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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Experience Life Magazine

It’s a Dog’s Life

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In addition to being cute, pets improve our lives. Copious studies have shown that pets can make our lives happier and healthier, but numerous personal anecdotes also support this thesis. Here are some of those studies and some of those anecdotes:

A study this summer found that pets are important sources of emotional support for “everyday people,” not just individuals facing significant health challenges.

You can recruit them to help you at work (that is, of course, if you want every story you’re writing to be about bacon).

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The dog-as-assistant plan works really well until your dog jumps to catch a squirrel out the window and you go flying backward.

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A study this past spring found that young children who are exposed to dogs and cats are less likely to develop allergies to pets.

People with dogs are 34% likelier to meet federal benchmarks for physical activity.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110310151218.htm

You can force your dog to wear an old Santa Bear hat at Christmas!

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Kids who read books to dogs experience gains in their reading ability.

Dogs can sniff out some early-stage cancers.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110131194319.htm

When you see two dogs cuddling you will be overwhelmed with powerful feelings of happiness and, for a split second, your life will feel totally fulfilled. 

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Experience Life Magazine

Not to Scale

This blog started because of a conversation I overheard at a coffee shop. I didn’t mean to listen, but the café was crowded and the five women at the table next to me were squished around the tiniest table in the room, discussing their recovery from eating disorders.

It was just then that I opened my work-related TweetDeck feeds, which constantly blip with tweets about the latest diet, fitness and health news.

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As you might expect at a healthy living magazine, the topic of what to eat is an ongoing thing. While Experience Life has a firm (but, gentle) stance on what constitutes a healthy diet, we still monitor the latest diet trends, government guidelines and blogs from our favorite slow foodies, non-GMO activists, locavores, and various omnivorous, vegan and paleo-evangelists.

I applaud (and am part of) the ever-growing movement fighting to help make food safer, more accessible and affordable. And, of course, I want more people to get educated on who grows and cares for their food, as well as how and where it’s grown. I’m guessing that most people reading this can probably get down with all that. But there are some things the women at the table next to me reminded me of and made me question.

Are we concerned with what we’re consuming (or don’t), or is it consuming us? Certainly, we’re searching for health and happiness, but I suspect we’re also looking for acceptance. And, I suspect we all have some control and body image issues of our own that we could work on. “Healthy” eaters, let’s face it: We, too, may benefit from a support group. We share many things in common with those women at the table next to me. Just like them, we live in a society that has an unhealthy relationship with food.

We’ve got citizens with growing waistlines and those killing themselves with their desire to achieve “thinness.” We’ve got people who don’t have enough food, yet we waste a lot of food.

We live in a society where people, particularly women, are praised (by strangers and well-meaning loved ones alike) for being thin. We throw the word “fat” around about others and ourselves as though being deemed fat might be the very worst thing you could ever be.

I went to the gym the other day to use the sauna, which has a scale located outside of it. There wasn’t ONE single woman who walked by that didn’t step on that scale — 17 out of 17!  These women were of various shapes, races, heights and ages. They were all lovely. Each had presumably finished some kind of workout. Yet, before they left the gym, they were all driven to visit the scale. Each paused prior to stepping on it as though their life depended upon the information they were about to receive. Once they were on they scale, they quickly glanced up at the ceiling where the scale reader is and hurriedly rushed off. The whole process reminded me of how I feel when I take my terrible-tasting vitamin tablets in the morning. Just hold your nose and swallow.

Some time when you’re at the gym, sit near the scale (I’m sure there will be at least one) and try this sociological experiment. Or, better still, next time you’re wondering how much you weigh, instead focus on how you feel and ask yourself why you want to know.

When you’re at the gym, check yourself. Are you looking at other people working out and making comparisons? “Wow, that dude sure can lift a lot of weight.” “Wow, she sure is skinny.” “Oh, man, she or he probably shouldn’t wear spandex until after dropping a few pounds.”

Next time a friend, family member, partner or co-worker loses weight, before you stop and say, “WOW, you LOOK GREEAAAT,” stop and ask why that’s the societal default statement. I know it’s meant to be supportive and a compliment. But, did that individual not look great before? Did you not love them before? Better yet, instead of complimenting other people, look in the mirror and say it to yourself

Experience Life Magazine

Waterlogged

Jun10_DrinkHealth1.jpgLast week, after the official launch of the magazine’s new healthy-living app, I decided to use the “101 Ways to Be Healthy” to help me improve my own life. Because the last few weeks have been challenging for me for several reasons, I decided that, rather than using the “Surprise Me!” option, I would consciously choose one of the 101 Ways that would be easy for me to integrate into my life. With that in mind, I figured, what could be easier than #40: Drink a lot of H20?

Or so I thought. The first thing I did was read “How to Hydrate,” from our December 2007 issue, to find out exactly how much was “a lot of water.” The article states that the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., recommends at least 91 ounces a day for women and 125 ounces for men. It sure seemed like a lot, almost 50 percent more than the typical “eight 8-ounce glasses a day” that everybody seems to know. But if an organization as official-sounding as the Institute of Medicine is recommending it, who am I to second-guess? (Note: one of our editors checked their Web site a few weeks ago and, while the original article is four years old, the Institute still stands by those recommendations.)

