Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Have less income, see more heart disease

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In an odd bit of news, a new study demonstrated this week that a lowering of income has a direct, inflammatory effect on the body. Sounds psychologically complex, yes?

The new study refutes earlier studies that tie a lower socioeconomic status to more heart disease.

Poor diet and lack of exercise are being blamed for more inflammatory molecules in the blood, with diet and weight gain associated with that diet being the top factors noted in the study.

Then again, there are plenty of folks with a large income that have horrible diets as well -- it's just less likely.

Pedometers encourage losing weight, make great stocking stuffers

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Want to get that special someone the perfect and inexpensive holiday gift this year? How about a pedometer? This is the perfect holiday gift for anyone who has had trouble losing weight using multiple methods that never seem to work out.

These small gadgets are known in exercise circles as "step counters," and they'll let the wearer know how many steps they've taken in an hour, day, etc. Some folks who like to burn weight by the simply activity of walking use pedometers to measure progress.

A new report from Stanford University said that the pedometer caused many wearers to lower their blood pressure and lose a few pounds. That is, if it was worn regularly and viewed daily.

20 Worst Foods in America

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If you eat out regularly, it's time to face the music. After analyzing menus, nutritional labels and ingredient lists, Men's Health offers up its first annual 20 Worst Foods in America. Total calorie count was the main criterion, with many of these dishes serving up nearly an entire day's worth of calories in one meal -- before the side.

  • Number One Worst Offender: Outback Steakhouse's Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch Dressing -- 2,900 calories, 182 g fat, 240 carbs
  • Worst Starter: Chili's Awesome Blossom -- 2,710 calories, 203 g fat, 194 g carbs
  • Worst Pizza: Uno Chicago Grill's Chicago Classic Deep Dish Pizza -- a personal pizza with 2,310 calories, 162 g fat, 123 g carbs
  • Worst Nachos: On the Border's Stacked Border Nachos -- 2,740 calories, 166 g fat, 191 g carbs
  • Worst Breakfast: Bob Evan's Caramel Banana Pecan Cream Stacked and Stuffed Hotcakes -- 1,540 calories, 77 g fat, 198 g carbs

The other 15 are as utterly depressing as the above, even the Worst Salad packs 1,450 calories and 102 grams of fat. We ponder why Americans are so fat? I admit to sharing an Awesome Blossom in my past -- and you?

Not all is lost, Men's Health suggests sharing a non-fried, protein-based appetizer to keep you from overeating the entree. On the Border's Chicken Soft Tacos, Chili's Garlic & Lime Grilled Shrimp and Outback's Seared Ahi are a few options.

Anti-smoking drug Chantix linked to depression

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Pfizer's smoking cessation drug Chantix may cause depression and suicidal thoughts, according to the FDA.

Since it seems almost any new prescription drug causes some bizarre array of side effects, it seems appropriate that Chantix is one of them. Doctors have reported severe mood swings, suicidal thoughts and depression from patients taking he drug.

What do do? Quit some other way, that's what. Although the FDA told the media that patients shouldn't stop taking Chantix (not just yet, anyway), doctors need to monitor those patients very closely. Yeah, I am sure that will happen fast. Here's an idea: stop taking Chantix. Use another smoking cessation aid.

Superfoods hiding right under your nose

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When we hear about the new "it" superfood, more often than not it's hard to pronounce, difficult to find in local groceries, and most likely grown on a far away continent. Sometimes, the delicious and nutritious foods that are right in front of our faces are overshadowed by these exotic superstars. WebMD recently posted a list of 10 everyday superfoods, and though not all of them are local, they should be easy to find:
  • plain yogurt, low-fat or fat free
  • eggs
  • nuts
  • kiwis
  • quinoa
  • beans
  • salmon
  • broccoli
  • sweet potatoes
  • berries
What's your favorite "everyday" nutritional powerhouse?

Parents urged to watch out for dangerous toys

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If you'll be shopping this Friday or weekend, watch out for some of those toys which could be choking hazards to those small children. Although toy recalls have made headlines this year, there are sure to be plenty of dangerous toys still lurking on shelves.

The most obvious culprits are small toys, since everything and anything that can go into a child's mouth actually does go there. Keep an eye out on sizes and remember this quote: "Consumers looking for toys still face an industry full of safety loopholes." Comforting, yes?

It's always been wise to scrutinize, but this year an extra effort should be made.

