Wednesday, December 6, 2017

My Perfect Work Day

I’ve partnered with VARIDESK to bring you this blog post. And, I have to admit, I never thought I’d be so enthusiastic about a desk. For real. In just a few weeks it has transformed how I work and feel. Read on to see why I love this stand-up desk so much!

Back in May when I visited San Diego for the Fitness Business Summit, I listened to a speaker named Craig Ballantyne talk about the importance of “owning your day” and taking steps to control your life in his book The Perfect Day Formula. It really resonated with me because, at the time, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by my current routine. Sure, there were days here and there when things didn’t blow up, but I knew I wanted to better my situation. Craig talked about the “Perfect Day” where everything just clicks and you feel great. He actually shared his “Perfect Day Formula,” which emphasized sticking to a schedule. It might seems a little counter-intuitive, but he explained that structure actually creates more freedom in your life because you better prioritize, which leaves you more time to do what you want.

Ever since I learned about The Perfect Day Formula, I’ve thought a lot about what my “perfect” work day would look like. Truthfully, most days, I’m a hot mess, but there are some days that I get pretty close. When I’m productive, active, and feeling balanced, it’s a good day. It’s also motivation to keep on trucking until I achieve that perfect day. Curious what my perfect work day would look like? Read on!

Up and ‘at for an early-morning workout. A few times a week, a pop into the 5:15 AM class at CrossFit. When I work out first thing in the morning, I know my day is going to go better. Plus, it really maximizes my time in the morning. I sometimes have an extra 20-30 minutes to do chores around the house or catch up with email before Quinn wakes up.

Post-workout Coffee Shack trip. It’s such a little thing, but ordering a delicious iced coffee (and one for Mal too) after my workout always puts me in a good mood. There’s also sometimes donut samples in the morning, which, obviously, makes me happy!

Hanging out with Qman and getting in a shower. I love my mornings with Qman. I feel like we’re often rushing out the door to get him to school, but if I’m awake before he is, I’ll jump in the shower real quick. Even on the mornings that Quinn is awake early, we have a routine (he gets 15 minutes of the iPad under Murphy’s supervision) while I take a shower. Having that shower under my belt, instead of waiting hours to get clean, makes me feel much more put together for the day.

Eating a nutritious and delicious breakfast. I’m loving this Powerseed Protein Oatmeal topped with banana sliced and cinnamon. It’s loaded with protein, healthy fats, and fiber, and it’s soooo filling!

Prioritizing my To Do list for the day. I do this BEFORE I start working, so I know exactly what needs to be accomplished before I start. Even if I only accomplish a few things on my list, at least I know I did what was most important.

Working at home at my VARIDESK in my office. I work best when I’m alone in my office at home. No distractions! I also love that my desk encourages me to move around throughout the day. I mean, I wake up at 4:45 AM to workout, so it doesn’t make much sense to sit on my butt all day long after that. Being active throughout my work day makes me so much more productive, and I’m much more mentally alert when I’m standing. And here’s a fun fact for you: If you were to use a standing desk for 4 hours a day during a 5 day work week, you could burn an extra 650 calories on average! Isn’t that nuts!? It definitely makes me feel better about all of the time I spend in front of my laptop and having an active office make my day go a zillion times better.

Taking an actual lunch break and enjoying a healthy meal. I’m loving tasting plates lately. They’re super versatile and just about anything combination of foods works and they are so easy to make. I just pull out whatever I have in my fridge and lunch is ready to go in 5 minutes or less!

Finishing my work day with a pug walk and a podcast. I usually don’t a ton of time at the end of the day, so this doesn’t happen as much as I’d like, but it’s definitely something I want to work towards. I love disconnecting (from work) this way. Pug + personal development + physical activity = perfection!

Dinner and conversation with my boys. After being away from my family all day, I love catching up with them over dinner. Now that Quinn can talk, our conversations are often quite hilarious!

Climbing into bed, reading or chatting with Mal, and hitting the hay early. I used to spend hours at night scrolling through Instagram and Facebook doing absolutely nothing of significance. Nowadays, I make it a point to head to bed early. Plus, it’s a necessity now that I wake up at 4:45 AM for CrossFit. All I know is that when I’m well-rested, I’m a much happier person!

Question of the Day

Your turn! What needs to happen for your work day to be a perfect one?

