Category Archives: For Your Body

Strong Legs, Strong Mind

December 8, 2015
Health Insider
King’s College London

Leg power may predict how well you think 10 years from now. In a study of 324 healthy identical twins, those with stronger legs did better than their siblings on cognitive tests a decade later. Their brains were bigger, too.

What’s so special about legs? They contain the largest muscles in the body, so strong legs are a good stand-in for overall fitness. (This study didn’t look at men, but others have found that fitness is good for the brains in both genders.)

So get those gams in shape with regular running, swimming, biking—or the most popular exercise, walking. Walk mindfully and you might get happier, too.

Just avoid these seven common walking mistakes.

Source: Study titled “Kicking Back Cognitive Ageing: Leg Power Predicts Cognitive Ageing after Ten Years in Older Female Twins” by researchers at King’s College London published in Gerontology.

Surprising Foods That Can Upset Your Stomach

By Christine L. Frissora, MD


If you have a sensitive stomach, you probably experience frequent bouts of digestive distress. While in some cases it’s obvious what has caused the discomfort—for example, eating spicy foods or taking seconds, or even thirds—other times it seems to be a mystery.

What you may not know is that it could have been something seemingly harmless, or even healthful—like green tea or yogurt—that caused you to feel nauseated or bloated.


Surprising triggers of digestive discomfort…

Energy bars. Because these bars, such as Zone Perfect bars and PowerBars, contain added nutrients and vitamins, they typically are eaten as a healthful snack, a meal replacement or for a preworkout energy boost. Some bars, especially low-sugar or low-carb varieties, contain sugar alcohols, such asglycerin and maltitol syrup, which can cause bloating, gas and diarrhea. Other bars are simply too high in complex carbohydrates and calories for someone with a sensitive stomach to digest easily.

What to do: If you want to have an energy bar, be sure to eat only a small portion of it at a time.

Green tea. Although green tea is widely recognized for its disease-fighting properties—it’s full of antioxidants and other compounds that help fight cancer and heart disease and stave off diabetes, stroke and dementia—it contains irritants that can make you feel nauseated.

For example, green tea contains caffeine—anywhere from 24 mg to 40 mg per eight-ounce cup—which can irritate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Even decaffeinated green tea has some caffeine. But it’s not the caffeine by itself that makes green tea a cause of digestive distress in some people. Green tea is also very high in tannins (polyphenols responsible for its astringent taste), which are associated with nausea and stomach upset in some individuals.

What to do: If green tea makes you nauseated, avoid it altogether or have a very weak cup. Chamomile tea is soothing to the GI tract and is a good alternative.

Vegetable skins. Eggplant, bell pepper and potato skins can be difficult to digest, especially if you have diverticulitis (inflamed or infected pouches in the intestinal wall) or colitis (inflammation of the large intestine)…or have had complicated abdominal surgery (involving infection or perforation).

What to do: Peel thick-skinned vegetables, then purée, mash or stew the insides before eating to aid digestion.

Grapes. Red and black grapes contain the phytochemical resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant thought to help protect against coronary disease, some cancers and viral infections. But eating too many grapes—or even just a few if you are sensitive to them—can cause nausea and diarrhea. Reason: Grapes are high infructose, a natural sugar that often causes gas. Green grapes contain a lot of tannins, like green tea, which can lead to stomach upset.

What to do: Eat only a small amount of grapes, or avoid them altogether if you are sensitive to them. Instead, try eating other fruits rich in resveratrol, such as cranberries, blueberries and bilberries.

Nuts. The high fiber and fat content of nuts slow their movement through the digestive tract, which increases the risk for gas and bloating. Nuts also contain stomach-irritating tannins.

What to do: Avoid eating nuts if you experience digestive discomfort when consuming them…have had a complicated abdominal surgery…have peritonitis(inflammation of the inner abdominal wall)…or have diverticulosis (small pouches that bulge through the large intestine) or diverticulitis. Some alternatives to whole nuts include nut butters or oatmeal with berries.

Probiotics. The balance of healthful and potentially unhealthful bacteria in your digestive system can be thrown off due to illness, medications and diet, causing diarrhea and constipation. Probiotic supplements and foods contain live, healthful bacteria that can help restore balance to the digestive system. Examples of the bacteria contained in probiotics include Lactobacillus andBifidobacterium.

Certain probiotic supplements and foods are helpful for specific situations. For example, Activia yogurt can help alleviate constipation…the supplement Align can ease bloating…and Florastor (Saccharomyces boulardii lyo) helps diarrhea caused by antibiotics.

What to do: Many probiotic supplements and foods can produce bloating (due to the ingestion of billions of bacteria). Avoid probiotics if this is a problem for you.

Caution: If you are severely ill or your immune system is compromised, avoid probiotics (and check with your doctor before having yogurt). Probiotics can enter the bloodstream and cause sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body’s inflammatory response to bacteria or other germs.

Important: A sensitive stomach, marked by gas and bloating, may be caused byceliac disease, an immune reaction to gluten in wheat, barley and rye. If you have these symptoms, get tested for celiac disease.


You may already know that the following foods can cause stomach upset, but they’re worth a reminder…

Artificial sweeteners. Some artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda (sucralose), Equal (aspartame) and Sweet‘N Low (saccharin), are difficult for the body to break down, which can lead to bloating, nausea, headache and other symptoms.

