Let’s talk about screens

I am, ashamedly, addicted to technology. Here’s my confession:

I spend my 90% of my workday on the computer.

I go home and work on homework or check email or check facebook or play candy crush on the computer (and/or on my iPhone). I watch TV (or TV shows on my computer). Sometimes, I even double up on screens: I’ll watch TV AND play Candy Crush. I am addicted to the busyness and excitement of getting new messages, of seeing new feeds, and keep my mind constantly jumping from task to task.

And on a usual day, I lie in bed at night with my “browser windows” of life open in my mind. Just like the physical browser on my computer, my mind is working at 15 things at once. It’s hard to settle down. It’s exhausting.

Yesterday, I clicked on a random TED talk that ended up being related to this idea. It was about stillness. Travel Writer Pico Iyer talks about the importance of stillness and of “going nowhere.” He talks about how workers today are working fewer days than our predecessors but feel like they’re working more. We are lacking stillness. Our work lives and our home lives are missing stillness, and so we just keep going, going, going.

I am struck by how few of the “activities” that I do on the computer, especially in the evening after work, are meaningful, productive, or active. We thank technology for making us more productive, for giving us more capacity, for allowing us to get more done. But far too often, I find that my screens are a barrier to my productivity, and really to my overall well-being. I do appreciate that I have both the physical time and the technological capacity to decompress with a few episodes of a chosen TV show. I appreciate the way that Facebook keeps me connected to people whose lives I might otherwise miss. I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts on a blog like this. And I’m appreciative of the access to information I have — thank you Google.

But technology does not have any inherent limits or ethical boundaries. Technology can be dangerous. Technology wants to be used. Technology is an addiction. Overuse of technology leads to eye strain, arthritis, and depression. Technology can control.

So let’s instead control technology. It is only by our own choice that we can set our own personal limits on how we allow technology to influence our lives. This may look like:

  • Turning off screens two hours before bed.
  • Using an old-fashioned alarm clock and 100% powering down your phone.
  • Limiting your “screen time.” Before you turn on Netflix, decide how many episodes you will watch today. Don’t wait to decide that until the cliffhanger at the end of the next episode.
  • Don’t keep your e-mail open constantly, but rather check it periodically. Especially at work, the “ping” of a new email can be a major distraction and reducer of productivity. Check for new messages when you actually have a good few minutes to respond to messages accordingly.

What other strategies do you use to keep your technology use in balance?

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Why Everyone Needs a Little Ice Cream

I stood in line at Giant Eagle, my selections displayed on the belt. A middle-aged man came up behind me in line and laughed a bit. He made a comment about working at a restaurant/ catering company that also provides cooking classes, and how little many people know about healthy foods. He said he often looks at what people buy when he’s shopping and (harmlessly) judges their purchases for the relative health. I think he didn’t know what to do with my choices — because I had quite the variety of “healthy” and “unhealthy” food — from a 5 lb. bag of organic carrots to two 1/2 gallons of full-fat ice cream. 

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Believe it or not, my choice to buy ice cream (and consume it in small quantities on a regular basis) is part of my overall view on health and wellness. I believe that health is not about deprivation or having the most self control, but of making choices that make you feel good — physically, emotionally, relationally. etc. Eating ice cream makes me happy and satisfies me in a way that no carrot ever will. But eating ONLY ice cream also doesn’t fulfill me…. as much as I want it to– because having too much drains me of energy and lowers my self esteem. Ice cream signifies indulgence: letting go of control, enjoying the simple things in life. It’s not always right to let go of control. Some control is good and important. I mostly fill my body with food that not only tastes good but provides  mix of protein, carbs, vitamins, fiber, healthy fats, etc. But I save room for that precious serving of ice cream (which conveniently has protein and calcium… and less conveniently has some saturated fat and a bunch of added sugars), because my body needs that, too. 

In the end, it all comes back to balance. 

Tempeh veggie bowls

I made something pretty tasty — sans recipe– for dinner tonight. I am generally a recipe follower on most things. Goes along with my rule-follower tendencies, I think.

But we had some veggies that were on the verge of going bad and Devon suggested we use some of the tempeh we had stored in the freezer. (Tempeh is a soy based product, like tofu, but with more density and, in my opinion, a more pleasing texture.)

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Generally speaking, this is what I made:

Tempeh veggie bowls
Ingredients:
1 c brown rice
Chopped mixed fresh veggies (I used: chopped onions, assorted bell peppers, zucchini, shredded carrots)
Olive Oil
1 block tempeh
Soy sauce
Spices (I used several dashes chili powder, a dash of paprika and a touch of cayenne pepper)
Garlic, minced
Fresh tomatoes, chopped
Salsa

Directions:
1. Start rice cooking. Use 2x the water and, if you wish, a bit of oil. I usually cook for about 40 minutes.
2. Chop tempeh into bite-sized pieces. Marinate in a few dashes of soy sauce, a bit of olive oil, spices of your choice (such as chile powder and paprika), and several cloves of fresh minced garlic.
3. Chop veggies. Heat oil in large skillet. Once hot, add veggies and sauté. After veggies begin to soften, add tempeh mixture and cook until hot and slightly browned.
4. Once the rice is done (water is absorbed), pile a few spoonfuls of rice, veggie/tempeh mix, salsa, and fresh tomatoes in a bowl. Enjoy!

Editorial comments: tomatoes were from our little garden!! So good and sweet!! Salsa was from a homemade batch my sister-in-law Rochelle had given us for Christmas. Yum!!

