Friday, February 28, 2014

Shopping Carts Injure Children in Record Numbers

Maybe you saw the recent and popular viral video in which a baby falls from a store shopping cart, rescued mid-fall by the lifesaving actions of a store employee. We can rejoice in this, but a January study report warns that many children do not fare as well from all-too-common shopping cart accidents – that more than a half-million children have been treated in emergency rooms for injuries from shopping cart incidents in the last 21 years.

Even more alarming: the statistics show that, even with a decade of operation with voluntary shopping cart safety standards, the number and rate of concussions and  injuries from shopping carts accidents have continued to climb. In fact, today, one child is injured every 22 minutes from a shopping cart mishap.


The study was conducted by researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.  They examined shopping cart accident data sourced from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) from 1990 through 2011 regarding children who ended up in emergency rooms.  What they found:
  • More than 530,000 injured children – an average of more than 24,000 children annually – found themselves in an emergency department from a shopping cart incident.
  • Most injuries (70.4 percent) resulted from running into or falling over the cart, a cart tip-over, or entrapment of extremities in the cart.
  • At 78.1 percent, head injuries were by far the most commonly injured body region.
  • The annual rate of concussions and  internal head injuries increased dramatically – by more than 200 percent! – during the study period.
  • Most of the head injury rate increase happened to children under five years of age.
Clearly, the voluntary shopping cart safety standards that were introduced by the federal government 10 years ago are not enough to ensure the protection of our children.

Can shopping cart design changes reduce injuries?

Several cart design changes, whether initiated voluntary or required through legislation, are being considered to improve the safety of children.  These changes include:
  • Elevating performance standards for shopping cart child restraint systems
  • Lowering the child seating area of the cart to reduce cart tip-over by lowering the center of gravity of the cart and to decrease the severity of injuries because the child will not fall as far
  • Creating parental guidance literature or programs on how to safely use shopping carts
  • Using store-wide broadcasts that encourage shopping cart safety belt use
  • Requiring store employees to encourage parents to use the cart safety belts.

How to protect your children from shopping cart injuries

There are steps you can take as a parent to reduce your child’s risk of a shopping cart injury:
  • Stay with the cart and your child at all times and make sure your child remains seated in the cart.
  • When possible, choose alternatives to placing your child in a shopping cart.
  • Choose another cart if parts of the cart restraint system are missing or are not working.
  • If available, use a cart designed to lower the child seat position.
  • Always using a shopping cart safety belt when one is available if your child needs to ride in the cart. Be sure your child is snugly secured in the straps and that the child’s legs are placed through the leg openings.
  • Remain diligent even when your children are not in a shopping cart, but just walking. Many injuries occur when children and carts collide. Especially in the case of smaller children, adults may not see the walking child.
  • Do not let children operate/steer the shopping cart unless you are watching closely.
For related injury prevention materials or to learn more about the Center for Injury Research and Policy, visit

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Take a Bite Out of Dental Decay This Month

February is National Children's Dental Health Month – a good time to educate your children about the importance of oral health. The American Dental Association (ADA) wants to help you do this!  They provide a wealth of educational materials and tips to support good dental hygiene in America: to get the word out that developing good habits at an early age is the best way to get children on the path to lifelong healthy teeth and gums.

Five ways to encourage dental health at home

You can put a dent in dental decay at your school or in your home with these tips and materials designed to educate and encourage kids regarding good dental health.

Tip #1 – get the Super-Smile poster

Download, print, and display these posters in places your kids can’t miss them, like the bathroom mirror or on the fridge. 
Get the large 11"x17" Tabloid Sized poster:

Download Children's Poster  Download Teen Poster

You can get both of these posters in a standard 8”x12” letter size as well:

Tip #2 – Do activities geared toward great teeth and gums

ADA offers a wealth of games, puzzles, coloring sheets and more, each designed to get your kids excited and more knowledgeable about dental health. The links below include English and Spanish language versions.

Tip #3 – Reveal those missed spots!

