Tuesday, May 29

Yo-Yos Are for Playing, Not Dieting

by Hannah Shaner
Confession: I'm a yo-yo dieter.

Unfamiliar with the term? Hopefully that's because you've found a way to beat it. But here's a short definition anyway:

"The term 'yo-yo dieting' was coined by Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., at Yale University, in reference to the cyclical up-down motion of a yo-yo. In this process, the dieter is initially successful in the pursuit of weight loss but is unsuccessful in maintaining the loss long-term and begins to gain the weight back. The dieter then seeks to lose the regained weight, and the cycle begins again."

While frustrating, the effect doesn't just take an emotional toll like I once thought. Women's Health describes the physical effects this way: 

"Not only is the extra weight a health risk, but recent studies have linked the gain-lose-gain cycle to such potentially life-threatening conditions as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, heart disease and cancer."


About me: I barely make it to the 5'4" mark (unless on tiptoe or in back-breaking stilettos), so I don't have height on my side to at least help stretch out my body. 

And I have family issues: A size zero is baggy on my older sister, which really doesn't help in the self-esteem department.

But the main factor is (here comes another confession)...I just get really lazy sometimes. I've been known to eat really healthy and work out for a month or two at a time and then lose interest, undo all my progress and sulk. 

But it's time for a major change - for my sanity and my health.

How will I make the change, you ask? That's a good question. A few first steps come to mind:
  1. Buy more local foods. Katherine Matutes and Richard Kordesh have given some great tips on finding, cooking and growing local produce on this very blog, and it's time for me to join the movement. My first step? Finding some great farmers markets near my house and forcing myself to wake up early on Saturdays.
  2. Get friends to join me. Another recent blog post of Katherine's was about her friendly work exercise competition, and how her efforts "trickled down" to boost her family's movement, too. Maybe I can persuade my boyfriend to get off the couch with me...
  3. Set goals. Taking Craig Ervin's advice, I need to start off on the right foot by setting some tangible goals - like minimizing fast food intake to once or twice a month, scheduling in some type of cardio at least three times a week and vowing to try different types of workouts so I don't get bored.
I'll keep you posted on my progress and new findings along the way - and I'd love to hear more tips for making a commitment (and, you know, keeping it) to breaking the yo-yo dieting cycle!

Guest blogger Hannah Shaner is an account executive at Bohlsen Group, a public relations, strategic communications and event services agency in downtown Indianapolis.

More about Hannah Shaner

Friday, May 18

The Strength to Fight

by Harvey Gould

I was 55 years old, a partner in a San Francisco law firm, married to the love of my life, working hard, playing hard and loving every minute of it. I had annual checkups, ate (comparatively) healthy, never had any serious medical issues and my wife and I rode horses for exercise.

I’m Jewish. My wife is Irish Catholic. She introduced me to Ireland, first by us going there on a horseback riding trip in 1988. We returned 14 times for extended stays over a 20-year span. After traveling throughout the country, our routine became to rent our favorite cottage in a small village. Over time, we were accepted by the villagers as one of them. In Irish terms, they bestowed on us the honored moniker of “fierce locals.”

Life was good. No, life was just about perfect.

Then one day I was hospitalized for overnight monitoring for a possible cardiac event. After discharge, my blood counts remained abnormal, and I couldn’t shake a relentless exhaustion and severe night sweats. After multiple tests came back negative, my internist sent me to a hematologist. More tests ensued, and he told me that I had myelofibrosis, a rare and terminal blood cancer. 

And that I had three to five years to live.

After initial bouts of depression and mentally planning my own funeral (not that I’m a drama queen or anything), ultimately I came to terms with the fact that I had a choice: 
  1. I could choose Door 1, through which I could hide in a cave with a “Pity Me” sign at the entrance, retreat deeper and deeper into the darkness and wait for death to take me by the hand, or
  2. I could choose Door 2, which would allow my senses, never so focused as by the verdict of a terminal disease, to shout that I now had a reason like never before to be thankful for every day that I could see, smell, hear, taste and touch.
I chose Door 2 and began to marvel at the gift of life, which up till then, I admit, I’d taken for granted.

Some people believe that with serious diseases come blessings. Count me as one of the believers. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not that I recommend terminal illness as a prescription for my family and friends, but I do say that it can give you a renewed appreciation about the gift of life. 

I’m asked frequently, “Do you think attitude matters when dealing with a terminal disease?” 
My answer is that while attitude won’t cure you, when you are surrounded by those who love you and who want you to stay alive as long as possible, you gain the strength to fight - through transfusion dependency, the ravages of chemo, surgeries and more. 

