male student studying in a college libraryIn past posts, I’ve said how I’d change grade school, PE class, medical school, and school in general. Today I’ll tell you how I’d change higher education—colleges and universities. This was the hardest one yet to write because the “purpose” of college is so open-ended and vast.

What is the purpose of the university? Is it to train people get good jobs? Establish careers? Is its purpose to help students figure out who they are and what they believe—to “find themselves”? Is it a grand filter, a way for society to establish and separate the “elite” from the rest? Or is college the grand equalizer, a way for anyone and everyone to obtain a quality education and find their way up in the world?

It can’t be all of those things, and yet it tries to make it work.

It’s where elites go to get eliter.

It’s where kids from poor backgrounds can go to make it and stand out, where your background doesn’t matter anymore—only your ability.

It’s where you experiment with substances and subcultures and belief systems.

It’s where you buckle down and work hard to get ahead.

It’s where you go to party and make friends for life.

Are these disparate goals and identities sustainable?

This is why it’s so hard to make blanket recommendations about college. College is many things at once. If I were to change higher education, though, a safe starting bet would be to make personal responsibility the highest guiding principle. Not blame. Not guilt. Yeah, responsibility would undergird everything the school did—professors, administrators, and students alike.

 

Responsibility Over Blame and Guilt

Blame foists the problems onto “those people.” It removes you from the equation, changing you into a child who can’t do anything but whine and point fingers. Even if “blame” is accurate, it doesn’t get you anywhere. Blaming others absolves you of the responsibility and most importantly ability to change the trajectory of your life (or the world). It allows you to flail and complain and that’s about it.

Guilt feels like it’s enough. Guilt feels like you’re doing something, but you’re really just feeling sorry for yourself. Nothing moves forward. If anything, because you feel worse about yourself, you’re less likely to make any positive changes or take any steps forward. Also, guilt is often blame in disguise.

Responsibility is the answer to almost all ills.

The beauty of this is that it takes care of itself. If you just stop blaming others or indulging your sense of guilt, you naturally shift toward taking responsibility for your thoughts, actions, and future. If wallowing in unproductive guilt and blame aren’t options, assuming the responsibility and taking the reins are all that’s left over.

Eliminate unnecessary general ed requirements.

As I remember it, everyone, no matter the major, had to take basic classes in literature, math, biology, and other sciences and humanities. It sounds good, right? We all want well-rounded individuals entering society with a broad overall knowledge base. Right?

Well, that’s not how it goes. Kids end up taking classes they don’t really care about, often going over things they already took in high school. Either that or the introductory classes are also “weeder” classes that make the material so onerous and boring to filter out the people who are majoring in the subject and don’t really have what it takes. It filters out people who aren’t serious about really being an English major, but it also makes students who are just taking it to fulfill a Gen Ed requirement lifelong haters of reading (or biology, or art, etc).

Incorporate physical culture into the college experience.

Instead of loading up on general ed requirements, require that students take at least one physical training class every quarter or semester.

  • Teach boxing or jiu jitsu.
  • Have a wide range of Olympic lifting, strength training, sprinting classes.
  • Bouldering and rock climbing and rappeling and parkour.
  • Dance of all sorts.

Imagine if, instead of just packing on the freshman 15 and binge drinking every weekend, college students were also engaged in the pursuit of physical culture. Movement sessions before tests. Walking lectures. You can’t really stop the partying, but at least you can try to balance it out with some healthy physical activity.

The ability to move one’s body, to strengthen it, to extend its utility and improve its aesthetics is the most general human requirement of all. Higher education should not neglect it.

Outdoor classes.

I will never stop banging this drum. Move it all outside. Move entire classes outdoors. If COVID persists, moving classes outdoors would mitigate (and probably mostly eliminate) spread and enhance innate immunity. Furthermore, studying and working outdoors has been shown to improve attentional capacity in people, allowing them to focus on the task at hand more easily.

More internships. Paid ones.

Medical school has a great “internship” system. You actually perform work as a doctor as part of your education. You do the thing you’re going through school to become. This is an obvious requirement when you’re training to save people’s lives and decide how to proceed on life or death matters, but I’d argue it belongs in all majors.

An internship would throw people straight into the fight to see who’s actually a good fit. Students who aren’t great students but excel actually doing the work in a realistic environment would rise to the top. Students who aren’t actually suited for the work would be identified and given the chance to switch paths before getting in too deep.

Make it more like technical or trade schools.

In a technical school, you get in to learn the skill or set of skills and get out. You’re there to learn a skill and prepare for a career. You’ll often have a job guarantee upon graduation. Employers have close relationships with the schools, both promoting and supporting the curriculum. This would work with other disciplines, too—not just car mechanics and computer technicians.

The “mystique” of the “college experience” is important, but not for everyone. Some people just want to learn a marketable skill and join the workforce.

Reduce costs.

