“Do you want to be a Big Mac?” A foolproof method for making the right food choices

Instead of obsessing about the perfect diet, try using this foolproof method of asking yourself one simple question when making food choices. It has changed my way of looking at food and gave me back a responsible approach to nutrition.

Sleep. Water. And food. The three most essential things the human species needs to survive, and along these lines, the biggest factors for health, happiness and living a rich life. Being quite far away from starvation in our privileged Western lifestyle, nutrition and diets have now become the number one topic around beauty. Perfect bodies and flawless skin are today’s new social currency in many developed societies, and nutrition, far ahead of beauty products, is the number one denominator. No surprise that the food industry with its constant inventions is one of the largest in the world.

I have been obsessed with finding the perfect diet ever since I had a serious health condition a few years ago that made me very aware of the choices I needed to make to keep my body healthy. It’s no secret that scientists around the world agree that nutrition in combination with exercise is the most successful cancer and disease prevention, so I started completely reinventing my diet. It has been a journey ever since. I consulted specialists to analyze my DNA, did Metabolic Typing, introduced cleanse weeks, fasted, lived off shakes, juiced, did gluten-free, lactose-free, no carbs, paleo, and now vegan… You name it! I am realizing there is no such thing as the perfect solution. If there was, I think I would have found it by now. What I did find though was one question that would make things a lot easier in regards to the food choices I need to make in any given situation. It’s a very easy question that, instead of a restrictive diet, your body will answer itself: “Do I want to be this?”

Let me explain and offer you my newly found perspective on food.

No matter if you’re a foodie or not, the main reason we eat is to live. A high percentage of our body’s energy consumption goes into metabolism and the process to turn the food we consume into energy and, here it comes, new body cells. The big mass of body cells that you are today will completely be replaced by new cells in only a few years, as the body keeps restoring and repairing the tear and wear that our environment and hectic lives force on us.

Once I understood this concept, things started becoming very clear to me. “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are” – what the famous French gastronome Brillat-Savarin concluded more than 200 years ago sums up this idea perfectly. So, ask yourself this question: What are the essential “products” you want your future body to be made of? The adrenaline that runs through and remains in an ox’s body just before he is slaughtered? The chemistry that makes coke be a perfect rust cleaning product for maintaining cars? The antibiotics that many animals are fed with in order to keep them healthy enough to turn them into a profitable steak? Or the additives that cause a Big Mac to decompose slower than your body itself?

It gets very real once you understand that these will turn into the future “you”. You could take this idea even further for the ones of you interested in energies and vibrations, because the ethical energy of food will remain in your system just as well as the physical. Either way, looking at food and asking my body this question before consuming it has completely changed the way I look at my options. “Do I want to BE this after my body is done processing it?” Do I want to BE the product of processed and beaten up, slow and lazy carbs, or a juicy and colorful apple? A pig scared to death as it sees another one be slaughtered in front of it, or a vibrant rich and sun-spoilt avocado?

I’m not a food saint by any means, and I splurge on bad things once in a while, just like everyone does. But answering this question every time before I make a choice, good or bad, has made me much more responsible and aware of the role that food should play in my life.

Try it out! What do you want to be made of in a few months? Certainly not Coke and Big Macs.

Life Evolves In Waves – You Better Learn How to Read Them!

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My dear friends and followers, although this blog post breaks every good bloggers first amendment, I have to confess to you that I needed to write this not for yours, but for my very own sake. If I wanted to be more dramatic, I would even say for my mental sanity. Because it would still be an accurate description.

People say that life evolves in waves, and the fun about living it is learning how to ride them and to always understand where in the wave’s evolution you currently are. And every once in a while, you have these moments where you feel like some bigger force is turning a page to a new chapter for you. And I don’t only mean this metaphorically – you really physically feel it that day. It’s like you were just born again, and you look at yesterday and think it feels like it was ages ago! Sounds familiar?

Exciting times. This is the moment when one major wave in your life ends and another one starts. To be fair though, being born doesn’t always feel as fun as a pony ride through Disneyland, and those of you who go through change regularly will know what I’m talking about. The days and weeks before feel weary, you don’t quite know what’s going on, and you constantly feel out of place somehow.