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24 Days of Togetherness – Days 1 – 5

Hi, guys!

This year’s 24 Days of Togetherness is off to a great start – we’ve already had a ton of fun and we’re only 5 days in. I’m excited to see what the rest of the holiday season holds for us. Here’s a little recap of Days 1 through 5 so far!

Day 1: Get a Christmas tree and decorate it. 

Day 2: Do an anonymous good deed. We visited some friends and hid Starbucks gift cards in their house for them to find! 🙂

Day 3: Make a gingerbread house. We picked up a great gingerbread house kit from Trader Joe’s – super easy and fun!

Day 4: Listen to The Muppets Christmas. <— Mal has been doing this since he was a kid!

Day 5: Make Christmas cookies. These cookies were EPIC. Mal recently bought some chocolate chip cookie dough from school fundraiser, so we used that to make the cookies. Then, Quinn and I made homemade frosting using powdered sugar, which made a huge mess of the kitchen. It was actually pretty hilarious because Quinn and I were both covered in powdered sugar by the end – but the frosting turned out great! Haha! We finished off the cookies with some holiday sprinkles and then they were done! OMGSOGOOD!

 

Question of the Day

Are you participating in 24 Days of Togetherness this year? If so, what have you done so far? 

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The Modern Hijacking of Dopamine: Supernormal vs. Ancestral Stimuli

Reflection at eyeglasses of man: looking at a websiteScientists recently discovered a major difference between humans and apes. It’s not the body hair, or the prehensile feet, or the propensity to fling poop with less-than-perfect accuracy. It’s actually the TH gene, one that directs the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Humans express the TH gene in the striatum, a part of the brain involved in movement, and in the neocortex, which conducts higher-order thinking. Chimps and other apes do not.

Why is this so important?

Most people think of dopamine as the pleasure neurotransmitter. Dopamine is a major regulator of the reward pathway, which involves pleasure, but it doesn’t directly influence the sensory or mental experience of pleasure. Dopamine is a wanting chemical. It compels us to seek, to do, to move. Ultimately, dopamine triggers reward pathways as a way to motivate the organism to do the things that improve fitness, survival, and genetic proliferation. That it’s most active in the parts of the human brain that control movement and higher order thinking illustrates this fact nicely.

When you “win,” you get a hit of dopamine. The hit of dopamine is intended to perpetuate the action that got you the victory. It’s supposed to keep you pushing forward to greater wins and greater rewards. Dopamine itself is not the reward. Dopamine is the nudge that pushes you through the pain, misery, and hardship required to achieve something great and monumental. Consider getting stronger in the gym, faster on the track, more skilled on the field; dopamine increases the fatigue threshold during exercise. Not just starting your business, but having it succeed. Getting the promotion. All these accomplishments require hard work and pain. Dopamine helps you grin and bear it.

Without a healthy dopamine response, we won’t accomplish or even do much. In Parkinson’s disease, the neurons in the striatum responsible for dopamine production are degraded. This retards movement and motor control. In depression, dopamine function is often dysfunctional, leading to a distinct lack of motivation (to exercise, socialize, get out of bed). These are extreme examples. What about the rest of us?

Consider what dopamine is designed to do: achieve and progress through hard work and persistence. That humans express it in those specific regions of the brain and less intelligent apes do not suggests it may have made the difference between hanging around in the jungle nibbling leaves and digging for grubs and making complex tools and building advanced civilizations.

Now consider what kind of dopamine triggers we experience nowadays.

Porn. Getting an email in the inbox. Logging onto Facebook and seeing all those red numbers in the notifications. A text from a friend. Nothing too monumental, nothing too out of the ordinary. Right?

There are big problems with dopamine triggers common to modern life.

  1. They’re easy to come by. You don’t have to work for social media likes. You don’t have to wine and dine or even get to know the pornography actor. You just click a few buttons and type a few keys and the “win” is deposited in your lap.
  2. They don’t give real rewards. A “like” isn’t real. It doesn’t result in material, spiritual, or even emotional accomplishments. It’s just a wisp that dissipates into the past the second you regard it. They’re empty wins.

What does this do to us?

