Photographed by Jorg Badura, Vogue, December 2004
EAT A POWER BREAKFAST
by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins
A Parisian breakfast of tartine and black coffee is romantic. A tumbler brimming with green juice is exotic. A stack of pancakes is indulgent. The egg’s image is rooted just as deep. But, to put it plainly, eggs make an inelegant breakfast; they’re utilitarian, a man’s meal. The smell of cooking eggs is one of late-night diners and Manhattan delis in the early hours. In our house, my husband, the chief egg-cooker, calls every hard-boiled egg, “a boneless chicken dinner.” Which all serves to explain why I can never bring myself to devour a plate of scrambled eggs, despite the fact that I know an egg breakfast is ideal, at least nutritionally speaking.
Eggs are full of pure protein that powers my day, slow and steady, but unstoppable. It means less carb cravings along the way, and an energy that burns long and bright. You can feel it, and at its foundation, starting my day with intentional, conscientious care launches everything right. What’s further, science recently vindicated this perfect food source, no longer considered a cause of heart disease.
Soon after hearing that researchers had redeemed the egg, I found my way back toward this wholesome morning meal through The Dictionary of Dainty Breakfasts, published in 1899, a little book with a charming, gilt-lettered cover, that came via a bookseller in England. Its author, Phyllis Browne, regarded boiled eggs as “accessory trifles,” and fried eggs without bacon as “impossible.” She preferred her eggs done in “recondite and fancy ways,” as she makes abundantly clear.
Phyllis was on to something. Eggs needn’t be pedestrian. Taking her cue, among the simply scrambled and the modestly poached, I vow to re-romance the egg, making a breakfast of Phyllis’s Eggs au Miroir (baked eggs with salted whites and buttered yolks), Eggs in Moonshine (sprinkled with parmesan), Curried Eggs (poached with spicy sauce), Eggs in Purgatory (swimming in tomato puree), Eggs in Brown Butter, and even Eggs à l’Aurore (hard-boiled and crumbled over toast with white sauce). I know practically speaking, that it’s good for me—but I’ll do it just for fun. How could I resist?
COMMIT TO SUPER SLEEP
by Leslie Camhi
I had a book due, articles to write, a family crisis that needed tending. There was no vacation—not even a brief pause—in sight when, following the strict laws of supply and demand, I determined that rest was what I most needed.
I couldn’t spend a week sailing through blue Caribbean waters, or hire a private chef to make school lunches. I was having trouble squeezing in the requisite eight hours of sleep each night, a source of anxiety in itself, as I lay awake at 3 a.m. and pondered my growing sleep debt, and the havoc that, according to the latest research, it was bound to wreak on my IQ, mood, and reflexes.
Was there something simple and within my reach that was capable of shoring up my shaky equilibrium? I spoke with Margaret Baim, a director of training at Boston’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine—a pioneering nonprofit that studies the impact of stress on health and develops techniques to combat it. She had one word for me: “Bedtime.”
She counsels low-light illumination (60 watts or less) for a full three hours before turning in, and a focus on positive thoughts. “When we put a child to bed,” she observed, “we reflect on what a wonderful day it was, and how great tomorrow will be. We don’t say, I don’t think you’re going to get your homework done tomorrow. But that’s what we do when we go to bed. We worry.”
Her prescription? “You reflect on the goodness of the day. You could watch a murder mystery, or Dexter, before you go to bed,” she added, “if the way you perceive it is through the lens of positive human qualities.”
Well, low-light illumination posed no problem, as long as it was enough to read by; it wasn’t as if I had to perform surgery after 9 p.m. The positive thoughts, some evenings, were harder to come by, but forcing myself to think of rewards, rather than anticipate punishment, also allowed me to identify the many sources of pleasure in my life, and to plan for them (something I am too often loathe to do). My bedtime is still a work in progress, but no matter how much remains to be done at day’s end, I am learning to surrender to my body’s need to rest without guilt.
PLAN A DIGITAL DETOX
by Claire Dederer
It’s a sunny Seattle afternoon. I’m sitting on my living-room couch, tracking what I’ve eaten so far today on the Livestrong app. It takes a little time to get the portions and brands entered correctly. Then I log how much exercise I’ve done, and then I check myself for my inevitable over-estimation of my activity level, otherwise known as cheating, a behavior that defeats the purpose entirely and in which I mysteriously persist.
I shift a little on the couch—the sun’s rays are making it hard to read the screen—and all of a sudden I notice what’s going on here. I’m sitting inertly on the couch gazing at a computer while I could be outside. Worse still, my logging has turned food and movement into joyless statistics. These days when I look at a bowl of polenta, I don’t see golden deliciousness; I see numbers.
I decide at that moment to try something new. I’m giving up the counting, the logging, the monitoring which has girded my eating for the past two years like a too-tight belt. Instead, I’m taking all the numbers—and the sedentary task of sitting down at the computer—out of the equation. I’m eating a vegan diet, free of rice, wheat or sugar, every day till 6 p.m., with no counting whatsoever, and in the evenings I can do whatever I want. The simplicity of the parameters makes messing up impossible and statistics unnecessary. Food becomes food again. Sunshine is a reminder to go outside.
BREAK YOUR ROUTINE
by Ginny Graves
Every afternoon I lace up my sneakers and head out to the trail near my house. Half the time I run, the other half I hike, covering anywhere from 20 to 30 miles a week—a lot of exercise, by American standards. Which is why I’ve always felt I could get by without lifting weights or stretching, pursuits I always thought were overrated anyway. Exercise extra credit.
The American College of Sports Medicine differs. Its most recent guidelines shed a spotlight on resistance training and flexibility, calling them essential to achieve optimal fitness. Without strength training, muscle mass declines—and with it, the body’s ability to burn calories; flexibility helps maintain stability, balance and range of motion—all key for aging gracefully. That means all those people who swear by their daily 5:30 a.m. cycling class or lunchtime run and do not shake up their routines are shortchanging their bodies—and even raising the risk of injury.
I know, since it’s been a while since I’ve been able to touch my toes. But I don’t want to spend hours in the gym. I ask Geralyn Coopersmith, exercise physiologist and director of Nike’s SPARQ Performance program, for the quickest way to round out my workouts. “Take a functional fitness class, like TRX or boot camp, two days a week,” she says. “It builds strength, adds lean body tissue, and improves balance.” Most classes include some stretching, so one day of hatha yoga should be enough to limber me up, she adds. My body clearly needed the challenge: After my first TRX class, I’m sore for the first time in years.