What to do: Be on the lookout for artificial sweeteners, which are found not only in diet sodas and sugarless gum, but also in many other processed foods, including some yogurts, cereals, snacks and juices.

Carbonated beverages. These drinks contain carbon dioxide gas, which distends the stomach.

What to do: Avoid beer, soda, seltzer and other “fizzy” drinks if you have bloating. Plain water is best.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG). This flavor enhancer often is added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. It can cause nausea, headache, cramping, fatigue and other symptoms.

What to do: Avoid Chinese food, unless it is free of MSG, and avoid canned or processed foods with MSG on the label.


How you eat and drink also can help prevent discomfort. For example, it’s widely known that having six small meals per day, rather than three larger meals, makes it easier for the stomach to empty properly. Other helpful approaches…

Drink liquids between meals. While the digestive system needs to be well-hydrated to function optimally, too much water or other liquids during meals can overdistend the stomach, especially in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach contents backwash into the esophagus…hiatal hernia, in which part of the stomach sticks upward into the chest through an opening in the diaphragm…and gastroparesis, delayed emptying of the stomach.

Small sips of liquid during a meal are fine. Helpful: Avoid having a lot of liquids about 15 minutes before you eat and at least an hour after you eat.

Don’t talk while eating. This can lead to aerophagia, a condition caused by swallowing too much air, which can result in abdominal bloating, frequent belching and gas.

Eat slowly and chew well. Make sure to thoroughly chew foods—especially hard foods, such as nuts—before swallowing.

Stew meats. They are digested more easily than those that are broiled, grilled or fried.

Take chewable supplements. Many supplements can cause bloating or nausea. If possible, use chewable forms, which are less likely to cause discomfort.


Your stomach mixes food with digestive juices, then empties its contents into the small intestine. If you have a sensitive stomach, the muscles of the stomach may function more slowly, which can lead to indigestion. Or the nerves of the stomach may be overly sensitive to distension (enlargement of the stomach after eating), resulting in uncomfortable bloating. Eating certain foods, including onions, garlic, apples and pears, can make these symptoms worse.

Source: Christine L. Frissora, MD, assistant attending physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, both in New York City. Board-certified in gastroenterology, Dr. Frissora has given numerous presentations on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and coauthored studies on gastroenterology topics. She now is conducting a National Institutes of Health trial on the use of acupuncture to treat IBS.

The Right Way to Take Probiotics

Published September 28, 2015 Publication Daily Health News Source Maria L. Marco, PhD, University of California, Davis


You’ve decided to be good to your stomach, so you start taking probiotic supplements. Maybe you’ve been prescribed an antibiotic and want to protect yourself from stomach upset. Perhaps you’ve already experienced a bout of diarrhea from a stomach “bug” and want to get right again. Or you just want to give your gastrointestinal tract a healthy new start.


So you buy a 30-day supply of probiotic supplements, and start to take them each day with a glass of water. So far, so good. But what if there were a way for the probiotic to work better…and faster?


The trick isn’t to change the probiotic itself but to wash it down with something else—milk. The research is new, and the study was done on animals rather than humans, but it suggests that we should not only choose our probiotic supplements wisely, but also pay careful attention to how our diets affect their ability to help us. Here’s how…




Researchers at the University of California, Davis examined one of the most studied probiotic species, Lactobacillus casei (L. casei), often used to ferment dairy products such as yogurt and kefir. Strains of L. casei in supplements have been shown to help with many gastrointestinal conditions including constipation, antibiotic-caused diarrhea and even more serious inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel disease (IBD). Popular brands that contain L. casei include Yakult and DanActive.


The Davis scientists looked at the effectiveness of a specific strain of L.casei called BL23, which has been shown to improve ulcerative colitis in animal studies and is almost identical to the kind used in the manufacture of many fermented dairy foods. Ulcerative colitis is a disease that causes disabling pain and increases risk for colon cancer for more than 500,000 people in the US.


In the study, one group of mice got L.casei in milk, while a second got it in water and a third, just milk (no L. casei). The amount of milk or water was equivalent to about six ounces for humans—what’s in a typical juice glass. Then the mice were given a solution that impaired the lining of their colons, induced inflammation and mimicked ulcerative colitis.


The mice that got the probiotic in milk did best, showing…


  • Superior survival of the L. casei bacteria in the intestines—five times greater than the mice that got the probiotic in water


  • Less diarrhea and rectal bleeding than the other two groups


  • Less weight loss (a good outcome in this context)


  • The lowest disease score. On a scale of 0 (no disease) to 18 (the worst disease), the milk/probiotic group scored 6, while the water/probiotic group scored 11 and the milk-only group scored 9. That means much less inflammation in the intestines.


In short, taking the probiotic in milk rather than water led to more beneficial bacteria surviving and thus greater protection of the lining of the intestines against the inflammatory disease. It didn’t cure the disease, but it did protect the mice from its worst effects.




It makes sense that a beneficial bacteria that thrives in dairy foods would do better in your gut when you take it as a supplement along with dairy. That doesn’t mean that all probiotics would do better with a glass of milk. We need more studies—this is one of the very first to look at the dietary “matrix” in which probiotics are consumed.


