Tag: mental health

Orthorexia Nervosa and Dietary Obsession

I talk a lot around here about honing self-discipline, avoiding temptation, and the like. Yet, I also (let the record show) merrily encourage the importance of “sensible vices,” those splendid morsels (culinary or otherwise) of personal indulgence. We at MDA approach the pursuit of health as, undoubtedly, a worthy and wise endeavor. The pursuit of perfection, however? Well, that’s just no fun, is it?
For an increasing number of well-intentioned, health conscious individuals, some researchers say, the pursuit of healthful eating is taking an ominous turn toward clinical obsession, an as-yet unofficial eating disorder condition labeled Orthorexia nervosa. I thought it was time to explore the subject and ask you to weigh in with your thoughts.

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Anxiety Relief

Anxiety Culture has a great piece on worry that really stirred my pot. Anxiety is a persistent problem in our culture, and it seems to strike the affluent and poor, healthy and unhealthy, male and female, young and old alike. Anxiety is a particular breed of that umbrella term we toss around, stress, and it’s really insidious for a number of reasons. For one thing, as the piece notes, we’re sort of acculturated to be worriers. Worrying is seen as a really responsible, adult thing to do. If you’re nonchalant and fancy free, something surely must be wrong with you. Just as we give great credit to being overworked, underpaid, stressed, tired, busy, and overwhelmed, we give worrying a lot of authority.

It’s not natural, it’s not healthy, it’s not even moral (our Puritan ancestors are turning in their graves). There is no great moral imperative or increased value that worrying can confer upon you, yet we all act as if this were the case. In fact, I think worrying is a pretty immature reaction to life’s challenges. And because worrying – anxiety – is so self-perpetuating, it can quickly derail into a vicious, even neurotic cycle.

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8 Simple Tricks to Improve Cognition, Memory, and Alertness

1. Just Use It

Did you know over 30% of high school graduates and over 40% of college graduates never read another book in their lives? If you want to keep your brain sharp, you have to keep those neurons firing. A good goal if you aren’t in the reading habit is one book per month. After a few months, see if you can step it up to one book per week. Television is passive while reading is active. I don’t have television anymore, and this helps me achieve my aim of reading 2 or 3 books weekly. (Though some books take a lot longer than others!) Developing the reading habit is difficult at first because it takes work. But, like physical exercise for your body, that’s how you know it is actually benefiting your brain. You don’t have to crawl in agony through Ulysses (seriously, take my word for it, you don’t); non-fiction and history are great choices, as well.

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Best Brain Foods

Nourish your noggin. Here are 10 excellent foods that enhance hormone production, brain chemistry, memory, mood, and cognition. Think of these foods as brainiac batteries. (Solutions to Sudoku not included.)

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Smart…It’s in Season

In this week’s edition of Smart Fuel: the fruits of summer!

July is ripe for the nutritional picking. This is the best month of the year for stone fruits, tender fresh fish, berries, sweet sugar snap peas and green beans, and floral chanterelle mushrooms. The foods currently in season provide a perfect blend of healthy essential fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and lean protein. Whether you have access to a nearby brook, orchard, wooded patch or simply a good farmer’s market, be sure to maximize the naturally smart combination July provides.

To eat now:

– Stone fruits: enjoy apricots, plums, peaches and nectarines (apricots in particular are at their best for several more weeks).

Farlane Flickr Photo (CC)

– Fish: try perch, rainbow trout, brown trout, and mackerel (delicate and delicious protein source).

ProjectDP Flickr Photo (CC)

– Berries: go for gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries (look for sales!).

Garibaldi Flickr Photo (CC)

– All things podded: dig in to sugar snap peas, green beans, and green peas (legumes are an excellent source of fiber and vitamins).

CDW9 Flickr Photo (CC)

– Gourmet touch: chanterelle mushrooms are abundant with phytochemicals and make a perfect pairing for fresh-water fish. These fragrant fungi are available now in many stores and markets. They grow wild in deciduous forests so you may be able to harvest a few for yourself. Psst…learn about mushrooms and picking safely here.

