Day Twenty-Three: Quickies and Hopeful

This is going to be another really quick post. It's about time to go to bed and my parents have set this system in our house where the Internet shuts down around 11PM to encourage us to go to sleep earlier. Of course, this works, but it certainly also causes huge complications on days like this when all I've been doing all day is working and night is the only time I get to have to myself. At any rate, school starts for us next week and I've gotten my schedule already, so I'm excited!

On the negatory side, I have also forgotten to finish my summer assignments, which just means another thing to cram in right before the fall term. I'm hoping they don't count these packets of math, biology, and reading too much in our final grades, but with all summer to work on it (excepting students like me who are too busy pursuing more interesting and important interests...) you can never be sure. I promise to update soon!

Breakfast: Greek yogurt with cinnamon, Soft boiled egg
Lunch: Salad and peaches
Dinner: Fruit salad, rice
Snacks: Melons and peaches

Day Twenty-Two: Healthy Eating vs. Eating Healthy

I'm sure you've all heard by now of the numerous controversies surrounding weight loss. There's people advocating crash diets, with their incredibly low calorie counts, simple meal plans, and reliability. There's the calorie management plans, which allow you to eat whatever you want, but in moderation. There's also the orthorexic approach where you eat only certain foods for a certain number of days until you lose the desired amount of weight.

The immediate problem with all of these, as I've said plenty of times before, is how they approach the food problem. Rather than solve the weight issue separately from the food issue, they implant a permanent stigma in the mind that food=bad. This is counterproductive and can lead to a future of eating disorders. Unfortunately, for the majority of women and even some men, this is already their lifestyle. 

There is much to be learned about our bodies, but toying with it in such a manner is definitely not a good idea. Bad relationships with something so crucial to our well-being can lead to eating disorders, which only exemplify the problem. 

There's even been a professor named Mark Haub, who decided to lose weight on a diet where he ate mainly Hostess Products. You may have heard of it.

Although there were no conclusions from his study (or, at least, no absolute conclusive theories), there isn't much to remark on it other than to show that no matter how you approach it, weight loss is cutting down what you eat. You may eat all of the healthy foods you want, but that doesn't mean you're not overeating.

Breakfast: Greek yogurt and banana
Lunch: Salad and turkey
Dinner: White rice and salad with bass
Snacks: Figs!

Day Twenty-One: High School Bragging Rights

I hope I'm not the only one who notices that high schools often brag about themselves ceaselessly in an attempt to get more kids to attend their schools. This makes sense for private schools and prep schools such as Andover, Exeter, Lawrenceville, Deerfield, etc. who actually make money from students who attend their academies. Similarly, for day school and parochial schools, bragging about recent accomplishments whether in athletics, academics, or simply from the amount of scholarships available (since money is a very effective motivator), is a well-known and well-worn strategy for conjuring more students, and thus more income.

However, there's been a trend going on for public schools and magnet schools to brag about their worth. I understand that the better schools with better kids get more government benefits, especially when former President Bush passed the No Child Left Behind Act. However, the intense competition is the entire issue I'm against.

Schools have a economic benefit from being successful. They make more money from the government, which comes in the form of tax payers' money. They, in turn, can pay the staff more, purchase better equipment for the students, invest in better facilities, educate the teachers, etc. All of that is made possible by some convoluted laws that the government decided to institute quite a while ago.

And yet, all of this is only making things worse. We already have kids worrying about their college applications. I've heard elementary-age children complain that they have nothing yet to slap onto their college resumes -- as if any colleges would wish to look at elementary-school qualifications! (With the current trend of schooling, however, I wouldn't be overly surprised to find colleges adopting that as the norm in a few decades.) There is just so much more competition and it's making everyone antsy.

Growing up in a Chinese family, I can advocate that tiger parenting does produce better children in the end. By teaching your kids that the world is hard, and only the best survive, they will learn from the start to fend for themselves. That's pretty much how my own life was lived. I was taught to be a maverick, to be independent and take my own lead, and to not listen to what other people told me (so long as it was in the negative sense.) My parents did manage to raise me pretty well, which is why I can send off these nasty vibes to the competition of schools.

In my state of New Jersey, there is an annual report that grades the public schools in the state by qualifications. Matriculation rates, student-teacher ratios, satisfaction, and standardized test scores all determine which schools emerge at the top. My school has routinely been nominated to a Blue Ribbon School (a high-ranked school often receives rewards, which translate to benefits later on.) They never fail to remind us of this fact at every school function we attend. It drives me insane.

Why can't people learn to just let things pass? So long as teachers are dedicated and students are learning, not everything should depend on rankings and scores. Schools are a place for learning, and each child should have the right to pick their school based on the quality of education they will receive, not the amount of awards the school has garnered over the years.

Breakfast: Banana, Toast, Hardboiled egg
Lunch: Salad and Greek yogurt with cinammon
Dinner: White rice, salad, grilled chicken
Snack: Figs

Observations: I noticed that I haven't been too detailed about the stuff I eat lately. That's because I enjoy privacy. These are about as vague as I could make my meal plans sound without totally going out and saying "I had food for breakfast, food for lunch, and food for dinner. Oh, and more food for snack." Now that I think of it, that does sound a bit suspicious. Anyway, all I have to say is that I'm onto my twenty-first day without fast food, junk food, and the like.

The main problem I've been encountering is the distinction between junk and good food. If ice cream is sugar-free and non-fat, is it still junk? You would think so, but what if its nutrients rival that of yogurt, which also has the added disadvantage of a higher calorie count? Then there's the fact that granola bars have loads of sugar yet everyone advocates them as health food.

Basically, I'm making my own intuitive decisions about this. Now that convenience is gone, eating intuitively has been quite a challenge. Anyway, compared to the rest of my family, I now find that there's really a big difference between fast food eaters and healthy eaters. There's a reason they call it fast food. These days, I have to spend an uncanny amount of time preparing meals and it's really eating at me. Well, there's still about seventy-nine days to go!

Day Twenty: Compulsive Eating

I've had some thought about the reasons why people tend to overeat. Often it's when you're around other people and you feel socially inadequate if you limit your intake of food. In other cases, however, it may be when you're alone and you simply can't handle how it feels to be totally lonely and bored. And the food's there in the kitchen. Waiting. For. You. To. Eat. It.

It's annoying and unless you have the will power to stop yourself from reaching for those foods, it's an awful way to gain weight. Especially at night, when you're totally tired out and you're body's a wreck from an entire day of stress, you tend to lose control of yourself, spinning off on tangents and even beginning to wonder whether you trust your judgement. Believe me, it's happened to me before. That's why I feel like compulsive eating is such a nuisance.

I imagine it not as a mental disorder, but as a tiny little gnome resting in the nape of your neck, pulling it towards food. "There's something to eat, go grab it!" it cries. But do you have the strength to say no?

