Monday, September 03, 2012
What a Little Deep Breathing Can Do for You
Breathing is one of those things your body does that you don't have to think about. But we YOU Docs think you should pay attention to it every now and then, or you'll miss out on some major health benefits, especially for your lungs. That's because deep breathing:
Brings oxygen deeper into your lungs
Moves more nitric oxide (which widens blood vessels) to your lungs, which helps your blood vessels and lungs work better
Removes toxins by getting lymph moving
Here's a quick test: Stop reading, and inhale and exhale normally, looking down as you do. If you don't see your belly moving, your breathing is short and shallow. Now try this:
1. Lie flat on the floor, one hand on your belly, the other on your chest.
2. Inhale deeply and slowly as you count to five. Your belly button should move away from your spine, and your chest should widen and rise slightly as your lungs fill with air.
3. Exhale slowly to a count of seven. Your belly button should pull toward your spine.
4. Let your belly button be your guide. When you deeply inhale, feel your belly button go out as your lungs fully expand with air. When you deeply exhale, feel your belly button suck in as you blow out old air and carbon dioxide.
Take 10 deep breaths like the one you just practiced, morning and night, and take as many as you need when practicing your serve or chasing your dog.
How to Meditate
The goal here is to clear your mind of all thoughts. Yep, all of 'em.
The first step: Silence. Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably without being disturbed.
Step two: Close your eyes. You don't have to do this to meditate -- some people like to focus on an object -- but closing your eyes may help you stay focused, especially when you're just beginning.
To help clear your mind, pick a simple word (om really is a good one) and repeat it to yourself over and over. Slowly -- there's no rush. Savor the word until it fills your mind. Why? Focusing on one word helps keep distracting thoughts -- like your to-do list -- from seeping into your gray matter and stressing you out.
Over time, you'll develop your own personal focus and style of meditating, so try to figure out what works best for you. Remember the objective is to search for a path that gives you comfort and offers an opening that allows you to find deeper meaning in life. So whether you focus on breathing, a prayer, or the inside of your eyelids, try to squirrel away at least 5 minutes of silence every day.
Shhhhhhhhh . . .
Learn More: Sleep
Sleep hygiene refers to a list of recommended behaviors and environmental conditions that can improve the quality of your sleep. Research indicates that 70% to 80% of people with sleep disorders achieve some benefits when practicing good sleep hygiene.
Behaviors to avoid:
Having caffeine after lunch
Having alcohol within 6 hours of bedtime
Watching television right before going to bed
Having a cigarette before bedtime
Going to bed hungry or when you've had a big meal
Going to bed before you are sleepy
Exercising too close to bedtime
Behaviors to adopt:
Using your bedroom only for sleep and sex
Exercising regularly, preferably in the morning or early afternoon
Keeping a regular bedtime and waking time, even on the weekends
Creating a relaxing bedtime routine, such as taking a leisurely stroll, soaking in a tub, listening to soothing music, or massaging your legs or feet before bed
Practicing relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and deep-breathing exercises
Creating a comfortable environment that is conducive to sleep by eliminating uncomfortable bedding, wearing loose clothing, keeping the bedroom temperature slightly cool, and eliminating any bothersome noise or light
Symptoms of Thyroid Problems
Do you know what your thyroid does? Do you know where it is in your body? For many people, the location and purpose of this important little gland, which acts like the throttle for almost all of your body systems, is a mystery. Yet as much as 9% of the population has thyroid problems which can wreak havoc on most of your major internal systems, upsetting your digestive system, interfering with your cardiovascular system, and throwing off your metabolism. Thyroid hormones can affect the function of everything from your heart and lungs to your emotional well-being.
Thyroid Problems Revealed
Your thyroid is an endocrine gland, and the hormones that it produces, thyroxine and triiodothyronine, often referred to collectively as thyroid hormone, help control the pace of all of your physiological body functions. When the thyroid produces too little hormone, things in your body can slow down too much. When it produces too much thyroid hormone, some of your body systems go into overdrive.
Either situation -- too much or too little thyroid hormone -- hurts your health.
