How to Be Happy: 25 Habits to Add to Your Routine.

 

Happiness looks different for everyone. For you, maybe it’s being at peace with who you are. Or having a secure network of friends who accept you unconditionally. Or the freedom to pursue your deepest dreams.

Regardless of your version of true happiness, living a happier, more satisfied life is within reach. A few tweaks to your regular habits can help you get there.

Habits matter. If you’ve ever tried breaking a bad habit, you know all too well how engrained they are.

Well, good habits are deeply engrained, too. Why not work on making positive habits part of your routine?

Here’s a look at some daily, monthly, and yearly habits to help kickstart your quest. Just remember that everyone’s version of happiness is a little different, and so is their path to achieving it.

If some of these habits create added stress or just don’t fit your lifestyle, ditch them. With a little time and practice, you’ll figure out what does and doesn’t work for you.

1.Smile

You tend to smile when you’re happy. But it’s actually a two-way street.

We smile because we’re happy, and smiling causes the brain to release dopamine, which makes us happier.

That doesn’t mean you have to go around with a fake smile plastered on your face all the time. But the next time you find yourself feeling low, crack a smile and see what happens. Or try starting each morning by smiling at yourself in the mirror.

2. Exercise

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Regular exercise can help to reduce stress, feelings of anxiety, and symptoms of depression while boosting self-esteem and happiness.

Even a small amount of physical activity can make a difference. You don’t have to train for a triathlon or scale a cliff — unless that’s what makes you happy, of course.

The trick is not to overexert. If you suddenly throw yourself into a strenuous routine, you’ll probably just end up frustrated (and sore).

 

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Consider these exercise starters:

Remind yourself of any fun activities you once enjoyed, but that have fallen by the wayside. Or activities you always wanted to try, such as golf, bowling, or dancing.

3. Get plenty of sleep

No matter how much modern society steers us toward less sleep, we know that adequate sleep is vitalTrusted Source to good health, brain function, and emotional well-being.

Most adults need about 7 or 8 hours of sleep every night. If you find yourself fighting the urge to nap during the day or just generally feel like you’re in a fog, your body may be telling you it needs more rest.

Here are a few tips to help you build a better sleep routine:

  • Write down how many hours of sleep you get each night and how rested you feel. After a week, you should have a better idea how you’re doing.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.
  • Reserve the hour before bed as quiet time. Take a bath, read, or do something relaxing. Avoid heavy eating and drinking.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
  • Invest in some good bedding.
  • If you have to take a nap, try to limit it to 20 minutes.

If you consistently have problems sleeping, talk to your doctor. You may have a sleep disorder requiring treatment.

4. Eat with mood in mind

You already know that food choices have an impact on your overall physical health. But some foods can also affect your state of mind.

For example:

  • Carbohydrates release serotonin, a “feel good” hormone. Just keep simple carbs — foods high in sugar and starch — to a minimum, because that energy surge is short and you’ll crash. Complex carbs, such as vegetables, beans, and whole grains, are better.
  • Lean meat, poultry, legumes, and dairy are high in protein. These foods release dopamine and norepinephrine, which boost energy and concentration.
  • Highly processed or deep-fried foods tend to leave you feeling down. So will skipping meals.

Start by making one better food choice each day.

For example, swap a big, sweet breakfast pastry for some Greek yogurt with fruit. You’ll still satisfy your sweet tooth, and the protein will help you avoid a mid-morning energy crash. Try adding in a new food swap each week.

5. Be grateful

Simply being grateful can give your mood a big boost, among other benefits. For example, a recent two-part study found that practicing gratitude can have a significant impact on feelings of hope and happiness.

Start each day by acknowledging one thing you’re grateful for. You can do this while you’re brushing your teeth or just waiting for that snoozed alarm to go off.

As you go about your day, try to keep an eye out for pleasant things in your life. They can be big things, such as knowing that someone loves you or getting a well-deserved promotion.

But they can also be little things, such as a co-worker who offered you a cup of coffee or the neighbor who waved to you. Maybe even just the warmth of the sun on your skin.

With a little practice, you may even become more aware of all the positive things around you.

6. Give a compliment

Research shows that performing acts of kindness can help you feel more satisfied.

Giving a sincere compliment is a quick, easy way to brighten someone’s day while giving your own happiness a boost.

