Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Yoga Can Reduce Stress for Kids Too

The American Osteopathic Association along with many other health organizations and professionals encourage yoga as a great way to increase flexibility, balance, muscle strength, circulatory health, athletic performance, and respiration as well as support weight management and stress reduction.

Yoga integrates meditation and breathing techniques which can relax the mind, increase body awareness, relieve chronic stress patterns, and sharpen concentration. Most yoga classes are for adults, however a new study published in the journal Psychology Research and Behavior Management from Tulane University highlights the benefits of yoga for kids.

Researchers focused on third graders at a New Orleans public school who showed symptoms of anxiety at the beginning of the school year. 32 students received counseling and other activities from the school’s social worker while 20 students participated in an 8 week mindfulness yoga class. Sessions included breathing exercises, several traditional yoga poses appropriate for kids, and guided relaxation.

At the end of the study students who participated in the mindfulness yoga classes showed improved emotional and psychosocial quality of life compared to the students who received the standard care from the social worker.

Following the results of the study teachers in the school started using yoga in the classroom throughout each day in class an reported benefits with their students. Researchers state kids even younger than third grade can experience stress and anxiety, especially around test time, and yoga may be therapeutic for kids of all ages.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Dance Your Way to Happiness and Good Health

A new study from Australia’s Queensland University partnered with the Queensland Ballet to provide 10 ballet classes for seniors over three months. At the end of the program participants had better posture, improved flexibility, higher energy, and a greater sense of achievement. Happiness, friendship, and sense of community also increased.

A second study from the University of Illinois at Chicago had older-adult participants attend Latin dance classes twice weekly for four months. Various styles of dance from merengue, bachata, salsa, and cha cha cha were taught and choreography increased as the program progressed. At the end of the study participants were walking faster and showed improved physical fitness which may reduce heart disease risk.

Twice weekly dance classes for five months resulted in improvements in balance, gait, and gognitive performance for participants with traumatic brain injury and stroke in one older study from American Dance Therapy Association.

A literature review of 18 studies found evidence that older adults can significantly improve strength and flexibility, aerobic power, lower body muscle endurance, balance, gait, and agility through dance. Dance might also improve muscle power, bone-mineral content, and reduce falls.

Health benefits of exercise have been well documented, however the new Queensland study highlights how exercise through dance can also improve social connections and happiness in aging populations. Participants reported transformational feelings of happiness and positivity which is especially important since depression is common in adults over 65 years of age.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Do we “catch” obesity from our neighbors?

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we might “catch” obesity from our neighbors. Researchers focused on 1,300 Army parents and their 1,100 children who were stationed near 38 military bases across the U.S. The Army families relocated based on military requirements rather than personal preference.
Researchers found those families placed near military bases with higher obesity rates were more likely to be overweight or obese themselves. The opposite was also true; families placed near military bases with lower obesity rates reduced the likelihood of their family gaining weight.
Social norms have a large impact on behavior and attitude towards food and exercise habits. Without realizing it, we are often influenced by others around us. Other studies have shown a strong support system of friends and family who encourage healthy eating and exercise habits are powerful motivators for people working on lifestyle change. 
Unfortunately the opposite can be true too. Living in an environment where friends, family members, or coworkers have poor eating and exercise habits can easily rub off on the most well-intentioned person.
Food is a connector. It expresses care, warmth, love, and tradition. Finding the right balance between healthy food for nourishment and small treats for enjoyment is important for overall health. In any  environment staying mindful is helpful. I recommend planning out your week so you can anticipate where challenges might arise. If you go out to eat read the menu ahead of time and stick to the healthy choice you already planned on.
Be firm with food pushers that pressure “treats/cheats” you did not plan for. If they still insist, take a small portion and throw it away after they leave.
If certain friends always influence bad eating behavior find other ways to connect that do not involve food such as going to a concert, hiking, shopping, etc.
Lastly, be the catalyst for change. If everyone always brings junk to the party try something new and healthy. You might be surprised by the positive feedback it brings.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Feeding Fatigue

After a busy day of putting out fires, running around, and dealing with more stress than any one human should endure, how do you cope? Ever find yourself reaching for a cookie, pretzels, chocolate, or some other else!? In a moment of weakness it is so easy to give into temptation. Food  becomes our reward for getting through the day.

Our body is a machine. When we are busy we tend to neglect the most essential part, the power supply; also known as our brain. Our brain obtains power from glucose which comes from carbohydrates. Sufficient glucose supports willpower and sound decision making.

As you start the day you might have great willpower, resisting the urge to eat doughnuts at breakfast and treats around the office at lunch. But as the day progresses each act of resistance challenges your willpower. If you skip meals or go too long without eating your glucose levels can run low and your willpower weakens more, especially late in the day. This explains why people with exceptional willpower in other areas of life might still struggle with weight loss. In order not to eat junk a person needs willpower but in order to have willpower a person needs to eat. 

Fatigue is the biggest enemy when it comes to healthy eating. It increases activity in the brain that seeks out pleasure, while hindering brain function particularly in areas of impulse control and decision making. People who are fatigued or chronically sleep deprived eat more calories and more high-fat and high-sugar foods as a result.

In order to combat fatigue and keep your power supply running strong you need to eat the right food at the right time. Maintaining stable blood glucose will support strong willpower and help you avoid temptations from morning to night.

Start by eating breakfast within 2 hours of waking up. Plan for a mid-morning snack 2-3 hours after breakfast if you wake up early, otherwise aim for lunch about 4 hours after breakfast. Many hours can span between lunch and dinner so a mid-afternoon snack is very important. Eat enough calories early in the day when you are most active. Aim for 2/3 of your calories before dinner, including complex sources of carbohydrates to fuel your brain such as fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Reduce Chronic Pain with the Mediterranean Diet

Chronic pain interferes with daily life and is a big problem, with over 3 million cases in the US each year. Dealing with constant pain can lead to lack of energy, feeling tired, mood changes, and difficulty sleeping. The cause of chronic pain is not always obvious but the daily struggle is real.