I’m not going to go too deep into how we can reduce costs. There are entire books written on the subject, and I won’t try to squeeze it all in here. But the price of a college education has risen dramatically since I was applying and it’s either making college unaffordable for people who could thrive there or forcing people into assuming massive debt just to get a degree. Here are some ideas:

Make colleges accountable for some portion of student debt. If a graduate is 200k in the hole with no sign of being able to pay it back, the education they received probably wasn’t very good. A college should shoulder some of the load. This sounds “unfair” and would be at first but would incentivize better lending. This could go hand-in-hand with job guarantees—student doesn’t get a job within the allotted time frame, the school starts picking up some of the loan.

Eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy. An enormous portion of a college’s education budget goes toward paying administrators who have little to nothing to do with actually providing education. I’d love to see colleges become more spartan institutions, focusing on teaching and research rather than accruing an ever-growing population of administrators.

Alter government-backed loans. A government loan is a free license for colleges to continually raise tuition costs because the most powerful entity in the nation will always be there to pay for it. I would suggest implementing accountability measures on the shoulders of academic institutions who accept government-backed monies, and placing limits on tuition increases in a given timeframe. As it is, it remains largely unchecked.

Make it easier to start a university. Provide more supply and the price drops. A bonus is that it will also introduce more interesting, innovative institutions. I’m not talking about scam universities that take your money without providing a sufficient education. I’m referring to legitimate, accredited institutions. More of those.

Break it up?

Maybe colleges should be broken up into smaller schools that specialize in specific disciplines. Every major becomes its own technical school, perhaps loosely affiliated with other schools so that a student could take an elective in a different discipline if he or she so desired. I don’t know if that would eliminate the institutional bloat and inertia or just rearrange it under a different name, but I think it would be a step in the right direction.

As always, the devil is in the details. These are big picture items that would need to be fleshed out in a forum beyond the capacity of a blog post.

But one thing occurs to me as I read over this post: Maybe we should just blow the whole thing up and start all over. The university is ultimately a medieval institution—not in a bad sense, but in a different sense. It was created for a world that no longer exists, a world where knowledge was secret and bound up in physical tomes. If you wanted access to that knowledge, you had to enroll and be accepted. Today, knowledge is cheap, widely available from the comfort of your own pocket, yet the existence of the modern university still assumes the presence of secret knowledge only obtained through direct physical access to exclusive halls of learning.

Is college still relevant? I don’t know anymore. Can it be preserved? Probably, but it’ll have to change.

What do you think, folks? What would you change about higher education?

Primal Kitchen Buffalo


The post How I’d Change Higher Education appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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Dr. Steven Bratman coined the term orthorexia (“right appetite”) more than two decades ago to describe what happens when health-conscious diets go too far.

Although it still hasn’t been accepted as an official medical diagnosis, orthorexia nervosa is a proposed eating disorder that involves an extreme obsession with eating a “correct” diet. People with orthorexia nervosa strive to eat only foods they consider healthy and strictly avoid foods they deem to be unhealthy or impure. Their obsession with eating a healthy diet takes over their lives, eventually impairing their mental, social, and even physical well-being.

The topic of orthorexia is controversial within health circles. On the surface, it can be hard to distinguish between folks who are simply health-conscious and those who have crossed the line into disordered eating. Any diet—even relatively mainstream ones like Mediterranean or paleo—could veer into orthorexia depending on the individual.

People who raise concerns about orthorexia often get accused of “fit-shaming.” Then the straw man arguments begin: “Oh, so I guess it’s healthier just to eat Twinkies and Big Macs, then?” No, obviously not. Orthorexia starts with food rules or following diets, but it’s much more than that.

To be clear: Wanting to be healthy is not orthorexic. Neither is believing that some foods are healthier or more nutritious than others. Cutting out certain foods, tracking macronutrients, or following a specific diet is not inherently problematic.

However, those behaviors can be stepping stones to orthorexia, so this is a conversation we need to be willing to have.

What is Orthorexia Nervosa?

Orthorexia nervosa is a preoccupation with healthy eating that ultimately interferes with health and well-being.

The first stage involves setting rules and restrictions around what foods you will and will not eat. Specific rules vary from person to person. An individual might avoid gluten, food additives, GMOs, dairy, animal products, nightshades, sugar, artificial sweeteners, grains, or whatever they deem to be unhealthy.

Before you get defensive, understand that food rules are only step one. They are necessary but not sufficient for developing orthorexia nervosa. Many people follow set diets or restrict certain food groups without developing orthorexia. Diet behaviors don’t cross the line into orthorexia nervosa until they start to interfere with quality of life.

Definition of Orthorexia Nervosa

Eating disorders and other mental health disorders each have a set of diagnostic criteria. These are like checklists that help doctors and therapists decide when a particular diagnosis is warranted. Currently, orthorexia nervosa is not recognized as an eating disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). That means there are no agreed-upon diagnostic criteria.

