Summertime Brings Warmer Weather—and Body Image Worries

With  the arrival of summer, our thoughts turn to poolside get-togethers, beach outings and barbecues. For some, summer is a more relaxed time of year, one where we enjoy the company of family and friends in the outdoors. For others, this time of year brings pressures to slim down or tone up in preparation for bathing suit and tank top weather. And it’s no wonder.

 

Advertisements for diet and exercise products showcase ideal bikini bodies, and tabloids harshly rate appearances, with articles like the “Best and Worst Celebrity Beach Bodies.”

As a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders, I see how summertime presents a unique challenge for individuals who struggle with body image. Even for those with a healthy body image, beach “body ideal” can spark feelings of inadequacy and depression. In some cases, particularly among individuals with a family history of eating disorders and those with perfectionistic, people-pleasing and reward-dependent personality traits, seasonal pressures to lose weight can trigger unhealthy behaviors related to dieting and exercise.

 

In fact, many eating disorder treatment professionals observe an increase in patients and families needing eating disorder support as the weather heats up, and we shed our sweaters for shorts and swimsuits.

For youths and teens—and even young adults—the desire to lose weight to look good in skimpy summer fashions is not the only factor that can trigger an eating disorder. Young people who are more likely to develop eating disorders prefer structure and predictability, yet summertime’s unstructured “down time” takes the place of normal daily routines.

 

Additionally, summer is filled with milestones related to adolescent separation, attachment and “launching”—spending the summer away from home at camp or on a trip, preparing to leave home for college in the fall or graduating from college and entering the “real world.” These changes, transitions and new situations can result in anxiety and feeling out of control, triggering coping mechanisms in an effort to regain a feeling of control.

 

Dieting (including restricting calories, eliminating foods or whole food groups or purging calories) as well as excessive exercise helps alleviate this anxiety. Young people can easily control their calorie intake and energy output, oftentimes in secret and without drawing the attention of friends or loved ones. While these behaviors can be unhealthy and dangerous as a coping skill, they are difficult to identify in a culture that encourages and applauds dieting, exercise and weight loss.

To create a healthy summer environment, think beyond losing weight to achieve the coveted beach body and instead take steps to nurture your physical, emotional and spiritual health.

 

Consider these five tips for a healthy summer season:

 

Get moving. Try a new activity—find a yoga class for relaxation, go dancing with friends or play volleyball on the beach—with the goal of finding joy and connection with yourself, others and nature, not losing weight. Identify physical activities that make you feel good—physically, emotionally and spiritually.

 

Find your happy. If achieving a healthy weight or getting stronger is your goal, you’re more likely to be successful and less likely to develop an eating disorder if you are nurturing your emotional health as well. For those people who struggle to disengage from the strong seasonal pressure to lose weight, consider this—studies suggest a correlation between a positive emotional status and healthy body weight.

 

Take time to “stop and smell the roses.” It’s easy to get so caught up in our physical appearance or the appearance of others that we forget to enjoy the moment.  At the beach, don’t worry about how you or others look in a bathing suit. Instead, focus on the sun’s warmth on your skin (protected by sunscreen, of course!), the salty sea air smells and the sounds of crashing waves and kids laughing as they build sand castles.

 

Stay hydrated. The simple act of drinking sufficient water throughout the day supports overall health. In fact, research suggests a connection between proper hydration and a healthy body weight. And, adequate hydration allows us to engage meaningfully in summertime activities.

 

Make time to check in. Especially for adolescents and young adults, summer brings changes to the standard routines. Make time to talk to the young people in your life and discuss feelings related to seasonal changes and milestones, such as fear, anxiety, depression or a perceived loss of control. Identifying unhealthy coping strategies early means you can get help early.

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7 Ways To Fall Off the Exercise Wagon

We’re approaching the time of year where, despite our best efforts, schedules and obligations start to crowd out common sense.

 

There are shorter days with less sunlight. Once 5 p.m. comes around, we take the sun’s retreat to heart and feel like curling up and calling it a night.

 

There’s Thanksgiving planning and cooking, cleaning out closets (who ever said it had to just happen in the Spring?) holiday shopping (if you like to stay ahead) and general busy-ness.

All that adds up to neglecting certain matters.

 

Like exercise.

 

Unfortunately there’s a price to pay when you deep-six your exercise routine: You feel guilty, frustrated and more sluggish than ever. But something, you say, has got to give.

If you’re resisting the pull to join the masses on their exercise exodus, I’ve made it easy for you by telling you the tried and true ways to ditch the habit. After all, why not join the other 67 percent of people with gym memberships that never use them?