One of the most powerful ways to identify insufficient tooth brushing or improper technique is to use a simple food coloring technique to shed light on otherwise invisible plaque. You’ll need some red food color, water, a mirror – preferably the kind that magnifies – a new toothbrush, and toothpaste.
To make the magic happen, add three or four drops of the food color into a few tablespoons of water in a paper cup. Have your child swish the colored water around in his or her mouth for about ten seconds and then spit it out into the sink. Ask your child to use the magnifying mirror to study their teeth and gums; the red food coloring makes the areas with plaque show up as bright red!
The education continues when your child brushes afterward with toothpaste and a new toothbrush.  If they miss any spots, they’ll know right away, as the red coloring highlights the missed sections.  Have your child brush again until they’ve successfully removed most of the red food coloring. 
Your child will likely never brush the same way again.

Tip #4 – Do a fun science experiment on tooth decay

To demo tooth decay effectively, you can use an apple with a hole in it.
First, make a one-inch deep hole in an apple. Put it in a paper bag and set it aside for about three days.  Take a knife and cut through the apple through where you made the hole. Show your children the decay that formed around the hole. This is a good way to demonstrate shows how decay can also spread through a tooth.
Explain that good oral hygiene, including brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily is important to stop tooth decay from spreading.

More ways to promote dental health at home

Try all of the above tips and you'll have your kids on the road to a healthy smile in no time.  As well, visit the ADA's "For Kids" section, where you can play student-focused dental games and animations.  Also check with a local dentist; many of them have public speaking events during National Children's Dental Health Month that you could attend.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dry Skin S.O.S.

We’re in the endless winter doldrums – the holidays have passed, cold weather has settled in, and winter coats are our daily fashion statement. Not to mention, our skin is dry and itchy. How do we combat it in this dry season?

Common skin lotions and salves often contain strong perfumes and odors, not to mention a list of ingredients that can only be found in a laboratory. So what do you do when your skin is dry and flaky, but you don’t want to use chemical-laden solutions?

First, take a look at your food. Your diet can greatly affect the health of your skin! As the body’s largest organ, it’s a gauge of our internal health. Not sure what to munch? Eat foods that are high in silica content, like celery and cucumber. Drink plenty of water. And enjoy healthy fats, like fatty fish (salmon or sardines), walnuts, and flax seed. The more nutrients you give your body, the healthier and more moisturized your skin will be, so aim for getting at least 3 or more colors of fruits and vegetable per day.

Second, travel no further than your kitchen! You’ll be surprised how many of the top natural dry skin remedies are hanging out in your cupboards. Kitchen finds like buttermilk, olive oil, and guacamole are easy, gentle moisturizers and skin soothers, and you don’t need to add anything to them for effectiveness. Simply lay them on the skin and let their anti-inflammatory properties and moisturizing oils sink in.

If you have a little more time, you might want to whip up a few easy recipes for any dry skin ailments. From under-eye dry patches to rosacea, you’ll find plenty of ways you can keep your skin treatment both cheap and easy, while avoiding chemicals and perfumes. Be prepared for a different texture than what you are used to: making skin lotions and treatments at home means you don’t add the extraneous ingredients for smoothness or color. But with a little practice, you will be surprised how simple and quick these effective remedies can be.

Last, if making your own solutions doesn’t appeal to you, take heart! There are many organic options with few ingredients, lots of nutrients, and moisture and healing for your dry skin. Not sure where to find them? Your local health food store will offer plenty of choices! If you don’t have one close to you, do a search online for organic lotions and dry skin remedies. You will find plenty to choose from. Be sure to check out the ingredient list, as natural products are trending right now, and the term “natural” can be used for any product, as there are no federal guidelines for its use. You may search for terms like “organic,” or “100% pure.” But still review the ingredient list to be sure you are satisfied with what you are putting on your skin as it absorbs everything we put on it.

Your skin might suffer during the cold months, but you can combat the drying effects of winter with some great alternatives! What natural remedies work best for your skin? Do you have a recipe for a natural solution that you would recommend?

Contributing Writer

Friday, February 21, 2014

Are We Getting Stupider?

As we humans grow in our scientific knowledge and our technological advancement, surely we must be getting smarter too, right?

