Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Great Success Story

Pole Dancing with Polestars

STDs in 2013

From the looks of the line at Victoria’s Secret, I’m willing to wager that you might be interested in a quickie (pun always intended) STD update.

So, while you were basking in a Valentine’s Day bubble of pink champagne, long-stemmed roses, and sweet Belgian chocolate, I was busy burning my minutes chatting up sexual health experts, entrepreneurs, and activists across the country. (Lucky for you, my sweetheart is used to rescheduling a dinner date for a deadline).

Here’s what I learned about STD stats (way more common than you’d think), what your doctor is checking for (a little less than you’d think), how to get tested (it’s easier than ever), and more.

1. Brush, Floss, Test

First off, get tested. Yes, you. With numbers like one in every two people getting an STD by age 25 and half of all sexually active people contracting HPV (human papillomavirus) at some point in their lives—every woman should take getting tested seriously.

Dr. Lisa Oldson, MD, STD expert and medical director of SexualHealth.com, an online space geared toward discreet (and speedy!) testing, explains the rationale behind routine screening: “Preventative care for your sexual health is just as important as your heart health, dental health, and so on… I don’t think it should be any different than going to see your dentist every 6-12 months, getting your cholesterol checked, or going to work out.”

2. Make Sure You Understand What “Testing” Means

OK, so hopefully I’ve convinced you. But Oldson also wants you to know most primary care doctors—two-thirds, to be exact—don’t do adequate STD testing. “That’s not the way it should be, but it’s a sad reality—doctors are human, too, and they’re often embarrassed to talk about this.”

Even if you’re going in for annual Pap smears, Oldson explains, does not mean you’re getting STD tested. “A Pap smear is only looking for a type of HPV that causes cervical cancer. It’s a common misconception that women think their MDs are doing comprehensive STD testing.”

Which means you’ll have to stop blushing, belly up, and ask your doc for comprehensive STD testing if have a new partner (or more than one since your last STD test). And this holds true even if you feel perfectly fine—some STDs show no symptoms at all and “the only way to know is to get tested,” explains Oldson.

And do consider dragging the new Mr. or Ms. Wonderful to the lab with you—Oldson is a huge advocate of couples testing. “It’s not a sexy topic—but everyone knows STD prevention should be addressed. I think most people are relieved if their partner brings it up.”


3. STD Testing Doesn’t Have to Suck

The good news is, advances in technology have also made STD testing less invasive—today’s screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea is as easy as urinating in cup. And online services like Oldson’s SexualHealth.com may allow you to skip sweating it out under the clinic fluorescents altogether.

“People can get tested the same day they register online or on the phone. It’s great for women to know they don’t have to wait and get an appointment with their doctor—they can run to the lab on their lunch hour, pee in a cup, get their blood drawn, and get results within a few business days.” Olson adds that if you are diagnosed, physicians are at the ready to review your results (and link you to a local clinic, if needed).

Sharing results with a new someone shouldn’t be excruciating either, says Ramin Bastani, founder and CEO of Qpid.me, a start-up that’s offering a novel way to talk about STD testing. “We want STD testing to suck a lot less,” he explains. “I got slapped by a girl that I’d gone home with because the ‘have you been tested’ conversation came up in a really weird way.”

A quick three-minute sign-up on Qpid.me sends a secure HIPAA-compliant request to where you were last tested, and after Qpid.me receives and verifies your results, you’ll be able to text them to a new suitor. You can also link to a private profile with a photo of yourself (the link expires after being accessed) for an extra level of assurance.

Says Bastani, “We don’t think we’re a silver bullet—we’re just one tool in the harm-reduction tool kit. Condoms are still important. This is just one piece of data to consider if you’re going to hook up with someone.”

4. STD’s Will Not Ruin Your Life

Although getting word that you’ve tested positive is hardly welcome news, Oldson wants to reassure women that “If you have an STD, it’s going to be OK. You don’t have to wear a scarlet letter or abstain from sex forever. You can still have children. Many STD’s are curable—and all of them are manageable.”

Even an ongoing diagnosis like genital herpes can be mitigated with medications to reduce transmission risk. And HIV is now considered a chronic condition, thought to be more like diabetes (as in, you have to take medication, see your medical providers regularly, and make lifestyle changes). “[HIV] is not a death sentence,” says Oldson. “I tell people, don’t stopsaving for retirement—you might need it.”

Jenelle Marie, who founded The STD Project (a web-based story-telling platform for those diagnosed with STDs) after contracting genital herpes, says, “When you know the statistics [an estimated 45-50 million people have Type 2 genital herpes—which is 1 in 6 sexually active people below the age of 50]—it’s maddening that people are made to feel so horrible.”

“I was so incredibly embarrassed and felt like I would never be able to have a healthy relationship or sex life and men wouldn’t want date me. Actually, it’s been quite the opposite, to my surprise—it hasn’t been a deal breaker.”

In fact, Marie hopes telling her story (and encouraging others to do so) will reduce stigma surrounding STDs. “The fear and the stigma is what keeps people from getting tested regularly… until we can eradicate that—you won’t be able to [fully] promote prevention.”

5. Practicing Prevention Never Goes Out of Style

And lastly, although medical advances have given us the ability to live healthier lives with STDs, it doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. “STDs are preventable. Keep a condom in your purse, backpack, wallet, or pocket—there is nothing to be ashamed of. It makes you smart and it makes you prepared,” says Oldson.

“No matter how advanced we get—prevention is still cheaper than treatment,” agrees HIV awareness activist Luvvie Ajayi. She cites a startling statistic: “Every 47 minutes a woman tests positive with HIV in the U.S.—and black women make up 66% of new infections in women.”

With that in mind, Ajayi and her co-founder Karyn Watkins launched The Red Pump Project. On March 10, 2013, National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day—they are encouraging women everywhere to slip on a pair of spikes or stilettos in a shade of fire-engine red and upload a photo to their Facebook fan page.

