THE IMPORTANCE OF WARM-UP AND COOLDOWN ACTIVITIES

walking-indoorExercise regularly is very good for your health. In addition, a perfect warm-up also gives a lot of benefits for individuals. Unfortunately, most people have forgotten that part then go straight ahead to the exercises. People ought to have the warm-up in order not to get injuries during the practicing process.

A typical warm-up is very easy to perform. In addition, you don’t have to pay too much time or effort. Researches have shown that spending just 10 minutes will result in:

  • Enhance the performance of various activities
  • Reduce the risk of taking injuries, especially get away from muscle stiffness.
  • Decrease the sense of tiring that you may experience during that period of time

REASON WHY PEOPLEE NEED TO WARM-UP

When people understand why the warm-up process is important, they will definitely include it in their workout process. When individuals tend to practice a variety of exercises, all the parts in body will perform in a fastest way. For instant, you are more likely to breath faster which cause the heart rate to increase. The neuromuscular and metabolic rates also function faster in order to give the best results.

These things above are ready for you to take other challenging activities such as running, cycling or dancing. Therefore, spend a small amount of time for a warm-up, this allows the body to get used to the changes during the time. Then you can start doing other exercises with high-intensity.

HOW TO WARM-UP CORRECTLY

So how to do a proper warm-up? In fact, a proper warm-up is as simple as you work out slowly in a long period of time. For example, if you intend to run outside, you will need to spend 10 minutes for jogging at an average speed. Keep in mind that, warm-up will benefit you when doing before these activities with high-intensity. Otherwise, it will make you more tired if you are tiring or hurting at that time.

Moreover, people should add some flexibility into their warm-up process. For instant, spend time stretching the back and legs before running around the neighborhood. And more steps to make the warm-up more diverse during your practicing process.

Actually, when you have the warm-up process; you will also need a cooldown step before finishing the exercising time. This activity is very important in order for you to achieve the long-term success in the future.

COOLDOWN ACTIVITY

A cooldown activity is similar to the warm-up. For instant, people can go for a slow walk or stretch with low-intensity. Also like the warm-up, most people often forget about the cooldown, especially they are tend to skip this part. You may get a lot of troubles if you forget this part

doing-exercise Have you ever feel lightheaded or dizzy after practicing exercises for a long time, this symptom results from not having the cooldown activities. In fact, when individuals do exercises, blood will be speedily circulated around the body. Therefore, when you stop immediately after doing exercises, blood will flow into your upper body which cause you to faint.

On the other hand, spending time cycling on a machine also helps reducing injuries instead of cycling around your neighborhood. For people who are looking to buy a machine and don’t want to risk on it, just consider a great quality models such as the Keiser m3 plus or Sole Fitness SB700… Go to http://exercisebikesexpert.com/ to find out more about top 10 best spin bike reviews  on the market.

Doing exercises regularly is very good. However, it is better when you know how to work out in a right way. Just include the warm-up and cooldown activities during the practicing process so that individuals can get a better result.

How to improve the air in your house

1. Tidy up the house

home

This is the easiest way as well as the cheapest way to improve the air of your house. On the one hand doing a tidy up makes your house become clean and on the other it keeps the air pure and prevents you from many respiratory diseases.

Just spend a few minutes to tidy up your room and one hour on the weekend to clean the entire house, you will have a great area for working, studying and living.

2. Using an air-conditioner:

bedroom

In tropical countries or religions, an air-conditioner is an essential household appliance. It is not only helps you to remove heat and moisture from the air, but also keep the living area clean. Many kinds of air conditioners have the function of cleansing dust, bacterium as well as the negative ion which may do harm for your health, give you the purest and cool air.

On the market, there are many kinds of air conditioners such as:

  • Ductless mini-split systems
  • Packaged central air conditioners
  • Heat pumps
  • Split systems

3. Have a humidifier:

essential-oil-diffuser

For those whose skins are easy to be dry, alongside using the body lotion which provides the humidity for skin, you can use a humidifier to increase the moisture of the air. This machine creates a soft mist which is full of water particles by boiling water, creating water droplets or using a paper to draw water out of the reservoir. It not only helps to balance or increase humidity in the environment, but also makes your house’s atmosphere more comfortable and well-being. The humidifier is suitable for those families who have children with their highly discerning skin.

Furthermore, by increasing or balancing the moisture of the air, a humidifier helps you to save money by restraining the use of the air conditioner.

On the market, there are several kinds of humidifiers for you to choose, such as:

  • Tabletop humidifiers
  • Console humidifiers
  • In-duct humidifiers

4. Have an essential oil diffuser

essential-oil-diffuser2

This way seems to be luxurious but it is the most effective way to keep the air of the house always pure. The diffuser breaks down the essential oil into thousands of tiny molecules and creates a fine fog. In almost essential oil have a special ingredient called “terpenes” which is able to change the structure of the particles causing odor and makes them become useless. Besides, these tiny oil molecules will easily absorb through your pores or lungs and bring into play its effects such as flu resistance, mind and body relaxation, stress reduction, so forth and so on.

Moreover, made from the woods, leaves, flowers or roots, the essential oil diffuser creates the gentle fragrance for your house, which brings up to you the most comfort. On the market, there are many types of diffusers to choose the best essential oil diffuser for you:

  • The ultrasonic diffuser
  • The evaporative diffuser
  • The nebulizing diffuser
  • The heat diffuser

If you have a tight budget, you can make your own essential oil diffuser, not have to buy an expensive machine. Or you can find some best essential oil diffuser black Friday deals 2015 to grab the best essential oil diffuser that suits your needs.

Heading out for a ride 2

Check out part 1 here

Head Off Trouble

teen-driving

What can you do about it? After all, your busy brain–and the self-control it gives you–is still developing. You’ve got to figure out ways of using your noggin in order to avoid scrapes with the car and even tragedy.

Look outside yourself. Giedd, who has peered into many a teen brain, believes in your ability to regulate your driving, especially when you think of the friends you could hurt. “The teen brain is still highly plastic, or changeable,” he told Current Health. It has “many good things regarding the capacity to learn, an increased sense of social responsibility, and more.”

“Social responsibility” simply means your connections to everyone. “When you take risks on the road, you’re not just risking your life,” says Berardelli. Think of the other people in your car, in other vehicles, and on the street whom reckless driving could endanger.

Limit distractions. There’s real danger in grabbing a French fry from a crumpled fast-food bag or answering a phone while driving. Researchers at Vanderbilt University found that when a person is driving, the frontal cortex cannot process two tasks at once, no matter the driver’s age. When you drive, just drive.

“Anything extra beginning drivers do seems to increase the risk of accidents,” says Giedd. Dealing with someone else in the car divides attention too. That’s why many states limit the number of passengers–especially fellow teens–a new driver can take along.

Get your head in the right place. The ultimate in distracted driving is a driver on alcohol or drugs; it goes without saying that those are off-limits when there’s a chance you’ll be behind the wheel. However, you also need to see beyond the obvious and minimize emotional driving. Collect yourself and breathe deeply before taking off. You can even put something in the car–a meaningful object–to remind you that you intend to take driving to heart.

When you’re driving, your brain is riding shotgun. So let your knowledge of how the mind works help you manage distractions, sleep needs (see “Sleep Away,” above), and feelings. That way you can truly enjoy the ride.

Teenage Brain: A Work in Progress

The teen driver’s brain is traveling too–on the long road to maturity. The fact that these parts haven’t finished developing in adolescents can make getting behind the wheel risky for new drivers.

Sleep Away

Drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes annually. You don’t want to be in one of them! So check out these time-proven sleep tips from the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Organize your life to make sleep a priority.
  • Establish sleeping and waking times, and stick with them.
  • Indulge in an afternoon nap, but don’t doze close to bedtime.
  • Make your sleeping space cool, quiet, and dark.
  • Realize that nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine will keep you awake.
  • Get regular daytime exercise–that will help you sleep. But working out too close to bedtime can keep you awake.
  • Create a bedtime ritual: Take a relaxing bath, read, or listen to quiet music.

The family camping preparation

Camping is a useful outdoor activity for the family. On the one hand, all the family members can enjoy the relaxing time together and on the other a camping trip gives your kids a chance to experience a wonderful night outside their home and learn new things. The ideal season for camping is spring and summer because the weather is dry and beautiful.

If you intend to spend your weekend or day-off organizing a family camping holiday, the preparation will be the first step and play an important role for the successful of it. Therefore, you have to take much concentration to this step.

Tips-for-Choosing-Family-Tent-1

The basic list of what you should prepare for a camping day includes:

1. Tent:

Do not think that the most expensive tent will be the best family camping tent. Depending on how long of your camping trip and how large of your family, you will choose the suitable tent for your family. If you organize a couple of days for camping, you should buy a large tent for both your family and your stuff. If it is just a short camping trip, a smaller one is better.

2. Sleeping bags:

This is the second important item that you have to prepare in case of the night is cold and the tent cannot keep your entire members warm enough. There are many kinds of sleeping bags for each particular season and warm level for you to choose.

3. Sleeping mats:

This is an extra layer for warmth. If your transport vehicle has enough large space, you can bring a camp bed to enjoy a comfortable camping night. If not, an air bed is not a bad idea. Another kind of sleeping mat is SIMs which are rather easy to set up or pack up. This is usually for individual to hiking. But nowadays, many manufacturers have produced other models for families.

Family-in-camping-tent-001

4. Food:

This is the most important thing for the camping trip. You can prepare your food at home or buy fast food outside. But the perfect way to enjoy a meaningful family camping trip is cooking together. You can bring a mini gas stove to cook dishes and an oven for BBQ. A campfire is also an awesome idea; you can grill the meat or around it.

5. Clothes:

Some clothes for exchange. You can take how many clothes you want, but don’t forget to bring underwear as well as the towel.

6. Light:

There are some kinds of specialized torches of camping such as hand torch and head torch. Hand torch is easy to control the light way while the head torch is free your hand. You can use the lanterns as well.

Besides, you can prepare for your kids some pocket flashlights or fun lighting.

tent4

Alongside the above items, you may take an extra preparation, which includes these things:

  • Matches
  • Wet wipes
  • Plastic rubbish bags
  • Plastic bags for dirty clothes
  • Something to play during the trip such as volleyball, badminton, fishing-rod if you camp near the river, etc.

And don’t forget some amazing stories for your kids during the night around the campfire.

Ways to avoid gaining weight over the holidays

Holidays 2015 are coming. Follow these Q&A with our advisor below to update your knowledge for health care.

Q1: Are there ways. not to gain weight over the holidays?

holiday-weight-gainA: Around Thanksgiving many people start wondering about how to control weight gain. It’s traditionally believed that most people gain about 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, but research has shown the figure to be closer to 1 pound. The problem is, even 1 pound at a time can add up over the years. Here are a few hints to keep in mind:

  • Don’t starve yourself before a party or a big meal; you’ll just be more likely to overeat.
  • Go for your favorite foods, but try to eat smaller portions.
  • When you can, opt for lower-fat/lower-calorie items, such as spiced cider instead of eggnog.
  • Balance occasions when you have a big meal with ones where you cut back.
  • Keep exercising!

