Friday, January 20, 2017

Yale Graduate-Turned-Trucker Works to Improve Truckers’ Health

A photo of a semi-truck cruising down the highway.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Siphiwe Baleka is a remarkable man. Aside from earning his degree in philosophy at the highly prestigious Yale University, he was also the first African American to make it onto the First Team All-Ivy League Swim Team. But that’s not what makes him remarkable.

Baleka, who is now in his 40s, fell on hard times about six years ago and decided to take on a job as a trucker. But after only two months in, the former athlete noticed he had gained 15 lbs.

"Life on the road is tough. It's lonely," Baleka stated. "There's not a whole lot to make you feel good. So eating is one of the things you kind of have some freedom with, to make you feel good."

Baleka did everything he could to lose the weight. He even resorted to doing exercises inside of his cab. But no matter what he did, nothing seemed to work.

Baleka’s struggle to gain back control of his health almost made him quit his job. It’s an all-too-common phenomenon in the trucking industry. In fact, a recent survey conducted by HireRight Transportation found that 21% of drivers leave the industry due to health concerns.

But after experimenting with several different weight loss programs, Baleka finally found success in a low-carb, high-protein diet combined with short bursts of high-intensity workouts. And now that he’s back to being fit, he wants to help other truckers get healthy, too.

So Baleka developed a wellness program that’s specifically designed with drivers in mind. Inspired by the technological devices that are already used in the industry, he decided to develop one that’s capable of monitoring the driver’s health.  

"At that time, the only thing that we didn't have any real-time information on was the driver—the physiological state of the driver," Baleka stated. "These digital health devices now allowed me to do that. I can monitor the physical condition of the driver just like we do with a truck."

So far, the program seems to be doing well. Hopefully it will inspire other trucking companies to institute wellness programs as well.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Stress, Diet, and Genetics: A Recipe For Adult Female Acne

A woman with acne all over her jawline.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Researchers from Italy may have just uncovered the mystery behind adult female acne. According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, acne in women is caused by three main factors: stress, diet, and genetics.  

The study looked at 500 women over the age of 25. Researchers found that these women had a few things in common. For one, they had diets low in fruits and vegetables. Secondly, they had a family history of acne. And thirdly, they reported chronic levels of stress and anxiety.

For Dr. Debra Jaliman, none of this is surprising. Jaliman is an assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. She said it’s quite common to see adult women with acne.

“Women tend to get adult acne more often than men. It’s often due to changes in hormone levels and or hormonal imbalances,” Jaliman stated.

But she’s also well aware of the link between acne and diet. Jaliman said that she’s seen plenty of people, both men and women, whose acne is caused by poor eating habits.

“We see that people who have a diet of junk food tend to break out more,” Jaliman explained.

Interestingly enough, the study did not find any connection between acne and dairy. Some dermatologists theorize that the hormones present within dairy cause imbalances in humans that lead to acne. However, the researchers in this study found no evidence to support that claim.

Rather, researchers suspect that high glycemic index foodssuch as sugar, white bread, chips, and pastasare to blame. High GI foods cause blood sugar levels to spike, which can disrupt hormone levels.

So on the bright side, two out of the three factors are completely within one’s control. As for the genetics aspect? Well, mom and dad can take the blame for that one.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Founder of Bikram Yoga Found Guilty of Sexual Harassment

A group of women in yoga poses.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Bikram Choudhury, the man who founded the world’s first hot yoga studio, was ordered to forfeit the revenue from his businesses in order to settle his $6.8 million sexual harassment case. He was also ordered to give up his collection of fine cars, which equates to a total of 43 vehicles ranging from Ferraris to Bentleys to Rolls-Royces.

The ruling comes after Minakshi 'Miki' Jafa-Bodden (Choudhury's former legal adviser) sued him for sexual harassment and wrongful termination. Last year, Jafa-Bodden was fired for refusing to cover up allegations of sexual harassment.

Jafa-Bodden claims that she herself was a victim of his unwanted advances. She alleges that Choudhury touched her inappropriately and tried to get her to stay with him in his hotel.

