Things You Need To Know About Coconut Oil
So … is coconut oil actually healthy or just a passing health fad? And, if it is healthy, why did we used to think it was so bad for us?
Coconut oil is everywhere these days — as a butter substitute in vegan baking, a smoothie topper for natural health nuts and even a beauty treatment, for moisturizing skin and hair and improving oral health via oil pulling.
But … wasn’t it just a generation ago that we were decrying coconut oil as the worst of the worst, due to its high levels of heart-harming saturated fat? Did we get it very wrong back then or is the reemergence of the tropical oil nothing but a slick stunt?
According to Tom Brenna, a professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology, the answer is some combination of both. Not all coconut oils are created equal. The flakey, fragrant stuff you might find in a superfood smoothie is a very different type of coconut oil than the partially-hydrogenated fat found in junk food in the ’80s, which was a highly-processed version of the plant oil, containing trans fats and other dangerous, cholesterol-promoting compounds.
“The older refined-deodorized bleached coconut oil causes rapid and very unhealthy looking rises in cholesterol, for sure, no doubt,” Brenna said in an email to HuffPost Healthy Living. “There is no evidence that that is the case for virgin coconut oil, which is available today but was not in the 1970s and ’80s when people were using RDB coconut oil.”
Virgin coconut oil and even a refined version (most studies have been conducted on refined coconut oil) are now available in grocery stores and health stores and are being touted for their ability to help us lose weight, stave off illness and even prevent Alzheimer’s. Sure, it’s better than its junk food predecessor, but is it quite all that?
“It has properties that are promising, but we need a lot more research before we can say this is the superfood of 2014,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick MS, RD, LD, manager of wellness nutrition services for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.
Recently, a study conducted on mouse cells and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease got some attention when it found that treatment with coconut oil helped protect cortical neurons in a lab setting. Can we extrapolate that to a protective brain effect in living humans quite yet? Of course not.
Coconut oil may also help encourage weight loss, as in a 2009 study during which women with abdominal obesity who supplemented their diet with coconut oil were able to lose more weight than those who were given a soy bean oil supplement. But Kirkpatrick cautions against the “health halo effect,” in which we give a pass to foods that we think are healthy and lose sight of portion control. “Just because we think there are some health benefits doesn’t mean you can use a whole jar of coconut oil to cook,” she says.
Natural coconut oil is made of 90 percent saturated fat (butter, a distant second, contains a comparatively puny 64 percent saturated fat), but the kind of saturated fat matters just as much as the amount. About half of virgin coconut oil’s saturated fat is lauric acid, a medium-chain triglyceride that turns out to have a number of health-promoting properties, including the ability to improve levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. People can also more easily digest medium-chain triglycerides and convert them to energy, according to The Wall Street Journal, making coconut oil a good choice for athletes. That said, because it’s so high in saturated fat, even the purest, most natural coconut oil could be problematic for longterm heart health, according to a Harvard nutrition professor.
“Most of the research so far has consisted of short-term studies to examine its effect on cholesterol levels. We don’t really know how coconut oil affects heart disease,” wrote Walter C. Willett, M.D., chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School for Public Health, in a newsletter. “And I don’t think coconut oil is as healthful as vegetable oils like olive oil and soybean oil, which are mainly unsaturated fat and therefore both lower LDL and increase HDL.”
Kirkpatrick herself cooks with coconut oil about once a week for taste, but is hesitant to use any more than that until there’s more research. “I really stick with olive oil,” she says. “It’s not as sexy, but there are so many more studies about its benefits.”
Posted on Tuesday, April 22nd 2014
12 Simple Food Swaps
Living a healthier life doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, sometimes the changes can be downright easy. Often when people decide to embrace a healthier lifestyle, they make drastic changes, making it hard to stick to their plan. But there are simple things you can do each day to help with your overall health and weight loss. Sometimes, it’s even as easy as playing a different video game.
1. Eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice
A glass of orange juice is not the same as eating a whole piece of fruit. Drinking a glass of juice contains very little of the pulp or skin from an orange, and none of the fibre, writes Women’s Health. Next time you reach for a glass of juice, opt for eating a piece of fruit instead. It’ll have less calories and more nutrients.
2. Swap your latte for green tea
According to the Daily Burn, choosing to drink that morning latte could be costing you up to 300 calories and a ton of sugar. Rather than set yourself up for a sugar crash later in the morning, try drinking green tea instead. It contains zero calories and still has caffeine. It also has the ability to rev up your metabolism. Green tea has a thermogenic effect on your metabolism, meaning that it will speed up after you drink a cup.
3. Use oil and balsamic rather than processed dressings
Salad dressings have a ton of ingredients in them, meaning they’re not good for you. Less is more when it comes to the number of ingredients in your food. Try ditching the ranch and putting a small amount of olive oil or balsamic vinegar on your salad instead.
4. Pick spinach over lettuce
There are almost zero nutrients in Iceberg lettuce. Spinach, however, is packed with folic acid, iron and great flavor. Remember, usually the darker the vegetable, the more nutrients you’re going to get. Spinach leaves work great on a sandwich or for a salad.
5. Drink sparkling water instead of soda
“Try a fun flavor like lemon-lime or even vanilla if you don’t like straight soda water,” Women’s Health suggests.
6. Substitute chips for air-popped popcorn
We all enjoy salty snacks every now and then. Instead of reaching for the chips, air-pop some popcorn and add a dash of salt. You can have three cups worth, and it’ll only cost you 100 calories.
7. Opt for whole wheat
Make sure that the first ingredient listed on your bread is whole wheat, Men’s Fitness writes. It should say 100 percent whole wheat or whole-wheat flour. Multi-grain just means they’re throwing additional grains into the mix, but that doesn’t mean it’s whole grain that you’re eating.
8. Eat more
Don’t skip meals – this one’s super important. If you don’t make the time to eat, you’ll feel tired and run-down later. It also slows down your metabolism and could cause you to overeat later.
9. Swap out video games
Instead of opting for a sit-down game to play on the Wii, replace Super Mario Brothers with Wii Sports or Just Dance. It won’t seem like exercise, and you’ll be burning calories while having fun.
10. Swap a snack for a piece of fruit
This is a small change, but one that makes a big difference overtime. We all enjoy our daily snacks. So the next time you reach for your afternoon treat, eat an apple, orange or even grapes instead. Over time you’ll see yourself lose weight due to the snack swap. Meanwhile, you’re increasing your daily intake of key nutrients.
11. Pick toast rather than a bagel
Yes, everyone enjoys a good bagel. But they contain the caloric equivalent to eating five slices of toast, according to Women’s Health. Instead have a piece or two of whole wheat toast. It’s more nutritional with less calories.
12. Cook, rather than eat out
You can try as hard as you want to eat healthy at a restaurant, but there always seem to be more calories packed into restaurant meals. That salad you ordered? It most likely has way more calories than any salad you’d make at home. And, if you’re looking for even more incentive, it’s guaranteed to be great for your budget too. Over time, you can save a lot of money and calories by forgoing restaurant meals.
Posted on Monday, April 21st 2014
Things You Should Stop Paying For
We live in a consumer nation, where it has long been the case that many of us are encouraged to spend and to pay it off with money we don’t have, which then racks up our debt.
This mentality has shifted little during the recession; people are gradually spending less and saving more. However, there are still a lot of things we’re paying for that we don’t need.
Here are 12 things you should be getting for free.
Books: Don’t buy books. Instead, borrow them from the library or from a friend, and explore sites that will let you swap books with other people such as BookMooch and PaperBackSwap. Alternatively, there are plenty of wonderful free ebooks on Amazon if you’re game to try an indie author.
Cable: A record number of Americans are canceling their cable services, reports Business Insider. Paying for cable almost seems pointless when you look at all the free options out there such as Hulu and network websites that offer free streaming of their hit shows online. Here are steps to cut the cord and survive a world without cable.
Credit report: Get your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com, which allots you one free report per year from each of the three bureaus.
Shipping: Hunt around the web for free shipping when you’re shopping online. Go to freeshipping.org and find promo codes for free shipping on the website; you can even subscribe to get free shipping alerts from the site. Be sure to also check out retailmenot.com for free shipping codes.
