By Elizabeth Brion

When you think, in a general sense, of fruit, what image comes to mind? A still life? A farmers' market? An orchard? The produce section at your supermarket? Probably not war, though. Or tanks. Or generals. I've done a lot of historical research over the last year or so, though, and guess what kept turning up? Wars. Tanks. Yep—even generals. See if you can guess which fruit is responsible for which colorful story.
  1. Apricot – Its mere presence is treacherous to military vehicles. It seems that in World War II, the Marines noticed that every time a tank broke down, Ration-C apricots were in the vicinity. You obviously don't want your military transport giving out on you, so a foolproof protection plan was put in place—to this day, you can neither possess nor mention apricots in or near an armored vehicle. I found a story of one WWII vet who flouted this rule and snacked on apricots constantly; other men refused to ride with him, considering him reckless. I consider him a genius; I imagine it's not easy to get any privacy when you're fighting a war.
  2. Cherry – Without this fruit, life simply isn't worth living. The Roman general Lucullus has gone down in history as a foodie as well as a military man. It's said that he spent the last decade of his life in madness and decadence, which is a robust environment in which to plant the legend that he committed suicide when he realized he was running out of cherries. I don't wish to downplay the obvious point here, which is that cherries are completely awesome, but do keep in mind that Roman generals were, as a group, much more gung-ho about suicide than we are today. This might have qualified as a wholly sensible reason.
  3. Rhubarb – Could the threat of its absence have prevented an entire war? Chinese Commissioner Lin Tse-Hsu, in his famous open letter to Queen Victoria regarding England's export of opium to China, contrasted England's addictive wares with China's wholesome ones with the dubious claim that the English could not survive a single day without tea and rhubarb. Unfortunately, it appears that the Queen never read his letter; had she been apprised of this threat to her people's existence, she certainly would have acted to avoid The First Opium War, avoiding many fatalities from both combat and (I assume) the rhubarb shortage that resulted.
  4. Watermelon – Makes an excellent weapon—and an excellent defense. Roman Governor Demosthenes was widely considered one of the greatest—if not the greatest—orators of his time. Indeed, you'd have to be pretty quick on your elocutionary feet to handle having a watermelon hurled at you during a political debate with such grace; Demosthenes placed the watermelon hull upon his head and thanked the thrower for giving him a helmet to wear into battle against Phillip II of Macedonia (a foe he seems to have regarded much as Snoopy did the Red Baron).

By DeLane McDuffie

Don't you hate it when things don't go your way? Or when the weather forecast calls for sunshine, but it rains instead? That may have been on the minds of the people mentioned below, ranging from fitness/health icons to regular Joes. One minute, you could be shaking hands with Life, and then the next minute, it could be slapping you in the face. Wear a helmet. The following individuals got a taste of Life's ironic side. Match the man with the characteristic that best befits his unplanned exit strategy.
  1. Jim Fixx – Cholesterol roadblock. James F. Fixx was a key figure in America's jogging movement of the late 1970s. He authored the best-selling book The Complete Book of Running in 1977 and championed healthy dieting for living a long life. One morning in 1984, he suffered a heart attack while on his daily morning jog. His autopsy revealed that he had severe blocking in three coronary arteries.
  2. Jerome Moody – Premature celebration. Near the end of the summer of 1985, the New Orleans Recreation Department held a huge pool party to commemorate its first summer in memory without a single drowning. Two hundred people were in attendance, with more than half of them being certified lifeguards. There were also four lifeguards on duty. As the party began to wind down, the lifeguards checked the premises. To everyone's shock, there was a fully clothed man, Jerome Moody, lying at the bottom of the deep end. Moody, a party guest, drowned while surrounded by lifeguards.
  3. Jerome Irving Rodale – Bored to death. The other Jerome on this list is credited with establishing the organic food movement. He also was the publisher/founder of the Rodale Press, home of many wellness magazines, like Men's Health, Women's Health, and Prevention. During a guest appearance on The Dick Cavett Show in 1971, Rodale boasted to Cavett during the interview, "I'm going to live to be 100, unless I'm run down by some sugar-crazed taxi driver." Within minutes, the 72-year-old slumped over in his chair, dead from a heart attack. In the original story, Cavett thought that Rodale was asleep and asked him, "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?" However, Cavett later rejected this account, and the show never aired.
  4. Sir Francis Bacon – Frozen dinner. An English Renaissance Man, Bacon was a philosopher, politician, writer, lawyer, and a scientist. His style of scientific investigation later led to the scientific method, and he's even been rumored to have penned some of Shakespeare's plays. In 1626, the man with the delicious surname wondered if snow could preserve meat. Unable to keep his curiosity at bay, he killed a chicken, stepped outside into a snowstorm, and spent several hours trying to jam snow into the chicken. He almost froze to death and later died from pneumonia.
  5. Tycho Brahe – Table manners. This 16th-century Danish astronomer and alchemist was instrumental in establishing the early theories of planetary motion, and also worked alongside German astronomer Johannes Kepler. It is said that during a banquet in Prague, after some serious drinking, the Dane continued to sit at the table and refused to go to the restroom to relieve himself. Back then, it was impolite to excuse oneself from a feast before the meal was concluded. Because of his steadfast dining etiquette, his bladder popped like a balloon, and he suffered unimaginable pain, meeting his maker about a week and a half later. Other theories have developed about his death, including mercury poisoning and murder.