And here I am, 12 years later, still fighting the fight and happy to be ruining medical statistics about my mortality.

Guest blogger Harvey Gould is the author of A Fierce Local: Memoirs of My Love Affair with Ireland, a finalist in the San Francisco Writers Conference Indie Publishing Contest. For more information, visit www.harveygould.com or check out Harvey’s blog.

Wednesday, May 16

The Trickle-Down Effect

by Katherine Matutes, PhD
I recently challenged my coworkers to an exercise competition. Since I have more than 15 years on them, I didn’t expect to win – it was really just a ploy to motivate us all to exercise more.
The idea sprung from a conversation we had recently shared, lamenting the fact that we weren’t exercising as much as we all knew we should. (We’re all exercise professionals in administrative roles.) So I threw down the gauntlet:
The Challenge:
A 30-day exercise competition where the person who accrued the most minutes of exercise throughout the month of May would be crowned winner.
The Prize:
Dinner out on the losers – and, of course, bragging rights.
Keeping Track:
We created a communal calendar to keep track of our own minutes and see how the competition was faring.
Defining the Terms:
An interesting negotiation ensued: What constitutes exercise? We agreed on anything that gets your heart rate up and feels like exertion. The discussion included at least one task that would not have occurred to me: mowing the lawn.
I realized this of course meant that I would have to cut our grass in order to keep up with my male competitors who do their own lawns. When I told my husband, he sported a wide grin and practically ran out the house to get gas for our lawn mower!
My Experience:
My kids were eager to help me, offering daily to participate in any activity they could get me to do so they could help. In addition to my own individual workouts, we’ve swum laps together at the JCC, gone roller blading and practiced boxing in the backyard. What started as a personal quest to improve my own fitness has trickled down to improve my family’s fitness as well.
I realize it can be difficult for the average person to adopt some of my tactics. After all, I work in a fitness center and hear the whir of the cardio equipment taunting me to move more. I can literally step outside my office and grab a quick workout. So what intrigued me most about this challenge was the possibility of incorporating more movement into my everyday life, especially after I realized I could include my family. It would not have been a sustainable shift in my routine if I was always asking my husband to pick up some extra family detail while I went off to do my own exercise.
I’m interested in hearing what activities other families do to get moving more. I hope you’ll share your ideas here, and perhaps as a community, we can create a further “trickle-down effect” to help other families creatively move more, too.
Additional Note:
My kids, ages 10 and 8 years old, have also been inspired to step up their own goals. They’re competing for the second time in the JCC's annual kids triathlon on Sunday, June 24 – but this year, they’re gearing up for the race through the JCC's kids triathlon training program with USAT-certified coach Sean Edwards. There are still spots open if your young athletes are looking for some inspiration! Click here for more information.
More about Katherine Matutes, PhD

Thursday, May 10

Low Back Pain and MRIs

by Frank J. Klene, PT, DPT, CSCS 

Low back pain is the most common orthopedic injury seen by physical therapists and general practitioners. 80 percent of the population is reported to experience some form of back pain in their life. In some regard, back pain is a consequence of our upright bipedal nature with our spines taking the brunt end of our daily activities.
The good news is that a good physical exam done by your physician or physical therapist can determine what course of action needs to be taken in terms of treatment or imaging. Often, back pain can be severe enough a patient may think they need an MRI. However, many times an MRI is an unnecessary step to directly treat your pain based on several factors:
  1. MRI findings such as herniated discs and arthritic changes are commonly seen in healthy individuals without back pain.
  2. Many patients show signs of recovery shortly after the onset of low back pain.
  3. Studies have shown that overuse of MRIs for patients with low back pain is related to an increase rate of surgical procedures that have not historically been shown to significantly reduce the pain.
For practical purposes, an MRI should only be used when a serious underlying condition is suspected, like progressive numbness and tingling of the legs or difficulty using the restroom - and only if the results of the scan will change the course of treatment. 
But more times than not, physical therapy is a great early course of treatment for low back pain and if started early can speed up the healing process! 
More about Frank J. Klene

