Monday, 26 March 2007

Take advice from Oprah's Trainer

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Oprah Winfrey's struggle with weight loss is one of the most well-known celebrity diets out there. Lately, she looks great. So how does she do it? Well, having a large entourage of personal chef, trainers and assisstants behind her can't hurt, but she credits her body to one person, her personal trainer Bob Greene. This article talks to Bob Greene about his weight-loss philosophies. In it, Greene ackonowledges that there are three important components to weight loss -- in addition to diet and exercise, emotions play a large role in our bodies. The key is to stop beating ourselves up over our bodies -- it takes confidence to lose weight, and we only lose confidence when we berate ourselves.

What do you think of Greene's weight loss philosophies?

Good fat is fine for heart attack survivors

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I am a fan of using olive oil as my preferred cooking oil for just about everything, from stir-fry to that occasional "toasted" wheat bread and turkey sandwich. Olive oil is a great source of Omega-3 "healthy" and fatty oils (a reason a I use it), and new research shows that a diet rich in these kinds of oils can be just as good as a standard low-fat diet suggested for those who have had heart attacks.

The study found that people on either diet had one-third the risk of suffering another heart attack, a stroke, death or other heart problem compared with heart patients eating in the usual (read: bad) way.

There are ways to prepare and cook very healthy meals that have great taste once you've researched what to do -- and if you've had a heart attack, eating right (without losing taste) is probably a top priority.

An orange a day keeps heart attacks at bay

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Are you an orange fan? I'm talking the fresh fruit here, either the fruit itself or freshly-squeezed (and unpasteurized) orange juice.

If so, it may do you good to know that new research shows that oranges and grapefruits can help keep your arteries healthy and protect against heart attacks.

Citrus fruits reduced blood cholesterol in rats within a new study, which the researchers based their conclusions on.

Fresh orange juice is so good, as long as you bypass the frozen, reconstituted kinds that may taste good, but is rarely beneficial based on all the processing that's gone into it.

Food gone bad: Use your nose, or this simple test

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How good are you at judging whether your food is spoiled or not? I tend to be a little on the conservative side and usually err on the side of caution. John Lavigne, a chemist out of the University of South Carolina, thinks he has a solution to those who don't know how to tell when their food is going bad.

He's developed a test that takes a small amount of the food's natural liquid and mixes it with a solution. The solution changes colors -- in reaction to biologic amines that are a result of the spoilage process -- and the more spoiled the food is, the darker the color becomes. Lavigne hopes to develop a "dipstick" style test that would be easier to use.

Critics say the test, in general, is unnecessary. They say our noses should know when the food's gone bad. In addition, the test would only consider food spoilage. It could not, for instance, have predicted the E. coli outbreak of last year, or any other type of contamination. Whether or not you'd use this type of test, it's always a good idea to practice good food hygiene to prevent food poisoning.

Soft drink consumers packs on more pounds

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Yale University researchers stated today that people who drink sugary soft drinks do not appear to compensate by reducing calories somewhere else in their diets. This sounds like common sense, as regular soft drink consumers most likely are not that mindful of caloric intake in the first place. I could be wrong, though.

The consumption of overall calories every day by those that drink sugary soft drinks tends to be more than that of people who don't consumer soft drinks.

As usual, smoke-and-mirrors soft drink industry representatives deflected the issue by says "people can enjoy all kinds of drinks as part of a healthful diet," whatever that means. Perhaps this is why Naked Juice was purchased by Pepsi recently and Fuze was bought by Coca-Cola.

Nine diet-busting foods to avoid

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If you're currently dieting for the purpose of losing weight, those "cheat days" can sound mighty tempting. You work hard all week and then splurge a bit on Saturday night at a dinner. While this in and of itself it not that bad, the foods you choose to "cheat" with can erase some of that hard work put forth during the week.

So, which foods should you avoid at all costs when dieting, even on "cheat days?" The list below may be hard to read, but it will save you from having the "yo-yo" effect of losing weight (and seeing it!) but then having to put it back on in one fail swoop.

o. White bread
o. White pasta
o. White potatoes
o. Pastries
o. Doughnuts
o. Cookies
o. Cakes, pies, and other sugary baked goods
o. Candy and candy bars
o. Potato chips and other packaged and fried snacks

Multi-tasking isn't always a good idea

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Recent studies looking at how our technology-based society tries to do so many things at once, like listening to iPods while texting on cell phones and commuting to work, have found that trying to do more than one thing at a time may not always be the best course. The areas that turned up as most affected, in a negative way, by multi-tasking efforts were working in an office setting, studying, and (of course) driving. Experts suggest prioritizing and focusing on the task at hand at 100% -- otherwise your performance may suffer.

