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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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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8 Best Cities for Cylists

Written by: on Sunday, September 7th, 2014
Woman With Road Bike

Biking is one of the best (and most fun) ways to get fit outdoors. You can burn 300+ calories an hour.

I love cycling — there’s just something about being out in nature, with just you and your bike! So happy to see that so many cities are featured here, but even if your city isn’t…you can still get out and ride: all you need is a bike and a helmet (a must). Look for local charity rides or races if you want to take your cycling up a notch; I like active.com to find rides and races, though any local bike store will have info on local rides, too.

 


Brought to you by:SpareFoot.com – See more at: http://blog.sparefoot.com/eight-best-cities-for-cyclists/#washington

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Get Married For a Healthier Heart?

Written by: on Monday, June 9th, 2014
Happily Married Couple

Turns out that love, particularly when it results in marriage, keeps your heart healthy.

A recent survey of 3.5 million Americans has shown that people who are married—regardless of age, sex, or even cardiovascular disease risk factors—have significantly less chances of having any kind of cardiovascular disease than those who are single, widowed, or divorced.

I find this fascinating because while we do so much for a healthy heart—exercise regularly, eat healthy, etc.—there are social factors, like marriage, that play a big role, too (and are often forgotten).

With so many couples griping about their own marriages, I had to ask lead study investigator and NYU Langone cardiology fellow Carlos L. Alviar, M.D., if this research applies to couples, whether they’re happily married or not. And, according to Alviar, these findings do hold true for both happy and unhappy couples. Here’s what he had to say:

“There are some intrinsic factors from just having a spouse or partner that could contribute to better cardiovascular health,” he says. “For instance, a spouse might still take care of his/her significant other and promote healthy habits (medical follow up, diet, exercise, medication compliance, etc.) even if their marriage is not the most harmonious one. In the same way, the fact of not being alone might also contribute to lower levels of physical and psychological stress—which directly affect cardiovascular disease—even if at other times there are disagreements or unpleasant moments.”

There you have it: if you’re worried about heart disease—get hitched or stay hitched. Here are some of the interesting stats from this research, courtesy of NYU Langone Medical Center:

Married People Have Less Cardiovascular Problems

 

 

 

 

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10 Healthy Beauty Products I Swear By!

Written by: on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
Natural Beauty

Use natural products, and you’ll feel (and be) healthier—and look gorgeously radiant!

I’m always on the lookout for healthy beauty products—ones that are super effective and don’t contain things like parabens and other chemicals. If they can be cruelty-free too…that’s even better! (Because why do we need to test on animals just so we can look better?!)

So, with that said, here’s a roundup of products that I’ve come across and come to love—and declared the best (for now, at least)!

Natural Shampoo

With ingredients like zinc, sage, and papaya, this shampoo gets your hair clean—and leaves it healthy.

1) BEST SHAMPOO: John Masters Haircare Zinc & Sage Shampoo with Conditioner ($20; johnmasters.com). I cannot say enough about this shampoo, which contains 12 certified-organic extracts and oils. I swim a lot and this shampoo, which smells amazing, leaves my hair  shiny and soft (which is not the case with a lot of more natural shampoos). It also doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, or GMOs—or artificial colors, fragrances, or fillers. It’s also not tested on animals.

I love John Masters’ philosophy: “Why use harsh chemicals in shampoos, styling gels, skin moisturizers and soaps? They were created as cheap substitutes for organic compounds that do a better job. It’s better for the body and the earth to simply return to the source: super natural botanicals.” Agree! (Also amazing: the John Masters Citrus & Neroli Detangler ($16);

Alba Botanica Body Wash

Contains botanicals like aloe, calendula, chamomile, and lavender.

your shower smells like a spa when you use it…not to mention your hair is shinier and healthier afterward.)

Also a tip: while I love Whole Foods and shop there all the time, don’t buy these products there. You’ll pay about $7 more per bottle than if you buy it direct from the John Masters’ website.