“When people hear the word activism, it sounds like a heavy word. But I would say activism is doing the small things—even it that means you tweet once a day about something you’re passionate about. We’d love people to sign up to Rock the Red Pump—so get those shoes ready for March 10!” says Ajayi.

So, what’s the takeaway as we slow to a close on today’s column of love? Sort of the same message I’m always giving, I suppose: Be smart and take care of yourself. Any time you take out of your schedule to treat that body (like a temple) is totally worth it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Diabetes:Staggering New Results

A staggering one in eight Americans has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll suggests. And more than one third of those polled have been diagnosed with diabetes or have a parent, sibling, spouse or child with the condition.

"Type 2 diabetes has become one of the most common and fastest growing diseases. Fully one in eight adults -- approximately 29 million people -- now report that they have been diagnosed with this dangerous condition," said Harris Poll Chairman Humphrey Taylor. Added Dr. Ronald Tamler, clinical director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center in New York City: "Diabetes is very insidious. You don't know you're in trouble until the complications hit or until it's so out of control you have uncontrolled urination and thirst" -- two of the common symptoms of diabetes.

While type 2 diabetes is occurring in epic proportions, the new poll also found that awareness of the disease is still surprisingly low, with only 21 percent of those surveyed considering themselves well-versed on the disease. That means the remaining 79 percent may not know they're at risk or may already have the disease, which is known as the "silent" killer. But people already diagnosed with diabetes tend to be much more aware of the health risks, with slightly more than two-thirds considering themselves either "extremely" or "very" knowledgeable about the disease, the poll found.

Still, 35 percent of respondents with diabetes said their diabetes was only "somewhat" controlled and 5 percent said it was "not at all" well controlled. "Because diabetes is a chronic condition, the treatment of which is critically dependent on patient behavior and self-care, this may be the most alarming finding," Taylor said.

On a more encouraging note, many people polled do understand that a number of factors can contribute to type 2 diabetes, including being overweight (79 percent of respondents realize this is a risk factor), diet (74 percent) and physical inactivity (62 percent).

These numbers were greater among people who had been diagnosed with diabetes.  Interestingly, 60 percent of respondents know that genetics can be a component of type 2 diabetes.

"We have a public perception that type 2 diabetes is entirely a disease of lifestyle and that is not true," said Dr. Robert Ratner, chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association. "There is no question that lifestyle contributes to it, but the problem is one of biology . . . Environment really does play a role but the biology sets them up."

Indeed, certain ethnic groups, including many Native American tribes, bear a disproportionate diabetes burden, Ratner added. Most adults, whether they actually have diabetes or not, seem fairly knowledgeable about the long-term consequences of the disease, which can include amputation of limbs, blindness, kidney disease and heart disease, the poll found. There was an exception. Only 39 percent of adults overall and 56 percent of those with type 2 diabetes knew that the disease can cause strokes.

"People need to be aware that this is another disease caused by diabetes that can be prevented," said Nancy Copperman, director of Public Health Initiatives at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y. "The idea of having a stroke might motivate them to change their lifestyle." The disease seems to be taking a toll on those polled, with 20 percent acknowledging it has been a "significant" burden and 43 percent saying it has been "somewhat" of a burden for themselves and their families. The burden comes in the form of dietary restrictions, medication costs, eye problems, cardiovascular problems and foot problems.

In addition, 9 percent of people with type 2 diabetes said the condition has rendered them unable to work.

Still, with awareness of genetic factors as well as lifestyle contributors, "you can live a very full and happy life and thrive with diabetes," said Mount Sinai's Tamler. In people with type 2 diabetes, either the body doesn't produce enough of the hormone insulin or cells can't use the insulin properly. Insulin is necessary for the body to use glucose blood sugar -- for energy. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can lead to diabetes complications, according to the American Diabetes Association.

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes found in this new poll is higher than that reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although the CDC data is more rigorous, Ratner said.

The poll was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive from Feb. 4 through 6, among 2,090 adults aged 18 and older. The survey was not based on a probability sample, so no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

More information

Calculate your risk for diabetes at the American Diabetes Association.

Health News Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A frozen, store-bought meal:

A frozen, store-bought meal:

In my classes and book, I stress that if the produce in your frig gets green on it that wasn’t the original green color of the vegetable…in other words…green mold, then the fresh produce is no money-saver, no matter where it came from.

It is important to get a grip on reality, if that is your story, and buy food that is frozen. Fruit and vegetables bought frozen can be quit economical if doled out in portions that get 100% eaten. I confess to being a closet Amy’s addict. The non-dairy burritos really do the trick when I have no longer than 2 minutes microwave time to get to my next appointment.

I don’t live on them, but they have saved me from more than one late appointment.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Eating Disorders

Koach Marlo on: Eating Disorders Shows No Boundaries

For decades eating disorders, namely anorexia and bulimia, were considered a females disease, especially a white, middle-to-upper class women’s disease.  It was known to afflict females in their mid teens into early adulthood.  It was not really talked about and for many kept a secret for years.  Today all of these myths are dispelled as the number of eating disorders have grown into the millions and no longer have any boundaries.

In fact, latest statistics show that over 11 million Americans have an eating disorder, ten million women and one million men.  The age of onset for eating disorders can be seen in those as young as 9 years old to 17 years old, but cases on both sides have been seen as well. (Specific new classifications of eating disorders, called selective restrictive eating disorder, has been found in those as young as preschoolers.)  Eating disorders have been growing in various religious groups, especially within the Jewish Orthodox communities where more girls are diagnosed with anorexia than in the general population.  Other cultures and races also are seeing a rise in the number of females and males being afflicted with an eating disorder.

It seems that 10-15% of those suffering are considered to be serious eating disorders. Seventy seven percent of the individuals with eating disorders report that the disorder can last from one to 15 years.  Many will die of eating disorders each year, however due to other complications that arise secondary to this disease this number is hard to determine.  It is however known that eating disorders has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. And as many as 50% of those with eating disorders report they are never truly cured.

