Just Saying

I'll Have What She's Having...

 

We like to see what people are eating.  Blogs, which were first created to follow politics, style or self-discovery in the kitchen (aka Julie & Julia) has evolved to a world-wide gawking, spotting and eyeing every morsel of food people create and consume. I cannot deny being a major follower of this trend. What can I say, I like seeing what Snackface  has been snacking on the night before and what concoction Healthy Exposures made. What can I say, it's fun. Though if I would have discovered food at during college it  may have been detrimental to my health.

While many food blogs featured on foodgawker or tastespotting (blogs that essentially are "a community visual driven potluck") are a great resource to see what tomatoes is in season in Southern California or how an Aussie whips up a mean platter of chicken meatballs, food blogs also have created an outlet for every aspiring health counselor (and some self-declared, whether qualified or not) with a following that could rival the viewing weather.com. Women, in particular, like to see what other women are eating. For some it's a great inspiration to be healthier,  for others watching people eat healthy somehow makes them feel healthier and for a latter group these blogs are like a blueprint for their next meal. This is where things can get a little shady.

Last year at "Healthy Living Summit," a blog convention in Chicago attended by over 200 avid "health foodie" bloggers, was reviewed by Marie Claire in "The Hunger Diaries: How Health Writers Could Be Putting You at Risk" (not to be confused with "The Hunger Games" where I believe cannibalism may override any pursuit of health) along with some interesting observations:

But behind the cutesy titles and sloganeering (Summit motto: "Bloggers for a Balanced Lifestyle") lies an arguably unhealthy obsession with food, exercise, and weight. The blogs' pages of meticulous food photographs and descriptions are often updated several times a day and immediately dissected by readers. A typical morning post documents breakfast with a photo and description—say, a smoothie of raw spinach and rice milk—followed by an afternoon report on the day's herculean exercise and an evening update on perfectly portioned snacks and dinner. Pare once chased a 10-mile run with a flourless, low-fat, black-bean "brownie." Boyle ran 22 miles and, after a day of light eating, signed off with, "I am so hungry!"

Without completely slandering the authors of these health-obsessed blogs I will keep them nameless,  though none of them necessarily look anorexic or even real athletic . Rather on most posts you'll find pictures of these authors after a sweaty run, with a exhausted smiles that screams, "Look what I can do!" , followed by a detailed log of their 9 mile runs. One can only assume such posts are created the unintended desire to somehow prove themselves; when daily workout routines are put up for the world to seee and every morsel consumed through the day is up,  there seems a desperate need for affirmation. Learning to eat healthy by following what a healthy person eats can certainly have a positive impact on your health and outlook on food. But there comes a point where line ought to be drawn.

I guess there will always be an obsession where there is interest. However for girls like me, there more like insightful cultural venture's when I can't always jump on a plane to have what she's having.

I'm just saying...

images: Harper's Bazaar

"Men in SPANX -  or A Decline in Masculinity?"

 

SPANX, a company founded to serve as a temporary tummy tuck, reports that one of their top selling products this past year was SPANX for men. Unless you've been buying them for your husband or boyfriend, you may have totally missed this hot-selling item this past year, which for sure is a sign of things to come.

It's not uncommon for men to want a little pampering and even nip and tuck nowadays, but now studies show (as seen in Times magazine) men are thinking more like women and vice versa: "Survey Shows Men Need to Cuddle, Woman Value Sex." Men are becoming more relational and emotional; a far cry from the stereotype that often bursted my childhood Cinderella dreams.

In today's Huffington Post: Culture News, Dr.Peggy Drexler asks, "Are Men What They Used to Be?"

Drexler goes on to probe:

"As I read about how men are thinking more like women, and women are filling the space vacated by declining masculinity, I have to wonder: Is it a shift in gender roles, or an easing of expectations?"

Is our culture becoming more tolerable of the feminine man?  Or have women pushed men to become more womanly? To make sure we're crystal clear: I'm not referring to the male who considers himself attracted to the same sex in any shape or form. I'm talking about the straight, red-blooded, non-stop-eye-wandering  American male, who is now, according to Drexler, "free to hug more, ...help with homework, ... and listen more." How could this be a bad thing?

