Ted Talk Friday: Why is ‘X’ the unknown?

This TED talk is much shorter than usual, but it is very interesting and entertaining! The intricate and bizarre history behind things we don’t pause to question never ceases to amaze me. There are so many pieces of our lives that simply “are” without explanation or exploration; talks like this remind to always ask questions and always keep asking why.

 

 

 

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Are you surprised? Are you fascinated by such seemingly arbitrary questions?

Sweeteners: What the science says

Like any area of research, there is not complete consensus on whether using artificial sweeteners over sugar is good or bad.

Research done by dentists supports the use of sugar alternatives, particularly xylitol which is protective for teeth, because sugar directly causes cavities [1]. As many of us know from neuroscience research done in the past decade, sugar also lights up the circuits in our brain associated with pleasure–with addiction. Our brain is hard-wired to see sugar as reward, which makes sense when you think about our ancestral history. Fruit that tasted sweet was fuel that could keep us alive. This parallel has been confirmed with sugars, but only recently have scientists started investigating no-calorie sweeteners effects on the brain. From early studies, it seems that calorie-free sweeteners create the same addictive loop in the brain as sugar. Despite the same addictive qualities, no-calorie sweeteners still have a slight, but significant, advantage for weight loss and weight management. [2]

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When you delve deeper into the broader research, there are certainly concerning findings with almost any sweetener, other than stevia. In fact, stevia has been shown to actually provide health benefits. There is evidence that stevia is anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, and anti-viral, among other benefits. [3]

All of the sweeteners you hear about–sucralose, aspartame, saccharin–are all chemically unique. [4] While certainly some of these sweeteners pose negative long-term health effects, I am doubtful that all will lead to cancer or metabolic disease. We have enough research to know that sugar is dangerous–it is high in calories, addictive, and inflammatory. We also have research that shows potential dangers in certain no-calorie sweeteners: microbiome disruption, addictive qualities, and increased cancer risk (in extremely high quantities).

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So what is the take-away message?

Well, we are human. We like sweets. It is in our DNA, our brain to love the taste. The research has too few long-term studies with human subjects to base our choices solely on the existing science. Sure, if you feed rats one hundred times the typical intake of sucralose they will develop cancer–we know eating one food or chemical in excess is dangerous. In saying this, I don’t support sucralose consumption, but I am taking an objective eye to the facts.

I believe we should decrease sugar intake–we know the dangers there. How you choose to fill the gap with no-calorie sweeteners depends on your opinions and your body. If you like stevia, that is certainly the healthiest option according to science toady. If you want to drink your can of diet soda, go ahead. Just don’t drink 20 in one day! So what it comes down to is moderation. Find the balance that makes your body happy.

References:

1: Sharma, V. K., Ingle, N. A., Kaur, N., Yadav, P., Ingle, E., & Charania, Z. (2015). Sugar Substitutes and Health: A Review. Journal of Advanced Oral Research/May-Aug6(2).

2: Murray, S., Tulloch, A., Criscitelli, K., & Avena, N. M. (2016). Recent studies of the effects of sugars on brain systems involved in energy balance and reward: Relevance to low calorie sweeteners. Physiology & behavior164, 504-508.

3: Saad, A., Khan, F., Hayee, A., & Nazir, M. S. (2014). A review on potential toxicity of artificial sweeteners vs safety of Stevia: a natural Bio-sweetener. J. Biol. Agri. Healtheare4(15), 137-147.

4: Roberts, A. (2016). The safety and regulatory process for low calorie sweeteners in the United States. Physiology & behavior164, 439-444.

Ted Talk Friday: How can groups make good decisions?

I am a huge fan of Dan Ariely and this real-life study is a powerful example of the power of discussion and collaboration. What scares me about this talk is diversity; in so many seats of power, we lack the diversity we need to reach good, ethical decisions. While we might deliberate as much as necessary, when there aren’t enough diverse voices in the room…deliberation can only do so much.

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Do you struggle with “groupthink”? Do you agree with this advice on how we can improve our decision-making?

I tried Orange Theory–will I ever go back?

I love a good workout and trying new things, but I have actively avoided Orange Theory classes for years. I heard horror stories of coaches yelling and the competitive nature of the classes, both of which are things that do NOT jive with who I am. I know two things about myself with great certainty:

  1. I hate being told what to do when it comes to physical activity–especially when orders are given in a forceful manner. (I once walked our “mile run” in protest during elementary school…)
  2. I do not thrive off of competition with others. I am incredibly competitive with myself; I am passionate about getting better and better grades or meeting new goals, but not when I compare myself to those around me. It’s not about being the “best” in my mind, it is about being my personal best.

