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Hot Topic Tuesday: OMG! What’s the Wildest Diet You’ve Tried?

Written on July 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm , by

The author of Six Weeks to OMG says carbs from any form—from chips to carrots—are equal. (Photo by Bryan McCay)

Although it was originally released in the UK, the weight-loss book Six Weeks to OMG: Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends is making waves worldwide. That’s most likely due to the “unconventional” diet tips including taking a cool bath and skipping breakfast (something you’d never see happen at the FITNESS offices!) to hypothetically increase metabolism. The author, a celebrity trainer who wrote the book using a pseudonym, also suggests blowing balloons to work your ab muscles in a different way.

Many of us have been found guilty of certain diet crimes while trying to lose weight. But some of the information in this book—like the author’s claim that it doesn’t matter if you get your carbohydrates from broccoli or a can of soda—have us thinking “OMG!” Critics have also slammed the book for targeting teenage girls, potentially putting them at risk for a dangerous weight-loss competition with their pals (see the subtitle).

Some aspects of the plan dietitians might agree with, like the suggestions to watch your sugar intake and drink black coffee, in moderation. Yet many Six Weeks tactics seem to be more of a “quick fix” than a sustainable health program.

Now tell us: What’s the wildest diet you’ve tried? And what does a healthy, sustainable diet look like for you?

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A Ban on Large Sugary Drinks: The Way to Go or Too Much?

Written on May 31, 2012 at 1:57 pm , by

Do we need to limit our soda consumption? (Photo by Jack Miskell)

As New Yorkers, we pride ourselves on our city’s healthy initiatives: the ban on smoking in public areas, limiting the amount of trans fat in food, public health ads on the dangers of smoking and an unhealthy diet, and posting calorie counts in food chains. But New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest proposal to prohibit the sale of sodas larger than 16 ounces in restaurants and fast food establishments has us divided: Cutting back on sugary drinks would help the fight against obesity, but should individuals be forced into making this choice?

Skeptics about this plan point to the specifics of the ban. The proposal would still allow the sale of large beverages in grocery stores and would not apply to drinks with fewer than 25 calories per serving. Some have argued that soda drinkers can go around the ban by buying more than one regular-sized cup and can drink as they please at home.

A decline in soda consumption and sugary drinks in general would be a step in the right direction; even the sugar and calories in fruit juice can add up. But would it be wiser to offer incentives towards switching to good old H2O and the use of reusable water bottles? And how do you think our society can better educate people to make healthy choices without infringing on liberties?

Now tell us: Do you approve of a ban on oversized drinks or not?

Watch those liquid calories: Read our guide and discover how to drink your favorite beverages while staying slim here.

Hot Topic Tuesday: How Medically-Accurate is Pop Culture?

Written on May 15, 2012 at 3:16 pm , by

Your doctor may not look like McDreamy, but you should trust him more than the actor! (Photo by Susan Pittard)

“Ten blade—stat!” You’ve likely followed along (or tried to) as the paramedics rush patients in from ambulance to emergency room to operating room, all the while shouting precise medical terms to each other, on intense shows like Grey’s Anatomy and ER. It’s fun to get a peek into the powerful world of life-saving, and medical TV shows, movies and other pop culture references allow us to do just that (minus the real-life pain and blood).

But those of us who aren’t doctors have a tough time distinguishing what could be real and what is just drama. A recent New York Times article called out the new HBO series Girls for disseminating inaccurate information about the sexually transmitted infection HPV. The writer claims that an episode of Girls misinformed viewers about the prevalence of HPV (it is so common that at least 50 percent of  sexually active individuals get it at some point in their lives, according to the CDC), the severity of it and what is involved in testing and treatment for the STI.

Now tell us: Is this taking fictional dramas too seriously? Or do writers on health programs owe it to their viewers to have medical advisors on staff to guarantee the accuracy of their content?