But now more men are willing, even wanting to stay at home, allowing the woman to be the breadwinner. In today's economy it's unfair to size up man's masculinity according to a job (or lack there of.) Yet the old-fashioned role as the  "head of the house" or the "conquerer" in the relationship is no longer expected or seemingly desired by the man. Growing up in this decade, it's hard to say it's a shock to the system.

Throughout college, I watched most guys sit back and wait for the women to flock to them. Soon I stopped wondering if I would be asked out or if I was attractive enough for the guys who already appeared content being chased. It seemed the majority of girls were up for the challenge. After a few instances of exchanging numbers, I quickly realized they were expecting me to call or had clearly lost interest. There was a time where I felt compelled to pursue, but shortly after I'd come to my senses and realize these initial phases were a sure sign of things to come.

Now as a working woman, with my independence, I admit I'm not ok with an expected future a stay-home mother once I have children (though it may come for a time.) Still I can see how we as women may have jumped on a power trip, steering men into a submissive role. But if they're really men, should they be so easily swayed?

Take Me Higher

Films have a way of eliciting questions and revealing doubts buried beneath the surface; things we wouldn't typically vocalize amidst our daily dialogs of sports, celebrities and the weather. What we fear to speak aloud, topics that are quickly dodged in conversation, seem to be eagerly recieved on the big screen.  The Sundance Film festivals are often a forecast of, not only themes in the film industry, but topics that strike a chord with the current concerns of our culture. This year there seems to be a common theme that take a deeper look into faith, religion, and moreso our desire for purpose in this life. While these films don't ultimately answer the question at hand, the directors clearly strive to address it.

A directorial debut for Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, Departed,) "High Ground" is based on Carolyn S. Briggs’ memoir “This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost.”  The film is a story of woman's search for faith and meaning as her family submerges into a fundamentalist Christian community. Spanning over 20 years, from accepting Jesus into her life as a young girl and over to the complexities of  adulthood, "Higher Ground" exposes the doubts of evangelical faith. Though I've yet to see this film, I get the sense that Corrine's struggle as a "believer" begins as the expected Sunday warm-fuzzies dwindle down when the struggles and hard times rise.

Words from the director, Vera Farmiga:

“As a community we’ve lost faith in government, politics, pastors, you name it,” she says. “We all feel out of control.” Higher Ground neither promotes faith nor condemns it, but rather aims to serve as a clear-eyed reflection of why people both find and lose their way through spiritual quests.  - Sundance Film Festival review

"Martha Marcy May Marlene," which stars Elizabeth Olsen (yes, younger and likely more talented sister to the Olsen twins) in this disturbing portrait of young woman's escape from a cult. The grueling aftermath of the cult's effect on Martha are described as too uncomfortable to sit through. Still the inspiration from the director echo this search for meaning:

“Everyone’s looking for an answer to questions,” Durkin says. “Looking for a larger purpose for themselves, for the earth, for existence. It goes from the smallest to the largest idea.” - Sean Durkin

 

While "Another Earth," ( a story of guilt and the chance of life on a second earth)  promotes itself as a sci-fi, there is no denying that this picture centers on  "questions of destiny."

"I'm just saying..."

Dating: Do you have Game?

 

A few months ago I came across this Marie Claire article, “Girls with No Game: Are you a Dating Virgin?” It was as if the author reached out from the pages and slapped me across the face. The subtitle: A new generation of women never learned how to date: Are you one of them? The title seemed somewhat abrupt, a tad accusatory. Since I can’t stand when an individual is too easily offended by the cover of a book they’ve never opened, I read the demeaning article. (Though I think my hand remained over the title of the page as I read it, out of embarrassment that someone might see what I was reading and assume I was indeed a girl without game.)

Turns out the author, Jennifer Miller, is speaking from the vantage point of a single woman, foreign to the world of dating. Blatantly, this accomplished author and a grad student at that, calls herself “clueless: a girl without game.” To lightly sum up the article, Miller questions:

In each case, [cohabiting couples, divorcees, singles] when the relationships end, floods of young women are unleashed upon the dating scene without a clue about what to do there. And the pressure is on to find Mr. Right. These single gals worry about their biological clocks and whether or not all the good men have been taken. So should we all just have heeded Mom, and put off sharing a toothbrush jar until the save-the-dates went out?

