Food for Better Thought: Eating Outside the Box™

person using computer on brown wooden table

Picture this:  you’re in the zone, completely immersed in your writing endeavors. You feel you’re being your most creative and productive.  And for a short time, you feel uplifted and energized. You know what it’s like, you simply want to push on and stay focused, so you skip meals or eat irregularly.

You may cut back on sleep, working late into the night. You spend hours sitting at your desk not moving or exercising much.  You can’t be bothered right now. I get it.  Not when everything feels effortless. When you love what you’re doing. When you don’t have to work so hard to come up with creative ideas. And after you’ve shut out those annoying everyday distractions.  

It’s all flowing perfectly. Or — or is it?

Sitting for long periods, skipping eating meals, and skimping on sleep are habits won’t help you.  In fact, the cumulative effect of these practices will soon leave you feeling tired, drained, poorly nourished and reaching for bags of Oreos. Your routine may become impossible to sustain. 

Perhaps it’s time to consider eating outside the box — and going on a diet! To get maximum fire power from your brain and body to create, you may want to follow what I call the “S” or “Support” diet.  

Food for Sleep

Most people focus on the amount of sleep they get. But it may be equally important to care about when you fall asleep.

person lying on bed while covering face with pillow and holding eyeglassesBetween 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., we get into deep sleep mode.  This is when the human body works to rid itself of the harmful effects of stress, prevent tumor growth and strengthen our immune systems. The later we fall asleep, the less time our body has to repair and restore itself. Repair work of the body takes energy. If you’re not sleeping, you’re using that energy for something else other than repair work. Restoration is halted. So, if you want to produce your best work, give your brain and body a rest and time to restore.

Eat a diet including food rich in both prebiotic and probiotic foods as the bacteria in your gut can interfere with melatonin. Also, eating foods that are high in “sleep nutrients” is essential.

For example, potassium helps us stay asleep and can be found in bananas, coconut water and avocados. Magnesium is a relaxant, and helps us to fall asleep, but 80% of us are believed to be deficient in this multitasking mineral! Think about eating foods such as greens, nuts, seeds, dry beans, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.

Also, pay attention to your last meal of the day. A balanced dinner should include an ample amount of protein, vegetables, healthy fats and a small amount of “slow, “low-complex” carbs such as sweet potatoes, wild rice or quinoa.

Sugar Balance Food

While eating a large amount of sugar is certainly something to avoid, simple carbohydrates are at the forefront of what you should be keeping an eye on when pairing your meals. These turn into sugar in the blood, and when eaten in abundance without pairing your meals properly, they can cause your blood sugar to spike quickly.  

Pairing your complex carbohydrate food with proteins and other healthy items will help your body break those carbs down more slowlyslower, maintaining a balanced blood sugar for longer. Incorporate colorful veggies, greens, berries  and melons, healthy fats and fiber into your diet. Doing so will help you to balance your blood sugar throughout the day.

Sip

When you’re too busy focusing on your creative work and don’t drink enough fluids, you can become dehydrated. Dehydration can impair mood and concentration and contribute to sliced lemonsheadaches, fatigue and dizziness. It can also reduce your physical endurance. 

Water is needed for every cell and function in your body. So, keep your water bottle handy and filled. And be sure to sip throughout the day.  

Also, many foods contain significant amounts of water (especially fruits and vegetables such as cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, celery, spinach, lettuce, apples, pears, oranges, grapes, carrots and pineapple). These foods are over 80% water, so they’re good sources of hydration and can a many make for good snacks.

Skip drinking sugary juices or sodas, which do nothing to improve your blood sugar. Get a water bottle with an infuser and add fresh fruits or vegetables to it. Lemon and cucumber are delightfully delicious ways to boost flavor and nutrition profile.

Stretch, Steps and Stand

Do you experience inertia when it comes to sitting for so long? Can you stand up and move about every 15-to-30-minutes when you’ve been sitting for too long at your computer? When you find yourself sitting for periods, can you challenge yourself to take only 5 minutes a day to do some form of movement? You can stretch with a couple of yoga poses, walk to your kitchen (where you grab a healthy snack) and back or simply stand up. Start with a small commitment and grow from there.  

It’s important to change your physicality, and here’s why: it helps to get your creative juices flowing. Moving to new surroundings, being with nature or meditating can help you to come up with inventive ideas. Even moving from a sitting position to a standing one can help with creative thinking.

Snacks

You know what happens when you’re engrossed in a project and can’t be bothered with eating, but you know you need some fuel to keep going. That’s when you reach for those Oreos.

Here are some snacks that are both nutritious and delicious (and weight-loss friendly):

Nuts contain both protein and fiber. Taking only a small amount may make you feel satisfied. And let’s not forget another good thing about nuts is the vitamins and minerals you can get from eating them.


Fresh fruit
contains sugar, but whole fruits (not juice – with high fructose levels or sweetened dried fruit) contain a fair bit of water and fiber. They’re a source of many essential nutrients that are not always consumed enough through our dietary intake. And fresh fruit is low in calories, fat, and sodium. Fiber has a “satiety factor” and it helps to slow release of fruit sugar into your bloodstream and reduce the notorious “blood sugar spike.”

