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How Your Smartphone is Making You Dumb and What to Do About It

Would you, could you put your phone away even just for a day?

Just in time for the National Day of Unplugging (celebrated on both March 9 and 10), author Catherine Price shares tips from her new book, How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life (Ten Speed Press).

If you’re like most people, your phone is within arm’s reach of you right this very second (that is, if you’re not reading this article on it to begin with), and the mere mention of it is making you want to check something. Like the news. Or your texts. Or your email. Or your Instagram feed. Or, really, anything at all.

Go ahead and do it. And then come back to this page and notice how you feel. Are you calm? Focused? Present? Satisfied? Or are you feeling a little scattered and uneasy, vaguely stressed without really knowing why?

Continue reading in Parade

How to Break Up with Your Phone

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The moment I realized I needed to break up with my phone came just over two years ago. I had recently had a baby and was feeding her in a darkened room as she cuddled on my lap. It was an intimate, tender moment — except for one detail. She was gazing at me … and I was on eBay, scrolling through listings for Victorian-era doorknobs.

I’m not going to try to explain this particular personal passion. The point is that a good 15 minutes had probably passed before I finally caught sight of my daughter looking at me, her tiny face illuminated by my phone’s blue light. I saw the scene as it would have looked to an outsider — her focused on me, me focused on my phone — and my heart sank. This was not the way I wanted things to be.

An increasing number of us are coming to realize that our relationships with our phones are not exactly what a couples therapist would describe as “healthy.” According to data from Moment, a time-tracking app with nearly five million users, the average person spends four hours a day interacting with his or her phone.

Continue reading in the New York Times

How Not to Let Your Phone Ruin Your Vacation

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Strategies for traveling without letting your phone keep you from enjoying your trip.

Now that summer is in full swing, a lot of people have been asking me the same question: How can you take your phone with you on vacation without letting your phone ruin your vacation?

It’s a modern quandary: Phones are obviously useful tools, especially when you’re on the road. But too often, a quick check turns into an hourlong scroll session. And if you’re going to spend your trip trolling Instagram or responding to emails, what’s the point of leaving home?

It might seem absurd to have to strategize how to set boundaries with your smartphone. But the reward — a vacation that feels like a vacation — is well worth the work. Here are some useful tips on how to use your phone on vacation, without letting it hijack your trip.

Continue reading in the New York Times

9 Ways to Finally Stop Spending So Much Time on Your Phone

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9 Ways to Finally Stop Spending So Much Time on Your Phone

“Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything,” Steve Jobs said in 2007, when he introduced the first iPhone. Eleven years later, the question isn’t whether he was right. It’s whether we like the way we’ve changed.

Today, the average American checks his or her phone 47 times a day — many more if they’re younger — and spends about four hours a day staring at its screen. That’s roughly a sixth of our total time alive. Given these numbers, it makes sense that there’s an increasing sense of concern over our relationships with our phones. In January, two of Apple’s biggest shareholders wrote an open letter to Apple requesting that the company provide “more choices and tools”that can help parents set limits on their children’s phone time. In the same month, Facebook announced that it had overhauled the algorithms behind its news feed, to put more emphasis on “meaningful interactions” — i.e., posts from friends and family members, rather than brands. And February saw the launch of the Center for Humane Technology, a coalition of former tech employees who are alarmed about the impact of the technologies they helped create.

Continue reading on Time.com

How to Break Up with Donald Trump

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The psychology of why you can’t look away — and how to do it anyway.

Pop quiz: On average, who do you spend more time thinking about?

A. Your best friend
B. Donald Trump

A. Your mother
B. Donald Trump

A. The person you love the most in the world
B. Donald Trump

If you answered all Bs, you’re in good company: America is obsessed with Donald Trump. With our smartphones as our enablers, we’re reading about, listening to, and discussing Trump from the moment we wake up in the morning until we lay our heads down at night. It’s an unhealthy relationship, and for the sake of ourselves and our country, it’s time for us to take back our lives.

