Archive for November, 2013

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GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
Happy Thanksgiving! From Me and My Fairytale Pumpkin

It was spring, the May plant sale at the Rodale Institute, when I came across a pumpkin called the Fairytale Pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata). Of course I had to buy it immediately. I planted it in a bed near my driveway that’s mostly ornamental but had lots of room for pumpkin plants to spread and grow — which they tend to do. This one certainly did. I got five giant pumpkins and this one, which weighs probably 35 pounds, and which by the time you see this blog will be cooked down into pumpkin pie, with the extra frozen for pumpkin stuff all winter long.

I’m not sure yet how I’m going to cut it up — since it seems like I’m going to need a chain saw. Actually, I saw a photo on Facebook posted by a friend I haven’t seen since high school showing the same kind of pumpkin and his “butchering” attempt. He recommended you cut off one slice so that it lays flat and then chisel and mallet away.

So, in keeping with the holiday, here is what I am thankful for: gardening, the Rodale Institute, Facebook friends, nature, my cat named Pumkin (who annoys me most of the time, but who decided to pose next to this pumpkin all on her very own), FAMILY, organic food, all the people in my life who love me and even some of them who don’t, YOU!

Oh, and I am also thankful for the recent news that Bruce Springsteen will be coming out with a new album (featuring Tom Morello) on January 14th, 2014!

Happy Thanksgiving!

For more from Maria Rodale, visit here

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GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
Ways To Volunteer That Really Show Your Thanks
It’s strange how on Thanksgiving we spend so much time thinking about what we are thankful for, only to seemingly forget most of the other 364 days a year.

We feel an overwhelming gratefulness for the blessings of our lives, and if we stayed in tune with that sentiment year round, surely we would all be happier, healthier people.

But how do we remember everything for which we have to be thankful, and how do we put that gratitude to good use?

Remember that whatever you have, many people aren’t as fortunate. As your Thanksgiving weekend winds down, ask yourself, “What am I truly most thankful for, and how can I help someone else achieve that same thing?”

Here are some ideas on how you can give back based on what you are luckiest to have in your life. Maybe by next Thanksgiving you will have given someone else a chance to give thanks too.

If you’re thankful for your…

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Health and Fitness – The Huffington Post
How to Sleep in Heavenly Peace This Holiday Season
From the run up to Thanksgiving right on through New Year’s Day, the things dancing in my head at bedtime are hardly visions of sugar plums. It’s more likely that my sleep will be disturbed by needless worry over my menu selections, or the number of matching cream-colored napkins I have in stock, or fear I’ve left someone off my gift list.

Yes, when it comes to sleep troubles, ’tis the season.

As a sleep researcher and clinician, I am keenly aware that the holiday season is a time when people try to do too much. And that often leads to stress and worry, which can be the enemies of a good night’s sleep. I have spent the last 10 years of my waking life studying sleep, so I’ve developed a few tricks to help manage the episodic bouts of insomnia that are common during the holidays. Following these rules can help you sleep better, brighten your holiday mood and maybe even keep your weight under control.

1. Have a consistent wake-up time.
This is easier said than done during the holidays, as schedules often become erratic and late night-parties make sleeping in a delicious temptation. Don’t surrender to it. When you sleep in, your “sleep drive” is diminished, making it more difficult to fall asleep the coming night. You can think of your sleep drive like a rubber band — to be able to fall asleep deeply and quickly, you want that rubber band to be extra taut. When you sleep in and then try to go to bed at the same time as usual, that rubber band is going to be kind of floppy (i.e., you won’t have accumulated enough sleep drive). So having a consistent wake time will ensure that your sleep drive is high throughout the week. Wake time is the single most important factor that sets our internal biological clocks — scientists have demonstrated that keeping our schedules in sync with our biological clocks is critical to maintaining optimal health. In fact, just recently, research has shown that women who have a consistent wake time have lower body fat. So this tip may come with the collateral benefit of helping avoid those added pounds that are often the companion of holiday indulgence.

2. Exercise and do it outside if you can.
Physical activity and exposure to natural light are good for sleep and good ways to reduce stress and improve mood. Recent research has shown that engaging in regular physical activity improves sleep quality in both healthy sleepers and individuals with insomnia. On the other hand, a 2013 study demonstrated that after a poor night of sleep, participants were much less likely to engage in exercise the next day. Lead author of the study, Dr. Kelly Glazer-Baron, notes that “Consistency is the key. Keep up your exercise over the holidays.” And, of course, a brisk walk after dinner can help neutralize the calories, and possibly the guilt, that came with that second slice of pumpkin pie.