Chia is not only high in fiber (we’re talking HIGH in fiber), but it also contains protein and omega-3 fatty acids as well as antioxidants, calcium, and magnesium. The seeds absorb a lot of liquid, so by soaking them for a few minutes, you can make a thick pudding that is delicious and fills you up.  All you need to do is place 2 tablespoons  of chia in a bowl with ½ cup of nut milk and wait a few minutes.  Add in some berries, chopped fruit or nuts, or cinnamon and enjoy!

Eggs (boiled or poached) are packed with nutrition. They’re a natural source of vitamin E, and most of it is in the yolk.  They contain a lot of high-quality protein and a good number of other vitamins and minerals. Boil some and keep them in your fridge for a super-quick (and nutritious) snack! For most healthy people, eggs have a neutral to favorable effect on the balance between good and bad cholesterol.  However, be sure to consider the recommended daily limits on cholesterol in your food, (especially if you have diabetes).

Veggies contain fiber and water to help fill you up, with fewer calories. Most important, vegetables contain nutrients that are vital to the health and maintenance of your body. Common nutrients found in veggies include fiber, folate, potassium and vitamins A and C. You can easily open a bag of baby carrots or cherry tomatoes and give them a quick rinse (they’re already bite-sized). Use a bit of dip or place some almond butter on celery.

Savor Space & Substantial Downtime

We need time during the day to replenish our brain’s stores of attention and motivation.  When you nap, take a siesta, go for a walk or meditate to unwind, you are encouraging productivity and creativity. Daytime breaks may help you generate your most innovative ideas.  This is when epiphanies occur, or when you may come up with the answer to a perplexing problem you’re working on.  

Sure, you may be in the middle of a creative storm and the thought of taking a food break leaves you itching to return to your computer. But if you take some waking rest in your kitchen, you may be surprised not only with some great food but when you return to your desk, you may have some new ideas ready to come out and play.   You’ll be ready for them: percolating and the time you spent eating alone or with family may leave you feeling replenished.

By following the “S” diet, you’ll receive the nutritional support you need to stay the course of your writing or other creative endeavor in a healthy way and to tackle your project with a new vitality.

Check out my recipe below.  You’ll find these 2-ingredient Almond Butter Stuffed Dates are the perfect way to satisfy a sweet tooth without adding processed sugar.  Plus, they’re high in fiber and healthy fats.  And, oh my goodness, do they taste delicious!

Recipe:  Almond Butter Stuffed Dates

Ingredients

12 Medjool Dates (no sulfites) 

12 tsp. Almond Butter (no added sugar or oil)

Optional Toppings:  unsweetened shredded coconut, pomegranate seeds, chia seeds, hemp hearts, cinnamon and/or a pinch of sea salt  

Preparation 

Create a vertical slit in the center of the date, remove pits if necessary.  Spoon one teaspoon of the almond butter into the center of each date. 

Add optional toppings like coconut or a dash of sea salt to suit your taste buds.

Enjoy these sweet high-fiber treats as they are, or you can freeze them to enjoy later.  Just remember that 1 or 2 is a serving.

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Disclaimer: 

Any and all content of this blog post is for general educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Please be advised that you are accountable and responsible for your own health and for making your own judgments, decisions, and for forming your own opinions concerning your health. Do not use the information in this blog post to diagnose or treat any illness, medical or health condition. Please consult with a qualified physician before engaging in any significant diet, fitness, or lifestyle change or making any changes with regard to supplements, herbs, vitamins or prescription drugs.

Barb Wickland, a Board-certified Holistic Health Coach and Creator of Belly Beautiful™ provides health and lifestyle coaching for postmenopausal women to Keep Weight Off and Live the Healthier, Simplified Life!  You can reach her at barb@feedyourselffully.com 

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Want to share with other members of the #writingcommunity or #readersoftwitter ? It’s easy to click to tweet.

Everything feels effortless. You love what you’re doing. You don’t have to work so hard to come up with creative ideas. Click To Tweet

If you’re not sleeping, restoration is halted. So, if you want to produce your best work, give your brain and body a rest and time to restore. Click To Tweet

This is when epiphanies occur, or when you may come up with the answer to a perplexing problem you’re working on. Click To Tweet

 

 

 

More Free Pictures For You

As you know, posts — both blog posts and social media — with pictures perform better than those without.

Lately, I have made an effort to get my pics from different sites so that my images stay fresh.  It’s easy to get lazy but I don’t like seeing the same pictures used over and over — especially within my personal circle.

Here are a few more author-friendly photography sites. Some fine print for you — I haven’t tried all of these yet so please read the user agreements carefully and, if you wouldn’t mind — when you use one, please tell us about your experience in the comments. And, if you have other , similar sites to share with other co-op members, go ahead and add them below.

 

A wall with grafitti that says I Love You in several languages.

