. We are alternately tormented with food porn and then chastised for eating it. We would even sell our feline souls to have free run of a deli.

It wasn’t like that for my grandmother. Stewing tomatoes and okra, chopping mustard greens, shucking corn–she saw food as utilitarian stuff that just happened to taste good. She fed it to us children, so we would grow healthy and strong, and made blackberry pies because it was the best way to use the bucketfuls we’d collected during the day. There were no tangy pomegranate molasses glazes or pungent harissa sauces; it was good, solid food, fuel for the bodies working on the farm. As far as I knew, she never counted a calorie or tried to melt fat (except in her cast-iron skillet), and she hadn’t a clue about the glycemic index of collard greens. But almost everything she ate came from the farm, and she lived to be 96, in robust good health until the very end.

I wonder what would happen if we stopped being so worked up about food? What if we stripped our meals, our clothing size and the numbers on our bathroom scale of their supposed power to extend our lives, fix our problems, and make us thinner, happier or somehow better? I wonder if not getting worked up about food, and being more matter-of-fact about our meals, is one of the first steps on the way to eating intuitively.

Loving and enjoying food, truly appreciating the seductive pleasure of a well-crafted meal, is a vital part of life. But when we start obsessing about it, giving it disproportionate power over our health and happiness, that’s when we disconnect.

When we’re frustrated by the mundane troubles of our daily lives, food is the fastest, easiest, path to pleasure and gratification. It’s always available, it never says “no,” and it’s instantaneous: who wants to spend an hour in quiet meditation, when five minutes at the pastry counter will yield the same results? Food is pleasurable, but it’s not a spiritual experience. Whether you call yourself spiritual or not, there’s a part in each of us that longs for a connection to something beyond ourselves that we can’t name. And whether you see food as a nuisance or think a cheesecake is “to die for,” it won’t get you to that connection.

What’s your relationship with food? Do you see it as an occasional necessity, or as a route to health, self-love and your overall happiness? Be honest with yourself. And please comment; I’d love to hear what you have to say.

101 tips for body and soul

101 tips for body and soul

Sometimes, there’s one big thing you can do that completely changes your physical, mental or emotional health. But most of the time, it’s the dozens of small things, done consistently over time, that make a big difference. Here, 101 little changes you can make every day,

1. Focus on nutrient-dense foods,  instead of supplements. Ten big ones: prunes, blueberries, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, nuts, kale, carrots, pumpkin and olives.

2. Build in workouts. Take the stairs—two at a time if you wish—instead of the elevator, park your car far away in the parking lot, bike or walk to shopping and errands.

3. Breathe deep—often. Post small reminder notes saying “BREATHE” on your computer, dashboard of your car and bathroom mirror.

4. Exercise. About 20 to 30 minutes a day, 3 to 5 times a week. Choose something you enjoy, so you’ll stick with it: brisk walking, bicycling, skating, skiing, dancing, jumping rope.

5. Supplement. If your diet is lacking, take the essentials: a multi-vitamin and mineral, a high-quality fish oil and a broad-spectrum antioxidant blend.

6. Focus on fiber. Better than bran: fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, especially beans, lentils, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, turnips, raspberries and flax seeds.

7. Tone your liver. Artichokes and bitter greens help cleanse this vital organ; milk thistle is thought to remove harmful substances from the liver and repair damaged cells.

8. Get out of your mind and into your body. Several times a day, close your eyes and scan your body, noticing what it feels like and breathing into any tension.

9. Cut back on saturated fats in animal products; they’re linked to heart disease and inflammation. Substitute heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, found in olives, olive oil, nuts and avocados. For saturated fats, use coconut oil; it’s anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and won’t hurt your heart.

10. Build immunity, with foods rich in beta carotene, selenium and vitamin C. The best: pumpkin, strawberries, tomato sauce, garlic, pinto beans and bell peppers.

11. Exercise at work. Take an exercise break, instead of a coffee break: keep a jump rope in your office drawer, jog in place for 10 minutes at your desk, ride your bike during lunch hour.

12. Get enough calcium to keep bones healthy. And you don’t need dairy; plant-based sources include collard greens, broccoli, kale and firm tofu (in moderation). Greens also contain other bone-supportive nutrients, like magnesium and vitamin K.

