Healthy Byte: Forever Young

oldest-female-bodybuilder-grandma-80-year-old-ernestine-shepherd-2.jpg

Ernestine Shepherd – World’s Oldest Female Body Builder {Gymnast Pic: Johanna Quaas Oldest Competing Gymnast}

I know a young woman who is so closed-minded. She feels put off by anything out of the ordinary: décor that is not her taste, fashion that’s not her taste, relationships that don’t look like her’s, religions that mirror her beliefs, and “foreigners” that don’t look like her. She is forever sneering. And her hostile, judgmental attitude makes her look hard and aged.

I’m also lucky enough to know an elderly woman who truly loves life. She laughs out loud, and hold hands with every person she meets. She has seen a lot in her nearly 90 years, and she’s still as curious as she was in her younger days. She tries new foods, travels to foreign countries, and often spends her days feeding the homeless in their makeshift communities. She asks a lot of questions when in new or uncomfortable situations to help her better understand.  And though, I admit, her face is considerably wrinkled, there is something about her that radiates youthful exuberance and happiness.

Have you ever noticed? … We’re a culture obsessed with shrouding ourselves in the familiar, thinking it will insulate us and keep us safe. But the truth is, insulating ourselves makes us bored at best. Mostly, it makes us fearful and fear makes us old before our time.

Want to know the secret to eternal youth and happiness? Focus on joy. And stay open to new life experiences. Accept others. Be curious. Ask questions. Travel. Meet new people. Allow young people to educate you. Be engaged. Push your own boundaries. Try new things. Listen to new stuff. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

The lifestyle choice is yours.

Focusing on joy makes you radiant and joyful. One study found that those who see aging as an opportunity are more active, social and successful than those who don’t. Additionally, researchers studying longevity say those who feel a sense of purpose and direction in life may live longer. Positive people can expect to live as many as 5 years longer than their grumpy counterparts.

So, if you’re serious about wanting to look and feel young and happy every day of your like, here are five ways to achieve that (no wrinkle-creams or special diets involved!):

1. Think before you speak.

Is what you’re about to say actually true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If you frequently use social media, please check your facts first. Snopes.com is a great way to fact check. Also, remember, not every motivational meme that supports your opinion is actually factual. Dig deeper. Get curious. Dive in and discover new facts.

2. Look for the positive in something you dislike.

Why be all, ‘Damn kids these days!’ just because the latest music or dance craze or humor or hairstyles aren’t the same as yours. Lighten up and open your mind. First, not everything requires your opinion. Second, some of these fads make for a good laugh later in life. Enjoy them. And third, maybe challenge yourself to find something positive in the think that (at first glance) you think you don’t like. There is always something to appreciate if you dig deep enough.

3. Talk to people you normally don’t speak to.

Even the youngest of children can educate you about something. Want a great conversation starter? Ask a young person about their favorite app or video game. You’d be amazed at what you’ll learn. Technology is a great connector among generations.

4. Listen to new music

Valslist.com is a fantastic way to educate yourself about today’s music. Val Holler will guide you to new artists with sounds and vibes similar to your favorite oldie bands. Without a doubt, expanding your taste in music helps keeps you young and relevant.

5. Push your comfort zone. (You’ll survive, I promise.)

Watch a documentary, volunteer for a worthy cause, try a new form of exercise, read a different newspaper, deliberately hang out with people with opposing views. Not a fan of guns? Hire a gun specialist to teach you safe handling and best practices. Not a fan of a political candidate? Have coffee with one of their supporters, leave your opinion at the door, just listen, and see if you can empathize with the opposition’s concerns. Everything is not always about you.

You know, a few years ago, I saw something on TV that had a profound affect on me.

A television reporter interviewed a woman in her 50s at the scene of a riot. The reporter asked her why she was participating in the violence. She shouted with ugly rage, “What I don’t understand makes me angry!”

Wow. Does anyone really want to age and become like that? Shriveled in mindset and spirit?

The secret to everlasting radiance and happiness … is an open, curious mind. Don’t let a “Different is wrong” mindset age you before your time. There is far too much living and laughing to do.

Originally Posted HERE

HB Sig

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Wednesday Wisdom

“I am not a product of my circumstances.

I am a product of my decisions.”

~Stephen Covey

Healthy Byte: Hard Truth About Weight Loss

We’ve been conditioned to think of exercise as a key ingredient — perhaps the most important ingredient — of any weight loss effort.

