Tag Archives: brain

Vegan Diets Cannot Save the Planet

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about the book The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith.   I won’t repeat what I said in that post except to note that humans are not meant to be vegans.  We need to eat animal protein (fish, shellfish, eggs, poultry, some red meat) in order to be healthy.  Fatty fish and eggs are especially important for proper brain growth, development, and health.  Refusing to eat them could result in decreased mental ability as one ages.

Another recent fad is the raw food movement. Now, I am not against eating raw foods.  However, I am against the concept that one should eat only raw foods, especially if that means only vegan raw foods (i.e. no sushi).

As neuroscientist Susanna Herculano-Houzel notes in her TED talk, cooking food allowed our human brains to expand in neuronal number and connections far beyond what would be expected for a primate our size.  If our ancestors had not begun cooking their food, especially meat, we would not be advanced much beyond chimpanzees in brain capacity and ability.

Human Brains Need Cooked Food

Vegan/vegetarian diets will also not save our planet from destruction.  Keith covers some of the reasons for this in her book, but ecologist Allan Savory’s TED talk provides yet another reason that humans need meat in their diets: in order to reverse climate change and desertification, we need to have large herds of animals mimicking the herds that once roamed the savannas and grasslands.

Herd Animals Can Reverse Climate Change

Savory’s thesis seems counter-intuitive.  Even he thought that before he tried it.  The results are amazing.

Points to ponder and remember:
1] We need cooked animal protein for healthy brains and bodies.
2] Managing herd animals correctly can save the planet.
3] Grasses (wheat, corn, rice, etc.) are for herd animals to eat, while the herd animals are for us to eat.

See you at the barbecue!




Save your Brain!


A few decades ago, a talk show co-host  infamous for his temper bragged that he needed only four hours of sleep.  Current research has shown that the two are connected.  Inadequate levels of sleep lead to reduced willpower and increased inability to maintain an even temperament.  If you find your temper easily frays or that your thinking is sluggish, look to how much you sleep.  Sleep deprivation impairs glucose regulation which negatively impacts willpower. The result may be a frayed temper along with a series of poor decisions.

Reduced willpower and sluggish thinking as a result of inadequate sleep may be caused by deterioration of neurons in the brain. These neurons work hard when you are awake and can become over-stressed if there is not enough of a recovery period during sleep.   As neurons break down, so does your thinking.

Although the ideal number of hours of sleep vary by individual and by age, research at the National Sleep Foundation  suggests that the average adult needs 7 – 8 hours of sleep to achieve optimal physical and mental health results.  You can read more about the importance of sleep in the chapter ‘To Sleep…’  in Walking in Sunshine.

Organizing a Life Record

Journal (383x640)I’ve never been one to write in a diary or to journal, even though this is supposed to be a good way to better understand where you are and where you want to go in life.  I see the beautiful, blank-page books and think, “I’d like to own that.”  In fact, I do own a couple of these books.  But they are empty.  I display them as objets d’art on shelves.  They are empty in part because I like them pristine, but I also don’t want to commit my thoughts to those pages because I am sure I would want to make changes, erasures, etc.  The pages would be messy and, given my handwriting, unreadable.  The book would no longer be lovely.

Blogging is a better form of journaling since I can easily edit the ‘pages’.  However, since I publish these pages, I don’t wish to make the blog posts too personal.  But I would like to have a record of life events and, on occasion, my thoughts on those events.

My solution to this issue is to use Google Calendar as a sort of diary/journal.  I record events (an old man drove his car into my tree!), which I can later find (when did that happen?) by using key word search.  This is much better than a traditional diary or journal.  Another benefit is that I won’t lose this ‘diary’ since it exists in the ‘cloud.’

I also use the calendar for its intended purpose which is to schedule activities. Beyond that, I use the calendar as my To Do list: I schedule blocks of  time for each thing I need to do.  I’ve found I tend not to look at To Do lists after I write them.  But if I give the item a block of time on a particular day, it is more likely to be accomplished since I receive automatic reminders that also show up in my Gmail account.  This type of ‘list’ is also flexible.  If I find that I really cannot do that item at that time, it is easy to move it to a different day or time.  I am much more productive and organized when I schedule everything.

Different types of items/events can be  color coded, which can be useful to highlight when an activity is repeated over the course of the week or month.  For instance, I block out all the class periods I teach in one color, with the time I need to leave to make the drive to the college in another color.  I schedule those blocks at the beginning of the semester so that I will not accidentally plan a competing event.  As another example, when I realize I need to do laundry, I put it on the calendar.  I do the same with grocery shopping.  Everything is put on the calendar.  If I want to make sure I get a book read for book club, I schedule time for it on the calendar.

Some of you probably think I am over-scheduling, but I find that it actually simplifies my life.  Once it is on the calendar, I don’t have to worry that I will forget to do it.  My stress level is reduced.

When I work on something that was not originally on the calendar, I put it on the calendar so that I have a record of doing that particular job.  This is especially important if you do freelance work.  You can also make notes in the job block about the task. You can add hot links to the calendar block to provide further information on an event.  For instance, if you have a meeting with a new client, you can add the URL of their website to that time slot to provide a reminder to refresh your memory about that client.

This is obviously a personal calendar not meant to be shared.  Many of you will have a shared work calendar.  However, I know it is possible with Google Calendar to determine whether an item is public or private, so you should be able to use one calendar for both work and personal activities.

I have the calendar pin-tabbed in my browser so that it opens and stays open when I open the browser.  This makes it easy to add notes and new events.  The calendar is also synced with my phone and Nook so that I can stay on track.

As an organization tool and life record, Google Calendar really does make life run more smoothly and productively while reducing stress.  There is no need for a diary, a journal, or to do lists in addition to a calendar.  Everything can be done  on one screen that  is easily modified and won’t be lost.  Organize your life with Google Calendar.  Give it a try.

Note: Outlook’s Calendar probably can be used in a similar way.  I just prefer Google.