Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Back to Basics: My After-Holidays Oatmeal Bake

shelled walnuts
I like adding walnuts to my oatmeal.
Image: Shutterstock
If you traveled like I did during the holidays, you may be feeling a little bit guilty about all those delicious cookies, glasses of eggnog, and carb-heavy meals. I generally follow the principal of living a generally healthy life; most of the time, I fix meals that are full of healthy ingredients and try to avoid overindulging on things like sweets and carbs.

Going into the holidays, though, I knew that I would be making some exceptions. I traveled home to Idaho for a week and a half, and we ate several meals out, had rich Christmas Eve and Day dinners, and drank a good amount of eggnog. I love allowing myself to indulge once in a while, and last week was definitely one of those times.

But.

Now, it’s back to real life. While those rich foods were oh-so-delicious while I was on vacation, they left me feeling heavy and bloated. I missed simple dinners and yoga. And now, it’s time to get back to that. This week, I’m back to cooking at home, and I started with making myself an oatmeal bake for breakfast this week. I find that breakfast is the easiest meal for me to eat unhealthy during because I  am slow moving in the mornings. Luckily for me, this oatmeal bake was super easy to make—and I can just microwave it each morning for a wholesome meal! Here’s what I did:

raw cocoa / cacao nibs
Cocoa nibs add a wonderful nutty taste and tons of antioxidants.
Image: Shutterstock
Ingredients:
2 cups rolled oats (I generally prefer steel-cut, but they take much longer to prepare)
2 cups milk of your choice (I used whole)
1 egg
1 cup fresh berries (I used raspberries)
1 ripe banana, sliced
1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
½ cup honey
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
Handful of cocoa nibs (optional)
1 tbsp mini semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix dry ingredients in a 9 x 12 casserole dish.
Stir wet ingredients (milk, vanilla, egg, honey) in a large bowl and pour over dry ingredients.
Mix it all up!
Place in a 375 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes.

The result? YUM! The honey and banana make it sweet, but not too sweet. The nuts and cocoa nibs also provide a wonderful texture, keeping the oatmeal from feeling “mushy” like it sometimes can. I’m not much of one for eating the same thing ever day, but this I can handle J

Check out other healthy whole grain breakfasts here. I haven’t tried these, but they sure do look good. Maybe next week, once I gobble up the rest of my oatmeal bake!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Essential Ingredients for a Healthy Meal… Anytime!

I know I’m not the only one who’s suffering from holiday-itis. I’m exhausted. Are you exhausted? A few days off for the holidays feels long overdue. Whether you’re worn out because things have been crazy at work or school or you’re just ready for a break, there’s one thing that I find gets particularly difficult when I’m tired: eating healthy.

Have you ever noticed that when the stress levels rise, suddenly a frozen pizza or dinner at the local pub out sounds so enticing? When I’ve had a long day (or week), it’s hard to rustle up enough energy to think of a healthy meal (much less cook it). Plus, with the holidays just around the corner, delicious sugary treats like cookies and sweet breads are around in abundance.
Christmas holiday treats
This season is full of stress and sugar--but it's still important to keep eating healthy as much as possible!
Image: Shutterstock

So what’s a girl to do? Sure, sometimes I’ll give in and eat that frozen pizza (it’s okay to live sometimes!)—just don’t let it become a habit. The best advice I have is to keep healthy basic ingredients in the house, so that when you don’t have the time or energy to get creative, you still have a healthy meal to eat.

I’ve found that the following ingredients enable me to whip up a quick meal in just a few minutes—and it’s tasty to boot!

Frozen Chicken Breasts or Salmon (you can buy these fresh and freeze them yourself if you prefer)

Just defrost in the microwave or with warm water and then bake, grill, sauté, or stir-fry them as you feel fit. For chicken, I always keep lemon pepper on hand (it really livens the flavor up), and salmon goes well with a simple glaze like honey lemon.

Frozen Vegetables

Frozen veggies certainly aren’t as good as fresh produce, but they can be lifesavers. Choose a medley or particular vegetable that you enjoy, and then on those busy nights you can just steam or sautee them back to life. Add in a little garlic powder, olive oil, and pepper to give them a kick.

Whole Grains

I love wild rice. It takes a little longer to cook, but it’s not exactly work to cook rice. Pairing wild rice with a baked lemon-pepper chicken breast and veggies on the side is a fiber-and-flavor filled meal that’s super easy to boot. If you’re not a fan of wild rice, you can also try cous cous, whole grain pasta (in moderate proportions), or brown rice.

Eggs

I know, eggs are typically a morning food. But, hey, there’s nothing wrong with breakfast at dinner from time to time. Whip up a quick omelet with those frozen veggies and pair it with a side of whole-wheat toast.

 Salad Fixings

I tend to think that dinner should be more complicated than a salad, but that’s not true. When I remember, I try to keep some dark leafy greens (like arugula, spinach, or kale) on hand. Mix those together with some dried cranberries, nuts, cheese, and a tiny bit of dressing and you’ve got yourself a lovely little dinner salad!

Frozen Meatballs and Marinara

I discovered this lovely combo when living with roommates. If you can find lean chicken or turkey meatballs (try Trader Joe’s), this is a super fast meal to whip up. Just cook the meatballs over the stove with some marinara sauce—no pasta necessary! Add some veggies on the side, and it’s a perfectly sized meal.

During the holidays, it can be particularly difficult to keep up a healthy eating regimen. How are you handling the extra excitement, and how do you plan on staying healthy?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Oh Coconut Oil, Where Have You Been All My Life?

coconut oil uses
What can you use coconut oil for? Oh, let me count the ways!
Image: Shutterstock
Perhaps I’m a bit behind the times, but I only just recently discovered coconut oil. Actually, I was introduced to it about a year-and-a-half ago during a vegan cooking class, but I didn’t make an effort to really try it out until a few weeks ago. And now, I can’t help but wonder why it’s only just crossed my radar—because it’s kind of amazing.