A Birthday Feast

I had a birthday yesterday! One of the great things about birthdays is getting to eat what you want. At first I was stuck. What is my favorite food? I really like ice cream, but I haven’t found that ice cream is actually the best meal replacement to make me feel good physically. Then I thought about how much I like fresh food– whatever is in season. Based on that and some inspiration from the Internet, my birthday dinner menu consisted of:

Grilled chicken

Corn on the cob

This fantastic chickpea, pesto, tomato & mozzarella salad from the Blog Two Peas and Their Pod

Chocolate zucchini cake

Grilled zucchini, adapted from a recipe by the Pioneer Woman. The zucchini was from Diane’s farm stand in Hazelwood, Dylamato’s. 

For other thoughts on the food I like, check out my Pinterest food board. I probably have just as many sweets on there as I do “healthy” foods… like I said, it’s all about balance!!

Thanks to Devon, Rachel, Candace, Jordan, Andie and Kyle for doing the legwork on cooking up all this great food! Yum!!

Granola Bars

A question has been plaguing me lately. Are granola bars actually healthy? See, I really like snacks, and easy snacks on the go are a must. And I really like the idea of granola bars*, and they sound healthy… but are they?

Then I started going down the rabbit hole. How do you measure the health of a granola bar, or anything else for that matter? There’s calorie count alone, but that seems like a shallow way to measure a complex product. There’s fiber and protein and filling-ness. And fat, especially saturated fat and trans fat. There’s Glycemic Index and complex versus simple carbs. And there’s the amount of additives that we really shouldn’t be putting in our bodies.

Yikes. And all that doesn’t even include another important factor when choosing a granola bar: Taste! Here’s a breakdown of a few different bars:

Nature Valley Oats and Honey (2 bars) Lara Bar (Cherry Pie) Nutri grain Apple Cinnamon Cereal Bar FiberOne Oats and Chocolate PowerBar Protein Plus Bar (Chocolate and Peanut Butter)
Calories 190 200 120 140 210
Fat (Total/ Saturated/ Trans) 6g/.5/0 8g/.5g/0 3g/.5/0 4g/2/0 6g/3g/0
Carbs (Total/ Sugar/Fiber 29g/12g/2g 30g/23g/4g 24g/12g/3g 29g/10g/9g 25g/12/4g
Protein 4g 5g 2g 2g 20g
Ingredients Mostly pronounceable Unsweetened cherries, dates and almonds (that’s IT!) Lots! (And really weird things no ones every heard of) Lots! Lots!
Taste I think they’re delicious. Especially slathered with peanut butter. I like them! Pretty tasty, but definitely not filling Like a cardboard candy bar Like a chalky candy bar,
Overall ratings I think they’re filling, and I think they win on taste. However, the nutrients really don’t measure up. They contain 7g of unsaturated fat (which are good!) and have a super simple ingredient list. They do have a decent amount of calories and lots of sugar, even if from natural sources. Doesn’t contain much to keep you full or satisfied. Not a good option overall. This is a good option to get a lot of fiber, which makes it filling. Some like the taste, but others don’t prefer it. I have also found they can leave you feeling bloated. Personally, I’d prefer to get my fiber from fruits and veggies. If you’re looking for lots of protein, this delivers. Definitely not the most natural ingredient list, and contains 200mg of sodium and 3g of saturated fat. Also a higher cal option.

So, I think the moral of the story is that you have to sacrifice on something in granola bars. You can’t have both the best taste and the most filling, or the most fiber and the most protein. It’s probably better to choose a snack that’s not prepackaged, like a handful of almonds and an apple. 1 medium sized apple and 1 ounce of almonds provides 226 cal, 14 g fat (1 g saturated/0 trans), 23g total carb/6 g fiber/14g sugar and 6g protein. Cheaper, more natural, and healthier.

*I use the term granola bars loosely to describe cereal bars, protein bars, etc.

Creativity and health

Did you know that creativity can contribute to your well-being?

It’s about more than music therapy or keeping arts in the schools. As a “grown-up,” creativity may seem like the last thing we have time or interest in. But research has shown a strong link between creativity and improved mental and physical health. As Amanda Enayati writes here, “Creating helps make people happier, less anxious, more resilient and better equipped to problem-solve in the face of hardship.” Creativity is the flip side to our stressed-out, overworked selves. Creativity is release. Creativity gives us purpose and fulfillment. Creativity can lead to “unconventional” choices, such as making less money and changing priorities to make room for our passions.

You may also be surprised to know that “activities that tap self-awareness and creativity – such as dance, art, sleep, meditation, hobbies and play – can have a positive impact on problem-solving and other research practices,” according to research out of Cornell. We’re used to thinking of science as opposed to art, but contemplation practices can improve not only professional artists but also the work of biomedical researchers. The contemplative practices that are included in “The Tree of Contemplative Practice” can improve flexibility and adaptability, facilitate a state of calm, broaden perspectives, explore values, decrease emotional drama, improve self-regulation, and aid in problem-solving. Tree7-11large

Imagine that. Creativity isn’t necessarily an attribute you’re born with. It can be cultivated through contemplative practices of stillness, creativity, production, relationships, rituals, and activism.

What contemplative practices have you tried? How have you made room for creative pursuits in your life?

Welcome to Wellness

Welcome to the blog!

I’m really interested in health and wellness and helping others get to a place where they can maximize their healthy choices and live a happy life. I am NOT about fad dieting, restricting food intake, or assigning guilt to others’ health status. I have lots to learn myself!

I prioritize balance. I once heard the phrase “a balanced diet is a piece of white chocolate in one hand and dark chocolate in the other.” I could really do without the white chocolate… but my own lifestyle choices consist of the “good for your body” choices, like eating lots of veggies and drinking lots of water and some “good for your soul” choices, like eating ice cream most days out of the week.

I hope that my blog inspires you to find the choices that are right for you wherever you are on your health journey!

Here’s to a happier, healthier, balanced life!
Kristen