Breakfast: Peanut butter on toast
Lunch: Tuna sandwich and salad
Dinner: Salad, white rice, and perch
Snack: Nutrigrain bar

Day Nineteen: Poverty and Sustainability

So I was checking out some of the food my mom had bought from the grocery store yesterday this morning, trying to figure out what to eat for breakfast. As I was trying to plan out the day's menu, my mind slipped a bit and I began fingering the door to the refrigerator, already ravenous for something to bite down on. Eventually, I managed to open it and stood there, my agape, staring at the giant messed up hole in the wall that was our family's refrigerator. (As a side note, I do not recommend trying this at home. Standing in front of a refrigerator wastes precious energy, and everyone knows that energy waste leads to carbon dioxide production which leads to global warming. No kidding. So, kids, make sure you stay green and pick your poison before you open the fridge!)

What startled me wasn't a lack of food -- in fact, it was quite the opposite. I just couldn't wrap my head around was how much food my mother had managed to stuff in our fridge -- yet again. My family has this weird obsession with making sure that our kitchen constantly has food. I mean, it's great that we're so able to bask in the comfort of a first world life, but I always felt like this was overdoing it just a little. For instance, why do we really need to have all of this constant streaming of spending, taking, getting, receiving, and just about every other synonym that I can't think of while my brain is dead tired?

In Chinese culture, there is a saying that says that having leftovers promises wealth. In ancient China, in fact, obesity was seen as a virtue, and a trait only obtainable to the truly rich. This makes sense, because while wealth was much coveted, only a select few could obtain it. In the old days, the middle class was essentially nonexistent. You were either rich and waited on by multitudes of servants, or you were poor and breaking your back working on a farm.

It's always been the poor farmers who burned their calories throughout the day, were malnourished on a diet of grains and whatever cheap foods they managed to scrap up to scrape past the day, and who lived more plainly. The rich, on the other hand, could afford lavish foods that fattened up their sedentary bodies, expensive makeup to dress their voluptuous curves, and fancy clothing to hide it all from the views of the public.

Yet, in today's culture we can see that the complete opposite is now true. Society admires women, especially, who fit the description for the working class of an earlier time. Tan, slim, muscular bodies are admired while fat, pale, and flimsy bodies are chagrined. There's reasoning to stand behind this, because humans are naturally built to be hunter-gatherers (the entire basis of the paleo diet) but generally speaking, this shows just how subjective humans are to the ways of the days.

Going back to my initial reaction following the opening of my fridge, I began to wonder why I was so upset. There was quite literally no end to my choices for foods to consume within the next hour or so. My fridge, pantry, and counter were filled with options that only a rich family would have been able to afford at an earlier time period. It's really first-world-problems as food for thought.

Would a poor child be angry that their parents bought too much food?
Would a poor child have trouble deciding what to make for breakfast?
Would a poor child even have the privilege to be annoyed at the overstuffing of their fridge?
Would a poor child even have a fridge?

As these thoughts slowly sank into my mind, I realized how much of a spoiled, bratty, snobbish, middle-class life I've been living. I've never had to suffer from disease, starvation, or poverty. I've never suffered the loss of a home, of a family, of everything and anything that had ever mattered to me. Most importantly, I never had to feel the pain that so many lives before and after me have felt and have yet to feel.

And so, I closed the refrigerator door after an absurd amount of energy had been wasted, realizing I still didn't know what to eat for breakfast yet. I settled on finishing a cup of yogurt we'd bought some time ago.

Breakfast: Yogurt with cinnamon, banana
Lunch: Egg salad sandwich
Dinner: White rice, spare ribs, homegrown tomatoes in a garden salad
Snacks: Ube mousse, dinosaur egg plums

Day Eighteen: Summer Reading

I haven't been focusing too much on the summer homework I was assigned almost three months ago. Blame it on summer camp, hanging out with friends, procrastination, vacation, or any other combination of follies, but I'd like to try associating it with the natural circadian rhythm of the human body. As hunter gatherers, summer was ripe time for slacking off. There was plenty of food, water, shelter, and nice weather to boot. Ask any animal prancing around through the grass to name a better season.

Speaking of summer reading, I decided to start this week. I'e actually managed to finish the assignments for my class and began checking out recommended titles for the upperclassmen. I should've known from the start that looking on the regular English book list as opposed to the AP list would garner up more casual reads. Who knows, maybe it was my slacker mind trying to get out of mental exertion. At any rate, some great titles I've been reading are Freakonomics, Water for Elephants, The Night Circus, The Handmaid's Tale, and Girl in Translation. I actually picked up a trend going on at my school. Apparently the higher you go in your English ability per se, the more racy and mature the themes get. If you've ever read The Handmaid's Tale, you know what I'm talking about.

The one topic I've been obsessing over lately is freakonomics. The book claims that it's a new breed of economics, focusing ob the causations and correlations of everyday events and problems such as crime and corruption. As Levitt, one of the authors, had claimed at one point, reading it is less like reading one of those documentary novels detailing the history of cod, the misuse of punctuation, or the real cause of global warming and more about a delve into the wonders of the universe. Anyway, I just find it a hilarious and thrilling read about subjects I've always been intrinsically curious but never bothered to explore.

Breakfast: Whole grain cereal with milk, soft boiled egg, banana, black coffee
Lunch: Korean taco
Dinner: White rice and garden salad
Snack: Dragon fruit and dinosaur egg plum

Day Seventeen: Why Pay for Diet Plans?

Flashing signs. Annoying ads that refuse to be blocked. Random blinking notifications on the sidebars of your favorite website. We all know (hopefully, but unfortunately), about the spam that bombards us every day of our lives. It's there, breeding and growing ever larger with each new member of the spamming family multiplying its influence. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but I hate when companies think that annoying notices to buy their product or try out a diet diet that cuts down belly flab will get you to click on their link. Years of SEO and marketing research have already proven that such advertising strategies as Google Adsense don't make as much profit as they seem. Sure, they do generate a fair amount of money for the company, but on the large scale it's Google and the other ad providers who are making more money than the actual person trying to sell their product.

For instance, earlier I was trying to log into my Facebook account and on the sidebar of a Flash gaming website, I noticed something flashing that looked pretty similar to the notification bar of my Facebook account. Being on a website that is usually bombarded with messages from sponsors, I should've immediately known that this was some ad, and that my friends were not actually trying to contact me in vain. But, naturally, I was too gullible to discriminate this from the truth and thus clicked on the link, which prompted me to some website advertising a new shake that would help women lose weight as well as download viruses onto their computer. It was out of sheer luck that my brother had already installed an anti-virus software onto my computer. I'm far too n00bish in terms of technology to know when those messages are fake.