While I tried it out cooking acorn squash (with this salad, which I want to eat ALL THE TIME), it can pretty much be used for, well, anything. Here are just a few ways in which you can utilize this amazing oil, which is extracted from ripe coconuts (Note: you’ll want “virgin” or “refined” coconut oil because it’s non-hydrogenated):
  1. As cooking oil. It can be cooked at very high temperatures, with a smoke point of 450°F. It’s also has medium-chain triglycerides, which are easier on your digestive tract.
  2. As a daily energy supplement.
  3. As coffee creamer.
  4. As lotion.
  5. As makeup remover.
  6. To prevent stretch marks or lighten age spots.
  7. As a topical treatment for yeast infections.
  8. As a hair de-frizzer.
  9. As a natural conditioner.
  10. To soothe skin conditions like eczema.
  11. With apple cider vinegar as a natural lice treatment.
  12. In homemade sunscreen.
  13. In various (delicious) recipes, savory and sweet.
  14. To help regulate the thyroid.
  15. As a natural diaper cream.
  16. To condition and soften shiny leather.
  17. In a salt scrub.
  18. To help soothe a sore throat.
  19. As a natural deodorant.
  20. To soothe skin issues and hot spots on pets.
These are just twenty examples to show you a wide variety of possibilities. Check out this blog entry on WellnessMama.com for a list of 101 uses of coconut oil. It’s really amazing what one natural product can provide! Have you tried coconut oil? How do you use it? Are there any of the above options you’re planning on trying?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The 5 Biggest Reasons I Exercise (Hint: It Has Nothing to Do With How I Look)

yoga at sunset
Exercise benefits move way beyond being fit.
Image: Shutterstock
When I first started getting back into exercising, I’ll admit it was because I was tired of being out of shape. I was jealous of my friends that actually had upper body strength. I wanted flat abs. I felt self-conscious in tight clothing. In short, I was unhappy with my physical appearance.

It’s the same reason many people start working out. But somewhere along the way, I discovered that, though it’s nice to be in shape, it was no longer my priority or main reason for exercising. Working out comes with so many other, often more important, benefits. If it were just about getting fit, I probably wouldn’t have such a strong drive to continue exercising; but it’s not. It’s about these five things instead:
  1. Exercising lifts my mood. I love my job, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have days when I leave in a bad mood. Sometimes, things don’t go as planned and I end up stressed out. And though I’m tired and tempted to just go home and sleep it off, I work out instead—and end up feeling happier and more relaxed by the time I’m done. The hardest part is getting there—once the blood is flowing, the good juju is happening.
  2. Exercising helps me feel more creative. Do you ever feel completely brain dead at the end of a long day or week? I know I do. Brain tiredness is just a fact of life, but exercising helps me regain some of that creativity. It awakens and freshens my brain, and for that, I love it.
  3. Exercising gives me more energy. I know, I know: exercise should make me more tired, right? It does make me tired, initially—but the next day, I always feel like I have more energy, a little bit more of a spring in my step, and can face the world with a smile.
  4. Exercising gives me confidence. It makes me feel powerful. Sure, I can’t do inversions or crazy yoga moves yet, but the fact that I’m trying and getting closer each class makes me feel so strong. I believe in myself mentally and physically, and instead of criticizing my faults, I find myself congratulating myself on my strengths. It’s a wonderful feeling.
  5. Exercising strengthens my immune system. When you exercise, you’re not just building up your physical muscles—you’re promoting overall health, too. Studies have shown that regular exercise can help us fight off sickness. It’s nice being the only one in the office not to catch that nasty bug.
These are the top reasons why I exercise. What about you? What, besides getting more fit, keeps you going back again and again? I’d love to hear your comments below!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mount Sinai Feels the Holiday Cheer with $21 Million in Donations

Mount Sinai Hospital is in New York City.
Mount Sinai Hospital is in New York City.

Hospitals are aging. Unfortunately, patients are, too. As the baby boomer generation ages, hospitals are seeing a huge influx of patients that are older, sicker, and need more care. The problem is that many hospitals themselves are running short on funding and have been for some time. This means that facilities are becoming outdated and are less able to afford quality care in times of need (which, these days, is pretty much all the time).

Mount Sinai Hospital is an internationally acclaimed tertiary-care teaching facility and hospital. It is joined with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai in the overarching Mount Sinai Health System. The hospital is supported by a number of prestigious businesspeople, including James Tisch, Henry Kravis, Carl Icahn, and Kenneth Mehlman.

Luckily, thanks to generous individuals, hospitals like Mount Sinai are able to update their facilities. Mount Sinai recently received a generous $6 million donation from Jay and Barbara Hennick, money that will go toward updating the hospital’s 40-year-old building. The hospital will build a brand new healing and respite area with six new floors, 19 state-of-the-art operating rooms, eight modernized inpatient unites, and even a new neonatal unit.

Donations to Mount Sinai Hospital
Generous donations from Reisman, Schwartz, and the Hennicks
will allow the hospital to update its facilities and research programs.
Image: Shutterstock
And more recently, the hospital received a $15 million donation from Indigo Books founder Heather Reisman and her husband, Gerald Schwartz, who is founder and CEO of Onex Corp. This donation will enable the hospital to more than double the space of the emergency care center and make it much more senior friendly. Both the $6 million and the $15 million donations are a part of the hospital's campaign to raise $500 million for upgrades to the facilities and research programs.

“We are looking after patients that are sicker than before and we are dealing with more complex issues than before,” said vice-president of patient experience Matthew Morgan. “We’ve had to begin modernizing our building to deal with the volume and complexities of our population.”

Mount Sinai is one of many hospitals planning for the future and putting generous donations to good use. Recently, I wrote about another amazing hospital donation—a $20 million gift from the Dalio Foundation to the New York Presbyterian Hospital and the Weill Cornell Medical College. In that case, the money will be used to launch a brand new cardiovascular center.

Despite the fact that times have been hard on hospitals in recent years, it’s good to see that at least a handful are able to put money to good use and create better and more innovative care facilities.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Why I Love Writing, and How You Can, Too

I love writing. From a very young age, I’ve enjoyed the simple practice of putting pen (or pencil) to paper and just letting my thoughts flow. The first time I can really remember writing was in third grade, when my teacher would put daily writing prompts up on the board for us to complete. They would usually be something like this (with my answers looking something like this):

“I opened the box, and inside I saw…” 
(a giant, hairy spider)
“My favorite thing is… because…”  
(my dog, Tequila because she likes to snuggle and loves me a lot)
“The door opened, and in walked…” 
(my dad. He just came home from a business trip and brought me a new necklace!)

We always started out the day with about ten minutes to complete our journal entries, and each week our teacher would collect and review our notebooks. This simple activity is something I now believe to be a genius idea. Not only did it promote creativity, but it also made writing an informal event that we all got used to. Plus, when she would review the notebooks, she’d gently correct grammar and spelling and always wrote comments at the end. She connected with us. When my dad came for back to school night, I got to write him a note, and he wrote me one back. It’s one of those memories I will always cherish. Oh, and I still have that notebook.