Today there are many factors associated with the development of an eating disorder.  Genetics, psychological conditions, athleticism, family dynamics and social pressures are all linked to this rise in eating disorders.  With 25 million men and 43 million women looking to diet or lose weight, there is a greater awareness of body image and its connection to dietary intake.  Studies confirm that over 50% of girls by age 11 think they are overweight or have already admitted to dieting.  The media’s obsession with body image, within articles and advertisements, has added pressure to women and men to be thin or at least change their physical appearance.  The growth of diet related products in the food industry is yet another place where the pressure to be thin is evident. 

Luckily all of this talk about eating disorders is becoming more commonplace.  From websites, to school committees, to health professionals to families communicating a greater awareness is being heard.  There are a multitude of out patient programs, day programs and residential programs geared to those with anorexia and bulimia.  There are many multidisciplinary teams who specialize in this disorder and are educated to help those who are suffering. There is help out there if you are looking to find it.

It is important that parents, teachers, coaches and other adults in the community are aware that anyone is susceptible to an eating disorder.  We must not assume it only afflicts white upper class teen age girls, but be realistic that is no longer the truth.  We need to watch out for symptoms that might include: changes in food behaviors, extreme weight loss/fluctuation, skipping meals, visiting the bathroom after meals, obsessions with exercise or dieting, removing oneself from social situations, counting calories and avoiding social situations that involved food.  All or some of these might be indicative of an eating disorder. 

Despite the fact that eating disorders knows no boundaries, with the right information and awareness, it can be treated.  Help those with anorexia and bulimia get help and turn the staggering numbers around.  Eleven million is eleven million too many.

Monday, February 11, 2013

True Core Training

Whether it’s a muscle magazine, fitness article or personal training blog, everyone is talking about core training. This usually transfers into how to do exercises for your abdominals and obliques to create a washboard waist. Everything from crunches, jack knife, side bend and leg raise are touted as the best way to improve the way you look. However, the core training focus should be about creating a solid foundation to improve overall function and reducing your chances of back pain?

Inner and outer unit

Most people are unaware that there are actually 2 levels of the “core” that should be focused on. The inner unit and the outer unit. The inner unit consists of the muscles of the deep abdominal wall and its related fascia known as the Deep Front Line. The outer unit consists of the rectus abdominis, the external obliques and the quadrates lumborum and its related fascia known as the superficial fascia.  I know that sounds complicated, but just remember the inner unit is deep and cannot be seen and the outer unit is global and can be seen.

 It has been my experience that the connection of the transversus abdominis and internal oblique muscles to the lower back connective tissue (thoraco-lumbar fascia) needs to be re-established in order to create a stabilized core before ever focusing on some of the traditional abdominal exercises most people do.  If these inner unit muscles loose connection to the brain, everything is affected including breathing, walking, throwing, jumping, etc. And will negatively affect other areas of the body including the shoulders, hips, knees and feet.

What is Fascia?

I briefly mentioned in the previous section the deep and superficial fascia. I would know like to talk further about this and its importance to true core training. Fascia can be thought of as a connective tissue that forms a three-dimensional web surrounding and supporting muscles, our skeleton, and our organs. Restrictions in this connective tissue bind down and exert pressure and stress on the body and its soft tissue structures, causing pain and dysfunction.

To understand how the fascial matrix may impact seemingly unrelated parts of the body, I’ll share an analogy I read recently.  Imagine the fascia as a sweater. If you were to attach a hook to the sweater at the hip and pull it in a downward direction away from the body, you would feel the effect of the pull at the opposite shoulder. This happened inside the body as well.

When we experience stress, trauma, poor diet, lack of recovery, improper breathing, etc, the fascia becomes tight, restricted and a source of tension to the rest of the body like a constant snag in a sweater or an overly tight guy wire on the mast of a ship threatening to snap the mast should another adverse wind suddenly fill the sails. That’s usually when someone might say that they “blew out” there back just bending over. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. 

How to perform Total Core Training (see videos by Korrespondent Nick Davey)

Program 1: Inner Unit Activation

Program 2: Bodyweight Challenge

Program 3: External Resistance Challenge 

Marlo Mittler, MS RD

Marlo Mittler, MS RD
Dietician/Nutritionist Koach
Marlo Mittler, MS RD is a Registered Dietitian, Nutrition Consultant, journalist and public speaker specializing in nutrition, wellness and healthy lifestyles. Marlo has been in practice for over 15 years, specializing in Pediatrics, Adolescents and Family Nutrition. Marlo, has appeared nationally on FOX, ABC, NBC and CBS News.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Farm to Table Champion- Koach Chris Hastings

c/o Eatocracy
Editor's Note: Chris Hastings is the James Beard Award-winning chef of the acclaimed Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama.

The first time I heard a prominent chef bemoan the phrase "farm-to-table," I was in New York meeting with a group of chefs to discuss topics in and around our industry.

I cocked my head in that direction as if to say, “Did I just hear what I think I did?”

Another chef quickly chimed in that he was also "so tired of the farm-to-table movement," like it was no longer a legitimate or important way of thinking.

Seriously? That moment was neither the time nor place to have a debate so I chose, uncharacteristically, to make a note and keep my mouth shut - until now.

Since that time, chefs from around the world have gone on to echo those sentiments in an array of publications. Their declarations have run the gamut from stating that the philosophy is small-minded and naive, and that this “save the world” hogwash is no place for a chef. They seem to believe that a chef's only responsibility is to cook great food, and that anything else is a distraction.
One chef suggested that if you obsess about relationships with farmers, purveyors or producers, you do not have time to cook at all. I want to believe something was lost in translation because he could not have really meant that - it’s just ridiculous.

