What Started Me Thinking

  • "The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer somebody else up." Mark Twain
  • “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.” Robert Louis Stevenson
  • "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42
  • “Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.” Simone Weil
  • “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” Colette
  • “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.” G. K. Chesterton
  • “A man’s first care should be to avoid the reproaches of his own heart.” Joseph Addison
  • “Best is good. Better is best.” Lisa Grunwald
  • “Order is Heaven’s first law.” Alexander Pope

Happiness Theories I Reject

  • Flaubert: "To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness; though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless."
  • Vauvenargues: “There are men who are happy without knowing it.”
  • Eric Hoffer: “The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.”
  • Sartre: "Hell is other people."
  • Willa Cather: “One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them…”
  • Alexander Smith: “We are never happy; we can only remember that we were so once.”
  • John Stuart Mill: “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.”

This Wednesday: Tips...to eat better.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Tips…to eat better.

Paradoxically, studies show that over time, people who diet tend to gain more weight than people who don’t diet. Here are some non-dieting tips for eating better that have worked for me:

1. To have a tastier salad without adding calories—yes, this sounds crazy, but it really improves the flavor—sprinkle a packet of Equal or any artificial sweetener on it. Don’t laugh, try it!

2. Never eat anything at a children’s birthday party. If you have kids, this rule is crucial.

3. Eat smaller portions. At a restaurant, order an appetizer for your entree, ask for an appetizer portion, or leave 25% of each serving on your plate. Studies show that while cutting fat, eating more fruits and vegetables, and increasing exercise all help people lose weight, the single most effective change is to trim portion size.

4. Never eat hors d’oeuvres. When I see that tray of crab cakes passing by, I remind myself that I’m likely to get something stuck in my teeth, spray crumbs at people while I’m talking, drip on my clothes, or get bad breath.

5. Eating a high-fiber diet is filling and also blocks calorie absorption. Studies suggest that if the average American woman did nothing more than increase her daily fiber from 12 grams to 24 grams, she’d lose 10 pounds a year. But 24 grams, or the other recommendation, 34 grams, is a lot of fiber. I manage to get that much only by eating Extra Fiber All-Bran, which has 13 grams per serving. I mix it with yoghurt for breakfast, and often mix it with oatmeal for dinner. Also, eat brown rice instead of white rice, and whole-wheat pasta.

6. I take two Tums each day for calcium, and I’ve discovered that if I’m genuinely hungry, eating a few Tums staves off hunger pains for a while.

7. Have two slices of whole-wheat toast instead of a bagel. I used to eat a bagel every day, now I consider bagels rare treat.

8. Don’t eat off other people’s plates. Consider that two swallows of a chocolate milkshake has 72 calories, and four fast-food French fries have 42 calories. It adds up.

9. Keep a bowl of sliced red and yellow peppers in the fridge.

10. Know your weaknesses, and avoid them. My weakness is anything in mini form. I wouldn’t dream of eating a whole Tootsie Roll bar, but I’d eat 50 mini-Tootsie Rolls without blinking.

11. Get more sleep. One recent study showed that women who slept less than five hours of each night were far more likely to gain a lot of weight than women who slept at least seven hours—even though they ate less.

12. Remember the movie When Harry Met Sally? I refuse to feel sheepish in a restaurant about pulling a “Sally” by asking for my food without olives, blue cheese, sauce, dressing on the side, etc.

13. Never drink juice, and only drink skim milk.

14. Eat at home as much as possible. Who knows what’s in restaurant food? My brother-in-law worked in a restaurant kitchen, and he said that no matter what you ask for, everything has a ton of butter.

15. Keep a food journal. The evidence is overwhelming that people who log their intake eat much better than those who don’t. I have to confess, though, that as part of the Happiness Project I’ve been trying to keep a food journal, and I’m failing. I just can’t seem to remember to keep up with it. But I’m still trying.

16. Keep tempting food out of reach. I know that if a plate of cookies is sitting next to me, sooner or later, I’ll eat some.

17. If you’re eating too much of a favorite food (cheese, ice cream), give it up entirely. I was addicted to an allegedly low-calorie brand of chocolate chip cookie. I was buying two or three cookies each day! I had to go cold turkey. “Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.” Samuel Johnson.

18. Try to eat foods that contain a lot of water and/or vegetables. Soup is always a good choice.

19. Here is my favorite eat-healthy recipe, for a fruit smoothie. It’s filling, nutritious, and delicious:

1 cup skim milk
A cup or so of frozen strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or peaches
8 packets of artificial sweetener (eight is a lot, but I like things very sweet)
Lots of ice
Mix together in a blender.

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Gretchen RubinGretchen Rubin is the best-selling writer whose book, The Happiness Project, is the account of the year she spent test-driving studies and theories about how to be happier. Here, she shares her insights to help you create your own happiness project.

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