Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 23rd

Hi, guys!

Mal said he had such a nice birthday this year. We had a small party at our house over the weekend and then continued the celebration on Tuesday, which was his actual birthday.

The morning started bright and early at 5:30 AM with Qman climbing into bed with me. Apparently, he was just too excited about Dada’s birthday to sleep! With presents in hand, we headed downstairs to wish Mal a happy birthday!

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Mal was already awake, drinking coffee in the kitchen, so our timing was perfect for helping him start his birthday on the right foot! 🙂

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Birthday hugs!!

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And presents! Look at Murphy… he thinks everything is for him!

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Even though Mal and I had said: no presents, I still felt like I should get him something, especially after he bought me such a thoughtful Mother’s Day gift. Mal and I are actually buying each other the most ridiculously expensive home improvement project in the next couple of weeks, so we “supposedly” squashed the idea of getting each other presents for all of our upcoming celebrations. Long story short, I kept things simple and framed a really adorable photo that I took of Qman a few weeks ago. Mal loved it! 🙂

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After that, I cooked Mal breakfast. He wanted cheesy scrambled eggs with toast, so I got to work! Meanwhile, the boys dug into Dada’s birthday croissant.

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Oh, yea, Dada also got a cat for his birthday. Meow!

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When Mal left for school, I got Qman ready for daycare. I dropped him off and then returned home to photograph one of the recipes that I’m developed for Muuna.

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Once I finished and cleaned up the kitchen, I grabbed my things and headed to Starbucks to work. While there, I ate my breakfast, which was Strawberry Cheesecake Overnight Oats – leftovers for my photo shoot. Mmm! So good!


Around 11:00, I headed over to Orangetheory for a workout. It was my first of the week, so I was excited for a serious sweat session! And, my goodness, I was exhausted by the end! LOVE OTF!!

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After Orangetheory, I ran a couple of quick errands in the Shipyard before heading home for lunch. And, boy, was I hungry! I didn’t even bother with a shower. I walked in the front door and immediately reached into the fridge! Thanks to some Sunday prep, I threw together some shredded chicken with red cabbage, bacon, onion, and roasted parsnips. Delish!

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After that, I took a shower, got ready for the day, and dug into some dried baby bananas from Trader Joe’s. (Qman really likes these, too!)

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After that, I took Murphy for a walk and then headed back to Starbucks to work and wait for Mal to finish up at school. We made plans to go to an early dinner with Qman to celebrate his birthday, so I worked until he was on his way home.

Back at home, we grabbed a few toys and “the bus” to take to dinner with us and then hit the road to Rivershed.

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The start of dinner was a lot of fun. We cheered our drinks to Dada, used crayons to draw sharks, and played a couple of silly games at the table. But, then, I don’t know what happened. I guess maybe Qman was hangry, but he went into total tantrum monster mode. We eventually took him outside for a change of scenery. (Related: Rivershed has an awesome kid-friendly outdoor space!) Things got better after that, but dinner was definitely touch-and-go with a cranky kid. Even still, Mal enjoyed himself and we all had some good laughs on the way home! 🙂

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Question of the Day

How do you deal with your kid’s bad behavior at a restaurant?

Thankfully, there was a great outdoor space with lots of toys that ultimately changed Qman’s mood, but we seriously considered leaving a few times. It was a tough choice because Quinn was misbehaving, but it was Mal’s birthday and we didn’t want to ruin his special day either.


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10 Tips to Boost Your Serotonin

Schiefertafel mit der chemischen Formel von SerotoninSerotonin is a major regulator of mood and depression risk. These are important, vital roles, to be sure. Your mood describes how you experience and interpret the world. If it’s consistently bad, you’regoing to have a rough time. Yet, serotonin is much more than the “feel-good hormone.” It also influences sexual desire and helps us remember. It’s the precursor to melatonin, the neurotransmitter that allows us to sleep.

Although we mainly think of serotonin as a neurotransmitter acting on the brain, our guts are the biggest producers of serotonin. About 90% of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in the gut, where it helps trigger the contractions that push food through the GI tract and initiates nausea and vomiting (when necessary). That’s not the focus of today’s post on brain serotonin boosters, but I thought you’d all find it interesting.

