Friday, June 26, 2009

Breakfast-skippers beware

If you think you're too busy for the first meal of the day, you might want to reconsider, especially if you're struggling to keep your weight down. You've probably heard that skipping breakfast is bad, because it makes you stuff yourself more at the two remaining meals of the day, but now doctors (actual MDs, mind you!) have performed a study detailing exactly what happens when a person skips breakfast.

Participants in the research study skipped breakfast and then were subjected to a functional MRI scan, which allows doctors to see how blood flow increases in response to brain activity. During the scan, the participants were shown randomly ordered photos of high-calorie and low-calorie foods. It turned out that the reward center of the person's brain became more active when shown the high-calorie option as opposed to the low-calorie choice!

However, when the participants had breakfast 90 minutes prior to the functional MRI scan, the activity of the brain's reward center was not significantly greater when shown photos of the high-calorie foods versus the lower-calorie options.

No wonder donuts for lunch seems like such a good idea after skipping breakfast!

So if you are finding it difficut to eat smaller, healthier portions at lunchtime, you might want to give breakfast, the good ol' base of the food pyramid, greater priority in your daily life.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

5 Side Effects of Stress

In today's blog entry, we have a guest writer! Exciting! Meredith Walker has contributed a short article about the effects of STRESS (which, as we know, is the root of all evil). Meredith writes for several online education sites and manages the blog for NursingDegree.net, a website that offers people the opportunity to attend school and choose between a variety of nursing programs and degrees. The site also helps people to go back to school while continuing to work or raise families. If you are interested in finding out more, Meredith's contact info is at the end of the article.


5 Side Effects of Stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life that can lead to many debilitating illnesses including ulcers, anxiety, or hypertension. While some forms of stress can never be eliminated from your life, the key is learning how to control stress when it hits. Stress can produce many side effects that are dangerous to your overall body chemistry and it is only after completely understanding these effects that you will be able to move forward in combating the things in your life that cause you undue stress.

Ulcers

Ulcers have mainly been cited with a bacterial infection that causes the growth of an ulcer, however only 80 percent are found to be associated with this infection, which leaves the rest up in the air in regards to the true explanation for the remaining 20 percent. Many of these have been attributed to stress, either directly or indirectly through various complications. Chronic stress, as well as irregular meals due to this stress, has helped contribute to many forms of peptic ulcers through increasing the amount of stomach acid that can lead to infection.

Insomnia

Insomnia occurs as a result of many conflicting factors, most revolving around stress at work, life, or school. If something important is about to occur or something traumatic has just happened, this stress will contribute to your inability to get enough sleep because you will lie awake all night thinking about this particular task or event. Decreasing the amount of stress in your life will lead to a healthier sleep schedule and will in turn result in a better overall lifestyle.

Anxiety

Stressing about an upcoming due date or event in your life can cause unneeded anxiety because of the stress which this event may bring with it. In order to combat this from occurring, you need to calm down and figure out a way that will rid your mental state of all this extra anxiety; maybe you can have someone help you through this time, or even extend your deadline. Causing your body this type of unneeded stress and anxiety will cause you to grow old before your time and can lead to overreactions in many different scenarios. The best thing to do is remain calm and remember that no matter what, the upcoming event is going to occur regardless of what may happen.

Depression

Depression is a serious mental illness that can affect every aspect of your life from your work to your family to even your pets. Stress is a large contributor to depression and can cause you to become severely depressed from one incident in your life. If you continually dwell on one specific event, rather than moving on or focusing on something happy in your life, you will find yourself spiraling downward into depression, which becomes incredibly difficult to work your way out of. The best way to avoid this is to accurately manage your stress and do not let the little things in life bother you in such a vast way.

Hypertension

Stress can lead to hypertension as well, which is a medical condition in which blood pressure is chronically elevated. Avoiding stress through relaxation techniques such as meditation can thwart high blood pressure from occurring. While this is not the only cause of high blood pressure, it has been found to be a main contributor when coupled with poor eating habits (which can also be a sign of undue stress). Leading a stress-free life is a difficult thing to accomplish but once you get to this level, your overall mental and physical health benefits from this lifestyle change.

This post was contributed by Meredith Walker, who writes about the online nursing programs. She welcomes your feedback at MeredithWalker1983 at gmail.com

Saturday, June 13, 2009

So what exactly IS the right way to breathe?

