Posts Tagged ‘Health Information’

To Detox or Not … that is the Question?

December 14, 2014

spring_detox-2Detoxing is a scam.
“You can’t detox your body. It’s a myth.”
This article first appeared in the Guardian, December 5th 2014.

There’s no such thing as ‘detoxing’. In medical terms, it’s a nonsense. Diet and exercise is the only way to get healthy. But which of the latest fad regimes can really make a difference?

Whether it’s cucumbers splashing into water or models sitting smugly next to a pile of vegetables, it’s tough not to be sucked in by the detox industry. The idea that you can wash away your calorific sins is the perfect antidote to our fast-food lifestyles and alcohol-lubricated social lives. But before you dust off that juicer or take the first tentative steps towards a colonic irrigation clinic, there’s something you should know: detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.

“Let’s be clear,” says Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t.” The respectable one, he says, is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. “The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”

If toxins did build up in a way your body couldn’t excrete, he says, you’d likely be dead or in need of serious medical intervention. “The healthy body has kidneys, a liver, skin, even lungs that are detoxifying as we speak,” he says. “There is no known way – certainly not through detox treatments – to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better.”

Much of the sales patter revolves around “toxins”: poisonous substances that you ingest or inhale. But it’s not clear exactly what these toxins are. If they were named they could be measured before and after treatment to test effectiveness. Yet, much like floaters in your eye, try to focus on these toxins and they scamper from view. In 2009, a network of scientists assembled by the UK charity Sense about Science contacted the manufacturers of 15 products sold in pharmacies and supermarkets that claimed to detoxify. The products ranged from dietary supplements to smoothies and shampoos. When the scientists asked for evidence behind the claims, not one of the manufacturers could define what they meant by detoxification, let alone name the toxins.

Yet, inexplicably, the shelves of health food stores are still packed with products bearing the word “detox” – it’s the marketing equivalent of drawing go-faster stripes on your car. You can buy detoxifying tablets, tinctures, tea bags, face masks, bath salts, hair brushes, shampoos, body gels and even hair straighteners. Yoga, luxury retreats, and massages will also all erroneously promise to detoxify. You can go on a seven-day detox diet and you’ll probably lose weight, but that’s nothing to do with toxins, it’s because you would have starved yourself for a week.

Then there’s colonic irrigation. Its proponents will tell you that mischievous plaques of impacted poo can lurk in your colon for months or years and pump disease-causing toxins back into your system. Pay them a small fee, though, and they’ll insert a hose up your bottom and wash them all away. Unfortunately for them – and possibly fortunately for you – no doctor has ever seen one of these mythical plaques, and many warn against having the procedure done, saying that it can perforate your bowel.

Other tactics are more insidious. Some colon-cleansing tablets contain a polymerising agent that turns your faeces into something like a plastic, so that when a massive rubbery poo snake slithers into your toilet you can stare back at it and feel vindicated in your purchase. Detoxing foot pads turn brown overnight with what manufacturers claim is toxic sludge drawn from your body. This sludge is nothing of the sort – a substance in the pads turns brown when it mixes with water from your sweat.

“It’s a scandal,” fumes Ernst. “It’s criminal exploitation of the gullible man on the street and it sort of keys into something that we all would love to have – a simple remedy that frees us of our sins, so to speak. It’s nice to think that it could exist but unfortunately it doesn’t.”

That the concept of detoxification is so nebulous might be why it has evaded public suspicion. When most of us utter the word detox, it’s usually when we’re bleary eyed and stumbling out of the wrong end of a heavy weekend. In this case, surely, a detox from alcohol is a good thing? “It’s definitely good to have non-alcohol days as part of your lifestyle,” says Catherine Collins, an NHS dietitian at St George’s Hospital. “It’ll probably give you a chance to reassess your drinking habits if you’re drinking too much. But the idea that your liver somehow needs to be ‘cleansed’ is ridiculous.”

The liver breaks down alcohol in a two-step process. Enzymes in the liver first convert alcohol to acetaldehyde, a very toxic substance that damages liver cells. It is then almost immediately converted into carbon dioxide and water which the body gets rid of. Drinking too much can overwhelm these enzymes and the acetaldehyde buildup will lead to liver damage. Moderate and occasional drinking, though, might have a protective effect. Population studies, says Collins, have shown that teetotallers and those who drink alcohol excessively have a shorter life expectancy than people who drink moderately and in small amounts.

“We know that a little bit of alcohol seems to be helpful,” she says. “Maybe because its sedative effect relaxes you slightly or because it keeps the liver primed with these detoxifying enzymes to help deal with other toxins you’ve consumed. That’s why the government guidelines don’t say, ‘Don’t drink’; they say, ‘OK drink, but only modestly.’ It’s like a little of what doesn’t kill you cures you.”

This adage also applies in an unexpected place – to broccoli, the luvvie of the high-street “superfood” detox salad. Broccoli does help the liver out but, unlike the broad-shouldered, cape-wearing image that its superfood moniker suggests, it is no hero. Broccoli, as with all brassicas – sprouts, mustard plants, cabbages – contains cyanide. Eating it provides a tiny bit of poison that, like alcohol, primes the enzymes in your liver to deal better with any other poisons.

