Attainable Health

Finding a healthy lifestyle in today's hectic world

Top Apps to Sleep to March 11, 2010

Make no mistake, I love my iPhone!  I finally got on the bandwagon last December — I got it as a Christmas present for myself.  I probably spent the entire first weekend learning how to use it and searching through/trying out all the different apps!  I was amazed at all the things that this little computer could do and sometimes it still surprises me.  There are so many useful apps that I use regularly, however, my most-used apps have to be the ones that help me sleep!

A born insomniac, I have always had trouble falling asleep at night.  My favorite show at 2 yrs old was “D. D. Ya-min” (David Letterman), in case you didn’t believe me.  I have tried many tricks of the trade — from food/drink, meditating, reading, music, T.V., audio books and even sleep aids.  Even though it is not the most recommended method, any of the tech options work best for me (T.V., audio books, music, etc).

I was so happy to find that there were apps for that too (I know, a little cliche)!  It was much more convenient to use my phone which cut down on the light in my bedroom (versus the T.V. or my laptop) and made my boyfriend especially happy because I could wear headphones!  Although there are many, many apps for this subject out there and I haven’t tried them all, these are my top 4:

4) iheartradio: A free app that offers nationwide radio stations with only a few taps and slides of your finger.  I’ve been able to find most of my local faves (mostly ClearChannel stations) and it even has a cool “Shake It!” feature, where you simply shake your phone and it randomly picks a station for you.  There are some stations that are nationwide “personality” stations and are free of commercials (like At40 with Ryan Seacrest), you can save your favorite stations in a tab and there are featured videos, stations and bonus material (interviews and such) each month.  It is good to fall asleep to if you know a good “soft” station, but commercials on some stations will still be a nuisance from time to time and there isn’t a “sleep” feature.

3) AmbiScience – Pure Yoga: Mainly pitched as an app to provide music to practice yoga by (as per the name), the music on this app is very relaxing to fall asleep to as well!  From thunderstorms to chimes, sunrise to sunset, this app packs a relaxing punch!  There are also “blanking” choices like brown noise, pink noise and white noise.  All the tracks are very good for yoga practice or meditation, but I’ve found them to also be very good to fall asleep to.

2) Pandora: I love, love, love this app!  I use it at work, in the shower (yes, in the shower — gotta love the Otter Box!), while cooking, at the gym, in the car when my boyfriend puts on something I don’t like, and when I go to bed!  I like how you simply enter in an artist or song name and a station is automatically set for you with similar music.  You can create multiple stations to go back and use at any time.  It is pretty much fully-customizable — you can even give each song played a thumbs up or down (which will affect future songs played).  Definitely an amazing app, but for the free version you are only limited a certain number of “skips” for songs each day (somewhere around 6 or 7).  After that, you can’t skip past any more songs (although you can always create a new station).  If they added a “sleep” feature, this app would almost be perfect!

1) health mate – De-stress: Pretty much my favorite relax app on my phone, I really think everyone should have this one.  The tracks are divided into categories: Sleep, Power Nap, De-Stress, Relax, and Pregnant.  There is also an option to take a Stress Test.  Each track also helps you guide your breathing (by an arrow showing when to breathe in/out and a bpm, breaths per minute, counter in the corner).  I’ve found that when I actually focus on breathing, it stops my mind from thinking about a million things that keep me awake!  It is simple and quick to use, and the tracks are fairly short (10-30 minutes), so it automatically shuts off when they are done so you don’t have music in your ear all night!

I will admit there are some nights when I choose to watch a movie (or Grey’s Anatomy), but the majority of my nights I try to use something more calming — like these music apps.  It may not be recommended as a good sleep method, but the way I see sleep is this: the main thing is to get enough of it (especially during the night because that sleep is the most restful and beneficial)!  I would much rather my method be as minimal as possible, like some tea, music or T.V.  If there are any others out there with trouble shutting their minds “off” at night and falling asleep, I hope these apps can help you find some peace and sleep!  Sweet Dreams!

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Onions – Helpful and Deadly…. March 9, 2010

Onions—some people love them, others hate them.  They can make you cry, or make you smell bad.  They can make tasty snacks like onion rings and salsa.  They can cure ailments and also can kill you……wait what?!

My quest for onion knowledge all started when my dad sent me an e-mail.  He’s notorious for filling my inbox with e-mail forwards a la the late ninties and sometimes they are interesting, and sometimes not.  This one in particular, however, caught my eye (although it also could have been the great big bold red letters my dad used to write “MUST READ” that got my attention, I’m just not sure).

The e-mail started with a story about farmers placing onions around their houses to prevent the flu in the early 1900’s.  It went on in typical fashion with other stories supporting this idea and ended that section with a plea for everyone to try this for themselves to prevent getting sick.  It seemed too good to be true, so I decided to do some research.  Here’s what I found:

  • An onion is 89% percent water—that’s only 3 % less than a watermelon!
  • The onion is a well-documented homeopathic remedy for many reasons, including: colds & flus, insomnia, coughs, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, as an anti-inflammatory, as an antiseptic, asthma, oral health, acne, libido, as an insect repellent, earaches, cancer prevention, as a diuretic, and more!

Who knew the onion could possibly do all these wonderful things?!  Certainly not me!  So, I kept reading the e-mail….and that’s when I saw the “Onions are deadly” headline.