Museum tickets: Don’t pay for admission to museums. Most museums offer free entry at least once a month. To find out which museums offer this freebie, you can search around the web by typing in the name of the city or museum and the keywords “free admission.” Or you can check out SavvyCities, select the city you live in, then click the “attractions” tab and the “museum free days” option for a listing of museums that offer free admission.
Water: Don’t buy bottled water, and opt for tap water instead. If you don’t like the taste of it, perhaps invest your money in an affordable water filter. Check out this Brita water filter pitcher ($27).
Baggage on board: If you have the right carry-on luggage, you won’t have to check in your excess baggage and pay those pesky fees again. Get a carry-on that airlines will accept, and learn how to pack light.
Texts: If you opt for a smartphone, then you can download one of the free texting apps such as WhatsApp to your phone, so you won’t have to pay for texts.
Bank accounts and credit cards: Do some research to sign up for bank accounts and credit cards without annual fees. There are plenty of great options out there.
Cleaning supplies: DIY cleaning supplies with things you already have in your pantry for a natural and free alternative.
Exercise: Of course, this is really objective, but you don’t have to pay for exercise if you use what’s available to you, such as the great outdoors. I’ve recently been a huge fan of the free POPSUGAR Active app that provides users with a lot of awesome fitness videos and guides. It’s like having a celebrity personal trainer in your own living room!
International phone calls: Don’t pay for international phone calls when you can call your overseas pals for free. You can call them over a Skype app that can be installed on your computer, iPhone, or Android. However, the other person has to have Skype installed as well for you to talk to them without getting charged.
Can you think of any more items that we shouldn’t be paying for?
Posted on Monday, April 21st 2014
Why You Should Only Work 40 Hours A Week
In 1938, President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act in an attempt to end what he called “starvation wages and intolerable hours.”
More than 75 years later, many American companies still find creative ways to overwork their employees beyond what is fair, reasonable and healthy.
In Roosevelt’s day, blue-collar jobs, like manufacturing and mining, generated the most cause for concern. Now, highly educated information workers find themselves in a similar predicament.
The high cost of overtime
Startups, tech companies and other organizations continue to expand their reach into the lives of their employees in a negative way by pushing them to log long hours.
What begins as an exception soon becomes the norm. A product launch, a trade show, a sprint. Sometimes the work doesn’t fit into the time allotted. Often lack of planning is the culprit.
Regardless of the reason, employees inevitably are called upon to save the project, sacrificing their personal lives for the good of the company.
When this becomes standard practice, everyone loses. The employee, the employee’s family and the company all suffer. People burn out. Kids don’t get to see their parents before bedtime. Turnover skyrockets.
A new way of thinking
The good news is that we’ve found a better way. You can build a strong business—with loyal employees, happy customers, healthy margins and manageable stress—without working more than 40 hours a week.
How do I know? Because at my company, BambooHR, we’ve built a rapidly growing global business on the merits of an “anti-workaholic” policy.
To start with, we offer flexible schedules so our team members can get kids off to school in the morning, make time for a dance recital or school performance, or leave a little early to go camping for the weekend. These events in life don’t happen often, but they are precious moments that shouldn’t be overlooked in the name of work. We also don’t want anyone working more than 40 hours per week. There may occasionally be an emergency, but it is definitely an exception to the rule.
We want our employees to have the time to be involved with whatever brings them joy and recharges their energy beyond our halls (rock climbing, making a casserole for a hungry neighbor, etc.). The work will still be there waiting for them when they return in the morning. The difference is, because they’re rested, fed and fulfilled, they’ll actually do better work and more of it while they’re on the clock. It’s a beautiful thing.
The benefits of a 40-hour workweek
Henry Ford made a wise business decision in 1926. His automobile assembly lines implemented a 40-hour workweek to allow his employees to spend more time with their families. He was rewarded with a happier workforce and increased productivity.
At BambooHR, we’ve reaped similar benefits. The constraint of the 40-hour week forces us to plan and estimate better, communicate more clearly, and focus on the strategic objectives that truly drive our business forward.
We’ve seen that people are excited to come to work, even on a Monday. This enthusiasm shows in their performance. Creativity and clear thinking produce solid progress and solutions.
This policy has not hindered company growth. The business, the team and our customers have all benefited as we allow room for family, friends and hobbies. We are recharged and energized to continue making BambooHR the best HR software in the world for small and medium businesses.
With a flexible 40-hour workweek, I feel that we are free to do our best work. I invite other companies to follow suit and reevaluate their current practices to bring more balance to work and life. You’ll be glad you did.
Posted on Tuesday, April 15th 2014
11 Truths About Nutrition
There is a lot of controversy in nutrition. Sometimes it seems like people can’t agree on anything at all.
But there are a few exceptions to this… some nutrition facts that aren’t controversial.
Here are 11 universal truths in nutrition that people actually agree on.
1. Artificial Trans Fats Are Extremely Unhealthy
There is ongoing debate about fats in the diet, but most people agree that trans fats are harmful. Put simply, trans fats are polyunsaturated fats that have been chemically altered to resemble saturated fats.
This is done by exposing polyunsaturated fats to high heat, high pressure and hydrogen gas, in the presence of a metal catalyst. This “hydrogenates” the fats, making them resemble saturated fats in consistency, which dramatically improves shelf life.
These fats can raise small, dense LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (the good) cholesterol, cause insulin resistance and belly fat accumulation, while driving inflammation (1, 2, 3). There are now studies showing that trans fat consumption is strongly linked to many serious diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes (4, 5, 6).
These fats are found mostly in highly processed foods. The best way to avoid them them is to read labels and avoid anything that has the word “hydrogenated” on the ingredients list.
A little known fact is that refined vegetable oils like soybean and canola oils also contain significant amounts of trans fats, from 0.56-4.2%, although it’s usually not listed on the label. It’s best to avoid these too (7).
Bottom Line: Trans fats are man-made fats, made by “hydrogenating” polyunsaturated vegetable oils. These fats can cause severe harmful effects on metabolism and contribute to many diseases.
2. Whole Foods Are Better Than Processed Foods
There is growing consensus that processed foods are harmful. Humans evolved eating unprocessed “real” foods… which retain all the nutrients and fiber found in foods in their natural state.
Most highly processed foods don’t really resemble real food at all… they consist of refined ingredients and artificial chemicals, assembled in a package that looks and tastes like food.
Processed foods are harmful for various reasons… they tend to be high in harmful ingredients like sugar, refined carbs and processed oils. At the same time, they are very low in micronutrients, fiber and antioxidants.
But what many people don’t realize is that the food industry puts a LOT of science and effort into making processed foods as “rewarding” (and addictive) as possible. The way foods are “engineered” effectively short circuits the brain mechanisms that are supposed to regulate our appetite (8, 9, 10).
This is why people tend to eat much more than their bodies need if they base their diet around processed foods, which leads to obesity and metabolic disease. There are also studies showing that we only burn half as many calories digesting processed compared to whole foods, so people who eat mostly processed foods will burn fewer calories throughout the day (11).
Bottom Line: Whole foods are much healthier than processed foods, which tend to be low in nutrients, high in harmful ingredients and designed to drive overconsumption.
3. Getting Enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids Is Important
Humans can not produce polyunsaturated Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. However, they are needed for optimal function of the body and are therefore termed the “essential” fatty acids.
There is actually quite a bit of controversy regarding polyunsaturated fats… but most of it revolves around Omega-6 fats. The other kind, Omega-3, is actually not controversial at all. Pretty much everyone agrees that it is needed and that most people aren’t getting enough.
Omega-3 fatty acids are required for various purposes. They are structural molecules in cell membranes, especially in the brain (12, 13).
Omega-3 consumption is linked to improved neurological health… including improved intelligence, reduced depression and a lower risk of dementia (14, 15). But they also play critical roles in other cellular processes, such as inflammation, immunity and blood clotting (16, 17).
The modern diet is low in Omega-3, but extremely high in Omega-6. This is a terrible combination… because eating a lot of Omega-6 actually increases the need for Omega-3 (18, 19). The best way to get enough Omega-3s is to eat fatty fish and grass-fed/pastured animal foods. If that is not an option, taking an Omega-3 supplement like fish oil is important.