2) BEST BODY WASH: Alba Botanica Very Emollient Bath & Shower Gel in Midnight Tuberose ($7.16; drugstore.com). This is probably the best smelling body wash I’ve ever used (and I’ve tried, and used, a lot!)—and leaves your skin feeling hydrated, not stripped. Plus, it makes you feel good to use it as it  is: 100% vegetarian and has no artificial colors, parabens, phthalates, sodium lauryl

Replere Protect & Rejuvenate Day Lotion

Helps even out skin tone, redness, and reduce wrinkles—and is good for all skin types!

sulfate or sodium myreth sulfate. It’s also not tested on animals. And, it’s hypo allergenic and pH balanced—which makes it great for all skin types.

3) BEST DAY LOTION: Replere Protect & Rejuvenate Day Lotion ($90; replere.com). I’m a huge fan of this entire line of antioxidant-rich products, which were created by a dermatologist and osteopath (a doctor that looks at health problems from the inside out) Dr. Debbie Palmer. The products are paraben, fragrance, and dye-free and are not tested on animals. Plus, this lotion (as well as other products in the line like the Repair & Replenish Night Creme) contains some

Skin Authority Oil Nutrient

Just a few drops of this not-so-greasy oil go a long way.

of the highest amount of antioxidants in skin-care products. The main source of these antioxidants: Coffea Arabica, which is essentially the berry of the coffee plant. Bottom line: they work; my skin has never looked better!

4) BEST CUTICLE OIL: SkinAuthority Oil Nutrient for Face, Hair & Nails ($29; skinauthority.com). This blend of avocado, rosehip, grapeseed, and sunflower oils has singlehandedly kept my cuticles from being dry. I rub into my nails every night before bed—and have had really amazing results. I haven’t tried it yet on my face or my hair (it can be used on both to reduce dryness)—but I can only imagine that it would get great results there too! I’ve tried many other SkinAuthority products and all are just as good as this one.

Why I love this company, though: Skin Authority was

EcoTools

Use warm water and a mild cleanser to wash your brushes weekly.

one of the first full-line brands to eliminate parabens, dyes, fragrances, and animal testing, without sacrificing results or shelf life. In 2009, Organic Spa Magazine said, “Skin Authority is one of the companies making strides, both big and small, in the ever changing world of natural and organic beauty.” Now if all big skincare companies can follow suit!

5) BEST MAKEUP BRUSH: EcoTools Bamboo Eye Shadow Brush ($3.99; ecotools.com). I love this soft brush for applying eye makeup. Does it really apply makeup any better than a synthetic brush? Probably not. But it comforts me in a way to know that a brand is good, cruelty-free, and made of natural materials…why I like EcoTools.

6) BEST TOOTHPASTE: Supersmile Professional Whitening Toothpaste, Fluoride Free ($21;

Fluoride Free Whitening Toothpaste

Contains a combination of calcium, phosphates, and magnesium to re-mineralize the tooth enamel.

supersmile.com). I’ve been taking a seriously close look at toothpastes lately—and I haven’t been happy with what I’m finding. 100% natural toothpastes (even the whitening ones) leave my teeth yellow and not feeling so clean. Other toothpastes have dyes, harsh enamel-damaging silica (sometimes called “hydrated silica” on the ingredients label), a completely unnecessary anti-bacterial called triclosan, and something called microbeads. These are tiny plastic balls that give people a sense of a better clean, but actually are ending up in our waterways (after people spit into the sink, it goes down the drain), causing potential damage to fish and other aquatic wildlife. And I know it’s controversial, but I don’t believe in fluoride either…which brings me to Supersmile Professional Whitening Toothpaste.

This is hands down the best toothpaste for getting your teeth clean and white. It not only gets rid of tea stains (I drink a lot of tea!), using it daily also seems to prevent stains. And the best part: it doesn’t contain all the bad stuff: sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, triclosan, microbeads, you name it. Plus, it’s not tested on animals, ever. And now, they’ve just launched fluoride free…which means now they’ve hooked me for life! Seriously, your teeth will thank you for this toothpaste.

Kevin Murphy Sticky Business

Controls frizz and adds shape to damp or freshly dried hair.

7) BEST HAIR STYLER: Kevin.Murphy Sticky.Business Low-Shine Paste ($39.99; amazon.com). I started using this product over a year ago—and I still have plenty left…so it lasts a long time. But I love it because it uses amazing smelling pure essential oils, plant extracts, and antioxidants. Add to that: it’s sulfate and paraben free. This styler gives my hair the little bit of flip that I need to look “done” without a greasy or overdone feel.

ilikeMineralExfoliatingWash

This cleanser works best for oily skin and sensitive skin.