Wrong, according to the latest genetics research, published in November 2013 in the Cell Press journal Trends in Genetics. This research claims that we may in fact be slowly but surely losing both our intellectual and emotional abilities as individuals.

How is this possible? And doesn’t this appear to fly in the face of evidence that human IQ scores are on the rise? 

The new research suggests that we are losing ground intellectually and emotionally as a result of the intricate web of genes that give us our brain power.  It turns out that this gene web is highly susceptible to mutations – changes to the basic structure of a gene – and that changes in our societal behavior has weakened our genetic selections – that these important mutations are not being selected against in our modern society. 

Do you feel like you’re under pressure?  Maybe this is why; Human intelligence and behavior require optimal functioning of a large number of genes, which requires enormous evolutionary pressures to maintain.

"The development of our intellectual abilities and the optimization of thousands of intelligence genes probably occurred in relatively non-verbal, dispersed groups of peoples before our ancestors emerged from Africa," says the papers' author, Dr. Gerald Crabtree, of Stanford University.

In other words, Crabtree believes that we were genetically at our prime hundreds or even thousands of years ago – that if a person from ancient Greece were time-transported to 2014, that person would likely give most of us a run for the money in terms of intellectual capacity.

In the long-ago early African environment, intelligence was critical for survival, and there was likely to be immense selective pressure acting on the genes required for intellectual development. These pressures would naturally result in a peak in human intelligence. From that point, it's likely that we began to slowly lose ground.

Beyond that intelligence-needed-for-survival phase, the development of agriculture and resulting urbanization made survival and health easier to acquire, which, the researchers believe, may have weakened the power of selection to weed out mutations leading to intellectual disabilities.

Based on calculations of the frequency with which deleterious mutations appear in the human genome and the assumption that 2,000 to 5,000 genes are required for intellectual ability, Dr. Crabtree estimates that within the past 3,000 years – which equates to roughly 120 generations – we have all sustained two or more mutations that are harmful to our intellectual or emotional stability.

Genes serve a multitude of purposes in our bodies. Surprisingly, recent findings from neuroscience suggest that specifically those genes that help our brains to function are the most susceptible of our genes to mutations.  This, Dr. Crabtree argues, combined with less selective pressure, is eroding our intellectual and emotional capabilities.

There is some good news in all this; the greatest concern is not for you, but for your grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren.  In other words, the intellectual slippage is extremely gradual from generation to generation. 

Judging by society's rapid pace of discovery and advancement, the researchers believe that future technologies are bound to reveal solutions to the problem. "I think we will know each of the millions of human mutations that can compromise our intellectual function and how each of these mutations interact with each other and other processes as well as environmental influences," says Dr. Crabtree. "At that time, we may be able to magically correct any mutation that has occurred in all cells of any organism at any developmental stage. Thus, the brutish process of natural selection will be unnecessary."

As long as Dr. Crabtree is right – that we will be able to identify and solve for this genetic slide into mental oblivion before we’ve become intellectual amoebas – then there’s no need for us to worry.  We can safely return to watching our favorite, mind-numbing reality television shows, knowing that we’re a good dozen-or-more generations away from seeing the consequences of our genetic laxity.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Understanding Metabolism

If you’ve ever been on a diet – or read popular health magazines – you’ve no doubt heard the term “metabolism.” It’s being boosted, sped up, or super-charged, depending on what supplement or diet plan you are considering. But what is it exactly? And why are we so interested in changing its speed?

Metabolism not just one thing that we can define. It’s actually used as a general reference to all the chemical processes in the body. What are these processes? They are what make our bodies run – and, hopefully, run smoothly! The chemical processes break down into catabolic and anabolic processes. Catabolism is when our body takes what we’ve eaten, breaks it down into usable parts, and then extracts energy as a result. That means we can walk, talk, eat, and sleep! Anabolism is the collection of the nutrients the cells need to do their work and keep us healthy. Therefore, when we talk about “speeding up” metabolism, that may or may not be to our benefit, depending on what needs our body has at the time.