I have been subject to these emotions for the last few weeks now, culminating in the last days, with a force that I’ve never felt before, and to an extent that made me wonder if I needed Xanax after all. Now slowly, I start realizing why the impact is so big this time: I am ending and starting multiple waves at the same time! So while usually we only have a professional, or a personal, or a geographical wave ending, for me all of them are crashing right now, at the very same moment: A 9 year corporate professional wave, a 3 year US national wave, a 1 year Florida wave, multiple personal relationship waves…

That’s the moment where many choose to jump off the board to not be washed ashore. Well, let me try to summarize how I’m clinging on to this board in a very accurate picture: I’m sitting here in my interim home in my dad’s backyard in Hamburg, surrounded by my belongings in 3 suitcases, without my Miami home that I gave up last month, without my car that I sold, without a job that I quit, without a partner that could follow, without a 401k that makes my security gut feel warm, heck, I don’t even have health insurance anymore!! Believe me, there’s moments where I’m not sure what on earth I was thinking…

I know I know, you don’t really feel bad for me, and you shouldn’t, I’m more than fine in every way, and all of these have been decisions of my own. And the more I understand the concept of waves by looking back on the old ones and understanding what I have learned through each of them, the more I am opening my arms and heart to the next waves to take me, build me and have me surf a full new learning experience.

And now, the most exciting part: Although it’s not an easy time to go through all of these waves crashing – the thought of all of them building up again at the very same time through the coming weeks and months is so uplifting and simply amazing!! So sitting here writing, I feel my heart pumping a little faster, my lips forming a smile and my eyes opening while thinking of the endless and incredible adventures I’m about to embark on on this once in a lifetime journey.

I will save you this for a later post, but believe me, the year is going to be wild. WILD!! And I’m sure that in three weeks’ time I will sit on a roof top in Kuala Lumpur, cheering with 74 new amazing friends from all around the world and being so glad that I had the courage to jump into this craziness. With no Xanax needed, only red wine, sunglasses and a tear of gratitude in my eyes. About what a dang lucky bird I am!!

2017 – here I come!

 

 

Willpower and Habits for the New Year – How to prepare yourself now!

It’s the evening of January 2. You come home from work. No reason to be exhausted, as you’ve been sitting on your butt doing administrative paper work all day. Last night’s mental hand shake with yourself to put your new year’s resolutions to work right away is still ringing in your head. But when you open the door to your home, your one hand magically finds the TV remote control, and the other hand grabs the bar of chocolate from the fridge. Two minutes later, the reliving sound of your latest Netflix addiction makes an intriguing background noise to the sound of Zin you’re pouring into a wine glass.

Sounds familiar? Here’s a fun stat that might make you feel less alone with this: Although 62% of Americans make some kind of New Year’s resolutions, only 8% are successful in constantly achieving them! You might wonder why I’m talking about all of this more than a month in advance. Well, if you want to be amongst the 8% next year, you will need to start getting ready  now! There’s a fairly high chance that your current setup will not even allow for your resolutions to be successful from the start. Willpower has no chance without you being ready for it with the right shape and the right habits. And you will need every bit of the next six weeks to build these very rationally to be prepared.

Before I get into more detail, I will make a basic assumption that I hope most of you will agree with. Our body is a vessel for our soul. This vessel is regulated and managed by the most powerful thing in the human experience: our brain. Now here’s the dilemma. According to studies, only 5% of our brain is conscious thinking, while 95% are automated. That means that most of our brain’s activity is absolutely beyond our conscious control, and guided by its most important job: Protect the vessel, and ensure survival.

Much of what we think we are as a person is actually a protective shell of learned reactions. Our brain has subconsciously created powerful control mechanisms through fear, cravings and emotions to guide our behavior. But here’s the catch. This primeval part of our brain has not kept up with the recent changes in our environment. We’re still primed to run from the tiger! And without wanting to go into too much detail on this, one thing becomes absolutely clear. The subconscious “ego” that our brain has built with great effort and the best intentions over many years is actually working against us in today’s world.

Let’s tie it back to how we can consciously generate change and make our brain our friend again. You need to take conscious control of the top three most important things you can do to influence those 95%. And, you need to do it before you can actively initiate change.

