Yoga with Jessica: Weight Loss

dreamstime_xl_57283468I am often asked about weight loss as it relates to yoga. Specifically, can doing yoga help one lose weight?

As I’ve mentioned before, yoga has numerous health benefits. When you do yoga, you slowly become aware of your body, and a gradual process begins to take place. You might start going to two or more yoga classes a week. You might introduce another activity or exercise into your routine. You might start noticing how you feel after you eat a meal, or you may begin to look at food differently.

All of these changes is yourself becoming more aware of the external influences on your body. Self-awareness can cause a change in how you feel and think about your body. You could begin to be more mindful about what you eat on a daily basis. You may become more aware of the foods that make you feel sluggish or lethargic. You could find yourself choosing healthier food, which can lead to weight loss.

So, have I lost weight through yoga alone? Nope. I am human. Just like the rest of the world, I’m tired when I get home from work. I like pizza, pasta, bread and the occasional alcoholic drink. For me personally, my weight is a continual struggle, as well as a work in progress. However, through my yoga practice, my attention has turned inward, which has made me more mindful about the foods I eat.

Tips for Eating Healthy on the Run

dreamstime_s_33022537You probably eat out a lot—most Americans do. People are looking for fast, easy and good-tasting foods to fit a busy lifestyle. Whether it’s carry-out, food court, office cafeteria or sit-down restaurant, there are smart choices everywhere. Here are 30 tips to help you eat healthy when eating out.

  1. Think ahead and plan where you will eat. Consider what meal options are available. Look for restaurants or carry-out with a wide range of menu items.
  2. Take time to look over the menu and make careful selections. Some restaurant menus may have a special section for “healthier” choices.
  3. Read restaurant menus carefully for clues to fat and calorie content. Menu terms that can mean less fat and calories: baked, braised, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted, steamed.
  4. Menu terms that can mean more fat and calories: batter-fried, pan-fried, buttered, creamed, crispy, breaded. Choose these foods only occasionally and in small portions.
  5. Order the regular or child-size portion. Mega-sized servings are probably more than you need. For a lighter meal, order an appetizer in place of a main course.
  6. It’s OK to make special requests, just keep them simple. For example, ask for a baked potato or side salad in place of French fries; no mayonnaise or bacon on your sandwich; sauces served on the side.
  7. Hunger can drive you to eat too much bread before your meal arrives. Hold the bread or chips until your meal is served. Out of sight, out of mind.
  8. Think about your food choices for the entire day. If you’re planning a special restaurant meal in the evening, have a light breakfast and lunch.
  9. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. No more than one drink for women and two for men. Alcohol tends to increase your appetite and provides calories without any nutrients.
  10. Tempted by sweet, creamy desserts? Order one dessert with enough forks for everyone at the table to have a bite.
  11. Split your order. Share an extra large sandwich or main course with a friend or take half home for another meal.
  12. Boost the nutrition in all types of sandwiches by adding tomato, lettuce, peppers or other vegetables.
  13. A baked potato offers more fiber, fewer calories and less fat than fries if you skip the sour cream and butter. Top your potato with broccoli and a sprinkle of cheese or salsa.
  14. At the sandwich shop, choose lean beef, ham, turkey or chicken on whole grain bread. Ask for mustard, ketchup, salsa or low-fat spreads. And, don’t forget the veggies.
  15. In place of fries or chips, choose a side salad, fruit or baked potato. Or, share a regular order of fries with a friend.
  16. Enjoy ethnic foods such as Chinese stir-fry, vegetable-stuffed pita or Mexican fajitas. Go easy on the sour cream, cheese and guacamole.
  17. At the salad bar, pile on the dark leafy greens, carrots, peppers and other fresh vegetables. Lighten up on mayonnaise-based salads and high fat toppings. Enjoy fresh fruit as your dessert.
  18. Eat your lower-calorie food first. Soup or salad is a good choice. Follow up with a light main course.
  19. Ask for sauces, dressings and toppings to be served “on the side.” Then you control how much you eat.
  20. Pass up all-you-can-eat specials, buffets and unlimited salad bars if you tend to eat too much.
  21. If you do choose the buffet, fill up on salads and vegetables first. Take no more than two trips and use the small plate that holds less food.
  22. Load up your pizza with vegetable toppings. If you add meat, make it lean ham, Canadian bacon, chicken or shrimp.
  23. Look for a sandwich wrap in a soft tortilla. Fillings such as rice mixed with seafood, chicken, or grilled vegetables are usually lower in fat and calories.
  24. Build a better breakfast sandwich: replace bacon or sausage with Canadian bacon or ham and order your sandwich on a whole grain English muffin or bagel.
  25. Be size-wise about muffins, bagels, croissants and biscuits. A jumbo muffin has more than twice the fat and calories of the regular size.
  26. Try a smoothie made with juice, fruit and yogurt for a light lunch or snack.
  27. Refrigerate carry-out or leftovers if the food won’t be eaten right away. Toss foods kept at room temperature for more than two hours.
  28. Grabbing dinner at the supermarket deli? Select rotisserie chicken, salad-in-a-bag and freshly baked bread. Or, try sliced lean roast beef, onion rolls, potato salad and fresh fruit.
  29. Always eating on the go? Tuck portable, nonperishable foods in your purse, tote, briefcase or backpack for an on-the-run meal. Some suggestions are peanut butter and crackers, granola bars, a piece of fresh fruit, trail mix, single serve packages of whole grain cereal or crackers.
  30. For desktop dining, keep single-serve packages of crackers, fruit, peanut butter, soup, or tuna in your desk for a quick lunch.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Managing Heart Disease Risk At Any Age