13. Drink in moderation. Too much alcohol damages the heart and liver, and increases the risk of cancer and pancreatitis. Limit consumption to no more than 3 or 4 drinks a week.

14. Keep eyes healthy. Wear sunglasses, make sure work areas are well lit, and take breaks from computer or eye-straining work.

15. Steer clear of transfats, which dramatically increase the risk of heart disease. They’re found in margarine and foods that contain partially hydrogenated fats.

16. Stretch–before and after exercise, it helps prevent injury and strain, and increases your range of motion and flexibility.

17. Dance. Take jazz lessons, join a salsa class, play danceable music at home. Dancing moves your whole body, stimulates circulation, and strengthens heart and lungs.

18. Swap meat for beans. They’re high in fiber, low in fat, loaded with protein. Have at least half a cup a day, on salads, in soups, as hummus or sandwich spreads.

19. Munch on berries. They’re rich in healing antioxidants. Fresh or frozen, scatter them on cereal and salads, use them in smoothies and baking.

20. Get grounded. Several times a day, feel your feet on the ground, and take 10 deeps breaths, imagining the breath coming through your feet.

21. Build bones with exercise. The best are weight-bearing exercises like lifting weights, hiking, jogging, dancing or tennis.

22. Don’t skip meals. Have three meals and two healthy snacks, to keep blood sugar steady, burn fat and regulate cholesterol.

23. Flatten your abs. Strengthening the belly muscles protects the lower back. You don’t need fancy gym equipment; simple crunches work best.

24. Eat less meat. Studies have linked high meat consumption with heart disease, cancer and inflammation. Focus on vegetarian sources: beans, nuts, eggs, tofu in moderation.

25. Prevent skin cancer. Wear a hat, slather on a natural sunscreen year-round, and take sun-protective antioxidants; try vitamins A, C and E, alpha-lipoic acid, pycnogenol.

26. Make scents. Perfumes contain phthalates and petrochemicals. Concoct your own natural fragrances with pure essential oils. Try a mix of lavender, jasmine, and ylang-ylang.

27. Watch your GI. High GI (glycemic index) foods—bread, pasta, cookies—upset blood sugar. Low GI foods—lean protein, vegetables—slow insulin release, help control hunger and more. Get details at glycemicindex.com.

28. Check it out. Regular checkups and tests—mammograms, pap smears and colon cancer screening—may save your life. Don’t skip them.

29. Jump on it. Use a mini-trampoline for an efficient, no-excuses workout; it’s also great for boosting circulation.

30. Make snacks count. Think of them as mini-meals: a hard-boiled egg, a sliced apple with almond butter; hummus with red pepper strips for dipping; or a handful of nuts.

31. Take a break from coffee. It stimulates the release of stress hormones. Substitute green tea for a healthy pick-me-up.

32. Meditate. One simple technique: sit comfortably, close your eyes, and just listen to your breath. Repeat “relax.” You will.

33. Boost energy naturally. Tired after two? Skip the coffee break, and exercise instead to boost oxygen to the brain. Or try a healthy energy fix, like ginseng, ashwaganda or reishi mushroom.

34. Get some om time. Add yoga to your daily routine. Even 20 minutes a day makes a difference. Take a class, or invest in some good DVDs. Visit gaiam.com for ideas.

35. Take vitamin D. New studies show it may cut colon and breast cancer risk. Researchers recommended 2,000 IU of vitamin D in a form called D3 (cholecalciferol) per day.

36. Journal. Get your emotions out of your head and on to paper. Write down worries and fears before bed, then sleep peacefully with an empty mind.

37. Hydrate. Keep a bottle or pitcher full of filtered water on your desk or in your car, and sip throughout the day.

38. Eat more veggies. Have a big salad with five or six veggies every day, keep frozen vegetables on hand for fast meal additions.

39. Focus on fish. It’s low in calories, high in protein and healthy oils. Visit oceansalive.org for a continually updated list of safe fish.

40. Floss—and not just for a brighter smile; research shows that people with severe gum disease are more likely to develop heart disease.

41. De-stress. Chronic stress increases heart rate and blood pressure. Find ways that work for you: meditation, relaxing music, frequent short vacations.

