Pop Rocks for Fresh Breath

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I don’t know about you, but I loved pop rocks (despite all of the urban legends). I forgot quite how much until I was at a party where the hostess dipped pretzel rods in chocolate, then the candies for a snack. After eating 5 in a row, I couldn’t get enough of the childhood treat – the fun little sizzle and crackle while you chewed. And now I just read that 32 Oral Care is using a similar crystal candy to freshen breath. That’s a whole lot more fun that chomping on another piece of gum, amirite?

Basically how they work is you tear open a pack, and pour them into your mouth (much as you would with pop rocks), then move them around with your tongue while they pop open zinc and IsoVoxy to kill bad-breath bacteria and clean your teeth. They come in cinnamon for all you Big Red fans, spearmint, peppermint, honey mint, and lemon mint. While they’re a bit pricier than my Orbitz multipack habit, I can’t wait to try them out!

When You’re Tired, Take a Break

puppyI am a planner, a doer, a socializer, and I live in NYC –a city where you can arguably never run out of things to do, people to see, or new stuff to try. That combination, while pretty wonderful most of the time, can get pretty darn exhausting at others. Sometimes, after months of feeling like a weekend without days and nights full of activities is a failure, I am run  down, tired out, and weary of everything I typically enjoy. In moments like these, I wonder. Should I really live here? Is this really what I want?

The answer is always yes.

But at times, doing the things I like can weigh me down. They stop being fun. And after being here for just over ten years, I’ve learned – when you’re tired, take a break. If it’s going out, hitting the gym, working long hours that’s sapping your stamina just stop. Stop it right away. Even cancel something this instant if you have to- not permanently, but just long enough to rejuventate. If it’s the city’s pace that’s wearing you thin, head to the country. If it’s too many girls nights, try staying in and painting your nails. If it’s work, get your assistant to pick up the slack. When you start to miss it (and you know you will), that’s a pretty good sign you’re ready to pick things back up where you left off. Usually being tired and frustrated is not a sign that your tastes have changed, just an indicator that you might be indulging in too much of a good thing, and you’re plum tuckered out.

The Spotlight’s on Unnecessary Chemicals in Fast Food

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The petition against Subway to remove the chemical azodicarbonamide from their breads gave rise to some pretty funny social media jokes (like how now we all know where that unique subway bread scent comes from). And it’s definitely a good thing that this major chain is making a move to go more natural, and less chemical with it’s food products, even if it was under major public pressure. It made me pretty happy I have never been a fan of their sandwiches when I read the coverage. But, the same chemical is found in many products on other fast food restaurants menus, including:

  • McDonald’s: regular bun, bakery style bun, bagel and English muffin, Big Mac bun and sesame seed bun.
  • Burger King: specialty buns, artisan-style bun, sesame seed bun, croissant, English muffin, home-style Caesar croutons and French toast sticks.
  • Wendy’s: bagel, premium toasted bun, sandwich bun and panini bread
  • Arby’s: croissant, French toast sticks, harvest wheat bun, honey wheat bread, marble rye bread, mini bun, onion bread and sesame seed bun
  • Jack in the Box: bakery style bun, jumbo bun, croissant, grilled sourdough bread and regular bun
  • Chick-fil-A: chargrilled chicken sandwich, chicken salad sandwich, and chargrilled chicken club sandwich
  • Dunkin’ Donuts: Danish, Croissant, and Texas Toast.

These other chains have not indicated an intention to remove the ingredient from their products, with the exception of Starbucks, which has already started a transition away from baked goods containing the chemical. So how concerned should you be? While it seems better to avoid it, there is no need to panic if you’ve been eating $5 foot longs for lunch every day. Europe and Australia ban the use of the ingredient, but it is actually FDA approved for use in controlled amounts. It has had bad effects in animal studies. It increases the level of urethane, a carcinogen, in bread when baked, but seems most harmful in its industrial form for workers exposed to it in high levels. The ingredient may not be desirable, but it is not so dangerous that it has been poisoning customers. Yet it is something to think about next time you find yourself looking for a quick bite. Is it really worth taking in all of those unnecessary chemicals from processed foods, or just waiting until you get home to make yourself a sandwich?

The Pro’s (and 1 Con) of Women’s Only Gyms

gymOver the past couple days, I have noticed several posts about women’s only gyms (here and here and here  for example!). They note that there’s a common perception that women’s only gyms are for the older ladies, or a relic from the Richard Simmon’s jazzercise era. While I don’t necessary understand why either of these would be negatives (I mean, Richard Simmon’s is amazing, amirite?), the articles note an upswing in the popularity of exclusively female gyms, and ask readers if they would join one. For me, the answer is yes. I am a member of a ladies-only gym, and I love it. While I do miss being able to oogle cute boys from there treadmill, there are many many more things that I enjoy.