Speaking of which, I've been saying a lot about those advertisements that promise quick weight loss plans. Maybe it's targeted towards fiances who wish to fit into a bridal gown or towards girls who need to look good for an upcoming screening event. Whatever the reason, there are always companies trying to promise quick weight loss plans. Having seen these for myself, they all seem to be a bunch of junk. Not to say that there aren't some e-books with reliable plans, but the main thing comes down to how you eat and how you handle your lifestyle. If you're healthy and balance your intake of food with your daily exercise, you'll be healthy and not overweight to begin with.

Then there's the argument that some people have naturally occurring fast metabolisms. Unfortunately, this is true and not all people are blessed with the ability to maintain a healthy weight low enough for the standards of today's society. Thus, the weight-loss plans were born.

Most of the fast ones are really, in respect, crash-and-burn diets. They rely on extremely low calories, the minimum needed to survive, and promise up to 10 lbs lost in a week or less. Naturally, this is impossible to sustain, as going back to a regular diet is nearly impossible unless you're fine with gaining back all of the weight you had lost in the first place. With countless celebrities endorsing these diets, e.g. Beyonce and the lemon juice cleanse, there's bound to be followers. And thus, an industry is born.

I personally checked out one called the Military Diet, or the 3-Day Diet. It's basically a food regime that's cheap, easy-to-prepare, and most importantly promise quick results. After looking over the health aspect, which is surprisingly well balanced, I noticed an important aspect of this diet. It relies on calorie counting more than anything. All of the substitutions, though they seem at first to have solid scientific backing, are really just excuses. The main point of the diet is to starve the body into burning fat, because the human body cannot burn fat and store fat at the same time. Overdo your intake of food? Fat stored. Starving your body of nutrients? Fat loss.

But although weight loss is assured by such programs, the majority of the loss weight is in water weight. These pounds are literally the weight of the food digesting in your body, so ridding yourself of that does take a considerable amount off your stomach. To say the least, trust your gut. If a diet's too good to be true, it probably is. And besides, starving yourself is never a good idea, unless undernourishment is your goal.

Breakfast: Peanut butter on whole wheat toast and grapefruit
Lunch: Grilled chicken, seaweed salad, and tea egg (I was invited to a Chinese potluck today and the food was absolutely delicious! I'm actually forgetting about fast food these days, preferring to eat more natural things.)
Dinner: Grilled chicken salad

Day Sixteen: How Buffets Work

So you start off walking into this nice looking restaurant with flashy signs that advertise "All-You-Can-Eat!" or the newer trend "All-You-Care-to-Eat!" You look around, and a friendly waiter asks for the number in your party. Then you're finally guided to your seats, where you will be reporting for the next hour or so. At long last, the waiters lets you free and you are able to wander as you please, picking out your favorite pieces from various prepared dishes in the enormous room of food. It's basically a free for all, but with lots of food and lots of energy.

At first glance, you would wonder how a buffet would mange to make money from this. What about all of the food waste going on? Even with all of the signs put warning customers not to take more than they can eat, there's always people trying to stuff their faces and get their money's worth.

On the flip side, how are customers so easily tricked into these advertisements that convince them to buy food that is obviously low quality costs the restaurants next to nothing, and is probably terrible for there health?

It seems as though the entire business based on a conundrum, just like our society as a whole. If everyone was acting rationally, then no one would have to succumb to such obvious ripoffs. Unfortunately, we are prone to using our instincts as opposed to our rationality when making such decisions and it is often difficult to tell when to trust our inner voices and when to disregard them.

Breakfast: egg white omelet
Lunch: turkey salad
Dinner: fruit salad, chicken

Day Fifteen: Frantic Rantings

It's been a hectic day, from the MCCSC summer camp (redundant, I know) closing ceremony to all of the rounding up of the kids to the rest of the day. Let's just say ivve had a heck of a week and with schedules coming out today, it only makes it more apparent how soon I'll have to start focusing again. At any rate, there's no need to bore you yet with the happenings of the day, so cheerio!

Breakfast: pumpkin bun and soft boiled egg
Lunch: figs, peaches, hummus chips
Dinner: Hawaiian chicken wrap

Day Fourteen: I'm Bad at Origami

Never would I have admitted it, but I had always been under the assumption that my love for math translated to an expertise in origami. Seriously, what could be better than having a supremacy in building these shapes? For one thing, origami is literally nothing more than a bunch of geometric shapes morphing into other geometric shapes. It's all Euclidean, guys!

But today, one of the teachers -- the crafts teacher at our summer camp -- was trying to teach a class of 11-15-year-olds how to fold these complicated origami structures, similar to the one I have above. It's technically some sort of polyhedra, as one of the TAs was so kind to inform me, but as of yet I still have no idea which one exactly. Anyway, it appears to be complicated, but it's actually constructed from a bunch of smaller strips of paper folded and tucked together in such a way as to form a puzzle. Like a puzzle globe, you piece it together to form the final product.

Then there's me. I was literally stuck with a poor camper for about an hour, fiddling with the paper strips until I realized some of them had been folded wrong. Then I pretty much flailed my way trial and error through the making of the polyhedra. At the end, my origami resembled something more like this:

So it came to be known that my powers of deduction are not near the level I had previously assumed them to be. I guess it's all in a day's work, though.

Breakfast: Pumpkin bun, Greek yogurt, Soft-boiled egg
Lunch: Turkey sandwich
Dinner: Fruit salad, white rice, chicken
Snacks: Wheat thins, melons, grapes, figs 

Day Thirteen: Baby Elephants

Remember how I was talking about how I'm assisting in a Chinese school camp this week? The class I'm TAing -- arts -- has the most adorable and hilarious teacher, in my opinion. She literally bombards the kids with the most random art projects, but even though they're all weird and quirky (detergent bottle creatures, tin can robots, cardboard elephants, tiles with hamburgers, coffee bean dinosaur bones, puzzle hearts, etc.) they're definitely creative. In fact, I have a feeling some other teachers have been sneaking into our classroom just to take a look at the students' projects, out of envy for our supreme artistic skills.

Anyway, I was just remembering an incident that occurred in our classroom a few days ago. No, no one got hurt and no, none of the kids were upset. It's just too funny to pass up. Our class was working on building cardboard elephants and painting them to look like the type of elephants ridden in India and Africa to carry water for tribal folks. We even had a little clothespin for each kids to decorate to make their own mini rider, which was adorable. The teacher wanted to entertain them, since this was the class with all of the 4- and 5-year-olds.

Thus, she began to describe a picture she'd seen on Google. She began by telling the class about how there was once a baby elephant and how it was eventually caught in the middle of a drought. Its mommy elephant didn't want to die, so it took the baby on a long walk through the desert to the watering hole. The baby was already very tired, so when it saw a pretty butterfly in the distance, it ran off. Now, there was a mommy nearby who was able to save her baby elephant and bring him to the watering hole. However, this baby ran away so far that the mommy was no longer able to find him, and had to continue without him, leaving him to die in a sandstorm. Moral of the story: Listen to your parents or else you'll die in a sandstorm.