Omega-3s are also found in some plant foods, including flax seeds and chia seeds. However, the Omega-3s in plants are not nearly as potent as the Omega-3s in animal foods (20).
Bottom Line: Omega-3 fatty acids are very important. They function as structural molecules in the brain and play key roles in important cellular processes.
4. Added Sugar Is Unhealthy
Added sugars, like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, are harmful. People mainly disagree on how harmful andwhy they cause harm.
Some think they are chronic metabolic toxinswhile others think they’re merely a source of empty calories. But pretty much everyone agrees that, at the very least, most people are eating too much sugar and would be better off eating healthier foods instead.
Right now, Americans are eating about 70 pounds (32 kg) of sugar per year, and within those averages many people are eating a 100 pounds or more (21). There is mounting evidence that sugar may be partly responsible for the worldwide pandemics of chronic, Western diseases (22, 23).
However, keep in mind that most people aren’t deliberately eating this much sugar. They’re getting a lot of it from conventional foods that have sugar added to them. The best way to avoid added sugar is to read labels and familiarize yourself with the many names they use (such as corn syrup, evaporated cane juice and more) for sugar.
Bottom Line: Most experts agree that sugar is harmful and that people are eating too much of it. There is mounting evidence that sugar may be partly responsible for many chronic, Western diseases.
5. Green Tea Is A Healthy Beverage
Although coffee is controversial, most people agree that green tea is healthy. It is very rich in powerful antioxidants, including a bioactive compound called EGCG.
Many studies show that the people who drink the most green tea have a lower risk of serious diseases like heart disease and cancer (24, 25, 26). There is also evidence that the bioactive compounds in green tea can boost metabolism and increase fat burning (27, 28).
Green tea also contains certain amino acids that may help improve concentration and brain function (29, 30). Overall, green tea is a super healthy beverage that has been intensively studied, with almost every single study on it showing impressive health benefits (31).
Bottom Line: Although coffee and caffeine in general are controversial, most people agree that green tea is healthy. It is loaded with antioxidants and has led to major health benefits in many studies.
6. Refined Carbohydrates Should be Minimized
Carbs are controversial. Some think the majority of our calories should come from carbs, others that they are completely unnecessary and may even cause harm.
But even the most extreme low-carbers agree that unprocessed carb sources are, at the very least, less bad than their refined counterparts. Refined grains, for example, have had the bran and germ removed from the seed. These parts contain the most nutrients, but they also have fiber that mitigates the blood sugar raising effect of the carbs (32, 33).
When you remove the fiber, the carbs spike blood sugar and insulin rapidly. This leads to a subsequent drop in blood sugar, making people crave another high carb snack. This is one of the ways that refined carbs stimulate overeating (34, 35).
There are numerous studies showing that consumption of refined carbohydrates is linked to obesity and many Western diseases (36, 37, 38). If you’re going to eat carbs, stick to unprocessed sources that include fiber.
Bottom Line: Although carbs are controversial, almost everyone agrees that whole, unrefined sources are much healthier than their refined counterparts.
7. Vegetables Are Healthy Foods
Vegetables are healthy… pretty much everyone agrees on that. They are the default “health foods.”
Vegetables are among the most nutritious foods in existence, calorie for calorie. They are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and thousands of trace nutrients that science is just beginning to uncover.
Numerous studies show that eating plenty of vegetables is linked to a reduced risk of almost every chronic disease (39, 40). Vegetables are also among the most weight loss friendly foods. They have a low energy density, lots of fiber and make people feel full with a low amount of calories.
Bottom Line: Vegetables are low in calories, but very high in micronutrients, antioxidants and fiber. Many studies show that vegetable consumption is associated with good health.
8. Supplements Can Not Compensate For An Unhealthy Diet
The composition of whole foods is incredibly complex. They contain way more than just the standard vitamins and minerals that we’re all familiar with.
Whole foods contain hundreds, if not thousands, of various trace nutrients… many of which have powerful health benefits. Science has yet to uncover many of these nutrients and modern nutritional supplements are far from being able to replicate all the nutrients found in foods.
Although many nutritional supplements can have impressive benefits, most experts agree that they are not able to compensate for an unhealthy diet. For optimal nutrition, the foods you choose to eat are by far the most important. So… take care of your diet first, then add supplements to optimize (if applicable).
Bottom Line: Whole foods are incredibly complex and contain thousands of trace nutrients, many of which science has yet to uncover. No amount of supplements can replace all the nutrients found in whole foods.
9. Olive Oil Is Super Healthy
Olive oil is the default healthy fat. It is part of the Mediterranean diet and has been a dietary staple for some of the world’s healthiest populations.
However, getting the right kind of olive oil can be tricky these days. It is critical to choose extra virgin olive oil from a reputable seller, because many of the lower quality versions have been refined and diluted with cheaper oils.
Quality extra virgin olive oil is very high in healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and loaded with powerful antioxidants (41).
Many studies have shown that it has various benefits for metabolic health (42). It also contains anti-inflammatory compounds and the antioxidants in it have been shown to help fight various steps in the heart disease process (43, 44, 45).
All things considered, quality extra virgin olive oil may just be the healthiest fat on the planet.
Bottom Line: Extra virgin olive oil is high in healthy monounsaturated fats and loaded with powerful bioactive antioxidants, many of which have anti-inflammatory effects and protect against heart disease.
10. Optimal Health Goes Beyond Just Nutrition
Nutrition is important… but it’s still just one part of a bigger picture.
There are other aspects of life that can be just as important when it comes to feeling good, living long and avoiding disease.
Exercise is a big one. Although it seems to be mostly ineffective for losing weight, it has incrediblebenefits for mental wellbeing and metabolic health. Other lifestyle factors, that unfortunately are often ignored, are sleep and stress levels.
If you don’t exercise, are overstressed and chronically under rested, then you won’t be even close to optimally healthy… no matter how good your diet is.
Bottom Line: There are many aspects besides nutrition that are just as important for overall health. This includes exercise, managing stress levels and getting adequate sleep.
11. The Best Diet (Or “Way of Eating”) For YOU Is The One You Can Stick To
There is a lot of debate about the different diets. There are the paleo folks, the low-carbers, the vegans, the balanced diet folks and everything in between.
But the truth is… all of these approaches can work. The problem is not which diet (or way of eating) is “best,” the key is finding something that is sustainable for each individual.
Losing weight and improving health is a marathon, not a race. What matters in the long run is finding something that is healthy, that you like and can live with for the rest of your life.
Posted on Friday, April 11th 2014
Italy Travel Tips
Over 46 million tourists visit the boot-shaped peninsula each year! They come from all over the world, and many return again and again for a magic that only Italy can deliver.
Italians are very kind, and extremely patient (unless they’re driving). They are the guardians of some of history’s most magnificent treasures, and they are used to sharing them. However, there are a few things Italians want Americans to knowbefore you arrive in their country:
1. Dinner: It’s between 7:30-9:00 p.m. Pressing your hungry face to the restaurant’s window at 6:00 p.m. will not change that. Calling for a reservation, and dressing up for dinner, however, will be appreciated.
2. Skin: Not shown so much in Italy. Short skirts, daisy dukes and halter tops do not epitomize the classical fashion taste of Italians. So cover up, unless, of course, you really are at the beach.
3. Bread: It won’t be served with oil and balsamic vinegar (unless the restaurant caters to Americans), so resist asking the server to provide them. Also, bread is not to be eaten with pasta. It’s used to “fare la scarpetta” or “make a little shoe”, to clean the plate of sauce. To do so in a restaurant is a debatable point, so I will let you make that decision! Basically, bread is provided to accompany an appetizer.
4. Simplify Your Schedule: Leave time to wander the crooked, ancient streets on your own. Often, just a few blocks from the main attractions, day-to-day life is unfolding. Leave the crowds. Pause to listen to a street performer. Plan some time where you can get off the well beaten path for a gelato, coffee, or traditional meal with the locals. Besides, if you over schedule, you just get grumpy.
5. Afternoon Closings: This still surprises and perplexes Americans. Many shops will close down for the afternoon from 1:00-4:00 p.m., especially outside the city center. Italians go home to enjoy lunch as a family and relax. Try it!