I don’t have to compete with grunting meat heads for the free weights. Instead of racks on racks of bench press equipment, there are big bins of free weights, weighted balls, and body bars – all things geared toward lady-fitness. When I take a Zumba class, I don’t have to worry that my crazy moves and tattered college tees aren’t impressing the potential boyfriends in the row behind me and I haven’t had anyone creepily hit on me while I’m stretching yet. And if people think that all-girls classes are easier, I can say from personal experience that they are not. Last time I went to boot camp, I almost threw up from all of the burpees, pushups, and planks the instructor called out. I don’t remember that ever happening at my coed classes. Then there’s the spirit of team work that reminds me of my days playing high school soccer. People actually cheer during the group classes (and even though this gets on my nerves sometimes), it’s kind of nice to be with a bunch of girls acting like girls while getting fit.

Texting While Walking – More Dangerous Than You Thought

walk and textYou already know that texting while driving is a MAJOR health and public safety hazard (RIGHT?!). All you city dwellers out there probably shrugged off all the publicity on this issue, as not applicable to people who get around using their two legs and the subway – unless you spotted your cabbie texting. But now there is new data about how even texting while walking can be dangerous, and here’s why. Overall, texting affects your posture and balance while you walk which can put you at risk for injury and it’s pretty distracting. Data published in PLOS ONE journal found that people who walk while texting tend to walk slower and zig zag around more than people looking straight ahead and walking. That’s no big surprise, right? However, this can be dangerous if you pull out your phone to send a text while you’re crossing the street. If you veer enough from the straight line of the crosswalk you could wander right out into traffic, or miss the 10 second window you have to cross the street, putting oyu in the path of oncoming cars.

Additionally, holding the phone and looking down while walking puts your body into an unnatural posture for movement. Instead of swinging your arms with your body’s motion, and turning dynamically, most texters lock their upper bodies to  keep their phone steady while typing. This can put people at a higher risk of becoming unbalanced and falling. Then finally, it increases your risk of bumping into something, tripping, or falling because you’re just not looking where you’re going.  So why not avoid an embarrassing encounter with that lamppost, and stop walking then text. Or, if you’re really in a rush, only text while you’re waiting for the light to change to walk and you’re stopped anyhow. Your fellow pedestrians will thank you for not getting in their way.

Going Out in the Cold May Drop Pounds

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It’s tough to find good reasons not to hibernate when the temperatures dip so low, but Time has come up with an excellent one for anyone who is working on their fitness. Researchers found that just exposing people to the cold activates brown-fat. Why is this important you ask? Brown fat can eat white fat that typically lurks around hips and other problem areas, and burn up t0 30% of the body’s energy while doing so. Thus, being out in the frigid temps can actually help to whittle your waistline. Just remember that when you are debating another Netflix marathon on the couch this weekend, or popping out to meet a friend. 

Kissing is Good for Your Health

smoochTrapped inside with this latest polar vortex (and the 6-12 inches of snow it’s bringing with it)? Well, make sure to invite your sweetie over, and you can pick up some serious health benefits from a good old fashioned make-out sesh while you’re stuck indoors. CNN recently reported that kissing has all sorts of health benefits that in sum, mean that you should put it on your list of new year’s resolutions as something to do more often. First, kissing can help to reduce your blood pressure by increasing blood flow and heart rate. It can soothe aches and pains by dilating blood-vessels, a reaction that will help headaches and cramps particularly. Smooching fights cavities by increasing saliva flow that will wash away more plaque on teeth, and it can make you look a little younger by tightening and toning facial muscles. And it can contribute to your overall fitness toning goals by burning calories. While it’s not equivalent to cardio on the elliptical, it’s a good start! You can burn up to 16 calories per kiss.

In addition to all of the physical benefits, kissing can have mental perks as well. It leads to a rush in feel-good chemicals including serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, making you feel happier. And, while this one is kind of obvious, it can make you feel more loved and connected to the person you care about. These feelings can boost self-esteem, which can lead to greater happiness overall, increased productivity, and even potentially greater success. So use this snowstorm as an excuse to stay in and smooch – it’s good for your health.

