Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Alcohol and Fat Loss

Drinking alcohol on the weekend may not seem like a huge deal, but for those trying to lose weight, you may want to rethink your alcohol intake.  A study released by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition sheds some light on the effects alcohol plays on metabolism and ultimately, fat loss.  A sample of men were given just two drinks of vodka and sugar-free lemonade.  Each drink contained under 90 calories and were spread apart by 30 minutes.  Fat burning was measured before and after each drink.

Studies showed that a persons fat burning potential was significantly slowed after ingesting alcohol.  The ability to burn fat decreased by a whopping 73% in the test subjects after just two drinks.  It appeared that 5% of the alcohol itself was converted to fat, with the remaining being converted to a chemical called acetate.  It seems this acetate is the reason behind the significant slowing of fat burning potential.

The reason for this being, is that alcohol takes over as the primary fuel of the body when ingested.  The body stops burning fat, and even carbohydrates when alcohol is present.  This continues until all alcohol stores have been depleted from the body. 

As all of us are aware, alcohol can wreak havoc on a weight loss plan by causing those midnight munchies.  How often have we opted for that double bacon cheeseburger on the way home from the bar?  During our regular, sober lives, we may never even think twice, but when we come home a little tipsy, and we’re hungry, we very well may stop.  Researchers also learned that people who consume beer or wine with a meal will consume more total calories than those who are not drinking alcohol.  The study seemed to indicate that alcohol greatly increases appetite.

Now, putting these two bits of knowledge together, what have we learned? 

  • A person consumes a couple of glasses of wine or beer with dinner.
  • That person would typically eat more calories than if they had not consumed alcohol.
  • Alcohol becomes the main source of fuel for the body, thereby limiting fat burning potential.
  • The calories consumed from the meal are stored as fat because of the limited fat burning potential alcohol induces.
  • Weight loss stops, weight gain occurs.

Simple as that.  If you are serious about wanting to lose weight, you really need to refrain from drinking alcohol as often as possible.  Once or twice a month isn’t going to blow you up, but if you spend Thursday-Saturday nights out drinking, you may run into some serious issues with your weight loss plan.

12 Easy Ways to Supercharge Your Brain

Have you ever felt exasperated when you bumped into someone at the store but absolutely couldn’t remember their name? Sure, it happens to all of us.

Despite being the strongest computer on the planet, our brains do lapse. It’s hard to blame them really. As humans, we spend much of or existence stuffing our brains with stuff.

No matter how powerful our brains are, they need recuperation time to be kept in shape. Think of it as a tune up for your brain. Skipping brain maintenance is as silly as the person wandering the parking garage because they forgot where they parked. Is that you? Are you that person? If so, fear not; we are all that person at some point.

Now I am not a brain surgeon and I am not going to suggest you do anything surgical or dangerous. I am however an astute student of human behavior so I always look for simple ways to super charge my brain.

Here are some things you can begin doing as soon as today to begin the great brain tune up:

Eat Almonds
Almond is believed to improve memory. If a combination of almond oil and milk is taken together before going to bed or after getting up at morning, it strengthens our memory power. Almond milk is prepared by crushing the almonds without the outer cover and adding water and sugar to it.

Drink Apple Juice
Research from the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) indicates that apple juice increases the production of the essential neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain, resulting in an increased memory power.

Sleep well
Research indicates that the long-term memory is consolidated during sleep by replaying the images of the experiences of the day. These repeated playbacks program the subconscious mind to store these images and other related information.

Enjoy simple Pleasures
Stress drains our brainpower. A stress-ridden mind consumes much of our memory resources to leave us with a feeble mind. Make a habit to engage yourself in few simple pleasures everyday to dissolve stress from your mind. Some of these simple pleasures are good for your mind, body and soul.

  • Enjoy music you love
  • Play with your children
  • Appreciate others
  • Run few miles a day, bike or swim
  • Start a blog
  • Take a yoga class or Total Wellness routine

Exercise your mind
Just as physical exercise is essential for a strong body, mental exercise is equally essential for a sharp and agile mind. Have you noticed that children have far superior brainpower than an adult does? Children have playful minds. A playful mind exhibits superior memory power. Engage in some of the activities that require your mind to remain active and playful.