One consequence is dopamine desensitization. Internet addicts (a real thing, yes) express fewer dopamine receptors than non-addicts. They effectively have “dopamine resistance,” meaning their body needs higher levels of dopamine to feel anything. The easiest way to produce more dopamine is to indulge in more of the same thing that led to your desensitization. So, the Internet addict spends more time mindlessly browsing the web, the porn addict searches for increasingly depraved flavors of pornography. This only deepens the problem.

Constant small hits are probably worse than infrequent large hits of dopamine. That’s why smoking is more addictive than cocaine. Nicotine and cocaine both give similar dopamine hits to the reward center of the brain, but you can smoke more often and maintain the elevated levels longer with tobacco than you can with cocaine.

Another consequence is that we get locked into the dopamine cycle. After all, there’s no limit. We can post a baby picture and be reasonably confident that within the hour we’ll have twenty new notifications. We can bounce texts back and forth between friends, every response a small win. And here’s the sneakiest part: We don’t know when those notifications or responses will come, so we get the extra dopamine boost of anticipating the unknown

What can we do?

Work for your dopamine and make your dopamine work for you. That means favoring difficult dopamine triggers that provide real lasting benefits. Limit convenience.

Woo your lady. Surprise your man. Don’t rely on porn.

Kill it in the gym. Sprint up hills. Lift heavy things. Carry something bulky, heavy, and awkward with you on a hike or walk around the block.

Inject novelty into your life. Explore the world. Walk through a completely new part of town. Hike out to that secret beach no one knows about but you. We process new experiences via the dopamine pathway.

Read a book, a long-form article, or even a good blog post over a five minute scan of your Twitter feed.

Avoid the self-improvement trap. It feels good to read a book (or chapter of a book) on self-improvement. You get jazzed up about all the changes you could make to your life, and for that moment, day, or week, you’re riding high on the wave of dopaminergic optimism. But then nothing happens. You don’t follow through. You don’t embody the changes you’ve been reading about.

Limit your access to easy dopamine triggers that require no work from you. It’s too much, too quickly, with too little effort.

Don’t drink a six pack every night while arguing with idiots on Twitter. Enjoy a glass or two of wine with a close friend after a long, delicious dinner full of rich conversation.

Don’t spend hours in Pinterest fantasy land, mentally inhabiting the cool DIY environments other users have actually created. Instead, get off the couch and make something yourself. Build a garden bed. Paint your room. Learn a new song on an instrument you play.

Use social media to segue into real dopamine triggers. If you use Facebook, follow-up by making plans to meet in meatspace. Your friend from college has “liked” every picture you ever posted of your new baby. Set-up a dinner party at your house so she can meet him face-to-face.

Okay, Sisson, this sounds good in theory, but won’t life be less enjoyable without the constant drip of dopamine?

No. It’ll be better. Way better.

You’ll be more productive and present. Dopamine is required for optimal focus and concentration. The much-desired flow state of “total absorption, optimal challenge, and non-self-conscious enjoyment” that enables deep work and peak performance operates along dopaminergic pathways.

You’ll derive greater enjoyment when you do trigger dopamine. On a biochemical level, you’ll be more sensitive to dopamine’s effects. On a psychological level, you’ll know that you’ve truly earned this dopamine and won’t have the guilt of having taken the easy way out hanging over your head.

This is a big problem. And it’s going to be extra hard to beat because our dopamine-addled brains will fight us every step of the way in our quest to restrict the addictive chemical. But trust me: It’s worth the effort. Just imagine the dopaminergic payoff you’ll bask in once you beat it.

Take stock of your dopamine triggers. Which ones are unhealthy? Which are healthy? How do you propose to reclaim more of an ancestral setting in this regard?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care!

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Lately

^^We get such beautiful sunrises here. This is the view from our back yard!

I’ve been waking up earlier lately. I think Thomas has set his alarm up by 30 minutes or so, and getting up at 6:15 is so much easier than 5:45, so I’ve been waking up when he does. I used to sleep through his 5:45 alarm! Guess who else is getting up earlier? Mazen! I swear we have an E.T. and Elliot relationship where his heart can sense mine. I will be lying in bed awake but haven’t made a single noise and he will wake up within 5 minutes of me. If I sleep in to 7:30, he sleeps in. It’s kind of crazy!

Sunrise smoothie with berries, banana, milk, and Vega Chocolate:

Remember when our back yard looked like this? (And before that, it was all dried and dead…)

We now have the greenest yard in our neighborhood!