Besides being poisonous to dogs (they can’t digest it and it causes a breakdown of red blood cells), onions can also be a big culprit of food poisoning in humans.  Due to the onions’ antiseptic and antibacterial properties, it actually sucks the bacteria out of the air around it (which is how it can help prevent colds & flus).  When the raw onion is left in the fridge (even in a plastic bag or container), in containers at the sub shop or buffet line, in pasta salads at a picnic….they are magnets for any bacteria in the air around them.  That can be really scary, just think: that chicken you are marinating for dinner can send off salmonella to that leftover onion you were planning on using for the salad!

Now, I know that I’ve saved onions to use the rest at a later date while being a frugal college student….and I’m still alive today.  But that’s not to say that some nights of upset stomach feelings weren’t caused by onions.  Onions aid digestion, so I had never thought of it before.  Its one of those things that you can choose to gamble on.

This new information has definitely motivated me to be a little more cautious about onions.  Just by cooking them a little it can kill the bacteria.  I’ve started buying smaller onions so I can use the whole thing and not waste money.  But, when I got a sub the other day, I got onions out of pure habit….some days are just a little more adventurous than others!

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Why I Hate “Diets” February 3, 2010

Filed under: Healthy Eating — Karen Marie @ 2:39 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Who doesn’t secretly (or outwardly) despise that word?  I personally can’t think of anyone!  Between my family, friends and myself I known someone that has tried at least one of the following: Slim Fast, Weight Watchers, Sugar Busters, Jenny Craig, The Atkins Diet, The South Beach Diet and many more.  I have known people who have tried those juice diets and even some who have skipped meals on a regular basis.  They all have one thing in common: it doesn’t permanently stick!  Let’s face it, we don’t like being restricted and diets (some more than others) are very restrictive!  We live busy, stressful and hectic lives and with everything else going on we don’t want to be stopped when we head to a cookie or slice of pizza for comfort (or because its convenient).  However, sometimes when we look in the mirror we are reminded why we choose to diet.

Any diet starts with the BEST of intentions.  You get everything all planned out: your recipes, exercises, new plans for eating and grocery shopping.  That first week (maybe longer) you are so motivated and dedicated….then something happens and the diet eventually ends up disappearing.  This happens for multiple reasons.  These are the reasons why I personally hate diets and think that they are a bad idea:

  1. You go “off” them! Whether it is because you have reached your goal, you get bored/uninspired, it becomes too much of a hassle to maintain, you give up because of lack of results, or some other reason, my point is that all diets tend to come to an end.  The reason this is bad is that its not maintainable and you get into the vicious cycle of “yo-yo dieting“.  If you stop practicing the habits that allowed you to lose weight, simply, you will stop losing weight.  If you then go back to your old habits, it is likely you will gain weight back and therefore, eventually want to start dieting again.  Weight gain/loss is a simple input-output game!  Calories (which most of us on diets meticulously count) are what our bodies use to operate.  While everyone’s body burns calories at a different rate, there are some general guidelines to certain activities (find some example here).  It takes about 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound.  This is where the simple fact lies: if you are consuming more calories than using (or “burning”) you will gain weight; if you want to lose weight you need to burn more than you consume.  Once you are at your healthy weight (found here), you should be consuming and using the same amount.  Not doing this can start that vicious dieting cycle, which brings me to my next reason.
  2. You starve yourself. From my twenty+ years of battling IBS,  I have learned a lot, including this point emphasized over and over again by doctors I’ve seen: it is bad news to consistently “stretch” your stomach (read some interesting stomach facts here).  While your stomach (after reaching adulthood) does not physically change in size, it does get used to certain patterns that can be hard (and sometimes dangerous) to change.  Dieting can play a big role in causing this.  You know when you get the flu and are sick for the seven days so you barely eat and then when its all over you get full faster?  That is because your stomach got used to digesting less food so it is not prepared for big meals again, so you slowly work your way back up.  The same is true for habitually over-eating, your stomach is constantly digesting so it is always a little expanded.  The stomach is very sensitive to everything we do and expose ourselves to in our lives.  It can be easily affected by the foods we eat, when we eat, how we eat, environmental factors/exposures and our stress level. Once it is in a certain pattern, it can be really hard to break (think about how hard it would be to break a daily breakfast-on-the-go habit).  Another reason why it is so hard is because our stomachs have a very strong relationship with our brains, and this relates to the next reason.
  3. You end up splurging and “rebelling”. So you were really good for the first few weeks and avoided all your favorite “bad” foods.  You step on the scale and you don’t like the result; and now that chocolate cake you’ve been craving and depriving yourself of seems to look better than ever…..so you just “cheat” that one time.  Sometimes that becomes a slippery slope and before you know it, the diet could have gone out the window!  It seems to me that when we cut out foods from our life completely, it can only make you crave them more!  This can fall into the mentality that “the grass is always greener on the other side”.  I believe the key is “everything in moderation”.  There is not a food in this world that is “bad” for you; there is just a “quantity” of said food that is “bad”.  Having a few cookies for dessert is not going to make or break your weight, however, avoiding cookies for a few weeks and then splurging on them for the next few weeks (along with other foods you avoided) can make you backtrack any weight loss you have had so far in your diet.  Just be reasonable; eat healthy calories and fats to fill you up, leaving only a little room for your “splurges”.  That way you still get to eat what you want, just a more healthy amount of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong you technically do need to “diet” in order to lose weight (if that is your goal), but there are so many “radical” diets out there that can put you in an even worse position afterward!  Plus, it is important to remember that your weight isn’t just about what you eat, it is about what you drink (those “empty calories”), your activity level, your stress level, how much sleep you get, and many other things.  That is why I believe that in order to be the weight you need/want to be you need to live healthy overall, not just by what/how you eat!

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