3. Schedule 15 minutes of “worry time” at least one hour before bedtime.
If you allow your mind ample time to think through your to-do list, solve problems and confront worry, it’s less likely these demons will come calling at 3 a.m. Writing these thoughts down can further reduce the likelihood that they will reappear after you return to bed. Scientists have shown that scheduled writing activities can reduce feelings of stress as well as physiological symptoms of stress (e.g., blood pressure, cortisol). Scheduled worry can actually train your brain that the time to worry is over when the time for a restful night of sleep arrives.

4. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
A glass of wine at dinner, a champagne toast at midnight, for many these are cherished holiday traditions. Fine, but don’t overdo it. There are a lot of misconceptions about the effects of alcohol on sleep. Science has shown us that while a “nightcap” can induce sleep onset, as the body metabolizes the alcohol, it ultimately ends up disrupting sleep later in the night. Particularly around the holidays, when there are plenty of opportunities to imbibe, the “nightcap” can become three, four or more “nightcaps.” This can lead to even greater sleep disturbances, not to mention a hangover, which may lead you to want to sleep in and skip exercise. And thus, a vicious cycle begins.

5. Don’t just lie there stewing in the juices of your own worry.
If you can’t fall asleep or wake up and can’t fall back to sleep, get out of bed. Researchers call this technique “stimulus control.” This is another brain-training exercise, one that teaches you to associate the bed with sleep (and sex) and not with worry, frustration and stress. But don’t use this time on stimulating activities like catching up on work, surfing the net or playing that new video game. Instead do something distracting enough to get your mind off your sleeplessness. Strategies that my patients most frequently use are reading, crossword puzzles, sorting socks (seriously), cross-stitch or listening to relaxing music. The idea is to engage in this activity until you feel sleepy again, at which point you return to bed.

Follow these simple rules to help reduce the stress, worry and overindulgence that can rob you of sleep and dampen your holiday spirit. Sleeping in heavenly peace is also a worthy holiday tradition.

Wendy Troxel is a clinical psychologist and behavioral scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology.

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Health and Fitness – The Huffington Post
Thanksgiving For Special Diets: How To Make A Meal Everyone Can Eat
By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer
Published: 11/27/2013 08:44 AM EST on LiveScience

What happens when a vegan, a person on the Paleo diet and a gluten-free eater sit down together to a Thanksgiving dinner?

It sounds like the intro to a joke, but it’s a real conundrum for the many people who have guests and loved ones with multiple dietary restrictions. Though it can be tough to plan a meal in which every guest can eat everything, there are several strategies that can make Turkey Day dining healthy and nutritious for everyone, experts say.

“The biggest thing is just keeping it simple,” said Cassie from (whose last name is Bjork), a registered, licensed dietitian and health coach. “The shorter the ingredient list, the better.”

Creating a meal with lots of side dishes that emphasize fruits and veggies can also make the Thanksgiving menu a crowd-pleaser, Cassie said. [Thanksgiving: 10 Tips for Sticking to Healthy Portions]

Simple meals

Those who follow the Paleo diet typically shun grains, sugars, dairy and processed foods, and instead try to eat foods that ancient hunter-gatherers would have eaten before the agricultural revolution. Those foods usually include fish, wild game and poultry, as well as fruits, vegetables and eggs. (Some on the diet also eat nuts.)

For those folks, simple staples such as green-bean casserole or mashed cauliflower work well. The green beans can be made with a healthy serving of coconut oil and homemade mushroom soup. Turkey is an easy staple that Paleo dieters can enjoy while getting adequate protein and fat, Cassie told LiveScience.

Other dishes can be modified to make them Paleo-friendly. For instance, sweet-potato casserole can be made without the marshmallows and cream.


Many people (including people on the Paleo diet) now follow a gluten-free diet, avoiding any foods that contain the protein gluten.

Still others are struggling with type 2 diabetes and must stick to a low-carb diet as a result.

For all these groups, it’s best to steer clear of white flour as a thickener, but either coconut or almond flour can be used as a substitute.

For dessert, make a coconut-milk, pumpkin custard instead of a pie, she said.

