Archive for Public Content

The Weight of Stress


The psychologist walked around the room holding a glass of water.  When she raised the glass, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half empty or half full" question. She didn’t.  Instead, with a smile on her face, she asked: "How heavy is this glass of water?"

After a moment of adjusting to the unexpected questions, answers rang out ranging from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She smiled again. "The weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of this glass isn’t going to change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

She continued, "The stresses and worries in life are like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything."

We all hold on to stress.  It’s become a way of life.  Short of winning the lottery and buying a private island somewhere, our best option in letting go of stress is to be in control of our response to it.  Since we have little control over what happens to us, our best bet is to train ourselves to respond to stressful circumstances without triggering the stress response every time we face it.  Here are a few things to help build a more stress-resilient body.

Rest - The best way to quiet the body-mind’s stress response, and to support the recovery process, is to rest.  This can include meditative practices, deep breathing, exercising early in the day, and getting adequate sleep.

Nutrition - A well-fed body is a resilient one and better prepared to handle stress and to recover from hormonal floods.  Keeping sugar and flour to a minimum while eating plenty of healthy fats and good protein (grass-fed meats, fish, legumes, nuts) will help keep blood sugar on an even keel.  The Mediterranean diet is a good choice for this, it includes plenty of legumes, greens and fish and promotes a proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Exercise - We all need some kind of physical activity to stay stress-resilient, whether it’s walking, biking, yoga or a game of tennis.  Exercise generates mood elevators (endorphins and serotonin) and breaks down cortisol in the bloodstream.

It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As soon as you possibly can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night. That glass is going to get!  Put it down! 

For more on stress and how it affects us, check out this month’s newsletter by the our Rag Tag Research Geeks.

Portion Control – Because Size Matters


I walked into the den to tell my grandmother dinner was ready.  She sat in her favorite chair, shaking her head at the television as a reporter talked about the obesity rate in America.  When I asked about the scowl on her face, Grandma replied, “In my day, the fat lady was something you only saw at the circus.”  With that, she turned off the television and made her way to the dinner table.  As we filled our plates, my brother commented jokingly that his plate wasn't big enough.  That’s when it hit me. 

Size matters.  The bigger our plates, the bigger our portions, the bigger our caloric intake.  And I'm not the only one who has noticed the circus of events.

A 2009 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine looks at cookbook recipes (mainly from the classic The Joy of Cooking) over the last 70 years or so.  What it found was that calorie counts per serving have gone up considerably as the writers of said cookbooks have increased portion sizes to conform to changing cultural norms.  For example, the 1936 edition of the kitchen classic averaged 268 calories per serving, the 2006 edition averaged 384 calories.  That’s a pretty considerable jump.

So how can we control our portion sizes?  Here are a few simple ideas:

  1. Downsize your plate. One thing the study pointed out is that the average plate size has increased over the years, which means the portion size has kept pace.  Try eating your meals off a salad or dessert plate.  A smaller plate will make portions look larger, it’s a visual trick that will make your brain think you're eating more. You could also cut down any shoveling behavior you might be tempted to engage in at the dinner table by switching to a smaller fork.
  2. Divide and conquer.  Depending on what the meal is, you can divide your food onto two plates—one for now and one for lunch the next day. As a bonus, this can help you tighten your wallet while you tighten your waistline.
  3. Timing is everything.  I takes your stomach about 20 minutes to tell your brain you're full. So try this: Before reaching for seconds, glance at the time (you know you have your cell phone handy). Spend the next 20 minutes having dinner conversation, reading, or playing candy Crush (ok, so that might just be me).  Anyway, after 20 minutes, see if you're still starving for another plate of lasagna. Chances are, your cravings are gone. If you're still hungry, fill up on some low-cal veggies or have a big glass of water. Sometimes it's easy to confuse thirst with hunger.
  4. Embrace your inner child.  That’s not permission to have candy for dinner. It is permission to order from the kid’s menu  when you're out and about.  Don't be ashamed, the kid’s menu often has the most sensibly sized and nutritious options available.  Not to mention, if you play your cards right, free toy.  Enough said.