Q2: Is it true that antibiotics will soon no longer be effective for many people?

antibioticsA: Harvard University researchers reported recently that by the middle of 2004, nearly two-thirds of common strains of infection-causing bacteria may be resistant to both penicillin and erythromycin, two common antibiotics. “Resistant” means that a drug is not effective in treating the illness or medical condition. This issue has been a concern for a long time.

One way health care professionals are addressing the problem is to urge patients not to pressure their physicians to prescribe antibiotics. Likewise, public health agencies have strongly encouraged doctors to only prescribe antibiotics when absolutely necessary. The message seems to be getting across.

Last summer, the journal Pediatrics reported that antibiotic use by U.S. children fell by almost 25 percent from 1996 to 2000. More antibiotics are prescribed for children than for adults, the journal said.

Q3: Is antibacterial soap better for you than plain soap?

antibacterialA: Short answer: no. A survey reported this year by the Tufts University School of Medicine found that there was little difference in the levels of bacteria in homes that used antibacterial cleaning products and those that didn’t. Significant amounts of bacteria were found in both categories of households. They found the highest numbers of bacteria on kitchen sponges and in sink and bathtub drains.

Some experts warn that antibacterial products can cause long-term problems. These products may kill weaker strains of bacteria, while stronger, more resistant ones can flourish. You don’t need to throw away your antibacterial soap; use it up and then try something different.

And use common sense around your house: Wash your hands thoroughly before cooking and eating, and after using the bathroom. Wash cutting boards, utensils, and countertops after food preparation and cooking. Change dish towels and sponges often.

Q4: What are “baby boomers”? I hear the term a lot and I’m not sure what that means.

baby-boomersA: After the end of World War II in 1945, the United States and other countries experienced a “baby boom.” Couples were reunited after having been separated during the war. Young men and women who had served in the war came home, got married, and started families. That led to a large number of babies being born–a baby boom–that lasted from 1946 to approximately 1955. (Some social scientists extend that period to the early 1960s.)

Now those “boomers” are, of course, growing older. It is estimated that within the next 30 years, the number of persons ages 65 to 84 will increase by 80 percent. One area where this will have a huge effect is health care. Because of modern medical advances, people are living longer. Caring for the medical needs of a large population of older people will be extremely expensive–and will require more health care professionals and workers and facilities to house the elderly.

Heading out for a ride: behind the wheel, you need the right mind set

The Department of Motor Vehicles said she was good to go. But after passing the written and road tests and getting her driver’s license, Emily Wensberg, 18, still wasn’t sure about driving. “I was a very nervous driver,” the Boston University freshman says. “Even after I got my license, I was very unconfident.”

driving

Wensberg did what relatively few people do: She enrolled in yet another driving course. That daylong skills session in New Hampshire, called Street Survival, started with a presentation about the psychology and physics of driving. Instructors then had her practice driving in straight lines, circles, and figure eights around traffic cones, braking hard at times, while they talked her through the car’s reactions.

The instructors confirmed what Wensberg had suspected: Driving is not an automatic process. “It’s easy to feel overconfident when you’re driving,” she says. “I think it’s a big responsibility. You’re suddenly in control of this huge vehicle.”

Through the course, Wensberg found out what professional drivers know: To handle the roads, you need a firm grip on how both your vehicle and your brain work.

It’s Not You Until It’s You

In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) cited traffic crashes as the leading cause of death in people ages 10 to 24. “Road traffic crashes are not ‘accidents,'” Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, said in a statement. “We need to challenge the notion that they are unavoidable.”

Need proof? Last summer in Canandaigua, N.Y., Bailey Goodman, 17, fatally drove into an oncoming vehicle. She and friends were in a caravan, on the way to a cottage to celebrate high school graduation. No alcohol was involved. But her phone sent out text messages around the time of the crash.

Four of Bailey’s friends died with her. Crashes can injure or kill others–passengers, people in other vehicles, or pedestrians. Teen drivers kill other people five times as often as elderly drivers do, according to a five-year study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

You may hear crash stories and feel empathy. Then you distance yourself from them, as if bad luck were catching. You might rationalize that you’re too good of a driver to get in an accident, according to Phil Berardelli, author of Safe Young Drivers: A Guide for Parents and Teens.

Berardelli teaches driving skills to fill in where driver’s ed leaves off. When he addresses groups, he cites a 53-month period in which U.S. troop deaths in Iraq numbered 2,600; during the same time span, more than 26,000 people ages 15 to 19 died in vehicle crashes “every bit as suddenly and violently.” Shocking? Sure. But part of Berardelli’s strategy is to get parents to think about what comes naturally to teens–and how that might work against them.

An Owner’s Manual for the Brain

driving2

Year after year, vehicle crashes take more teen lives than AIDS, drugs, guns, and suicide combined. “It’s an enduring national health crisis,” says Berardelli. And it’s preventable.

Now, researchers are turning to the natural progression of the brain for answers. For more than 15 years, Dr. Jay Giedd, a principal investigator at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), has been scanning brain activity in young people. What he and his colleagues have learned about how the brain morphs during adolescence helps explain the risks teens encounter behind the wheel.

According to the scientists at NIMH, young drivers have a lot going on “upstairs.” New connections are forming between neurons, the nerve cells in the brain. Useless connections are being weeded out.

Researchers can actually color code those changes. White matter, made up of fatty myelin sheaths that insulate neurons, increases. Gray matter–neurons without myelin–starts to thin. The “white” thickens through age 40. The result? High school students have fewer but more rapid connections than, say, their parents.

As people become adults, different parts of the brain finish growing at different times. The last section reaches maturity at age 25 or so, posing a danger for new drivers: The frontal lobes that act like brakes for thrill seeking and risk taking aren’t ready at age 16. The younger the driver, the more likely he or she might drive after drinking “just once”–or head down the road without buckling up.

Meanwhile, the amygdala, a small mass of gray matter associated with emotional reactions, is in overdrive, helping teens read situations. Emotions kick into gear more often, which affects driving. Young drivers might speed up when nervous or gun the car when angry.

To complicate matters, the pineal gland, at the base of the brain, is slow to release the sleep-inducing chemical melatonin in teens. Therefore, it’s natural for new drivers to stay up late and, as a consequence, drive when they haven’t had enough sleep. That’s bad news: A sleep-deprived driver is as impaired as someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol content–the legal limit in every state. In July and August, an average of more than 100 16- and 17-year-olds die in drowsy-driving accidents, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

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Your health-in your hands: do you dread those annual health checkups?

It’s time for your annual medical checkup. Your morn drives you to the pediatrician’s office. The waiting room, which is decorated with pictures of the characters on Sesame Street, is full of crying babies. When the nurse finally calls your name, Mom follows you into the examining room. Your doctor arrives and starts asking Mom questions about your health.

Medical Checkup

Sound familiar? As you get older, you may find that doctor visits leave you with a headache. Most pediatricians’ offices, with their pint-size chairs, sets of blocks, and stacks of parenting magazines, aren’t very welcoming to teens. If your longtime doctor is of the opposite sex, you may feel strange being examined by him or her, even though it never bothered you before. And having a parent around makes it tough to ask questions on subjects like sex, alcohol, smoking – even dieting.

If circumstances like those are keeping you from getting adequate health care, you’re not alone. According to a recent article in the journal Pediatrics, the number of doctor visits being made for 11- to 21-year-olds is dropping. Even though there are sufficient numbers of physicians, nurses, and healthcare workers available to treat them, kids this age aren’t seeing their doctors as often as they need to.

Healthy Behavior = Healthy Body

Don’t let childish decor at your doc’s office keep you from getting the care you need. It is important that teens stay on top of medical issues that affect them. Although statistics show that adolescents are healthier overall than members of other age-groups, many of the lifestyle choices that teens make at this age have long-term consequences on their life and health.

health-and-teenConsider these 2003 figures, courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

1. Smoking. Fifty-eight percent of ninth through 12th graders admitted that they had tried cigarettes at least once.

2. Alcohol. Nearly 75 percent reported that they’d tried booze at least once.

3. Sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy. Every year, approximately 3 million teens in the United States contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Nearly 900,000 teenage girls in the United States become pregnant. Diet and exercise. Obesity is on the rise among American adolescents, 38 percent of whom admitted that they watched three or more hours of TV a day.

Getting Comfortable

At about age 12, many kids begin the gradual process of assuming responsibility for their own health care. This is the age when pediatricians often start to direct questions to the adolescent, not the parent, says John Seiverding. Seiverding, who has worked with teens in San Francisco and upstate New York, is one of a small but growing number of pediatricians who have trained as specialists in adolescent medicine.

“Adolescence is a dramatic period of social change. Kids are learning how to make life decisions, like how to take care of their health,” he explained. “Around the age of 14 or 15, most kids begin to really view themselves as the patient.”

As the patient, you may decide that you’d be more comfortable seeing a new doctor. The guidelines for doing so are “the same as they would be for a person of any age,” Seiverding told Current Health. “Ask yourself, Does the doctor listen to you? Does he or she take you seriously? Is the doctor someone who addresses your concerns and you?”

Whether you settle on a pediatrician, a family practitioner, or an adolescent specialist, find a doctor you feel you can trust and who is aware of “how adolescents perceive the world,” he advised. He added that some adults are dismissive of issues that are monumentally important to teens, such as acne and body image. Teens appreciate a doctor who empathizes with them and helps them address those problems.

Keeping It Quiet

girl-and-doctorKnowing that a doctor will respect their privacy is another vital consideration for most teens. Kids under age 16 need a parent’s permission to receive medical treatment. (A letter from a parent is usually all that is needed for a teen’s current doctor to see the teen on his or her own.) Certain issues – including sexual issues, substance abuse, and mental health – are considered to be privileged information in many states. That means a doctor cannot disclose this information to anyone, including the patient’s parents, without the patient’s permission.

However, facts that indicate that a teen is in danger from physical or sexual abuse or is at risk for suicide or homicide must by law be reported to the authorities. Keep in mind that confidentiality can be compromised by a teen’s health insurance. Because many teens are covered by their parents’ insurance plans, bills for telltale tests and sensitive procedures may end up being sent to the parents’ homes.

However, most doctors who treat teens are accustomed to balancing a teen’s right to privacy with a parent’s right to know. “Many parents are more than happy to step out of the room to allow doctor and patient a chance to have a private discussion,” Seiverding told CH. “Parents want doctors to talk to their kids about the things, like sex, that they themselves are uncomfortable talking about.”

From height and weight to skin care, you may have many questions, and your doctor is just the person to consult about them. “Get your questions answered,” urged Seiverding. “You might not think you can voice them, but you can, and your medical provider can help you.”

HOW TO CHOOSE A DOWN COMFORTER

At the end of each long day, all we want is a warm comfortable bed and a fine down comforter is one essential item to make it available. However, when you search for the best down comforter , it may be much confusing than you can imagine because of the vast variety of forms, sizes and prices. Here are some advices to choose the down comforter you need. down-comforter1

1. Understand the warmth levels

In the winter, every degree is a big difference and a right warm comforter helps you save money on the heating bill. In the seasons when it is warmer, you would not want to have a wrong choice to fall in the situation where neither sleeping with nor without the comforter is pleasant. Thus, understanding the warmth levels and know which suits your needs is really important. In general, there are six levels to consider.