Test Your Food Slang IQ!

Friday, July 29, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Chris Shinkus

Food has worked its way into bakers' dozens of everyday sayings and folksy colloquialisms, and most of us likely never give a second thought to being happy as a clam or comparing apples to oranges. But let's get down to the meat of the matter. There must be stories behind these expressions, right? Turns out there are. Some of these backstories are charming anecdotes, providing little glimpses into past times; others are fascinating explanations, full of details, which in reality have proven to be only myths. The truth is, finding the real origin of slang terms and expressions like these can be a tough nut to crack, but here are several common terms and their accompanying tales—some true, some not. Lettuce begin . . .
  1. True: "Piece of cake" refers to contest for fanciest ambulation around centrally placed dessert. This is thought to be an offspring of "cakewalk"—itself slang for a promenade common to the American south in the late 1800s. Couples would stroll in a circle around a cake, which was offered as a prize to the pair displaying the most elegant walk. (Not exactly the most arduous competition ever created.) Over time, "piece of cake" came to be used figuratively for anything that was stylish yet easily done, and first appeared in print in 1936 in Ogden Nash's book The Primrose Path: "Her picture's in the papers now, And life's a piece of cake." Clearly pre-paparazzi.
  2. True: "The apple of my eye" refers to the pupil of the vision-orb. Far and away the oldest expression in this list—and one of the oldest in general—this one shows up in the King James Bible and Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, but actually pre-dates them both. In fact, it's nearly as old as the English language itself, with its first recorded use dating back to the works of King Alfred in the ninth century. In those pre-Google days, what we know now as the pupil of the eye was believed to be a solid object, and likely due to its shape, it was actually called the "apple." As a result, the phrase "apple of one's eye" at first was quite literally a reference to the pupil. Because sight was considered so precious, it followed that someone considered equally precious could be the "apple of your eye." Romantic to the core.
  3. False: "Bring home the bacon" refers to hanging valuable meat in the parlor to show off opulence. I wish this were true, because it's a good story. It goes that in Merry Olde England in the 16th century, pork was a luxury that was hard to come by and considered a sign of wealth. So when a man managed to score some for his family, some bacon would be hung on a special rack in the parlor when company was coming—a not-too-subtle sign that the man of the house could, in fact, "bring home the bacon." Sadly, this was one of many clever but false stories spread via an email titled "Life in the 1500s" that made its way around in 1999, and was subsequently debunked by the party poopers at Snopes.com.
  4. True: "Humble pie" refers to disparity in quality between dishes served to rich and poor. Yeah, we all have a slice from time to time, but what's the story behind the term? Well, let's go back across the pond, to medieval England once more. It was common practice during that time to serve a pie made of deer parts to servants and others sitting at the lower tables in a lord's hall (what we now know as the "kids' table" at Thanksgiving, but I digress). The term of the time for those deer innards—liver, heart, intestines, and other leftovers—was umble. See where this is going? Take the umble pie served to lower ranks, combine it with humble (from the Latin humilem, from which came humility), add a liberal helping of medieval English pronunciation, and you've got a play on words fit for a king.
  5. False: "Spill the beans" refers to voting system involving different-colored legumes. Another one that's totally legit-sounding. According to the story, in Ancient Greece the voting system consisted of a basket or jar, into which each voter placed a "secret ballot" of either a white or a black bean. White was a positive vote, black was a negative vote, and the results were required to be anonymous. But sooner or later, "that" guy would show up to vote and manage to knock over the basket—"spilling the beans," exposing the results of the secret vote, and pretty much ruining everyone's day. The problem is there's one small fact that creates some doubt about this story: The earliest use of "spill the beans" as a term for giving up a secret is from an article in The Stevens Point Journal, June 1908, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, good ol' U.S. of A. But, hey, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