Then what is a calorie? Put simply: it’s energy. The technical definition can be found here, but the important part is that you need calories to survive. Without them, our body can’t keep going. With too little energy (too few calories), the body will slow all its processes down to reserve energy. With too many calories, our bodies will increase the speed to use up a small surplus, but with too much energy, it will store those extra calories as…you guessed it: fat. This isn’t a bad thing! Some extra padding can be used up in time of need, like when there is little food. But if you live in food abundance – and many of us do – it can cause problems, such as obesity. If you aren’t sure how many calories you need, here’s a great calorie calculator to help you figure it out!

What about BMR, or basil metabolic rate? And no, it’s not an Italian seasoning! Your BMR the amount of energy your body needs to keep you alive, and nothing more: no walking, working out, talking, or dancing. Think of it this way: just like your vehicle needs a certain amount of fuel for normal driving, your body needs a certain level of fuel for all the activity it is doing while you are laying in bed. That is your BMR – the baseline of fuel needed to stay alive. However, if you drive fast or use all of the features on the car, they require more energy – which means you use more fuel. Our bodies work the same way – the more you do, the more fuel it requires. So you want to squeeze in an extra workout? Remember that you need more food to fuel it!

Before you scratch your head and say, “But aren’t I overweight because I eat too much?” Maybe…and maybe not. Sometimes we carry extra weight on our bodies due to hormone imbalances, nutrition imbalances, or inflammation. Some of us may eat too much, but others may have a body process that is out of balance and is causing our body to hold onto extra weight.

So when you are hearing terms like metabolism, calories, or BMR used for the latest fad food plan or supplement, ask yourself if the retailer’s claims make sense. You might find that sometimes, it doesn’t!

What lifestyle changes are you considering that may help you maintain a healthy metabolism? What do you think about calories and metabolism now that you have a better understanding of how they interact?

Contributing Writer

Monday, February 17, 2014

February is American Heart Month

Cardiovascular disease is often called the silent killer because it can have no noticeable symptoms. Especially for this reason, it’s important to learn the components of good heart health to keep you and your family safe and healthy.

What do you need to know about heart health?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
  • Every year, approximately 715,000 Americans suffer from a heart attack.
  • About 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year, which accounts for one in four of all deaths.

Common types of heart conditions:

  • Coronary heart disease: Also called coronary artery disease, this is the most common type of heart disease in the United States. This condition occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This disease can cause a heart attack, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.
  • Heart attack: According to the Mayo Clinic, a heart attack usually occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood through a coronary artery. This can cause damage or destroy part of the heart muscle. Also known as a myocardial infarction, a heart attack can be fatal.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
  • Feeling lightheaded, faint, or weak.
  • Discomfort or pain in the chest.
  • Shoulder or arm pain or discomfort.
  • Shortness of breath.

If you experience any of the symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Are heart attack symptoms different for men and women?

Yes, they can be. In fact, women often ignore their symptoms because they’re not those typically associated with heart attacks. Women should pay attention to:

  • A burning sensation in the upper abdomen
  • Lightheadedness
  • An upset stomach
  • Sweating.

What steps can you take to ensure good heart health?

  1. Eat a healthy diet.  A diet of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and unprocessed foods is best. Limit salt or sodium intake. Also watch your intake of saturated and trans fats and cholesterol.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing heart disease.
  3. Get moving! Experts recommend moderate to intense exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week. If necessary, break those workouts into shorter periods of time. In general, include more movement in your daily routine, especially if you have a job that requires sitting for most of the day.
  4. Watch your blood pressure.
  5. Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit. And limit exposure to secondhand smoke, too.
  6. Limit alcohol consumption. Men should consume no more than two alcoholic drinks per day; women should drink no more than one beverage containing alcohol daily.
  7. Have your cholesterol checked.
  8. Manage diabetes. In women, other chronic conditions, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, too.
  9. Take medications as prescribed.
  10. Reduce stress levels.
  11. Get treated for depression.
  12. Be aware of your family history.

What events are being held throughout the month?

Go Red for Women is one of the organizations with a specific focus on heart health. Visit for events in your area. Check out the American Heart Association’s Website for valuable information on American Heart Month.

