Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thinking about those New Year's resolutions?

One of the first things people do in the New Year is make resolutions to be a better person, to be kinder, to take more time with family and friends and to try to be healthier. Unfortunately, we sometimes get overwhelmed with our resolutions and end up leaving them along the road of life somewhere. How do we follow through with these resolutions?

The What? Know exactly what to change. Do you need more information about what to change? Do you have a reliable source for information on: Diet? Exercise? Tobacco? Alcohol? Whatever else you wish to change?

Not all sources of information are accurate. Is the web page, flyer, etc trying to get you to buy something? Remember! If it is too good to be true, then it isn't! If those products that promise you ripped abs in 2 weeks worked (or lose weight or grow hair or …), we would all be thinner and have better hair! That stuff doesn’t work!

The Want? Decide whether you even want to change. If you don’t really want to change, then nothing will happen. If you are trying to change because someone else wants you to, then you won’t succeed. YOU have to want to change and you have to do it for yourself, not someone else.
Sometimes wanting to change and finding the motivation can be very emotional. What if I fail?? Why can’t I do this right?? Why won’t anyone help me?? Sometimes when we block ourselves emotionally (I KNOW I am going to fail) it is easier to change the emotional roadblock by changing your behavior first, and then work on the emotions. That means - once you are walking every day or eating less or whatever – then you can tell yourself “see! I CAN do it right!”

The How? Develop the 7 skills you need to make the change happen:
· Set a course for success.
· Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
· Arrange for success, not failure.
· Watch what you are doing.
· Reward your actions.
· Recruit a support team.
· Have a plan to stay on track.

You need to have all of these skills, to have the best chance of success. Set a course for success. Sometimes we start with a goal that is too general and become overwhelmed. Start with a general goal, and then specify what you have to do to achieve it.

For example: General goal: I want to eat better. Target behavior: I will eat 5 fruits & veggies every day. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It is better to start small and be successful in the long run, than to aim too big and get burned out. So rather than immediately start eating 5 fruits and veggies every day, maybe start out as “I’ll add one more fruit or veggie to my daily diet every week until I reach 5 a day.”

Arrange for success, not failure. Change your environment to help you achieve success. For example, with regards to the 5 a day goal: Don’t buy a week’s worth of “5 a day” at the very beginning or it will go bad in the fridge. Don’t buy any new junk food – use up or give away what you have at home. “If I buy fruit or veggies that I like to eat – and not so much junk – then I will gradually replace the junk with healthier options.” If you re-arrange your kitchen stocks and don’t stock junk, you are less likely to eat it. Also, if you buy too many fruits & veggies in the beginning, you will feel overwhelmed and your digestive system may over react to the extra fiber.

Watch what you are doing. Keep a written record of how you are doing and your progress. By keeping track of what you are doing, it helps to positively reinforce the behavior you want to change. Keeping track of your daily progress gives you one more tool to help you achieve the change you want. “Wow! I made my goal for this week regarding the number of fruits & veggies!”

Reward your actions. We ALL need to be rewarded for a job well done! What works for one person as a reward, may not work for another. Why is food such a great reward (although not always healthy)? Because it fills emotional and physical needs so well. One bite = rewards & two bites = guilt! Also, over time the new behavior itself becomes the reward when you start to feel better about yourself and your accomplishments. Include your rewards in your daily logs so that you remember to give yourself the rewards. “I made my goal this week as to the number of fruits & veggies, so now my reward is _______ (not Ben & Jerry’s)!

Recruit a support team. No, your friends can’t do the work for you, but they can act as your cheer leaders. Our friends and family can either support us in our goal to be healthier or they can block us and prevent us from being healthier. If your family or friends are blocking you from being healthier, then find friends who are supportive and can help you rather than hinder you.
Get a change partner – someone who is trying to make the same change as you and can become your team mate. Have a change supporter – someone who isn't trying to change the same behavior as you, but who is supportive of your actions. “I can go to the farmer’s markets with my neighbor and make it fun to buy fresh fruit & veggies.”

Have a plan to stay on track because the new behavior takes a while to become second nature. We all have a tendency to slip back into old habits until that new behavior becomes the new second nature. Keep using your daily logs so you can help prevent this drift back to old behaviors before it happens. If you see yourself drifting back to old habits, steer yourself back before you get too far off track. For more information on making healthier choices, contact Health Promotion & Wellness at (760) 830-2814.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Artificially sweetened beverages: Is it nice to fool Mother Nature?

David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of Children’s Optimal Weight for Life
Program, just published a commentary in JAMA expressing concern about the
widespread use of artificial sweeteners in soft drinks. Below, he offers
some insight about why humans naturally crave sweetness, and the potential
danger of confusing our ancient biological pathways of hunger and satiation
with fake sugars.

Ever since our distant ancestors crawled out of the ocean, animals have been
trying to eat plants. In this conflict, animals would seem to have a
distinct advantage: we can move about, they can’t. But plants are by no
means defenseless against our predations. They protect themselves with
thorns, bark and tough fibers; stash their starches in tubers that are
difficult to digest (at least when uncooked); encase their most prized
possessions, high energy nuts and seeds, in impervious shells; and lace
their leaves with bitter, toxic chemicals.

