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Health (209 posts)
Kids, right? How I wish I felt this way! It is certainly a part of my mothering-a-girl-plan to teach her to feel confident in her own skin. And yet, my excitement about summer plans -- the pool! the beach! the sprinkler! -- is, let's admit it, tempered by my Fear of My Black Suit. You know, that same unassuming black thing I've sequestered myself in since puberty. Usually with a cover-up. And pants. And a portable tent. I'm kidding. (N,o I'm not.)
But you know what? It's National Swimsuit Confidence Week, darn it, and I think we should celebrate. Okay, so it's an ad campaign for Land's End. But it's an ad campaign with a valuable message: Land's End has teamed with the Curvy Girl Guide to encourage women of all sizes to feel confident this summer, and I think it's an idea we can all stand behind. In swimsuits, no less. And let's hear it for these brave ladies who put photos of themselves in their swimsuits online, over at the Curvy Girl site -- and on the Today Show (as pictured). If they can do it, so can we. I mean, I'm totally not going to do that. But public pool... brace yourself. Mama's leaving the cover-up at home. (Or maybe in the car. You know, just in case.)
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Digging through county archives, Holt-Orsted was stunned to learn that as late as the 1980s, industrial waste had been dumped into a landfill near the Holts' well. When the state tested the well in 1988 and found the carcinogen trichloroethylene (TCE), the results were chalked up to an error. In 1991, after further tests, the Holts were told their water was safe to drink. Their well went untested for the next nine years, during which time area white families' water was tested, found to be contaminated, and the families were advised not to drink it. It wasn't until 2000 that the Holts' well was finally tested again and deemed unsafe.
"During my treatment, I thought, 'If I live through this, I'm going to hold someone responsible,'" Holt-Orsted says. While recovering, she spoke to science professors about TCE's structure, met with local officials, and organized town hall forums to galvanize her neighbors.
Fortunately, there's a new product that makes that choice a little less stark. I recently heard about Just Great Stuff organic powdered peanut butter from Betty Lou's, a Oregon-based company that makes healthy snacks. Powdered peanut butter sounds like the kind of thing that would appeal mostly to astronauts and Boy Scouts, and I was initially uninterested--until I heard that it has 93 percent less fat than traditional peanut butter, and that it comes in chocolate flavor (I should admit here that in those moments when I've needed extra, um, inspiration, I've been known to dip spoonfuls of peanut butter into powdered hot chocolate). Two tablespoons of this stuff has only 40 calories and 1 gram of fat (but only 4 grams of protein versus the 8 grams in the same amount of regular peanut butter).
The ingredient list sounded tame enough: peanuts, coconut sugar (from the coconut palm flower), alkalized Dutch cocoa powder, vanilla powder, Stevia extract and sea salt (all organic). To make the peanut butter buttery, the instructions say to mix 2 tablespoons with 1 tablespoon water and stir until smooth (this creates a slightly watery consistency, so I advise starting with a teaspoon of water and adding more to thicken to your taste). With water, what had started as a bitter-tasting, crumbly powder (not the kind of thing you'd eat from the jar) became a chocolately, peanutty, just-slightly-gritty paste that made me think of Nutella's yoga-teaching, NorCal-dwelling cousin. I loved it, both plain as well as spread on bananas and whole-wheat toast, and I imagine it would be great in smoothies, too. Best of all, I found that the act of mixing and stirring broke my peanut butter trance so I didn't eat it in mindless mass quantities. For a classic PBJ sandwich, I'd still opt for the real deal, but this surprisingly tasty alternative allows me to have my peanut butter (in the house), and eat it, too.
Make your own peanut butter
We all have those moments: you finally get through your evening to-do's and gather up your book and blanket and plop down on the couch for a nice relaxing cup of tea, only to realize you've left the cup of tea in the kitchen. So, if you're anything like me, you sit there and gather up your gumption and just try really extra hard to move your tea with your brain. It never works, does it. Nope, not for me either. So you have to gather up all your remaining energy and launch yourself out of the couch and all the way to the kitchen. Stupid brains, why won't you let us be magic?
But what we rarely take a moment to recognize is how amazing, how magical, what an absolute gift from the universe, to be able to (even if begrudgingly) get up and walk and clutch that tea cup. How there are plenty of people who would give anything to be able to move their bodies just by thinking. Like Cathy Hutchinson, who has been completely paralyzed from the neck down for the past 15 years. PBS reports how, thanks to a robot arm, Cathy just served herself a cup of coffee for the first time since becoming paralyzed. That is to say, Cathy moved this robot arm, which is not attached to her body, with her MIND. This is pretty exciting. It's even more exciting if you watch the video, and see the intense look of concentration on Cathy's face as she THINKS the arm into moving. And it's most exciting when you see Cathy's expression after completing the task: relief, pride at a hard-won triumph, and sheer joy. All from a sip of coffee.
Watch The Future of Prosthetics: Mind-Bending Robotic Arms on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.It's a moment that reminds us of our own daily acts of magic. We may not be able to move things with our brains, but there are brains out there that are figuring out how the people who need to, can. And if you ask me, that's pretty magical.
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This doesn't just make us feel tired and distracted--the researchers have found that living against your body clock can also make you gain weight. In a recent paper in Current Biology, Roenneberg estimates that for every hour of social jet lag, the risk of being overweight or obese rises about 33 percent, NPR reports.