Brocktopia Flickr Photo (CC)

Further reading:

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Seasonal Food Information

[tags] seasons, seasonal food, fruit, fish, berries, legumes, nutritional information, summer [/tags]

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8 Essential Aging Hacks

We face eight key health challenges as we age. The steps you take to prevent and mitigate these challenges can make the difference between just hobbling through your golden years and actually thriving. There’s just no reason not to enjoy energy and vitality well into your seventies, eighties and beyond. Everyone’s into hacks: life hacks, brain hacks, productivity hacks, tech hacks, budget hacks, house hacks. I’m into aging hacks. Let us hack. Here are the top health issues we all must face when we descend to the other side of the hill, and the smart steps you can take – now – to stop them. Although I think it’s worth stating that the hill metaphor of life should be chucked entirely. “Over the hill” doesn’t make sense in this day and age with all the amazing scientific and nutritional advances of which we can take endless advantage. So I prefer to think of life as a gently sloping valley that gets a bit steeper the closer you get to the other side. You just need a few more tools to ace the slope. 1. Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome This is the biggest cause of preventable death, because it’s linked to virtually all the other major causes of death (cancer, diabetes, heart disease). 75% of adults over 60 are overweight or obese. Obesity and poor health go hand in hand. It’s almost impossible to live a long, healthy life if you are seriously overweight. No wonder we’ve got such a massive health care tab and drastically reduced quality of life among seniors. Though I ought to quibble with the BMI, for the purposes of this post I won’t. The general guideline is to make sure your waist is less than 40″ if you’re a man and 35″ if you’re a woman. I don’t recommend focusing on LDL cholesterol to the detriment of other crucial factors like raising your good (HDL) cholesterol and keeping your triglycerides and inflammation under absolute control. The four simple steps required: – Eat smart protein that contains good fat: grass-fed meat, wild fish, DHA-enhanced eggs, fermented tofu (and take a fish oil supplement, too). – Cook with olive oil or walnut oil. – Absolutely avoid all refined foods that contain processed grains, sugars, corn syrup, starch, flour, etc. – Move a little. A daily walk is sufficient if you do your best to make it brisk. 2. Arthritis Half of us will get it. I even have osteoarthritis from my time as a pro runner. We’re also prone to joint troubles thanks to our primal past – er, the fact that we walk upright hasn’t quite registered with our DNA. Hence, we experience knee and back issues like they’re going out of style (only as of yet, they are not). Of course, obesity is a big culprit. Losing just ten pounds can cut your risk in half. I manage arthritis successfully by doing the following: – Taking at least a gram of fish oil daily. – Reducing … Continue reading “8 Essential Aging Hacks”

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The Definitive Guide to Stress, Cortisol, and the Adrenals: When ‘Fight or Flight’ Meets the Modern World

One of my goals with this weekly column is to make significant human health issues easy to understand and discuss. I was pleased that last week’s piece, the Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar & Type 2 Diabetes, garnered some rave reviews. The Case Against Cardio piqued some great conversation and interesting criticisms (one soul out there in the webosphere took issue with the fact that I positioned Cardio exclusively from my personal perspective as a runner rather than authoring a more scholarly article. Well wasn’t that spot on. It’s called my blog.) My opinions can’t please everyone, of course, but – based on my experiences and understanding – I am certain that contributing some insights on health in light of our (all together now) genetic blueprint is a worthwhile and timely endeavor.

Now to the topic at hand. Stress can make you gain weight, and it contributes to premature aging. Understanding how stress is related to your overall health and potentially even longevity is essential to achieving your health goals. But do not, repeat, do not go and buy yourself a bottle of Cortislim – just read this quick summary and you’ll know all you need to know.

Ariel Amanda Flickr Photo (CC)

The adrenal glands are not unlike a walnut.

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Now This Is Cool!

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

Click it out! Here’s the most exciting health news for your reading pleasure.

But What Will Happen to the Blood Type Diet?

We’re being facetious – okay, maybe just silly. But get ready for some radical news: scientists have been hard at work making enzymes that will switch any blood type into type O. As in, O, wow. Type O can be accepted by everybody regardless of blood type, so this looks to be revolutionary for public health. Pretty amazing! We’ll keep you posted.

Antidepressant Alternative Brings Cheer

The medical community has been expressing growing concern over the lackluster improvements in antidepressant medication. Frankly, we just need something safer, healthier and more effective. Lo and behold, today’s edition of the journal Neuroscience reports that friendly bacteria found in dirt may do the trick.

This is as good a time as any to vent a little bit about germ loathing. Hype, we say! Apparently, soap is so old school. Everywhere you look, there’s antibacterial utensils or antibacterial clothes or antibacterial lives. But bacteria – even the bad kind – can be really good for you! There are some dangerous ones out there, but most bacteria serve a healthy and important purpose: they keep you slim, develop and strengthen your immune system, thereby enabling us all to…live. By all means, wash your hands, but do not buy into the new antibacterial keychain trend. You’ll be okay without it, we promise.

This Is Bdausch55’s Flickr Photo

The Fairer Sex

Guess who is more sensitive?

