America, Healthy living, Lifestyle, Science behind weightloss

How to eat healthy, imho

As promised, today’s post will be dedicated to eating healthy.  It seems to me that no one really knows what this means.  No carbs? Low fat? No fat?  Organic?  Non-GMO?  Vegetarian?  Vegan?  …you get the picture.  Thus, our first order of business is defining “healthy.”  I’m a big believer in keeping things simple and “how they’ve always been.”  French cooking fits with my mantra because it’s all about real ingredients, simple recipes, and the ritual of mealtime.  I have enough to worry about without being neurotic about what I eat.  Thus, I have two simple principles: everything in moderation and focus on real foods. I’ve read quite a few books and articles along the way that have eventually led me to these beliefs.

Check out an article and these blogs to find out why I don’t sweat my red meat, full fat dairy, and lots of butter consumption: A Lifelong Battle Against Trans-Fats, Mark’s Daily Apple, and Chris Kresser: Health for the 21st Century.  Two follow-up points:

1.  If you were following “conventional wisdom” and/or were alive in the 90s, you might think saturated fat is the enemy of all enemies, but look at the science!  This drives me insane beyond belief.  There is no proof that red meat consumption is linked to increase in heart disease.  The results of the famous study that proliferated this idea were MADE UP!

2.  Like I said before, I don’t follow the primal diet per se, but I do enjoy reading Mark’s Daily Apple when I’m trying to get a good hard look at the science behind health and food.  This is where moderation comes into my thinking.  I take ideas away from the blog, like working out to Look Good Naked and to be able to PLAY (ie being in shape to do fun sports).  Same thing goes for Chris Kresser blog.  So I didn’t drive myself up a wall worrying about mercury in fish, I listened to Kresser’s podcast on the matter.

For more eye-opening and informative reading and to see just how much information in the media is plain WRONG!, check out Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It (I wish he chose a different title as I find this off-putting), Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin, and David Kessler’s The End of Overeating.

Hard look at which diets science (not anecdotes) support. The conventional wisdom --what you hear-- about weight loss isn't true.

Hard look at which diets science (not anecdotes) support. The conventional wisdom –what you hear– about weight loss isn’t true.

Fact I found most interesting in this book: mentally, a former obese person who is now thin is in same “starvation mode” as thin person who has dieted to unhealthily low weight physiologically. I really like that this author doesn’t take a “blame the victim” approach but rather explains how complex the issue is

Wonderfully practical book: even people who don't struggle with their weight may struggle with food

Wonderfully practical book: even people who don’t struggle with their weight may struggle with food

One more aside:  I took a single nutrition class in college, and I worked a little bit with a nutritionist for about a year or so ongoing.  With that, I conclude the section on my background and where my opinions are coming from.

Now, we can get into what my husband and I have been doing for the past 9 months…although I think I’m going to save that for tomorrow’s post.  I have a feeling my husband is about to decide it’s bedtime…

America, Flyover Lives, France, Generations, Lifestyle

Flyover life ?

Time has gotten away from me this past week.  About a month into my first “real” job, the most difficult aspect is working 8-9 hours a day, and at night I’ve felt like I have no time for myself between making dinner, working out, the drive home, and stealing an hour to watch TV on the couch.

Tonight, I finally managed to work in some reading.  I have my usual pile of library books up against the wall, and I’ve turned up my nose at all the books (Aside: deciding not to read a book makes me extremely uncomfortable, especially when I’ve passed on a few in a row… that is, until I find a book that really sucks me into its world, and I realize, if I’m not into a book immediately, it’s not something I’m going to enjoy 50 pages in), but tonight I managed to at least skim Flyover Lives by Diane Johnson.

Flyover Lives

Read/hear NPR’s interview by clicking book cover above!

I heard about the book either in Entertainment Weekly or on NPR, my two sources for what I might like to read.  I was intrigued by Flyover Lives having spent time in France, now living in the flyover state of Ohio, and always being curious about the differences between peoples.

