Monday, March 25, 2013

Does Your Back Hurt? Try

What's Really Making Your Back Hurt?

6 Myths and Facts about Back Pain

-- Kathy Babcock
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This morning, you probably didn't think twice about slinging a work tote over your shoulder or picking your sneakers up off the floor. But there may come a time when one of those simple motions will trigger a backache bad enough to cause you to call in sick, see a doctor, or at the very least, take a few painkillers. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, four out of five women will develop a back injury at some point in their lives. But with a few simple changes, you can prevent yourself from becoming a statistic. The trick, says Douglas Chang, M.D., chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of California, San DiegoMedical Center, is separating the misconceptions from the facts. We asked Chang and other experts to set the record straight on how to best prevent and heal aches and pains.

MYTH #1 Lifting heavy objects will strain your back.
FACT Most injuries are caused not by what you pick up, but how you do it. The proper form: Squat, keeping your back straight. Grab the object, bring it close to your body, then stand; your thigh and butt muscles should do the lifting.

Just grabbing a pen off the floor? It's still important to be careful, because simply twisting the wrong way can harm your back. "One of the worst moves is bending over to the side while staying seated with your feet planted on the floor," says Rahul Shah, M.D., an orthopedic spine surgeon in Winter Park, Florida. "Twisting your back in two directions at once may strain the disks that cushion your spinal vertebrae." This repetitive trauma builds up over the years and can weaken your spine. "If your back is already vulnerable," says Shah, "the wrong movement could easily trigger an injury."

MYTH #2 Sitting up straight keeps your spine in line.
FACT While your mom was right to stop you from hunching, holding yourself too erectly isn't as good for your back as you think. "It puts a lot of stress on your disks, especially when you do it for long periods of time," says Santhosh Thomas, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and medical director of the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Spine Health in Westlake, Ohio. In fact, researchers at Woodend Hospital in Scotland found that people who sat at a 90-degree angle strained their spines more than those who reclined at 135 degrees.

What's a woman to do? Adjust your posture a few times a day, recommends Shah. "Lean back in your chair with your feet on the ground and make sure there's a slight curve in your lower back." That way, he explains, you'll distribute your body weight more evenly, as your shoulders and upper back muscles will take some of the pressure off your spine. If you often find yourself slouching at your desk at the end of the workday, consider using a cushion to support your lower back and keep your spine in alignment.

What may be even more important than sitting correctly is taking frequent breaks from your desk throughout the day. To boost circulation in your back muscles and lessen fatigue, stand up every half hour and take a five-minute stroll or stretch every hour. Do some of your work while standing up to give your spine a little reprieve. Take a phone call on your feet, or place a report on top of a waist-high filing cabinet so you can stand and read it.

MYTH #3 Most exercise is hard on your back.
FACT Researchers from Samsung Medical Center in Korea found that working out at least three times a week actually reduced the risk for developing chronic back pain by 43 percent. Exercise strengthens your back muscles and increases blood flow to the disks, helping them withstand daily strain. Hitting the gym regularly also keeps your waistline in check, which has a huge payoff for your back: A study in the journal Spine revealed that overweight people were nearly three times as likely to go to the hospital with a back injury than those at a healthy weight. Even as little as 5 or 10 extra pounds can put stress on your spine, increasing your risk of injury. Opt for low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or using the elliptical machine, to strengthen your back without putting excess pressure on your disks or joints.

Still, it's important not to do too much. Overexerting yourself—by lifting too-heavy weights or stretching past the point of comfort—is a surefire way to injure your back. To protect yourself while working out: Warm up with at least 15 minutes of light cardio to increase blood flow to back muscles. Next, observe your form in the mirror when lifting weights. Your back should always be straight, whether you're working your biceps or your legs. Finally, avoid overstretching or bouncing; those movements jar the spine and muscles.

