Imagine sadness so profound, despair so deep, that it seems the only way out is suicide. Tragically, that scene plays out for hundreds of San Diegans every year.
In 2012, 413 men, women and, yes, even children, died at their own hands – a record number of suicides in San Diego. Sadly, the number of self-inflicted deaths continues to rise, with no end in sight.
Perhaps that explains the huge turnout recently for the annual “Save a Life” Walk sponsored by Survivors of Suicide Loss. A record crowd of 2,000 gathered for the annual 3.1-mile trek around Balboa Park, with most walking in memory of loved ones lost to suicide. (Learn more www.soslsd.org).
Despite the disturbing theme, as a survivor (I lost my mother to suicide) and participant, I assure you the “Save a Life” Walk is neither depressing nor somber, but full of love, laughter and hope – due, in part, to the presence of Pastor Joe Davis.
As we gathered together before the 5K begins, emotions run raw for many. But Joe’s uplifting invocation never fails to include a perfect prayer to comfort those who have survived the loss of a loved one to suicide.
You might say Joe’s the perfect guy for the job! Every day, as chaplain for the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office, Joe ministers to grieving families dealing with all kinds of traumatic death, including suicide.
Every time he speaks at the annual Walk, Joe says he can count on someone coming up to him, reminding him about the time he came to their home, “with the news that their son, or wife, or father had died at their own hands.”
It’s an emotionally taxing job, but the affable and easy-going Joe believes he’s been called to comfort families and friends of loved ones who have died. He deals with death of every description. “What makes suicide different,” says the chaplain, “is that other deaths can usually be explained.” So Joe says his job is to be there for distraught loved ones “trying to make sense out of something that never makes sense.”
He admits, dealing daily with death and human anguish hasn’t been easy. Several years ago, plagued by emotional stress and stomach problems, Joe turned to prayer asking, “If I’m supposed to be doing this, why is it so hard?”
He believes God’s answer was loud and clear, “If you’re going to get that involved, you’re no good to the families and you’re no good to me.”
“Now, instead of being part of the storm,” explains Joe, “I’m the calm in the midst of the storm.”
But last year, in a tragic irony, the “storm” came to Joe personally when he got the call that rocked his world. Following years of depression, his own father had taken his life. “It was the most painful, horrible training I’ve ever had,” Joe told me, tears welling up.
As he deals with his own lingering pain, Joe believes his experience has helped him better help others. “Now I can honestly say, ‘I know what you’re going through.’”
And so Joe continues his unpaid job, as the only full-time chaplain for a medical examiner in the US, with his faith and signature sense of humor to carry him through the next crisis.
“I don’t know the shelf life of a coroner’s chaplain,” quips Davis. “I’m just being obedient to where I’m supposed to be.”
Thank you for making a difference, Joe.
Q&A with Badalin Helvink, M.D.
According to Badalin Helvink, M.D., medical director of the Psychiatry Program at the Palomar Center for Behavioral Health, suicide is our nation’s top public health issue. Here she explains how we all play a role in saving lives.
Carol: Why is the suicide rate rising?
Dr. Helvink: Violence, economic stress, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, family history of mental illness, access to guns, lack of access to health care … take your pick!
Carol: How do we get a handle on the problem?
Dr. Helvink: First, by talking about it. Sadly, a stigma still exists when it comes to mental illness.
Carol: Why can’t we get past the stigma?
Dr. Helvink: Unfortunately, the barriers are still there. Families don’t want to talk about it. Patients don’t want to be on medication.
Carol: What about the media?
Dr. Helvink: Sensationalized celebrity suicides can actually cause a copycat effect. Cyberbullying through social media causes severe pressure on kids. Nearly 16 percent of kids admit thinking about suicide.
Carol: Sounds like an issue for everyone.
Dr. Helvink It takes a village—a collaborative effort of family, friends, community and providers.
Carol: How can I help prevent a suicide?
Dr. Helvink: If you know someone who’s struggling – isolating, consumed with sadness or morbidly preoccupied – don’t wait for them to “snap out of it.” Reach out.
Carol: How do you know when it’s serious?
Dr. Helvink In my practice, if I hear, “I’m a burden” or “I can’t live like this anymore,” or when a teen hears her friend say she “wishes she were dead.” If they voice it, take it seriously.
