ACTION FOR THE DAY:  Hug a Loved One and Reduce Stress

That simple act can ease fear and anxiety, lower blood pressure and even boost memory, according research from the Medical University of Vienna. Experts believe the “love hormone” oxytocin gets a boost when you embrace family or friends.

ARE YOUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS ALREADY BROKEN? TRY A BETTER APPROACH  (from PFTL Blog: in case you  missed it last month)

The definition of “resolution” is:  1. A firm decision to do or not to do something;  2. The action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.

The operative words are “firm decision” and “solving”. Resolutions imply a certain “do or die” mentality.  If you don’t “do”, why bother?  This is why so many good intentions fall by the wayside by February.

In my opinion, “Do What You Can, When You Can” is a better way to achieve improved health, fitness and consequent well-being.  When everyday situations present themselves, ask yourself if you can do something to achieve a healthier outcome.  A few examples:

a)      You find you have some extra time between appointments.  Can you use this time to get more active?  You can choose to sit read a magazine, or get up and climb a few flights of stairs.  Best choice, climb the stairs and drink a glass of water.

b)      You are dining as a guest of a friend who is a gourmet cook.  Can you decline certain foods that she prepared because they are not very healthy?  It is probably best to eat a little of everything she serves you, comment on the superior quality of the preparation, and decline seconds.

c)      You need to go grocery shopping.  Will you park where you will need walk a bit, or find a spot nearest the door?  Do you ask the bagger to keep the bags light, or do you ask him to load up the bags?  Are you conscious of your postural alignment when lifting the bags and putting them in your trunk; or do you twist and lift which puts unnecessary (and dangerous) stress on your spine?  The best choices are obvious.

d)      Your favorite chocolate cake is on sale and you know your family would love to have it for dessert that night.  Imagine it on your kitchen counter; will you be able to resist over-indulging? Will your family really benefit from having the cake in the house; or will this temptation stress everyone’s will power?   Will-power is over-rated; stress will usually trump will-power, and stress relief can result in undesired behavior (i.e. eating too much of the cake, just because it is there). Aren’t there better choices for a satisfying dessert?

I think you get the idea.  Improvements in lifestyle come in small increments.   Making thoughtful choices everyday can be the key to making long-term changes.

 REGULAR SLEEP PATTERNS HELP WEIGHT-LOSS (from USA Today)

You’ve heard too much or too little sleep might lead to extra pounds; now, new research out of Brigham Young University suggests sleep consistency may also influence body weight. Scientists tracked 300 women for a week and found those who woke up at the same time each morning had lower body fat than those with inconsistent sleep patterns. The study was small and needs more research, but experts do know that maintaining a regular sleep-wake schedule seven days a week is necessary to help you sleep more soundly and wake up alert. Another tip: Have protein for breakfast. A study presented at a scientific meeting for the Obesity Society showed that women who ate a breakfast based on sausage and eggs curbed hunger throughout the morning. More lean protein choices: a slice of Canadian bacon or cheese, a container of low-fat yogurt, or peanut butter on whole-grain toast.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IN PRE-TEENS MIGHT AVOID OSTEOPOROSIS AS ADULTS  (from ACSM’s  Sports Medicine Bulletin,  Jan. 2014) Authors:  Joshua N. Farr, Ph.D., and Scott B. Going, Ph.D

The following is excerpted from research which suggests the importance of building strong bones during the peri-pubescent years (ages 11-13) to avoid osteoporosis in later years.

The incidence of osteoporosis is projected to triple by year 2040, reflecting increased longevity and sedentary lifestyles. Despite considerable effort, our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms that drive age-related bone loss remains incomplete. However, there is now nearly universal consensus that early-life experiences are important for disease risk. Indeed, osteoporosis is widely considered a pediatric disorder, waiting to manifest itself later in life. Thus, the peri-pubertal years (ages 11-13) are recognized as an opportune period to modify bone density, size, and shape – traits that tend to track throughout life. In girls, over 25% of adult bone mineral is laid down during just two years surrounding peak linear growth – this is as much bone as a woman will lose from age 50 to 80 years. But can building a stronger skeleton during growth counteract the inevitable loss of bone with aging?

While the answer to this question is not known, the time has come to understand how modifiable factors can foster optimal skeletal health during this developmental period. Given that the peri-pubertal years represent a unique period when bone is most responsive to exercise, it is easy to hypothesize that physical activity and skeletal muscle quality are important determinants of bone strength during growth.

Recently, the researchers tested the hypothesis that physical activity and muscle quality are significant determinants of changes in volumetric bone mineral density (BMD) and bone structural strength (assessed quantitatively) in a 2-year longitudinal study of 248 healthy girls, aged 9 to 12 years. Their findings suggest that physical activity is associated with more optimal gains in bone density and strength, and that poor muscle quality may put girls at risk for suboptimal bone development. The exact amount of physical activity needed to induce optimal skeletal adaptation is not known.  But it seems promising that physical activity during the per-pubertal period could ultimately reduce fracture risk in later adult years.

DON’T THROW AWAY STEMS AND LEAVES OF BROCCOLI (from WHFoods Weekly Newsletter 12/13/13)

Enjoying the stems and leaves will not only give you added flavor and nutrition, but more broccoli for your buck!

We all know broccoli is good for us, but did you know that the different parts of the broccoli plant make their own distinctive contributions to its overall nutritional value? Broccoli stems have a wonderful mild sweet flavor and are much higher in fiber than the florets; they are renown for the amount of extra fiber they can add to your diet. While the florets contain more beta-carotene than the stalks, the leaves actually are a richer source of beta-carotene than either the stems or florets. And remember when selecting broccoli florets that the dark green, bluish-green, or purplish-green color contain higher concentrations of beta-carotene than pale green or yellowish-green florets.

When cooking broccoli it is best to peel off the tough outer layer of the stem before cooking. Slice them into medium size pieces and cook for 2-3 minutes before adding the florets; add the leaves along with the florets.