In defense of the chefs’ viewpoints, I will agree that the term is overused, abused and does not, in and of itself, make you a better cook or restaurant. I am also not of the mindset that every little thing you serve must come from within 200 miles of your restaurant - or whatever your particular philosophy dictates. Most restaurants do reach outside their self-imposed limits every now and again.
However, I grow concerned when some of the most influential voices of our time discourage the farm-to-table philosophy to the next generation of young thinkers, chefs, restaurateurs and, most importantly, leaders.

As is too often the case in our society, we are quick to discard oddities and excess in an effort to reach for the newest shiny object. We show little regard for the value of that we have just abandoned.
My defense rests in what I know, what I have seen and what has changed our country's eating habits profoundly over the last 20-plus years.

When a young, passionate chef decides to plant his or her flag in a backwater town, a small market or even a medium-sized market, they are always met with challenges relative to supply. They not only have to find it, they have to afford it. These folks have to live in the reality of the place where they’ve decided to open their restaurant.

So, what must they do to achieve their goals? Whether it’s the dream of becoming as good as any restaurant in the world or just a great restaurant that serves their particular community, they have to start the same: Make a few phone calls.

Chefs need to make it their mission to find the best, whether it's farmers, foragers, fishermen, a pig man, the local couple raising a few chickens and eggs or heirloom seed banks that are propagating vegetables, grains and fruit. They end up building a network of, arguably, the most disproportionately passionate people on the planet - the local purveyors. This network is key to getting the most bang for their buck.

Now, if developing these relationships affords them a better food supply, they express it in a way that resonates with their community and they introduce that community to those amazing people via their menu, they might still be open in year three.

Next thing you know, the local chefs and the newest, most important heroes in the food community - the purveyors - are now getting phone calls from folks wanting to start farmers markets, create edible schoolyards, organize food festivals, contribute to local charities, improve school cafeteria programs, discuss community development ideas through the prism of food and create a better, safer, more sustainable food supply. Shining a spotlight on these producers and their impact has the potential to educate the community and elevate its standards for food culture.

Solely focusing chefs’ responsibilities on preparing delicious food while not taking a leadership position on this and other issues is certainly a personal choice. Not everyone is going to agree with me, but please, before you throw out the baby with the bath water, recognize the important effects and benefits that the local food and farming movements have had on countless communities and how it has positively changed them forever.

At Hot and Hot Fish Club, we can, and do, use suppliers from any and all sources around the world, as I see fit.

We also choose to plant a seed that one day will grow and provide great shade for generations to come.

Leadership, I hope, will be our legacy.

Posted by:  Read more from Chris Hastings at www.kurriosity.com

Farm Out!

Always dress like you’re gonna be in a movie. Cuz ya just never know. Recently, I arrived at my community farm to pick up my weekly share of lush and organic vegetables, and I thought there’d been a plane crash or a breaking news story. There was a large RV set up with cars, trucks and movie crew types crawling all over the place with cameras and equipment I had only dreamed about in my 18 years as a TV investigative reporter.


Turns out, the General Motors Corporation was making a gynormous movie about Geraldson Community Farm. This project highlights amazing things going on in local communities around the country. This traveling crew shoots and produces the raw and final product.

I was just off from a hard day at the office…at my gym where I began the day at 8 a.m. with personal training clients. Suffice it to say, I did not look like I had just stepped out of one of my city’s top beauty salons. Nope…I had my hair pulled back in a wispy, wind-blown ponytail, wearing a track team running shirt and a sorry, saggy pair of gym pants. I couldn’t have looked any worse if I tried. However, the moment I uttered the words, “I used to work in TV,” they were all over it. “Want to be interviewed?” Who could refuse to talk about a great cause? They asked me to turn my shirt inside-out so the distracting running logo wouldn’t show. Whatever. In 3, 2, 1…

When they asked what the farm meant to me, here’s what I said.

I have belonged to a farm or food co-op since my children were young. I had an organic garden up north and grew kale, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, okra, lettuces and a lot more. I used to brag about the field trip when the farmer would hold up a piece of greenery and ask, “what’s this?” and my kids would say kale. The farmer was amazed any 3 year-old knew the difference between spinach and kale. But since we grew it, they all could recognize it. And they loved it. There’s plenty of calcium in kale, and it’s very absorbable by the bones.

There was a farmer’s stand where I’d take the kids to get things the co-op didn’t offer. I’ll never forget one of my girls popping a sugar snap peapod in her mouth and asking, “is this candy?” It’s all what they got used to. Until kindergarten.

I valued belonging to a farm co-op so that my children could see where food comes from. Some kids in my cooking classes cannot identify many vegetables.

Not long after we moved here, I discovered Geraldson’s Community Farm in Bradenton, FL. It is across from a beautiful nature preserve where I run once a week on soft trails.

It is operated as a CSA or Community  Supported Agriculture. Since Florida has a long growing season, it works out to about $15-$20 a week …enough food to fill up the frig. Some people choose a half share, which allows members to go every other week. Here’s the website to find out more information. http://www.geraldsoncommunityfarm.org/index.html

You can go to www.localharvest.org and find a farm near you. Some allow cultivating a plot of land yourself. Others allow volunteers to work and get produce free. It is great to be able to see where your food comes from, or fun to just plant seeds, smell the rich earth and listen to birds.

I asked the crew what they would do with the video. Surely with all that equipment they were making a documentary or a commercial. “No,” the producer said, “we’re making an I-Phone app.” An I-Phone app? Are you kidding?! Wow…times have changed. Apparently there’s more money to be made on phone applications than other forms of advertising. Oh well. No movie career just yet.

Recently, Geraldson’s had sugar snap peas. I lingered in the field, picking some, then eating some. I could hear my 3 year-old asking, “Are they candy?” She’s studying to be a doctor now. It was a glorious day at the farm. Look for us on an App near you.