  • Play scrabble or crossword puzzle
  • Volunteer
  • Interact with others
  • Start a new hobby such as blogging, reading, painting, bird watching
  • Learn new skill or a foreign language

Practice Yoga or Meditation
Yoga or Meditation relives stress. Stress is a known memory buster. With less stress, lower blood pressure, slower respiration, slower metabolism, and released muscle tension follows. All of these factors contribute significantly towards increases in our brainpower.

Reduce Sugar intake
Sugar is a non-food. It’s a form of carbohydrate that offers illusionary energy, only to cause a downhill slump once the initial burst has been worn off. Excess intake of sugar results in neurotic symptoms. Excess sugar is known to cause claustrophobia, memory loss and other neurotic disorders. Eat food without adding sugar. Stay away from sweet drinks or excess consumption of caffeine with sugar.

Eat whole wheat
The whole wheat germs contain lecithin. Lecithin helps ease the problem of the hardening of the arteries, which often impairs brain functioning.

Eat a light meal at night
A heavy meal at night causes tossing and turning and a prolonged emotional stress while at sleep. It’s wise to eat heavy meal during the day when our body is in motion to consume the heavy in-take. Eating a light meal with some fruits allows us to sleep well. A good night sleep strengthens our brainpower.

Develop imagination
Greeks mastered the principle of imagination and association to memorize everything. This technique requires one to develop a vivid and colorful imagination that can be linked to a known object. If you involve all your senses – touching, feeling, smelling, hearing and seeing in the imagination process, you can remember greater details of the event.

Control your temper
Bleached food, excess of starch or excess of white bread can lead to nerve grating effect. This results in a violent and some time depressive behavior. Eat fresh vegetables. Drink lots of water and meditate or practice yoga to relieve these toxic emotions of temper and stressful mood swings.

Take Vitamin B-complex
Vitamin B-complex strengthens memory power. Eat food and vegetables high in Vitamin B-complex. Stay away from the starch food or white bread, which depletes the Vitamin B-complex necessary for a healthy mind.

I don’t believe these are that tough. If you find yourself increasing stumped, give a couple of these a try.

Article by Shilpan Patel

Building Muscle on a Budget

Protein is the building blocks of muscle.  No matter how hard you workout in the gym, if you aren’t getting adequate protein, your hard-fought efforts will be in vain.  The problem is supplementation is typically extraordinarily expensive, steak isn’t exactly cheap, and no one can eat only chicken every day.  Below are 10 tips to add protein to your diet without breaking the bank.

  1. Canned tuna.  Coming in at 40g per gan, tuna is a great source of protein and other valuable nutrients.  Look for tuna packed in water to avoid excess fat.  1 can of tuna per day is perfectly safe for those worried about mercury levels.
  2. Egg whites.  Egg whites can be purchased for cheap at Costco, where a pack of 6 cartons runs you about $7.  With 7 grams of protein per serving, egg whites are a cheap and effective way to add protein to your diet.
  3. Whey protein powder.  Whey protein is typically expensive.  In fact, the stuff is often marked up almost 5,000%.  To get this stuff on the cheap, go to Costco again where a 6 pound bag is only $26.99.  You will not find this stuff cheaper than that, anywhere.
  4. Milk.  Milk is a decent source of protein and extremely cheap per serving.  If you are looking to pack on the muscle mass, aim to consume half a gallon of milk per day.
  5. Chicken breasts.  If you are paying more than $2 per pound, you are shopping at the wrong places.  Once again, Costco has 10 pounds of frozen chicken breast for $19.99.  If you have a Henry’s near you, you can pick up higher quality chicken breasts for $1.99 per pound on Wednesdays.
  6. Cottage cheese.  With 12 grams of protein per serving, cottage cheese is a great source of protein and relatively cheap.  Dairy proteins are best taken before bed because they are slower digesting.
  7. Ground beef.   Forget about the fat content for just a minute.  Buy the 80% ground beef and pack on 25 grams of protein per serving.  The fatty cuts of ground beef are the cheapest as well.  Concerned about the fat?  Check out this free pdf that shows how to cut the fat content of your ground beef in half.
  8. Canned salmon.  Incredibly healthy and full of protein, canned salmon can be purchased for just a couple dollars a can at wholesale food stores.  Stock up and make this a lunch time staple.
  9. Ground turkey. Use the same method described above for ground beef to eliminate extra fat.  The cheaper cuts contain skin which increase fat content, but don’t worry because now you know how to eliminate it.
  10. Buy generic foods, buy in bulk, freeze everything.  Using a store like Costco for your food shopping will cut bills down considerably.  Just be prepared to freeze everything you won’t be eating in the next week or so. 