Catch the person’s eye and say it with a smile so they know you mean it. You might be surprised by how good it makes you feel.

If you want to offer someone a compliment on their physical appearance, make sure to do it in a respectful way. Here are some tips to get you started.

7. Breathe deeply

You’re tense, your shoulders are tight, and you feel as though you just might “lose it.” We all know that feeling.

Instinct may tell you to take a long, deep breath to calm yourself down.

Turns out, that instinct is a good one. According to Harvard Health, deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress.

The next time you feel stressed or at your wit’s end, work through these steps:

  1. Close your eyes. Try to envision a happy memory or beautiful place.
  2. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose.
  3. Slowly breathe out through your mouth or nose.
  4. Repeat this process several times, until you start to feel yourself calm down.

If you’re having a hard time taking slow, deliberate breaths, try counting to 5 in your head with each inhale and exhale.

8. Acknowledge the unhappy moments

A positive attitude is generally a good thing, but bad things happen to everyone. It’s just part of life.

If you get some bad news, make a mistake, or just feel like you’re in a funk, don’t try to pretend you’re happy.

Acknowledge the feeling of unhappiness, letting yourself experience it for a moment. Then, shift your focus toward what made you feel this way and what it might take to recover.

Would a deep breathing exercise help? A long walk outside? Talking it over with someone?

Let the moment pass and take care of yourself. Remember, no one’s happy all the time.

9. Keep a journal

A journal is a good way to organize your thoughts, analyze your feelings, and make plans. And you don’t have to be a literary genius or write volumes to benefit.

It can be as simple as jotting down a few thoughts before you go to bed. If putting certain things in writing makes you nervous, you can always shred it when you’ve finished. It’s the process that counts.

Not sure what to do with all the feelings that end up on the page? Our guide to organizing your feelings can help.

10. Face stress head-on

Life is full of stressors, and it’s impossible to avoid all of them.

There’s no need to. Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal says that stress isn’t always harmful, and we can even change our attitudes about stress. Learn more about the upside of stress.

For those stressors you can’t avoid, remind yourself that everyone has stress — there’s no reason to think it’s all on you. And chances are, you’re stronger than you think you are.

Instead of letting yourself get overwhelmed, try to tackle the stressor head-on. This might mean initiating an uncomfortable conversation or putting in some extra work, but the sooner you tackle it, the sooner the pit in your stomach will start to shrink.

Weekly Habits…

11. Declutter

Decluttering sounds like a big project, but setting aside just 20 minutes a week can have a big impact.

What can you do in 20 minutes? Lots.

Set a timer on your phone and take 15 minutes to tidy up a specific area of one room — say, your closet or that out-of-control junk drawer. Put everything in its place and toss or give away any extra clutter that’s not serving you anymore.

Keep a designated box for giveaways to make things a little easier (and avoid creating more clutter).

Use the remaining 5 minutes to do a quick walk through your living space, putting away whatever stray items end up in your path.

You can do this trick once a week, once a day, or anytime you feel like your space is getting out of control.

12. See friends

you got a friend in me

Humans are social beings, and having close friends can make us happier.

Who do you miss? Reach out to them. Make a date to get together or simply have a long phone chat.

In adulthood, it can feel next to impossible to make new friends. But it’s not about how many friends you have. It’s about having meaningful relationships — even if it’s just with one or two people.

Try getting involved in a local volunteer group or taking a class. Both can help to connect you with like-minded people in your area. And chances are, they’re looking for friends, too.

Companionship doesn’t have to be limited to other humans. Pets can offer similar benefits, according to multiple studies.

Love animals but can’t have a pet? Consider volunteering at a local animal shelter to make some new friends — both human and animal.

13. Plan your week

Feel like you’re flailing about? Try sitting down at the end of every week and making a basic list for the following week.

Even if you don’t stick to the plan, blocking out time where you can do laundry, go grocery shopping, or tackle projects at work can help to quiet your mind.

You can get a fancy planner, but even a sticky note on your computer or piece of scrap paper in your pocket can do the job.

14. Ditch your phone

Unplug. Really.

Turn off all the electronics and put those ear buds away for at least one hour once a week. They’ll still be there for you later. If you still want them, that is.

If you haven’t unplugged in a while, you might be surprised at the difference it makes. Let your mind wander free for a change. Read. Meditate. Take a walk and pay attention to your surroundings. Be sociable. Or be alone. Just be.