But it’s smart to hedge your bets. If you’re generally healthy, choose your probiotic wisely. If you have a specific medical condition, such as IBD or Crohn’s disease, be sure to work with an educated health-care provider to select the right probiotic for your needs and to make any changes in your diet.


And here’s good general advice for ways to make your probiotic work better…


  • Even though you are taking a supplement, make sure you are eating probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt and kefir as well as sauerkraut, miso and kimchi. That way, you’ll be working to improve your population of healthy gut bacteria from several directions.


  • Eat plenty of prebiotics, too—fiber compounds that “good bugs” thrive on. These include onions, leeks, garlic, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, whole wheat, yams and sweet potatoes. (Again, these foods may not agree with you if you have IBD or even the less severe irritable bowel syndrome/IBS.)


If the probiotic you’re taking with water every day doesn’t seem to be helping you, try taking it with a small glass of milk to see if that makes a difference. If milk doesn’t agree with you, try cheese, yogurt or kefir. You may even want to add your probiotic supplement to a fermented dairy food, such as yogurt or kefir.


Source: Maria L. Marco, PhD, associate professor and microbiologist, department of food science and technology, University of California, Davis. Her study was published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

6 Ways to Fast-Track Your Success Every Morning

6 Ways to Fast-Track Your Success Every Morning

International Success Coach for Female Entrepreneurs
Image credit: IKEA UK | Facebook

“People who are very, very successful don’t forget the importance of routines. There’s a huge correlation between thinking very deliberately about (creating) the right habits in your life and developing successful habits,” says Charles Duhigg, a New York Times investigative reporter and author of The Power of Habit.

The average adult who lives to around age 68 (which is still pretty young) experiences 25,000 mornings! That is 25,000 times to face the world, start anew and chart the course of our life. Our morning routine is a crucial habit that will either enhance our performance and set the tone for the remainder of the day, or set us up to experience daily challenges.

Highly successful people, sometimes naturally, cling to morning rituals as they use this time to ground, center and focus themselves on what lies ahead and how they can best use their time. While the majority of the world wakes up feeling stressed, overwhelmed, tired and negative, you have the power  to experience enjoyment, renewal and productivity by embracing these “rituals.”

So . . . how do you do it? Here are six things that you can include in your morning routine to start your day off on the right foot and experience high levels of productivity, excitement and enjoyment.

1. Wake up early.

The saying “the early bird gets the worm” certainly rings true for the entrepreneurial self-employed go-getters we are. In fact, many articles claim that the most successful people wake up between the hours of 4 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. Being up this early really helps to ensure that you get the time to focus on you and do things that help you get off on the right foot for the day. This, of course, means implementing another important habit: Going to bed by 9 p.m.

Related: 6 Ways to Make Getting Up Early Work for You

2. Express gratitude.

Before you get to the fridge, take a few moments to experience positivity. This sets the tone for the day. If you are a prayer warrior, this a great time to demonstrate your thankfulness for another opportunity to wake up healthy and face the world. Gratitude journals have also been instrumental in ensuring that you have a positive day. Before you step out of bed, take five minutes and write down five things you are thankful for. The effects of filling your mind with happy emotions before other realities start to creep in are astonishing.

3. Drink water.

Every physician will tell you that most of the ailments that otherwise healthy people suffer from on a daily basis are a result of not getting enough water. Fitness guru Shawn Stevenson calls this morning ritual an internal bath and recommends drinking at least one pint first thing. Some people spice it up with lemon and cayenne pepper for a cleansing effect, while others prefer a green tea. Either way, getting pure water into your system will energize you and quench dehydration from the night before.

Related: Don’t Drink Enough Water? This Water Bottle Will Remind You.

4. Get moving.

Exercise in the morning gets your endorphins going and literally wakes your body up. Your preferred exercise should be something you enjoy that gets the results you seek from physical fitness. If just moving is a priority, you may want to go for a daily morning walk; alternatively, if mind-body is your thing, yoga and morning meditation are perfect.

Make this part of the day something you enjoy, as it frames your mood for the day ahead. I like to reward myself by listening to my favorite podcast while on the treadmill. By doing this I have created a positive association with my morning workouts. Simple but it gets results.

5. Skip the pancakes.

Health and fitness research details the impact of carbs on our blood sugar throughout the day. People experience this when they get the midday “crash” around 2 p.m. They are tired after the coffee and doughnut have worn off. Try a healthy green smoothie instead of a bacon, egg and cheese on a kaiser roll!

Here is my favorite daily recipe that gives me a ton of sustained energy:

  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup frozen mangos
  • 1 tbsp. goji berries
  • 1 tbsp. “Green Vibrance”

Or, if you like something hot, here is a substitute for your coffee, “blender style”:

  • 1/2 cup warm almond milk + 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tbsp. agave syrup
  • 3 dashes cinnamon
  • 1 pinch each of cayenne + sea salt

6. Plan plan plan.

Here is the fun part. Now that your head is clear, plan out what you want to accomplish that day and actually get it done. Remember S.M.A.R.T goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. Aim to complete one full goal a day and then, my friend, you are on your way to the top!