Give Yourself a Hand

It's kind of crucial to understand what a portion actually is. So here is what may prove to be an invaluable tip: Use your hand as a guideline for portion sizes. (If your hands happen to be extra-large or extra-small for your size, adjust accordingly.)  

Palm = Proteins: Make protein portions the size of your palm. Protein would be products like fish, poultry, meats, and cottage cheese. Some veggie protein sources include legumes (beans, etc.), tofu, tempeh, and wheat glutens.

Thumb = Fats: Fats are important, but also very dense, so use the rule of thumbs...match fat portions to the size of your thumb. Good fat sources are avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.

Fist = Fruits, Grains, etc.: Your bread, fruit, cereal, rice, and grain portions should be about equal to the size of your closed fist. Remember whole grains are best.

Hand = Veggies: Open your hand and spread your fingers as wide as you can. That's a good vegetable portion. Raw veggies are loaded with fiber and nutrients and contain very few calories.

We've grown accustomed to eating more and more per meal, but with these tips and adding in healthy snacks between meals, maybe we can avoid the circus life. 

Ten Cancer-Fighting Foods

Ten Cancer

Food doesn't cause cancer, does it? 

Gayle will tell you so. She’s a typical working mother of two, with a lot 
of stress and not much time for healthy eating. A steady diet of sugary 
drinks and fattening foods was about all she had time and money for. The 
wages of such a diet have typically been obesity and heart disease at 

Gayle was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, which recent research 
shows caused primarily by a bad diet. Endometrial cancer affects about 
50,000 women in the US each year, and is triggered primarily through estrogen, which fatty cells produce. Luckily for Gayle and others, it’s a fairly 
treatable form of the disease. 

It shouldn't come as a surprise that an unhealthy diet can bring on cancer 
alongside the other innumerable awful illnesses and conditions. The good 
news is you can use food as a weapon against cancer, especially in the 
preventative stages. Check out this list of ten foods you can start eating 
today that can either help your body fend of cancer, or in some cases, beat 
the disease. 

Coffee - The popular morning drink was cited as a way to prevent 
endometrial cancer, among others, due to its antioxidants and ability to 
balance insulin levels. 

Mushrooms - There are nearly 40,000 types of mushrooms in the world, and 
a large percentage of them possess anti-cancer benefits. Many varieties, 
such as Shiitake, are available at your local neighborhood market. 

Soy - A 2012 study found that soy intake among women suffering from breast cancer reduced the chance of dying and recurrence of the disease. The American Cancer Society urges you to not get too carried away with it, however. 

Green Tea - This easily available beverage features antioxidant 
compounds that helps suppress cancer-causing enzymes.

Carrots - Carrots, kale, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, among others, are 
rich in carotenoids, which is proven to help prevent cancer, specifically 
breast cancer. 

Turmeric - This popular Asian & Indian spice also inhibits many 
cancer-causing cells. A 2013 study suggests it has a direct role in the prevention of cervical cancer. 

Garlic - Besides fighting off vampires, garlic is rich in allicin, which 
is like a heat-seeking missile set to destroy malignant cells. 

Broccoli - Along with cabbage and other cruciferous veggies, broccoli 
features glucosinolates, namely sulforaphane, which attacks cancer cells 
before they make their home in your DNA. Sulforaphane even killed breast 
cancer cells in rats back in 2010.

Beans - Have we mentioned we love beans? This staple of the Mediterranean Diet has tons of great stuff for you, from fiber to antioxidants, that can keep cancer away. 

Speaking of the Mediterranean Diet, check out our other posts about how you 
can use it to your advantage. As Gayle learned, food affects pretty much 
every part of our health, a little bit of smart eating can go a long way 
toward a long life!