Writing can help relieve stress, improve mood,
and even physically heal the body.
Image: Shutterstock
When I was in junior high and high school, I mainly wrote for school—both creative and academic pieces. I kept journals on and off (I would love to say that I’m an avid journaler, but I’m really terrible at it). When in college, I wrote poetry and short pieces that really delved deep into my emotional state and helped me reflect on what was happening in my life. When a friend attempted suicide, I wrote about it. When my grandfather died, I wrote about it. When I saw incredible acts of kindness, I wrote about it. When I saw a pretty leaf dancing in the rain, I wrote about it.

The important thing is this: I wrote. And I completely believe that it has helped keep me sane all these years. As I’ve delved deeper into career life, it’s become harder to keep up with personal writing, but whenever I do manage to sit down and write something, it has an incredibly therapeutic effect.

I am a perfectionist by nature, so when I read over my infrequent journal entries, my creative works, and even my third-grade journal, part of me wants to lament over the bad grammar and spelling, the awkwardness of phrasing, the way it just isn't as good as [insert famous writer]. I know that’s an impulse lots of people have—and it’s often what keeps people from writing. But it shouldn’t.

Writing has been linked to a multitude of benefits for both the mind and body. It can promote emotional healing through expression of emotion (rather than bottling it up). You can always talk to paper, even if you can’t talk to a person. It can also improve attitude, especially in people battling potentially terminal diseases like cancer. And attitude, studies have shown, can affect everything from whether you actually get better to how much you enjoy your life.

Writing can also help us remember what we’re thankful for in life. It can get things off our chest before we go to bed for the night—meaning that sleep could be more restful as well. Improved mood, lower stress and depression levels, healing and more have all been linked to expressive writing.

You don’t have to be “good” at writing to love it. You just have to do it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Eating Healthy Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

Fun fact: Junk food is often actually more expensive than healthy food.
Fun fact: Junk food is often actually more expensive than healthy food.
Image: Shutterstock
Our society is being misled, and it’s a tragedy. For years, many people have been under the impression that eating healthy is expensive, and that eating, well, crappy, is cheap. And while, yes, you can buy a fast-food meal for fairly inexpensive, the truth is that eating well isn’t nearly as expensive as it’s often made out to be. In fact, it really doesn’t have to be expensive at all.

In a recent article on the Huffington Post, author Nate Morrow demonstrates beautifully how eating healthier, fresher food is often actually cheaper than eating fast food or junk food. Looking at food from a price-per-serving perspective, Morrow shows us that though junk food has a lower price per calorie ratio, fresh produce still gets you more bang for your buck:


Image: Nate Morrow / Huffington Post
Morrow goes on to provide a sample meal plan that cost him less than $6 per day, about 17% below what than the average American spends on food. And all the food is gloriously healthy, especially compared to Twinkies, Doritos, and fast food meals. Plus, Morrow says, “this daily plan is for a 6-foot, 3-inch, 200 pound man, so I’m not exactly skimping on calories here.”

Indeed, Morrow’s plan provides more food than I could eat (which means leftovers for lunch the next day!). He also provides his full shopping list, complete with the full price for the items, and then broken down by price per serving. Check out his article to see the meal plan and shopping list!

One thing I do want to note is this: choosing to cook healthy food at home does require an investment. Initially, buying the ingredients you need may cost a little bit more, but the overall price is cheaper in the long run. For example, two dozen eggs might cost $4 up front as compared to a $1 serving at the local fast food joint, but you’ll get twelve servings of two eggs as compared to one. That makes the “cheap” fast food three times as expensive overall!

Here in Seattle, I go shopping about once per week, and on average spend $200 per month. I cook nearly all my meals at home, and try to keep them healthy. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive, so let’s stop using that as an excuse not to!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Eyebrows: Not Just a Plucking Ground

Many envy the full eyebrows of stars  like Emma Watson.
Many envy the full eyebrows of stars
like Emma Watson.
Image: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
Have you ever plucked your eyebrows? I know I have, as have many of my (male and female) friends. Women have plucked their brows thin and at the same time envied the full eyebrows of stars like Brooke Shields, Emma Watson, Natalie Portman, and Jessica Alba. Unibrows are typically avoided, lest society judge you (despite the fact that the magnificent Frida Kahlo wore hers proudly).

Over the years, humans have evolved significantly. From apes to modern human beings, our environment has shaped our bodies like any other creature that has adapted to survive. Whereas our Neanderthal ancestors were much hairier and apelike, today we have lost much of that body hair and stockiness.

Our eyebrows, however, have stuck around. Why, when many people simply pluck them out anyway, haven’t our bodies stopped making them? For one thing, they have gotten thinner. However, many scientists believe that eyebrows still provide a unique and needed function: they shield our eyes from sweat, rain, and other hazards.

If we didn’t have eyebrows, our bodies may have developed another method of protection for our eyes. According to Greg Foot of Head Squeeze, that could have included things like giant eyelashes or a much larger forehead that looks a bit like a shelf.

Eyebrows are also one of the most expressive parts of our bodies, allowing us to show others that we are angry, shocked, curious, or otherwise emotionally effected—without saying a word. Check out the Head Squeeze video below to get a complete rundown of eyebrows and why we still need them after all these years.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Heart Disease: The Silent Killer

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the nation. Every year, it claims the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. My grandmother had it—she had at least one heart attack, a stroke, and open-heart surgery. My mother hasn’t shown any sign of it yet, but it’s something I think about all the time. I have a heart murmer, which thus far has been deemed to be harmless, but it’s still a concern at the back of my mind. What if? It’s a scary thought.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
It's known as the "Silent Killer."
Image: Shutterstock
So, if there’s one medical research venture I feel connected to, it’s that. Not just how to better treat heart disease, but also how to prevent it. Luckily, I’m not alone in supporting the cause. Recently the Dalio Foundation gifted $20 million to the New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College. The two groups plan on using that money to launce the Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging, which will “combine research, clinical care, and education to uncover new answers about preventing heart disease.”

According to the press release, a focus will be placed on preventing heart disease specifically in at-risk individuals like my mother and me. And because the new institute has such generous seed money, its methods and tools will be state-of-the-art and future focused.