6. Taxis: You need to call for a taxi, or go to an actual taxi stand. You cannot hail a cab on a street in Italy, although it’s amusing to watch Americans try! The taxi service in Florence is amazingly efficient and punctual, especially when compared to the post office.
7. Italian: It’s what is spoken! Learning a few words and common phrases will make a big difference in your experience. Rather than launching immediately in English, and assuming you will be understood, it’s polite to ask, “Parla l’Inglese?”
8. Coperto: The amount charged, per person, to sit down at a table. It’s not a ploy to take advantage of you because you are a tourist. While a coperto is not the same thing as a tip, tipping in Italy is not necessary, and never more than 5-10 percent.
9. Ask for the Check: It won’t be automatically delivered to your table after a meal in a restaurant. That doesn’t mean you are being ignored. Food and conversations are to be enjoyed, not rushed. When you are ready to leave, ask for the bill, “il conto.”
10. Slow Down: You can’t see it all. Trust me on this one. The reason 46 million tourists descend on Italy each year is because there is so much beauty to see and experience. A plethora of culture, art, vineyards, food, and museums — a lifetime is not enough. So, slow down, savor and appreciate what you do see.
11. Smile: You’ve made it to a country that has inspired visitors for centuries. Melt into its beauty and lifestyle, its art, music, and literature. Trade smiles with Italians and take home memories of a truly magnificent country, unlike any other in the world.
Posted on Thursday, April 10th 2014
10 Things That Are Killing Your Productivity
Being productive is what is going to make you more successful at work. Every action you take, and how you react to what happens to you, is everything. There are those workers who will learn from mistakes, still maintain a positive attitude and be smart about how they manager their time. Then, there are others, that will get distracted and end up not accomplishing very much. In this current work environment, you have no choice but to be a productive worker or you may get replaced by cheaper (and more productive) labor. Below I’ve listed ten things that can really drain your productivity.
1. Focusing too much on the future. A lot of workers can get distracted by trying to live in the future, when it’s critical that they should be concentrating on the “now.” Of course you should have a long term direction for your role, but in order to get there, you have to spend your time wisely each day on what matters. Do at least one thing every day that helps you reach your longer term goals and keep yourself in the present, without getting distracted by what could happen in the future. You don’t have that much control over future outcomes especially with how much things change these days.
2. Delaying decisions. It’s really easy for you to push tasks back but that won’t work in your favor all the time. The more you delay important decisions, the less productive you will be. People delay their decisions because they might not know the right answer, or don’t want to be bothered with making a decision immediately.
3. Technology distractions. Technology can make your life easier and more productive if you use it properly or it could waste a lot of time. Instead of reading updates from your friends on Facebook, use productivity tools like Evernote in order to better manage your tasks. Stick to fewer technologies and use the basics instead of flooding yourself with all these different sites and utilities. The more tech gadgets you use, the more complicated your life will be and that’s unnecessary. For instance, because of the time people spend on technology, for every 10 minutes they fool around online they spend 2.7 fewer minutes working (3.75 minutes for people in their 30s).
4. Stop multi-tasking. I tend to try and do multiple things at once because I’m so bombarded with work and responsibilities but it ends up being counterproductive. The more you do at once, the less you really accomplish. Multi-tasking can also delay your ability to meet deadlines and lessen the quality of your work. Research also shows that it’s not actually possible to multi-task because humans aren’t built that way. The art of multi-tasking is all about distractions so you should avoid multi-tasking if you want to be productive.
5. Don’t be a perfectionist. A lot of people delay finishing a project because it’s not “perfect.” I have news for you, nothing will ever be perfect and it’s far better to finish something than to dwell on it for days and days. A lot of people will review a document over and over again and are never happy with it. Instead of having that attitude, tell yourself that you only need to check it two or three times and after that, it’s final.
6. Not doing your work right the first time. If you aren’t putting your full effort into a project the first time around and your manager isn’t happy with the result, then you have to go back and do it all over again. That is extremely time consuming, and it also makes you look bad. You need to stop multi-tasking and focusing on doing the best you can on your current project so that you don’t have to repeat it again. In fact, if you do a great job on the project, you should be able to do it twice as fast the next time around, which will increase your productivity.
7. Saying “yes” too much. Some of the more productive people I know are the ones that say “no” to a lot of requests. Stop feeling bad that you don’t have time to help everyone that emails you. Your time is really important. If all you do is take on everyone else’s work, you can’t get anything done for yourself. People are more understanding than you think as long as you explain your work situation to them, they will understand. If they aren’t willing to pay you for your services, then you can’t invest your time there because it won’t get you anywhere.
8. Eating the wrong foods. If you are eating junk food for breakfast or lunch, it’s going to really harm your productivity because your body will have to process that food and it will wear you out. The healthier you eat during the day, the more energy you will have to get work done. Make sure you eat healthy consistently too or you will only develop bad habits.
9. Worrying about the wrong things. Don’t worry about what others think about you. Of course, you should take some of their feedback as it could help you become a better worker, but some feedback is a waste of your time. Don’t worry if something doesn’t work out like you intended it to because you don’t have control over all outputs and variables as they occur. Worry about what you’re doing in the moment and how you can do your best work, while having no regrets.
10. Don’t complain. Instead of complaining about things that happen to you, be someone who is accountable for their work and take charge of your life. If you aren’t happy about something, then do something about it. Everyone has bad things happen to them so it’s important to learn how to deal with the bad and make the best of everything you do.
Posted on Tuesday, April 8th 2014
11 Things We Do That Make Us Miserable
Oftentimes we read about what we can do to increase our happiness through valuable tips, tricks and techniques. I love reading this stuff and noticing the impact it has on my day and my life. Sometimes equally important is identifying what habits we have that negate all of the positive mindset gearing we do.
Here are 11 things many of us are guilty of that sabotage our peace, joy and calm:
1. Hold a grudge
Forgiveness is the key to freedom. As Marianne Williamson says, “Forgiveness is actually out of self-interest.” When we hate, feel anger or resentment towards another, the intended impact, to hurt them, backfires on us. We harbor the anger and resentment within our own minds and bodies. And it’s poisonous. Under Williamson’s advice, try to see a situation differently. How must my enemy have felt to act the way they did? What fear did they feel? What good qualities does this person have that perhaps I have never thought about? I have four sisters, and one of them has not spoken to me in 12 years — despite lots of effort on my part. It made me confused and angry for a long time. My forgiveness way of thinking opened me up to compassion. When I think of her now I do so with love. It takes practice but this does get easier.
2. Give up on our dreams
To me this is the saddest one. As Marie Forleo says, “The world needs that special gift that only you have.” So often we bury our gifts, follow a “safe” path or simply do not have the courage to pursue what it is that we want. This results in a lot of regret later in life and even in the present moment. I heard once that the definition of hell is when the person you are meets the person you could have been. Our inner voice knows when we are not living our truth and this voice does not go away although we do our best to tune it out. By ignoring our dreams we are not sharing our unique gifts with the world.
3. Not make time for what brings us joy
This is aligned with number two. Do you love to write, draw, sing, teach? When we do not make what brings us joy a priority we are often completely unaware of the happiness we could be experiencing. It results is a much less rich, less colorful life.
4. Settle for superficial relationships
Since moving to New York I really noticed this. When making new friends I realized that a lot of time people do not talk about things that really matter, let alone make themselves vulnerable. Whenever I bring up my early divorce or humble upbringing, people tend to open up with me too, as we all secretly want to make a genuine connection with other people. People often tell me, “Its so nice to talk about this stuff.” We don’t realize that connecting with others has nothing to do with our exotic vacations or successful career stories — it is about making a soul connection which often arises from deeper conversations.
Buddha said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparison is selective, exaggerated and unreal. We have no idea what is going on in other people’s lives. We may envy their fortune but not know their child is struggling with bullying or that their marriage is falling apart. Instead we should be too busy envying our own good fortune (gratitude, my friends).
6. Value possessions over experiences
Marianne Williamson says in A Return to Love, “Material things are not good or bad, they are just nothing.” We prize possessions so highly when life experiences are so much more meaningful. We often do not make travel, trips to see loved ones, going to our favorite live event, and dinner with an old friend a priority over shopping and collecting things.