How to Eat Healthy at Arbys

How to Eat Healthy at Arbys

Kim Medford was thinkin’ Arbys. The Asheville, N.C. native placed an order with a coworker who was picking up lunch from the beef-centric fast food chain. Like any rational human being, she was probably pretty excited about their curly fries. 

She reached into the little cup Arby’s provides and grabbed a curly fry. 
She pulled it out. Then kept pulling it out. Then continued pulling it out 
some more. Eventually she found 38 remarkable inches of curly fry, enough 
to set a world record
While it’s unknown if Kim ate her corkscrew monstrosity, it certainly shows 
that you can find yourself having an interesting experience when you go to 

But can you have a healthy experience? 

As we have with many other restaurants and fast food joints, we took a 
close look at the Arby’s menu to find healthy (or at least less-unhealthy) 
items. Our standard? The popular Mediterranean Diet, which promotes fruits, 
vegetables, nuts, olive oil, beans, whole grains and smaller portions of 

Try these on next time you’re thinking Arby’s: 

Grand Turkey Club - With a pile of turkey on a “Harvest Wheat” bun, this 
sandwich has the basics of a pretty good fast food option for Mediterranean 
folks. Strip off the mayo and processed cheese and it’s even better. Taking 
off the bacon would help greatly, but we understand that’s a dealbreaker 
for many folks. 

Roast Turkey & Swiss Wrap - This has just about everything you would 
want from a healthy fast food option: whole grain wrap, a couple veggies, 
and not too much meat. You probably wouldn’t even notice the swiss cheese 
missing if you had it taken off, but it would certainly help cut down on 
the 490 calories the wrap packs. 

Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad - More turkey, this time in a salad that 
features bacon. Keep the pig in this one, but look for a lighter option for 
the dressing, such as the balsamic vinaigrette.  

Kids Jr Roast Beef Sandwich - This being Arby’s, we had to throw in a 
roast beef sandwich. Red meat is frowned upon in the Medi Diet, but small 
amounts of it are okay. If you have to get a roast beef sandwich fix, this 
smaller version is your safest bet. 

Beware of: the sandwiches on the Market Fresh menu. While “fresh 
sandwiches” on “bread made with whole grains” sounds pretty healthy, these 
sandwiches all come with mayo and can pack in as many as 800 calories. And 
the whole grain bread? It’s made with some whole grains, but the primary 
ingredient is still enriched flour. 

So there you have it. Kim Medford’s 38-inch curly fry put this man’s 24-incher to shame, but someone trying to eat a little more healthy would probably avoid them altogether. That doesn't mean you need to stay away from Arby’s, just stick with our recommendations and you’ll be a-okay. 

What do you order when you’re thinkin’ Arby’s? Do you know any tips or 
secret menu items that can help those who are also thinkin’ healthy? Sound 
off in the comments!


Following The White Rabbit – Learning While You Sleep

learn while you sleep

Is this a dream, you think to yourself as you take in your surroundings. I don't remember how I got here, you think in a panic. Your sitting in a giant chair, its cool leather being felt through your clothes. As you look around, you notice its a dreary room in some rundown building and across from you is a mysterious man, his eyes covered in thick black shades, his body in a tight jacket from head to toe.

 “Where am I? This is a dream, right?” Your voice cracks with nervous tension as thunder crackles from the outside.

 He looks you over calmly and begins to speak.

 “This is as real or as fake as you want to make it. Its time for you to make a choice.” As he finishes talking he extends out his hands, opening each to slowly reveal a red pill in one and a blue pill in the other.

 Your heart begins to race, the reality of the situation sinking in.  You had always wondered what went on in the deep recesses of your mind while you were asleep and before was the answers.

 The man continued to speak, his tone never varying from calm and in control. It was as if he already knew the choice you were about to make.