 

1. Don’t lay out clothes the night before. If you wake up and see your leggings, socks, running shoes and outfit waiting for you, you might find it too easy to get dressed and go. Get rid of all visual cues, including your gym bag and water bottle.

 

2. Don’t make promises. Committing to a workout with a friend, signing up for a class or booking a personal trainer all makes you accountable and less likely to cancel. Dump the threat of peer pressure and remain a loner – you won’t run the risk of disappointing anyone (but yourself).

 

3. Tell yourself “maybe.” This way you have the option to say no. Not writing it down on your calendar makes it so much easier to skip the exercise. Why commit to something you don’t really want, anyway?

4. Keep your expectations unrealistic. Say: “It’s 45 minutes of intense cardio five days a week – or nothing at all!”  three times in a row. Or try: “I must lift weights three days a week, or why bother?”  This way, if you’re not feeling up to your usual routine, or don’t live up to your hopes, you can say: “Why bother?”  Although it may be true that some exercise is better than none at all – and there are ways to fit it in – you need to have an “all or nothing” approach. Why do some – if you can do none?

 

5. Remain seated at all times. Just because you can use commercial time during your favorite TV show to fit in some jumping jacks, balance exercises or push-ups doesn’t mean you should do it.  Better yet, aim for the shows with no commercial breaks, or fast-forward through those pesky commercials, and you won’t even be tempted. And if you sit at a desk for much of the day, stay there. Taking frequent breaks to walk around, move your body and stretch will only make you feel more productive, both mentally and physically.

6. Sleep in. If you set your alarm an hour earlier and work out first thing in the morning, then you’ll be sure to do it. Making sure you don’t have the time – or putting it off for later – practically guarantees you’ll throw in the towel instead.

 

7. Embrace the silence. Listening to music will only help you feel more motivated, increase your enduranceand make exercise more fun – and may even distract you from the pain, fatigue and boredom that sometimes accompanies exercise.  Just because studies have shown that music helps people run further, bike longer and swim faster than usual – without even realizing it – doesn’t mean that you have to listen.

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The Awesome Pregnancy Perk a Start-Up Company Offers

If you’re pregnant and working in an office whose dress code isn’t stretchy yoga pants-friendly, your bank account will take a hit. Business maternity clothes aren’t cheap. One dress can cost hundreds of dollars, and that’s just one outfit.

 

To help pregnant women afford professional attire, Domo, a Utah-based computer software start-up, is offering expecting employees up to $2,000 to spend on maternity clothes. The mom will receive gift cards to Nordsroms, ASOS and A Pea in the Pod to basically go on a shopping spree to find new work-appropriate clothing that’s also comfortable.

 

This innovative policy started about a year ago when Domo CEO Josh James’ assistant became pregnant. James quickly realized the struggle she was facing to continue to dress professionally while dealing with a changing body.

 

The CEO tells People, “I’ve always believed that if you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you play good. We want our expectant employees to be able to treat themselves, and buy clothes that make them feel great.”

 

And while the stipend may just be a small gesture in the grand scheme of things, sometimes it’s the small things that make a big difference.

 

Domo employee and mother of two Erica Bartsch was one of the first women to take advantage of this benefit. She tells Fortune, “Pregnancy is an awkward time for your body. You’re doing this wonderful and amazing thing while going through so many changes … the image of what you have in your head is not reflected in the mirror. The benefit made me confident about what I was putting on.”

 

That’s not the only way this company is supporting working parents. They also have a paternity leave policy which gives new dads two weeks off fully paid (which may not seem much compared to the Netflix’s of the world, but keep in mind this is a very small start-up company,) and gives new parents a $1,000 “baby bonus.

 

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It’s Men’s Health Week: Time to Tend to Your Man’s Health

In 1994, Congress passed a bill to institute June as Men’s Health Month. Since that time, it’s been wonderful to see hundreds of workplaces, health care professionals, sports franchises and other institutions encouraging healthy behaviors among men and boys.

But how can we, as women, encourage our loved ones to take charge of their health and learn about what screenings they need?

A close friend of mine complained to me the other day that she was worn out from continually nagging her husband. “Yeah, I know how annoying and draining it can be to have to nag,” I replied in an effort at solidarity. But when I had spent time with this couple, the husband always pitched in, be it with the kids, housework or anything else. He was super-attentive. Nagging was the last thing I thought she had to do.

“He never goes to the doctor—unless I beg him to! And then, when I nag, he gets mad at me. I’m really at a loss.”

Sound familiar?