Aside from classes, I found that our camp could have many slight improvements. For instance, they've been serving the kids McDonald's for lunch. Not to say that McDonald's McDoubles aren't totally balanced as a meal -- compared to French fries, they actually contain quite a few important vitamins and minerals -- but in terms of health and young children, I just felt strange feeding them this sort of...junk. To say the least, shouldn't young children, especially, be receiving high quality food from the administration?

They were content enough, though, so who am I to criticize?

Breakfast: Soft boiled egg, yogurt, banana
Lunch: Turkey sandwich, figs, Wheat Thins
Dinner: White rice, flounder, cucumber and tomatoes, shrimp
Snack: Figs, melons

Day Twelve: Fine Dining and Nooks and Crannies

Ever since my early childhood, fine dining has been a necessity of my culinary life. Chinese families love eating out, especially at places that serve odd Asian specialties such as shark's fin soup and duck tongues. My family was no exception, so I've had my share of the quirky Asian family reunions, highlighted by the visits from my favorite cousins and relatives.

Whenever there was a need for a banquet -- whether it was to celebrate a baby shower, a birthday, a marriage, a graduation, or anything else that our elders would deem worthy of celebration -- a banquet hall was obviously needed. Lucky for my family, most of our relations resided in the New York City area, so Chinatown and Flushing were never short of business. From halls owned by Fujianese families to fancy wine halls that catered to more delicate tastes, I've seen my fair share of the range of fine dining that exists for Asian preferences.

Although banquet nights were often long and tiring, involving long bouts of boredom punctuated by the occasional switching of the loud Chinese folk song blaring from the speakers, I'll never forget my experiences in them. They normally begin with a checking-in, where families sign their names and pick up corsages or some other courtesy of the host to identify themselves as party guests. Then, once invitations have been collected, we are shown to our seats and we meet up with the host, who promptly gives us a courteous and well-mannered introduction to some other obscure relatives who have also conveniently been invited to the same social event. After this, the adults performed some sort of ritual largely ignored by the younger generations, who would then sit tight and pretend to have something important to do while watching the other tables fill up

Day Eleven: Teacher's Assistant

This week is going to be pretty interesting. Earlier, I had signed up for my local Chinese school's summer camp as a teacher's assistant for the arts class. It's strange, because rather than having Chinese language and culture classes, our local summer camp is more like a daytime babysitting service, with dancing, arts, crafts (don't ask me why they don't make it into a single class), fun and games, and more. The best part is probably the constant stream of kids and energy flooding the halls every day. The downside is the constant stream of kids and energy flooding the halls every day -- but I love it either way.

Our arts class is pretty much like Camp Invention, if you've ever been to it. We basically give the kids recyclable material along with an assignment to design and create something out of it. In due time, they present their works of art and we display them for all to see. It's a pretty fun routine and I have to admit I love watching the kids make the most adorable creations out of straws and foam board. For some unknown reason, the crafts class is basically painting rocks -- which they're planning to do for a few classes. So, in other words, arts does crafts and crafts does art.

Most of the materials we use are recyclable, so they're basically junk materials. When you think about it, upcycling trash is actually a pretty good way to find a use for them, especially when those pieces of trash would have gone unappreciated. Making funky animals out of them, on the other hands, stands to judgement. Perhaps you can use the excuse that appreciating the junk right before disposing of it is a pretty solid method of using it. It's like what a friend of mine once told me, using paper for drawing doesn't waste paper -- it prevents it from being turned into a paper airplane. Since the material's going to be used anyway, might as well use it for a good purpose as opposed to subjecting it to destiny.

Did I mention how interesting my job's turned out to be? Eight hours a day of taping bottle caps onto tin cans for kids can prove to be more exhilarating than it seems at first -- those bottle caps are really difficult to maneuver!

Breakfast: Yogurt, Melons
Lunch: Turkey sandwich
Dinner: White rice, grilled chicken, cucumbers and broccoli casserole
Snack: Pineapple, fig jam and almond butter on a seasoned bagel

Day Ten: Golfing in the Rain

Earlier today, we were out golfing. Yes, I understand that it was raining out in our area earlier and the sky was dark and cloudy, but for a mid-August evening it was actually quite enjoyable. The moist grass cast a pleasant smell to my nostrils (which sounds weird, but it's no weirder than the fact that the sweet smell of freshly cut grass is actually a chemical compound released by the plants as a distress signal). The clouds overhead were nice and smooth in their shape, more friendly than menacing, like butterscotch pudding.

I have a thing about butterscotch. For some reason, I've always associated it with the English, just like Scottish puppies, sweater vests, and blancmange. Maybe it's the Monty Python influence, but I have an innate love for Great Britain. Seriously, they're the ones who produce the best television shows -- substance for intellectuals, not like the junk that's force fed to us here in the United States. While the English are watching Dr.Who, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, and their other cultured television series, we're watching Real Housewives, Honey Boo Boo, and Jersey Shore. It's a bit upsetting, not to mention appalling, how we treat the denizens of one of the most influential nations in the world.

But getting back to the topic, my parents had signed my siblings and me up for some golfing lessons. Since we were never athletically inclined (I run everyday, along with my brother and sister, but that's about the extent of my family's exercise regimen), they decided that including a four-hour long golfing session every week would be beneficial to our health, not to mention give us an extra thing to talk about around our friends.

It's funny, because that's not how things are with a lot of Chinese parents. Most tiger parents either want you to do something to the point of perfection, or else they would shamelessly tell you how much you suck until you finally gave up of your own accord and subjected yourself to their demands, often involving long hours of practice punctuated by the odd Chinese curse. My parents just want us to "have fun." It's one of the things that makes them awesome.

Except, of course, when it doesn't. Like today, when the light drizzle and friendly clouds morphed into fire breathing tigers that sent whiplashes driving into the trajectories of your shots, sending the balls flying miles off course. Like days when you've walked for miles through the mud, your caddy and clubs coated in an unrelenting sheen of mud, your clothes damp with a mixture of rainwater and sweat, your stomach rumbling from lunch. Like times when you feel like screaming at the ball for not realizing that its path to the hole is the one thing keeping you out on the course when every sensible person has gone to seek shelter.

It's simple joys like these that the mass consumerism of the US has taken away from us. Rather than going out into the rain to play a round of golf with friends, all you ever see are people moping around their televisions, complaining about lacking a life. Maybe if they'd let their eyes wander off the flickering screens, their feet lead them out the door, their heads turn towards the sky, they might see what they've been missing.

Breakfast: Pumpkin bun, oatmeal
Lunch: Turkey sandwich, grapes
Dinner: Turkey wrap, salad
Snacks: Bananas, veggie straws

Day Nine: Variety is Key

I've heard of some people spreading around the idea that a diet of only raw foods -- veggies, nuts, fruits -- is the key to health. Apparently it's based on the idea that our primeval selves did not cook food. Nor do animals, in fact. Thus, it only makes sense that the healthiest food for our bodies would be in their raw states, chock full of vitamins and minerals without the drainage that cooking causes.

