Thursday, December 13, 2012

Anne Hathaway & Other Celebrities’ Movie Diets

Anne Hathaway lost 25 pounds for Les Miserables
Anne Hathaway lost 25 lbs. for Les Miserables
Image: Vogue
 Before you watch the next movie with a stick-thin actress, consider the following: actresses often go on extreme, unhealthy, diets to prep for roles. Do you remember people complaining that Jennifer Lawrence was “not hungry enough” for her role in The Hunger Games? Or how about Kate Winslet, who was often criticized for being “too fat” for Hollywood? Personally, I’m ecstatic when I see a star that actually looks the size of a normal person. Because, let’s face it—the alternative is much scarier. Let’s look back at some already thin actresses who’ve lost major pounds to better fit into their roles:

    1. Anne Hathaway—The actress went on a deprivation diet for her latest role as Fantine in Les Misérables, losing 25 pounds and eating only oatmeal paste. She’s previously also lost weight for roles in The Devil Wears Prada and The Dark Knight Rises.

    Natalie Portman got so thin for Black Swan that her director worried about her eating habits
    Natalie Portman got so thin for Black Swan that
    her director worried about her eating habits.
    Image: Black Swan
    2. Rooney Mara—The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo actress looked just as pale and anorexic as the character in the book was described. That’s because she ate little and worked out constantly before and during filming.

    3. Natalie Portman—She’s about as tiny as they come already, but somehow managed to lose another 20 pounds for her role in Black Swan. She worked out between five and eight hours a day and became so thin that her director made sure her trailer was constantly stocked with food so she would eat.

    4. Beyonce—For her role in Dreamgirls, the singer had to drop about 20 pounds. She lost the weight in only two weeks by doing a Master Cleanse—which means living off of hot water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for 10 days.

    5. Mila Kunis—As Natalie’s co-star in Black Swan, Kunis said she constantly felt hungry during filming. She also lost 20 pounds and participated in the same workouts as Natalie—5-6 hours per day, six days a week.

    Emily Blunt was encouraged to lose weight to look nearly anorexic.
    Emily Blunt was encouraged to lose weight
    to look nearly anorexic.
    Featureflash / 
    6. Emily Blunt—In The Devil Wears Prada, her character was nearly anorexic and hardly ate. She was encouraged to lose weight for the role so she would look as stick thin as her character. In The Adjustment Bureau, Emily also had to lose weight, working out for four hours every day leading up to filming.

    7. Renée Zellweger—After packing on 30 pounds for her role in Bridget Jones’s Diary, the actress subsequently had to lose it all and more to play her part in Chicago. This back and forth weight loss and gain had critics and specialists seriously concerned.

    When I look at regimens like these, it puts things into perspective. It’s easy to watch a movie or an actress and think “I wish I were skinnier,” but the truth is that just because celebrities are subjecting themselves to these intense regimens, it doesn’t mean it’s healthy or good. They look rail-thin because they are rail-thin. There are healthier ways to lose weight, and limits to what we should expect from our bodies.

    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    Afternoon Exercise May Be The Best

    Afternoon might be the best time for exercise.
    Afternoon might be the best time for exercise.
    Image: Shutterstock
    It turns out that the best time to exercise might be in the afternoon, according to a new study published by the LA Brain Research Institute in the Journal ofPhysiology. Our bodies have an endogenous circadian rhythm, an internal clock, which controls everything from our hearts to our brains. Sometimes that clock gets out of whack, and researchers say that exercise can help put it back on the right track.

    The preliminary results, based on results on mice, suggest that midday is the time when exercise most affects our circadian rhythm in a positive way. We have cells within our brains that help us tell what time of day it is, which influences when we naturally sleep and wake, among other things.

    Signals from light and darkness cause genes within these cells to produce proteins and release them into the body. From there, they move to all our vital organs and keep them synchronized.

    The problem is, sometimes our internal clocks don’t function like they ought to. They get confused and off because of things like artificial light in the evening; even aging makes the internal clock less functional. When this happens, we have a harder time falling asleep, sleeping through the night, and staying awake during the day. More severe consequences are a higher risk for diabetes, obesity, some types of cancer, memory loss, and mood disorders.

    Exercising can help get our circadian rhythms back to normal.
    Exercising can help get our circadian rhythms back to normal.
    Image: Shutterstock
    But Dr. Christopher Colwell and his colleagues believe that exercising may be the key to getting our circadian rhythms back to normal. After several weeks of letting healthy mice run on a regular basis, they found that their circadian protein production was up, meaning their internal clocks were being regulated effectively.

    Excercise, whenever it happens, is good for us (duh)!
    Excercise, whenever it happens, is good for us (duh)!
    Image: Shutterstock
    Some mice had malfunctioning internal clocks, so the researchers had these mice exercise at different times of the day to see if running would also help “fix” them. As it turned out, these mice also started producing more of the proteins, especially those who ran during the equivalent to our “afternoon.” Their internal clocks were functioning better than they had been before.

    What this study tells us is that exercising in the morning and afternoon does help our internal clocks regulate. Colwell says that some evidence he’s gathered suggests that late-night exercise might actually be harmful to our sleep rhythms, though. More research will need to be done before the specifics can be nailed down. But one thing’s (still) for certain: exercise is good for us!

