Nutrition & Physical Activity

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Desires to feel more confident and sexy about self

Dear Reader,

Sporting sexy things for one's paramour is one of the many perks (no pun intended) of relationship life. And it is a great testament to your relationship that your boyfriend compliments you. Some wise person once said, however, that "reassurance never reassures." So it is possible that his compliments may not be fully sinking in. In order to accept kind words from others, some part of you must also believe the statement. Have you noticed how you react when he compliments you? Are you able to hear and believe positive comments about your appearance?

It is possible that your low self-esteem, or at least your negative evaluation of your appearance, may affect you beyond intimate situations. Do you think this is true? In the western world, the skinny image of feminine beauty is everywhere. Any young child can tell you what an "ideal woman" should look like and very, very few women fit that standard (which is not culturally universal). Many people have internalized negative beliefs about themselves. These messages did not originate with you: They are the voices of young peers, family members, TV, magazine and billboard ads, and other mass-produced images of a standardized and very specific idea of beauty. Once a person has internalized a negative belief about the self, it can be very difficult to unlearn it, especially if you have held the belief for a long time.

So what to do about it? Here are some strategies to address your self-consciousness:

Gaining more insight. Many psychologists believe that suffering can be alleviated through insight. There are many different kinds of insight: You can gain insight about the source of your pain, insight about how and when it operates currently, and insight about how tour low self–esteem may affect other people. Source insight can be helpful because it can help you understand how and when the view was established. Many believe that people experience a type of liberation when they are able to make connections between early experiences and current thinking. You are able to see that your view of self originated outside of you and may very well be distorted. Gaining more insight into how others view you, you may begin to wonder if your own negative view of self is distorted.

Changing thoughts. Even without gaining insight, people can change their belief systems. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one way in which a therapist can help address distorted thinking or false beliefs that you may have about yourself and about your appearance.

Changing emotions. What are the feelings that come up for you when you undress? Do you experience anxiety? Shame? Fear? What emotions come up when you imagine yourself wearing something sexy for your boyfriend? What emotions do you notice yourself feeling when he compliments you? Do you feel happy? Embarrassed? Doubtful? Another benefit of therapy is that it may help you uncover some these emotions and which may allow you to work on changing them. Sometimes, negative self–esteem can be as much about someone's emotional state as one's thought process.

Fake it 'til you make it. Some psychologists believe that changing behavior is what leads feeling better. If you do the things that you'd like to do, even if they cause anxiety, you may eventually become "de-sensitized," meaning that the negative feelings may become less powerful over time and may be replaced by more positive ones, especially if you have good experiences when you take such risks.

A great deal has been written on the subject of body image and self-confidence. If you're looking for some good reads, here's a list:

  • Joan J. Brumberg's, The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls
  • Rita Freedman's, Bodylove: Learning to Like Our Looks — and Ourselves and That Special You: FeelingGood about Yourself
  • Marcia Hutchinson's, Transforming Body Image: Learning to Love the Body You Have
  • Ophira Edut and Rebecca Walker’s Body Outlaws: Young Women Write About Body Image and Identity
  • Susie Orbach's, Fat Is a Feminist Issue
  • Kaz Cooke's, Real Gorgeous: The Truth about Body and Beauty
  • Judith Rodin's, Body Traps: Breaking the Binds that Keep You from Feeling Good about Your Body
  • Linda Sanford and Mary Donovan's, Women & Self-Esteem
  • Charles R. Schroeder's, Fat Is Not a Four-Letter Word
  • Eve Ensler's The Good Body
  • Naomi Wolf's, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women

Whatever you decide to read, seeking support may be another good option. If you are a Columbia student, you can make an appointment to speak with a therapist at Counseling and Psychological Services (Morningside) or the Mental Health Service (CUMC). Best of luck on your journey to feeling more positively and confident about yourself.