Fit Gifts: Hip gear for chronic medical conditions

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Whether you've faced cancer, pump insulin, are walking around with an implantable cardiac defibrillator or dealing with another chronic disease, MedTees has logo clothing for you or your loved one. It's sure to bring a smile this holiday season.

Not only has MedTees designed a bunch of hip and humorous logos to place on a variety of warm and cold weather gear, you can even submit a design idea for consideration. Check out this sampling of gear available for 15 medical conditions -- even caregivers!

Another bonus -- MedTees guarantees ten percent of proceeds go to respective charities, and if they ever turn a profit, it'll all be given to charities earmarked for each piece of merchandise. Cool.

The top stress triggers this holiday season

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Stress seems to be an inevitable aspect of our lives these days -- we expect to be stressed and we plan for it. And the holidays, though usually a wonderful and joyous time, are notorious for causing yet more stress. Courtesy of eDiets, here are the top stress triggers this holiday season and some tips for how to relax:
  • Finances. When you're expected to spend money of everyone close to you, it can put a real strain on the bank account. The solution? It's a bit late this year, but put some cash aside next year for the holidays, and start early (like, as soon as you're done paying off this year's bills.)
  • Health. Every ache and pain can be a sign of something bigger to a worrisome person. The solution? Write your concerns, plus any stressful events, in a journal for a few weeks. After a while, you may notice patterns in your health concerns, and it arms you to better discuss things with your doctor.
  • Family. The holidays bring family close together, and it's not always a good thing. The solution? Take a walk -- by yourself.
  • Weather. The weather can be a big bummer if you live in a winter climate. The solution? Yoga and meditation can help you foster positive spirits.
  • The Holidays. Running around, trying to get presents together is stressful. The solution? Plan ahead so you can spend time enjoying the season.
  • Loneliness. If you don't have anyone to spend it with, the holidays can be the most depressing time of year. The solution? Call up an old friend. Join a choir. Volunteer. You might feel alone but there are people out there who are just as lonely as you -- reach out to them.
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Avoid mindless eating this Thanksgiving

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One of the problems with holiday weight gain lies not so much in the meal itself -- after all, how much can you really eat in a sitting? (Wait, don't answer that.) -- but in the fact that delicious, delectable goodies are lying around all weekend long It's hard not to reach out and try a bite of this or put a little extra of that on your plate. I'm all for indulging a little on special occasions, but if you find yourself putting on a little weight every time a party or holiday gets together rolls around, it might be time to think about what you're eating.

Mindless eating is a problem year round, but it can be especially problematic over the holidays. MSNBC has a few quick tips to help you be a little more mindful about what your body is telling you eat:
  • Wear a belt. If not a belt, at least a snuggish pair of pants (and leave them buttoned). When you're full, excuse yourself and resist reaching for seconds.
  • Put your calories toward your favorite items and things that you don't get to eat every day. That way, you'll still feel like you're celebrating and not depriving yourself.
  • Take small portions the first time around. If you need to go back for more, a second small portion will do, but chances are that those two servings are smaller than the large first serving you'd typically take.
  • Forgo the late night turkey sandwich and eat a piece of fruit or some carrots from the veggie tray instead.
Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

Principal plans to donate a kidney to student

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It's not uncommon to see school principals doing things to inspire their students. But a middle school teacher in New Hampshire may be inspiring his students in a whole new way. Jim Friel is donating one of his kidneys to 13-year-old Morgan Corliss. Morgan has had a kidney disorder since early childhood, but has gone rapidly down hill in recent months.

Friel said that when he heard they were looking for donors, he volunteered. He's one of only two people who were a match. Though he's worried about his health and safety, he says he's determined to go ahead to give Morgan a chance at a happy life. Now that's dedication.

More women under 45 seeing coronary disease

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A recent study showed that more women under the age of 45 are having heart disease (even more than men), and medical officials aren't sure what is to blame.

The usual suspects have been referenced: obesity and unhealthy lifestyle habits, but there is no clear answer yet. Is this the start of a shocking new trend? Hopefully not.

It's been said many, many times that the foods Americans eat everyday (and the lack of physical exercise) will spiral into an untenable health crisis in the next few decades. Could this new study be a precursor of things to come in that arena?

Think about that the next time you find yourself staring down that double cheeseburger or sitting on the couch as a zombie to hours pf television programming. What changes will you make come the new year?