Ok, here is where I’m confused. Is dating all about finding Mr. Right or learning to play this “game?” If we are looking for Mr. Right, my biological clock cannot be the pressing matter at hand, or whether or not all the good men have been taken, as if I should feel rushed to settle with a "nice" guy. As the saying goes, "you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince," is Miller suggesting you have to date a lot of duds to find Mr. Right?

Eli Finkel, Ph.D., associate professor of social psychology at Northwestern University says, “Dating is a skill. The more you do it, the better you get." 

While I understand that the social graces of dating are crucial, and would dare say that the state of our culture's dating scene is in fact an inhibiting factor for why many women today lack the ettiquette that was once expected of them, how graceful can one be weeding out Mr. Right at overcrowded and intoxicated club scenes? It’s hardly a setting that evokes romantic interest for myself. When the point of these dating relationships is to find the “one”  (or if you don’t believe in fate, one that your chemistry and values in life matches with; since that topic itself is an entirely different can of worms) why should we feel the need to become experts of the dating scene?

My answer to Miller, yes I would “put off sharing toothbrush jars until the save-the-dates went out.” Actually it will be put off until commencement. Whether or not this record breaking percentage of single women, past the age of 26, have game or not in the dating scene, is the least of my concerns. As a 27 year old single woman, I'm slightly more concerned with whether or not I'm "clueless" in regards to the current direction of my life, career, and values rather than a tireless dating game that feels more like "The song that doesn't end."

 Read more: Dating and Playing Hard to Get - Girls Who don't know How to Date - Marie Claire

 

 

 

GOOP and "Homosexuality in the Bible"

For the past two years I've followed and (dare I say) become a better cook, thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow's ever-evolving Goop.com. Maybe it was due to mere intrigue of what the life, food and fitness looks like of an actress I've adored (I'll go as far to say, even envied) and aspired to for years growing up. Goop has been a well-rounded resource for living in style, health and social awareness. Unfairly, it has also been the target of criticism for Gwyneth's portrayal of better living. (But I commend her for staying in the ring and taking the punches - because critics can be brutal!) While mainly I visit Goop for her latest dinner party menus and outfit ideas, I've be less then thrilled by the "Be"- category posts (one of the six categories on Goop which deals with relationships, spirituality and religion.) While it is typically filled with happy-go-lucky challenges to take life by the tail or  somewhat zen-ny articles on  faith, I was quite surprised this week to find the post on "Homosexuality in the Bible." If I would've just read the first few paragraphs, which I almost did just that, I would've assumed Gwyneth to leave the last words on this subject to another bias spiritual voice, who believes God doesn't have an issue with a human race, who's life choices defy His very existence.

But I was quite surprised by the end of the article, after three spiritual leader's contributions who, I feel, take a selective-interpretation of the Bible to justify their opinions, Gwyneth also includes Dr. John Stott of All Souls Church in the UK to leave the final words. His contribution, based solely on Biblical scripture, were as clear as I could desire to be on this topic. Gwyneth certainly did not hold the reigns from listening to as many differect perspectives as possible. His words caused enough stirring for the Huffington Post to pin-point Gwyneth as being bias for allowing such intolerant statements:

She also allows discriminatory remarks from a conservative Christian because she wanted to "include as many perspectives as possible." This man concludes with "Here, then, are three truths which Jesus affirmed: (1) heterosexual gender is a divine creation; (2) heterosexual marriage is a divine institution; and (3) heterosexual fidelity is the divine intention. A homosexual liaison is a breach of all three of these divine purposes.", Stott ends the article.

If only more individuals of Gwyneth's status, would give ear to such sound Christian theologian, our culture could have a much clearer understanding of Biblical principles and scripture-based truths of the Christian faith.

Thanks Gwyneth.

Life isn't fair... Or is it?

When you leave Starbucks, to find the $4 triple Americano you waited 15 minutes for only has two shots, life isn't fair. When a boyfriend, who you paid for more on gas and meals than you wish to recall, doesn't offer to help when your tire blows only 10 minutes from his house, life isn't fair. When a tornado wipes out your hometown, blows down your house and sucks up your belongings, life isn't fair. In such instances it is perfectly understandable that one would find life to be unfair.