42. Skip the sugar. It’s linked to blood sugar swings, inflammation, irritability and fatigue. “Natural” sweeteners—honey, agave—have the same effect. Sweeten foods with a small amount of stevia, derived from a South American herb.

43. Go jump in the lake—or pool. Swimming is a great way to strengthen muscles, increase endurance and burn fat.

44. Vent. Release frustration before it builds up; studies consistently show that anger, hostility and anxiety increase risk of heart disease and death.

45. Create a soothing home environment. Play calming music, scatter green plants and flowers throughout, light candles, keep lighting soft.

46. Stop smoking. Now. For help, visit americanheart.org or cancerorg.com

47. Remember breakfast. It kick-starts your metabolism and gets your system up and running, fast. Make sure it contains protein for long-term energy.

48. Think positively. Emotion follows thought; if you’re thinking happy thoughts, you feel inspired and uplifted. Write down your thoughts, and banish the negative stuff.

49. Go green. Even veggie eaters may not get enough greens. Add them with instant green beverages; keep single-serving envelopes in your car or desk drawer to add to juice.

50. Socialize. Studies show social interaction is related to improved health. Join a book club, take a language class, go to wine tastings.

51. Keep your mind sharp. Ditch the alcohol in favor of green tea or pomegranate juice, eat berries, and eat two servings a week of fish.

52 Have a healing salad. Dark leafy greens, carrots, red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers, tomatoes, avocado, garbanzo beans and a handful of nuts, dressed with a little olive oil. Need we say more?

53. Love your work. If you dread it, it’s time for a change. Visit BrilliantWork.com for ideas.

54. Live like an Adventist. Seventh-Day Adventists boast longevity and robust good health. Their secrets: don’t drink or smoke, eat a vegetarian diet, embrace a strong spiritual practice.

55. Go nuts. Studies show they reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. Best picks: almonds and walnuts.

56. Commune with nature. Hike, spend time in a garden, let the sun shine on your face.

57. Sleep. It’s essential for health. Can’t sleep? Try snooze-inducing supplements–valerian, passionflower, GABA, L-tryptophan–or a warm cup of chamomile tea.

58. Put on a happy face. Studies show the healthiest people have a cheery outlook on life, while feelings of hostility or depression impair health.

59. Drink smoothies. You can squeeze five servings of fruit into one of these power-packed beverages.

60. Pray. Certain kinds of prayer—especially repetitive prayers or mantras—lowers stress hormones, improves blood pressure and boosts brain function.

61. Play ball. Tennis, squash, badminton and racquetball are great high-energy sports–even if you don’t hit the ball much, you’ll spend lots of time running.

62. Eat olive oil. It has anti-inflammatory benefits, reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease.

63. Nurture your creative side. Take painting classes, join a singing group, write poetry. It keeps you heart young

64. Help others. Volunteer for homeless shelters, visit old folks homes, donate to your favorite charity. Studies suggest altruists live longer, happier lives.

65. Smile, even when you’re unhappy. More uplifting emotions often follow a conscious grin.

66. Avoid plastics. They contain toxic chemicals that wreak havoc on the endocrine system. Store food in glass containers, use metal drinking bottles, skip plastic wrap, never heat plastic in the microwave.

67. Be nice to yourself. Banish criticism, self-judgment and negative self talk from your internal vocabulary. Would you talk that way to a friend?

68. Cut out gluten. It can cause digestive disorders, headaches, joint pain, irritability and fatigue. Visit glutenfree.com and celiac.com for more information.

60. Eat less, live longer. Studies show that reducing calories (without cutting out crucial nutrients) can increase lifespan, halt inflammation, and reduce the risk of heart disease.

70. Clean up your act. Most common household cleaners and laundry detergents are loaded with toxic chemicals that harm humans and the environment. Stick to natural versions.

71. Get a massage. It’s not just a feel-good pursuit; therapeutic massage reduces stress and anxiety, boosts blood and lymph circulation, and can treat a variety of specific conditions.

72. Fast after six—or whenever dinner is for you. Late-night dining interferes with sleep, may hamper with weight loss.

73. Detox. Simple ways to cleanse: a two-day vegetable juice and water fast, a two-week raw-foods regimen, or a lifelong commitment to banishing sugar, caffeine, tobacco and food additives.

