Healthy Lifestyle

Clive Thompson, author of "Is Happiness Catching?" writes about how good habits spread, just like a virus. In his New York Times article, he cites research conducted by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. Two years ago, Christakis and Fowler analyzed data from the National Heart Institute's Framingham Heart Study. Their analysis indicated that if we keep in contact with people who are fit and want to live a healthy lifestyle, we are likely to be influenced by them, helping us become healthier ourselves.

Contact Your Friend's Friend to be Your Weight Loss Buddy

In the past, we've been told that it is easier to lose weight if we recruit a friend to keep us on track. A workout buddy or a diet buddy can help us feel like we have someone else in the game, that we are not the only ones on the difficult weight loss journey. With the help of a buddy, we can schedule workouts, plan meals, and offer emotional support.

But Christakis and Fowler found that for maximum results, we can't ask just anyone to be a buddy. Surprisingly, that buddy, they said, should not be a close friend. Rather, it should be our close friend's friend. Christakis and Fowler found that if our friend's friends are all losing weight, we will be more heavily influenced to lose weight ourselves. In this case, we are surrounded by people losing weight. It then seems like everyone is losing weight, giving us a greater incentive to join the crowd, lose weight, and keep it off.

Create a Social Network to Help You Lose Weight

So what are the implications? If we know that we need to lose weight, how should we position ourselves within our social networks so that we can be successful not just in losing weight, but in keeping it off? Finding a bunch of our friends' friends probably doesn't seem feasible in real life.
But what about cyber life? Through Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and other social media outlets, we may very well be able to connect with people that can influence us on another level than a single workout or diet buddy could. These sites exist to connect us not just with our friends, but with our friends' friends. They exist to connect us with other like-minded individuals. They may just provide us with the strong, multi-faceted networks that we need in order to truly submerge ourselves in achieving our goals.

SparkPeople.com, MedHealth.org, and FitDay.com are all sites that are designed to put us in contact with people that have similar goals as well. The only difference between them and the more traditional social media outlets like Facebook is that they bring people together who are working to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles. Do you have a friend that is using one of these sites? Join. Connect with your friend. Connect with your friend's friends. Create a universe where everyone is working on the same goal that you are.

Achieve Your Goals

If you are fighting the battle of the bulge, you are not in the minority. In fact, there are millions of Americans that are fighting it right now. Befriend them so that you can be successful, they can be successful, and as a country we can triumph over an epidemic that costs too much, compromises too many lives, and leads to too much disease. Certainly, a workout buddy that happens to be your friend is a great first step. Go one step further and connect with others, giving you yet another arsenal of support and advice. The more people that you know who are working to attain similar goals, the more successful you are likely to be.

You may also be interested in Online Diet and Fitness Tools, Smart Approach to Exercise Leads to Weight Loss, and Cooking May Be Your Best Diet Strategy.

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Cardiovascular Exercise

Cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercise is extremely useful to those wishing to increase their overall health. No resistance or weights are typically applied, which means that once the basics are known almost everybody can enjoy its life-promoting benefits.

Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise

Regular aerobic activity helps manage blood-sugar levels by increasing the body's ability to process glucose. This benefit alone makes it a worthy practice for diabetics.

It also has weight-loss benefits; for example, a 200-pound person burns over 100 calories for every 10 minutes of jogging, and 150 calories for 10 minutes of jumping rope. 100 calories doesn't appear at first to be much, but in a month of daily exercise it adds up to the recommended caloric intake of a full day-and-a-half!

The blood is circulated during cardiovascular sessions, which can decrease post-workout soreness and rid muscles of excess lactic acid which builds up during intense training. It also speeds up the overall recovery processes of the body, and unlike weight lifting, the recovery time for aerobic activity is virtually non-existent.

Cardiovascular exercise also improves the body's profile of hormones, chemical messengers responsible for a wide-range of bodily processes. Among of effects are the release of appetite-suppressants and endorphins, the latter producing feelings of well-being and helping damper the intensity of pain.

How to Do Cardio

Cardiovascular exercise, simply defined, is any activity that increases the heart rate to 60-80% of its maximum potential. If done with vigor, having sex is cardio.

Any number of bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups/jumping-jacks/squats, can be combined into circuit training routines. Cardiovascular Circuit Training, CCT, has advantages in that combining exercises works the entire body in a comparatively short period of time.

Cardiovascular Considerations

Always be safe when exercising. This means that if dizziness or nausea occur, stop. If the effects are severe, it may be wise to seek medical advice. As with all exercise routines, if the practitioner is not at peak levels they should consider consulting a physician before beginning.

The muscle which will be worked, and preferably the entire body, should be properly stretched before beginning a cardiovascular routine. Doing so helps to prevent injury and makes the body more limber.