3 Cool Soups for Summer

Thursday, July 28, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Joe Wilkes

It's summer and the mercury is rising. The last thing any of us is in the mood for is a hot, steaming bowl of chicken noodle or miso soup—which is too bad, because for those of us who are keeping an eye on our calories, soup can be filling, nutritious, delicious, and most importantly, low in calories and fat. But cheer up, soup lovers—we don't have to wait for the first cold winds of autumn to bust out the soup bowls. By borrowing a couple of pages from the cookbooks of our friends across the Atlantic, we can keep a fridge full of refreshingly cool, healthy, soupy goodness.


Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a traditional soup from the Andalusian area of Spain. It is generally made with a tomato base and can include onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and stale bread to thicken it. It was served memorably in the Spanish film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, where the suicidal heroine blended her gazpacho with a bottle of sleeping pills and accidentally served it with hilarious results. Gazpacho can be made in a blender (though we recommend omitting the sleeping pills), or for those with knife skills, it can be made chunky-style, with the vegetables diced into small pieces. The ingredient list can be as varied as both your imagination and your produce department allow. Try steering toward fresh vegetables and low-calorie ingredients. If you want to give yourself a protein boost, you can garnish the soup with some chopped boiled egg whites or diced lean ham.
  • 4 cups tomato juice
  • 6 whole tomatoes, fresh or canned, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup jicama, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Tabasco® Sauce (to taste)
  • Worcestershire sauce (a dash, to taste)
  • Chives, parsley, and/or cilantro, coarsely chopped (for garnish)
  • Bowl or pitcher
  • Blender (optional)
Combine all ingredients in bowl or pitcher, or whirl in blender first to desired consistency. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend. Serve with chives, parsley, and/or cilantro as a garnish. Makes 8 servings.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Refrigeration Time: Overnight

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
91 3 g 3 g 14 g 3 g < 1 g

Borscht

Borscht was a staple in my Russian grandmother's house. When I was a child, I was a little skeeved out by the fluorescent purple-white liquid with bits of egg floating in it, but as I got older, I learned to appreciate the great flavors and the health benefits of the soup. Now, you'll always find a pitcher in my fridge and a couple of bowls in my freezer filled with this tasty concoction. Borscht comes from Russia, Poland, and the Ukraine, and as with Spain's gazpacho, there are as many different ways to make it as there are cooks. Borscht generally uses beets as its base, and you can also add vegetables like onions, cabbage, and tomatoes to the mix. Beef broth makes for a heartier stock, and many chefs choose to garnish the soup with chopped egg. The coup de grace is usually a generous dollop of sour cream swirled into the dark violet broth, but come on—this is a Beachbody newsletter. We'll be swapping the sour cream out for nonfat or low-fat yogurt.
  • 5 to 6 medium-sized beets, julienned
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 16 cups low-sodium chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
  • 1 head cabbage, chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped (for garnish)
  • Fresh dill, chopped (for garnish)
  • 3/4 cup nonfat or low-fat yogurt, preferably Greek style (for garnish)
  • Large frying pan
  • Large stockpot
In large frying pan, heat olive oil, then sauté onion, carrot, and beets until softened. Stir in tomato paste and set aside. In large stockpot, bring broth to a simmer, then add cabbage and potatoes. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the beet/onion/carrot mixture. Add bell pepper, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper, and simmer for 15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Place each serving in soup bowl or mug; top each with half a chopped boiled egg, a pinch of dill, and a tablespoon of yogurt. Makes 12 servings.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 to 35 minutes
Refrigeration Time: Overnight