Carol: Some say suicide is an act of cowardice.
Dr. Helvink: I invite them to have compassion about something that’s tragic, and for many, a result of major depressive disorder.
Carol: Can there be a happy ending?
Dr. Helvink: I had a patient who took a serious overdose. After successful treatment for her depression, she told me she never knew she could actually feel good again.
Carol: What do you want people to know?
Dr. Helvink Depression is a very treatable condition. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There is help.
See our full story on Behavioral Health in The HealthSource.
Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month which is a good time to be extra vigilant with friends and loved ones dealing with extreme sadness or a sense of hopelessness.
Warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide include:
• Always talking or thinking about death
• Clinical depression – deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating that gets worse
• Having a "death wish," tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
• Losing interest in things one used to care about
• Making comments about being hopeless, helpless or worthless
• Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
• Saying things like "it would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out"
• Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
• Talking about suicide or killing one's self
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Be especially concerned if a person is exhibiting any of these warning signs and has attempted suicide in the past. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, between 20 and 50 percent of people who commit suicide have had a previous attempt.
I got the horrific news from Susan.
Our friend, Sharon, she told me quietly over the phone, had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer…and the outlook was grim. Doctors called it Stage 3-C – an extremely aggressive form of the potentially deadly disease.
It all happened so fast.
Within days of her diagnosis, Sharon was scheduled for surgery to re-route a section of her intestines being strangled by the tumors…ending in what hopefully would become a temporary colostomy.
It didn't seem possible. I'd just seen Sharon a few weeks earlier at a festive dinner party at her home celebrating the recent engagement of her 22-year-old daughter, Paige. She was fine. Glowing, in fact.
But now her life was about to be forever changed by the cancer she was unaware had been silently growing inside her.
Sharon admits she'd been bothered by some vague intestinal symptoms in the months leading up to her diagnosis – gas, bloating and indigestion she treated with antacids and Beano. Then one day, the belly pain became unbearable. She was hospitalized and treated for three days for what doctors believed was an intestinal blockage. Her pain only got worse. Further tests revealed the bitter truth.
The tumor with tentacles was choking her colon and was moving throughout her abdomen.
The good news? It’s been several agonizing weeks, but the surgery restored function of her lower GI. All indications are three rounds of chemotherapy have shrunk the tumors. And now there's hope a final surgery to remove what remains…followed by more chemotherapy and radiation… and will restore her to good health.
But the question remains. How could this have happened? Sharon is smart, healthy and in tune with her body. With her signature sense of humor, even she wonders how this "alien being" could have overwhelmed her body, virtually undetected.
Unfortunately, “undetection” is the hallmark of this insidious disease. So while my friend works her way toward a clean bill of health, more than 20,000 new cases will strike women across the United States this year.
What’s frustrating is scientists still don’t know the exact cause of ovarian cancer, so they haven’t found a way to prevent its often deadly progression. So, without the presence of overt symptoms, women need to pay attention to more subtle symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?
Although ovarian cancer rarely produces symptoms in its earliest stages, eventual warning signs may include:
• Vague digestive disturbances, such as mild indigestion, bloating, feeling of fullness, or loss of appetite, gas
• Diarrhea, constipation, or a frequent need to urinate
• Pain or swelling in the abdomen, or pain in the lower back or pelvic pressure
• Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after menopause
• Shortness of breath
Symptoms associated with advanced ovarian cancer include severe nausea, vomiting, pain and weight loss.
Call Your Doctor About Ovarian Cancer If:
You have unexplained abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding, particularly if these conditions accompany the more general symptoms listed in the description section; do not allow such symptoms to continue undiagnosed for more than two weeks.
With great faith and great medical care, Sharon and her family are expecting at a great outcome from her cancer scare. She’s already got a gorgeous dress picked out for Paige’s wedding!
Love you, Sharon!
Would you like to be part of something that’s fun, good for you…and good for others? Then join me Saturday morning, June 7 for a stimulating stroll or fast-paced run along the Embarcadero at the 2nd annual “Run For Independence.” It’s a 5 or 10-K (take your pick!) for an awesome organization called “TMI.” As you enjoy a great workout along San Diego’s gorgeous waterfront, you’ll also be supporting something big!