Continue reading on Medium

 

The Real Cost of Phone Addiction

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You, like most people, probably use your phone too much. People spend an average of four hours a day staring at their handheld screen, according to the time-tracking app Moment, and that doesn’t include time spent using their phones to do other things, like listen to podcasts or take calls. Engage in any activity for that long and it changes your brain. Those changes may be positive if we are talking about, say, meditation. Less so if it’s time spent staring at your phone.

For the past three years, I have been conducting research and writing a book about our relationships with our phones. I’ve since concluded that phone time is affecting everything from our memories and attention spans to our creativity, productivity, relationships, stress levels, physical health, and sleep. In short, if you feel like your phone is changing you — and not always for the better — you’re not crazy. You’re right.

Continue reading on Medium

Scurvy!

  Yale Center For British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Yale Center For British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

If you think that scurvy is just about loose teeth, think again. For Distillations (the magazine of the Chemical Heritage Foundation), I tell the crazy story of a disease that killed more than two million sailors between the time of Columbus’s transatlantic voyage and the rise of steam engines in the mid-19th century—and explain how a lot of what you think you know about it is probably wrong.

Q&A With Anahad O'Connor for the New York Times

I recently had the chance to do a Q&A with Anahad O'Connor, nutrition reporter extraordinaire, for the New York Times. Here's the full Q&A. 

And here's his intro:

"Many people can rattle off the names of the most popular vitamins and the foods that contain them in abundance. But understanding exactly what vitamins are and what roles they play in the body is far more complicated. In fact, though scientists recognize that there are 13 vitamins that are essential for good health, there is no real consensus on what they actually do and exactly how much of them we truly need.

Catherine Price, a science journalist, explores these questions and more in a book that was recently released in paperback, called “Vitamania: Our Obsessive Quest for Nutritional Perfection.” Ms. Price traces the history of vitamins from their discovery as lifesaving organic compounds that prevented strange diseases to their ubiquity today in foods, beverages and dietary supplements. Ms. Price sheds surprising light on the mythology surrounding vitamins and explains why even basic advice promoted by experts – like the nutrient requirements for healthy adults known as the recommended dietary allowance, or RDA – may be misguided.

Recently, we sat down with Ms. Price to discuss some of the most common misconceptions about vitamins, the reasons vitamin D testing can be misleading, and which questions you should ask yourself before deciding whether to take a multivitamin. Here are edited excerpts from our conversation."

Did You Know That America Used To Be Obsessed With Eating Yeast?

I did not—at least until I went way, way, way down a yeast rabbit hole for Vitamania, and ended up learning a lot more about America's yeast craze than, well, I'm going to guess nearly anyone. Some of the best stuff got cut from the book, but thankfully was revamped for this feature piece in Distillations Magazine. Grab a yeast cake and check it out!

Vitamins keep us healthy. But they're also making us sick.

In anticipation of the launch of Vitamania, I had an op-ed in the New York Times' Sunday Review about the hidden fortification of our food supply -- and what it's doing to our health. 

"THERE is much concern these days about what’s in our dietary supplements. Are they actually filled with the ingredients that the labels promise?

Maybe, maybe not. Quality control issues in the estimated 85,000 dietary supplement products available in America should give every consumer pause. But even vitamins themselves — the 13 dietary chemicals necessary to prevent deficiency diseases like scurvy and rickets — pose hidden hazards of their own." 

Read more . . . 

(image credit: Oivin Horvei for the New York Times)

Vitamin History in the New Statesman

In the UK, Vitamania is called The Vitamin Complex. In celebration of its release, I have a piece in the New Statesman about the history of vitamin marketing and how it still affects us today. 

Iceberg lettuce, which is essentially water in leaf form, became “Nature’s Concentrated Sunshine”; bananas were a “natural vitality food.” Ralston Wheat Cereal put “the B1 in Breakfast.” “New research” suggested it was probably a good idea to “start or end One Meal a Day with Canned Pineapple”. If you didn’t want to risk vitamin starvation (“a danger that gives no warning!”) you’d better eat Del Monte “vitamin-protected” canned foods. Schlitz Sunshine Vitamin D Beer launched in 1936 with the tagline: “Beer is good for you . . . but SCHLITZ, the beer with Sunshine Vitamin D, is extra good for you.”