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
154 10 g 4 g 20 g 3 g 1 g

Vichyssoise

This rich, creamy soup made with potatoes, leeks, onions, and heavy cream is considered by many to be a French classic. Although some trace the soup's provenance to the Ritz Hotel in New York, where a French chef created a creamy, blended, cold version of his peasant mother's potato-leek soup, which he named after his hometown of Vichy, France. Wherever it comes from, it is the soup that renowned chef, Kitchen Confidential author, and Top Chef judge and haranguer Anthony Bourdain credits with launching his love for food. And it is the favorite cold soup for many a gourmand. Usually, it's off limits for those watching the bathroom scale, as the traditional incarnation contains loads of heavy cream. However, with a few adjustments and substitutions, a delicious variation can be made that is satisfying without being ruinous for your healthy diet. In fact, one of the main ingredients, the leek, is the vegetable that Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat, credits as an important part of her slimming regimen.
  • 4 large leeks, white and light-green parts
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 medium potatoes (Yukon Golds are good), peeled and finely diced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups evaporated skim milk
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Ground white pepper (to taste)
  • Chopped chives (for garnish)
  • Food processor or blender
  • Large saucepan
Rinse leeks well, removing all sand and grit. In a food processor or blender, chop the leeks and onions finely. In a large saucepan, sauté the leek and onion mixture in olive oil until vegetables appear translucent. Add potatoes and chicken broth and simmer until potatoes are soft, to the point of dissolving. Pour contents of saucepan into food processor or blender and puree. Pour into bowl; cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove chilled soup from refrigerator, stir in evaporated milk, and add salt and pepper to taste (we specify white pepper because it makes for a more appealing-looking dish). Ladle each serving into bowl or mug, top each with a tablespoon of chopped chives and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 to 25 minutes
Refrigeration Time: Overnight

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
238 13 g 4 g 43 g 2 g < 1 g

By Steve Edwards

Those of you who pay attention to your diet probably hear a lot about something called the glycemic index (GI) these days. It's become another in a growing list of misunderstood buzzwords in the nutrition world. Today, we'll take a look at everything you need to know about the GI, which is going to take a lot less of your time than reading through the entire GI diet book.


That's not to ding these books, by the way. If you're bored you'll probably learn something by reading any one of them. But in my experience, the glycemic index is not the be-all and end-all of your diet concerns. So I take the opposite approach and say that if you learn to eat properly, you can strike the phrase from your vocabulary entirely.

Simply put, the glycemic index is a way to measure how carbohydrates react in your blood. It's measured on a scale from 1 to 100+, where products with a GI of 55 or under are classified as low GI, those with a GI between 56 and 69 are classified as medium GI, and those with GI of 70 and above are classified as high GI. A high GI number means that a food is quickly converted to glucose in the blood (in layman's terms, a "sugar rush"). The lower the number, the slower the food is converted to glucose. The scale was invented for people with diabetes, but the advent of processed foods becoming a cornerstone of the American diet and the rise of type 2 diabetes have given the average person a good reason to pay attention to the GI index of foods.

Essentially, if we ate nothing but natural whole foods, the GI scale would have little meaning for anyone who didn't have diabetes. Even then, the highest GI foods have low numbers in their natural state. It's the cooking and processing of food that alters it so it breaks down much more rapidly. Eating too much food that is converted to glucose rapidly can lead to type 2 diabetes over time. Pretty much the highest of high GI foods are processed junk foods. There are a few exceptions, which we'll get to, but essentially if we eat a balanced healthy diet with very little junk food, the GI index is far less important to us.