According to researchers, there is something called the venerable plaque, which is “the specific coronary lesion that is responsible for a future heart attack or sudden cardiac death.” Unfortunately, it has proven difficult to identify—which is why the Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging will focus on it. Dr. James K. Min calls the venerable plaque the “holy grail in the diagnostic work-up of individuals with suspected coronary artery disease.”

One of the most upsetting facts about heart disease is that more than half the people who die from sudden heart attacks, strokes, or cardiac death don’t even know that they are at risk. Underlying heart conditions can often be missed and therefore go untreated. Hopefully, this new institute be able to develop new ways to identify these individuals and get them the treatment they need to lead a happy, healthy life.

The New York Presbyterian Hospital “provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventative care in all areas of medicine,” and has six locations across New York. Some of the newest members of its board of trustees are Alex Navab, Dr. Robert J. Min, Ogden Phipps, and Lenard B. Tessler.

Weill Cornell Medical College was founded in 1898 and has been affiliated with NYP since 1927. It’s one of the top medical and clinical research facilities in the nation. Its board of overseers is headed by Sanford I. Weill, Antonio M. Gotto, Robert Appel, Jeffrey Feil, Barbara Friedman, and Arthru J. Mahon.

If you had $20 million to donate to medical research, which cause would you donate to?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Truth About Posture

Good posture can make you feel
happier and more productive.
Image: Shutterstock
As much as I hate to admit it, good posture is really important. I’ve slouched over since I can remember, and now that I’m getting older, I’m regretting that I didn’t try harder to sit up straight when I was a kid. My body is so used to slouching that my shoulders are actually rotated forward and are extremely inflexible. They are the bane of my existence during yoga.

But having good posture affects a lot of things for the better. Not only does it inform the way others see us, there’s also evidence that it can also affect our mood and productivity levels. An experiment conducted by Erik Peper, a Dutch behavioral scientist and professor, showed that when students sat up straight, positive memories and thoughts came to mind more easily.

Peper has conducted several experiments on walking and sitting up straight, as well as other types of body language. His experiments’ outcomes have led him to the conclusion that energy and mood are elevated when you sit up straight versus slouching down. It’s the same concept of power dressing, or of smiling even when you don’t feel like it (which often results in you being more cheerful).

Scientists call this kind of body-to-mind influence “embodiment,” and its effects are real. “As soon as we are born, we begin developing rich neural pathways between the behavior or smiling and positive emotion and memories of positive emotion,” says Dana Carney of UC Berkely. Our brains know that those body movements are associated with certain emotions, and thus when we carry them out, it helps our minds respond that way.

I’m not saying that you’ll feel a jolt of happiness as soon as you sit up straight, but rather that you might find it easier to be cheerful by doing so. It’s all about the potential.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Clean 15 (Infographic)

Last week, I created an infographic to help me (and you all) remember which foods to ALWAYS buy organic--AKA "The Dirty Dozen." Those twelve foods were determined by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to be the most likely to be contaminated with pesticides if not purchased organic.

This week, I'm doing a follow up! The EWG also created a list of the 15 foods least likely to be contaminated by pesticides if purchased non-organic. They are called "The Clean 15" (duh) and for those of us on a budget, it's great to feel confident that these foods can be purchased non-organic without having to worry about poisoning our bodies with pesticides.

So, without further ado, here are the Clean 15, as determined by the EWG:

The Clean 15
The Clean 15
I created the infographic below using a tool called easel.ly. Let me know what you think--do you like having a visual reminder of things like this? Did you like this week's or last week's better? Should I continue making fun infographics from time to time? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

5 Natural Remedies for Low Energy

You all know (or should know) by now that I love my coffee. It wasn’t all that long ago that I was an only tea kind of girl. But I suppose that the passing of time and the entering of adulthood—AKA bills-to-pay time—is what got me started on regular old Joe. Coffee is incredibly cheap when Starbucks isn’t your lifeline, and when made right, coffee has a rich flavor like nothing else.

But some mornings, I just don’t feel like coffee. Maybe I want a cup of tea instead, or maybe I just want to enjoy my breakfast with a glass of water or milk. It always sounds like a great idea until, 45 minutes later, I’m still not awake (but of course, I’m at work). I wouldn’t say I’m completely dependent on coffee to wake up every morning, but when I get less than nine hours of sleep, I certainly am.

I still want to have those coffee-free mornings, though, so that got me to thinking—What can I do to naturally energize myself when I don’t drink coffee? Or, for those times when despite the coffee, I’m still low energy. Here’s what I found out:

Light—I know light is definitely not the first thing I want to see in the mornings, but it’s one of the best natural ways to wake up. Opening blinds or getting a quick breath of fresh air can really help wake you up.

Morning yoga
—Take just a few minutes to stretch your muscles and get the blood flowing. There are some great morning yoga poses that will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to go, like these:
Get your protein in—Eating a breakfast rich in protein will help your brain cells function properly, meaning it’ll help wake you up and suppress cravings for, I don’t know, cupcakes, throughout the day.

H2O for the win—Drink lots of water to stay hydrated during the day. Skimping on water dehydrates your body and brain, and can make you feel drowsy as well. If you start feeling sleepy, drink a glass of water to see if it helps.

Get out of bed at the first alarm
—I am so bad at this one, but I’m trying to get better. I currently have a first alarm set with a second that goes off fifteen minutes later. The original idea was that if I accidentally fell back asleep, I’d have that second alarm ready to wake me up. Unfortunately, it’s become more of a regularity for me to just doze off right after Alarm #1—and even though those extra few minutes sound so appealing at the time, it actually leaves me feeling more tired when I finally do get up.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Dirty Dozen (Infographic)

A while back, I posted an article talking about 5 common healthy eating fallacies. In it, I mentioned the studies done by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that have shown which foods are most and least likely to be contaminated by pesticides if purchased non-organic. The "Dirty Dozen" are the foods that you should, if at all possible, purchase organic, as some are almost always contaminated with trace amounts of pesticides.

Will you die or get sick if your produce is contaminated? Most likely not, but a buildup of chemicals like pesticides can cause problems if they build up. My brother recently decided to go vegan, and my dad told me he has a list of the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean 15" posted on his fridge as a reminder of which foods should be purchased organic and non-organic. I thought that was a great idea--since I can never remember when I'm at the store or listing groceries--and I decided to go ahead and create my own.

Here are the "Dirty Dozen" as listed by the 2013 EWG report, created using easel.ly. I hope you find this as useful as I do, and that you pass it on to anyone else who might as well!