Chances are it does. While there are those self-reliant men out there who take charge of their health and schedule visits with their health care provider, the sad truth is that the majority doesn’t:  Men are 25 percent less likely than women to have visited a physician in the past year, finds the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Another disturbing fact: men are 40 percent more likely than women to have skipped recommended cholesterol screenings.

And this is shocking, but true: women visit the doctor 150 percent as often as men!

“Why don’t you write him a letter?” I said, in an effort to help. After all, if one approach doesn’t work, maybe it’s time to try another. And being a nurse, wife and mother, I offered some suggestions for her to include in the letter. (Feel free to adapt these suggestions for your man.)

Dearest Man-in-My-Life,

This letter comes purely out of love and concern. And being that this week is Men’s Health Week, I have the perfect excuse for writing it.

It troubles me that you don’t pay attention to your health and see a doctor regularly or schedule appointments when you need them.

It’s a fact that we women are the ones who make the vast majority of health care decisions for our families. But I need you to give me a hand here. Your reluctance and hesitation don’t just affect your health and well-being; they affect both of us.

For one, if you do nothing, it puts all the worry on me. I know that’s not your intention—but that’s the outcome. And for another, if you’re not healthy, how can we do all the things we love to do and share together? Think about travel, exercise, sex … all things that are compromised or made impossible by bad health.

I’m not pulling out these facts to scare you, but imagine my worry when I see these statistics: Men live an average of seven years less than women. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. men are 1.5 times more likely than women to die from heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases.

Are you concerned about hearing potentially bad news? I understand that might be worrisome; but try looking at the other side of that. Preventive health care is called that for a really good reason. It can find problems before they start—and prevent many of them. It can also help a doctor discover a condition or disease at an early stage, when it’s much more treatable and manageable.

So, let’s partner up. I’m happy to help you locate a doctor. I’ll even go with you, if you’d like. We can, together, learn about your health and any screenings you may need, like those for diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure. How about we plan something really fun afterward?

 

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You Need to Add This Pain Reliever to Your Wardrobe

No one will ever know you’re enjoying a massage—except for you. Wahl has come out with a Pulsing Massage Patch that you can wear on-the-go and under your clothes.

Hands-free pain relief in a stick-on gel pad. Genius!

I don’t know who first uttered, “If we’re not in pain, we’re not alive,” but lately the word “pain” has become one of the most common and popular topics at many dinner conversations.

It isn’t easy being pain-free.

We may be an active generation; after all, having been raised with Jack LaLanne and Jane Fonda fitness programs can do that to a person—but with that comes the inescapable and, at times, insufferable aches and pains. We bear the toll as body parts wear out, suffering from a host of things that all mysteriously end in “itis”: bursitis, tendonitis, arthritis. (Let’s not leave out stress fractures, pulled muscles and other sports injuries.)

Where and how does it hurt?

Let me count the ways.

I am among the many that suffer from Boomeritis, a term coined, not surprisingly, by an orthopedic surgeon. As I’ve conceded (somewhat proudly, though sometimes meekly), to my Pilates instructor, “There isn’t a body part left to injure.”

Am I complaining? No, I’m not. I’ve faced the fact that while I can’t do what I did in my 20s, I can still do a lot to enhance my health and my quality of life. And this is why I suppose the mantra, “If we’re not in pain, we’re not alive,” bears repeating.

Instead of being petulant, I’ve figured out my own ways to deal with pain in specific parts of my body.

Say I wake up with a stiff back, which happens quite often. (You can relate, no?) After I straighten up, I avoid sitting back down.

Seriously. It usually works wonders. Fact: Did you know that sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spine—something like 40 percent more pressure than standing?

There are other things that can work, too: Like an ice pack for a tweaked knee or a hot bath with Epsom salts for overall muscle soreness. And then there are the natural remedies like capsaicin, turmeric, arnica and more.

C’mon, you’re saying, give me a little more information than that. That doesn’t always work for chronic, everyday pain. Give me real, concrete ways to help ease my pain before I run to make a doctor’s appointment.

• Avoid activities that aggravate the problem.

• Rest the injured area.

• Ice the area the day of the injury.

• Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) or aspirin. (Like any other medication, always check with your doctor before taking these, since there are some people who cannot or should not take them.)

Isn’t there anything more?

Hits the spot.

Absolutely. How about a do-it-yourself massage? After all, massage does a lot: It relieves muscle tension by enhancing blood flow (ahh, muscles can now relax), and it decreases inflammation and reduces pain intensity. It can also improve your recovery by stimulating mitochondria (those are the “energy packs” that drive cellular function and repair).

I can’t help but get excited about this ingenious, totally natural way to self-treat pain. File it in the “what-will-they-think-of-next?” category: a first-ever, pulsing hands-free wearable massage patch by Wahl.