If you are trying to pack on serious muscle mass (which you should be!) you should be aiming to consume .7-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight; closer to 1 gram if you are a man.  Below is a very quick meal plan to help you add 200 grams of protein into your diet.

Meal 1: 3 egg whites with spinach and turkey breast

Meal 2:  2 servings cottage cheese with banana

Meal 3:  1 can of tuna with bok choy

Meal 4:  2 glasses of milk and handful of almonds

Meal 5:  1 protein shake made with milk

Meal 6: Marinated and grilled chicken breasts with steamed vegetables and brown rice

7 Easy, Healthy Lunches for Every Day of the Week

Lunch is sometimes a tricky meal for people.  Breakfast and dinner are typically eaten in the home, but lunch is usually smack in the middle of your busy workday. Even the most disciplined eaters will sometimes succumb to that double bacon cheeseburger just because it’s so easy.  Often times you don’t even want to eat the junk, it’s just easy, you’re hungry, and you didn’t bring anything else.

A little bit of planning can help you avoid that situation altogether.  By having a steady rotation of lunches you can easily make before bed, or in the morning before work, you will be able to eat healthy, cheap, and well, every day of the week.

Tuscan Chicken Salad

  • 8 oz. chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 can cannelloni beans
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

Mix together all ingredients in a bowl.  Serve on whole wheat toast, or wrap with a whole wheat tortilla wrap.

Chicken Fried Rice

  • 4 oz. chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup brown rice
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup finely diced garlic, bell peppers, and carrots
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cook brown rice according to package and set aside.  Saute vegetables in olive oil for 5 minutes.  Add chicken and cook for 4 minutes.  Add broth and simmer until almost evaporated.  Add egg whites and mix well.  Add soy sauce and mix well.  Serve over brown rice.

Stuffed Baked Sweet Potato

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1/8 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons low-fat cream cheese

Bake the sweet potato in the microwave for 10 minutes, or until soft.  Mash in remaining ingredients and serve.

Cold Shrimp Pasta

  • 6 oz cooked shrimp, chilled
  • 2 oz. cooked angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 cup broccoli florets, steamed
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower, steamed
  • 4 oz Italian dressing
  • Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Toss well and top with parmesan cheese.

Greek Turkey Burger

  • 4 oz ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup spinach
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 oz feta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • tomato slice
  • lettuce to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Lightly fold ingredients into turkey meat.  Grill until desire doneness.  Serve on a lightly toasted whole wheat bun.  Top with lettuce and tomato

Chicken Satay Skewers

  • 4 oz. chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons water

Slice chicken breasts into thin strips.  Combine all other ingredients in a plastic bag.  Marinate chicken strips in bag overnight.  Place on skewers and grill until done.

Pizza Roll Ups

  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • 2 oz prosciutto
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 2 tablespoons pizza sauce
  • 3 oz mozzarella cheese

Spread sauce on a whole wheat tortilla.  Top with prosciutto, spinach, and cheese.  Roll up and microwave 20 seconds.  Slice into bite sized pieces and enjoy.

Spend Less Time in the Gym and Burn More Calories

So many people think the more time they spend in the gym, the more calories they will have burned.  The thought of letting any of that weight creep back on that they’ve worked so hard to lose keeps them glued to the elliptical for hours on end.  Naturally, to keep yourself in the gym for 90 minutes or more, you will likely have to back off on the intensity a bit.  Some people ration their heart rate between the aerobic zone and the fat-burning zone.  While that may seem like it’s working wonders for you, the fact of that matter is it’s not.  You are wasting your time, plain and simple.

A quicker, more intense workout is much more effective than a slower, less intense, but longer workout.  A quick example of how to speed up a workout: instead of doing 3 sets of bench with rests between sets, followed by 30 minutes on the treadmill, try doing 1 set of bench, then jump on a treadmill and run at 90% for 5 minutes.  No rest whatsoever.  Repeat that combo two more times. 