Nevertheless, researchers and practitioners need to be able to differentiate an ardent healthy-eating enthusiast from someone who has crossed the line into disordered eating. Experts have proposed various ways of defining orthorexia nervosa.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4340368/‘>2 Perfectionism and narcissism may also contribute to orthorexic tendencies.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27756637/‘>4 More research is needed in each of these areas.

It’s not clear whether orthorexia nervosa is related to gender, age, or BMI.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26724459/‘>6 We’d expect these folks to prioritize healthy eating, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their beliefs or behaviors are problematic.

Healthy Orthorexia Versus Orthorexia Nervosa

Although the concept of orthorexia is more than two decades old at this point, researchers and clinicians are still trying to draw a clear line between healthy and unhealthy concerns about food. In 2018, researchers from two Spanish universities proposed a new tool called the Teruel Orthorexia Scale to separately measure “healthy orthorexia” and orthorexia nervosa.https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0219609‘>8 Because this is a new measure, we’ll have to wait for more studies to provide insight into this vital distinction.

Conclusion

At its core, orthorexia is “clean eating” taken too far.

Hopefully it’s clear that orthorexia is about much more than simply being health-conscious. As Dr. Bratman explains:

“Adopting a theory of healthy eating is NOT orthorexia. A theory may be conventional or unconventional, extreme or lax, sensible or totally wacky, but, regardless of the details, followers of the theory do not necessarily have orthorexia. …Enthusiasm for healthy eating doesn’t become ‘orthorexia’ until a tipping point is reached and enthusiasm transforms into obsession [sic].”

You can believe that diet profoundly impacts health, avoid specific foods, weigh and track all your food, and still go about your merry way without developing orthorexia nervosa.

But, if you feel your diet taking over your life, or if the thought of eating something off-plan makes you break into a cold sweat, it’s a good idea to seek help. Even though it’s not an officially recognized mental health disorder, many eating disorder specialists focus on treating individuals with orthorexia nervosa. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) hotline is a good place to start.

Orthorexia Nervosa FAQs

Is orthorexia an obsession with healthy eating?

“Orthorexia” means wanting to eat “correctly.” The term may be used to describe disordered eating, as in orthorexia nervosa. That is an obsession or preoccupation with eating only specific foods that you consider healthy and avoiding foods you think are unhealthy.

What are the main warning signs or symptoms of orthorexia nervosa?

The defining characteristics are: (1) having strict food rules about what you will and will not eat based on your definition of “healthy,” and (2) those rules negatively impact your psychological, social, and/or physical well-being. Truly healthy diets should enhance, not detract from, your quality of life.

How common is orthorexia nervosa?

No one really knows because of problems with how orthorexia nervosa has been measured in the past. Estimates range from as few as 3 percent of people in the general population to more than 80 percent in health-focused communities, but those numbers may not be reliable.https://etd.ohiolink.edu/apexprod/rws_olink/r/1501/10?clear=10&p10_accession_num=kent1585488932218267‘>10

Is fasting or eating only one meal a day the same as orthorexia?

Orthorexia nervosa has to do with beliefs about food quality and eating only “healthy” foods. People may also use fasting to try to achieve health, but that isn’t the same as orthorexia. The same goes for excessive exercise. Both can co-occur with orthorexia, but they aren’t themselves orthorexic.

Is my ______ diet orthorexic?

No diet is inherently orthorexic, no matter how restrictive it is. Context always matters. You can’t decide if someone’s diet is orthorexic without knowing why they are following it and how it is impacting their emotional health, physical health, social relationships, occupation, and overall quality of life.

Primal Kitchen Buffalo


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woman at her laptop showing signs of burnoutWhere are my high achievers at? These are the folks that constantly knock their goals out of the park and make it look easy, whether they’re training for a marathon, dialing in their diet, or Marie Kondo-ing their house. They’re the ones who get the promotions, the bigger bank accounts, the smaller pant sizes…

We live in a culture that celebrates busy-ness. I’ve seen it manifest in my clients (they typically come to me in the post-crush-my-goals stage, once their nervous system is toast) but also in my personal life.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/200807/parent-pleasing-people-pleasing-part-1-3‘>2 You might have been rewarded for straight A’s or gotten kudos after a game-winning goal. Maybe you had a parent or caregiver that was never satisfied or emotionally distant (which you mistook as unsatisfied). Or perhaps you learned that by achieving more, you managed to secure the love, safety, and acceptance of your family or caregivers.

In these situations, your self-worth becomes tied to your performance, meaning you’re only “good enough” if and when you’ve accomplished something exceptional. And even then, your inner critic probably doubts that it’s enough.

The Need to Always Do Better

What we’re really talking about here is fear. Fear that you need to continue excelling, producing, winning, and succeeding in order to not be rejected or lose the approval of others.https://www.mind-body-health.net/hpa-axis.shtml‘>4 Keep in mind this isn’t true for everyone. But for a lot of us, especially those of us with perfectionist tendencies, it’s quite accurate.

