Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year’s Resolution Revolution

Rumination. According to Webster’s, it means to go over and over things in our minds. And this time of year, many of us do just that: we reflect on the last year and our perceived failures and lack of accomplishment. We beat up on ourselves with “cheery” New Year’s resolutions like, “I will stop eating junk food and lose 20 pounds,” or “I will stop smoking and start exercising,” or my personal favorite, “I will stop being negative and complaining about everything.” These lofty goals, usually touted along with giving up one of our vices, set us up for failure. It’s not that we can’t do these things. It is that we handle ourselves with iron fists, demanding we give up our favorite foods, our long-held habits, without any room for error or forgiveness.

So, rather than making New Year’s resolutions that may be unattainable, why not try out some New Year’s “revolutions,” instead? What’s the difference, you ask? I’m so glad you did.

1. Want to lose weight? Try out this instead: I will learn to love my body, regardless of my clothes size. Here’s the reality of the equation that a friend of mine who lost a lot of weight discovered: Even if you lost all the weight and looked exactly as you desired, your problems in life, love and work would remain. Your frustration with your least-loved body part would still be there. It’s truly about loving ourselves completely, embracing the imperfections, and valuing who we are as people, that will make us happy. The weight? It will probably come off in time, if you just love yourself up enough. Because when we love our bodies, we want to give them what they need, rather than just eat out of emotional desire or social dictates.

2. Quitting smoking? How about something like this: I will discover what things make me happiest, and do those instead. We smoke because of many different factors. And those that push past tough addictions often do so because they find something else to fill the void that the addiction has been disguising. So instead of putting the focus on “quitting” something, why not turn it into finding something you love? Whether it’s a new hobby – parasailing? Scrapbooking? Building replicas of machinery? Or engaging in more social activity, or joining a dating site, or finding new folks to spend time with via meetup.com. Whatever it is, when we place our attention on positive changes, the old negative ways are much easier to let go of.

3. Looking for a more positive outlook? Add this to your daily self-talk: I acknowledge the good and the bad in life, though I choose to dwell on the positive aspects most of the time. Truth is, while paying attention to only the negative is dangerous, positive thinking can be just as treacherous. Finding a balance, allowing yourself the normal emotional swings that accompany life, while still seeking the silver lining, tends to be healthiest – and most achievable – mindset when it comes to altering our attitude. So go for acceptance, with a side dish of positive thinking.

One of the downsides to New Year’s resolutions is creating ideals that we can never reach. So let’s revolutionize our thinking, go for a more reasonable approach, allowing for human error, balance, and life’s twists and turns. You’ll be able to craft the change you want to see in your life, while drawing happiness and satisfaction to you, as well, by simply tweaking these small elements.

What have been your most successful life changes? What steps did you put in place to get there? How have you revolutionized your thinking?

Live Healthy. Live Smart

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Five Tips for Better Long-Distance Grandparenting

Times have changed, in both good and bad ways for distant "grandparenting."
  • The bad part: Americans are much more scattered from their roots than in times past, which means there are often many miles between you and your grandkids.
  • The good part: If you live far from your grandchildren in this “digital” age, there are many more ways than in the past to effectively shrink the distance – to stay in touch, to influence, to share in their growth and development. 
Yes, it is possible to be a positive influence on your grandkids even when you don't get to see them very often – especially if you take advantage of these five grandparenting tips to  to feel closer to your grandchildren and for them to feel closer to you.

Tip # 1 – pick up the phone!

You can become quite special in your grandchild's life by making phone calls especially for him or her.
Perhaps you already make frequent phone calls to your son or daughter, and perhaps part of these calls are sometimes spent talking to your grandson or daughter. But imagine how special it would be if your grandchild knew that every Tuesday at 5 PM was their personal grandparent phone time, set aside by you for just him or her.
Over the years, this special time will become even more important, one they will anticipate. But to make it even more special:
  • Plan ahead – Make sure you are ready for each call with questions to ask and interesting news to share.  Put yourself in the mind of your grandchild.  They are not as captivated by a conversation on your phlebitis or arthritis condition as they might to find out if Grandpa finished building the tree house, or to hear you recount the story of previous visits from the grandkids and what made that trip special for you.
  • Be specific – General questions, like “How’s school?” or “How are you?” will test the limited patience of a small child (or of an emotionally edgy teenager). More specific questions indicate your interest in them – “Have you heard from your best friend Mary since she moved across town?” or “Your mom tells me that you got to pitch on your last Little League game.  Did you get any strikeouts?” Questions like this will awaken their minds and encourage them to engage with you.