heart disease.jpgAge is one of the risk factors we have no control over. You see, heart disease doesn’t play favorites. You can be young, energetic, and athletic and still be diagnosed with it.

Regan Judd was all of those things, but that didn’t stop her from needing open heart surgery at 19 years old. “I kept thinking of my grandpa because he had open heart surgery when I was a kid,” she says. “But he was so much older than me that I just couldn’t grasp it.”

Certainly adds a whole new perspective to being “a kid at heart,” doesn’t it? Arguably, it’s a much-needed new perspective. One that should serve as a wake-up call for women of all ages to understand the importance of, first knowing they can have risk factors at any age, and then managing those risk factors before they become a problem.

So how exactly can you manage your risks and keep heart disease out of your life? We’ll break it down by age.

In your 20s

  • Know early the numbers that impact your heart health. This will make it easier to spot a possible change in the future. Your goal should be less than 200 mg of total cholesterol intake daily, and strive for a blood pressure reading of 120/80 mm Hg or less.
  • Check your family history. Ask your family if anyone has had heart disease or any of the risk factors for heart disease. If the answer is yes, your chances for developing heart disease go up. It’s important to learn this information now so you can be aware of your risk. Make a point to talk with your doctor and see what you can do to decrease your risk of developing heart disease.
  • Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke. If you picked up smoking as a teen, it’s time to quit. Even exposure to secondhand smoke poses a serious health hazard. To make matters worse, according to a U.S. Surgeon General report, nonsmokers are up to 30 percent more likely to develop heart disease or lung cancer from secondhand smoke exposure.
  • Drink in moderation. Drinking heavily can cause a spike in your blood pressure, and in some cases cause heart failure and lead to a stroke. Keep in mind that for women, moderate drinking is no more than one drink per day, which is defined as:
    • 1-1/2 fluid ounces (fl oz) of 80-proof spirits (such as bourbon, scotch, vodka, gin, etc.)
    • 1 fl oz of 100-proof spirits
    • 4 fl oz of wine
    • 12 fl oz of beer
  • Choose birth control carefully. Talk to your doctor about your options so you can make a fully informed decision based on the risks and benefits. Oral contraceptives along with other birth control options can cause an increase in your blood pressure. If you can safely use an alternative method that doesn’t put your health at risk, consider the advantages. Remember that cigarette smoking and oral birth control use can increase the risk of serious cardiovascular disease.