Related: The 24-Minute Morning Routine That Will Make You an Entrepreneurial Rock Star

The 4 Principles Needed to Achieve, or Deliver, Happiness

The 4 Principles Needed to Achieve, or Deliver, Happiness

Image credit: Eric | Flickr

Entrepreneur and CultureIQ are searching for the top high-performing cultures to be featured on our annual list. Think your company has what it takes? Click here to get started.

It may be a cliche, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true: Beyond a certain

Entrepreneur and CultureIQ are searching for the top high-performing cultures to be featured on our annual list. Think your company has what it takes? Click here to get started.

It may be a cliche, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true: Beyond a certain pointmoney can’t buy happiness, at least not reliably or sustainably.

The key insight into the nature of happiness for us came when we realized that the quest for happiness was not only the reason that people pursued careers and started families, but was also what guided many of their decisions in day-to-day life. In 2007, we started really looking into the science of happiness to help guide our decision-making for in a more rational way — after all, if happiness was the goal, wasn’t it worth seeing what we really understood about the concept?

Related: How to Hardwire Your Brain for Happiness

By 2009, understanding and delivering happiness had become the centerpiece of both our personal and professional strategies, which is reflected in the mission statement we adopted that year: “Zappos is about delivering happiness to the world.”

Delivering happiness sounds good, but to be effective, you need to know what that actually entails. What makes you happy? What makes people around you happy? Different people have different ideas about what might make them happy, and it’s important to note that people aren’t always on the right track about what they think will make them happy.

Fortunately, psychology has taken up the case of applying scientific principles to understanding what really governs happiness. Psychology used to be primarily interested in figuring out what was wrong with people and making them “normal,” which was used as a proxy for “healthy.” But in the late 1990s, psychologists began exploring what’s now known as “positive psychology” to get a better understanding of how otherwise average people might become happier.

It turns out, there are four key principles that drive happiness across the board. Whatever the specifics of how an individual derives happiness might be, these four key principles remain common:

1. A sense of control

Having a sense of control over your own destiny is paramount to lasting happiness. When this is lacking, people tend to easily give up and feel despair and helplessness, but with purpose and control over their own destinies, people become energized and unlock their talents and ambitions.

A good entrepreneur gives employees, partners and customers clearly apparent control over their own destinies in managing interactions with the company.

2. Perceived progress

It’s no fun feeling like you’re stuck in neutral. The perception of progress is a cornerstone of the path to developing sustainable happiness.

This is why the most successful video games offer unlockable content, achievements and badges and allow for “leveling up.” These elements function to keep people interested and motivated, and to feel as though they’re experiencing a sense of progression.

Related: If You’re Not Happy, Stop Complaining and Make a Change

Good companies will do the same, offering clear and attainable promotional paths for employees and intuitive paths to satisfaction for customers and clients.

3. Connectedness

Humans are social animals. We thrive on connections to other people. In fact, we depend on those connections emotionally as well as physically. Engaged, connected employees work harder and report greater happiness than those isolated in offices or cubes. This is also why it’s important to build a real rapport with customers and vendors.

We have evolved to care about the success of the tribe — make your colleagues and clients part of your tribe.

4. Vision and meaning

There’s nothing wrong with making money, but as we’ve learned all too well, making money is simply not enough. In fact, research indicates that once you reach a certain compensation threshold, your salary becomes significantly less indicative of your overall happiness.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs demonstrates how human motivation evolves rapidly once basic physiological needs are met, leading people to be more concerned with freedom of expression, social status, a sense of achievement, a sense of belonging and other intangibles.

If you’re counting on money to generate your happiness, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Being a part of something bigger and really committing to a vision brings deep satisfaction on a fundamental level. If you can find that sort of vision and meaning and offer it to the people in your life, you’re laying a firm foundation for genuine, long-term happiness that transcends financial considerations.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what it is that you want to do with your life. But taking the time to truly understand what drives happiness will equip you to act effectively when pursuing it — and when delivering it.

Related: 3 Simple Ways to Feel Happy

How Positivity Makes You Healthy and Successful

How Positivity Makes You Healthy and Successful

Image credit: Eli DeFaria |

Co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and President at TalentSmart

When faced with setbacks and challenges, we’ve all received the well-meaning advice to “stay positive.” The greater the challenge, the more this glass-half-full wisdom can come across as Pollyannaish and unrealistic. It’s hard to find the motivation to focus on the positive when positivity seems like nothing more than wishful thinking.

The real obstacle to positivity is that our brains are hard-wired to look for and focus on threats. This survival mechanism served humankind well back when we were hunters and gatherers, living each day with the very real threat of being killed by someone or something in our immediate surroundings.

That was eons ago. Today, this mechanism breeds pessimism and negativity through the mind’s tendency to wander until it finds a threat. These “threats” magnify the perceived likelihood that things are going—and/or are going to go—poorly. When the threat is real and lurking in the bushes down the path, this mechanism serves you well. When the threat is imagined and you spend two months convinced the project you’re working on is going to flop, this mechanism leaves you with a soured view of reality that wreaks havoc in your life.

Related: 7 Challenges Successful People Overcome

Positivity and Your Health

Pessimism is trouble because it’s bad for your health. Numerous studies have shown that optimists are physically and psychologically healthier than pessimists.

Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania has conducted extensive research on the topic. Seligman finds much higher rates of depression in people who pessimistically attribute their failures to personal deficits. Optimists, however, treat failure as a learning experience and believe they can do better in the future.

To examine physical health, Seligman worked with researchers from Dartmouth and the University of Michigan on a study that followed people from age 25 to 65 to see how their levels of pessimism or optimism influenced or correlated with their overall health. The researchers found that pessimists’ health deteriorated far more rapidly as they aged.

Seligman’s findings are similar to research conducted by the Mayo Clinic that found optimists have lower levels of cardiovascular disease and longer life-spans. Although the exact mechanism through which pessimism affects health hasn’t been identified, researchers at Yale and the University of Colorado found that pessimism is associated with a weakened immune response to tumors and infection.

Researchers from the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville went so far as to inject optimists and pessimists with a virus to measure their immune response. The researchers found optimists had a significantly stronger immune response than pessimists.

Positivity and Performance

Keeping a positive attitude isn’t just good for your health. Martin Seligman has also studied the connection between positivity and performance. In one study in particular, he measured the degree to which insurance salespeople were optimistic or pessimistic in their work, including whether they attributed failed sales to personal deficits beyond their control or circumstances they could improve with effort. Optimistic salespeople sold 37% more policies than pessimists, who were twice as likely to leave the company during their first year of employment.

Seligman has studied positivity more than anyone, and he believes in the ability to turn pessimistic thoughts and tendencies around with simple effort and know-how. But Seligman doesn’t just believe this. His research shows that people can transform a tendency toward pessimistic thinking into positive thinking through simple techniques that create lasting changes in behavior long after they are discovered.

Your brain just needs a little help to defeat its negative inner voice. Here are two simple steps you can take that will train your brain to focus on the positive.

Step 1. Separate Fact from Fiction

The first step in learning to focus on the positive requires knowing how to stop negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts.

When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity. Evaluate these statements to see if they’re factual. You can bet the statements aren’t true any time you see words like never, always, worst, ever, etc.

Related: 15 Habits of Mentally Tough People

Do you really always lose your keys? Of course not. Perhaps you forget them frequently, but most days you do remember them. Are you never going to find a solution to your problem? If you really are that stuck, maybe you’ve been resisting asking for help. Or if it really is an intractable problem, then why are you wasting your time beating your head against the wall? If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you can trust, and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out.

When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts asthoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.

Step 2. Identify a Positive

Now that you have a tool to snap yourself out of self-defeating, negative thoughts, it’s time to help your brain learn what you want it to focus on—the positive.

This will come naturally after some practice, but first you have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your brain’s attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or perhaps there is an exciting event you are looking forward to that you can focus your attention on.

The point here is you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative. In step one, you learned how to strip the power from negative thoughts by separating fact from fiction. Step two is to replace the negative with a positive. Once you have identified a positive thought, draw your attention to that thought each time you find yourself dwelling on the negative. If that proves difficult, you can repeat the process of writing down the negative thoughts to discredit their validity, and then allow yourself to freely enjoy positive thoughts.

Bringing It All Together

I realize these two steps sound incredibly basic, but they have tremendous power because they retrain your brain to have a positive focus. These steps break old habits, if you force yourself to use them. Given the mind’s natural tendency to wander toward negative thoughts, we can all use a little help with staying positive. Put these steps to use, and you’ll reap the physical, mental, and performance benefits that come with a positive frame of mind.

A version of this article first appeared on

Related: 11 Things Ultra-Productive People Do Differently (Infographic)

Kick Bad Habits In Four Simple Steps

by Charles Duhigg as appeared in Bottom Line Health, Bottom Line Health


Want to kick a bad habit—just about anybad habit? There’s a proven system that has helped millions of people give up damaging habits and establish new, healthful ones in their place. You can simplify that system to help yourself do the same. The secret: Drawing upon four key components of 12-step programs.

The first and most famous 12-step program is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and there are dozens of similar programs based on the same basic principles. These principles can help you, too, whether your goal is to cut back on junk food, quit being a couch potato, give up cigarettes, spend less, stop biting your nails or whatever.

The reason: What makes AA and other 12-step programs so effective for so many people is that they provide a powerful methodology for changing bad habits, according to Charles Duhigg, a Pulitzer prize–winning journalist and author of the best-selling The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

Members of AA often attest to the necessity of doing all 12 steps to deal with the life-threatening problem of alcoholism and achieve lasting sobriety. However, for the purposes of overcoming less grave bad habits and replacing them with good habits, you can think in terms of the following four key ideas…

Identify your primary commitment. People who come to AA typically have many problems—with family, friends, money, job, health, etc. All of those problems matter, and abstinence will help address them, but none of them are the main focus. Instead, people come to AA for one primary purpose—to get and stay sober.
Try this: In considering what habit of yours you’d like to change, commit to one specific goal (or one at a time, at least). For instance, instead of vowing to “get healthier” by overhauling your lifestyle (how complicated is that?!), focus on the single most important goal—say, no longer being a couch potato. Once you’ve established a routine of regular physical activity—for instance, taking a daily 20-minute walk—and have this new habit firmly embedded into your life, then you can start addressing other bad habits.