The book begins with Johnson’s assertion that Americans don’t know their past, beyond ancestors taking a boat to get the “Promised Land” (USA! USA! USA!– in another post I need to explain why I’m so fanatical about the USA.  Suffice it to say, the grass is not always greener on the other side and not always worth the tradeoffs).  Many of us don’t know what the generations before even as recent as our grandparents did or what their lives were like.  And this inspired me to continue with this blog.  I had been wondering why I’m writing, and it’s definitely more for myself than anyone else (I was burnt out on writing after high school but with a 5 year break, I have started to miss it), but I like the blog format because it’s easier to write with an audience in mind other than myself.

But mainly, what I was thinking about in beginning Flyover Lives, I think it will be really cool to have a record of what I was thinking about at this age (nearly 24).  I was always so curious about my grandparents, and I am very lucky to be able to talk with my grandma and grandpa now as an adult about their life and experiences.  We don’t have the luxury of intimately knowing the details of an every day life from the past unless that person was thinking to write it down.  I must admit, the opening chapter of Flyover Lives didn’t capture me; in fact, Johnson pretty much lost me at “The one thing you, we, as Americans, are not allowed to say is that there is somewhere better than America to live” (p. 4).  But I continued reading/skimming because of the promise of reading about history and people’s lives.  I’m especially intrigued by what was “normal” in the past, given how much things seem to be changing now with children not memorizing times tables and sight words in school and teenagers obsessing over social media on their smartphones.  Will this next generation be completely unrelatable?

In the chapter “Pastimes,”  Johnson opens with the line, “What did people do in Moline [her hometown]?”  She describes her father’s culture revering football, mocking country club socials, and playing gin rummy with her as a child.  Johnson asks,

Do people play cards now the way they used to, now that they have video games and DVDs? (p. 41)

I always did, since the age of 4 when my mom was sick and tired of playing Go FISH!  But I really do wonder how much of our lives have changed forever.  It’s convenient to relax watching TV for me as there’s no work involved beyond laying down on the couch.  But I cringed inside when a college professor asked how many people in our class read books, and I was one of two people to raise my hand.  I always brought a library book with me in case I had a few extra minutes.  More commonly, people will check their phones.  Why can they not unplug for a few seconds of downtime?

Johnson subtly notes the demise of reading, writing,

I wouldn’t say my parents were intellectuals, but they were great readers, even if the adult conversation in our house was mostly about someone’s golf handicap or unexpected conditions on the seventh green.  People read more books in those days (p. 49).

I feel like people today are looking for the easiest way out.  I have to commend the French on this one; Americans always have to be comfortable and have life convenient.  We blast our air conditioners in the summer, we microwave meals and look for the most processed foods, and we throw things out instead of fixing them.  Now I can’t speak to whether the French have a better approach to any of these points but

I’m willing to entertain the idea that the French just might value intellect as a result of their knowledge and respect for history and the way things and culture have always been more than Americans.

Perhaps this is Johnson’s point in writing about Americans naivete as a result of our “indifference to history.”  Is this the root of our intellectual disconnect?  Or is  Johnson seeing “la vie en rose”?  Perhaps her French friends are more cultured than their American counterparts.  However, heck, even in France, frozen meals are threatening the vitality of home cooked ones.

One more point to carefully consider, I believe, is Americans’ attitude towards wealth.  In the span of twenty years it seems we have become a nation worshiping not only ease and convenience but also youth and beauty (often inextricably linked) as well as money.  How we go about achieving the latter three characteristics even speaks to the unhealthiness of our obsessions.  Americans are always looking for a shortcut.  We undergo plastic surgery, try diet pills and ridiculous fad diets plus exercise plans to look young and beautiful, if unnatural.  Most importantly, however, we look for respect and power in being rich.  Perhaps France’s socialist government is good for one thing.  The French may not worship a god but they also don’t worship money like we Americans do alongside our God.

