Nutrition & Physical Activity
Congratulations on finding an exercise program that you truly enjoy and want to stick with. Good news — your yoga practice doesn’t have to suffer now that your months’ worth of yoga classes has run out! Taking yoga classes can be expensive and time consuming, but there are numerous ways to work around the cost.
Free yoga classes are often available through community centers, the YMCA, public parks (New Yorkers should see Shape Up NYC), and university clubs and student organizations. Some private yoga studios offer free classes during off-peak hours with teachers-in-training. Other studios, such as New York City’s Yoga to the People, are donation-based and operate under the principle that yoga should be accessible to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status. Most studios also offer class punch cards, purchased in bulk (usually between 10 to 20 classes), that are offered at a discounted rate. Finally, don’t hesitate to ask your local yoga studio if you may participate in karma yoga, a practice in which yogis trade assistance around the studio (such as front desk work, cleaning, or publicity) for free yoga classes.
The benefits of practicing at home are numerous — the fact that it’s free is just one of them! Doing yoga at home may help release you from self-consciousness, mitigate the stress of daily life, permit you extra time to focus on the poses you prefer or want to work on, allow you to focus your attention inward, and help you establish awareness of the relationship between the mind, body, and breath.
Indeed, there are guidelines for practicing yoga at home:
- Block out time for your at-home yoga practice in your schedule just as you would an in-person yoga class. You might try 30 minute sessions three to four days a week, for example.
- Set a timer at the beginning of your practice — some yogis prefer long sessions, but research shows that consistency, not the duration of the practice, helps build routine.
- Consider purchasing a yoga mat, block, and strap for home use. This equipment does involve an initial investment, but it will pay off the more you practice at home.
- If you’re not sure where to start, consider following a CD or video (available online and at most public libraries). As you grow more accustomed to at-home practice, you’ll naturally become your own teacher.
Other types of exercise, such as Pilates, dance, barre, and Tai Chi, function similarly to yoga in that they focus on stretching, strengthening, and mindfulness. Like yoga, you may that they require some guidance, especially when first starting, but that you can eventually move to an at-home practice.
Engaging in a combination of full cost, low-cost, free, and at-home yoga practice methods may be the best way to address your various needs. If you’re a Columbia student, check out the various low-cost exercise classes offered at the Dodge Fitness Center for more ideas and inspiration. While you’re at it, take a look at the CU Move program to discover other ways to stay physically active on campus, and if you’re interested in addressing stress outside of your yoga practice, look into the Stressbusters program or, if you’re on the Medical Center campus, the Center for Student Wellness.
The situation you describe is, unfortunately, all too common. That is to say, you are most definitely not alone in your feelings of not being in control and having the sense that food controls your life. Disordered eating, including binge eating disorder, is an issue that affects approximately 20 million women and 10 million men at some point during their lives. While there are a number of helpful online resources that can help, it’s highly recommended that you consult with a mental health professional about treatment. Fortunately, there are several reduced-cost treatment options you can take advantage of to help you on your road to recovery.
Let’s start with the online resources. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has a wealth of resources for people who struggle with eating disorders. Beyond the information on their website, the NEDA runs an Information and Referral Helpline through which you can connect with staff members who can help you find treatment programs, support groups, and other information specific to your situation. NEDA also allows you to search for treatment services with sliding scale payment options and runs an interactive website just for teens.
Other affordable options for treatment are training institutes accredited by the American Psychoanalytic Association. These institutes allow people to receive psychotherapy from therapists in training. This treatment comes with a low price tag, sometimes only $10 to $15 per session, or is priced on a sliding scale basis. If you are a student at Columbia, contact Counseling and Psychological Services (Morningside) or Mental Health Services (CUMC) to make an appointment with a therapist.
As far as the issue of weight gain goes, working with a professional, in addition to figuring out the underlying reasons behind your overeating, will help you become more comfortable with your body. Restrictive dieting is usually not the best approach, as it can be an unhealthy and ineffective method of losing weight. Finally, eating healthfully, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are great first steps and will positively complement other treatments such as therapy.