Tuesday, May 8

The Strawberries Are the “Hook”

by Richard S. Kordesh
The needed rains arrived this week. Now the moisture in our beds rests deep enough to ensure that the seeds about to fall into them will enjoy the wet dirt they require. Into the ground this week will go the seeds of carrots, broccoli, radishes and beets. 
We’re making a bigger push with potatoes this season: Each black burlap sack last year yielded 12-18 tasty reds and whites. This year, we’re adding a couple of larger containers that will hopefully double our harvest. Late last November, I was amazed that I had already cooked the whole fall crop! My son lamented the end of those gloriously fresh spuds.
Not surprisingly, the strawberries have always been the favorite crop of children – our kids, neighbor kids, and those of house guests. The warm spring has encouraged much flowering and fruit formation. The strawberry bed that fronts our blue house has spread enthusiastically around hydrangeas and flowering bushes. 
The strawberries put on the show that hooks the kids into seeing the rest of the garden. A taste of sweet red fruits that he or she picked builds a child’s sense of the living place that brings forth not just strawberries, but tomatoes, cucumbers and spinach. This contact opens young minds through touch and smell to the world beneath the ground upon whose vitality the world above depends. This earthen space dwells so close, and yet without a garden it’s easily overlooked.
Let some strawberries put your kids in touch with the teeming, wriggling place beneath their feet.
Guest blogger Richard S. Kordesh is the author of Restoring Power to Parents and Places and has worked professionally in the community development field for 35 years.
More about Richard S. Kordesh

Thursday, May 3

My Journey from 200lbs Back to 150lbs: April

by Craig Ervin
Well, here we are. The home stretch.  
During the month of April, I lost an additional 5 pounds. I have 17.5 pounds to go to reach my goal of losing 50 pounds. 

That’s 17.5 grueling pounds to shed off by the end of June. 

Am I worried about not reaching the goal? Not in the slightest! I plan to make these final days the most unwelcoming experience possible for those 17.5 pounds. Those previous 32.5 pounds were the lucky ones!
My planned course action for additional pound-reducing awesomeness?
It has been well over a year since I've been able to jog or run for longer than a few minutes at a time. Just this past week, I managed a 50-minute run! I stopped the treadmill just at 5 miles. The smile that broke out on my face after having completed such a feat: PRICELESS!
Earlier this year, I experienced extremely painful shin splints. I got to the point where I truly believed I would need to put off running for good. After asking for advice and doing some research on the internet, the form of my shin-savior was revealed: A simple cylinder of foam. 

Foam rolling was quite painful at first. It took a few tries before I was able to withstand the sensation, but the benefits soon outweighed the initial discomfort. I still experience shin soreness, but not nearly to the degree I had before I began using one. I highly recommend foam rolling for those out there that are cursed with frequent shin splints!
It’s true what they say - where there’s a will, there’s a way. To those final pounds: I’ve got my eye on you. 

More about Craig Ervin

Tuesday, May 1

They Just Don’t Write Like That Any More

by Larry Rothenberg

In the 1930s in Los Angeles, a group of songwriters would get together at Ira Gershwin’s house- you might recognize a name or two among this group, such as Harold Arlen, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein, Richard Rogers and Jerome Kern. They would play music for each other and together they would dig through the songbooks. These were the most successful songwriters of their day – perhaps of any day, and they searched the dictionary for just the right word to perfect their lyrics with the zeal of a California miner searching for a gold nugget.

The “big six” composers whose songs dominate the broad collection of American popular standards written before 1950. Top row (l-r): Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter. Bottom row: Harold Arlen (l), Richard Rodgers with partners Lorenz Hart (center) and Oscar Hammerstein II. Kern, Gershwin, and Arlen also relied on lyricist partners. Berlin and Porter wrote their own lyrics. Photo source here.

These were men, many of them Jewish immigrants or first generation Americans who respected the literary power of internal rhyme, precise wording or just the right turn of phrase – musically and literarily. Many of the songs they wrote are part of our American heritage. “Not for Me,” “Fascinating Rhythm,” “Stormy Weather,” Over the Rainbow” and “God Bless America” are just a tiny sampling of the music most of us know and love.

Together, these creative, brilliant American songs fall under the category of “American Popular Song.” In what other genre might you find lyrics such as these?

They’re writing songs of love, but not for me
Oh, lucky stars above, but not for me.
With love to lead the way. I’ve found more skies of gray
Than any Russian play can guarantee.

Said composer Alan Bergman, “Those people, their use of language shaped our use of language. If you want to know what’s wrong with the grammar of the television news writers and announcers (today), listen to the music they grew up on

On May 3, you can hear American popular songs from the movies as only a true expert like Richard Glazier can perform. This virtuso piano player and interpreter of this wondrous music of the era returns to his native Indianapolis to present his new multi-media show, “From Ragtime to Reeltime.” Click here for more information and for tickets.

More about Larry Rothenberg