Sound too daunting? Try doing a shorter amount of time several times a week.

15. Get into nature

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Spending 30 minutes or more a week in green spaces can help lower blood pressure and depression, according to a 2016 studyTrusted Source.

Your green space could be anything from your neighborhood park, your own backyard, or a rooftop garden — anywhere you can appreciate some nature and fresh air.

Better yet, add some outdoor exercise into the mix for extra benefit.

16. Explore meditation

There are many methods of meditation to explore. They can involve movement, focus, spirituality, or a combination of all three.

Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as sitting quietly with your own thoughts for 5 minutes. Even the deep breathing exercises mentioned earlier can serve as a form of meditation.

17. Consider therapy

We’re certainly happier when we learn how to cope with obstacles. When you’re faced with a problem, think about what got you through something similar in the past. Would it work here? What else can you try?

If you feel like you’re hitting a brick wall, consider speaking with a therapist on a weekly basis. You don’t need to have a diagnosed mental health condition or overwhelming crisis to seek therapy.

Therapists are trained to help people improve coping skills. Plus, there’s no obligation to continue once you start.

Even just a few sessions can help you add some new goodies to your emotional toolbox.

Worried about the cost? Here’s how to afford therapy on any budget.

18. Find a self-care ritual

It’s easy to neglect self-care in a fast-paced world. But your body carries your thoughts, passions, and spirit through this world, doesn’t it deserve a little TLC?

Maybe it’s unwinding your workweek with a long, hot bath. Or adopting a skin care routine that makes you feel indulgent. Or simply setting aside a night to put on your softest jammies and watch a movie from start to finish.

Whatever it is, make time for it. Put it in your planner if you must, but do it.

Monthly habits

19. Give back

If you find that giving daily compliments provides a needed boost to your mood, considering making a monthly routine of giving back on a larger scale.

Maybe that’s helping out at a food bank on the third weekend of every month, or offering to watch your friend’s kids one night per month.

20. Take yourself out

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No one to go out with? Well, what rule says you can’t go out alone?

Go to your favorite restaurant, take in a movie, or go on that trip you’ve always dreamed of.

Even if you’re a social butterfly, spending some deliberate time alone can help you reconnect with the activities that truly make you happy.

21. Create a thought list

You arrive for an appointment with 10 minutes to spare. What do you do with that time? Pick up your cell phone to scroll through social media? Worry about the busy week you have ahead of you?

Take control of your thoughts during these brief windows of time.

At the start of each month, make a short list of happy memories or things you’re looking forward to on a small piece of paper or on your phone.

When you find yourself waiting for a ride, standing in line at the grocery store, or just with a few minutes to kill, break out the list. You can even use it when you’re just generally feeling down and need to change up your thoughts.

Yearly habits

22. Take time to reflect

The start of a new year is a good time to stop and take inventory of your life. Set aside some time to catch up with yourself the way you would with an old friend:

  • How are you doing?
  • What have you been up to?
  • Are you happier than you were a year ago?

But try to avoid the pitfall of judging yourself too harshly for your answers. You’ve made it to another year, and that’s plenty.

If you find that your mood hasn’t improved much over the last year, consider making an appointment with your doctor or talking to a therapist. You might be dealing with depression or even an underlying physical condition that’s impacting your mood.

23. Reevaluate your goals

People change, so think about where you’re heading and consider if that’s still where you want to go. There’s no shame in changing your game.

Let go of any goals that no longer serve you, even if they sound nice on paper.

24. Take care of your body

healthy or unhealthy foods

You hear it all the time, including several times in this article, but your physical and mental health are closely intertwined.

As you build habits to improve your happiness, make sure to follow up with routine appointments to take care your body:

  • see your primary care physician for an annual physical
  • take care of any chronic health conditions and see specialists as recommended
  • see your dentist for an oral exam and follow up as recommended
  • get your vision checked

25. Let go of grudges

inner circle

This is often easier said than done. But you don’t have to do it for the other person.

Sometimes, offering forgiveness or dropping a grudge is more about self-care than compassion for others.

Take stock of your relationships with others. Are you harboring any resentment or ill will toward someone? If so, consider reaching out to them in an effort to bury the hatchet.

This doesn’t have to be a reconciliation. You may just need to end the relationship and move on.