All images are from Shutterstock.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

5 Quick and Healthy Breakfasts

Overnight apple cinnamon oats are a quick and healthy breakfast.
Image: Shutterstock
I… have a problem. I love breakfast. I know what you’re thinking—that doesn’t sound like a problem to me! It’s not the loving breakfast part that’s the issue, though. It’s the fact that I tend to spend way too much time preparing it in the morning. On Saturdays and Sundays, that’s no big deal—but during the week when I have a bus to catch and work to get to… moving slowly in the mornings isn’t really an option unless I want to get up earlier.

And I hate getting up earlier than I have to.

This leaves me with two options: constantly being rushed because by the time I finish my breakfast I have ten minutes to get out the door; or, finding a healthy, delicious, and fast way to enjoy the first meal of my day. Since I’m not a fan of rushing around in the morning, the latter option is the clear choice. So, what can you eat instead of cereal for a quick yet healthy breakfast? Check out some of these tasty options I’ve discovered:
Mix up a protein smoothie for breakfast.
Image: Shutterstock
  1. Peanut Butter and Fruit Wraps—Can you say “yum?”  I love that this breakfast is also low in carbs. Just spread on some peanut butter, add sliced fruit of your choice and voila! My favorite fruits to use include strawberries and grapes. Pears or apples would be a great choice, too!
  2. Protein Smoothies—the options here are endless! Try frozen cherries, kiwi, orange juice, cocout water, agave nectar, vanilla protein powder and ice cubes for a “Cherry Bomb” packed with protein.
  3. Yogurt Parfait—Mix up some plain Greek yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, and a tiny bit of honey for a sweet and delicious breakfast. Plus, the Greek yogurt and granola should provide enough substance to tide you over much longer than a silly old bowl of cereal would!
  4. Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oats—Ditch the rolled oats for the much more complex and healthier version—steel-cut oats. They take longer to prepare, but if you bring them up to boiling the night before and then store them in the fridge overnight, they’ll take just ten minutes to finish cooking in the morning. Or, you can simply throw some apples, cinnamon, oats, and water in the slow cooker and wake up with your house smelling of apple pie and breakfast ready to go!
  5. Banana-Coffee Smoothie—OK, I know this last one sounds a little odd, but I promise, it’s delicious (as long as you like bananas and coffee). Cold brew coffee overnight, and in the morning toss the coffee, half a banana, some protein powder (vanilla or chocolate, preferably), and ice into the blender. Once it’s all blended, you’ll have an amazing smoothie that gives you your morning dose of caffeine and some protein to get through the morning. Supplement with a piece of whole-grain toast topped with a fried egg if it doesn’t feel like enough.
I hope that, with these options, a quick breakfast doesn’t have to mean a bowl of cereal any longer. I love my cereal, but unfortunately it just doesn’t give me the protein and nutrients I need to start my day off right. Options like these allow me to eat healthy on the weekdays as well as the weekends, no matter if I have five minutes or an hour. I hope they’ll allow you all to do the same!

Please share with me any other quick and healthy breakfasts you’ve discovered over the years—I’d love to add some new recipes to my morning routine!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

4 Healthy Travel Snacks

A no-frills latte and a banana is a good travel snack.
A no-frills latte and a banana is a good travel snack.
Image: Shutterstock
When I was in college, I often used to drive home for the weekend or for a holiday. It wasn’t a short drive—five and a half hours or so—and no matter what, I’d always end up getting hungry sometime during the trip. There’s nothing worse than stopping at a gas station when you’re starving—and trying to find something to snack on that will fill you up and won’t make you feel sick.

Now that I’m a little further from home, I usually take those trips on a plane—but even though the flight time isn’t very long, all that waiting around at the airport has a way of making me hungry.

The fast food, Cinnabon shops, sweet espresso drinks, and pastries are the most tempting options when I’m looking for a snack. But (sigh) time has taught me that those things a) will give me a tummy ache and b) will fill me up for about thirty minutes until the sugar burns out. Luckily, though, I’ve also learned over time that there are several easy and healthy snacks that make great roadtrip and airport food. Next time you’ve got the travel munchies, snack on one of these:

Greek yogurt and a banana 


Don’t hesitate to get full-fat Greek yogurt—it’ll actually help keep you filled up longer. Just watch out for the amount of sugar in it. I recommend getting plain yogurt and adding a banana, as the banana will both sweeten the yogurt and will give you a helpful boost in potassium and other vitamins. You can usually find both items in convenience stores and airport kiosks.
Cranberry Almond + Antioxidants
Try a KIND bar to tide you over.

KIND bars (or other healthy snack bars)


Filled to the brim with nuts, grains, and bits of sweetness (chocolate, coconut, and more), this is a granola bar with some major POWER! Plus, it’s easy to pack ahead of time and stow in a carry-on bag or in your car’s center console.

Chocolate milk


Delicious and nutritious (but it doesn’t taste like chicken)! Snag a carton or bottle of chocolate milk to load up on calcium and protein. It’ll give you a good boost in energy but isn’t pure sugar—so you won’t just crash half an hour later.

Latte and a banana


Coffee contains caffeine, which is very effective at tiding you over until real food. Skip the sugary syrup and get a plain latte (12 oz), pairing it with a banana or other fruit.

What do you like to snack on when traveling? The holidays are approaching, and I’d love to hear some more ideas for how to keep energy up during long trips!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

CrossFit Risks and Rewards

If you’ve been into the workout scene at all for the last decade, you have probably at least heard the word “CrossFit.” Maybe you’ve seen the increasingly popular CrossFit gyms that have been popping up like daisies in the past few years. If you’re brave, maybe you’ve even tried it.

CrossFit has been around for a while now, but in the past few years it’s become one of the most popular workout programs. There can be no question that CrossFit will, in fact, get you fit—but like any workout routine, there are some things you should know about CrossFit before you jump on the bandwagon.

Know the facts before deciding if CrossFit is right for you.
Image: Shutterstock
First off, CrossFit is intense. Like, really intense. The CrossFit method works to improve muscle strength, cardio endurance, and flexibility through a mix of aerobics, body weight exercises, and Olympic weight lifting. Classes are usually an hour long and include a warm-up, a skill-development segment, a workout of the day (WOD), and group stretching at the end.

There are some really great benefits of CrossFit. First, it provides a full focus on safe and effective movements, fitness, and eating right. Second, one of its goals is to prepare trainees for “any physical contingency—not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable.” Third, CrossFit classes provide trainees with a community. It connects people to each other as they push themselves toward a new level of fitness, and that’s a powerful thing.