However, when you skip lunch then consume 6 slices of pizza for dinner only to feel sick and bloated, life is fair. When you go to the fitting room and discover the 16-year-old-cheerleader's figure you thought you had is only a figment of your imagination (since you haven't done a jumping jack since high school,) life is fair. When you realize your nightly bowl of Hagen Daz is the contributing factor to your extra 10 lbs, while your kid brother scarfs down half a pan of brownies without gaining an ounce, guess what?  Life is fair.

That is how I've come to view it.

It's often the case that when we eat what we know we shouldn't and gain weight, somehow "life just isn't fair."  One acts as if they're cursed because they can't maintain their runner's waist line, as well as their bachelor habit of chips and dip for dinner. It's funny how we love certain foods but hate our bodies after eating such foods. Within moments we are trapped, thinking a chocolate cookie (or several) is necessary (because just one is never necessary.) And whether you'll admit it or not, you feel it's unfair how these "necessary" foods make you feel. So why do we tell ourselves we can still indulge without restraint? Why is life so unfair?

When I went to Burlington High, I remember sitting in the back of Mr. Costa's history class with a friend. Weekly we would gripe and moan about a gorgeous cheerleader in class who, without fail, would chow down on Cheez-its and Sour Patch Kids just after lunch.  "You know though, those cheerleaders practice for about 2 hours every day." She just had to remind me. Nonetheless it would bug me to no end that this tiny, big-eyed brunette would eat and  eat and remain effortlessly tiny. I would eat, with a workout consisting of no more than preparing for voice lessons or  monologues from "Sense and Sensibility" after school, (side note: Yes, I was that chunky music theater girl in high school) while remaining unsatisfied with how I felt and looked. The stack of fitness magazines in my room made no difference either, no matter how many times I flipped through them. Once the rubber met the road though and I began making healthy decisions, I've learned, in all fairness, your outcome is a clear reflection of your choices and priorities in life. The task of loosing extra weight or breaking seemingly harmless habits can be daunting. But you can spend time pitying yourself or change it. In all fairness, everyone has the choice to change.

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Berry Peach Crisp (recipe coming soon)

Just a thought...

Better vita has been a project for me over the past year to help you find better living. Granted it’s also a bit of a search of my own. Mainly I’ve kept it to simple things like better coffee, better cookies, better backs, better breathing. I admit I like things that are better. Really... I like things that are ideal. You could say I’m an idealist. Therefore finding topics, better meals and better nutrition, can become this endless search for that ideal next post. And in a world where anyone can blog about anything, I’m sure there are “better” blogs on such topics anyway.

Blogs are a world in and of themselves. It’s really an interesting way for us to be able to display our lives for each other to view on a daily basis. It’s as if we have the ability to freeze-frame these seemingly perfect moments of life, add some whimsical tagline, hit post and voila! It’s partly why I love blogging. It makes a large world become so tightly knit. It’s almost an invitation to endlessly eavesdrop into the lives of others. I myself am a sucker for certain blogs. I love that I can see how women in paris dress every day of the week and read what Molly Wizenberg just made up for dinner last night. Yet it can be just as distracting as it is a joy for me. For the idealist in me, blogs are the ultimate search engine. The search for better; better clothes, better meals, better locations, better jobs.  Not only does this effect delay each post I’m about to write on, but it can so easily suck up my thoughts and delay life. Does that make sense?

Let me put it this way: when browsing blogs, my “idealistic” inclination wants to inhale it's content as if I were snorting a line. I wish I had a more tactful way of putting it, but I think you get it.

I’m talking about this because I’m learning life isn’t “better” in this state of mind; this constant yearning, nagging, wanting of something better. It’s awfully honest to express, but there really is no worse way of wasting your time than wishing and wanting. And let me tell you, I have wasted one too many moments on this one myself. But I don’t think I’m alone in this habit.

I’ve come to this: If I really want to teach you BetterVita, how to “live...just better”, I have to tell you what I know to be the truth. The truth is you can eat perfectly, have impeccable fitness and still not better from it. You can work out a pro, eat perfectly and dress daily like Rachel Zoe and still never be a better person. Truly living a full life starts with a better mind. So betterVita is going to bring you some better thougths. I hope this rings as true with you and it does for me. Cause life’s too short to wish away.

