Archive for March, 2012

A Personal Shopper at the Grocery Store

I know how to read a food label, and I make sure to shop the outer aisles of my local grocery store to obtain fresh produce and meats.

(I do boldly go into the middle for my kids’ favorite cereals).

I always take a scribbled note with me on what to buy, but lately I’ve been thinking there must be a better way.

Enter ShopWell 2.0.

This week a free iPhone App went live to so that you can take a personalized, healthy grocery list mobile.

Grocery lists created on the ShopWell website are automatically synced to the app, and foods scanned at the store aisle or in the kitchen pantry can be added right into the lists.

You can now access all the information you need to make informed choices in the store, when you need it most.

I like the way ShopWell highlights specific points on nutrition labels to reveal not only what foods work well for you, but also which ones don’t.

It also recommends consumption frequency with an easy to understand numerical score and a simple color-coded system based on your own pre-specified criteria:

• Green foods are a strong match and are okay to eat in normal portions

• Yellow foods are a medium match, so make sure to read the label carefully

• Red foods are a weak match, so should be occasional treats

“The sheer number of aisles in most grocery stores can be overwhelming for people–let alone how many products are in each one and how much information is included on food packages,” says Marci Harnischfeger MS RD, ShopWell’s in-house Registered Dietitian.

“Add constant shifts in diet trends and the amount of information and advice out there on how and what to eat, and suddenly grocery shopping can be intimidating and confusing.

People want to make good choices for themselves and their families, ShopWell makes it easy to do that.”

Now not only can I have a digitized shopping list on hand, but I really feel like I have the backing of an expert with me while I shop.

Reduce Stress and Win Your Life Back

Whether you are an overworked executive, a fast-moving soccer mom, or an athlete with limited time for cross training, you need to find a way to reduce your stress.

For me, I practice the moving meditation of Tai Chi most every day.

Others successfully use sitting or standing meditations.

Even sitting still for as little as 10 minutes watching your breath may be enough to get the effects of meditation.

Meditation experts Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, recently debunked the 6 reasons why meditation appears to be difficult in a Huffington Post blog.

Below Jeff Cannon, a certified meditation instructor and the author of the fine book The Simple Truth: Meditation for the Modern World, gives his take on stress and provides you with some exercises on how to reduce it:

REDUCE STRESS AND WIN BACK YOUR LIFE

Stress is part of life.

But it does not have to ruin your life.

Let it out.

Release it.

Fill the empty space it leaves with the kind of positive energy that will help you live the life you love living.

The next time you feel your blood pressure jump or your brain starts to spin out of control, hit the pause button, slow the world down, and have it start spinning at your pace.

Here are some easy exercises that can be done anywhere to help you do just that.

Breathe 8-2-8.

I cannot stress enough how beneficial proper breathing is.

If you feel your heart start to race, take three deep breaths into your stomach as you focus you attention on your belly expanding and contracting.

Feel it move against your clothing as you slowly count to eight on each inhale, let your breath settle for a count of two, and then exhale for a count of eight, again letting your breath settle for two before inhaling again.

It will center you and help you regain your mental footing.

Ground yourself in your setting.

Rather than trying to escape, close your eyes and listen to the world around you.

Listen to the hum of the lights, hear the sounds of the people and equipment wherever you are.

Embrace your environment as a reality, but not your reality.

Know that you are separate from it, that the fear and angst it breeds is not something that you need to be a part of.

Relax in the knowledge that when you open your eyes it will all be there, but that it will only touch you if you let it.

You, and only you, have control over how you respond to the world around you.

Learn Your Triggers.

Identify and monitor the triggers that cause you stress.

The next time you feel your stress growing, think about what happened to cause it.

Turn your mind inward and review the emotions that were set off when that trigger was activated.

Try to remember another time in your life when you had the same emotional response.

Remember, the way an event affected you is as much a part of your past as it is your present.

Use that insight to help you separate the present event from past associations to reduce the way you escalate a small event into greater stress.

Own your stress.

Don’t try to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Admit to it and embrace it.

Then let it go with a great big inhale.

Running from a problem only makes it worse, and only prolongs the stress it brings.

Invest in Yourself, Not Derivatives

In the wake of Gary Smith’s resignation as an executive director of Goldman Sachs, I particularly enjoyed an essay entitled “Investing in Ourselves” by spiritual thinker and Tai Chi advocate Arthur Rosenfeld.

Here’s an excerpt from Rosenfeld’s essay, which appears in the March 2012 Issue of Yang-Sheng:

“A bit of meditation, a bit of quiet consideration, and we all come to realize that the things we can’t take with us are not nearly so worthy of our investment—restoring, protecting, maintaining—as is our state of health and our state of mind.

While it makes good sense to be “green” about our important material possessions, it makes even more good sense to make strong efforts to avoid illness and decrepitude—along with depression, frustration, envy, disquiet, alienation, loneliness, and a lack of any sense of unity or belonging—by attending first and foremost to the needs of our body and mind.

Make a little change today.

Choose to work out instead of polish.

Choose to meditate instead of repaint.

Choose to stretch instead of shop.