Hope this is helpful,
Now that your coworker has planted the idea of chlorophyll’s health benefits in your mind, it’s time to dig up some facts. Chlorophyll has been used as a supplement since the 1960s, although chlorophyllin, a solution of sodium copper salts made from chlorophyll, is more commonly and inexpensively available (this is likely what your coworker’s “chlorophyll water” contained). Although it does have some approved uses and suspected health benefits, no long-term or large-scale studies with humans have been done to conclusively prove its supposed health-boosting properties. Furthermore, while most supplements are made with chlorophyllin, studies suggest that chlorophyll — naturally available in vegetables such as spinach, parsley, and garden cress — may be a more potent health agent.
Chlorophyllin-containing papain/urea ointments and sprays are sometimes prescribed to treat inflammation, speed healing, and reduce odor in wounds. Patients with colostomies and ileostomies can also take over-the-counter supplements containing chlorophyllin to reduce fecal odor, although some studies dispute the efficiency in this. While these are the only two approved uses for chlorophyllin, other potential positive health effects may include:
- Reducing damage from carcinogens. Chlorophyll has been shown to bind to carcinogens, such as those in tobacco smoke and cooked meats, thus reducing their ability to enter the bloodstream and reach tissues.
- Protecting against liver cancer. A study in China showed that a biomarker for aflatoxin, a carcinogen found in improperly stored grains which causes liver cancer, was present at lower levels in participants who simultaneously consumed the toxin and chlorophyll. Because the development of cancer takes many years, however, the long-term effectiveness of chlorophyll is unclear.
- Treating trimethylaminuria (or fishy body odor). Chlorophyll reduces the amount of trimethylamines, and the associated fishy odor, excreted by people with this hereditary condition.
- Combating colon cancer. Chlorophyllin has been shown to inhibit DNA synthesis and repair processes in colon cancer cells, giving it potential for use in cancer therapy.
- Antioxidant properties.
It’s important to note that chlorophyllin also has potential side effects. Taken by mouth, it can cause urine or feces to appear greenish, black or yellow discoloration of the tongue, or occasional diarrhea. Used as an ointment or spray, it can cause a slight burning or itching sensation. Despite these mild side effects, no major toxicity in chlorophyll or chlorophyllin has been discovered in more than 50 years of popular use. Because of the lack of substantial research into chlorophyllins, however, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding may want to avoid this supplement or check in with a health provider before using it.
In summary, while the grass may be greener on the chlorophyll-watered side, science has yet to demonstrate its health benefits outside of a few very specific uses.
Hope this helps!
Although you describe your appetite as being low, the fact that you love food makes your problem much easier to manage. It sounds like you’re losing track of your eating schedule now that you’re on your own, but there are lots of ways to work around this, especially because you like to cook and eat! Establishing healthy habits takes time and effort, but practice makes perfect, and soon enough you’ll get into the swing of a healthy routine. Planning your meals in advance, incorporating food into your daily activities, and sticking to a schedule will all help you get there.
A widely accepted general rule is to not eat if you’re not hungry. However, not eating all day isn’t a particularly healthy pattern— consuming too little food throughout the course of the day may result in shakiness, tiredness, and general mental cloudiness as well as nutritional deficiencies and immune system weakness. The first step: Incorporating a healthy breakfast into your morning routine can help get your metabolism going early in the day, which can help boost appetite later on, helping you remember to eat. Although you may not feel hungry first thing in the morning, consider energizing your body with complex carbohydrates — try whole-grain cereals with milk, whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, or yogurt with nuts and fruit. For more information on other specific meal and snack options, check out the Get Balanced Guide for Healthier Eating.
Once you’ve had your breakfast, you have a solid nutritional base to build off of for the rest of the day. Try sticking to a schedule by eating at approximately the same times every day, whether you choose to eat three large or six small meals per day. Spread your meals apart, and set alarms if needed. When mealtime arrives, make sure to focus on your food, and avoid eating on the go or while watching a movie. Mindfulness will help you get into a routine.