I agree that it really helps sometimes to turn off all the extra gadgets and do one thing at a time, with minimal interruptions. But with all these gadgets around designed to do our work for us and take the "thinking" out of almost everything, who ever thought we'd have somebody telling us we were trying to get our brains to do too much? Go figure.

Five large fitness myths

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Are you in the full throes of a fitness program that dates back to a New Year's resolution from about three months ago? Are you in a fitness program regardless of any resolutions?

If so, you're among the millions in the midst of a fitness program at any given moment probably. Not to worry -- it's a great habit to have! But, there are some myths about fitness programs that you need to watch out for.

The list is below, and you can find more detail by clicking here. Remember, use the best measurements for success and don't get discouraged. Fitness is a lifelong lifestyle habit, not a short-term proposition.
  • The healthiest method to gauge your progress is weighing yourself: MYTH
  • It's important to work out for two to three hours a day for great results: MYTH
  • Women will get big if they weight train: MYTH
  • You must work out seven days per week to make progress: MYTH
  • To get a flat midsection, perform a lot of abdominal exercises often and with intensity: MYTH

#1 priority -- finding time to get enough sleep

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How much sleep do you get every night? Some will answer six hours, while others stretch for a solid eight hours of sack time each night. Is there a correct answer? According to experts, there sure it.

Although it is hard for many of us to wind down after a long day of work, kids, spouses, chores and everything else, sleeping priorities are a biggie if you plan to function at close to optimum efficiency the next day.

It's been said that sleeplessness is this country's #1 health problem -- yet I rarely hear about it from the media. How is this so? Because it's seemingly boring to most of us -- but it shouldn't be. According to experts, we're sleeping 20% less than our peers did a 100 years ago. In an age where there is more and more thrust upon our daily lives than 100 years ago, that mix seems very dangerous to me. How about you?

Plan for successful weight loss with these three easy steps

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If you've been thinking about losing weight or have been trying without success, here's a great article from Shape Magazine to help you get organized -- both in your mind and your kitchen -- before you begin.

According to Shape, there are three secrets to successful diet: Getting your Mind in the Right Place, Shopping Like a Food Lover, and Making Your Home and Work Weight-Loss-Friendly. There are a lot of common sense tips here, and many that are based on recent studies. Some of my favorites include:
  • making a plan for plateaus and emotional eating
  • divide your shopping cart in half and plan to fill one side with whole grains and fruits and veggies. The other side should contain equal amounts of healthy fats, lean meats, and dairy.
  • look for healthy, flavorful foods. Don't get boxed into the idea that diet means deprivation.
  • keep vice foods out of sight, or better yet, out of reach. Keep healthy foods like fruits and vegetables visible and handy.

Losing weight really is as much a mental feat as a physical one. By preparing yourself mentally and preparing for pitfalls, and then creating an environment that will support you even when the cravings hit, you'll find those pounds melting away in no time.

Jersey teens getting the low-down on healthy shopping

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A high school in urban New Jersey is continuing with its successful "Team Esteem" program that teaches teens about healthy eating and healthy shopping. Lessons include trips to the grocery store and tours through every section from dairy to meat to produce, and the students learn the basics like eating chicken without the skin to cut fat. Other parts of the program include cooking lessons, lectures and seminars on topics like eating disorders and rape, and a gym class with a variety of different activities including karate and cardio dance.

What are your workout preferences?

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A recent study found that people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and up prefer to exercise with people their own age or alone, rather than surrounded by younger people in a gym or class. This finding puts an emphasis on the importance of creating appropriate exercise settings for this age group, to encourage exercise as the population ages.

This finding got me thinking about exercise preferences. That's Fit blogger Jonathan Morgan recently wrote about his girlfriend wanting to jog with him, much to his dismay. Fitness experts often suggest we find an exercise buddy to help us get on track, and many people enjoy fitness classes where they are surrounded by others. Personally? I like to exercise alone, with my mp3 player turned up high. My brother-in-law, an avid and accomplished runner, scoffs at the idea of running to music and distracting himself from his workout. Yet our own experienced personal trainer, Fitz K. recently wrote about how she distracts herself with music, TV, and magazines during her own workouts.