It’s perfect for upper and lower back pain that gives you sore muscles, tenderness or tension.

Some of the coolest things about this pulsing massage patch? You can easily program the intensity levels and the sequences of the pulses. And since there are no wires or controllers (it’s battery operated), it’s totally portable.

Just position the flexible pad where you want pain relief (there are adhesive gel packs that comfortably hold it into place; it easily conforms to your body). Voila! You can wear it in the car, the office, or even at a restaurant.

So, the next time you’re out for dinner and someone utters the word “pain” and glances your way, they may just catch you smiling instead of grimacing in discomfort.

And when it’s time to order the food, they’ll likely tell the server, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

 

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Health Messages That Work

When it comes to effective health messages, focusing on what to do, rather than what not to do will put you on the road to success. That’s what a new study out of  Cornell finds. A positive message, researchers say, works better than a negative one in getting people to get people to adopt healthy behaviors.

Although this study by lead author Brian Wansink, PhD, focused on nutrition (as in, “Don’t eat that cookie because it will make you fat,” vs., “Eat an apple so you can stay healthy,”), I think this reasoning can apply to most things.

Although it seems obvious that a positive message would work better than a negative one (it is, isn’t it?), so many times those negative messages have a way of getting stuck in our heads. Then there’s little or no room for the positive messages to take root.

Here are five common “don’ts” we’re hearing lately, along with the flip-side “dos,” which we’d do well to remember.

1. DON’T: Sit too much. The more time people spend sitting, the more likely they are to die prematurely. Excessive sitting has been linked with being overweight and obese, type2 diabetes, some types of cancer and even premature death, according to studies.

DO: Stand up every 30 minutes. Remind yourself to take active breaks from sitting: stand on the train or bus; take the stairs rather than the elevator; walk up the escalator rather than standing still; stand or walk around while on the phone; alternate working while seated with working while standing.

3. DON’T: Drink diet soda. Researchers who studied a large group of healthy, postmenopausal women in the United States found that those who were “heavy consumers” of diet drinks might be more prone to heart attacks, blood clots and other cardiovascular problems. Other studies have linked diet sodas to abdominal obesity in adults over 65 and an increase in sweet cravings.

 

DO: Spruce up your water. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, add your favorite fruits and veggies, like cucumber, strawberries, oranges, lemons, mint or limes, . Or freeze chopped-up fruit in an ice cube freezer tray and add to your plain water. Drinking a glass of water before eating a meal can help you feel fuller and may have a positive effect in cutting your portions, thus helping you lose weight.

4. DON’T:  Snack between meals.  Eating often throughout the day may make people gain weight and can make you even hungrier, some experts say. We should eat three “proper” meals a day, they say.

 

DO:  Work snacks into your daily quota. The reality is that more people are snacking, according to the market research group The NPD Group. Snacking can help avoid that “I’m starving—what’s for dinner?” tendency to overeat or grab something unhealthy in a desperate attempt just to fill up. If you’re a snacker, make those snacks healthy: fruit, a handful of nuts, edamame, some yogurt or a nutrition bar containing healthy grains like amaranth, quinoa and oats are all smart choices. (According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, with each additional daily serving of whole grains, there’s a 5 percent lower mortality risk and a 9 percent reduction in death from cardiovascular causes.) The trick with snacking is to keep calories between 100 and 200 so your total daily caloric intake doesn’t skyrocket.

 

5. DON’T: Exercise for less than 30 minutes each day. That’s the minimum time experts recommend working out each day for weight loss and fitness.

 

DO: Split your exercise into 10-minute increments. One study found that women who did this were more likely to exercise consistently. And these women lost more weight after five months than the women who exercised for 20 to 40 minutes at a time. Breaking exercise into small(er) chunks can give you a measure of achievement and alleviate the guilt that comes with skipping it altogether.

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Conquering My Fears at Paddle-Board Yoga

“What time is yoga class?” I asked the nice instructor at the Adventure Center at the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where I was visiting for my niece’s wedding.

“It’s at 7 a.m.,” said Katie.

“Ooh, that’s very early. A little too early for vacation,” I replied.

“You should try SUP Yoga VI,” said Katie. “It’s so much fun. I teach it at 9 a.m. at the cove beach.”

“What is SUP Yoga?” I asked.

“SUP Yoga stands for stand-up paddle-board yoga,” said Katie. “We paddle out on the water to nine feet and then we do yoga on our boards. You just need to know how to swim.”