In addition to eating at regular times, try keeping a food journal to analyze your habits. Write down what and when you eat, and after a few days, check your journal for patterns. You might find, for example, that you tend to reach for sweet snacks around 3:00 p.m. for an afternoon pick-me-up. Adjust your food choices and eating schedule according to your observations.
More ideas: Choose a library or workspace that has vending machines with healthy options so you’re reminded to eat, or make a commitment to have lunch with a colleague, classmate, or friend, which will help to incorporate healthy eating into your professional, academic, and social engagements. Always make sure to have healthy snacks on hand so you aren’t forced to make poor nutritional choices under pressure. Nutritious and yummy snack options include string cheese and dried fruit, almonds and low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt, or multigrain crackers with sliced turkey, hummus, or a hard-boiled egg. Prepare your healthy snacks and meals at night so you don’t forget to bring food along with you in the morning.
More generally, have you ever investigated the possible reasons for your lifelong low appetite? Lack or loss of appetite is sometimes indicative of various medical and psychological conditions, so it would be helpful to make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your concerns. Individuals experiencing sudden loss of appetite should meet with a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Columbia students can use Open Communicator or call 212-854-7426 to make an appointment with a healthcare provider on the Morningside Campus or dial 212-305-3400 to book over the phone with Student Health on the Medical Center Campus. Columbia community members are also encouraged to take a look at the Alice! Health Promotion Nutrition Initiatives.
Most importantly, be patient with yourself. Don’t try to make too many changes at once; slowly incorporating these ideas into your day will help you get on track without getting burned out or frustrated. If you slip up every now and then, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, ask yourself what caused you to forget to under- or overeat, and consider ways to adapt and prevent this from happening again. Bon appétit!
A few things to consider: First, do the nuts and nut butters you’re eating have added salt or sugars? If so, you may want to look at your overall sodium and sugar intake. You can have “too much of a good thing” when it comes to salt and sugar. Second, how’s the rest of your diet? Are you eating lots of vegetables (don’t forget your greens)? What about whole grains and fruits? While the calories in nuts can meet your body’s energy needs and provide protein, fiber, and some vitamins, there are additional nutrients, vitamins, carbohydrates, and sugars that can only be found in vegetables, fruits, starches, and other protein sources. So, dear reader, depending on your answers to the questions above, the amount of nuts you consume may or may not help you achieve a balanced diet. If you're not sure what a balanced diet looks like, head on over to ChooseMyPlate.gov for more information.
Nuts provide a lot of nutritional benefits, not to mention convenience in the form of a quick and tasty snack. As you might already know, nuts are mostly made up of vegetable protein and unsaturated fat, as well as dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Studies have shown that eating nuts lowers the risks of coronary disease and cardiac death, and reduces serum cholesterol levels and risk of type-2 diabetes in women.
Some may worry that too many nuts will contribute to weight gain, but that doesn’t sound like an issue for you. Weight gain is a result of calories in versus calories out. While nuts are a calorie-dense food, if the remainder of your diet is mostly low-calorie fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and some lean protein source, you probably aren’t eating more calories than you burn. The amount of calories you need is dependent on a number of factors, physical activity levels included. Eating nuts is even potentially protective against weight gain, as nuts can increase feelings of fullness and replace calories that would be consumed in other foods, leading to smaller and less frequent meals. Further, the number on the scale doesn’t necessarily indicate the health of a person. If you feel good, are living an active lifestyle, and consuming a balanced diet, your nutty obsession should be just fine.
If you are a Columbia student, there are lots of ways to find out more about achieving a balanced diet. Check out Columbia’s Get Balanced Guide for Healthier Eating which features information especially for CU students. You can also make an appointment with a Registered Dietician on both the Morningside or CUMC campuses.
Enjoy and happy snacking!
