Monthly Archives: January 2014

Does Coffee Improve Your Memory?

When I discovered coffee, it opened up a whole new world for me. The previously monstrous person in the morning could be social….after the coffee sets in. I grew up Mormon. So coffee was off the table, but it’s an amazing thing. There are plenty of things that have been said about caffeine before. It energizes the body and mind, increases your energy, and oh ya, it may improve your memory and brain power in other ways, or at least so they’re saying. Some even say that it has antioxidants that can fight cancer. But that’s another story for another day.

This said, Borota and Yassa teamed together to conduct a double blind trial on coffee. Borota, naive to coffee’s wonderful benefits until college, was curious. Volunteers were considered caffeine-naive prior to the study, and they were either given a placebo or a 200mg tablet of caffeine (like a strong cup of coffee) 5 minutes after studying a series of images. The researchers and the subjects did not know which they got in order for it to be double blind and therefore unbiased by researcher body language, hints, knowledge, etc.

Note: They have done similar studies, except they gave people decaffeinated coffee when they thought they were getting caffeinated coffee. Subjects at that time reported the same kind of energy boost.

The next day, they underwent a test to see how many of the images they remembered from the previous day. Some of the pictures they got were from the day before, some were new, and some were similar, but not quite the same of course. There were more caffeinated subjects who were able to correctly identify the new images as similar as opposed to thinking they were the same pictures in what they call pattern separation.

Neuroscientists see pattern separation as a sign of deeper learning and memory retention rather than a simple recognition pattern. Pattern separation specifically requires the brain to think more, make more difficult differentiation, and memory is therefore strengthened when demonstrating this type of pattern separation. If you practice this on a regular basis, you can strengthen your long term memory, and you will be less likely to forget.

Borota explains his study saying, The study was unique because it was a direct test of caffeine’s effect on memory consolidation. By administering caffeine after participants completed the study phase, we controlled for caffeine’s performance enhancing-effects, such as increased alertness and attention, which may have showed up as a boost in memory. As a result, we can say with confidence that caffeine has memory-enhancing effects independent from these other cognitive effects, which have been well-documented.

Researchers still say that of course drinking coffee before bed is not a good idea. It may keep you up later and prevent you from being able to rejuvenate. If you’re studying or trying to improve your memory though, chances are you could use a little coffee.

15 Expert Beauty Tips

There are plenty of ways to get beautiful skin ranging from expensive skin creams all the way down to using your morning urine. Yup, you heard me right. It happens. Anyway…..there are a few things that you can do for yourself that might actually be a little better and more proven than the average skin cream that you might pay $60 for.