In this case, TMI doesn’t stand for “too much information!” In fact, we want to spread the word about what may just be the most important non-profit you’ve never heard of!
Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has been giving people with disabilities the chance to live happy, fulfilling lives in our community for more than 30 years. I’ve been blessed to see first-hand the changed lives made possible because of the people and programs associated with TMI.
Because of TMI, my entire perception of people with disabilities has changed. There’s a type of discrimination that exists… I believe rooted in fear… of someone who’s “different….” someone who looks different, speaks differently, walks differently…or maybe can’t walk at all.
Because of TMI, I no longer fear or avoid what I don’t understand. I love to engage the delightful young man who bags my groceries at Vons. He’s always cheerful, efficient and clearly loves his job. Anthony also happens to have a developmental disability and that makes him “different.” So what!
TMI’s mission is to provide what Anthony and all people with disabilities want to enjoy…a job, a home…full inclusion in society. For years, TMI has been looking beyond the differences and seeing the person made by the same Creator…with the same hopes, dreams, desires and aspirations as the rest of us.
I’ve spent time with the CEO David Piazza and the TMI team and seen their pure passion for people living with disabilities. They’ve been doing what I believe is God’s work in our community for decades…under the radar with virtually no recognition.
It’s time to shine the light on TMI. Would you think about joining me and hundreds of others in support of the proven programs of TMI as they continue to make dreams come true for people with disabilities?
They’re not so “different,” really. Just like you and me, people with disabilities need nothing less than love, acceptance and the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Click on this link for a brief look at the fun you’ll have if you join us.
Don’t miss this year’s fun. See you June 7!
Sixty. I turned 60 this month! I’ve been practicing saying it for months. But now that it’s here, it seems surreal!
Sixty. Yikes! It sounds so old, and yet, I have to admit, I’m glad I’ve lived long enough to say those words and celebrate their meaning. I’m alive happy, healthy and surrounded by family and friends who care about me. Those are blessings…at any age.
Not only that, I’m in good company! Did you know Oprah just turned 60? She’s still going strong and feeling pretty positive about the milestone. In a recent magazine interview, the superstar shared a few thoughts…echoing my feelings about the benefits of aging up!
“I’m turning 60,” says Oprah, “and – please don’t take offense, but I no longer have to be concerned what anyone thinks of me! (You know, the old, am I doing it right? Am I saying it right? Am I being what or who I’m “supposed” to be?) I’m turning 60, and I’ve earned the right to be just as I am.”
You go, girl!
I may have lost my once firm behind, but, like Oprah and many of you 60-plus gals out there, I’m more secure in being myself than I’ve ever been. My skin may be saggy in spots, but at least I’m more comfortable in it!
I also happen to know some really “hot chicks” that recently turned 60. “Peeps,” the beloved marshmallow candy,” is celebrating six decades of success and longevity. More popular than ever, the iconic Easter candy is constantly reinventing itself…proving that 60 may just be the new 30!
So, I’m not going to let a couple of gray hairs get me down. I was 20 once. Now it’s someone else’s turn. It’s the cycle of life. And rather than waste time and energy whining about it, I’m going to give myself a birthday gift…a piece of age-old inspiration from one of my feminist heroes…award-winning newspaper columnist, Erma Bombeck.
Check out her hilarious “At Wit’s End” column from 1992 in which the gifted humorist took aim at the problem of aging.
“Aging Gracefully is Going out of Style”
by Erma Bombeck
One of the bonuses of growing old used to be that you could shrivel and no one cared. My grandmother shriveled. She also sagged, shifted, slouched and slumped. It was as if the floor was the center point of gravity, and with glacier-like movement all of my grandmother’s parts eventually came to rest there.
No one gave her permission for her body to go from a solid to a jelly state. It was her rite of passage.
Had she lived today, she might not have been so lucky. We live in times of the youthmeisters. There’s the grandmother from West Melbourne, Fla., who wrote that she slipped into a pair of jeans one afternoon and buttoned a plain white blouse over it. When she saw her 6-year-old granddaughter, Katie, taking it all in, she wiggled her hips and asked, “Does this blouse look OK with the jeans?”
Katie circled her critically and said, “Yes, Grandma, the blouse looks OK, but if you’re ever gonna be a stripper, you’re gonna have to lose those thighs.”