In fact, plants have long taken advantage of animals to help them reproduce.
To entice us to serve them, plants have created seed-bearing fruits and
infused them with sugar, the gold standard of energy metabolism. Sugars
constitute the building blocks of all carbohydrates, rich in available
energy and used by every cell in the body. Plants have also loaded fruits
with other vital nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and water, to keep
helpful animals alive and well. In contrast to most other parts of the
plant, fruit is highly nutritious, safe and easy to eat. For this reason,
plant-eating animals (including humans) have come to associate sweetness
with goodness and evolved an innate preference for all things sweet.

Consumption of sugars in their natural forms tends not to cause health
problems because plants dispense with the minimum amount of calories
necessary to keep seed-spreading animals coming back for more, but not
enough to cause obesity. An 8-oz apple contains fewer calories than a 2-oz
pretzel. Problems arise when sugars are refined, concentrated and added to
the food supply in massive amounts. Sugar-sweetened beverages merit special
mention, because sugar in liquid form seems to escape notice by the body’s
calorie-detecting apparatus.

Modern science, which gave us refined sugars like high fructose corn syrup,
has proposed a novel solution to the obesity epidemic: artificial
sweeteners. These compounds stimulate taste receptors at hundreds to
thousands of times the potency of natural sugars, producing intense
sweetness at trace concentrations. (Curiously, the artificial sweetener
sucralose was discovered after a young Indian chemist in London was told to
test a potential insecticide; due to the language barrier, he misunderstood
and proceeded to taste the newly synthesized compound, finding it
overwhelmingly sweet.)

With growing attention to the adverse effects of sugar-sweetened beverages,
consumption of artificial-sweetened beverages has increased dramatically.
Indeed, some industry analysts predict that sales of these “diet” drinks
could eventually exceed those of sugar-sweetened beverages. Clinical trials
show that artificial-sweetened beverages may produce short-term weight loss
when substituted for their calorie-containing counterparts, but these
effects have never been tested for more than a few months. One reason for
concern is that consumption of artificial-sweetened beverages produces an
evolutionarily unprecedented dissociation between sweet taste and calorie
intake that might confound the regulatory system designed to control hunger
and body weight.

In support of this possibility, a recent study found that rodents fed the
artificial sweetener saccharin lost the ability to accurately regulate
calorie intake and gained weight. Another concern is that habitual
consumption of artificial-sweetened beverages may “infantilize” taste
preferences, especially among children. Compared to the hyper-intense
sweetness of these beverages, fruit may seem bland and vegetables may seem
inedible, adversely affecting overall diet quality. Indeed, two
observational studies have linked artificially sweetened beverage
consumption to higher risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2

Humans have always savored sweetness, and until recently, our sweet tooth
caused limited harm. However, high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages
throughout the last three decades has almost certainly fueled the obesity
epidemic. The recent trend to substitute artificially-sweetened beverages
for sugar-sweetened beverages–an attempt to have our cake and eat it
too–-represents a public health experiment of unprecedented scale. Never
before have synthetic compounds that potently interact with ancient
biological pathways been added to the food supply in such large amounts.
Until long-term trials are available, traditionally consumed beverages such
as water, effervescent mineral water and coffee or tea (perhaps with just
one teaspoon of sugar) may be our safest choice.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Internet Addiction

Some people develop bad habits in their computer use that cause them significant problems in their lives. The types of behavior and negative consequences are similar to those of known addictive disorders; therefore, the term Computer or Internet Addiction has come into use.
While anyone who uses a computer could be vulnerable, those people who are lonely, shy, easily bored, or suffering from other addiction or impulse control disorder are especially vulnerable to computer abuse.

Computer abuse can result from people using it repeatedly as their main stress reliever, instead of having a variety of ways to cope with negative events and feelings. Other misuses can include procrastination from undesirable responsibilities, distraction from being upset, and attempts to meet needs for companionship and belonging.

The Signs of Problematic Computer Use
A person who is “addicted” to the computer is likely to have several of the warning signs listed below: How many of them describe you?
You make unsuccessful efforts to quit or limit your computer use.
You lose track of time while on the computer.
You neglect friends, family and/or responsibilities in order to be online.
You find yourself lying about the amount of time spent on the computer and what you do while on it.
You feel anxious, depressed, or irritable when your computer time is shortened or interrupted.
You use the computer repeatedly as an outlet when sad, upset, or for sexual gratification.
You develop problems on the job or with your family as a result of the time spent and the type of activities accessed on the computer.
When you are not on the computer, you think about it frequently and anticipate when you will use it again.

Internet addiction can also be seen when the person compulsively downloads pornography or sexually explicit materials, has ‘cyber” affairs with others, and sends inappropriate images of themselves to others, etc. It is a real issue and affects every aspect of a person’s life. In fact, the internet has become one of the leading causes of divorce in the US.

How to Help Computer Obsessed Friends
Be a good role model. Manage the computer use in your own life well.
Introduce them to some other people who handle their computer use sensibly.
Get them involved in some non-computer related fun.
Talk to your friends about your concerns with their computer use.
Support their desire for change if they think they have a problem.
Encourage them to seek professional counseling.
Don’t wait until the person’s marriage or other relationships have fallen apart or they have created irreparable damage to their work or personal finances.
For more information about internet addiction, visit: