Monday, December 6, 2010

You Can Stop Smoking

It sounds impossible and has daily challenges, but if you put your mind to it, your smoking days can be over.
If you smoke, going a day without a cigarette may seem nothing more than a pipe dream. However, that dream can become a reality if you're willing to fight for your good health. Need a little incentive to help you along the way? No problem.
Like any good or bad habit, cigarette smoking is not a free endeavor. In fact, it can be extremely expensive. On average, a pack of cigarettes runs approximately $4.80. Smoke a pack a week and you're looking at $250 down the tubes. Smoke a pack a day and you're losing about $1,750 a year. While $1,750 doesn't seem like too much to spend on something you enjoy, you should know the costs don't end with the cigarettes and lighters.
Ever tried selling a car that you've used as your own private smoking cabin? How about selling a home you've smoked in? No one wants to buy something that is permanently stained with the unpleasant smell of cigarettes.
Now that you know the financial cost of smoking, you should consider some other costs of smoking as well. What other costs?
How about this one: If you saved $1,750 a year from not smoking, you could probably go on that family vacation you've been dreaming of and your kids have been begging for. You could even go visit Aunt Flora across the country.
Or this one: If you stopped smoking, you could be more productive at work, because you wouldn't have to run outside every hour to suck down a nicotine stick. And your coworkers won't mind being near you, because you'll smell better.
And don't forget this one: You'll welcome smoke-free restaurants with open arms, instead of moaning and groaning as you excuse yourself for a post-meal smoke.
Oh yeah, there are other costs as well. They're the ones you've heard about over and over, but for some reason they haven't been enough to help you quit. Maybe hearing about them one more time will do the trick.
Hop online and search for any disease that pops into your head. From asthma to yeast infections, bronchitis to headaches, cigarette smoking puts you at increased risk for them all. Actually, as more studies on the dangers of smoking take place, it is becoming evident that smoking may be a contributing factor to practically every condition under the sun. In the strange event that smoking doesn't increase your risk for suffering a certain disease, smoking will increase your likelihood of complications from the disease.
Need more? Of all the people who die in America each day, approximately one out of every five dies due to smoking-related diseases. Some of the most common types of smoking-related death include lung and heart diseases, but individuals who smoke and have diabetes and other dangerous conditions also die frequently due to their smoking habits. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men who smoke chop about 13.2 years off of their life expectancy, and ladies trim 14.5 years.
So whether you're appalled at the thought of wasting thousands of dollars, being controlled by cravings during the important moments of your life, or dying years before you've completed your bucket list, kicking smoking to the curb isn't just a good idea. It's a money-saving, family-saving, life-saving idea.
As if there weren't enough reasons to stop smoking already, some businesses - primarily in the health sector - have started to screen potential employees based on their smoking history. Hospitals and other health-related agencies see smokers as being against the goals of their organization.
While the majority of job opportunities continue to be available to smokers and non-smokers alike, there may be a day in the future when you either lose your habit or lose your ability to find meaningful employment. Why not nix nicotine before it costs you even more?
Until next time - Live Life Well,
John Aaron Villarreal

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thin from 40 to 60

Let it be said that you can beat the odds and maintain a healthy figure throughout middle age.
Gaining weight during middle age is only natural, right? Wrong...
If you dread the pounds of midlife, cheer up! With the right attitude and an appropriate diet and exercise regiment, you may be able to keep your youthful figure and good health for a healthy start to your silver and golden years.

It's a matter of weighing your responsibility. Midlife weight gain is unfortunately very common. There are definite factors working against you as you age. Besides fluctuating hormone levels, your metabolism begins to slow down. This means it takes more work to burn the calories you consume. Another problem is that most adults lose between 30 and 50 percent a pounds of muscle each year. The smaller your muscles are, the fewer the calories you are able to burn. Weight gain during your midlife is also a danger to your health as it increases your risks for a range of serious medical conditions from diabetes to heart disease to Alzheimer's disease.

Despite these possible setbacks to maintaining a healthy weight as you age, it is very important to prevent those extra pounds. There are four main reasons why people gain weight during their 40s and 50s: hormones, overeating, lack of exercise, and stress. Though it would be easy to blame weight gain on changing hormones, research has shown that hormones are responsible for only two to five extra pounds. Poor lifestyle choices account for the rest.
Looking for an answer to combat your lack of good lifestyle decisions? It comes down to maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management. In other words, you're going to have to start making good decisions soon.