  1. No makeup for a weekend – I’m not asking you to go bare all the time. Some of us need a little makeup to help our complexion. Once a month, I’m just saying give your skin a little time to breathe. For skin, and even nails, it helps.
  2. Get rid of your old makeup – I know, you’ve been holding onto your old makeup for sentimental value. More likely, you just forgot about it, and it has been sitting there too long still the same. When you find that you have old makeup, especially if it has expired, you might want to consider tossing it and replacing it. It’s not good for your skin believe it or not.
  3. Drink more water – Hydrating and moisturizing are different, but we’ve all heard the old adage drink 8 glasses a day. Los Angeles facialist Kate Somerville, who has helped celebrities like Katy Perry, says, Hydration is getting water into your skin cells, while moisturizer locks it in. The best way you can hydrate is to drink more water. However, taking things like fish oil and flaxseed oil can also help to keep your skin moisturized.
  4. Get a facial each season – Yes, the pampering part of it is definitely nice. When it comes down to it though, this type of pampering can also help you to get rid of dead skin cell buildup. Mona Gohara MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine says, When dead skin cells build up on your face, your skincare products can’t penetrate. Getting a facial 3 to 4 times a year deep-cleans your skin in a way you can’t do at home. Plus, it gives you the chance to discuss your skin with an expert.
  5. Moisturize in the afternoon – We’re so used to moisturizing morning and sometimes night, but a moisturizer doesn’t necessarily last all day. The truth is that unless you’re extremely oily skinned, your skin could use that midday booster. Many popular moisturizers and skin creams can deliver plenty of moisturizing effects, but they dry very quickly, more quickly than you might think, or for that matter hope.
  6. A mental health bath – Maybe you haven’t heard of it. Giving yourself 10 minutest to unplug and relax can give your mind the ability and time to regenerate and relax. Slip into a tub, add a few scoops of Epsom salt, and let it soothe your muscles. Drop a couple drops of lavender essential oil, which can be calming, and just think of it as something you get to do rather than a luxury.
  7. Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen – Of course. This seems so trite and not something a lot of people would expect. Of course, there are those who would just rather not go outside, but do you really want to live that kind of life? Instead, when you do go out, remember to take a good quality sunscreen, at least 30SPF, and reapply regularly.
  8. Wipe down your phone each night – Your cell phone touches a lot of things, and as you can imagine, it can become a breeding ground for a lot of bacteria. This type of bacteria could easily cause acne, which is of course a bad sign for your skin! So try wiping your phone down every night before bed.
  9. Wash your pillowcases and towels regularly – Like your phone, you might find that your pillowcases and towels tend to collect quite a bit of bacteria. Change your bath towels and pillowcases every week to keep your pores from clogging with excess oil and bacteria. You should also clean makeup brushes and your brushes once a week or month.
  10. Deep condition – Every week, Sunday night, Monday night, whatever you choose, take some time to deep condition your hair. This will strengthen your hair, and it gives you the proper deep treatment if you are using the right kind of conditioner of course. You can even use leave it on your hair under a towel for 30 minutes afterwards for extra deep conditioning.
  11. Brush your hair before you shower – Your wet hair can be more tangled and harder to brush. You can therefore create frizz and other issues. Instead, try brushing out and detangling your hair before you shower and get it wet.
  12. Skip the shampoo a few days a week – This can really help, even if you have super oily hair. Try using dry shampoo now and then instead of the lather, and your hair will end up softer and shinier. In addition to this, your color will last longer according to professional colorist Jennifer J.
  13. Exfoliate from head to toe once a week – Your body, just like your face, can get bogged down. Your pores can get clogged with dead skin cells, which is never a good thing. Try doing a full body exfoliation just once a week to keep things fresh.
  14. Use your facial mask on your neck and chest – That facial mask you use isn’t just for exfoliating and cleansing your face. You can and should also use it on your neck and chest. It can give those areas a nice refresher and prevent nasty skin.
  15. Night Creams: Moisturize as you sleep – If you have dry skin anywhere, make sure that you are applying a good moisturizer before you go to sleep. Your skin pores open up at night, they absorb more heavy moisturizers, and they can significantly benefit. If you do it right, you will find that again a good moisturizer can keep you smoother and happier.

Study Dispels “Obesity Paradox” with Diabetes

Commonly used to protect the idea that obesity is actually okay and everything’s just a big conspiracy, the obesity paradox may be no more. The idea has been that being obese may actually be healthier for diabetics, and this is despite the fact that people have been able to cure themselves from type 2 diabetes by LOSING WEIGHT! Not to mention the fact that many famous people have in fact lost legs and otherwise suffered serious complications associated with diabetes because they continued with activities that kept them overweight or obese.

According to a researcher’s report, we have confirmed the obvious. We have confirmed what realistically should be common sense. A major study has officially found that you do not have a higher survival rate with diabetes if you are obese. It is in fact a disadvantage to be obese.

At this point, over 24 million people in America are known to have diabetes, most of which is type 2, and much of which can be connected directly with obesity as it turns out. 2/3 of Americans are considered overweight, and 1/3 are obese.

The fact is that scientists have directly connected obesity to an increased risk of heart disease, which commonly walks hand in hand with diabetes. It has also been connected to cancer and premature death as well as joint damage, decreased physical performance, and the metabolic reserve that has been associated with this obesity paradox claims to help them to get through sickness and prevent sickness.

The newest research specifically looks at deaths based on how much people weighed when diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. According to Diedre Tobias of the Harvard School of Public Health, We didn’t see this protective effect at all. The lowest risk was seen in the normal-weight category.

