Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why You Should Wash Your Produce

3 Reasons You Should Wash Your Produce

We've all taken a bite out of that shiny apple, thinking it was probably clean enough without washing. However, there are a few reasons why you should think twice before chomping down on some unwashed produce. Here are three reasons why you should wash your produce before eating it:

1. Pesticides

Eating certain fruits and vegetables can expose you to up to 14 different pesticides per day on average. Prolonged exposure to pesticides can lead to chronic health problems, and children are especially susceptible. Limiting your family's exposure by washing your produce thoroughly can reduce the risk of damaging your health.

2. Food Borne Illnesses

There are all kinds of food borne illnesses that we can protract from our food. It doesn't just have to be raw chicken to house bacteria. You should always be cautious before putting food in your mouth. With salmonella, staphyloccocus aureus, and E. coli out there to take our bodies by storm, it's important to practice proper food hygiene.

3. Dirt!

It may go without saying, but our produce is dirty! Have you ever opened up a head of lettuce to find dirt, gravel, and even dead bugs inbetween the leaves? A lot of our produce comes from the ground, and the ground is dirty. This means that the fruits and vegetables that we eat that come with a layer of dust, mud, or whatever else they were pulled up with (including insects). If you have a problem with eating dirt and bugs, it is probably a good idea to wash your produce.

The Proper Way to Wash Your Produce (from FDA.gov):

"Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking. This includes produce grown conventionally or organically at home, or purchased from a grocery store or farmer's market. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended. Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. Dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present."



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Breaking Through Weight Loss Plateaus

The Day the Scale Stood Still...

It has happened to the best of us. We are cheerfully cruising along on our various weight loss journeys, weight dropping off consistently for the first few weeks or months, when suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt. You think, "Why even bother?"

First of all, the worst thing you can do is give up on yourself. Just because you haven't seen a loss on the scale doesn't mean you haven't been making progress. The scale doesn't measure body composition (muscle versus fat, or water weight), it can only tell you your body's relationship with gravity. Also, you've hopefully been making progress with lifestyle changes (like exercising and eating vegetables), which means that even if you're not losing weight right now, you're still making better choices for your body.

5 Ways to Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau:

1. Be Honest With Yourself

This is perhaps the most important rule. You may have started off measuring your food and meticulously counting calories, but now you feel you know yourself and can eyeball portion sizes. You also may have started out sweating vigorously on the elliptical machine six days a week, and now take a few days off every couple weeks (or every week). Or maybe you've been going out to eat a little more often, not realizing that those "exceptions" are now becoming the norm. Getting too comfortable can happen slowly and we may not even notice the extra calories or decrease in effort at the gym. Take a look at your habits objectively, and be honest. We are only hurting our own progress by making justifications or trying to cut corners. If you feel that maybe you've been letting things slide a little bit too much, forgive yourself, refocus, and renew your dedication to your goals.

2. Try Something Different

If you keep trying the same thing over and over, you'll most likely get the same results. With weight loss plateaus, it's all about surprising your body. If you walk half an hour every day, try biking instead. You can also try high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. This is where you incorporate sprints into your workout at certain intervals that depend on your fitness level. If you're a beginner, do two minutes of your preferred cardio at a moderate pace, then do thirty seconds of maximum effort. Repeat this about ten times. As your fitness level improves, you can increase the "sprint" time and decrease the breaks in between. Trying something new in your work-outs can shock the body and finally tip the scales in your favor.
If you are the kind of person who eats the same thing for every meal day after day, it's time to break the habit. Variety is one of the most important principles of health. We need a variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables, to get all of the nutrients we need for our body. Try eating new foods and incorporating more variety into your diet.

3. Drink More Water

As it was mentioned previously, the scale doesn't take water weight into account. Your body could be retaining water because it isn't getting enough water every day. The more water you drink, the more the body can let go of those water stores and flush out the "bloat." Additionally, drinking water can help you feel more energized and remain more active throughout the day by keeping blood volume up and therefore supplying enough oxygen to your muscles. Drinking a glass of water can also help with cravings or overeating. When you have a craving or are considering that second helping, drink a full glass of water and wait at least ten minutes. This will help you to determine whether you are really hungry.

4. Measure for Success

If you haven't already started measuring yourself, do it now! Sometimes you won't see a loss on the scale, but you will see a loss of inches. The inches are just as important as the pounds, as they can indicate fat loss. Sometimes you can drop a dress size without having lost a pound! If your workouts are focused more on weight training than cardio, and you haven't been eating at a deficit (less calories than your body expends in energy), then it is very possible to sculpt your body and lose inches but no weight. Check every few weeks or months to see your progress. The standard is to measure your arms, thighs, waist, hip, and neck.