It’s no wonder you’re a little salty — committing yourself to working out most days of the week takes hard work and planning. Spending extra time washing workout clothes is the last thing you want to do. Here’s the thing: Nearly everyone sweats, and all sweat is salty. In fact, salty sweat stains are normal, even common. However, the volume and salt concentration will vary from person to person depending on genetics, metabolism, body weight, and environment. For instance, some people sweat so profusely that a crust of salt forms on their skin and clothing during workouts, while others perspire lightly and don’t show any evidence of salt on the skin after a strenuous workout. Luckily for you, there are lots of ways to deal with this issue. Keep reading!
Since you don’t mention any health concerns or troubling symptoms, instead of altering your diet or water consumption to solve this problem, you may want to first try these other tactics:
- Wear an undershirt to absorb sweat before it reaches the fabric of your outer black shirt.
- Bring lots of black shirts to the gym and leave them in a locker. Keep dirty and clean shirts separate, and once you’ve run out of clean ones, take all of them home to wash in one go.
- Try buying some new workout clothes designed to wick sweat away from the body and dry quickly. Spot clean the stains away after each workout with cold water, and wash the entire shirt thoroughly every two to three uses.
- Use an antiperspirant, which will help prevent sweat from happening in the first place. Less sweat means less salt to form stains on your clothes. Be careful when applying — antiperspirants can cause stains too.
- Choose a gym that doesn’t require black shirts. Shirts of other colors may hide the evidence of salty sweat rings better than black ones.
- For a less expensive option, exercise at home or in the great outdoors.
- For a sweat-free but challenging cardio workout, try swimming. The cool water will prevent sweat from sticking to your skin or clothes.
- Don’t exercise in the heat unless you’re acclimatized to such conditions. The amount of salt in sweat averages at approximately 500 milligrams per pound of sweat, but if you aren’t accustomed to working out in hot weather, you can lose up to 1,100 mg of sodium per pound of sweat.
You mentioned trying to decrease the amount of salt in your sweat. This would presumably be done by decreasing the sodium in your diet. While most Americans could benefit from doing this, you may currently be getting just the right amount for your body and it’s not clear whether decreasing salt would make the salt rings go away. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. There are exceptions for individuals of certain demographics — for example, individuals with diabetes and those who are over 51 years of age should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. If you are within range, you might want to talk to your health care provider before making alterations to your diet. Check out the intake. In terms of water consumption, check out Not drinking enough fluids? and The latest on hydration from the Go Ask Alice! archives.
Columbia students have access to the Dodge Fitness Center and the Uris swimming pool, and are encouraged to participate in CU Move, Columbia’s initiative to promote physical activity and healthy living. Additionally, Columbians can meet with a doctor at Medical Services on the Morningside Campus or Student Health at the Medical Center Campus for personalized advice regarding sweat, exercise, and salt intake. For more general information about exercise and fitness, check out the Fitness section of the Go Ask Alice! archives. For tips and tricks related to salt intake and other aspects of a nutritious diet, take a peek at the Get Balanced Guide for Healthier Eating.
Again, nice job maintaining a workout routine — keep it up!
While many people have probably not heard of it, Tongkat Ali has historically been used to treat health problems ranging from fevers to intestinal worms. This herbal extract is most popularly known (no wonder!) as an aphrodisiac for men. Although it comes from a plant in the Southeast Asian rainforests, it is now widely available either as a pill or an instant coffee additive. This herbal supplement, also known as Eurycoma Longifolia (EL), has not shown any severe health consequences in experiments conducted with rats. However, as a non-FDA approved substance which has not yet been tested extensively in humans, caution and careful consideration should be given along with consulting with a healthcare provider.
In one study, rats given various doses of Tongkat Ali were found to have increased sexual activity and greater sperm quality. Bigger effects were seen at higher doses, and doses ranged from 30 to 150 milligrams of drug per one kilogram of body weight (mg/kg). In another experiment with rats, administering doses of 1200 to 2400 mg/kg caused some liver damage in a few test subjects but did not otherwise harm them. While there are not studies of long-term use in animals or humans (including studies in women), researchers suggested further investigation of the impacts on the liver as well as research into sustained use.