You know the drill: Join the gym on January 1 if you want to reach your New Year’s weight loss goal.

To learn more about why, I read through more than 60 studies (including high-quality, systematic reviews of all the best-available research) on exercise and weight loss for a recent installment of Show Me the Evidence. Here’s a quick summary of what I learned.

Exercise accounts for a small portion of daily calorie burn

One very underappreciated fact about exercise is that even when you work out, the extra calories you burn only account for a small part of your total energy expenditure.

There are three main components to energy expenditure, obesity researcher Alexxai Kravitz explained: 1) basal metabolic rate, or the energy used for basic functioning when the body is at rest; 2) the energy used to break down food; and 3) the energy used in physical activity.

total energy expenditureJavier Zarracina/Vox

What’s important to absorb is the fact that we have very little control over our basal metabolic rate, but it’s actually our biggest energy hog. “It’s generally accepted that for most people, the basal metabolic rate accounts for 60 to 80 percent of total energy expenditure,” said Kravitz. Digesting food accounts for about 10 percent.

That leaves only 10 to 30 percent for physical activity, of which exercise is only a subset. (Remember, physical activity includes all movement, including walking around, fidgeting, et cetera.)

 The implication here is that while your food intake accounts for 100 percent of the energy that goes into your body, exercise only burns off less than 10 to 30 percent of it. That’s a pretty big discrepancy, and definitely means that erasing all your dietary transgressions at the gym is a lot harder than the peddlers of gym memberships make it seem.

It’s hard to create a significant calorie deficit through exercise

Using the National Institutes of Health’s Body Weight Planner — which gives a more realistic estimation for weight loss than the old 3,500 calorie rule — mathematician and obesity researcher Kevin Hall created this model to show why adding a regular exercise program is unlikely to lead to significant weight loss.

body weight plannerJavier Zarracina/Vox

If a hypothetical 200-pound man added 60 minutes of medium-intensity running four days per week while keeping his calorie intake the same, and he did this for 30 days, he’d lose five pounds. “If this person decided to increase food intake or relax more to recover from the added exercise, then even less weight would be lost,” Hall added. (More on these “compensatory mechanisms” later.)

So if one is overweight or obese, and presumably trying to lose dozens of pounds, it would take an incredible amount of time, will, and effort to make a real impact through exercise alone.

Exercise can undermine weight loss in other, subtle ways

How much we eat is connected to how much we move. When we move more, we sometimes eat more too, or eat less when we’re not exercising.

One 2009 study shows that people seemed to increase their food intake after exercise — either because they thought they burned off a lot of calories or because they were hungrier. Another review of studies from 2012 found that people generally overestimated how much energy exercise burned and ate more when they worked out.

“You work hard on that machine for an hour, and that work can be erased with five minutes of eating afterward,” Hall says. A single slice of pizza, for example, could undo the benefit of an hour’s workout. So could a cafe mocha or an ice cream cone.

There’s also evidence to suggest that some people simply slow down after a workout, using less energy on their non-gym activities. They might decide to lie down for a rest, fidget less because they’re tired, or take the elevator instead of the stairs.

These changes are usually called “compensatory behaviors” — and they simply refer to adjustments we may unconsciously make after working out to offset the calories burned.

We need to reframe how we think about exercise

Obesity doctor Yoni Freedhoff has called for a rebranding of how we think of exercise. Exercise has staggering benefits — it just may not help much in the quest for weight loss:

By preventing cancers, improving blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar, bolstering sleep, attention, energy and mood, and doing so much more, exercise has indisputably proven itself to be the world’s best drug – better than any pharmaceutical product any physician could ever prescribe. Sadly though, exercise is not a weight loss drug, and so long as we continue to push exercise primarily (and sadly sometimes exclusively) in the name of preventing or treating adult or childhood obesity, we’ll also continue to short-change the public about the genuinely incredible health benefits of exercise, and simultaneously misinform them about the realities of long term weight management.

The evidence is now clear: Exercise is excellent for health; it’s just not that important for weight loss. So don’t expect to lose a lot of weight by ramping up physical activity alone.

As a society, we also need to stop treating a lack of exercise and diet as equally responsible for the obesity problem in this country. Public-health obesity policies should prioritize fighting the over-consumption of low-quality food and improving the food environment.

