Being A Picky Eater Is All In Your Head

Hate Brussels sprouts? Can’t stomach mushrooms? Think cilantro tastes like soap? It’s (pretty much) all in your head.

When studies linking the world’s most polarizing herb, cilantro, to genetics made the rounds in 2010, cilantro haters everywhere felt validated. Hating cilantro wasn’t their fault, cilantrophobes explained. It was a characteristic they were born with, like hair color or height.

But while these studies carry scientific backing, they don’t present the full story, which is that we have all evolved to have an innate distaste for bitter and unfamiliar vegetables and herbs. Plants produce bitter, sometimes toxic chemicals to ward off predators, and humans evolved with an innate dislike for bitter flavors as a protection mechanism. There’s even evidence that women are more sensitive to strong-tasting vegetables during pregnancy.

So what separates picky eaters from the kale enthusiasts among us? A willingness to try new things, for one. Becoming a better dinner guest could be as easy as trying your blacklisted foods over and over again, a phenomenon called “mere exposure.”

The theory of mere exposure isn’t revolutionary — generations of parents have cajoled their picky toddlers into repeatedly trying “just one bite” of broccoli — but the idea that there aren’t foods we don’t like, just foods we haven’t given a fair chance, as Frank Bruni posited in the New York Times recently, is certainly novel.

As Bruni wrote:

No cauliflower for him. No broccoli for her. This Mary won’t have even a little lamb. That Larry won’t touch skate. All of them assume that their predilections are as rooted as redwoods, as fixed as eye color. And all of them are wrong, because appetite isn’t just or even mainly physiological. It’s psychological. Emotional. It’s a function of expectation, emulation, adaptation.

Take, for example, a small but oft-cited study among food scientists about the human preference for chili peppers, conducted by Paul Rozin and Deborah Schiller back in 1980.

“Exposure to gradually increasing levels of chili in food seems to be a sufficient condition for preference development. Chili likers are not insensitive to the irritation that it produces,” Rozin and Schiller wrote. “They come to like the same burning sensation that deters animals and humans that dislike chili; there is a clear hedonic shift.”

In a sense, it’s a battle of cognition. By eating small amounts of unfamiliar foods without negative effects, we enter a state of learned safety, where we no longer fear the new food and can even learn to like it.

Oysters are a perfect example, according to Armand V. Cardello, Ph.D., senior research scientist at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. “You’re in a crowd of people, there’s peer pressure. You try them for the first time. Well, all of the sudden you’ve overcome your neophobia to them.”

According to Cardello, you are cognitively overcoming your predisposition for disliking oysters, and repeated consumption will only increase your preference for slurping down mollusks.

But what about those foods you’ve hated ever since childhood? Proper preparation goes long way. John E. Hayes, Ph.D., assistant professor of food science and director of the Sensory Evaluation Center at Pennsylvania State University, despised the Birds Eye Brussels sprouts his parents boiled in a saucepan and served him for dinner as a kid.

“They had this rubbery, slimy texture and this strong sulfur smell to them, and they were really just gross,” he said. Today Brussels sprouts are among his favorite vegetables. What changed? “I buy the fresh ones. I peel them. I roast them in the oven until they are crispy,” he said. “So instead of having that rotten egg, boiled cabbage stench in the house, you have this sweet, slightly nutty scent. How much of our changing tastes are really that we’ve gotten more sophisticated in terms of how we prepare our foods?”

Perhaps we could all benefit from taking a second look at our will-not-eat lists and exercising some free will — or at least superior cooking skills: “You can do things like cook them differently — something as simple as putting a tiny pinch of sugar on your vegetables helps block the bitterness,” Hayes explained.

We could also stop giving picky eaters a free pass at the dinner table. “I get really frustrated when people misinterpret my work and say, ‘Oh, it’s all in my genes. It’s not my fault,'” Hayes said. “Well guess what? You learned to like beer. You could learn to like vegetables if you really wanted to.”