Take care,

Alice

March 19, 2012

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Dear reader, What you see as fat, others might see as delicious curves that offer opportunities for holding, stroking, grabbing, and caressing. I think many women, on average, underestimate how...
Dear reader, What you see as fat, others might see as delicious curves that offer opportunities for holding, stroking, grabbing, and caressing. I think many women, on average, underestimate how many men are attracted to a wide range of body types and sizes of body parts. Nothing's sexier than someone who feels sexy in their own skin. That can take time for some people. Good luck!

What's the difference between ionic and colloidal minerals?

Dear D2,

Trying to make sense of all the vitamin and mineral supplements on the pharmacy shelves may make you feel stuck between a rock and a hard place! Before you swallow any information, it is important to know that both ionic minerals and colloidal minerals have a lot of dubious marketing and advertising surrounding them. Manufacturers of colloidal and ionic supplements may make a variety of claims about their products — many of which are not confirmed by scientific research. Moreover, the body doesn’t need a whole lot of minerals; fewer than 20 have been judged to be essential to your health.

A colloid is a mixture in which particles are suspended in a liquid or a gas. Colloidal minerals come from humic shale deposits, primarily from Emery County, Utah. After collection, the shale is crushed and placed in water so that the minerals can enter the solution. Colloidal mineral distributors stress the “naturalness” of their product and have made claims about improving conditions associated with certain diseases, a practice judged to be illegal by the FDA. In addition, some advertisements state that colloidal supplements contain 75 minerals, many of which have not been proven to be beneficial to health (such as platinum, gold, and silver).

Ionic mineral distributors state that colloidal minerals have too large of a particle size to be absorbed by the body. Therefore, ionic minerals (named after their supposed positively and negatively charged molecules) were created to have the “correct electrical charge” and therefore lead to higher levels of absorption by the body. Although these supplements may actually lead to greater absorption, it is important to remember that there are various other conditions that must be present in the body in order for this to happen.

In reality, the body only needs minerals in trace amounts. Excessive dosages of minerals can actually be toxic. Therefore, before you experiment with any vitamin or mineral supplements, you may want to speak with your health care provider. A provider can help you sort out fact from fiction, so you can make an informed decision and avoid products that may be harmful or simply ineffective. In certain cases, you may be better off wearing these minerals than ingesting them!

Alice

December 11, 2012

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Dear Alice. I think people who are in tune to their body are able to judge very quickly if something helps, whereas health care providers know next to nothing about nutrition. It is amazing to me...
Dear Alice. I think people who are in tune to their body are able to judge very quickly if something helps, whereas health care providers know next to nothing about nutrition. It is amazing to me that those same health care providers are so quick to say you may harm yourself by using supplements, but in a heart beat will prescribe a drug they Know is toxic, habit forming, and with such a list of side effects it boggles the mind. I felt like a different person in just one week after starting Ionic Minerals. I had strange small muscle tics, anxiety and poor sleep and from reading and knowing my body, I decided to try a liquid and happened onto the Ionics. It's a miracle. I hate that the medical, pharmaceutical industry are so quick to label something dangerous.

Weight loss tricks for big and chunky teens?

Dear Big and Chunky brothers,

The big secret that a lot of people have been slowly learning is that most restrictive diets don't work in the long run. Being on a diet usually makes people hungry, tired, cranky, frustrated, depressed, deprived, annoyed, and anxious. Sounds like a recipe for failure, huh? The key to eating a balanced diet is to be mindful of what you are eating and how much you are eating. Aim to eat a generally healthy diet, but allow yourself to follow your cravings without guilt. Moderation is key.