In your 30s

  • Tame your stress.  Long-term stress causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that may damage the artery walls. Pick up a few stress management techniques to soothe your mind and body. Try deep breathing exercises and find time each day to do something you enjoy – whatever it takes to knock out stress.
  • ‘Me time’ isn’t optional – it’s a requirement. Juggling a family and career has probably left you with little time to worry about yourself. Life is a balancing act, but your health should always come first. Now is the time to build heart-healthy habits. That means eating healthy, getting lots of physical activity and a full night’s sleep. Studies have shown that if you can avoid the conditions that put you at risk for heart disease until you turn 50, chances are good that you may never develop it. Make your health a priority.
  • Choose birth control carefully. Talk to your doctor about your options so that you can make a fully informed decision based on the risks and benefits. Many types of contraceptives, but especially oral contraceptives, can cause an increase in your blood pressure. If you can safely use an alternative method that doesn’t put your health at risk, consider the advantages. Remember that cigarette smoking and oral birth control use can increase the risk of serious cardiovascular disease.

In your 40s

  • Strive for more balance and less stress. Women are naturally caretakers. Ask any mom, spouse, businesswoman or caretaker; chances are, they rarely put their own needs first. But what would happen if you were suddenly too sick to take care of your family or go to work? The bottom line is prevention. You have to make time and invest in your own health — for yourself and the people who depend on you. Try yoga, take up gardening, get a weekly massage or mani-pedi, pick up a new hobby or an old one that you loved but stopped doing years ago. Whatever it is, do something that can make the stress melt away.
  • Make your wellbeing a priority.  By 40, some women have already made physical activity part of their daily life, but if you haven’t, it can seem like a chore. Between family and work, it may be difficult to make time for yourself, but it is critical for your health. Regular physical activity (150 minutes moderate intensity or 75 minutes vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity each week) can improve your blood pressure and HDL “good” cholesterol, reduce your chances of developing diabetes, and strengthen your heart.
  • Get regular checkups.  In addition to blood pressure checkups and other heart-health screenings, you should have your blood sugar level tested by the time you’re 45. This first test serves as a baseline for future tests, which you should have every three years. Here are the tests you should have:
    • Weight and Body Mass Index
    • Waist Circumference
    • Blood Pressure
    • Cholesterol
    • Heart Exam
    • Fasting Blood Glucose

In your 50s

  • Monitor changes in your body and keep an open dialogue with your doctor.  As women age, we lose some of our body’s natural defenses against heart disease. This can happen because of changes in hormones from menopause, which can affect your cholesterol levels. Also, type 2 diabetes usually develops in women after age 45. So take time to get regular checkups. Play an active role in your healthcare and work with your doctor to see if you have any heart disease risk factors. If you are already at risk, ask your doctor how you can reduce it.
  • Know your numbers.  Knowing the numbers that impact your heart is an important step toward healthy living. Here’s a quick overview of the numbers you need to know and your goals. Be sure to talk to your doctor to see how your current numbers measure up.
    • Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL
    • HDL (good) cholesterol 50 mg/dL or higher
    • LDL (bad) cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL
    • Triglycerides 150 mg/dL
    • Blood pressure less than 120/80 mm Hg
    • Body Mass Index less than 25 kg/m2
    • Waist circumference less than 35 in.
  • Watch what you eat. If you have extra room in your schedule, take the time to carefully plan healthy meals for you and your family. Choose foods low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars. Focus on including foods that are nutrient-dense like colorful veggies and fruits, fiber-rich, whole-grains, lean meats, skinless chicken and fish rich in omega-3s, and fat-free, 1 percent fat and low-fat dairy. These foods can give your heart the nutrients it needs as well as improve your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Get physical. If you haven’t been exercising, now is the time to start. Pick something that you enjoy and start slowly. Chances are, if you enjoy the type of exercise you engage in, the more likely it is that you’ll stick with it. If you’ve been exercising for a while, change up your routine every now and then so you won’t get bored. Your goal is to exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes most days, if not all days of the week.