Sugar is the big villain in the GI world. In nature, sugar comes from plants, where it's surrounded by fiber. Fiber in foods slows digestion, lowering the GI number of even foods that are high in sugar, like bananas. Processing, as well as some types of cooking, break down or strip these plants of their fiber. This makes them sweeter to the taste, but it also makes them less healthy. And along with the fiber, processing usually removes a lot of the vitamins and minerals.

The main problem in the American, as stated above, is that we're eating too many processed foods. Although we seem to understand that desserts are mainly sugar, crafty advertisers have been pulling the wool over our eyes by hiding the fact that most American processed foods are not much better for us than sugary desserts are. Breads, cereals, some potatoes and pastas, some rice, crackers, chips, fruit juices, sodas, and condiments, plus almost anything that's ever received a "no fat" label or comes in a box or bag, is high in sugar and probably low in fiber and nutrients. When these processed, packaged foods are all you're eating, you cause your body's insulin response to work overtime. Do this enough, especially without exercise (the great equalizer in the sugar game), and you can wind up with type 2 diabetes.

Of course not every food in the categories I listed above is bad. There are companies that make healthy versions of pretty much everything. But marketers can be tricky. As a consumer, it can be hard to know what you're getting. Even reading food labels can be misleading, which is why every diet that comes with a Beachbody® program consists mainly of whole, natural foods.

So the very simple rule is to make sure your diet consists mainly of whole, natural foods and you will no longer have to pay attention to the GI index. There are some variables worth mentioning, especially since eating nothing but natural foods can be challenging in today's hectic world. Here are ten quick tips to help you understand the GI index:
  1. Desserts. These tend to be mainly sugar and/or fat, and as such, they generally don't try to fool anyone with health claims. If we could keep our desserts small and make them a once-a-day indulgence, we'd have no problems. My tip is to do just that: with desserts, keep a close eye on portion size and frequency. Also, fatty desserts lower the GI influence of the sugar, meaning that, especially if you're insulin sensitive, a richer, fattier dessert might actually be preferable to a "no fat" dessert that's all sugar. But either way, unless you're diabetic or borderline, if indulging in desserts is the only way you stray from your diet, it's not going to cause much harm in the big picture.
  2. Sports. When you're active, and especially when you're operating at your physical limit, your body burns up its stored carbohydrates (known as blood sugar) very rapidly. During and after hard or long bouts of exercise, sugar isn't bad for you—in fact, it's actually good for you. This is the only time this is true. Unfortunately, we often like to eat sugary stuff at the opposite times, like when we're watching TV, and no Wii Fit® game has yet been designed that'll burn off blood sugar unless you do it all day long. When you're not active, you should severely limit your sugar intake.
  3. Sports drinks are for sports. This may seem redundant, but Gator/Power/Acceler-ades et al are only good when you're playing sports that make you sweat. This is also true for things like P90X® Results and Recovery Formula®. These are not your standard foods. They're formulated for when you're playing sports vigorously. The difference between the "-ades" and Results and Recovery Formula is that the former only give you sugar and a small amount of electrolytes you lose when you sweat, whereas the latter uses its sugar (which gets absorbed rapidly when you're out of blood sugar) to transport all sorts of other nutrients to help repair your body after exercise. Oh, and also that the "-ades" market themselves as things you might want to drink all day long, exercising or not.
  4. Salads are your friend. Not only are they loaded with fiber, but many of the things we tend to put on salads, including vinegar, lemon juice, and lime juice, as well as pickled vegetables, etc., tend to have acids that lower the GI index of other foods.
  5. Add protein to all your meals. Like fats, proteins slow absorption rates of high GI foods.
  6. Use semolina or whole wheat pastas. These have a much lower GI number (around 30 to 55) than pasta made from refined, enriched white flour.
  7. Use long-grain or brown rice. All rice is fairly high in the GI index, but long-grain rice can be fairly low (50 to 60), whereas white short-grain rice can be as high as 130.
  8. Eat crisp fruit. Fruit is not a real concern unless your diet has an inordinate amount of it. If so, the mushier—and sweeter—a fruit becomes, the higher its GI number. But even the sweetest fruits, like ripe papaya, are only around 60.
  9. Beware of fluff. Fluffy and puffy foods tend to have a high GI number. Cereals are a good example. When a cereal is chewy, that generally means it has more fiber and is less processed, as opposed to soft, fluffy cereals that have been excessively processed and injected with air (and sugar). Potatoes, especially white, fluffy ones, can have extremely high GI numbers, often in the 90s. Fortunately, we tend not to eat potatoes plain, and, as stated above, adding meats, fats, and acidic ingredients will bring the number way down. Oddly enough, sweet potatoes, despite the deceptive name, have a very low GI number. Yams, too.
  10. Some sugar can be OK. If you see a trend here, it's that sugar speeds itself into your system, and if this is your primary mode of eating, it's bad. However, sugars can also speed other nutrients into your system, so you'll sometimes see sugar as an ingredient alongside a lot of healthy nutrients to serve this purpose. A good example is Beachbody's Shakeology® meal replacement shake. It has around 10 grams of sugar (40 calories) in a serving that also contains a lot of protein and 70 other healthy ingredients. In lab tests, Shakeology scored a 24* on the glycemic index, as low as a lot of vegetables. So while sugar is generally the GI villain, you need to look at the entire profile of the foods you're eating before you pass judgment.
*Shakeology was tested by Glycemic Index Laboratories, Inc., a premier facility for testing the metabolic responses to foods and ingredients. GI Labs is the only lab in North America recommended by the Glycemic Index Foundation. GI Labs follows a Determination Standard protocol of testing in vivo with ten human subjects. GI Labs' protocol exceeds the standards set by the World Health Organization.