If reaching out isn’t an option, try getting your feelings out in a letter. You don’t even have to send it to them. Just getting your feelings out of your mind and into the world can be freeing.

For Men Only: 15 Ways to Stay On Top of Your Game.

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THE KETO DIET IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER!

The latest low-carb diet trend is merely a rehash of fad diets past.

The latest — or maybe just loudest — diet obsession transfixing the internet says it will help you lose weight, live longer, and improve your memory. Sounds great, you say? Except that these benefits will only bloom once you cut carbohydrates. Familiar story, right? The Atkins diet is back? We’re all gonna start eating eggs and bacon for every meal again until our cholesterol inevitably reaches code-red levels?

No, this new obsession is not Atkins. It’s the ketogenic diet, lovingly called “keto,” popularized by actorsInstagram stars, and the same people who brought you raw water.

If you believe a diet is supposed to be a varied landscape of all the things the world has to offer in moderation, keto may not be the diet for you. Let’s find out if science says it’s worth it.

WHAT IS THE KETOGENIC DIET?

The history of keto goes much farther than an attempt to stem weight gain during our fat-fearing era. In 1921, it was observed that fasting decreased incidence of seizure in epileptic patients. The same year, reports noted cognitive improvement and reduced seizure activity in epileptics who fasted for two to three days (fasting has been used as far back as 500 B.C. to treat epilepsy).

Around the same time, it was discovered that the metabolic change caused by fasting that controlled seizures also occurred when a patient stopped eating carbohydrates. It was then that an endocrinologist named Dr. Rollin Woodyatt had a scientific breakthrough: he found that the compounds acetone and beta-hydroxybutyric acid were detectable in high levels in fasting patients (to be fair, they can also be present in urine in low levels normally, and things like dehydration can trigger a false positive test). These compounds are classified as ketones, produced via the metabolic state of ketosis, which occurs when an elevated level of ketones are produced as a result of the body using fat for fuel as stored carbohydrate is depleted.

THE KETOGENIC DIET KEEPS COMING BACK INTO THE LARGER CONSCIOUSNESS, TO THE CONSTERNATION OF MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic created a formula that manipulated the ketogenic effect that came with complete fasting by instead limiting a patient’s intake of carbohydrates. This was the genesis of the ketogenic diet. To manage childhood epilepsy, the prescribed diet consisted of one gram of protein per kilogram of body mass — a max of 15 grams of carbs — and the rest of the calories from fat. Et voila: the ketogenic diet was born.

A strict version of the diet is still used to manage drug-resistant epilepsy. But it’s fallen out of favor because the success rate of a large suite of readily available anti-epileptic medications. It’s been observed that children on this diet for epilepsy don’t generally become overweight and tend to lose some weight in the first few months on the diet, but it’s not without its drawbacks. Children on keto tend to have higher cholesterol than other children in their age range and there can be some nasty side effects, including kidney stones. Due to the public’s appetite for miracle weight-loss cures, however, the diet keeps coming back into the larger consciousness, to the consternation of medical professionals.

HOW KETO WAS REBORN AS ATKINS WAS REBORN AS KETO

In 1997, a book titled Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution climbed up the bestseller list for five years after it was first published (this edition of Diet Revolution was little more than a cosmetic overhaul of Dr. Robert Atkins’s 1972 book, Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, which didn’t quite revolutionize diets in the way publishers hoped).

But this time around, America was primed for Atkins’s theory that it wasn’t fat but carbohydrates that caused weight gain. Food manufacturers and consumers had cut fat from their diets but obesity rates continued to rise; something was due to be the new culprit for our weight woes. Dr. Atkins was further vindicated by 2002 article by the science journalist Gary Taubes in The New York Times Magazine. “If the members of the American medical establishment were to have a collective find-yourself-standing-naked-in-Times-Square-type nightmare, this might be it,” Taubes wrote. “They spend 30 years ridiculing Robert Atkins, author of the phenomenally-best-selling Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution and Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, accusing the Manhattan doctor of quackery and fraud, only to discover that the unrepentant Atkins was right all along.”