Ellen Jaffe Jones is an accomplished endurance runner, author of the best seller “Eat Vegan on $4 a Day,” Aerobics and Fitness Association of America certified personal trainer and RRCA certified running coach. For questions, coaching or training, she can be reached at ejones@vegcoach.com or 941-704-1025. She trains privately and online or by e-mail. Signed copies of her book are at www.vegcoach.com

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Aspartame How Sweet It Is

Low and reduced calorie foods and snacks have become staples in homes across the country where millions of Americans are working towards a healthier lifestyle.  Aspartame is one of the artificial sweeteners that had been created specifically for this market, and is now found in over 6000 products and consumed by over 200 million people in the world. Most people are most familiar with aspartame as the sweetener in NutraSweet and Equal. Aspartame is different to most other sweeteners that it is completely broken down by the body into its components:  the amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, and a small amount of methanol. These are all components found in every day foods but it greater quantities in this sweetener.

As with many other artificial ingredients in the marketplace, Aspartame has become the center of controversy over its safety.  Some say that it breaks down to methanol, which converts to formaldehyde, which then can be a cancer causing agent. However, many other studies support that while formaldehyde can be harmful, the amount contained in aspartame is clearly not enough to do damage. Yet other conflicting reports say that aspartame can trigger or exacerbate conditions such as: birth defects, epilepsy, lymphoma, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, mental retardation, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis.[1]

In all, over 200 studies have focused on aspartame and the end result has put aspartame on the safe list.  In fact regulatory agencies in over 100 countries have found aspartame to be safe to use. 

On a positive note, aspartame has found a significant role in the market place.  It tastes 200 times sweeter than sucrose but is devoid of the high calories, for those who are on a sugar restricted or low calorie diet.  Aspartame has found a great role in many foods, helps to intensify and increase the length of a fruit flavoring in products such as gum, as well as proven to not contribute to tooth decay. The American Dental Association has noted it “welcomes the development and FDA approval of new artificial sweeteners that are shown to be safe and non-contributory to tooth decay. “

Additionally aspartame is helpful for those with diabetes who desire a sweet without all the sugar and those who are struggling with their weight to have a low calorie dessert as well. Everyone seems to be calorie conscious one way or another and items with artificial sweeteners continue to bombard the shelves.  In a nation plagued with obesity, it does not seem that this will let up anytime soon.  So despite some controversy, the overwhelming reports lead towards aspartame a safe choice when opting for an artificial sweetener.

[1] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/06/aspartame-most-dangerous-substance-added-to-food.aspx

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Going Vegan!

My mother, aunt and both sisters had breast cancer. All on the maternal side. My aunt died of it in our home when I was 5. She was in her late 30’s and left behind her daughter, my 6 year-old cousin. I remember the screaming, crying and wailing.

That set in motion a lifetime quest to dodge genes that would get our family enrolled in the original breast cancer genes research. As I often say, dodging breast cancer became the investigative reporting job of my life.

The researchers at Myriad Genetics in Nevada conducting the cancer research wanted to exhume some of our dead relatives that were known to have died from the disease. No one in our family agreed to that.

Although the research results remain confidential, even to participants, our family didn’t need a study to tell us what we already knew…the breast cancer gene or genes were alive and well in our family tree. The odds of any female in our family getting breast cancer was 1:4. The national average is about 1:8. I come from a family of 2 sisters, who both got breast cancer. I have 3 daughters. Now you know one of the core reasons why I do what I do. Living by example speaks more loudly than any words.

At hospitals where our family would gather, someone would joke wondering which new hospital wing would benefit financially from our current family member’s long hospitalization. Or we would laugh that the current family reunion was underway in the large hospital room suite that cost extra money, just so all of the family members could congregate. There was something almost remotely traditional and comforting because we spent so much time together in the hospital hallways and rooms. The endowment office staff always made a house call to the room. They knew our family was golden. Indeed we were.vegan

We would joke about this because it was the only way we knew how to deal with constant disease. Until it was our turn. I vowed it would never be my turn.

My father, who owned a successful small business, told me he was asked to leave the business because the store could no longer afford his health insurance. It wasn’t just cancer that brought our family down. Here’s how the family tree of diseases stacked up:

Heart disease and diabetes: mother, father, sister, two grandparents

Alzheimer’s: mother, grandmother, uncle

Colon disease: Everyone. Dad had a colostomy.

Arthritis: Everyone

Osteoporosis: All women except 1 sister

But wait…it gets worse. The sister who didn’t have cancer yet, went in to the hospital for “routine” (don’t you love that word?) herniated disc surgery, most likely caused from a lifetime of poor eating and inactivity which ignited her diabetes in her twenties. With a compromised immune system going into surgery, she flatlines on the table, almost dies and comes out with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics).

I had been called to my father’s bedside the same day. I didn’t make it there before he died. My sister was next to him, in a coma, in the intensive care unit. She ended up becoming paralyzed in most of her limbs and now lives in a nursing home for the rest of her life. A year after that was when she got breast cancer. I was told by family and doctors alike: The diseases are all genetic.

I was the only healthy person. By a long shot.

It wasn’t always that way. At age 28, I almost died of a colon blockage the same year my other sister got breast cancer for the second time.  Doctors in the emergency room said they had never seen a colon blockage that large in someone my age. They said I would need to be on medication the rest of my life. Later, bariatric tests showed I that my colon was an extra foot longer than normal from the chronic constipation and distention in my early years.

I would go on to have natural childbirth 3 times. Nothing compared to the pain of that colon blockage. All I knew was that at 28, I was way to young to be on any kind of medication for the rest of my life. So I ran to the health food store and read all 5 books on fiber. That’s all there was at the time.

The research of Denis Burkitt stood out. He wrote about recording the bowel habits of some African tribes, finding that bowel movements for them was normal after every meal. Double take! “Normal” in our house was 2-3 times a week. My sister and I would giggle about her hanging out in the bathroom after dinner mainly to avoid doing the dishes. But it originated with the serious, underlying problem. Magazine racks in bathrooms abound where constipation abounds.