By Valerie Watson

There are days when I wish I could transplant my brain, with its rich history of experience, memories, thoughts, and feelings, into a fresh, new body, with less back pain, fewer knee tweaks, and a lack of assorted other issues that may or may not be associated with aging. (I kinda don't want to think about it . . . or perhaps my brain is having memory issues.) However, the brain transplant remains a hypothetical procedure rife with bioethical concerns. Fortunately, the realm of pop culture has presented us with a variety of brain transplant scenarios to enjoy. Your job? Match the brain-transplant-related plot with the book, movie, or TV show in which it was featured.
  1. Original Star Trek – Ship's officer has brain removed and stolen by gang of hot, none-too-bright female aliens to serve as an organic computer to run their planet. In the ST:TOS episode "Spock's Brain," Leonard Nimoy suffers the indignity of first having his brain stolen, then of having his brainless body forced to walk around by Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) operating a primitive handheld remote control. Almost universally declared to be the worst Star Trek episode ever. Most memorable quote? "Brain and brain . . . what is brain?"
  2. I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein – Super-elderly billionaire whose body is on its last legs has his brain transplanted into the body of his beautiful young secretary. When wealthy industrialist Johann Sebastian Bach Smith arranges to find a younger body in which to transplant his brain, he never dreams that the body will be that of his beloved secretary Eunice, who is killed in an assault. Written in 1970, the book uses this plot as an opportunity to explore the differences between young and old, male and female, cranky and cheerful, chaste and promiscuous. (Especially promiscuous.)
  3. Friends – In show-within-a-show storyline, actor plays character who's the result of a scheming diva's brain being transplanted into the body of a male neurosurgeon. Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) has an up-and-down history as an actor on the soap Days of Our Lives. He gets cast in and then loses the role of neurosurgeon Dr. Drake Ramoray, and is later brought back to the show to play a composite of Dr. Ramoray's body and the brain of prima donna–ish Jessica Lockhart, who was formerly played by fictional actress Cecilia Monroe (Susan Sarandon). While soap operas have a history of way-out-there storylines, including much reanimation of dead characters, this story may have either achieved new highs or sunk to new lows . . . depending on your perspective.
  4. Young Frankenstein – In classic horror film spoof, mad scientist's grandson finds old man's journals and recreates his attempts to reanimate dead body with transplanted brain. This classic Mel Brooks comedy wrings ample humor from the oft-told tale of the doctor obsessed with both brain transplantation and reanimation. Plus it uses period-appropriate black-and-white cinematography and many sets and props from the original 1931 film Frankenstein, and features an amazing cast headed by Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, which he insists must be pronounced "FRAHNKensteen." As the monster, Peter Boyle does more with a few grunts and sidelong glances into the camera than most actors achieve with pages of dialog.
  5. The Thing with Two Heads – Wealthy, ailing racist has head transplanted onto new body—the body of an African-American death row inmate. With the original head still attached. Ray Milland: classic actor in classic films like The Lost Weekend and Dial M for Murder. Rosey Grier: football legend of the L.A. Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" and author of the 1973 book Needlepoint for Men. Put them together (surgically!) and you've got one of the most truly awful (and most unintentionally funny) movies ever. Perhaps more presciently than one would expect, the trailer begins with the line "It seemed like a good idea at the time . . . "