Tip #2 – Get visual

While words of love and kindness are wonderful to share, the expression "A picture is worth a 1000 words" applies to creating strong and positive memories for your grandchildren. Build heritage into their history through imagery, not just words. Here's how:
  • We tend to remember our past best when there is an photo or video attached to the event. So, whenever you are together with your grandchild, make sure to take pictures or video that you can share with them later.
  • Use those pictures and family movies not just for your own pleasure; share it with your grandchild. A simple card or letter with a photo included from their visit with you will help solidify that memory and make it extra special.
  • There are many online websites you can use to upload photos or video, which you can then share access to with your grandchild.
  • Using those same photo service websites (such as YorkPhoto.com, ShutterFly.com and SnapFish.com) you can easily transform photos into keepsake gifts. This can be as simple as a framed photo for the grandchild's bedroom. But you can also create a photo mug or custom photo book as a gift, including photo captions or other notes on the page. Imagine how special it would be for your grandchild to receive a commemorative photo book about their recent trip, such as “Billy’s Big Week Camping With Grandpa.”

Tip #3 – Use Social media websites

It's easier than ever to use one of the "social media" websites, such as Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, or Google+ to stay in touch with your grandchildren. You can upload and share pictures with them (but usually through their parents' profile, as most websites do not allow children to have their own profile), or have text-chat conversations. If you are not sure how to get started, ask your son or daughter for help.

Tip #4 – Grandchild naming games

The most important word in the English language is one's own name. To make a positive impression on your grandson or daughter, create unforgettable games, places, recipes, or special items that are based on your grandchild's name.
To make it memorable, make it a recipe (or whatever) that, by name, matches the first letter of grandchild's first name, or rhymes with it. Ideally, it should be something that genuinely connects to the child, such as a favorite recipe or favorite place of theirs.
Some examples to get your creative juices flowing:
  • The “Zack Snack” or “Billy’s Banana Madness” or “Laura’s Loveable Lasagna”
  • "Sam's Secret Hideout" or “Freddy's Favorite Chair"

Tip #5 – experiment with technology

Perhaps the next best thing to being there is to have a video chat with your distance grandchild. While a video chat would have been prohibitively expensive just 20 years ago, it's free today, thanks to software like Hangouts by Google or Skype
A video chat is essentially a phone call that you do from your computer in which each person uses a web cam (a video camera hooked up to a computer or mobile device) and microphone so that they can, in real time, see and hear each other from across the state, country, or even across the world.
All it takes is a web-connected device with a camera and microphone, plus the free video chat software installed. And, just like that, your grandchild can show you the presents they got for Christmas, rather than just talk about it.
That's special.

Do you have any  grandparent tips of your own  that have worked well for effectively shrinking the distance between you and your grandchildren?  Please share! Use the comments field below to tell us about it.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Inactivity – It's a Killer

New Research Names lack of exercise as Mortality Risk Raiser For Older Women.

The verdict, according to recent research: Get moving or risk coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and early death.

As reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the new study, focused on older women, showed that a sedentary lifestyle – spending too much of the day lying down or sitting – increased the risk of heart disease and death.

Researchers studied the five-year lifestyle and mortality statistics of more than 92,000 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 years of age, data that included an assessment of how many sedentary hours each woman spent daily.