Johnson writes,

Though money was never mentioned, an attitude toward it was implied: it would be somehow tacky to do something you didn’t enjoy just for the money.  The corollary was that if you did, the money wouldn’t make you happy.  My parents had both come from a whole tradition of making things, which is also a form of play, as the best things are… (p. 45)

Have people really changed so much in just a few short generations?  Or has this always been how people have been and we never were able to read enough accounts of the average person’s life to know what he/she was really like?  Johnson shares in my skepticism:

You hear nowadays that these small cities and towns in the Midwest are hotbeds of meth labs and speed.  Can that be true?

What are we to think?  For the record, I’d like to think enough things won’t change to realize what’s still important.  For the children being brought up in this strange, ever-changing environment, I hope people teach that you can never have too exceptional of people skills, nor can you ever go wrong having the ability to entertain yourself and others when technology is not around.  Here’s to the good (simple) life and turning an eye to the past to see what we can learn.

Lessons Learned, Personality

Is everyone else loving Johnny Weir as much as I am?

From Johnny’s instagram:

Picture 3


I’m just relaxing watching the Olympics tonight, and I LOVE Johnny Weir.  I love to see Johnny being himself.  I like genuine people, above all else, and as easy as it is for me to recognize this fact when applying it to other peoples’ lives, to accept it in my own was and still is difficult.  Yet being yourself is the best advice I could give.

For me that means being Sarah.  I formally recognized this idea when reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  It is one of her secrets of adulthood: Be Gretchen.  (Rubin also says it’s easier to do something every day rather than once in a while.  Hence, my goal to post on this blog daily.)

In the book, Gretchen writes that it took her until adulthood to realize she shouldn’t feel guilty for liking what she does and not enjoying certain activities that most people do.  For instance, I went to Ohio State University and unlike most of its rabid fans, I really don’t care about football.  I don’t root against the team, but I never found it enjoyable to go to the games and get all worked up with the rest of the fans.  I wish I liked to do this because it seemed like a great bonding experience for a lot of my friends, but I just wasn’t into going to the games.   I can think of many other activities too that most people find fun but that I don’t.  I don’t like to go out to eat much (mostly because, being the food snob I am, food at restaurant chains can be terrible and expensive), and I don’t like to drink alcohol.  My preferences are honestly kind of unfortunate because again, these are social activities people do together.  While I love the company of others, some activities I just don’t like doing, and it took reading the advice straight from Gretchen’s book to realize I shouldn’t beat myself up over these things.  I’ll click with people that are similar to me, and if Johnny’s Olympic role has taught me anything, I might just be admired by everyone who’s anyone for being me.

So keep vamping, Johnny!  I love the eyes he gives the cameras…

johnny weir sochi olympics green blazer headband Johnny Weir: Fashion Gold at the Sochi Olympics


Healthy living

Back to Basics in the Kitchen

This is one of the top articles being emailed on NYTimes.  Now, usually I cringe at mainstream “diet” books, and even though this article’s title, “Learning to cut the sugar,” is a slight misnomer, the article’s message is right on the mark for me.  Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist and author of The Fat Chance Cookbook, is known for his viral lecture, “Sugar: the Bitter Truth.”  I guess it is for this title that the NY Times article is called “Learning to Cut the Sugar.”  However, Dr. Ludwig “says that ‘anti-processed food guy’ would be a more appropriate nickname” (O’Connor).  YES!  I wholeheartedly agree, and I wonder how much of this wisdom came from not only his experience running a childhood weight management clinic but also from his Norwegian wife.

I spent about seven months in France last year teaching English to a group of high school students and I was blown away by the food at the school’s cafeteria.  We’re talking beef roast (some variety of main dish protein), two extremely generous servings of vegetables, a baguette, a piece of cheese, fruit choice, and a dessert.

