By Amy Paturel Good news! Not only is working out good for your physical health, but it is beneficial to your emotional and mental health as well. Whether you’re dealing with personal issues, family problems, break-ups or work related stress, the last thing you may feel like doing may just be one of the best things for you. Research shows that any aerobic activity – even just a single bout or an easy stroll – can help put the mind at ease. Exercise produces a surge in mood-elevating hormones called endorphins, explains Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer of the American Council on Exercise. These natural “drugs” produce the same feelings elicited from addictive drugs like morphine, caffeine and alcohol. And yet, most of us are more apt to start our day with a jolt of java than jump on the treadmill each morning. How much moving and grooving do you need to do before you experience a mood lift? Research indicates that 20 to 40 minutes of aerobic exercise can result in reductions in anxiety and mood benefits that last for hours. But if you want to experience a true high from exercise, you may need to hit the streets – hard. A study reported in Runner’s World found that 80 percent of runners had a higher level of endorphins in their blood after a hard session compared to only 45 percent after an easy jog. And according to Bryant, levels of a mood-boosting brain chemical called norepinephrine, increase in direct proportion to the intensity and duration of exercise. What’s more, getting a certain number of miles under your sneakers can create an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. As with other highs, runner’s high is psychologically addictive. “It has an opiate-like effect,” says Bryant. Add to that the repetitive and rhythmic pounding associated with running and it’s no wonder that hard-core runners escape their thoughts and reach a state of euphoric bliss. Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for achieving “runner’s high.” Scientists can’t pinpoint precisely what creates these effects. “It’s different for everyone,” says Bryant, “and quite honestly, I think scientists are learning that the more they learn about runner’s high, the more questions they have. Amy Paturel is a freelance writer for several publications, including Cooking Light and Health, and holds
Archive for September, 2006
Freshman year of college brings a host of new challenges and stresses: unfamiliar surroundings, tough classes, and unprecedented freedom. Added to the worry list for many students is the fear of gaining the infamous Freshman 15. Recent studies actually indicates that freshman year weight gain might not be as bad as previously thought. Researchers at Tufts University found that first-year college weight gain averages between 4.5 to 6 pounds. But that still leaves new students carting extra pounds around campus. And what if the gaining trend continues through senior year? You’ll be graduating with a lot more than just a degree. So what causes college weight gain and how can you avoid it? We turned to nutrition expert Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, author of ‘Living The Low Carb Life: Choosing the Diet That’s Right for You from Atkins to Zone’ for answers. The Causes A Whole New Lifestyle: “There are both psychological and social reasons for the weight gain,” says Bowden. “For many kids, this is the first time they’re away from home, or at least away from full-time parental supervision,” he continues. There’s unlimited food at the dining hall and who can resist all the fried foods and baked deserts? Add to that a college student’s dependence on takeout food, access to vending machines in dorms and on campus. Of course many busy students will find themselves skipping meals — a recipe for overeating the next time there’s food around. “Plus, there’s the general unconsciousness about food at this age,” Bowden says. “Then there’s one of the most underappreciated causes of weight gain in college — drinking alcohol!” The Stress Factor: On top of the unrestricted access to unhealthy foods, is another fat factor — stress. “For a lot of reasons, stress makes you fat, and no one is under more stress than a college freshman struggling to fit in, adjust to a new environment, establish herself in a new social pecking order and make good grades all at the same time,” says Bowden. How does a weight-conscious student fight all of these overwhelming factors? Bowden gives us 15 ways to fight
Dining Out: Mexican Food
By Colette Heimowitz, M.Sc.
VP Nutrition Communication
Atkins Nutritionals Inc.
Updated: September 19, 2006
From tortillas to posole, mariscos to mole, Mexican food is big on taste. Forget the goopy stuff most American Mexican restaurants serve. Real Mexican food is complex, balanced and varied.
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While it is true that much of Mexican cuisine is based on corn, you can also savor delicious mariscos, or seafood dishes, that are a specialty of Mexico’s coastal cities, or enjoy the stews and complex sauces of Mexico’s mountain regions. There is even a specific cuisine of the Mexican desert based on a variety of cactus plants.
But common to all the many regions of Mexico are chilies, an essential ingredient in Mexican cuisine. There are roughly 60 different kinds grown, from mild Anaheims (usually stuffed) to smoky poblanos and fiery serranos, and they may be used fresh or dried. Other flavors components include cumin and coriander, cilantro, tomatillos (resembling tiny green tomatoes in husks and with a tart flavor), Mexican cinnamon and the slightly sweet-crunchy root vegetable called jicama. You will also find pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, added as a crunchy garnish, and quinoa, a grain served as a side dish.
Know Your Menu
Posole: A spicy stew, usually of pork, made with hominy, onions, garlic, chilies and spices
Ceviche: Raw seafood marinated in citrus juice
Escabèche: A sweet-and-sour vinegar mixture with aromatic vegetables, spices and hot and sweet peppers; usually used to cook shrimp and other seafood
Tamales: Masa (a kind of dough) enclosing meats, vegetables and chilies, which is then wrapped in corn husks and steamed
Mole: A complex, rich sauce usually served with turkey, chicken and other poultry. It includes sweet and savory ingredients such as cinnamon, cloves, garlic, raisins and chocolate.
