Archives for 2012

Blog Roll 2012 and Blog Give-Away 2013.

Every news channel, radio station, and web site along with VH1 and MTV is making a list and checking it twice.  It’s time to say good bye to the year 2012 and reflect on everything that happened.  What changed us, who irritated us the most (I’m thinking Honey Boo Boo), and who we looked to for help and inspiration. Then we create a list to say thank you or good riddance.

Blog Roll 2012 is a list of 10 web sites that have helped me get through my first full year of blogging. The list is not based on science.  It’s derived from the experience I had with web sights that I subscribe to and/or visited most regularly throughout 2012.  *Skim the list if you want, but be sure and scroll to the end for information about the Blog Give Away 2013. 

Out with the old. In with the new.  Here's to 2012!

Out with the old. In with the new. Here’s to 2012!

 Blog Roll 2012

1.  Copyblogger –  I’m guessing almost everyone that has a web site subscribes to Copyblogger.  They have over 170,000 subscribers and generate new content daily.  The information and insight that Copyblogger provides daily to help you be successful in online marketing is unmatched. They are a must-follow for anyone launching a web site or blog.

2.  Daily Blog Tips – This site provides just what the name suggests.  Daily tips about blogging.  The articles aren’t as in-depth or lengthy as Copyblogger, but the information churned out at Daily Blog Tips is staggering.  Another must-subscribe-to site for anyone with a web site or blog, or anyone thinking about starting one.

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If Facebook Is Making Us Fat, What Will Pinterest Do?

Is Facebook Making Us Fat?

Obesity is a problem for 35 percent of Americans according to the Centers for Disease Control.  Too much sitting combined with larger portions has created an epidemic of overweight Americans which is contributing to increased incidences of chronic diseases that include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and a variety of cancers.  No new news there, right?

But, a recent study led by Keith Wilcox, Ph.D. at Columbia University, indicates that Facebook could also be a contributor to the obesity epidemic.  Wilcox surveyed 500 people about their interest use.  According to Men’s Health Magazine, “Of the 470 participants asked, those who used Facebook the most had reportedly higher body mass indexes than those who were not as frequently engaged.” Binge eating was also found to be associated with high user engagement.

If Facebook is contributing to obesity, can you imagine what Pinterest is doing?  Flickr photo by

If Facebook is contributing to obesity, can you imagine what Pinterest is doing? Flickr photo by codemastersnakc

Further investigation showed that 80% of Facebook users have a tendency to indulge in unhealthy snacks either during or after the time they spend perusing their ‘friends’ timelines or their own news feeds.  People that spend time on CNN tend to choose healthier snacks.

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How To Set New Year’s Resolutions That You’ll Keep (Part 2 of 2)

This is Part 2 Of A 2 Part Article

Remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry went to pick up his rental car?  The company had his reservation but didn’t have a car for him.  Jerry said, “You know how to “take” the reservation, you just don’t know how to “hold” the reservation.  And that’s really the most important part of the reservation: the holding.

That’s how it is with New Year’s resolutions.  Easy to make, difficult to hold.

Below are tips for “holding” the top five most popular New Year’s resolutions:

Financial wellness involves getting debt and spending under control.

Financial wellness involves getting debt and spending under control.

Reduce Spending

  • Eliminate impulse buying.  When in doubt about whether or not to make a purchase ask yourself if it’s something you can live without.  If you can live without it, don’t buy it.
  • Replace lights bulbs with CFLs and LEDs and turn them off when you leave the room.  Turn the thermostat down to 68 degrees (in the winter) and the hot water heater down to 120 degrees.  Small changes can add up to bigger savings over time.
  • Make credit card payments on time to avoid late fees, and check your bank account regularly to make sure you don’t overdraft your account.  Overdraft charges can cost $30 plus per transaction if the bank has to cover you.
  • Buy knock off brands and non-label foods.  You can save money without sacrificing good quality when you shop at Aldi.  It’s no-frills but the cost savings is worth it.
  • Shopping for furniture on Craig’s List or for clothes at the re-sale shop is a good way to purchase items at a very low price.  Some people are willing to practically give away gently appliances, sofas, and items like box springs if you’re willing to take them off their hands.