Collins guffaws at the notion of superfoods. “Most people think that you should restrict or pay particular attention to certain food groups, but this is totally not the case,” she says. “The ultimate lifestyle ‘detox’ is not smoking, exercising and enjoying a healthy balanced diet like the Mediterranean diet.”

Close your eyes, if you will, and imagine a Mediterranean diet. A red chequered table cloth adorned with meats, fish, olive oil, cheeses, salads, wholegrain cereals, nuts and fruits. All these foods give the protein, amino acids, unsaturated fats, fibre, starches, vitamins and minerals to keep the body – and your immune system, the biggest protector from ill-health – functioning perfectly.

So why, then, with such a feast available on doctor’s orders, do we feel the need to punish ourselves to be healthy? Are we hard-wired to want to detox, given that many of the oldest religions practise fasting and purification? Has the scientific awakening shunted bad spirits to the periphery and replaced them with environmental toxins that we think we have to purge ourselves of?

Susan Marchant-Haycox, a London psychologist, doesn’t think so. “Trying to tie detoxing in with ancient religious practices is clutching at straws,” she says. “You need to look at our social makeup over the very recent past. In the 70s, you had all these gyms popping up, and from there we’ve had the proliferation of the beauty and diet industry with people becoming more aware of certain food groups and so on.

“The detox industry is just a follow-on from that. There’s a lot of money in it and there are lots of people out there in marketing making a lot of money.”

Peter Ayton, a professor of psychology at City University London, agrees. He says that we’re susceptible to such gimmicks because we live in a world with so much information we’re happy to defer responsibility to others who might understand things better. “To understand even shampoo you need to have PhD in biochemistry,” he says, “but a lot of people don’t have that. If it seems reasonable and plausible and invokes a familiar concept, like detoxing, then we’re happy to go with it.”

Many of our consumer decisions, he adds, are made in ignorance and supposition, which is rarely challenged or informed. “People assume that the world is carefully regulated and that there are benign institutions guarding them from making any kind of errors. A lot of marketing drip-feeds that idea, surreptitiously. So if people see somebody with apparently the right credentials, they think they’re listening to a respectable medic and trust their advice.”

Ernst is less forgiving: “Ask trading standards what they’re doing about it. Anyone who says, ‘I have a detox treatment’ is profiting from a false claim and is by definition a crook. And it shouldn’t be left to scientists and charities to go after crooks.”

Articles sourced from:

The Nonsense Surrounding “Thigh Gap”!

November 24, 2013


“Thinspiration” is taking the world by storm. Women obsessing about the way they look and comparing themselves to an unrealistic ideal is nothing new. But, with social media, the conversation has reached epic proportions, with images at every turn to magnify your imperfections.

A quick Google search for “thigh gap” will get you caught up in this phenomenon. How, in a world where such a thing as thigh gap exists, can we bring up our children to love rather than hate  their bodies?

What’s Thigh Gap, You Ask?

It’s the space between your upper-mid thigh (right below your lady parts) when your feet are together. And, you guessed it, apparently the bigger the gap the more “desirable” you are. Or at least that is what the modeling world has used for years to separate the haves from the have-nots.

Negative thinspiration such as thigh gap makes me want to hide my child from the world, throw away the TV and computer, and not allow one magazine to enter the house for fear of her losing her innocence. She loves running around the house naked and tells me how beautiful she is! When, then, does that change occur?

It’s a Genetic Phenomenon

On The Doctors, Dr. Travis Stork proved that thigh gaps are a genetic phenomenon based on bone structure. So a million reps on the inner thigh machine, combined with a seven-day cleanse followed by swearing off carbs, gluten, fat and sugar will not help you get thigh gap! You’ll just end up exhausted, annoyed, deflated and probably grouchy… what’s the point? We know it’s science. But women still want it!

A high paid, sought after “plus-sized model” (that term is relative considering she’s a size 12) has become the target of the thigh gap conversation after a photo of her wearing a corset appeared on Facebook. She wrote a thoughtful post for the Daily Beast against all the negative Nellies who chimed in on her picture.

I pose this question to you: Should it even matter what we look like on the outside, as long as we are healthy?

Enjoy Eating at What Cost?

As someone who cheered competitively and was considered the “big” girl at 104 pounds, I entered adulthood with a seriously warped body image and really unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. I discovered I liked eating after cheerleading, but then began exercising obsessively to combat the calories I was consuming.

The exercise obsession turned into a career. I became a group fitness instructor and was now armed with a microphone allowing me to spew the misconception that exercise was about looking good and fitting in your skinny jeans. I realize now how wrong that was.

The Message Must Change

Exercise is about feeling good. Eating is good for you. Taking time to relax and rejuvenate is a must. When it’s all said and done, there’s no prize for the person who worked out the hardest or ate the least.

As long as women feel it’s okay to judge others for what they look like, how hard they work out, what they consume, or where their priorities lie when it comes to working out, we have a big problem.