But due to the sheer intensity of CrossFit, there are also a few things to consider before diving in. WODs are timed, and your job is to complete a list or circuit of exercises within an allotted amount of time. Rest is minimal, so you’ll get tired. As you attend more classes, the goal is to improve upon your previous times and scores, so it’s a constant race against time. Like any workout, your body will begin to fatigue, especially the muscles you’re using the most. And that means your form will deteriorate as well.

Good form is essential for avoiding injury, especially when dealing with intense workouts. Bad form is the reason so many people end up injured practicing Zumba—they’re not doing the movements correctly, and so they end up hurting themselves by straining muscles and twisting in odd ways. The same concept applies to CrossFit, so focusing on good form is a must.

Another downside of CrossFit is that because it is such an intense workout, it is more difficult for beginners to get involved in. If you’ve never weight trained before, you may not even be able to do many of the movements at the beginning. Once you build some muscle, though, that will change. Whether you want to use CrossFit to gain those beginning muscles, though, is up to you.

CrossFit is a powerful program that can take your fitness to a new level—just be sure you understand the risks and are willing to take them before you commit.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Seasonal Allergies? Try a Bit O’ Honey

Try local honey to prevent seasonal allergies.
Image: Shutterstock
The other day, I was on the bus with a man who had the sniffles and sneezes—seasonal allergies. As is usual, everyone just stayed quiet and minded their own business, some perhaps being annoyed at and others feeling sorry for the man. All except one woman, who looked up from her seat and very frankly said, “Have you tried seasonal honey?” The man looked a bit blankly at her, and she clarified. “Seasonal allergies, right?” He nodded. “Try local honey. It’ll help.”
The guy thanked her, and a few stops later she got off, leaving her little bit of wisdom behind. I had never thought about it before, but it completely makes sense that a local product like honey would help with seasonal allergies. Here’s why:

Seasonal allergies are dependent on your environment—if you’re allergic to something that exists in your environment, then you’ll suffer from allergies. Unless you move away from that allergen, you won’t escape it. But you can help your body deal with it. Sure, seasonal allergy medicines will help suppress allergies after they begin, but they won’t usually help prevent them.

Honey bees collect pollen from local plants, carrying it back to the hive and transforming it into honey. Honey that is collected locally and packaged raw will still contain traces of the pollen collected by the honey bees. The belief is that ingesting that honey will trigger your body’s immune response because of the pollen still present. Like when you get a vaccine, though, the amounts are so low and weak that your immune system can begin desensitizing itself.

Honey probably won’t work as a cure, but it’s likely that it can lessen the severity of your seasonal allergies if you eat one or two tablespoons per day for three months prior to the allergy season peak. Plus, who doesn’t like a bit of honey? Just be sure that it’s local, raw, and organic.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How to Buy Running Shoes

Finding the right running shoes for you will be well worth your time.
Finding the right running shoes for you will be well worth your time.
Image: Shutterstock
On Saturday, I got motivated and went for my first run in several months. It felt great—I love the cool, crisp fall air on my face, and living in a place where I can run near the water makes it all the better. Of course, my legs are still trying to figure out how they feel about the whole situation. My ankles and glutes are doing their best to remind me that my body’s just not used to running anymore. I’ll have to work back up to it.

Saturday’s “run” was actually a combination of jogging and walking; I could have pushed myself harder, but then my legs would have been completely useless for a few days instead of just a little sore. I have to be particularly careful because I use minimalist running shoes, which tend to work your ankle and calf muscles harder than regular running shoes. I love them, but they’re certainly not for everyone.

Choosing the right running shoes for you can be incredibly frustrating. How do you know whether you want toe shoes, minimalist, Nike Air, Adidas, Puma, Reebok, New Balance… if you’re like me at all, you want something that looks stylish but that will give your feet and legs support where it’s needed. Here are some tips for choosing your next pair of running shoes:
New Balance Minimus
These are my running shoes (well, when they were new):
New Balance Minimus
  1. Go to a specialty store. Sure, that shoe outlet store may have ALL the brands, but their staff simply won’t be up to par with smaller stores. Have you ever noticed that stores like REI and Nike have clerks who can tell you exactly what will be good for your needs? This extra insight can really make the job of choosing a lot easier.
  2. Don’t just try them on; take them for a spin. When you try on a shoe that you think might work, take a stroll around the store to make sure it doesn’t rub in strange ways or start to hurt after a few steps. Practice a little light jogging inside or outside if they’ll let you.
  3. Softer doesn’t mean safer. In fact, there’s no scientific evidence that proves that shoes with more cushion will prevent injuries. Gimmicks may be eye-catching but they are usually not worth your money. We naturally adjust when running to minimize discomfort, so getting a shoe with thick soles and lots of padding won’t save you from injury. Unless your doctor recommends something like gel inserts or ankle stabilization, you probably don’t need to pay the extra money.
  4. Extras, extras. If you find a shoe you really like, buy an extra pair or two! It may be expensive at the time, but you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble when they release a new model and retire your old one.
  5. Shoes should be snug but comfortable. Getting shoes that are too loose will increase your risk for injury, as it’ll be easier to trip or twist your ankle. Shoes that are too tight, though, will likely irritate your feet as they rub on the sides. Try to get shoes that are about half an inch longer than your foot, and experiment with different widths (Narrow, Medium, Wide) until you find the one that feels the best on your foot.
If all else fails, find a shoe that’s comfortable and that you feel stable in. The most important thing is that your feet are happy during and after your run.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

5 Fall Foods to Add to Your Shopping List

Time for fall foods like apples and pumpkin!
Time for fall foods like apples and pumpkin!
Image: Shutterstock
As I’ve gotten older (and, I hope, a bit wiser), I’ve come to a disheartening conclusion: just like the weather, foods have seasons. While I wish with all my heart that perfectly ripe strawberries were available year round, I now know that they’re not. Growing up, most of my vegetables came from the freezer or a can—not fresh off the produce stand. We’d get some things fresh—lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, apples, oranges—but most of the time the season meant little to what produce we consumed.

My dad’s battle with Meniere’s disease brought to light the insane amounts of sodium and other preservatives often added to canned and prepared food. Since I started cooking for myself, I’ve felt the same battle I’m sure plagued my mother: convenience versus freshness.