The French really know how to do lunch.  Thus, I was struck by Dr. Ludwig’s corroboration of my observation.  He said, “The bottom line is every country has its cuisine, and every cuisine works for that country. But there’s one thing that doesn’t work for any country: processed food” (O’Connor).  In France, and I realize things are changing but for the most part, people still cook.  People know how to prepare simple meals at home.  I am just starting a new job and every day at work I am confounded by the number of young people who have absolutely no idea of how to make anything for dinner…to the point that they are only eating 1. out, 2. pasta, or 3. the breakfast route: yogurt or cereal.  WHAT?!  Aren’t you hungry, tired of eating the same things, and sick of restaurant meals???  And, for the record, even the people of my parents’ generation are eating microwaveable meals…yugh.  Have I mentioned I am a food snob?

I had a German roommate, Alina, in France and she unknowingly taught me the most important thing to do in the kitchen: sauté with garlic.  My mom definitely cooked for my family growing up; however, she is not a great cook (her words, not mine).  That is, it’s not something she’s fond of doing, and she doesn’t naturally know how to do it without following a recipe.  [She once told me to bake plain skinless, boneless chicken breasts in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes…Yes, that cooks them but OMG are they bland.]  Alina was the one that introduced me to real garlic gloves and the ease of heating up olive oil, tossing in garlic for the most amazing aroma, and then cooking vegetables, meat, or whatever on the stove top from there.  My favorite Christmas gift I got this year was an OXO garlic mincer, so my hands don’t get sticky (see below).

Picture 1 Picture 2


My mom never learned to really cook because her mom never learned (my great-grandmother died of tuberculosis when my grandmother was only 9).  The art of cooking was lost.  And I believe that holds true for the vast majority of Americans, while our European counterparts, whose appetites for convenience and fast food are definitely catching up to ours (the French are the #2 consumers of fast-food in the world behind Americans), tend to actually cook from scratch, rather than starting with a packaged food product.

I truly believe Dr. Lustig is on to something though.  Being healthy is far easier in some ways than what most Americans imagine.  It doesn’t mean you can’t eat cookies, but I strongly believe it does mean that you will spend solid chunks of time (for my husband and I on the weekends) preparing your own food.

In my next post, I will continue this conversation with my husband’s personal experience losing 30 lbs. eating my homecooked meals!

Sources:  O’Conoor, Anahad.  “Learning to Cut the Sugar.”  February 19, 2014.  Accessed on February 22, 2014.


Envisioning your soul mate? …Think again

I was reading this NPR article (I’m obsessed with NPR, for the record) about interracial relationships, and I want to discuss one line in particular: “A common story went: I always thought I’d date one type of person, but I ended up falling in love with another.”


I think about this whenever I think about online dating.  (Aside: no idea why I think this much about online dating but I’m always thinking about random things, including baby names although I have no intentions of pursuing motherhood for a good couple years!)  Because I’m seriously convinced that people are not good at accurately predicting what it is they want/need in a mate.  There are things my husband does and qualities he possesses that I wouldn’t have thought, prior to our meeting, to put on a mental list of attributes I wanted in a life partner, and we so perfectly complement one another precisely because of these qualities I couldn’t have anticipated.


He’s super patient when I’m anxious, and he’s so loving and kind whereas I can be ruthless.   Had I been asked what is important to me in a boyfriend at the time, I would have prioritized the “on paper” match, and yet that ignores any spark when you just click with someone.  Basically, it’s scary for me to think, given how arbitrary our first meeting in high school was (we didn’t even go to the same school and met at swim meet, in which neither of us was participating), our chances of dating had we tried online dating could have been even more tenuous.  There are so many intangibles that can’t be captured in the “This is what I want” list.  I find myself often wondering what happens in this situation; anyone watch the Bachelor this season?  I feel like Sharleen has had this curse on her this season.  Juan Pablo didn’t match the idea in her head of with whom she thought she would end up, but she said how just….happy she was with him… and then promptly left the show.  I obviously don’t know whether there was more to that story, but it makes you wonder how much people hold themselves back.


