Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Workplace Fitness: Matt Damon on balancing career, fitness, & family

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I've always thought how great it would be to have a job that naturally keeps you in shape, and of the jobs in the world that do that being a celebrity is at the top of the list. Starring in an action movie often means months of vigorous training and workouts before filming even begins, and a star like Matt Damon would know that better than anybody with his third Jason Bourne movie, The Bourne Ultimatum, out this summer.

Damon, who's 36 years old, has been in famously good shape to play the ex-hitman character over the years, but this time was different: he has a family now. Damon was quoted as saying of his life before "I really used to have no life outside movies. I'd work all day, go to the gym and go to sleep." But then he married his wife Luciana back in 2005 and they now have a 1 year old daughter together, Isabella, both which give him a reason to come home after work instead of always working out. And despite the film being shot in a total of 8 different locations the family was only separated once.

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Danica McKellar tells girls intelligence is hip

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When I was growing up I used to be so envious of Danica McKellar (aka "Winnie" off The Wonder Years) because she was cute and thin and lots of boys had crushes on her. Now that I'm older, well, I'm still a bit envious because she's still fit and beautiful, but I've also got to give the girl some serious respect because she's also really smart. Not only is she intelligent, she aims to let other girls know that it's great to be smart.

I think that in an age where women like Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson flaunt the notion that they're hot but stupid (and I really wonder whether either is as clueless as they have portrayed themselves to be), it's incredibly refreshing and encouraging to have a beautiful woman not only admit that she's smart, but also make sure that young and impressionable girls know that it's possible to be both pretty and intelligent.

McKellar, who has penned a book called "Math Doesn't Suck", assures adolescent girls that it's cool to be good at math (and as an extension, most other school subjects I would imagine). So while I'm still a little bit jealous of the girl who was "Winnie Cooper", I'm also pretty darn impressed with the woman she's become.

Fall into fitness with these 7 tips

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Summer's lack of structure makes it harder for me to plan and eat regular, nutritious meals and stick to a regular fitness program. Luckily, there's always fresh melon and crisp veggies on hand, and we're naturally more physically active in the summer. But I do look forward to September's more structured routine to help me better meet my health and fitness goals. There's something about a fresh new (school) year and the beginning of a new season that's motivating in a way only a clean slate can be.

Fall is an excellent time to rededicate yourself to your goals. A recent survey of 1,500 moms found that many women look forward to fall to focus more time on themselves and their personal health. Not only that, the cooler autumn air is perfect for outdoor exercise. And after dinner bike ride or walk can get the whole family moving together, while giving parents a chance to hear about their kids' day. Read more about the study here, as well as seven ways to jump-start your own fall fitness routine.

What should I eat? Good question.

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veggiesWith new studies appearing daily on the effects of this diet or that food, it gets hard to know exactly what constitutes a healthy diet. This month's Scientific American has an excellent article by Marion Nestle, renowned nutrition professor and author of What to Eat. Her answer to the good eating dilemma is pretty straightforward: "eat less, move more, eat a largely plant-based diet, and avoid eating too much junk food," and as she says, we've known this for a while now. But she also includes a discussion of how studies of single nutrients and the influence of the food industry on research and consumer behavior have muddied the waters considerably.

One great sidebar is her take on the newest food pyramid. She notes that the vague color scheme and absence of clear-cut advice on foods to avoid makes the pyramid, well, pretty unhelpful. Why is this pyramid so much more flawed than the 1992 version? Nestle and others suspect the influence of the food lobbies, who prefer the that government doesn't tell consumers to stay away from their products. In other words, what is good for the bottom line of food companies is pretty sucky for the rest of us.

Your brain works better at night

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Hate the mornings? Feel groggy, inept, and mentally sluggish during the afternoon?

Don't worry, you're normal.

A team of scientists recently discovered that time of day plays a significant role in how well your brain can learn. But what's even more surprising, is that their research also reveals that human brains learn best at night. Apparently it's all to do with our ancestors, whose bodies learned to adapt to different times of day in order to avoid predators.

Regardless, now I know why all my best ideas come in the evening -- we're all smarter when the sun goes down!

Gadgets keep kids awake and make them fat

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As you might suspect, kids aren't sleeping enough. While the experts recommend eight hours, many young teens only sleep for four to seven on any given night. Making matters worse, is that even when they do doze off, some kids are still only getting poor quality "junk sleep."

According to one study, gadgets are to blame. The Sleep Council recently conducted a poll of 1,000 teenagers -- almost all of whom had either a phone, music system or TV in their bedroom -- and found that not only are these gadgets keeping kids up, but because many fall asleep with the TV or radio on, the sleep they do get is sub-standard.