Save For Financial Emergency

  • Purchase a large piggy bank that you can put all of your loose change in each day.  Over time these small contributions add up to larger amounts that can be put into a savings account at the bank.
  • Have a rummage sale or put items that you no longer want, but are still in good shape, on Craig’s list.  Take the money you get from the sales in your rainy day fund.
  • Make your morning java or tea at home. Take the money you spend each morning at the local coffee shop and put it in the piggy bank.
  • Set up an automatic deduction from your paycheck each week to go directly into a savings account.
  • Make a pack with the other members of your family that you won’t make any more purchases until your emergency fund has an adequate amount of money in it.

Make More Time For Yourself

  • Get up 20 minutes earlier.  Just think what you could get done if you had an additional two hours of time each week.  Plus you can have a few extra minutes to yourself each morning to work on a hobby, get a chore done, meditate or read.
  • Turn off the ‘you’ve got mail’ alert on your computer.  Constantly checking mail and text messages is a huge waste of time.  It’s been estimated that it takes about 15 minutes to get back on track after each interruption.
  • Limit time on social networking sites. How much time do you spend mindlessly grazing Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter?  Cut it in half and have time to do something more worthwhile that you enjoy.
  • Turn off the phone.  Take a couple hours each week to do something you enjoy without the interruption of text messages, e-mail updates, or phone calls interfering.

Reduce Debt

  • Always pay more than the minimum amount required on credit cards and talk to your bank and credit card companies about a reduction in your interest rates.
  • Use the bonus or cash back points on your credit cards to go towards paying off the balance.
  • List all of your credit card balances in order from the highest balance to the smallest.  Work on paying off the card with the smallest balance first.  Continue to pay the minimum balance due on the rest.  Follow the process until all of the cards are paid off.
  • Refinance your home for a lower interest rate.  Make sure when you do this they will allow you to double up on payments or make more than the required monthly payment.
  • Open a new credit card that offers a 0% interest rate for one year. Transfer the balance of the other cards to the new one.  Continue to make more than the minimum monthly payments and don’t add any new purchases to the card.

Lose Weight

  • Keep an eye on mindless snacking by using a food tracker.  You don’t have any idea of how many calories you’re consuming when you eat a little-bit-of-this and a little-dab-of-that until you add them up.
  • Eliminate sugary drinks that have no nutritional value.  Cutting out high-calorie, zero-nutrient drinks and replacing them with water will save hundreds of calories a week.
  • Set realistic goals.  If your goal is to lose 50 pounds you’ve got a mountain to climb.  If your goal is to lose five, you’ve got a hill.  Set a goal to lose five pounds instead of 50.  Each time you lose five, re-set the goal until you get to 50.
  • Avoid fad diets where you lose weight fast and put it back on even faster.  A sensible eating plan combined with moderate amounts of exercise will get you to your goal and help you stay there.
  • Rally support.  Groups like Weight Watchers @ Work, Spark People, and other weight loss communities supply motivation that is hard to find on your own every day.

Keeping The Reservation

Jerry Seinfeld, known for Seinfeld – the best comedy of all time – learned how to keep the reservation. Early in his career he decided he would spend some time every day writing jokes.  He put up a wall calendar and put an X through every day he did some writing, gradually creating a chain of X’s. His only job was to not break the chain.

That’s our job too.  Pick a doable goal.  Put up a calendar and each day you achieve the goal put an X through it and make a chain of X’s. Don’t break the chain.

To read part 1 of How To Set New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Keep click here.

Happy New Year!

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How To Set New Year’s Resolutions That You’ll Keep (Part 1 of 2)

Most people look forward to January 1.  It’s the start of a new year and a chance for a do-over.  All of the resolutions that you made last year and didn’t keep can be made again with even more conviction.  And possibly, even more chance for failure.