Eat and BurnThe key to avoiding gradual weight gain is to burn as many calories as you consume. This will probably mean eating smaller portions at meals and including more physical activities in your daily routine. When you eat smaller portions, it is important to make sure you include a balanced diet of high protein foods such as meat, dairy, and eggs, and high fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Not only will these healthy foods contribute to your weight control, they will also improve your mood and give you more energy throughout the day.

After watching your calorie intake, you must make sure you burn those calories and speed up your metabolism with aerobic or cardiovascular exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a "minimum of 30 minutes of exercise most days to improve health." A good goal would be to burn 400 to 500 calories a day, and here's the good news - it is never too late to begin exercising! Whether walking, swimming, biking, gardening, or weight lifting, find something you enjoy, and make it a part of your everyday routine. Not only will you burn those extra calories, you will feel better about yourself and have more energy to face your day.
A third reason for why people in their middle ages gain weight easily is because of the high level of stress in their lives. When under stress, many people tend to overeat, not exercise enough, or attempt to ease stress through unhealthy behaviors such as drinking or smoking. To manage stress, you must first identify the causes. Then you must take charge of your thoughts, emotions, work schedule, family life, and environment. Aim for a balance of fun, work, and relaxation. For some extra help, find support from a friend, spouse, or therapist to reduce the stress in your life.
No matter how common midlife weight gain seems, it is not necessarily inevitable. You just have to take control. So eat a balanced diet, exercise for your physical and emotional well-being, and reduce the stressors in your life. Then kick back and relax, knowing you won't be another victim of midlife weight gain.
Until next time - Live Life Well,
John Aaron Villarreal

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Right to Say "No."

If one is the loneliest number, "No" is the loneliest word. However, if you're going to exist on planet Earth, you've got to learn how to use this tiny word - even when the person asking the question is your friend. Here's how to get a better handle on "No."

Nip it in the bud.

Good ol' Barney Fife was onto something when he coined this classic phrase. Giving an immediate "No," when you know the answer is "No" is the best way to go about giving a negative response. You're nipping the question in the bud. Promising that you may be able to catch a movie or have time to play softball after work - when you know you can't - only makes the "No" seem that much worse. So as soon as you know your answer will be "No," let it out!

Reserve it for rare, special occasions.

If you're truly someone's friend, this one should be a no-brainer. You enjoy spending time with your friends and helping them out. Therefore, it only makes sense that your "No" won't be the most common phrase you tell your friends. In the event you do find yourself saying "No" to more invitations than you say "Yes," it may be time to reevaluate your friendship. Is it really one that is going to last, or has it already passed its course? Maybe it should be an "I'll-call-you-when-I'm ready-to-hang-out" relationship.

Don't leave it at one word.

Alone, the word "No" can come off as hurtful in any situation. When telling your friend "No," give an explanation along with it. This allows your friend to know you have a valid reason for not changing his oil, paying his rent, or washing his dog. In essence, it keeps your friend from feeling shunned for no reason. Everyone says they hate excuses, but if your "No" has a good one, it's better to share it than to keep it to yourself.

Set out an open and honest relationship from day one.

The best friendships are the ones that don't crumble under the weight of a "No." Make it clear when you start a friendship that you appreciate honest answers and will do your best to give honest answers as well. With that understanding, you'll be more capable of telling your best of friends you can't go to the club all night. And when you say, "No," you won't even feel guilty.

Allow your friend to return the favor.

"No" is a two-edged sword. If you don't allow your friend to tell you "No" without consequences, you'll possibly cut your relationship's throat. Always allow your friend the ability to back out of book club - even if it's a last-minute cancellation. You would want the same freedom or you wouldn't be reading this article.

Give yourself a break

More than likely, your friend doesn't think "No" is as big a deal as you're making it out to be. She's spontaneous enough to drive cross-country in a moment's notice, and she probably doesn't expect you to be so flexible. Just thought she'd ask if you wanted to come along for the ride. Once you realize your friend was heading out with or without you, you'll feel a lot better about the two-letter word you answered with.