Some of the key findings from the study:
  • Of the women researched, the average amount of daily inactivity was 8.5 hours.
  • Researchers concluded that women who remain sedentary for a cumulative 11 hours a day or more were at the greatest risk.
  • The highest amount of sedentary time was reported by women who were White, smoked, have a college degree, and have a higher body mass index, or BMI: a measure of body fat based on height and weight.
  • Women who were more sedentary were more likely to have reported falling within the past year.
  • Not surprisingly, the women who reported higher degrees of daily inactivity also tended to have higher rates of fair to poor health.
Researchers were quick to point out that these statistics, though gathered from older women, apply to people of both sexes and all ages. What surely is no surprise to most or all adults in this day and age is the fact that exercise is good for us and that inactivity is not good for us.  But these new statistics should serve as a warning siren to the risks of inadequate physical activity.  If you have any doubt, take note of this supporting data:
  • The US Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General reported scientific evidence in 1996 that linked regular physical activity to improved cardiovascular health.
  • According to the online journal BMJ, sitting too long (three or more hours/day) results in a reduction in life expectancy.
  • As reported in this article by Frank Claps, M. ED., CSCS, those who exercise regularly have a decreased risk of having hypertension and a lowered mortality potential.
  • Statistics from the American Heart Association indicate that a quarter million deaths each year in the United States can be attributed to a lack of regular physical activity.
  • A 2014 report from UT Southwestern Medical Center confirms that that sedentary behavior can lower cardiorespiratory fitness levels.
To reduce health risks and increase your chances for a long and healthy life, health professionals assert that any regular improvement in levels of exercise can show benefits.  Here are super-easy tips to help you start making positive health improvements through modest physical activity:
  • If you work at a desk, set an egg timer to ding every half hour or so, and use that ding as a reminder to stand up, even briefly, and take a short walk through your workplace hallways.
  • Likewise, if you are at home watching TV, keep an egg timer by your chair, set to remind you to get up and move about every half hour or hour.
  • Make a shared commitment with one or two friends to meet a couple of times a week to go for walks together. Start slow – perhaps just around the block – and eventually increase your distance or the amount of time you plan to walk together.
  • Try to incorporate moderate weightlifting into your day. This can be as simple as keeping handy a couple of one-gallon water jugs, which you can start working with at just a quarter full, eventually increasing the volume of water. Doing simple arm curls or lifting from the shoulders can help you retain muscle mass while burning calories.
  • If you work on the second or third floor at your office, consider regularly taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
One note: Even though the American Heart Association states that about nine out of 10 heart attacks occur while in a resting state – not during physical activity as many assume to be the case – there can be risks inherent to any increase in exercise, depending on your current health. So, before undertaking any new exercise program, first get the thumbs-up from your physician.

Have you made positive changes in reducing the amount of inactive time you spend daily? How did you make those changes? Please share your tips and success stories using our comments field below.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Going Gluten Free: The Controversy Continues

It’s a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Often known as the ingredient that provides elasticity in baked goods, gluten has the potential to cause a myriad of symptoms in individuals with a gluten allergy, intolerance, sensitivity or celiac disease.  And it’s a hot topic at the moment. But, while a gluten-free diet is essential for individuals with a diagnosed gluten issue, is there really any benefit to going gluten free for anyone else?

Types of gluten-free diets:

  • An elimination diet
  • A replacement diet

Elimination, as the name suggests, requires removing any gluten from the diet. In many cases, an elimination diet resembles a low-carbohydrate diet, where items containing gluten, such as breads, pasta and baked goods, are no longer consumed on a regular basis.  However, to completely eliminate gluten from the diet, individuals need to be conscious of all the food items that might contain the protein, such as soups, sauces and gravies, for example. A typical meal with an elimination diet includes a portion of protein, vegetables and a gluten-free starch; dessert on a diet eliminating gluten can be fruit.

A replacement diet, however, requires finding items to substitute for those containing gluten. Those who follow a gluten-free replacement diet often look to include breads, baked goods and pasta in their meals in moderate amounts.  These replacement food items are made with a variety of gluten-free flours.

Some otherwise healthy individuals claim going gluten free has helped them:
Lose weight
Boost energy levels
Alleviate gastrointestinal distress

Yet, experts warn against these claims.

