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Health (209 posts)
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”).
Somehow I have this idea of myself as someone with a lot of willpower. I think it was those three months or so when I was a vegan. Let me tell you something about being vegan. It’s terrible. All I could think about was cheese. Let me tell you something about soy cheese. It’s terrible.
Anyway, since those days something has happened to my willpower-power. It’s not just food, either. Lately I find I’m having a hard time sticking to a budget, for example, or–here’s a big one–maintaining my temper when my 2-year-old does exasperating 2-year-old things.
Could it be that I’m simply out of practice? That after years of cheese-devouring and budget-ignoring I’ve actually lost my ability to control myself? Actually, yes! This according to psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and science writer John Tierney in their new book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. They recently told NPR’s Audie Cornish that the power to resist temptation, whether that means eschewing dairy from your diet or the word “like” from your speech, is tantamount to what Tierney calls “a muscle that can be strengthened with use.”
Every week or so, we'll be asking one of the Best Life experts for advice on diet and exercise, ways to get better rest and strategies to live a little younger.
If you have a question, send it to us!
Q: Ask Bob Greene's Team: I only have 30 minutes to work out. How should I use them?
We asked Michelle Kennedy, MS, Best Life fitness expert, to give us four examples of 30-minute workouts:
*A CrossFit-type workout: This routine on the Best Life blog, modeled after CrossFit, involves doing a series of intense exercises, like mountain climbers and squats, as fast as you can in a fixed amount of time.
*Half-and-half: 15 minutes of steady-state cardio like running or bicycling, and 15 minutes of strength training exercises that include Bob Greene's Basic Eight moves.
*High-intensity intervals: In short cardio workouts like these, you alternate sprints and recovery for short periods of time.
*Long sprints: Warm up for five minutes, then run, bike, swim or Rollerblade at top speed for 20 minutes, and cool down for another five.
Can you guess what Kennedy recommends as the best workout for those who are pressed for time?
1. Sick person coughs on folder.
2. Healthy person handles same folder.
3. Healthy person touches their face and--bam! Turns into dead man walking.
In a post-bird flu, post-swine flu world, we kind of knew that's how the transmission process works, but seeing Gwyneth keel over made us wonder how we might avoid that fate—or the common cold.
Surface-to-person contagion is technically called fomite transmission, says Anna Bowen, MD, MPH, a medical epidemiologist who works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Generally, germs can live on surfaces for minutes to hours to days, depending on the nature of the germ and the surface." Smooth surfaces transmit viruses better than porous ones.
This is why the CDC is always reminding us to wash our hands. But we wanted to know--is a simple soap-and-water combo better than anti-bacterial gels at protecting us from Voldemort-like viruses?
Those who have spent time in the hospital know that it's nearly impossible to get an uninterrupted night's sleep, due to constant visits by the medical staff. Last week, Theresa Brown, RN, a nurse who admits to waking up patients, wrote an article for The New York Times Well blog explaining why this is so common. For starters, she says that nurses needs to check vital signs, administer antibiotics and have the results of lab tests ready for the doctor's early morning rounds. (In this telling anecdote about a cranky insomniac, an unsteady nighttime urinator and a delusional woman, she shows us how quickly the most organized nurse's plans can go awry.)
Most importantly, Brown acknowledged that a good night's rest is crucial in helping patients recover from whatever it is that landed them in the hospital in the first place. But you don't have to be sick or injured to take advantage of the benefits of sleep. Here are three ways that a dose of zzz's can improve our health:
1. It helps us ward off colds. A 2009 study in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine showed that those who sleep less than seven hours a night have a three times higher risk of getting a cold than if those who sleep more than eight hours. That extra hour or two really matters.
2. It allows our systems to reboot. Sleep replenishes your cells and allows your body to carry out important maintenance duties like strengthening your immune system, balancing your hormones and repairing fatigued muscles.
3. Getting the right amount of sleep may extend your life. A 2008 study in the journal Sleep found that, among elderly women, sleeping between five and nine hours was associated with a lower risk of mortality.
If only we could send sleep as a get-well gift...or at least FedEx ill friends a mug of warm milk.
Like all of us, I've had a couple of rough times in my life—wrong job, wrong city, wrong direction, right guy but...whoops...he's not interested. Unfortunately, I also have a smile addiction. All through these less-than-happy periods, I'd slap on my cheerful face at work and at home. When people asked, I'd said, "Everything's fine. Thanks!" Or "just plugging along!"
The problem with this coping strategy is your day-to-day inner unhappiness quickly becomes the new emotional standard. You wake up unhappy every day but don't realize that you're unhappy because you're so used to it. One time, after listening to me talk on the phone for a while, my friend Elisabeth said, "Gee, you're really having a terrible time." A gong went off in my head. I was having a terrible time. What she had done was connect the dots for me, and the minute she did, I felt a whooshing—almost euphoric—sense of relief.
Now there's a site that will do your emotional charting for you. Moodpanda.com creates time graphs and charts from the "mood" data you insert daily. It may sound a little hokey, but looking at how you're feeling over the long term can be really interesting—and often different than short term. (For instance, this month, I'd probably say I'm "just doing okay," but actually, when you add up emotional scores from all 30 of my days, the consensus is that, surprise, I'm pretty happy!)
The added bonus? The little bits of mood analysis, such as the fact that weekends are universal happiest days of the week, while Wednesday—for some as yet still unknown reason—is the saddest. My advice is to buck the trend and, that day, buy yourself a lunch that ends in mood-lifting chocolate.