I am a Feminist, Married life

Woman and Wife

It’s been eight and a half months since tying the knot and contrary to what my friends anticipated, living together is not the most challenging part of my new awesome life; that’s the best part.  The hardest dimension is something I did anticipate and that is being the woman in the marriage.  It’s nearly impossible for me to not think of where I fit into the statistics on working men and women and the sharing of household chores.  This aspect of my new life was especially challenging given that my husband, Jon, was three years established in a career whereas I was first moving to be with him after our wedding.  Consequently, priority number one was being together and once married, I would search for a job.  We didn’t prioritize Jon’s job over mine.  It was just that he happened to have one before me, and we acted accordingly.

Naturally then, I was the one to take care of the house.  My gender had nothing to do with that part of the decision.  It was just who happened to hold a job and who happened to be at home all day.  Initially I felt pressured to have a very clean apartment and nice dinner every night because what else was I doing?  Not only that but what all was my husband doing at work?  I thought we had to share equally.  If he was working at work, he shouldn’t have to lift a finger at home.  And this is where things become tricky because I can’t separate how much of that is my desire to be fair and split tasks 50/50 versus how much is an innate, insidious mentality about women being in the home.

I have to think back to a class in college when I volunteered to take a Harvard implicit association test for gender bias in the workplace.  (You should definitely try it if you haven’t already—it sneakily tests your biases by seeing how quickly –or sluggishly—you associate men’s and women’s names with both household and workplace ideas, in this case.) Well, I was labeled extremely prejudiced against women in the workplace based on my unintentionally delayed response times in linking female names with traditionally male roles.  These results are pretty disappointing considering that I went to an all girls’ high school with an obviously strong emphasis on female achievement, not to mention the fact that I consciously and conscientiously believe women are equally as capable and talented as men.

However, I was raised by a stay-at-home mother with a working father and nearly all of my friends’ parents in childhood followed this pattern.  My mom did return to work but only once I was in high school; perhaps the traditional set-up I grew up with was ingrained in my thought patterns by that point.  I want to make clear though, never once have I thought my mother was any less intelligent than my father.  No, the prejudice has always come when thinking about working women.  I would be lying to say that my immediate concept of a family, far beyond any conscious contemplation, doesn’t involve stay-at-home mothers, or at a minimum women running the household.  For better or for worse, I associate the mother staying at home with young children and more immediately applicable to my situation, myself doing a larger share of chores.  Why not if I prefer cooking to fixing things?

Many tasks, like dinner and laundry, I would do regardless of marital status.  But is that the point here?  There’s now a second person to whom I can pass some of these chores.  Repairs take less time and occur far less often than the every day emptying of the dishwasher, prepping meals, and wiping down counters, to name a few chores.  I especially feel my “womanness” when I’m in the kitchen cleaning up after cooking and serving a meal and my husband’s lounging on the couch.

Any other females out there struggling with this “instinct” to pick up the slack around the house?  I’d like to take this time now to make clear that my husband has far fewer—close to none according to the results of his Harvard implicit association test—preconceived notions about women working than me and is more than happy to do his fair share of housework…if only I make clear my expectations of him in the form of a honey-do list. J Do my ideas then have to do with how I was raised, or do they stem from culturally created gender expectations?  I 100% consider myself a feminist. Why are my unconscious thoughts so misaligned with what I say I explicitly believe?

What and where is the happy medium?


About Me

I just got married to the love of my life (!!!).  That’s about all I have figured out. I’m still trying to find what I want to do and what kind of life I want to have.  In that vein, I am blogging to an audience because journaling is too introspective for me, and I don’t think I could hold myself accountable to do it regularly.  (I’ve tried.) I have a variety of interests, so although I’d like to be more focused, initially my intent is to write every day about what I’m thinking and doing.  This blog will be a record of everything I’m learning/have learned thus far and hopefully an open discussion with my readers.  I have a tendency to ask a bajillion questions (watch this ad to see what my husband’s life is like), so I decided I’d give my husband a break and write down my thoughts instead of (in addition to?) voicing all of them.  Also, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing for a couple months now, and I’ve read a couple of authors concur in saying that the best writers are just the ones who have continued to write, day in and day out for years.  So here I am trying it out.