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Hey, I am a med student who likes to write. Each week I provide a handful of tips that will help you in your quest to become healthier.

How to kick the junk food habit

Written: 06/22/2008 | Join the discussion (0)

DumbLittleMan has a great suggestion on how to kick your addiction to fast food -- give yourself a budget to spend on fast food each week, and cut it over time. I love this idea because a budget puts you in control and doesn't force you to go cold turkey. You decide when you want to eat fast food, and you can do so guilt-free as long as you haven't exceeded your budget. My addiction, though, is junk food, so I came up with an equivalent strategy for kicking a junk food habit. Here's how it works:
  • First, switch to buying all of your junk food in individual portions for easier measurement. Get potato chips in individual bags, cookies in single serving size containers, individually wrapped candy bars, etc. It might cost you a bit more, but individual portions will make it much easier to count how much junk food you're eating. Quitting junk food is going to be hard enough, so you'll want to do everything you can to make the process as easy as possible. If the snack you prefer doesn't come in individual serving sizes, you can divide a bigger bag yourself into individual portions and store them in ziplock bags.

  • For the first week, just eat how you normally would, but count how many portions of junk food you're consuming. To help you count, save the wrappers of every portion you eat. At the end of the week, just count the wrappers and you'll know how many portions you had.

  • Take the number of portions you ate for the week and cut it in half. This is your new junk food budget, or how much junk food you'll get to eat each week from now on. If possible, buy as close to that many portions as possible each week and no more. That will help you keep from going over your budget - once you're out, you're done until your trip to the store next week.

  • Every two weeks, cut your budget by a certain amount, say 2-4 portions. Keep going until you're eating an amount of junk food each week you feel comfortable with - ideally zero, of course!

  • Try to keep substitute healthy snacks on hand to help kill those junk food cravings. Nuts, fruit, vegetables, or low-fat yogurt are all quick, healthy snacks that can fill you up without the extra junk food calories.
A junk food budget is a great way to develop better eating habits over time with just small changes each week. Try it for yourself, and let us know how it works in the comments!

5 simple steps to start losing weight

Written: 06/22/2008 | Join the discussion (0)

Weight loss can be an intimidating process, but it doesn't have to be. If you're trying to slim down, small steps can lead to big results. The easy adjustments below will help you lose pounds without overwhelming you.

  1. Don't drink your calories
    You'd be amazed at how many calories are hiding in your sodas, alcohol, or sports drinks. And worse yet, studies show that calories you drink don't satisfy your hunger nearly as well as food, so you most likely won't eat less food to compensate. Toss out those sodas and switch to good ole' fashioned water. Not only will you save hundreds of calories a day, but you'll feel better and have more energy.

  2. Incorporate exercise into your daily life
    If you're someone who has trouble motivating to go to the gym, or you just don't have time to dedicate solely to working out, try slipping exercise into your everyday life. Skip the elevator and take the stairs. Walk or bike to work. Park as far away as possible in the parking lot. Or one of my favorite exercise-at-work tips, rather than sitting in a conference room, see if the person you are meeting with is up for a walk instead. You can often be just as productive while walking and get healthier at the same time.

  3. Choose a time to stop eating every night
    Eating at night is when most mindless eating occurs - when you're eating not from hunger, but out of habit. And worse still, you're not expending any extra energy at night because you're watching TV, sleeping, or reading a book, so the calories you consume just sit there. Break the habit by choosing a time each night that you won't eat after, say 8pm. You'll automatically be cutting down your calorie intake, and as an added benefit, you'll sleep better.

  4. Make simple food substitutions
    There are lots of food pairs with radically different nutritional values. Choose the right one and you can cut your calorie intake significantly without a major change to your diet. Try these simple swaps and watch the pounds drop off:

    • Mustard (15 calories/tbsp) instead of mayonnaise (100 calories/tbsp)
    • Nonfat milk (10 calories/2 tbsp) instead of half-and-half (40 calories/2 tbsp)
    • Fat-free dressing (15 calories/2 tbsp) instead of a creamy dressing (100 calories/2 tbsp)
    • Unbuttered popcorn (60 calories/2 cups) instead of buttered popcorn (175 calories/2 cups)

  5. Always eat breakfast
    Studies show that the simple act of eating breakfast can help keep you slimmer. Eating breakfast not only jump starts your metabolism for the day, but also makes your body feel nourished and satisfied, making you less likely to overeat the rest of the day. Choose healthy foods like whole-grain cereals, low-fat dairy like low-fat yogurt or skim-milk, lean protein like eggs or turkey bacon, fruit, and nuts.
Got any more suggestions? Share your tips in the comments!

Red Wine – The Secret of the French

Written: 06/12/2008 | Join the discussion (1)

The French have long been envied for their low rates of heart disease, despite the consumption of all those cheeses and pâtés, and for many years now, scientists have suspected the part that red wine plays in this so called “French paradox.” A new study provides further evidence of the solidity of that theory.

Researchers from the industry, the University of Florida and the University of Madison-Wisconsin now report that resveratrol – a constituent of pomegranates, grapes and red wine – when taken in low doses, can enhance the health of the heart, thereby prolonging an individual’s life and boosting its quality. These findings were published in the online journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) ONE.

The scientists experimented on middle aged mice, adding resveratrol to their diet and monitoring the effects on the aging process. The resveratrol was found to mimic the widely recognized effects of caloric restriction, a diet that contains between 20 to 30 percent fewer calories than a normal diet. Caloric restriction and its relation to the aging process have been studied widely, but this new study makes a connection between resveratrol and caloric restriction, suggesting that both govern the same genes that are related to aging.

According to Christiaan Leeuwenburtgh of the Institute of Aging at UF, who authored the study, caloric restriction in any species leads to a regulated cellular stress response which increases longevity. This study, he says, has proven that the benefits of caloric restriction are almost the same as the administering of resveratrol in low doses.

This connection between resveratrol and long life has been made before, when a study showed that high doses of resveratrol led to increased longevity in invertebrates. What this new study has shown is that the same substance in smaller doses and beginning in middle age can have the same benefits as the intake of fewer calories.

The study compared mice on a diet that contained low doses of resveratrol and others who were on a restricted diet. The similarity in the effects of both resveratrol and the restricted calories was astounding. Close to 90 percent of mice on a restricted diet showed significant alteration in gene expression of the heart, while in the case of resveratrol, the changes were visible in 92 percent of the animals.

It’s clear that small doses of resveratrol whether in the form of a glass of red wine or as a supplement can ward off the aging process of the heart. So, go ahead and have that extra glass of wine at lunch – it could just be the secret of a healthy heart and a long life!