• Down blanket
This means the comforter is just as warm as a normal blanket. Of course we are not looking for a blanket because a comforter is far cozier.

• Summer comforter
A down comforter of this warmth level is as warm as a thick blanket.It is fitting to a warm bedroom in most seasons.

• Warmth level 1
This level is equivalent to the warmth of 2 thick blankets. The suitable time for this level is from autumn to spring.

• Warmth level 2
It is the warthm of 3 thick blankets for cool bedrooms.

• Warmth level 3
Comforters of this warthm level are made to use in winter or when it is cold.

• Warmth level 4
When you sleep unheatedly in a really cold time, you will need a comforter of this level.

2. Pick the right size

The best comforter for yourself must cover all of you but is not too unnecessarily big. You should not buy any comforter of the wrong size just because it is on sale. If you do not understand the terms for bed size, you can check this chart https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bed_size

downcomforter2

3. Get your favourite fabric quality

Everyone have their prefered fabric quality so take your time until you find the right down comforter for yourself. The four common qualities are bastile, sateen, damask and cambric. You can check this glossary on fabric.com to know more about the qualities.

Read more:

Negative effects of lack of sleep to your health

9 drinks for cooling during summer time

4. Know the fill power

How much space of the comforter for 1 ounce of filling to take is called fill power. A comforter with high fill power provides more lofts and fluff. Normally, a fine comforter has a fill power of 600 ore more.

5. Take comforter with baffle-box constructions

Baffles are strips separating the pockets of down to make sure the down allocated throughout the comforter. With the constructions, the comforter will not be clumped and shifted.

downcomforter3

6. Choose the fill

The fill of a comforter contributes to the determination of its weight, fill powers and price. Some popular kinds of down fill that you will come across are 600 US White Duck, 600 US White Goose, 700, 800, 900 and 1000 European White Goose. The most expensive one is called Rare Eiderdown. Some people are allergic to down fill but nowadays many manufactures put their products through a washing process to make them allergy free.

Obesity: what’s the genetic connection?

Experts believe that genetics account for about 25% to 40% of the tendency to be overweight. Information is provided about the ‘fat gene‘ and about why people who have lost significant amounts of weight tend to gain it back.

fat-gene“Let’s face it, Sharon. We’re doomed!”

Sharon looked at the lineup of old photos on the top of her grandmother’s mantle and worried that her cousin might be right. Sharon resembled many of Grandma’s deceased female relatives–at least facially–although she wasn’t as heavy as most of them. And for Sharon, the battle against obesity had never been easy. She exercised and ate sensibly, but it was always a struggle to keep a Healthy weight. Were her genes really her biggest enemy in the fight against fat?

Too Much Fat–Not Mirrors, But Measures

When it comes to body fat, how much is too much? First of all, mirrors and old photos are not the best yardstick. In fact, in some illnesses, facial swelling can cause an illusion of obesity by producing a chubby face on a very skinny body. For the true verdict on body fat, health experts use measurements.

The first of these, tables of weight and height (sometimes with age included) are used to arrive at healthy body weight. “Healthy” on these tables is determined by statisticians who compared the lifespan, health history, and body weight of thousands of people. According to these tables, anyone who weighs 20 percent or more above the “healthy” weight for his or her height and sex is considered to be overweight.

Body mass index (BMI), another indicator based on weight and height, is a second way to determine obesity. BMI is calculated by the weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of the height (in meters). According to health experts, a BMI above 30 (some argue for 27) is a sign of obesity. These figures are for adults.

In fully mature bodies, a third measure, the waist circumference, is used. A waist circumference more than 35 inches in a woman or 40 inches in a man usually means a high risk of weight-related problems.

But no matter what the yardstick for obesity, the bottom line is not numbers but health. Obesity is a serious risk factor for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and gallstones. It’s also been linked to colorectal cancer, to prostate cancer in men, and to cancers of the breast, uterus, and ovaries in women. Health experts estimate that 22 percent of today’s children and adolescents are overweight–an increase of 15 percent from the 1970s. So in spite of media hype about fitness, exercise, and healthy eating, today’s teens are actually heavier than their parents.

Does Fat Run in Families?

For the body, a little bit of body fat is like money saved for a rainy day–it’s stored energy designed to be tapped when times are hard and food is scarce. For our ancestors, storing fat quickly and efficiently may actually have given them a survival advantage over their skinny neighbors in times of poor harvest or plague. But are there really genes that make some human bodies fat-storing aces, or is storing fat a function of behavior?

For centuries, people have guessed that having large amounts of body fat might run in families. When scientists actually began to examine the evidence, they started with studies of identical twins, pairs of people born with exactly the same genes. These twin studies confirmed what families had guessed all along: Identical twins who were fed the same number of extra calories gained the same amount of weight, and their bodies deposited fat in roughly the same places. These, together with other family-based weight studies, lead experts to believe that genes account for 25 percent to 40 percent of the tendency to be overweight.

A Fat Gene

1But where is the fat gene, and how does it work? Can we change it, or maybe modify the body blueprints it contains?

Right now scientists are looking at several candidates for the “fat gene.” One, called Ob (for Obesity), was first discovered in mice who were bred to be genetically obese. Researchers later found a similar gene in humans. The Ob gene apparently contains the inherited directions for a protein called leptin that fat cells secrete into the blood. When this protein enters the blood, it travels to the brain where it shuts off the body’s appetite centers and helps a person stop eating. When the Ob gene is normal, this shut-off mechanism works just fine, but when the Ob gene is missing or defective, the brain doesn’t get the signal that enough is enough.

Although finding the Ob gene is an exciting breakthrough, is it the whole story? Probably not. Most overweight people have appropriate levels of leptin, suggesting that leptin deficiency is not the cause of their obesity. Another gene, one that codes for an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL) has also drawn the attention of obesity researchers. LPL is an enzyme that is produced by fat cells to store calories as fat. If there is too much LPL, fat storage is increased. Perhaps the LPL gene that regulates LPL will hold the answer to why some of us store more fat than others.

It Keeps Coming Back!

Health experts know that most people put back the weight they’ve lost. If genes account for only 25 percent to 40 percent of the reason why this happens, what other factors are to blame?

First of all, psychological factors, including the way that families deal with food issues, help to determine the role that food plays in our life. Children often learn to see cookies, candy, and other treats as rewards, or as ways to deal with stress or unhappiness. These unhealthy eating patterns, begun in childhood, can persist into adulthood. Unlearning these pattern–is substituting a hot bath or a long walk for a dish of ice cream–is part of the solution to obesity for many people.

Physical activity is another key. Researchers know that it’s not just our genes and our diet that make us obese; it’s the sedentary lifestyle that most of us are trapped in. Today’s teens’ parents, who were lighter as teens, didn’t have PCs and video games.

The Skinny on Fat

Obesity-GeneIf you have health concerns about obesity, check with the experts. Congress authorized the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to set up the WIN Network (Weight-control Information Network) to help all Americans get the skinny on fat absolutely free.

Fat Facts

* About one-third of American adults are overweight.

* Mississippi has the highest percentage of overweight residents (32%); Arizona has the lowest (20%).

* There has been an 8% increase in the number of overweight Americans over the last decade.

Focus on Females

* Girls accumulate the most body fat during their early teens. This is part of the body’s natural preparation for pregnancy and breast-feeding during the reproductive years.

* Girls who use dangerous diets to fight fat to the extreme may risk losing bone mass, may stop having regular menstrual periods, and may trigger lifethreatening nutritional problems.

Diet–What’s “Healthy” Anyway?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 1 percent of teens eat a healthy diet.

A healthy diet should in Jude daily:

11 servings of grain
3-5 servings of vegetables
2-4 servings of fruit
2-3 servings of dairy products
2-3 servings of fish, meat, poultry, other proteins

The National Cholesterol Education Program suggests that a healthy diet means no more than 30 percent of calories from fats (no more than 10% from saturated fats). According to Department of Agriculture figures, U.S. teens currently get 40 percent of their daily calories from fats and added sugars.

What makes you gain weight: try these tips to control your weight

April and Kelly looked through the dresses and pulled out several that they wanted to try on.

“Can you believe the prom is only one month from today?” squealed April. “I’m so excited! I’ve just got to find the perfect dress!”

too-fat “I want to look just like Jennifer Lopez,” Kelly said. “Did you see that picture of her in all the magazines? She is so hot!”

April looked at Kelly. Quietly she said, “I think you’d look better in something like this.” She held out a long, loose fitting taffeta gown long sleeves.

Kelly sighed. “You’re probably right. I just don’t have the figure I used to. I don’t know why I keep gaining weight. I eat lots of vegetables.”

The girls shopped the whole afternoon, but neither one found the right dress. They decided to go to Kelly’s house and check another mall the next day. Once they got to the house, Kelly said, “Shopping makes me hungry. Want a snack? I’ve got licorice or potato chips.”

April frowned. “I want to look good for prom. Got any raw vegetables?”

Kelly searched the refrigerator. “Here’s some carrots, celery, and broccoli,” she called out. “I’ve got dip, too. Want some?”

April shook her head and watched as Kelly plopped a huge pile of dip onto a plate. She rolled each vegetable into the dip until it was covered. “Is that how you eat all your vegetables?” April asked.

Crunching a mouthful of food, Kelly nodded. “I hate plain vegetables and this dip is fat-free so it’s OK. In fact, most of the things I eat are fat-free. at s why I can’t understand why I keep gaining weight.”

Weighty Facts

Kelly isn’t the only one gaining weight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 25 percent of young people ages 2 to 20 are, or may become, overweight or obese, That figure has doubled over the last 10 years. A person is overweight when he or she has an “extra” amount of body weight–muscle, bone, fat, and water.

When someone has an “excessive” amount of body fat, he or she is considered obese. Obesity causes 300,000 premature deaths each year and increases the risk of potentially deadly health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and sleep disorders.

One potential factor in weight gain may be a shortage of dopamine in the brain. Researchers have recently discovered that obese people don’t have enough dopamine and need to eat lots of food to feel satisfied and full. While scientists don’t know why this happens, they think that physical activity increases dopamine levels.

Christie Andresen, 16, voices her thoughts on why there are so many teens who are overweight. She says, “Teens are gaining weight because they are unsure about their bodies. They see `perfect’ people on television and know that they’ll never look like them. They then begin to overeat, and become overweight.”

The simple fact of weight gain is: If you take in more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. All excess calories are stored as fat.

Taking Charge

Whether or not you are currently overweight, the best approach to weight control is a sensible one. The pounds aren’t going to melt away magically. You put on pounds gradually; that’s how you need to take them off. First, talk to your doctor to make sure you are physically healthy. If so, try these tips to boost your metabolism and your health.

* An average of 30 to 45 minutes each day of physical activity will burn off as much as 200 to 300 calories. Simple activities such as walking the dog, climbing stairs, hiking, or biking regularly could help you lose two pounds each month, or 24 pounds in one year.

