A Prayer for our Children & for Our Country

Written by: on Sunday, November 6th, 2016

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-child-prayer-image4455925The U.S. election is driving us all crazy. Everyone is on edge. Everyone—no matter what their political affiliation—is anxious. But what’s even more disturbing: there’s an undercurrent of anger and hate rising to the surface of our American society that is pervading our hearts, our families, and our country.

As a mother of three young children, this anger and hate scares me. It’s keeping me up at night as I worry for my children and for our country. Churches are being burned. People are screaming insults at others who are different from them, in looks and in beliefs. Political signs are being stolen and being booby trapped. Children are yelling offensive words at other children who are different from them. Swastikas are showing up around the country with increased frequency.

A culture of hate is rearing its ugly head. This hate has been spewed throughout this election; it feeds on anger, spawns violence and disrespect, and breeds intolerance. It is in opposition to the very values upon which America was created, that “all men are created equal”.

Of course, racist, bigoted, misogynistic, violent tendencies have always simmered beneath the surface of society. But, during this election, it has become acceptable to speak and act like this. And this culture of hate is spreading as it gains acceptance—like a contagious virus—among more and more people.

The Scottish journalist/poet Charles Mackey famously concluded that “men…go mad in herds.” And no wonder. It’s easy to absorb the negativity when we’re among others who are angry and shouting, but at some point, we need to take a step back and reflect on what our own hearts are saying. We need to stop and understand what this hate and anger is doing to the very fabric of our society. And most important, we need to stop and understand what it is doing to our children.

Our children hear and our children see hateful words and actions—and they process it as being okay.

Bullying is on the rise in schools around the country. One mother shared with me that, while watching a soccer game, she overheard one child calling an opposing teammate a “stupid Muslim”. “You’re getting shipped back to Mexico” is what some kids shouted to a group of Latino children.

No matter how much we reassure children that this hate won’t affect them, this is what is keeping them up at night. My own Guatemalan nephew—an American citizen and middle schooler—worries that he’s not a true American and is going to get shipped back to Guatemala without his family.

We are a country built on immigrants. We are all descended from immigrants yet THIS. How quickly we forget.

Even the latest Starbucks coffee cup—a drawing of different people all connected with a single line to show that, as humans, we are all connected—is being angrily criticized as being “political brainwashing”.

Since when has humanity—and the realization that we are all humans, together, in this thing called life—become politics?

And call me naïve, but why does the very essence of who we are as humans—no matter what color our skin, what person we decide to marry, what language we speak, or what religion we worship—have to become embroiled in politics?

Our differences now define us more than our similarities.

It is time to take a moment to stop, step away from the mob mentality, put our political affiliation “badge” aside, and follow our conscience and our hearts. As I say to my young daughter: “Always do what feels good to you on your inside.”

Under the hate, anger, and violence, I do optimistically believe that we can all respect each other—again. But we must work hard at cultivating it. And we must have leaders that cultivate it.

Every night, I say a prayer with my daughter and my sons before bed: “May truth, honesty, integrity, morality, justice, and kindness prevail.” I say the same prayer for our children, for our country, and for this election. May we banish the culture of anger, violence, intolerance, and disrespect from our hearts—for us, for our children, and for this country: “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

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No, Chipotle Doesn’t Make You Chubby

Written by: on Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
ChubbyChipotle

When you see a full-page ad attacking a business that’s been doing extremely well, become very suspicious.

So, I was catching up on the New York Post this morning—and was amazed to come across this full page ad basically bashing Chipotle. Hmm…I thought. Chipotle has been doing extremely well and businesses like McDonald’s have been doing poorly, shutting down restaurants around the country and laying off employees. “Could McDonald’s be behind this?” I thought. “Why else would anyone spend this kind of money to bash Chipotle in a way-too-obvious attempt to negate all the positive feedback Chipotle has been getting.” Or it might be Monsanto: king of the push for GMO’s that’s not doing too well either (Chipotle has vowed to go non-GMO). Some big money group is definitely behind a full-page ad, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars…if not more.

Turns out my suspicions are justified: This ChubbyChipotle ad is the work of a seemingly innocuous and “helpful” group called The Center for Consumer Freedom, a “nonprofit coalition which opposes activist interference with and legal restrictions on the sale of food and drink, etc…” (according to their website). The only problem: this group is one of many created by Washington, D.C. Public Relations (PR) executive and lawyer, Rick Berman, who heads up a PR group called Berman and Company.

No surprise as I dug deeper, Rick Berman is paid for by big money; while you would never get hold of his client list (most companies have their clients front and center on their websites; this guy supposedly firewalls his list so no one knows whom he represents). This is the same guy behind other websites opposing PETA, GreenPeace, unions, raising the minimum wage, and regulation of trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Click on this independent website to get a bit more background information on this guy (warning: it ain’t pretty).

Chipotle burrito

Burritos can be healthy for you—but don’t load them up with high-calorie cheese and sour cream.

First of all, when it comes to weight gain—eating too much of ANYTHING can make you fat. But choosing Chipotle for your meals definitely won’t make you chubby unless you’re eating 2 giant burritos, plus chips, plus a giant soda at every meal. Moderation is the key to healthy eating and keeping your weight stable. And beans, rice, avocados, tomatoes, lettuce, and a variety of other healthy ingredients that make up Chipotle’s delicious menu are good for you. (Yes, I’m a Chipotle fan—as well as being an advocate for the truth when it comes to your health and wellbeing).