When you compare this information with previous studies that show a strong link between lack of sleep and obesity, the increased time teens are spending with their electronics is even more worrying.

Seems to me that, while it might lead to a few arguments around the house, parents owe it to their kids to shut the gadgets off at a reasonable hour.

10 eating habits you need to break

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Changing your eating habits is the most important step in healthifying your life. And yet, it's also the hardest aspect of making healthy changes. But I think if you focus on changing your worst eating habits, it can make a big difference on both your health and your waistline. Here are some habits to lose, couresty of Forbes:
  • Unconscious eating: Those small nibbles here and there can really add up. Keep a food journal to keep track of everything you've put in your mouth
  • Weekend splurges: It's easy to stay on track Monday through Thursday, but once Friday hits, it's hard to stay on the wagon. Research shows that on average, people consume 300 more calories on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  • Eating three meals a day: Some studies show that eating 5 smaller meals throughout the day might be more beneficial.
  • Feeling invincible: When we're young, we often feel that we can abuse our bodies now because we are healthy. Not so -- the time to pay attention to our diet is now.
  • Giving up control: Letting yourself and your diet be controlled by your busy schedule is an excuse that you will regret in the long run. You can be busy and healthy too.
Wait, there's more. Check out the original article from Forbes for some more valuable information.

Being a mom -- one of the hardest jobs of all

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Moms are amazing. They generally are the ones who raise a child in many respects in addition to carrying a child to term for the better part of a year. Is the job worth it? I almost unanimously hear the word "yes," even though the moms I know were mentally and physically exhausted for over a decade during the raising process.

They still carry on. But the moments that arise from being a mom are more rewarding than the massive amount of effort raising a child can take. Dads aren't out of this picture at all -- but today, we're talking moms.

Some of the areas not covered in any parenting class (well, maybe in a few) are listed here -- these are things nobody tells you about when you become a new mom. Want some inside info? Read on!

National Cholesterol Education Month

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Do you need some TLC? No, not tender loving care...I'm talking about therapeutic life changes. September is National Cholesterol Education month, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute want you to take charge of your heart health by taking charge of your cholesterol. Their theme is:

"Know your cholesterol numbers-Know your risk-Give yourself some TLC."

Check out their website for information you can download on lowering your cholesterol, reducing your risk for heart disease, charting your progress, and information on reading food labels. Even if your cholesterol is picture perfect, there's a lot of great information to be found on improving your overall cardiovascular health. Now go out there and give yourself some TLC! Your heart will thank you.

Is it normal to be this tired?

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Exhaustion is something I'm sure we all know a thing or two about. Most of us feel tired most of the time. But being chronically tired isn't normal, and can be a sign of something bigger going on in your body. If you're tired most of the time, here's a simple quiz you can take to see if it's problematic or not. If you score over 10, you should see a doctor about the possibility of a sleep disorder.

I scored a 7, which seems to be normal. I suspect my sleepiness is more to do with staying up too late engrossed in the latest book club book, not a sleep disorder. What about you?

The FTC is trying to put an end to weight-loss spam

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Good news for those of us whose inboxes are bombarded with endless spam offering the ultimate weight-loss solution (read: everyone with an email address), here's been a small victory in the form of this lawsuit. A judge has issues a restraining order against a Nevada-based neutraceuticals company that's been making false or unsubstantiated weight-loss claims against it's products, which include ones containing Hoodia Gordini, via Email spam. Apparently, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) logged over 85,000 Emails from the defendant, Sili Neutraceuticals LLC and owner Brian McDaid, doing business as Kaycon Ltd.

What do you think about this ruling -- should freedom of speech prevail or should we be working harder to shut down all scammers and spammers?

Ideas to improve your fertility

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A doctor once told me that there are so many pieces that have to fall into place, so many small details that have to line up perfectly, that it's a wonder anyone gets pregnant at all. He didn't tell me that to discourage me, but instead to explain that there are so many factors to fertility, beyond the obvious ones. If you're having trouble conceiving and have no clinical signs of infertility, check out this article on how to improve your fertility. They include:
  • stop smoking
  • reduce stress
  • get enough of the right nutrition
  • lose weight
  • consider certain natural fertility boosters (check with your doctor first)
  • avoid foods with pesticides
  • get enough sleep
In some cases, those tips are derived from studies that are small or only seem to indicate a link, so take a minute to read the full article and decide what is right for you before making any changes.

Star style: Get hair like Natalie Portman, make-up like Reese Witherspoon and more

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It's easy to feel jealous when you see magazine spreads of beautiful and seemingly flawless female celebrities, but it's also easy to forget that most of these women spend hours in the hair and make-up chair before those photos are taken.