So, what's a teen to do? First, take a look at your lifestyle. Are you sitting in front of a computer, TV, or video game system most of the time? You need to get up and get your body in motion! Having a friend with the same concerns is helpful, because being active is more fun with someone else. Make a list of things you could do together. Some ideas to get you started include:

  • Playing some sport — outside
  • Enthusiastic walking
  • Riding bikes
  • Blading
  • Walking up stairs
  • Getting off at an earlier bus or subway stop and walking the rest of the way

Second, identify your usual eating routine. For many people, it's almost automatic to snack while working and studying, reading, or watching TV. Calories from junk food add up much faster than calories from nutritious foods. Hunger doesn't even matter. This is an unhealthy pattern that's hard to break. Most of us can be more mindful of our eating. We could make a concerted effort not to snack while doing other things. Eat only when hungry, rather than for entertainment. If one is hungry (and it is okay and even helpful to eat between meals), take a few moments to sit and have a snack. Not unlimited food, but a set amount on a plate or in a bowl — nothing out of the bag, box, or container. Good snack ideas include vegetabels and hummus, an apple and an ounce of cheese, or a rice cake with nut butter. When you are done eating, move to the next activity.

Eating three regular meals a day can make a difference. If you're a breakfast or lunch skipper, you set yourself up to overeat at some point later in the day. Build healthy meals by:

  • Including at least one fruit (e.g., apple, orange, pear) or non-starchy vegetable (e.g., leafy greens, broccoli, carrots) at every meal.
  • Incorporating one food that is a good source of protein: low- or non-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese); soy (tofu, soy milk); lean meat, chicken, fish; legumes (beans, lentils, and split peas) or nuts.
  • Making whole grains at least 50 percent of your grains during the day (that's a minimum of one meal or snack), and including items such as whole grain breads or cereals, brown rice, or whole grain pasta.
  • Cutting down on fat. Although we need some fat in our eating plan to be healthy, it is a concentrated source of calories that can add up quickly. Making French fries out of a potato adds over 20 grams of fat and almost 200 calories, while a plain baked potato has less than one gram of fat and 220 calories. Choose fried foods infrequently and opt for baked, broiled, grilled, roasted, or steamed items instead.

The quantity of food you are eating is equally important in managing your weight. This doesn't mean that you have to go hungry. Rather, tune in to the portion sizes you are eating. Do you feel overly stuffed after eating? Are you truly hungry when you start eating? Perhaps you could be satisfied with smaller sized meals and snacks. Soft drinks are another source of excess calories for many teens. One can of soda pop has 150 calories, all from sugar. Drinking a liter a day could add over 3,000 calories to a person's weekly intake, or nearly one extra pound of weight. If this sounds like you, try cutting down, or switching to flavored seltzer or water. Look to whole foods to supply your meals and snacks as often as possible. Cutting down on processed foods, if that is an issue, should give you a good kick start.

Hopefully this answer has given you some "food for thought." Although there aren't any shortcuts to good health, increasing your awareness of your eating patterns is a good start.

Alice

April 12, 2002

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Alice, I am disappointed. Although the information you gave in your answer to the above question, you left out one VERY important thing... positive body image. It is entirely possible that "Big and...
Alice, I am disappointed. Although the information you gave in your answer to the above question, you left out one VERY important thing... positive body image. It is entirely possible that "Big and Chunky Brothers" are eating right, moving their bodies, and are generally healthy. Perhaps they are worried about their size because they have received so many negative messages about being "oversize" (whatever that means). By all means, include the information on healthy eating and fun body movement — but don't forget to include ways that people can learn to feel good about the bodies they have (which often do not fit into society's ideals). This can include anything from making sure to spend more time with people that appreciate you for everything about you and don't put you down for the way you look — to going for counseling if negative body image thoughts are making you depressed, or even leading to eating disorders or steroid use. Down with Body Phobia (be it fat-phobia or thin-phobia)! Sincerely, A concerned reader

Are low carb diets safe?

Dear Reader #1 and Marianne in Mesquite, Tx,

The Atkins Diet is a popular low-carb diet, which restricts certain types and amounts of carbohydrates (such as grains, starchy veggies and fruit) and emphasizes protein and fat. The idea behind the diet is that eating too many carbohydrates leads to blood sugar imbalances, weight gain, and cardiovascular problems. The Atkins Diet, in particular, has varying phases of strictness, at first limiting carbs drastically and then gradually increasing your range of foods over time. 