In your 60s and beyond

  • Know your risk. The more risk factors you can keep under control, the less likely you are to have a future heart attack. But as you get older, your blood pressure, cholesterol and other heart-related numbers tend to rise. And unfortunately, studies show that the number of women who have heart attacks increases dramatically, especially after menopause. But the good news is that you have the power to reduce your risk, and if you do have a heart condition, there is plenty you can do to manage it. A great place to start is by taking the Go Red Heart CheckUp. It only takes a few minutes and along with your results, you’ll receive a Personal Action Plan. Think of it as a customized guide to help you achieve your fitness and nutrition goals, and live heart smart.
  • Keep moving.  The older we get, the trickier exercise can be. But it’s still very important to make physical activity a top priority in your life. If exercise is new to you, start slow and talk to your doctor for suggestions on the types of exercise or workouts that you can explore. If working out has never been your thing, that’s okay; walking, even short brisk walks for as little as 10 minutes throughout the day, can provide enough physical activity to keep your heart in shape. Your goal should be to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week.

Source: American Heart Association

Peanut Butter Banana No Bake Energy Bites

Energy bites.jpgCheck out this great, heart-healthy recipe for a quick pick-me-up!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 banana chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup flax seed
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon Monk Fruit in the raw sweetener

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Using a fork, stir until ingredients are well combined. Add more oats as needed if the consistency is too sticky.
  2. Place bowl in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove and roll “dough” into 1 inch balls.
  4. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Enjoy!

Yoga with Jessica: Meditation

Recently we have been covering different yoga poses, but I want to switch gears for this month’s blog. In my second blog, I noted that yoga was developed over 5,000 years ago for the purpose of exploring your inner awareness through poses and meditation. We have taken the time to look at just a few of the poses, so now I would like to take a look at the meditation piece.

icebergHave you ever seen the bilateral picture of an iceberg? If not, take a look to your right. We know that icebergs have just a fraction of its ice showing on the surface, while the majority of the ice is unseen underwater. I am going to touch on the tip of the meditation iceberg this month.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “meditation?” When I first started practicing yoga, I wanted nothing to do with meditation. At the beginning, yoga was all about the poses and the movement for me. However, yoga is a never-ending journey. There is always something to learn as you become more aware of your body, mind, and soul.

Meditation actually means “to spend time in quiet thought for religious purposes or relaxation.” However, meditation is not equated with a particular religion. You do not have to believe in a deity or God to practice meditation. Meditation is a simple, but life changing, tool that can help you relax, improve your understanding of yourself and expand your natural potential. Meditation requires you to quiet your mind.

It is important to note that there is no “right” way to meditate. It is also important to be patient with yourself when beginning meditation. Meditation is much like tending to a plant. The growing process does not happen overnight. It is a slow process, but it is, no doubt, happening. You can never waste the minutes you put into quieting your body, mind, and soul.

How to meditate:

When you have the time and are ready to begin, find a comfortable seat. You can be on the floor seated upright or in a chair with both feet planted firmly on the floor. Whatever you decide, it’s important that you are comfortable and are not slouching. Breathe naturally, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Allow for more air to fill your lungs each time you inhale. This gradually allows your breath to become deeper and fuller. Try to make your exhales as long as, if not longer than, your inhales. Exhale more “used” air so that you can make more room for fresh air to fill your lungs on your next inhale. To begin, repeat this process for 5 minutes. As you become more comfortable, move to 10 minutes then maybe 15 minutes. There is no “right” time frame.

Eat Healthy and Enjoy It!