Do I still struggle to see the person I am on the inside when I catch a sideways glance in a mirror under bad lighting?

Do I still worry about what people will think when they pop in my latest exercise DVD or see me up close and personal during a fitness conference on stage in my spandex?

Yes, I do. Should I? Hell no. I am a work in progress.

Bottom line. My self worth should not and will not be determined by the amount of friction, or lack there of, between my thighs.

My thighs take me places: on long bike rides, up mountains, around corners, through Target, to the playground and back, up stairs, and through life. I thank my thighs and hope that every day of my life they grow stronger to keep up with all I want to do.

Perhaps we should replace those negative thinspiration images with this inspirational poster from Nike. It hangs on my wall, maybe you should put it on yours?

Article Written By Shannon Fable, first appearing

Why ‘healthy’ smoothies are not always that good for you…

January 15, 2013
Boost Juice ... their super smoothies have the same number of kilojoules as a meal.

Boost Juice … their super smoothies have the same number of kilojoules as a meal. Photo: Adam McLean

Who loves smoothies? Are smoothies really as healthy as you think they are? This article first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald-January 14, 2013.

Fruit smoothies, frappes and frozen yoghurt drinks marketed as healthy beverages contain more kilojoules than an actual meal, with some having the equivalent of up to 31 teaspoons of sugar.

An analysis by consumer group Choice of 95 drinks from outlets such as Boost Juice, Donut King, Wendys, Gloria Jean’s and New Zealand Natural has found 81 of them are high in sugar.

“Smoothies might have a healthy image, but some are packed with hidden sugars,” said Choice spokesperson Ingrid Just.

Drinks which contain ingredients such as high-fructose syrup, fruit juice concentrates and artificial flavours and colours are often higher in sugar than actual fresh fruit, she said.

“This makes smoothies more like a sugary meal than a snack.”

The review found some Baskin and Robbins yoghurt smoothies had between 29 and 31 teaspoons of sugars.

It also found that Boost Juice’s super smoothies, while made with real juice, are high in energy and close to 2000 kilojoules per regular serve, roughly the same number of kilojoules as a meal.

According to dieticians, snacks should contain about 600 kilojoules.

The study also highlighted a tendency to supersize regular or medium serves and inconsistency between serving size.

At Donut King a regular is 280mL, while at New Zealand Natural a regular drink is 650mL.

The consumer group said people should consider all the ingredients in a drink before making a choice.

“If you are an active person and you want a quick pick-me-up, some outlets have better options with smaller sizes, fewer kilojoules or less added sugar,” Ms Just said in a statement.

Read more:

Exercise Away the Years :))

November 25, 2012

We all grew up thinking of exercise as sweating in gym class, and then, as the world evolved, spandex. But exercise plays a much bigger role in your health than you may know. Turns out exercise controls health dials throughout your body. Not simply in your muscles, but in your arteries, heart, liver, lungs — the list goes on.
When you push yourself hard enough to sweat you grow new cells — better cells. And so you get functionally younger. There are 70-year-old men and women out there with the hearts, lungs, and muscles of 30-year-olds. And there’s nothing special about them, except that they show up to exercise on a regular basis, and take it seriously when they do.

Chris Crowley, the co-author of Younger Next Year , first came to me as a patient at 65. He was heading into retirement, overweight and out of shape. After we talked about the life-changing power of exercise, he jumped into an exercise program with both feet, and more importantly, he stuck with it. Five years later, I took him into the lab and put him on the treadmill. At age 70, he scored among the fittest 10% of American men — but in the 40-45 age range! Chris has kept up the hard work. And now, at 78, he bikes 50, sometimes 100 miles in the Rockies, travels, lectures, laughs, and loves his life.

Joy Johnson is another success story I know. Never much of an athlete in school, Joy started running later in life. At age 80, she won her category in the New York City Marathon. But she wasn’t finished. She didn’t like her time and felt she could do better. So she stepped up her training program. At 81, she won her category again and knocked almost an hour off her previous time.

Chris and Joy don’t have any genetic advantages over you or anyone else. They just stepped up to the plate and made the decision to grow younger.

How much you exercise and what kinds of exercise you do are important. But what’s most important is that you make the choice right now between settling for “normal” aging, or getting younger in the upcoming years.

What are your thoughts on exercise and aging? Do you currently exercise? Why or why not?

Information sourced from:

The Truth About the Pelvic Floor

October 28, 2012

The pelvic floor muscles are tightly slung between the tailbone (coccyx) and the pubic bone, and support the bowel, bladder, uterus and vagina. Muscular bands (sphincters) encircle the urethra, vagina and anus as they pass through the pelvic floor. When the pelvic floor muscles are contracted, the internal organs are lifted and the sphincters tighten the openings of the vagina, anus and urethra. Relaxing the pelvic floor allows passage of urine and faeces.

If the muscles are weakened, the internal organs are no longer fully supported and you may not be able to control your urine. Common causes of a weakened pelvic floor include childbirth, obesity and the associated straining of chronic constipation. Pelvic floor exercises are designed to improve muscle tone and prevent the need for corrective surgery.


