Alyssa Giacobbe

Alyssa Giacobbe

Posted on August 7th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Me Eat. You?

The Paleo diet trend is catching on.

It used to be called dieting. Now our food restrictions, most of them self-imposed, are called a lifestyle choice. From the vegetarian, vegan, and dairy-free to nut-free, low-fat, no fat, no carb, and raw, pretty much everyone’s not eating something.

The newest abstainers may be followers of the Paleo diet, also known as the “caveman diet” and populated by Loren Cordain, PhD, author of three books on the topic: The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, and The Dietary Cure for Acne. Cordain and other proponents of the Paleo diet argue for a return to prehistoric ways of eating, pointing out that the human body was designed to thrive on—and best digest—the foods available to us when we were hunter-gatherers: meat, vegetables, and fruits, but not dairy or grains. Before the invention of agriculture and processed foods, we were fitter and less disease-stricken, he argues; those who’ve had success on a Paleo diet, meanwhile, credit it for everything from losing weight to lowering blood pressure and eliminating acne. Like nearly any other restrictive way of eating, including veganism, the Paleo diet has dedicated followers and ardent detractors.

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Posted on July 30th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons

Stop and Smell the Roses

In the age of over-busy, what does it mean to make every minute count?

A recent op-ed in the New York Times entitled “The ‘Busy’ Trap”—in which writer Tim Kreider describes a 21st-century America dominated by people whose favorite catchphrase is some version of “I’m sooo busy”— drew virtual nods of acknowledgment from across the web. This busyness, Kreider argues, is most often self-imposed: work and activities we’ve taken on, or encouraged our kids to take on, voluntarily. We’re busy because we’re ambitious, and we’re busy because we’re scared of what not being busy says about us. And it’s costing us our physical and mental health, our relationships, and, ironically, our productivity.

“We live with a lot of demands,” says Kripalu Senior Life Coach Aruni Nan Futuronsky. Aruni says that the amount—and the intensity—of stress she’s seeing among her clients has grown stronger and more pervasive over the last few years. She points to the “sandwich generation,” the set of adults tasked with taking care of both their children and their aging parents. At the same time, she says, life’s job is to take us away from the moment. “We’re so infrequently unplugged from work or news that our bodies are literally flooded with cortisol and adrenaline 24 hours a day,” says Aruni. “Our culture does an extraordinary job of making us wacky. Our responsibility is to find ways to reclaim some stillness, no matter what’s going on.”

But haven’t we heard for ages—from everyone from our grandmothers to our gurus, contained in songs on the radio and sermons at church—that we have but one life; we need to ‘make it count’? How do we tell the difference between making the most of every moment and busying ourselves into destruction? It’s actually pretty simple, says Aruni. “Yogically speaking, the way you make every minute count is to literally stop,” she says. “Yoga, and its principles, don’t deny us the external world but help us appreciate it by slowing down, by stopping the constant doing.”

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Posted on July 24th, 2012 by in Studies, News, and Trends, Yoga

Hot Yoga: How Hot is Too Hot?

It’s been a record-breaking summer so far, with early-season heat waves pushing temperatures along the typically seasonable Northeast into the upper 90s and past 100. Those of us who are fans of hot yoga— whether we’re talking about mildly heated vinyasa or Bikram, where the room is set to a sweaty 105 degrees F—know that the practice can be a welcome relief in the cold winter months. But what about when temperatures outside the studio are hotter than temperatures in?

Whether induced by vigorous exercise, high heat, or both, sweating is the body’s way of cooling us down, by absorbing heat and releasing it into the atmosphere. The process of evaporation is key to this function; that’s why doctors say to avoid wiping sweat if you can, letting it dissipate on its own instead. (If you’re dripping, however, you might as well wipe; anything that hits the floor won’t get a chance to cool you down.) But when we’re so used to “sweating it out,” how do we know when hot may be getting a little over the top?

It’s a simple matter of self-awareness, says Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga and a fan of hot yoga. “Sweating is detoxifying, while the heat itself can make our bodies more amenable to certain postures,” he says, noting that people with high blood pressure or heart conditions should use extra caution—or, even better, get the okay from a doctor first—when doing yoga in high heat. The downsides, of course, include the risk of dehydration and becoming overly exhausted. “Levels of tolerance are very individual, and can vary day by day,” he says.

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What, us worry? Better than anyone.

In his new memoir,Monkey Mind, Daniel Smith describes a life spent in near- constant panic. He’d have recurring nightmares about premature death. He’d wrestle over the decision between ketchup and barbecue sauce. He’d sweat, a lot. In Monkey Mind—the title comes from the Buddhist term meaning “unsettled, restless”—Smith, now mostly recovered though still no stranger to the panic attack, uses humor and blunt-force honesty to describe what is an ever-present, and very American, condition: worry.