While the above example may sound pretty rough, you will see results much faster and avoid the dreaded plateau.  A few other examples to make the most of your workout are listed below.

  • Using good form.  Doing 20 sets with bad form is just a waste of time.  3 sets of great form, lifting to failure is the best way to go.  You will make better use of your time and see results much faster.
  • Bump up the weight.  Ladies, listen up…lifting heavy weights will. not. make. you. bulky.  Period.  End of story.  If your routine is too easy and you are knocking out 15 reps like its nothing, it’s time to bump up the weight.  For one, you will spend less time lifting because the heavier weight will cause the muscle to fatigue sooner.  Also, in order for your muscles to grow (and you to get that lean, athletic appearance) you need to always be increasing weight over time.  If it is hard and uncomfortable at first, stick to it, that’s the sign it is going to help you reach your goals.
  • Stop using machines.  Machines are a complete waste of time in the gym.  Machines help assist you lift the weight.  They keep everything in a straight path and do not require the use of your stabilizer muscles.  If you aren’t using machines in a rehabilitation program, stay away.  Stick to free weights only. 
  • Keeping cardio and weight training exclusive.  There’s no reason you can’t do both to maximize your time in the gym.  An example to incorporate cardio into your weight routine:  Line up 6 dumbbells in a row, each increasing in weight by 5 pounds.  You will perform snatches with each dumbbell, starting with the lightest and doing 1 rep.  Continue all the way up until you hit the heaviest dumbbell.  Rest 10 seconds, then begin with 2 reps on the lightest.  Continue with this format until you reach 10 reps per dumbbell.

Doing Pilates at Home on an Exercise Ball

As you probably know by now, Share It Fitness will be bringing you live pilates classes directly to your homes.  Our goal is to show you that doing pilates, yoga, bootcamp, whatever doesn’t need to be done in an expensive studio.  You can have access to the same, or better quality trainers directly on the Share It Fitness website.

Pilates, for instance, is often done on an expensive reformer machine.  People pay good money to do their pilates on this machine led by an instructor.  However, pilates is versatile in that you can reap the same benefits by performing pilates with slider pads, your own body weight, or an exercise ball.  All you need is a certified instructor who can lead you through the motions.  It’s time we think outside the box and begin to step away from the broken business model that has health and fitness instructors making the same as doctors and lawyers.  Share It Fitness is here to show you how to achieve fitness through various means but without paying the exorbitant fees.

Below are some pilates exercises that are accomplished with nothing more than an exercise ball and a little space at home.  Enjoy.

Exercise Effects on the Brain

Exercise has been touted to do everything from treat depression to improve memory, with the power to cure a host of problems while preventing even more. In particular, exercise leads to the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that alleviate pain, both physical and mental. Additionally, it is one of the few ways scientists have found to generate new neurons. Much of the research done in this area has focused on running, but all types of aerobic exercise provide benefits. Although the exact nature of these benefits is still being determined, enough research has been done to provide even skeptics with a motivation to take up exercise. Exercise exerts its effects on the brain through several mechanisms, including neurogenesis, mood enhancement, and endorphin release. This paper not only examines how these mechanisms improve cognitive functioning and elevate mood states, but also proposes potential directions for future research. Furthermore, it provides an explanation for exercise’s generally non-habit forming nature, despite effects on the reward centers of the brain that mimic those of highly addictive drugs like morphine.

One of the most exciting changes that exercise causes is neurogenesis, or the creation of new neurons. The new neurons are created in the hippocampus, the center of learning and memory in the brain (1), however the exact mechanism behind this neurogenesis is still being explored. At a cellular level, it is possible that the mild stress generated by exercise stimulates an influx of calcium, which activates transcription factors in existing hippocampus neurons. The transcription factors initiate the expression of the BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) gene, creating BDNF proteins that act to promote neurogenesis (17). Thus the generation of BDNF is a protective response to stress, and BDNF acts not only to generate new neurons, but also to protect existing neurons and to promote synaptic plasticity (the efficiency of signal transmission across the synaptic cleft between neurons, generally considered the basis of learning and memory) (1, 3, 17). However, BDNF’s effects are more than protective, they are reparative. For example, in a comparison between sedentary and active mice, scientists found that active mice regenerated more sciatic axons post-injury than sedentary mice. This effect was not observed when the active mice were injected with a neurotrophin-blocking agent, indicating that exercise stimulates injured neurons to regenerate axons via neurotrophin-signaling mechanisms (3).