However, as much as we love to worship the health benefits of fruit-based diets, it stands that fruits are chock full of sugar. Sure, natural sugars are better than the loaded refined and processed sugars that go into almost every packaged product you can buy, but people preaching having half a cantaloupe as a snack don't really know much about moderation and variety -- which are really the main keys to a healthy diet. I think I'm sounding a bit too preachy myself, but I hate watching people brag about how they eat only a single food and how healthy their bodies are as a result. The cabbage soup diet, the peanut butter diet, the banana and milk diet -- they're all fads that promise weight loss, but only in water weight. For long term health benefit, it's evident that more than a single food is necessary.

Not that I don't promote raw foodism. I personally actually prefer that to the paleo diets that many people enjoy raving about, simply because of how natural the foods are. Unlike most other people, my taste buds are abnormally sensitive, so eating plain raw salad minus the dressing has never been a real issue to me. If you think about it, there's a reason why carrots are like candy to rabbits. Try it out sometime, after you've cleansed your palate of that bread, butter, cookies, or whatever sugary carbs you happen to have in there. Carrots, lettuce, celery -- they're all full of sugars after all!

Anyway, the only reason I can vouch for this is because I actually underwent about two weeks of this raw foodism myself, and I can honestly say that I never felt more energized or ready to take on the world. I wasn't ever hungry because eating vegetables and fruits fills you up with water more than anything, and I was never dehydrated. Of course, having a two week stint like that is hardly evidence enough to promise that a raw lifestyle is ideal, but judging by all of the happy faces of the raw foodist community, it seems as though such a diet may be possible for our human bodies to handle after all!

But that's not what the main point is. The diet of a raw foodist seems a bit limited at first, especially since almost all carbs are cut out (with the exception of easily digestible oats and other grains). However, just take a look at the Google Images search results when you type in "raw food recipes." I promise you nothing less than a colorful rainbow utopia of health and wellness! It's practically a hipster's dream!

By adding natural sugars from dates and raisins, you can make a variety of creative dishes from raw foods. For instance, using walnuts, dates, and cocoa powder, you can make a deliciously fudgy cupcake that practically resembles a regular chocolate fudge cake! Here's a convenient recipe for you daredevils out there:

But with anything, variety in nutrients is important. The difference between raw food diets and fruit-based diets is the subtle (not really...) wording. One promotes a broad category of foods with various proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and minerals to fill up and healthify a body. The other promotes a slim category of foods with barely enough nutrients to sustain oneself healthily for very long.

On that note, I had a very varied day today. My dad had been invited to his coworker's house to eat, and I managed to keep myself under control even (or especially) in the presence of company.

Breakfast: Egg white omelet, pumpkin bun
Lunch: Celery, cucumbers, carrot sticks, grapes, melons, steamed Turkish rice
Dinner: White rice, kidney beans, lettuce, pickled cucumbers, sour cream
Snacks: Figs (our tree is finally making fruit!), melons

Day Eight: Fake Labels

I get so fed up with labels sometimes, and the people who obsess over them. Ever since the Nutrition Facts were required on food products in the late 20th century, people have been overly keen to check up on their "calorie counts" or their "sodium intake," with some fanatics counting down to the very calorie to find out where they stand in their dietary needs. In fact, research has shown that although restricting daily caloric intake may be the best way to lose weight in the long run, the fact remains that healthy foods are always better than those fake, chemical-filled "health foods" that promise lower calories than conventional food items.

Especially since we have discovered how aspartame, sucrose, and other fake sugar alcohols have adverse effects on the human body, a lot of dietitians have been pointing their thumbs down at eating such foods. They contain artificial chemicals, which are never a good sign. Especially since I have been trying to promote a junk-food free lifestyle, it seems to be causing more negative than positive effects, this obsession with "light" and "fat-free" food. In fact, fat-free foods may actually cause weight gain, since the fats are what tell your body that there is food to burn. In the meantime, high-carb diets can spike your blood sugar, since what most people eat to fill up their daily carb limits are simple carbs that are essentially sugars, in the way the body processes them. They provide quick energy -- which is great for athletes, but not so great when all your body has to do with them is convert them to storage fat.

Anyway, I couldn't help but treat myself to a slice of Margherita pizza today. It's technically not fast food, and so I'm sliding on the border of my own personal goal, but I'll let one day slide. In the meantime, see you around!

Breakfast: Peas and Beans
Lunch: Margherita pizza
Dinner: Roasted papaya, figs, potatoes
Snacks: Cantaloupe, light ice cream (again, going against my own word...I'm definitely a hypocrite, and it's unfortunately so)

Day Seven: Manhattanite!

I love Manhattan. The exhilaration as you feel as the cars go rushing by on the streets, honking and expelling bouts of smoke into your face. The shouts and screams of families, tourists, couples, and city-goers trying to walk to their destination. The pedaling and recession of the bicycle wheels that greet you along the side of the road, with their colorful blurs as they rush away into the distance. The magnificent cityscape of towering skyscrapers that almost touch the heavens, their spindly antennae-like spires literally reaching for the clouds as their gleaming windows shine like newly polished brass. The adoring crowds that gather around street performers, cheering on random strangers who happen to have some free time on their hands and a need for a bit of cash. The little children rushing out of line from a sweetly tinkling ice cream truck as their parents furtively push bills into their wallets behind. The changing of the pedestrian crossing signals, ignored by many jaywalkers who seek convenience over laws and thrill over monotony. The tourists who carry maps, sitting on city benches, just wondering where, when, and why they are lounging around when the rest of the city is up and about. The delicious aromas wafting off the delicately perched lines of food vendors, their greasy paper hats like playful crowns dotting the crowds as they whip up glorious entrees from juicy hotdogs to spicy kebabs and fresh and tangy chicken gyros. The old Chinese man who sits on a park bench dropping bread crumbs in front of him to curious pigeons.

Need I say more? There's a reason I have this undying love for the city, and it has nothing to do with how I happen to change my mood very often. Despite being a suburban girl, I pretty much lived my life in Queens, with my grandparents. Because my siblings and I were born so close together, my parents had little time between our family, work, and the other adult business that they had to attend to at the time. Thus, when I was a toddler, the easy solution was to leave me with my grandparents for weeks at a time until their business was finished. If this seems rough, it's nothing compared to my baby brother, who lived with my aunt and grandparents in their apartment in Queens until he was about four-years-old and about to attend school. Just to illustrate how much of his early childhood had been spent in the city, he attended preschool at a nearby daycare in Flushing.