There’s nothing wrong with hanging onto youth, but we have gone to war with aging. Thirty year-olds are “doing their eyes” and having skin peels. Why? It’s like having a car serviced with only 200 miles on it.
My mother said to me last Sunday, “I’m going to lose this stomach if it’s the last thing I do.” She is in her 80’s.
Think about what you’re doing,” I said. “Think about all those women on the Titanic who looked at the dessert cart and said, “No thanks, my waistband is getting a little tight.”
You could lose a few pounds yourself,” she retorted. “I’ll bet you couldn’t even fit in your wedding dress anymore.”
“I get so few calls for it,” I said dryly.
But the pressure is there and will remain there for the rest of our lives. When I’m 90, I will sit in front of my TV set listening to, “Give us a week – we’ll take off the weight” and shouting at it, “I don’t HAVE a week!”
I looked through an old photo album and found a picture of my grandmother just before she died. She had great skin and the best pair of legs this side of the Ohio River. But she was shaped like an eggplant. It didn’t matter. She was beautiful, and she was supposed to look that way.”
Some things never change.
Following a devastating stroke, my husband’s sweet Dad, “Woody,” lived another five years – each day a challenge because the massive blood clot in his brain left his left side paralyzed. Woody handled his situation with grace and class but it wasn’t easy.
Because heart disease and stroke run in Tom’s family, he’s fighting back with a healthy lifestyle and frequent check-ups and I make sure the fridge is full of fresh veggies including tomatoes.
A new study shows that men who had the highest levels of lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, had fewer strokes than men who had the lowest level of lycopene in their blood.
And get this. Overall, the risk of strokes was reduced by a whopping 55 percent!
But here’s where the study, based in Finland, got my attention. Lycopene, it seems, is found in the highest concentrations in cooked tomato products such as prepared paste, puree and sauce.
As someone who likes to take short cuts in the kitchen, I was thrilled to learn a cup of ready-to-serve marinara sauce has 10 times more lycopene than a raw tomato. It’s not only okay to use the stuff in the jar it’s actually better than fresh when it comes to lycopene concentrations.
And that goes for the sauce found on fast food pizza and store-bought catsup, too (though high fat and sugar content in these products should also be considered.)
One doctor commenting on the lycopene study in the journal, “Neurology,” says the lycopene study shows “diet is very important” for cutting stroke risk along with exercising and not smoking. Dr. Rafael Ortiz says lycopene works by reducing inflammation and preventing blood clots from forming.
So, when I want a quick and easy meal that’s loaded with lycopene, here’s a simple, little recipe I came up with:
*Sauté a chopped onion, green pepper and 1 cup of mushrooms in a tablespoon of olive oil.
*Brown one pound of lean, ground turkey and combine with vegetables
*Add one large jar of marinara sauce (We’re hooked Costco’s 40-oz. Victoria All Natural Marinara Sauce)
*Simmer all ingredients together for one hour
Serve over whole-wheat penne (or pasta of your choice)
Double the recipe. It’s even better the next day! And it freezes beautifully.
One more thing…If you’re not a tomato lover, no worries. Lycopene is also found in watermelon, grapefruit, papaya and mango.
When it comes to fruit, all the buzz is about the berries – the more exotic the better. From black and blue to goji and acai, these antioxidant superstars get all the attention. And that’s fine.
But I think it’s high time somebody gives a shout-out to one of the most popular fruits no one talks about. In smoothies, sliced on cereal or gobbled up before (or after!) a long workout, I’m big on bananas!
For me, and millions of Americans, the perfectly packaged curved, yellow fruit has been a nutritional mainstay for decades. Tucked in my lunchbox as a child or stuffed in my purse as a working professional…I could always count on a power-packed banana for a burst of energy and sense of wellbeing – all for 100 calories or less!
I decided to investigate whether my favorite fruit could nutritionally go “peel to peel” with other popular fruits. Now, I’ll never look at a banana the same way again after discovering the many health benefits and reasons to keep them in my diet.
If you think bananas are just for monkeys…think again! Here’s a sampling of the benefits you can expect from that bunch of bananas in your fruit bowl:
1. Bananas help overcome depression, due to high levels of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin…the happy-mood brain transmitter.