And when it comes to ads like this, dig deeper because there’s some spinmaster at work behind the ad, trying to make you believe something other than what your gut is telling you is right.

Bottom line: when it comes to your health, always, always trust your gut. If you believe, for example, that organic food is healthiest for your family—don’t listen to the cacophony of negatives against organic food saying that organics are no better than foods sprayed with pesticides. If you believe that genetically modified (GMO) foods aren’t good for your health, stick to your guns because there will be plenty of these ads—and even research studies paid for by these companies not telling the entire truth—based on spinning the truth to make you believe that companies like Monsanto are good and are actually there to feed the world and help prevent hunger. (Not)

Your gut is all you have to rely on because where there’s big money, there are big lobbying groups like Berman and Company working to spin the information so they can all make big money (and you’re left with a host of diseases 10/15 years from now).

As a matter of record, I have received no money from Chipotle to write this post—and in fact, have never received anything free from Chipotle. I choose to eat there with my family because I know it’s healthy food—and the ingredients are fresh. My kids love it. And what’s more: none of us are chubby.

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Best. Sunscreen. Ever.

Written by: on Thursday, July 30th, 2015
Sunscreen Application

You need to apply—and reapply—sunscreen all over the body…to prevent skin damage.

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays is just about the worst thing for your skin (besides smoking). The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are essentially radiation that’s penetrating your skin, right down to the deeper layers. Not only can this mess with your DNA (your genetic mapping that determines how your cells should act)—which can trigger mutations and even skin cancer—it also depletes collagen and elastin in the skin. These are the skin-firming proteins that make skin look more youthful looking. (It’s when collagen and elastin get depleted that skin starts to sag and lose its youthful fullness.) The sun’s UV rays also cause hyperpigmentation (age spots and freckles), rough skin, fine lines and wrinkles, and more.

While not going out in the skin ever is probably the best thing for your skin, it’s just about impossible to do that—particularly if you’ve got kids in swim lessons (outdoors) and in other various activities (like me) that necessitates being out in the sun.

I don’t use chemical sunscreens on my skin or on my kids’ skin. There are just too many questions about the chemicals being absorbed into the skin and showing up in urine. (It begs the question: what could those harmful chemicals be doing to your body—or to a child’s body—over time.)

Enter Raw Elements.

 

Organic, natural sunscreen

When it comes to the beach and the pool and being outdoors, this sunscreen delivers serious protection.

Raw Elements simply makes the best sunscreen. This is a physical, not chemical, sunblock. I swear by this stuff. It’s organic, cruelty-free, non GMO certified, has non nano particles (so nothing penetrates the skin), offers UVA and UVB protection, and not one member of my family has gotten a sunburn yet despite plenty of time spent in the pool (it’s super water resistant) and playing tennis. (I used this last year as well with the same results.) You can find it lots of places online, including amazon.com—where a 3-ounce tube (which lasts about a month or maybe a little less for my entire family) costs $13.74. Another favorite natural skin-care website where I buy this is carenonline (they often have 20% off sales, which brings the prices down).

What’s even better: I can slather this ALL over my kids’ faces … and it never irritates eyes. Have I said how much I love this stuff? (A side note: my 11-year-old son just wants a “spray” sunscreen like all the other kids…and wants me to say he thinks this stuff is too white on the skin. If you rub it in well, this whiteness tones down. But doesn’t bother me—or my younger kids. No chemical sprays in this house!)

Update: I got a call from the Raw Elements people after my post; they suggested that my son try their Raw Elements Eco Tint Stick 30+ tinted sunscreen. I purchased it (see note below) and my son loves this! I have to say I love it too…it’s not white but matches up pretty well to skin tone (it still needs to be rubbed in, though). It’s perfect for the face.

Another Raw Elements fave that I just tried: Eco Formula 30+ Lotion in a recyclable tin (plastic-free packaging); it’s beyond easy to apply and you can use up every last bit. I’m buying some more to finish out the summer (this—and the Eco Tint Stick 30+—will be perfect sunscreens for skiing too!).

(Note: I have bought all these sunscreen products, and have received nothing free—and no discounts—to say I love this stuff!)

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Tried & Tested: The Best Water Workouts

Written by: on Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Water Workouts

No wonder water workouts make me happy: studies show that water-based exercise boosts mood and decreases stress and anxiety.

I’m not much of a swimming fan, so I never really considered the pool when it came to regular exercise. But then someone suggested I try aqua aerobics. And what I’ve found is that by adding the water to my workouts, I’ve gotten in amazing shape—and I’m never bored because there are plenty of workout options for any mood I’m in!

So what exactly is aqua aerobics?

Any exercise in the water that gets your heart rate up can qualify as aqua aerobics. The water has plenty of advantages, the first of which is that your heart has to work less in the water (thanks to the zero gravity). But, even in spite of this, you’re still able to get a great cardio workout because of water’s natural resistance. The buoyancy of the water also provides a lightness you can really feel, because you’re only supporting a fraction of your body’s weight in the water (which is why this workout is amazing for pregnant women—and for people prone to, or recovering from, injuries). In fact, studies show that people can exercise longer in water than on land without increased joint or muscle pain. What’s not to like?!

Looking for more information about aqua exercise? Try My Ultimate Guide To Aqua Aerobic.