Nevertheless, even with all of the wonderful aspects of the Big Apple, their schools have not been hailed as the epitome of education. Though the private schools may be some of the best in the country, not all parents can afford to send their kids off to preppy schools that charge exorbitant tuition rates. To say the least, my parents were probably not willing to ditch their comfortable home in the suburbs either, especially without a good reason. My dad worked in the city, however, and many of my relatives resided around the Flushing area, so it became second-nature to associate New York City as our second home.

While my friends would go to China, Taiwan, or Japan to visit their relatives, I relished in the fact that our family reunions took place "right next door," in the city. Early on, I learned that this was a sort of anomaly, since most people -- as much as they loved Chinatown -- weren't frequent flyers to the area. It became a secret life for me, these outings to the big city, only dreamed of by my more suburban friends and neighbors.

That's why it shames me so much that I really don't know the city as well as I think. I've always told myself that there was so much I had in common with the average Manhattanite -- knowing how and where to get the best dollar slice, being able to block out the annoying racket on a subway, knowing how to ride a subway. Turns out, there's more to being a city-goer than I'd ever thought.

It's a bit late, though, and I'll post more about my adventures tomorrow. In the meantime, here's my menu for the day:

Breakfast: Red bean bun, melons
Lunch: Falafel sandwich from Sam's Falafel (not fast food, and pretty healthy!)
Dinner: Rice, steamed fish, longan, cauliflower
Snack: Cherries, blueberries, melon

Day Six: Going Places

Hey, so this is a really quick post right before we leave. My brother and I are going on a self-guided walking tour of Lower Manhattan tomorrow and I'm really excited! Even though I've practically been living in NYC for most of my life, I've never actually done an in-depth tour of the city on my own. Not that my brother doesn't count, but he's kind of the type of person who prefers to follow, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I'm looking forward to re-discovering some old highlights of the Big Apple and I'll keep you posted on my venturings!

On the flip side, my sister and I recently baked the most adorable little pretzel buddies! She was kind of bored and down from her recent appointment at the optometrist, and those new night lenses aren't helping after all. They are pretty awful to wear on the first nights, according to my sister, but they sure do have a nice bubbling effect while they're soaking in the cleaning solution!

The silence before the storm :)
Here's my little bunny before baking...

...and after :/


It's almost a dinosaur egg!

Too adorable to eat!

Anyway, I had a pretty good day today. Despite feeling a bit lethargic (I wonder if the "fast food fast" has anything to do with that?) I didn't run into any difficulties.

Breakfast: Greek yogurt, mangoes
Lunch: Turkey sandwich
Dinner: Rice, Steamed fish, cabbage
Snacks: Cherries, blueberries

Day Five: Craving are a Sign

Did you ever feel that serious craving for some specific food, but you can't seem to grasp exactly why? I'm not talking about that random need to eat chocolate chip cookies at 11PM or when you smell bacon and begin salivating. I'm talking about serious cravings, when your body begins to wrack and you get the shivers. If you know what I'm referring to, them I have good news for you. Those craving aren't a sign of mental illness after all! (Woohoo!)

According to Web MD, there's actually an explanation. So long as your cravings are not the "junk food addiction" sort as our poor friend in the photograph above, there might be health benefits to hailing to your body's demands. For instance, if you crave something salty, your body might be telling you it's missing minerals. Or if you get the need to eat some good, dark chocolate in the middle of the day, your body might need a refuel of antioxidants, which are present in dark chocolate.

Here are some good steps to take to curb those food cravings:

Your body is basically craving the magnesium and serotonin present in cocoa. By eating the least processed sort -- either cocoa powder or dark chocolate -- you can spare yourself those extra refined sugars and calories and still be set.

Try snacking on healthy foods rich in salts, such as seaweed, kelp powder, and celery. As a plus, stay away from table salt, which is too processed to satisfy anyway and will only get you hooked on and ready to eat more. Sea salt is a much better option for getting rid of that mineral deprivation.

Okay, if you are craving caffeine, you are definitely in a whole heap of trouble. Your body is addicted, and that's obviously not a good sign. What can you do about it? Try drinking decaffeinated green tea or coffee for the next few weeks. Hopefully, weaning yourself off the caffeine will actually end up doing your body more good.

According to all of the supporkers of the Atkins diet and those other "paleo diets," the reasons we crave carbs (donuts, bagels, muffin, oh my!) is because of their ability to spike our blood sugars and give us a quick boost of energy. Unfortunately, most of us don't need that extra boost. When the cravings come for "bad carbs" such as refined grains, stock up on whole grains and complex carbohydrates, which take longer to digest and thus keep you full longer. Remember, fueling those carby cravings will only make them stronger!

Anyway, I managed to control my cravings pretty well today. I found a frightening video on Youtube: It's called Fast Food Babies and it's about toddlers whose parents have raised them on a diet of fast food. It's scary to watch.

Breakfast: Greek yogurt and banana
Lunch: Pumpkin bun and vegetable chips with pico de gallo
Dinner: White rice, cauliflower in curry sauce, lamb
Snack: Carrot juice, pears, cantaloupe

Day Four: Lethargy and Fasting

Happy Eid-al-Fitr! I can't say much as I personally do not observe the holiday, but some of my dad's friends invited him to their annual feast and I was surprised at the variety of dishes there were. He personally couldn't even recall most of the food that was served, but the highlights were the lamb kebabs, the potato dumplings, the creamy spinach, the lettuce and cucumber in yogurt dressing, the baklava, the sweet dough balls, and other Mediterranean delicacies.

What interested me wasn't the feast, however. (Although I've got to admit that the all-out feast and partying the Muslims have at the end of Ramadan is indeed an impressive display.) It was the fasting itself. In the words of my sister, "How can people go an entire month without food?" The thing is, they can only eat when the sun is down. That pretty much means sixteen hours fasting with two light meals before and after the day. With all of the temptation surrounding us, that in itself is already an impressive feat, not to mention how everyone else must be pigging their days away. I once had a teacher in middle school who would let Muslim student stay with her during the fast of Ramadan just because their friends in the cafeteria would be so obnoxious with their food. That kind of tells you how our society's been going.

Studies have been done showing that lethargy and fatigue are indeed consequences of this fasting. Because they cannot eat when their body most needs it -- during the day -- the observers become malnourished. Athletes who are playing during the season must condemn themselves to a less-than-stellar performance, as well as possible injury due to their lack of nutrients. How would such a fasting be worth it?

It's really more of a cultural and ethical thing than any. Most religions believe in charity, and that helping other and keeping the well being of peers above ourselves is ideal. However, to be reminded of this we must step in their shoes for some time. Fasting is, essentially , literally adopting the lifestyle of those living in poverty. If a month with no food sounds bad, imagine living an entire lifetime in starvation.