The Daily Mail reports that she was awarded nearly $1 million in compensatory damages and more than $6 million in punitive damages.

“This is a good day for women,” Jafa-Bodden said after the ruling came down.

However, the 43 luxury cars that Choudhury was ordered to give up have mysteriously gone missing… along with any trace of Choudhury himself.

Choudhury’s garage manager denies any involvement with the sudden disappearance of the cars. However, Jafa-Bodden’s lawyers claim that they have photographic evidence of his entanglement.

“Bikram is no longer the boss of Bikram yoga. I am. I’ve been to hell and back but the jury has spoken. Bikram has tried to conceal assets and has fled America but justice will be done.”

Now that the verdict is out, pictures of Choudhury standing on women in nothing but a Speedo have suddenly taken on a new meaning. It’s disturbing to say the least, and I can’t even imagine what his wife is feeling.

I myself as a yoga practitioner have gone to Bikram studios in the past. It makes me sick to think that I ever supported a sexual predator.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Stay Positive this Holiday Season: Stop Lurking!

A photo of someone scrolling through Facebook on a mobile device.
Photo credit: Bloomicon / Shutterstock
Holidays got you down? If you’ve found yourself spending hours scrolling through the endless feeds of Facebook and Twitter, social media could be one culprit behind your misery.

The BBC reports that a new University of Copenhagen suggests that seeing an abundance of “perfect” families, faces, and holiday festivities could trigger envy and feelings of isolation. It makes sense that when you’re feeling low and alone, seeing so much togetherness from a distance could make you feel even worse.

The study, which had more than 1,000 participants, particularly noted this effect when users are “lurking” on social media – simply taking all the information in without interacting or connecting with anyone.

The conclusion? “[R]egular use of social networking such as Facebook can negatively affect your emotional well-being and satisfaction with life.”

But these days, everyone is so plugged into social media that not partaking at all might also make people feel isolated. The researchers suggest some simple solutions: being more of an “active” user and engaging with others; and unplugging from social media when possible.

In fact, the study suggests that actively engaging with others will create a much more positive experience for users; so, if you’re not ready to take a break, consider changing your usage habits instead.

If limiting your time on social media seems like the best solution, consider taking an entire week off. Alternatively, try uninstalling social media apps from your phone and only checking Facebook once per day for a limited period. Not only could this help your mood, but it also might help you be more productive and less distracted at work or school!

It’s also important to note that many social media users tend to share only their happiest moments, best pictures, and envy-inducing events. Comparing your everyday life with someone else’s top highlights is an unrealistic comparison to make—it’s enough to make anyone envious! Remember that no one’s life is quite the same as it looks on the outside.

Have you ever experienced the “deterioration of mood” that this new study suggests? What have you found to be the best solution?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tips for Eating Healthy During the Holidays

A close-up photo of festive holiday cookies.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
With less than a week before Christmas, it’s time to prepare for all those deliciousalbeit unhealthytreats that will be at your disposal this holiday season. Trust me, I get it; it’s hard to turn down pumpkin pie, mac ‘n’ cheese, Christmas cookies, and eggnog. But if you want to be healthy, it’s absolutely necessary that you avoid the temptations that will come your way.

Tip #1: Find a Mantra

Find a word, phrase, or quote that you can repeat to yourself whenever you’re feeling weak. Your mantra should have special meaning to you, something that will keep you motivated to make the right choice. Some examples include:

  • I eat to fuel my body, not to satisfy an appetite  
  • Note to self: When I eat like crap, I feel like crap
  • It’s not a short-term diet, it’s a long-term lifestyle change
  • I’m strengthening my ‘resistance’ muscle. It’s getting stronger!
  • Looking and feeling amazing is the best revenge
Tip #2: Keep an Inspirational Photo Nearby

There’s a reason that vision boards are so effective. When we have a crystal clear vision of what we want, it helps us to manifest it that much easier. Take some time to sift through a magazine and find some fitness pictures that really inspire you. If you don’t have any magazines, search for images on the Internet. You can either keep a physical copy of this image on your person at all times, or you can store it electronically on your phone. Using pictures of celebrities is fair game.