 “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

 Remember The Matrix? A virtual world where you could download knowledge and have your brain assimilate it all while being unconscious? That's actually not far from reality, believe it or not. Scientists have seen, in study after study, that we LEARN while we are asleep! Think about it for a minute.

 You go to bed, a problem racing through your mind or you've been stuck on a particular level of Candy Crush (full disclosure – I too play it on my phone) and have failed miserably at it over and over again. Well, just because you're not actually doing it at the moment doesn't mean that your brain isn't working on the problem in the background. So one day, you wake up and POOF! – you nail that stubborn level on the first try. Yes, Neo – you are the chosen one!

The Red Pill – “Go To Sleep And When You Wake Up, You'll Be Right Where I Left You.”

There are a ton of studies that show a link between sleep and learning. One such study, conducted by the good folks over at the Weizmann Institute did one such experiment with different smells. While the subjects were sleeping, scientists would play distinctive tones (one for each smell) followed by showering the sleepers with a smell, either good or gross.

The next day they played each noise and when the people heard the noises associated with the good smells, they inhaled as deeply as they could. The opposite was true for the stinky ones. When asked about the results, one of the researchers working on the study, Anat Arzi Arzi, said, “The plasticity of the brain fascinates me. Once, sleep was considered to be ‘reversible death,’ but our brains can do things when we sleep. Now that we know that some kind of sleep learning is possible.”

Just imagine if we could figure out the connection between “sleeping” and “learning.” It might one day be the key to helping people in a coma!

On the flip side of this amazing study, what about if you don't get enough sleep? Well night owls – Warning to the wise. Not getting enough sleep time can produce false memories!

“You know, I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss.”

The Blue Pill – How Does Learning and Sleep Work For Us

It's every college kids nightmare. Cramming for the finals. Or you have a massive presentation or work the next day and you're up all night going over the material again and again until it makes you sick. And it SEEMS like you're not remembering what the heck you're supposed to, right? So, you finally pass out. The next day, you're amazed at how much you actually did retain in your noggin. Your brain is still pulling the all-nighter while you were getting some rest.  They weren't kidding when they told you to “sleep on it.”

The University of Gevena conducted an experiment to see if this really was the case. Dr. Sophie Schwartz, head of the experiments showed her subjects pictures of unknown faces and then made them play a simple computer game on a screen. Some people were then allowed to sleep. Others had to stay awake. After the study she said, “A period of sleep following a new experience can consolidate and improve subsequent effects of learning from the experience.”

 The science of sleep is so complex yet so simple. We have yet to understand it fully but we know we darn sure need it. So which is it going to be? The red pill or the blue? Tell you what. You don't have to answer it right now. Why don't you go “sleep on it?”

Fats- The Good, Bad and the Ugly


There were little ones, big ones, short ones, fat ones. There were scary looking ones and cute ones. The kind you wanted to squeeze to death until you couldn't squeeze anymore. There were curvy ones, thin ones, light ones and dark ones. So many choices and only a few dollars in her hand.

 Teresa knew that she'd have to choose wisely. The decision she would make here could affect the rest of her life. She looked up at her mom for guidance and received only the shoulder shrug she'd grown accustom to. That meant she was on her own. This pick could determine her destiny.

 She reached for the first one that had caught her eye. It was a cute bunny with a carrot sewn into its hands. Her six year old hands turned it over and over, looking for any signs of imperfection.  Then she noticed it. A small hole forming at the bottom of the stuffed animal. Teresa put it back.

The next one she picked up was a fluffy dog. It was soft and floppy. Her eyes scanned it thoroughly. It looked great. This was the one. After all, she only had enough money from her chores for one stuffed animal and it had to last. They all weren't made equally. She understood that now and looked up one more time at her mother to signal the decision had been made. This one would accompany her bed for the foreseeable future, cuddly enough to bring her peace in the dark, sturdy enough to deal with the tight hugs it would endure all through the night.