According to Oliver Burkeman, author of Newsweek magazine’s The New Year’s Resolutions That Won’t Fail You, 89% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.  Only 46% are successful in achieving them six months later.  The problem?  We make goals that are so ambitious they are nearly impossible to pull off.  If we want to be successful we need to establish process goals where we can have small wins that help keep the momentum going.

Burkeman says that Buddhist-influenced Japanese psychologist Shoma Morita recommends forgetting about making New Year’s resolutions and “get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die.”

A new year means a new you if you put an action plan in place now.

A new year means a new you if you put an action plan in place now.

The Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions

A survey conducted by the University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology, found that the ten most common New Year’s resolutions are:

1.   Have more fun.

2.   Relax and reduce stress.

3.   Spend more time with family.

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Downsize Your Portions Fashionably

Slim & Sage Portion Control Plates

If you think it’s time to get control of your food portions – or someone else’s – set your table with the Slim & Sage portion control plates and no one will be the wiser. The Slim & Sage plates have a stylish Euro flair and encourage effortless portion control.

Slim & Sage Portion Control Plate in Blue

Slim & Sage Portion Control Plate in Blue

The creators of Slim & Sage – Tatyana, Jamie and Margaret – have a wide range of expertise and experience in health and wellness.  Tatyana, whose background is in healthcare, has a lifelong passion for design and healthy eating.  Jamie was in business development at Learn Vest and is now working on a group fitness instructor certification while studying at the Natural Gourmet Institute.

Coach Margaret is the founder of Wellcoaches Corporation and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at Boston’s McLean Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

Together they’ve designed the chic portion control plates that don’t appear to be conspicuously smaller or have an institutionalized look.

Slim & Sage plates in red.

Slim & Sage plates in red.

Getting A Handle On Supersize

Since the 1970’s food portions have been steadily on the rise in the United States.  Our plates have gotten bigger to accommodate larger portions.  The average plate size in the1960’s was 9 inches.  Today it is 12.  We’re supersized!  I don’t need to tell you the problem that is creating for employers, the healthcare system and our own pocketbooks.

Portion Control Is Easy With Smaller Plates

The Slim & Sage web site offers some compelling evidence that proves that people can lose weight effortlessly just by using a smaller plate. Two of the studies they mention are:

  • Google introduced smaller plates in their cafeteria and employees lost an average of 10 – 15 pounds without dieting.
  • The Archives of Internal Medicine cites a study where 130 patients were divided into two groups.  One group ate off of conventional plates; the other used portion-controlled plates.  Those using the portion-controlled plates lost 94% more weight than the conventional plate group.

Remember the bottomless bowl of soup study that Prof. Brian Wansink’s conducted with two individual test groups?  One group ate tomato soup from bowls that were rigged so that soup continued to fill the bowls every time they reached the half full point. The other group had a normal bowl of soup that amounted to about nine ounces.   The group with the normal bowls felt full and stopped eating once they reached the bottom of the bowl.  The ‘bottomless bowl’ people continued to eat until the experiment was over and consumed almost twice the amount of soup!

Using a smaller plate can help you get your portions under control without sacrificing style.  The Slim & Sage plates have an artistic flair that will make any table look beautiful.  To learn more about Slim & Sage click here.

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What Scares Me The Most About December 21, 2012

It’s Not What You Might Think. 

Each day brings us one day closer to December 21, 2012; the day that doomsday forecasters and the Mayans believe the world will come to an end.  The prediction that the world will end on 12/21/12 is a hoax.  But, December 21 is when the winter solstice occurs.  If you live on the North Pole you will experience a full day of darkness; the South Pole will be lit up for 24 hours.

Scientists say there will be no catastrophic calamity on 12/21/12.

Scientists say there will be no catastrophic calamity on 12/21/12.