Fitness math

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Let's be honest, math sucks. I apologize if me saying that offends the thousands of mathematicians who frequent this site (tongue planted quite firmly in cheek), but I'm sure the rest of you agree that there isn't any fun to be found in a math equation. Still, there are some instances when it's necessary for us to just suck it up and crunch the numbers.

Tracking your fitness progress and staying on track to reach your goals often involves the dreaded M word: Math. Arithmetic. Or whatever you want to call it, physical fitness can oftentimes be best charted and measured using these equations. Fortunately, most of them are simple enough for even me to handle, so I have little doubt that you guys will have any trouble with them.

One of the more important fitness formulas is one that helps determine how many calories you should be eating. Essentially, using this formula, you determine what your normal caloric intake is and, based on the resulting figure, how many calories you'll have to reduce your diet by to lose weight.

Continue reading Fitness math

Life Fit Chat with Laura Lewis: 10 Healthy 100-Calorie Snack Packs

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Life Fit Chat with That's Fit Life Fit Expert Laura Lewis brings conversation provoking tidbits to your table, served up with a touch of spice! Byte-sized information that pack some punch, brought to you every Wednesday and Thursday!

To snack or not to snack? I am a believer in eating several small meals a day, with small meaning 100-calorie snacks and 200-300 calorie meals. Of course, the nutritious density of the snack is of equal (or more) importance than the number of calories. So, before you grab the nifty little 100-calorie Oreo snack packs, check out these deliciously nutritious, low cal snack packs.

  1. Get your motor started each morning with a 100-calorie packet of McCann's Instant Cinnamon Irish Oatmeal. It smells so yummy, you will forget that it is good for you! And, you get 3 grams of cholesterol-fighting oat fiber.
  2. PB & C: Make little sandwiches with six All-Bran Multi-Grain Crackers and one and a half teaspoons of peanut butter. This grown-up version of the PB & J provides 2 grams of fiber, plus a healthy serving of the protein-packed legume--peanut butter--all in 90 calories.
  3. Apple Delight: Mix one cup of unsweetened applesauce with 3 tablespoons of fat-free Cool Whip (45 calories), and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. This yummy, 95-calorie treat provides 20% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
  4. "Chips" & Dip: Choose your favorite veggies and dip them in two tablespoons of hummus. The hummus has 60 calories and the calories in the veggies are so nominal the fiber, vitamins and phtyonutrients far outweigh the caloric content.
  5. Be your own barista: Stir a packet of Swiss Miss No Sugar Added Hot Chocolate mix into hot coffee for a late afternoon 60-calorie pick-me-up. This warm, comfort treat provides 30% of your calcium, 6% of your iron, and even a gram of fiber.
  6. Hot Potato-Hot-Potato: Bake one medium potato and slice in half. Dig out the "meat" of the potato and mash it with two tablespoon of salsa, and then put it back in its skin. This spicy, energizing treat only has 90 calories, but 2 grams each of protein and fiber, as well as vitamin C and iron.
  7. Bean Bite: Munch on 1/2 cup quick-cooked frozen soybeans, and get 8 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and lots of minerals in only 95 calories.
  8. The Healthy Happy Meal: Wrap a Morningstar Farms Vegan Burger, a tomato slice, sliced pickles, and a little mustard in lettuce leaves. This 100-calorie snacks provides 10 yummy grams of protein!
  9. Host you own happy hour: Mix 1/2 cup of tomato juice with 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 2 drops of Tabasco sauce, and a dash of lemon juice. Serve over ice with a celery stick. Snack on about dozen dry roasted peanuts, and you will be feeling happy in only 82 calories!
  10. Healthy Confetti Crisps: Keep a batch of these RealAge crisps on hand for a quick 95-calorie snack.
REALAGE CONFETTI CRISPS
6 servings, 95 calories each

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup each of peeled and thinly sliced purple potatoes, carrots, and parsnips

  • Mix the oil and seasonings together
  • Add the vegetables, and toss to coat
  • Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet lightly sprayed with olive oil.
  • Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.
Maintaining a healthy weight can make your real age as much as six years younger!

Daily Fit Tip: 50 push-ups every day, says Fitz

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I just took a spin through Fitzness.com, the website belonging to my friend and fellow That's Fit blogger, Fitz. While there, touring all the hot spots, a scrolling news listing caught my eye. Today's featured news includes a notice from Fitz that she has one training vacancy available, a reminder to a check out her low-fat desserts and for those seeking quick and easy exercise tricks, a fitness tip for the day.