At one point in the early 2000s, approximately 10 percent of the country was on a low-carb diet. That’s insane. What’s more, people actively started avoiding carbs even if they weren’t on a diet. “A year ago, if you asked consumers what they watch, 11 percent would have said carbs,” Michael Polk, the chief operating officer at Unilever-Best Foods, told The Times. “Today if you ask, 40 percent of consumers say they are watching carbs. In our opinion, this has evolved into a major shift in consumer behavior.” Atkins was able to build an industry out of his diet advice: Atkins Nutritionals, which cranked out low-carb meals and snacks, was at one point valued at approximately half a billion dollars.

AT ONE POINT IN THE EARLY 2000S, APPROXIMATELY 10 PERCENT OF THE COUNTRYWAS ON A LOW-CARB DIET.

So why did Atkins fall out of favor? Well, the diet’s delightful side effects could include fatigue, constipation, excessive thirst, bad breath, the dreaded meat sweats, and worst, the look your friends would give you when you said you were on Atkins. There was also the fact that the diet wasn’t really sustainable (kinda like most diets, funnily enough). In 2003, a pair of studies in the New England Journal of Medicine found that most of the weight one initially lost while following Atkins was water weight; and subjects who followed the diet typically gained back any lost weight in six months.

Atkins Nutritionals filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005, a year after the doctor died after falling on an icy New York City sidewalk. Still, Atkins had a long-lasting impact on the dietary landscape in America. “Sugar free” and “low carb” labels never left the snack aisle. People still fell back on the idea that to lose weight, one simply had to cut carbs. But all the while, obesity rates climbed from 30 percent up to 39 percent of the country, priming the stage for another diet “revolution.”

THE RISE OF THE KETO GURUS

Losing weight has become a challenge to be solved through innovation, and the new diet gurus don’t take kindly to the scientific method. It’s in line with Dr. Atkins’s legacy; he was a huge proponent of alternative and unproven medical treatments beyond just his ideas about nutrition. You almost can’t blame him or the other diet gurus for leaning in on the techno-bullshit market; it’s hard to fill up a 300 page diet book on “eat a bit less and find a type of exercise that doesn’t make you hate life.”

Dave Asprey is one such tech guy-turned-low-carb guru. Asprey is now the CEO of Bulletproof 360, which sells butter-larded coffee and myriad supplements to the masses — and which raised $19 million in Series B funding last year. Over the past two decades, Asprey says he’s spent $1 million to “biohack” his body, turning it into a fat-burning machine and even increasing his IQ by 20 points. (Asprey has also said that he blocks waves out of his cells with glasses and takes supplements to help with the “low oxygen high EMF [electromagnetic field] environment” on airplanes, so.)

I’ll give Asprey this: people have told me that the buttered coffee tastes okay and makes them feel energetic. The coffee is also, of course, keto-approved:

“The Bulletproof Diet uses ketosis as a tool, but tweaks it for even better performance,” goes a blog post on the Bulletproof website. “It is a cyclical ketogenic diet, which means you eat keto for 5 to 6 days a week and then do a weekly protein fast, which lowers inflammation and kickstarts fat-burning. This is much better for your body and spurs weight loss even more.”

But about that weight loss.

Between the butter and the so-called “Brain Octane Oil” that are part of the Bulletproof coffee recipe, any increased energy one feels after consuming it could have something to do with the nearly 500 calories of fat that are in it. As has been pointed out, those calories displace other more nutrient-dense sources of fuel. Asprey also claims that his coffee is better for you because it doesn’t contain mycotoxins, i.e. toxins produced by fungi. Though it’s true that mycotoxins can be dangerous for your health, the possibility of any roasted coffee available on store shelves containing mycotoxins is slim to none. It’s like slapping “this coffee was not made with white rhino horn” on the label.

CALORIES STILL MATTER

Keto devotees sometimes brag about how they eat more on the diet than ever before and still lose weight. On keto, their bodies have turned into fat-burning machines that give the finger to the laws of thermodynamics, or something.

Let’s hold up a sec. Allow me to introduce you to the DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial, published in February 2018 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. DIETFITS, which stands for Dietary Intervention Examining the Factors Interacting with Treatment Success, succeeded in busting a slew of dietary theories. Microbiome is responsible for everything? Nope. Predisposition to success on one diet based on genetics? Nah. Low carb over low fat? Uh-uh.

Over the course of a year, 609 participants were randomly sorted into low-fat or low-carb diet groups. They were given instruction on healthy habits and choices, along with practical advice on how to stick to the diets to which they had been assigned. Additionally, and possibly most importantly, they were instructed to keep their caloric intake limited similarly in both groups.