Water weights

Movement in water offers 12 to 14 percent more resistance than in air, which means your muscles get a better toning workout in the water.

My All-Time Favorite Aqua Workouts

I choose different water workouts depending on my exercise needs/goals. Here are my favorites:

Aqua jogging: This is my absolute favorite water exercise. In the summer, I get in the water when it’s too hot to exercise outside. I go to the community pool when the lap lanes are open, jump in one, and begin moving up and down with my best running posture. I have to lean forward like I’m sprinting to push through the resistance. I wear old tennis shoes to protect my feet, and keep a water bottle at the end of the lane to stay hydrated. I was surprised at how hard I worked in the water. No wonder competitive runners use aqua jogging for cross training!

Aqua kickboxing: If I’m having a hectic week, kickboxing in the water is my secret stress buster. Kicking through water works my legs really hard. Combine that with punching routines and it’s like I’m doing a weight workout in the water. I tried a kickboxing class in the gym, and I kept falling off balance, but in the water, it’s much easier to stay grounded. The instructor will work us hard for an hour, and when I finish, I know I’ve done a super effective workout—and I feel pretty relaxed afterward too.

Aqua Zumba: I didn’t want to try this workout at first (I’m too shy to do all those hip-swinging moves in front of people). But then I realized that with a water Zumba class most of my body would be underwater during the workout. That changed everything, so I got my friend Marsha to go with me, and we tried a class. Talk about a great workout to get in shape! The teacher didn’t stop for most of the hour. The best part was that the whole experience was a blast—and thanks to it, I’m doing it more often and getting in much better shape.

The best part about water workouts: I look forward to them— and I always leave my workouts with a smile. They make me feel great!

 

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The Right (& Wrong) Ways to Lose Weight

Written by: on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
woman strength training

Remember: cardio and strength training are both important parts of your exercise regimen.

Exercise is medicine. This is a key message that’s worth reminding everyone of. Given that two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese, and that healthcare costs (to say nothing of quality-of-life costs) are staggering, we need to figure out how to turn this ship around. Here are eight truths about diet and exercise that anyone trying to lose weight (or even maintain weight) and stay fit should know:

1) Miracle slim-down diets (aka “crash diets”) do not work. Is it true the less you eat, the more weight you will lose? No. A big slashing of calories poorly predicts how much weight you will lose because your body adapts to perceived “famine” conditions by conserving energy.

close up of broccoli

The secret to weight loss: a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables (like broccoli), whole grains, legumes, healthy fats (like olive oil), and lean meat and dairy (if you eat dairy).

In a three-month study, young, healthy women were given a diet to lose weight. One diet had a moderate (-400) calorie deficit; this group lost six pounds in 3 months. The other diet had a severe (-850) calorie deficit; that group lost only 8 pounds. This was far less than predicted and related to a drop in resting metabolic rate. The body’s ability to conserve energy is quite powerful! If you want to lose weight, plan to chip off just a few hundred calories at the end of the day, rather than starve yourself by under eating all day.

In fact, men who want to lose weight should not crash diet, either. They will lose not only muscle but also testosterone (a muscle-building hormone). In a three-week study, soldiers ate a high-protein diet (3 x the RDA; 2.4 g pro/kg/day) but under ate calories by 40% below the amount needed to maintain weight. While the very high-protein intake helped counter loss of muscle, it did not maintain testosterone levels. Remember: chipping off a few hundred calories is preferable to a chopping off a thousand. Two fewer cans of soda or beer a day can make a difference in weight!

2) It doesn’t matter how often you eat; what matters is calories. Are dieters better off eating three small meals plus three small snacks—or eating the same amount of calories but in just two meals? For two weeks, obese middle-age women ate calorie-controlled packets of food either two or six times a day. Either way, the subjects reported being hungry. Eating six smaller meals did not appear to improve appetite response. So take your choice how often you want to eat, being sure to keep the total calories within your daily calorie budget.

Cup of coffee

Coffee has many health benefits—thanks to its antioxidants—but weight loss is not one of them.

3) No, coffee can’t curb your appetite (sorry!). Many dieters drink coffee for breakfast, swearing it curbs their morning hunger pangs. Yet, a study with 12 subjects reported no differences in appetite (and subsequent food intake) when their breakfast and mid-morning beverages were 1) water, 2) water+caffeine, 3) decaffeinated coffee or 4) decaf+caffeine. At lunch (4.5 hours after breakfast), the subjects reported similar amounts of hunger and ate similar amount of calories, regardless of their caffeine intake. The coffee did not effectively curb their appetites.

4) Listen to your body. What happens to food intake when healthy college men who exercise regularly are told to sit for 10 additional hours a week for 8 weeks?  They naturally eat less! At baseline, the subjects ate about 2,600 calories a day (47% carb, 18% protein, 32% fat). When they were told to be more sedentary, they intuitively ate less than baseline. They chose the same foods, just smaller portions. Only 1 of the 8 subjects ate more than at baseline. The moral of the study: If you get injured and cannot exercise, your body can naturally desire fewer calories. The trick is to listen to your body’s cues.

5) Regular exercise does more than just keep you fit. Exercise can impact not only weight but also the kinds of microbes that grow in the gut. In mice, the kinds of microbes differ by 40% between sedentary lean and obese mice. Even mice made obese by a high-fat diet—but allowed to use an exercise wheel—had a lean phenotype compared to the sedentary obese mice with no access to the exercise wheel. The exercised mice had distinctly different gut microbes. We need more research to understand how exercise impacts gut microbes in humans and how those microbes impact metabolism and weight.

