1. Healthy Eating Myths

    June 3, 2013

    healthy diet

    It’s not easy to diet successfully and maintain a healthy diet. As more and more people have embraced the need to eat healthily, companies and marketers have produced a huge variety of foods, all of which claim to offer  health benefits. Seeing the prospect of big sales from low fat goods, food producers have turned everything from yogurts to cereal bars into versions emptied of fats. That’s a good thing, right?

    Well, it’s certainly hard to diet these days without eating a great deal of low fat food. Where would most of us be without our low fat ready meals or snacks? When we used to reach for Kit Kats or Mars bars, now we can have delicious low fat Alpen bars – promising the goodness of our favourite breakfast cereals reduced to a healthy small-scale alternative. If these bars only contained cereals and fruit, then that might not be a problem, but then they would not be as appealing to our taste buds. Instead, producers are tending to lace their goods with added sugars  with very small fruit portions and high dosages of vegetable oils. Astonishingly, this means that a standard Cadbury’s Flake bar contains less calories than a supposedly healthy fruit bar, hardly the solution to our fat-busting needs.

    This is backed up by a recent health survey by the respected consumer group Which? who found that cereal bars are laden with sugar. (and freighted with irony). Some cereal bars could be compared to a can of Coke, with their sugar content, while roasted nut bars like Tracker can contain 30 percent fat. And if you are looking to boost the health of your children, think again. Food companies seem to have increased the sugar content of bars marketed at kids, with one Monster Puffs bar containing a whopping 43 percent sugar.

    Even if cereal bars like this can reduce calorie intake by reducing fat consumption, the added sugars present some potentially devastating health impacts that dieters should know about. High sugar diets have been linked by medical researchers to increased incidence of Type-2 Diabetes, even in patients who are not obese in any way. Type-2 Diabetes is a chronic condition which leads to intense fatigue, vision problems, increased urination at night and general weakness. It’s not much fun, and by upping your intake of high sugar cereal bars, you could be raising your risks of contracting it.

    Health suppliers are starting to take note and take a different approach,  the audience is actually becoming more savvy and less predictable – transparency is now the key to future success. Mixing a commitment to dieting with an awareness of the health dangers from sugar, they are pioneering healthy snacks which promote weight loss without the pitfalls. And with all of us reaching for the snack cupboard every now and then, this can only be a more positive experience.

  2. The Psychological Benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong Practice

    April 21, 2013

    Tai Chi

    Image Credit: Garry Knight

    by Dan Kleiman

    The evidence is in that slow movement, coupled with body awareness not only has astounding health benefits but amazing psychological benefits as well. Recently, the Los Angeles Times published a story about the widespread use of slow movement , awareness-based therapies, for the treatment of pain brought on by “…cancer and cancer treatments, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and other diseases and conditions, in pain clinics and integrative medicine centers. These treatment plans include such routines as Tai Chi and Hatha Yoga.

    One of the main reasons that programs such as Tai Chi, Qigong and Yoga are so effective in managing pain is that the exercises help to relieve the depression often caused by chronic pain, greatly improving the quality of life. Continued practice not only keeps depression at bay but also improves confidence. In the above-mentioned study patients with chronic low back pain took a 12 week course of Hatha Yoga had significantly less problems with depression and disability than the standard care control group did. The same study using Tai Chi in treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis reported less pain, stress and a much greater awareness of their body and more confidence.

    Medical experts are divided as to why these treatments are so effective. The most common consensus among researchers however is that the exercises encourage parasympathetic relaxation responses that reduce the stress response, inhibit inflammation, promotes immune functions and stimulates healing. They believe that the slow, deliberate movements extend the benefits of cardiovascular exercise to a much deeper level, drawing on previously untapped resources.

    The graceful, choreographed movement sequences of Tai Chi, called the “solo form” begin the process of merging mind, body and spirit. While learning solo form Tai Chi, students learn to feel different internal qualities and their outward manifestations. These different “energies” are called the 13 Postures of Tai Chi. As you perfect the 13 Postures, you are better able to relax: you sink your energy, lengthen the spine, relax the joints and muscles and calm the mind.