And for those who eat nuts, one option is to make the crust out of nuts, Franziska Spritzler, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator who runs, wrote in an email. Having some unsweetened whipped cream on the side can provide a satisfying, low-carb treat, she said.

Even without the sweet treats, there are plenty of other options on the traditional Thanksgiving table for the carb-conscious.

“Turkey is virtually carb-free and an excellent source of protein,” Spritzler wrote. “Green beans, salad and other low-carb vegetables are important to consume because they provide fiber and phytonutrients (plant nutrients) that have beneficial health effects.”

Side dishes

Vegetarians don’t eat meat or fish, and vegans typically avoid all animal products, but they, too, can enjoy green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and other side dishes.

“The main thing is just keeping your side dishes free of any type of meat,” Cassie said. “For the person who’s not vegetarian, they can get plenty of protein from the turkey.”

Many guests are also happy to bring a dish to share, which can ensure that everyone eats happily, Cassie said.

And before pulling out all the stops in a gluten-free, low-carb, vegan, Paleo Thanksgiving, check in with your guests as well, Spritzler said.

“Some low-carbers may choose to only eat the turkey and vegetables anyway, so it’s a good idea to ask if they’d be interested in low-carb versions of their favorites before preparing them,” Spritzler said.

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitter and Google+. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

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Gratitude to Go

Posted: November 30, 2013 in balance

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GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
Gratitude to Go
Like everyone else I know, I have been so tired — so overworked, overstretched, overextended, overcommitted and overwhelmed, plus being out of commission with a broken wrist — that my first thought about how to celebrate Thanksgiving this year was to have a circle dinner.

That is, a meal consisting of round organic frozen turkey burgers, round organic frozen sweet potato pancakes, tiny round frozen organic peas and that awful canned cranberry sauce of my childhood cut into rounds.

I love the symbolism of a circle supper to celebrate Thanksgiving when we honor the circles of our near and dear and the cycles of our lives, of all life. When we offer gratitude for the cosmic sphere that we live on, which supports and defines our living.

Besides, I thought I would be thankful for not having to cook.


I actually like to cook. And I especially like the ritual of cooking that particular meal together with my sweetie. Cooking for days and eating and overeating and eating leftovers for days. There is no better way to express thankfulness than with somethin’ luv’n from the oven.


I really, really did not feel like cooking this year, what with only one functioning hand. Nor did I want to go to a restaurant for an exorbitantly expensive meal.


I did want to enjoy the traditional once a year menu. I also wanted to ritualize my gratitude, especially during this period of recovery. I wanted to take the time and make the space to honor the cycles and circles of time, of relationship, of spirit.


We ordered Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings and guaranteed leftovers from Boston Market. And the huge amount of money that we saved went to the Philippines so we could share the bounty of our gratitude at the world table and affirm our place in the circle embrace of humanity.

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Health and Fitness – The Huffington Post
Ask Healthy Living: Why Do Sore Muscles Feel Worse On The Second Day?
Welcome to Ask Healthy Living — in which you submit your most burning health questions and we do our best to ask the experts and get back to you. Have a question? Get in touch here and you could appear on Healthy Living!

“Ask Healthy Living” is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical advice.

Why do I sometimes feel more sore, or sore in different muscles, two days after a workout, as opposed to the day right after?

There’s a name for this type of delayed onset muscle soreness, and — surprise! — it’s delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS).

DOMS usually sets in one to three days after your tough workout, but it may persist for up to 10. There are a number of theories as to what’s really going on at the muscular level to create pain so far after the fact, including lactic acid buildup and inflammation, not to mention real damage to muscles and/or tendons. Experts say it’s likely, however, that a combination of two or more of the going theories are probably at work.

One thing seems pretty certain, at least, and that’s that DOMS is likely the result of a specific type of muscle movement or contraction called eccentric muscle contractions, Dr. Steven Stovitz, M.D., MS, associate professor in the department of family medicine and community health and a team physician at the University of Minnesota, writes to HuffPost Healthy Living in an email. Eccentric contractions occur when the muscle is contracting at the same time as it is lengthening, like in the biceps during the downward-moving portion of a curl or in the quads while running down hills, he explains.

Typically, it’s “untrained” muscles that ache days later, says Stovitz, which is why you might be more likely to feel sore the second or third day after a workout you’ve never done before, or why athletes experience DOMS at the beginning of their seasons, says Dr. William Briner, M.D., sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

“A muscle that is to perform excessive work in a concentric fashion (i.e. contracting while shortening) may fatigue and suffer immediate pain that resolves within a day,” says Stovitz. “Also, a muscle that works eccentrically, but has been trained to do so, may also be sore for only a day and not suffer the delayed soreness.” Therefore, your muscles that contracted eccentrically and are the least trained are the ones that are going to chime in a couple of days after the fact.

It’s not all bad news, though: “It’s not like pain in a tendon or a joint,” Briner tells HuffPost Healthy Living. “It may mean you’ve pushed a little harder, but it’s part of the process and it will go away.” You might feel like taking a day off to give those sore muscles a little time to recover, but you don’t have to, unless the pain is limiting your range of motion. In fact, a little light exercise may even help you heal, Men’s Health reported, since exercise boosts blood flow. Massage or some anti-inflammatories can also help.

The best news is that after that first bout of DOMS, “it is likely that you will be better prepared to repeat the exercise without suffering the soreness,” says Stovitz. Stick with that new move or routine, and you’ll eventually be able to do it pain-free — and you’ll likely get stronger in the process.

Have a question? Ask Healthy Living!

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Health and Fitness – The Huffington Post
Let’s Try for ‘No Excuses’ This Holiday Season
Achieving a healthy lifestyle has certainly been a journey for me. Growing up in Texas, where big means BIG, the road to fitness did not come easily for me. Fighting off large portions and trying to stay cool in 100 degree heat was not a motivating environment to keep healthy. Think unlimited soda refills, lunch buffets, four-course Indian meals, all you can eat pizza for $7.99. As a result, food (in large quantities and portions) has always been a part of my life. The key — and the hard part — was gaining control. Seven years ago I made the ultimate decision to change my life and gain the knowledge necessary to propel me into a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Since 2006, I have become certified in indoor cycling, kickboxing and personal training. In 2008, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in clinical nutrition. Armed with the appropriate education in both fields, I embarked on this new path with passion, motivation and excitement. Simultaneously, the digital health space began to grow and primarily through the launch of several smartphone apps that began the “Quantified Self” movement. The ability to track your workouts or calories emerged with such vigor that several applications were born, such as Map my Fitness, My Fitness Pal, Lose It, Endomondo, My Net Diary, GymPact and more! Alongside this trend, there was a shift from working out at a membership type gym towards working out at specialized fitness boutiques. Now you could try a class at any time by just “dropping in.” Everyone wanted to help solve the big problem at hand: obesity.

With the holidays coming up, there are a lot of resources to help you stay on top of your game. Maybe you’ll stick to what works or maybe you’ll try a new product. Whatever approach you decide, here are a few of my tips to help to stay on top of your health:

• Create a fitness goal for yourself — When you know you have something to work towards then it’s easier to stay committed — that’s just human nature. For example, if you choose a race, an obstacle challenge, or even have a personal event to attend, then there’s a motivation for you to stay focused on those sweat sessions.

• Plan ahead for the week — Try to evaluate your schedule at the start of each week so you know exactly when you will work out. Treat your workout like an appointment! If you know that you have a work dinner or a holiday event post work, force yourself to get up in the morning and conquer. There are a variety of virtual workouts one could stream from home. A major fitness trend of 2013 was the functional exercise movement — your workout could just consist of squats, pushups, sit-ups and a cardio movement such as jacks, burpees or skaters. The Nike Training Club (FREE!) app offers 15-, 30- and 45-minute workout routines and they will make you burn those calories. #NoExcuses

• Try new fitness experiences — It seems like a new studio is opening up on a monthly basis. Get your exploration going and try a new class once in a while. Changing it up will also benefit your body. If you typically run, add a yoga session to the mix. Curious about kettle bells? Satisfy the urge!

• Share your workout routine with a friend and have them share theirs with you — Perhaps a new concept that ties fitness, being social, adherence and communication is required (stay tuned!). For now, writing out your routine and sharing it — whether it’s on an email or adding it to your calendar — will help you stay accountable. It will also encourage someone else to hold you accountable. Take it one step further and make that workout social so that you and your friend are sweating together!

Hope you are able to enjoy the holiday season (guilt-free!). If you have a suggestions that have worked, we’d love to hear your comments.

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