2. Eat two bananas before a strenuous workout to pack an energy punch and sustain your blood sugar.
3. Protect against muscle cramps during workouts and night-time leg cramps by eating a banana.
4. Counteract calcium loss during urination and build strong bones by supplementing with a banana.
5. Improve your mood and reduce PMS symptoms by eating a banana which regulates blood sugar and produces stress-relieving relaxation.
6. Bananas reduce swelling, protect against Type II diabetes, aid weight loss, strengthen the nervous system and help with the production of white blood cells…all due to high levels of vitamin B-6.
7. Strengthen your blood and relieve anemia with the added iron from bananas.
8. High in potassium and low in salt, bananas are officially recognized by the FDA as being able to lower blood pressure and protect against heart attack and stroke.
Then there’s bananas and digestion!
9. Rich in pectin, bananas aid digestion and chelate toxins and heavy metals from the body…stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria in the bowel and produce digestive enzymes to assist in absorbing nutrients.
Constipated? High fiber in bananas can help normalize bowel motility. They also help restore lost electrolytes after diarrhea. Bananas are a natural antacid and the only raw fruit that can be consumed without distress to relieve stomach ulcers by coating the lining of the stomach against corrosive acids.
And don’t forget natural cures from a simple banana!
10. Eating bananas helps prevent kidney cancer, protects the eyes against macular degeneration and builds strong bones by increasing calcium absorption.
11. Bananas help with learning by making you more alert. They’re high in antioxidants, providing protection from chronic disease.
12. Eat a banana between meals to help stabilize blood sugar and reduce nausea from morning sickness, lower body temperature and cool you during a fever or on a hot day.
And how about this?
13. Rub a bug bite or hives with the inside of a banana peel to relieve itching and irritation. Remove a wart by placing the inside of a piece of banana peel against the wart and tape it in place (take that, Compound W!!) and, what the heck…rub the inside of a banana peel on your leather shoes or handbag and polish with a dry cloth for a quick shine!
How ‘bout a hand for the mighty banana? (Now you know why monkeys are so happy!!)
Eat a banana today.
For more than three decades, I’ve reported on the latest in health, fitness and medical breakthroughs. I can’t think of a better “beat” for a reporter in southern California – with one tiny exception.
From Atkins and South Beach to Jenny Craig and the “Zone,” literally hundreds of diet plans over the years have promised to help people lose weight.
Bottom line? When it comes to weight loss, there is no magic diet. The secret to losing weight is no secret at all. Eat less and move more. Period.
That also goes for the temptation to categorize foods as either “good” or “bad".
In February, we “busted” five popular myths about nutrition and dieting. Now, with a little help from the American Dietetic Association, (ADA) we’ll blow up five more diet myths and find the honest-to-goodness truth about how to keep your weight and health under control. Here we go!
Myth: To eat less sodium, avoid salty-tasting foods and use sea salt in place of table salt.
Reality: Your sense of taste doesn’t always notice sodium and sea salt or other gourmet salts aren’t any healthier than table salt. According to the ADA, just because it doesn’t taste salty doesn’t mean it isn’t salty. Many processed foods contain a lot of sodium, so check the label.
As for sea salt? It does contain slightly less sodium per teaspoon than table salt only because sea salt is coarser, so fewer grains fit into the teaspoon!
Myth: Drinking more water daily will help you lose weight.
Reality: There is no evidence that water peels off pounds. Foods containing water such as soup can fill you up, but the ADA’s Dr. Christine Rosenbloom says just drinking water alone doesn’t have the same impact. “Our thirst mechanism and our hunger mechanism are two different things.”
Myth: Whole grains are always healthier than refined grains.
Reality: Whole grains are a healthy choice, but you don’t need to ditch refined grains. You can have some of each. “You don’t have to replace all your foods with whole grains,” says Dr. Rosenbloom. Enriched grains, refined grains with certain nutrients added, have some perks. “Enriched grains generally are going to have more folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron. The whole grains usually have more fiber, vitamin E, selenium, zinc and potassium, so it’s a trade-off.”
Myth: Sugar causes behavioral problems in kids.
Reality: You might want to check your expectations about sugar and children’s behavior. “For most children,” says Dr. Rosenbloom, “the excitement kids have supposedly from consuming sugar is probably more related to the excitement of the event than to eating sugar.” She cites research showing that when parents think their kids have been given sugar, they rate the children’s behavior as more hyperactive…even when no sugar is eaten.