    When combined with appropriate breathing exercises, in which the breath is in harmony with the movements, the internal musculature of the shoulders, lower back and legs will open , with each breath taken. This promotes stillness, sensitizes the mind to both internal and external perceptions, suppresses jagged, hurried thought processes and raises the spirit.

    Later on, students more to two-person exercises called Push Hands. In Push Hands, you engage in extension and retraction movements in response to another person. You learn to neutralize your fight or flight response by grounding the other person’s force, in a gradual, non-threatening, systematic progression of exercises.

    In this video, you can see how our typical response is to either tense up or run away when we are faced with a threat: http://youtu.be/dbt1nC9jypI

    Tai Chi trains you to respond in a completely different way. You learn to “sink your chi”, staying grounded, present, and connected to the reality of the situation when you are faced with a mental, emotional, or physical challenge.

    In Tai Chi Push Hands, you learn that forcing a situation to resolve in a pre-determined way won’t work. Instead, you have to go into each encounter “grounded” and “listening”, or engaged and with an open mind. The big difference with Tai Chi, though, is that you do practices that help you learn this idea in your body. It’s not just something you tell yourself.

    Where your solo form practice helps begin the healing process by gradually eliminating chronic pain, stiffness and/or depression, interactive practices allow you to go deeper into the psychological dimensions of your relationships with people all around you.

    Push Hands exercises also address problems with visual perception and balance, by introducing resistance, reaction time, and sensitivity to outside factors. There are currently many studies, and more being currently conducted, that illustrate the many health benefits, both physical and psychological that students of Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga receive. These exercises have been shown to not only be great for preventing illness and promoting psychological well-being, but more and more medical professionals are exploring ways to integrate these traditional practices into treatment programs for their patients.

  3. Discover The Power And Benefits Of Meditation

    March 23, 2013


    Image Credit: Cornelia Kopp

    by Regina Sutherfield

    Meditation is the practice of calming the mind and focusing on stillness in order to relax, soothe the spirit and gain balance. Anyone who is looking for a way to get in touch with their inner self, find peace and serenity and develop the power to tackle life’s problems can benefit from this ancient practice.
    Meditating comes in many different forms but the most important thing to remember is that is simple to accomplish. Different people offer insights into various techniques and methods, and there is no right or wrong way to go about meditating. Some people practice for hours a day while others just need 15 minutes to get in touch with their spirit and develop a sense of peace and calm.

    The aim of meditation is to let go of thoughts, worries, anxieties, fears and doubts and just simply relax and empty the mind.

    The benefits of meditation

    Meditation has limitless benefits that can range from relaxing and unwinding from a long day to addressing health issues or deep emotional scars. Learning the various techniques can help anyone to connect with their spirit and discover the treasure of peace and wellness that lies deep within.

    Meditation can reduce stress an anxiety as well as promote better health. Many sufferers of chronic pain, high blood pressure and other ailments report feeling better after spending a few minutes a day quieting their minds and touching their souls.

    Whether using candles or relaxing music, creating a special place that is free from distraction and full of tranquility can promote a more focused and intentional experience.

    The Best Practices

    One of the great things about meditation is there are no wrong or right methods. What works for one person is not necessarily the best option for another. Some popular techniques to choose from include:

    -Deep and slow breathing.
    -Repetitive chanting.
    -Sitting on a mat or the floor with legs crossed and focusing on a candle.
    -Closing the eyes and concentrating attention on a particular tranquil image or scene.

    Adding quiet music or scented candles can also help to create an environment that will help to calm the mind and refresh the spirit. Anyone who wants to awaken their soul, honor their body and learn how to be in the moment can find effective techniques by attending classes, using at home videos, and researching tactics online.

    Meditation Is a Discipline

    One of the biggest obstacles that people face when learning how to meditate is developing the discipline of being still and at peace. It takes practice and commitment, but a whole new realm of possibilities can be awakened once it is mastered. Meditation should be a fulfilling exercise, and the only way to unlock its true potential is to try different methods until the right ones are discovered.

    Learning from some of the greatest spiritual teachers of our time can be helpful with finding the right techniques that will be easy to put into practice.  Meditation can improve mental well-being and can be effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
    The keys to peace, health lie within us. Dedicating a few minutes every day to be still and simply “be” can unlock your hidden potential while promoting balance and overall well-being.