I think the lesson here is that it doesn't matter how you get there, just that you get there at all. By making exercise fit your lifestyle and personality, you'll be more likely to weave it into your daily life and make it a permanent fixture. So let's hear it, That's Fit readers, how do you workout?

iPods teach doctors to hear unhealthy heartbeats

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Cardiology students at some universities may find a new tool among their textbooks -- an iPod. Dr. Michael Barrett of Temple University recently had the bright idea of recording heart sounds, both healthy and unhealthy, onto a CD. His students balked, and he quickly realized that the new generation of students doesn't have CD players, they had iPods. So the sounds were converted into mp3 files and soon his students were listening to the beat -- heartbeats that is, and learning as they went about their day.

When the students were tested on what they knew, accuracy jumped from 40% to 80%. Barrett even snuck a marketing student into his classes, who ended up performing as well at recognizing different heartbeats as the medical students.

Using iPods as learning tools is a practice that's been catching on the last few years. Students can even download podcasts of their lectures. But up until now, the medical field has been slow to catch on to the trend. Maybe Dr. Barrett and his heartbeats will spur other professors on to think outside of the box as well.

Menopausal-age exercise relieves symptoms

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Menopause comes to all women and it generally is an experience that has good and bad. The good -- no more menstruating and relief of associated baggage that goes along with it. The bad -- just getting through the initial menopausal stages and then the following years.

One area that may help those menopausal symptoms is to get a decent dose of regular exercise, according to a new study. The study concluded that menopausal women who exercise regularly appear to have a better quality of life than women who don't.

While that is kind of a vague conclusion, the study went on to give details, such as exercise-induced improvements in heart and respiratory fitness being present due to exercise, which appeared to have a direct impact on women's perceived quality of life. Perception can become reality, right?

Stock your pantry with these healthy foods

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One of my New Year's resolutions that actually stuck was to become a better cook. I wanted to cut down on eating out, processed foods, and convenience foods, and to provide more healthy, homemade meals and snacks for my family (and myself). It's been a journey. In January, I jumped in with enthusiasm, bought a crazy amount of ingredients for a dozen new recipes, and became so overwhelmed that I ended up throwing a sorry amount of food away that had gone bad in the vegetable crisper. So I scaled back and started adding one to two new simple recipes a week. One surprising development (besides a new found love for cooking) is that my pantry has suddenly become very well rounded. In the beginning, I found myself constantly making lists for new ingredients I never kept around, but now when I want to try something new I already have all or most of the ingredients necessary on hand.

Here's a list of ingredients every healthy pantry should have. My own pantry has about half of them, but I'm still in training. And I would add to the list: coconut milk, flaxseed meal, a variety of different types of beans for soups, and yeast for making bread (in a hand-me-down bread maker, for myself). What would you add to the list?

Baby-proofing your marriage

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Many new parents are thrust into parenthood with a singular thought in mind -- the welfare of the new infant. That, of course, is the top priority -- everything from stimulation to nutrition to social interaction to affectionate care all around. What about your marriage?

A book titled "Babyproofing Your Marriage: How to Laugh More, Argue Less, and Communicate Better as Your Family Grows" looks to be a neat recipe for how to treat the family unit as a whole using the same methodology as "babyproofing" a home, such as cabinet locks and electrical outlet covers.

The title says it all I think, and co-author Julia Stone goes on to say that "Baby-proofing your marriage is important because a happy marriage makes you happier individuals and that trickles down to how you parent your children, and where there is tension in the marriage or dissatisfaction, it can rub off on the kids."

That quote is something I completely agree with, as there is not a child alive that doesn't take in all aspects of their environment like a sponge.

Beautiful abs: Don't be over-eager

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Possibly the most elusive of all toned body parts: beautiful abs. We all want 'em, very few of us have 'em. So when starting a new fitness endeavor many people are tempted to jump in so energetically they actually end up overworking their abs, and then get frustrated when they don't see the results they're looking for. It's good to remember that the abdominal muscles are just like most other muscles in your body -- working them out everyday doesn't give them a chance to heal and grow stronger.

Also, if you're still having trouble you may want to adjust your diet or add in some cardio, because how much you see in the way of results can also be impacted by fat you have around the mid-section -- you may have beautiful abs that are just lying hidden under a layer of flab.

I can relate to that!

Jumpstart Your Fitness: Find a great place to walk (or run)

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Nothing helps motivate me more to get moving than a gorgeous day outside -- not too hot, or too cold, or too get the idea. If you're either looking to liven up a boring neighborhood route, or maybe start a completely new routine this summer season, finding a great place to do your walking or running can have a big impact on how much you enjoy it and long you stay motivated. Depending on where you live in the country, and how big or small your town is, you probably have a variety of options -- many of which you may not have thought of before.