At Mexican Restaurants
Choose grilled chicken wings with ranch dressing instead of chili poppers or chilies rellenos
Choose sopa de albóndigas (meatball and vegetable soup) instead of quesadillas
Choose jicama salad instead of beef nachos
Choose grilled pescado special (fresh fish of the day) with grilled vegetables and chilies, or mixed seafood (marisco) instead of any taco platter
Choose pollo asada (grilled marinated chicken) with pico de gallo salsa instead of chicken chimichanga Choose camarónes al ajili (Shrimp in garlic sauce) instead of shrimp enchilada Choose grilled skirt steak with onions and chilies instead of beef burrito
Choose turkey mole instead of chicken tortilla
Teen Angst or Body Dysmorphia?
When health authorities refer to obesity they call it a “health crisis”.
There is another health crisis around – and it’s not about being fat. It is a mental health crisis that abounds among young teenagers.
Responding to a post on teen weight gain, Claire writes:
I hate the way I look.
I am 14 years old, I weigh 128lb and I’m 5″8.
I know I’m fat, and girls at my school pick on me about it, and they tell me to lose weight.
Her comment goes on to describe an aggressive exercise schedule, and a diet that includes no fast food and a home-made packed lunch. Claire is brimming with frustration – she cannot lose the 18 pounds that she “knows will make her look a lot better”. She ends her comment with a lament: “I don’t know what’s wrong with me!”
If those personal statistics are correct, Claire has a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 19.5 – putting her in the healthy weight range but quite close to the underweight range.
A well-meaning adult may try to convince Claire that there is no problem here. However it seems Claire’s opinion of her weight is more than just an opinion – it is a deeply held belief. A belief that is confirmed by her peers.
Teenage boys are not immune either.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) can be defined as “those who are extremely critical of their physique or self image, despite the fact there may be no noticeable disfigurement or defect” (see DSM-IV definition). BDD is sometimes referred to as “imagined ugliness”.
Whether we use clinical diagnoses or not – there is a problem here – a problem that goes beyond teen angst. Claire is not worried that she might be fat – she is worried about how she cannot seem to lose weight despite “eating right and exercising”.
Is there a link between this condition and the amount of obesity reporting that goes on? The alarm bells have sounded for many years now. “We are in the midst of an obesity epidemic” shout the headlines.
How does this filter through to youth? Do they fear fat as if it were impending doom? Do they believe that everyone is fat and if you’re not trying to lose weight you are not normal?
Is this just teens being teens or is it symptomatic of a widespread and growing mental health ‘crisis’
Research: measuring body image
Body image is often measured by asking the subject to rate his or her current and ideal body shape using a series of depictions. The difference between these two values is the amount of body satisfaction. Unfortunately, this method does not take into account the fact that a person might be aware of being under- or overweight and also satisfied with that circumstance. Consequently, an obese person, whose obesity causes him or her no psychological distress, might be rated as “having a poor body image” simply because he or she is aware of being obese.
Numerous studies have been undertaken to study body dissatisfaction in recent years. Typically, the research indicates that 33% of men and 70% of women rate their current figure as at least slightly larger than ideal and that body dissatisfaction among women is much larger than for men. These numbers suggest that U.S. women are more aware of what a healthy body weight is, since about two-thirds of Americans are at least somewhat above their healthiest weight. Subsequent studies on this issue have justified this idea, as men whose body mass index puts them in the overweight category often think their weight is in the ideal range, and that those who are clinically obese often believe themselves to be merely overweight.
Some research has been undertaken to determine generational differences in body shape preferences by analyzing body size dissatisfaction for children, adolescents, and adults; significant differences between the age groups have been found. The ideal body mass increases as women get older, which in turn decreases the degree of body dissatisfaction. These cohort differences are a confirmation of the recent increase in body dissatisfaction and eating disorders among young women.
Causes and influences
As clearly evidenced by literature around the world, poor body images have existed at least since the widespread availability of mirrors, but one of the reasons most often cited for this continuing body dissatisfaction among young women is modern media influence, including that from compact disc covers, advertisements, movies, music videos, television, video games, and magazines. Media representatives often reply that they are merely reflecting the ideals of the current generation or using whatever image best sells their products. However, research has shown that the media play a large role in reinforcing, if not actually shaping, rather than simply reflecting, perceptions of the human body. The circular logic introduced by this phenomenon illustrates the difficulty of placing the blame of negative body image on a single source.