    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    Cities, Exercise, and Brain Damage: 411

    Cities are full of beautiful things: lights, culture, people, food, and more. But they’re also full of some not so great things like stress, pollution, violence, and crime. The vast majority of Americans live in cities dotted around the country. But while we may be used to the negatives that come with city living, it’s important to remember that our bodies may still be affected negatively.

    The stress, polution, violence and crime typical of city life can cause many health problems.
    The stress, polution, violence and crime typical of city life can cause many health problems.
    Image: Shutterstock

    I’ve certainly never met anyone who is immune to stress, though some people seem to be better at managing it than others. Cities tend to stress people out in many ways. There is often overcrowding, poverty, violence, and crime—all of which can contribute to an elevated level of stress. Those of us who live in cities also know that life tends to move very fast, so just keeping up can be hard sometimes.

    Cities are also hard to navigate because they are so complex in layout. All these stressors combined together can be a catalyst for mental illness and other stress-related health problems.

    Exercise can reduce stress, but exercising in a polluted area can be dangerous to your health.
    Exercise can reduce stress, but exercising in a polluted
    area can be dangerous to your health.
    Image: Shutterstock
    Many things can counter stress, and one of my favorites is exercise. Not only does exercising on a regular basis keep your body active and healthier, but it also sends doses of mood elevating endorphins to your brain. It is a natural anti-depressant and de-stressor. Unfortunately, there are some concerns about exercising in cities as well.

    With so many people living in close proximity, there is bound to be pollution. Some cities have it worse than others. According to the State of the Air 2012 report, California cities take the top five spots for America’s most polluted cities: Bakersfield, Hanford-Corcoran, Los Angeles, Visalia, and Fresno. On the other hand, Santa Fe-Espanola, NM; Cheyenne, WY; Prescott, AZ; Tucson, AZ; and Albuquerque, NM are the least polluted cities in the U.S.

    Exercising in urban areas is still worse for you than exercising in rural ones, though, no matter how clean your city is. A recent study has actually linked brain damage to people who exercise outside in cities as compared to those who exercise outside in rural areas. Air pollution lowers response time and attention span, increases inflammation markers in the blood, and can prevent us from getting some of exercise’s best benefits: brain plasticity, comprehension, and mental health.

    Exercise in rural areas is less likely to cause brain damage than exercising in polluted areas.
    Exercise in rural areas is less likely to cause brain damage
    than exercising in polluted areas.
    Image: Shutterstock
    So should you stop exercising outside and instead stay inside and inactive? Absolutely not. But Blisstree does have some good tips from researcher Romain Meeusen for those of us who still need to get our run on:

    1. Brave rain and wind. These climates blow the fine particles away so you’re not left inhaling them.
    2. Avoid rush hour. The more cars, the more pollution from exhaust fumes.
    3. Head to the park. The more trees between you and the road, the better.

    Friday, December 7, 2012

    Spotlight: Pilates vs. Yoga

    Yoga and pilates are similar, but have
    different origins and purposes.
    Image: SunshineNDaisy via LivLuvCreate
    When I think about the best way to strengthen my core, flexibility, and body, my mind always goes to Pilates and Yoga. Though similar on some levels, the two practices are also quite different from each other. If you’re interested in getting into one or the other, here are a few differences you should be aware of before deciding which one is best for your body.

    Pilates and Yoga have different origins and purposes. Whereas Yoga first began in India about 5,000 years ago, Pilates didn’t start until the middle of the 20th century. Yoga has many different forms, which have evolved as much as the place in which it began: Bikram, Vinyasa, and Ashtanga are just a few of the types you can find today. Pilates was originally created by Joseph Pilates as a way to rehabilitate and strengthen muscles. It blossomed into popularity after dancers began using it as an effective way to tone their muscles and become stronger.

    Yoga practices the connection of mind, body, and spirit
    Yoga classes differ greatly depending
    on the instructor.
    Image from Yoga Journal
    Though both emphasize a connection of the mind and body, Yoga has an additional focus on the spirit. Meditation and relaxation is a large part of many Yoga practices, whereas Pilates focuses solely on the connection of mind and body in exercise and everyday life.

    Yoga and Pilates classes are often structured very differently from one another. Because a Yoga class agenda is up to the teacher and style of Yoga being practiced, it can be difficult to know how the class will go. This flexibility is often not as apparent in Pilates classes, which tend to have a set plan for each class.

    The workout you get from each will be different. Though both help you become more flexible and stronger, they do so in very different ways. Yoga usually focuses equally on each muscle rather than featuring one muscle group. The goal is finding total balance in the body, and core training is just one piece of that. Pilates, on the other hand, works the whole body while focusing specifically on exercises that strengthen the core and align the spine.

    Pilates focuses on core and full body strength.
    Pilates focuses on core and full body strength.
    Image: Shutterstock
    Finally, Yoga and Pilates have different methods for breathing. Yoga concentrates on very deep breathing and synchronizing breaths with movement, often dedicating entire segments of class to breath work. Pilates, on the other hand, simply maintains that breath comes in through the nose and out through the mouth.

    As far as choosing a practice goes, those wishing to manage stress or make a complete mind/body/spirit connection often use Yoga. For those who simply want to strengthen back and core muscles, Pilates might be the better choice. And remember, there’s no harm in trying both!