With a little time and effort, and some help from top celeb stylists, you can look as fantastic as your favorite star. This spread in Glamour Magazine gives you the lowdown on how to copy hairstyles like Natalie Portman's thick and wavy look, Anne Hathaway's stylish updo, Julia Styles' sleek and straight mane and Mary J. Blige's loose curls, as well as Jennifer Hudson's perfectly manicured nails and Reese Witherspoon's fresh and natural make-up.

For step-by-step instructions on how to get these styles, take a look here.

Five small but powerful diet changes to lose weight

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Diets, diets, diets. That word strikes up hope and fear at the same time to those who know the actions of a diet well. Are there any that are easy and work long-term? That's a question that may not ever be answered, as all our personal variables come into play. And, those change drastically per person.

Are there things you can write on on your fridge door and makeup mirror that give you daily reminders and motivation on what to do in order to make your next diet work -- at least for a little while? Try these small reminders on for size:
  • Quit the juice
  • Omit the oil
  • Minus the mayo
  • Boost the fiber
  • Forget "Fried"

Free weight: Use your kids

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piggyback rideI'm big on activities that kill two birds with one workout. And one of my life goals is to actually have moments of being "fun mom," so I like to look for ways to combine exercise with playtime. Here's my five best kid-exercises that require no equipment except a hyped up small child or two.

1. Piggyback rides. Don't just walk, run, and see if you don't get at least a little sweaty.

2. Freeze tag. When you get frozen hold a squat position or plank. Then run like the wind when you are it. And don't hang out at base.

3. Airplane. Lay on your back, hold your child's hands, and pull them onto the bottoms of your feet. Now bend and straighten your wings. Junior's flying while your legs are dying.

4. Blurty sit-ups. Get in sit-up position, and have your kid stand between your feet. When you sit up, blurt them on the belly. Fun ensues.

5. Squat to press. Hold your child by the waist, and squat down. Then stand and lift your kid (using good form, please!) If you have a small enough child, straighten your arms and press them into the air. Repeat until your child is tired or you are toast, whichever comes first.

This child runs 40 miles a day - don't you feel lazy?

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An 8-year-old girl in China has recently completed a 3550-km (2200-mi) run from Hainan to Beijing, accompanied by her father on a bicycle alongside the little super-athlete. This might seem like an amazing feat but it's just another day for Zhang Huimin, who wakes up at 2:30AM most mornings to run the equivalent of one-and-a-half marathons -- 64 km, or 40 miles in total. The latest run was in an attempt to get noticed by the Olympics -- the girl wants to compete in the 2016 Olympics, when she will be 17.

Many people around the world are calling this child abuse -- what do you think? Her father, who is separated from her disapproving mother, says that Zhang Huimin likes running, and he denies that he is forcing her to run. Still, I think this amount of running is inhumane and unhealthy.

Natural pain remedies that won't break your budget

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For many people, managing pain with painkillers is a last resort. However, even if you are the sort of person who avoids taking drugs, you can do more than simply suffering through your ailments.

There are a number of natural pain relievers that might help -- including a few you might not expect. For instance, the Spine Health blog suggests that you eat cookies -- as research shows that eating sweet foods reduces pain. You can also work from the inside out, by meditating, changing your inner thinking to view pain in different way, or using guided imagery to imagine yourself to a better place. Even the simple act of finding a support group can help take the edge off.

Whether you're dealing with chronic pain, or just generally trying to improve your well-being, this is a great list of ideas to get you started on the right path.

[via Lifehacker]

Sweating profusely? What can you do?

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Do you find yourself excessively sweating sometimes at the most inopportune moments? I think we've all faced this at one point in time or another. How can you prevent it?

Anti-perspirants that contain aluminum chloride hexahydrate is the easy answer, but what if you prefer not to plug up your sweat pores at all?

Overactive sweat glands can produce sweat even when the body is cool, and it can be an embarrassment. This condition, hyperhidrosis, is a major pain, and there are a few solutions. Research each one and see if you're willing to do what it takes to stop that excessive sweating if it is disturbing events in your life. See these tips for possible solutions.

Avoiding bug bites

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I love summer but there are a few aspects of it that I can do without, one of the bigger ones being bugs. I dislike them all -- spiders, mosquitos, bees, especially wasps. This summer, I've managed to avoid getting bitten much, but many of my friends haven't been so lucky. Here are some tips for avoiding bug bites from Everyday Health:
  • Don't provoke insects
  • Avoid rapid movement
  • Don't wear lots of perfume or floral prints
  • Cover up and apply insect repellent
If you do get stung, there are some great home remedies out there, including soothing a bee sting with lemons. What do you do to soothe a bite?