The fall planting did very well! The erosion nets are still disappearing and there are a few patches that didn’t work on the right that will need extra love in the spring. But, the hill looks 1,000 times better than it did this summer!

The front grass is so green too. Thomas actually vacuums it weekly with the mower to get all the leaves up. LOL!

On the inside of our house, my sister gave us a planter as a wedding gift and it looks so much prettier than the clay pot that the plant is actually housed in.

What else is green? Chopt came to Cville!

Lauren and I went for lunch and had a great time. I got the Spicy Santorini salad, which was good. I would put Chopt slightly behind Mezeh and Roots in terms of flavor and portions, but its location is great. (The tzatziki was delish!)

Karen made a super cute R2D2 beanie for Mazen!! I think she needs an Etsy store, right!?

If any of you are part of the Winc wine club like me, this bottle was SO GOOD. One of my favorites of what they’ve sent! Great sippin’ wine for cocktail hour. I generally love California blends, so this was right on point.

T and I went on a date to Lampo last week. Every time we go we get the same things: rosemary orange olives (the BEST olives I’ve ever had), kale salad (the world’s smallest kale salad, but most delicious), the Hellboy pizza (which is spicy pepperoni with sweet hot honey drizzle), and the Prosciutto pizza, which has arugula and lemon. You gotta go if you come to Cville!

Finally, Gus and I are rooting for Mike on Survivor. I don’t know why I like him so much! I would also like to see Lauren win. All of my Survivor Fantasy team has been voted out. Womp womp. After a few seasons of winner picks, this season has me turned upside down! It’s on tonight at 8 – tune in for the best part of the season!

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Why I give a sh*t about sustainability

Editors Note: This is a guest post by Diana Rodgers talking about her new film project, Kale Vs. Cow.

Abs are sexy, but our food system is where it all starts. Please check this out and support the film.-Robb

KALE vs. COW: THE CASE FOR BETTER MEAT

Why does it matter to me that people buy better meat? Why should people care about making sure meat is not vilified in the media? Why give a shit about sustainability? Why should vegetarians and vegan join the fight? Does this even matter?

For the last eight years, I’ve helped people regain their health through eating foods that are biologically appropriate for humans. This means avoiding processed foods and sugars, and focusing on fresh produce, animal proteins and healthy fats. What I’ve noticed is that the majority of folks simply want to look good naked, want to solve their own health issues, or feed their family the best diet they can.

That’s all great but what do you do when you’ve pretty much solved that?  Why am I not satisfied just having a small nutrition practice and fixing individual people?

Because there’s some huge, systemic issues going on and I feel compelled to do something bigger.

All over the media, celebrities and health experts are blaming meat for our failing health and deteriorating climate. “Eat Less (or no) Meat” is the popular, politically correct mantra because it’s seen as a “cleaner,” healthier, more sustainable and more ethical way to eat.

This anti-meat agenda has a serious influence into nutrition policy. Dietitians are being taught that their patients should eat less meat and butter, yet “everything in moderation” when it comes to things like soda and junk food.

Our government dietary guidelines feature vegetarian and vegan options, yet eating paleo or keto is seen as unhealthy and “orthorexic”. Let’s not remove our whole grains, lowfat milk and heart healthy canola oil!

Worldwide, other countries are adopting the Western diet and seeing the consequences. More cultures are moving away from traditional foods and eating like Americans. Our perverted ideas of “healthy foods” are now ruining humans around the globe.

Schools are partnering with organizations like “The Coalition for Healthy Food” to eliminate meat from lunches. (Board members feature meat and fat-phobic T. Colin Campbell and Joel Fuhrman). And while I’m all for increasing vegetable consumption, eliminating a nutrient dense food like meat sets the stage early in kid’s lives that meat is “bad” and plants are “good”.  Here’s an example of some of the free posters you can get from the program:

Peace on Your Plate? Really? Does this belong in a public school? And kale is the MOST nutrient-dense food? Kale is great and all, but a good steak has it beat by a long shot.