“As a man thinks, so is he.”

Proverbs 23:7

Oh Joy

To all you faithful readers, I thought you deserved a heads up for where betterVita is going. I wish there was a more tactful way of putting it, but I've been racking my brain to find "health and fitness" topics to write on that aren't already bleeding all over the internet. I don't mean to be abrupt, but we are excessively spoiled with information on living healthier, fuller lives. We are a health-fixated culture. Therefore I feel that any subjects on "how to live healthier" or "better"  is nothing new under the sun. Nothing you don't already know.  And so I'm left here scrapping the bottom of a barrel. Which will quickly become dull for me and more so for you.

Those of you who come to betterVita for the yoga insight or eating suggestions, don't fear - my yoga days aren't over and my ways of eating are far from changing. I find myself more readily eager to elaborate on the simplicity of baking cookies with my sisters, preparing last minute meals after work or even memorable late night grocery runs (a family vacation tradition) than rehashing any quick fix for a "healthier life." Because that's kinda my life right now. And honestly, when a desire for healthy eating and living becomes the focal center of my life , it begins to feel... not so "healthy." Discovering this has made my head clearer and my life a little less complex.

All that said, let's get back to where I was. Rather than regurgitating web-wide-known facts to a overly health-informed culture, I figure why not bring more of what really interests me to the table. After all, it is my blog. One I wish to write on food and life, which share a unique interaction. For some of you it may feel more like a daunting chemistry, that you consider curse rather than a blessing. My once daunting relationship with food, has evolved through the years. And many of my misconceptions have been corrected. I enjoy eating and cooking. I especially love writing to all of you about it. So why not make a marriage of this happy couple. BetterVita has been discovering itself through the past months and 2011 starts a new betterVita for me and hopefully for you as well.

Merry Christmas

A "Happy New Year" can start today

This month Better Vita is dedicated to helping have your healthiest and most enjoyable Christmas yet. Honing down on being "healthy" may seem like a daunting task but think of it as setting yourself up for success.

My friend Dr. Brooke is onto the same idea. She is a Nautropathic Doctor who is as brilliant as she is down to earth. She works with the everyday joe to the runway model with her holistic private practice in New York City. Dr. Brooke is also the co-author of the recently published book "The Ultimate You", a nutrition expert for Martha Stewart's Living Radio (among several other blogs, magazines and programs) and also is the Nutrition expert for this month's Master the Shift.

Check out her most recent blog for Master the Shift on "Why You Should Make Your New Year's Resolution Today." Thanks Dr. Brooke for showing us why not to wait till after the holidays to make changes that will last a lifetime.

Take a Hike...

from working out. I spent years working hard to workout. That may sound dumb, but it's true. Somehow I thought that’s what working out meant. Straining your body to a point of endless exhaustion. When I wasn’t pushing myself running for miles on end,  I’d be spinning or twirling and dancing to Tracy Anderson for a good  hour (which actually would fun, if you’re just doing it just for fun.)

When I tried yoga I had been pushing myself so hard, that yoga’s seamless progression of relaxing and toning the body redefined what a work out was and why I did it. Prior working out was essential an attempt to nullify my previous night's indulgence. Straining became an essential norm for my daily workout. Letting go of this expectation for myself felt like the beginning of an eternal Summer vacation.

Finally learning to relax and breathe, the word rejuvenate took on a whole new meaning. My workouts left me more energized than ever. I figured yoga was all I needed. And I probably tried to convince everyone I knew (and everyone reading betterVita) of just that.

But somewhere between being in NYC and moving back to FL. all I craved was a good run. Not for a race, not for the sake of burning calories and not even really for the sake working out. For no reason but to simply run. Maybe it was the confined chaos of the city that sent me running, who knows. All I know was I needed to run. So now when I run, there's no counting minutes, no tracking miles or heat rate, just running. Sometimes it might be a quick run, a quick jog or just a long pensive walk. De-stressing workouts don't have to be just yoga.

So take a break from pushing or running so hard. Let it go. Walk, run, skip. Whatever your  and just take hike.