Take a self-inventory. AA encourages members to do an inventory, examining their feelings and behaviors and the “rewards” they get from drinking. This helps members to understand why they are drawn to drink and to recognize the specific triggers that spark cravings for alcohol. For example, a person may come to see that she drinks to numb feelings of fear or resentment or to feel more at ease in social situations…and that she is triggered by certain people or places, such as a longtime drinking buddy or a favorite bar.
Try this: Examine your own rewards and triggers. For instance, if you continually break your own promise to stop snacking on chips or sweets, what’s the reason? It’s probably not real hunger—instead, you may habitually reach for junk food when stressed or bored. To break his own afternoon cookie habit, Duhigg had to realize that it wasn’t the actual cookies he was so attached to, but rather the enjoyable routine of taking a break—getting up from his desk, walking to the cafeteria, chatting with coworkers. Once he understood this, he was able to come up with alternatives that provided the same rewards, such as walking around the block with a colleague or buying an apple instead of a cookie from the cafeteria.

Replace a bad habit with a good one—and practice the new habit every day. In AA, new members often are advised to “pick up the phone instead of a drink”…in other words, to take some positive new action (phoning a fellow alcoholic) whenever the urge strikes to indulge in the old habitual action (drinking). New members also are urged to attend 90 meetings in 90 days so that not a single day goes by without reinforcing the new habit of staying sober. Even if you are battling something far less serious than alcoholism, it takes at least several weeks for a healthful new habit to replace the old one—and consistency is key, Duhigg noted.
Try this: Suppose your goal is to get more sleep, so you’ve committed to going to bed by 11 pm every evening instead of habitually staying up past midnight. Do not undermine yourself by staying up late “only on Tuesdays” to watch a favorite TV show or by abandoning your new sleep routine on the weekends—at least for now. Once your new sleep habits are well formed, you may be able to make occasional exceptions without reverting to old bad habits (except in cases where complete abstinence is key to success, such as with an addiction).

Make use of a support network. In AA, selection of a “sponsor” (an AA mentor) plus contacts made at meetings provide a ready-made support system for each participant.
Try this: No matter what behavior you want to change, ask your friends and family members to support your efforts to establish your healthier new habit. It’s well proven, Duhigg said, that change is easier when you have someone who holds you accountable and applauds your progress. If you can find a buddy who has the same goal and the two of you can work together—or if you can find a mentor who has already achieved what you’re striving for (such as giving up smoking)—so much the better. Having the encouragement, advice and support of someone who truly understands what you’re going through will make it far easier to break old bad habits and create a healthier lifestyle for yourself.
These four steps could add up to one huge step for you!

Source: Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer prize–winning staff writer at The New York Times, and author of the best-seller The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. (Random House).

The Healthiest Chocolates of All

by Carole Jackson>, Bottom Line Health


It seemed too good to be true when studies began to tell us, seven or so years ago, that dark chocolate actually is healthy… but since then additional research has made the claims sweeter yet. Cacao beans, the base of chocolate, contain flavonoids (antioxidant-containing plant pigments) that make the antioxidants in dark chocolate nearly eight times as abundant as those in strawberries, which are themselves considered an excellent source. And then we learned that cacao beans help lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol and that they can increase levels of serotonin, a natural antidepressant, as well.

With all that going for chocolate, it’s not surprising that there’s now a wide array of “healthy” chocolates for sale pretty much everywhere, from bustling national supermarkets to tiny, Zen-like health-food stores. Soon you will even be able to buy camel-milk chocolate, said (of course) to have health benefits unique to its unusual source. But what makes the difference between a healthful piece of chocolate and just a fattening indulgence? I called über nutritionist and weight-loss expert Joy Bauer, MS, RD, CDN, regular contributor to the “Today” show and author of several books, including her newest, Your Inner Skinny, to ask the question.

Healthy Chocolate

Bauer says the only way to be sure you are getting a reasonable amount of flavonoids in chocolate is to select those containing at least 70% cacao, noting that the health value escalates the higher that percentage climbs. She said that milk chocolate — including the camel-milk variety — can’t compete in the healthy sweepstakes, since the added milk reduces the body’s ability to absorb the antioxidants in cacao. Bauer gave a thumbs down to the heart-shaped boxes of Valentine’s chocolates that have those creamy or caramel centers — these are very heavy on sugar and should definitely be left in the box, she says. On the other hand, “mix-ins” made of nuts and berries are good. As for white chocolate — it isn’t a true chocolate and, not surprisingly, contains almost no flavonoids.

If you are looking for a healthy dark chocolate, Bauer says you don’t have to pay up for a premium brand. While upscale brands use very high-quality cacao beans and are “incredibly delicious,” she says that the health benefit is about the same no matter the price, noting this is true of mass-produced brands, such as Hershey’s and Dove (which is owned by M&M/Mars), and mid-priced brands, such as Lindt or Ghirardelli. And it must be said… all chocolate contains lots of calories along with the flavonoids — averaging 150 calories per ounce, says Bauer — so it is important to enjoy it in moderation.

Source: Joy Bauer, MS, RD, CDN, Today show contributor, and author of several books, including her newest, Your Inner Skinny (William Morrow Cookbooks).