Too Much = Hyperthyroid
When the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, it is overactive. The condition is called hyperthyroidism. With hyperthyroidism, all of your major body systems are in overdrive, which can result in a host of unpleasant symptoms, from anxiety to diarrhea. Untreated, an overactive thyroid can eventually lead to congestive heart failure and be fatal.
Too Little = Hypothyroid
When the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone, it is underactive. The condition is called hypothyroidism. In this scenario, all of your major body systems function too slowly, resulting in symptoms ranging from weight gain to depression. Underactive thyroid, when left untreated in extreme cases, can eventually lead to coma and even death.
Do This for 7 Minutes Daily to Get Skinnier
Something as little as this daily 7-minute ritual might help you get skinny.
In a study, dieters who spent about 7 minutes meditating each day experienced far fewer food cravings than their nonmeditating peers. And the meditators were far more likely to resist their cravings.
Mind over Matter
Here's how it all worked: Over a 7-week period, a group of study participants was taught "mindfulness meditation." With this method, they practiced recognizing, accepting, and experiencing their cravings rather than trying to ignore or suppress them. As a result of this meditative practice, people did a better job of holding those cravings off. Researchers think the mindfulness meditation worked better than relying on sheer willpower because the practice helped minimize the frustration and obsessive preoccupation with food triggered by trying, often unsuccessfully, to suppress food cravings. (Find out how yoga helps you avoid overeating.)
Choose Your Method
Mindfulness meditation may not work for everyone. The key is to know what works for you. Maybe losing yourself in a gripping novel helps you resist cravings. Or taking a brisk walk. Or cooking. Or washing dishes. Just keep your chosen tricks handy. And if distraction, avoidance, and willpower fail you, consider giving meditation a try. Here are a few more strategies that can help you resist emptying the cookie jar:
Instead of none, have just one. A single taste may put a craving in its place. Find out why having a little treat may keep you from overindulging.
Instead of tuning in, tune out. With commercials, that is. Discover why muting commercials can help you eat less.
Instead of stress eating, try stress walking. And know what emotions trigger the munchies. Here are some of the mechanisms behind emotional eating.
Instead of eating in front of the telly, eat alone. And savor every bit. Discover why paying attention to your food helps you eat less.
Don't Derail Your Diet, Make a YOU-Turn
You're going to make wrong turns. You're going to turn left at the chili dogs, make a right at the blueberry pie, and occasionally merge onto the interstate of banana-nut pancakes with a side of sausage. Does that mean you should steer into the fatty crevasse of destructive eating? Of course not.
What you're going to do right then -- instead of drop-kicking healthy eating the moment you make one bad choice -- is to confront it.
If you've been in a car with a GPS unit, you know how it works. If you make a mistake, it doesn't tell you that you might as well drive off a cliff because you missed the turn. Instead, all it says, very politely, is this: "At the next available moment, make an authorized U-turn." The GPS recognizes the error matter-of-factly and simply guides you back onto the right road.
When you make a bad choice, repeat the YOU Diet mantra: "At the next available moment, make an authorized YOU-Turn." Get back on the right road.
What kills any regimen of healthy eating isn't the occasional slice of fudge cake or pizza; it's what happens after the initial indulgence. This mantra reminds you that the harm isn't in the mistake; it's in not figuring out how to deal with it.
Not enough? Do a yoga pose. We suggest the downward dog -- balancing your weight on your hands and feet, with your butt hiked toward the ceiling in an inverted V. Not only will it give you a few moments to take deep breaths and remind you of your goals, but it's sort of difficult to eat when you're upside down.
Monday, September 03, 2012
7 Weight Loss Challenges and Tips for Women
Men and women were created equal, but they are different. Especially when it comes to weight loss. Women face some unique challenges in getting the bathroom scale to budge. And these challenges are both medical and emotional in nature. So whether you're trying to lose 5 pounds or 50, its important to understand your weight loss challenges. That way, you'll be armed with weight loss tips (specifically for women) and strategies that can help you break through those obstacles and making slimming down easier.
Obstacle #1: Do you feel stressed?
Almost everyone feels stress at some point in the day. But research shows that women are more prone to feeling stress as they juggle the demands of their work commitments, their family lives, and their social ties. And not only that, but women are also more likely than men to feel guilt when work interrupts their home lives. All of that pressure adds up, sending stress-hormone levels soaring.