It’s fairly common that, initially, low-carb dieters see more weight loss. This is because glycogen molecules bind with water, and once you’ve burned through your most readily available source of energy, you’re also down a few pounds of water weight. Over time, that weight loss of the low-carb group evened out with the low-fat one; there was ultimately just a 1.5 lbs difference in weight loss between the two groups — the low-fat group lost an average of 11.7 lbs the low-carb group 13.2 lbs. This is a difference reflective of which group took a shit before or after going for their final weigh-ins.

IT’S FAIRLY COMMON THAT, INITIALLY, LOW-CARB DIETERS SEE MORE WEIGHT LOSS. BUT IT DOESN’T LAST.

A few variables were tested in conjunction with weight loss. One was initial insulin secretion, specifically to see if it had any affect on loss in each diet group. It did not. They had also checked a few genetic markers that were suspected to give dieters pre-dispositions to success either on low fat diets or low carb diets based on previous studies. However, genetics were shown to have no effect.

But the most important takeaway from the study is that similar numbers of participants lost and gained similar amounts of weight in both groups. As Examine.com shows in its analysis of the study, charts comparing weight loss (or gain) from each group are almost identical.

In the beginning of the study, all participants were instructed to consume either ≤20 g of fat (if in the low-fat group) or ≤20 g of carbs (if in the low-carb group) for the first two months, after which they could increase either their fat or carb intake to levels they felt they could sustain indefinitely. By the end of the trial, the vast majority had not been able to maintain such low levels. The final dietary recalls reported an average daily fat intake of ≈57 g (low-fat group) and an average daily carb intake of ≈132 g (low-carb group).

Part of what makes a diet work in the long run, of course, is a person’s ability to stick with it, and most diets that cut out an entire food group or macronutrient are not sustainable.

Curiously, this study was funded by the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI), a group with the aim of producing “conclusive results in the next decade” in a sometimes confusing nutritional landscape. They claim our nutritional guidelines are “based on inconclusive science,” and though their website doesn’t directly indicate any bias, their research so far focuses on the effects of carbohydrates on obesity. This was the second published study that received funding from the institute. In the first study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016, researchers hypothesized that a low-carbohydrate diet increased energy expenditure. Results said otherwise:

The carbohydrate–insulin model predicts that the KD would lead to increased EE, thereby resulting in a metabolic advantage amounting to ~300–600 kcal/d. Our data do not support EE increases of that magnitude. (…) In summary, we found that a carefully controlled isocaloric KD coincided with small increases in EE that waned over time. Despite rapid, substantial, and persistent reductions in daily insulin secretion and RQ after introducing the KD, we observed a slowing of body fat loss.

In layman’s terms: people burned marginally more calories at first, but there wasn’t evidence that the diet increased caloric burn in the long term.

I suppose it’s not a surprise that, per an investigation from Wired, NuSI seems to be having trouble scrounging up financial backing lately.

KETO AND LOW-CARB NOW HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM AS LOW-FAT

Remember those insanely awful Snackwell’s cookies and the chips that gave you anal leakage? We were willing to suffer so much for the price of “weight loss.” Snackwell’s. Christ.

We soon learned that low-fat diets only work if a dieter is also controlling their calories. Five thousand calories of broiled dried out chicken breasts, kale, or anal-leakage chips is still 5,000 calories. Low-fat content or not, those calories add up.

Low-carb has become the new low-fat. During the early Atkins era, snacks included cucumbers, beef jerky, and pork rinds. Now there’s a wealth of low-carb snacking options; there are junk-foody low-carb recipes all over Pinterest; a low-carb aisle at the grocery store. There are low-carb replacement foods and ingredients for low-carb replacement foods. It’s Snackwell’s 2.0.

REMEMBER SNACKWELL’S? LOL.

Want candy but you don’t want to stray from keto? A low-carb peanut butter cup has about the same calories, gram per gram, as a Reese’s. Want to slap all that bacon between something other than lettuce wraps? Some low-carb bread will run you $7.99 per loaf whereas bread that doesn’t taste like sadness with the same number of calories per slice is generally about half the cost. How about chocolate? A chocolate brand that boldly calls itself ‘The Good Chocolate’ is sweetened with a sugar alcohol commonly associated with some nasty gastrointestinal effects when consumed excessively. It’s also $8 for a 2.5-oz bar, and about as calorically dense as a Hershey’s bar. Low-carb flour? Not surprisingly, it costs more than normal old flour, and the more expensive one has more calories.