The 7 Best Energy Boosters

by Carole Jackson>, Bottom Line Health


Are you tired all the time? You have plenty of company. About 10 million doctor visits each year are attributed to fatigue. And all of those bottomless cups of strong coffee won’t help. Too much caffeine actually saps energy and makes fatigue worse.

The only way to beat fatigue is to create the conditions that bring more energy into your days and remove the obstacles that drain it away.

Most people know that exercise is energizing. It increases blood flow and circulates oxygen to the brain and other tissues. It also increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that improves alertness and focus, along with physical energy.

Other energy-boosters that really work…

1. Green drinks. We are always being told to eat more greens, but ­drinking them can be a much better choice when your energy flags during the day.

What to do: Take advantage of the liquid greens in health-food stores. Juices made from wheatgrass, barley and other vegetable extracts are alkalizing. They increase pH and shift the body’s balance to a less acid state. Too much acidity—a consequence of all the meat and grains in the American diet—­impairs energy as well as health.

The grasses used in green drinks contain chlorophyll and related substances that remove energy-­depleting toxins from the body. The drinks typically have little or no added sugar, so they won’t cause the spike and drop in blood sugar that you get from sweetened soft drinks or fruit juices. Green drinks are not delicious. They have a slightly grassy taste that takes some getting used to. My favorite is Barlean’s Greens, which is readily available online and in health-food stores and tastes surprisingly good.

2. Whole eggs. You need plenty of protein to satisfy your appetite, keep your energy humming and prevent the postmeal slump that occurs when you eat too much.

For years, people thought that egg-white omelets were the perfect high-protein meal. Not true. Whole eggs are better because the yolks are high in choline, a B vitamin that reduces inflammation—and the fatigue that accompanies it.

Don’t worry about the saturated fat in egg yolks. It’s not the enemy that people once thought. When researchers from Harvard and other institutions analyzed 21 previous studies that looked at the relationship between saturated fat and heart disease, they found that ­saturated fat did not cause an increase in heart disease or stroke.

What to do: Include a source of protein with every meal. It could be eggs, nuts, fish, grass-fed meat, beans or tofu.

3. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This is probably the most important ­energy-producing nutrient that most people don’t get enough of.

CoQ10 increases the activity of mitochondria, the energy-producing structures within cells. The body naturally produces CoQ10, but it’s a complicated process that involves at least seven vitamins. Since many people don’t get enough of these nutrients—including vitamin C and a variety of B vitamins—levels of CoQ10 tend to be too low to boost energy.

What to do: Supplement with 100 milligrams (mg) of CoQ10 daily if you’re generally healthy. If you have been ­diagnosed with a heart condition or are taking a cholesterol-lowering statin, increase the daily dose to 200 mg. Statins deplete CoQ10 from the body. It’s particularly important for heart patients to get enough because the heart requires CoQ10 to beat efficiently.

4. High-glycemic foods occasionally. You probably have heard that the best carbohydrates for long-term energy have a low-glycemic load. Fiber-filled foods such as lentils, peanuts, carrots and chickpeas are absorbed slowly into the intestine. They keep blood sugar and insulin at steady levels—not too low or too high.

There’s one possible exception. If you’re trying to lose weight and still keep your energy high, you might want to have occasional servings of high-glycemic foods. There’s some evidence that people who mainly eat low-glycemic carbs but allow themselves a high-glycemic meal every four to seven days help the body to overcome its tendency to burn fewer calories during a weight-loss diet.

My advice: Suppose that you eat mainly low-glycemic carbs but still want to lose a few pounds. Once or twice a week, have one meal that includes ­faster-burning carbohydrates, such as pasta, white potatoes or white rice. Scientists speculate that the jump in insulin overcomes the slowing of your metabolism that comes along with ­dieting.

5. Replenish your bacteria. You might not think that digestion has much to do with energy, but the action inside your intestines greatly affects how you feel.

A study published in Journal of Psychiatric Research found that probiotics (live, beneficial bacteria) may have antidepressant effects. The same organisms improve immunity and make it easier to fight off the fatiguing effects of viruses and bacteria.

My advice: Eat one or more daily servings of live-culture yogurt. Look for the letters LAC (Live and Active Cultures) on the label. It means that the yogurt contains at least 100 million live organisms per gram.

6. Lights out. Nothing saps your energy more than a poor night’s sleep. And what people don’t realize is that even very dim lights—such as the small LED indicators on computers, cell phones and bedside clocks—can make it difficult to get a decent night’s rest. Sleep scientists have found that even trace amounts of ambient light inhibit the production of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone.

My advice: Minimize the amount of light. Turn your digital clock so that it faces away from the bed, for example, or drape something over the computer to cover up the “on” light.

If you don’t get enough sleep, take a nap. Napping improves memory, lowers stress and improves all-day ­energy. Studies done by NASA have found that a short 26-minute nap can increase performance by 34% and alertness by 54%. Limit your naps to 26 minutes or less, preferably late in the morning or early in the afternoon.

7. Breathe deeply and well. You would think that nothing is more natural than breathing, but many people don’t breathe the way that nature ­intended.

Reason: We live in a very fast-paced world…and we spend a lot of time hunched over desks, staring at computer screens. Both stress and poor posture tighten muscles in the upper body and make it harder for the lungs to expand. We have become shallow breathers, which decreases oxygen and causes mental and physical fatigue.