5. Be Patient

I know this is the last thing you want to hear, but sometimes it just takes a while to see progress. If you tend to see your weight jump up after hitting a new low number, don't panic! The body can fluctuate up to ten pounds in one day! Try to keep the overall trend in mind. Don't let the number ruin your progress. Keep making healthy choices and eventually you will see progress. Weight loss is a matter of taking in less energy than you put out. If you do this consistently, eventually the math will add up and you will reach your goals. It's okay to take a long time to reach your goal! Studies actually show that those who lose weight more slowly keep it off better. So keep hitting the gym and eating your vegetables. You will get there eventually, and your body will thank you for it. Weight loss isn't just a destination-- it's a journey.

Note: If you've honestly tried everything and your weight is still stagnant, make an appointment with your provider. There may be medical reasons that make it harder for you to lose weight.



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Meditation: What Is It and What are the Benefits?

Meditation: What Is It and What are the Benefits?

You've heard the word before: meditation. To some the word might invoke feelings of peace and calmness, and to others it might trigger thoughts of people sitting cross-legged saying, "Ohhmmm."
So what is it really? What does meditation entail? Do you have to do yoga and know the names of all the chakras in order to meditate? Well, there are actually many forms of meditation, including transcendental meditation, prayer, Zen meditation, mindfulness meditation, and others. The main goal of all meditation is to quiet the mind and free it from stress by the use of quiet contemplation and reflection. All people can meditate, and probably should!

There have been many benefits found to be associated with meditation of any kind. Check out the following list of benefits to see if meditation intrigues you!
6 Benefits of Meditation
1. Lowers Stress
This one is probably a given. Taking a time out to just sit and be alone with our thoughts is going to allow ourselves a break from the things that get our blood pressure up. This not only makes us feel less stressed, but lowers the stress hormone called cortisol.

2. Lets Us Get to Know Our True Selves
Taking the time to sift through our thoughts and get down to the underlying desires, fears, and needs helps us to eliminate the bias we have about ourselves and assess our situations objectively. By meditating, we can eliminate the tendency to diminish or amplify our own flaws.

3. It Could Help With Learning/Schoolwork
A study published in Psychological Science found that students who practiced mindful meditation did better on the GRE than those who didn't. Meditation could enhance performance in school by improving cognitive function.

4. Can Prevent Some Mental Illness
Because meditation is linked with increased activity in the brain, it may take part in preventing some mental illnesses. Meditation has also been associated with increased axonal density and an increase in myelin tissue, which is a protective tissue around axons (which send nerve signals). Overall, meditation has the potential to aid in preventing mental deterioration.
5. Makes You a Better Person
A study published in Psychological Science described how meditation has been linked to more "do-good" behavior. People tend to be more virtuous and compassionate if they have some meditation component included in their lives.
6. It Helps You Sleep
A study done at University of Utah found that not only do people who meditate have better control over their emotions and behaviors during the day, they have lower activation at night while sleeping, leading to more restful slumber.
So How Do I Get Started?
There are many kinds of meditation, but here are some basic guidelines to getting started with meditation:
  • Set aside a special "spot" for meditating. It can be empty of things or decorated with things that have meaning to you.
  • Sit in a way that is comfortable for you. The classic style is cross-legged with your hands resting on your knees, but you can find a different way if that works for you.
  • Try to keep your eyes open if you can, but not focused on anything. The idea is to experience the senses, but in a relaxed state.
  • You can meditate as long as you want or for as little time as you can manage. There is no magic amount of time. You can start with five minutes a day and work your way up, if you'd like.
  • Follow your breath: inhale deeply into your abdomen, and breathe out slowly. You can also exhale a few times before you start to clear your mind and lungs.
  • Observe an object and keep your eyes fixed in that place. Don't let them wander.
  • Recite a mantra. This can be whatever you want, but be sure it is something that is enlightening and uplifting. You can also say a prayer.
A great option for beginners is to go to take a yoga class! Many instructors include guided meditations during the class and help you practice how to reach a meditative state.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What to Look for in Great Running Shoes

Do Your Running Shoes Make the Cut?

So you've decided to buy new running shoes. Or maybe you're wondering if the running shoes you have now are doing all they can for you. You're asking yourself, what is the best running shoe? Unfortunately, like many great questions, the answer is: it depends.