Know Why "No"

Wondering why you should use the teeny, tiny word "No"? Consider these reasons and then practice using "No" with discretion.
  • Your friends will learn what you really like and dislike.
  • You won't spend a day wishing you had said, "No."
  • You'll save money.
  • You won't participate in activities you don't enjoy.
  • Your stress levels will drop.
  • You won't have a tattoo, piercing, or hair style you regret.
  • You'll get to spend your time as you wish.
  • You'll be happier.

Until next time - Live Life Well,

John Aaron Villarreal

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Best Way to Beat Cellulite

Sure, some men are affected by it, but for the most part, women’s biggest fear about wearing a bikini in the summer is the dimply appearance of her butt and thighs or mid-section. And, women don’t even have to be considered “chubby” or “fat” to have cellulite in the most awkward of places. Even our beloved, so-called perfectly thin actresses have cellulite that they work incredibly hard to hide.

But why is it that women are mostly stricken with mattress-like backsides and how do we prevent it or minimize its appearance?
What is cellulite?
Cellulite consists of several alterations in your skins normal structure, coupled with circulation issues (fatty areas of cellulite tend to have low blood flow and are cold to the touch), and changes with the fat cells themselves.
If you have cellulite, there isn’t much you can do to abolish it, but you can definitely reduce its appearance.
Even Babies Have Cellulite
My first realization about cellulite came when I noticed my then 7-month old daughter had a cottage cheese-like appearance to her cute little butt cheeks when they were slightly squished.
At first I was upset – why does she have cellulite? How is this possible? But then I realized my own battles with cellulite were partially out of my control. Females, by virtue of their hormonal environment and body structure are stricken with cellulite from the very beginning.
Normal, healthy, fatty tissue development (growth of new fat cells, not fat cell size) begins in the womb and continues until a child is 18 months old. It then picks up again during puberty. In today’s society, with all the junk food and excessive calories, some children are in a constant state of fat cell growth and potentially new fat cells.
Fatty tissue near the skin consists of two layers separated by a facial layer. The more external layer is called the areolar layer, which is formed by globular and large fat cells (adipocytes) arranged vertically; here the blood vessels feeding the fat cells are numerous and fragile. The deeper layer is called the lamellar layer and the cells are fusiform, smaller and arranged horizontally; the vessels here are larger. The second layer increases in thickness when a person gains weight, mainly due to the increase in fat cell volume which presses against the outer, areolar layer, making it more pronounced.
In women, the outer areolar layer is thicker and the skin covering it is usually thinner which is the case right from birth (and explains my daughters dimply butt cheeks). As a woman ages and gains more body fat from an increase in the inner lamellar layer, it makes the fat cells in the areolar layer more visible.
When women start to hit puberty, the battle with thigh cellulite commences. The femoral region of a woman (the back of the upper thigh) is very responsive to her very unique hormonal profile.
Estrogen increases the response of thigh fat cells to anti-lipolytic alpha receptors (preventing fat breakdown and loss) and stimulates an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL) that stimulates fat growth. This can occur in the gluteal region and abdomen as well, but is usually localized to the back of the legs.
Prolactin (the breast-feeding hormone) is another hormone that makes cellulite more visible because it increases water retention in the fatty tissue, which makes each cell look larger and more lumpy.
So, most women are going to have some issues with cellulite, just because they are women.
Insulin make cellulite more visible
One of the greatest influences on cellulite appearance is the blood glucose-regulating hormone insulin. Whenever you eat carbohydrate, your body releases insulin to manage the influx of glucose (from carbs) into your bloodstream. In an ideal world, your muscle cells recognize this insulin and invite the glucose into muscle cells to be used for energy or stored for later use (as glycogen).
However, in the case of most sedentary people, insulin sends the carbs to fat cells to be turned into fatty acids and stored as triglycerides (called lipogenesis). This makes fat cells in the lamellar layer bigger, causing fat cells in the areolar layer to be squished out and more visible.