7. Tell ourselves life is “good enough”
Truly happy people push themselves. They understand that pushing our boundaries and making progress is rewarding and fun. When was the last time you did something completely new or set the bar higher for yourself?
8. Let fear, not creativity, rule
The next time we make a decision, lets tune in to which part of us it is coming from. The best decisions are always made out of creativity and love. Jack Kornfield says, “Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you in better living conditions.”
9. Do not give
At the end of it all, it is not about us! The greatest, most real and rewarding sense of happiness comes from helping others. I know a lawyer who teaches guitar on Sundays to children who cannot afford lessons. He says it is one of his greatest source of happiness. To me, this is the most beautiful thing about the world — that giving of ourselves creates the most joy.
Brene Brown says in her famous Ted Talk that, “The USA is the most medicated, in debt, addicted and obese nation in the world.” All of these things offer temporary satisfaction but in the longer term make us depressed. We are looking for joy outside of ourselves. Joy and peace come from within.
11. Fail to live in the moment!
We are so busy worrying about what will be in the future or living in the past. True joy, peace and contentment come from being alive and present in the current moment. It is all we have and it is all there really is.
Posted on Tuesday, April 8th 2014
5 Things You Should Always Buy Used
One of the questions consumers often face when making a buying decision is, “New or used?”
We typically want the new product for the obvious reason: We believe new is always better. And while that’s typically true for certain types of products, such as HDTVs and underwear, a savvy shopper knows when a used product is a perfectly reasonable alternative.
Here are five used items that are just as good as a new version, and sometimes even better.
Buying a used car will save you a lot of money and the difference in quality of the resulting ride is fairly negligible, provided it’s not too old. Look for used models that are about one to two years old. Often a car that’s only a couple years old will cost a fraction of its original sticker price, and is there really much of a difference between the 2013 and 2014 model? Not really. If you buy new, you’re mostly paying for negligible feature upgrades and the cachet of having a “new” car. Regardless of the car’s age, though, you should always have an independent mechanic check it out before buying.
Baby and toddler clothing:
When you shop for new baby and toddler clothes, the reaction is always the same: “That costs how much, again?” There is absolutely no reason to spend money on kids’ clothes that you’ll only be able to use for a brief period of time before they outgrow them. And unless your newborns are already coveting designer labels, they don’t care what they’re wearing, anyway. I’d bet that if you blindly tossed a rock at the people in your social circle or work colleagues, you’d hit someone with a closet full of baby and toddler clothes they’ve been meaning to discard. My wife and I spent hardly any money on kids’ clothes (except the occasional pack of onesies) until my oldest was at least 4 years old. If this isn’t an option, there’s always thrift stores and Goodwill. (Just wash it all first in very hot water.)
Books and movies:
If you’re still rocking the “analog” versions of books and movies (you know, books with actual pages and movies that come in disc form), buying new is not only unnecessary, but pretty darn expensive. Does it really matter that someone else has thumbed through the book before you did? Or peeled the cellophane off that “The Dark Knight Rises” Blu-ray and dinged it up a bit? No, it doesn’t. You’ll still get the same amount of entertainment and you’ll have more money to spend on other things, like a Kindle and e-books. (This rule also applies to textbooks.)
If you’re big into exercise or are just starting out in an effort to get healthy and lose weight, buying brand new fitness equipment is just silly. Weights and other standard gym equipment don’t have expiration dates and can be used for quite a long time. Equipment such as treadmills and more complex equipment with electronic components should be scrutinized more closely, but buying used in that area can likely save you thousands of dollars. And let’s be honest, when it comes to fitness, many of us eventually drift into “don’t have time” excuses and gradually lose interest. If that happens, you’re stuck with some pretty expensive equipment you’re not using.
If you properly take care of tools, they will last a very long time. And most Average Joes don’t have a need for expensive, specialized tools, so stocking up on expensive and fancy tools you’ll rarely use isn’t worth it. A screwdriver is a screwdriver. It’s simple and no single one is really better than the other. When it comes to power tools, that can be trickier and any used purchase should be made from a trusted source.
Buying used might not be glamorous, but it will keep your budget in check.
8 Signs You’re In The Right Relationship
We reached out to marriage and relationship experts to help us pinpoint the most telling signs that you’re in the right relationship. Find out what they had to say below.
1. You know what your partner needs to feel loved — even if those needs are different than yours.
Some people feel loved when their partner brings them a cup of coffee in the morning. Some need their spouse to tell them how beautiful or handsome they look. Others require sex and physical forms of affection. The point is, each of us has different preferences when it comes to giving and receiving love.
“We have to teach our partner to love us and not expect them to read our minds,” sex and relationship expert Dr. Tammy Nelson said. “You know you are with the right person when they tell you what makes them feel loved and you are happy to generously lather them with whatever they need. And they do the same for you.”
2. You fight, but you do it productively.
Conflict is a natural part of any relationship, but how you handle those disagreements can predict whether or not you’ll be together in the long-run. “How both of you behave now when you have a disagreement also says a lot about how you will (or won’t) resolve problems in the future,” Dr. Terri Orbuch — relationship expert and author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship – told The Huffington Post. “A good relationship is one where the two of you fight fair. In other words, you don’t curse, scream, talk down to each other or dismiss each other.”
3. You get a confidence boost from your mutual physical attraction.
“Feeling sexual attraction and sexually attractive is a life force like nothing else,” Iris Krasnow, author of Sex After…Women Share How Intimacy Changes As Life Changes said. “That person who ignites you from within, boosting your self-esteem and also offers external pleasures is definitely a keeper.”
4. You two are different enough to keep things interesting, but you’re on the same page where it matters most.
They say that opposites attract, and while that may be true at first, it’s not necessarily a long-term predictor of relationship success. In fact, Orbuch’s research has shown that the strongest relationships are those built on a foundation of similar underlying values and beliefs.
“It is okay to have different interests or movie likes, but similarity in key life values (e.g., views on money, the importance of religion or how you raise children) is what keeps people together over the long-term,” she explained.
5. Your family and friends give the relationship their stamp of approval.
Despite what your once-rebellious heart might have told you, your family’s approval of your significant other does matter. W. Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project, told HuffPost Weddings that high levels of social support from your nearest and dearest are crucial to a happy marriage. “Such friends and family often have a more objective view of your partner than you do,” he said. “And their support can be invaluable after the wedding. We know that couples who have parents, in-laws, and friends who support them as a couple are much more likely to go the distance.”
6. You feel comfortable getting a little adventurous between the sheets.
Couples in secure relationships report that they can combine spontaneous acts of intimacy with tender expressions of their love. “The best recipe for great ongoing sex does not seem to be finding more manuals to get bigger and bigger orgasms but tuning into each other and feeling safe enough to go with the thrill when it comes,” Dr. Sue Johnson, a clinical psychologist and author of Love Sense, told The Huffington Post.
7. You are willing to put the “we” before the “me.”
A commitment to doing what is best for the relationship, rather than what is best for the individual partner, is a strong predictor of future marital satisfaction. “People who are marriage-minded should look for a partner who talks and thinks in terms of ‘we’ not ‘me’,” Wilcox said. “Someone who articulates shared dreams, shared values, and a willingness to put the relationship above his or her desires. Couples who put their marriage above their own desires are more likely to flourish.”
8. You find yourself missing your partner when he or she isn’t around.
Benjamin Le — co-founder of ScienceOfRelationships.com – says it’s important to miss your partner when he or she is away. “If they are ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ that doesn’t bode well,” he said. “But if you have an emotional response to him or her being away, it’s a signal that you really want to be with him or her.”
Is Walking Just as Good as Running?
Walking may seem like more of a mode of transport than a form of exercise, but it really is one of the best things you can do for your body, your beauty and your long-term health. While you thought you were just getting from here to there, those steps were improving your cardiovascular strength, strengthening your muscles (which means more fat-burning power) and decreasing your chances of disease. And you can even find ways to walk while you work – such as a walking meeting or a treadmill desk, which you may have caught me using last week on FOX8 in Cleveland. Walking is such good exercise that you ought to include it in your day as a way to get younger.