Dumbbells

Lifting weights boosts bone density and your resting metabolism (which is key to how many calories you burn a day).

6) You’ve got to lift weights. Female athletes commonly have low bone mineral density. Is this related to their being light in weight? Having low body fat? Less muscle? A study of 44 female D-1 athletes (from cross-country, tennis, basketball, and soccer teams) suggests that bone mineral density significantly relates to muscle mass. The more muscle, the better the bone density. Keep lifting those weights!

7) Any exercise is better than no exercise. Does very slow walking (1 mile/hour) on a treadmill desk offer any health benefits? Yes. In a study, 32 college students consumed 300 calories of glucose and then either 1) remained sedentary for two hours or 2) for two hours, alternated walking on a treadmill workstation for 30 minutes then sitting for 30 minutes. The results suggest even very slow walking helped with blood glucose control. Bottom line: being sedentary is deleterious to health.

8) Getting older? Make it a point to move more. Regular leisure-time exercise patterns drop from childhood to adolescence and become unacceptably low in adulthood. One reason may be that we spend many hours at our desks working—with little time for leisure or even vacation. This is why it’s even more important to make an effort to fit in exercise as often as possible. And try to get up from your desk at regular intervals….and walk (even around the office) if you can. Remember, every little bit helps!

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Why You (& All Women) Need to Lift Weights…Starting Today

Written by: on Friday, January 16th, 2015
Woman lifting weight

All women should be lifting weights for strength, balance, bone building, and a dose of confidence.

If you’re like most women, you probably head to the gym for a power workout—completely avoiding the weight floor. Or maybe you have a pair of handheld weights that you do some arm exercises with…when you get the chance (but you’ve been doing the same moves with the same weight for as long as you can remember).

If this sounds like you, you’re missing out on the key benefits of weight training, say experts like Paula Burger, a personal trainer based in Ft. Lauderdale. “I can’t stress the importance enough of why women—particularly as we get older—should be weight training,” says Burger. “As a woman, your body wants to lose muscle mass every year—and you gain weight because of it. Plus, your hormones are all over the place: your estrogen and testosterone [yes, even women have some] are dropping and you have to lift heavier weights, eat less, and work harder than ever to keep the weight off.”

But consistent weight training can shift the momentum—significantly. Studies conducted by Wayne Westcott, PhD, fitness research director with the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, back this up. Westcott found that strength training two to three times a week for just two months will help women gain nearly two pounds of muscle and lose 3.5 pounds of fat. Why? As the body increases muscle mass, our fat-burning furnace (metabolism) fires up, which means you burn more calories and fat—all day long—even when you’re sitting. This is key as we get older because our metabolism slows down with every passing year—the reason you’re eating the same foods as you did years ago but now you’re gaining weight, gradually.

Miriam Nelson Book

The groundbreaking book that laid out exactly why women need strength training.

Miriam E. Nelson, PhD, author of the national bestseller Strong Women Stay Young, is a staunch proponent of women lifting weights, based on research she’s done—and continues to do through her The StrongWomen Program, a women’s national community exercise and nutrition program. Nelson found that after a year of strength training twice per week, women not only had less fat and more muscle, they also increased strength and energy dramatically, improved balance and flexibility, and prevented or reversed bone loss.

Why weight training gets such impressive bone-building results: Cells called osteoblasts are critical to maintaining bone structure; when you do weight-bearing exercise, these osteoblasts lay down new bone tissue to strengthen the points where the bone is stressed. Do regular strength training—and continually challenge yourself with heavier weights and more repetitions—and these osteoblasts continue to reinforce the bone, over and over again, reducing your risk of serious health problems like osteopenia, or low bone density; full-blown osteoporosis; and sarcopenia, or gradual loss of muscle mass. All can affect not only how you age but your quality of life, too (i.e. what’s the joy in living longer, if you’re bed bound with compound hip fractures and have little muscle strength to do daily activities?).

Kris Wilkes, 59, is a former federal prosecutor and former litigator and senior partner at an international law firm in San Diego who has experienced the body- and life-changing benefits of weight training first hand. “I was in a very demanding career, often working 16 to 18 hours a day,” explains Wilkes, who took up weight training almost 20 years ago. “I would leave work feeling exhausted. But I forced myself to exercise after work. It became a great stress reliever for me. I started to feel euphoric because I was taking care of my body—not just using my mind as I did at work.” (Exercise, both cardio and weight training, is a proven mood booster.)

woman working out with dummbells

Dumbbells are an effective first step in any weight training program, but you need to switch up your routine every six weeks to prevent your muscles from getting used to it.

But Wilkes found that while cardio did help reduce her stress, it didn’t re-shape her body as she had expected. “I’d see these girls coming out of Gold’s Gym with amazing bodies—something that we just weren’t achieving in the aerobics studio next door,” explains Wilkes, who credits that with inspiring her to get a trainer and start lifting weights. “Of all the things I’ve done over the years—yoga, Pilates, running, step classes, CrossFit—weight lifting is the one that has truly sculpted my body and changed it, for the better.” (Wilkes has become such a fan of weight lifting, she competes regularly in International Federation of Bodybuilding competitions.)