So why have you both heard that a low-carb diet might be bad for you? Drastically cutting carbs can result in some not-so-fun side effects such as headache, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, and constipation. You may even experience nutritional deficiencies. Eating a green salad each day might not cut your risk entirely. Carbohydrates are your body’s main fuel source, and digestion breaks down carbs into glucose (blood sugar). Severe restriction of carbohydrates (less than 20 grams a day) can result in a condition known as ketosis. Ketosis happens when your body doesn’t have enough glucose for energy, which leads to your body breaking down stored fat, causing ketones to build up in your body. The side effects of ketosis include nausea, headache, mental fatigue, and bad breath. Low-carb diets may be dangerous for people with severe kidney disease, or for pregnant or breastfeeding women. It’s best to consult your health care provider before starting a low-carb diet, especially if you have diabetes or gout, or take diuretics, insulin, or oral diabetes medications.

Some studies suggest weight loss with the Atkins Diet is not due to cutting carbs, but taking in fewer calories because your food choices are limited and protein and fat may keep you feeling full longer. The key to low-carb diets, or really any diet, is to find a way to balance being healthy (getting the nutrients and exercise that you need) while watching your food intake. Shedding the pounds can mean shedding disease risk! Almost any diet that helps you lose excess weight can improve your HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and can reverse risk factors for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, bone loss, and some cancers.

When considering a diet for weight loss, there’s no famine of options. Check out the Alice’s archives on weight gain and loss for more information on different types of diets and the healthy eating category for more ideas on what to eat. Consider your personal preferences, budget, and health and look for a safe and effective weight loss plan. It can be hard to stick to a restrictive diet in the long term, making it difficult to reach a weight goal. Just because a diet is popular or your friends are trying it, doesn’t mean it’s the best approach for you. Besides speaking with your health care provider, you could also consider weight-loss support groups or speaking with a registered dietitian.

Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, diet counseling is covered for people at higher risk for chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get diet counseling at no cost to you. Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan.

You can check out our get balanced! Guide for Healthier Eating. Columbia students on the Morningside campus can make an appointment with Medical Services. Columbia students at the Medical Center can make an appointment with Student Health or the Center for Student Wellness.

Alice

Conflicting nutrient values charts

Dear Reader,

There is so much nutrition information available from a host of different sources and it’s not hard to see why confusion can arise. You may have access to information published in scientific journals, which are studies that have been critiqued by nutrition experts. At the other end of the spectrum, some sources such as websites and corporate advertisements are created with the intention of boosting sales of the latest diet book or food product. In order to increase the chances of finding valid nutrition information, it's important to identify, use, and refer back to sources you trust. Additionally, when comparing information from multiple sources it is very important to make sure you are comparing exactly the same thing (same serving size, same source, etc).

When gathering information online, it is important to determine who sponsors the site, how often it is updated, the sources for information, and if advertising is involved (or influences content). As an example; Go Ask Alice! is sponsored by Columbia University, content is updated daily (all pages have an update date listed), the sources are described (see below), and the site is advertising free (learn about our no ad policy).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is generally the most reliable source of nutrition and food-related information for the general public in the United States. The dietary guidelines can be found at their MyPlate website where you can also find sample menus and recipes, a food tracker, BMI calculator, as well as several other useful health and food-related tools.

The USDA also has a National Nutrient Database, which is a reliable source for nutrient values for foods. Frequently, this site is accessed by nutrition researchers and developers of nutrient analysis programs. The National Nutrient Database site is user friendly enough that even regular people will be able to do a food search during her/his first visit to the site. Even the National Nutrient Database site, however, can be confusing. For example, it will generate conflicting numbers for nutrients in products such as milk, which comes in a number of varieties. For example, cow's milk provides 8 grams of protein per 8 ounces, evaporated skim milk provides 19 grams, and soy milk, 3 grams. The lesson learned here is to check the details of the food you searched for if the results seem different. For example, a search for milk could yield information on both coconut milk and cow's milk.