* Strength-training exercises twice a week build muscles. Strength-training such as weightlifting helps tone muscles and increase lean muscle and metabolism by as much as 10 percent. Increasing your metabolism means that your body burns calories more efficiently even when you’re resting.

* Eat balanced meals and healthy between-meal snacks. Skipping meals lowers your metabolism. Plus, when you allow yourself to get overly hungry, you risk overeating at the next meal. Follow a low-fat diet and watch your portion sizes. Remember: Low-fat foods may still be high in calories. Of course, if you eat too much of any food, you risk packing on the pounds. Fat-free and sugar-free foods still contain calories, so read the nutrition labels and be aware of portion sizes.

* Include calcium-rich foods to get at least 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily. Kathy Kaehler, fitness expert and personal trainer to Hollywood stars such as Drew Barrymore and Cindy Crawford, suggests that something as simple as drinking three glasses of fat-free milk each day can get you closer to meeting your weight goal. Recent research suggests a link between calcium intake and healthy weight.

* Choose foods that are high in fiber. Not only are high-fiber foods good for you, they fill you up. If you aren’t already eating fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, and whole-grain breads and cereals, now is a great time to start.

* Drink at least eight glasses of water each day. Water fills you up and helps your body work better. Think about water gushing into each cell of your body, flushing out waste products and leaving behind a clean, lean machine ready to function at its best.

Weight gain doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes time to get the pounds off. By eating right and exercising regularly, you will not only take off weight, but you’ll also have more energy and feel better. That’s worth a lot.

Rate Your Plate

fat-free

Take a closer look at your current habits. Will they help you control your weight? or pack on pounds? Put a check in the column that best fits your style. Then, see how you rate.

Do you …

Usually Sometimes Never
1. Consider nutrition when you make food choices?

2. Try to eat regular meals (including breakfast), rather than skip or skimp on some?

3. Choose nutritious snacks?

4. Try to eat a variety of foods?

5. Exercise daily?

6. Eat at least six servings of grain products daily?

7. Eat at least three servings of vegetables daily?

8. Eat at least two servings of fruits daily?

9. Have at least three servings of low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese daily?

10. Limit your intake of higher-fat foods?

11. Go easy on sweets?

12. Drink eight or more cups of water daily?

Scoring: Usually = 2 points Sometimes = 1 point Never = 0 points

If you scored:

20 or more points–you seem to be in the habit of keeping fit already. Stick to a healthful eating plan and make a good thing even better.

12-19 points–you’re on track. A few easy changes could help you make your overall fitness plan even better.

5-11 points–sometimes you think about fitness, but not often enough to be your best.

0-4 points–for good health, you’d be wise to rethink your overall fitness plan. Take it gradually, step by step.

Whatever your score, make moves for healthful eating and exercise. Gradually turn your “nevers” into “sometimes” and your “sometimes” into “usuallys.”

Students will be able to list factors that can influence weight gain, and to access valid information concerning aspects of weight control available via the Internet.

REVIEW/DISCUSS

* Review the conversations between April and Kelly. What are some of the possible problems with Kelly’s reasoning that may be contributing to her dissatisfaction with her weight? (Answers will vary but should include a recognition that Kelly compares herself to someone famous whose body type, age, habits, etc., may be very different from her own; tends to reach first for snack foods high in sweets, salt, and fats; is poorly informed in her belief regarding food labeled “fat-free,” which may still contribute to weight gain.)

* Explain the possible relationship between dopamine and weight gain. (Some research shows obese people don’t have enough dopamine and need to eat lots of food to feel satisfied.)

ACTIVITIES

* Have students make a chart or graphic that explains some of the main theories presented in this article to explain weight-control issues. Their structures may vary, but all should identify and explain the role of dopamine, overeating, exercise, metabolism, and the influence of media representations and advertising.

* Assign students to identify and evaluate a resource Internet site that addresses the topic of weight management in a comprehensive way. Some possible starting sites are provided in the Teacher Resources section. Each student should present his or her Web site and explain why it seems credible, valid, and valuable. Then have the class identify the most important criteria for determining a good site.

3 Low-calorie desserts for sweet-toothed girls

You love sweets and you want to keep your figure? It is kind of like an impossible mission to satisfy both your sweet tooth and your desire to maintain a fine figure, right? However, there are times you cannot resist the tempting scent and flavor of a piece of cake, may be late at night long after dinner has finished.

Understanding that conflicting feeling that many girls and women have, we have some suggestions that can help you out. Here are 3 low-calorie desserts, which is also very easy to make for any home cooks with a typical kitchen with a gas cooktop or a best induction cooktop and some simple tools.

1. Pumpkin Custard

Pumpkin Custard

  • For this delicious treat, you need ¾ oz splenda, ½ tsp salt and the same amount of ginger, 1 tbsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp cloves, 2 eggs, 1 ½ cups of low-fat milk and of course 15 oz of pumpkin.
  • First, preheat your oven to 220oC
  • Mix all the dry ingredients in a small bowl and crack eggs in a large one. Mix in pumpkin and all dry ingredients. Pour milk in halves.
  • Spray 8×8” glass baking dish at bottom and add the mixture
  • Bake for 15 minutes at 220 oC then continue at 175 oC for 20-50 minutes (you can cut a knife through clean)
  • Leave it to cool for 2 hours at least
  • You can serve it with sugar free cool whip

2. Lavender scented strawberries with honey cream

Lavender scented strawberries with honey cream

  • You need: 1/3 cup of water and same amount of sugar, ½ tsp dried lavender and the same amount of unflavored gelatin, 1tbsp water, ¼ cup of honey, 2 tbsp cornstarch, 1/8 tsp salt, 3 egg yolks, 1 cup of reduced-fat milk, 6 oz Greek-style plain yogurt and 2 cups of quartered strawberries
  • Boil the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan till sugar dissolves, do not forget to stir. Leave it cool for 10 minutes. Then use a sieve to strain the liquid into a bowl. Leave it.
  • Add gelatin to a bowl of 1 tbsp water. Leave it till gelatin dissolves.
  • Add cornstarch, honey, salt and egg yolks to a bowl and mix them with a whisk
  • Heat milk to 180o with medium-high temperature in a small heavy saucepan, you’ll see bubbles appear around the edge. Add milk to the egg mixture while constantly stirring with a whisk. Pour it all back to the pan. Cook it for 2 minutes with medium temperature, never forget to stir.
  • Take the pan off the cooktop and pour in gelatin mixture, stir.
  • Pour all into a bowl and stir occasionally for 20 minutes till it cools (not set). Put in yogurt and stir.
  • Spoon the mixture evenly into glasses or bowls. Cover and let it cool down for 2 hours at least.
  • Add ¼ cup of strawberries for the toppings and 2 tsp syrup each serving.

3. Vegan almond butter cups

Vegan almond butter cups

  • Prepare 1 cup of dairy-free dark chocolate chips, ¼ cup of almond butter, 1tbsp maple syrup, ½ tbsp powdered sugar, ½ tsp vanilla extract, 1/8 tsp salt and 1 tsp sliced almond.
  • Have a mini muffin lined with 12 mini cupcake wrappers
  • Use a double boiler to melt the chocolate chips
  • Pour a tsp of that into the bottom of a cup and coat every cupcake liner halfway up the sides with a small spoon.
  • Mix the rest of the ingredients (leave the almond slices for the toppings)
  • Scoop a tsp of that mixture and press it into the center of each wrapper. Put them in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to harden them all.
  • Take them out and pour a tsp of melted chocolate on top of each muffin.
  • Sprinkle a few almond slices over each muffin.
  • Put them back in the fridge to set for 20 minutes.
  • Use an airtight container to keep in the fridge them till they get all eaten.

9 drinks for cooling during summer time

During summer time, it is easy for you to get sick with all the heat and sweating. Drinking enough or more than enough water is highly recommended. However, water might be too bland for your taste.

Here we have some suggestions that not only hydrate your body but also taste good.

  • Coconut milkcoconut-milk

According to Eastern medicines, coconut milk, with its natural and warm sweetness, is toxin-free and it has the effect of cooling your body and enhancing your vitality.

  • Green tea

According to Health, when the weather is too hot, drinking tea does not only help to cool you off but also offer some benefits for your health. High concentration of Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) in tea leaves has been proved to have the effects of fighting off fatigue, cooling your skin and removing toxins from your body.

Drinking 4 to 5 cups of tea (about 800-1000 ml) a day also helps to prevent some kinds of diseases and conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, atherosclerosis, etc.

Since drinking tea at late hours can result in difficulty falling asleep, we recommend drinking tea early in the morning or early in the afternoon. A cup of green tea will give you a feeling of refreshment to tackle any work that might come your way.

  • Orange or lemon juice

Lemon-Juice

Orange and lemon juice has the effects of hydrating your body and preventing any sickness and symptoms caused by heat built up in your body. Its antipyretic effect is undeniable. In addition, its sweet and sour taste will definitely improve your mood.

  • Kudzu

Kudzu is lightly sweet and balanced nature, according to Eastern medicines. It has antifebrile effect, which quenches your thirst, reduces fever and treats dysentery… It detoxifies your body and let your body sweat more. Isoflavon concentration in Kudzu can increase blood flow to your brain and lower blood pressure.

Kudzu juice is easy to make. Add Kudzu powder to water, mix it well. Squeeze 2 cumquats to add more flavor to your drink. Add sugar, maybe a little salt to your taste. Add ice and enjoy your drink.

  • Watermelon or wax gourd

Watermelon

Watermelon or wax gourd juice has been proved to be very well antipyretic. The taste is delicious and refreshing.

According to Eastern medicines, not only its flesh is good for your health, its rind is good too. Watermelon rind can detoxify your body and have antipyretic effect. Wax gourd rind can reduce swelling and inflammation, which is very good for people who are suffering from diabetes to use.

You can wash the rinds; chop it into small slices and pieces. You can either dry it in the sunlight or use it fresh. Boil it with water to drink every day.

  • Corn silk

According to traditional Eastern medicines, corn silk is lightly sweet and naturally balanced. You can use it fresh or dried in the sunlight. Boil it with water for daily uses. You can even add sugarcane or pineapple leaves.

This can be used in place of water daily for those who suffer from high blood pressure or diabetes.

  • Centella

Its bitterness and sweetness together gives a unique taste. It has the effect of longevity. Its juice is good for your health. It helps improve your memory, your sight and it is also diuretic.

Crush 30-50g fresh centella to get its juice or boil it to drink like tea. This juice can even lower blood pressure.

  • Mung bean

Its sweetness and cooling effect is incredible. You can boil it to drink. It is even processed to powder form. This powder when mixed with water taste good and good for your health, also.

Negative effects of lack of sleep to your health

As you know, sleep plays an essential part in each person’s life. With the lack of sleep, both physical and mental health of a person can be affected negatively over time, which can result in seriously bad conditions. This is some health problems you can get after long period of lacking sleep:

lack of sleep

1. Obesity:

  • There is a connection between the length of your sleep and blood plasma concentration of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. The shorter your sleep is, the higher level of ghrelin is secreted.
  • And as its name might already suggest, ghrelin makes you feel hunger. And with ghrelin goes wild, leptin cannot do its job of repressing the feeling of hunger. This results in you eating more than you actually needs and in the end, obesity awaits you.
  • There is one way to prevent this from happening. You should sleep more than 6 hours a day.