The symptoms of a weakened pelvic floor include:

  • Leaking small amounts of urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing or running
  • Failing to reach the toilet in time
  • Uncontrollably breaking wind from either the anus or vagina when bending over or lifting
  • Reduced sensation in the vagina
  • Backache
  • Tampons that dislodge or fall out
  • A distinct swelling at the vaginal opening
  • A sensation of heaviness in the vagina.

Common causes

The pelvic floor can be weakened in many ways, including:

  • The weight of the uterus during pregnancy
  • Vaginal childbirth, which overstretches the muscles
  • The pressure of obesity
  • Chronic constipation and associated straining to pass motions
  • Constant coughing
  • Some forms of surgery that require cutting the muscles
  • Lower levels of oestrogen after menopause.

Complications of a weakened pelvic floor

Loss of bladder control is a common symptom of a weakened pelvic floor. Some people experience bowel incontinence, which means they can’t always control the passage of wind or faeces. Weak pelvic floor muscles can also cause sexual difficulties such as reduced vaginal sensation. In severe cases, the internal organs supported by the pelvic floor, including the bladder and uterus, can slide down into the vagina. This is called a prolapse. A distinct bulge in the vagina and deep, persistent vaginal aching are common symptoms.

Familiarising yourself with the pelvic floor

Pelvic floor exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles. Each sphincter (vaginal, urethral, anal) should be exercised, so you need to familiarise yourself with these muscles in order to contract them at will. If the pelvic floor is especially weak, it may be difficult to detect any muscular contractions at first.

Suggestions on identifying your sphincters include:

  • Vaginal – insert one or two fingers into your vagina and try to squeeze them.
  • Urethral – when you are urinating, try stopping the flow in midstream. This should only be done to identify the sphincters. Do not do it on a regular basis.
  • Anal – pretend you are trying to stop yourself from breaking wind and squeeze tightly.

The exercises

You can perform these exercises lying down, sitting or standing. Ideally, aim for five or six sessions every day while you are learning the exercises. After you have a good understanding of how to do the exercises, three sessions each day is enough.

Before you start, direct your attention to your pelvic floor muscles. Try to relax your abdominal muscles. Don’t bear down or hold your breath. Gradually squeeze all three sphincters and increase the tension until you have contracted the muscles as hard as you can. Release gently and slowly. Then perform the exercises, which include:

  • Squeeze slowly and hold as strongly as you can for 5 to 10 seconds while breathing normally. Release slowly. Repeat 10 times. Relax for 5 to 10 seconds between each one.
  • Perform quick, short, strong squeezes. Repeat 10 times.
  • Remember to squeeze the muscles whenever you clear your throat or cough.

Professional help

It is important to perform these exercises correctly. You can consult with your doctor, physiotherapist or continence advisor to ensure proper performance. It may take weeks or months before you notice a substantial improvement. In severe cases, pelvic floor exercises aren’t enough to solve the problem and surgery may be needed. Be guided by your health care professional.

Other considerations

You can further improve the strength of your pelvic floor in many ways, including:

  • Lose excess body fat
  • Cure constipation by including more fruit, vegetables, fibre and water in your daily diet
  • Seek medical attention for a chronic cough.

Where to get help

  • Australian Physiotherapy Association Tel. (03) 9092 0888
  • National Continence Helpline Tel. 1800 33 00 66
  • Victorian Continence Resource Centre Tel. (03) 9816 8266
  • Family Planning Victoria Tel. 1800 013 952 or (03) 9257 0100
  • Family planning clinic
  • Your doctor or other health care professional

Things to remember

  • The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, uterus and bowel.
  • The pelvic floor can be weakened by pregnancy, childbirth, obesity and the straining of chronic constipation.
  • Pelvic floor exercises are designed to improve muscle strength.


The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, uterus and bowel. Pregnancy, childbirth, obesity and the straining of chronic constipation can weaken the pelvic floor and cause urinary incontinence. Pelvic floor exercises can help.

The Pelvic Floor & the Core

The pelvic floor muscles work as part of the ‘core’ to regulate the internal pressure in the abdominal cylinder along with the abdominal, back and breathing muscles.

During exercise the internal pressures in the abdomen are constantly changing. For example, as you lift a weight the internal pressure increases, and as you put a weight down the pressure normalises.

In most people this pressure regulation happens automatically, however if any of the muscles in the core, including the pelvic floor, are weakened or damaged, then this automatic action may be altered.

In the ideal situation the muscles of the core work together in a co-ordinated way: as load is placed on the spine, the pelvic floor muscles lift, the abdominal and back muscles draw in to support the spine and it is easy to breathe (diagram 1). Alternatively, if when a client lifts a weight they hold their breath or draw the abdomen in without engaging the pelvic floor muscles, they may place excessive pressure down on the pelvic floor (diagram 2). If repeated stress or strain is placed on the bladder and bowel (and uterus in women) this may result in a weakening of the ligaments and leakage or pelvic organ prolapse may occur.