"Do 50 push-ups throughout the day," writes Fitz. "All at once, or ten at a time. It will tone your entire upper body!"

Simple, isn't it? If you want a fit upper body, drop and do 50. Every day. I'm game. Are you?

How Many Calories ... in a cup of Light Egg Nog

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Egg nog and Christmas go hand in hand. Well, at least for me they do. Growing up, the promise of gifts under the tree was always the highlight of Christmas, but having a carton of Egg Nog in the fridge was almost as exciting. And as I got older, egg nog was just as exciting because now I could get in in my latte from Starbucks and I could help myself to my mum's special rum-infused egg nog too. My point? I love egg nog.

But like all good things, it's pretty obvious that egg nog isn't the healthiest beverage out there. I mean, it's pretty much just cream with some sugar. If you're an egg nog fan, this can be a disheartening realization. But what about so-called light egg nog? It's got to be low-cal, right? What do you think?

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Continue reading How Many Calories ... in a cup of Light Egg Nog

Here's to healthy holiday cooking -- Cheers!

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Chef Ethan McKee, like Darlene Dougherty, former president of the American Dietetic Association, has a few tricks for spicing up holiday recipes that won't clog arteries or pack on the pounds. McKee, who dishes out health-conscious cuisine year-round, says his technique tweaks can slim down a menu. Here's how he does it.

McKee braises his sweet potatoes in vegetable stock, herbs, and garlic so when he purees them, he can ditch the butter. He brines meats to boost flavor without adding loads of extra calories, and when he wants to create a creamy dish, he grabs some non-fat yogurt. Add some to your mashed potatoes, he says, and you'll get a nice little tang.

Is cauliflower on your holiday menu? If so, slice and sauté it with olive, some raisins and almonds and your dish will come out caramelized and crunchy. To lighten up your desserts, cut portion sizes and use Whey Low, an all-natural sugar substitute with a quarter of the calories.

See, it's possible to be jolly without abandoning taste. You just need to know what's naughty and what's nice, says McKee.

Migraine sufferers have different pain processing in brain

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Suffer from migraines? That's one of the most debilitating events that happens on such a frequent basis, and it can be disabling for many of us. New research states that those type of painful headaches may actually be due to pain sensory information processing in the brain.

That processing is a tad different in those who suffer from migraines compared to those that do not.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans were used to study the difference in brain patterns in those that experiences migraine headaches and those that did not, according to Harvard researchers. One thing that was not clear, however, was if migraines cause the brain changes or if the brain differences cause migraines.

Citrus juice may increase green tea's benefits

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Want to get a little more out of that green tea? Try adding a little citrus juice to it. In lab studies, scientists found that citrus juice and vitamin C increase the availability of antioxidants known as catechins, thought to reduce the risk of cancer and heart attack. The current theory is that the citrus juice preserves catechins in the intestines so that more can be absorbed.

The study hasn't been replicated in people yet, but scientists are hopeful. If you like citrus juices, a little dash in your tea certainly won't hurt you. It might even give you a much needed boost in vitamin C during cold season!

Ask Fitz! Your Fitzness Questions Answered - Avoiding holiday weight gain & healthier desserts

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Have fitness questions? Fitz has your answer. Our ThatsFit.com fitness expert -- and now your own virtual personal trainer -- will help you get fit, increase your overall health and do it in a fun way. Drop your questions here in the Comments section below and we'll choose two per week to publish on That's Fit! Learn more about Fitz here.

Q. Hey Fitz, I recently lost over 60 pounds and have kept it off for about two months so far. I have done a great job of making great food choices and exercising, but now that the holidays are here I'm terrified I'll gain much of the weight back. Junk food and parties are everywhere. Help! Alan

A. Thanks so much for the terrific question, Alan. You're not the only one facing the holidays as though you are looking down the barrel of a gun. It's certainly the most challenging time of the year when it comes to temptation. Isn't it weird that folks gift us with things such as cookies and pie, that will harm us in the long run? Why do friends do that to each other? It's like saying "Happy Holidays! Let me edge you closer to your heart attack!", or "Merry Christmas! Don't you ever look so good in those jeans again!" I don't get it. In fact, I make a policy of never giving unhealthy food as a gift to people that I care about.