6 Easy Ways to Get Exercise While at Work

Say goodbye to coffee shops or conference rooms and hello to the pavement. Moving while working? Now that’s the way to get things done.

Why You Should Ditch Your Chair

Unbroken hours spent seated in a chair hurt our bodies in a way that even regular visits to the gym or a 5K weekend run can’t fix. One of the earliest studies to investigate the risks of “sitting disease” occurred in the 1940s, when a Scottish epidemiologist discovered conductors were at lower risk for coronary heart disease than their bus-driving colleagues. Morris and his team found similar results when they expanded the study and compared postal delivery workers to sedentary postal clerks.

Since Morris’ time, more and more research links sitting for uninterrupted periods of time—the kind of sitting we experience at work and while commuting—with two times greater risk of diabetes, a 90 percent greater risk of cardiovascular disease, and a 49 percent greater risk of death, among other conditions and diseases. It’s this research that drives the media buzz about how our jobs are killing us.

The good news is that we have choices when it comes to death by chair. To quote Dr. James Levine, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist credited with developing the concept of the treadmill desk: “There are solutions to chair-associated ill health that range from population-wide gym attendance, pharmacological administration, or genetic manipulation. Alternatively, people could get up.”

The Benefits of Moving at Work

So how does a person get up at work? It may sound like a funny question, but, if you’ve ever found yourself sitting at your desk for hours on end, you know not to laugh.

Some people work for companies that willingly invest in office equipment that gets employees moving, such as treadmill desks or adjustable-height desks. If you’re not one of them, then you’ll have to move yourself. You can perform exercises at your desk or do bodyweight exercises by the copy machine, in the restroom, or in your office (provided you’re lucky enough to have your own). But one of the easiest (and least sweaty) ways to move more at work is to start walking while meeting.

Whatever it is, it’s solved by walking.

Regardless of how you choose to do it, studies show there are numerous benefits to moving at work. Physical activity at work can help employees in the following ways:

Boost Creativity
A recent Stanford study found that simply going for a walk (outside or on the treadmill) can get our creative juices moving—and help them stay that way. In fact, study participants had twice as many creative responses after a jaunt as a person who’d remained seated.

Improve Focus and Retention
The absolute best way to move? Get outside. When people venture outdoors into a forested area or an arboretum, or simply look at scenes of nature, their bodies relax and their memories and attention improve.

Meet Activity Goals
NEAT, or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, is the energy we expend for all activities not associated with eating, sleeping, or gut-busting exercise. Even though they may not require much effort, these little bits of movement (like walking) can help us meet daily and weekly physical activity guidelines in a manageable way.

Shape Work Culture
“A movement must be public,” pronounced Derek Sivers in his superb TED talk, How to Start a Movement. When one person does something, he or she may be declared a “lone nut”—but when two or three join? Then you have a leader and a movement. Walking meetings or group fitness outings make movement a true priority and help to establish a work culture that support employees’ healthy choices.

Your Action Plan
Convinced that it’s time to ditch the seat and move more during work? Fill out this breakup madlib , then use the simple steps below to get started.

How to Move More at Work

1. Find a path. Before you set off on your first walking meeting, build your route map and identify options of varying lengths and direction. You’ll want walking routes that are safe, not too noisy, and easily accessed from the office without an additional commute.

2. Walk by yourself. There’s no hard-and-fast rule that a walking meeting needs to be a group activity. When you need to mull something over or come up with fresh ideas, get out of your head and head outside. If available time or company rules restrict walking outside, walking the perimeter of a factory or office floor is an excellent stand-in.

3. Invite appointments to walk instead of having a seated meeting. In his famous laws of motion, Newton found that an object at rest will remain at rest unless an external force acts upon it. Be that external force, and start inviting appointments to walk and talk instead of meeting on seats. You may experience a few quizzical looks at first (remember our “lone nut”), but plenty will soon become walking meeting devotees.