74. Laugh. It lowers stress hormones and relaxes muscles. Rent a funny movie, visit a comedy club, or have dinner with your silliest friend.

75. Spice up your life. Pungent and aromatic spices have healing properties and add calorie-free flavor to food. Some to try: turmeric, ginger, garlic, cayenne.

76. Get needled. Acupuncture has proven physical and psychological benefits; for more information on this 2,000-year-old tradition, visit acupuncture.com.

77. Avoid artificial sweeteners. There’s not enough information on long-term health risks, and short-term news isn’t good. Try stevia instead, and learn to enjoy food with less sweetener.

78. Know your BMI. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of percentage of fat on your body, a good predictor of disease. Visit nhlbisupport.com/bmi to learn  how.

79. Drink tea. Both green and black contain potent cancer-fighting compounds, and have less caffeine than coffee.

80. Have sex. It keeps relationships strong, reduces stress. Keep your loving to one partner: STDs adversely affect health.

81. Eat chocolate. Dark chocolate–70 percent or more–is low in sugar, high in antioxidants.

82. Ride a bike. It saves on fuel, builds muscles, strengthens heart and lungs, and gets you moving outside.

83. Get on the ball. Using an exercise ball instead of a desk chair helps prevent slumping and pain-inducing postures, helps your body make small strengthening adjustments.

84. Visualize success. Whether it’s career, relationships or health, envision the outcome you most desire; you’ll be more likely to get it if you can see it.

85. Go raw. Raw foods are rich in enzymes. Add several servings of raw fruit and a big green salad every day.

86. Get some feedback. Biofeedback can teach you to control blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension to benefit mental and physical problems. Check out biofeedback.net for info.

87. Exercise your mental muscles. An agile mind may keep you healthier. Choose new, stimulating activities: learn a foreign language, read challenging books, play chess, memorize poems.

88. Slow aging. There’s no magic bullet, but studies suggest certain supplements can help. Two to try: DHEA and melatonin. Other longevity boosters: fish oil, glutathione, cordyceps mushrooms and cat’s claw.

89. Learn to cook. Avoid fast foods and processed foods; most contain artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. Stick to whole foods, and prepare them yourself.

90. Retreat. Take a three-day weekend off from the world. Banish TV, newspapers and telephones, do yoga and deep breathing, meditate. You deserve the break.

91. Men: protect your prostate. Three herbs shown to help: saw palmetto, pygeum, and stinging nettle. Find a formula that includes all three for a natural safety net.

92. Use natural deodorants. Mainstream brands contain parabens–linked to cancer–and other potentially harmful chemicals. Look for nontoxic varieties with mineral salts, potassium, and herbal astringents.

93. Get personal with training. A certified personal trainer can increase motivation, show you new moves, and personalize your workout.

94. Stock up on C. Make vitamin C your go-to supplement for more energy, smoother skin, and stronger immunity.

95. Make a spa date. Instead of the movies, treat yourself to a spa visit. Even a 30-minute facial, brow wax, or pedicure will leave you feeling pampered.

96. Get lovely locks. Massage scalp with tinctures of birch, horsetail, and rosemary to stimulate hair growth and keep hair shiny and strong.

97. Try homeopathy. This gentle form of medicine heals both physical and emotional symptoms. To learn more, visit well-known homeopath Dana Ullman’s Web site, homeopathic.com.

98. Start now for heart health. A new study shows it’s never too late. People aged 45 to 64 who add new, healthful lifestyle behaviors can signifi- cantly reduce death rate. Visit drsinatra .com for an alternative perspective.

99. Cleanse skin from within. A tea of burdock root, oat straw, milk thistle, and red clover can help
remove impurities and keep skin breakout free.

100. Sip some rooibos. This favorite African red tea has a sweet, honey-like flavor and is high in antioxidants. Best of all, it’s naturally caffeine free.

101. Be environmentally conscious. Recycle, compost, use less, and buy in bulk—at home and at the office. Visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site at epa.gov for practical tips.

The Pleasure of Food.

The Pleasure of Food.