MYTH #4 Back pain is always caused by an injury.
FACT Between juggling a huge work deadline and planning your sister's bridal shower, taking a time-out may seem like a luxury. But when it comes to caring for your back, it's essential. According to a study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, women who feel overwhelmed at home or work are more than twice as likely as their calmer counterparts to have lower back pain. "Mental stress causes the smallest units of the muscle, the fibers, to tighten," says Ulf Lundberg, Ph.D., a professor of biological psychology at Sweden's Stockholm University. Over time, clenched muscle fibers wear down, upping the risk for injury. And to make matters worse, your body's natural response—an increase in muscle tension—can aggravate existing back problems.

So the next time you feel the pressure rising, make a point to work at least half an hour of relaxation into your day no matter how frenzied you feel. A hot bath or shower is one of the best ways to decompress, because heat can relax your back muscle fibers. To boost the benefits even more, use lavender-scented bath beads or soap: In a Japanese study, people who sniffed the calming scent had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Your back already in knots? Get a massage. Find a massage therapist near you through the American Massage TherapyAssociation.

MYTH #5 Alternative treatments don't work.
FACT Nearly one in six Americans has tried some form of alternative therapy to ease an aching back, according to the National Institutes of Health. And for good reason: Studies suggest these treatments may be more effective than conventional physical therapy and medications in some cases. In fact, in a recent German study, half of the lower back patients who received two weekly acupuncture sessions over six months reported a significant reduction in pain. The needles may stimulate the release of pain-relieving brain chemicals, say experts. Find a licensed practitioner from the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Research also shows that seeing a chiropractor may help you feel better faster. These practitioners believe back pain is caused by dislocations in the vertebrae. During an "adjustment," gentle force is applied to your spine to stretch your joints and realign them. To find a licensed chiropractor near you, consult the American Chiropractic Association.

MYTH #6 A super firm mattress is best for your back.
FACT Actually, it might be the source of your pain. Trying to find a back-friendly bed is like playing Goldilocks: A too-soft mattress doesn't offer enough support, while a rock-hard one can increase pressure on the spine. A study in the journal Lancet found that those who snoozed on a medium-firm mattress experienced less back pain—and popped fewer pain relievers—than those who slept on a harder one. Can't afford a brand-new bed? Consider buying a pad such as those from Therapedic (from $30; to cushion an extra-firm mattress. If your bed is too soft, place a bed board, like one by Duro-Med ($35;, beneath the mattress to prevent it from sagging.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Just a Thought....

Improve Your Mood Without Food

Beat Stress, Boredom, and More with These Tips

It’s another crazy day at work. The phone is ringing off the hook, yet another co-worker needs your attention, and your boss is anxious for the report that was due yesterday. So you do what anyone would do in this situation—you grab some chocolate or a bag of chips to help you deal with the stress. But then, instead of feeling better, you just feel guilty on top of it all.

If people only ate when they were genuinely hungry, most of us would never have weight problems. Unfortunately, emotions drive us to eat more often than actual hunger pangs. Whether we feel stress, boredom, loneliness, anger or sadness, we often turn to food to feel better. And while that may work in the short term, soothing yourself with high-calorie, high-fat goodies usually makes you feel worse in the long run—the emotions will still be there, along with ten or twenty extra pounds.

Instead of reaching for food the next time high emotions hit, try these coping ideas. In the end, your mind will feel better by resolving your feelings, and your body will thank you for not filling it with more food than it needs.

All Stressed Out
While it’s tempting to deal with stress by eating, there are many healthier ways to relieve the pressure. Exercise may be the best way to reduce stress levels. Instead of reaching for a snack when you feel ready to explode, take a quick walk outside or better yet, hit the gym for a vigorous workout. Any moderate to intense physical activity willlower your stress levels and help you deal with your problems more effectively. Try running, shadow boxing or even gardening, as many people find working with the earth to be soothing.

By exercising regularly, you can also help prevent stress from building up to unmanageable levels in the first place. Meditation, yoga and visualization will also help you feel calmer and more relaxed.