I’m into my second week, and I have to admit that it’s been difficult. The most that I drank during the first week was 44 ounces. That was on the first day, and the numbers decreased every day from there. And I even like water! It’s really all I drink, and I carry a water bottle with me wherever I go. But I realized that I only reach for that bottle when I feel thirsty, and at that point I’m probably already pretty dehydrated, according to what I’ve been reading. I knew that I would have to make more a conscious effort to drink regularly throughout the day, rather than relying of physical clues.

So, I decided first thing Monday morning to give myself a hydration head start: I drank 24 ounces of water right after I woke up. Within my first hour at work, I had drunk probably another 12 ounces. I was feeling pretty good about my progress so far and continued that way throughout the day. But even by late morning, I was seeing drawbacks from such a drastic spike in my water intake: by 11:15, I had already used the bathroom three times (I joked with my coworkers that I might be more productive if I moved my desk in there), I swear I felt like I had water in my ears, and not only was I not hungry, my stomach was so full that I even felt a little sick. I did nothing but snack all day long.

But I was determined to finish the day out meeting my goal, and I did. By that evening I had reached 91 ounces and, weirdly enough, later that night I felt thirsty and probably drank another six ounces. But yesterday I was practically aquaphobic — I’d be surprised if I drank even eight ounces for the day.

I think I’ve taken away two things from this first revolutionary attempt to be healthy: Lasting change, like many things, is often a lot easier and more manageable in small chunks. For somebody who drinks and average of 24-30 ounces of water a day, 44 ounces last week was a substantial improvement. I need to take the time to celebrate that success instead of pushing myself to double that amount and turn myself off water altogether.

Also, I need to remember to listen to my body more. I tend to take recommended amounts and measurements very literally, never accounting for individual factors. From what I understand, that’s why I’ll never be a fabulous cook, but I could be an amazing baker if I wanted. I find it hard to believe that anything that makes you feel sick is good. Apparently, 91 ounces of water was too much for me, at least at this point. As I increase the amount of water I drink gradually, I need to be cognizant of that tipping point where I go from feeling healthier to feeling nauseated. And if that amount is 91 ounces or more, so be it. But if it’s less, I need to trust that my body is serving me correctly.

If you’ve downloaded the app and have been (or are planning to) use it to make healthy changes, I would love to hear how it’s working for you!

Experience Life Magazine

One Year Left

This week, I turn 29 years old. With only one year left of my 20s, I’ve decided it’s time to get moving on some of the goals that have been sitting stagnant for quite a while. I mean, how great is going to feel to have accomplished all of this by the time I turn the big 3-0?!

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  • Complete my third half marathon (I have absolutely zero desire to do a marathon, for those of you who may be wondering why I don’t just go the next step — 13.1 is JUUUST right for me).
  • Complete an individual sprint triathlon and a team International triathlon.
  • Begin a 200-hour Yoga Alliance-certified yoga teacher training program.
  • Plant a REAL garden. In the ground. (A few potted plants are OK.) 
  • Try rock climbing — I’m inspired by my fellow team member, Jocelyn, who has been rocking the climbing wall.
  • Go on a yoga retreat, even if it’s just for a weekend. 

I’ll track my progress toward these various ambitions here throughout the next year. It’ll keep me accountable, and launch me into my 30s on a very high note!

My younger sister, Jenna, and me (left), after completing the Madison Half-Marathon in May 2009. It was her first, my second. I cut seven minutes off of my time. Here’s to finishing my third in under two hours!

Experience Life Magazine

Falling

Man down.

Well, it was actually just me suffering another injury this summer. Every year I seem to get an injury that sidelines me from my pursuits. This time it was badly tearing my hamstring while waterskiing, a sport I hadn’t done in about 35 years. Getting up on skis wasn’t hard, but I kept falling each time I got outside the wake. Then, on the final fall, it felt like my leg went one way while my body went another.

The tear swelled up into a ball, which I iced for a few days. Then, the telltale bruising appeared, and the black-and-blue mass spread from my butt to below my knee.

I value my muscles and depend on them like good friends. They’ve carried me through trail runs and bike rides and across alpine ski runs and Nordic marathons. So, following this injury, I felt disappointed and angry at myself for getting hurt: I shouldn’t have waterskied, I thought, and now I’m out of commission for the summer. No golfing, riding, running, roller skiing, tennis. Summer is not a good time to be laid up.

I am always grateful for my good fortune of being healthy and fit enough to enjoy the amazing things I do with my body. But there’s nothing like not being able to do them to make me appreciate them even more.

Now, after some good physical therapy, the summer has passed and I’ve resumed bike riding, a little running, and roller skiing, and my mood has improved too.

Dealing with an injury requires all sorts of adjustments: managing your disappointments and expectations, finding hope while you rehab, being patient while looking to the future.

It’s nice to be up and moving again.