 

Pros of being a high achiever:

  • You always bring your A-game
  • You’re driven to get results
  • You’re highly motivated
  • You’re passionate about what you do
  • You’re competitive
  • You thrive on positive feedback

Cons of being a high achiever:

  • You hold yourself to perfectionist standards
  • You’re afraid of failing
  • You believe you’re only as good as your last accomplishment
  • You tend to overcomplicate things
  • You don’t take time to appreciate your successes
  • You’re prone to burnout

Burnout: How Crushing It Leads to a Crash

Research continues to prove that burnout is real – and that it’s more significant among high achievers and perfectionists.https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases:’>6

  • Feeling depleted or exhausted
  • Dissociation of negativity
  • Reduced efficacy

Not only that, evidence shows that burnout leads to dysregulation of the body’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis — if this is you, you’ve probably already noticed the signs.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25433974/‘>8 They looked at two groups of participants: one with a formal clinical diagnosis of burnout and one with symptoms but no formal diagnosis. Researchers analyzed saliva samples of all the participants and found that both groups had significantly lower morning cortisol levels compared with a group of healthy control subjects.

Why does this matter? Because low chronically cortisol levels can lead to cardiovascular disease, fatigue, muscle weakness, digestive issues, and the inability to “crush it” even if you wanted to.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15636467/‘>1

Another study found that among older cognitively intact adults, those with a history of musical training had better episodic memory scores.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21463047/‘>3 They didn’t control for IQ but they did control for education attainment, which is a decent barometer of intelligence (though exceptions definitely exist).

What about more direct trials? Can we show that playing instruments can actually elicit changes to the brain’s function?

Recent research shows that music practice, which forces our brains to work in a completely different way than normal waking reality, is an important contributor to neural plasticity. Even just two weeks of piano practice elicits neuroanatomical changes to the auditory cortex in non-musicians.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12414299/‘>5 The same protective effect has been seen in the auditory cortex, which controls speech recognition among other things, of aging musicians.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2948283/‘>7https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12959510/‘>9https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24983262/‘>11  Furthermore, anything that gets you into the flow state will lower stress, almost as a rule. I could elaborate with even more extensive citations, but instead I’ll tell you about the drums.

I might not be that good, but man is my electric drum kit I keep in the office a stress release. I put earbuds in, fire up a rock song on my iPad, then put the headphones to the drum kit over that, and wail away for an hour and a half almost every night. A legend in my own mind (the only mind that matters). If you walked into the room while I was doing this, all you would hear is Pita pit a pitta TapTap softly. But inside the headphones, I’m killing it. Highly recommended.

Playing an Instrument for Happiness

No, that isn’t sexy. It’s not going to sell any online e-courses. You won’t get clout and “happy” can’t be quantified, even if you start citing neurochemicals. But happiness is . When you boil things down, most people will name “be happy” as a major long-term goal. It’s not everything, you need meaning and drive and a mission as well, but moment-to-moment happiness really does matter for brain health.

Playing an Instrument Is Magic

If magic exists, music fits the bill. It can change your emotions on a dime. It can conjure up vivid memories, even those previously calcified and inaccessible via normal modes of cognition. It can capture and even alter the energy of the room. It makes people move their bodies without realizing or wanting it. Music can’t be touched or felt, only heard; it’s real but intangible, abstract but verifiable. And if you are making the music and wielding the instrument, you become the magician.

Whatever you do, don’t wait any longer. Pick up that instrument you’ve been thinking about and get after it. Over the last few years I’ve picked up the piano and have been dabbling in the drums, but man, there’s a HUGE difference between trying to learn at my age and trying to learn as a kid. You want to talk about compound interest, learning music (or any skill, really) as a child is a relatively small initial investment that quickly accumulates value. And most importantly, it never loses value. You learn the thing when your brain is still physically developing and the thing becomes embedded in the physical structure of your brain. It’s almost impossible to forget a skill like that. I wish I had that with music. If you have that opportunity, take it.

Do you play any instruments? How has it affected your brain health, as far as you can tell?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care!

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man teaching kids cooking skillsIt’s easy to ignore your lack of rudimentary cooking skills when you order pizza or get takeout every night. When people switch to Primal or keto diets, they usually find themselves spending considerably more time in the kitchen. On the plus side, they’re better able to control ingredient quality and the macronutrient breakdown of their meals. For better or worse, this also forces them to confront their lack of culinary prowess.

Preparing two or three homemade meals per day can be daunting if you’re accustomed to mostly grabbing prepackaged or restaurant fare. As with any other skill, though, you learn by starting with the basics, practicing often, and building proficiency as you go. Your meals don’t have to be elaborate, your technique perfect, or your dishes artistic. They just have to taste good.

Today I’m going to nominate some skills and dishes that I think every beginner should learn. Chime in in the comments and let me know what else you would put on the list.

Where to Start

First, some basics:

Start by following other people’s recipes. Don’t try to wing it if you don’t know what you’re doing. Find one or two cookbooks or blogs you like, and work your way through them. To learn your way around a kitchen, Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen books are tried and true. My favorite book for artful yet practical kitchen inspo is Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.