Correct and incorrect pelvic floor muscle action
 Diagram 1. Correct action                    Diagram 2. Incorrect action

Stabilising the core

The act of drawing the belly button to backbone has been advocated to turn on the core and stabilise the spine. New research is showing however, that some people tighten their back muscles, draw in the abdomen, hold their breath and place pressure down on the pelvic floor in an attempt to stabilise the spine. It has become more common for clients to try and brace their core muscles constantly during a whole exercise session in the belief they are toning the abdomen and supporting the spine.

To work well, the core muscles need to be flexible and contract and relax. Constant bracing can lead to stiffness. Leakage may occur because the pelvic floor muscles are weak, but can also occur because people have been bracing the core too much and have made the muscles stiff.

Information sourced from:,

The truth about belly fat

August 26, 2012

By Sonya Collins
WebMD Feature Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD
Belly fat: Did you know that it’s not just about your waist size?

It’s also about your health. And you can do something about it, starting right now, at any size.
But first, let’s be clear: This is not about fat phobia. Your body needs some fat. And it’s not about judging yourself or anyone else, or trying to reach some unrealistic ideal.  Instead, it’s about getting a handle on your fat — even the fat you can’t see.

Location, Location, Location

That’s right: You have fat you can’t see. We all do.  People store most of their fat in two ways:

Just under the skin in the thighs, hips, buttocks, and abdomen. That’s called subcutaneous (under the skin) fat. It’s the fat that you notice.

Deeper inside, around the vital organs (heart, lungs, digestive tract, liver, etc.) in the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. That’s called “visceral” fat. It’s so deep inside you that you can’t notice it from the outside.
Many people are self-conscious about the fat they can see. But actually, it’s the hidden fat — the visceral fat — that may be a bigger problem, even for thin people.

Like another organ fat doesn’t just sit there. It makes “lots of nasty substances,” says Kristen Hairston, MD, assistant professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

We all have visceral fat — and it isn’t all bad. It provides necessary cushioning around organs.

The problem is when there’s too much of it. That’s linked to a greater chance of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers (including breast cancer and colon cancer.)

How Did I Get It?

When obese, a body can run out of safe places to store fat and begin storing it in and around the organs, such as the heart and the liver.

“Fatty liver disease was, until recently, very rare in nonalcoholics. But with obesity increasing, you have people whose fat depots are so full that the fat is deposited into the organs,” says Carol Shively, PhD, professor of pathology-comparative medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine. “Now there is much interest in fat being deposited around the heart, as well.”

Now that you know more about the fat that we all have, it’s time to take action.
How Much Is Too Much?

You could get a CT scan or MRI if you want the most precise way to see where your fat is stored. But that’s over the top. There’s a much simpler method.

Get a measuring tape, wrap it around your waist, and check your girth. Do it while you’re standing up, and make sure the tape measure is level.

For your best health, you want your waist size to be:

Less than 35 inches for women
Less than 40 inches for men
Having a “pear shape,” with fatter hips and thighs, is considered safer than the “apple shape,” which describes a wider waistline.

“What we’re really pointing to with the apple versus pear is that if you have more abdominal fat, it’s probably an indicator that you have more visceral fat,” Hairston says.

Even thin people can have too much visceral fat, though you’d never know it by looking at them.

It’s partly about their genes. Some people have a genetic tendency to store visceral fat.

But it’s also about physical activity. Visceral fat likes inactivity. For instance, a British study showed that thin people who maintain their weight through diet alone, skipping exercise, are more likely to have unhealthy levels of visceral fat.

So the message is, get active, no matter what size you are.

Controlling Belly Fat: 4 Steps to Take

There are four keys to controlling belly fat: exercise, diet, sleep, and stress management.

Exercise: Vigorous exercise trims fat, including visceral fat. It can also slow down the build-up of visceral fat that tends to happen over the years.

How much exercise does it take? Half an hour of vigorous aerobic exercise, done four times a week, a Duke University study shows.

What counts as “vigorous”? Jogging, if you’re already fit, or walking briskly at an incline on a treadmill, if you’re not yet ready for jogging. Vigorous workouts on stationary bikes and elliptical or rowing machines are also effective, says Duke researcher Cris Slentz, PhD.

Moderate activity – raising your heart rate for 30 minutes at least three times per week – also helps. It slows down how much visceral fat you gain. But to torch visceral fat, your workouts may need to be more vigorous.

“Rake leaves, walk, garden, go to Zumba, play soccer with your kids. It doesn’t have to be in the gym,” Hairston says.

If you are not active now, it’s a good idea to check with your health care provider before starting a new fitness program. They’ll probably be thrilled that you want to get started, and will check that you’re ready for it.

And forget spot-reducing. There aren’t any moves that specifically target visceral fat.

Diet: There is no magic diet for belly fat. But when you lose weight, on any diet, belly fat usually goes first.
Controlling Belly Fat: 4 Steps to Take continued…

A fiber-rich diet may also help. Hairston’s research shows that people who eat 10 grams of soluble fiber per day, without any other diet changes, build up less visceral fat over time than others. That’s two small apples, a cup of green peas, and a half-cup of pinto beans, for example.

