|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
Corrie Pikul (131 posts)
At long last, the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial will take place this Sunday (after being postponed due to August's sudden hurricane). If you can't make it to Washington, D.C., you can tune in to the 9 a.m. tribute on PBS, which will include a dedication address by President Obama as well as words from civil rights leaders. We're taking this opportunity to reflect on one of Oprah's favorite quotes from King: "Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve." This reminds us that as we think about how we'll celebrate the dedication, we could also think about what we'll do for our community for the rest of the day, and the rest of the week, and the rest of the year--how we, too, can serve our way to greatness.
So we called Philip Gehrman, PhD, the clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program at the University of Pennsylvania. "This ultimately comes down to a biological issue," he explained. At night, when we turn off the light to go to bed, we trigger the release of the hormone melatonin, which makes us feel tired and sluggish. As we sleep in a room that stays darker longer in the morning, our melatonin levels stay elevated.
Gehrman says that any external cue that helps synchronize our body clock to the earth's 24-hour cycle is called a "zeitgeber" or "time giver." Bright light is the most powerful zeitgeber because it directly inhibits the release of melatonin. This is why it feels so much easier to get up when the July sun is streaming through your windows.
Gehrman says that the best way to get yourself up and out during the darker months is to create artificial sunlight in your home. "As soon as your feet hit the floor, flip on all the lights and start the day with gusto," says Gehrman. He adds that the blue-green part of the light spectrum in sunlight has the most potent effect on our circadian rhythms, but any standard or energy-efficient light bulb will work as a sufficient cue.
If your partner still needs the dark to sleep, hurry into the bathroom and turn on the overhead light as well as the mirror bulbs -- everything. "The brighter, the better," says Gehrman. Physical activity is another zeitgeber, so doing a few jumping jacks or arm swings will also help get you going (and it will raise your body temperature, decreasing your longing for the blankets you recently gave up). Gehrman says that you can also invest in a dawn simulator that gradually lights your room to full brightness starting about a half hour before you want to get up. "This helps trick the brain into thinking that the sun is coming up," says Gehrman. (The only problem is that it tricks the brains of everyone in the room, so your partner--and maybe even pets--will start to wake up, too.)
I hadn't until recently. The makers of a new web site and app, SlaveryFootprint.org, want to help consumers understand the connection between the stuff we buy and the people who may have been forced to make it against their will. (An estimated 27 million people are working under unfair conditions on almost every continent.) When I took this survey on the site, I learned that electronic devices, including smartphones, are made with a superconductor called coltan, and some coltan is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where forced labor is a huge problem. I was also informed of my “slavery footprint” (think carbon footprint), which is the likelihood that forced labor was involved in making the things I own.
The project was designed by an anti-slavery non-profit called Call + Response in collaboration with the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Justin Dillon, the CEO of Call + Response, says that the intention of the site isn’t to stop people from buying things they need or to boycott manufacturers. “Most big companies probably don’t even realize how they’re connected to forced labor,” he told us. Instead, the campaign was designed to make clear the person-to-person connections within the massively complicated global supply chain.
The hope is that after we get our score, we’ll take action by either talking about this issue with our friends, sending a message to corporations asking them to step up awareness of the issue, and eventually downloading an app that will help us make better decisions while shopping in stores (that app is still being perfected). Instead of making me want to throw up my hands at the injustice of it all, performing these small actions helped me feel like I'm at least doing something--albeit small--to advocate for a more free world.
When it comes to sex, do you think you know everything you need to know? We thought we did, until we took this quiz developed by Salon.com’s relationship columnist, Tracy Clark-Flory (a smart, insightful writer who was recently given her own sex advice column). We were pleasantly surprised to learn the percentage of married adults who are largely satisfied with their sexual partner, but chagrined to hear about the fastest-growing group of people with HIV in the U.S. (find out the answers to both questions by going to Salon.com). This test, which incorporates key knowledge that sex experts think most adults are lacking, will probably take you less time to complete than it takes the average couple to have sex (8 minutes -- and that's the only answer we're giving away).