2. Heart condition:

Heart condition

  • There is high chance that you might get some conditions due to the lack of sleep, some are dangerous heart conditions. You can get attacked by a myocardial infarction, heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure and heart disorder… all are fatal and deathly.
  • Heart conditions will prevent you from achieving many greater things in life and can eventually lead you to an early death.

3. Damages to the skin:

Damages to the skin

  • If you are thinking about having panda eyes or some pimples, it is not that simple.
  • When you sleep, your skin goes into the regenerating process.
  • Lack of sleep and sleeping disorder results in hormone cortisol being secreted more. This hormone affects your skin’s protein badly.
  • After a while, your skin will lose its elasticity. You will soon get wrinkles and creases on your face, which will make you look older than you really are.

4. Forgetfulness

Forgetfulness

  • Your brain will also be affected without enough sleep, which results in your memory being affected too.
  • You will start to find it hard to remember where you put things or new faces, new names. Eventually, this can make your grade go down if you are a student or if you are working, you might screw up something.

5. Bad decision making:

  • You cannot really consider all sides of think thoroughly and carefully without letting your brain have some rest.
  • Eventually, you will make some decisions that you will soon regret.

6. Obstruction of your studying process:

  • Things you learn in daytime will get strengthened at night, when you sleep and let your brain does what it is supposed to do. This will help create long-lasting memories about all the knowledge and information you manage to gather.
  • When life is all about learning new things, the lack of sleep can be the biggest enemy ever on your way of improving yourself and discovering new abilities. Losing against this enemy means your development will be severely affected.

7. Depression

  • Lack of sleep leads to depression  and depression again leads to even longer time of staying awake. This is a repeated, no-way-out cycle. Getting stuck in this cycle means your physical and mental health is seriously at stake.

Working continuously is not the way to improve your abilities and to achieve greater goals. You have to get enough rest, enough sleep. Be responsible with your own body. When it says it needs rest, you cannot say no.

Get the help of expert if your problem gets out of hand. At this age, you have to really take care of yourself not to let you be sucked into the vicious gear of all work and no rest and get crushed.

5 Ways To Avoid Gaining Weight During The Winter

Practice to lose weight seems to be an impossible mission during the winter months. Therefore, gaining more pound is not inevitable. This article will recommend 5 ways for burning these calories easier.

exercise-in-winterFirst, individuals should understand the reason why they are getting fat after these cold days. In fact, there are lots of reasons which lead to weight gain in the winter, not just only lack of exercises.

  • Lack of vitamins D. To illustrate, in the winter, people rarely go outside so that fat will be stored in the body.
  • People tend to eat foods with high level of sugar. These snacks will lower the level of blood sugar in your body. Therefore, individuals tend to crave for more food.
  • Individuals are less likely to be happy during this time. They will have different types of feeling include dark, cold or sad. For most people, they often consume too much food when experience the sad and disappointed feeling.

Tips to get rid of fat body during winter:

1. CONSUME FOOD WITH HIGH-WATER CONTENT

You should eat more high-water content food such as noodles, soups or drink more water. Studies have shown that soup, vegetables and cereal are three main food which contains a great amount of water. For instant, soups and vegetables contain up to 90% of water, cereal contains 85% of water. In addition, water can help people get out of starvation without adding more calories.

2. GET SOME SUNLIGHTSsnow

 Sunlight produces hormone and boosts the brain which give individuals a sense of fullness. Moreover, according to Norman E. Rosenthal – a researcher, if people have an average amount of sunlight in the morning, they can suppress the food starvation and overeat.

3.  CONSUME MORE PROTEIN

By increasing the amount of protein in each meal, you will cut off the calories which results in getting slimmer. In addition, consuming more protein will fool the brain that you have eaten more food on the plate.

There are a variety of protein food which you can add in the daily diet gradually. For people who love meat, fish and lean chicken breasts are two typical types of food. People often get hungry at nights during their diet process, you can have a cup of yogurt or soymilk. These types of food will not only help passing through the starvation, but prevent individual from being fat as well.

4. CONTROL YOUR FAVORITE FOOD

control-foodFor people who want to lose weight, searching for cookbook from the internet or bookstores is a great idea. These books will show you how to cook meals which are simple and healthy for the body.

On the other hand, avoid drinking soft drink or beers. To illustrate, one bottle of beer has up to 150 calories. Therefore, people who drink beer regularly then spend time working in the office are more likely to get beer belly. Soft-drink is also the same.

5. WORKOUT REGULARLY

People are more likely to eat lots of food during winter months. Therefore, it is better to do exercises for burning out these calories. You can practice the body in some small activities such as taking the remote or going down the stairs. Moreover, make use of the housework as well.

spin-bike-workoutOn the other hand, winter means that you don’t have a chance to practice outside your house. So some people choose to have one exercising at home in order to workout whenever they want. Beginners are often suggested to pick up a good spin bike such as Sunny SF-B1203 to work out regularly at home without being restricted by the changes of weather.

These 5 strategies will keep you far away from gaining more weight during the winter months. Just keep in mind two main things include eating healthy and practicing exercises regularly. Maintain these habits and you will find it easy to get away from weight gain in the winter, even throughout the year.

 

FINDING YOUR IDEAL WEIGHT

How to tip the scales in favor of health and happiness

do-i-need-to-lose-weight“DO I NEED TO lose weight?” All too often the answer to that question is inspired by ultraskinny fashion models. Or by a nostalgic yearning to weigh what we weighed in high school. Or by an arbitrary number on a weight chart.

Instead, I feel the best way to decide if you’re at an ideal weight is to determine, first, whether you’re at a healthy weight. Carrying too much fat can lead to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and osteoarthritis. It’s also been linked to some forms of cancer, as well as early death. And second, determine whether you’re at a happy weight, one you can easily maintain.

THE NEW STANDARDS

For much of this century, the “scientific” way to determine your ideal weight was to consult the Metropolitan Life Insurance charts. These famous charts are based on heights, weights and death rates of millions of life-insurance subscribers. To use them, you look up the recommended weight for your height, sex and “frame size.” (The charts inevitably set people to wondering: “Do I have a small frame? Medium? Large?”)

The problem with these tables, scientists now acknowledge, is that ideal weights are not constant throughout a life span, as the data imply. So the charts’ “ideal” weights for adults may be too low.

Now there are new standards to set our scales by. The National Research Council’s executive summary Diet and Health, three years in the making and released early this year, is one of several that synthesize new findings on excess weight and health. The NRC recommendations are based on heights, weights and mortality of many millions of people in different walks of life–far more numerous and varied than the life-insurance data. Some of their conclusions are: It is likely you can weigh more than you think you can without incurring increased health risks.

Your healthy weight increases with age. In other words, a weight that is associated with increased health risk for a 25-year-old might be fine for a 55-year-old of the same height.  How risky your weight is depends not just on how much you carry, but where you carry it. For reasons that scientists don’t fully understand, excess upper-body fat (abdomen, arms, chest, neck) is associated with more health risks than lower-body fat (buttocks, thighs and down).

HEALTHY WEIGHT QUIZ

Based on this information, I use a fairly simple method to help determine if someone needs to diet. If you think you are carrying excess weight, answer the following questions:

  1. Do you feel healthy and energetic, and do you exercise for at least 20 minutes a day (walking, swimming, stair climbing or other) without fatigue?
  2. Do you and your immediate blood relatives have no history of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis or liver disease? Do you show no risk markers for these diseases, such as high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, abnormal blood sugar?
  3. Do you carry most of your excess weight on your thighs and buttocks (and not much extra fat on you abdomen, arms and/or chest)?
  4. Answer this question only if you were not overweight in high school. Take your high school weight and add five pounds to that number for every decade of your age past age 20. Is your current weight less than or equal to that number?

If you answered “Yes” to every question, then chances are, your weight is a healthy one for you. You’re active and energetic; you don’t have genetic risks or health problems related to excess weight; your fat is in the safer, lower zone of the body; and the amount of weight you’ve gained over the years really isn’t very significant.

(It’s fine to gain moderate amounts of weight as you age–about five pounds per decade. In other words, if you weighed 135 as a teenager and you were not obese, then 140 is fine when you’re 30, 145 when you’re 40, 150 when you’re 50, 155 when you’re 60, and so forth.)

But if you suspect you’re overweight and you answered “No” to one or more of these questions, it is likely you need to lose some weight. Check with your doctor for confirmation.

RESET YOUR HAPPY WEIGHT

Trouble is, there’s sometimes a difference between your healthy weight and what I call your happy weight–your set point–the weight your body wants to maintain. The set point is determined by many factors: your diet, your activity level and your genes.

dietIf you’ve been at your current weight plus or minus five pounds for the last two years, that’s your set point. If you are healthy (you answered “Yes” to all the questions above), then your set point is also your healthy weight and I would not recommend going on a diet.

But what if your set point puts you at risk? Your body will make you very unhappy indeed when you try to go lower than the set point. It will punish you with hunger if you don’t eat enough to maintain that weight; it will slow your metabolism, so it’s more difficult to lose weight. What can you do?

Plan a healthy, low-fat diet with a moderate number of calories; don’t go under 1,200 a day. Focus on cutting the fats out of your diet. When you cut the fat, the calories descend by themselves, particularly if you’re on a regular exercise program.

Stay on the diet for six to eight weeks. During this time, you should lose about 10 to 20 pounds, or around 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. Then, spend the next three to six months on maintenance. Exercise, eat right (a low-fat, high-fiber diet with five servings of fruits and vegetables a day) and stay at your diet of not less than 1,200 calories per day.

The good news: In my view, most people don’t need to lose more than 5 to 15 percent of their current weight in a single year to achieve significant health benefits, so you may not have to lose any more weight after the first round.

After the maintenance period, if you still need to lose more, start dieting again and stick with it for another six to eight weeks. Then maintain by resuming your low-fat, high-fiber diet.

Losing the weight in steps makes it easier to adjust the set point and more likely you’ll succeed than if you drop it in one fell swoop.

If you get to the point where you can’t lose any more, and your doctor agrees that you’re no longer at an increased health risk, just stay there. That is the weight your body wants. To lose more, you’d have to limit more strictly your food intake, and exercise even more. The risk: You may not succeed, which would hurt your self-esteem. Or you could gain back excess weight, and when people gain after dieting, the fat often piles up in unhealthier locations (the upper body). Also, it’s healthier to be a little plump than to yo-yo up and down.

Above all, don’t focus on the scale. Work on eating a low-fat diet and staying active, and the weight should take care of itself. That’s the best way to make sure your healthy weight is also your happy weight!

Building better bones

WHILE WE SIT AND TALK, work and breathe, architects are constantly at work in our bones. Consisting of bone-forming cells (osteoblasts) and bone-removal cells (osteoclasts), these construction engineers take part in what you might call the Battle of the Bone — a tug-of-war over your skeleton.

