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Image: Syda Productions / Shutterstock

Image: Syda Productions / Shutterstock

Dear MyFitnessPal,

Man.

I can’t believe it’s already been a year.

I remember downloading you like it was yesterday. We sure have been through some ups and downs. I have been frustrated and angry with you whenever I felt your steel-eyed glare as I glanced lovingly at a donut. I am sure you have felt frustrated with me when I have gone 300 calories over my goal of losing one pound per week and then stealthily changed my preferences so that I was now aiming for “maintain weight.” And we certainly hated each other during the throes of the holiday season, during which I poured gallons of egg-nog down my throat. You looked on with tears in your eyes. You were powerless.

Yet through it all we have remained friends. Friends who fight often, to be sure, but, hey, Fred Flintstone would often punch Barney in the face and they remained true bros. You have helped me get in shape. You have assisted me in breaking my food choices down so that I know exactly what I need and in what increments. I now know the virtues of planning out one’s meals at the beginning of the day. You showed me that knowing what I will have for dinner before the sun has risen eliminates a lot of stress. I knew that 28 grams of Wheat Thins would allow me to enjoy my favorite squared snack at a reasonable amount. I can enjoy what I’m putting in my mouth without worry.

Yes, MyFitnessPal. I do admit it. I downloaded you as a measure to lose weight. I saw some photos and was rather disgusted to see that I had become slightly girthier while on my jolly holiday. DISGUSTED, I say! How dare I eat a slice of that famous New York apple fritter! I try not to think about weight too much but that, invariably, leads to thinking about weight too much. Even just a slight plump of my belly sends me down a spiral of shame, second-guessing everything and eating things I know I don’t want to eat but have to eat anyway because they are deemed “healthy” by society at large. And, of course, I deny the delicious, unhealthy foods which beckon to me like that fox and that cat from Pinocchio. When truly anxious, I would eat only the barest amount of food to get at least a modicum of sustenance. Pepperoni slices and cereal, guys! And of course keeping your food intake low is a sure fire way to speed up the bullet train to depression.

MyFitnessPal, you tried. Don’t blame yourself. It was all me. I was the one who saw the calorie goals that you helpfully displayed and saw them as impossible mountains to scale. I began evaluating food based on how many calories they contained and not because I actually wanted to eat them. Isn’t it interesting how four numbers can strike fear into your heart? It made me feel like I wasn’t eating food, I was eating math.

One thing that you did do that I appreciate greatly was that you pushed me to exercise more. And, surprise surprise, I learned that my psychology improves! My day becomes shinier and my brain becomes less irritated with everything! It is a wonder how much a bucket of sweat can improve your mood! As an added bonus, all that time spent in the gym introduced me to the wonderful MTV show Catfish, which played on the television right above the treadmill. Thank you for that recommendation! It has become appointment viewing since then, a staple of my life. It is wonderful to bask in the schadenfreude while I adjust the incline and feel more powerful. I thank you deeply.

And yet, the slippage does occur. I mentioned how the holidays can really do a number on you. In fact, they can be like Snidely Whiplashes tying your appetite to a train track. That was certainly the case for me. It’s impossible for me to think of the word “holiday” and not associate it with food. I mean, come on. It’s the only time of year when the Oreo corporation pushes out their amazing white-chocolate-covered Oreos, which you pretty much have to hoard because they aren’t going to be around for long. There’s alcohol with holiday spices like ginger and cinnamon and egg-nog. As an added difficulty for me, I am Jewish. That means that I celebrate Channukah which is a holiday celebrating oil and so all Channukah foods are filled with sweet, sweet grease. Donuts and fried potato pancakes, guys.

And then the beginning of the year rolls back around. I am always affected by seasons and, after the buildup of the holidays, my brain tends to plummet into the sad greyness of January. I think about the previous two months and everything I shoved down my gullet and weep.

“Why did I do that?” I mutter to myself while ordering a pizza.

That’s when the drop happens and I stop thinking about food and exercise so much. There are movies that are nominated for Oscars that I need to see! Friends have returned from long vacations with family! My mind just kind of drifts away and I stop returning your phone calls.

Months go by. Some days I log my meals. Some days I don’t. I am not one to try and get a “swimsuit body” so I do not have much motivation to get in shape for the summer days of the burning hellfire that is Texas heat. When I came out of the holidays, I felt like I came out of some sort of commune where I learned that food could be delicious again. The calories don’t really matter, just as long as you’re not eating it by the truckful.

We are now at a year since we first met, MyFitnessPal. I think, if anything, I have learned that my body is indeed trying to tell me things while I am eating food. When I feel myself get hungry, I do not have to suppress that feeling just because it is not close to a mealtime. When it tells me that I am getting full, I should stop eating or else it will literally hurt me. Weight, really, does not matter at all.

