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Is my smart phone making me dumber?

Hello, is anybody home?

Every now and then I'll hear a podcast that rings so true I'll find myself talking back to it. Such was the case recently when on his weekly podcast Chris Kresser was explaining how the Internet is rewiring our brains and shared his perspective on an important yet often overlooked issue that touches so many of us.

In short:

This is an unprecedented time. There's never been a time in human history when we've had that kind of disconnection from self and as much exposure to this kind of stuff as we have now. And my idea is that it's having a significant effect.

I feel this myself; maybe you do too.

Ever since Chris' podcast I've been wanting to write a little about the complex nature of the Internet and its impact on my own life, particularly: In my poor management of precious free time and in my struggle to focus my concentration on a long book (I've been reading Moby Dick for a year!).

It seems fitting then that this post has taken me 6 weeks to complete because I squander too much of my time reading and writing short, easy, instantly "rewarding" things online, usually using my iPhone. For me and probably many of you the Internet has become a vortex that pulls me in and turns minutes of "harmless diversion" into hours lost forever doing God knows what.

It's surely no coincidence that my last post was about how tired I was and my desire to prioritize sleep. When I'm on my phone reading or writing (or on the computer, like now), it's my sleep that suffers most as I attempt either to make up for time lost by staying up later or am drawn "into the vortex" at night. Turning off the smart phone, tablet, and computer to relax - whether it's to read, sleep, meditate, or look out the window on the train - is a hard habit to develop. Yet more and more it feels essential.

When I think of the happiest moments of my life, when I am most aware of my blessings and the beauty of the world around me, technology is never involved. I'm in nature, stimulated only yet thoroughly by the energy coursing through my body, the wind and sun against my skin, and the sounds of birds and rustling leaves. The border between "me" and "everything around me" blurs and my problems seem so small.

It's not hard to feel this while hiking in Grand Canyon or strolling through a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Yet this experience is available right here in my city - and in yours - when I pull my nose away from my gadget, put away my headphones, and simply pay attention to my environment as I move through my day. Technology, handy as it is, can keep us from seeing, appreciating, and especially experiencing what is actually happening in our real lives right here and now.

Here goes nothing...!

My pledge: No gadgets while walking, when I want to read, or after 9pm, until my next post.
Care to join me?

xo Danielle

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It starts with sleep

I'm tired.

I can't believe how quickly time has been flying by. You'd think that writing a blog post - just one! - every week would be easy to pull off. But no - it's been a busy few weeks, with all kinds of very painful, sad, scary, exciting, life-changing events occurring one after the other: From helping move my parents out of their house into a retirement home to meeting with my adored husband to end our 25 year marriage to buying myself an incredible loft so I can begin a new life - a "new life" that, frankly, I don't really want.

So you might not be surprised to learn that I am fucking TIRED. One thing I will say is that I am healthy, my loved ones are doing fine, and I'm surrounded by wonderful people. So make no mistake - I realize that despite all my disappointments and heartache, I've got it good.

These past couple of months I've allowed a few of my normally consistent habits - what I call my core values - to go pretty slack. I've let myself indulge in comfort eating, which means I'm happy as hell there's no Paleo Police! (There's not.) And exercise? I can hardly lift my fork! (It's OK; I just use my hands, all Cavegirl-like.) Over the weekend I was running a fever of 99.5 for no other reason, I think, than just because. I can only guess at how much cortisol and adrenaline I've been pumping out since I got separated last fall! Yikes.

So as I try to recover from this crushing loss and face the uncertainty of the new life ahead of me, I realise more than anything that it starts with sleep. I've gone from hitting the hay at 9:30 or 10pm - important because my workday starts early - to staying up til all hours. It's not uncommon for me to be dog tired at 9pm but catch my second wind and keep going until midnight or 1am. No, I'm not Martha Stewart who can sleep for a few hours and rise refreshed! Ideally I need a solid 8 or 9, and that's when my body doesn't think it's fleeing from tigers and bears! 5 and 6 hours of sleep don't cut it for me (nor for most of us).

What I decided to do last week is make sleep THE priority. I have several things I need to work on, like eating a clean paleo diet, getting back to powerlifting, and being my normal, peppy self. But as I thought about the daunting task of taking these on, I realized that inadequate sleep is at the root of all of them.

When we are tired and stressed we're more prone to craving sugar and less able to resist it. We have less energy to exercise and doing so may not even be wise. Our memory suffers, as does our mood. So rather than try to become Superwoman overnight by fixing everything at once I thought I'd start at the beginning: Getting in the solid sack time my body craves. After just a few days I can already feel a difference, not only in my energy level but in my attitude.

A few months ago I heard an eye-opening interview by Dr. Lauren Noel on her Dr. Lo podcast with Hal Elrod, who had published a book called The Miracle Morning. The Amazon Kindle edition is inexpensive so I bought a copy and began to implement his steps. Then life got messy again, my sleep got screwed up, and I let the steps go. This week with improved sleep habits I decided to bring them back and am the happier for it.