Unless a person is a constant exerciser or exercises incredibly hard every day, high carb diets will cause your body to produce more fat. Insulin also stops your body from using fat as fuel and can cause your body to store more water, pushing cellulite out for the world to see.
Of all the things under our control with respect to cellulite, there are two major things we can change to minimize its appearance. With cellulite, you either have it, or you don’t (lucky girl!), but if you have it, you can make it look less pronounced despite never really being able to get rid of it.
First and foremost – get off your butt! Consistent physical activity (no, not armchair football) decreases your body’s insulin levels naturally and makes your muscle cells more receptive to burning up carbs and fats for energy.
Daily exercise also increases muscle mass, which helps decrease body fat. It increases circulation in your lower extremities, providing more blood to thigh fat cells and enabling them to be used as an energy source. Finally, it improves rigidity of your tendons and muscles, making fatty areas seem smaller and less pronounced.
You’ve got to think: all that sitting on your behind, day in and day out, does not do much for improving blood flow to your thighs or making your butt look any smaller. So, get up and move as much as you can -- every day. Even consider investing in a stand-up desk, so your butt can get a break.
Second - eliminate simple carbs, sodium, alcohol and manufactured fats from your diet.
You now know carbs are the major promoters of insulin, but not all carbs are bad and timing is important. High-fiber carbs from non-starchy vegetables (like greens and colorful veggies) produce the lease amount of insulin and some starchy veggies (like sweet potato, squash and peas) produce a bit more insulin, but their high fiber content is important. Fiber helps keep your body regular (along with adequate water intake) which improves blood flow in your lower limbs.
Simple carbs, like those used in Prograde Workout, and even fruit carbs are used best by your body after exercise, and sometimes before. At this time, your muscles are primed to use that insulin for repair and re-growth instead of for fat storage.
High sodium, processed foods, like those microwave lunches, have to be packed with sodium to prevent spoilage. This sodium causes water retention and makes cellulite look worse than it is. On the same note, watch out for sodium in canned foods (soups, fish) and focus on fresh, non-processed items as often as possible. Sauces, like soy sauce and teriyaki are also a no-no as they can be both high in sodium and simple carbs.
Alcohol is also an issue – this chemical acts just like insulin, causing your body to store fat and create fat and preventing it from using it for energy. Light beer is not going to help you cause at all. Just limit or stay away from alcohol all the time and your fat cells will be smaller and you’ll be happier.
Manufactured fats, such as those found in most boxed and packaged foods are incredibly problematic. First, the poor quality of these fats, which can be trans fats or just excessive polyunsaturated fats, loved to be stored by the body. They also increase inflammation, which leads to water retention and decreased fat breakdown. Finally, they’re often associated with high simple carb foods (cake anyone?)
The best diet to reduce the appearance of cellulite is one that contains high quality, whole-food proteins that are not laced with preservatives, sodium, and sugar (foods like organic beef and chicken, organic eggs and purified whey proteins), plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits to provide fiber, antioxidants and potassium to balance sodium, and plentiful whole food fats, especially those high in unsaturated fats like avocados, egg yolks, fish, fish oil and krill oils, and olives and olive oil.
Don’t believe the hype- just do what Mother Nature told you to do
Everyday you’re going to be bombarded with some product, or some new fancy diet that proclaims to be the terminator of all cellulite, but don’t buy into those claims.
Fighting the dimply look of cellulite isn’t really that hard – you just need to eat real food, food that Mother Nature gave us, and exercise or move your body every day.
Or, pick the right parents and ask for thick skin. But, if it was that easy, the world wouldn’t be so interesting. ; )
Until next time - Live Life Well,
John Aaron Villarreal

Source: Pro/Grade; By Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic, PhD, RD

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fighting Depression with Food