If you are considering or taking Tongkat Ali pills, the largest dose usually recommended for humans is 400 milligrams per day, which is far below the toxic dose observed in the rat study. If you prefer Tongkat Ali-based coffee mix (TACM), a small trial with 20 human subjects showed that drinking 21 grams of TACM daily for four weeks improved participants’ ability to orgasm and sexual satisfaction, but had no significant impact on their body mass index (BMI), waistline, erectile function, or blood pressure. It is important to note, however, that the study subjects were overall healthy individuals. As always, if you have any health problems or are taking other medication, it’s best to talk to your health provider before starting any supplement, including Tongkat Ali. Columbia students can make appointments by contacting Medical Services (Morningside) or Student Health (Medical Center).
Wishing you safe and pleasurable experiences!
What an egg-cellent question! Not only can egg yolks be used for recipes and DIY-beauty products, but also eggs are a healthy component of a balanced diet, as both the yolks and whites are rich sources of nutrients. Egg whites contain 4 grams of protein, only 17 calories, and almost no fat. While egg yolks actually contain more than 90 percent of the calcium, iron, zinc, folate, and Vitamins B6, B12, A, E, D, and K found in eggs, you’re correct that they can also be an unhealthy source of cholesterol.
In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that Americans eat less than 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per day, but just one egg yolk has about 185 mg of cholesterol. One recent study even suggests that for people already at risk for heat disease, eating three or more egg yolks per week could be as damaging to arteries as smoking. Other research finds that eating eggs in moderation does not negatively affect cholesterol levels in healthy individuals. Check out the Alice! Health Promotion Nutrition Initiatives for more information about integrating eggs into a healthy diet.
If you do find yourself with extra yolks, you can use them to make custard, crème brûlée, aioli, Hollandaise Sauce, and more. For recipes, just do a quick Internet search for “egg yolk recipes.” Yolks can be saved for later by refrigerating them for three to four days or, for longer-term storage, freezing them in ice cube trays mixed with a pinch of salt or sugar. And for those who should avoid eating egg yolks altogether, there’s a sunny side — you can use egg yolks to create DIY hair treatments. Some people swear by egg yolks as treatments for split ends, dull or dry locks, and for strengthening weak strands. Again, a quick Internet search for “egg yolk hair treatments” will provide more than enough recipes to get you started.
Hope this was egg-ducational,
Lentils are small, round, lens shaped edible plants that are produced in various colors and sizes. They are celebrated for their long shelf life, low cost, and excellent nutritional content. Specifically, they are low in sodium and cholesterol, yet high in beneficial nutrients such as thiamin, phosophorus, copper, vitamin C, folate, iron, manganese, and dietary fiber. Better yet, because lentils generally don’t contain sulfur, they don’t cause gastrointestinal distress like many other legumes (e.g., beans). The variety in lentils exists mostly among their color, size, shape, and flavor — nutritional content remains fairly consistent across different lentil varieties.
Many different lentil varieties are sold in grocery stores in the United States. The following are the most widely available lentils on the market:
- Brown Lentils: the most common lentil in the United States features a mildly earthly flavor profile and smooth texture.
- Yellow Lentils: sweet and nutty, yellow lentils break down quickly when cooked and are used as a thickening agent in many recipes, such as Indian dal (yum!).
- Red Lentils: a light red to orange color, red lentils are actually a split and hulled version of the yellow lentil, with the shortest cooking time of all varieties.
- Black Lentils: dark on the outside, black lentils contain a light, creamy flesh and resemble beluga caviar when cooked.
- Green Lentils: firm and flavorful, green lentils don’t break down easily with stirring or mixing, making them ideal for salads and pilafs.
