Posts filed under ‘news around the blogosphere’

Chocolate is not only good for us; it’s good for the environment, too!

Not only are you helping your body when you eat chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, you’re also helping the environment.  How?  Scientists have unveiled a chocolate-fueled race car.

It’s a race car that runs on vegetable oil and waste from chocolate factories.  So go ahead:  chow on some chocolate.  You’ll satisfy your craving for a sweet, give your body some much-needed antioxidants, and you’ll be helping to create biofuel for the vehicles of the future!

May 6, 2009 at 2:09 pm 1 comment

Can eating healthy hurt you?

A recent article in the NY Times suggests that being too health conscious about food can actually be harmful, especially to kids.  Apparently, some of them are obsessing about sodium and fat and calories to the point where they’re afraid to eat.  Hmm… I’m not sure I totally believe that as I read a lot more stories about kids suffering from lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes due to obesity.  Anyway… this extreme obsession with healthy food has been dubbed “orthorexia”.

Orthorexia is an obsession with healthy, pure eating that can sometimes lead people to consume too few calories because they want to be extra sure the food is good for them.  In most cases, these folks are not in any physical danger, but they may suffer from unnecessary anxiety because of the “condition”.

I certainly don’t eat too little food because of my concerns about healthful eating, but I do get seriously nerved up about what I eat and how much.  It stresses me out a lot, and one of my goals this year is to stop worrying so much and learn to trust my body to do what’s right for it.  Trusting my body is much easier said than done because my instincts have been out of whack for so long.  It’s getting better, though… baby steps.

Supposedly one person has died because of “orthorexia”.  Someone named Kate Finn passed away in 2003 because of heart damage due to emaciation prompted not by a desire to lose weight but a focus on eating super healthy.

Going back even further, in the 1980s, there were concerns about “muesli belt malnutrition” in which kids were eating so supposedly healthfully that they weren’t getting the vitamins they needed.  This has been mostly debunked, but it brings up a good point.  Anytime we obsess on something, it can lead to bad results.  Balance is the key in all endeavours.  Again, easier said than done. 

I’m not too worried about being “too healthy”.  I’m more concerned about how much I berate myself when I don’t achieve the high standards I set for myself.  All that negative energy is very harmful.  As I mentioned earlier, that’s why I’m working on attaining some sort of peace with the process.  I’ve been reading books, but more important, I’ve attended a couple of intuitive workshops through my pole fitness studio.  These workshops have been very insightful and helpful.  Cleaning out the negative energies in my food and fitness space is critical.  I will soon have a one-on-one session with the healer who teaches the workshops.  I think that’ll be of tremendous benefit to my efforts to make the next phase of my lifestyle change more relaxed and positive.

March 3, 2009 at 6:13 am 3 comments

The hard truth about weight loss

As great as my weight loss success has been, I frequently get discouraged by how long it has taken and how hard I still have to work to keep the pounds off. Shows like “The Biggest Loser” and magazine covers featuring women who’ve lost hundreds of pounds in a few months… rather than inspiring me, they bum me out because they make me feel like my results are not good enough.

So I was actually happy to read MSNBC’s “Forget low-fat — calories count more in dieting”. It provides details on a federal study that followed participants for two years and really confirms what I know to be true – as much as TV and magazines want to convince me otherwise.

1. Calories count. It doesn’t matter how you lower them – by cutting out carbs or fat or whatever; they just have to be lowered. The bottom line is that you’re not going to lose weight unless you consume fewer calories (or burn a bunch of them off through extremely high levels of exercise).

2. It takes a l-o-n-g time to lose a relatively small amount of weight. We don’t want to hear it; we are SUCH an instant gratification culture. In this study, participants lost an average of 13 pounds in six months. Most people I know would be disappointed instead of happy.

3. Chances are, the weight’s gonna come back. “…all groups saw their weight creep back up after a year. At two years, the average weight loss was about 9 pounds while waistlines shrank an average of 2 inches. Only 15 percent of dieters achieved a weight-loss reduction of 10 percent or more of their starting weight.”

I have been doing this for six and a half years, maintaining 117 pounds off. Sometimes, I’ve lost a bit more, sometimes a bit less. But, overall I have maintained – and continuously exercised – for an extended period of time. It’s taken a tremendous effort, and it’s still really, really difficult. This study is affirming. Whew! I don’t have to be so hard on myself! I am doing a terrific job, considering the odds are clearly against me. Based on this good news, I’m giving a shout-out to myself… and a reminder to be gentle, patient and understanding when I struggle.

February 26, 2009 at 4:40 am 7 comments

Staying young by weighing more?

“Showing your age”, a slideshow on MSNBC, features photos of twins from a study on how we age.  The sub-head reads: “A new study finds that lifestyle habits affect how you visibly age”.  When I read the words “lifestyle habits” in conjunction with the words “visibly age”, I think of eating bad food, drinking too much alcohol, not exercising, and smoking. Given that preconception, I was surprised by what I learned when I delved into the article.

In all cases except one, the younger-looking twin was heavier.  Sure, a couple of them took hormones, and one was a non-smoker.  But, in nearly all the cases, the common element among the more youthful twins was the extra pounds they were carrying.  Fascinating!

I have been thinking about this as I hover around my ideal weight.  Depending on the day, I want to lose 3 to 7 more pounds.  Every now and then, though, I catch a passing glimpse of my face in the mirror and worry that my face may be a tad too thin, thereby aging me.  It has occurred to me that I am good right where I am because my face and body are nicely filled out.  Another area I’ve noticed this having an impact is in my upper tummy.  My literal transformation didn’t address the upper area, and if I get too thin, the skin there will sag unattractively. It needs a bit of fat to stay plumped.