Eating Healthy.jpgA healthy eating plan that helps you manage your weight includes a variety of foods you may not have considered. If “healthy eating” makes you think about the foods you can’t have, try refocusing on all the new foods you can eat—

  • Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Fruits ― don’t think just apples or bananas. All fresh, frozen, or canned fruits are great choices. Be sure to try some “exotic” fruits, too. How about a mango? Or a juicy pineapple or kiwi fruit! When your favorite fresh fruits aren’t in season, try a frozen, canned, or dried variety of a fresh fruit you enjoy. One caution about canned fruits is that they may contain added sugars or syrups. Be sure and choose canned varieties of fruit packed in water or in their own juice.
  • Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Vegetables ― try something new. You may find that you love grilled vegetables or steamed vegetables with a herb you haven’t tried like rosemary. You can sauté (panfry) vegetables in a non-stick pan with a small amount of cooking spray. Or try frozen or canned vegetables for a quick side dish — just microwave and serve. When trying canned vegetables, look for vegetables without added salt, butter, or cream sauces. Commit to going to the produce department and trying a new vegetable each week.
  • Calcium-rich foods ― you may automatically think of a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk when someone says “eat more dairy products.” But what about low-fat and fat-free yogurts without added sugars? These come in a wide variety of flavors and can be a great dessert substitute for those with a sweet tooth.
  • A new twist on an old favorite ― if your favorite recipe calls for frying fish or breaded chicken, try healthier variations using baking or grilling. Maybe even try a recipe that uses dry beans in place of higher-fat meats. Ask around or search the internet and magazines for recipes with fewer calories ― you might be surprised to find you have a new favorite dish!

Do I have to give up my favorite comfort food?

No! Healthy eating is all about balance. You can enjoy your favorite foods even if they are high in calories, fat or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while, and balancing them out with healthier foods and more physical activity.

Some general tips for comfort foods:

  • Eat them less often. If you normally eat these foods every day, cut back to once a week or once a month. You’ll be cutting your calories because you’re not having the food as often.
  • Eat smaller amounts. If your favorite higher-calorie food is a chocolate bar, have a smaller size or only half a bar.
  • Try a lower-calorie version. Use lower-calorie ingredients or prepare food differently. For example, if your macaroni and cheese recipe uses whole milk, butter, and full-fat cheese, try remaking it with non-fat milk, less butter, light cream cheese, fresh spinach and tomatoes. Just remember to not increase your portion size. For more ideas on how to cut back on calories, see Eat More Weigh Less.

The point is, you can figure out how to include almost any food in your healthy eating plan in a way that still helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Source: CDC

Indoor Family Activities

dreamstime_s_13819505.jpgWhen the weather is cold and blustery, try these indoor activities with your family!

Marshmallow Tinkertoys

A bag of marshmallows and some thin pretzel sticks are all you need to build the perfect puffy pal, a 3-D house, or tepee. Your child simply skewers the marshmallows with the sticks to create his own masterpiece. Add to the fun by placing toy pigs or other animals in the house and challenging your child to be the big bad wolf and blow it down.

Family-Photo Bingo

Improve your child’s memory and help him learn who’s who in your family tree with this photo game. Take nine family photos and arrange them into rows of three, then give your child nine playing cards or checkers pieces to serve as bingo chips. When someone calls out “Daddy” or “Grandma,” your toddler covers the photo with the card. Whoever gets three in a row wins.

Sugar-Cookie Pizzas

Even the most domestically challenged chef can pull off this sweet and simple project. Slice several thick cookies from a roll of refrigerated sugar-cookie dough. Gently flatten them a bit on a cookie sheet to widen them, bake, and cool for about 10 minutes. Next, your little Mario Batalis can decorate their pies with strawberry jam or red icing for sauce, shredded coconut for cheese, and red M&M’s for pepperoni.

Grandparent Greetings

Haul out the craft supplies and set up a home Hallmark business. First your toddler creates the card with stickers, glitter, cut-out magazine photos, or whatever else he likes. Then you ask him what he wants to say to the recipient, and you write it inside. (I once received one of these from my then 2-year-old nephew that said, “Dear Aunt Isadora, I like to bite my piggy toy. Love, Jared.” That was one card I never tossed.) The icing on the cake? When the weather clears up, let your child stamp the envelope and slide it into a nearby mailbox.