In the Gym

The scene at the World Gym in Ft. Lauderdale, where Wilkes now lives, is impressive—and to the lay exerciser, a bit intimidating. Awe-inspiring photos of bodies sculpted at the gym line the walls and top-of-the line exercise equipment fills the floor. But it’s the members themselves who draw the most stares: muscles rippling, super-fit women and men can be found pumping iron, plenty of it. Wilkes is one of them—and is right at home. “I do 60 to 90 minutes of weights followed by 30 to 40 minutes of cardio, typically the StepMill or interval running,” says Wilkes, who works out 5 to 6 days a week and is unquestionably in the best shape—and health—of her life.

Dumbbells

Don’t get intimidated by heavy weights; work your way up to using them.

But Wilkes doesn’t just lift some heavy weights and call it a day. She plans out her course of action—something a trainer taught her early on to sculpt her body and avoid injury—working different body parts on different days. “Some days I do chest, shoulders, and biceps, followed by a leg day, and then the next day, I’ll do back and triceps,” she says. “Then, on the last day, I’ll work my abs and calves. You really have to thoroughly train the areas you’re targeting to get results.” But a trainer is key, says Wilkes: “There are so many different things you can do at the gym to build muscle—and a trainer can help you figure everything out and come up with a plan.”

Ft-Lauderdale-based Burger agrees. “You have to get out of your comfort level to see results. When you’re 50 or older, you can’t just go and do some shoulder presses and curls with 5-pound weights. You’ve got to push yourself and build up to the next level. A trainer can help you do that. I have a 75-year-old client doing step-ups with 15-pound dumbbells; she didn’t start there. She had to work up to it, but she did—and she’s doing it—and she’s getting great results.”

man lifting weights in gym

Don’t worry about bulking up like this if you lift weights; the truth is…you won’t.

“There’s a persistent myth about weight lifting and women,” explains Wilkes. “Women think that if they lift heavy weights, they’re going to bulk up and look like a guy.” That’s just not happening, she says. “As we get older and our hormone levels start to drop, women have to fight for every shred of muscle we put on. We have to work really hard for it. We’re just not physically capable of bulking up like a guy. Sure, I want to fill out sagging skin with muscle, but I also want to be able to wear a dress and not look like a football player.”

The Fountain of Youth?

For women 50+, hormones and an aging body aren’t their best friends—but weight training can turn things around, something that Maria Liza Eden Giammaria, M.D., MPH, a vein specialist—based in New York and Ft. Lauderdale—discovered firsthand. “My father was ill with cancer and I was traveling between North Carolina, where he was, and my offices. At one point, when I turned 50, I had an awakening,” she says. “I was exhausted, I wasn’t working out, I wasn’t eating healthy, and I wasn’t sleeping. I felt toxic. I needed to work on me—and because I was so busy, I had to maximize my time. I wanted to get the best results in as little time as possible.” Enter weight lifting. As Eden Giammaria got more toned, she started eating better, lost weight, felt better about herself—and had a better overall mood—and even started to feel more empowered at work. “I want to gracefully embrace the aging process,” she says, adding that weight training has helped her do this.

Fifty was also the magic number for San Diego-based Meg Kruse, a personal trainer who’s now 56. Like Wilkes, Kruse is a regular at bodybuilding competitions, but Kruse never initially believed she could ever get to that point. “A trainer came up to me one day right around the time I turned 50 and suggested that I take my weight training to the next level because I had a beautiful back,” says Kruse. “When she said that, a little voice in my head said ‘You can’t do that. You’re too old. You’ve got wrinkles. Your right boob hangs down.’ But that made me even more determined to do it.” As her muscles grew, so did her self-esteem. Says Kruse: “As a woman, when you get stronger, you get more confident. There’s no question.”

This boost in self-esteem is a common side effect of taking on a challenge like weight lifting—particularly as you get older, says Michele Kerulis, LCPC, director of Sport & Health Psychology at the Adler School of Professional Psychology, in Chicago. “When you’re in your 50s and older, there are many body changes occurring that make seeing results in the gym extremely difficult,” explains Kerulis. “But that’s what makes setting, and achieving, goals like this that much more outstanding for women.”

Woman holding water bottle in gym

No matter what age you are, exercising—both cardio and strength training—can help you look younger.

“Having a goal to work toward keeps you young,” adds Carol Matthews, 68, a personal trainer in Ft. Lauderdale who regularly weight trains women 50+ (including women in their 80s and 90s, whom she trains in their nursing homes). And getting stronger is a goal, says Matthews, which should be on every woman’s fitness bucket list. “Every single woman should lift weights,” she says. “You’re never too old to start.” But Matthews also stresses the importance of balancing out the rest of your life, too: “Eat clean and healthy—and prep your food for the day so you have things with you—get plenty of rest, and get out there and do cardio, even if it’s walking. These all work together to help you live a strong, healthy, long life.” Kruse agrees, saying: “You need to feed your body fuel: good healthy protein [like lean meats, fish, eggs, and beans], vegetables, and healthy carbs.”