Bored Out of Your Mind
If your weeknights are filled with TV watching, and every Saturday night brings the same old video and a pizza routine, it’s time to break out of your rut. Many times we eat out of habit without even thinking about what we’re doing, especially when we're mindlessly munching while watching the tube.

If you're eating to prevent boredom, then get off the sofa and try a new activity. Go dancing, bowling or skating for an inexpensive night out that doesn’t revolve around food. Mix up your routine as much as possible—if you usually talk to your friends on the phone, drop by for a face-to-face visit. You can’t eat if your hands are busy, so try painting, knitting or playing an instrument to keep your hands occupied. If you have free time, find an organization that needs volunteers and help out. Many people associate home with food and don’t eat if they’re not in their regular surroundings, so spending time out of the house keeps them from munching.
Continued ›

Sunday, March 17, 2013

just a thought....

The 4 Sneaky Hormones That Are Making You Fat
and How to Stop Them Now
You've tried everything to get to a slim waist and tight
thighs, but nothing works. You watch your friends eat as
much food as you do, and they're skinny as a rail. What gives?
Dr. Steven Sisskind, an M.D. with degrees from Stanford and
Baylor College of Medicine, was urged by his wife Melanie
to share what he had learned about what allows some people
to stay thin without working for it and how you can do it too.
This is it: Most people who struggle with weight have a
hormone imbalance that makes permanent loss almost impossible.
In this video, he explains why you haven't been able to keep
it off for long and a simple step you can take to start
losing naturally and keep it off forever:
See Dr. Sisskind's Video To Learn How...
This free video draws on cutting-edge science and double-blind
studies to show why millions of people have been trying
things that not only DON'T WORK, but CAN'T WORK. 
Learn what these 4 hormones are, and what you can do to bring
them into balance. Dr. Sisskind advocates a NATURAL approach,
too (so no additional testosterone, Hormone Replacement
Therapy, or other short-term solutions that DON'T WORK).


Carbohydrate-Counting Chart for People with Diabetes

A Single-Serving Reference Guide

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
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Carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source. During digestion, sugar (simple carbohydrates) and starches (complex carbohydrates) break down into blood sugar (glucose). If you consume too much carbohydrate-rich food at one time, your blood sugar levels may rise too high, which can be problematic. Monitoring your carbohydrate intake is a key to blood sugar control, as outlined in a plan by your doctor or dietitian.

Carbohydrates are found in lots of different foods. But the healthiest carbohydrate choices include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, and low-fat dairy products. The chart below shows a single serving of carbohydrate-containing foods, which equals 15 grams:

Grains1 Serving = 15 g carbs
Bagel (white or whole wheat)1/2 of a small
Bread (white or whole wheat)1 slice (1 ounce)
Bun (white or whole wheat)1/2 of a small
Crackers, round butter style6
Dry cereal, unsweetened3/4 cup
English muffin1/2 of a small
Hot cereal (oatmeal, grits, etc.)1/2 cup cooked
Macaroni, noodles, pasta or spaghetti1/3 cup cooked
Pancakes and waffles1 (4-inch diameter)
Pizza crust, thin1/8 of a 12-inch pizza
Rice (white or brown)1/3 cup cooked
Beans & Legumes1 Serving = 15 g carbs
Baked beans1/3 cup cooked
Beans (navy, black, pinto, red, etc.)1/2 cup cooked
Lentils1/2 cup cooked
Starchy Vegetables1 Serving = 15 g carbs
Baked potato (regular or sweet)1/2 medium (4 inches long)
Corn1/2 cup cooked
French fries, regular cut10-15 fries
Peas1/2 cup cooked
Winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.)1 cup cooked
Vegetable soup1 cup
Fruits1 Serving = 15 g carbs
Apple1 small
Banana1/2 medium
Blackberries/Blueberries3/4 cup
Canned fruit (in light syrup or juice)1/2 cup
Cantaloupe1 cup cubed
Cherries12 to 15
Grapefruit1/2 large
Grapes17 small
Honeydew melon1 cup
Orange1 small
Peach1 small
Pear1 small
Raspberries1 cup
Strawberries1 1/2 cup whole
Watermelon1 1/4 cup cubed
100% Fruit Juices1 Serving = 15 g carbs
Apple juice1/2 cup
Cranberry juice1/3 cup
Grape juice1/3 cup
Grapefruit juice1/2 cup
Orange juice1/2 cup
Pineapple juice1/2 cup
Dairy Products1 Serving = 15 g carbs
Milk (skim or 1% fat)1 cup
Yogurt (plain, light or sugar-free)1 cup
Sweets & Snacks1 Serving = 15 g carbs
Cookies2 small
Chips0.75 oz
Frozen yogurt, regular1/2 cup
Ice cream (light)1/2 cup
Popcorn (plain or air-popped)3 cups
Pretzels0.75 oz
Pudding (sugar-free)1/2 cup