I watched my sister go through the ravages of chemotherapy and radiation twice. As she wretched in pain, agony, and constant vomiting, I thought, “There just has to be a better way.” I began to read more, and have never stopped.  The connection between unplugging the colon by flushing away putrefying toxins with high fiber foods and water seemed so obvious. Anytime I thought of returning to my previous way of eating, the visual of my sister suffering popped into my consciousness. No one, no animal human or otherwise should suffer from preventable disease. Not in our country. Not in this day and age.

I began with a macrobiotic diet, popularized by the book, “Recalled by Life.” It was written by a doctor who said the diet reversed his own cancer. But the macrobiotic rules were too stringent for a busy TV reporter whose only chance at food some days was a quick drive through Taco Bell. I morphed to eating vegetarian, and then vegan.

In case you think it is too difficult to go vegan, it really isn’t. Just this week, I woke up to a ton of posts on my social media pages telling me about an article I was featured in called “11 Convincing Reasons That Eating Vegan Isn’t Crazy.” The article appeared in the online version of Reader’s Digest which says it has 4 million online viewers. Not to mention that it is the 2nd largest paid subscription magazine in the US. Reason 4 in the article, on page 4 is “Eating Vegan is Cheap!” And it had a huge picture of my book. I didn’t even know that this was happening.  You don’t get more mainstream than Reader’s Digest. Though I’m told that there are not plans for this article to make next months print edition, unless it goes even more viral than it already has. You can read about the other great reasons to go vegan here:


That a mainstream publication would even “print” such an article is beyond imagination. The source of the story was the force behind a great vegan movie called “Vegucated.” It’s about 3 people who turn their lives and health around eating vegan. These stories are so common now, the VegNews has started a column called “Veganism Saved My Life.” Yes, Virginia, results ARE typical! When is the medical establishment going to shake off the powerful influence of drug companies and smell the cilantro?


I know this article was also great for so many who have been told by well-meaning family members or friends that they are crazy. I don’t know…it always seemed that as I watched my sisters have a chest cracked open for heart surgery, or watched them lose limbs and eyes to diabetes, or be up close to the ravages of chemo…changing your diet seemed to be so much easier and rational. More doctors are understanding this now, though much still needs to be done to inspire the studies it will take to change conventional medicine. No money in broccoli though.

I’m Ellen Jaffe Jones, The VegKoach and the broccoli rep, because who else is?

Bekome Kurrious

We’ve all hit plateaus. In fitness, business and relationships. Well, there are folks to help. Kurriosity.com, the new social media for health and wellness, allows us to network with all those people who help make our lives better, eliminating plateaus and pushing us to better and healthier places. Just as I progress my clients physically and mentally, Kurriosity does so with the business and social aspects of our lives.

Even if you’re exercising regularly you may be feeling unmotivated about your current routine. Maybe you went on vacation and stayed on fitness vacation even after returning home. Or even being new to fitness you had hit the gym running but suddenly you’re making excuses to skip the workout.  One of the most common reasons for these plateaus is lack of variety. Cross training is a solution that allows benefits for both beginners and experienced athletes. Here are some advantages of cross training.

  • Keeps you interested in workouts by adding, say, exercise classes or inline skating to your routine.
  • Develops your entire body, adding functionality
  • Reduces risk of injury by distributing workout loads evenly
  • Allows an injured trainee to continue training but utilizing different movements
  • Reduces risk of overuse injuries

To see how fun and exciting a cross training routine can be, one is included. Please consult a health practioner before engaging in any exercise regime. This sample cross training program, a conditioning interval, is a great motivator. It incorporates cardio, strength, and speed and will have you begging for more.

Sample Cross Training Routine

Warmup, treadmill, 10 minutes

Boxing, non-stop punch drills, 4 minutes

Jump rope, 2 minutes

Yoga, Sun salutation, 10 minutes

Sprint drills, 3 x 40 second run/20 second rest, 3 minutes

Pushups, 100 as fast as possible, breaks as necessary, maximum 3 minutes

Pilates, 7 minutes

Ellipitcal, max resistance, 1 minute

Tai Chi, 5 minutes

Basketball drills, 4 minutes

Pullups/Assisted Pullups, as many possible in 2 minutes

Jumping jacks, 2 minutes

Indoor cycling, jumps, 4 minutes

Wall Sit, 1-5 minutes

Cooldown, light crunches and stretching, 5 minutes

Use this and similar ideas to formulate exciting new workouts for you and your clients. Kurriosity.com will add friends and Koaches to your wondrous adventure through life. They say “Variety of the spice of life”…Well, variety is the ultimate key to prolonged health and wellness. Cross train and enjoy. Become Kurrious!

Marc D. Thompson, owner of VirtuFitTM, is a prominent fitness trainer and personal coach with a background in medicine and exercise physiology. He has pioneered virtual training and teaches via Skype one-on-one and group classes. Approaching fitness holistically, Marc believes the fusion of creativity and practicality is essential in moving each individual toward their fitness goals. Along with over 25 years of experience, he draws from thousands of exercises, fitness disciplines, sports psychology techniques and nutritional principals to empower each individual client.

Marc D Thompson, VirtuFitTM

Virtual Personal Training, Live & OnlineTM

url: www.VirtuFit.net

Monday, February 4, 2013

Healthy Habits on the Road

Just because you are taking a family road trip or work has you out of town for a few days doesn’t mean you have to give up your good eating habits.  It takes a bit of planning and a bit of will power but its worth it in the end.  Everyone knows that a few days of greasy fast food, sugary snacks from a vending machine or salt laden microwave meals only leaving you feeling fat and fatigued.  Instead this time around, take a few minutes to learn the best approach to being healthful on your next trip.

Wherever your trip it is best to start with breakfast, especially if you are on a trip that requires lots of driving, as it will fuel you for later in the day.  Avoid sugary starts like danishes and donuts, as they give you a quick burst of energy then leave you sleepier.