Get good knives and keep them sharp. Watch some YouTube videos to learn basic knife skills. Everyone should know how to chop an onion. Start there.

Season your food, for goodness sake. I have a theory that most people who think they are bad cooks are mostly just boring cooks. (That, and they overcook their meat, but we’ll get to that.) Salt is your friend. You should have a decently stocked spice rack. Tell me in the comments what spices you use most. Mine are cumin and turmeric.

Just go for it! As with anything else, you get better by doing it. Stick to simple recipes at first, then get more adventurous as you become more confident.

Chicken

I firmly believe that everyone should know how to roast a whole chicken. A fragrant, golden chicken feels like true kitchen mastery, yet it’s so simple. Ina Garten taught me (not personally, but you get it), or start with this Perfect Roasted Chicken recipe.

When you roast a whole chicken, you end up with a carcass. This is great news because you should also know how to make your own bone broth. It doesn’t matter whether you use the stovetop, slow cooker, or pressure cooker method. Either way, it couldn’t be easier to stock your freezer (no pun intended) with jars of homemade bone broth. Then you always have some on hand to make soups, stew, chili, or just to drink.

When it comes to making chicken breasts or thighs, I usually opt for thighs because they are more forgiving. Breasts have a tendency to become dry and disappointing. The secret is to brine your chicken breasts, especially if you’re baking them or throwing them on the grill. (You can also brine thighs or whole chickens, or indeed any poultry or lean meat, but it’s particularly life-changing with chicken breasts, in my opinion.) Here’s how I do it:

Step-by-step brining

  • Boil two cups of water.
  • Remove it from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of sea salt until dissolved.
  • Transfer the salty water to a large glass bowl. Top it off with ice water to cool the solution so you don’t poach the chicken. Give it a stir. If you have any fresh herbs and garlic cloves on hand, you can throw them in now, but it’s not required.
  • Add the chicken, making sure it’s covered by water. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes on the counter (yes, it’s fine), or stick it in the fridge for up to an hour.
  • Remove the chicken and cook according to your recipe, but don’t add more salt!

Chicken recipes to try:

Devyn’s Grilled Marinated Chicken (MDA)

Cracklin’ Chicken (Nom Nom Paleo)

Mayo Roasted Chicken (Primal Kitchen)

Vegetables

Please, I’m begging you: unless you are making soup, don’t boil your vegetables. Steaming is acceptable, but for truly delicious cooked vegetables, sauté or roast them.

With both sautéing and roasting, avoid these three rookie mistakes:

  1. Not using enough fat or oil. Vegetables need lubrication to avoid sticking to the pan, and oil allows your roasted vegetables to develop those scrumptious crunchy bits. When sautéing, add enough oil/fat to just cover the bottom of the pan. For roasting, use enough to coat the vegetables when you toss them, but not so much that they end up floating in a pool of oil.
  2. Overcrowding the pan. Give the veggies room to breathe. Use multiple roasting pans or sauté in batches rather than allowing them to overlap, unless you’re stir-frying.
  3. Playing it too cool. Hot = browning, browning = flavor. When it comes to roasting, 375°F (190°C) is as low as I’ll go, but really, I rarely roast below 425°F (220°). If you’re roasting multiple types of vegetables at one time, it’s best to keep them separated in case they get done at different rates.

For masterful sautéing, preheat your pan over medium-high heat without any fat or oil. When it’s nice and evenly hot, add the fat, then add the vegetables. Sauté over medium to medium-high heat.

In general, I favor sautéing for softer vegetables and that cook more quickly—think mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, fresh green beans, bell peppers—and roasting for harder vegetables like winter squash and the cruciferous Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, or romanesco. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules. You can certainly roast zucchini or peppers and onions, for example.

Two more tips:

  • Take the time to cut your vegetables into approximately uniform pieces so they cook at the same rate.
  • Don’t be too stir-happy when sautéing. If you want your vegetables to brown nicely, let them sit undisturbed for a few minutes before stirring and repeating.

Vegetable recipes to try:

Easy Roasted Winter Vegetables Recipe (MDA)

Grilled Greek Summer Veggies Recipe (MDA)

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts (MDA)

Also check out Mark’s 8 Tips for Cooking Vegetables

Steak

Steak lovers have strong feelings about how to cook the perfect steak. You’ll have to experiment with different methods and cuts to find what you prefer. I personally like to cook NY Strips on very hot cast iron, season my steak before cooking with only coarse salt, and flip it frequently. Other people swear by reverse searing, which is also fantastic. Still others will only cook steak on a grill, as in Mark’s Grilled Steak.