Signature Storytelling

This is a trick I use at bedtime to give new life to old stories. Start reading one of your child’s favorite books. When you get to a critical point in the action, challenge him to take charge of the tale and add his own twist. For example, if you’re reading Cinderella and the mean stepsisters have torn up her dress, ask your child, “What would you do if someone did that to you? Should Cinderella just run away and cry, or should she do something else?” It teaches kids to think on their toes.

Create a Sensory Table

Remember the slimy thrill of sifting your hands through a bucket of ersatz eyeballs (aka peeled grapes) at the local haunted house? This activity offers the same thrills without the nightmares. Fill a series of bowls or washing basins full of textured objects — peeled grapes are still a good choice, as is cold cooked spaghetti, steel-wool pads, cornstarch, or dry beans. Blindfold your child, have him sift his hands through, and describe what he feels. Then challenge him to guess the object.

Bowl-a-rama

Small, empty water bottles and a rubber ball are all you need to transform the family room into a bowling alley — sans silly shoes, of course. Six bottles should suffice for bowling pins; if the bottles fall over too easily, fill them up with a little water or dry pasta for some extra weight.

Disco Down

Disco has been dead and resurrected so many times, I’m not sure if it’s in or out anymore. But I do know that young kids love to dance to it, even if they think that “Bee Gees” is some sort of sugary snack you’ve been denying them. Dim the lights, close the blinds, hand each child a flashlight (for the full disco effect) and a small scarf to twirl around. Cue up some classic tunes like “Dancing Queen,” by ABBA, and “I Will Survive,” by Gloria Gaynor, and watch the disco magic unfold.

Barbie Beach Party

Grab a collection of bikini-clad Barbies, beach towels (wash cloths), sunscreen (baby lotion), and perhaps a yacht or two (some Tupperware), and head for some fun in the tub. Hint: most Barbies really dig the diving board (faucet). My daughter’s opinion: Sunglasses and a tropical beverage (iced juice in a sippy cup) make the experience tantamount to a holiday in St. Tropez.

Mini Car Wash

Gather up your child’s fleet of cars, trucks, and spaceships for a detailing job that’ll put your local garage to shame. Load them all into the tub and give them a cleaning with plant sprayers and empty squeeze bottles.

Pirate Play

Somehow, Pirates of the Caribbean fever has trickled its way down to the toddler set. Doing anything even remotely pirate-like sends many into paroxysms of joy, so give this treasure hunt a try. Wrap a bunch of wooden blocks in aluminum foil, and hide them around the house (don’t get too clever — remember whom you’re dealing with). Give each child a flashlight and a small paper bag, and challenge them to find the buried silver.

Masking-Tape Marvels

Who would have thought that a humble roll of masking tape could provide so much fun? Make a hopscotch pattern or mock balance beam on the living room floor. Or have your child color pieces of tape with markers and use them to “design” his own T-shirt. My personal favorite: the invisible dollhouse. Lay down a “floor plan” on the rug, and furnish the house with doll furniture.

Family-Room Picnic

Change things up by serving lunch outside of the kitchen. First, grab your basket (you don’t need a real picnic basket — a laundry basket will do) and assemble some picnicky foods that the kids can “pack” themselves — juice boxes, water bottles, packets of raisins, string cheese, paper plates, napkins. While the kids are busy filling the basket, spread a blanket in the family room and put together some sandwiches. Then unpack your picnic and watch the lunch disappear.

Movie Time!

At some point even the most creative parent is going to have to resort to some good old TV time. Keep a hidden stash of DVDs that you only pull out during cruddy weather so rainy-day television is truly a treat. The same old Wiggles story is doubly boring for a child whose play options are limited.

Build It Together!