As with the revelation that we need only 7 minutes of vigorous exercise a week to stave off Type II Diabetes, this gives me permission to ease up a little on myself.  Of course, it only seems to relieve the pressure for a moment, and then I’m back to feeling anxious about not exercising enough or about carrying two or three extra pounds more than my lowest number on the scale.  Maybe if I read enough of these reports, it’ll finally sink in, and I’ll be able to relax into the me that I am now without fretting.

February 6, 2009 at 4:58 am Leave a comment

Exercise may just be the “miracle pill”.

Looking for a miracle?  Lace up your running shoes for a minute or two.

British researchers have discovered that a mere 7 minutes of vigorous exercise every week can ward off Type II Diabetes.  Yeah… you read that correctly… only *7* minutes a week can prevent one of the most debilitating diseases plaguing our country today.  And you don’t even have to do it all at once.  In the study, the participants rode exercise bikes four times daily in 30-second bursts for two days a week.  That tiny bit of exercise significantly improves the body’s ability to process insulin. 

That’s some seriously amazing news.  It astounds me that such a miniscule amount of exercise can have that huge an impact on our bodies.  We can all fit that in every week; there’s no excuse for not doing it.

The same day I read about this study, I saw Frontline’s program on Parkinson’s.  Two sets of monkeys were used in a MPTP test.  (MPTP is a byproduct of a narcotic that has been shown to cause the same signs and symptoms as Parkinson’s disease.)  One set of monkeys was sedenetary.  The other set exercised regularly on a treadmill.  After a period of time exercising or not, the monkeys were injected with MPTP.  The sedentary monkeys immediately demonstrated the symptoms of Parkinson’s.  The physically active monkeys, however, showed almost no signs of the disease.  Even their brain scans were different.  The exercising monkeys had much healthier brain scans than the inactive ones.  All from walking on a treadmill consistently.

As a society, we focus almost exclusively on how exercise can help us lose weight and look better.  But it goes far beyond our looks.  The benefits of exercise are extraordinary on levels we haven’t even begun to realize.

All this a good reminder for me when I get discouraged about not looking “hot” enough or not getting my spins right in pole class.  Those aspects of exercise are really immaterial in the grander scheme of things.  The exercise I’m getting every day is helping me in ways that are literally cell deep, preventing all kinds of nasty conditions that I may never know I was risking.  That is truly a miracle.

February 5, 2009 at 3:00 pm 3 comments

Talk about pork barrel!

bacon650_33 Yowsa!  The meaty monostrosity that is the Bacon Explosion is all over the web, having caught fire online like pork drippings in a BBQ pit.

The Bacon Explosion has developed a cult following, becoming so popular that it was recently written up in the New York Times.  We Americans are nutty sometimes in our rebelliousness.  Tell us to eat healthy, and we’ll laugh in your face while creating a flab-o-licious carnivorous treat like this one, “containing at least 5,000 calories and 500 grams of fat.”

I’ll probably be banned for the planet for good, but I suggest that we could create a healthy version of this decadence by using turkey bacon, vegetarian sausage, bacon bits, and low-carb/low-calorie BBQ sauce.  I may just have to give it a go myself and see how it comes out.  You never know; it may develop its own cult following.

February 2, 2009 at 12:40 am Leave a comment

The upside of stress

We’re always hearing about how bad stress is for us. And, considering what extreme stress does to the body – “…headaches, stomach pain, high blood pressure, insomnia, and mind freeze…” – it’s understandable that we’re not encouraged to embrace it.

But can stress actually help us, rather than just hurting?  Turns out, it can.

In reasonable amounts, stress can make you more alert. The “fight or flight” hormones and other stress-induced hormones heighten your senses, speeding up your heartbeat, improving your brain’s blood flow and improving vision and hearing. These hormones can even strengthen your immune system and prevent age-related memory loss by increasing brain cell activity. All this can serve to help you get more stuff done when you need to.

It can be hard to find the balance between good-for-you levels of stress and a harmful state of agitation, but you can learn where the tipping point is and utilize a variety of techniques to keep yourself on the right side of the line.

Having some degree of control – or thinking you do – generates more beneficial stress hormones. Even if you don’t have control, you can fool your brain into thinking you do. Choose not to respond to a certain stressor. Don’t check e-mail, for example, except at designated times. Or, work on other areas of your life over which you do have control, particularly if you’re good at whatever it is. Do something meaningful, like volunteering or donating or helping a friend in a difficult situation.

Taking time to pause also helps keep stress at positive levels. That’s often easier said than done, but when you force yourself to stop and breathe deeply, you often recognize which situations are beyond your control and which ones you can do something about. Pausing keeps you from letting your anxiety spiral into an unchecked panic attack. Ask yourself, too, if your immediate response to the situation is going to make things better or worse. Are you generalizing about your role in whatever is causing you stress?

Limiting perfectionist tendencies is important, too. Perfectionism is unrealistic and sets up unreasonable expectations that lead to unnecessary stress.

Believe it or not, a little bit of stress acts almost like a stress vaccine. If you’ve never experienced a stressful situation, you may fall completely apart when it happens, not being able to handle the surge of hormones flooding it. Having survived some stressful times means that your body is prepared to deal with its biological response when something negative occurs.

And, as we all know, exercising is a terrific way to manage stress. Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” mood boosters.  Benefits typically kick in about an hour after you’ve worked out.

So, when you’re feeling stressed, don’t automatically assume it’s a bad thing. Remember that stress can be beneficial when it’s kept at manageable levels and use all the techniques at your disposal to make the most of it.

January 23, 2009 at 8:17 am 1 comment

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