This study was paid for by the National Institutes of Health and the American Diabetes Association, and the results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. According to independent expert Dr. Patrick Remington, It’s a very convincing study, and apparently one large enough to give dependable and substantial information. He is currently associate dean for public health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This study involved 11,427 female nurses and male health professionals diagnosed with diabetes after enrolling in 2 long-running health studies. They were grouped by body mass index, and people with a BMI over 25 were deemed overweight, while those with a BMI over 30 were considered obese. At 5’8, a person would be overweight if they weighed 164 and obese if they were over 197 pounds.

In 15 years of follow-up, 3083 of these individuals died, and the lowest risk was among those in the normal BMI range. Researchers saw a J shaped curve in the other groups with higher death rates at both extremes. The researchers were able to simultaneously assess subgroups. For individuals under 65 diagnosed with diabetes, the risk of death rose directly in connection with BMI. Those who had never smoked also saw the same increase with BMI.

For smokers and those who were over 65 when diagnosed, the results were less predictable or uniform. Smokers in general were more likely to die, and smoking tends to have appetite suppressing effects, helping people to stay at a lower weight than they otherwise might. In other words, smoking and other related things aside, it’s healthier to be at a healthy BMI, not overweight or obese.

Can You Burn Fat Doing Housework?

If you haven’t heard already, there are plenty of people listing easy weight loss tips such as do housework. They tend to be nondescript about it. They tend to mention gardening, maybe sweeping your floors, things that seem relatively easy, but is this really true? Can you really burn enough calories to lose weight when you are simply cleaning your house or doing other common housework?

Truthfully speaking, housework on its own does not do a great job at helping you to burn calories. It burns about as much as walking, if even that. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything around the house though when it comes to weight loss. You could of course use a treadmill. Then again, you could use extra aids when doing basic housework that could actually help you to burn extra calories. In a nutshell, you need these extra aids to actually do the job. Still, I wouldn’t recommend depending on housework as your only exercise.

  1. More Weight

    Think about it. People who weigh more naturally burn more calories doing the same exact things, because they are carrying more weight. If you’re obese and stay obese, it’s largely because you are taking in more calories. With ankle weights, a weighted vest, or anything like that, you could add 10-15 pounds to your body weight, which can make a significant difference in your ability to burn more calories doing the same old things and therefore lose more weight.

  2. Cool down your body

    When you’re colder, your body burns more calories trying to get back to a higher temperature. Therefore, if you’re colder doing your housework, you are more likely to burn more calories. So how do you do this? You use a cold vest that can bring your body temperature down while simultaneously keeping your house at a cool 60-65 degrees. You do this housework in a t-shirt and shorts, avoiding anything that could bring your body temperature up (outside of your body generating its own heat). Like the weighted vest, a cold vest could also add weight, burning calories by making you heavier.

  3. Use some metabolic boosters

    This can be used when you’re sitting for longer periods of time at work or otherwise. Every so often, stand up and do something. Do jumping jacks, push ups, body weight squats, or some other exercise that can naturally boost your metabolism. Some people do it every hour. Some do it every 15 minutes or so. You can also do a few extra metabolic boosters while you’re doing housework.

  4. Just breathe

    You can use what’s called deep diaphragmatic breathing to also burn more calories, just like you do when you’re feeling colder. Don’t forget to breathe deep instead of breathing shallow like you might be automatically inclined to. You would be surprised at how many extra calories you can burn just breathing the right way and giving your body more oxygen.

You can use these tips when you’re at home doing housework or, for that matter, when you’re traveling. When combined with proper dieting (and not adding extra calories because you think you did the extra exercise), you will be able to lose more weight. Of course, I would recommend that you also think about regular exercise most days, 30 minutes of good cardio and maybe weight lifting depending on your goals. Any housework for exercise and weight loss should be occasional, added to, and not your only exercise plan.