What I cannot imagine is how the body deals with such punishment. Of course, it's not mentally a punishment, but fasting does take its tolls on the body. Speaking of which, my Bites and Blogs has been going pretty well, but I'm still having trouble controlling my own thoughts at times. I had the strangest craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich today, and I literally have not eaten those for ages!

Breakfast: Mango, Pears, Yogurt
Lunch: Turkey Wrap
Dinner: Rice, Salad, Wintermelon, Steak

Day Three: Food Abuse

Continuing on with my discussion earlier on rewards, obligations, and punishments as motivators, I'd like to explore the use of food in this equation. I read somewhere that, although parents have been using food as a motivational tactic for generations, it actually breeds an early sense of food abuse in the minds of kids. Basically, they are scarred for life thanks to an innocent act by the parents -- putting food on a pedestal.

To be frank, humans are pretty much all addicted to food. Colloquial definition goes that an addiction is something you cannot live without, which has the effects of intense craving after long periods of denial, and which can even change your mental states if you subject yourself to its whims. As far as I know, food has that effect on everyone. Who hasn't ever been hungry, salivated at the sight of a table full of their favorite foods, or craved a certain tasty snack? I'd like to say that, although it is probably somehow factored out of the actual definition of addiction for clarity's sake, that food is an addiction all of us share.

And that just makes it worse, this placing of such a common item onto an undeserving pedestal. Indeed, similar to smokers glorifying the cigarette, by giving food all of these attributes, it heightens it from being a simple source of sustenance to providing a means of happiness, sadness, or anger. It begins to elicit emotions, ties that do not disappear with age. Psychological studies have proven that emotional memories are often the ones that stick longer. They're called lightbulb memories and we all have them -- Michael Jackson's death, the Royal Wedding, 9/11. Often, they come with negative emotions (which happen to be the strongest in most people) and by forcing food into such a category, there's bound to be consequences.

The positive consequences of emotional memories include their "stickiness" and accuracy. By stickiness, I don't mean the physically gross feeling of sappy or syrupy goop, but by the fact that it's hard to erase such memories. They tend to form an insane number of connections in your mind -- connections that cannot be severed in a single swift movement. Additionally, they are accurate because although connections are made and broken each time you recall a memory, the fact that the emotions are so deep and complex help it stick faster and easier. The connections forged don't exactly unforge themselves, which explains why childhood scars are so hard to bury. (Fun Fact: Every time you remember something, you are altering it, and thus forcing your memory farther and farther from the truth. The fewer times a memory is recalled, the more accurate it is. Alternately, the more times a memory is recalled, the more its connections are strengthened. So for maximal memory accuracy....?)

Anyway, placing food on a pedestal can lead to eating disorders in the future. Kids remember how food was viewed as bad, i.e. "Don't eat candy before dinner!" or "Eat your veggies or you'll be spanked!" Or they remember how good food made them feel, i.e. "If you do well on this test, we'll take you out to your favorite restaurant!" Anyway, I just have a firm belief that to minimize the emotional scarring in children, limiting their early childhood "food abuse" might be a good step in the right direction.

Breakfast: Oatmeal and banana
Lunch: Minestrone soup and Caesar salad
Dinner: Turkey wrap and salad
Snacks: Rice and adzuki bean chips, Nutrigrain bar

Day Two: Obligations vs. Rewards

While I was waiting for my flute lesson outside my music teacher's office today, I noticed a Chinese mother reprimanding her child for not practicing piano. This didn't strike me immediately as odd, but after a while I began to wonder about how the child would react. If it had been my own mother, I would have sucked up my own self respect and given in to her demands. After all, mother knows best, right?

Actually, the answer's not quite as clear. I've had my own share of psychology classes, but even the science behind our decisions doesn't clear up exactly how to predict the actions of another. What I found from the incident was not a scarring childhood memory, but a predicament that I'd like to explore -- are rewards, punishments, or obligations better motivators?

We all know what a reward is. When we were kids, our parents would surprise us (or, rather, not) with gifts like a day at Build-a-Bear Workshop, a new toy, or maybe even candy. This would be a sort of trade-off for good behavior, working hard, or generally doing a good deed. As Pavlov discovered from his early 20th century experimentation, rewarding good behavior conditions the participants into continuing their good behavior. If you keep a person on the edge, hoping that something good will come out of doing a certain action, such as practicing piano, then they will theoretically be motivated to do their work. Unfortunately, this can also work vice versa. If the reward is given too often, then the participants will eventually take the reward for granted and start dissociating it as a motivator to continue their action. Thus, when the reward is taken away, they will essentially have to be "weaned off" to begin doing the action on their own. On second thought, not the most budget-friendly (or child-friendly) method.

Punishments, similarly, are also synonymous with our early childhood. Even I can remember being spanked for talking back to my parents, albeit in a totally non-abusive manner. Most parents recognize that yelling at their kids, taking away their toys, or threatening them with physical punishments can be a scare tactic to trick them into performing a certain action, again in this case playing piano. As common as punishment is among parents to teach their kids good behavior, the press hasn't had a great history with its repercussions. One notable instance that caused glaring embarrassment to a family was when Amy Chua's editor published her excerpt from her controversial memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In it, she described how she had threatened to donate her daughter's stuffed animals to a local charity, refused to allow her to use the bathroom or go to dinner until she practiced piano, and called her "garbage." To the typical American family, these punishments may seem a bit extreme, but as she described in her story, different cultures have different approaches to the term "punishment."  

Anyway, I always figured a punishment works until the kid figures out that his parents aren't the boss of him/her anymore. Then comes the stage I like to call "The Rebellion." At this point, which often occurs in the late teens, the kid decides that he would like to take charge of his own life. With an inverse variation in the strictness of the parenting and the extremity of actions taken in The Rebellion, kids will often exhibit such symptoms as uncontrollable partying, abusive use of new independence, naivete concerning making decisions, and an inability to tell when enough is enough. Though this is obviously a huge generalization, I'd like to think that punishments have their downsides too. I hope.

On the other hand (can I even say that? On the third side? By the way?), obligations are a means of motivation often ignored. As a Chinese, I can say that it is also a somewhat effective means of motivation -- at least, no more effective than the prior two strategies. Obligations require a prior understanding and loyalty to some source -- often the family or the parents. In Chinese cultures, we call this filial piety and it's often linked with the parents teaching the kids that they were raised so that when they grew old they could support their old man and lady. This was in the hopes that the child would grow up successful and with means of supporting his/her parents in the first place. Anyway, obligations could be in the form of, "Your mother cooks for you three times a day, you should be able to play piano for three hours!" or "Your father goes to work just to pay for your schooling, now go study that anatomy textbook!" You get the nudge.

Which strategy reigns? The world may never know.

On a side note, I tried to use the reward system with myself today, without luck. This is actually pretty sad -- second day and I'm already getting cravings! What those health blogs say is true, after all. Once you start, it's pretty darn hard to stop.