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Hot Topic Tuesday: The “Tanning Mom” Controversy

Written on May 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm , by

It takes more than a cute sun hat to protect your skin! (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

From Good Morning America to Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, New Jersey mom Patricia Krentcil has been making waves this week for one hot topic that is literally sizzling. If you don’t know her by name, you likely would know her if you saw her face—she has tan skin that goes beyond any tan you might see on the beach. How/why? Krentcil has an unlimited membership at her tanning salon and goes for the maximum 12 minutes per session, 20 times per month. Yikes! (And yes, she continues, even during National Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month.)

But what really has Krentcil in hot water is the accusation some have made about what made her daughter so tan. School officials asked the girl where her rash came from, and she said she had gone tanning with her mother. Now, Krentcil faces charges of second-degree child endangerment—not to mention growing vitriol from bloggers and other critics across the country. Even the notoriously sunned Snooki has even called Krentcil “crazy” for allegedly taking her daughter to a tanning salon.

It’s an ongoing legal battle, so it will be a bit before we know the truth in this story. We feel for the daughter if her mom did make her use a tanning bed or booth, but there is one good thing that comes from this story: Every time we see Krentcil on the news, we’re inspired to reapply sunscreen!

Now tell us: Do you think that Krentcil is being “bullied” as some have proposed (and should be considered innocent until proven guilty in court) or do you think it’s important to shine a spotlight on her to remind others that this isn’t acceptable?

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Hot Topic Tuesday: Would You Broadcast Your Weight on Social Networks?

Written on April 17, 2012 at 1:40 pm , by

(Photo courtesy of Body Media)

Last week, BodyMedia (the company behind the activity-tracking armbands you may have seen in FITNESS and on Jillian Michaels) launched an interesting new feature that integrates with their products. You can now step on your Withings scale and have your weight automatically sent not only to your BodyMedia account, but also to your Facebook timeline. (Note: This is an optional feature.)

Most health goals, like a fitness bucket list or food log, have been for your eyes only in the past. But in our increasingly connected world, everything from last night’s nutritious dinner (#twye) to triumphant race moments are published on blogs, Twitter and more. So perhaps this wireless, internet-compatible scale is just an extension of that—another way to share your progress or stay accountable.

Now tell us: Would a scale that shares your weights with “friends” inspire you to stay on track with your wellness goals? Or are all of the social media deets just TMI?

Hot Topic Tuesday: How Do You Feel About Restaurant Special Orders?

Written on April 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm , by

Some chefs scoff if you ask for dressing on the side. (Photo by Peter Ardito)

Later this week, pizza giant Domino’s will begin airing commercials that, in the words of Amy Winehouse, will say “no, no, no” to customers who want to make special orders. While slice lovers can still top as they please on regular pies, they must order artisan pizzas as-is. According to Domino’s, their chefs have worked so hard to balance the flavors—and they want diners to experience them just that way.

Many higher-end restaurants have had a “no special order” policy for years, with management citing kitchen efficiency or chef preference as the cause. As a special orderer myself (hold the mayo, please), I appreciate having the option to slightly tweak the menu offerings to suit my tastes and dietary preferences. I figure if I’m making small requests while being polite and leaving a larger tip, it should all work out. But Domino’s and others seem to think otherwise.

How about you: Do you feel that those who request different preparations are being too picky? Or do you like the option to make your meal you own?

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Hot Topic Tuesday: A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words

Written on March 27, 2012 at 5:49 pm , by

What are you thinking when you see profile photos? (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Admit it: you spend more time on Facebook than you probably should. It’s OK, we all do it. But did you know that every time you take a peek at someone’s page, especially their profile picture, you’re making a snap judgment? At least, that’s what a new study from a team of researchers at Ohio State University says.

The study had 195 college students peering at one of four mock profiles of someone who appeared to be a fellow student. Everyone looked at the photo and “about me” section. After review, participants were asked to rate how extroverted they thought the student was on a scale of 1 (least extroverted) to 7 (most extroverted). The majority of people make the final call based on pictures, not words. If the picture made the person appear outgoing and fun, that’s how they were rated, regardless of the text. Same goes if you switch the scenario.

Of course, there’s an exception to every rule: if the image appeared out of the ordinary or placed someone in a negative light, participants took the time to read the profile and really determine what kind of person the student was. So if you’re looking for someone to really evaluate your profile, try an unexpected image or a more somber-looking one.

