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This is the Best Diet (According to Science)

This is the Best Diet (According to Science)

“C’mon, live a little … just a bit won’t kill you.”

If you eat healthy, you’ve heard this a million times. Even though my standard response is to smile or chuckle awkwardly, on the inside I’m releasing a long, sad sigh of desperation because I know the science says eating “just a little bit” of processed chemical-filled food every day (like most people do) very likely will kill you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for periodic indulgence. I’ve been known to plow through half a pizza and go too hard on the red wine or bourbon every now and then. That said, I avoid fake processed foods at all costs.

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Here are 3 numbers that will make you want to avoid processed foods:

  • 5,000: Number of chemicals approved by the FDA in the foods we eat.
  • 70: Percent of foods that are altered with chemical ingredients.
  • 75: Percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves that now contain genetically engineered (GMO) ingredients.

C’mon, how bad can this stuff really be? For years I asked this same question while scarfing down Cocoa Pebbles, McDonald’s Double Cheeseburgers, and Velveeta Shells and Cheese. However, even I was surprised when I read this in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association:

Bad eating habits kill more people every year than smoking.

We now know eating processed foods will do the following:

So what’s the best diet for a long, healthy life?

It’s obvious eating fast food and too much sugar can be detrimental to your health. However, here’s a bit of fascinating science you may not know. In 2014, a research team led by Dr. David Katz from the Yale University School of Public Health reviewed the major mainstream diets popular today: low carb, low fat, low glycemic, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced (DASH), Paleolithic, and vegan.

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Their report (which was titled, “Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?“) concluded the following:

What is “real food?”

Real food is food that comes from the earth or from animals that eat stuff that comes from the earth. Real food diets are the best diets because they emphasize lots of plants like green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and fruits. When you’re at the grocery store stick to the outside aisles, where you’ll find most of the real food. Perishable is a good thing. Your food should go bad.

When you buy packaged foods look for short ingredient lists and ingredients you recognize as food. If something sounds like a chemical, opt for another product. There are also sneaky artificial ingredients that food companies are allowed to put in packaged foods these days. “Natural flavors” is one of the most common ingredients you’ll see. Here’s the problem though: they’re anything but natural.

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“Natural flavors” is the term food companies and scientists are allowed to use for any substance that originated in nature. However, food companies can then add other ingredients (both natural and artificial), yet still declare “natural flavors” on the food label.

All told, 80 to 90 percent of “natural” flavors are made up of chemical solvents and preservatives, according to David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group.

The bottom line.

At the end of the day, if you don’t know what an ingredient is, put the food back and pick something else. Eating real food is a lifestyle, and it takes time to adapt. Be patient, stay the course, and you’ll find yourself looking and feeling better than you ever have.

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Featured photo credit: phalinn via flickr.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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