Okay, so how can someone with inadequate serotonin levels boost the available serotonin in their brains?

Eat Animal Protein

We often forget that “thoughts” and “feelings” aren’t just ephemera floating around inside our heads without a material representative. Every thought, feeling, emotion, or mood we experience is a physical thing made of matter. We don’t just “feel better.” To feel better, we manufacture serotonin using an amino acid called tryptophan as the precursor.

Whether it’s turkey, eggs, dairy, beef, lamb, chicken, or fish, animal protein is a reliable source of tryptophan. Studies show that whey protein and egg protein both acutely increase tryptophan availability in the brain.

Get Plenty of Natural Light

Sunlight is a direct trigger of serotonin synthesis. The brighter the sunlight, the higher the serotonin production. This may explain seasonal affective disorder, where depression spikes during colder, darker months. It may also explain why sun exposure increases cognitive function in both depressed and healthy subjects, or why bright light exposure prevents bad moods after tryptophan depletion.

Bright light doesn’t imply full blaring sunlight. Going outside on a cloudy, late autumn day will expose you to far more bright, natural light than you’ll experience sitting inside with the lights on. I’d guess the main reason winter is worse for serotonin is that people are less likely to go outside and brave the bad weather.

Get your light as early as possible. A 10-15 minute walk just after sunrise (no sunglasses; bathe in the light) sets the tone for the day.

Get Your Vitamin D

Vitamin D—which we synthesize from UVB exposure—allows the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin

I recommend getting most of your vitamin D from the sun. It’s better regulated that way, and you get the added benefit of lots of natural light. If you need or want to supplement (probably a good idea for most people during the colder seasons when sun exposure is low), look for a high potency formula. Here’s what I take.

Eat Seafood

Not only does seafood provide ample amounts of the amino acid tryptophan, the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in marine fat increase serotonin production in the brain and improve serotonin transport across neurons.

You might take cod liver oil or eat the actual livers, as that provides both vitamin D (for increased tryptophan conversion) and long-chain omega-3s. However, a good daily dose of omega-3 supplementation through high potency, pharmaceutical-grade fish oil works fine, too, for those who get ample vitamin D otherwise.

Don’t Avoid Carbs Entirely

Carbs spike insulin, which shuttles amino acids out of the blood and into cells. This leaves tryptophan as the dominant amino acid in the bloodstream, because it’s bound to albumin and inaccessible to insulin. When amino acids compete for conversion into neurotransmitters, tryptophan wins, and serotonin rises, because no one else shows up.

Many readers of this blog prefer lower-carb diets. I’m the same. If you feel like your serotonin levels need a boost, consider increasing carb intake a little.

Eat Curry

Turmeric has emerged in recent years as a powerful antidepressant, in many cases equalling or even surpassing the effects of prescription antidepressants. Turns out that turmeric (or curcumin, rather) increases brain serotonin levels in a dose-dependent matter.

So maybe you need curcumin, the isolated polyphenol found in turmeric, to really affect depression. Maybe your chicken tikka masala isn’t replacing your SSRI. But absent outright depression or serotonin-based mood disorders, cooking with turmeric should help regulate normal serotonin levels.


Exercise increases serotonin via two pathways. First, the activation of motor neurons increases the firing rate of serotonin neurons, thus boosting the synthesis and release of serotonin. Second, exercise consistently elevates tryptophan levels in the brain, even for hours after the session.

Drink Coffee

Generic alternative health gurus will tell you caffeine depletes serotonin. It sounds right, doesn’t it? What they won’t say is that caffeine has actually been shown to increase brain serotonin, at least in rats.  It also makes the brain more sensitive to the effects of serotonin. Personally, I’m drinking my coffee.

Get a Massage

Conventional experts will say “massage just feels good.” Well, yeah. That’s the point. Getting a massage boosts serotonin by 28%.