This reparative effect is particularly relevant to humans because the brain starts to lose nerve tissue beginning at age 30. Aerobic exercise reinforces neural connections by increasing the number of dendrite connections between neurons, creating a denser network, which is then better able to process and store information (4). This suggests possible preventative and therapeutic effects for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that progress via the loss of neurons. Indeed, a correlation between lifestyle and Alzheimer’s has already been demonstrated (6). In addition, exercise has been shown to decrease the loss of dopamine-containing neurons in mice with Parkinson’s (2).

There is a limit to the positive effects of neurotrophic factors, however. Mice bred to overexercise actually showed an inability to learn. A possible cause for this inability is the disruption of cognitive function by a preoccupation with exercise. The overexercising mice had elevated BDNF and neurogenesis, but the levels reached a plateau that did not increase with more exercise (14). This limitation is further illustrated by a study of exercise effects on a group of 60- to 75-year-olds versus a group of 18- to 24-year-olds. Sedentary 60- to 75-year-olds who began aerobic exercise demonstrated an improvement in executive cognitive functions, e.g. planning, scheduling, and working memory, while the group of 18- 24-year-olds did not. Brain-wave analysis showed a 35-millisecond faster brain response time post-exercise versus pre-exercise in the 18- to 24-year-olds. Essentially, less cognitive function was lost in 18- to 24-year-olds than in 60- to 75-year-olds, so there is less room for improvement, and that improvement will be less obvious (4). Apparently it is not possible to exercise to brilliance.

Fortunately, it may be possible to exercise to happiness. It has been shown that physically active people recover from mild depression more quickly, and physical activity is strongly correlated with good mental health as people age (7). Depression is related to low levels of certain neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine. Exercise increases concentrations of these neurotransmitters by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system (12). In addition, serotonin has a reciprocal relationship with BDNF, i.e. BDNF boosts serotonin production and serotonergic signaling stimulates BDNF expression (17). Since exercise also increases BDNF production directly, there is a reinforcement of the serotonin-BDNF loop, indicating exercise’s significant potential as a mood-enhancer.

In fact, a combination of exercise and antidepressants (which increase BDNF via the serotonin-BDNF loop) has been particularly effective in treating depressive behaviors in rats. The BDNF gene can be expressed in multiple forms, and physical activity increases the expression of two forms: one with fast but short antidepressive effects, and one with slow but longer antidepressive effects. By combining exercise with antidepressants (which increase the expression of the long-lasting form), scientists were able to both increase and accelerate the production of BDNF. The rats showed a decrease in depressive behaviors in two days instead of the two weeks experienced by those given antidepressants alone, indicating a potential therapy for depressed patients that produces almost immediate results (13).

There also seems to be a role for neurogenesis in the treatment of depression. Studies show that the hippocampus of depressed women can be up to 15% smaller than normal. In addition, there is a correlation between the decrease in size and the length of the depression. This damage may be reversed by BDNF-stimulated neurogenesis. Interestingly, the time it took for antidepressants to take effect is equal to the time needed to induce neurogenesis (16). All of these facts seem to point back to BDNF as the key chemical underlying exercise’s impact on the brain. Perhaps it is not exercise that has the curative power, but rather BDNF, and exercise is only the trigger.

Another factor to consider is endorphins, the chemicals released by the pituitary gland in response to stress or pain. They bind to opioid receptors in neurons, blocking the release of neurotransmitters and thus interfering with the transmission of pain impulses to the brain (12). Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins within approximately 30 minutes from the start of activity. These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria. There is some uncertainty around the cause of this euphoria since it’s not clear if endorphins are directly responsible for it, or if they just block pain and allow the pleasure associated with neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine to be more apparent (15). If the latter is true, this would indicate a connection to BDNF via the serotonin-BDNF loop. In this case, BDNF is again the underlying chemical providing the benefits of exercise, and endorphins act in a supporting role by blocking pain and reducing the cost associated with acquiring the benefits of exercise. The release of endorphins has an addictive effect, and more exercise is needed to achieve the same level of euphoria over time. In fact, endorphins attach to the same neuron receptors as opiates such as morphine and heroin (12). Yet, exercise is not nearly as addictive as these opiates; it’s not even as addictive as milder substances such as nicotine. It seems strange that an activity as beneficial as exercise, with a built-in mechanism for addiction, is so easy to give up. According to some polls, only about 15% of Americans say they exercise regularly (18).