For more information about eating with Type 2 diabetes, click here.
For more specific information or help, talk to your health care provider. The American Diabetes Association's National Call Center also offers live advice from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday at 1-800-DIABETES or 1-800-342-2383.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”
-Viktor Frankl  Man’s Search for Meanin

Detox...Get The Skinny!!!

Do Detox Diets Work? Are They Safe?

By: DailySpark Blogger
3/8/2013 12:00 PM   :  32 comments   :  37,026 Views
Spring is right around the corner, and as I glance around my home, I see that a thorough cleaning is in order.  Dust bunnies are multiplying under my bed, spider webs are glistening on my chandelier, and a layer of dust has settled on all places too difficult to comfortably reach.

As I strategically plan my upcoming cleaning project, I start to wonder if my body is also in need of a cleaning, so to speak.

Like many of you, I tend to go into hibernation mode during the winter months.  With less daylight hours and physical work to do outside, along with an influx of sugary treats and comfort foods, my body has been insulated by an added layer of fat. I'm surely not alone in feeling this way, judging from the number of questions we field on the site about detox diets this time of year.

While the idea of cleaning out harmful toxins in your body or removing body fat quickly may sound tempting and even beneficial, is a detox the answer?

What is a detox?
Around since the 1970s, the Master Cleanse, also known as the Lemonade Diet, is probably the most popular detox diet.  Followers of this detox spend 10 days drinking a concoction of lemon juice, maple syrup, water and cayenne pepper.  Side effects include tiredness, irritability, hot bowel movements, and headaches, but those are touted as signs of the beneficial detoxification process. Other detox programs can last for several days to weeks and involve drinking little more than fruit and vegetable juices. Still other programs involve drinking water and consuming no food for several days at a time.

But does the body need detoxification?  
If you've been exposed to high amounts of heavy metals, poisons, or radiation, you might require an actual medical detoxification.  However, typical day-to-day living does not bring about a need to detox with concoctions and laxatives.  The body is perfectly capable of cleaning itself.  Think about all your wonderfully complex body systems involved in the removal of toxins: your circulatory (blood) system, respiratory (lungs) system, urinary (kidneys) system, and digestive (liver and intestines) system. It makes no sense that a little lemon juice, vegetable juice, or gut rest is actually going to make a difference in your health.  There are no published, peer-reviewed, or well-designed research studies on detoxing that indicate any health benefit or weight loss.

Detoxing and weight loss
Of course you will usually lose weight when following a detox program.  The diet is very restrictive, and the daily calorie intake is much less than what you would typically consume.  A person could lose several pounds weekly while detoxing.  Some of the weight will be body fat, but most will be water loss and some muscle tissue loss.  Since the detoxer has not learned to change his or her eating habits and food environment, the weight will quickly be regained.  Overall, there is no sustainable benefit—and the loss of muscle mass due to fast weight loss is harmful.