Get your Micronutrients

This should really be standard advice for any health issue. Many problems go away when we eat more micronutrients—vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients—because micronutrients are essential to fundamental physiological processes and pathways. It’s a safe bet that all of us are at least mildly deficient in a handful of important nutrients—like B6, which regulates serotonin synthesis.                                         r

One study found that a food-based multivitamin/multimineral supplement drink called Lavita increased tryptophan and serotonin levels in healthy subjects. While that product does purport to offer a boost in many micronutrients, a solid Primal diet with quality meats and good, varied vegetable intake should provide the same nutrient base. Of course, many of us choose a comprehensive multivitamin/multimineral supplement as well.

That’s what I have for today, folks. Thanks for stopping by. Share your thoughts and questions on the comment board, and have a good week.

This post was originally published in 2007. I’ve revised it substantially to reflect current research findings and scientific understanding. 


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L.A. Travels, Meals + Celebs!

Good morning!! Time zones blow my mind, and I woke up early to write this post and feel bad because it’s nearly lunchtime back east!

I’ll be sharing all of the details from my TV segments later this week, but I wanted to also share some of the delicious meals we’ve been having – as well as some celebrity sightings!

I hugged this guy extra tight before I left. I have explained to him that I travel for work, and he is very understanding. If I remind him of my trip he’ll say “YOU TOLD ME ALREADY!” He doesn’t miss a beat. He also asked if I was going to see KK while out in California, and I told him no because KK was headed his way! This trip worked out perfectly because she was planning to visit Cville this week anyways, and so Mazen is in good hands between Matt and Karen’s company. They are actually going to New Orleans together to visit Ava and family, so Mazen is very excited.

I spent all day Monday traveling. My first celebrity sighting was Londen Perrantes of UVA basketball fame! He was on my flight to Atlanta : ) We all missed our connections though because our flight was delayed a few hours leaving Cville. I was able to get a standby seat on the next flight to L.A. otherwise I would have had to wait four hours in Atlanta. Props to the Delta app for all of the notifications – it knew I would miss my flight before I did. I was also able to book the later flight right from my phone – super cool!

Cross-country flights are a drag, but I got a lot of work done thanks to wifi (which jumped from $9.95 to $29.95?!) and in-seat power. I had a glass of wine and a cheese plate for a dinner-time snack!

Upon my late arrival in L.A. my team had some dinner ordered to my room, which I was incredibly thankful for. I didn’t feel that hungry until I started eating this salmon, which was actually really good!

My room is very cool and cozy.

What an odd place for a full-length mirror?!

On Tuesday morning we were up bright and early (actually my body clock woke up at 4:45 but I was able to fall back asleep!) for breakfast. Is it really this nice here all year long?!

My stomach was in knots, but a bagel with cream cheese sounded good (just like when I was pregnant – my body must find comfort in bagels with cream cheese!) so I ordered one with lox. It was so good!

We are staying right in Universal Studios so we were able to walk to the NBC building for our Access Hollywood Live interview. Tell you all about that tomorrow!

Holy make-up!

After the director said “CUT. That’s a wrap!” (ha) we went to lunch at Joan’s On Third.

Celebrity sighting #2 was Joey King, known best for her role as Ramona. We sat at the end of her table, and then James Franco walks in and sits to down chat with Joey for a while! I could have reached out and touched him. Talk about movie star looks!

But back to our salads, which were also movie-star quality. I had the chicken over baby greens with goat cheese.

I spent a few hours that afternoon working in my room when I realized I was running out of time to enjoy the pool, so I went out and read a magazine in a cabana for 30 minutes before dinner. Gosh it felt good to lie down!

Amanda and Mallory are my media tour organizers and cheering squad this week! They are awesome.

We went to Laurel Canyon to a restaurant called Pace that could literally be described as a hidden gem because it was tucked away on the lower floor of a convenience store.

We shared a chopped vegetable salad that was packed with goodness:

We enjoyed some wine, and this snapper with roasted roots and sautéed spinach. Very delicious!

And for dessert, we shared this chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.

I crashed into my bed, hoping to keep my body close as close to East Coast time as possible because our day tomorrow begins at 3 am pacific time!