MEAT IS NOT THE ENEMY

Most studies linking meat to cancer are only able to show correlations, not cause. Just because eating something is associated with an outcome, doesn’t mean that particular food is necessarily what caused the problem. Most of these studies are looking at people on a Western diet vs. vegetarians. The typical American has a very different lifestyle than a typical vegetarian. Vegetarians are much less likely to smoke, drink, and much more likely to exercise. They also tend to eat less processed foods and sugar. So, saying that meat is the only factor causing of disease is flawed logic. In fact, a study that looked at people who shopped at health food stores (so, accounting for lifestyle factors) found no difference in mortality between vegetarians and omnivores. And when adjusting for confounding factors (i.e. lifestyle) a recent, very large study found “no significant difference in all-cause mortality for vegetarians versus non-vegetarians.”

So is it the burger or steak making people sick, or the buns, sauces, large fries, 72oz sodas and deep fried apple pies the true villains? One recent study looked at the nutritional ramifications of eliminating animals and found that our overall caloric intake and carbohydrate intake would increase. In a society where diabetes is skyrocketing, this is absolutely the LAST thing we need. Furthermore, vital nutrients available through animal protein and fat would decrease, including Calcium, vitamins A, D, B12, AHA, EPA and DHA. B12 deficiency, common in vegetarians and vegans can cause permanent brain damage.

But aren’t animals horrible for the environment? The study cited above found that an entirely animal-free model only reduced total greenhouse gas emissions by 2.6 percentage units.

IT’S NOT THE COW, IT’S THE HOW

Of course factory farming is wrong, we’re all on the same page about that, but not all meat is produced indoors, under florescent lights, eating 100% grains. There are sustainable alternatives. However you’d never know this from watching mainstream media’s depiction of animal farming. In fact, when raised well, ruminants like cattle actually improve soil health and can help to sequester carbon. They may be one of our BEST changes at mitigating climate change.

Is the farming of plants really causing less harm than all methods of meat production? Is a future of lab-grown meat substitutes really the best solution? When we cut down forest or plow a field to plant a crop of soy, what happens to all of the life that once existed there? When we divert water from rivers to irrigate crops, what happens to the fish and other animals dependent on that river? When we apply chemical fertilizers instead of animal manure, where do those chemicals come from and what are the consequences of using them? Does the Earth have unlimited resources?

 ALL THINGS EAT AND ARE EATEN

All healthy ecosystems include plants AND animals. We need more biodiversity on the land, not more mono-cropping. Instead of producing meat in labs or growing lettuce indoors, we can harness the sun’s power to grow grass, allowing cattle to graze food we can’t eat on pastureland that we can’t use for crops.

I don’t think there are enough people saying something about how meat is not the enemy. This is not a popular, easy, or sexy story to tell. People like black and white stories, not nuance. Robb and I have been beating this drum for a while now, and sometimes it feels like we’re the only ones.

KALE vs. COW: THE CASE FOR BETTER MEAT

I’ve written numerous blog posts on this topic, but it’s now time to do something bigger. Something visual, cinematic, emotionally compelling and that helps people understand systems thinking, nuance and context.  It’s time for a film to show how eliminating animals from our food system could do more harm than good. You can listen to me and Robb talk about it on his podcast here. I’ve just launched a crowdfunding campaign and could really use your help.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?

If you’re someone who eats meat, I urge you to help me out and increase the market for better meat. What’s in it for you?  More demand for good meat means increased production, lower prices, and better chances that your kid’s school won’t preach that eating animals is ethically wrong. Just like religion, this has absolutely no place in a public school.

EVEN IF YOU DON’T EAT MEAT, THIS IS AN IMPORTANT STORY.

If you only eat eggs and cheese, you should definitely be in the fight for well-raised cattle. And if you’re avoiding all animal products, I still think the fight for better meat is important. Let’s face it, opting out of the system isn’t going to change the system. I understand that some folks have personal reasons for avoiding meat, but forcing these values on others is not only illogical, it’s absurd. The world will not stop eating meat tomorrow, so given this, isn’t it better to help push for better meat? The truth is, when vegans and omnivores fight, processed food wins. This is an opportunity to build a bridge, join forces and attack the real cause of our failing health and deteriorating soils: industrial scale mono-cropping and hyper-palatable processed food.

Check out my crowdfunding page between today and January 6th (our big push to get this project launched) and learn more about how I intend to tell this story. Contributions are tax-deductible, I have some really awesome perks lined up, and I could really use your help to amplify the message.

Contributions are tax-deductible, I have some really awesome perks lined up, and I
could really use your help to amplify the message.

Thank you.

 

 

 



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