So weight training—along with living a healthy, balanced life—makes you stronger, boosts your health, and wards off disease. But there’s also a tiny bit of vanity that comes from being able to wear sleeveless dresses with ease and a boost of confidence that comes from being able to heft your own shopping bags or your suitcase, or even your grandkids, sans help. All are what keep growing numbers of women, like Wilkes and Kruse, committed to strength training. “So we’re getting older?” says Kruse. “Women who strength train are not going to break their hips and they’re not going to ride up the stairs in one of those trolley things. And we’re not going to head to the grave with a muffin top. I like to call what we’re doing aging gracefully—and actively.”

Getting Started

Looking to boost your strength and improve your health with weight training? Consistency is key. Start with a trainer (all gyms have them, or try a personal training center that can work with you—and your goals). Or gradually work your way up to a trainer with these easy strength training tips*:

Put on a walking vest. These adjustable weighted vests can be worn daily to transform your daily walks into strength-training ones.

Do body weight exercises. Push-ups are the easiest exercises to do. You need no equipment and can do them anywhere. Other good options include squats (for your legs) and crunches (for your abs).

Try resistance tubing. These stretchy, lightweight pieces of latex provide resistance (and strength training) when stretched. (Tip: the lighter the color of the tubing, the less resistance it offers.)

Do free weights (or use weight machines). Dumbbells are effective strength training tools. You can do everything from biceps curls (to strengthen the arms) and shoulder raises (to strengthen the shoulders) to weighted squats (to help boost muscle—and bone—in the legs). Weight machines at the gym are a more advanced way to build bone; a trainer can show you step-by-step how to use them.

Do 5 to 10 minutes of cardio before strength training (this warms up the muscle, helping to prevent injury). Then choose a weight or resistance level that will tire your muscles after 12 repetitions. (When you can do more than 15 reps without tiring, increase the amount of weight or resistance.) Plan to do two to three, 20- to 30-minute sessions a week, alternating days that you work on different body parts.

* Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen so you don’t get hurt.

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Edible Seeds & Why They’re Good for You

Written by: on Monday, November 3rd, 2014

I love this chart highlighting the benefits of seeds. We’re not conditioned to think of seeds as a food here in America—but we should. (I personally love flax and chia seeds because they’re chockfull of omega-3s [I sprinkle them on my oatmeal every day] — and sesame seeds, which I sprinkle on my salads, because they’re high in calcium.) Take a look and find a seed to try in your diet.

6 Edible Seeds: Here is why you should sprinkle them into your diet
“6 Edible Seeds” on Health Perch

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Why I See a Midwife (No, I’m Not Pregnant)

Written by: on Sunday, October 5th, 2014
Midwives

Midwives provide care while you’re pregnant, but they can also provide primary care to women, annual gynecological exams, family planning, and even menopausal care.

I just booked an appointment with my midwife. No, I’m not having a baby — or planning on becoming pregnant — but this midwife  (Tina Alessi, CNM, in Morristown, New Jersey) provides many of the same services as an OB/GYN. In fact, she’s part of an established OB/GYN practice. She worked with me throughout my last pregnancy — and I’ve been with her ever since.

What I’ve found is that I love my midwife’s holistic approach to well-being…she’s kind of like an integrative “doctor” but for female care: she’s versed in natural treatments (as well as natural births—which is what I had for my youngest son, even at 8 pounds 13 ounces!…technically a VBAC, since my daughter was born via C-section), but she’s more than capable of writing a prescription if I need medication (which I did when I was suffering the same nausea as Kate Middleton is now). But I realized that most people don’t know anything about midwives (or if they do, they have some pretty outdated notions about them) — why I thought I’d do a little primer on midwives (particularly because Oct 5 – 11 is National Midwifery Week), addressing some of the myths:

Myth: You only need the services of a nurse-midwife during pregnancy.

Fact: Certified nurse midwives like mine provide primary health care services to women and families in all stages of life, from the teenage years through menopause. These services include not only caring for women during pregnancy but also general health check-ups; gynecologic care; and prescribing medications, including all forms of pain control medications and birth control. Nurse-midwives can also help care for newborns in the first month of life.

Newborn Baby Boy

Certified Nurse Midwives can attend births in hospitals—or be with you at home for a home birth.

Myth: Nurse-midwives can’t attend births in hospitals.

Fact: My midwife has hospital privileges—and in fact, she’s well known (and respected) around the hospital and the community in general. Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM) practice in many settings, including hospitals, medical offices, freestanding birth centers, clinics, and private homes (I had always wanted to try a water birth…and while midwives will help you do it, this wasn’t in the cards for me). In fact, many of them practice in different settings to help ensure women have access to the range of services they need.

By working collaboratively with OB/GYNs, Certified Nurse Midwives can ensure that a specialist is available if a high-risk condition should arise (e.g. an emergency C-section, like I had with my 7-year-old daughter). Likewise, many OB/GYN practices work with Certified Nurse Midwives who specialize in care for women through normal, healthy life events.

Midwife Giving Medications

Midwives can, and do, prescribe medications to their patients—but they always talk you through non-medication alternatives as well.

Myth: You can’t use pain medicine if you use a nurse-midwife for your birth.

Fact: Certified Nurse Midwives partner with families on making decisions around pain-relief techniques. I got a chance to talk with Susan Stone, DNSc, CNM, FAAN, FACNM, who’s president of Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky (one of the oldest and largest midwifery schools in the nation) and she had this to say: “Whether the mom wishes to use methods such as relaxation techniques or movement during labor; or epidural, or other pain medications; a Certified Nurse Midwife will help meet their desired approach. At the same time, they provide information and resources about the different options and choices available should any changes to the birth plan become necessary.”