Breakfast at a hotel:  If there is a continental breakfast opt for choices like: whole grain cereal with low fat milk; yogurt; whole grain toast with peanut butter or a hard boiled egg ; or oatmeal and fruit.  Try to avoid: danish, bagels and cream cheese or bakery muffins, all of which are loaded with unnecessary fat.

Breakfast at a restaurant:  Choose an omelet filled with vegetables and a side of whole grain toast; oatmeal with nuts and fruit; or a 1/2 order of whole grain pancakes with fresh berries.  Try to avoid: stacks of pancakes or waffles with syrup; bakery items; or breakfast sandwiches stuffed with eggs, cheese bacon and sausage.  These items are all loaded with fat and sugar that will leave you feeling way to full for the long day ahead.

Breakfast at a fast food establishment:  Opt for choices like a yogurt parfait; egg white wraps or sandwiches and low fat milk.  Stay away from: meat and cheese loaded egg sandwiches; hash brown potatoes and super sized breakfast meals. 

Breakfast at a service station:  If you have no other choice then to grab something on the go it is best to choose: single serving cereal boxes accompanied with low fat milk or yogurt; oatmeal to go cups or protein bars.  Try to stay away from packaged muffins, microwaveable egg sandwiches or sugary options like pop tarts and muffins.

Lunch and dinner are similar in terms of making good choices, such as focusing on protein and vegetables with limiting carbohydrates.  It is best when possible to try to think ahead about where you might be for both meals so you can try to balance them with one another.  If you must be on the road for lunch, see if you can have a sit down dinner. 

Lunch and dinner at a hotel:  If there are no restaurants in the area or in your hotel and you must eat in your room there are some things you can do to make this a healthy option.  Look up local supermarkets to stop and pick up a few things.  Be sure to try to get a combination of shelf stable and refrigerated products, as long as you have a cooler or a refrigerator in your room.  Pick up things like: fruit, vegetables, nuts, healthy spreads like hummus, sliced cheese and whole grain crackers.  If there is a salad bar opt for some healthy greens and add some proteins to help keep you satisfied.  Beware of vending machines that offer high fat snacks or high fat microwaveable options.  Check to see if any local restaurants might deliver to your hotel.

eating on the road

Lunch and dinner at a restaurant:  Take a look at the menu and read it carefully.  Focus on salads and soups to help you feel full, and consider this combination rather than a large main entree.  If possible get a salad and split your entree with a person you are traveling with on our trip.  When choosing an entree try to opt for grilled or baked foods, over fried foods. Ask if half orders are available as well, as often times when you are on the road the meals tend to be too large and no where to take home left overs. Side dishes, like fries or pastas can always be replaced with salads or vegetables.  It is always wise to skip the bread basket, and be sure to drink plenty of water.  Be careful of indulging in the decadent desserts, especially if you have a lot of work or driving ahead of you, as it will make you sleepier. 

Lunch and dinner at fast food:  If you have to opt for fast food try for the salads with grilled chicken but choose low fat dressing or dressing on the side.  Keep in mind that regular dressings often have more fat than a burger and fries. Choosing a sandwich can provide a healthy option as well as long as you choose grilled sandwiches or plain burgers with less of the fixings, limit cheese, mayo and other higher fat dressings.  Side salads, baked potatoes, chili and soups are better than fries in most places.  Opt for diet drinks, and stay away from “supersizing” anything. 

 Lunch and dinner at a service station:  At times this might be your only option for lunch or dinner.  In this case it is best to opt for a protein bar, packaged sandwiches if they carry them, microwavable low calorie foods or yogurts and a fruit if there are no other options. 

Prior to your trip try to anticipate the food scenario, this will help you better prepare.  Throw some snacks in your suitcase or bring a cooler for your car trips.  Foods that come in single served portions, combination of proteins and carbohydrates, and non-perishable proteins are always wise choices. Keeping hydrated is just as important so don’t forget to keep cold water for the ride, or in your hotel room. Remind yourself that it is okay to indulge at times on your trip, but if you are gone for a long time or will be traveling a long distance by car, you want to feel your best. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Testosterone---Feed Your Libido!

Would you eat oysters if they made you feel sexier? Or trade in your morning bagel for yogurt if you knew your sex drive would increase? With an increasing number of men showing up at their internists office complaining about their testosterone levels, it seems that the foods to boost your libido will be a hot topic and a relief for many men.  More and more studies on foods and how they affect testosterone are on the rise.  A recent MIT study found that mice fed a diet of yogurt presented with larger testicles than those fed a junk food diet.  While a clear understanding of how it works is not known, although signals point to the probiotics playing a role.


So men listen up, pack in these foods and get your groove back on.

Start the day with Oatmeal you will be on your way. Oats are full of an amino acid, L-arginine, that works with nitric oxide to reduce the stiffness or blood vessels.  It has often been used as an aide to relax muscles around the penis’ blood vessels.  The increase in blood flow while allow a man to keep an erection.

Eggs, seafood, dark chocolate and oysters will all do the trick.  In fact the commonality here is they are high in zinc, which plays a significant role in blood circulation and sperm production. 

A good cup of Joe.  In fact caffeine in coffee has been shown to have an effect of increasing testosterone in the body.  Caffeine works by stimulating the adrenal glands, which in turn stimulates the production of testosterone.

Sunshine can be sexy, especially where vitamin D is concerned.  In fact studies support men with the highest level of vitamin D also had the highest level of testosterone as well. Vitamin D is found in foods such as fish oils, fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. 

Snack on nuts, serve up some lentil soup or maybe some edamame will do.  All of these foods contain high levels of D-aspartic acid, which are linked to the production of testosterone.

Spice it up with garlic and onions.  It seems studies show that these two foods, high in antioxidants and flavanoids, help to stimulate testosterone production.  So cook with it, season your meats or any way you want, it will be an asset to your testosterone levels.

Men seeking a lift to their libido can now start right in their own kitchen.  Give some of these powerful testosterone lifting foods a try and see how much sexier you feel.