Tip #3: Reward Yourself With Something Other Than Food

Look, eating healthy is hard work. If you can manage to resist all the temptations this holiday season, make sure you celebrate by rewarding yourself. The reward doesn’t have to be expensive; it can be as simple as taking a nice, hot bath. Other ideas include going to the spa, getting a massage, watching a movie, or going to a concert. Remember: this is a spiritual journey, and you should take part in celebrating the new and improved you.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Separate Living Spaces Make for Healthier Romantic Partnerships

A couple holding a cut-out of a house. They appear apprehensive about moving in together.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
We’ve all been there. In the beginning, things are great. The butterflies in your stomach are in full spring. You send each other sweet messages all day long. You stay up all night talking for hours. You cuddle every chance you get. Oh, and the intimacy is on point.

But sooner or later, things start to change. Your significant other no longer texts you with the same sweet emojis that they used to. Your sex life has begun to dissipate. All the sudden, anything and everything has turned into an argument. You’re practically at each other’s throats 24/7. You find yourself asking, what went wrong?

Chances are, it’s that you’re spending too much time together.

If you find that the majority of your woes started shortly after the two of you moved in together, you’re not alone. It’s a very common phenomenon, and science has finally proven why. According to a study titled Idealization, reunions, and stability in long-distance dating relationships, couples that live apart retain more of the novelty and excitement that exists in the beginning of a relationship.

That’s because when you spend too much time around another person, you eventually get used to it and subsequently take that person for granted. That’s where the lack of appreciation comes from.

And while it’s human nature, that’s not to say that there isn’t something you can do to combat this effect. If you’re already living together and would like to salvage your relationship, here’s what you can do:

·      Spend more time with friends… AWAY from your significant other
·      Plan fun and exciting date nights with your partner
·      Sleep over at a friend or family member’s house for a few nights
·      Join a club, take an art class, begin a new hobby, or go to a social networking event

You wouldn’t believe the kind of difference it can make to have your own personal space. And you shouldn’t feel guilty about it either; yes, we as humans are a social species, but like any other species, we have our limits. The key is finding a healthy balance.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Study Finds That Pets Help People Cope With Mental Illness

A dog sitting on a lawn.
CC courtesy of Eric Sonstroem on Flickr.
People suffering from mental illness have known it for years, but science has only recently confirmed it: pets can help relieve the symptoms of mental illness. The study found that pets helped people cope with everything from loneliness to depression to schizophrenia and even thoughts of suicide.

The study was published today in the BMC Psychiatry journal. To many people, it’s not all that surprising. But in the health care field, it’s quite the breakthrough. The findings suggest that pets could become part of the treatment plan for patients diagnosed with mental illness. This is particularly important for patients who are seeking alternatives to medication.

Helen Brooks, lead author of the study, believes that part of the reason pets are so invaluable is that they serve as motivation.

"The routine these pets provide is really important for people. Getting up in the morning to feed them and groom them and walk them, giving them structure and a sense of purpose that they won't otherwise have," Brooks stated.

But that’s not the only benefit that pets provide. Several participants reported having a very close relationship with their pet, even surpassing the bonds they have with friends and family members.

"Many felt deep emotional connections with their pet that weren't available from friends and family," Brooks explained.

"When I'm feeling really low they are wonderful because they won't leave my side for two days," said a participant with two dogs and two cats. "They just stay with me until I am ready to come out of it."

According to Mark Longsjo, Program Director of Adult Services at McLean Southeast (an inpatient mental facility in Massachusetts), it’s not unusual for people to form really strong connections with their pets.

"We have so many patients come through, and we always ask them about their support system. Sometimes its family members, sometimes its friends, but it's very common to hear about pets," Longsjo stated.

I’m not going to lie—it warms my heart to hear about stories like this. As an animal lover myself, I cannot imagine what my life would be like without my dog, Ruby.