“Even if you kept everything else the same but switched to a higher-fiber bread, you might be able to better maintain your weight over time,” Hairston says.

Getting the right amount of sleep helps. In one study, people who got six to seven hours of sleep per night gained less visceral fat over 5 years, compared to those who slept five or fewer hours per night, or eight or more hours per night. Sleep may not have been the only thing that mattered — but it was part of the picture.

Stress: Stress happens. It’s what you do with it that matters.

You probably already know that people tend not to make the best food choices when they’re stressed. And when you’ve got chronic stress, that can be a problem.

Shively recommends getting social support (turn to your friends and family), meditating, and exercising as ways to handle stress. Signing up for a workshop or some counseling sessions can also help you tame your stress.

Short on time? “If you could only afford the time to do one of these things, exercise probably has the most immediate benefits, because it hits both obesity and stress response,” Shively says.

Reviewed on August 29, 2011
© 2011 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pineapple BBQ Kebabs

August 23, 2012

Main Course

Serves 4

1 protein | ½ fruit carb | 1 fat


  • 4X200gm chicken breast fillets, cut into 2cm cubes
  • ½ fresh pineapple, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 125gm button mushrooms
  • 2 green capsicums cut into 2cm pieces


  • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves


  1. Shake the ingredients of the marinade in a jar.
  2. Thread kebab ingredients alternatively onto pre-soaked bamboo skewers and marinate in a shallow dish for 1 hour.
  3. Grill kebabs over hot coals for 5-7 min or until cooked through, turning occasionally. Brush kebabs with extra marinade as necessary to prevent the kebabs from drying out. Serve with fresh green salad.

10 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

July 8, 2012

Keep Your Energy High and Mood Lifted

By Nicole Nichols, Fitness Instructor & Health Educator

Winter is in full force. As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, even the best of us can get a little down. The “winter blues” are characterized by the mild depression, lack of motivation, and low energy that many people experience during this cold season. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to both prevent the blues from coming on and get yourself back to normal if they’re already here.

  1. Exercise
    As if we needed another reason to get fit! Exercise isn’t only for maintaining your weight and staying healthy. It’s great for relieving the stresses of life. Plus, the effects of a good workout can last for several hours after you hit the showers. You’ll have more energy throughout the day, and your metabolism with stay elevated too. Exercise also helps your mind by releasing those “feel good chemicals” that improve your mood.
  2. Eat a Healthy Diet
    What and when you eat has a great affect on your mood and energy. Avoid refined and processed foods (like white breads, rice, and sugar). These foods are not only devoid of the nutrients your body craves, but they zap your energy levels and can affect your mood—causing depression, lack of concentration, and mood swings. Try to incorporate more complex carbohydrates (whole wheat breads, brown rice, veggies, fruit) and get your daily 8 cups of water. These healthy foods provide your body (and mind) with nutrients, and stabilize your blood sugar and your energy levels.
  3. Get Some Sun
    Most people know that sunlight provides us with Vitamin D. But did you know that it also improves your mood? Winter days are shorter and darker than other months, and because of the cold weather, a lot of people spend less and less time outdoors. Lack of sunlight can cause many people to become depressed—without knowing why! Similar to exercise, sunlight exposure releases neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood. Try to spend a little more time outdoors.  Keep your shades up during the day to let more light in. Sit near windows in restaurants and during class. Try changing the light bulbs in your house to “full spectrum” bulbs. These mimic natural light and actually have the same affects on your mind as the real thing.
  4. Act on your Resolutions
    A recent study from the CDC showed a strong link between healthy behaviors and depression. Women who exhibited healthy behaviors (like exercising, not smoking, etc.) had less sad and depressed days than those whose behaviors were less than healthy. Although researchers studied women, the results are likely similar in men.
  5. Avoid Binge Drinking
    Staying in with a cold beer or a nice glass of wine may seem like the only thing to do in the winter months, and many people who feel down also tend to turn to alcohol when they’re feeling down. But alcohol is actually a depressant, and rather than improving your mood, it only makes it worse. Avoiding alcohol when you are already depressed is a good idea. Moderate drinking is fine for most people, but binge drinking (defined as having 5 or more drinks in one sitting) is never a healthy choice. The morning after will have you feeling sick, depressed, and even more tired, which will affect many aspects of your life. This will make your low energy and bad mood even worse.
  6. Treat Yourself
    Having something to look forward to can keep anyone motivated. Winter seems endless! But if you plan something exciting, your mood improves when you’re anticipating it and when the event actually comes. Plan something that’s exciting to you—a weekend trip, a day at the spa, a party (but keep #5 above in mind), or special event like a play, girls (or guys) night out, or sporting event.
  7. Relax!
    You’re busy! Work, class, family, friends, appointments, meetings—even if you enjoy being busy, everyone needs some time off. Don’t be afraid to say “No” to extra opportunities (covering a shift for a co-worker, bringing food to your son’s class party). Try to spend a few minutes each day doing nothing! Read a book or magazine, sleep in on the weekend, go to bed early, try some meditations, or take a yoga class. Relaxation, especially in the form of yoga, can alleviate stress and leave you with a calm energy. Mental exercises like meditation and positive thinking can help keep depression at bay.
  8. Embrace the Season
    Instead of always avoiding the cold—look for the best that it has to offer! Enjoy these opportunities while they last—after all, they’re only here a few months per year. Staying active will boost your energy. Seeing winter in a positive light, with all the fun activities that it has to offer, will keep your spirits high.
  9. Get Social Support
    Don’t underestimate the power of friends, family, mentors, co-workers, and neighbors. Who can you turn to when you’re down and need a pick-me-up? Keep a mental list of these special people and don’t be afraid to ask for help or encouragement when you need it. Something as simple as a phone call, a chat over coffee, or a nice email or letter can brighten your mood.
  10. Catch some Zzzz’s
    People naturally want to sleep a little bit more during the winter. But with all we have going on, sometimes sleep is the first thing to go. With a little time management, and some self-discipline, you can meet your shut-eye needs. Aim for 7-8 hours each night, and try to keep your bedtime and waking time consistent. That way, your sleeping patterns can normalize and you’ll have more energy. Try not to oversleep—those 12-hour snoozes on the weekend can actually make you MORE tired. Don’t forget naps! A short (10-30 minute) afternoon nap may be all you need to re-energize midday.