The kicker in all of this? Research shows that high levels of a stress hormone called cortisol increases appetite. Uh-oh. And cortisol makes people crave foods high in fat and sugar. Double uh-oh.
The solution: To help keep stress from sabotaging your waistline, one of the best weight loss tips for women is to spend at least a few minutes every day practicing a simple stress reduction strategy. Like one of these:
Walk for 10 minutes. (And walk outside if you can.)
Breathe deeply 10 times.
Tense and then relax each muscle group. (Start at your toes and move up.)
Find a quiet place to meditate for 10 minutes
Obstacle #2: Are you getting enough sleep?
Most people don't get enough sleep. But women have more sleep struggles than men do. In fact, about 70% of women get fewer than 8 hours of sleep per night. Women have more trouble falling and staying asleep, and they also suffer from more daytime sleepiness compared with men. Some of the top factors in women's sleep troubles include work and family stress, health problems, and uncomfortable beds.
All of which can add up to stubborn pounds, because a lack of sleep throws appetite hormones off and stimulates overeating.
The solution: Sleep in. Go to bed early. Makeover your bedroom until it resembles a veritable sleep-fantasy suite. Do whatever you need to do to get the recommended 7 to 8 hours a night. Especially if you're trying to lose weight.
Obstacle #3: Feeling sluggish?
A sluggish thyroid -- also know as an underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism -- is much more likely to develop in women than in men, especially after menopause. And that spells trouble for waistlines. Here's why: In addition to fatigue and sluggishness, an underactive thyroid can also cause weight gain.
The solution: If you have unexplained fatigue and weight gain, have your thyroid levels checked. An autoimmune condition called Hashimoto's disease is a frequent cause of hypothyroidism, and it's more common in women than in men. Another underlying cause of hypothyroidism in women: pregnancy
Obstacle #4: How much muscle do you have?
Blame this one on Mother Nature. Women's bodies are built differently than men's -- women have more fat and less muscle. And less lean body mass means they have lower resting metabolic rates compared with men. Women burn fewer calories on a baseline level. And that smaller body size means women burn fewer calories with the same amount of exercise. And their bodies have evolved to hold on to fat stores better, in order to produce and nourish healthy babies.
The solution: Avoid super-low-calorie diets that'll put you into starvation mode and make it harder for your body to burn calories and lose weight. Eat small meals throughout the day so your metabolism stays fired up. Also, focus more of your workout on strength training -- to help you keep the muscle you have
Obstacle #5: Feeling hormonal?
As women age, estrogen levels drop and metabolism slows down. And, as a result, women lose muscle and gain fat, especially around the abdomen.
The solution: Amp up your activity. Research shows that as women reach the age of menopause, they tend to exercise less. Make it a priority to walk at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week, rain or shine, year in and year out
Obstacle #6: Got a craving for cookies?
Studies suggest that women cave into food cravings more easily than men do. Women are also more likely to eat when they are sad or depressed and, in those moments, tend to reach for comfort foods that are high in fat and sugar. It's a recipe for disaster when it comes to trying to lose weight.
The solution: Relying on sheer willpower to curb cravings may not be the way to go. Instead, research suggests you might be better off using a practice called mindfulness meditation -- where you actually spend time acknowledging the craving. By recognizing, experiencing, and feeling the craving, you may be more likely to resist it than if you'd tried to suppress or ignore it.
Obstacle #7: Feeling bad about yourself?
Those pretty magazines with the skinny models? Get them out of your house. Those TV shows with the preternaturally preserved faces? Turn them off. Those success stories about women who lost 20 pounds in 1 month? Ignore them. Media images of stick-thin women and unrealistic weight loss goals cause many women to become frustrated and give up their own diet and exercise plans when their results don't match up.
The solution: Be kind to yourself, and don't beat yourself up if you have an occasional treat. Give yourself time to see results. If it took 3 years to put those extra pounds on, it's not unreasonable to give yourself 3 years to get them all off. And if you fall off the wagon, don't throw in the towel. Slips are bound to happen occasionally. Feeling guilty about it is only going to make losing weight harder
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