There is a persistent myth out there that fats are bad. We crave as a nation low fat foods. We think that low fat or fat free is a good thing. Well I'm here to tell you something many health experts have been screaming from the top of their lungs for a long time. Not all fats are bad! Some are actually good for you! And some...are essential to your overall health.

Let's start with...

The Good

Fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fat types are absolutely pivotal in any healthy eating regiment. They can be found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, shell fish and avocados (who doesn't love guacamole!)

Some benefits to eating foods with monounsaturated fats:

  • Hammers down BAD cholesterol
  • Pumps up GOOD cholesterol
  • Keeps your heart smiling and happy
  • Keeps the inflammation down!

The Bad

Saturated fats can take a toll on the body. It goes without saying that these fats should be marginalized as much as possible. Its tough to steer clear of all saturated fats (if you did, you'd feel kinda like a rabbit). This type of fat can be found in certain fatty cuts of beef, cheese, butter, dairy milk and ice cream. Giving up all or some of these foods can be tough. Reward yourself every once in a while with them. Don't live off of them.

The Ugly

Trans Fats are man made fats that are used in foods such as fried chicken, candy bars, doughnuts, potato chips. You see the pattern. Fried this or processed that. Not good for the body at all. Avoid at all costs! Food companies can get sneaky too because they know transfat is a TERRIBLE word. So keep your eyes peeled for the term “Partially Hydrogenated Oil” on the ingredients label. Its code for TRANS FAT!

Making the right choices on the foods (and fats) we put in our body can make a huge difference in the long run. Just as Teresa. She made the right choice and is reaping the benefits. So can you!

Catching ZZZZs, Without Waking the Neighbors


Scott sat straight up in his hotel bed.  The wall behind his head shook violently with every loud thud.  It took a moment for him to realize, through his sleep-induced stupor, that the person in the next room was banging on the wall.  Purposefully.  After a few moments, Scott banged back in retaliation.  The banging stopped but was very quickly followed by the faint sound of a female voice yelling, “Stop snoring so loud!”  Scott winced. 

“Sorry!”  He yelled back and quickly made a mental note to leave the room early the next morning in order to avoid running into the woman in the hall.

Let’s start by understanding what causes us to snore.  When you hit dreamland and go from a light to a deep sleep, the muscles in the roof of your mouth, tongue and throat relax. The tissues in your throat can relax enough that they partially block your airway and vibrate.  And, the more narrowed your airway, the more likely you are to sound like a train rolling through the house.  When the airflow is forced the tissue vibration increases, and your snoring gets louder.

Did you know that 59% of people say that their partners snore?  I know, that’s a lot of snorers.  I can’t help but wonder how many of those are women.  You typically think of men snoring, but it isn't just the guys.  I happen to know that for a while after some weight gain, I did.  I even woke myself up once or twice.  Thankfully, I was single at the time.  The point of that little over share is this; there is hope.  There are some tactics you can try if you've been waking the neighbors at 3 a.m. and they’re offering to start a fundraiser to soundproof your house for you.

1. Change sleeping positions.  This seems to be the most common suggestion.  I've heard many women talk about nudging their partners in their sleep to get them to turn over or switch sides in order to make the snoring stop...and save them from hiring a contractor to add an extra bedroom.  Most experts – and wives – say that sleeping on your side has the best result.

 2. Lose some weight.  I know the last thing anyone wants to hear is to be told they should lose weight.  I hate hearing it.  But, believe me, it works.  And it works because when you lose weight the pressure on the internal diameter of your throat which collapses during sleep is relieved.  I know, sounds technical, but the gist is – less weight, less pressure.

 3. Take a shower before bed.  The hotter, the better.  The heat and steam from a hot shower can help open the nasal passages and make it easier for you to breath.  I imagine a hot bath would likely have the same effect.