Par courses are available in many areas, and they're basically walking paths with "stations" along the way to do additional exercises and stretches.

Continue reading Jumpstart Your Fitness: Find a great place to walk (or run)

Daily Fit Tip: Add antioxidant-rich foods to your diet

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Just what's the big deal with antioxidants anyway? We hear about them all the time, but what do they do? Well, they're supposed to slow down aging. Don't believe me? Here's the explanation. When our body digests, a by-product is produced called free radicals. It's thought that these free radicals accumulate in our body and are what cause aging. Antioxidants are thought to help break down the free radicals, and therefore increase longevity. Antioxidants have also been linked to lower rates of cancer because free radicals can become carcinogens over time.

So what does this have to do with you? Duh - get your antioxidants! It might not seem like a big deal now that you're footloose and disease-free, but in a few years or decades, it will pay off. Increasing your consumption of antioxidants is simple: eat your fruits and veggies. Berries are especially high in antioxidants. Other great sources? Almonds, green tea, flax, coffee and even red wine.

Dark chocolate makes blood vessels more flexible

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The evidence in favor of dark chocolate (in moderation) as a health food continues to mount. The most recent study found that when healthy adults ate 8 ounces of cocoa a day, their blood vessels' ability to expand and increase blood flow improved.

A group of 45 healthy adults were divided into three groups. One group was given cocoa without sugar, the second ate the cocoa with sugar, and the third had a placebo. The group that ate the cocoa without sugar showed a 2.4% improvement in something called flow mediated dilation of the upper arm. (This means that the vessels became more flexible and expanded in response to increase blood flow.) The group that ate the cocoa with sugar saw a 1.5% improvement, while the placebo group saw no change.

If you're interested in incorporating dark chocolate into your diet, consider this: Experts say you likely don't need more than an ounce a day, and to get heart benefits it should contain at least 70% cocoa solids. For more information on dark chocolate and it's benefits (as well as its drawbacks) click here. Finally, here's some yummy looking recipes for homemade hot cocoa (scroll to the bottom). Enjoy!

Cell phones: no more cancer risk concerns

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Though it never seemed to slow the use of cell phones, there's been an undercurrent of worry for years that their use may cause the most common type of brain tumor -- a glioma.

Mobile phone users have little reason to worry following a study that found that cell phone use appears to have no link to the development of this kind of tumor. Researchers studied1,521 glioma patients and over 3,000 healthy patients and found no relationship between cell phone use and the cancer. There was a "borderline statistical significance," however, between those who used cell phones for more than 10 years on one side of the head, which was also on the same side of the tumor, but researchers can't say that that finding is truly meaningful.

Heart health and the Mediterranean Diet

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Heart attack patients have typically been put on low-fat diets to help prevent a recurrence in the future, but that may no longer necessarily be the case. A new study shows that a Mediterranean style diet (including "healthy" fats like olive oil) is just as effective at reducing further cardiovascular incidents as the more usually recommended low-fat American Heart Association diet.

Interestingly enough, the patients in the study who were put on the Mediterranean diet had a harder time following it -- despite being allowed more fat. Apparently, since they were mostly older individuals, they weren't used to eating so much fish and seafood.

Microsoft set to donate to National MS Society

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We received some news recently about the National Multiple Sceleorsis Society having been chosen to be one of nine global charities that Microsoft will feature in its "i'm" initiative.

It looks like Microsoft is going to contribute a portion of the advertising revenue from the i'm program to the chosen nine charities, with a minimum $100,000 donation to each of these nine groups during the first year of the program.

Microsoft's i'm initiative uses the Windows Live Messenger instant-messaging client which can be downloaded by visiting the site at the "Read" link below. The National MS Society is easily worth helping out if you have the means -- and support from Microsoft is going to help in a large way here.

[Thanks, Annie]

No clear answers on recent Spinach e-coli cause

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Although a recent e-coli bacterial outbreak has been traced to spinach from a single California field processed on a single day, the actual cause of the outbreak still has not been determined based on a report just released this past Friday.

It's also unknown exactly how much spinach actually became contaminated. The report did state several possible causes of the contamination -- from tainted water to wild pigs roaming the area.