Because I’m now trying to buy most of my produce fresh, it means I have to pay more attention to seasons. There’s a reason tomatoes look so wonderful in the summer and so pathetic in January—they’re not in season. Oh, you can find them, but they will likely lack flavor and seem lackluster. Instead of buying wimpy produce when it’s out of season, I adjust my weekly menus to include in-season foods instead.

Eat more kale! It's delicious!
Eat more kale! It's delicious!
Image: Shutterstock
This time of year has so many foods that just feel good for the soul, don’t you think? Here are some foods that are currently in-season that you can center your autumn meals around:
  1. Apples—Make overnight oats with apple, cinnamon, and a dash of brown sugar.
  2. Broccoli—Tis the season for soup! Try something new, like a broccoli apple soup; or a broccoli, lemon, and Parmesan soup.
  3. Kale—I love making kale chips for a healthy snack. Just spread on a baking sheet, spritz with olive oil, and add a bit of salt and pepper. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.
  4. Pumpkin—Last week, I made a pumpkin curry soup similar to this one. Try roasting and pureeing your own pumpkin for an extra-fresh meal!
  5. Sweet Potatoes—try these maple sweet potato pecan burgers—they are DIVINE!
If you absolutely need an ingredient that’s not in season, look for canned or frozen varieties that don’t add a bunch of extras in. I find that Trader Joe’s is a wonderful option for canned tomatoes in the off-season—just get the “no salt added” or “low sodium” varieties. They do add a tiny bit of salt, but not nearly as much as some other brands.

Happy fall, everyone!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Kiss Me, I’m Irish!

Why do we kiss?
Why do we kiss?
Image: Shutterstock
How many times have you heard or seen the phrase, "Kiss me, I'm Irish"? I'm willing to bet it's a fair few times, especially around St. Patrick's Day. I've got a fair amount of Irish heritage, and though I find the phrase cute, I don't particularly want to invite strangers to actually come up and kiss me. That would be weird.

To me, kissing is something special; it's a physical expression of a bond I already feel with another person. It doesn't have to be romantic--I often kiss my family members and pets--but it does have to involve affection.

Kissing is something that most species don’t partake in; humans are among a select few species that “kiss” each other. It’s one of just a handful of cultural practices that you’ll find across the globe, and it’s been around for thousands of years. But what’s so special about kissing, anyway?

Some research suggests it’s about more than just showing affection. According to Live Science, there are a few dominant theories on the importance of kissing.

Some believe that females use(d) kissing as a way to asses potential mates and, well, get rid of all the “duds.” Those who support this theory say it’s possible that pheromones (chemical signals) could be transferred during kissing, passing information on health and immunities. While there is yet to be proof of a human pheromone that would do this, there is some evidence that scent carries information and that women tend to prefer the scent of men whose testosterone levels are high.

This theory is also supported by the fact that women tend to be pickier than men when it comes to choosing a mate. Women take on more biological risk in intimate relationships, which could result in pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood, so it makes sense that there would be built-in biological checkpoints when determining whether or not to take that risk.

Kissing can lead to deeper levels of intimacy, and one theory is that kissing came around for just such a need. There is some evidence that suggests that increased number and quality of kisses leads to higher relationship satisfaction, but not much to suggest that kissing came into existence to push couples to bond intimately and potentially conceive.

What are your feelings on kissing? We’ve all likely experienced the amazing kisses as well as the ones we’d rather not remember. Is a kiss being enjoyable simply a matter of attraction, or is there a biological component to it as well? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Get Friendly With Your Neighbors, Avoid Stroke

Social cohesion may help prevent stroke.
Social cohesion may help prevent stroke.
Image: Shutterstock
A new study published in Social Science & Medicine puts one more item on the list of things that could dictate the state of your health: your neighborly bonds. According to the study, having high neighborhood social cohesion reduces the risk of stroke by a whopping 48%.

Eric Kim, out of the University of Michigan, led the study. He reports that “In our statistical models, this effect was approximately equivalent to people who were current smokers versus never smokers.”

“Our research suggests that perceived neighborhood social cohesion shows a protective effect above and beyond traditional stroke risk factors, psychological factors, and individual-level social engagement,” Kim added.

The study surveyed 6,740 people over the age of 50, asking them questions like “Are your neighbors friendly?” and “Do you feel like you are a part of the community?” After the initial survey, the participants’ health was tracked for the next four years. Two hundred and sixty-five of the 6,740 participants had strokes, and those who were in neighborhoods with the lowest social cohesion were far more at risk. 

“Research in the last three decades has shown that negative neighborhood factors such as neighborhood violence, noise, traffic, low neighborhood socioeconomic status, and poor air quality increase the risk of poor health. Fewer studies have examined the potential protective effect that neighborhood factors can have on health, particularly stroke,” the abstract of the study reads.

So, how about it? Do you get along with your neighbors? Do you even know your neighbors? Could you call on them in an emergency? Would you invite them to a barbecue? Let’s get on with the neighborly love!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

H2O’s the Word

Coffee and I have a love-hate relationship.
Coffee and I have a love-hate relationship.
Image: Shutterstock

I love coffee. I love the taste, the routine… the general feeling of peace as I sip my morning cup of Joe at the kitchen table, the dog leaning against me for warmth and love and the cat curled up on my lap. I love the warmth and the peace of the moments I associate with coffee.

Yet, sometimes I hate coffee--or at least what it does to me. On Starbucks day (my one budgeted coffee purchase day), I have to remind myself to eat because the caffeine and sugar sometimes make me forget. I have to remind myself to drink water because if I don’t, I’ll get to lunchtime feeling jittery and a little sick.

On normal days, I make a concerted effort to drink at least a few glasses of water while at work, but when I have a cup of steaming caramel macchiato or pumpkin spice latte, I tend to just drink that instead. But on other days, I guzzle my water like there’s no tomorrow.

Not everyone is as dedicated a water drinker, though. According to the CDC, only about 22% of Americans consume the recommended 8 cups of water per day or more. Forty-four percent of adults don’t even make it halfway, and about 7% don’t drink any water at all. Instead of hydrating our bodies with the most basic of necessities, we consume coffees, sodas, and juices galore—forgetting that our bodies need water to function correctly.

78% of Americans don't drink the recommended 8 cups of water per day.
78% of Americans don't drink the recommended
8 cups of water per day.
Image: Shutterstock
About a quarter of kids don’t drink plain water throughout their day. One quarter. And, according to the CDC, people who drink fewer than four cups of water per day are also less likely to be moderately physically active. Plus, low water intake was also associated with low fruit and vegetable intake—meaning a less balanced and healthy daily diet. 