Nonetheless. This is what you can do to stay on track. First of all, remind yourself consistently that the holidays are for celebrating friends, family, and religious values. Christmas for example, truly has nothing to do with mozzarella sticks or chocolate cake. Second, resolve to stick 100% to your exercise routine or even to amp it up a bit. Third, it's OK to say "no thank you." If you politely accepted every piece of pie, chocolate or glass of egg nog, you'd be in big trouble weight-wise for sure. It's OK to say "no thank you". In your case a thoughtful and honest reply of "I've been working really hard to take care of my health" would probably make most people stop pushing. Some will still push, and you can still just say "no thank you". Either that or take the junk food and dump it when no one is looking. At your big holiday feasts I suggest to follow this little rule of thumb. Enjoy a little bit of the things you like, but not too much of anything.

Alan, you've shown incredible discipline to lose 60 pounds this year. Just continue to do the same thing you've been doing. I wish you happy and healthy holidays. Fitz

Q. Miss Fitz. I've been assigned the job of bringing dessert to my son's fourth grade holiday party at school. Have any healthy suggestions? A. Trina

Continue reading Ask Fitz! Your Fitzness Questions Answered - Avoiding holiday weight gain & healthier desserts

Thankful for a healthy holiday

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Today is the day, three years ago, that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the day before Thanksgiving, just like it is now, and instead of giving thanks for all that was good in my life, I began questioning my life. I wondered why cancer was descending upon me. I was young, seemingly healthy, and ready to tackle the world. Cancer didn't fit into my life plans. Nor did it make a bit of sense. That was then.

This is now. And cancer does make sense. It took a while for the mystery to unfold but at this moment in time, it's all very clear. Cancer was a wake-up call, a reminder to take stock of my life. Because of cancer, I know who my true friends are -- Bev and Fitz, you are two of them -- and I know how to better prioritize the competing forces in my world. Family comes first; all else follows. Cancer taught me to stress less and relax more. It motivated me to reach out to those in need and in an odd turn of events, it showed me that I may not have been all that healthy after all. There was so much more I could do in the name of prevention and so because of cancer, I am eating better, exercising more, enjoying a trimmed-down figure, and truly fueling my body in the best possible way. Now, cancer makes sense.

Today, I am thankful for my health. And while I'm an optimist who believes I will be well for a long, long time, I do know cancer comes back. I also know the future is uncertain and other health issues may be looming on the horizon for me. That is why I focus mostly on the day and do the best I can with each set of 24 hours that are given to me.

Today, I am healthy. And that makes me happy.
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What kind of Turkey Day Workout Wonder are you?

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An older and wiser bird, I workout each and every Thanksgiving morning. From observing other Turkey Day Workout Wonders (TDWWs) over the years, the day definitely draws a mixed bag to the gym. Do any of these describe you?

The Butterball: He or she, this overweight TDWW is especially attracted to any Thanksgiving Day cardio opportunity at the neighborhood gym. Their t-shirt rides up, stomach hangs out and they are highly moist with dripping sweat, unaccustomed to making basic aerobic dance moves or turning on the treadmill. Like a bird in the oven, they often complain the gym is hot. For some reason, Butterball believes burning 750 calories will justify consuming 4,000 later in the day.

One Deck of Cards-Sized Serving of Breast Meat Only, Please: What a TDWW to behold -- One Deck has a body fat percentage under ten percent year-round, revealing her six-pack to the gym crowd as she reaches for the lat pulldown bar. One Deck will spend over two hours at the gym on Thanksgiving Day, which is just like any other day, unless she's cooking ... then she gets up earlier.

Can I Have A Slice of Both?: Slice of Both is the most joyful TDWW because she knows burning an extra 300-400 calories on this day of thanks means the ability to consume that second slice of Gramma's pumpkin pie. Slice of Both traditionally makes a rare visit to the weight room for 20 minutes of resistance training to justify two giant dollops of whip cream on each slice, trading pie recipes with any fellow TDWWs willing to listen. She's always sore while shopping on Friday.

Rip Me Off That Turkey Leg: Rip Me is one ripped gym rat. He's a 20-something weightlifting dude capable of downing the entire turkey leg in three bites. He makes no distinction between white meat and dark meat, but on Turkey Day his workout is carefully timed immediately prior to heading over to his mom's house, where he's hoping those bulging biceps and slicked down hair will attract a new guest to the family table -- his older sister's hot best friend Cindi.

I Don't Want To Feel Fat: I Don't Want To is not a year-round gym regular. He or she usually appears at the gym when they've gained five pounds, have a high school reunion coming up or are especially down after shopping for jeans the day before. But they are one dedicated TDWW, getting a heckuva workout in every Thanksgiving so 'they don't feel fat' as they stuff their face at 4:30 pm.