The MyPlate SuperTracker and the Nutrient Analysis Tool (NAT) are comprehensive online programs that can be used to analyze not just one food, but an entire day of food intake. They show a comparison of the analysis to your daily nutrient needs. The food lists in these programs come from the USDA National Nutrient Database, and nutrient needs are based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).

RDAs are amounts of nutrients that, if consumed on a daily basis, would meet the needs of approximately 97 percent of the population, and are amounts that have been established after years of intensive research studies. The RDA of protein for adult males is 56 grams per day, and for women it is 46 grams per day. This general recommendation is based on 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, for individuals in good general health. Protein needs can vary depending on a person's health status and exercise regimen.

For a personalized assessment of your nutrient needs Columbia studnets can make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian. Columbia University students can call x4-2284 or log into Open Communicator to schedule an appointment. Non-students may have access to a nutritionist through her/his primary health care provider or search for a dietitian in your area through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics web site. You might also want to check out the resources listed on the Columbia Health Get Balanced nutrition page.

For additional information regarding finding quality health information online, check out Health information on-line: Whom can you trust? Hopefully these new resources will help to clear up your nutrient value confusion, making it easier for you to make healthier eating choices.

Alice

Does exercising on an empty stomach maximize fat burning?

Dear Reader,

First things first: Great job staying active! Now, on to your very interesting (and slightly complicated) question. As you have already noticed, there are many schools of thought on the issue of maximizing fat loss. Do you exercise on an empty stomach or do you make sure and eat a little something before your morning run? Sifting through all this information can indeed be confusing. Let’s get to the bottom of the issue.

The latest research seems to indicate the following: If you will be exercising longer than 30 minutes, eat a light snack in the morning before you run. It’s a good idea if that snack contains some carbohydrates and some protein (i.e. a banana with peanut butter). This allows your body to use the carbohydrates to help burn fat in your body and the protein will keep you going past that 30 minute mark. However, if your aerobic workouts are less than 30 minutes, exercising on an empty stomach may indeed be the most beneficial for fat-burning.

Carbohydrates are the easiest for your body to burn — they require the least amount of oxygen. Fat, the body’s long–term energy storage mechanism, takes more oxygen. If no carbohydrate is present (i.e. an empty stomach), your body will burn fat for energy. But your body will also start burning protein. Herein lies the catch to performing aerobic exercise on an empty stomach: You may experience some muscle loss, especially if your work out is 30 minutes or longer. Here are a few more things to consider:

  • Not eating before a workout may cause you to fatigue faster, thereby shortening or lowering the intensity of your workout.
  • Exercising on an empty stomach can decrease blood sugar levels, which may make you hungrier and more prone to overeat at your next meal.

Lastly, individual bodies with different metabolisms do this sugar-protein-fat dance slightly differently. For example, certain types of health conditions, such as diabetes and low blood pressure, necessitate eating before exercising, as a cardio workout on an empty stomach could cause other health problems. Medical conditions aside, some people are more prone to muscle loss than others, and some will burn fat more quickly or easily than others. Additionally, the altitude at which you work out makes a difference. People exercising at higher altitudes have less oxygen at their disposal, so running at a slower pace, which will lower your heart rate, will help you burn more fat. Many trainers say that to maximize fat burning, you should do your cardio workout at a level that allows you just enough breath to hold a conversation.

Columbia students interested in more physical activity information can by sign up for Columbia's CU Move motivational emails. You can also visit the CU Move webpage for other physical activity related information. Best of luck to you on your morning workouts!