The pre-occupation with skinniness is largely, although not entirely, a development of the latter part of the twentieth century, as the perception of women’s body shapes has changed significantly over the past decades. In the early 1940’s it was found that people with thin, ectomorphic bodies were perceived by others as nervous, submissive and socially withdrawn. At that time, the ideal female body was curvy or hourglass-shaped. Before that, in the 1920s, being flat-chested and straight-hipped (a “boyish” figure), although not necessarily particularly thin, was fashionable. By the late 1980’s, this perception had changed, and thin people were considered to be the most appealing. Several researchers have found that the female body depicted in the media has become increasingly thin. Research using bust and hip measurements of Playboy models has shown that between 1960 and 1979, there was a trend towards non-curvaceousness. Fashion in body shape also tracks closely with attitudes about child-bearing: it is less desirable during ‘thin’ eras and more desirable during ‘curvy’ eras.
Changing media and society ideals regarding men and ideal body images can be seen when observing mainstream American films. In the 1960s and 1970s when a man appeared without a shirt (and when the film was not the beach culture), a man appeared skinny: with a less-developed chest and with less musculature in the upper arms. By the 2000s, after the onset of the gym culture the actors in the same sort of roles are well developed upper body musculature.
As the ideal body shape for women became thinner, the dissatisfaction that women have with their body shape increased. In recent years, a number of researchers have found that females are more likely to judge themselves overweight than males. This tendency was strongest in adolescent and young adult women.
Relationship to psychological disorders
Poor body images can often contribute to the onset of a variety of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Other possible effects of the cultural obsession with looking slender include excessive exercising, fad diets, and lawsuits involving fast food chains.
Concerns with body image have been linked to a decrease in self esteem and an increase in dieting among young women. This latter trend has been identified as an indicator of the onset of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Great body dissatisfaction can also lead to Body dysmorphic disorders, which cover a range of personality disorders where a person is dissatisfied with one’s own body.
On the other hand, having a good body image can be a source of satisfaction to an individual.
Attractiveness and social issues
Some researchers also found that men judge the female figure they found most attractive as heavier than women’s ratings of the ideal body shape. In contrast, most women, including overweight women, desire men with a very low percentage of body fat, whether they be thin or muscular. This suggests that, contrary to the media focus, men are far more likely to be attracted to larger women than women are to be attracted to larger men.
Additionally, men are also more likely to be unsatisfied with their height, due to a perceived preference in women for men above average height. Men, on the other hand, don’t tend to factor height in when choosing a mate; they’re attracted to short, tall, and everything in between. According to a study “Gender Differences in Body Dysmorphic Disorder” by Katharine A. Phillips and S. Diaz (1997), the most common body areas that cause the most distress among men with body image disorders include skin (58%), head hair (57%), nose (38%), body build (25%), eyes (18%), genitals (15%), legs (14%), chest (12%), and stomach/abs (11%).
Information on specific minority populations
Most empirical research and statistical data are orientated and tailored toward Caucasian audiences, and some studies have been designed to exclude racially diverse populations. Nonetheless, no race or socioeconomic group should be considered impervious to eating disorders.
There is another technical use of the term “body image,” which refers to the association of areas of the motor cortex with the voluntrary movement of body members. This is often shown as the motor homunculus depicted by Dr. Wilder Penfield. This image distorts the body according to the areas of the motor cortex associatied with its movements. For example, it shows the thumb as larger than the thigh because the thumb’s movement is much more complex than that of the thigh and thus occupies a larger area of the cortex. The motor homunculus plays a central role in proprioception. This body image is involved in phantom limb phenomena as well as their opposite, as in the case of brain damage resulting in the disappearance of parts of the body from conscious perception.
I have been jogging for 45 minutes each morning and have noticed my legs look bigger and more muscular. I wanted my legs to look slimmer and more toned – not to end up looking like a rugby player. Any tips to remedy this situation?
Toned legs is what we’re all after. To get huge muscle legs like bodybuilders we have to train with heavyweights and change our diet to the extreme like they do – they are totally committed and dedicated to their sport 24 hours a day when in season, plus men have much higher levels of testosterone than we do. Look at your training regime – ensure you have ‘rest days’ and instead of running every day, lift weights in the gym on one day, swim on another and maybe participate in a studio class on another. Even take a yoga class to improve flexibility and mind fitness.
Avoid becoming a treadmill junkie – although if it’s running you truly enjoy then alternate your running sessions with hill climbs one day to give you more stamina with easy runs on another. When in the gym, train upper body using slightly heavier weights to give you an all-over toned look rather than the impression your legs are becoming bigger. Walking is also a great way to fitness so include this in your regime too. click for more info
Health and Diet
Obesity rates have nearly doubled in the past 10 years, according to a study conducted by the Managed Care Center of UCLA. The study found that obesity-related health complications include diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. In addition, an individual’s healthcare costs raised 36% and medication expenses by 77%. Obesity is costly to your health!
Stretching requires a certain technique. Follow these rules. Don’t bounce a stretch. Holding a stretch is more effective and there is less risk of injury. Don’t stretch a muscle that is not warmed up. Don’t strain or push a muscle too far. If a stretch hurts, ease up. Don’t hold your breath.