I’m not going to tell you how to cook your steak, but I will suggest that if you prefer your steak well done, you shouldn’t admit that aloud unless you want some serious ribbing. Just saying. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the steaks and take them off the heat when they are 5 to 10 degrees below your target temp:

Rare: 120-125°F (45-50°C)
Medium-rare: 130-135°F (55-60°C)
Medium: 140-145°F (60-65°C)
Medium-well: 150-155°F (65-70°C)
Well: >160°F (>70°C)

Keep in mind, no matter what cut and method you use, you should let your steaks rest for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into them. During that time, the internal temperature of the steak will rise 5°F or so.

Eggs

Omelets are always on lists of kitchen skills everyone should have, but I disagree. Omelets are fussy. Scrambles are much easier and just as delicious. In any case, though, I do think that Primal + keto eaters should have some egg skills in their repertoires. I’d start with the following:

Scrambled eggs. Here’s how to make the most amazing scrambled eggs:

  • Heat a skillet over medium-low heat.
  • Melt some butter in the skillet and crack the eggs into the skillet without stirring. (You can also separate the whites and yolks here, but it’s a more advanced maneuver.)
  • When the whites are about halfway cooked, start pushing them around with a spatula, avoiding the yolks.
  • When the whites are nearly done, take the pan off the heat, break the yolks, and fold the yolks and whites together. Keep stirring gently until the eggs are cooked to your liking. They should be creamy, but if you just can’t handle soft eggs, put the pan back on low heat and finish to your liking.

Hard-boiled eggs. The truth is, I never boil eggs anymore. For hard-cooked eggs, I either use the Instant Pot (easiest!) or steam them. You won’t lose eggs to cracking this way.

The Instant Pot 5-5-5 method is foolproof: Cook eggs for 5 minutes using the Egg or Manual function, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, then release the remaining pressure and move the eggs to an ice bath for 5 minutes. Voila.

Or, boil a couple of inches of water in a pan and place a steamer basket inside. Steam the eggs for 7 to 10 minutes depending on how you like the yolk, then transfer them to an ice bath to cool.

Egg muffins. Like this recipe.

Egg recipes to try:

 

This should be a good start for any new cook. What else would you add? Which books are must-reads for kitchen beginners? Skills or dishes that everyone should have in their arsenal?

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friends sharing pieSo, you overdid it…or just ate something that doesn’t work with your body. Maybe you didn’t binge per se but you abandoned the original plan and now you’re feeling the pain. You ate, maybe more than you intended, maybe differently than you intended.

Non-Primal foods were consumed – perhaps many of them or just a few in larger than planned quantities. Non-Primal and sub-Primal drinks were imbibed beyond the point of intention. And now the consequences are playing out. You’re stuck in a bloated, sloth-like, catatonic state. You’re nursing a major headache with every shade shut and the covers over your head wishing in a rather non-seasonal mindset that your children would take the noise to some distant corner of the neighborhood. Maybe you’ve taken up residence in the bathroom.

In a less dramatic scenario, perhaps you’re just pushing yourself through the day because you notice your energy is off, your digestion not up to full speed, your mood not quite as equanimous as usual. Whether you feel it was worth it or not, who wouldn’t want to reverse the course of misery itself after the fact?

Think of it this way: with health comes sensitivity to what’s unhealthy.

I’ll admit I don’t really get into cleanses or detoxes. That said, I do think we can help our bodies in their own miraculous processes get back on track – or at least get out of their way while they undo the damage. With a little time and care, we can recover and move on not too much worse for the wear. The healthier we eat and live on a daily basis, the better condition we’re in to weather these upsets. Unfortunately, however, the cleaner we eat the other 364 days of the year, the more we might feel a significant detour in our diet. That heaping plate of mashed potatoes with processed gravy product might have barely registered pre-Primal. Today it can leave you with indigestion and noxious gas for a good 36 hours.

If you’re looking to feel better after a big day (or season) of non-Primal eating, consider these modest proposals for what ails you.

Commit to a morning fast.

Conventional wisdom says eat normally after a holiday binge, but the body says differently. (Guess which one I’m inclined to heed.) Maybe the digestive fallout makes fasting a given, but even if you’re able to eat, give your body a break until early or even mid-afternoon. CW thinks if you go for a few hours without eating you’re sure to throw yourself head on into a major binge. That’s not the case for most Primal folks. Give your body the time it needs to take care of the residuals from the day before.

Drink some tea.

Lay off the food for a while, but go ahead and hydrate. Resist, however, Grandma’s suggestion to down a shot of hard booze. (Hands for how many times folks have heard this from family or friends?) Research has shown alcohol actually slows gastric emptying.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21156747‘>2 Although the tea in the study was simple black tea, consider something without caffeine. (Your body has enough to contend with at the moment.) Chamomile can relax your nerves and your digestive tract, while peppermint can soothe an upset stomach. Opt for something other than mint, however, if heartburn is an issue. Keep in mind you shouldn’t down massive quantities of water (another common recommendation you’ll hear from conventional sources). You don’t want to drink so much that you end up diluting the gastric juices that are trying to do their job.

Try bitters.