A May 2013 study by researchers in the Life Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory looked at data from 33,000 runners and nearly 16,000 walkers to compare the relative health benefits of each activity. From the outside it might seem like running – which is considered a vigorous intensity exercise – must be better for you than walking, a moderate form of exercise. But the results bore out differently, with walking taking a slight edge in the end. But there’s a big if, so keep reading.
To be sure, both walking and running had positive effects. When the researchers checked in with participants six years after the start of the study, they found that running significantly reduced the risk of high blood pressure (by 4.2 percent), high cholesterol (4.3 percent), diabetes (12.1 percent) and cardiovascular heart disease (4.5 percent), for every MET h/d, which is a standard measure of metabolic energy expenditure. Great news, right? Well, it gets even better.
Participants who walked regularly saw even better results. Walking decreased risk by 7.2 percent for high blood pressure, 7 percent for high cholesterol, 12.3 percent for diabetes and 9.3 percent for cardiovascular heart disease. The more someone walked or ran, the greater the benefit.
Here’s the if: The runners and walkers had to expend the same energy to get the same benefits. That means you’d have to walk longer than you’d have to run for the same effect.
If you’re already jogging and sprinting to your heart’s content, keep at it, as long as your joints are aligned and you protect them with strong muscles to act as shock absorbers – and you wear great shoes! Yes, running is a great way to keep healthy, boost your mood and keep blood flowing for glowing skin. Not into it? No problem. Just keep working toward those 10,000 steps a day – or more, if you can! Especially if you’re just starting out or have never run before, walking is a great, low impact way to get into a fitness regimen without risking injury. Walking is easier on your hip and knee joints – just to be sure, do lunges or squats twice a week. The RealAge benefit of 10,000 steps a day is feeling 4.6 years younger for women and 4.1 for men.
Two other interesting studies appeared in the last month. One suggests that a daily ounce of any nut leads to a 20 percent decrease in the all-cause mortality rate. That’s the equivalent of 6,000 extra steps a day. My favorite is lightly toasted walnuts, since they’re the only nut with omega-3 fatty acids. But you should keep piling the steps on, even if you’re eating nuts. Meanwhile, another study found that people who get 900 milligrams of DHA omega-3 a day, whether from supplements or three 6-ounce portions of salmon a week, saw their blood pressure drop the same way it would as a result of 10,000 steps or quitting smoking.
How difficult is adding nuts and DHA – and extra steps – to your daily routine? Not very. The RealAge benefits of all three for a 55-year-old man or woman is about 7.5 years younger. Pretty easy to make yourself younger, eh?
So take all three actions: 10,000 steps, an ounce of nuts a day and 900 milligrams of DHA every day, no excuses. After all, every step you take is one step toward a fitter, more beautiful, healthier future.
4 Myths About Heart Disease
Too many myths about women and heart disease persist. Here’s the real story on how to stay safe.
Want to know the secret to a healthy heart? It’s got nothing to do with fate and everything to do with the lifestyle decisions we make daily. But too many of us aren’t taking the right steps to protect ourselves: Every year more women will die from cardiovascular disease than from all types of cancer combined. To safeguard your heart and keep it ticking for years to come, top doctors address common misconceptions and set the record straight.
Myth 1: The essential part of a heart-healthy diet is avoiding saturated fat.
Where cardiac trouble is concerned, saturated fat has long been considered public enemy number one, but a 2010 report that reviewed the findings of 21 studies found no conclusive evidence that consuming saturated fat increases a person’s risk of heart disease. The likely culprit: refined carbohydrates. “The high levels of sugar raise insulin levels and after a few hours cause blood sugar to crash, which can make many people crave more processed carbs,” says David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. “The vicious cycle, over time, increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes more so than total dietary fat does.” This doesn’t mean you can go crazy with butter and bacon; instead focus on replacing refined starches with vegetables, fruits, and beans—all foods that happen to be low in fat.
Myth 2: I’m in my 20s — I don’t have to worry about heart disease yet.
What Ails You: Wrong! The plaques that eventually lead to clogged arteries can start accumulating during adolescence, which is why cholesterol checks should begin as early as age 20. Even if you’re young, your chances of developing heart disease increase at least tenfold when you have three or more risk factors — for instance, if you smoke, you’re overweight, you don’t exercise, and you’re chronically stressed. “While it’s true that women under 55 make up fewer than 5 percent of all heart disease cases, studies suggest that young women who do have heart attacks are twice as likely to die, compared with young men,” says Judith Lichtman, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology at Yale’s School of Public Health. While no research has proved why female heart attack patients have a higher mortality rate, some researchers believe that it may be due in part to less aggressive treatment and post-op care.
Myth 3: An aspirin a day keeps heart trouble away.
In truth, the little pill’s effectiveness depends on your age. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that for women under age 65, taking 100 milligrams of aspirin every other day did not affect the risk of a heart attack. For women 65 and over, however, it lowered the risk by 34 percent. “Aspirin can have serious side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding,” says Lori Mosca, MD, PhD, director of preventive cardiology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. “The benefits may not always outweigh the dangers, especially for younger women.”
Myth 4: Heart disease runs in my family, so I’m doomed.
According to a study in The Lancet, less than 10 percent of heart disease is genetic. And genetic risk factors can vary in importance — some gene variations raise your risk by only around 15 percent, while very rare mutations may increase it by 200 percent or more. “For the vast majority of people, lifestyle choices are a better predictor,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, director of the Women and Heart Disease program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “When my female patients who have a strong family history take proactive steps to lead healthier lives, virtually none of them develop the disease.”
Posted on Monday, March 31st 2014
The Worst Diet Advice In History
Nutrition history is riddled with nonsense.
People have been advised to do all sorts of strange things that challenge common sense.
Some of these things are not only useless, but potentially harmful.
The worst part… a lot of this misguided advice is still being pushed.
Here are the top 5 contenders for the worst diet advice in history.
1. Throw Away The Egg Yolks, The Most Nutritious Part Of The Egg
Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. Just think about it… the nutrients in a whole egg contain all the building blocks needed to turn a single fertilized cell into an entire baby chicken.
There’s only one problem… the yolks also happen to be high in cholesterol. Because egg yolks are high in cholesterol, people believed that they would raise cholesterol in the blood. For this reason, mainstream nutrition professionals often recommend that we limit our egg consumption to 2-6 whole eggs per week.
However, most of them say we can eat more eggs than that… as long as we make sure to throw away the yolks. This is pretty much the worst thing you could do, because the yolks contain almost all the nutrients. The whites are mostly just protein.
Many studies have looked at whole egg consumption and blood cholesterol… in 70% of people, eggs have no effect on cholesterol levels (1).
In the other 30% (termed hyper-responders), egg yolks raise HDL (the good) cholesterol and turn the LDL particles into the large, fluffy kind… which is not harmful (2, 3, 4). In fact, many studies, some of which included hundreds of thousands of people, have looked at whole egg consumption and the risk of heart disease in healthy people and found no association between the two (5, 6, 7).
Additionally, let’s not forget that eggs have many amazing benefits.
They’re loaded with high quality protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants… almost every nutrient your body needs (8).
They’re very high in choline, a brain nutrient that 90% of people don’t get enough of (9).
They contain Lutein and Zeaxanthin, powerful antioxidants that are highly protective for the eyes, lowering the risk of various eye diseases (10, 11, 12).
Eggs are also among the most weight loss friendly foods you can eat. Replacing a grain-based breakfast with eggs can increase fullness and make you eat less, helping you lose weight (13, 14).
To top it all off, eggs are cheap, easily prepared and taste amazing. Really… whole eggs are pretty much nature’s perfect food. Throwing away the yolk is the absolute worst thing you could do.
Bottom Line: Egg yolks are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. The cholesterol in them doesn’t raise the bad cholesterol in the blood, or increase the risk of heart disease.
2. Everyone Should Eat a Low-Fat, High-Carb Diet… Even Diabetics
The universal advice to eat a low-fat diet was never based on good science. It was originally based on a few poorly conducted observational studies, animal experiments and misguided political decisions.