Kathy Rembisz
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 14, 2014

CDC Alert on Lyme Disease Deaths

Sudden deaths from cardiac arrest by three healthy young adults put the CDC on high alert when it was discovered that all three were victims of carditis, a tick-borne heart inflammation, and all three lived in areas known for high tick populations.

The first victim was found dead in his car after it had veered off the road late in 2012 in Massachusetts. Since the victim was an organ donor, a pathologist working to harvest organs discovered the telltale inflammation around his heart.

Just six months later, two more carditis victims, one from New york and one from Connecticut, died after collapsing suddenly, unexpectedly.

Did the victims, all between 26 and 38 years old, even know they had Lyme disease? Apparently not, as none of them had been diagnosed or treated for it before their untimely deaths.
While the CDC assures that deadly carditis cases resulting from Lyme Disease are rare, you should take precautions, such as:
  • Learn to recognize the symptoms of Lyme disease.
  • Follow recommended safety procedures when recreating or working outdoors in areas that may have ticks.
  • Contact your physician if you think that you or a loved one has received a tick bite or has symptoms of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease fact sheet

Things you need to know about Lyme disease and carditis:
  • Lyme disease is passed to humans by the bite of black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks) and western black-legged ticks infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.
  • The Lyme disease bacterium normally lives in mice, squirrels, and other small mammals, but one of the three recent victims is believed to have contracted his Lyme disease from his pet dog, known to have ticks.
  • Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the United States.
  • In 2010, more than 22,500 confirmed and 7,500 cases of Lyme disease were reported to the CDC.
  • About one percent of Lyme disease sufferers develop carditis.
  • Carditus is usually treatable with antibiotics.
  • Outdoor workers are at risk of Lyme disease if they work at sites with infected ticks.  U.S. workers in the northeastern and north-central States are at highest risk of exposure to infected ticks.
  • Lyme disease is known to be particularly problematic in specific areas of the U.S., as the CDC map below shows:

How to protect yourself from ticks and Lyme disease

To protect you and your family from tick bites, take the following precautions when working, camping, or playing outdoors in tick areas:
  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into boots or socks.
  • Use insect repellents containing 20-to-30 percent DEET on your skin or clothing.
  • Use insecticides such as Permethrin (only on clothes, not skin) for greater protection. One application of permethrin to pants, socks, and shoes typically stays effective through several washings.
  • Check your skin and clothes for ticks. The young ticks are very small and may be hard to see.  Particularly check your hair, underarms, and groin for ticks, and immediately remove them from your body using fine-tipped tweezers, grasping the tick firmly and as close to your skin as possible, and then pulling the tick's body away from your skin with a steady motion. Wash the infected area with soap and water.
  • Wash and dry potentially exposed clothes in a hot dryer to kill any attached ticks.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease symptoms include:
  • An expanding circular rash that may look like a red bulls-eye at the site of the tick bite.
  • Fever
  • Joint and muscle pains
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes
If you develop symptoms of Lyme disease, the CDC advises that you seek medical attention promptly. Be sure to tell your doctor that you work or recreate in outdoor areas where ticks may be present.

Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, if treatment is started early. However, some victims may have lasting symptoms such as arthritis, muscle and joint pain, or fatigue.
Lyme disease and pregnant women
If you get Lyme disease while pregnant, it can lead to infection of the placenta and possible stillbirth. However, no negative effects on the fetus have been found when the mother receives appropriate antibiotic treatment.

There are no reports of Lyme disease transmission from breast milk.

Learn more about Lyme disease and carditis

To find out more, check out these resources:
Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Enjoy a Snow Day with Kids

A snow day might be one of the best aspects of living in an area that has winters and sees the powdery white stuff. Regardless of your age, a snow day is an unexpected day off from your regular routine. Free from school, work, or your normal activities, a snow day can provide hours of fun, activity, and pleasant memories.

Outdoor activities for snow days:

  • Build a snowman. Try a snow cat or dog for a variation.
  • Make snow angels.
  • Have a playful snowball fight.
  • Construct a snow fort or igloo.
  • Enjoy ice skating, sledding, or cross country skiing with the proper equipment.

