Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Boosting Your Willpower

Do you feel overwhelmed by too many goals? Learn a step-by-step approach to feel motivated and achieve your objectives.

Sometimes willpower is a lot like the television remote control — hard to find just when you want it most. Whether you're trying to lose weight, stop smoking, get to the gym regularly, win a promotion or pay off some debts, developing your sense of willpower is an important part of changing any behavior.
We all know that breaking a bad habit or establishing a new, healthy one can be difficult, but persistence pays off. Researchers at the University of Washington found that 63 percent of those who made New Year's resolutions were still keeping their resolution two months later. It's not going to be easy, but there are ways to increase your willpower, stay resolved and achieve your goals.
First Things First

Don't try to restructure your finances, win a promotion and lose weight all on the same morning. Establish one clear, specific goal and formulate a realistic strategy for achieving it. Extra willpower sometimes requires extra energy, so don't stretch yourself too thin. Focus on one goal at a time.
Start Slow

Momentum builds gradually, and whatever your goal, don't expect to achieve it overnight. Real success takes time. If you are trying to kick a caffeine habit, start by replacing your morning cup of coffee with a glass of water, instead of vowing never to drink coffee again. Congratulate yourself on the small achievements that will pave the way toward a larger one. These successes help your willpower grow.
Support Network

Bolster your willpower by tapping into a support network. Ask friends, family or colleagues for assistance and tell them exactly how they can help. If your credit card bills have skyrocketed, for instance, let friends know that you are cutting back on expenses. Suggest having a potluck dinner instead of meeting at an expensive restaurant. Find a support group or organization related to your goal and attend their meetings. You can get valuable advice, understanding and information — all of which increase commitment and willpower.
Changing Your Environment

If possible, alter your environment to reduce temptation or encourage positive behavior. Want to get in shape? Keep an extra set of workout clothes in your office as a reminder to stop by the gym on the way home. Quitting smoking? Avoid bars or restaurants where you might be tempted to light up.
More Than Willpower

Sometimes changing your behavior requires more than willpower. If you are struggling with an addiction or want to make a significant lifestyle change, seek the guidance and support of a professional. An expert may be able to provide intensive support and followup or prescribe medication to reduce physical symptoms. For example, without help only 5 percent of smokers can quit but that number rises to 30 percent when people seek both drug therapy and counseling.
Learn more in the Everyday Health Healthy Living Center.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Get Fit: 5 Secrets to Exercising During Menopause