Where I live the sun will rise at 7:14 a.m. and set at 4:35 p.m.  December 21 is the shortest day of the year, and if that day is overcast I might as well be at the North Pole.  My body will have zero opportunity to produce Vitamin D on its own on that day and for many, many days thereafter.  It’s not of apocalyptic magnitude, but the impact that a shortage of the sunshine vitamin can have on my physical and mental health is worth paying attention to.

Vitamin D Is Critical To Physical Health

Vitamin D is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins and is essential for optimal health.  It is absent from all natural foods except fish and egg yolks, which makes it difficult to get enough Vitamin D from diet alone.  Even when we consume foods that are ‘fortified’ with Vitamin D, our body has to transform it so that it can be used.

Your body makes its own Vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight.  The sun’s energy turns a chemical in your skin into Vitamin D.  It then travels to your liver and kidneys where it becomes active. Having sufficient amounts of Vitamin D are important for a number of reasons; the primary one being bone health.  Vitamin D keeps the bones strong by increasing the intestinal absorption of calcium.

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Eggnog: This Recipe Reduces the Calories But Not the Flavor

Eggnog (Recipe from Cooking Light)

 

Delicious, creamy low-fat eggnog.

Delicious, creamy low-fat eggnog.

I love eggnog.  It used to be a tradition in our home that when we decorate the house for Christmas and put up the tree we would always drink eggnog with a tad of brandy in it.

Now that I’m much more aware of the calories and fat that store brand eggnog contains I thought I might have to give it up.  That’s until I found this delicious, low-calorie eggnog from Eating Cooking Light.

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Is A Low-Fat Better Diet Than Low-Carb and Does It Really Matter?

Low-Fat vs Low-Carb. The Diet War Rages On.

A new study out of the University of East Anglia found that when people eat less fat they lose weight.

The researchers reviewed 33 randomized, controlled trials that took place in North America, Europe, and New Zealand.  There were over 73,000 participants in the controlled study including men, women, and children with a variety of health histories.

For at least six months, the researchers compared the waist circumference of those who cut back on fat in their diet with those who did not change their eating habits.  The results showed that the participants that ate less fat lost weight, and reduced both their Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference.

A diet lower in fat can reduce waist size. Flickr photo by lululemon athletica

Researchers noted that none of the participants were trying to lose weight, and that the weight came off quickly and wasn’t regained for at least seven years.

Dr. Lee Hooper from the University of Norwich Medical School said that, “The weight reduction we found when people ate less fat was remarkably consistent – we saw it in almost every trial.  Those who cut down on fat lost more weight.”

Besides losing weight, the bonus of a diet that is lower in fats – particularly saturated – is reduced LDL cholesterol and a decreased risk for heart disease.  But, beware of manufactured low-fat and fat-free foods. More often than not extra sugar and sodium have been added to make up for the flavor that disappeared with the fat.

What Does The Study Tell Us That’s New?

The debate over which is better, a low-fat or low-carb diet, isn’t new. But it is still alive and well.  Most recently the focus has been on carb-reduction diets like Paleo, Atkins, and South Beach which are believed to be more effective in weight loss. The low-fat study from East Anglia may shift the attention back to fats.

Deciphering all of the research and deciding how to apply it to your own life can be daunting.  They key is to remember that there is one thing that is consistent:  If you consume more calories than you burn as energy, you gain weight.  If you burn off more calories than you eat, you lose weight.  It’s simple math.

Following a Mediterranean style diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein with minimal amounts of fat, sugar and sodium is the best for our overall health and weight management.

Following a Mediterranean diet is believed to increase longevity, and reduce the risk of disease.  The following infographic from Mediterranean-Diet.com shows which foods we should be eating more of.

Mediterranean Diet


Fats or Carbs. Which is Worse?

The real question is whether or not the fats vs carb debate is relevant? Arguing over which is greatest evil tells us we should be limiting both. The best way to do that is by eating whole foods that are naturally low in fats and carbs as show on the infographic above.

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Compression Gear, Formula 50, and Physique 57. It’s Friday, I’m In Love.