Will we ever know the cause of the e-coli that made at least 205 people sick and caused three deaths? The problem of quality control is sliding these days it would appear, even within the pet food industry's inclusion of rat poison into dog and cat food. Perhaps we should all grow our own gardens?

Are you working out hard enough? Try using the Talk Test,

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A common challenge of exercise is figuring out how hard you should work. There are a few options to calibrate the ideal effort you should be putting forth, but most require too much math to make them great mid-workout options. I like the Keep It Simple Stupid version called the Talk Test.

For the average healthy individual who is trying to improve overall fitness, including cardiovascular and lung capacity, these are the rules.

  • If you can have a full blown conversation during an aerobic workout you should be working harder.
  • If you can't talk at all, even to scream "help!", you are working too hard.
  • If you are huffing and puffing, but still have enough wind to tell your partner or trainer, "I can't wait to get this over with"...your pace is juuuuuust right.

Continue reading Are you working out hard enough? Try using the Talk Test,

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Dieting on the cheap

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I fall into the group of people with the impression that dieting and eating healthy is expensive. But when you actually make the effort, and look around at your options, it really doesn't have to be. Dining in, for example, can be cheaper and healthier than ordering out all the time -- even fast food meals really add up if you do it regularly.

Other money saving ideas include buying in bulk when it makes sense (nonperishable items and things that freeze well can be divided into smaller portions and stored for months at a time) and buying the generic store-brand instead of automatically reaching for the commercial brand every time.

Making small efforts can pay off bigger than you expect, without necessarily sacrificing good taste.

Go crazy for cocoa -- but not hot chocolate

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I'm a huge fan of cocoa -- and I don't mean the pre-packaged "hot chocolate" mixes you find in most grocery stores. Pure cocoa tastes a little odd (kind of like ground cinnamon), but it's great for your body when eaten in pure, unadulterated form.

What's not good for your body are the "hot chocolate" mixes that are sometime labeled as "hot cocoa" incorrectly. These products, by and large, have partially-hydrogenated oils and refined sugars in them, which make them taste good at the same time they are being very bad for your health.

Ever try straight Hershey's Cocoa on your breakfast cereal? It may taste odd at first if eaten straight or mixed with other natural herbs, but in terms of being good for you, acclimating to the taste of raw cocoa is worth it if you ask me.

Nine (sometimes surprising) risk factors for diabetes

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Do you watch more than two hours of TV every day or wake in the middle of the night on a regular basis? If so, you may be at an increased risk of developing type II diabetes. These are just two less well known risk factors for the disease outlined in this article.

Take a moment to consider your waistline, even if your weight is normal. A waistline larger than 35 inches (women) or 40 inches (men) is another red flag for the disease, increasing your risk by a whopping 330%. The fix? A consistent exercise routine, which will melt belly fat faster than dieting alone. Other risk factors include: stress, a major bout of depression, and eating too much processed meat (think hot dogs or bacon.) Even one can of soda per day can raise your risk 100%.

Experts estimate that about 1/3 of people who have diabetes don't even realize it. If you think you may be at risk, take this quiz to calculate your risk and to see what steps you can take to prevent the disease.

Census mistake leads to lower number of uninsured Americans

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In a pretty drastic reversal of earlier figures, the U.S. government last week stated that it had overstated the number of Americans who have no health insurance by about two million citizens.

The figure changed to 44.8 million uninsured as the from 46.6 million that the U.S. Census Bureau reported last August. With the new figure, about 15.3% of the U.S. population of about 300 million has no health insurance.

In what appears to be a "duh" moment, the U.S. Census Bureau said it discovered that it had mistakenly counted as uninsured some people who reported having medical coverage. Sounds pretty black and white, but somehow the mistake was made due to changing a computer system used to process the survey results last summer.

Patch to boost women's sex drive

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A new patch developed by Proctor and Gamble is said to the first treatment for women with low sex drive, although doctors caution that there's no quick fix solution to this problem.

The drug, Intrinsa, is a clear patch worn on the abdomen that enhances a woman's testosterone level, and is being made available in the UK by prescription only. It's intended solely for women who have an early menopause due to surgery.

This totals about one million women who have had their ovaries removed during hysterectomy. As result of this procedure, many experience lower testosterone levels, which in turn lowers sex drive in roughly 1 out of every 3 patients.

However, according to Dr Jim Kennedy, it's important to remember that "There are a variety reasons for low sex drive, such as psychological reasons and the environment the person is in."

On the other hand, many doctors feel this could be the first step towards real medical help for women suffering personal, and relationship distress because of decreased sexual desire.