If you're like most women, your sneakers are probably collecting more dust bunnies than miles. But if you want to find hormone happiness during perimenopause and menopause, it's due time to dust those babies off!
"All exercise, ranging from housework to running marathons, impacts menopause in a positive way," In fact, exercise can help prevent the muscle and bone loss from which many postmenopausal women suffer, according to the American Council on Exercise. Also, a recent Penn State study found that menopausal women who exercise experience fewer hot flashes in the 24 hours following their workout. While a recent study from the MsFLASH Research Network found some conflicting information -- that aerobic exercise isn't significantly associated with reduced hot flashes -- it did find that exercise does have positive effects on sleep quality, insomnia and depression in both perimenopausal and menopausal women. What's more, exercise may be effective at treating menopausal depression, according to a recent review published in The Cochrane Library," says Dr. Diana Bitner, MD, a North American Menopause Society Certified Menopause Practitioner & Physician and board-certified OB/GYN. "My patients who exercise on a regular basis have fewer menopause symptoms as well as improved body chemistry -- lower cholesterol, better sugar control, less weight gain, and stronger bones. Women who exercise have better sleep, better mood and better quality of life."
According to Dr. Bitner, body fat (which, of course, tends to increase after menopause) spurs hot flashes and night sweats, leads to poor sleep, saps energy, brings down moods and can wreck self-image. Put that all together, and that also means a torpedoed libido. "I talk to my patients about belly fat as a furnace that makes them hot and tired. As belly fat increases, energy decreases and hot flashes, night sweats and sleep disturbances increase. As belly fat increases, so does insulin resistance -- and this can cause cravings for carbohydrates and more menopausal weight gain," she says. "If a patient has a high BMI and body fat percentage, her risk of snoring and sleep apnea increases, adding another reason for poor sleep, low energy, and hot flashes."
Ready to dust off those kicks? Here's how to boost your body for good:
Set the Right Expectations
"Exercise can initially increase hot flashes by increasing body temperature -- especially in women who are overweight. Fortunately, such hot flashes improve as body fat is lost," Dr. Bitner says. So, if you expect yourself to jump right back into your workout where you left off without any changes in performance, you are setting yourself up for (possibly workout-ending) disappointment. Don't worry; you'll get there. Just remember that slow and steady wins the get-fit race. In the meantime, Dr. Bitner recommends staying hydrated and focusing on big, full belly breaths to lessen exercise-induced hot flashes.
Have Fun
The best form of exercise is the one that you will actually do! So find a workout -- or a variety of workouts -- that you love! "Women are more likely to stick to a regimen if they have a workout buddy and if they actually enjoy the activity," Dr. Bitner says. My hubby, David, and I are living proof -- and a match made in workout heaven. Five days a week we ride our bikes together, and two days a week we strength train. Besides being a great spotter, David helps keep me on track -- and in return I cheer him on when he wants to throw in the towel. So who motivates you? Consider exercising with your friends, family members or even your coworkers at lunch. It can be a great way to infuse some fun into your workout routine and make it feel like a little less work. If fitness-loving friends are in short supply, try taking exercise classes where you can meet other health-minded women and get the support you deserve. Who knows, you might just make a lifelong friend while you're at it!
Hit the Big 3
"Exercise has three components: aerobic activity, strength training, and stretching. For the best results, women need a balance of all three," Dr. Bitner says. "Stretching helps avoid injury and improves performance; strength training helps avoid injury, keeps bones strong, and significantly helps weight control; aerobic activity improves fitness and heart health as well as burns calories and helps maintain a healthy weight." She advises that each week you get in one long cardio workout, two shorter interval workouts (think: a brisk walk with quick bursts throughout) and three strength-training workouts.
Play It Safe
"Anyone starting a new or more strenuous exercise regimen should consult their physician in case risk factors for heart disease are significant enough to require a stress test first," Dr. Bitner says. Also, if you have any existing injuries or conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis, discuss them with your physician before you hit the gym. While they're certainly no excuse to skip the gym (exercise can actually improve many aches and pains!), you need to tailor your workout to fit your body's limitations.
Get Some Help
Enlisting the expertise of my trainer, Daniel Shamburg, MS, CSCS, owner of Shift Fitness in Carlsbad, California, is one of the best investments I've ever made in my health. He comes to my house twice a week, armed with his mantra, "The only machine needed is YOU!" and also lends his get-fit expertise via Google Helpouts and in his studio. If you decide to hire a trainer, make sure he or she has a certification through a body such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association or the American College of Sports Medicine. After all, you want to get fit, not injured!
Put yourself and your exercise routine on the top of your to-do list. Start today! Ditch the exercise excuses and celebrate yourself with a healthy workout!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Dark Side of Your Brew

Arsenic, that murder-mystery staple, may be hiding in plain view

Bad news: Beer can leave behind more than a hangover. People who consumed an average of 2.5 beers per day raised their body’s arsenic content by 30 percent, according to new research from Dartmouth College.
You heard that right: arsenic—that potent poison worthy of murder mysteries. So what’s going on? The alcohol in beer could impair your body’s ability to metabolize the content present in the grains used in brewing, allowing it to linger in your system. Grossly enough, researchers discovered this by testing toenail clippings—markers of prolonged exposure to arsenic—finding that other foods including fish, rice, and Brussels sprouts are arsenic-containing culprits, too.
Arsenic occurs naturally in the environment, so it can end up in your ground water, which then works its way into your food and tap. And while you won’t suffer arsenic poisoning from overindulging with a few IPAs or eating sushi every now and then, consuming a diet of foods high in the stuff can cause it to accumulate in your system over time. The World Health Organization estimates that a prolonged exposure of 5 years or more can cause serious side effects, like kidney failure, skin lesions, and various types of cancers, according to the EPA. 
Keep your system clean by eating a varied, healthy diet and don’t rely too much one any one specific type of food, suggests lead researcher, Kathryn Cottingham, Ph.D. And stock up on antioxidants—a Columbia University study found that vitamins A, B, C, and E, as well as riboflavin and folic acid can help reduce your risk of arsenic-related skin lesions by up to 68 percent.