If sweating in excess is an issue, keep water handy. The body uses water in almost every process it undergoes, at the cellular level, and keeping well-hydrated helps the body stay revved up longer.
Once a certain comfort-level has been reached, it is a common practice to add weights to an aerobic routine. This is done by housewives in the way of wrist bands, and bodybuilders by way of kettlebells, alike.

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Carb Addicts

Have you ever noticed that the more carbs you eat, the more you crave them, especially when it comes to sweets? And why do we eat so many carbs in the first place? A lack of serotonin may be the answer. Simple carbs make up for the missing feel-good chemical in the brain, but they also leave us feeling drained, bloated and fat.

“A large percentage of overweight clients who snacked on refined sugar and complex carbohydrates, such as popcorn, chips and candy, reported relief from depression, anxiety and boredom,” according to Betty Street of the Fairland Institute.

Because carbs and sweets temporarily relieve our emotions, we repeatedly turn to these foods rather than dealing with the issues that cause them.

It was Dr. Richard and Judith Wurtman who originally coined the phrase, “Carbohydrate Craving Syndrome” during their study of overeaters at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences of Massachusetts Institue of Technology. They found that balancing insulin levels with a chromium supplement was helpful in reducing carb cravings in addicted patients.

Symptoms of Carbohydrate Craving Syndrome

Carb cravings are commonly caused by low levels of serotonin, high levels of insulin resistance and low blood sugar.
Other symptoms include:
  • A family history of obesity
  • Not being able to take your mind off of food
  • Hiding food and eating habits regularly
  • Diets don’t work for you and you end up eating even more than before and gaining weight
  • Using food to satisfy emotional needs
  • Treating food as your friend

Tips for Losing Weight with Carboyhdrate Craving Syndrome

You can’t escape your genes and weight loss is difficult at best when the cards seem stacked against you, but there are some things you can do to make the journey a little easier.
  • Distract yourself when cravings hit.
  • Substitute a lower fat, lower calorie snack for high carb foods.
  • Eat smart carbs throughout the day to feel full and avoid feeling deprived on your diet.
  • Eat a small portion of the food you crave. Some dieters swear by the three-bite rule.
  • Eat all foods in moderation without binging on certain foods or omitting others.
  • Follow a diabetic diet to avoid sugar spikes and feel a sense of balance.
  • Talk to your doctor and have him or her rule out any other medical reasons such as diabetes or thyroid problems that could prevent you from losing weight.
Note: If you are also being treated for depression (due to low serotonin levels) the medicine may worsen your carb cravings. Ask your doctor about side effects and the best option for lifting depression while losing weight.

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Carbohydrate Nutrition

Nutrition as a science has been studied for a relatively short time compared to many other scientific disciplines. Consequently, there are frequent changes to the rules resulting in contradicting information. 'Good Carbs' and 'Bad Carbs' are examples of this. Even though nutritional study is in its infancy, understanding the basics and applying them to weight loss and health is relatively simple. To run efficiently at any time the human body needs three basic nutrients: Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats. Vitamins, minerals and fiber are also essential, and are all present when foods containing the three basic nutrients are consumed.

Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates

The most important nutrient for weight loss and basic everyday activities is the Carbohydrate, which is the basic required fuel source for the body. In other words, for the body to simply move and the brain to think, a basic form of carbohydrate - sugar in the form of glucose - is the fuel to do the job. Fuel? Yes, fuel. Food is simply a tasty fuel for the body. Everything we eat is broken down by the digestive system to extract these basic nutrients and make the sugar available for fuel, while making the other nutrients available for the parts of the body that need them.

To avoid spikes in fullness and hunger in order to lose weight and maintain optimal health, complex carbohydrates like whole grain breads, cereals and pastas should be consumed most often. When complex carbohydrates are eaten, the body takes longer and uses more energy to digest them in order to get to the basic component, sugar. Eating these carbohydrates will allow the body to feel full longer, and avoid the intense hunger that leads to overeating and poor food choices.

Be sure to read the ingredients list on store bought items to ensure that the first ingredient is "whole wheat" or "whole grain". Unfortunately, "Enriched Wheat Flour" does not contain whole grain. It is simply wheat flour with the whole grain taken out, and the vitamins put back in.

Alternately, when simple carbohydrates like sweetened breakfast cereals or sugary sodas are consumed, the body can use the sugar immediately without much work, and get a big boost in energy, followed by a correspondingly big drop in energy when the sugar is used up. Intense hunger is usually the end result, which is not good for weight loss.

Its all about Healthy Choices

Unless certain diseases are present, the body prefers a mixture of the three main nutrients most closely resembling 60% Carbohydrates, 20% Protein and 20% Fat, with the majority of the carbohydrates being whole grain. This daily mixture of nutrients allows the body to get everything it needs to run efficiently, and run after kids and pets (in other words, exercise).