Well, turns out that we should have trusted our instincts. Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission accused Reebok of deceptive advertising for telling us all that wearing their EasyTone and RunTone shoes would help us stroll our way to a Jennifer Lopez-like backside. As part of a big settlement agreement, Reebok has agreed to pay $25 million in customer refunds. If you already bought a pair of these shoes, or some of the clothes from the Reebok toning apparel collection, you can apply for a refund by going to the FTC web site.
But maybe you've already grown attached to your toning-shoes-that-don't-really-tone. Over the past few years, there have been some who found the “micro-instability” of the shoes to be uncomfortable, and worried that it would lead to injuries. But many others have discovered that while the shoes’ impact on their bottoms have been negligible, they’ve been a boon for their feet. And earlier this summer, we interviewed a podiatrist who said that while she couldn’t vouch for the the slimming powers of toning shoes, she did think they were more supportive than typical flip flops. Reebok hasn't been asked to recall the shoes; they're just required to adjust their advertising claims.
if you like the feel or the looks, you can still buy them. Just know that the only way they'll help your physique is if you wear them while working out your lower body.
Here are a few things that really will help you shape up below the waist:
Bottom push-ups, single-leg circles and other exercises from a personal trainer
Lunges for your legs
The fencing workout that helped one reader take an inch off her tush
The cover story of this week’s New York magazine gets personal with a group of women whose definition of someday is totally outside the norm. They’re older moms who waited to have children, and then were lucky enough that reproductive technology (egg donors, egg freezing, surrogacy) enabled them to become mothers at 49, 50 and 54. Writer Lisa Miller, who had her own baby at age 40, explores why the sight of gray-haired, post-menopausal women chasing toddlers around the playground (or holding a pregnant belly, or breast-feeding, as in the photos that accompany the story) make other people--doctors, younger parents, grandparents, new moms under 50 but still considered to be of "advanced maternal age"--express almost hostile disapproval.
Miller stokes the controversy for the first part of the article, but then suddenly switches tack and presents research that shows that, physical and mental exhaustion aside, there may be advantages to having a baby at the same age one's friends are becoming grandparents. This both-sides-of-the-story method of reporting resonated with me. In complicated dilemmas (and parenthood is full of ethical and emotional quagmires), it’s easy to choose sides, but it’s much harder to show why something could be wrong at the same time that it’s absolutely right. I finished the article feeling just as confused as ever about my own baby dilemma—but also enriched from hearing about the complexity of choices.
Can you have it all?
6 things every new mom needs to know
For some women, being an aunt is better than being a mom
You may have heard about popular bone-building medications like Fosamax, Boniva and Atelvia, and you may have figured that, because they're prescribed to many women with osteoporosis (your mom, your aunt, some of your coworkers), they'll be your back-up plan should you, too, have problems with your bones. But while these bisphosphonates have been shown to be effective in reducing fractures in women with osteoporosis, they’ve also been connected to abnormal fractures in the femur as well as a rare disease in the jaw bone. In response to concern of the long-term safety of bisphosphonates, the F.D.A. recently issued a staff report, and asked two panels to review the drugs and make recommendations. The takeaway is that because these oral medications can be stored in the bones, the F.D.A. said that women can safely stop taking them after five years--and in fact, it might not be a bad idea to do so.
Strong, dense bones could help you avoid this type of medication altogether -- as well as the complicated cautions and advisories. Here are 4 drug-free ways to strengthen your skeleton:
1. Because the rate of fractures increases in those who don't get enough calcium, eat plenty of dairy, spinach, tofu and almonds. Use calcium supplements with Vitamin D to bring you up to a total of 1,000 mg of calcium per day.
2. Make sure your workouts include weight-bearing exercises like strength training, jogging, tennis and hiking (especially with the weight of a pack) stimulate bone growth. (When hitting the trail, avoid these 7 hiking mistakes)
3. Think about also taking up yoga, which improves balance and can increase mineral density in the spine. (Try Dr. Oz's morning yoga routine)
4. Give yourself one more reason to give up cigarettes and boozy nights out: Smoking and heavy drinking increase the risk of osteoporosis.
What one calcium-aholic learned about supplements
How to spot osteoporosis symptoms
More ways to bolster your bones
Turns out, we are so wrong. In an Op-Ed in this Sunday’s New York Times, the food writer Mark Bittman (his How to Cook Everything is one of our go-to cookbooks) made a passionate argument against the idea. (Read the article to see how a typical McDonald’s dinner for a family of four quickly adds up, and to see Bittman’s suggestions for two simple, filling meals that cost half as much). He not only makes the case that homemade dinners can be less expensive than food-on-the-run but he also points out how the addictive power of high-fat, salty foods like burgers and fries (and potato chips) can make non-processed "real food" seem less satisfying.
It quickly becomes clear, though, that what fast food does offer is ...speed. Bittman tries to convince us that cooking at home doesn't necessarily mean a ton of extra time, but, as we already know, it does require us to reallocate our time (by driving to the supermarket instead of the drive-thru, for example) and plan ahead.
It's in the planning and the not-forgetting and the sticking-to-best-intentions where we tend to wilt. Fortunately, there are tools that can help us get into the habit:
Ideas for quick, flavorful, no-cook meals
Free menu web sites to help you figure out what to cook
Meal-plan subscription services that send you a shopping list and instructions
Two Swedish industrial designers had the same dream, but theirs was way more radical. They conceived of a helmet like a car air bag that would be triggered by sensors to inflate during a crash. When not in use (which, if you're lucky, would be pretty much all the time), the helmet would zip into a stylish waterproof collar worn around the neck. (Check out collar styles, read more about how this works and see a crash-test video of the helmet in action by going to the designer's website.) After more than six years of planning and tweaking, Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin have found a way to turn their far-out vision into a safe, futuristic-looking helmet that will sit on—and save—other people's heads.
The international cycling community has been going crazy for this design ever since photos hit the Internet about a year ago. Earlier this month, the Hövding won one of the world's biggest design awards, and now the helmets are available for preorder in Sweden. They're currently priced at 2,998 Swedish kronor, which converts to about $436. That's more than 10 times the price of my helmet. On the other hand, it's 40 to 50 times less than the price of a new car.
An 8-step bike refresher course
Running errands on two wheels
The bike-to-work checklist
What do you think? Do you let helmet-head prevent you from riding your bike? Would you wear an inflatable helmet?
This in-between weather calls for in-between shoes: flats that cover toes but expose ankles and can be worn with or without tights. Unfortunately, those of us who rely upon our podiatrists for style advice know that the prettiest flats don’t often offer enough arch or lateral support. The clunky flats that tend to look more appropriate for clogging than ballet.
After dealing with foot problems for half a decade, I’ve found a few pairs of supportive shoes that won’t make my bad feet worse, yet also won’t age me by 30 years. This fall, I’ll be expanding my safe shoe collection with a pair of moccasins by Dr. Andrew Weil. Yes, that Dr. Weil -- the integrative doctor launched a specialty footwear line last year, and the Discovery moccasins are one of the collection's first closed-toe styles. The podiatrist-designed footbed in these gray suede shoes makes them supportive enough that I don’t need to wear my prescription orthotics (but if I did, the footbed is removable). They have some of the most prominent arches outside of St. Louis, as well as a sturdy rubber sole so I don’t feel like I’m pronating, or rolling my ankles inward (which can happen in flimsy shoes).
Best of all, they have the same slouchy charm of regular moccasins, which means I won't need to make my usual excuses for my supportive shoes (“I’m injured,” “My feet hurt,” “I’m getting old”).