I had long intended to build a doghouse using plans purchased on the Internet. I had the lumber waiting in my workshop. When a bad-weather day arrived, I got my son interested in the project and broke open the box. We built a doghouse in about three hours.
— Josh Gonze, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Slow-Motion Tag

Chasing my 18-month-old around the house (especially if I do it in slow motion) and tickling her when she gets caught can keep my daughter endlessly amused.
— Daniel Feld, Brooklyn, New York

Family Cozy Time

On a rainy day our 15-month-old son usually keeps himself occupied by bringing us lots of books to read to him. We also have two large dogs that go stir-crazy in the house and provide him with hours of entertainment!

Source: Parents Magazine

3 Reasons You Should Kick Your Diet Soda Habit

Soda.jpgYou kicked your regular soda habit, and now you’re sitting on cloud nine. But if that cloud is made of diet soda — a replacement for the real thing — you may have just created new problems.

Switching from regular to diet soda may offer a short-term cut in calories, but your body won’t be fooled for long. Research suggests it reacts to certain nonnutritive foods, including the artificial sweeteners in diet soda, in ways that may harm your health.

Here are three reasons to kick your diet soda habit for good.

“Quitting a habit is never easy. But for my patients — and for you — I recommend kicking soda all the way, whether it is regular or diet.”

1. “Diet” soda is associated with weight gain

Current research suggests the brain reacts to artificial sweeteners much like it does to sugary sweets. Ingesting them frequently may result in an increased desire for high-calorie foods such as sugary treats, putting you at a greater risk of both weight gain and consumption of low-nutrient-density foods.

One study even found that overweight individuals who switched to diet soda were more likely to consume more calories in food than overweight individuals who drank regular soda. Further, those who drank diet soda had a higher BMI than their counterparts. And other research has suggested that the rise in diet soda consumption positively correlates with increases in our weight as a nation.

2. Diet soda may cause insulin confusion

The brain normally associates “sweet” with calories. In the realm of human physiology, that’s a good thing. It drives your body to release insulin as sugar’s chaperone to the cells to create fuel. In the past, people assumed this process could not occur when we consume artificial sweeteners because calories don’t follow the sweet flavor.

However, a 2013 study found the process could very well happen. In the study, individuals who consumed a specific artificial sweetener (sucralose) had increases in both insulin and blood glucose levels. Further research is needed, but the findings were significant. Why? Because frequent rises in insulin have been linked to insulin resistance and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

A more recent study in mice resulted in similar findings related to glucose intolerance. And past research has associated artificially sweetened sodas with increased risk of stroke and a greater chance of being obese.

3. Diet soda may change your brain’s reaction to sweetness

A 2012 study compared MRI results in college students who drank diet soda (averaging at least eight per week) with those who drank regular cola. Both groups activated similar reward areas in the brain. But students who drank the most diet cola each week had the least amount of activity in an area of the brain associated with the desire to consume “palatable” foods — often those high in fat and sugar. Put simply, those who drank the most diet soda seemed to alter their brain’s sweet-sensing reward center. That could change how the brain reacts to cravings for high-calorie foods.

So is it better just to drink sugar-sweetened soda in the first place? Not so fast. There is abundant data that tells us that sugar (even when it’s “real”) is not necessarily a sweeter alternative, at least where health is concerned.

If you crave caffeine (in moderation, of course), you are likely better off with plain coffee or tea. If you savor flavor, try freezing raspberries, blueberries, cucumber, mint, lemon or lime pieces in ice cubes to add zing and a hint of sweetness to water. You can even use them in soda water to recreate soda’s bubbly appeal.

Quitting a habit is never easy. But for my patients — and for you — I recommend kicking soda all the way, whether it is regular or diet. Doing so can have profound effects on both your weight and your health.

Source: Cleveland Clinic Blog

Do you have nagging thigh or hip pain?

Bursitis.jpgDo you tend to bump the car door shut with your hip? Don’t be surprised if your bursa complains.

Bursae are small sacs of fluid cushioning the bones, tendons and muscles near joints. Acute injury, overuse, or degenerative arthritis in the hip or back can lead to bursitis.