“It’s all about how you feel on a particular day, buddy,” you said.

So it took all this time but I think we can finally shake hands and be friends again. I feel like we have reached the end of a buddy road comedy when you ask me to be the best man at your wedding to FitBit. You have definitely helped me improve my overall state of wellbeing and for that I could give you a giant hug.

Wanna get something to eat?

Love,

Jeremy Moran

Food

How to get the ball rolling on eating healthier

You may want to start eating healthier, but getting the ball rolling can be an uphill endeavor.

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Make a List

Make a list

congerdesign / Pixabay

When you get hungry, the last thing you feel like doing is running down a mental list of available healthy foods to eat. That’s why you probably end up grabbing whatever is closest to you and chowing down, vowing to start eating healthy tomorrow.

Instead, sit down and make a list of foods that you determine to be healthiest for you and your goals. Don’t just write a shopping list. Make a list of actual meals that you can prepare and eat. Include what day you’re going to have them, and what time. The more prepared you are when hunger strikes, the more likely you will be to have something ready without having to think too hard about it.

Buy a Cookbook

 

Cookbook

RitaE / Pixabay

Flipping through a cookbook with enticing photographs of healthy food will get you inspired to start eating healthy. Buy a cookbook or two that has nothing but healthy food recipes. Make sure it has a photo for every recipe, so you can visualize yourself dining on the healthy options. Put bookmarks on pages that really make you want to get up and start cooking. These are the dishes that will offer you the best motivation to start your new healthy eating plan. Alternatively, you can create your own cookbook by searching around the internet for healthy recipes and saving them to your phone or computer.

Buy Some New Clothes

Clothing store

Pexels / Pixabay

Wearing the same clothes every day when you already feel unattractive can keep you in a negative rut that’s hard to get out of. Put on your favorite pair of jeans, jacket, whatever, and go shopping for some new clothes. Buy a few that fit you now, and something special that you can work toward fitting into after you’ve achieved your weight goal. The change will help you to see yourself as someone new and fresh who is capable of switching eating habits for the better.

Stop Looking in the Mirror

Girl looking in mirror

StockSnap / Pixabay

If your appearance really gets you down, stop obsessing over your flaws in the mirror. Seriously, you don’t need a visual examination over every wrinkle or bulge. Just stop looking in the mirror, get dressed, and be on your merry way. Wait at least a month before you give yourself a once over again. This time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, instead of walking away thinking how bad you look.

Buy a Cool Scale

Smart scale with tape measure

mojzagrebinfo / Pixabay

If you’re trying to lose weight (or even gain weight), having a cool scale will make the process easier to measure progress. Get yourself a digital scale that measures ounces as well as pounds. They even have scales that speak your weight, if that’s what you need to keep motivated to eat healthier. Just don’t weigh yourself every day, because daily fluctuations in weight are normal, and have little to do with your eating habits. If you gain a couple ounces after eating healthy all day, you could lose motivation to continue to eat healthy. Every three days or so is sufficient to track your progress and measure your results.

Choose Restaurants With Healthy Food

Healthy food on restaurant table

StockSnap / Pixabay

If cooking isn’t your thing, choose some local restaurants that serve healthy foods with wholesome ingredients. Keep a list of these restaurants at hand so that when you come home late from work and don’t feel like cooking, you’ll have a backup plan that doesn’t involve Domino’s Pizza.

Invest in Partitioned Storage Containers

Plastic food storage container

MMT / Pixabay

If you’re short on time like most of us, you need some quick options for meals every now and then. Invest in some portioned storage containers so you can make your own version of TV dinners. Instead of pudding and mashed potatoes, fill them with things like brown rice, steamed broccoli, and turkey breast. Prepare them ahead of time and stack in your refrigerator or freezer. Just pop one in the microwave when all you can think about is flopping on the couch in front of the television.

The key to getting the ball rolling to start eating healthier is to be prepared. When you stock up on the tools that will help you reach your goals, get ready for instances when there’s no time to cook, and be kind to yourself by not obsessing over your image, you stand a pretty good chance of improving your eating habits for good.

 

WATCH: Tips for Getting Your Significant-Other to Eat Healthier

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Health

Is Coffee Good or Bad for You? Myth vs. Fact

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coffee in white mug with smiley face
THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.

If you Google “coffee+health” and click on a random result, there’s about an equal chance you’ll be told it’s either bad for your health or that it significantly reduces your risk of some disease or other. So it’s understandable that there’s a lot of confusion about whether you should or shouldn’t be having your beloved morning cup of Joe.