 4. Avoid the bars. This includes the one in your kitchen cabinet.  While alcohol might help you fall asleep – okay, pass out – it will also cause the log sawing to commence.  Turns out, alcohol effects the muscles in the back of your throat by relaxing them a little more than usual.  Kind of like it does to all the other muscles in your body. 

 5. Sing.  Yeah, you read that right.  A recent study shows that singing exercises help strengthen those muscles in your throat we talked about.  But, keep in mind, downing those tequila shots likely necessary to get your exercise in via karaoke isn't what I’m suggesting.  Many of us shouldn't even consider singing within a half-mile radius of civilization – especially karaoke.  But science says it helps, so why not give it a try in the privacy of your car or home, windows closed, of course.

If you've given these options a shot and the snoring is still a problem, you may have other issues you need to have addressed by a physician.  There are some things a doctor can do to help such as fitting a mouthpiece or performing surgical procedures.  You, and those within earshot, will get a better night of sleep if you find the cause of your snoring and nip it in the bud.  Don’t wait until the neighbors start sticking the real estate section of your paper in your front door as a hint.

Do you snore? How has it impacted your life? Leave us a comment and tell us how you deal with it.

Want more information on how to live a happier, healthier, and more balanced life? Check out Rag Tag ALIVE. Issues are delivered monthly to our Rag Tag Elite members. Not a subscriber? Click here to join!

Nothing: The Key to Mental Health

The power of Nothing

Sunset was Terri's favorite time of day. She would sit out on the porch and watch as the massive ball of cosmic fire would set below the horizon of the ocean, its soft glow careening off the surface of the water in serene peace.

 She had gotten a lot accomplished today. She had been focused at work, focused at home. Tomorrow would be a new day full of challenges and problems to solve. But for right now, as the cool, gentle breeze of the Atlantic Ocean grazed her face, she sat there, listening to the wonderful sound of nothing.

 Her chair rocked back and forth on that old wooden porch, a cup of warm coco in her hand.  She stared intently, noticing a single seagull, its intentions unknown, land in the water in front of her. Terri drew in a deep, slow breath, filling her lungs with the smell of seaside air and did her best to clear her mind.

 This was her time to unwind. This was her time to listen for no particular reason or look for any particular sight. This was her time to do absolutely nothing. And she wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

 Imagine the power to think of nothing. Go ahead. Give it a try. Right now. Think of absolutely nothing. Its’ hard, isn't it? Well, to be fair, right now would be kind of tough considering you're reading this. But for thousands of years, humans have been trying to master the art of meditation. What the heck is meditation and how does it affect us upstairs?

Meditation is the practice in which the only goal is to slow down and eventually stop all the crazy conscious activity in our minds. To strive for the perfect peace and tranquility. That sounds amazing! It is easy to try and almost impossible to fully master. But even basic meditation can have tremendous benefits to our bodies! Research shows that meditation can affect us in many ways including:

  • Improving memory – I thank the big guy upstairs that my head is attached to my body or I swear sometimes I'd forget where I put it. I'm sick of forgetting things. In a recent study, meditation was shown to help with short term and long term memory. Images of the brain show after as little as two minutes of meditation, the brain becomes more focused.
  • Feeling Cranky? - Meditation may help you actually be nicer. That sounds like something this world sorely needs. Why not start with you? During one experiment researcher took part in, they noticed that when the subjects were shown pictures of other people, the ones who'd meditated or practiced meditation responded in a kinder, gentler way. Imagine that.
  • Bring out your inner Mozart! - People who practiced meditation also seemed to show more “creativity” with the projects they took on, being able to focus better on the task at hand and come up with new ways to get those things done. So go meditate and write a symphony! Maybe all that extra stress in your brain is preventing you from blasting through that glass ceiling and reaching for the stars!
  • You’re only as old as you think – Another powerful weapon in our constant battle with aging is meditation. It’s a proven way to encourage the gray matter to stay healthy in our brains. I'm not a brain surgeon (although I bet they meditate) but gray matter keeps your brain healthy, happy and focused. It’s a little dry but the University of Mass released some fascinating information on the preservation of brain matter and meditating.