Indoor activities for snow days:

  • Watch a snow day movie. Suggested titles include: Ice Age, Home Alone, Trapped in Paradise, Groundhog Day, Happy Feet, and Snow Dogs, to name a few.  Another option is to pull out some classic movies your children have never seen and enjoy them together.
  • Play board games. Board games are a great alternative to movies, TV, and spending more time on the computer. Any of the old ones you have in the closet will do. Don’t have any board games? Make up your own. Years ago when my stepsons were much younger, we created a “Dog Days” game one weekend. It comprised of a homemade board, dog bones served as player’s tokens, and the tiles had dog-related topics on them. It was great fun, and it was extra special because we made it ourselves.
  • Whip up something tasty. Whether you cook, bake, or like to make your own chocolate, snow days provide a great time to enjoy making your favorite recipe as a family. Try new ideas like chocolate covered pretzels or gourmet popcorn.
  • Get creative. Pull out paints, brushes, old newspapers, and magazines and allow each of your children to create their own piece of art.
  • Try something new. Arm and finger knitting are hot new activities that can utilize many types of yarn. Check out this site for step-by-step instructions.
  • Dance! Turn off the electronics and TV, move the furniture, and turn on some music. It’s a great way to get some exercise on a snow day while keeping warm inside.
  • Read. Whether you engage in this activity as a family or individually, snow days provide precious extra time to catch up on your reading.

Don’t forget!

  • If you have a fireplace, make a fire. It’s a perfect way to keep your family warm and cozy on a snow day.
  • Enjoy hot chocolate by the fire. Need a great recipe? Try this one.
  • Bring the snow in with “Bottle Guys.” Fill empty plastic bottles ¾ way with snow, decorate, and stick in the freezer.
  • Take a nap. After all the outside work and play, you deserve to curl up and get some much-earned rest.
  • Capture the events of the day with pictures.

Whether you stick with traditional activities for snow days or find new ways to enjoy the surprising day off, you are sure to create wonderful memories with your family that will last a lifetime.  Do you have some great ideas for the next snow day? Feel free to share.

Kathy Rembisz
Contributing Writer

Monday, February 10, 2014


As we march towards the middle of February, a favorite – or less so – holiday awaits. Valentine’s Day. For some of us, it holds dear memories, exciting expectations, or the comforting security of knowing we are held as precious. For those of us who are single, or in unhappy relationships, Valentine’s Day holds little enjoyment. While there are those who are able to ignore the unrelenting hearts and flowers, others have a much harder time letting it go.

So rather than sit in our doldrums, let’s try some new approaches to making February 14th your own V-day, regardless of your circumstances.

Adopt a Valentine. If you are feeling left out of the love, chances are other people are, too. Check around among your friends and social circles. Ask your co-workers. Who else doesn’t have Valentine plans? Agree to exchange cards, or flowers – or even chocolates – that day, and perhaps treat yourselves to a nice dinner. Do something special for your adopted Valentine that they won’t expect. It will get you out of your own feelings, and pay you back with pleasure when your adopted Valentine feels extra special.

Practice acceptance. If you’ve recently gone through a breakup, the pain doesn’t go away overnight. While others move on with their lives, you may feel like you are stuck in yours. Mental health writer Therese J. Borchard reminds us that sometimes we must “go through it, not around it.” Going out with friends, treating yourself to some movie nights with a box of tissues, or throwing yourself into another interest might be the key to pushing through. Whatever you need to do, as long as it isn’t detrimental to you, go for it.

Focus on what you have. We can get caught up in the negatives, and we forget to remember that we have many blessings around us. Particularly when we are alone on a traditional “couples” holiday, you may find yourself giving the hairy eyeball to romantic duos. Resist! One of the wonderful benefits of being single is getting to choose what you want to do, when you want to do it, without anyone else’s opinion involved. You don’t have any relationship drama going on in your life. You have no in-law issues to address.

Embrace the moment. You will never be at this exact place in life again. And while not everything is perfect, there are some pretty amazing things happening in your life right now. It is tough to be alone over the holidays, but you won’t always be. So enjoy the freedom and peace that comes with being single, knowing that when you are no longer so, you will – at times – wish for a few solitary moments! So appreciate where you are right now, with all its bumps and wrinkles.