Fitspiration from a 94-Year-Old Track Star

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When I set my alarm to get up early before work to go for a run, or to go to the gym, there are many times that I don’t feel like going. As I make the preparations the night before, laying out my outfit, packing my workout bag, I often think how much nicer it would be to sleep a little longer instead. When the alarm goes off, sometimes it’s a tough battle to get out from under the covers rather than rolling over. On one of these mornings, I walked into the gym feeling all sorts of cranky, and wishing I had decided not to come. I was tired and unmotivated, but I got on the elliptical anyhow because I was there. Then I looked to my left, and I saw an old woman, so white-haired and frail that she had parked her walker next the elliptical three down from me. She was going slow, but she was going. If that’s not inspiration to work out as an able bodied young woman, I don’t know what is. She needed assistance walking, but still put in the effort to get in her daily exercise. I can walk just fine, and I was grumbling about being there. It reminded me of a blog post I read a long time ago about being thankful for being tired and sore muscles because it meant you had an active body that had carried you around all day, and keep you mobile- something you might realize you had taken for granted if it’s capabilities are ever taken away from you.

Then I saw The Huffington Post’s article on Olga Kotelko, the 90 year old track star. After she retired from her teaching job, she started competing in track and field in her 70s, and now she has 26 world record in her 90-94 age group as of today- an impressive record at any age, and especially so at hers. Olga doled out a few tips on staying healthy and active that included eating fresh, natural, unprocessed, and unrefined foods, while getting lots of sleep. She also sites keeping a balanced fitness routine that challenges cardio, flexibility, and muscles while training your brain by learning new things. Then finally she plans for the future, is looking forward to joining the 95-99 age bracket next, and keeps an optimistic outlook, saying, “You’re never too old to chase your dream!” Take a page from her book next time you are dreading a workout, and remember – if Olga can do it, you probably can too.

Take a Page from Denmark’s Book to Beat the Polar Vortex

coldDenmark is the happiest country on earth, despite the fact that their winters are pretty brutal, and the sun often goes down before 4pm throughout the season. While the icy temps from this polar vortex may be dampening your mood, you can use the Danish concept of hygge to battle any touch of seasonal affective disorder that is knocking at your door this winter. The term isn’t easily translatable, but it most closely links to the English words coziness, togetherness, and well-being. While these words might all refer to physical conditions, people living in Denmark say it is more of a mental condition that helps keep the Danes cushioned against the long winter’s frigidity, solitude, and stress.

The Danish describe hygge as the feeling you get at Christmastime of enjoying the holiday, the decorations, and being with family and friends, but they say it continues on past Christmas. It’s a way of consciously feeling grateful all year, and slowing down to make time for the things you enjoy. Hygge can be curling up with your favorite book under a blanket, or it can be gathering in a particular place with particular friends, and exhibiting kind, grateful behavior towards others. It’s actively inhabiting a positive, healthful mental state. The country’s tourism website suggests that the nation’s happiness is deeply tied to hygge, and while there is not hard data proving it, adopting this philosophy is worth a try when you’re feeling broken down by the cold, overstressed, or too busy.

In Praise of Shabby Gym Clothes

gymI have one pair of Lululemon running tights. They’re definitely the nicest piece of workout gear I own, and I could only justify their absurd expense because first, I had my last pair of running tights so long they  became transparent  from over wearing them (not because they were the defective lululemons), and second because I received them as a gift. Also, they do truly fabulous things for my butt. The rest of my gym clothes are, if you put it nicely, somewhat shabby. I have great sneakers and awesome ear buds, because those are the accessories that really matter to me-the tunes that keep me moving, and the sneakers that keep me from getting extreme shin splints. While I tried to fancy things up with some new t-shirts and stretch pants, the majority of my exercise gear consists of a bunch of beat up t-shirts I got for free at college events and some tank tops I used to wear in public until they got an irremovable stain.

When I read this piece on The Cut unapologetically defending gross gym clothes, all I could think was, “Preach sister!” Gyms in NYC can be scary, intimidating places (see this article on Gymtimidation). In this city they are full of attractive thin people (who are strangely muscular for their size), in extremely trendy clothes that somehow don’t sweat. For someone who is there because they want to get in shape (and thus may not be 100% loving the way they look), the feeling of competition to look hot while trying to get fitter to look hot can be a lot of pressure. If investing in cute gym-wear makes you more motivated just so you get to wear it, more power to you. But I am just going to second Maggie Lange’s notion, and say I’d rather wear my faded Ram Fan t-shirt and some mismatched socks any day because by the time I finish my butt and gut class I am just going to be a dirty sweaty mess anyhow.