The key to this seeming contradiction may lie in the delayed gratification experienced during exercise. Exercise differs from other addictions in that there is an initial amount of pain to endure before the euphoric payoff. The approximate 30-minute delay in the release of endorphins requires a certain level of fortitude that has not been cultivated by the American culture of video games, 30-second commercials, and various timesaving devices. In addition, exercising is made up of several tasks— putting on correct clothing, deciding on a form of exercise, maintaining adequate hydration, etc. Though each task may be mundane enough to form a habit, putting all the tasks together requires too much attention for exercise to be experienced entirely as a habit, which associates the reward or pleasure of completing a particular task with the first step of that task. In addition, the subconscious brain may use the feeling of fatigue as a regulated, anticipatory response to exercise in order to preserve homeostasis (8), possibly discouraging the continuance of exercise before the addictive euphoria is attained. If future research could find a way to trigger the release of endorphins at the start of physical activity, exercise might become more popular. Another possibility would be research around the synthesis of BDNF. If it really is the underlying chemical for all of exercise’s nervous system benefits, then making it safely and readily accessible could allow people to circumvent exercise altogether, at least in terms of the nervous system.

While exercise is attractive in theory, it can often be rather painful in actuality, and the discomfort of exercise is more immediately felt than its benefits. The delayed release of endorphins creates a lapse between the pain and the pleasure elements of physical activity. The next area for research could be finding ways to make the benefits of exercise more apparent while the exercise is actually occurring, thus satisfying the need for instant gratification and tipping the scales in favor of exercise.

Article by MK McGovern

Drop the Toys or Get Sued

It’s always good to see things like this in the news.  It’s no secret that McDonald’s uses happy meal toys to lure kids into wanting to eat their food.  Of course, they make no effort to make these happy meals healthy for children.  These meals are full of highly processed meats, sodium, and fat.  That pretty much sums it up.  With the escalating child obesity problem in this country, parents need to be much more careful about what they feed their children.  A happy meal every now and again is fine, but don’t make it a weekly thing. 

A nutrition watchdog group is threatening to sue McDonald’s if the fast-food giant won’t stop using toys to to lure children to its Happy Meals .

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said Tuesday that it has served McDonald’s notice of its intent to sue over what it says is unfair and deceptive marketing.

“McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,” CSPI’s litigation director, Stephen Gardner, said in a prepared statement. “It’s a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction.”

In its notice letter, CSPI says that McDonald’s toy-related promotions violate state consumer protection laws in four states and the District of Columbia. The letter gives McDonald’s 30 days to agree to stop the practice before a suit is filed.

The nutrition group claims that using toys to entice children instills bad eating habits and puts kids at higher risk of risk of developing obesity, diabetes, or other diet-related diseases over the course of their lifetime.

McDonald’s disagreed with the CSPI’s criticism, saying that its U.S. advertising campaign is focused on low-calorie Happy Meals.

“We couldn’t disagree more with the misrepresentation of our food and marketing practices,” McDonald’s spokesman William Whitman said in a prepared statement.

“McDonald’s is committed to a responsible approach to our menu, and our Happy Meal offerings,” he said. “We have added more choice and variety than ever before, a fact that has been widely reported and recognized.”

CSPI director Michael Jacobson acknowledged that parents bear much of the responsibility for children’s eating habit — a criticism industry defenders often levy.

“But multi-billion-dollar corporations make parents’ job nearly impossible by giving away toys and bombarding kids with slick advertising,” he said.

In 2006, fast food companies spent more than $520 million on advertising and toys to market children’s meals, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

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How to Cut Cravings for Junk Food Forever

How many times have we started a weight loss plan and decided we need to cut out the junk we’ve been eating?  We swear off ice cream, fast food, candy, fried chicken, whatever it is that gets you going.  We are able to stick to our committment to ourselves for several weeks, or maybe even months, but sooner or later we revert back into old behavior.