It seems like every day that I learn of another new opinion on the "right" way to breathe, whether it's in a book, a magazine, an online article or a seminar that I've attended. It's ironic that the act of breathing, something that we perform every second of our lives, is constantly under revision. Some insist on breathing from bottom to top during inhalation, starting in the belly and finishing in the lungs for an "in" breath; and breathing from top to bottom during exhalation, starting in the lungs and finishing with the belly for an "out" breath. For others, the exact opposite is true, and they insist on breathing top-to-bottom during inhalation and bottom-to-top for exhalation. And some feel that you need to breathe in through the nose out through the mouth, and others say that breathing in and out through just the nose is fine.
Like nutrition, it appears to be an inexact science, and we may never arrive at the one right way that works for everybody all of the time. But much like nutrition, there are, I believe several "ground rules" that, when followed, make everything else more or less dispensable.

Here's what I mean: If you want to be a slender, healthy individual, then eat small, well-balanced meal portions, eat only at meal times, and avoid junk food. This advice sounds too simple, right? Yet in my hypnosis practice, I've never had a weight loss client NOT lose weight once they started incorporating these simple, easy-to-remember rules into their lifestyle. You don't need to worry about low-glycaemic index carbs, or low-density carbs (which most of us really can't be bothered to measure anyway), but you WILL lose weight, even without exercise!

Likewise, I would say that if you want to master proper breathing and derive maximum benefit from your breaths for the purpose of relaxation, awareness, lowering your blood pressure and boosting your immune system, there are just a few simple rules to adhere to, and then everything else is up to you. Breathe softly and gently, taking full breaths that extend all the way down into your diaphragm, but don't strain. It really doesn't matter if you want to be a top-to-bottom breather or a bottom-to-top breather, or if you want to breathe through your nose and mouth, or just your nose. Just make sure you extend your breathing down into your abdomen, because breathing is about using more than just your ribcage and lungs. Watch how a cat breathes. THAT is proper breathing.

Simple, right? But simple works. Boil everything in life down to its simplest components and marvel at how well it works. And when in doubt, trust your animal instincts. As humans, we often lose sight of the fact that we are animals, and we share instincts and common ancestry with cats, dogs, monkeys, reptiles, and fish. All of these critters know exactly the right way to eat, sleep, raise their children, exercise, and breathe without ever reading an article or attending a seminar! You and I all have these truths within us. We just need to trust ourselves and pay attention to what our minds and bodies are saying.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Beware! Restaurant portion sizes are increasing again. Who are the culprits and what can you do about it?

If you are on a weight loss program or have already established a lifestyle of healthy eating for yourself, you know that the last place you want to go is one of the many "sit-down" chain restaurants that litter our strip malls, airports, and other commercial centers. But that simple truth is more important now than ever. This article I found online indicates that these so-called family restaurants are now scaling up their portion sizes even further, thus putting more calories into each meal, in order to lure us into eating out again despite the condition of the economy. The article also names the culprits and suggests ways to avoid the traps.

A representative of these restaurants claims that, as a consumer-driven business, they're just giving us what we want. And sadly, for many Americans, that is, in fact, true. You see, here in the states we've learned to equate quantity with value. If we go to The Cheesecake Chili Garden and pay $12.99 for the Ultra-Chili-Cheese-Macaroni-Hoagie-Deluxe, and suddenly we are given 30% more at no extra cost, we suddenly say, "Oooooh, now THAT'S a good deal!" And then we are more likely to not only buy it, but come back and buy it again another time, naively thinking that in these tough times when money is tight, we need to make every penny count.

But the reality is, we all pay for our unhealthy habits in the end. If we perceive that we are saving money by eating these huge, unhealthy meals made with questionable ingredients, we eventually suffer declining health in some form or another (obesity and heart disease come to mind), and we see that "savings" ripped out of our bank accounts (and then some) to pay the cost of medical bills and expensive weight loss programs.

So don't be "that person" who keeps these chain restaurants in business. Instead, eat at local establishments that use healthy ingredients and don't emphasize quantity over quality. If you're faced with a portion that you know is too big for you, split it in half before you even start eating it, ask for a take-out box for the half you won't eat, put it in the box, and forget about it for the rest of the meal. You can always eat that other half the next day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Your Secret Garden

Meditation Getaways - Your Secret Garden -

This meditation is not about taking a mental vacation so much as it's about creating sanctuary and personal space. We create a secret garden or backyard in our subconscious minds that we can visit at any time to experience tranquility and peace. Everyone at some point in their lives has imagined a place that they would love to call home. For you, this could be a place you fondly remember from your own life, or it could be a place you've wished for in your own mind. It could be a real place, or a complete fantasy, or a combination of the two. We start by creating our imagined home in great detail on the outside. Then we walk through the house and construct the interior details as we go. Eventually we emerge in the backyard, a place of fantastic beauty and incredible tranquility. In this place, we exist as our ideal selves, and we form an image of ourselves that we can take with us back to waking reality.

This guided meditation features segments from two Moodstreams nature soundtracks as background sound: "Dawn Birds of May" and "Songbirds Behind the Farm".