Even though there was no evidence that saturated fat caused heart disease at the time (and still isn’t), some scientists were convinced that it was harmful and that a low-fat diet would prevent heart disease. This has been the official position of the governments and mainstream health organizations around the world for decades. At the same time, rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes have skyrocketed.
Since then… many massive studies have been conducted on the low-fat diet.
The biggest and most expensive diet study in history, The Women’s Health Initiative, randomized 48,835 women into groups… one ate a low-fat diet, the other group continued eating the standard Western diet.
After 7.5-8 years, there was only a 0.4 kg (1 pound!) difference in weight and there was no reduction in heart disease or cancer (15, 16, 17, 18). Many other studies have led to the same conclusion… the diet that is still being recommended by the mainstream simply does not work (19, 20).
The truth is, the low-fat diet is a miserable failure. Almost every time it is pitted against another type of diet in a study, it loses (21, 22).
Even diabetics have been advised to follow this type of diet… the “carb up and shoot up” strategy that benefits no one but the drug companies. It is a simple biochemical fact that carbs raise blood sugar. This keeps the diabetic patients dependant on blood sugar lowering drugs (23).
Although low-fat diets may be okay for healthy people, they are a complete disaster for people with obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
In fact, several studies show that low-fat diets can adversely affect some of the key risk factors for metabolic syndrome and heart disease. They can raise triglycerides, lower HDL and increase small, dense LDL particles (24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29).
It is time for the mainstream to retire the ridiculous low-fat fad and apologize for all the terrible damage it has done over the decades.
Bottom Line: The low-fat diet is a miserable failure. It has failed in every major study, yet is still being recommended by governments and nutrition organizations all over the world.
3. A Calorie Is A Calorie… Food Quality Is Less Important
The excessive focus on calories is one of the biggest mistakes in the history of nutrition. It is the myth that it is the caloric value of foods that matters most, not the foods that the calories are coming from.
The truth is… calories are important, but that doesn’t mean we need to count them or even be consciously aware of them. Humans were the healthiest and leanest way before they knew that calories existed. It’s important to realize that different foods have different effects on the hormonesand brain centers that control what, when and how much we eat… as well as the number of calories we burn (30, 31).
Here are two examples of why a calorie is NOT a calorie:
Protein: Eating a high protein diet can boost metabolism by 80-100 calories per day and significantly reduce appetite and cravings. Protein calories have a different effect than carb or fat calories (32, 33, 34).
Satiety: Many studies show that different foods have varying effects on feelings of fullness. You need much fewer calories to feel full from eggs or boiled potatoes, compared to donuts or ice cream (35).
There are many more examples of foods and macronutrients having vastly different effects on hunger and hormones The myth that calories are all that matters for weight (and health) is completely wrong.
Bottom Line: The idea that calories are more important than food quality is a huge mistake. Different foods directly affect the hormones and brain centers that control our eating habits.
4. Use Polyunsaturated Vegetable Oils For Cooking
We are commonly advised to consume seed- and vegetable oilsthat are high in polyunsaturated fats. These oils, including soybean, corn, canola and cottonseed oils, have been shown in some studies to lower cholesterol levels.
However… if something lowers cholesterol, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will prevent heart disease itself. Cholesterol is a risk factor, but it’s the hard end points (like heart attacks and death) that really matter.
There are actually a number of studies showing that despite lowering cholesterol, these oils can increase the risk of heart disease (36, 37).
Additionally, these oils are harmful for a number of other reasons. They’re loaded with polyunsaturated fats… but most of them are Omega-6s.
Humans need to eat Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids in a certain balance, which is currently way off because people are eating so much of these oils (38).
Eating a diet high Omega-6s and low in Omega-3s can contribute to inflammation in the body, but inflammation is one of the key drivers of almost every chronic, Western disease (39, 40).
These fatty acids also get incorporated into cell membranes, but polyunsaturated fats can react with oxygen and start free radical chain reactions in the cell membranes, which can damage important molecules like proteins or DNA (41, 42).
Additionally… what most people don’t realize is that due to the way these oils are processed (which involves high heat and the toxic solvent hexane), they are loaded with trans fats. In fact, a study on canola and soybean oils sold in the U.S. found that 0.56 to 4.2%of the fatty acids in them were trans fats (43)!
Many so-called “experts” are actually telling people to cook with these oils… which is a terrible idea because polyunsaturated fats are sensitive to heat and damage very easily (44).
Bottom Line: People have been advised to consume oils that are loaded with Omega-6 fatty acids and trans fats. These oils are very harmful, yet still being recommended by many mainstream nutrition professionals.
5. Replace Natural Butter With Processed, Trans Fat Laden Margarine
Mainstream nutrition has gotten many things wrong. However… the horrible advice to replace natural butterwith processed margarine may be the worst.
Seriously… just look at the ingredients list for margarine. This stuff isn’t food, it’s a combination of chemicals that looks and tastes like food.
Margarine, not surprisingly, increases heart disease risk compared to butter (45). The same can be said about vegetable oils… multiple studies show that they contribute to heart disease and kill people (46, 47).
The studies say that these processed fats and oils increase heart disease risk, so it makes sense that we should avoid them if we don’t want to get heart disease.
It’s a no-brainer, right?
Well, apparently not… the mainstream nutrition organizations are still telling us to eat them, even though these studies have been out for many years.
They just don’t get it. When we replace traditional foods like butter and meat with processed pseudo-foods, we become fat and sick. How many doctors, nutritionists, PhDs and decades of work does it take to figure that out?
Posted on Thursday, March 27th 2014
10 Signs Stress Is Ruining Your Performance
According to the American Medical Association, it’s the number one proxy killer disease today because it’s the basic cause for more than 60% of all human illness and disease. You can’t argue with the facts, but stress is a reality that we all experience on a daily basis. To further confuse us go-getters, having some levels of positive stress is a key ingredient to reaching peak performance, while too much of it causes illness and burnout.
Some of these gradients of stress are easy to self-diagnose — for example, being bored out of our minds, operating in our Zone of Genius, or being burned out. We can tell when we are experiencing each of those extremes, because it’s obvious. What’s less identifiable is when stress mounts subtly and we continually push ourselves in response to the increased stress. It’s not easy to tell when it’s subtly affecting our performance. In fact, you probably can’t tell. We miss those subtle and not-so-subtle signs that appear before the total burnout wakes us up to the impending danger. Burnout equals total shutdown, and nothing could be worse for performance (or your business) than that.
So how can you better notice the telltale signs of stress impact?
Take this quick questionnaire and use the score key below to see if you are currently experiencing a level of stress that could be impacting your performance in a way you want to avoid.
Answer “yes” or “no” to the following scenarios:
1. There is something impending in your life that feels as though it’s out of your control and despite continued efforts to get a desired result, it’s not happening, (i.e. a deadline, a result, getting a client, making payroll, a key relationship in your life).
2. Your typical stress relievers aren’t working as well as usual (i.e. talking to a friend, working out, taking a deep breath).
3. You feel less productive, even though you are working longer hours
4. You are easily distracted and have to work harder to have clarity of thought for problem solving.
5. You aren’t as excited about things that generally excite you.
6. You feel tired and are having a hard time getting out of bed, even though you are getting your usual amount of sleep.
7. You are more irritable than usual.
8. Your ability to focus is strained and your mind is thinking of 10 things at once all the time.
9. You feel guilty when you stop working because it feels like there will never be an end.
10. You are not being proactive about how you structure your day, you are constantly reacting, and feel like you are juggling to get the basics done.
If you answered “yes”:
7-10 times: You are stressed out. At this level, your performance could be taking a hit. Especially if you’re accomplishing tasks in this state. Realizing that your stress levels are high is the first step to managing them down. Figure out what you can do to change your situation or how you are operating within it before you head into burnout, which could be inevitable if you continue down this path for more than a month or two longer. At this stage, I would seek out some support from a mentor, friend, or performance coach that can help you re-think how you are structuring your work day.
4-6 times: You are potentially teetering back and forth on the edge of your performance being negatively impacted by your stress. Because you’re just starting to show signs of being at the level that it could negatively impact your performance, you can quickly do something now to go back into the space of positive stress. Re-think what’s providing you with this added stress and see if you can create a new mental model around your situation. Seeing something from a valid, different, positive angle can be a powerful tool to subside stress and keep you from going off the rails into the negative decline.