Okay, now that we've talked about a few of the things that meditation can do for you, it’s time to take up that challenge and go think of nothing. Who knew that “nothing” could be the key to a happier, healthier you?



Good Mood Food- PMS playlist

Good Mood Food - PMS Playlist

I can honestly say I've never seen a waiter move so fast.  Laura sat across the table from me crying.  No.  Sobbing.  It was only moments earlier that this same waiter had leisurely placed a stack of pancakes on the table in front of each of us.  Laura stared at her plate, her eyes welling with tears, as he sat the syrup between us.  Within seconds, she was quietly sobbing.  I opened my mouth to speak, but the poor, unsuspecting waiter beat me to the punch, asking if something was wrong with her order.  I’m not sure how, but she managed to sputter out that he had forgotten the blueberries that should have accompanied her blueberry pancakes.  By this time, the sobs weren't so quiet.  Suddenly, we were being served by Flash Gordon himself.  And you should have seen the mountain of blueberries that showed up moments later. 

Now, I myself have never burst into tears over a missing item from my breakfast order, but I've also never ordered a side of Reese’s Cups and had the server not bring them either.  I can see how that could send me into a sob spiral during a specific few days each month.  

Every woman reacts differently to PMS.  A lucky few don’t really react at all.  But research tells us that approximately 70-80% of women suffer from PMS-related food cravings, bloating, fatigue, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and irritability – all of which have the potential to sabotage any attempt at a healthy eating routine. 

PMS is actually kind of a double whammy.  First, you get the cravings.  If you're like me, it’s typically for sweet, starchy foods with a back up punch of fat, like, say, chocolate fudge ice cream with brownie pieces (admit it, you’re wondering if there’s any in your freezer right now).  Then, your mind says “you don’t need that” but your mood says “the hell I don’t!”  And you dig in.  A half a carton of ice cream later, you’re standing on the scale freaking out when, really, that three extra pounds you’re seeing isn’t the ice cream and will just as mysteriously disappear from the scale in a few days.

Ultimately, it’s probably a safe bet that if you’re craving something that’s a healthy eating no-no, then your PMS mentality is saying “yes-yes.”  Here are a few foods that your healthy diet and your PMS can agree on.

Chocolate – That’s right ladies...I said chocolate.  You can run to the store right after you finish reading this.  Our bodies crave certain foods for a reason – whether its PMS related or not.  Chocolate happens to release calming endorphins that reduce anxiety.  Not to mention, it’s high in magnesium which lifts moods and reduces water retention.  Now, don’t go out and clear the shelves at the Godiva store.  Overindulging in sugar, salt, and caffeine can backfire and cause bloating and fluid retention (not to mention weight gain). So, the word to remember here is moderation.

Carbs – The healthy ones, that is.  Not simple carbs (sweets, breads, sugars) that offer a brief feel-good high, followed by a wicked mood change and energy crash.  You want the ones like us...the complex ones (whole grains, beans, nuts, etc.).  Complex carbs decrease premenstrual depression, moodiness, irritability, and those cravings for their counterparts – simple carbs.  Complex carb-rich foods help the mood-enhancing amino acid tryptophan to make serotonin.  Low serotonin levels can lead to PMS-related depression, fatigue, and sleep problems.  So, you don’t want to have that gauge sitting on the E like my gas tank often is.

Fat – Yes.  Fat is your friend.  I know, you’re loving me more and more right now.  A study in the Journal of Reproductive Health found that women who were given a pill containing a mix of essential fatty acids significantly reduced their symptoms of PMS.  Another study published in Nutrition Research, found that women who supplemented their diet with omega-3 also found relief.  Bottom line?  Don't be shy of healthy fats (avocados, salmon, nuts, olive oil) or you can always consider a high quality supplement too.