What is true: Births overseen by Certified Nurse Midwives usually have less intervention – such as continuous electronic fetal monitoring, epidurals, and episiotomies. But, when a medical procedure is necessary, a Certified Nurse Midwife works to ensure that the woman gets what she needs—so it’s the best of all worlds.

Myth: Insurance does not cover midwifery services.

Fact: I’ve got the absolute worst insurance company in the country (United Healthcare), and it still covers my midwife. In fact, thirty-three states require private insurance companies to pay for services provided by Certified Nurse Midwives, and Medicaid coverage for Certified Nurse Midwives is actually required in all states.

stethoscope

Certified Nurse Midwives are trained as nurses first —and have a masters or doctoral degree.

Myth: Midwives don’t need a lot of education.

Fact: All nurse-midwives in the United States begin their education as a registered nurse—and mine started off exactly that way. The fact is: There are many different types of midwives, each holding different certifications based on their education and/or experience. Certified Nurse Midwives have a master’s and/or doctoral degree—and are licensed in all 50 states. This licensing gives them the authority to perform exams, order lab tests, attend births, and prescribe medications.

So there you have it: some basic facts about a pretty old profession. A last bit of advice: I had experience with a midwife (not a Certified Nurse Midwife), who was offering a breast imaging technique called Thermography that I wanted to try (more on this in an upcoming blog!). I would never recommend anyone to her: her office was at the back of her home (which I had to walk through a weedy garden to get to) and I didn’t like her manner or the atmosphere; I couldn’t wait to get out of there—and would never recommend anyone to her. So not all midwives are created equal; that’s for sure! Just as with a doctor, do your research and trust your gut. And make sure they’re a Certified Nurse Midwife!

 

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How Much Are You Really Paying for that New iPhone?

Written by: on Sunday, September 21st, 2014
new iPhone costs

Are you being deceived by the sales people at your local AT&T or Verizon store?

A new iPhone is coming out, it seems, every second — so it’s no surprise when we find ourselves wandering into an AT&T store or Verizon store to “check out” the new phones.

This happened to me — and the result has not been pretty.

When I wandered in, I had the iPhone 4 (yes, I know…ancient in these times) — and was just checking to see how much it would be to upgrade. The “really nice” AT&T sales guy came over and said “Let’s check out your account and see what you’re eligible for.” Okay…so turns out I was “eligible” for an upgrade. I said I wasn’t interested in spending a lot on a new phone (the iPhone 5s was selling for $299 — and I didn’t think that it was necessary to upgrade for $300).

But what came next is the problem.

The AT&T sales guy said, based on my eligibility for an upgrade, I actually didn’t have to pay anything for the phone — and he could lower my monthly bill, too. Wow. I was impressed and happy that I stopped in. So I said “Yes, let’s do it.”

He worked with me on getting the phone, my contacts switched over to the new phone, etc. Then he passed me over to another sales person who had me sign the paperwork. What I knew: I was signing a contract for 2 years (typical) and I had a plan that included e-mail, unlimited texting and more. Did I carefully read the contract? No…I glanced at it and figured I had talked through everything with the sales guy. This wasn’t my first cell phone, so I honestly wasn’t expecting any surprises.

But the reality is something the sales people are not telling you upfront. It wasn’t until I got my monthly bill that the story changed.

I found out that somehow in this whole process, I had signed up for a Wireless Equipment Installment Plan and was paying a monthly fee ($28.85) towards the cost of my new phone, which…get this…was not the $299 phone cost that was advertised in the store, but $749.99!!! Somehow, I had gotten roped into paying an installment plan for my new phone with exorbitant interest charges.

There must be some mistake, I thought: I called AT&T and got through to a supervisor, Alexa, who told me that “I signed a contract so there’s nothing she can do.” And furthermore, I should have read the contract “more closely” as this information was not hidden. But I said: I was going on what the sales person told me and didn’t expect any surprises; he told me I didn’t have to pay for the phone and so I didn’t anticipate any surprises. “Well I’m sorry the salesperson told you that, but there’s nothing I can do,” she said. “You signed a contract.”

My response: “You think a salesperson is going to tell a customer that they’re actually going to be paying almost $800 for a phone that sells for $299?? You’re sadly mistaken.”

But come to find out two of my friends had this also happen to them. Check your bills (so many of us don’t) and see if you’ve been charged for an installment plan for exorbitant costs for your phone; if so, e-mail me. I’m putting together a class action lawsuit against AT&T (and maybe even Verizon—as one of my friends had this happen to her at a Verizon store).

We have a right to know exactly what we’re paying for…up front — without deceptive sales practices, which is what is going on here.

Share your stories with me at valerie@valerielatona.com!

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Super Foods: Do They Need to be Exotic?

Written by: on Sunday, September 7th, 2014
turrmeric

Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammtory long used in Chinese and Indian systems of medicine. The yellow or orange pigment in turmeric is curcumin.

Do you ever get tired of reading yet-another headline about The 10 Best Super Foods, only be instructed to buy exotic fruits, ancient grains, and other unusual items? Do we really need chia, spelt, and quinoa? Is anything wrong with old-fashioned peanut butter, broccoli, and brown rice? Doubtful! Powerful nutrients are found in standard foods that are readily available at a reasonable cost. You know, oranges, bananas, berries, oatmeal, almonds, hummus, lowfat yogurt, brown rice, tuna … basic, wholesome foods. Are those foods exotic? No. But do they still do a great job of offering super nutrition? Yes!