My advice: Every few hours, take a breathing break. While sitting or ­lying down, place one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest. Slowly breathe in through your nose, then exhale just as deeply through your mouth. Make sure that the hand on your belly rises and falls while the hand on your chest barely moves.

During the day, if you notice that you’re breathing shallowly or more quickly than usual, remind yourself to relax and breathe in more fully.

Source: Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, a nutritionist and weight-loss expert based in Los Angeles. He is board-certified by the American College of Nutrition and is a member of the American Society for Nutrition. He is author of The Most Effective Ways on Earth to Boost Your Energy and coauthor with Stephen Sinatra, MD, of The Great Cholesterol Myth (both by Fair Winds).

“Sell By” Dates and Other Misleading Labels Cause Terrible Food Waste

by Carole Jackson>, Bottom Line Health


Open your refrigerator or pantry, and pick up a few random jars, bottles, cans or cartons of food—peanut butter, orange juice, cereal, soup or whatever. Most of them probably are stamped with a date that says something like “sell by” or “enjoy by.” And if you’re like many people, you throw out the food once that date has passed—because you assume that it’s no longer safe to consume.

But are those assumptions correct? Typically not. In fact, in many cases those dates are arbitrary and meaningless! This makes it all the more aggravating that “date label confusion” is a significant contributor to the staggering amount of food waste that occurs in this country.

Food waste is bad for our wallets, costing the average American family of four $1,365 to $2,275 per year. What’s more, we’re suffering a lot of needless anxiety, worrying that what we eat is going to make us sick. A new report from the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic explains the problem and offers some solutions…


In the US, we waste an appalling 160 billion pounds of food per year. If only one-third of what’s thrown away somehow could be distributed to the 15% of Americans who don’t have enough food, no one would go hungry.

Much of that waste occurs when food is tossed unnecessarily by consumers who are confused by the food date labeling system. Yet it’s no wonder they’re confused—because terms such as “sell by” and “best before” have no official, standardized definitions. Is the food no longer fit to eat…or do manufacturers just want you to throw out stuff that’s been in your pantry for a while so that you’ll buy more of their products? Though people often assume that the food cannot be safely consumed after the stamped date, most food label dates indicate only peak freshness and optimal flavor,not an end to any safe window of opportunity for consumption.

The inconsistency problem: Although the FDA and the USDA have the authority to regulate various types of food labeling, they generally do not regulate date-labeling practices, instead leaving this to food manufacturers, states or even local governments. The result is wild inconsistency. For instance, a carton of eggs sold in South Carolina can be stamped with a date that’s up to 45 days after the carton is packed, while a carton of eggs sold in Alaska is marked with a date that’s not more than 24 days after packing.

The authors of the new Harvard report point out that it is impossible to provide actual definitions for all the date label terms currently in use because meanings are not legally defined. They vary by state, and there is no consensus about how to apply them to different categories of food products. However, the terms generally can loosely be interpreted as…

• “Production” or “pack” date—the date on which the food product was manufactured or placed in its final packaging.

• “Sell by” date or “expiration date”—information to retailers for stock control, leaving a reasonable amount of shelf life for the consumer after purchase.

• “Best if used by” date—typically an estimate of a date after which food will no longer be at its highest quality.

• “Use by” date—also typically a manufacturer’s indication of the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality.

• “Freeze by” date—a reminder that quality can be maintained much longer by freezing a product.

• “Enjoy by” date—essentially useless to consumers.

Is there any term being used that indicates when a product is no longer safe to consume? No! And that’s the whole point of the report.

The authors had several recommendations for the food industry that could help cut back on needless waste, including standardizing the labeling system and improving the use of safe-handling instructions so consumers know which foods should be refrigerated or frozen and how long foods last in different conditions.

But until such industry changes are made, consumers can use common sense to waste not, want not. Obviously, you shouldn’t eat or drink anything that looks, smells or tastes like it has gone bad. For instance, toss anything with visible mold or discoloration, an “off” odor, changes in texture or flavor or marred packaging (such as a broken seal on a bottle or a misshapen or corroded lid on a can). Other than that, though…

• Remember that the “sell by” date is purely for grocers’ inventory-management systems. If you’re in the store and want to compare dates to select the freshest items for your cart, that’s fine, as is opting not to buy foods that are past the “sell by” date. But once a food is in your home, don’t misinterpret the “sell by” date as an “eat or throw away by” date.

• With nonperishable items (canned goods, spices, honey) and packaged foods (cereals, crackers), safety isn’t really an issue, the researchers said. However, these foods may taste less flavorful after a long time in storage.

• Perishable foods—such as unfrozen shellfish, fish, meat or poultry, and eggs and dairy products—can spoil and make you ill. However, there’s so much variability from food to food that it’s impossible to give a blanket number of days after the “use by” date within which all products should be consumed. For more information on particular types of foods, check a reputable resource such as

• Be sure to store each food as the label directs—for instance, by refrigerating after opening, if so instructed. That’s the best way to avoid food waste.

Source: Emily Broad Leib, JD, director, Food Law and Policy Division, Harvard Law School, Boston. She is coauthor of a report titled “The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America,” copublished with The Natural Resources Defense Council, an international nonprofit environmental group.

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