Gratisography  –  Is a small site, also with a  ”use as you wish” license.

Kaboompics

MMT

Here’s a previous post on sourcing free photography (with worry-free copyright agreements) to enhance your work.

 

 

 

 
jumbled pile of old-looking clocks with different faces and different times

5 Ways to Bring Clarity to Your Cover

You may have heard before that the most important job of a book cover is to get the reader’s attention, right? It must be compelling enough to get the reader to PICK IT UP. Like a brownie, a cute kitten, or a fifty-dollar bill. Then, hopefully, the reader is so intrigued by the rest of the content, he or she just can’t let it go and has to buy it.

For book covers, website pages and advertisements (as well as for basketball violations and dropped food) the  3-Second Rule applies. In this case, it means that you really have only three seconds to grab the attention of your audience. It suggests that we all have absurdly short attention spans, but we also value our time. If we don’t get an immediate read from something that ignites our personal brain cells, we move on.

Make Your 3 Seconds BIG

So how do you maximize your three seconds to get into the hands of your reader? There are many elements of a successful book cover, and one I am learning about now: clarity. But what does that mean? That my images are clear? My text is sharp? My book description is short, strong and to the point?And what could I possibly do to bring even more clarity?

Let’s start with the essentials:

Information is key. A book cover must include the basic information to identify it, categorize it, and make it findable. These are the title, author’s name, publisher name and logo. There should also be an EAN barcode that displays your 13-digit ISBN, and the shelving category, such as mystery, thriller, fantasy, non-fiction, or my favorite, historical fiction, so the librarians and bookstore owners know where to put your book. Speaking of the back cover, you might spend almost as much time perfecting your back-cover description as you did writing the book, because if your cover design is the lure, the back-cover copy is the hook. Make it sharp!

Appearance. What is the most compelling image you can use that not only identifies the subject matter, but also provides some sort of ‘eye candy’? This is the lure, that shiny thing that gets the fish to bite. It doesn’t have to be an image, it may also be words, but it has to grab the reader. Not only that, but it has to have the same effect when you shrink it down to thumbnail size that will appear in an online search—the image still clear and identifiable, the text still easy to read.

Your Book vs. Competitors

Competitiveness. Your book needs to stand out against competitors when it is on a shelf, table, or in a search list. Look at other books in your category. Do your color choices stand up beside them? Is the color and image stimulating and appropriate to your subject matter? Can you make yours just a little bit better than theirs?

Layout. How is the content—the images and type—organized on the page so that it is pleasing to the eye, well placed and sized to allow instant reading? Professional designers use a grid that hides in the background to ensure spacing is balanced and exact, because if it is not, the human eye can subconsciously detect that something is wrong. Make sure your font is well chosen and appropriate. I am a big proponent of using a strong, consistent font as part of your personal brand. Also, For added clarity, try to restrict yourself to three fonts on your cover: title, subtitle/author, and text font for your back-cover copy. Additional fonts make your cover look confusing and unprofessional.

Clarity. Make sure your cover communicates as clearly as possible what your book is about.

Now we come to the issue that troubled me. I entered a literary contest recently and scored well, with very positive comments from the judges, but was downgraded a little on the cover design. I was perplexed. I thought my cover was well-made for my category. It had all the required data plus a robust, vetted title and story description. And it had a stunning 17th-century portrait as the central image.

But the thing is, my topic is a little obscure. I write 17th-century Irish historical novels. While the content is really quite engaging, it’s not the stuff of everyone’s normal education, at least not in the U.S. And the truth is—except for a small percentage of risk takers—book buyers tend to gravitate toward what they already know.

In looking at the three winners of this contest, the covers were, in my opinion, not that strong or magnetic, and one was quite hard to read. But, all three were well identified for topic. One included a subhead, “a novel of the Battle of Britain.” Everyone has heard of the Battle of Britain. The next one was “a novel of the Civil War.” We all know about that. And the third had a title that made clear it was a novel about the Native American experience. The reader immediately gets it.

Clarity Helps the Reader Get Comfy

So, if I want to compete with common knowledge, my cover has to work a little harder. The front cover of my next novel includes this blurb, “Based on a true story of the Great Irish Rebellion” along with Celtic graphics. Back cover copy has additional detail. The topic still may not be something readers personally know, but they might be more willing to take a chance if I’ve checked off all the clarity boxes.

Whatever your novel is about, use your subhead, back cover copy or short descriptive text on the front cover to immediately connect your book to something your readers will recognize. Then perhaps those who pick up your book will also carry it home, safe in the knowledge that the writer will maintain them on familiar ground.


Look: It’s Easy to Share This With Your Twitter Followers

Your book cover must be compelling enough to get the reader to PICK IT UP. Like a brownie, a cute kitten, or a fifty-dollar bill. Click To Tweet

If your cover design is the lure — the shiny thing that gets interest — the back-cover copy is the hook. Make it sharp! Click To Tweet

The 3-Second Rule applies to book covers so how do you maximize your three seconds to get into the hands of your reader? Click To Tweet