Tips for a better run:

  • Let your arms drop by your side, relax your shoulder and let you legs propel you.
  • Keep your breathing calm and consistent.
  • Let your run follow your breath, rather than vice versa.
  • Try breathing through your nose.
  • Set your gaze forward, chin lifted and spine elongated.
  • Run just to run. Or just walk. You have to start somewhere.

Shoot for the stars, yes, but get on the ship first.

Take my breath away

In a given day our minds race with all sorts of thoughts. Bills that are due, what will be for dinner, what to wear the next day. But is breathing ever a thought? Does it deserve a thought? It may sound like a question ridiculous to ask. Breathing is suppose to effortless, right? But what exactly is a breath suppose to be.

Breathe : to inhale and exhale freely; to pause and rest before continuing; to blow softly; to feel free from restraint.

For a few weeks I had been churning on this idea to post . The same night I was all set to post this was also a night I was eagerly chopping away and baking cookies. Rather than making cookies I ended up chopping my foot. Ok so that's a tad dramatic. My foot is still intact. Just to save any weak stomaches let's skip the details and say, the cut was enough for me to see my tendon. After looking down at my tendon first thought was, "Ok, now is a time to breathe." That and "I finally have a free night and all I want to do is curl up on my couch, eat my cookies and watch a movie!". The last thing I wanted to do was wait in urgent care. But this was no little cut my curious george band-aids could handle.

Luckily there is no permanent damage. Now with an irritated tendon that I actually shaved a string off of (sorry weak stomaches), a swollen foot and a slower,  and a somewhat limited yoga practice I need to just breathe. You might be thinking, " Aren't you already breathing ?" Yes, but maybe we're not always breathing as much as we could.  Just like, maybe I'm not alway sleeping as much as I should. Come to find out each day the average human being takes about 26,000 breathes. That's about 14,000 liters of air a day. 99% of our energy should come from our breathe, yet most of us only access 10-20% of that energy. Not only does breathing more deeply and often improve you well-being, but breathing shallow and incorrectly can produce more stress and fatigue in the body. Something to consider.
So take a moment and innhale real deep. Then slowly let it all out.How often do you think to breathe ?
While we often attempt to  control things in life that are out of our control, rarely do we take the time to control those things that are in our control. You have the ability to control your breathing and change your tension and state of stress. The only one taking your breathe away is you.
Better breathing tips:
1. Do yoga. Whether you do yoga for a complete workout, to mentally de-stress, or to stretch your muscles a proper practice in yoga will inevitably improve your breathing and reduce your stress.
2. Before you react... just breathe. We are quick to react when frustrated, nervous or upset. So remember to breathe and you may react more sensibly.
3. Set aside time to breathe better. Just like anything else in life, practice will bring improvement. Try to really focus on deep breathing for just a few minutes a day. Try Tara Stile's breathing routine or any of her chill out routines to breathe better.

Summer is for kids

Summer’s almost here and it makes me want to be a kid again. Remember when summer meant one long vacation. Ah, I miss those. It was like a daily celebration that you're not yet an adult. Lazy mornings, days at the beach, aimless road-trips, ice cream for lunch... no wonder kid-like ease is choked by utility bills, unnecessary drama, crazy schedules and life in general.

Being a kid may not always be practical, but at time it may be beneficial. This is all hitting that note of simplicity again. While eating ice cream for lunch may not be the best idea, there are a lot of kid eat's and habits that could help us enjoy life a bit more. And of course, eating ice cream for lunch once in a blue moon can't hurt.

Kid-like habits ...

Eat like a kid.

 Eat when you're hungry. As adults we tend to ignore  hunger signals until we're ravenous and then grab whatever is in front of us. No wonder adults are so awnry.

For summer kid eat have orange slices (the fruit and not the candy.) Or berries and bananas. Pack some crackers and cheese. Cut up some carrot and cucumbers. Or have some roasted sweet potatoes with all-natural ketchup - one of my favorites.

React like a kid.

Laugh more. It will keep you healthy.

It's natural to already be stressed and take life too seriously. Learn to laugh at life.

Play like a kid.

Get down and dirty. So I admit it, I hate sand. But a little dirt won’t kill you. Staying playful will keep you young.