Some evidence suggests long-term inflammation in the body can be a trigger for chronic pain. As can being overweight since more stress is placed on joints. According to the CDC more than 70% of American adults are overweight which is a big concern for health and well-being.

Taking a closer look at chronic pain, researchers from Ohio State studied men and women ages 20-78 and found those who followed the Mediterranean Diet rich in fish, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans had less pain regardless of how much the participant weighed. The Mediterranean Diet is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits as well as for its anti-aging and disease fighting powers.

More research is needed on blood markers of inflammation and long term dietary choices before cause-and effect can be confirmed, but researchers are encouraged by their findings and the association between diet and pain management.

Charles Emery, Ph.D., director, Cardiopulmonary Behavioral Medicine Program, Department of Psychology, Ohio State University; Connie Diekman, M.Ed., director of university nutrition, Washington University in St. Louis; February 2017, Pain

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Eat Out Italian, and Lose Weight

Our culture loves to eat. Dining out is a social event where we relax, enjoy food good, and enjoy great conversations with friends. American’s are eating out more than ever and unfortunately it is resulting in an obesity epidemic. We all know eating at home is more calorie conscious, but it also is not always feasible. Is it possible to eat out regularly and still lose weight?

Let’s say you want to be weight conscious Friday night when eating at an Italian restaurant. You are going out with friends so you want to enjoy yourself but you still want to make health choices. 

You arrive at the restaurant hungry and fresh bread is placed on the table so you enjoy just one piece (80 calories) with a small amount of butter (40 calories). You practice good willpower and  resist a second piece of bread.

You skip the heavy appetizers and order a Caesar salad. Recognizing it has a lot of oil and cheese you only eat half (200 calories). Your plan is to limit starches so you order Chicken Marsala with steamed vegetables and no pasta. It is so good you eat three-quarters (575 calories).

You are having a great time with friends and enjoy 2 glasses of wine (250 calories). Your friends want to order dessert but you resist. You made some great decisions to cut out calories, but your total intake was still 1145 calories, way over your goal.

People following a 2000 calorie diet need about 500-600 calories at meals. People trying to lose weight with lower calorie goals need even less. Is it possible to eat out and still lose weight? It is if you stick to your calorie goals. Try this approach the next time you go out for Italian…

Eat an apple or another small healthy snack 1-2 hours before dinner so you don’t arrive at the restaurant starving. Skip the bread altogether and enjoy only 1 glass of wine (125 calories). If you feel the need for an appetizer try a bowl of minestrone soup (110 calories). Order a grilled salmon salad (without cheese, avocado, nuts, or dried fruit) with clear dressing on the side to use sparingly. Plan to eat about 1/2 the salmon and most of the salad (350 calories). Skip dessert and you are at 585 calories for the night. Skip the wine or soup and you are even less!

Many restaurants are now offering entrees under 600 calories which are great choices to select. Restaurants such as Harvest and Season’s 52 pride themselves in offering entire menu’s under 500 calories making them wonderful options for a night out with friends. Learning to eat all foods in moderation is important for a healthy lifestyle, and selecting smaller portions and lower calorie menu items sets you up for success in fitting the battle of the bulge.

Dining Out Strategies

  • Look up the menu and nutrition information before going out to eat
  • Order soup, salad, or healthy appetizers for your main entree
  • Box up 1/2 or 3/4 of your entrĂ©e before you start eating
  • Ask for no cheese to cut out 100 calories per slice
  • Order salad dressing, sauce, and toppings on the side
  • Select items that are baked, grilled, broiled, poached, or steamed

Calories at Popular Italian Restaurants

  • 1 glass wine 125
  • Caesar Salad 400
  • Tiramisu 510
  • Lobster Ravioli 700
  • Chicken Marsala 700
  • Chicken Parmesan 850
  • Salmon with Lemon & Herbs 990
  • Steak & Gorgonzola Salad 1200
  • Lasagna 1820
  • Gnocchi 1870
  • Fettuccini Alfredo 2000
  • Mussels Diavolo 2310

*these are general estimates, portion sizes and cooking methods vary  greatly among restaurants

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Do Cheat Days Work?

People following strict diets often cut out a lot of foods in an attempt to lose weight and be healthier. Stopping your favorite foods cold turkey can be quite a challenge, especially when cravings kick in.

To prevent feeling deprived the idea of a cheat day has emerged. This is typically one day per week or a few days per month when forbidden foods can be consumed. The belief is that a cheat day builds willpower and acts as a reward for following such a strict diet the majority of the time.

One study published in the International Journal of Obesity found participants who took small breaks in their diet kept more weight off over a longer period of time compared to participants who dieted continuously.

While a cheat day makes sense on paper, the reality is that it is very easy to go overboard. One cheat meal can easily turn into an entire cheat weekend and derail all the progress made during the week. In reality, portion control even on cheat days matters greatly.

In order for a nutrition plan to be successful it should be a routine you can stick with long term. State of mind and personality plays a big role too. Some people’s personalities allow them to eat treats in moderation, while others need an all-or-nothing approach to be successful. Understanding the type of mindset, personality, and will-power you have can help you decide if a cheat day is going to help you or not.

If you do believe a cheat day will help you, plan out your indulgence ahead of time. Have a game plan, stick to your portion size, and avoid going overboard. It’s all about self-control and staying on track the majority of the time.