Information sourced on

Chargrilled Vegetable Terrine

June 21, 2012


  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 red capsicum
  • 350g ricotta
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 45g rocket
  • 3 marinated artichokes, drained and sliced
  • 85g semi-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 100g marinated mushrooms, drained and halved


  1. Heat the grill to high. Slice the eggplant and zucchini lengthways into ½ cm thickness. Slice the capsicum lengthways into large pieces. Place sliced vegetables under the grill and cook on both sides until lightly coloured. Remove and cool.
  2. Line a 24 x 13 x 6 cm loaf tin with plastic wrap, leaving a generous amount hanging over the sides.
  3. Place the ricotta and garlic in a bowl and beat until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  4. Line the base of the tin with half the eggplant, cutting and fitting to cover the base. Top with a layer of half the capsicum, then all of the zucchini slices.
  5. Spread evenly with the ricotta mixture and press down firmly. Place the rocket on top.
  6. Arrange the artichoke, tomato and mushrooms in three rows lengthways on top of the rocket. Top with the remaining capsicum and then eggplant.
  7. Fold the overhanging plastic wrap over the top of the terrine. Put a piece of cardboard on top of the terrine and weight it with small weights or food tins. Refrigerate overnight.
  8. To serve, peel back the plastic wrap and turn the terrine onto a plate. Remove the plastic wrap and cut the terrine into thick slices.

The Benefits of a Good Nights Sleep

January 22, 2012

6 Surprising Sleep Wreckers

Do you wake up in the morning feeling more tired than you did when you went to bed? If so, something is disturbing your sleep. But do you know what it is?

Some reasons for sleep loss are obvious — espresso nightcaps, wailing newborns, and insensitive neighbors playing the drums. But the causes of sleep loss aren’t always so clear.

“People often don’t have any idea what’s disturbing their sleep,” says Thomas Roth, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. “There’s a lot of misattribution. They assume it’s one thing, but it’s actually something else entirely.”

Why such confusion?  “People often wake up in the night without realizing it,” Roth tells WebMD. “You can be awake one or two minutes at a time in the night and you won’t remember it the next day.”

While some of these unremembered wake-ups are normal, too many will leave you chronically exhausted. And many common causes of sleep loss result in just this sort of brief, hard-to-catch awakening — making it even harder to sort out the cause.

Here are six surprising causes of disturbed sleep.

Sleep Wrecker 1: Pets in Bed

While lots of people let their pets snuggle in bed with them for comfort, evidence suggests that animals in bed make it harder to sleep.

According to a survey by the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, 53% of people who sleep with pets say that their animals disturb their sleep. Animals just don’t have the same sleep and wake cycles that we do. So 3 a.m. to your cat might seem like an excellent time to start pouncing on your feet. Even more subtle disturbances — the clanking of the tags on your animal’s collar as it shuffles around — can wake you up.

If you’re feeling chronically exhausted, take a break from the interspecies slumber parties to see if it makes a difference with your disturbed sleep.

“Really, there are other places for your dog to sleep besides your bed,” says Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, professor of psychology at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and author of Sleep Deprived No More.  If you can’t bear to kick your pets out of the bedroom, which is the ideal, at least set up a new spot for them on the floor.

Sleep Wrecker 2: Alcohol and Nightcaps

As a cause of sleep loss, this is often a surprise to people. Doesn’t drinking make you drowsy? Isn’t that why people have nightcaps? Isn’t that why college parties always end with everyone passed out on the floor?