These days, everyone’s a worrier. Nearly one in five Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. If there were an international war of worriers, we’d be winning: According to a recent World Health Organization study, 31 percent of Americans are likely to suffer from an anxiety issue at some point in their lives. Compare that to second-place Colombia, where the anxious top out at 25.3 percent. Even those in developing countries are less likely to fret: According to the 2002 World Mental Health Survey, people in developing-world countries are up to five times less likely to show clinically significant anxiety levels than Americans. Until, that is, they move here.

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Posted on July 14th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Studies, News, and Trends

Cooking Right: The Best Cookware for Healthful Eating at Home

In recent years, cookware has been the center of a hot, so to speak, debate, as environmental and health groups warn against the dangers of Teflon and other nonstick surfaces. According to tests issued by one group, cooking at very high temperatures can break down Teflon coating, emitting fumes and chemicals that include perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which can cause flulike symptoms in people (and kill pet birds). The Environmental Protection Agency, however, ruled that while Teflon and other nonstick products may contain trace amounts of PFOA, the levels are so small that the routine use of such products is not a concern, while lawsuits seeking to link PFOA in the water supply to an increased risk of cancer have been unsuccessful. Still, it’s been tough to overcome Teflon’s bad rap, and many people worry about using any form of nonstick, even if it’s labeled “PFOA-free”—just in case.

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Posted on July 7th, 2012 by in Yoga

Big Yoga

Yoga for the People—All 500,000 of them

Yoga is getting bigger—literally. The quarterly conferences run by Yoga Journal have grown considerably over the last decade, with the more popular teachers leading packed classes in giant ballrooms. Now in its third year, yoga and music festival Wanderlust runs four sold-out summer weekends throughout the country, attracting tens of thousands of people to group classes led by Seane Corn, Rodney Yee, and others. A few weeks ago, 500,000 Manhattan yogis gathered to celebrate the summer solstice in the middle of Times Square. And coming up, the GLBL Yoga Project, set for August 16, will turn Central Park into a giant yoga studio, with 15,000 yogis practicing to live music.

There are great advantages to practicing yoga in a large group, says Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga. “A yoga practice is called sangha, which means ‘community coming together,’” he says. “And there’s no doubt that our personal, spiritual, and individual growth is quickened when we have a community of like-minded souls reflecting back to us, with honesty, who we are.” Group experiences, says Devarshi—who recently returned from teaching at the Wanderlust Festival in Stratton, Vermont—can be especially conducive to forming an energy that’s much bigger than what we experience on our own. He points to the musician MC Yogi’s performances at Wanderlust. “His songs brought people together singing, screaming, moving,” he says. “It was so inspiring, I was sobbing.”

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Posted on June 26th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Studies, News, and Trends

Vitamin D: On the D List?

Vitamin D has been the subject of great debate in recent years, with most experts agreeing that we’re dangerously deficient but little consensus regarding just how much we need—or how we should be getting it. According to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, nearly half of all U.S. adults are vitamin D deficient, and even more have levels that are lower than is ideal.

We need D. Studies have shown that vitamin D—which is, in fact, not a vitamin but rather a hormone—may help prevent a number of serious illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, certain types of cancer, and cardiovascular disease. What’s more, it’s believed to be an important factor in ensuring healthy bones, since D aids in the body’s absorption of calcium. But in recent years, deficiencies have climbed in direct relation to our awareness of the need to wear sunscreen. Our bodies produce all the D we need through the sun’s UVB rays most—though not all—of which a decent sunscreen filters out. And though certain foods are rich in D—including fatty fish, eggs, and fortified dairy—most experts have thought that we don’t eat enough of these foods on a consistent basis to take in all the D we need. And so until recently, the smartest move, experts have said, was to get a little D from the sun and the rest from supplements. (The most recent recommendation by the Institute of Medicine put the amount of D we need per day at 600 i.u. for those ages 1 to 70, and 800 i.u. for those over 70, up from the previous recommendation of 200 to 600 i.u.)

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Posted on June 21st, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Studies, News, and Trends

Eating for Good Behavior

What’s really causing your kids’ ADHD?

Here’s some food for thought—literally. About 10 percent of kids in the United States have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), leaving many parents to weigh the pros and cons of treatments that often include behavioral therapy, medication, and dietary modifications like coffee before school (really!). But researchers in the Netherlands argue that 64 percent of those diagnosed kids are actually experiencing a hypersensitivity to food, and that the key to treating ADHD—and perhaps even preventing it—is as simple as a change in diet.

The study, published in the medical journal The Lancet, suggests that with a dietary overhaul—which often calls for an elimination of some combination of sugar, dairy, gluten, and preservatives—kids with ADHD could experience a serious reduction in symptoms like excessive fidgeting, outbursts, and the inability to concentrate. A follow-up study published in the journal Pediatrics reported that a diet rich in fish, vegetables, whole-grain foods, fruits, and legumes seemed to improve symptoms for kids with ADHD, while an Australian study found that kids who typically eat a Western-style diet—often including fast food and high-fat dairy—were significantly more likely to have ADHD than kids who ate a more healthful diet.

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