(1) Shape up the vessel yourself! Lessen the brain’s burden to ensure survival by consciously caring for your body. That means firstly to follow a very thought-through diet to nurture your body and protect your brain. Avoid dairy and processed carbs, eat only few grains and sweet fruits, consume tons of veggies, protein and unsaturated fats. It’s tough to change, I know, but take it step by step, and as much as you can! And secondly, get that body moving! Aerobic exercise is the number one thing to ensure brain health and functioning! It doesn’t necessarily have to be boot camps or weight lifting. 30-60 minutes of simply fast-walking will already get you in the right spot.

If you do this consistently every day, two things will happen: You educate your body to crave the right diet and become very efficient with food and metabolism. You put an end to your body constantly being in survival mode, craving sugar and carbs. And finally, your body will feel strong and save, your mind calm, energized, and your brain is freed and healthy to concentrate on the right stuff.

(2) Create the right habits consciously to help your subconscious! It’s as simple as this: If you don’t create habits consciously, your subconscious will do it for you. Your choice! We are primed to automate as many of our decisions as possible to keep our brain and will power for the important things. Choose wisely what and how you automate!

The trick is to first realize the trigger-response mechanism* and everything that works in between. Let’s take the chocolate bar. What are the triggers that push your automated behavior? What happens in your subconscious mind when the automated response is generated? You probably want to make a certain feeling stop. The chocolate and wine is a fast and easy way to do that, but it’s not sustainable and it causes you harm. So how can you substitute the subconscious response with another? Take a walk around the block for example?

This approach can literally change your life, and the best thing about it is that you get better at it the more you practice. Start with small things, but remember, you need at least 21 days of constant follow-through to establish that practice.

(3) Expose your subconscious to the right influences! Avoid passive and shallow relaxation like public TV, it does you more harm than good. Build a meditation practice to be able to detect and be aware of your subconscious auto-pilot. Learn to love your monkey mind and come to peace with it! Use the right music to get your brain into the right mood and waves. Expose yourself to positive influences including the right environment, the right people, the right job. Do the right things, and feel good about them. And read, read, read!

Last but not least, allow enough time to dream and to be grateful. One of the most powerful brain hacks is that the subconscious can’t differentiate between reality and imagination. So make sure it’s constantly fed with the right input from both ends! Everything you can do to make the brain feel positive about your life and the world – do it! It’s not about being unrealistic or naive, but about managing the way your mind will deal with reality!

One more thing about willpower. It has long been treated as a finite resource, but a recent HBR article by Nir Eyal sums up ground-breaking new insights into the nature of it. If we think it’s finite, it is. But if we don’t, we immediately have more willpower at hand.

It’s all about if you can get your brain to work for instead of against you. If you keep to these three basic things, you will enable your mind and brain to create a fantastic life for you. Shape the vessel, build powerful habit, and feed your subconscious mind with the right information.

Best of luck, and see you on the other side on January 1!

Kathrin Peters

 

* For anyone that is struggling with building habits, I can highly recommend Charles Duhigg’s ‘The Power of Habit’, or Jeremy Dean’s ‘Making Habits, Breaking Habits’

Life is a boat trip – which kind are you on?

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Do you want to live a rich and exciting life, full of joy, growth and endless possibilities? I have yet to meet the person that would answer this question with no. We all strive to create a life to remember and enjoy. Yet, only very few are ready to give what it takes. Or rather, to let go what it takes! You’ve heard it before: Life is a journey. So I want to choose a boat trip as the metaphor of getting my point across.

(1) If you don’t steer, the currants and the wind will. There’s really no such thing as staying in the same place for a long time. Even if you choose to anchor, the weather and the waves will constantly change, so you better be aware of what’s going on around you. Get used to constant change, embrace it and choose your options wisely. It’s the only alternative to being pulled under by it.

(2) Light boats are faster and more flexible than heavy boats – the less stuff you carry the more easily you can react to changes in plan or weather. Have you ever tried slowing down or changing course on a container ship? It takes… forever! And needs significant resources. It’s a different life philosophy, and maybe not a bad one. But not mine. If there’s too much ballast in terms of ‘wrong’ people, things or circumstances holding you back, you have to be ready to throw some of that baggage overboard.

(3) You have to say goodbye a lot! You can remain in one place for a bit, for sure, but when you’re off to the next one, you need to say farewell. That’s not always easy, neither for you not for the people you have met. But if you stay, you should rather get a house. It’s much more comfortable if you decide to stop moving. Just be well aware that the world will not stop moving around you only because you have decided to.