BACON: A BALANCED BREAKFAST?!

Here’s the thing: Low-carb diets absolutely have a track record of working. A 2017 study in Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviewsshowed significant weight loss, improvement of health markers related to diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol in participants who followed the diet for 10 weeks. If you have been advised to lose weight by your trusted medical professional and your doctor or dietitian says this is appropriate for you, a low-carb diet can help you lose weight.

But low-carb diets don’t work because of how people seem to think they work — more specifically, through something called the “insulin hypothesis,” which says that removing carbohydrates from your diet stabilizes insulin and blood sugar levels, subsequently increasing your metabolism and reducing your hunger. This hypothesis has failed several studies. A review study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2017 reported it as “carefully controlled inpatient feeding studies whose results failed to support key [carbohydrate-insulin] model predictions.” Sad.

common belief among keto devotees is that your body not only switches to burning fat on keto but that a low-carb, high-fat diet turns you into a “fat-burning machine.” Now that you’re not eating pizza crust, your body is going to burn through all of its own fat, calories and laws of thermodynamics be damned. But you don’t magically burn off your love handles just because you changed your fuel source. As much as the three macronutrients have different uses in the bodies, when it comes to gaining and losing weight, calories are calories are calories.

Someone trying to follow the keto diet to a letter may not even go into the much-desired state of ketosis. Sure, you can buy those little piss strips that react to ketones in your urine to reassure you that you’re “in ketosis,” but you’re probably wasting your money. Ketones are present in low levels in your urine even if you’re not on a ketogenic diet. Measuring ketones via blood is far more accurate (if not overly invasive for a diet), but to measure them for weight loss in the first place is borderline useless, especially in urine.

One of the most extraordinary claims in Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution was the metabolic advantage hypothesis, which theorizes that the inefficiencies in the fat-burning process caused an energy advantage (in layman’s terms, it was hypothesized that using fat for fuel causes you to burn more calories). Unfortunately, a 2006 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said that calorie per calorie, you’ll lose the same amount of weight on both a ketogenic diet and a reduced calorie, controlled carb (but not ketogenic) diet. Amazing what you can get people to believe when you sell some books.

Studies also contradict the claim that the ketogenic diet will help your Crossfit performance, or whatever. A 2018 study published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness reports that a low-carb diet inhibited cardiovascular performance. Want to check that half marathon off your bucket list? Science says eat your carbs. Multiple studies have shown similar results. The best news I can tell you about keto is that a 2017 Journal of Human Kinetics study said that it can help maintain a lower body weight, which can help athletic performance. But the study also said that “some aspects regarding the effects of long-term LCHF diets in athletes are still unexplored and in need of investigation, including (…)Strength, power, psychological status, and perceptual-motor performance after weight loss.” So, take that with a grain of low-carb salt.

SO WHAT DO I EAT?

You could pick any of the countless diet books on the market, follow their plan to the last calorie, and lose weight. This is because — as study after study has shown — calories and dietary adherence matter more than anything for weight loss. You can gain or lose weight on any combination of foods. People have lost weight on twinkies, McDonalds, juice, plants, and obscene amounts of meat.

It’s important to remember weight loss alone doesn’t necessarily cause all health markers to improve, and a diet causing weight loss does not mean it’s appropriate and healthy for everyone. Some foods are better than others at making weight loss and maintenance easier for different people, so balancing a diet is a fairly personalized thing. If your doctor gives you the green light and keto works for you, do it. If low fat works for you, do it. If plant-based, paleo, Mediterranean, or one of the zillion other diets help you improve your health and your relationship with food? Do it. There’s no one right way to eat for everyone, just as there is no miracle diet plan for weight loss.

“What I wish people would know is that this is something that people cannot get used to.

parkland-florida-school-shooting-03-ap-jc-180214_16x9_608We live in a world of so many distractions that we fail to give our own kids the proper care, love and understanding of what it is that they are going through at their age.

We have become so accustomed to just giving them their wants instead of their needs.

we try to fill in the that void with temporary things such as tablets, game consoles, and many materialistic things that will only make them happy temporarily.

Love and understand your children so that they can share and give in return that love and care to one another.