Simply put, the bone removers are winning. After you reach maturity they work faster, stealing up to 4 percent of your bone each year after menopause. Meanwhile, the bone formers manage to crank out new bone at only a 2 percent rate. The pluses and minuses don’t add up in our favor. And too often the results is osteoporosis, the bone-thinning disease that can lead to “spontaneous fractures.”

Enter a secret weapon to assist the bone-forming cells and help bring that equation back into balance: resistance training. We told you about it in our December 1990 article “Interior Bodybuilding.”

resistance training

All-around physical activity can maintain and even increase bone mass. But what can resistance training do for your bones? Cutting-edge research is beginning to suggest that resistance esxercises — primarily those that target specific osteoporotic hot spots — may actually prevent bone loss and stimulate an increase in bone mass in those vulnerable areas. This is new territory, but here’s a lhint of what preliminary research indicates so far:

* In a recent study, pushing exercises using the forearm helped boost bone in that area in a group of 70-year-old osteoporotic women. The women pushed against a wall or clasped their hands together and pushed them against each other in three weekly workouts for five months. They experienced a 3.8 percent increase in bone in the distal radius (wrist), while the nonexercisers saw a decline of 1.9 percent (Calcified Tissue International, February 1987). “Even in a short period of time, they saw increases in an area of bone where many fractures occur,” says Sydney Lou Bonnick, M.D., director of osteoporosis services at the Cooper Clinic, in Dallas.

* In another study, this time of middle-aged women, exercise helped stave off bone loss that usually accompanies the middle years. The four-year study included use of light weights and resistance bands to strengthen the upper body. Ten of the 18 areas of bone mass measured showed significantly reduced bone loss among the xercisers. Projected over 20 years, the bone mass of the ulna (the forearm bone on the side of the little finger) normally would decline 25 percent. In the exercise group, that steep decline was projected to tilt up in a big way — slowing to just 5 percent (Calcified Tissue International, 1989, vol. 44, 312-21).

* Studies of the racket arms of tennis players show a much higher bone mass in that limb than the nonracket arm (Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 244, no. 10). “The bone density is greater in that arm simply because it encounters more resistance,” says Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D., president and founder of the Institute for Aerobics Research. “Any resistance exercise targeting a bone tends to do that.”

stair-climbing

Weight-bearing exercises like stair climbing and walking — targeting the lower limbs — have also caused significant increases in bone mass. Small increases in the spine have been shown to occur, even though the resistance exercises used didn;t target that crucial zone. These increases (less than 1 percent in a group of 34 women at Texas Woman’s University) may be considered insignificant in this 12-month study. But over a sustained period they could add up. Even more, gaining or maintaining bone mass means one simple yet monumental thing — you aren’t losing any. In that sense, it’s not insignificant that you’re slowing — even reversing — one of the so-called inevitables of aging.

Bone experts agree. “Exercise may be the greatest stimulator that bone ever gets, and may maintain and even increase your bone mass,” says Everett L. Smith, Ph.D., director of the biogerontology lab, department of preventive medicine, University of Wisconsin. “It may help maintain a younger bone — a younger bone that is more resistant to fracture.”

HOW TO HIT THE HOT SPOTS

For a full-on preventive attack against the onslaught of osteoporosis, we’ve asked the top researchers for a little advice on protecting crucial parts of the skeleton — the hips, spine and wrists. These areas are the most vulnerable and most common victims of osteoporotic fractures, with fractures of the hips and spine resulting in the most illness and death. Wrist fractures are obviously much less life-threatening, but are often painful and delibitating.

With the experts at hand, we’ve come up with an exercise program targeted at those flash points of fracture, to prevent these breaks from happening and bone from leaving home. (Remember, though, that exercise is not a substitute for other osteoporosis-prevention measures, such as a good diet and proper medical care.)

And don’t forget the main benefit of resistance training — it builds muscle. By boosting strength, you may reduce the risk of falling and the force of impact if you do. That alone may cut the risk of many osteoporotic fractures. So while you’re working the bone, you’re also creating and improving upon a fracture-proofing jacket of muscle — surrounding your skeleton and providing a cushion against falls.

Keep the spine in line. For the spine, back exercises are key. “For a beginner, a good thing to start off with are floor exercises or stretches in which you work at arching your back,” says Dr. Bonnick. They’re easy to learn and can be done anywhere with relative ease.

The next rung up the spine-protecting ladder might be back extensors. This calls for some mechanical assistance. “The back-extension machine, which is found in almost every health club, is probably the most underused machine and probably one of the most effective,” says Dr. Bonnick. Dr. Bonnick believes this machine may be the most important tool in tageting the vertebrae. Once you have mastered these exercises, you might feel confident enough to try a tougher one, the squat. “If you really want to stimulate the spine, you need an exercise that affects the whole structure,” says William Kraemer, Ph.D., director of research at the Center for Sports Medicine, Pennsylvania State University. “Squats improve upon bone mass by providing adequate loading on the spine and hip.” Squats are easier said than sweated. But if done slowly and carefully, they can be accomplished and t heir benefits reaped.

Assist your wrist. “Spine and hip fractures get most of the attention because they are the most devastating,” says dr. Bonnick. “But wrist fractures are extremely common and very painful.” Dr. Bonnick has her patients target that area with wrist curls. “I have them do two or three sets of wrist curls, with plenty of rest in between” she says. Rest is important with any exercise than requires a lot of gripping (this includes riding an exercise bike, for example). “Gripping for a long period of time without rest can boost blood pressure,” says Dr. Bonnick. When doing wrist curls, do two or three sets with no more than eight repetitions for each set.

Get hip to your hips. For this major target zone, squats can also help. But to get an even better bulls-eye on the bone, Dr. Bonnick advises hip flexion and extension, and hip adduction and abduction. These exercises call for stretch bands, pulleys or tubing. Health clubs usually have pulley machines that allow you to do a number of exercises that work the hip.

Facts & arguments: team players — strong and compliant

ALTHOUGH I’m glad to be spending some winter-time out of the country this year in sunny Florida, I still miss the news from home. On the great Richter scale of the U.S. news industry, Canada shows up as infrequent, hardly-worth-noting seismic blips. Canadians here constantly search the air to the north for tiny, faint smoke signals that will somehow apprise them of what’s happening back home. Either that or we pay $3.25 (U.S.) for a day-old Globe and Mail, or we glue ourselves to static-y short-waves, various Web sites, or Real Audio for bursts of CBC.

The blips we’ve picked up recently in the U.S. media included Lloyd Axworthy sweating in a necktie on the beach at Varadero–as well he deserved for his unholy truck with the Cuban demons, according to the Florida punditocracy. The lawyer’s withholding of evidence in the grotesque Bernardo-Homolka murders made the news. The unionization of a Windsor Wal-Mart got some air time.

By and large, the only thing Canada is good for is as an unending source of bone-chilling weather–those cold fronts shrieking down from across the border to terrorize the U.S. At least such reports were the main news items until the hockey harassment stories started to surface. Reports have more than seeped to the south, and because sports generally have such a choke-hold on the American consciousness, the commentators and analysts are weighing in with solemn pronouncements that take on such issues as the supposed Canadian “insecurity” about their dwindling dominance in hockey.

hockeyThere has been so much news and analysis here about the abuses of young Canadians in junior hockey, most recently allegations surrounding the revered Maple Leaf Gardens, that I started to think about the sorry subject. And I think that the abuse of young boys in hockey leagues and arenas–abasement that has too often been overlooked or covered up–has nothing to do with national identity. Nor is it, sadly, very surprising.

It may have a lot more to do with the culture of team sport generally and its resolutely macho values. Hockey (as well as football and basketball) encourages young players to be aggressive and combative, yet it also demands that they subordinate their own feelings or priorities to the good of the team. The coach or trainer is at the top of the pyramid in this scenario, and his orders are supreme. To deviate, even to protect oneself from an abuser, is to challenge authority, to compromise the team–and risk ostracism.

Thus, the sport provides a steady supply of strong, finely tuned young boys intensely encouraged from their earliest years to be compliant. Is it a wonder, then, that the sport attracts a small, but highly destructive, element of predators?

We’ve ceased to be shocked at the revelations of child sexual abuse by men of the cloth. Mount Cashel has been razed. Native residential schools are seen to have been, all too often, places of enduring shame. Kingston was rocked by the perfidy of a respected choirmaster. But perhaps some of the factors that led to abuse in these settings, supposedly designed to protect children, are the same as those that lead to abuse in sports, supposedly intended to empower children.

For one thing, most of the environments in which the abuse occurs–be they churches or arenas–are rigorously, even exclusively, masculine in their approach. Male children are left in the hands of adult males, in a culture that often is scornful or actively hostile toward women–or toward values that are seen to be “feminine.”

Another factor is the rigidly hierarchical nature of the enterprise. The priest assumes unchallengeable power over his charges, the same supremacy that the coach has over his young team.

Finally, there is the similar emphasis on loyalty, on toughing it out, and of not revealing secrets that could somehow discredit the group, whether it’s a group of choirboys, altar boys, or hockey players.

The lurid revelations about predators of children in Canadian hockey are disturbing, of course, even at this distance. But they should probably cause us to cast a probing eye at the culture of team sport generally. There’s nothing peculiarly Canadian about the story. But there may be lots that’s particular to the ways we deny, conceal–or glamorize–some of the thuggery and buggery that is too often a part of our obsession with team sports.

Nell Waldman usually lives in Toronto.

Junior hockey players travel isolated, tough road. The sport’s culture is macho, but far from home, young players can be vulnerable

Junior hockey players travel isolated, tough road. The sport’s culture is macho, but far from home, young players can be vulnerable.

The Globe and Mail

OR a teen-aged hockey team, the taste of defeat is cold pizza on a darkened bus.

hockey teamEarlier Saturday, the Ottawa 67s, Canada’s top-ranked junior hockey team, spent five hours travelling from Ottawa to Barrie, with a pit stop in Belleville for spaghetti and meatballs. Now, after losing 6-3 to the Barrie Colts, they munched pizza as their bus headed south down a snow-swept highway.

At two minutes past midnight, they stopped on the ice-slicked ramp of Kitchener’s Memorial Auditorium to unload 30 huge bags of equipment and twice that number of hockey sticks. Finally, at 12:35, their bus pulled in to the local TraveLodge. “Wake-up calls at 8:30,” coach Brian Kilrea said.

Nobody groaned. Their job was two-thirds done. On Friday, the players, mostly 16 to 19 years old, played in Ottawa. Saturday was Barrie. Sunday was Kitchener. This morning, they are supposed to be back in Ottawa in class.

“I find it difficult to get up for school. I’m tired all the time,” said Nick Boynton, 17, a farmer’s son from Nobleton, Ont.

Hockey is the quintessential Canadian sport, and playing in National Hockey League is the dream of many youths like Nick.

That is why he and his 22 teammates have left home to endure numbing weekend road trips and a drop of 10 or 15 percentage points in their high-school grades. It is also why, despite their hulking size, they are so vulnerable.