Willpower Isn’t Enough To Achieve Your Goals

It’s New Years, and everybody has their goals. Give up smoking, lose weight, get into your bikini body again. We’ve all been told that you have to have willpower, and willpower is the magic ingredient that can help you to change your life. As it turns out though, willpower isn’t exactly the key to your success. Yes, it will get you off the ground, but eventually, it will run out. Eventually, when it runs out, you will fail. So what do you do?

People do change their lives. People do meet their New Years goals. There are people who last more than a week into January. The question is how do they do it. It’s the same idea that you see when you hear of people really losing weight. They didn’t go on some extreme, crazy diet plan nobody can follow. That could take willpower depending on the person.

Instead, they make small or large lifestyle changes that they maintain over years and the rest of their lives. They change habits that may have been in their bodies for years, and that’s what you have to do.

No matter what it is you’re trying to accomplish, the key is to change your habits and your life. Willpower only goes so far, and eventually, you have to break it down to something that can last longer, which is ultimately habits. When you hit stress triggers, your old habit may be to eat or smoke. It can take time to change these reactions. However, if you catch yourself when you hit these and for example think I can still eat something, I just need to eat an apple instead of that piece of cake, you get used to just turning to the apple instead.

You may have heard of Roy Baumeister. He has written a number of books for psychology students about various topics. He says that there is a limited amount of willpower, only further supporting this theory. We deplete our reserves over time, and we have less to deal with the next incident, the next temptation, or the next challenge we want to conquer.

Let’s say for example that you had a particularly stressful day at work, and then you come home to find that surprise, your mom just made a whole plate full of brownies. Willpower may help you, depending on how stressful your day was and how depleted you already are, but wouldn’t it be nice to just have better habits to save that willpower for something else? How do you fix this problem?

You go little by little. You take it one step at a time to figure out what you need to do to change your cake habit into a fruit habit or change your stress response from smoking to say running. Baumeister suggests that you start by doing things that are unrelated, but opposite. For example, drive with the opposite hand, drive a different route, use the opposite hand to type, do things that you would not normally expect yourself to do. When you mix it up in other areas of your life, it can transfer over. When it comes to willpower, you can also exercise your willpower to make it stronger.

Along the way, and even once you get used to it, you may want to remove your temptations. Give yourself as few challenges as possible, and actively look to remove unnecessary bumps in the road. You could of course give your willpower and your habits a daily challenge. For example, if you remove sweets from your house and your office, you will be less likely to eat them than if they are always right there. If you smoke, throw away your cigarettes. Do not put the things you struggle with right in front of yourself.

Finally, keep it simple. Take on one thing at a time. If you have one thing to focus on avoiding, it’s a lot easier to remember that to change your habits as opposed to 30. Once you feel secure about one thing, you can always move onto the next.

What If I Just Want to Be Alone?

There is nothing wrong with a little alone time. We all need to be alone from time to time, and it varies from person to person. Some people need more alone time than others to recoup from the day or time with others. The American culture naturally encourages people to be outgoing, group oriented, and to want to spend time with other people ALL THE TIME, but for most people, especially introverts, that just isn’t realistic. That takes me to my first point in this. You may just be an introvert.

Are You an Introvert?

Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re not outgoing or friendly. It just means that you get tired when you spend time with people. You aren’t energized by other people as an extrovert would be. There are some introverts who can spend hours on end with people and then recharge at night. The bottom line though is that others are not recharging. For an introvert, your best professional and other ideas may come during times of solitude. You have a small group of close friends, and you feel you have quality relationships. Then again, you may keep your friends at a certain distance, but that’s comfortable for you.

When it comes to big public event, an introvert may go out often or infrequently, but they may still come home glad that they went out depending on the frequency. Personally, being an introvert, I can go hours without talking to someone who is in the same car as me, and it doesn’t bother me. I can go to dinner with a friend and not really talk, and it doesn’t seem odd to me. For an extrovert or someone who believes that you have to be somewhat of an extrovert though, this may seem extremely odd or even that there is something wrong.

Personally, I take weekends alone. Sometimes, I go out to a local coffee shop, put in my headphones, and just work or read. While popular magazines claim that introverts are a small minority of just 25% or less, there are some experts who would suggest that introverts actually make up half of the population or even the majority, depending on how you define it.