Kids and Vegetarianism-Do They Mix?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics chairman, Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, “Vegetarianism can be conducive to a healthy lifestyle, but you have to balance out what you omit.”   The American Dietetic Association shares that vegetarianism can benefit kids as research shows that vegetarian kids take in less cholesterol, saturated fat and total fat, and also consume more fruits, vegetables and fiber.  With the backing of these two professional associations many more people are opting to have their kids and teens follow this alternative diet.  In fact about 3% of today’s youth are in fact proclaimed vegetarians.
 vegetarianism children
For those who opt to have their kids follow a vegetarian lifestyle it is important to be sure to avoid the common pitfalls.  First, every child regardless of being a vegetarian or not should always have a yearly check up with their physician to track proper growth, health and lab values.  When any child has a limited diet, due to choice or allergies, this is especially pertinent.

A common pitfall for the vegetarian child is the absence of adequate meal planning.  Quite often parents wind up eliminating the protein from the meals and it is not properly replaced.  Many kids opt for pastas, plain salads, or side dishes and fail to take in enough protein, which is required for proper growth and development.  It is important that parents educate their children on vegetarian protein substitutes and work to include them in their diet. This might require kids being introduced to new or unfamiliar foods, such as beans, tofu, nuts, dairy foods or other sources.  It is important to at times prepare meals ahead, research restaurant menus, educate caregivers, and bring additional snacks for your vegetarian children. 

Despite trying to follow a balanced diet iron is often an issue.  The type of iron found in plants is significantly harder for the body to absorb than the iron found in animal products. It is essential that vegetarians be tested for iron deficiency because the symptoms tend to show up after damage has occurred.  Additionally, vitamin b-12 can be a problem as it is only found in animal products as well.  Vitamin D, calcium and riboflavin need to be considered as well.  Vegans are at greater risk than those vegetarians who take in eggs or fish as well.  It is often suggested that these kids take in fortified foods or additional vitamin supplementation to help provide further nutrients.

Balancing foods is another aspect that parents need to be sure to consider.  The only complete protein found in a vegetarian diet is that which comes from soybeans.  Thus it is important that when taking in other sources of proteins, to pair these with other starches or vegetables that make it a complete protein. A meal of rice and beans is an example of a complete balanced meal.

Be careful to avoid having your kids be “french-fry-aterians”, or another words, kids who skip the meat and only eat carbohydrate foods.  In order for your child to have the benefits of a vegetarian diet, it is essential that they understand the importance of incorporating an array of vegetables, fruits, unsaturated fats, whole grains and proteins to their daily plate.  Getting an early start on understanding how to feed your kids can indeed lead to a healthier lifestyle.

There’s No Magic Bullet

 I wish I could tell you magic bullets exist. We want one for weight loss, getting off medications, and just feeling energetic. As a personal trainer, and from being a gym rat most of my life, the real magic bullet (drum roll please) is…ta-dah…diet and exercise. OK, what did you think I was going to say? Wink, wink.

bullets, healthMy best girl friend has been fighting lifelong obesity. Debbie, we’ll call her, and I have been close since high school. 
Debbie often asks me about food and exercise. Like me, she’s tried every diet. Her latest fad is the expensive HCG diet. She says she lost 20 pounds in a few weeks. Debbie told me she took hormones every day. 
“What kind of hormones,” I asked. “I don’t know.” “Are they human, horse or what? Premarin is a hormone replacement therapy often given to menopausal women…do you know?” I persisted. How could she not ask, I wondered. Premarin is made from horses…hence the root word, “mare.”  The HCG site says they use human pregnancy hormones and restrict you to 500 calories per day. That was tough, Debbie said.

Before I jump on the soapbox, I’ll admit I did some unknown hormone-shot weight-loss insanity in college decades ago. Like so many of us who have yo-yoed, that same 25 pounds is so darn stubborn. My last (and I hope it’s my last) “diet,” eating vegan or “plant-based” has been my magic bullet, combined with an almost daily regimen of running and weight training.

Obesity is linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial to avoiding these often very preventable diseases. Many of you may remember the “Sun” story about one of my cooking class students who lost 120 pounds in 8 months, never counting calories, never being hungry, and loving the food. 8 years later, she is still eating healthy vegan.

I asked Debbie, “How are you going to keep the weight off now that you’re off of the hormones?” “They have a maintenance program,” she answered. Most diets do. And most people, not saying Debbie will be one of them, gain the weight back…sometimes triple fold. Our bodies go into starvation mode and think they must hoard food in our fat cells for the next famine. I keep quiet.

The next day is a fundraiser race a state park. I never register for races in advance now, since my book tour dictates my schedule and I don’t know how I’ll feel until race day.

At registration in this gorgeous park I ask volunteers, “Which race has the most senior ladies registered?” “The 5K,” they said. “I’ll do the 10K, then.” I figured my odds would be better. Wrong. I “only” got 7th in my age group. Can’t wait till that 60th birthday this year when I’ll morph to the youngster in the new age group. The spectacular trail was a lot of tough, dry sand. The organizing runners’ club did a nice job organizing two back-to-back races.

I was struck by how few kids did the 10K. It was a dark, foggy, humid morning. I’m sure if I were 15 or 20, I would roll over and go back to sleep too.

I felt surprisingly good after the long run. The more I race, the more the belly fat creep stays away. Muscle definition comes back. No magic bullet.

On my way to my car over a bridge, I saw 6 kayaks bumping into each other on a narrow stream. These folks didn’t seem to be enjoying the day as much as the 600 runners had. Whatever floats your boat and gets you out the door.

Ellen Jaffe Jones is a former Emmy-winning TV investigative reporter turned popular national speaker/author of the best seller, “Eat Vegan on $4 a Day,” a certified personal trainer (AFAA) and certified running coach (RRCA). For consultations or availability, she can be reached at ejones@vegcoach.com