Eating complex carbohydrates most often throughout the day, especially when combined with some protein and/or fat is the first and biggest step toward a healthy lifestyle. Eating a piece of whole wheat toast with a little natural peanut butter, for example will last the body longer and make it feel more full than consuming a croissant with butter. Substituting half the noodles used in a spaghetti dinner with whole wheat noddles will gradually introduce complex carbohydrates into the daily lifestyle of a family.

These little changes will lead to more healthy changes, and a healthier lifestyle, which in turn will build the foundation for long term weight loss.

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Food Addiction

You may not even realize you have a food addiction. Maybe you consider yourself as someone who has a terrible sweet tooth or who really enjoys food. But if you think about food often throughout the day, experience a physical craving for certain types of foods or spend half the time eating a well-balanced diet and the other half binging on less healthy choices, odds are you are a food addict.

Habits of a Food Addict

1.Soothe Emotions. Typically a food addict will push down unpleasant feelings with food. Not just any food, but comfort foods. Ever have a fight with your mom or spouse and immediately hit the freezer for the container of ice cream? You try to relive the feelings without actually dealing with the problem.

The Problem: Food is a temporary fix. When it wears off you will feel worse and the original problem remains.

The Answer: Tackle problems head-on. Don’t let thoughts fester and eat away at you. Deal with your emotions and your relationship problems as they occur so you won’t feel the need to use food as your faithful friend.

2.Fixation With Food You think about food all the time and you are always planning your next sugar high.

The Problem: You’ve designed your lifestyle around food and make it one of your top priorities.

The Answer: Change your lifestyle to include activities that don’t revolve around food. Exercise, for example, is one way to get a similar high as you would from eating sugar.

3.Secret Binges. Food addicts often hide food or only binge when they are alone.

The Problem: You’re only fooling yourself. You won’t win the weight loss battle if you continually sabotage yourself. It’s faulty thinking.

The Answer: Eat scheduled meals at the dinner table. Don’t keep food in your car, desk or nightstand. Lock your purse in the trunk when you go out so drive-thru restaurants aren’t’ accessible/ Find someone who will hold you accountable.

4.Eat Until the Food is Gone. Some people were raised to clean their plates and they have a hard time breaking the habit. You lack control to stoop eating.

The Problem: Even healthy foods, when consumed in large quantities, pack a lot more calories than your body needs.

The Answer: Put your health first. Prepare meals plans and only eat what is on your plate. Measure foods out ahead of time into single serving packages.

5.Feeling Guilty. Food addicts tend to feel guilty after indulging in too much of the wrong foods.

The Problem: It can turn into a vicious cycle of feeling bad, overeating, feeling guilty and eating some more.

The Answer: Stop the cycle. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked in by the guilt. Forgive yourself, ask for support and get right back on your program.

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There certainly can be genetic, medical or other reasons people become overweight or severely obese. The reason for many people, however, is having bad habits that contribute to their weight problem.

Analyze Bad Habits that Contribute to Weight Gain

Closely analyze your lifestyle to determine if your bad habits are the cause of your weight gain. Notice your activity level. Do you purposely avoid exercise because you hate to sweat? Do you have trouble motivating yourself to get to the gym? Do you spend 20 minutes driving up and down parking lot aisles to get the closest spot so you don't have to walk? Start logging your exercise online or in a notebook to see exactly how much exercise you are getting in each week. Aim for at least 30 minutes 3-4 times per week.

Next take a look at your bad food habits. Do you skip meals in an attempt to save calories? Do you binge over large portions of food? Do you eat mindlessly in front of the TV or computer screen? Do you frequently snack before bed? Do you eat out of impulse or for emotional reasons? Track your daily calories long enough to get an average. Look for destructive eating patterns and conscientiously work at eating to fuel your body for energy.

Identify Bad Habits to Lose Weight

If any of these sound familiar there is hope. The good thing about these bad habits is that they are easy to change. Identifying bad habits and owning up to them is the first step towards creating positive change and losing weight. Journal about the bad habits that cause you to gain weight, be unhappy and unhealthy. Then choose a bad habit that you will work on changing. Write out a goal statement of exactly how you will break the habit. It's best to choose a new, healthier habit to replace the old behavior.

If you normally hit the vending machine to cure your mid-afternoon slump, for example, allow yourself a different type of energizer. Take a brisk walk, do some light stretching, have a cup of tea, have a healthy snack on hand, etc. It doesn't important what you choose to do as long as it is a healthy distraction.

Eliminating a bad habit and creating a health new routine takes time, but permanent change can and will take place with diligence and commitment, The final step is to return to your goal bad habit list and write out another goal statement for the next habit you want to change. The more bad habits you can eliminate, the easier it will be to lose weight.

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