This month, the sordid world of pedophilia collided with Canada’s most wholesome symbol when a junior hockey coach was sentenced in Calgary to 3years in prison for sexually abusing two young players, including a 14-year-old.

“I can see why it happened,” said Nick, who is 6 foot 2 and weighs 200 pounds. “The coach holds all the cards if the kid will do anything to make it to the NHL.”

When his nursery-school teacher once asked him to draw a picture of what he wanted to be when he grew up, he crayoned a stick figure of a hockey player. “There’s nothing else I’d rather really do,” said Nick, who first strapped on skates as a toddler to whiz across the frozen pond of his dad’s cattle farm.

Of a dozen hockey players interviewed during their weekend road trip, some, including Nick, said they would tell their parents if a coach molested them.

Others expressed uncertainty. “You get scared. You might pretty much do anything to keep your dream alive,” said Steve Dumonski, 19, of Dorion, Ont. (pop. 500), near Thunder Bay.

“Especially if you come from small towns and close-knit families, you don’t know what the real world’s all about, how people really are.” He added, after a moment’s thought, that he would probably tell his mother.

Still other teens said they would use their fists.

“If a coach did that to me, I would have killed him, taken my stick to him,” said Steve Lowe, 19. When he was 10 and played PeeWee hockey in Hamilton, he added, one of his coaches was convicted of molesting a teammate. “The kid went insane. The coach got three months.”

The coach convicted this month was often alone with his players. The Ottawa 67s, in contrast, travel with many adults, including a team doctor, a video photographer and two assistant coaches.

For the past seven years, Marc Pinault, a 62-year-old Ottawa police sergeant, has also befriended the youths and talks to them about the pitfalls of drugs, speeding and alcohol abuse.

“People bring their kids to a town to play hockey from 300 or 400 miles away. They’re entrusting their kids to your organization,” said Mr. Kilrea.

Newer, younger coaches will be under scrutiny from now on, he predicted.

“For me, the only question people are going to have is: When is that old guy going to retire?”

Linda Zultek, who came to Barrie from Oakville to see her son, Matt, play left wing, said she has had conversations about sexual abuse every few years with him. “It’s a sensitive subject because it’s such a macho sport,” she said. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders, but you just never know.”

Elaine Bell, the mother of David Bell, who plays defence, said that molestation had never crossed her mind before this month’s case.

“It’s scary as a parent. He’s a country boy. We’re from Wiarton,” she added, mentioning the name of an Ontario town with just 2,000 people. “We’re kind of naive when it comes to some of these things. And you don’t know what goes on. They’re so close-mouthed about what goes on in the dressing room.”

Like the military or the priesthood, junior hockey has its own culture. Rookies have to do the heavy lifting, sit in the middle of the bus and let the veterans get off first. And although Mr. Kilrea has now put a stop to it, last year and the year before teammates stripped first-year players, tied their clothes in knots and made them sit for hours, naked, in the toilet compartment of the bus, the team’s second home.

On the bus, players bring their own pillows and blankets. They pass the hours watching videos such as Top Gunnd Young Guns II. The players’ huge size, the cramped bus seats and the physical intimacy engendered by daily communal showers mean they think nothing of falling asleep, entwined with one another.

Sprawled on the last seat of the bus, reserved for veteran players, David Bell patted teammate Alyn McCauley’s thigh.

“If I walked up to a buddy at school and put my hand on his thigh like this . . .” he said, breaking off, laughing and shaking his head, as Mr. McCauley, 19, punched him. “But here, if you’re not comfortable about that, you’d never get any sleep.”

In this macho atmosphere, players say it is nearly impossible for a gay teammate to come out of the closet. “There’s rumours of guys being gay, but you’d get made fun of,” David Bell said.

And how could he tell if anyone was gay? “Well, one guy tied his skates with his legs crossed,” he said.

Junior hockey is the bridge between amateur teams and the big time. There is no shortage of wide-eyed, talented youths drawn by their love of the sport and a shot at a professional career. But increasingly, junior hockey is also becoming a big business, one in which the youths aren’t just vulnerable sexually, but are also, in a sense, badly paid employees.

From ticket-sales and advertising revenues, team owners cover the basic costs of room and board for volunteer families who billet the boys. They also pay for school books and, for those who have finished high school, college tuition.

Mr. Kilrea said that schedules are designed with the school week in mind, with players missing only eight days during the 1996-97 six-month season. He said he doesn’t tolerate failing grades. Still, many players find it hard to keep up with classes. Several team members who have finished high school have postponed college indefinitely.

Troy Stonier, 19, attended only two months of Carleton University, before dropping out last November. “Sometimes a road trip started on a Wednesday. If you miss one class in university, you’re way behind,” said Mr. Stonier, winner of the team’s academic achievement award for the past two years.

In return for a seven-day work week, which includes weekday practices and two or three games on weekends, the players are paid just $40, or $35.65 after taxes. They are also eligible for unemployment insurance in the summer, although many find jobs picking tobacco or coaching children’s hockey.

“I think we should get at least $100 [a week],” said Mr. McCauley, a member of Canada’s National Junior Team, which recently won a gold medal in the world championships. Unlike most of his teammates, Mr. McCauley will probably find a slot on a NHL team, where a low salary is $250,000 and players often make $1-million or more a year.

Many youths already have agents who work for a percentage of future earnings. About 95 per cent of junior hockey players won’t make the NHL. Instead, they will likely find jobs on lesser leagues, with salaries of $40,000 to $50,000 a year.

As a big business, the bottom line in junior hockey looms large. “The only way we can make money is by a lengthy stay in the playoffs [to sell more tickets],” Mr. Kilrea said. “That’s why the playoffs are so important.”

To that end, the teen-agers are traded at will, usually with no notice. At a time when adolescents crave security, teens like Steve Lowe have played for five teams in the past three years, moving from his home in Kitchener to Sault Ste. Marie, London, Belleville, North Bay and now Ottawa.

That often creates havoc with their schooling. Steve Dumonski, for instance, arrived only last Friday. The previous day, he had been a member of the Detroit Whalers. There had been no time for farewells when the coach called Mr. Dumonski into his office and told him he had been traded to Ottawa.

“I just went home and packed my stuff and flew to Ottawa,” Mr. Dumonski said.Two hours later, he was on the ice, playing for the Ottawa 67s. His old team, he added, will take care of notifying his college and retrieving his books. He has no plans to re-enroll in an Ottawa university.

“I didn’t cry, but I had a weird feeling,” he said. “But you have to look at sport as a business. There’s so much money involved. They don’t look at you as a person. You’re just another number. If they invested in you, and you’re not working, they trade you.”

Conscious of scouts who constantly monitor the teams for prospective NHL material, the youths are increasingly playing the game with the violence of professional sports. Bone-crunching body checks, including one that left a teammate with a broken back a couple of years ago, are normal. So are fistfights that the referees allow to go on and on.

“If they keep stopping it, it gets boring,” said Maryanne Rockx, a fan who is also a hockey reporter for the Fulcrum, the University of Ottawa newspaper. “It’s entertainment. They have to keep the fans happy.”

Spending time in the “sin bin,” as the penalty box is nonchalantly dubbed, carries zero stigma. “That’s the game. It’s a game of intimidation,” said Mr. Dumonski, who has broken his collarbone, a finger, and his knuckles, the latter while breaking another player’s nose.

In the past two years, Nick Boynton, for instance, has suffered 10 stitches, a slit nostril and a knocked-out tooth and has broken his nose four times.

To the uninitiated, the Ottawa 67s seem very violent. In fact the team has one of the lowest penalty rates in its league. Still, Mr. Kilrea, a no-nonsense, gravel-voiced coach whose nickname is Killer, sometimes rewards players for violence.

Once after Ben Gustavson, 18, came back, bruised and bleeding from breaking another player’s nose in what Mr. Kilrea described as a “settling of accounts,” the coach affectionately told him, “Ben, the highest compliment I can give you is, that as long as I’ll be here, you’ll be in Ottawa. I’ll never trade you.”

Last night, Ottawa beat the Kitchener Rangers 5-4. That enabled Mr. Kilrea to match the record for the most wins of any junior-hockey coach in Canada. The taste of victory was the same as the taste of defeat: cold pizza in a darkened bus on a snow-swept highway home.

Perils of a naive hockey dad: the voyage from cricket pitch to center ice

I’d been brought up on a steady diet of football (soccer), rugby (rugger) and cricket (no other name for it, but it’s the sport where the duration of a single inning can exceed that of a Superbowl Sunday).

But when our three sons began to play ice hockey, I made a concerted effort to become a typical hockey dad — driving them to games and learning how to lace skates on for a six-year-old. In the early days we set out for the arena long before dawn on Saturday morning — actually it was closer oto the middle of the night — with a carload of sleepy-eyed six- and seven-year-olds.

As we had the luxury of two starting goalies, it was decided that this former cricket player should manage the goalkeeping, making sure the two goalies had equal ice time. But I was strictly instructed to avoid changing them over while play was in progress — having the net unattended during play, even for a brief period, was apparently a no-no. So I’d wait until there were breaks in the action and then hurriedly execute the substitutions,anxiously hoping someone would appear between the sticks before the puck was dropped for resumption of play. I wonder if Walter Gretzky ever dealt with such a challenge?

After a while, officials who’d noticed me around asked if I’d like to become officially involved in the minor hockey program. My protests that I’d never worn a pair of skates (I still haven’t) and I’d never even seen a professional hockey game (I now have) were brushed aside. The message I got was, “You have three kids involved in the program so you don’t really have a choice.”

With some trepidation I started out at the local community club level. It was concluded (correctly) that I wasn’t suitable coaching material, and I was assigned to scheduling the use of the club’s outdoor ice — a chore even a professional engineer could surely be trusted not to mess up too much. But now I had to attend meetings where discussions took place about complex hockey matters far beyond my comprehension.

After a while I foolishly let myself be persuaded to represent our club on the board of our regional minor hockey association. And without knowing how it actually came about, I eventually found myself president of that august body (if you don’t watch out carefully these incredibly frightening responsibilities can just sneak up on you). In my new capacity, I found myself representing our regional association on the board of the City of Winnipeg Minor Hockey Association. There my naive comments sometimes caused raised eyebrows.

At one stage, a boys team under my purview was discovered to have a girl goalie. When I raised it with the person in charge of teams and players — at that time, my oldest daughter — she told me to quit fussing. When higher hockey authorities heard about it, we were firmly instructed to remove the offending female from the team — if only because the comprehensive insurance for the boys team wouldn’t protect her or our association if anything went wrong. This was a concern since she was on a team of rebellious fourteen-year-olds.

When it became known that our non-boy had been peremptorily bumped, questions were asked in the House of Commons in Ottawa. I had to appear before the TV cameras to justify the decision. It was all a bit unfair because I hadn’t known about the biased gender regulations. But by this time, I really was beginning to wish I’d never left the cricket pitch. I later found myself managing a juvenile hockey team. Now seventeen-year-old juvenile hockey players are not necessarily your average law-abiding citizens.

Apart from struggling to keep them out of gaol (that’s jail, not a misspelling of goal), and discouraging them from smuggling six-packs into the locker room for after-game refreshment, my main job was to collect the sweaty jerseys after the game, have them laundered, and hand them out at the next game.