Alice

Cart Pushing: How to prevent muscle aches

Dear Cart Pushing Professional,

Work life may get tough, but when push comes to shove, don't put your back into it! Your attention to your body is an excellent first step in pain prevention. While there are some things you may do to reduce your pain, it's important to know that your employer is also expected to provide a safe working environment for you, free of conditions that cause injury.

Remember when pushing the cart(s) or other heavier items, try to bend from your hips rather than your waist. You'll know you're doing this right if your back is straight and you feel yourself using your legs. If you have a "hump" when you bend or if you find yourself hunching as you bend and twist, it means you're probably putting more stress on your back. Try to move from your lower core, putting your weight on your glutes (butt muscles). Flexing your stomach muscles while cart-pushing may add more support from your core, as well, hopefully helping to take pressure off your knees. Another option may be to see if your employer may provide you with some type of support belt that may help distribute the pressure more evenly and support your lower back. Staying well hydrated throughout your shift may also help prevent soreness, and healthy snacks and meals may help you sustain your energy level.

Stretching is certainly a good way to help with soreness, as is the occasional massage. Unless you know someone, professional massages may be costly. If funds for an occasional massage aren't in your budget, consider trading massages with a friend or locating a massage school where you may be able to get discounts with massage therapists in training.

You also mentioned that the snow makes pushing carts more difficult. One thing that may help is a device consisting of rubber straps that you may stretch over the soles of your shoes. Lining these rubber straps are small, metal rings that dig into ice and snow, creating friction and reducing or eliminating slippage. Runners and hikers often use them to stay active in the winter months and they may be found at many outdoor and sporting goods stores at a low price. Make sure to use the kind that has studs on the entire sole, rather than ones only of the ball or heel. You may consider asking your employer to cover the cost or give you a discount if they're sold in your store.

Speaking of which, you employer has the responsibility to provide a safe working environment for you — they are required by Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Any employee of a private company may make an anonymous complaint and request an investigation. Even if your employer were to somehow find out it were you, they're legally prohibited from firing you, refusing to promote or give you a raise, or otherwise punish you from making the complaint. For more information, check out the OSHA website or call 1-800-321 OSHA.

Lastly, seeing a health care provider may help rule out serious injuries as the cause of your soreness and may be able to provide you with more information for pain relief and injury prevention. If you're a student, you may be covered by your school's health care plan. Columbia students can make an appointment by contacting Medical Services (Morningside) or the Student Health Service (CUMC).

Working hard is important, and ensuring that you stay healthy to continue working in the long run may be even more important. Try some of the precautions, exercise self care, and flex your employee rights — work doesn't have to be back breaking!

Alice

March 20, 2012

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I've been a cart pusher for about 2 years and I can definitly say that it is a tough job. As far as muscle aches and pains go, try to use your legs when pushing around a corner and or turning the...
I've been a cart pusher for about 2 years and I can definitly say that it is a tough job. As far as muscle aches and pains go, try to use your legs when pushing around a corner and or turning the carts. For example, when turning use your legs and move forward toward the opposite direction you want the carts to go, thus pushing them in the direction you want to go. This should help knee pain also. When pushing be sure not to stress one part of your body all the time especially if pain persists, switch up the technique in which you push the carts. A good way to warm up is by walking around or even getting a light jog to get your blood pumping, it reduces soreness. Protein drinks can be used to further cut down on soreness. Be careful always of injury, take it easy if you feel persistent pain. Hope this helps, good luck in your future

Barefoot running

Dear Toe-tally Barefoot,

Aside from "getting back to nature," many runners who choose to go shoeless do so to prevent injury, though if you haven't experienced injury in traditional running shoes, there's little added benefit to switching. Running shoes aim to reduce pressure on the heel, but in doing so, affect the natural tendency for some people to run on the front part of their foot which acts as a natural shock absorber. Though studies aren't conclusive, some evidence suggested that the sturdy, built-up heels developed to cushion feet in running shoes may actually contribute to injuries, such as plantar fasciitis. Also, without the added weight at the end of your legs, your body may use up to five percent less energy during your run, which some people claim helps them run faster. The natural spring that comes from landing on the front of the foot may also add to this, but it's unlikely to increase your pace substantially.