1-3 times: You are managing your stress well. You may have had a recent stressful event or day, but it has not derailed you from keeping your head in the game and having positive stress be a tool for you to create great results and experience top performance.
Stress is something we all have to manage. The key is staying conscious about good stress versus bad stress. If you are feel like something is wrong, it probably is, but it may not be too late to avoid burnout. Rather than take that risk, pay more attention to your stress and use it as a tool, rather than a roadblock, to creating great performance.
Posted on Wednesday, March 26th 2014
Getting A Job Through LinkedIn
There are more than 277 million people on LinkedIn at last count. This means you want to be on it. But you also don’t want to get lost in the crowd.
Hopefully, by now, you have read our tips on how to create an unforgettable LinkedIn profile that will help you stand out. This is your first step. Now, we’ll show you how to actually use LinkedIn once you are properly on it.
LinkedIn is a formidable professional networking platform as well as a powerful job board and search engine. The fact that a full 94% of recruiters use social media, in particular LinkedIn, to fill open positions should get you excited.
Here’s how you can use this game-changing platform to get your next job.
1. Understand where LinkedIn “fits in.”
In order to use it well, it’s important to understand how it fits into the larger context of social media networking.
Facebook is about brand and identity, whether that is a personal profile or a business page. Twitter is about events or occurrences, which could be a missing plane in the Indian Ocean or letting your audience know that your latest blog post is published. LinkedIn is the best channel for engaging with people and organizations that could potentially hire you.
In the latest survey, 77% of LinkedIn users said that it helped them research people and companies. This is something that’s very handy before meeting a contact for coffee, when requesting an informational chat with someone, and, especially, as key preparation before a formal job interview. You want to know everything you possibly can about the person/people who is/are interviewing you. It will help you ask good questions as well as find points of connection over which you can bond. For example, perhaps you went to the same school or once lived in the same city or country.
2. Use the search function.
As already mentioned, LinkedIn is a high-power search engine. Over 5 billion searches were done on the social network last year.
To get started with search, go to the search bar on top; this is where you will type in your search terms. For example, if I type in “MBA career coaching,” I will get a list of related jobs, groups, and people doing similar work. If I am connected to them, it will prompt me to message them, and if I am not connected to them, it will prompt me to connect.
The dropdown box next to the search bar (or once you are in “search,” the menu at the top left) allows you to customize your search by people, jobs, companies, groups, and inbox. Click “jobs” and you can further hone in by location, connections, industry, job function, and experience level.
Now, let’s say you click on a Product Manager position at Google located in San Francisco. One of the most helpful features of LinkedIn is that in addition to details on that job, you will get: i) a list of other jobs at Google, ii) a list of similar jobs at other companies (for example, a Product Manager position at Facebook), and iii) a list of other jobs that people who viewed this job also viewed. And wait—there’s more! You’ll see a list of people that connect you to the position you are viewing, showing you exactly how and through whom you are connected. This is priceless because now, you can write that networking email (see no. 7 below) asking your friend from graduate school to connect you to his friend from college who now works in that department at Google.
One last thing. LinkedIn’s intelligent search will, over time, get a feel for what your preferences are and give them to you. You see now why search engine optimization (SEO) is important when you are crafting your own profile. The right keywords get you found by people who are using those terms. So, make sure you are find-able.
3. Create shareable experiences.
Speaking of being find-able, one of the ways of standing out is to be perceived as a solid professional in your field, someone knowledgeable and highly employable. To do that, you need to share your expertise and experience…and be heard above the noise.
Remember that in this age of ubiquitous social media, everyone is constantly collecting and sharing experiences. When we experience something special, we want to record it and share it.
Lindsay Pollak, a great resource for absolutely anything LinkedIn-related, defines a shareable experience as one where you can provide a status update about that highlights your exposure and interest and/or shares valuable information with your network. Examples of shareable experiences include attendance at important conferences and events, access to key industry folks, and opportunities to provide expertise or feedback.
Visuals matter more and more. So when you are at that conference or running a training or workshop, use a picture from that event with your update. On LinkedIn, especially, you can share the slide deck from the presentation you just gave or from the panel you attended. Remember to get permission first if it is someone else’s IP.
4. Join groups and engage.
There are hundreds of thousands of groups on the platform from retail and finance to social media and marketing. You will find interests and topics on any business subject imaginable. The latest research shows that the groups feature is the top favorite of users.
First, post useful and interesting content in your groups. This may include articles and blog posts you read (or wrote), a funny (but work-related!) video you watched, or a major report on your industry that just hit the news.
Second, make it easy for others to engage with you. Ask a question where people can give a very short answer, for example, “What do you think is the secret to ultimate job satisfaction: i) talent, ii) passion, or iii) money?”
And always remember to engage back; reply to all comments you receive, even if it’s just a short thank you! Don’t argue with people, but instead, try to facilitate a good discussion. (And by the way, the answer to that question is here).
5. Connect and build your network.
Everyone you meet is someone you may end up working for, recruiting, referring, or advising. This is really where you see the magic of LinkedIn; it’s a veritable live global village of mentors and mentees, job leads, and business opportunities.
So, connect with everyone. And make it personal. For example, you may send a customized message when you ask to connect with people in the vein of:
It was a pleasure to meet you at the conference. I enjoyed our chat. Good luck with your projects, and let’s keep in touch. Warm regards, Hira.
This way, you establish and build the relationship right from the start. And the receiver will likely appreciate your extra effort and remember you among the sea of people he or she met at that conference.
6. Take recommendations (and endorsements) seriously.
I put endorsements in parentheses because these are provided at the click of a button and don’t really say that much about the endorser’s experience of you and that skill. A huge volume of endorsements looks good for sure (so, there is no harm in collecting them), and all you have to do is tell LinkedIn what your skills and expertise are. You can add up to 50 skills.
Recommendations, however, should be taken seriously. We cannot stress enough the incredible value that recommendations provide. They add layer upon layer of credibility in the eyes of prospective employers. If you are in a client-based role, clients writing on your behalf essentially serve as testimonials. For an independent consultant or a freelancer, this is golden.
When you ask for a recommendation, we strongly suggest that you do two things. The first is to offer to help. Remember that people are busy, and also, most people don’t like writing recommendations! They may think great things about you but be at a loss when it comes to putting pen to paper. It would be a relief to get some information from you reminding them of projects you worked on, goals you accomplished, and examples of key skills you used in that job. Always remember to say, “Please feel free to adjust this as you see fit.”
Second, offer to return the favor and write a recommendation for your recommender. That’s just good business practice.
7. Write thoughtful networking emails.
You can directly message anyone in your network. With an upgrade to LinkedIn Premium, you may send messages to up to 10 people per year.
Here are some basic tips for writing good networking emails that will get you a response. First, keep it simple and make sure that what you are asking for is clear. If you are looking for opportunities in XYZ field and would like to connect to Mr. Smith to have an informational chat about his experience in that field, then say so. Don’t say that you’d like any job in that field. Mentioned your skills and explain how they match a particular job or opening.
Second, act according to your objective. If you want a contact to forward your information, write an email that is easy to forward. If you want a contact to make an introduction, ask for it clearly, but give them an out. They may not have spoken to that person in a long time or don’t feel comfortable making the intro for other reasons.
An example of a good introduction email:
I hope this message finds you well. I am applying for the Community Director position with the Humane Society, a favorite organization of mine. I saw that your friend, Sarah Michaels, works for HS. I was wondering if you would feel comfortable making a connection between us, as I’d love to chat with her about her time at HS and my interest in this position. Many thanks in advance.
A Connected Future
Finally, let me say this. As much as LinkedIn is currently one of the greatest tools available for finding the job of your dreams, it’s not about the job. It’s about your future. It’s about taking a genuine and active interest in your career and your life. It’s about relationships, opportunities, and all kinds of possibilities that could come your way because you are now in touch with hundreds of interesting people representing a vast continuum of backgrounds, talents, connections, and experiences.
Share, help others, and grow.
Posted on Wednesday, March 26th 2014