Detoxing and increased energy
Many people who "detox" report a decrease in food cravings, increased energy, and a feeling of overall well-being.  "What’s up with that?" you might be asking.
  • Realize that high-sugar, high-fat foods do increase food cravings--think cookies, pastries, and doughnuts.  These foods lead to surges and rapid drops in blood sugar. Eliminating these foods alone can bring about a decrease in food cravings and improve energy levels.
  • Next, factor in the psychological impact of a detox plan.  If someone has been struggling with food control issues and the food has been winning, sticking to a very restrictive detox plan can give that person the feeling that he or she is once again in control.  Jumping on the scale after a few days and seeing a five-pound weight loss adds to the mental boost.  The mind is very powerful: If you think the treatment will work, it sometimes does. Believing that lemon juice and cayenne pepper are the magic potion for weight loss, energy, and vitality can sometimes make a person feel better.  This is called the placebo effect, and it is why good scientific studies use a double blind control method—neither the subject nor the researcher knows who is receiving the placebo or the actual treatment.
Detoxing dangers
If you're a healthy adult, following a detox program for a few days is probably not going to put you in danger.  However, if you have a medical condition or take certain medications, a detox program could be dangerous or even deadly. If you are determined to give detox a try, talk to your doctor first.

How do I plan to spring clean my body--and how can you do the same?

Think about how you spring clean your house: Do you shove everything under the bed and in closets until winter or pitch it all in the garbage? No way. You roll up your sleeves and put in the work to declutter, clean, and organize. I'm applying the same techniques to my spring cleaning for my body--and so should you. (Not to mention, spring cleaning can also help you burn some additional calories!)

I definitely do not spring clean with a detox!  Instead, I have a simple, 2-step plan that will work for anyone:
  • Step One:  Pitch and purge all those sugar-laden foods that have crept back into your life by using the SparkPeople’s Breaking Your Sugar Addiction Plan:  This 4-week challenge helps stop sugar cravings. 
  • Step Two:  Make over my meals and snacks by giving your body what it really needs each and every day with Super Foods.
So what do you say? Are you ready to spring clean your body the healthy way? 

Just a Thought.....

“One should not wish anyone disagreeable conditions of life; but for him who is involved in them by chance, they are touchstones of characters and of the most decisive value to man.”

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Six-pack ab blast

Six-pack ab blast


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

20 Day Fitness Challenge to Spring into March!

Feel Better and Get Fitter by Spring!

Kathy Babcock

It's almost March, which means we've made it through the worst of winter (knock on wood!). Can you believe that spring is less than a month away? Although the arrival of spring promises warmer weather and better conditions for exercising outdoors, it might also make some of us realize that we hibernated a little too much over the winter. Maybe you skipped a few workouts due to bad weather or the flu, or the winter blues derailed even your best efforts to stay consistent. It can be hard to get active again after a lull in your exercise plan, but it's entirely possible to get back on your feet. And we're here to help you do it!

From tomorrow, March 1st, through March 20th (the official first day of spring!), we're challenging YOU to ''Streak into Spring'' with us. For the next 20 days, make a point to fit at least 10 minutes of exercise into your day, and keep the streak going right up until the end of winter. You can do whatever you'd like—running, walking, strength training moves, intervals, etc. As long as you're moving and getting your heart rate up, anything goes!

The best part? We'll be there to support you along the way. Each day of the challenge, TweetPin, +1 or comment on our Facebook page using the hashtag #streakintospring to stay accountable and let us know how you're doing. Then, we'll serve up tips and encouragement to keep you headed in the right direction! We will also be posting daily on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ to check in with your progress using the same #streakintospring hashtag.

At SparkPeople, we've seen time and time again how our members have made small, consistent actions that snowball into bigger lifestyle changes. We KNOW that making an effort to spend a daily chunk of time on your fitness (even a tiny chunk) will help you revamp your goals and step into spring on a healthier, happier and more energized note! Are you up for the challenge? Let's start streaking!

If you don't use social media, start a SparkStreak and update your SparkPage status or blog every day to keep yourself accountable! 

What do you think? Will you "Streak into Spring" with us?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Just a Thought.....

“Choose which seems best and, in the doing, it will become agreeable and easy.”