I only went to this class because a fellow SF SweatPink friend posted about it, so I saw it as an opportunity to meet other fitness-centered bloggers in the community.

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Sonya and I glistening with sweat post-workout

The class started with a loud, high intensity atmosphere–I was already feeling regret. Everyone wears a heart rate monitor, and your heart rate & calorie burn is projected on a large screen throughout the class. The workout was interval-based and divided in half. Half of the time was spent doing circuits utilizing a rowing machine, free weights, and a bosu ball. I enjoyed this half and could feel my heart rate getting higher than it has in quite a while. I enjoy using a rowing machine and it certainly stayed interesting as we incorporated different moves with the weights with low to moderate reps. I think that the instruction was not always sufficient for the quick pace; the instructor could not fix everyone’s form with such a rushed pace, and I’m sure that worsened my form as I felt the pressure to move on to the next exercise.

The next half of the class was not my favorite…anyone who knows me knows that this means a treadmill was involved. I see the treadmill as the epitome of what is wrong with how we approach fitness as a society. A little dramatic maybe, but I truly am not a fan. Few people enjoy the treadmill and it forces us into the idea that running nowhere in a state of misery is what it means to workout. Working out should be an enjoyable way you want to use your body everyday–if that is the treadmill then more power to you, but I think a small percentage of the population enjoys treadmill workouts while so many of us actually do them.

Back to Orange Theory–the next half of the class was treadmill intervals with options for power walking, jogging, or running. I just stared ahead at my sweaty face in the mirror counting down the minutes until it ended. At the end of the class, we looked at the heart rate screen together and I could feel myself becoming self-conscious about how many minutes I was in the “highest intensity” heart rate zone. I also personally have zero interest in the number of calories burned–in my opinion, it’s an unhealthy and inaccurate way to judge a workout. I could definitely feel the soreness settling in after the class ended, but at a cost of $59 for 4 classes, I don’t plan to keep going.

If you are motivated by competition and the group atmosphere, then this might be a great fit for you. You definitely feel accountable and there is a team atmosphere to the class, even with the competition.

After the class ended, we all gathered outside the class and got some tasty snacks and signed up to win a free mattress from Mattress Firm.

I also ended up getting a free pillow–it was one of those cooling gel-based pillows and I am BEYOND excited (who doesn’t love a good pillow?)

At the Mattress Firm store, I also got the chance to meet Shannon, the girl behind Cali Girl Gets Fit. She is such an inspiration and hooked me up with some delicious Bounce snacks and Organic Girl pressed juice.

I had such a fun day–meeting new people and trying a new, different class. While I may not go back to another Orange Theory class, I certainly enjoyed trying it out and pushing myself in new ways.

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Are you adventurous in your workouts? How do you feel about treadmill workouts?

Ted Talk Friday: Your Contribution to Our Useable Past

I heard this talk in the spring of 2016; some might call me an NPR enthusiast…

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Yes, I did listen to over 27,000 minutes of NPR this year–no shame. I listen the news regularly and I absolutely love the beautiful stories woven throughout the amazing podcasts–from On Being to How I Built This. The NPR ONE app is my go-to source for news, connection, and entertainment. I heard Daniel Horowitz Garcia, The Alternative Historianspeak about his work with StoryCorps. The talk is absolutely brilliant and highlights one of the gems of NPR. I hope you enjoy!

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Have you heard of Story Corps?

Braving the Wilderness

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness and the message resonates deeply with me. I’ve recently moved to a new place and have been establishing a new rhythm–friends, jobs, activities. I have always felt like I don’t fit the mold of having a set group of friends; I usually never fit a set group, but rather seek out individuals from different groups. I love the breadth of interests, experiences, personal backgrounds, and opinions this generates among those I talk and spend time with.

This minimizes gossip, leaving others out, and everything else that comes with a friend group, it also makes it harder to hold big group gatherings and feel that sense of belonging we all crave. I had this in high school. My group of girlfriends; we would sit together at lunch, have sleepovers, get ready for dances together…I cherish those memories. The memories I don’t cherish include the snide remarks or petty fights that inevitably come with an intertwined group of five people, let alone five tween girls.

Brown speaks to the mixed emotions of these friendships beautifully and encourages us all to create our own personal sense of belonging. We fit in with ourselves and love ourselves just as we are. No matter what happens–a move, a falling out, a hardship–we have our sense of grounding in numerous places with numerous perspectives.