(4) You need to maintain your vessel. It needs to be sharp, well in shape, fueled and taken care of. In our world: Exercise, nutrition and mental health! Rather stay in the harbor for a bit longer if it needs some shaping up, because one thing is for certain: You only have this one boat! Don’t crash it against the rocks or end up in shallow waters. That would be the end of it.

(5) You constantly have to study maps, listen to the weather forecast, learn new skills and seek advice! There’s no such thing as the perfect situation, you will always be subject to the currant, the wind, the waves, other boats, shallow waters and lots of other uncertainties. If you stop learning and being aware of your surroundings, you might sink!

(6) Most of the fun is the experience itself, not the destination, not the amenities on the boat. It’s the wind in your hair. It’s the feeling in your gut when the boat hits a bigger wave. It’s the thrill to navigate through bad weather. It’s the excitement to encounter new and unexpected landscapes. And falling in love with them. Stop only waiting to hit the next harbor. Instead, enjoy the ride!

There’s many different kind of boats, as there are many kinds of people. Some sail with the wind. Some like their motor power. Some enjoy the back seat of a large ferry with a predetermined destination. And some are fine with stand-up paddleboarding.

No matter your style, just make sure you choose the right vessel – and maintain it well!

 

“What would my life have been if…?” – About the poisonous force of regret

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Sometimes it hits me, as I’m sure it hits you. And when it does, it shows no mercy. Moments when we tear up in random places, in random moments, just like that, with no warning. My moments are: Walking through Harvard Yard in Cambridge and feeling the centuries-old holy aura of the place take over my consciousness. Standing in front of the Metropolitan Opera after strolling by Julliard Music School in New York. Being a guest at the grand opening of the Salzburg Festival, dressed in my best attire and hearing a world class performance of Orfeo et Euridice, followed by an intimate reception with the conductor and the choreograph. What is it that both hurts and elevates one so much in these moments?

I’m starting to realize that it’s showing two things. Number one: Your passion! I have a huge addiction to culture and the performing arts, and more specifically to music. That was the easy one. But more importantly number two, as a most painful awakening: the pain we feel in our chests in these moments comes from regret. Regret in its most definite and ultimate sense. Regret to not have included into our lives all that is important to us. Regret to not have read the signs and seen all the crossroads in life when they presented themselves.

Does this sound familiar at all? I bet it does. Lets not over-dramatize. Generally I like my life, and I bet you like yours too. We’ve done many things right. And I’m proud of many of my achievements. But what becomes more and more obvious is that our life is limited, and there is always a certain trade-off in decision making. And that you create your own personal “what-would’ve-happened-if” moments along the way.

For me these key moments are: “What if I would’ve”:

  • practiced the piano more thoroughly when I was still on my strongest learning curve?
  • taken a year off after school to travel the world as I wanted to?
  • made a far more conscious decision about my undergraduate studies in regards to both content and school?
  • accepted the apprenticeship as a journalist with that German economic magazine?

The list goes on and on. And so does life and its complexities. But when you pause, just as in a movie, you start seeing all these different realities unfolding before your inner eyes. What if you would paint a different reality, one that would be the result of different decision making in the past? Let’s dream for a second! I’m pretty sure I would be a journalist and artistic adviser to cultural institutions in classical music internationally. Lots of music and art and innovation and change and interesting people around me. Lots of countries, movement, change and challenge…

Where would you be?

In the end, all that matters is that we accept our current reality as one of many possible ones, but as a clear result of our conscious decision making throughout the years. And although it is an interesting play, one thing is clear: For some reason, they were the right decisions for us at that point. We made them as the people we were back then, not the ones we are today. At the best of our abilities and knowledge – even if (or even because) we had less information, guts, and faith. How much we get to know ourselves only over the years!

Is there a sense in looking back and questioning what if? Maybe. Maybe not. It certainly doesn’t change reality. But sometimes a little dreaming is not the worst thing to do and pays tribute to all the complexities of one’s self. Either way, life is incredibly exciting! A little tearing up once in a while will remind us of this, and of how  incredibly grateful we should all be for this unique journey of life – a continuous chain of decisions.

Live it up! And make smart decisions!

Always yours,

Kathrin