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No More Peanut Butter, No More Toast ‘n Jam

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites We’re feeling feisty. Something about Tuesdays… Wait, what are we talking about – we’re feisty every day. Sisson’s top picks are downright controversial today, so dig in: Blue Genes You may have heard the news yesterday that carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by genes, not overuse (then why do so many office assistants get…sigh…who are we to question a study). Well, evidently, you can blame your happiness – or lack of it – on your parents, too. So, parents, on top of being lame, nerdy, totally not cool, a dorky dresser, using slang – like – so wrong, and just generally being out of it, you are also responsible for your child’s future grumpy reaction to the Tivo being broken. Look, genes clearly play a big role in who we are – they’re literally…well…who we are. But how productive or empowering it is to hand over responsibility for your emotions and choices to the past, which is out of your control? While this kind of news is interesting, it can also be emotionally limiting, especially when one tiny study gets sensationalized by the media, as with this week’s stories. We’re all for genetic research, but when it starts getting into the “blame game” territory the media love so much, we sure wish we could push it back into the “cure disease” territory. We Have to Smerck Poor little Merck. After what can only be described as “mad aggressive” lobbying tactics for their HPV vaccine, Gardasil, Merck announced this week that they’re giving up for now to focus on preventing cervical cancer instead. (Isn’t that what vaccinating with Gardasil would be doing? Sounds like Pharma spin to us). Human papilloma virus, if untreated, can lead to deadly cervical cancer. Enter Gardasil, a vaccine to stop HPV. Merck began lobbying politicians way back, before the Feckless Death Association (that’s FDA) had even approved Gardasil. Merck, and many state governments, weren’t expecting the overwhelming controversy that ensued, largely fueled by conservative groups concerned that inoculating against cervical cancer might send a message to girls that premarital sexual activity is O.K. We welcome differing opinions on this one. While we’re no friends of Merck, and we’re all for abstinence and parental rights, it is a little unclear to us how inoculating a twelve-year-old against potential cancer would actually encourage said child to begin having, um, relations. (In our view, the apparent widespread social acceptance of inappropriate advertising is what is really causing problems with many children’s healthy emotional development, particularly for girls – and we hope you’ll write your senator and make him or her do something about it.) (Jean Scheijen photo.) Ultimately, the bigger concern – for the health hipsters, anyway – was this speedy FDA approval yet another wise decision for public health on the part of Uncle Sam? How safe is this vaccine to begin with? The idea of preventing cancer is pretty appealing, but this is Merck we’re dealing with. We’ll look into it and report … Continue reading “No More Peanut Butter, No More Toast ‘n Jam”

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Feeling Presidential?

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites

So, it’s Presidents’ Day. What’s the appropriate adjective? Happy Presidents’ Day? Merry Presidents’ Day? Oh Yeah It’s Presidents’ Day Again?

Here’s the day’s most important health news, Apples:

Unraveling Autism

Autism news has been all over the place lately – first with the news that 1 in 150 children are autistic, and today’s splash: autism may have a genetic component. Here’s a blog that does a good job of following autism news, although we take issue (albeit very small issue) with the statement that “autism is genetic”. The study that’s hitting headlines does not really claim that genetics cause autism. Rather, scientists have identified a particular genetic abnormality, in one gene, in autistic children.

Mike Knowles photo
They aren’t sure what this means (they’re working on it). It could indicate predisposition or cause. The lead scientist in the study explained that autism could still be (and likely is) related to environmental factors – and that clearly, many factors play a role in autism, which is actually a spectrum of disorders.

Bad News for Reese’s?

Peanut butter is officially jumping the shark. But chocolate is good for you. This has got to be confusing for Reese’s peanut butter cups. Just kidding…no one should be eating that junk anyway. Dogpile rocks, which is really what we wanted to share with you! (Get clickative to find out what we’re talking about. It will all make sense if you click. Promise.)

Eat this kind of chocolate:

This is from Green and Black’s site.

Real chocolate is a great source of brain-boosting antioxidants and has very little sugar compared to “regular” chocolate (which, all together now…is not actually chocolate). We’re not saying you should make a meal out of it, but the American chocolate situation (in our view, catastrophe) is a classic example of food producers taking something that is simultaneously rich and healthy and wonderful…and ruining it. If you’re used to Kit Kats and Snickers, you are not living, kid! That is not chocolate! Move on up to this decadent, rich, heady stuff – it won’t take much to get a serious chocolate fix.

But not this kind:

This kind is not chocolate. Repeat: not chocolate. This is hydrogenated oil, sugar, chemicals, and some cheap cocoa powder and flavoring. It is not chocolate – it is addictive junk, but it’s not chocolate.

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