Originally Posted HERE

HB Sig

Healthy Byte: Science’s Formula to Happiness

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Happiness can be fleeting under the best of circumstances. Even people who are basically happy have periods when they’re not, and for those who are prone to depression, it’s always a struggle. The core issue with depression (or one of them) is that it hijacks your urge to want to fix things, which obviously creates a vicious cycle. One strategy that helps with the hijack is to create a little routine that you stick to, and which can become a habit itself, and into which you build other habits (see below for more on this method). And according to science and psychologists, there are other things to do to improve your happiness level, whether you’re depressed or just dealing with “stuff” right now. Here’s what the science tells us we can do to make ourselves a little happier in an ongoing way.

(Note: Meds can be life-changing or life-saving for some people who are depressed, and it’s important to point that out. This article is about other strategies, which you can do with or without meds, and whether you’re depressed or just want to be happier overall.)

Exercise  

Unless you’re one of those people who likes to exercise, you won’t want to hear this, but exercise is well known to help with depression and improve well-being. “Cardiovascular exercise has been shown time and time again to be a wonder drug with regard to overall well-being,” says Ben Michaelis, psychologist and author of the book Your Next Big Thing. It’s actually similar to the efficacy of antidepressants for some types of depression, and this seems to be at least in part due to its neurogenic effects–that is, its capacity to “grow” new neurons in area of the brain known to be affected by depression (and dementia): the hippocampus. In fact, a study last week found that exercise helps release a compound in muscles, cathepsin B, which appears to migrate to the brain’s hippocampus and spark the development of new brain cells. So the exercise effect is not necessarily just about the endorphins from the “runner’s high,” as was once thought, but it’s about other types of changes that occur not only in the chemistry of the brain, but maybe even at a structural level, too.

The things you put in your body

“Avoiding processed sugars has been shown to reduce the likelihood for depression, which is another way of saying it promotes happiness,” says Michaelis. Studies have shown that Western diets in general are associated with prevalence of depression. Others have shown that sugar itself may be linked to depression–and while the mechanisms aren’t totally clear, researchers speculate that the oxidative stress that excess sugar can create may take a toll on the brain. There’s another body of evidence that’s lain out the addictive potential for sugar, which itself can contribute to depression, or at least to unstable mood and cycling ups and downs. And a fast-growing body of evidence has found that our gut microbes seem to affect our mental health in significant ways, and the foods we eat can select for or reduce certain strains of bacteria. More work needs to be done here, but eating a plant-based diet, low in sugar and processed foods may well help promote our mental health.

Make a schedule 

“Having a structured schedule that you set and follow is proven to help depression,” says psychologist Shannon Kolakowski, author of the book When Depression Hurts Your Relationship.“It’s the basis of behavioral activation for depression, an evidence-based treatment for depression.” She adds that creating a routine kills two birds with one stone. The structure of a daily routine that you can stick to is in itself comforting, even therapeutic, when you’re down or depressed. But it also makes getting in all the single elements that we know help depression more likely. “By planning activities that you do even when you don’t feel like it,” says Kolakowski, “it ensures you will get the exercise and social interactions, for example, that are so well known to help with depression.”

Social interaction

This one is fascinating because the research keeps showing that social connection is perhaps the single best thing we can do for our mental health. And it seems to occur at the level of the brain. (It may also be the single best thing we can do for our physical health, so it’s really a win-win.) “We know that a sense of community significantly adds to our happiness and overall mental health,” says Michaelis. We’re social creatures by nature, no matter how much you want time to yourself–there’s a thin line between being self-sufficient and being lonely.

And the catch-22 is that when we’re unhappy or depressed we tend to want to isolate; so forcing yourself to stay connected, especially during tough times, can be hard. Luckily, the effects are generally pretty immediate–most people have experienced that even a 10-minute conversation with someone can make a huge difference when you’re feeling really down. Or it can at least bring out of our heads enough to put things in perspective; and it reminds us that human interaction is a really powerful thing, even in small doses.

Marriage, says Kolakowski, is an extension of this one–at least, a good marriage. “Research shows that having a strong marriage can no doubt help depression,” she says. “But having a relationship that is struggling, unhealthy or lacking in support can unfortunately make depression worse in a cyclical fashion. So it’s important that your social relationships be good ones.”