By the time the first synthetic vitamins became available in the Thirties and Forties, consensus was gathering around the idea that inadequate nutrition – including vitamin deficiencies – could affect not just people’s health status, but their personalities. As far back as 1927, Grape-Nuts had run an ad suggesting that poor nutrition could put children at risk of “unfortunate personality traits” including self-centeredness, shyness, lack of confidence, selfishness, jealousy, depression, and self-pity.

The Surprising Story of a Beriberi Bad Disease

For Slate, I write about thiamin deficiencies, chickens, and the long and fascinating path to the discovery of the vitamins. 

In the mid-1800s, a strange sickness was devastating parts of Southeast Asia. Known as beriberi, it began with intense swelling of the legs and feet and a general sense of numbness, especially in the extremities. Victims developed a distinctive gait, lifting their knees high in the air and swinging their legs forward so that their drooping toes wouldn’t catch on the ground. Their urine became concentrated and their appetites waned, even as their bodies wasted away. Eventually, they lost their voices and died in suffocating convulsions. Its cause was a mystery; no one knew a prevention, let alone a cure.

Flywheel: Spin Class for the Truly Masochistic

Flywheel, in case you do not keep up with the stationary biking/clubbing scene in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Florida, Atlanta, North Carolina, Texas, or—now—Philadelphia, is a descendant of SoulCycle, another New York-based spinning cult. By “spinning,” I mean a fitness class where you ride on a stationary bike in a dark room, sprinting up imaginary hills to a soundtrack of Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. And by cult, I mean, well, cult. In my one and only SoulCycle class (a single class in Manhattan costs $34), I watched a group of ponytailed, aggressively fit women—many in makeup, at least one carrying a gold-embossed SoulCycle gym bag—line up on the sidewalk on Manhattan’s Upper East Side outside what used to be a bodega-sized store called Champagne Video. Their $34 did not buy them a locker room, or even a shower. It was good only for 45 minutes in a small room that was packed so tightly with bikes that it was difficult to maneuver between them, and a sound system so loud that I took them up on the complimentary earplugs. “Change Your Body, Take Your Journey, Find Your Soul,” read the manifesto on the wall

For Slate, I reveal my competitive streak.  Did I mention that I won?

Diabetes in the New York Times

 

Before I received the diagnosis that I had Type 1 diabetes, I saw food as food, and ate it as such -- simply, casually, with no real thought attached.

The winter of my senior year of college, after a bad cold and a painful breakup, I began eating more -- not to cope, but to feel full. I was hungry, always hungry. Hungry and thirsty and tired, piling my tray in the dining hall with pasta, cheese, dessert, getting up in the middle of the night to slurp water from my dorm's bathroom faucet.

I gorged myself and yet my pants were looser, my arms thinner, my stomach flatter. One afternoon I threw it all up, convinced I had food poisoning. My stomach eventually settled but my mind did not. The world swirled. I couldn't stand without stumbling. On February 17th, 2001, I entered the hospital, and since that day, food has never been the same.

In 2009, Tara Parker-Pope at the New York Times published an essay of mine in the Well blog called "Thinking About Diabetes With Every Bite." about my experience living with Type 1 diabetes. Not only was I thrilled to have such a personal piece placed in the Times, but I've been incredibly touched by the wonderful feedback I've gotten from other people with Type 1 (and Type 2). It's inspired me to keep writing about diabetes -- if you want to read more, check out my blog over at the diabetes website, A Sweet Life.

Road Kill: Is it Fair Game?

In a piece for Slate, I wrote about the time when my husband and I ate a rabbit we found in the middle of the road. I was not anticipating that they would illustrate it.