As found in the book Quiet The Power of Introverts, introverts have a rich inner life, and they may even be more brilliant and introspective. They may listen, observe, and according to bestselling author Susan Cain, There’s a word for ‘people who are in their heads too much’: thinkers. There are other healthy types who may just appreciate a little time alone as well.

Taking Off the Mask

What does this mean? There are plenty of people who have heard about how undesirable introverts are, how they always get stepped on and taken advantage of, and at one time in my life, I really struggled with this. My mom in particular likes to talk about what a sweet little girl I was, how I was so quiet and they could barely even hear me sometimes, bla bla bla. A fine example was when I ended up pouring a whole pitcher on the floor, because at 2, I found no one was listening when I tried to ask nicely. So I thought I’d to it for myself. The only problem was how to get that stupid pitcher upright again.

As an adult, I have found that sometimes, it’s better to put on a mask, be someone else, be gregarious and part of the group. You put your game face on, talk to your coworkers, put on your smiles, and engage with customers. Working in just about every area of the customer service industry, this has been necessary at times. By the end of the day, it’s truly exhausting and you just need to go home and have some time to yourself. In part because of this, outside of environments where I have to do this, people often don’t hear a whole lot from me.

You have your social self, and this is actually quite common. It allows you to be part of the group and get more of what you want. Too much of this though can be exhausting.

As you may have imagined based on the criticisms though, there are situations where you might start to worry.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is something that has been trivialized in popular culture. There are those movie or TV characters who are extreme weirdos when in reality, a lot of people suffer social anxiety. They still go out, and some may just assume they’re shy. It depends on how severe it is as to how much it handicaps the individual. The display of social anxiety may be as simple as just not getting up in front of your class, not contributing in meetings, eating more by yourself at lunch, etc.

Social anxiety is ultimately a fear of social rejection or situations in which you may be embarrassed, judged, criticized, or rejected. Some go the extremes, actually believing that others are judging or criticizing them, even laughing inside, even though no one has noticed what they did wrong. We all have those awkward or embarrassing moments, but for those with social anxiety, it can be suffocating.

Social anxiety affects 3-13% of Americans, and it becomes officially diagnosable when it actually becomes more distressing or even debilitating. If it is persistent and interferes in one’s life leading to avoidance, it may be social anxiety. It may not occur every time there is one given situation, or it may sweep across one’s entire life.

Post Traumatic Stress?/Abuse

In this situation, many want to be alone and yet fear being alone. They may have suffered severe abuse or neglect as children, or they may have suffered a negative experience with abuse as an adult, in which they were made to feel alone or helpless. They believe, because of this, that the world is an unsafe and dangerous place, because it has been in the past for them.

If this sounds like you, you should seek a good therapist to help you to address the abuse and other issues in your past. It should be someone you feel you can be comfortable around or could be in the future, someone you may be able to trust. There may be plenty of other symptoms to go along with this.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

The schizoid personality was thought at one time to be caused by overbearing mothers, distant fathers, or otherwise bad parenting. It distressed quite a few parents at one point. However, schizoid personality disorder is very serious, pervasive, and it’s something that can be hard to address. It is extremely rare, affecting less than 1% of the population, typically never married men. This is not schizophrenia, though some suspect they may be on the same spectrum. Specifically, they do not want or seek out close personal relationships.

They come across as cold, aloof, apathetic, and they are not touched by praise or criticism. They don’t seem to enjoy anything to others, and they often don’t care to be part of the family unit. They may also be asexual by choice. They are the definition of true loners.

Of course, some of us have reasons not to want to be part of our families, and some choose not to or don’t enjoy sex for other reasons. For a schizoid individual, they do not have other reasons. They simply don’t care.

Depression/Bipolar Disorder

If you have depression or you are in the depressive stages of bipolar disorder (manic depressive disorder), this may be a point at which you just want to be alone. You can’t handle being around others.You may feel overwhelmed by life in general. If you are depressed or in the depressive stages of bipolar disorder, chances are wanting to be alone is one of the least of the symptoms you might be experiencing. This is accordingly a situation where you will definitely want to seek out professional help.