Image Source: http://blondebostonian.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/IMG_1853.jpg

The rows and rows of shoes at your local sporting good stores can be pretty daunting. Between brand, color, shape, and fit, you may find yourself lost when it comes to choosing the right shoe for you. Below is a helpful guide on picking out the right shoe for your needs.

Your Feet Have Needs

Each person's feet have a different profile. Some have flat feet, and some have high arches. Some over-pronate, and some under-pronate. Some run on their toes, some strike the ground hard on their heels. A good idea is to go and have a sales associate at a running store have your foot assessed and tell you what your individual needs are. You can also examine your footprint by stepping in sand or on paper with wet feet (some shoe stores also have places where you can step on a platform and assess your footprint).

Once you know a little about your feet, here are some things to look for:

Flat Feet:

If you're flat-footed, you are most likely an over-pronator, which means that your feet roll inward when you run, like this:

Image source: http://www.pedorthicscanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/excess-pronation.jpg

Because of this, you'll need stability when you run. Look for the words "stability" or "motion control" when you are at the store. You might also need shoe inserts, depending on the severity of the flatness of your arches.

High-arched Feet:

If you have high arches, your feet most likely roll outward when you run, which means you supinate, or under-pronate, like this:

Image source: http://www.feetlife.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Shoe-Insole-Supination.jpg

Since you put pressure on the mid-sole of your shoe when you run, you'll want to find a shoe that absorbs shock well. Look for words like "flexible" or "cushioned" in the description.

Neutral/Normal Feet:

If your feet look like the middle foot in the image below, then you probably have a neutral foot.

Image source: http://pediology.com.sg/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/pronation-pic1.jpg

Lucky you! Your options are open. As long as you don't pick a shoe that doesn't fit the shape of your foot, you should be fine. However, it's probably best to pick shoes that don't have a lot of stability or motion control, as these may alter your stride. You'll be glad to know that with a neutral foot, you're least susceptible to injury.

Price and Style

Image source: http://www.saleaf1.com/images/Nike-Dunk-high-heels/Nike-Air-Max-95-Air-Cushion-High-Heels-Blk-Pink-Sale_2.jpg

Just because the shoe is expensive and flashy doesn't necessarily mean that it is going to be right for you. However, you are going to have to face the fact that running shoes are going to be pricey. A range of $70 to $100 is to be expected for a quality shoe. Try not to think about the price when trying on shoes; choose the shoe that feels the best. Also, try not to base your choice on the look of the shoe. Many brands put out shoes with an hourglass shape to make the foot appear smaller/thinner, but feet aren't shaped like hourglasses. When trying on your shoes, walk around the store, jog in place, do whatever you can to get the feel of the shoe.



If you feel like the shoes you're trying on just aren't giving you that support you need, it may be a good idea to look into shoe inserts. There are different kinds of inserts, including arch supports, insoles, heel liners, and foot cushions. 
Arch supports are designed to support the foot's arch. Insoles provide extra cushioning and support. Heel liners are for extra support in the heel region, especially helpful for older customers who have foot pain caused by age-related thinning of the heel's natural fat pads. Foot cushions can be used as a barrier between your foot and the shoe, designed to prevent rubbing and other discomfort.
If you feel like you need a little extra help, look into getting a prescription orthotic insert. These are designed to comfort and support your individual feet. They are specifically shaped to the contours of your feet and require a complete evaluation by your podiatrist.

Know When Your Shoes Need To Be Replaced

Image source: http://www.bestselfatlanta.com/components/com_wordpress/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/old-running-shoes.jpg

First you're told to buy an expensive pair of running shoes, and then you're told that you need to get them every few months? Sadly, if you want to get the most out of your shoes and your runs, you will need to replace your shoes frequently. The gold standard is every 500 miles or every six months, whichever comes first. You may be tempted to keep your shoes going if they still seem fine, but try to avoid this as it may be detrimental to your running and cause injury.

Signs it's time to replace your shoes:

  • You've been feeling muscle fatigue, shin splints, or pain in your joints (especially your knees)
  • The "twist test": if you hold your shoe at opposite ends and twist, it should feel firm. An old shoe or one that doesn't have proper support will twist easily.
  • Your soles are worn out
  • Newer shoes feel much better (try new ones on once in a while to check)

When it comes to running shoes, it's all about your individual comfort. Don't gravitate toward style first; pick shoes that will be the most supportive and carry you through your runs. Be sure to replace them as often as is needed with your running routine.



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