By relying more on the muscles of your feet, toes, and ankles to propel you forward, running barefoot may contribute to stronger muscles in the arch of the foot and the calf as well as less pressure on your knees. However, for people who naturally land hard on their heels, they may need to take extra precautions. Shortening their stride and focusing on landing on the mid to front part of the foot may help prevent injury when running sans shoes. The extra workout also requires increased attention to stretching and massaging the muscles in the legs and feet before and after running to prevent strain, muscle tears, and scar tissue build-up.

At first, some runners who switch from traditional running shoes to being barefoot may feel discomfort in their feet, legs, and hips. Aside from the fact that your shoe-accustomed feet may require some sensorial adjustment, other parts of your body will likely need time to acclimate as well. One way to minimize discomfort is to transition gradually. Slowly build up distance (starting at a quarter mile to one mile every other day) sans shoes. If you're already a skilled runner, run with shoes for most of your run, then progressively increase the amount of time without shoes. A good rule of thumb is to increase distance without shoes by ten percent every week. Muscle soreness will likely occur as your body adjusts, but pain in your joints or bones may be a sign of injury. You may want to discuss your potential injuries with a health care provider.

For those with less skepticism about shoes, some manufacturers are producing minimal footwear, or lighter running shoes with flatter, more flexible soles that mimic the benefits of being barefoot. Less cushioning and elevation in the heel may offer many of the same benefits as barefoot running while still protecting your tootsies from the elements. To learn more about barefoot running or running in minimal footwear, check out the great videos and tips from Harvard's Skeletal Biology Lab.

No shoes? No problem! Just watch out for debris!

Alice

January 3, 2013

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Try the Vibram FiveFingers shoes (the ones with individual toes, and no cushioning. They encourage (require) you to run exactly as you would in bare feet, but they protect against glass, thorns, and...
Try the Vibram FiveFingers shoes (the ones with individual toes, and no cushioning. They encourage (require) you to run exactly as you would in bare feet, but they protect against glass, thorns, and other debris. The Bikilia model is excellent for late-spring, summer, early-autumn running and general kicking around, but it's not water-proof at all. The new Lontra model is touted to be the equivalent for nasty-weather running. I've got Bikilias and a couple pair of earlier models (that I don't like as much), and my Lontra's have just been ordered. I prefer the separate-toes design to the other so-called minimalist runners that I've tried, because it lets the toes and forefoot move much more naturally in response to terrain. I can do a few miles at a time in my FiveFingers, but after more than a year, I consider myself still in transition from my moderate-support New Balance and Sauconys. I'd love to just run barefoot, but humans have made that unsafe. You get the sole of your foot slashed, and your running is set back for weeks or months. Vibram FiveFingers and other minimalist shoes seem to be the happy medium between dangerously unprotected and dangerously over-coddled.

Apple cider vinegar

Dear Reader,

"Apple cider vinegar a day keeps the doctor away" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Even still, many people claim that this product of fermented crushed apples yields a variety of health benefits including those that you mentioned. Usually taken in liquid, powder, or pill form before meals, it's most often used to aid digestion since the high acetic acid content helps break down food. In addition to this, it has also been used for centuries to treat fungal infections and sunburn. Although this may spark a domino effect on other aspects of health, there is no scientific proof that it has any effect on weight, blood pressure, or acne.

A common misconception about apple cider vinegar is that it curbs appetite and promotes fat burning, but physiologically, even though acetic acid intake may temporarily facilitate loss of water weight, it doesn't appear to affect fat. In fact, the high acidity of the vinegar may cause erosion of tooth enamel, throat irritation, and drug/supplement interactions (particularly with insulin and diuretics). It also acts as a blood thinner, so people who are on blood-thinning medications may want to reconsider its use.