Getting it out

A lot of people are familiar with the ongoing conversation in their heads (or monologue), which can exist whether you’re depressed or not. But it’s particularly loud when you’re depressed, and it creates a vicious cycle of over-thinking, internalization, and unhappiness (in fact, rumination is one of the hallmarks of depression). But directing those thoughts outward, by either talking to someone you trust or by writing it out in a journal, is a lot more therapeutic than just cycling it around in your head. There’s something about the act of telling that directs and releases it in a fundamentally different way from thinking it.

Therapy, of course, partially falls into this category, with the added benefit of feedback from someone who’s trained in problem-solving. More on this below.

Cognitive behavior therapy

This form of therapy is considered the gold standard for a number of different issues–anxiety, addiction and depression, to name a few. In CBT, the general idea is that you first learn to identify various thought processes as they arise, and just note them. Then for the negative ones (which are often fear-based, and kind of ridiculous–“I can’t do anything right”) you learn to replace them with more positive, and perhaps more logical, ones. Over time and with practice, this process becomes less clunky, and more natural and reflexive. Essentially you’re laying down new tracks of connections in your brain, which can be a lengthy process. But it’s very possible over time. Though CTB has been shown to have significant effects on depression, there are certainly others that can be just as valuable.

Meditation

This is a fascinating practice that, in various iterations, has been around for thousands of years, and the science is just starting to show how it changes the brain over time. Meditation wasn’t exactly developed to improve mental health, but this does seem to be one of its benefits. Studies have shown that eight weeks of meditation training seems to help improve a number of aspects of mental health: One study a couple of years ago from Johns Hopkins found that meditation addressed symptoms of depression and anxiety on the level of antidepressants. Another, out of University of Oxford, found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is as effective as antidepressants at preventing relapse in people with depression. One of the ways in which meditation seems to work for depression is that it reduces activity in the default mode network (DMN), the group of areas that are active when our minds are wandering, and generally associated with negative or stressful thoughts.

A central component of meditation is mindfulness, which is the act of paying attention without judgment to what’s going on at the present time–this trait itself has been linked to mental health. This is because just noting your present experience, rather than editorializing it, helps release some of the charge of those negative thoughts and feelings. Then they lose a little of their power. (You can see the natural overlaps between mindfulness meditation and CBT, which is why MBCT was developed.)

Be easier on yourself

This one is very hard to do without feeling self-indulgent, but self-compassion is actually a really important element to being happier. And it actually affects your connection to yourself and other areas of your life.

“This is a big one that’s counterintuitive when you’re depressed,” says Kolakowski. “Depression makes you beat up on yourself and feel down about three main components, what’s called the Cognitive Triad of Depression: your self, your future and others. Self-compassion helps you approach your self and your future with compassion as opposed to self-criticism. It also helps you to have compassion for others, which in turn helps you feel more connected and hopeful.”

Self-compassion has been shown to be an even better predictor of the severity of one’s symptoms of anxiety and depression (or lack thereof) than being mindful, which is a fairly good predictor in itself. And having compassion for yourself is actually an offshoot of mindfulness: If acceptance without judgment is a cornerstone of mindfulness, then not judging and being compassionate about you’re going through, and about yourself in general, is a stone’s throw away. In depression, or even in general down-ness or disillusionment, people tend to, at best, abandon themselves, and at worst, criticize themselves extensively and harshly. Here’s a nice rundown, if you need some ideas for how to be more compassionate with yourself.

* * * 

None of these is a cure for depression in itself or a key to well-being. But trying to remember and enlist some of them during difficult times may make a difference. And as always, these are practices–they take time. Doing a little each day, and being easy on yourself as you do, can make a big difference in our happiness over the long term.

Originally Posted HERE

HB Sig

Healthy Byte: Back to Basics

Trimming the fat — that’s what fitness is all about. But taking the very notion of slimming things down and applying it to all aspects of your life can be equally as difficult, and equally as satisfying, as becoming more fit and muscular. Imagine if you could trim the proverbial fat from your workday, commute, or any other number of responsibilities? Chances are, you’d reclaim a good amount of time, and be a lot happier.

When it comes to building muscle, or at least building yourself a strong foundation, you can definitely trim some of the fat from your workout. For the uninitiated, playing the architect and devising a fitness routine can be difficult — so difficult that we’ve trimmed things down to five simple exercises that can get you started on the path to success. Naturally, there are many others that can be thrown into the mix as well, but when we truly get to the core of a routine, these five can be essential.

1. Squats

A man doing squats