Health Foods Health Nuts Actually Eat

There are plenty of articles and blogs about all of those uber healthy foods, health crap is what I call it. Truth be told though, who really eats that? Who actually lives consistently on health crap? I don’t. There are those people who still look ridiculously good though. So they have to be eating something, don’t they? This just gives a slight idea of what kinds of food health nuts are actually eating.

  • Almond Butter – at least one fitness expert in LA eats some of this right out of the jar. Peanut butter has been used for its protein content. However, the big bonus is that almond butter actually has quite a few nutrients, and it reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease or your risk of heart attack.
  • Frozen grapes – Personally, this just makes me happy. Frozen grapes give me the taste of grapes. Sometimes, I let them sit in my mouth for a while. Sometimes I chew them while they’re good and frozen. Either way, they’re sweet, and like many other superfoods, they have a plethora of healthy nutrients.
  • Sardines – A registered dietitian in New York City, Elisa Zied has also written Nutrition at Your Fingertips. Sardines have plenty of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and you can eat them straight from the can. Heads and tails are optional.
  • Greek Yogurt – When I talk about health crap, I am partially talking about Greek Yogurt. It tastes like butt, except when you get those Costco ones that already have fruit mixed in. Those are actually fairly delicious. If you take just plain Greek yogurt though…..there’s nothing I’ve found that makes that bearable, let alone good. So eat the ones with fruit already mixed in.
  • Salmon – Salmon is fully of heart healthy omega fatty acids and other good fats. It doesn’t have the unhealthy parts sometimes associated with meat, and it still has quite a bit of good protein as well.
  • Shredded wheat – While I only give so much credence to the cereal commercials, there are good things about shredded wheat. It has fiber, and you can add fruits like bananas to it to give it a little sweetness. It also doesn’t have much sodium compared to other cereals.
  • Apples – an apple a day keeps the doctor away? Kinda. Apples have plenty of vitamins, healthy fiber, no real fat or other unhealthy elements. There are doctors and other experts who truthfully do actually eat an apple a day, in part for all the natural antioxidants as well. A Brazilian study found it may help with weight loss, and it also seems to prevent certain obesity (and just unhealthy lifestyle) related cancers.
  • Energy bars – I personally have one vegan nut bar that I eat more often than others. However, there are a few options available. If you need something to eat and you don’t actually have the time to eat a real meal, then a good nut or other energy bar can be a good choice, as long as it doesn’t have a bunch of sugar and all of that of course. The bottom line is that for many health nuts, these actually taste like real food.
  • Boiled eggs – Eggs have a mixed reputation. On one hand, they have plenty of protein, especially in the egg whites. On the other hand, the yolk especially is also full of cholesterol. Eggs actually have more than just protein. They also have nutrients for healthy eyes, brain, and hair. In fact, one study suggests that eggs may actually prevent blood clots, therefore preventing heart attacks or strokes.
  • Unsalted nuts – Personally, nuts just really aren’t my thing, unless it’s the nut bars made for me. However, there are a lot of people who like nuts. They make a good snack, have protein, fill you up, and they’re generally cheap. Some restaurants even provide buckets of them for free.

Prepare for a few surprises and foods you might not expect.

  • Twizzlers – If you try living off Twizzlers, bad idea. But everyone needs a little indulgence now and then. Many health nuts have a candy of choice that they keep at hand. It’s something they can eat every once in a while instead of going crazy with a bunch of candy all at once. Personally, I like Starburst.
  • Caramels – Caramels take a while to break down. You can suck, chew, and really take the time to enjoy. When it takes this much time, it’s more likely that you can be satisfied (and stop) with just 1 or 2.
  • Fruit bars – There are a number of generic brands at the grocery store. They typically have something about only 70 or whatever calories on the box. These are pureed fruit bars, they give you that sweet taste, and it’s not artificial sugar. So you get the vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber without the excess sugar as long as you keep it in check of course. Don’t eat 10 at one time.

These are just examples. You can of course choose treats you love to have every once in a while. In general though, it’s nice, even for the truly dedicated, to have a little break every once in a while.