8) BEST FACE WASH: Ilike Mineral Exfoliating Wash ($68; dermstore.com). This is another product that literally seems to last forever. A tiny drop of this cleanser—which contains organic lavender oil, flaxseed oil, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and more good stuff— is all you need to get your skin clean…organically. It helps to balance oiliness and skin discoloration. Tip: when you start using this, do so gradually because of all the active ingredients. I started using once a day, then worked my way up to every day…and now twice a day.

MineralFusionMakeup

Adds natural color to cheeks, lips and eyes (although I don’t use it here).

9) BEST NATURAL MAKEUP: Mineral Fusion (mineralfusion.com). I came across this brand while I was shopping at Whole Foods and they were having a 35% off sale. I bought a few key items—and fell in love. They’re paraben free, gluten free, cruelty free, phthalate free, artificial color and fragrance free, and hypo-allergenic. Plus, they’re chockfull of minerals (hence the name!) and are rich in healthy skin antioxidants like vitamins C and E, white tea, and pomegranate. The big question: how do they work—and how do they look? They go on nicely (I’m particularly loving the Sheer Moisture Lip Tint in Smolder and the 3-in-1 Color Stick in Rosette)—and they look incredibly natural when on. The prices are reasonable, averaging about $18 per product, depending on what you get. But I’m definitely going to buy more when this stuff runs out—sale or not!

Naturopathica Alpine Arnica Bath & Body Oil

This oil is good for any skin type and contains arnica, an anti-inflammatory botanical that helps treat bruises and muscle pain.

10) BEST BODY OIL: Naturopathica Alpine Arnica Bath & Body Oil ($32; naturopathica.com). I love, love, love this oil—which blends arnica for muscle soreness (something that’s needed after a week of tough workouts) with an herbal blend of rosemary, basil, and bay laurel (which are said to help warm skin and increase circulation). Grapeseed, sunflower, and apricot oil are rich in vitamin E and essential fatty acids. I use this after showering (I mix with a moisturizer if my skin is feeling very dry…as after swimming)—and before bed to help me relax. I even use it sometimes to give my kids an after-bath massage to help them sleep better!

Hope that these tried-and-tested reviews help you pick the right healthy beauty product for you! And if you’ve found a natural, cruelty-free product you love, please share!

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Why Limiting Screen Time Helps Kids

Written by: on Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Young Child Playing with Smartphone

If your child is using apps, shut off the wifi before giving your Smartphone to him. This helps reduce the amount of radiation he’s exposed to.

Proof about something I’ve always believed: a new study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found children get more sleep, do better in school, behave better, and see other health benefits when parents limit content and the amount of time their children spend on the computer or in front of the TV.

But here’s the clincher: the effect isn’t always immediate, says Douglas Gentile, lead author and an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State. It could, says Gentile, have an effect on your kids seven months later!

Does this mean kids shouldn’t have any “screen time” as we call it in my house? No, as that would be almost impossible in this day and age of  iPhones and iPads. But creating limits so your kids aren’t spending hours upon hours of time on the computer or in front of the TV is what’s key.

The study also found that children got more sleep if parents limited screen time, which also resulted in lower risk of obesity. Parents limiting exposure to violent media resulted in increased prosocial behavior and lowered aggressive behavior seven months later.

“As parents, we don’t even see our children get taller and that’s a really noticeable effect. With media, what we’re often looking for is the absence of a problem, such as a child not gaining weight, making it even more difficult to notice,” Gentile said.

“Even with changes that we do notice, we really don’t recognize in the moment how all these things are related to each other across time,” he added. “Yes, as screen time goes up, school performance goes down, but that doesn’t happen overnight. If I watch a lot of TV today, I don’t get an F in my class tomorrow.”

What we do at our house: no more than 30 minutes a day during the school week (though this gets quickly taken away if homework isn’t done, you don’t get ready for school on time, and you fight with your brother or sister)—and then an hour each day on weekends. (Each child has a physical timer that gets set so they know when to cut screen time off.) It seems to work, but I do notice when it creeps up (by lack of vigilance on my part), behavior does get worse: there’s crankiness, more fighting, and plenty more “There’s nothing to do!” comments.

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