What brings you pleasure? Real pleasure, so rich and deep that even thinking about it creates a visceral response? Right now, see if you can list a dozen things that bring you shivers of excitement or delight, elicit little mmmmms of satisfaction or make your lights burn a little brighter.

pleasure of foodYour sources of pleasure may be as mundane as getting a manicure, as spectacular as skydiving. But more likely than not, food is somewhere on your list. Nothing wrong with that… until there is. When food becomes the primary — or sole — source of pleasure, that’s when problems arise. Food as a source of pleasure is natural; it tastes good. It’s comforting and reliable. Compared to other sources of pleasure, it’s cheap, fast, easy and legal. And like some other pleasures, it’s addictive, shame-provoking and harmful when taken to extremes.

Food was our first pleasure. When we were babies, we cried for food; it filled our tiny bellies. It gave us comfort in other ways — we associated being fed with being embraced, with the sensuous delight of being cradled in loving arms, held close, cared for.

As toddlers and preschoolers, we were praised for eating; we were good little boys and girls for finishing our peas. We got cupcakes when our plates were cleaned. When we skinned our knees or banged our heads, we were soothed with cookies and kisses. The link between food, physical comfort and love became ever more inextricably intertwined.

Then, as we moved toward puberty, the tables turned — especially for girls. Suddenly, eating mounds of food wasn’t good after all. Suddenly, we were encouraged to minimize and restrict intake. “Don’t eat so much, or you’ll get fat,” we were cautioned by peers, mothers, fashion magazines. Being “good” no longer meant cleaning our plates. It meant restricting food in a way that was perceived to encourage slimness. We were taught to make self-denial more important than pleasure. That message was reinforced through our adult years. So, for many of us, the simple act of eating has become a torturous, tangled web of love, comfort, guilt, shame and fear.

If food is one of your great pleasures, then celebrate it, in all its lush, robust glory. Start like this:

1. Make it beautiful. Whatever you’re going to eat, bring an element of beauty, grace and dignity to the experience. Set the table with utensils and napkins, maybe flowers or candles, too. Arrange your meal on a plate in whatever way you find most visually appealing. There’s nothing elegant or dignified about standing in front of an open refrigerator, furtively spooning chocolate chip ice cream from the carton and into your mouth. If you’re going to eat ice cream, serve it in small, lovely dishes (or anything besides the carton). Sit down at the table and really eat your ice cream.

2. Savor it. The last time you had a massage, did you rush the therapist, urging him or her to go faster, to just get it over with? Probably not. The same goes for any pleasurable experience, be it a trip to Provence or a memorable erotic encounter — you don’t want the experience to end, and the last thing on your mind is rushing. But that’s often what it looks like when we use food for pleasure: we eat hurriedly, even frantically, as if we’re racing to get it over with. The next time you decide to eat for pleasure, savor the moment: Maintain a leisurely approach, chew slowly, taste each flavor, enjoy the textures. Be exquisitely conscious of the entire experience.

3. Really get into it. We’re afraid if we really get into food, the pleasure will be so overwhelming that we’ll never stop eating. But some studies suggest that women who get less pleasure from eating actually eat more. In one study, as women overate and gained weight, they subsequently derived less pleasure from eating — but they still continued to eat more. They were chasing that first high they got from food. Conversely, women who are really into food — who find robust pleasure in a well-designed meal — actually eat less. It’s as if they’re so acutely aware of the experience, their senses are sated long before their physical hunger is.

4. Release the shame. In my experience, many women would rather talk about their sex lives than their food lives; they feel guilty about the hidden chocolate bars, the binges, the bags of chips and boxes of cookies furtively consumed in a shame-filled spree. Even a shocking number of “normal” eaters are bound up by guilt, fear and shame; we know too much about food — the sugar, trans fats and pesticides. It’s hard to be fully receptive to pleasure when a big hunk of your brain is screeching “Dear God, have you gone mad? What are you thinking, eating that?!” Or the low, menacing whisper that says “You are so bad. I am ashamed of you for eating that.” If you choose to eat a food you love — food that brings you pleasure — eat it slowly and mindfully, bring an element of beauty and grace to the experience. Tell the voices that they’re not invited to the party.

5. Find other pleasures. It’s okay to love food — to find joy in eating — but keep it in perspective. For all its sensory pleasures, food is ultimately fuel, not entertainment. While it can (and should) delight the palate and stimulate the senses, it’s no substitute for human touch, goals reached, adventures had and love fallen into. But it does make a pleasant way to power yourself through such endeavors.