Breakfast: Greek yogurt, egg white omelet, sticky rice
Lunch: Turkey and lettuce wraps, chicken soup
Dinner: Salad, mussels, white rice
Snacks!: Guacamole, (Whole grain!) tortilla chips, mangoes, cantaloupe

Day One: How History Plays Against Us

You know, after a while, re-reading your own posts kind of get you self conscious about how you sound to others. Personally, that's why I refrain from re-reading things I've written until I've let them sit for at least twenty-four hours, but sometimes you just don't get twenty-four hours.

In particular, I was wondering whether my earlier rants were a bit too dramatic. I certainly have my views, and I can understand that while they are not the most informative perspectives on the issues I am defending (or rather, opposing) I stand that my opinion is of my own making. Anyway, I had tried to explain this idea of eliminating junk from my daily diet -- an idea that certainly rings a bell -- to my sister, who took it the wrong way. In other words, her view of the project is a snotty, upper middle class poke at the habits of "lesser human beings." Now that I think of it, she had some truth to her argument.

Why do people eat junk food anyway? The chemicals that go into mass-produced fast food aren't great for your body. Trans fats and saturated fats are known to cause numerous health complications. There's not much energy from the foods, since most of it is instantly converted to sugars and spikes your blood sugar so that you're not even satiated after the "meal." The cravings continue afterwards because the junk food doesn't satisfy. Sure, you might think it satisfies, but there's a reason why Doritos are so addicting, why drinking Sprite never seems to quench your thirst, why you always go back for another White Castle slider. If these fast food companies were making food to satisfy and conquer your hunger, as they so often advertise, why isn't it working? And that, my friends, is precisely the answer.

It's almost like the chicken and the egg. Ever since people have discovered ways to get more customers, they've been using these strategies to promote their products, even if it ends up having a detriment on the population. Remember that episode from Spongebob Squarepants ("Greasy Buffoons") when the Krusty Krab and the Chum Bucket had a competition to see who could gather the most customers? It eventually ended up with their poor customers gorging themselves on plates of fat and grease. Even as a children's cartoon show, the satire rings true in today society.

In the primeval days, when humans had to subsist off of whatever they could find at the moment, our brains became hardwired to enjoy sugary and fatty substances because they usually contain the most calories and thus provide us with the most energy to go about our days. Unfortunately, it may take a few more centuries for the human race to evolve and accommodate our new sedentary lifestyle. In the meantime, it appears as though we will be constantly troubled to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which -- in the advent of junk food and other nutritionally defunct products that taste like euphoria -- just doesn't seem to be happening.

Anyway, today was a pretty normal day for me. As strange as it may seem, the absence of junk food from my meals (or rather snacks) didn't bother me too much. Maybe that was because I wasn't starving in a room full of cookies or anything. At any rate, there's no changes yet, not that I expected a difference so soon.

Just for posterity, I'll also include an incredibly vague outline of my meals for the day. Pictures will come soon!

Breakfast: Yogurt, dragon fruit, "man tou" bun
Lunch: Turkey sandwich, apples with peanut butter
Dinner: Rice, beef, steamed flounder, spinach
Various Snacks and Other Paraphernalia: Seaweed, pear, watermelon

I've heard that, like any other addiction, kicking back on junk food will initially cause soreness, fatigue, and intense cravings. I'm just hoping those are rumors.

Living Free

I've got news for you.

It's been a long time since I've been able to post online. There's been a lot going on in my life, lots of assignments for way too many magazines, far too many offers and online ruckus to distract me, on and on and on...

I'm sure none of this is new, though, especially with the state our Internet's -- and society as a whole -- has been progressing. Just by tracking the state of our world by The Oatmeal comics or xkcd's ever so informative maps, it's easy to tell that in a few years we might just become entirely dependent on technology to solve our every problems. Even simple calculations are thought of as a "waste of time" if you look at the number of new products developed everyday to help with household chores.

But that's not the reason I finally came back online. For the past year, I've been having conflicting views on diets. That's right -- diet fads, food issues, organic vs. vegan vs. pescatarian, and the infamously vile "foodism" have all been issues I've had trouble dealing with. Did you know about the future superpower Monsanto, from which most farms and food companies actually derive their food? It's been known for quite some time that they use GMO, aka genetically modified organisms, in their products. What GMOs are isn't as important as what they are not. They are not healthy, organic, or natural in anyway, no matter what packages and labels tell you. Genetically modified food products are the offspring of laboratory science and agriculture, because by definition they are Frankenfoods.

Just like how Frankenstein had created a monster from various parts of real humans and animals (gruesome story, I know, but trust me, it's the best analogy I could pop up in such short notice) Monsanto's food products are produced by extracting and adding various DNAs to the sequences of corn, wheat, beans, and other plants. For instance, DNA from a bacteria to help fight off insects without the use of pesticides might be added to the DNA of a bean to cut costs on purchasing safe chemicals to spray on the plants, as well as making them healthier to eat. Unfortunately, this process isn't as scientifically refined as it may sound, casting a huge shadow of doubt on whether GMOs are really as safe as they sound.

California, always one of the most progressive states in our nation, has even been a spearhead in driving the anti-GMO movement. In recent years, our government's been making efforts to label GMO products so that consumers can be sure that the food they're eating is GMO free and completely safe, because even if growth hormones work wonders on cows, no parent wants their child to be eating strange laboratory chemicals via their milk and cereal.

There's so much more I could say about the horrors and paradoxes of GMOs, but I'm leaving that for another post. In the meantime, I'd like to introduce you to a new project I'm working on. It's called Bites and Blogs, and it's a dual movement promoting healthy living and creativity through written expression.

I started this on the idea that anything is okay if it is in moderation...right? But there are certain things -- especially when regarding foods -- that are definitely not meant for human consumption, in both definitions. I'm talking about junk food, the awful stuff you see stockpiled in grocery stores in shelves ten feet high and fifty feet wide, the bags of greasy, artificially flavored, loaded carbs with zero nutrition and fake tastes to boot. I'm talking about McDonalds, Doritos, Lays, KFC, Wonkas, Burger King, Arbys.

I can see how you might immediately think my views are skewed, being the anti-consumerist blog this is, but my views have been changing lately. Although I am now a bit more liberal with my ideas, I still do not understand why our lives have become so dependent on food industries. The entire junk food empire is known for bringing about obesity, heart issues, diabetes, and a slew of other medical problems. The simple step to take is to stop eating junk food. And that's where Bites and Blogs comes in.

Rather than satisfying your sweet tooth with a candy bar, try fruits. I know, it's completely cliched, but that's one of the best parts because it's the information that's often repeated that sinks in. And once you realize that doing something good for yourself feels good, that's when you can really change. Bites and Blogs -- at least for me -- is a 100-day long marathon of healthy eating, blogging, and general musing about life in general. I'm hoping it's going to be a great experience and I can't wait to get started!