Beyond friendships, the Maya Angelou quote:

captures a feeling I’ve been unable to pinpoint since leaving Home in Nashville for college (in Atlanta, GA). I spent summers in a range of places–Alpharetta, GA, Detroit, and the UK–and felt that certainty of where I belong and fit wane. Since moving to the Bay Area six months ago, that certainty of where I belong has grown even fuzzier. So perhaps the answer lies in Angelou’s words: I “belong no place–[I] belong every place–no place at all.”

I’m not one for New Years resolutions, but if anything I want to become even stronger in braving the wilderness.

Ted Talk Friday: Beautiful new words to describe obscure emotions

I recently learned that a loved one passed away yesterday. She loved words and was a scrabble master until the day she passed away in her late 90s. Such a sharp and thoughtful mind and spirit. This talk on words is something she would certainly enjoy.

I have always enjoyed learning about new words and etymologies. This talk takes a fascinating look at how we view words and how we create meaning. I always think of my favorite word in Spanish, sobremesa, which is the conversation that occurs at the table after dinner. There is no direct translation into a singular word in English and it exemplifies the cultural differences and differences in the way we express ourselves. I hope you enjoy this talk and glimpse into the world of meaning-making with words.

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Do you think we need new words? How do you feel about making new words?

Warm, Creamy Rice Pudding: Two Ways for Winter (GF)

I have been craving different desserts with winter-themed tastes reminiscent of cinnamon and hot, deep cocoa flavors. Sometimes I feel like my mind is blank and lacks all creativity, but I recently had a stroke of creative genius for two different cozy, rice-based desserts. I love picking up different seasonal fruits and vegetables and I just picked up a bag of fresh cranberries. I love a nice cranberry sauce so I started with a simple homemade cranberry sauce and used it as a base for a creamy vanilla pudding.

Cozy Vanilla Cranberry Rice Pudding

Ingredients:
-1 bag Miracle Noodle Rice
-3/4 cup fresh cranberries
-1 tbsp water
-stevia, to taste
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Prepare Miracle Noodle Rice according to directions on the bag.
2. Combine fresh cranberries and water in a small microwaveable bowl and cover with a plate. Cook in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until you hear popping.
3. Remove cranberries from the microwave and combine with stevia until it is sweet enough for your liking.
4. Combine the cranberry sauce and vanilla, mix well.
5. Mix the prepared rice and cranberry sauce well.
6. Sprinkle cinnamon on top and enjoy!

Creamy Hot Cocoa Rice Pudding 

Ingredients:
-1 bag Miracle Noodle Rice
-2 tbsp special dark cocoa powder (or your favorite cocoa powder)
-2 tbsp almond milk (or dairy, soy milk, etc.)
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-2 tbsp vanilla protein powder (or hot chocolate mix)
-Stevia, to taste
-1 tsp coconut oil

Directions:
1.Prepare Miracle Noodle Rice according to directions on the bag.
2. In a separate bowl, combine milk, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, protein powder, coconut oil, and stevia to taste.
3. Combine the cocoa mixture with the miracle rice, stirring well. Add slightly more milk if the mixture is too thick (or more cocoa if the mixture is too thin).
4. Place the mixture in a bowl and enjoy hot or cold with a dollop of whipped cream!

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What’s your favorite winter dessert? Do you use rice for dessert recipes?

Ted Talk Friday: The Magic of Not Giving a F***

***Explicit Content Warning***

I LOVE this mantra; I completely relate to this. While I still occasionally struggle with caring too much about certain things or what others think, I often fall back on to exactly what I want to do and how it will make me feel. If I am faced with the choice between a party I am not thrilled about or a night of complete self-care…guess what I will choose? 😉

While I think there is a certain level of privilege that comes with some of these choices–for example, we might socialize with people to help create professional connections–overall, I think this method is such an easy, simple way to improve wellbeing.

 

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Do you agree? What do you wish you cared less about?

Ted Talk Friday: How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals

A friend of mine shared this talk with me and thought I would like it–he knows me well! Duneier, the Guinness World Record holder for the largest crocheted granny square along with numerous other accomplishments, provides great concrete examples of how small tweaks and changes we make in our life can add up slowly and make a huge difference. For example, I started listening to Ted Talks consistently four years ago and I believe my knowledge and general perspective on life has changed dramatically.  It is all about those small little choices we make, not the drastic New Years resolutions so many of us make in a few short weeks. Start little, start now.

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Do you agree with Duneier’s advice?