2,400 Calorie Special: 2,400 is a TDWW who boasts decent self-esteem, is generally optimistic and entirely content with life. He's got a solid job, a wife and two kids, a size 34 waist and a dog named Riley. 2,400 loves joining in the Thanksgiving merriment and festivities at the gym, and he's especially welcoming to newcomers because he's so nice. A model of moderation, 2,400 will consume no more than 2,400 calories on Thanksgiving Day as that is his daily caloric intake year-round.

I am a hybrid of Slice of Both and I Don't Want To, peppered with 1,800 on some Thanksgivings -- the female version of 2,400. Happy Thanksgiving to all the TDWWs out there! I am truly glad you're at the gym ... that's 1,800 talkin'. Thanks to Chris Sparling's hysterical post on The 10 people you'll find in any gym for inspiring my thoughts on TDWWs.

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Highway football rules! (Not really)

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I was stuck in a traffic jam today on the way to visit my family for Thanksgiving. I and the bazillion others stuck on the Florida Turnpike had our engines off for over thirty minutes while an accident up ahead was being attended to. Most of us just kind of loitered near our cars, but a group of men and boys actually got together on the side of the road to play some football (pictured at right). Hmmm.

I suppose it was safe in that they certainly were in no threat of being hit by a car, but it just seemed a little weird. In fact, since oncoming traffic was completely stopped as well and the lanes opposite mine were completely empty, a group of teenagers spent some time skateboarding in them. Weird. Lesson being, always come prepared for fitness? Keep some sports equipment in your car for traffic jams? I don't know. It was just a little funny to see.

Continue reading Highway football rules! (Not really)

Teenage boys and girls dieting more to stay thin

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A new and potential frightening U.S. study just released this week concluded that purging and exercising to stay slim are still all the rage of teenage girls in America. But, increasingly, teenage boys are increasingly joining the club as well.

The preoccupation of staying abnormally thin is just as odd as those teenagers who eat everything in sight and wonder why they're overweight, but in many cases, its the females who follow the slimming down strategy -- not the boys.

In the study, researchers found that between 1995 and 2005, 54 percent of girls dieted, 10 percent used diet products, and eight percent admitted to purging. In addition, 24 percent of boys observed in the study said they dieted. The surprise: that percentage rose every year within the 10-year study period.

Can you be denied immigration for being too fat? Yep!

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My recent post on the so-called 'tubby tax' had you guys talking -- the majority of you are very opposed to the idea of paying more on a flight just because you're carrying a few extra pounds. But if you think that's bad listen to this: Rowan Trezise, a British woman, has been denied immigration to New Zealand because she's overweight and considered a burden on the health system.

What?!?

Her husband Richie was also told to slim down and he was able to shed two inches from his waist, which made him eligible to enter the country. But Ms. Trezise is stuck in the UK until she can get her BMI below 25 -- anything higher is considered overweight.

There are a few problems with this -- firstly, BMI is not considered an accurate measure of health by healthcare professionals. Secondly? It's outrageously discriminatory. What do you think?

Make your home allergy-free

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Despite the fact that I'm not allergic to cats, one of the best things I ever did for my allergies was ban my pets from the bedroom. That, combined with a hypoallergenic cover on my mattress, made the difference between waking up with asthma symptoms every morning, and breathing easy.

It's not easy to allergy-proof your environment. It takes time, patience, and sometimes some sacrifice (in this case, the sacrifice was on my cat's part, lucky for me). But taking steps to reduce your exposure to allergens can significantly improve your symptoms without increasing your medication. WebMD has an excellent list of ways to allergy-proof your home and car, as well as ways to reduce your exposure to common allergens while traveling, eating out, or while your child is at school. If you have allergies, take a minute to see if there's more you can be doing to reduce your symptoms.

Remember to get that annual physical

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With Thanksgiving day upon us almost, a good reminder to us all as we scarf down those large portions is to remember your annual physical if you haven't had it this year.

Receiving a regular physical checkup from a physician is the best tool for preventative maintenance you can have. Starting in the mid-30s, disease screening should be tested at regular intervals.