There’s not much in terms of research (to be found in English anyway), but this is one age-old home remedy that will likely help. The folk wisdom that recommends schnapps, for example, is generally based on herb/bitter based schnapps formulations. The remedy is in the herb – not the alcohol.

Avoid antacids and acid reducing medication.

Your gastric juices are there to digest your food. If your food is slow to digest and feels like a rock in your stomach, does countering or reducing the natural acids that will break things down and move them along make any logical sense? Steer clear of these “remedies” and let your body do its thing.

Take a good helping of probiotic.

Whatever you ate likely did a number on your bacterial profile. A recent study, in fact, shows it only takes a few days to effect substantial change (about the same duration as most holiday visits to non-Primal relatives).https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18392240‘>4 Those residuals of your holiday meal will move along more quickly if you get it in gear. There’s motivation to get up!

Don’t underestimate the power of fresh air and sun.

Especially if you’re feeling nauseated, fresh air can pull you out of your misery. Add sun, and you might just have a new lease on life. Sure, you may feel just as crappy an hour after you go back inside, but stay outside as long as you can to give yourself some relief.

Eat a small Primal meal at the end of the day.

Avoid sending your insulin spiking multiple times that day by grazing. Fast as long as it’s productive and comfortable, and then enjoy a modest Primal meal. When you do, choose something that will keep you satisfied for the rest of the night without taking up too much space/energy in an already sensitive stomach. Some vegetable-based fiber and protein should do the trick.

Go to bed early.

You’ve been through the wringer. However lethargic you’ve felt, certain body processes have been on overdrive or have been working harder to compensate for the food related stresses. Give into your body’s intuitive demands, and hit the sack early. Tomorrow is another Primal day.

Have you had any post-indulgence days that left you seeking relief? What’s works for you? Let me know your thoughts, and thanks for reading, everyone.

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The post How to Recover from Holiday Overindulgence appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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sad woman under holiday stressIt’s the most wonderful time of the year again! The time for family gatherings (but not this year), holiday feasts (maybe), and, according to my TV, buying brand new his-and-hers SUVs (not ever).

I’m not being sarcastic, I do enjoy the holiday season, but there’s no question that it’s stressful. The whirlwind of holiday excitement, decorating the homestead, dredging up the same old family fights, last-minute shopping, and love-hating the winter weather can be a lot, even under the best of circumstances. For all the people who relish this time of year, there are others who dread it.

Some stress is unavoidable, especially if the holidays are difficult due to complicated family situations, past losses, or financial hardships. However, a great deal of holiday stress is self-imposed. As much as you might feel like you have to do certain things to make the holidays magical for everyone, very few are truly non-negotiable. Just because you usually put up elaborate decorations, bake 12 types of cookies, and produce homemade gifts doesn’t mean you’re required to this year. It’s possible—though not always easy—to opt out of the things that cause more stress than pleasure.


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By setting some basic ground rules for yourself, you can manage a great deal of holiday stress:

Control the variables you can control.

These are things like:

  • How much you do or don’t stick to your usual healthy routines.
  • How much time and energy you devote to decorating and upholding other holiday traditions.
  • How much money you spend.
  • Who you do or do not celebrate in person this year.

Try not to lose sleep over the things you can’t control.

  • COVID restrictions
  • Whether or not other people are following the rules.
  • Other people’s expectations of you.
  • Whether friends and extended family are accepting of the boundaries you set for your immediate family.

Have reasonable expectations of yourself and others.

I’d argue that unreasonable expectations are at the heart of a lot of holiday stress. There’s only so much time, money, and emotional energy to go around, and we often spread ourselves too thin. This year, stress is higher than ever, nerves are frayed, and we’re probably not at our bests. If ever there was a year to lower your expectations and make do with less, this is it.

Treat yourself and others with kindness and compassion.

My mantra is always prioritize self-care, but this goes beyond that. It means extending yourself and your loved ones extra grace when tasks go undone, tempers occasionally flare, and it’s impossible to make everyone happy. Basically, be cool to yourself and others.

Ok, I hear you saying, but these are all pretty abstract. What are some concrete ways to avoid, or at least mitigate, holiday stress?

7 Ways to Avoid Holiday Stress

1. Prioritize sleep

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you can do this one thing, a lot of the other things will fall in line. Prioritizing sleep lays the foundation for stress management.

How so? First, sleep deprivation is inherently stressful, physiologically and mentally. It makes you cranky and irritable, so it’s darn near impossible to extend that aforementioned grace to anyone, including yourself. You make poorer decisions and have less willpower to do hard things, like sticking to your diet and setting healthy boundaries. Plus, you’re more likely to end up sick and unable to do even the basics.

On the flip side, when sleep is non-negotiable, it’s easier to say no to things like staying out too late at holiday parties (maybe not this year…) and drinking too much and too often. Your mood and outlook are better, so it’s easier to spread positivity to others.


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2. Schedule “me time”

As in, literally put it in your calendar. Set reminders on your phone. Make sure your family knows what times are off-limits for urgent laundry requests, homework checking, and general griping.