This painful inflammation of the bursa and surrounding tissue commonly targets the hip and its many bursae. Typically, the bursae cushioning the greater trochanter, or outward portion of your upper thigh bone, are affected.

“Trochanteric bursitis can affect anyone. Middle-aged and elderly women are especially prone to it, but people with very physical jobs, such as carpenters and house painters, are also at risk,” says Scott Burg, DO. “Hobbies and activities that involve repetitive twisting or rapid joint movement, or acute or prolonged pressure on joints, can also lead to bursitis.”

Gardening, raking, jogging, bicycling long distances, and playing tennis, golf or even a musical instrument can increase your odds of developing bursitis.

What bursitis feels like

Trochanteric bursitis brings warmth, swelling and pain to the outer thigh that can spread down to the knee. Walking intensifies the pain, limping is common, and climbing steps can become difficult. Tenderness on the side you’re lying on may interfere with sleep.

“But everyone’s response to pain is unique,” notes Dr. Burg. “Some people feel minimal discomfort that annoys them, while others sense pain more intensely. That’s why some people don’t need much anesthetic when a tooth is pulled, while others need a truckload.”

Home treatment with rest, ice and anti-inflammatories can help. It’s also important to avoid any activities that cause pain, including excessive standing.

When to seek help

Most trochanteric bursitis resolves on its own after two weeks. If home treatment hasn’t relieved your discomfort after two weeks, it’s time to see a doctor. A specialist in orthopaedics, rheumatology, 0r physical medicine and rehabilitation can help.

You doctor may ask you questions like:

  • Do you remember bumping your outer thigh or hip?
  • When did the pain begin?
  • Did you scrape your skin?
  • Did you get a fever?

Sometimes, physical therapy can be prescribed. If that doesn’t help, steroids can be injected into the bursa to relieve the inflammation.

Injections aren’t for everyone

“Injections can bring long-lasting and sometimes permanent relief,” notes Dr. Burg. “But they won’t be effective if you keep doing the work or activity that caused your bursitis in the first place. You have to eliminate the source of the problem.”

In the rare cases where trochanteric bursitis persists after 12 months of medical therapy, surgery can be considered.

But chances are, with proper care, your bursa will stop complaining long before that.

Source: Cleveland Clinic Blog

Yoga with Jessica: Savasana

corpse-pose-2Can you believe it’s January 2017? A new year is upon us- a new year to begin anew or to continue the journey. Whether this is your year for a healthier lifestyle, conquering those financial barriers, mastering yoga or one of the many other challenges life throws at us, open your heart and mind, and be receptive to the lessons you may learn.

This month, I would like to focus on the practice of savasana, or the corpse pose. Savasana is used at the end of your yoga practice, and it symbolizes the death of your current yoga practice.

Physical Benefits:

  • Ability to lower your blood pressure
  • Ability to relax and rejuvenate your body
  • Ability to reduce fatigue

Mental Benefits:

  • Ability to reduce stress
  • Ability to reduce mild depression and anxiety
  • Ability to reduce insomnia
  • Ability to calm and center your mind

For some people, this is the most difficult yoga pose because it asks you to surrender, to be still and to be present in the moment. Once we reach the end of our yoga practice and come to savasana, many let their thoughts wander back to the to-do lists, meetings the following day, or the next sporting event for their child.

I ask my students to bring their attention and awareness to their breath during savasana. I ask them to witness their breath- each inhale and each exhale- while they are in savasana. If you are focusing on your breathing, it is much more difficult for your mind to wander to those other thoughts.

You do so much for others throughout your day and week. Why can’t you devote an hour to yourself? It’s not selfish by any means. It’s giving back to yourself and nurturing, revitalizing and relaxing your body.

To end this month’s blog, I’d like to quote an old yoga saying. “Yoga is in the present. Yoga is presence. When the past and the future dissolve into what’s here, right now. It’s coming into a place of peace and calmness and integration.”

Namaste.