Roenneberg's (rather unhelpful) advice is to pay attention to your body clock and get as much sleep as you need. But it's just not practical for most of us to get back on the sun's schedule--even modern farmers probably stay up past dusk to check email, Skype with Mom and watch HBO. We all know that sleeping differently on the weekends than you do during the week does you no favors. The fact that it makes social jet lag worse is one more reason to avoid staying up late on Saturday nights and snoozing on Sundays. By making it a priority to keep a consistent sleep schedule, at least then you'll only be juggling two clocks instead of three.
14 ways to get a good night's sleep
On worthiness: "Because the mighty and the strong don’t hold women in high regard, we feel that we’re not worthy of being held in high regard. So we miss one of the greatest steps a woman can take, which is the chance to be on her own side; to be her own health advocate. You really have to believe you’re worthy. That is the first step."
On fear. "So many of women don’t trust authority. They’re afraid of the mammogram machine. They’re afraid of the Pap smear. But those of us who know must show! Really, it is imperative that we not stop talking. We must not become impatient. And we must not think that we can lecture women into thinking better of themselves and their health. What we do is we love them. A person knows when somebody really cares."
On colds. "I think quite often the mind can heal the body. In fact, if
I’m traveling and in a hotel, and I wake up with a little scratch on my throat,
I get up and begin to shout, “Get out of my body! I don’t need you! Get out!
Get out of my body! Now, now!” Later, I go outside and the maids will
be in the lobby and they look around like, “Who tried to get into that woman’s body?”
It’s funny, of course. But you have to give your body permission to heal itself.
My friend could never have known it at the time, but her advice to follow a purpose-focused life--a message that will be echoed by countless speakers at graduations across the country this month--would turn out to be a scientifically-backed way to protect our brains against the almost-inevitable deterioration and damage of age. In one of the most inspiring things I've read this year, a paper in the Archives of General Psychiatry discusses how a sense of meaning can mitigate the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
As an article in the Atlantic explains, a group of researchers from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago have been following more than 1,400 senior citizens since 1997. Study participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about their purpose in life, and then, after they died (from whatever cause, at whatever time), their brains were analyzed as part of an autopsy. Those who rated high on the "purpose" scale didn't necessarily have healthier brains--many had the same amounts of harmful plaques and "tangles" associated with Alzheimer's and dementia as others at different points on the scale. However, while alive, the living-for-a-reason people showed a 30 percent lower rate of cognitive decline. In other words, they didn't show as many outward signs of the disease. One of the researchers told the Atlantic that she and her team "were surprised at just how 'robustly protective' a strong sense of purpose in life really was." [Read more about the study, and the power of purpose, at Atlantic.com]
As I get older and start to think more about putting one foot in front of the other instead of where I want those footsteps to take me, this research was a reminder of my friend's youthful advice—and it gave me a reason to resume the search for that elusive weasel frolicking in the surf.
Don't hate her, but Aimee Mullins is smart, brave, beautiful, and has really long legs. And she also has short legs. And wooden legs. And cheetah legs. And glass legs. In all, twelve pairs. I know, some ladies have all the luck.
Mullins was born without shinbones and had her legs amputated as a baby. But it is no exaggeration at all to say that this woman has not been slowed down a whit by her so-called disability. If anything, she's been sped up by it, or at least by her amazing bionic legs she used to break world running records at the 1996 Paralympic Games; she's an accomplished athlete, an actress, a model, and an advocate. And in this TED talk, Mullins discusses how her legs give her super powers, how in the world of disability there is room for poetry, room for whimsy, how prosthetics can help a person move on from a disability into becoming the architect of her own identity.
As she said in another one of her TED talks, “Adversity isn’t an obstacle that we need to get around in order to resume living our life. It’s part of our life.” Wise words for all of us, bionic super heroes and boring old biological creatures alike.
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Each nylon duffel has beachy stripes and comes packed with supplies that Thompson, who also had a preventative double mastectomy, deems essential to a comfortable recovery. For example, Thompson explains that after a procedure involving tissue removal, some fluid accumulates at the surgical site, and patients are sent home with special drains they need to tend to. However, Thompson says that most of her patients were so woozy when they heard the instructions that they forgot what they were supposed to do. That's why her bag includes a little drain care kit with specific how-to's--not the sexiest Get Well gift, but one of the most useful, and therefore, one of the most thoughtful. The bag also includes a heart-shaped microbead pillow that women can put under their arms to ease the pressure on their incision, as well as surprises like slipper socks, earplugs (for creating silence in a bustling recovery unit) and high-end face lotion and eye balm. Thompson's company offers other bags designed for the unique needs of patients recovering from brain and gynecological operations and, soon, C-sections. (Fifteen percent of the net profit from each bag Bffl Bag will be donated to a related health charity.)
It will make you feel good to see your VIP (Very Important Patient) using Thompson's road-tested items in the bag during the first days after her surgery...and it will make you feel even better to see her tote the bag to the gym and the beach not too long after that.
Full of monounsaturated fat and antioxidants, avocados can help keep skin looking youthful by reducing inflammation, which damages tissues. They're also high in potassium, a mineral crucial to heart function. Finally, the fat helps your body better absorb vitamins A, D, and E—all key players in glowing skin.