Ideally, you’d set aside a daily block, plus a weekly time that’s devoted to just to you. For example, you might schedule 30 peaceful minutes in the morning before the busyness of the day starts, plus an hour or two one evening that’s your self-care time. Read, journal, meditate, walk, sit quietly with a cup of coffee, watch holiday movies—it doesn’t matter as long as it’s restorative, not draining. Protect this time. Make it sacred.

3. Stick (mostly) to your typical food and movement/exercise

I say mostly because I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world to indulge a little on the holidays, but your mileage may vary. In my experience, the holidays are more stressful when you feel pulled in different directions, wanting to enjoy traditional foods or the occasional treat but feeling that you’re not “allowed” because of your diet. “Mostly normal” allows for flexibility.

More generally, it’s ok to relax when we’re dealing with so much else in the world right now. Especially if you’re a perfectionist, it might be good to lower your standards just enough to take some of the pressure off.

That said, don’t let the pendulum swing completely. There’s no good reason to spend the next six weeks making choices that cause you to feel bad physically and mentally. Strive to find the sweet spot where you are enjoying the holidays but not setting yourself up to feel miserable in January. Remember, good nutrition bolsters your body’s natural defenses against stress.

4. Set boundaries ahead of time

Setting boundaries with other people can be uncomfortable, especially if you’re not particularly assertive. Nevertheless, it’s an important adulting skill that can massively protect your own mental health and prevent conflict when done correctly.

If you don’t want to talk about politics, your diet, or anything else at the next family dinner, say so before getting together. Be kind but firm and direct. Explain why you’re making the request and what will happen if your wishes aren’t respected. For example: “It really hurts my feelings when you and Dad make comments about my weight. If I’m going to come over for dinner, I need that topic to be off-limits. If you both can’t agree to that, unfortunately I’m going to have to stay home.”

Boundaries can’t save you from all drama, but they can help you avoid the worst of it, or at least give you an escape route if things go south. They aren’t just for other people, either. You may also need to set firmer boundaries for yourself, deciding ahead of time what behaviors are and are not acceptable. Committing to sleep, me time, and what dietary excursions, if any, you choose to take are all forms of boundary setting. So is making a budget and sticking to it.

5. Only do the things that really matter

Ask yourself: Which of the tasks and traditions that suck up my time every year actually have to get done? Which do I want to do? What would happen if I didn’t do ____ this year? Could we still have a wonderful holiday if we only did ____?”

Perhaps upholding every family tradition truly fills your metaphorical bucket, in which case, go for it. On the other hand, if you just can’t bear the thought of going through all the usual motions, you can and should feel free to Marie Kondo your holidays—keep only the things that bring you joy and scrap the rest. Let each of your family members nominate their top two or three priorities and make those “must dos.” Let everything else be “we’ll sees.” Worst case scenario, if it turns out that you do miss spending hours elaborately wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve, you can do it next year again.

6. Come up with a guilt-free mantra and use it liberally

Guilt is usually the result of the stories we tell ourselves: “The grandparents will be so sad if they don’t get their homemade ornaments this year,” or “Christmas won’t be the same for the kids if we don’t have our cookie decorating party.” They may or may not be true, but in any case, they’re not your problem. It’s not your job to burn yourself out trying to make other people happy.

This is where self-compassion comes in. Instead of playing a loop in your head about how you’re single-handedly ruining everyone’s holiday, try: “This year is hard, and I’m doing the best I can. That’s all anyone can reasonably expect from me, and I’m not going to feel guilty.”

Instead of “I’m not going to feel guilty,” you can sub in:

  • “It doesn’t help anyone if I sacrifice my mental health trying to make the holiday perfect.”
  • “My family loves me and understands.”
  • “I can choose not to be around people, even family, who make me feel bad about it.” (Setting boundaries!)

7. Stave off seasonal depression and anxiety

Doctors aren’t quite sure what causes seasonal affective disorders, but some people are more susceptible than others. Shore up your defenses if you’re someone who typically struggles in the winter months.

Start by eating a nutrient-dense diet. Depression and anxiety symptoms are linked to a host of nutrient deficiencies, including magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, and folate.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23950577/‘>7 Supplement if needed with a multivitamin/multimineral.

Seasonal depression also seems to be linked to decreased serotonin activity in the brain, and possibly increased melatonin levels. Both could cause or be the consequence of dysregulated circadian rhythms.https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01443410.2019.1625306‘>1 In the study, Dweck and one of her colleagues gave puzzles to 400 fifth graders. After completing the first puzzle, the children were either praised for their effort or praised for their intelligence. The group who was praised with statements like “you must have worked so hard!” ended up choosing a more demanding puzzle next time around than the ones who were told “you must be so smart!”

Years later, Dweck and other researchers tested the theory again, following 373 seventh graders to find out whether or not mindset could predict their grades over the course of two years.

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