Make a mind/body practice your focus, thereby maintaining and restoring and protecting not your automobile, but yourself.

Read up on nutrition rather than woodworking, on brain exercises rather than video games.

Redirecting yourself thus, little by little, will set in motion a process that will yield great dividends in your longevity and your ability to enjoy life.

Spread the word.

Share these ideas with a friend.

Every individual who moves from external compulsion to internal awareness, from materialism to spirituality, contributes to much-need global change.

If we all do this, we can truly expect a new economy and a revivified society too.”

Interval training advice from A Woman’s Guide to Muscle and Strength

Some years ago before a meniscus tear curtailed my jogging, my friend Jack and I set out for a run in East Hampton.

Jack, a well-trained triathlete, quickly got ahead of me, so he easily adapted his run into a fartlek, the Swedish term for Speed Play.

He ran hard for a few hundred yards, then jogged the next few hundred as he waited for me to plod along and catch up.

A fartlek is a less structured way of doing interval training.

Interval training involves higher-intensity exercise followed by recovery periods in a very specific time frame.

“The purpose of performing short bouts of high-intensity exercise is to reach overload, or uncomfortable intensity levels, throughout your training routines,” writes personal trainer Irene Lewis-McCormick in her new book A Woman’s Guide to Muscle and Strength.

“Obviously, it would be impossible to exercise at such high intensity levels for an entire 30-minute workout.

This is why there are built-in rest periods – not enough to allow you to fully recover, but enough to challenge you appropriately during these quick-paced, time-efficient workouts.”

In the book, Lewis-McCormick provides examples of work-to-rest ratios, that is, how long you exercise compared to how long you recover.

For example, she provides a sample for a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio:

Treadmill: Alternate 5 minutes of running (at 5 mph, or 8 km/h, or faster) with 5 minutes of walking (at 3.5 to 4 mph, or 5.6 to 6.4 km/h) for a total of 30 to 45 minutes.

Elliptical trainer: Alternate 2 minutes at a high intensity (as hard as you can work while still maintaining good form, posture, and control) with 2 minutes at a moderate intensity for a total of 30 to 45 minutes.

You can change the intervals to suit your needs or how you feel on a particular day.

Perhaps you exercise twice or three times as long as you rest.

Or if you’re not feeling in top shape, switch to twice as much rest as exercise.

“Most important with interval training is to remain consistent,” she writes.

“If you decide to run on the treadmill at a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio, you need to stay true to the intervals and not decide halfway through that you need more time to rest or can wait another minute.

The training benefit comes from the overload that results from the consistency of the ratios.

For example, if you decide that the hard part will take two minutes and your recovery will take one minute, stick with that routine during the entire workout to the best of your ability.”

If you’re more into fartlek sessions, which are designed to break up the monotony of interval training on a track, try these The Top 6 Favourite Fartlek Sessions.

As I recall, Jack and I finished our run, both satisfied with our workouts.

With less cartilage and more arthritis in my right knee, my aerobic training is now limited to the exercycle, where I do 30 minutes of interval training, usually at a 1:1 ratio: after 5 minutes of warm-up at a slow pace, I go hard for 5 minutes, then easy for the next 5, hard for 5, easy for 5, ending with another 5 minutes of cool-down.

“Don’t Hit My Balls” – How Young Male Athletes Can Preserve Their Fertility

“Don’t hit my balls. I want to have kids!”

I heard one of my son’s high school varsity soccer teammates shout this as he took his place in “the wall” to stop an opponent’s free kick at the goal.

At least he knew that testicular trauma could lead to fertility problems.

Most young men don’t know about the effects of damage of the male genitals and possible problems with having a child later in life.

The first installment from the American Fertility Association’s Male Reproductive Health Alliance (MRHA) features Dr. Ajay Nangia, Associate Professor of Urology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, addressing the topic of male fertility and sports activities.

Dr. Nangia notes that blunt trauma, such as being hit by a bat, ball or hockey puck in the genitals without breaking though the skin, accounts for most of the testicular injuries that send young men to the emergency room.

Yet, only about half of the men playing sports wear genital protection, such as a cup, during sports.

Dr. Nangia emphasizes the need for self-examinations for testicular cancer.

He is a big believer in preparticipation physical exams for all young athletes to check for testicular damage and hernias.

And he notes that while Lance Armstrong survived testicular cancer he really waited too long for the diagnosis and that’s why his cancer spread.

“Overall, sporting activities highlight the need to discuss men’s health issues at preparticipation physicals at all levels but also in schools from an early age,” writes Dr. Nangia.

“Sports also highlight the need to re-iterate education and protection of the male genitals during sports.

At present, there is a lack of adequate information provided to young men and also inadequate technology to make such protection comfortable to wear.

More work is needed to educate sports equipment companies and sporting leagues of the importance of this issue.

Great advances have been made with bike seats through better knowledge and health promotion, now it is time to improve other genital protection.

We urge boys and men who participate in sports on a regular basis to help and educate themselves to ensure a successful reproductive life and good long-term men’s health.”

Back to the game: With their hands covering their crotches, the young soccer players sighed in relief as the opponent’s kick went well over their heads, and they turned to play on.