Thanks for following my adventures!

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Eat for Your Body, Not Your Bikini: How to Love Your Summer Body

Summer is around the corner, and while many look forward to the joys this season brings — vacations, more time spent outside, time off from school and work — just as many dread it thanks to media marketing around getting “the perfect bikini body” and photo-shopped models painting an unrealistic ideal. Along with the “beach body” marketing comes an onslaught of ridiculous fad diets and expensive schemes that ultimately lead to long-term weight gain…not to mention lower self-esteem, anxiety and preoccupation with food. This summer, try eating for your body, instead of that bikini and implement these practices to cultivate body respect and kindness.


Intuitive Eating

Ever wonder how a toddler knows exactly what and how much he/she wants to eat? We’re all born with an innate ability to know what food our body needs and when we’re satisfied. But unfortunately, somewhere along the way, a family member, friend, health professional, or the media told us what we should and shouldn’t eat and we lost touch with that inner voice. The good news is that inner wisdom still lives within each of us, and intuitive eating is a practice that helps us strengthen that voice by tuning into our body to honor our hunger and feel when we’re full. The work involves making peace with food by ditching the diet culture mentality, telling the food police to shove it, and finding pleasure and satisfaction from eating. This summer, rather than asking yourself “what should I eat right now?”, which comes from a place of fear, guilt and shame, empower your internal wisdom and flex that self-trust muscle by asking, “what do I want to eat right now?”


Social Media “Diet”

The only “diet” that may be of some value to follow this summer is one where you control the media you take in. Marci Evans, registered dietitian and eating disorder expert in Cambridge, MA, helps her clients block unhelpful people on Facebook, un-follow provoking Instagram accounts, toss out triggering magazines and carefully curate the blogs they read. “Then we have fun filling their feeds with information that inspires them to be their healthiest and most authentic self in mind, body, and spirit. It’s a picture of health that is taken from the inside, rather than the outside,” Evans says. Not sure where to start? Evans recommends to “try searching for people who promote body positivity, body acceptance, intuitive eating, and non-dieting.” Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, author of Body Kindness, says we need to filter our social media feeds so we can see pictures of people in larger bodies having fun. “The reality is 67% of American women are a size 14 or higher. Why can’t we see more representation of what people really look like? Exposure to size diversity helps us all.”


Ban Body Bashing

Negative body talk is all around us; in fact, many women bond over complaining about their bodies. But if we don’t like our bodies, guess what, we’re not going to treat them very well. It’s time to change the dialogue because our thoughts affect our behaviors and if we want to start treating our bodies better, we need to start with shifting the dialogue from negative to positive. Scritchfield suggests trying to focus on all the wonderful things our bodies do for us. “Write a ‘love letter’ to yourself. Put positive post-its where you get dressed and feel naked and vulnerable and see if the self-love note helps you feel a little less body shame.” She also says it’s pretty powerful to “write down your ‘critic’ thoughts and ask ‘would I say this to a little girl’?”. Evans recommends getting your girlfriends in on the change. “Let your friends know that you want your friendships to foster support and encouragement, not body bashing.”


Feel Good in Your Here and Now Body

The reality is that many aspects of our bodies are out of our control, and the more we try to manipulate them to fit a certain size or reach a number on the scale, the more if backfires and we feel worse. The best thing we can do is to treat our bodies with respect because health is more about behaviors than it is about a size. Rather than waiting to treat yourself until you reach that “number,” start working today to feel good in your here-and-now body. Evans recommends trying things like a fun pair of sunglasses, a new nail polish, a fresh haircut and hydrating your skin with lotion. “You deserve to treat your body with warmth and kindness today! Turns out we treat things we like better than we treat things we hate. So start treating your body as if you like it, and your health just might thank you for it!”


Kara Lydon, R.D., L.D.N., R.Y.T., is a nutrition coach, yoga teacher and self-proclaimed foodie. She is a recipe developer, food photographer, writer and spokeswoman. Her food and healthy living blog, The Foodie Dietitian, features seasonal vegetarian recipes and simple strategies to bring more mindfulness and yoga into your life.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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