To add to the confusion about exotic foods, the sports food industry touts their list of engineered super sports supplements. Ads lead you to believe you really need to buy these products to support your athletic performance. The question arises: Are there really special nutrients or components of food that can help athletes to go faster, higher or stronger? If so, can they be consumed in the form of whole foods or do we actually need special commercial supplements?

At a 2014 meeting of Professionals in Nutrition for Exercise and Sport (PINESNutrition.org), exercise researchers from around the globe discussed that topic and provided answers to these questions:

Cup of coffee

Coffee is also rich in health-promoting antioxidants.

Is there any difference between consuming pre-exercise caffeine in the form of pills, gels or coffee?

Regardless of the source of caffeine (pill, gel, coffee), it is a popular way to enhance athletic performance. Take note: High doses of caffeine (2.5 to 4 mg/lb body weight; 6 to 9 mg/kg) are no better than the amount athletes typically consume in a cup or two of coffee (1.5 mg/lb; 3 mg/kg). Hence, drinking an extra cup of coffee is unlikely to be advantageous, particularly when consumed later in the day before an afternoon workout, which is when it ends up interfering with evening sleep!

Do tart (Montmorency) cherries offer any benefits to sports performance? If so, what’s the best way to consume them?

Tart cherries (and many other deeply colored fruits and veggies) are rich in health-protective antioxidants and polyphenols. Tart cherries can reduce inflammation, enhance post-exercise recovery, repair muscles, reduce muscle soreness, and improve sleep. Athletes who are training hard, participating in tournaments, or traveling through time zones might be wise to enjoy generous portions. Yet, to get the recommended dose of cherries that researchers use to elicit benefits, you would need to eat 90 to 110 cherries twice a day for seven days pre-event. Most athletes prefer to swig a shot of tart cherry juice concentrate instead! (One study found that drinking 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice daily helped insomniacs sleep 84 more minutes per night than when given a placebo juice.)

Blueberries

Colorful fruits like blueberries are rich in antioxidants called polyphenols as well as other nutrients; organic is always best.

What about food polyphenols such as quercetin and resveratrol?

Polyphenols are colorful plant compounds that are linked with good health when they are consumed in whole foods. Yet, polyphenol supplements, such as quercetin or resveratrol, don’t offer the same positive antioxidant or anti-inflammatory benefits. An explanation might be that once in the colon, where most polyphenols go, parts leak into the bloodstream during heavy exercise. These smaller compounds create the anti-inflammatory effect. Athletes who routinely eat colorful fruits during endurance training offer their gut the opportunity to distribute good health!

Does curcumin reduce chronic inflammation?

Curcumin (an active constituent of turmeric, the spice that gives the yellow color to curry and mustard) has beneficial properties that have been shown to help prevent cancer, enhance eye health, and reduce inflammation. Subjects with osteoarthritis (an inflammatory condition) who took curcumin supplements for 8 months reported less pain (due to less inflammation) and better quality of life. Unfortunately, curcumin is rapidly metabolized and therefore has low bioavailability when consumed in the diet. To increase absorption, supplements often contain curcumin combined with piperine (black pepper extract).

Green tea is rich in catechins, antioxidants that fight and may even prevent cell damage.

Green tea is rich in catechins, antioxidants that fight and may even prevent cell damage.

Does green tea help improve body composition? What is the best way to take it?

Green tea reportedly enhances fat oxidation and helps with weight loss, particularly when combined with caffeine. But the amount of additional fat burned is minimal, and the 10 to 12 cups of green tea needed to create any effect is a bit overwhelming. (Hence, most studies use a green tea extract.) Because green tea has not been studied in lean athletes, we can only guess that it is unlikely to offer a significant improvement in body composition.

Is watermelon juice a powerful stimulant for sports performance?

Watermelon juice is a source of L-citrulline, an amino acid that contributes to production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps relax the blood vessels and thus enhances blood flow so more oxygen can get transported to the working muscles. One study with athletes who consumed L-citrulline supplements reports they attained a 7% higher peak power output as compared to when they exercised without L-citrulline.

slices of watermelon

Watermelon contains about 250 millligrams of citrulline per cup.

Yet, when athletes were given watermelon juice (contains L-citrulline) or apple juice (that has no L-citrulline), the peak power was only slightly higher and the L-citrulline gave no significant benefits. The bottom line: Watermelon is a nourishing fruit and a welcome refreshment for thirsty athletes. You would need to eat a lot of watermelon to get the equivalent of L-citrulline found in (expensive) supplements. Your best bet is to enjoy watermelon in standard portions as a tasty addition to your diet.

What can be done with pea, hemp, or other plant protein to make them as effective as whey for building muscle?

In general, plants (such as peas, hemp) contain less leucine than found in animal proteins. Leucine helps drive the muscle’s ability to make new protein. Hence, to increase the muscle-building properties of plant proteins, you need to either eat large portions of, let’s say, hemp or pea protein (to get a bigger dose of leucine), or you can combine those plant-foods with leucine-rich proteins, such as soy, egg, or dairy foods.

The bottom line: Your best bet to optimize performance is to optimize your total diet. No amount of any supplement will compensate for lousy eating, though a few just might enhance a proper diet.

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