My "miracle morning"

Hal Elrod's concept is that if we can make time to start each day doing specific activities to motivate and inspire us, we've given our day the best start imaginable and from such an auspicious beginning great things will spring forth. What Hal proposes is taking time, such as an unbroken hour, to do these 6 consecutive things for 10 minutes each:

  • Meditation
  • Affirmation
  • Visualisation
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Journaling

The first time I did this I learned that I'm not a fan of doing affirmations and visualisation as a dedicated practice. While I absolutely believe that saying kind things to ourselves and imagining ourselves in a positive light is a key to happiness and reaching goals, I prefer to do them throughout my day. Maybe that's just me. So I don't devote an hour to my "miracle morning" and I don't do these 6 steps.

Instead, I do this:

  • Meditate for 5 minutes
  • Dynamic yoga and stretch for 5 minutes
  • Make coffee, feed the cats, then read for 10 minutes or more
  • Spin intervals for 10 minutes
  • Eat, dress, and go!

By the time I get in my car I'm invigorated and have done no less than 4 things that align with my values: Meditation, stretching, reading, and exercise. How awesome am I?!

I realize I have the luxury of having time that's my own, something that's harder to come by when you have kids in the house. If you decide to create your own "miracle morning" make sure you're sleeping well because I can't tell you how many times I've heard that when there's a choice between cutting sleep to get up earlier to exercise and sleeping adequately with none, you'll be healthier to snooze. THAT's how vital getting enough sleep is! It is SO important that a person seeking to shed fat could eat spot-on and train hard and smart only to completely stall in their progress due to a lack of sleep.

So sleep tight!

For more information on the link between sleep, health, and well-being don't miss:

How's your sleep? Have you tried creating your own Miracle Morning?

xo Danielle

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The unhealthy vegan: When your values let you down

Food <- -> Values

Recently some things I've read and written have prompted me to ponder (yet again) the values behind how we live, including how we nourish ourselves. I suspect most people don't think about that very much, but if you've had a health problem you've wanted to fix (whether it's obesity or illness) or an ethical aversion to eating the animals you love, then you're likely making a value-based choice about what you eat. I'd even argue that the people who eat "badly" are doing so as well, and it may be that the value they're knowingly or subconsciously honoring is that they don't matter enough not to, or eating better won't make a difference, or they're not strong enough to do that very hard thing.

The other day my friend posted this quote on Facebook from Veganism Is The Future with the comment "I'm not there yet, but getting closer". Danger, Will Robinson, danger! I quickly leaped onto my soapbox (box jump!) to say that while I sincerely admire the values behind the ethical decision to become vegan, the reality is that is it not the healthiest choice for our body. That's a simple fact, and it doesn't in any way negate my belief that there are plenty of laudable reasons to choose a plant-based diet. But understand you may pay for your values with your health, and that if health is your driving reason to choose to become vegan you are terribly mistaken.

My first and best advice to everyone who wants to become healthier, regardless of whether or not they eat animals, fish, eggs, or dairy is: For the love of god do not eat processed foods! Start there. What about the type 2 diabetics who were cured of their disease by eating raw vegan? If they'd simply swapped their processed foods for real, fresh ingredients, I contend they'd have gotten there no matter what their diet. That said, a diet which includes animal protein will keep the vast majority of us healthier in the long run and that's a hard fact of life backed by science and our growing knowledge about human evolution.

So it was kind of odd, almost fortuitous, that just moments after my passionate rant to my friend I stumbled across a link to this recent post by a raw vegan author and blogger named Kristen Suzanne: My Vegan Diet Caused Health Problems. Would Primal, Paleo, Or “Real Food” Be Better?

It made me sad.

Luckily Kristen's post has a happy ending: Her family is healthy now and feels better than ever; that's great news. And they're doing it by eating along paleo lines, which if you're the kind of person who takes sides, would seem like a win for "our team".

Except I'm not on a team; I'm part of the stream of life (dare I say The Human League?!). So I feel genuinely sad that someone like Kristen who for ethical reasons turned to eating a vegan, sometimes raw, diet almost 10 years ago, would find she has to reconsider those values in order to stop being sick. I'm not surprised that she feels so much better adding back eggs, meat, and seafood, but as an idealist who genuinely loves all animals and hates that I enjoy eating their flesh, I secretly hope that anyone who makes such difficult, self-sacrificing choices founded in love and peace will be repaid for their faith. To put it bluntly, it sucks that she got screwed.

In a separate post I'll go into the details of my belief - in fact, my conviction - that paleo and vegan lifestyles share more in common than not, even though as "animal eaters" and "animal protectors" these groups would appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. But the conscientious eater should always be an animal protector to some degree (yes, even as we sometimes eat them). Just as I believe that to be a whole, loving, compassionate, happy person we need to care about Mother Earth and not simply wring what we can from her to fulfill our own needs. More on that soon. In the meantime, don't miss Kristen's insightful post on the details of her courageous but painful change of heart.

Have you read Kristen's blog? What do you think?

xo Danielle

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Hi! I'm Danielle

I'm Danielle Bartholomew and this is my blog!

Join me on this adventure as I muse about life, love, food, training, and travel, and question notions about age, gender, strength, and more. Welcome!

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