According to Dr. Daniel A. Leffler, director of clinical research at the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, there is no significant benefit to going gluten free for the average person.

In fact, Dr. Leffler claims the practice is a “waste of money” because gluten-free products are expensive. To be clear, Dr. Leffler is referring to a gluten-free replacement diet.

Drawbacks of going gluten free (for those not suffering from celiac disease, gluten intolerance, sensitivity or allergy):

Possibility of overeating
Loss of vital nutrients such as iron, calcium, fiber, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate
Higher caloric, fat and sugar content in many gluten-free replacement products
Gluten-free products are typically more expensive

So, what’s the bottom line?  The most recent research suggests those following a gluten-free diet for weight loss or to improve health should really be focusing on lower carbohydrate intake.  A diet that eliminates gluten may be a healthier alternative for those looking to cut carbohydrates and calories; a gluten-free replacement diet would not be suggested.

Gluten- free diets that replace food items containing gluten with gluten-free alternatives should be left for those who really have an issue with gluten. To date, medical findings do not appear to support utilizing a gluten-free replacement diet for those who have no gluten intolerance, sensitivity, allergy or celiac disease.

For additional information on gluten-free diets and acceptable foods, visit:


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What’s in Your Tap Water?

If you want to learn more about your tap water but don’t know where to start, check out these resources, list of possible contaminants, and suggestions for keeping your tap water safe for your family.

Is tap water safe to drink?

That might depend upon where you reside. A study by the National Resources Defense Council questions the safety of drinking water in U.S. cities.  Possible contaminants include:

Lead, which poses health risks, especially to pregnant women and young children.
Germs, which may be dangerous especially to individuals with weakened immune systems, the elderly, and young children.
By-products of chlorine treatment. These toxins may cause cancer and reproductive problems.
Arsenic. This toxin can cause cancer, skin problems, birth defects, and reproductive disorders.
Radon, the rocket fuel perchlorate, other carcinogens, and toxic chemicals.
Nitrates. Above 10 ppm, nitrates can present health risks for infants less than 6 months of age. The level of nitrates in tap water may rise due to rainfall or agricultural activity.

Where can you find information regarding the safety of your tap water?

Every city is required to supply public reports regarding the safety of water. Check with your water supplier for specific information on your area. Additional sources:

National Resources Defense Council
U.S. Geological Survey
The Environmental Working Group

How to ensure tap water safety:

1. Have water tested periodically.
2. Check reports from your water supplier.
3. Consider a water filter system. Check out www.ewg.org to determine the best filter for your household.
4. Decide if bottled water may be a better choice for your family.

How can you test your tap water?

Home water testing is a simple way to monitor your home’s tap water safety. Visit this site for information.

How can you protect your tap water?

Remember anything you put on the ground or down a storm drain can make its ways into groundwater or other water sources.
Be careful of using fertilizer, and pick up promptly after your pets.
Keep up with care of your vehicles. Oil, antifreeze, and Freon that have leaked from a vehicle can wash away, winding up back in the environment.
Call 911 if you witness an accident or intentional dumping that may result in an environmental hazard.

What is hard water?

Hard water contains minerals such as calcium and magnesium. The scale for hard water is as follows:

0 - 5 grains/gallon = soft water
6-10 grains/gallon = moderately hard water
> 11 grains/gallon = hard water

Is hard water hazardous to your health?

Since they’re not hazardous to your health, the minerals in hard water don’t need to be removed from your water. However, mineral deposits, the white spots or streaks that appear on faucets and fixtures, might prove to be a household nuisance. It can be more difficult to make “suds” with hard water; some individuals claim hard water has a negative effect on their hair and skin.

Is cloudy tap water a problem?

Cloudy water, also known as white water, usually clears up quickly and is harmless. Air bubbles, or the pressure of water in the pipes, might cause cloudy water.

With the amount of information available regarding your water supply, it’s not difficult to keep tabs on the quality of your tap water to ensure safe use for you and your family.

Be Wize & Be Healthy