Nine feet deep. Uh-oh. Oh no. Asanas on a paddle board on the water. I’m not the greatest swimmer. Uh-oh. Oh no. Should I? Would I? Could I do SUP yoga?

My body tensed as Katie put the sign-up sheet in front of me.

“I’ll go with you for moral support,” said my son D. (What a nice son. He doesn’t even practice yoga.)

“All right then,” I said. “I’m going to conquer my fears. Let’s do it.” (Go, Judi! Go, Judi!)

“You’re going to love it,” said Katie. “SUP yoga on the water is so relaxing.”

A New Level of Mind, Body and Spirit

The next morning I awoke early, put on my swimsuit (and lots of sunscreen) and headed down to the beach. Katie provided each of us a board with a paddle and guided us out onto the water. She showed us how to paddle forward and backward and turn our boards around. Then we were on our way.

Slowly, inch by inch, I got the hang of it. I knelt at first, too scared to stand. Once near the rope, we secured our boards, and Katie took us through a series of poses.

“Look forward when you stand up and stay centered near the handle,” said Katie.

I did exactly as I was told. A few fellow yogis who were midlife like me fell in the water. I actually forced myself in—one way to let go. (Go Judi! Go Judi!) The water was very salty. (Katie said that St. Thomas ocean water is salty like the Dead Sea. I had salt all over my body.)

As we went through the poses, my body began to relax. It was true what Katie said: SUP yoga gave me a “feeling of bliss and brought me to a new level of mind, body and spirit.” I was totally swept away.

By the time the 75 minutes were over, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I stood tall and paddled my way back to shore. Next to my niece’s nuptials, SUP yoga was the second best part of my trip. I highly recommend it for any practicing yogi.

More About SUP Yoga

I was envious of Katie and her SUP yoga lifestyle and wanted to learn more. I told Katie I was a blogger and studying to be a yoga instructor. She kindly answered all my questions.

Here’s the scoop:

Q: How is SUP yoga different from other styles of yoga?

Katie:Â SUP yoga brings elements of nature into your practice. It is nearly impossible to allow the mind to wander during SUP yoga. You are so heavily concentrated on the present moment that you truly connect with your breath. Without your breath, you will lose balance and fall in.

I have found that people learn to let go of fear in SUP yoga. We talk about this all the time when practicing on land, but frequently we find ourselves staying in our comfort zone. It took me years to try a crow press up into handstand. After a few weeks of playing around on the board, I have tried almost every pose I can think of, realizing that the water is under me as a safe place to fall. SUP yoga will tone your core, connect you to the present moment and provide a fun place to explore outside your comfort zone.

Q: How did you learn to teach SUP yoga?

 
Katie: I became a registered yoga teacher three years ago in Dallas, Texas. Following my certification, I traveled to a yoga festival in Colorado called Wanderlust. It was there that I took stand-up paddle-board yoga for the first time. The instructor, Rachel Brathen, is a social media sensation and renowned yogi. I was amazed at how unbelievable I felt after the practice. I started picking her brain about SUP yoga. She lived and started her SUP yoga business in Aruba. As far as she or anyone else knew, no one was doing it in the Virgin Islands.

I started researching St. Thomas. I found the perfect cove at the Marriott Frenchman’s Cove beach. After conducting extensive research, I registered for a SUP yoga teacher training in Houston, Texas. The class was a 25-hour continuing education course. Not only did it strengthen my practice, it changed my life.

Q: What are the benefits of SUP yoga?

 
Katie: Practicing yoga while learning to balance on a paddle board will keep your core engaged for the entire class. There is much less room for error when coming into a pose. If you lose focus or your breath, you fall. The board will let you know if you favor one side of the body more than the other. For example, if you are in down dog and have more weight on the left side of the body, your board will start to tilt. It will help you refine your form.

Being on the water during savasana (corpse pose) is the most relaxing feeling in the world. With the waves as your music and the sun providing heat, you find a new level of bliss. (I agree, Katie. It is the best-ever feeling. Ohm, ohm, ohm.)

Q: Any tips for yogis who are doing SUP yoga for the first time?

Katie:Â Let go of fear. The water is there to hold you, not hurt you! The sooner you embrace falling in, the more fun you will have!

Q: Any advice for midlife women who might want to try SUP yoga?

Katie:Â There is a place in yoga for everyone. The options and variations for poses are endless. Embrace your body and push your limits.

Are you ready to take the leap? According to Katie, SUP yoga is popping up all over the United States and internationally. In fact, I just read about classes that are available via Aqua Vida SUP Yoga in Philadelphia—not too far from my home. I might have to try it again.

As the team at Aqua Vida says, “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of our lives.”

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