But the body’s response to alcohol is more complicated than you might think. “Alcohol affects the rhythm of sleep,” says Mindell. “It acts as a sedative at first, but then a few hours later when blood alcohol level drops, it will wake you up again.”

To prevent your glass of wine from waking you up later, stop drinking two to three hours before bedtime.

Sleep Wrecker 3: Undiagnosed GERD

People who have GERD — gastroesophageal reflux disorder — often find the nights difficult. Once they’re lying down, the acid can back into the esophagus, causing heartburn and pain. Some try to sleep propped up on pillows to cope.

“Acid reflux is a biggie when it comes to disturbed sleep,” says Ronald Kramer, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and specialist at the Colorado Sleep Disorders Center in Englewood, Colo. “Whenever I see a person with sleep problems, I always screen for it.”

What you might not know is that GERD doesn’t always cause such dramatic symptoms. Some people might only have one constant symptom: disturbed sleep.

“Even if you rarely have pain, the acid can still be waking you up at night,” says Kramer. GERD can cause other nondescript symptoms too, like chronic cough. If you have GERD that’s interrupting your sleep, getting treated for it is important. Not only will treatment help you sleep, but it will reduce the risk of serious health problems later.

Sleep Wrecker 4: Medicine, Vitamins, and Supplements

Some of the most common causes of disturbed sleep are in your medicine cabinet, but you might not suspect them at all. Common drugs, like steroids for asthma and beta-blockers for high blood pressure or heart problems, can keep you up at night.

Despite being called “narcotics,” so can opioid drugs for pain. While they relieve pain quickly — and can make you feel drowsy in the process — they can also lead to sleep apnea.

Botanical supplements can cause sleep loss, too. Supplements like ginseng and guarana are stimulants. Even vitamins aren’t free of risk.

“Vitamins B6 or B12 can give people vivid dreams, and that can wake people up,” says Mindell. “It’s much better to use those in the morning.”

If you’re having chronic sleep problems, go to your doctor with a list of all the medicines, vitamins, and supplements that you use. Ask if any of them could be causing your sleep problems.

Sleep Wrecker 5: Pain — Even Mild Pain

Just about any painful condition can cause disrupted sleep. Headaches, back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and menstrual pain are all common causes.

What you might not realize is that the pain doesn’t even have to be particularly severe to cause sleep loss. In fact, it doesn’t even have to wake you up.

Pain signals sent out by your body can fragment your sleep, reducing the amount of time you spend in deep, restorative sleep. You might not wake up, but your sleep will be less restful.

“People with chronic pain often wake up feeling more tired than they were when they went to bed,” says Roth.

Even if you have only mild chronic pain, it’s worth checking it out with a doctor.

Sleep Wrecker 6: Being Exhausted — as Opposed to Sleepy

Here’s a common scenario. You come home from a long day at work, completely exhausted.  You stumble into the bedroom, fully expecting that as soon as your head hits the pillow, you’ll be out.

But somehow, that’s not what happens.  45 minutes later, you’re still staring at the ceiling. What’s gone wrong?

“Contrary to what people think, being exhausted doesn’t necessarily make people sleep better,” says Roth. “There’s actually a big difference between being exhausted and being sleepy.” Roth points out that if you ran 50 miles and then dropped down in bed, you would unquestionably be exhausted. However, your body might be far too revved up to sleep.

Regardless of how worn out you feel, always take some time to unwind. “Don’t rush to bed after a stressful day,” says Roth. Instead, spend some time sitting quietly first. It could save you lots of tossing and turning later.

Or Is It a Sleep Disorder?

Of course, you could also have an undiagnosed sleep disorder, one of the common but hardly surprising wreckers. About 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from sleep disorders, conditions that can seriously interfere with the quality of your rest.

For instance, periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) causes your legs to jerk rhythmically while you’re asleep, disturbing restful sleep. Sleep apnea causes snoring and brief interruptions in your breathing, which can also wake you from deep sleep.

Since these conditions only manifest themselves when you’re asleep, you might not know you have the symptoms. Many people have sleep disorders for years before they’re diagnosed.

Or your partner may have the sleep disorder — disturbing your sleep as well.

“If your spouse is snoring and kicking in the night, neither of you are going to sleep well,” says Mindell.

There are plenty of other causes of disturbed sleep — a bedroom that is too hot or too cold, shades that don’t block enough light, noises that can be muffled by a sound machine, hot flashes during menopause. Figuring out what might help can take some trial and error.

The important thing is to take action. If you’re having trouble sorting out what could be causing your disrupted sleep, ask your doctor or schedule an appointment at a sleep clinic.

You should also take time to think more seriously about sleep and how much you’re getting. Do you need four or five cups of coffee to get through a typical day? Do you always have to sleep in on the weekends? Do you tend to fall asleep immediately as soon as you get into bed? Those are typical signs of sleep deprivation, says Roth.

“People learn about nutrition and exercise in grade school, but nobody teaches us anything about the importance of sleep,” says Roth. “As a society, we need to accept that better sleep has to be a priority.”

WebMD Feature

By R. Morgan Griffin

Reviewed By Marina Katz, MD