Obviously, food isn’t the only way to help ease the symptoms of PMS.  You can always participate in mind-body activities such as yoga or tai chi to help calm yourself and increase serotonin levels.  Or, my personal favorite, get a massage by an experienced therapist.  It offers the same benefits, which is why you’re so sleepy when it’s over and won't leave you crying over blueberries.



Foods that make your skin Glow

Foods that make your skin glow

 “Wow, Mom.  You looked so young there.”  Candice cringed as she remembered those words slipping from her daughter’s lips.  The photo had only been taken three years earlier.   She studied herself in the mirror, thinking about the stress the last few years had brought on.  Work, her father’s illness, and a divorce had clearly taken more of a toll than Candice realized.  She wanted that healthy glow from the photo back.

We all want to hold on to healthy, youthful, glowing skin for as long as we can. These days with top skin creams averaging as much as $400 per ounce ( you thought filling your gas tank was expensive) and with most offering little proof they do half what they promise, it might not be the worst idea to swing by the market and pick up a few foods that are skin doctor recommended.  According to top dermatologists, there are skin friendly foods loaded with nutrients that happen to be known for having sun-protecting, skin-hydrating, and even wrinkle-preventing powers.  That’s right.  Powers!

Want to save a bundle and improve your skin?  Skip the $400 price tag and take a peek at what you’d likely find in your dermatologists shopping cart if you ran into her (or him – no stereotyping here) at the market.

Fruits and veggies.  You're probably up to your eyebrows (Botoxed or not) with the hearing "eat your fruits and vegetables." If you haven’t taken that advice to heart yet, maybe knowing that they prevent wrinkles will coax you into the produce isle.  If you want to replenish your skin's supply of antioxidants, so they're ready to take out free radicals whenever they show up, (here it is again) eat your fruits and vegetables.  

A few top picks: sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and cantaloupe.

Vitamin C.  Your body can't store much wrinkle-fighting vitamin C, so you need to replenish your supplies regularly.  Have some citrus every day.  Ounce for ounce, oranges are the top citrus source of Vitamin C, but you can only eat so many, right?  You can always find a high quality supplement to take.  Vitamin C helps keep collagen (the supportive protein fibers that stop skin from sagging ) strong and resilient. None of us want sagging wrinkles.

A few top picks: oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit

Vitamin A.  Certain dark green vegetables, whether they're fresh, frozen, raw, or steamed, really deliver on vitamin A, one of the most skin-essential vitamins on the market.  What so great about Vitamin A?  It supports skin-cell turnover, which promotes cell growth and development. Without it, skin gets dry, tough, and scaly.  No one wants that.  No one.

A few top picks: spinach, turnip greens, and broccoli

Tea.  There's an exceptionally powerful antioxidant known as EGCG that does all kinds of good things for skin. Where might you find it, you ask?  True teas – black, green, or white (not herbal).  All true teas contain EGCG (by the way, that stands for epigallocatechin-3-gallate), however, green tea varieties have the most.  Brew a full teapot every morning and sipping 4 to 6 cups throughout the day will be a no-brainer. 

Top pick: green tea

 Fish.  Several cold-water catches offer your skin a double win: age-fighting omega-3s and the restorative powers of protein. Omega-3s fight inflammation, a top skin ager and protein is required to build and repair skin cells and to make enzymes and hormones that help keep your skin glowing. Try not to go, umm, overboard with it though – mercury can be a concern if you eat seafood more than a few times a week.

A few top picks: salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, Pacific herring, and most shellfish.

We all know it isn't always easy or convenient to eat the foods your body needs, but it’s important to get the nutrients we can't always fit into our diets.  If you choose to supplement, do so with high quality supplements.  If you want a good place to start looking, see what supplements the Rag-Tag Geeks have researched and recommend.  Also, don’t forget, while it can’t be found on the food chain, exercise is also important for promoting healthy, youthful skin.