Myth: Protein is the most important nutrient for athletes.
Reality: It is true that athletes need more protein than sedentary people. They just don’t need as much as they think. And they probably don’t need it from supplements…they’re probably getting enough from their food. But timing matters. Rosenbloom recommends that after weight training, athletes consume a little protein, about 8 grams (the amount in a small carton of low-fat chocolate milk) to help their muscles rebuild. "You just don’t need four scoops of whey powder to get what you need.”
New diet myths can crop up at any time…fads come and go. Determining nutrition myth from reality really boils down to this: Step back, check out the evidence and be a bit skeptical.
The true approach to good health isn’t scare tactics from the barrage of media reports. It’s simply an overall healthy eating pattern enjoyed and followed over time.
“The Bucket List,” one of my all-time favorite movies was an enormous hit at the box office despite its seemingly maudlin theme. The 2007 comedy-drama film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman followed two terminally ill men on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they "kick the bucket."
But the film clearly hit a collective nerve. Alternately hilarious and touching, the film’s mega-stars took on the issue of their inevitable mortality by making the most of what time they had left.
Only 53 at the time, but motivated by the movie’s powerful message, I found myself working on my own bucket list as I left the theater. In the seven years since, I’ve swum the 2.4-mile Ironman course off Kona, Hawaii, snorkeled along the Great Barrier Reef and visited Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall.
Above: Carol LeBeau with friends Hattie Kaufman and Maggie Watkins at National Prayer Breakfast
Now, newly 60, I checked one more dream off my bucket list last month after attending the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. The annual event steeped in history is held the first Thursday in February which also coincides with February “sweeps,” the all-important ratings period in television news. So for 35 years, this former news anchor waited…for retirement…and for the chance to get one of the hottest tickets in the nation’s capitol.
Months ago, I accepted an invitation to speak at a media dinner in Washington the night before the breakfast. The event organizer apologized profusely for not being able to pay me. “We can, however, provide you with a ticket to the Presidential Prayer Breakfast.”
In the early morning of February 6, I picked up my precious ticket at registration and made my way through security and into the biggest ballroom I have ever seen! Steeped in history, every president since Dwight Eisenhower has joined the gathering featuring prayer, Scripture reading and rare bipartisan unity in Washington.
On the expansive dais, President Barack Obama, Michele Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden joined senators and congressmen from both sides of the aisle…for a time of prayer to Almighty God for strength and guidance in leading our country.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) read from the Hebrew Book of Ecclesiastes. Bethany Hamilton, the young, Christian surfer who lost her left arm to a shark, read the Good Samaritan passage from the Gospel of Luke and keynote speaker, Rajiv Shah, the USAID Administrator encouraged the room of 3,500 guests and foreign dignitaries to continue the fight against extreme poverty around the world.
As the President tied a bow around the morning with a heartfelt message about the need for bipartisanship and the importance of religious freedom worldwide, I couldn’t help but pray the moment of peace and harmony in that ballroom would last a little longer.
I believe someday, with God’s help, it will last forever.
“America was founded by people who believed that God was their rock of safety. I recognize we must be cautious in claiming that God is on our side, but I think it’s all right to keep asking if we’re on His side.” - Ronald Reagan
The trails at Torrey Pines may be beautiful, but after a nearly two-hour trek up and down the scenic paths recently, I needed a nap! Disappointed in my apparent lack of physical prowess, I crawled into my car and drove home only to find an encouraging e-mail from Janine that clearly explained why Torrey Pines had totally wiped me out.
Turns out, my walking partner and “techie” friend had been wearing her “Fitbit” as we trekked the trails that morning. The tiny tracking device on her wrist had recorded our every step…and more… synching wirelessly with her computer and smart phone.
The “Fitbit” computer readout justified my exhaustion. Distracted as we hiked, gabbed and enjoyed the scenery, Janine and I took nearly 19,000 steps, covering 7.71 miles – the equivalent of climbing 86 floors during 115 active minutes. (Does the Fitbit really know when we took photos and potty breaks??!!)