Almost every system in our bodies relies on water to function properly. Water is responsible for carrying valuable nutrients to cells, helping to release toxins, lubricating our joints, regulating body temperature, keeping soft tissues moist, protecting vital organs, dissolving minerals, and much more.

So, as I sit here drinking my once-per-week Starbucks, I remind myself that it’s nothing but water for the rest of my workday. My body will thank me for it. Do the same, and yours will, too.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chew On This: Post-Workout Eats

Not only is chocolate milk delicious,
it's also a great post-workout snack!
Image: Shutterstock
We’ve all been there: You’ve just completed an awesome (or grueling) workout. You may be feeling great, but chances are that you’re also feeling completely drained. There’s a reason for that—when we exercise, we exert insane amounts of energy, AKA calories. Workouts drain our bodies of energy, and it’s essential that you help your body recover afterwards. That means eating (or drinking) something that will give you back some of those calories and protein.

But you probably shouldn’t just go eat a doughnut, though it might be tempting. For those of us who have made that mistake, eating heavy or carb-heavy foods post workout can leave you feeling, well, not so great. To feel re-fueled, aim for up to 45 g of carbs and between 6-15 g of protein to help your body build up muscle.

So what foods would those be? Here are some suggestions for ideal noms after you’ve completed your workout:

  1. Dates with peanut butter
  2. Mix it up with some pistachios and raisins.
    Image: Shutterstock
  3. Deviled eggs with hummus & yolk filling and chives on top
  4. Pistachios and raisins
  5. Protein powder juice
  6. Chocolate or Soy milk
  7. Banana with nut butter
  8. Chickpeas with lemon juice
  9. Green smoothie
  10. Pear and peanut/sunflower butter
  11. Apple and string cheese
  12. Avocado and lemon
  13.  Sweet potato with black beans, greek yogurt, or salsa

My personal favorite after a workout is chocolate milk or a Naked juice (they sell mini-bottles of them at Costco now!). Both of these are easy on my stomach after a tough workout, and within just a few minutes of drinking them I can feel my body recovering. Instead of feeling drained and exhausted the rest of the day, instead I feel energized and strong.

What are your favorite post-workout eats? I’d love to hear some more suggestions!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sculpted Arms in 3 Moves

Stop dreaming about sculpted arms and GO GET SOME!
Image: Shutterstock

I’ve always been the girl with the "chicken arms." I’m built long and lanky, so even when I do build muscle, it doesn’t usually look like I have any. When it comes to my arms and upper body strength in general, it’s both hard for me to build that muscle and hard to show it. The process is a slow one, but I think I’m finally building up my arm strength again through my yoga practice.

For those of you who don’t do yoga, though, there are some great moves you can practice a few times a week to help build muscle and tone your arms. If you’re ready to surprise others with your awesome arm strength, try out some of these arm workouts 2-3 times per week.

Plyometric Pushups work a lot like regular pushups. Begin by balancing in a plank position (you can modify by putting your knees on the floor if you are a beginner). Lower your upper body down until your arms are at a 90-degree angle. Note: if your belly touches the ground before then, you may be arching your back and not engaging your core enough. Double check to be sure your back is flat like a tabletop. Once you reach the 90-degree angle, push powerfully back up, rising up onto your fingertips as you reach the top. Do 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps.

No more chicken arms.
Image: Shutterstock
Leg balance, curl, and press. This one takes a lot of core strength, so don’t be discouraged if you find it hard to balance at first. As your core builds up, it will become easier. Hold a pair of light dumbbells at your sides, palms facing your thighs. Lift up one leg so that the thigh is parallel to the floor and the knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. As you balance on one leg, lift the dumbbells first to shoulder height and then straighten your arms above your head. Lower back down to starting position slowly and with control. Complete 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps on each side.

Archer’s Plank. Start in plank position with a dumbbell in the right hand and legs spread to hip-width apart. Begin turning your body so that the right side opens to a side plank. Lift the right arm in towards your chest and then extend it straight up and overhead. Bring the arm back down with control. Complete 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps for each side.

What other arm workouts have worked well for you? I’d love to know. Share in the comments!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fall’s Here… Prepare for Allergies!

This, finally. Well, almost.
Image: Shutterstock

Fall has sauntered into our lives sneakily, and with the weather changes comes another, not so pleasant thing for many: allergies. My body doesn’t seem to be bothered too much by pollen count and potential allergens, but many of my friends and acquaintances would say just the opposite. Changing seasons mean at least a few weeks of sneezy, sniffly doom.

With that in mind, I was intrigued when I saw that there’s actually a report from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) on the worst cities for those who suffer from allergies. And number one on the “2013 Fall Allergy Capitals” report was Wichita, KS.

The report says that global weather conditions could make this fall particularly ragweed-heavy, and that the potential fall storms and tornadoes could also “disperse allergens” and cause more outdoor mold problems. The list of the top 100 allergy capitals took into account pollen levels, OTC and prescription medication usage, and the number or Board Certified allergists for each city.

Wichita had a score or 100, boosting it to first place over last year’s second place. Last year, Louisville, KY, was number one. Check out other top cities on the report this year:
Unfortunately, fall is also a time of high allergies for some.
Image: Shutterstock
  1. Wichita, KS—100.00
  2. Jackson, MS—96.44
  3. Knoxville, TN—94.32
  4. Louisville, KY—89.12
  5. Memphis, TN—88.72
  6. McAllen, TX—88.37
  7. Baton Rouge, LA—87.87
  8. Dayton, OH—86.91
  9. Chattanooga, TNN—85.76
  10. Oklahoma City, OK—85.65
  11. New Orleans, LA—84.54
  12. Madison, WI—83.67
  13. Omaha, NE—82.64
  14. Little Rock, AR—80.02
  15. Tulsa, OK—77.50
  16. Buffalo, NY—77.10
  17. Grand Rapids, MI—76.88
  18. Dallas, TX—76.63
  19. Detroit, MI—76.27
  20. Toledo, OH—75.59
For a look at more of the top 100 cities, check out Allergy Capitals’ interactive map, which helpfully color-codes all of the cities’ regional locations (Midwest, Northeast, South, West), shows last year’s rank, and provides more information on its factor scores. The South and Midwest largely dominate the top of the list, with the West and Northeast bringing up the rear.

Where does your city "fall" on the list? :)
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