In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with information, it makes sense that people are looking for a quick summation of traits wherever they can. But what about not judging a book by its cover? Either way, if you’re looking to impress someone for say, a job, cleaning up your profile and activating the security options might not be a bad idea.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Now you tell us: Stop and think about your recent profile views. Do you form an opinion based on images alone? Should people bother taking the time to read up about someone?

Hot Topic Tuesday: The Cinnamon Challenge

Written on March 20, 2012 at 5:11 pm , by

A sprinkle in our oatmeal? Great. A spoonful straight-up? Not so cool. (Photo by Chris Gallo)

A disturbing, strange trend is making the rounds in schools and on YouTube. Have you heard of the Cinnamon Challenge? The “dare” is to swallow a tablespoon of ground cinnamon, without drinking anything, in less than one minute.

While it’s been flying under our radar until recently, the Cinnamon Challenge has been around since the early 2000s. It gained popularity recently across the globe when Big Brother UK used it as a challenge in 2011, and last month Illinois Governor Pat Quinn tried it on-air during a radio show. More than 30,000 individuals attempting the challenge have uploaded videos online involving the challenge, and some have more than 10 million views!

Cinnamon is certainly nutritious when you use it sparingly in recipes (it can lower blood pressure and cholesterol). In this case, however, it can be downright dangerous. Since it’s nearly impossible to avoid inhaling some of the spice, it’s very irritating to your lungs. The challenge often causes severe coughing and can even lead to pneumonia or an asthma attack, health experts have claimed. Even a site dedicated to the challenge includes a disclaimer that says, “It’s going to burn. You are going to cough, and regret you tried…” Yet many still give it a shot, trying to prove to their pals that they have the nerve (and kids have even been found to sneak cinnamon into school inside roomy boots to try this).

Now tell us: Have you talked to your youngsters about this topic? What do you think school leadership and others can do to limit the popularity of the Cinnamon Challenge?

Hot Topic Tuesday: Should Your Doctor Give You an Exercise Rx?

Written on February 28, 2012 at 11:39 am , by

Take one dose of sweat five to six times each week. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Whether you’re looking to lose a few or not, we all know that exercise plays an important role in overall health, from lowering your blood pressure to decreasing your risk for diabetes. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey found that just one in three patients say that their doctors suggested that they exercise more or keep up with their fitness regimen during their checkups and office visits during the last year.

You know the drill: No matter what your visit is about, your M.D. will check your temperature, peek in your eyes and ears and take your pulse. But do you think it’s your doc’s responsibility to also check in on your exercise habits? And why don’t you think they talk more about physical activity now? (Could it be that they are worried about offending you, crunched with a full patient schedule or perhaps even they have difficulty squeezing in fitness during their packed days?)

Sound off in the comments!

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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Hot Topic Tuesday: Cholesterol Screenings for 9-Year-Olds?

Written on February 14, 2012 at 4:01 pm , by

The family that plays together stays (fit) together. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

There’s a lot of talk about hearts lately, seeing as it’s Valentine’s Day. Here at FITNESS, we’re strong believers that if you take care of your ticker from an early age, you’ll set your whole body on the right track for the rest of your life. But an interesting report recently published in the journal Pediatrics got us thinking: Should these healthy habits involve more than serving nutritious family dinners and making exercise a priority as a family?

If several medical professionals quoted in the report and in The New York Times have their way, cholesterol screenings may soon be the norm for anyone age 9 and older. They claim that pinpointing genetic and lifestyle risks (family history and childhood obesity, among others) for high cholesterol  at a young age can increase life expectancy and promote healthier habits.

But opponents are worried that making these screenings mandatory, rather than just suggesting them for high-risk youth, would be more than just expensive for the health care system. False positives can occur and some fear that doctors may try to “treat” obesity and high cholesterol with a pill rather than promoting healthier ways to manage weight struggles.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Now tell us: Do you think pediatricians should screen all kids, from 9 and up, for high cholesterol? Or do you think tests will lead excess stress from false positives and over-medication?