It’s Friday.  I’m in [Link] Love

It’s only December 7 and I’m already tired of holiday-related articles; most of all, the ultimate gift guides that never have anything in them that I would actually give to someone.  This week’s Links Love does not lead you to a gift list for the fitness junkie in your life, or any holiday make-over recipes, although I’m actually a fan of the latter.

It’s Link Love Friday.  Let’s Get Started.  

Is Compression Gear On Your Holiday With List?  What’s up with compression gear?  Does it, or does it not make you run faster and jump higher?  The science hasn’t proven that it does, so if you’re planning on making an investment in compression workout wear for yourself, or someone else, you might want to read this first. The article discusses actual tests that have been done on compression attire, plus the author gives the results of a personal research project he did on the ‘performance enhancing’ fitness wear.

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Are Tempting Seasonal Drinks Worth the Fat and Calories? You Decide.

Though Hard To Resist, They May Not Be Worth It.

It’s the time of year when you have to pick your battles.  By that I mean you have to decide which splurges you are going to indulge in and which you ones aren’t worth it.  Of, you could elect to eat as many of the season’s treats as you want – after all, it does only comes once a year – in which case you’ll have a big problem to deal with at the start of 2013.

Many of the food chains offer specialty drinks at this time of year that are loaded with calories, fat, and sugar.  They seem like a good idea when you’re carrying armloads of packages around a hot, overcrowded mall full of people that are every bit as impatient as you are.  You need something to help you get through it!

But, is a beverage that has 520 calories and 18 teaspoons of sugar, with little (if any) nutritional value the best choice?  You decide.

Are they worth it?

Seasonal Drinks You’ll Run Into This Year.

Below are some of the most popular, seasonal drinks this year along with their calorie, fat and sugar counts.  I’m not here to judge what anyone eats or drinks when they hit the shop-til-you-drop wall. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

1.  Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks – 16 oz – Calories 520; Fat 18 g; Sugar 75 g (15 teaspoons)

2.  Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate from Starbucks – 16 oz – Calories 450; Fat 16 g; Sugar 62 g (12 teaspoons)

3.  White Chocolate Flavored Latté with Skim Milk from Dunkin’ Donuts – Large – Calories 340; Fat 0.5 g; Sugar 68 g (14 teaspoons)

4.  Peppermint Hot Chocolate from Panera Bread – 16 oz – Calories 500; Fat 15 g; Sugar 69 g (14 teaspoons)

5.  McCafé Caramel Frappe from McDonalds – 16 oz. – Calories 550; Fat 24 g; Sugar 71 g (14 teaspoons)

6.  McCafé Egg Nog Shake from McDonalds – 16 oz. – Calories 680; Fat 21; Sugar 93 g (18 teaspoons)

7.  Pumpkin Smash Smothie from Jamba Juice – Calories 390; Fat 0; Sugar 83 g (16 ½ teaspoons)

8.  Gingerbread Cookie Shake from Burger King – 12 oz – Calories  490; Fat 15 g; Sugar 70 g (14 teaspoons)

9.  Peppermint Swirl Shake from Arby’s – 18 oz – Calories 690; Fat 19 g; Sugar 92 g (18 ½ teaspoons)

9.  Gingerbread Martini from Outback’s – 8 oz – Calories 613; Fat 3.6 g; Sugar 10 g (2 teaspoons)
*Calories estimated based on copycat recipe.

10.  Chocovine – 3.5 oz – Calories 256; Fat 6.7 g; Sugar 22.4 g (4 teaspoons)

A Fast Food Calorie Counter Can Help! 

The best thing to do is arm yourself with information about some of the once-a-year goodies that eating establishments offer so you can make good decisions about if, when, and how often you’ll treat yourself.

If you’re really serious about not letting these ‘indulgences’ creep into your diet and onto your hips this holiday season, download the Fast Food Calorie Counter app for Smartphone or iPhone.  With the Fast Food app you’ll be able to see what you’re getting before you buy and search for better options.