Open your mouth and get ready to smile. Depression is one of the most misunderstood conditions. While it is a frequent cause of suffering, many people who live with depression are embarrassed of their condition. Because of this, they're often hesitant to seek help.
If you find yourself suffering from the effects of depression, you don't have to suffer alone. And you may not have to take specialized medications, either. In fact, your kitchen cupboard may house everything you need to overcome bouts with depression. Read on to learn about a few foods that will help you overcome your struggle with depression on a daily basis.
As if omega-3 fatty acids didn't have enough benefits (it has been found to fight against heart disease and even Alzheimer's disease), it seems this fishy sounding, heaven-sent oil also helps ward off depressive bouts. According to a 2002 study, participants who downed a gram of fish oil every day during the study cut their depressive symptoms in half. More fish anyone? (On top of getting omega-3 fatty acids from tuna and salmon, you can also pick some up by grabbing a handful of walnuts or flaxseed.)
When you need a brain boost and a mood equalizer, nothing does it better than whole-grain oats. Filled with vitamins B6 and B1 and folic acid and available on practically every shelf at the grocery store, whole-grain oats put you on the fast trek to improved mental health. At the same time, you'll also enjoy lowered cholesterol, reduced risk for heart disease, and improved immune response when your body finds itself up against a nasty infection.
With plenty of vitamins and folic acid, rice is a great way to regulate your mood over time - but you've got to stick with brown rice. Because brown rice is a low-glycemic food, it causes glucose (sugar) to make its way into your bloodstream slowly and surely, preventing you from having those miserable mood swings that come from sugar lows. Since you can slip some brown rice in practically any meal, it's easy to make sure you get plenty of its benefit!
When there is no food in your hand, beat depression by forcing a smile, enjoying a funny movie, spending time with loved ones, exercising, and hanging out in the sunshine for a while.
Okay, so you probably aren't going to drink a quart of canola oil, but if you get desperate enough, you just may. Because multiple studies have shown that depression is more common in individuals with low levels of vitamin E. Since canola oil is rich in vitamin E, it's a good idea to reach for the bottle of canola when cooking up your next meal.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
If you're struggling with depression and plan to fight it with your fork, you should also be leery of foods that can cause you to sink deeper into depression. Some of the most dangerous foods to your mental health include the following:
  • food with lots of fat
  • food with lots of sugar
  • food and drink high in caffeine
  • food with low nutritional value
In other words, your tendency to head to a fast food restaurant and top it off with a quart of ice cream won't do your mental health any good. Rather, it will do just the opposite.
Until next time - Live Life Well,
John Aaron Villarreal

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How Much Should I Drink?

Like most things in medicine, the amount of liquid you should drink seems to be constantly changing. So just how much do you need to drink on a daily basis for optimal health? You're about to find out that the scientific world has determined about your drinking needs. So turn on the tap and get ready to find out how full you should fill your glass.

Only a few years ago, the medical community had a nice, one-size-fits-all answer to the liquid question. According to the experts, adults needed about eight glasses of water each day. This equaled out to approximately 64 ounces of water. While this acted as a good goal for most adults, it was a goal that was rarely met due to people simply being too busy to remember to down their daily regimen of water.

Today, the old answer is no longer the only answer. Granted, it is still an accepted answer that helps many people remember to keep their lips to a glass of water, but researchers spent plenty of time studying just how much water a person needs and realized there may be other ways to go about liquid intake.
Many folks have given up on drinking eight glasses a day. Instead, they’ve decided to go with another popular method for determining fluid intake: replacing the fluids lost during the course of a day. How much liquid to you shed on a daily basis? Between bathroom breaks, sweating, and sweating, you lose about 10 cups of water a day. Sweat more than the average person or been suffering with a bout of diarrhea? Then you’ll need to add some cups to the total.
To make sure your body has enough liquid, the replacement method requires you to drink the amount that you lose minus the 20 percent of your needed fluids you get through the foods you eat. And while water is typically the preferred liquid, you’ll want to count tea, sodas, and juice, which all contain water.
While science has deemed that you should drink a certain amount of water based on the amount of water that leaves your body on a daily basis, this equation may not provide a final answer to how much water you should drink. Because while this is a great way for otherwise health individuals to tally up their water needs, people with pre-existing conditions may have different liquid needs.
If you have diabetes, kidney diseases, or any other chronic condition that you must deal with on a daily basis, your water requirement may be more or less than you think. To find out exactly how much water you should sip on each day, you’ll have to head to your doctor.
Want to figure out if you’re drinking enough water each day? Here are a few questions that will help you determine if you need to up your liquid intake or if you’re drinking just enough.
  • Are you thirsty often?
  • Is your urine usually dark yellow?
  • Do you experience dry mouth often?
  • Are you prone to headaches for no known cause?
  • Do you feel lightheaded occasionally?
  • Do you rarely urinate?
  • Are you frequently constipated?
You can also contact a fitness professional like the ones you'll find at Muscle Mechanics.

Until next time - Live Life Well,

John Aaron Villarreal