I stuck it out until our youngest son outgrew the minor hockey system. But now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t be offering my services to the Canadian Football League’s local team. I’m at least qualified to offer a history course for those U.S. imports who might be interested in learning how the Canadian 12-man game evolved from the 15-man rugby game I used to play.

Just your average soccer mom

When my son is on the field, we all, however briefly, escape the “special needs” label.

The gift-shop owner is annoyed. From behind her counter she frowns at my 6-year-old son, who is calmly surveying the broken glass at his feet. Along with a puddle of glittery fluid and some tiny figurines, the shards are all that are left of the snow globe–shiny! irresistible!–he had snatched from its shelf a moment earlier.

“That’s my new carpeting,” the shop owner says accusingly.

“He couldn’t help it,” I blurt. “He’s autistic.” The word–the betrayal–is barely out when I feel a clutching sensation in my chest. It worsens as the shopkeeper tells me I need pay only the wholesale price for the breakage, since, as she puts it, “You have enough to deal with.”

Outside, I squeeze my son’s hand and wish I could apologize to him. He wouldn’t understand, but my daughter, who is shopping with us, does. “It’s the lady’s fault,” she says, with a third-grader’s fierce certainty. “If she hadn’t stood there talking to her friend for ten minutes instead of waiting on us, he wouldn’t have broken anything.”

She’s right. My son got fidgety, and I overreacted, violating my own rule against naming his disability for strangers. I had sold him out for the price of a snow globe.

PLAYING THE DISABILITY CARD

My son is now 9, but the gift-shop incident still flares in my memory, especially when the issue of labeling him–the need to play what you might call the disability card–arises. This fall, I registered him for soccer and explicitly identified him as a “special needs” child. I had to, if I wanted him to participate in a mainstream league. “Mainstream,” of course, is common parlance for “normal.” It signifies the routine round of school and homework, sleepovers and music lessons. And soccer. For children like my son, going mainstream successfully–“passing,” as a fellow mom of an autistic child calls it–can be tantamount to leapfrogging up Everest.

In the six years since my son was diagnosed, I have concluded that labeling a child who has disabilities is a simultaneously necessary and lazy act. You must identify “deficits” (a terrible word) in order to treat them.

And yet, if supplying the name for my son’s behavior makes my life easier, even nobler–people nod sympathetically–it also diminishes his humanity. Once the A-word is applied, he devolves, before my eyes, from an extraordinarily attractive child, who loves music and silly puns and his big sister, into The Other.

Our soccer season kicks off when a friend tells me about a league that is welcoming to disabled kids. The first official I call, a parent volunteer, instructs me to check in with the special-needs coordinator. I weigh how much information to give this unknown person. In my son’s short life, I have spun out his story for at least a dozen specialists, not counting the school district’s diagnosticians. Isn’t that enough? But I take the plunge, sort of. I tell her he has PDD.

“I’ve never heard of that,” the coordinator says.

“Pervasive Developmental Disorder.” A silence. “Well, autism. Sometimes he’s not very focused, and”–I reach for a familiar symptom –“he’s kind of hyper.”

“That sounds all right,” she says briskly. “We’ll play him down a year. That’s what my child does. She has Down’s syndrome. She’s played for two years now, and she loves it.”

I ask if she accompanies her daughter onto the field, as a sort of personal helper, but she politely brushes me off.

“I cheer for all of them,” she says simply, refusing to expose her child to my scrutiny.

“Good for you,” I say enthusiastically. “It sounds great.”

On the first day of practice, my husband, my son, and I leave the house an hour early. We had raced to finish work and dispatch our daughter to gymnastics practice. Now we are crawling through 20 miles of rush-hour traffic.

“We could have tried the YMCA league,” my husband reminds me. “Ten minutes from the house.”

“It will be fine,” I say. I have decided that long-distance soccer has its benefits. We are unlikely to bump up against anyone who knows us. I will not encounter the parent who, watching my son and his classmates in a school activity, stage-whispered to his own boy, “THAT’S THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASS.” To everyone but the special-needs coordinator and our coach, who has been put in the picture, my son is a blank slate. Perhaps–the irrational thought flutters up–he will pass.

Interestingly, the tendency to equate “special” with “the other” also colors the attitudes of some autism experts. But maybe this is not surprising, given the professionals’ track record in treating the disorder. Well into the 1960s, most people, even the “experts,” heeded psychologist Bruno Bettelheim’s now-famous dictum that, by withholding affection from their children, “refrigerator mothers” caused autism. In the 1970s and early 1980s, psychologists advised parents to institutionalize their young autistic children and never look back.

At the turn of the millennium, the institutionalization rate has dropped drastically. Treatments are more effective, the number of research studies has multiplied, and celebrities with autistic kids have raised awareness of the disorder. And yet, nobody knows what causes autism or has come up with a consistent cure. The frustration factor–disavowal of the patient who cannot be helped–may explain why some professionals continue to distinguish between “human being” and “autistic.”

In my least favorite article, a young medical student writes gushily about encountering autism for the first time, in a 4-year-old child. When the little boy recoils from a doctor’s stethoscope, she takes it as proof that he is a species of space alien: “The little boy began to moan–no, not moan exactly. It was … a sound I have never heard come from a child.” She had also never heard that autism is a spectrum disorder (meaning it can range from mild to severe), that early intervention is crucial, and that many small children, normal as she, are afraid of the doctor. The Journal of the American Medical Association published her essay anyway.

As we slowly progress along the freeway, I turn toward the back seat. “So, are you ready to play soccer?”

soccer-and-kids

“I am all ready,” my son says. Unlike most of his activities, we haven’t talked this up too much. We haven’t had to. Last night, he tried on his shin pads. They fit, he loved them, and, delighted, he wanted to wear them to bed. I can’t remember whether it happened when I was driving him to speech therapy, or occupational therapy, or music therapy, or the special private school he currently attends, but one day, out of nowhere, he said, “I want to play soccer like my sister.”

So here we are.

FIELD OF DREAMS

The soccer field abuts a Houston Community College building that is closed for renovations. It features hard-packed dirt and sparse grass, the result of a scorching summer and rainless fall. Somehow, though, Houston’s mosquitoes have survived the drought–and are hungry.

We search the crowd of arriving kids and families for our coach, who is easy to spot in his red shirt. The name of a sports bar adorns the back. He greets us a bit brusquely, and I devise a new worry: Will our son respond to him? Obediently enough, our child lines up with a gaggle of other little boys for a kicking drill. The parents hang around, watching and slapping at their ankles. I find the most anxious-looking mom and introduce myself.

“I hope this is going to be okay,” she confesses to me. “Alex has never played soccer before.”

“My son never has either,” I say conspiratorially. We watch Alex race up to the ball and kick it in a long, high arc, like a miniature Pele.

“Attaway, Alex,” his mom calls. “Good job,” I echo dutifully, realizing that she and I are not in the same boat after all.

According to the rules of our league, all parents must exhibit positive, affirming behavior. You cannot scream advice to your child (as the Parent Manual points out, directives like “Kick it! Kick it!” are “obvious”); you cannot bawl out criticism.

Impeccable in theory, the Parent Manual has the practical effect of a gag order. Well into the season, we grown-ups sit timidly on the sidelines for fear of hollering the wrong thing. Yet none of the boys seem to miss the roar of parental voices, and the calm is certainly beneficial for my son, who always recoils from cacophony.

At this first practice, he manages to attempt the drills about half the time, but by the end of the session he is tired. He begins to ignore directions, to withdraw into himself.

The coach is patient but clearly a bit puzzled. I suspect the explanatory note he received from the special-needs coordinator was pretty vague. I also sense that his brusqueness, expressed in a growly voice that most of the boys heed immediately, is really a form of shyness.

Gamely, the coach ensures that our son tries out every skill. In his own instinctive way, he is as effective as any therapist we have visited. Half seriously, I consider asking him to record a series of edicts–“Time to get dressed!” “Brush your teeth now!” “Let’s start on your math homework!”–that we can pop into our son’s cassette player at home.

Back in the car, at the start of the long drive home, we ask our son if he had a good time. Does he like soccer?

“Yes,” he declares emphatically, as if, like those silly parents in the manual, we have just said something obvious.

Soccer games in general tend to run together for me, especially when played by young children. In my son’s league, keeping score is prohibited, so you can’t even sort their weekly outings into “won” and “lost.” Despite this rule, the boys on my son’s team are well aware that, on most Saturdays, they score more goals than their opponents. The name they bestowed on themselves–the Hotshots–has proved apropos.

My husband believes that success breeds tolerance; it helps the Hotshots ignore our son’s obliviousness to the team effort. I don’t think it matters. With 7-year-olds, there is little team effort. All the children try to control the ball, all of the time. Sometimes it rolls out of the tight scrum of frantically waving feet over to our child, who is hanging back from the action, and he gets in a tentative kick. Sometimes he aims for the right goal. Overall he does better at practices, which are more structured than competition. Slowly he learns to trap the ball, dribble it, kick it into the net. My husband and I agree that soccer has improved his gross motor skills, happily ignoring our resolution to avoid treating it as a therapeutic exercise.

Like the coach, the Hotshots don’t quite understand the nature of my son’s disability, but they come to accept him. During practice scrimmages they occasionally form a motionless semicircle, patiently giving him open access to the ball. At one game, a teammate insists that it is my son’s turn to be team captain (this honor consists of wearing a sticker that says “Team Captain”). So far as I can tell, no adult has suggested these gestures, at least not within earshot of my son, and I am grateful.

The parents’ reactions are similarly low-key. It could be the influence of the Parent Manual (“It Is True INCLUSION When ALL Kids Can Play TOGETHER”). Or maybe they have their own problems to deal with. The families on this team are less affluent than many in our neighborhood. They include immigrants, single parents, and stepparents, and everyone works full-time. When my son’s foot touches the ball, they cheer, in an acceptably restrained way. No one ever draws me aside–like the Good Samaritan in a music class he’d once taken–to suggest, gently, that his development seems delayed and have I consulted my pediatrician? For this reason alone, the soccer experiment has been a resounding success. And my son has loved playing the game, or rather, the idea of playing it, of wearing the uniform just like all the other kids.

When the clock runs out on the last game of the season, we fold up our lawn chairs and set off for the league party at one of those “family-oriented” pizza places where the cheap food is a Vegas-like stratagem for luring kids into playing the video games. When the Hotshots straggle in, four or five other teams have already arrived. Our coach emerges from the buffet line. My husband and I congratulate him on a great season, and he beams at us. “I don’t suppose you’re coaching in the spring?” I ask casually.

“No, I do T-ball in the spring.”

“That must be fun,” I say insincerely.

After the party ends, we load our children–with our son’s trophy and our daughter’s vending-machine prizes–into the car and turn onto the freeway access road. It’s the last time we’ll make this drive on a Saturday, I think, and I begin counting how many new hours have been added to the week. Five, at a minimum. Oh, luxury.

A voice from the back seat interrupts my calculations.

“When do I start playing soccer again?” my son asks.