- French Green Lentils or Puy Lentils: a smaller and darker type of green lentil, French green lentils are firm in texture and distinguished by their lightly speckled surface.
Many vegetarians and vegans love lentils for their high protein content. In fact, lentils are the third most protein dense legume out there, trumped only by soybeans and hemp. Although lentils are a wonderful source of protein, it’s important to note that they’re an incomplete protein, meaning that one should also consume grains in order to provide the body with all essential amino acids to create a complete protein. The lentils and grains don't need to be eaten at the same exact time in order to be used by the body to build protein, as once was thought. The complementary proteins just need to be consumed within 24 hours of each other. Incomplete proteins come from plant-based foods, such as beans, rice, grains, legumes (other than soy), and vegetables.
The slight nutritional differences between various types of lentils are mostly a product of the manner in which the lentils are prepared. For example, whole green and brown lentils contain more fiber than hulled red and black ones; raw lentils are slightly higher in protein than cooked ones; and raw sprouted lentils may be higher in carbohydrates than other varieties.
Lentils are a fantastic addition to any diet. For more information about nutrition, check out the Get Balanced Guide to Healthier Eating as well as the Alice! Health Promotion Nutrition Initiatives. For questions about your specific individual nutritional needs, make an appointment with Medical Services on the Morningside Campus or Student Health at the Medical Center to speak with a healthcare provider or nutritionist.
Medicine ball training is a great supplement to regular exercise! Whether you’re trying to incorporate strength training into your exercise routine or you’re looking to target specific muscles, medicine balls can help improve overall fitness. However, medicine balls are not sufficient solely on their own. To be most effective, combine the use of medicine balls with other forms of aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming. Major benefits of using a medicine ball include improving muscular power, endurance, and overall fitness.
Since you’re new to exercising with medicine balls, it’s better to start with a light ball (3-10 pounds) and work your way up to greater resistance so that you can learn to maintain proper form. Simply holding a medicine ball over your head while you do crunches can improve your abdominal workout. Or you can recruit a partner to stand above you at your feet, while you sit and hold the medicine ball at chest level. When you lift up in your crunch position, toss the medicine ball to your partner and hold your crunch until your partner tosses it back. Lower and repeat. Make sure you have a spacious workout area. Or, if weather permits, take your medicine ball outside for a workout!
Here are a few more exercises to get you started:
- Beginning in a squat position, hold the medicine ball in both hands between your legs. In a rapid movement, bring your arms upward and over your head. Then, bring your arms down and release the ball at chest level. Repeat.
- Lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms extended over your head, holding the medicine ball. Simultaneously raise your legs and arms into a seated V-position, bringing the medicine ball over your head. Return to start position and repeat.
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat, and hold the ball at chest level. Lift your legs slightly to a 90 degree angle and rotate your torso to the left, tapping the ball on the floor outside your left hip. Bring the ball back to your chest and rotate to the right, tapping the ball on the floor outside your right hip to complete one repetition. Repeat.
The size and shape of the medicine ball you choose may vary depending on the exercise being performed — probably anywhere from 2 pounds to over 25 pounds. A heavier ball is good for strength training, while a lighter ball is good for speed training. Many are round, but some also have handles, sports-specific shapes, or even ropes attached. The size does not always correlate to the weight. The materials in medicine balls usually include leather, nylon,or another rubberized material.
Strength training should be done a minimum of two days a week, with 8-12 repetitions of 8-10 different exercises that target major muscle groups. Not all of these exercises need to be done with medicine balls. Strength training can also be accomplished using body weight, resistance bands, free weights, or weight machines. If you are planning on a rigorous physical activity regiment, it’s always recommended that you speak with a healthcare provider. In addition to determining your health and fitness, s/he can provide you with more detailed information about developing a safer and more effective exercise program for your specific needs.
For a more personalized consultation on how to use a medicine ball, consider talking with a certified personal trainer at a fitness center. Columbia students on the Morningside campus may want to consider an on-campus personal trainer at Dodge Fitness Center.