It really was a good-looking rabbit. Shiny coat, sleek body, glassy eyes—only its mangled back leg hinted at its violent cause of death. My husband Peter and I had come across this rabbit on a trip to a bird sanctuary in Gridley, Calif. It was lying in the middle of a narrow country road, stretched stiffly across the pavement; Peter swerved slightly to avoid its body.

"That was a pretty rabbit," he said, guiding the car back into the correct lane.

I agreed. We continued down the road in silence. Then, several hundred meters later, Peter spoke again.

"Should we go back and pick it up?"

He was suggesting that we take the rabbit home and eat it. Yes, I'm aware that this sounds crazy. And no, I'm not a back-to-the-land hippie: I grew up in Manhattan, where eating something off the street will likely result in an untimely death. But we were living in Oakland, Calif., dangerously close to Berkeley—the epicenter of the organic food movement, where the words local andsustainable are prized more than Michelin stars. This rabbit was wild, grass-fed, and presumably antibiotic- and artificial hormone-free. Except for the car that had hit it, no food miles had been accrued delivering it to us. So why not bring it home for dinner?

Four Days in Tokyo for O

It was Friday night in Shinjuku, a Tokyo neighborhood famous for neon signs, subterranean shopping malls, and rent-by-the-hour lodgings known as love hotels. In crowded bars, people tipped back beers and sang karaoke. Young men with black jackets and gelled hair stood on street corners, offering menus of available escorts to passersby. In the midst of the action was a store window, covered except for a narrow strip of glass. If you were to have stopped and looked through it, you would have seen something strange: my legs, submerged to the ankles, with 600 flesh-eating fish feasting on my feet.

This is the story of how I got there.

I recently had the amazing opportunity to write a story for O, The Oprah Magazineabout taking a trip in which I based all of my decisions, from what I saw to where I slept, on the recommendations of strangers. It's out in the June issue, along with this slide show.

101 Places Not To See Before You Die

My travel book is out!:

Now out from HarperPaperbacks, 101 Places Not To See Before You Die is a guide to some of the least appealing destinations and experiences in the world. From the armpit of New Jersey to the Beijing Museum of Tap Water to, of course, Euro Disney, it includes some of the most boring museums,stupidest historical attractions, and worst Superfund sites you’ll ever have the pleasure of not visiting. But the book goes much further.Jupiter’s Worst Moon, an Outdoor Wedding During the 2021 Reemergence of the Great Eastern Cicada Brood, Fan Hours at the Las Vegas Porn Convention —101 Places Not To See Before You Die travels through time and space to provide a welcome — and unusual — reprieve from the glut of “inspirational” travel books currently on the market.

Far from being just an encyclopedic list of crappy travel statistics, 101 Places Not To See Before You Die is also a backhanded tribute to what makes traveling so great: its tendency to put us in situations that we otherwise never would have experienced. With guest entries from writers like Nick Kristof and A.J. Jacobs, 101 Places Not To See Before You Die is filled with stories and anecdotes of misadventure to which any seasoned traveler can relate. These are the experiences we tell to friends afterwards, the stories that earn us bragging rights, the reason why we’re willing to put up with the bed bugs and the food poisoning and set out to explore to the world.

101 Places Not To See Before You Die: Because Bad Places Make Good Stories.

 

Why I Hate Partner Yoga

My dislike of partner yoga started with a stranger's sweaty thighs. I had just moved from Brooklyn, N.Y., to the San Francisco Bay Area, and I was working my way through a Sunday morning Vinyasa class with the same discipline, determination and Type A drive I bring to most attempts at relaxation. But I kept getting distracted by the young man next to me. To be specific, I was distracted by the moisture he was producing. No sooner had we started sun salutations than the man began to sweat, energetically and abundantly. By the time the class was halfway through, drops of perspiration rolled off his nose with the regularity of a leaking faucet, and a puddle had formed on the floor in front of his mat. Instead of wiping off his face with a towel, he removed his shirt. Now sweat began to drip from a new spot: his nipples.

When I go to yoga, I want to be alone. Apparently I'm not the only one, as I discovered after I wrote this article for Salon.