Actually, the tracker uses a three-dimensional accelerometer similar to that found in the Wii Remote, to sense user movement. Simply stated, the device measures steps taken, and combines it with user data to calculate distance walked, calories burned etc.
Speaking of calories, the trendy tracker claims we burned 2,372 calories that morning! (I find that hard to believe…but it sure sounds good!) No wonder I found myself later that day crashed on the couch eating spoonfuls of peanut butter straight from the jar!
These beefed up pedometers are making getting in shape as addictive as checking Facebook and Twitter. Janine wears her Fitbit “Force” all the time. She shoots for 10,000 steps a day, but with an added 4-mile run or “walk and talk” with a friend, can easily reach 20,000 steps.
“It keeps me motivated to get out there and get active on days I’m at my desk on the computer,” says Janine. “When I check my Fitbit and realize how few steps I’ve taken, I make it a point to get moving!”
I’m always late to the party when it comes to embracing new technology…but this is just too fun to pass up. Plus, these new-fangled trackers even allow you to compete with your friends.
Waddaya say, Janine?
Note: The Fitbit “Force” used by Janine has recently been recalled, not for any defect in the device, but because a few users have experienced contact dermatitis (skin rashes) where the tracker comes in contact with their wrists possibly from the nickel used in the band. Fitbit is replacing the device with one minus the nickel and offering a full refund to their customers.
True or false: You’ll get fat if you eat at night; high fructose corn syrup makes you gain weight; and caffeine is bad for you.
As a health and fitness reporter over the last three decades, the correct answers to these dietary dilemmas could go either way depending on the most recent study. As a reporter and consumer, I find that frustrating.
Well, there may finally be some clarity when it comes to caffeine, carbs, salt, fat and other nutrition and food myths – compliments of the American Dietetic Association. At their recent annual meeting in Chicago, food experts gathered from around the world to separate the science from the silliness issuing the truth behind 10 common diet myths.
In this writing, we’ll bust five diet myths….
Myth: Eating at night makes you fat.
Reality: Calories count whenever you eat them. The American Dietetic Association’s (ADA) Dr. Christine Rosenbloom notes some small studies with mixed results, tests on animals and a belief that because eating breakfast is linked to lower BMI… eating at night isn’t as good. But the science isn’t there. All in all, it’s your calorie total that matters – day or night.
Myth: Avoid foods with a high glycemic index.
Reality: You could use the glycemic index to adjust your food choices, but don’t make it your sole strategy for losing weight or controlling blood sugar. According to the ADA, for those people who are already counting carbs, this can be a way for them to fine-tune their food choices, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all for weight loss.
Myth: High fructose corn syrup causes weight gain.
Reality: This may sound sacrilegious to some, but there’s probably nothing particularly evil about high fructose corn syrup compared to regular old sugar. This diet myth arose in 2003 when researchers noticed that obesity was rising, along with the use of high fructose corn syrup. The speculation was maybe we handle high fructose corn syrup differently than we do sugar, but there’s no evidence to support that. Beyond its calories, the American Medical Association recently concluded that high fructose corn syrup doesn’t contribute to obesity.
Myth: Caffeine is unhealthy.
Reality: The ADA’s Dr. Rosenbloom says there is some evidence that caffeine may have a positive effect on some diseases including gout and Parkinson’s disease…besides caffeine’s famous alertness buzz. Also, caffeine does not dehydrate people who consume it regularly another commonly held belief. However, Dr. Rosenbloom does caution that caffeine isn’t always listed on product labels and children who drink a lot of caffeinated energy drinks may intake more caffeine than their parents expect. “Kids tend to guzzle these things,” she warns, “whereas an adult may sip a beverage.”
Myth: The less fat you eat, the better.
Reality: For some people, counting fat grams can work for weight control, but it’s not the only way. The ADA reports that people with heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome may benefit from adding a little healthy fat – the monounsaturated kind and cutting back on carbs. But they shouldn’t increase their overall fat intake. Just swap saturated fat for unsaturated fat. Balance is key says Dr. Rosenbloom. “If you go to an Italian restaurant and have triple-cheese-meat-sausage lasagna then have a little olive oil on your bread, you’re not doing much for your heart.
Next month, we’ll examine five more nutrition myths. You can take it all with a grain of salt, but should it be table salt or sea salt? We’ll bust that myth, too.