Write yourself a Valentine. It sounds corny, but when was the last time you focused on all the things you love about yourself? Life coach Debra Smouse suggests crafting a Valentine card to your present self, from your pre-school self. It might feel awkward, but remembering back to the days before we placed so many judgments on ourselves can help us break out of some negative mindsets. List in detail what is lovable and wonderful about you. What are your best talents? If you don’t think you have any, think back to when you were little – what were you drawn to? What did others say you were good at? Write a love letter to yourself, complete with a rose or romantic token. For this year, romance yourself. You might be surprised how it changes your perspective and improves your self-image.

Being single when there’s so much couple-focused romantic advertising isn’t easy, but with some mindset shifting, you can own and enjoy this Valentine’s Day. So much so, I hope you start to call it your own V-Day, where you celebrate being single and special in your own right.

What things do you do to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a singleton? What’s been your best experience so far? How have you owned V-day? (And check out 50 Ways to Love and Pamper Yourself on Valentine’s & Every Day for some other ideas!)

Ally Bishop
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 7, 2014

Embracing the Imperfect Diet

It sounds like the antithesis of what it means to be healthy, right? Haven’t we been told that we have to eat more veggies, consume less junk food, and cook more at home? Doesn’t that mean always striving for better nutrition, not embracing the “less than,” substandard fare?

Yes…and no. While eating healthier is great, we can take it too far. There’s a new term on the rise in health circles: Orthorexia. It may sound odd, but it’s a serious issue. It is caused by being overly concerned about healthy eating. And before you scratch your head, let me explain.


The orthorexic person doesn’t just care about eating healthier: they live for it. They consistently try to improve their diet and have anxiety when they are placed in situations that compromise it. They worry about food quality when they eat out, when they visit with friends, and when they are grocery shopping. They suffer from guilt if they aren’t 100% perfect when it comes to their strict eating protocol. Often, they may judge or scold friends and coworkers when they eat foods that don’t adhere to the orthorexic’s view of healthy eating.

It may sound unlikely to happen to you, but if you come to healthier eating with an eating disorder of any kind – yo-yo dieting (disordered eating), bulimia, anorexia, etc. – you may very well develop an orthorexic mindset. We often trade one obsessive pattern for another.

So how do you combat falling into an orthorexic mindset?

First, seek help. If you recognize that you have suffered from disordered eating in the past, getting quality care from a therapist is the first place to start. We live in a culture that promotes perfection, and in so doing, often sends us down a path of dieting, body image dysmorphia, and unhealthy mindsets. Professional psychological counseling can help you work through those pain points and assist you in finding peace.

Second, take small, loving steps. While improving your diet and health is an awesome goal, you also have to live your life! If you find yourself cringing when you are going out to eat or attending a friendly mixer, examine what it is that is really bothering you. Is it fear that you’ll fall back into unhealthy eating patterns? Is it giving up control over the quality of foods you eat? Or is it something more? Do you have a hard time letting yourself enjoy those moments? Whatever it may be, give yourself permission to let go and embrace the time spent with others. You can enjoy the healthiest fare available if you choose, but you can also give yourself a break and simply be – eating delicious food and celebrating with the people you enjoy. The habits you’ve cultivated around making healthy choices will be there in the morning.

Third, embrace imperfection. We are never going to lead the perfect diet 100% of the time. And it is okay! You are doing many great things by choosing to eat whole foods, cook at home, and buy local produce. If a little imperfect food creeps its way into the mix, you are still making amazing changes. If your favorite popcorn is at the movie theater, then enjoy it a few times a month. Are you daydreaming about a Snickers bar? Then go eat one and savor it. The stress caused by worrying over these occasional treats is harder on you and your body than the occasional indulgence.

Orthorexia is quickly becoming a buzzword in healthy circles, but you don’t have to fall into its trap. Stay aware of your mindsets as you start making healthier choices, and remind yourself that imperfection is the goal – perfection is not attainable.

What ways have you witnessed orthorexia in the lives of those around you? Have you dealt with a similar issue? How did you overcome it?

Contributing Writer