4. Set walking meetings up for success. There’s no telling whether your first overtures to turn traditional meetings into walking ones will be met positively. But there are ways to make your efforts, and the meetings themselves, more successful:

Let your walking partner know about the idea in advance so they can best prepare themselves.
Consider what the other person is wearing and modify the walk’s length and path accordingly (e.g. If your walking partner is wearing high heels, steer clear of bumpy sidewalks).
Keep the group size small, and vary its size depending on the topic at hand. If the plan is to brainstorm, for example, consider breaking the larger group into small subgroups before you set out walking. Then each subgroup can generate ideas to share with the whole once everyone has returned to the office.
Be mindful of when walking meetings don’t make sense (but check whether this is outmoded thinking first). While difficult performance conversations could be well served by a real breath of fresh air, for example, your company’s human resources policy might prefer you stay indoors.

5. Find a sponsor to champion walking meetings. Change happens within an organization when a visible and influential leader drives it. To that end, seek out an influential person within your company (a manager, a beloved colleague, even the CEO if they’re accessible and you feel comfortable) and invite him or her to a walking meeting. Then slip all the research cited in this article into your conversation. If they still need some convincing, let them know that great thinkers like Aristotle and Freud swore by them, today’s technology and political leaders advance their agendas through them, and numerous companies are promoting group activity as a means of increasing productivity, ramping up collaboration, and lowering health-related risks and costs. By the end of the walk, it’s likely they’ll be at least a little more receptive to making movement a company-wide priority.

6. Sneak it in. At certain jobs and companies, it’s simply not possible to move while meeting (or even to leave your station at all). That doesn’t mean all is lost. The key takeaway is that any type of movement counts. Try to exercise at your desk, take the long way to the break, lunch, or rest room, and squeeze in some form of movement before and after work. If desperate times call for desperate measures on the job, simply fidget (pace while you’re on the phone, fiddle with a pen while you’re talking, etc.); you’ll still be moving more than you otherwise would. With a little creativity, it’s possible to find subtle ways to sneak in a little wiggle or a walk on the job.

5 Ways to Get the Benefits of Massage Therapy (at Home)

You know those mini-quizzes on social media that ask if you could have one service for free for the rest of your life? Options usually include: a gourmet chef, live-in housecleaner or massage therapy daily?

I always pick the massage.

And then I think about the messes and how much I don’t love dishes and go back and forth between the other options. Of course, while it is a fun thing to think about, a live in maid, chef, or massage therapist is unfortunately not very realistic.

Even if money weren’t an issue, it would be impossible for most moms to sneak away for a daily massage. As mothers, we often have a lot of stress, and since massage therapy has many benefits, that’s a match made in relaxation heaven… Except for time and money.

Benefits of Massage Therapy

Massage therapy has many benefits besides the obvious one of relaxation. It is now often suggested by doctors, physical therapists and chiropractors for various reasons.

Massage can range from light pressure to deep tissue (a lot of pressure) and there are many types of massage, including:

Swedish– A gentle massage that uses gentle, long strokes. Mainly focused on relaxation and tension relief.
Deep Tissue– Uses slower strokes and more pressure to reach deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue.
Sports– A style that often uses a combination of different techniques to help relieve sports strain or injury.
Trigger Point– A focused type massage often used for relief of tension from overuse or injury.
No matter the type, massage can help:

Relax Muscles

Massage provides external physical pressure to muscles and helps remove tension. This is the most common reason people get a massage.

Improve Flexibility & Reduce Injury

The pressure and stretching of the muscles can help improve their ability to stretch. Athletes often get a regular massage to help increase flexibility and reduce the chance of injury (and to help rehab from injury).

Increase Immunity

Though less well-known, massage may also increase immune function by stimulating lymph flow in the body. This helps promote a strong immune system.

Shorten Hospital Stays

A study found that women who received regular prenatal massage had shorter hospital stays when they delivered their babies. The reason is not completely clear, but researchers suspect that it is the affects of increased relaxation and blood flow.

Improve Sleep

A number of studies have shown that massage has a positive effect on sleep. This is likely because of its affect on delta waves, the ones most connected to deep sleep.