Everyone’s off-target. Another horrible shooting, another young shooter. Eighteen years of death since West Paducah, Kentucky first warned of an epidemic. Finally, there’s invigorated debate about gun control and mental health care. But, there’s a glaring problem.

Guns and mental illness are merely attributes of these shootings, they are not the reason why numerous kids are killing people. It is time we stopped fooling ourselves and started asking why our youth are so disaffected that they’re lashing out, murderously, at the world we’ve given them.

While increased regulation and improved mental health may decrease the number of deaths from these tragedies, to suggest they are solutions to a society-wide epidemic of youth killing people is a logical fallacy: Guns don’t cause people to kill, and one individual’s illness does not create a nationwide epidemic of unprecedented killings.

Our children are disaffected because they are angry, and have every right to be, and no one’s listening to them. Why, because, we have raised them in a society that is in blatant moral contradiction of what we teach them, and yet we deny it. We tell them “do unto others,” to live equally, and in peace, while everything we do proves otherwise.

As a musician and poet, it’s my job to take the pulse of my country and world and express it in service to the betterment of humankind. From the day that Michael Carneal walked into Heath High School on December 1st, 1997, I knew something was terribly wrong. Something bigger than guns or individual illness.

I immersed myself in the issue of school shootings, and toured the country singing to and speaking with thousands of youth the same age as the shooters, would-be killers. In my song “West Kentucky” about Carneal’s rampage, I reflected as a southern boy reared in gun culture aware that in this disaffection, something horrifying was at our doorstep:

“Now this young boy is charged with murder
And not one tear flows from his eyes
When they asked him for a reason
All he says is I don’t know why…
I myself am from Virginia
And one thing I know is clear
Regardless of a reason
This did not used to happen here.”

Immediately after the Columbine shootings occurred, I wrote my song “The Darling Son,” a song based on an ancient ballad called ‘Edward’ or ‘The Twa Brothers,’ in which a mother questions her son who has killed his brother and fails in his attempts to falsify his story.

In my song, the mother confronts her son who has just killed his classmates, shortly before he kills himself:

“Where, oh where did you get that gun? Son, please talk to me.
I got it from your husband, mom, who rarely talks to me.
But where did you learn to be so cruel? Son, please talk to me.
I learned it in the books at school that taught me history.
But where did you learn to kill my son, son please talk to me.
I learned it from this great, great land, that kills across the sea.
Oh, where will you go, my only one? Son, please talk to me.
I’m going far beyond the sun, where no one’s eyes can see.”

The thousands of high school and college student that you hear in this live recording, all the same age-group as our school shooters, are cheering each word because the song is giving voice to what is bothering them, to something they live with everyday that is making them angry, but that no adult has ever admitted to them.

Everywhere I’ve gone, youth have come up to me after shows, often in tears, thanking me, asking if they can hug me, telling me I’m the first adult who’s ever talked to them about the truth of their world, thoughts they say they’re afraid to express openly to adults they think are not receptive.

Our children are not stupid. Armed with the internet, they have access to more information than prior generations could ever imagine. As much we may like to ignore it, we cannot pull the wool over their eyes as though it were 1975.

We have given them a world in which they know millions have been killed or made refugees in a war waged over oil that is causing global warming, voted for by politicians bought by corporate interests, while their own parents, many of whom are divorced, work day and night to make ends meet, unavailable to them, while pop culture sells unprecedented wealth, debauchrery and violence to them daily. And we act as though the problem is guns and mental health.

We have created a society that is morally bankrupt, and the victims are our children who have lost faith in authority due to our moral duplicity. This is the cause of school shootings.

By failing to engage our youth in honest conversation about their world as they see it, we sentence the most sensitive, already neglected, but often most gifted, inquisitive of our youth, to despair. If we continue this denial, we will have more of these children pushed to the point of breaking, regardless of gun control.

Every child of ours could become a killer, or a changemaker. It is up to us to give them the necessary moral consistency, inspiration and support to become the latter.

But, in the 18 years since the dawn of school shootings, I have yet to see our politicians or mainstream media respond to one of these tragedies by asking the youth themselves what it is they are angry about. Now’s the time to start.

We need a campaign to listen to our youth. We need to work with and inspire them to channel their justified feelings into groundbreaking work for good before it festers in them unresolved and explodes. I’m prepared to dedicated myself to the effort.

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