Here are some tips from the U.S. National Library of Medicine -- check into these when you get that next annual checkup:
  • Check regularly for signs of disease. Early detection often helps improve the chances of recovery.
  • Determine your risk of future health problems, and possibly, to prevent them.
  • Talk with you about your lifestyle, and to recommend changes.
  • Give you any needed vaccinations.
  • Get to know your history, in the event that you become seriously ill.

Are food additives to blame for hyperactivity in some children?

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There are a significant number of children in the U.S. who have been diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), to the point where some question if some kids are actually being misdiagnosed. Inattentiveness, irritability and even hyperactive behavior are not new phenomenons for children, although there may be a reason why the degree to which it now occurs is at an all-time high.

According to a double-blind study conducted at the Imperial College, London, kids who consumed products containing food coloring and the preservative sodium benzoate were more likely to be hyperactive than when they did not eat these foods (additives of this kind can typically be found in some fruit drinks and candies).

The researchers concede that more research still needs to be done before they can conclusively make this connection, though the current data seems to be pointing in this direction.

The Thanksgiving Eve Hangover Repair Manual

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It's hours away from starting ... the Biggest Party Night of the year!! I find it amazing that the night before Thanksgiving has somehow stolen the title from New Year's Eve, but as long as good times are being had, I'm all about it. Speaking of good times ...

Tomorrow (you know, when the actual holiday occurs) many people will enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with a bevy of loved ones. The people who may not enjoy it so much, however, are those who enjoy tonight a bit too much. It's very easy to let a couple of drinks become a couple more than you should be drinking, which may cause you to wake up feeling -- shall we say -- less than jovial.

Here are a few tips that may help reduce (note: not cure, just reduce) your hangover, thereby making a three hour sit down dinner with your annoying cousins at least bearable:

1. Pop an Ibuprofen. This will help reduce the pounding headache from which you're likely suffering.

2. Drink Plenty of Water. Common knowledge, I think. Alcohol can cause you to become dehydrated, so it's vital that you replenish your body the following day. After a while, switch to Gatorade or Powerade to also replace the electrolytes you've lost. Some people feel that drinking coconut water, due to its high levels of potassium, is a great way to rehydrate.

3. Eat a Healthy Meal. Although eating fatty and greasy foods may help absorb (for lack of a better word) some of the alcohol in your system, more important are foods rich in magnesium and potassium, such as bananas, whole grains, and, as mentioned, coconut water.

4. Don't Skip Your Morning Cup of Joe. If you're a regular coffee drinker, avoiding your morning cup may cause a bit of caffeine withdrawal, which will only serve to increase the severity of your already pounding headache.

Remember, none of these measures will help eliminate a hangover entirely, so keep that in mind tonight when you're out on the town.

Holiday food safety tips

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We've been talking a lot lately about how to prevent holiday weight gain and mindless eating over the holidays, but what about keeping ourselves safe from another holiday-wrecker? Food poisoning can and does happen at holiday meals. After all, it's a large meal and timing things just right to keep everything cold and hot enough can be tricky. You can prevent food borne illnesses from happening in your own kitchen by following these 10 simple food safety tips from WebMD.

The key to food safety is being prepared with a good plan, keeping hands and food surfaces clean, and storing food promptly and correctly. What kinds of things do you do to keep your food safe and delicious during a large meal?

USDA changes position on Tyson Foods regarding poultry labeling

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Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicated to chicken giant Tyson Foods over the summer that it could begin using "raised without antibiotics" on its products, the federal agency has now reversed that position.

Apparently, the USDA did not catch the inclusion of a very specific item it classifies as an antibiotic, although Tyson indicated that the FDA does not classify the substance -- ionophores-- that way.

Tyson will now probably have to scramble to remove these labels from possibly millions of fresh chicken products. Why the USDA and the FDA disagree on the classification of ionophores seems odd, but hey -- it's the federal government, right?

Pumpkin pie crust version 2.0

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I have some nerve posting about a recipe. Known as someone capable of burning water, I'm really the last person to turn to for cooking advice or instruction. Fortunately, there are people who are quite adept in the kitchen, and they are willing to share some of their culinary brilliance with the rest of us.

Such is the case with this last-minute Thanksgiving Day recipe I just came across on RealAge.com. Taking a fatty and calorie laden staple like the Pumpkin Pie crust and turning it into a far less damaging version, the person behind this recipe ought to be given thanks tomorrow over dinner.

The following is a list of ingredients necessary to make this healthier crust:

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons ice water

For the directions on how to go about taking these ingredients and turning them into something delicious and relatively nutritious, click HERE.