Maybe you are getting out of the office late and that 10-piece extra crispy bucket from KFC is just too tempting to pass up.  You reason with yourself and make excuses for your slip in discipline.  “Well it’s just this one time” (it never is), or “I just don’t have time tonight” (yes you do, you just didn’t plan).  Now, no one is suggesting you should NEVER eat the foods you have sworn off.  In fact, eliminating them forever is simply setting yourself up for failure.

What needs to be accomplished is understanding that it’s not the foods you need to eliminate, it’s the CRAVINGS.  What if you could go through life without a craving for pizza, chocolate, ice cream?  How easy would it be to stay healthy and keep the weight off?  You could indulge yourself when YOU wanted, not when your craving told you to.

1.  Alter where you buy your food.  If you have the choice between a healthy supermarket versus Walmart for instance, opt for the healthy one.  When you are shopping, it’s easy to pick up the unhealthy processed foods when they are right in front of you.  Eliminate the potential to experience a craving while you are shopping.

2.  Never shop for groceries when you are hungry.  Following this simple rule will completely cut down on your urge to buy things you really don’t need.  Not to mention, you’ll probably save yourself a few bucks at check out.  A hungry mind is a dangerous mind.  Make sure you have eaten before going to the store.

3.  Cook your meals in advance.  Make several meals at one time so you have them throughout the week.  This will eliminate the need to stop off at that fast food joint on a night you are getting out of the office late.  All you have to do is pop them in the microwave or oven, and you are good to go.  You’ll save money while eating healthier and better, how simple.

4.  Carry a cooler of healthy snacks.  Carry a cooler of healthy snacks in your car or office.  Almonds, turkey sandwich, fruit, cucumber and feta salad, hummus, canned tuna, etc.  If you always have healthy snacks at your reach, you’ll be less inclined to shoot over to the burrito stand for that carne asada burrito.

5.  Understand all cravings will pass.  Ride the craving like a wave.  When you feel it beginning to hit you, recognize it.  Allow the craving to enter your thoughts, but realize it is only thoughts.  Shift your focus to something else and realize this is only a temporary feeling.  The craving will slowly subside when you stop reasoning with yourself and thinking of excuses to cave in.  Allow it to slowly drift away.

6.  Indulge yourself.  The point of this article is NOT to say never have the foods you like.  If you can maintain a healthy diet 6 days a week, you have earned that 7th day.  Now, I wouldn’t recommend eating an entire pizza, a gallon of ice cream, and a dozen Crispy Cream donuts, but allow yourself some breathing room.  By indulging in the things you enjoy, you will have less desire for them.  And who knows, maybe you will be able to give up those things forever?  Just focus on eating right for the first 6 days, and on the last day, have what you’d like.

Try These – 21’s

When you are working any muscle, you would be well advised to hit the muscle from various angles and intensities.  This is the number one way to make the gains you are so desperately seeking.  By incorporating exercises like 21’s into your routine, you will be sure to keep your muscles guessing and your gains increasing.

Throughout the range of motion of any exercise, different parts of your muscle come into play to lift the weight.  While a bicep curl may work “the bicep”, focusing on the different angles within a bicep curl will work the ENTIRE bicep more fully.  This is the key to developing lean, toned, muscles.

The first part of a bicep curl places greater stress on the lower part of the bicep.  The upper part of the lift forces the upper bicep to stress slightly more.  With 21’s we focus on hitting both these parts of the bicep with a greater intensity, thereby allowing the muscle to become more fatigued, which ultimately results in more growth.

The exercise 21’s works great with bicep curls, but can be used for various other exercises as well.  Begin by holding the dumbbell or barbell, with your arms fully straightened and at rest position in front of you.  For the first 7 repetitions, you will curl the weight up by stop when you reach the mid-point of the lift.  Slowly lower the weight to the start position before repeating 6 more times.

Now, lift the weight to the end position, where the weight is at the top of the lift and your arms are bent as if you have just curled the weight up.  Slowly lower the weight until it reaches the mid-point again.  Curl back up to the end position, then repeat 6 more times.

Lastly, perform 7 full range of motion lifts, making sure to follow good form and keep a slow, steady pace.  By working exercises like this into your routine, you will target areas of the muscle that are often under targeted, resulting in poor toning and muscularity.

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