The trouble is, both sides of the argument have the backing of scientific research. So what’s the truth—is coffee good or bad for us? Let’s find out by taking a look at some of the big claims:

Coffee Is Addictive

This is true to some extent, but not to the point where it would cause you the same problems as, say, alcohol or heroin. It all hinges on whether there’s some form of chemical dependence there, or whether people just drink coffee out of habit. In some cases, long-term users who attempt to give up coffee may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headache and lethargy, which might compel them to keep drinking the stuff. But the research says that coffee simply doesn’t fit the criteria to be labelled an addictive substance.

Coffee Can Help With Weight Loss

Yep, this one is true. There is plenty of evidence that caffeine consumption temporarily boosts thermogenesis (metabolism), and studies like this one show that it can increase fat burning by as much as 10-29 percent. Plus, the nervous energy you get from coffee means you’ll be more likely to drag your ass off the couch and get some exercise. With that said, don’t be fooled into thinking that more is better. Too much caffeine can cause insomnia, anxiety, adrenal fatigue and a range of other nasty side-effects.

Coffee Causes Cancer and Other Diseases

This is almost certainly myth. In fact, our most up-to-date research shows that coffee can actually help improve or protect against conditions like type 2 diabetes, liver cancer and Parkinson’s disease. The misconception about coffee and disease probably comes from the fact that previous research neglected to take associated high-risk behaviours like smoking and lack of physical activity into account, but we know better now. Too much coffee will certainly lead to negative side effects, but life-threatening diseases? Nope.

So what’s the verdict then—is coffee good or bad for you? First of all, I don’t agree with the belief held by some that drinking coffee is not a health decision; disregarding the impact it has on your physiology is simply not wise. However, unless you’re drinking silly amounts of it every day or you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, the effect coffee has on your longevity is probably going to be quite marginal.

If you’re not a coffee drinker but you’re considering getting into it for the health benefits, I’d say don’t bother. There are far more meaningful changes you could make, such as cleaning up your diet, upping your exercise, or even substituting green tea instead. If you are a coffee drinker, just make sure you’re not using it as an energy crutch—stick to 1-2 cups max early in the day, and go decaf after that.

Q: What’s your take on the whole coffee and health argument? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!

David CarrollDavid Carroll is a freelance writer, self-published author, and chief health-nut at thepaleotoolkit.com. Outside of work, he loves hurling (an amazing Irish sport), playing video games and hanging out with his dogs. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidAshCarroll) and Google+.

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Health

Scientists Develop New Type of Cell That Could Revolutionize the Treatment of Heart Disease

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THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.

Heart disease has consistently been one of the biggest killers of both men and women, with hundreds of thousands of families losing loved ones to the condition every year. But now a new study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell has identified a possible breakthrough in the treatment of heart disease, offering hope to anyone suffering from a dodgy ticker. The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the Gladstones Institutes, who have discovered a way to make a remarkable new type of cell that could help damaged hearts repair themselves.

Heart failure occurs when the heart is overworked or the supply of oxygen is too low. A sudden attack can cause the loss of huge amounts of important muscle cells known as cardiomyocytes (CMs). These CMs cannot regenerate by themselves, nor can they be replaced because transplanted heart cells tend not to survive in the patient’s body. As you can imagine, this makes the treatment of heart disease quite tricky; since heart cells can’t regenerate or be replaced, the damage is usually irreversible. “Scientists have tried for decades to treat heart failure by transplanting adult heart cells, but these cells cannot reproduce themselves, and so they do not survive in the damaged heart,” said Yu Zhang, MD, PhD, one of the lead authors of the study.

To overcome this dilemma, the team investigated the possibility of regenerating the heart using progenitors—stem cells that have already been programmed to develop into a specific type of cell. In this case, they targeted cardiovascular progenitor cells (CPCs), which are produced as the heart begins to form within the embryo. Using a revolutionary technique, the team were able to produce CPCs in the lab and halt their development so the cells remained effectively “frozen” until use. They called these lab-grown cells “induced expandable CPCs,” or ieCPCs.

Unlike adult heart cells, ieCPCs have the ability to replicate. If transplanted successfully, they could replace a patient’s damaged heart cells and possibly continue to self-repair. “Our generated ieCPCs can prolifically replicate and reliably mature into the three types of cells in the heart, which makes them a very promising potential treatment for heart failure,” said Zhang. To test this theory, the team injected some of the cells into a mouse that had suffered a heart attack. Remarkably, most of the cells transformed into functioning heart cells, generating new muscle tissue and blood vessels and improving the mouse’s overall heart function.

So what does all this mean for the treatment of heart disease? Well, it’s definitely big news. The cells used to treat the mouse were derived from skin cells, which means a patient’s own cells could potentially be used to treat their heart disease. The next step is to try and form human ieCPCs in the lab, and then follow up with human trials to see if the method is as effective. All going well, this could be a viable treatment for heart disease patients within the next few years.

Q: Is this the most important breakthrough yet in the field of heart disease research? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Copyright 2016 David Carroll

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