Because the confirmed health benefits of apple cider vinegar are often a result of its high nutrient content (including iron, calcium, copper, and potassium), the choice between organic and non-organic is one to consider carefully. Non-organic apple cider vinegar has undergone pasteurization, the process of heating the liquid to a very high temperature to kill bacteria. As a result, the vinegar is much clearer and more attractive to consumers but in the process has lost the bulk of its nutrient content. Depending on what the consumer is aiming to gain from apple cider vinegar, this could affect the health benefits they experience. Then again, the potential bacteria content in organic (unpasteurized) apple cider vinegar could be problematic. Regardless of the nutritional supplement, a health care provider could be consulted before starting any alternative treatment.

Overall, if the reason for using apple cider vinegar is to lose weight, reduce blood pressure, or prevent acne, there are other treatments whose effects have been scientifically confirmed. In terms of weight loss, the key is to consume fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis. Routine physical exercise and a diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein are your best bet. For more guidance on addressing these health concerns, see the Q&As below. You may also want to consider speaking with a health care provider or registered dietitian. Columbia students can make an appointment with Medical Services (Morningside campus) or the Student Health Service (CUMC).

In the end, an apple a day is more likely to keep the doctor away!

Alice

Hungrier and hungrier

Dear Hungry,

When it comes to weight, the two factors to pay attention to are calories consumed and calories burned. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight and vice versa. The problem here is either that you are not consuming enough calories or your body is somehow not making the best use of them. Before we get into the biological possibilities, try a quick dietetic experiment.

With all the media surrounding diets and obesity, it may be easy to get the wrong idea about what constitutes "healthy." Eating a lot of vegetables as you do is great (and a vital component of a healthy diet) but vegetables are low in calories and many don't contain fat or protein, both nutrients your body needs. When you feel those hunger pains, consider grabbing a snack or a meal that combines all of these, such as a salad with chicken (lean protein), avocado (healthy fat and a fruit!), and low-fat ranch dressing. Including more healthy fats (limit trans and saturated fats) and lean proteins (also found in seafood, dairy, and nuts) in your diet may help you feel fuller longer and will also add more healthy calories into your diet.  

If this doesn't curb your appetite, there may be other factors affecting your hunger sensors, which a health care provider may help identify. Some questions to ask yourself are whether you've been feeling increased anxiety, if you've recently started or changed medications, or if you've experienced increased thirst, heart palpitations, or a need to urinate. These may be signs of hunger-causing conditions such as:

  • Anxiety and other mental conditions
  • The use of drugs such as corticosteroids and anti-depressants
  • An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
  • Diabetes
  • Grave's Disease

List adapted from The National Institutes of Health.

If you experience nausea or vomiting along with your insatiable hunger, that may be a sign that you have a parasite (such as tapeworm) in your digestive track. That possibility brings a whole new meaning to "eating for two." In the related Q&A's below, you may want to read more about parasites as well as other conditions that could explain your hunger. Regardless of the cause of your insatiability, though, if you lose more than ten pounds or five percent of your bodyweight unexpectedly or if weight loss persists, consider contacting a health care provider to get to the bottom of the issue…and your bottomless stomach. Columbia students may do this by contacting Medical Services or logging on to Open Communicator.

Whatever the cause of your endless appetite, hopefully this has sated your hunger for an answer. Eat up!

Alice

February 3, 2012

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This may sound weird but have you explored the possibility of a parasite? Maybe I am watching to much TV but I have seen several programs on parasites. If you have a tape worm for instance it could...
This may sound weird but have you explored the possibility of a parasite? Maybe I am watching to much TV but I have seen several programs on parasites. If you have a tape worm for instance it could make you hungry all the time while you are eating more than enough, coupled with weight loss. Just a thought...
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