By Valerie Watson

In this issue of the Beachbody newsletter, we've discussed some of the ways you can make smart choices about your liquor consumption so as not to derail your progress with P90X®, TurboFire®, INSANITY®, Slim in 6®, or whatever your Beachbody program of choice may be.

In the world of rock 'n' roll, however, there have been a plethora of individuals whose actions, while immensely entertaining, have not been quite so, shall we say, brilliant.

Your job? Match the rock 'n' roll legend with the outrageous activity that helped him achieve legendary status.
  1. Keith Moon – Blew up hotel toilets with explosives. Moon, the notoriously outrageous and hard-living drummer for the Who, started with cherry bombs, then graduated to stronger stuff—first M80s, then actual dynamite. Perhaps his most infamous porcelain-kablooie-ing incident involved driving an American luxury car (accounts differ as to whether it was a Cadillac® or a Lincoln® Continental®) into a Midwestern hotel pool, blowing up the toilet in his room, and then jumping out the window to avoid the ceramic shrapnel. Mind you, this was when he was only 21.
  2. Ozzy Osbourne – Bit the head off a dove in his record company's office. Was it just another in a series of drunken misbehaviors? Was it an attempt to get the record company to take him "seriously" as a solo artist after he left Black Sabbath? Mostly, it was icky. And somebody took pictures, which I wish they hadn't.
  3. John Bonham – Relieved himself in his airplane seat and made a roadie switch seats with him for the rest of the flight. Really, what more is there to say? The Led Zeppelin drummer was in a class by himself. (First class, actually . . . then he moved to coach.)
  4. Peter Buck – Wrestled with a flight attendant on a plane until both were covered with yogurt. Yes, Peter Buck. Yes, R.E.M. Yes, sensitive alterna-rock. Yes, the guy who plays the groovy Rickenbacker guitars and the mandolin. Such are the evil powers of too much . . . red wine? At one point, Buck was so soused he tried to put a CD into a food cart, thinking it was a CD player. "Losing My Religion," indeed.
  5. John Lennon – Performed entire concert in underwear with toilet seat around neck. The much-loved and much-respected Beatles cofounder, who with Paul McCartney wrote the lion's share of the hits for the most popular rock band in history, once played an early Beatles show in Hamburg, Germany, sloshed out of his mind, stripped down to his skivvies, and sporting the aforementioned piece of bathroom furniture resting on his shoulders. To give things a little perspective, the show was the band's fourth in a row—on the same night. And he was still probably more coherent than Ozzy Osbourne sober.

Test Your Blueberry IQ!

Thursday, July 21, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Joe Wilkes

Did you know that July is National Blueberry Month? How much do you know about these tiny nutritional powerhouses?
  1. What did early American colonists make by boiling blueberries and milk? Grey paint. As anyone who has had to wash a child after a blueberry-picking outing can attest, blueberry stains are quite powerful. They don't use them in those denture commercials for nothing.
  2. Blueberries are the second most popular berry in America. What's #1? Strawberries are the most popular berry, but blueberries are gaining popularity all the time. Over 200 million pounds of blueberries are grown commercially each year, and North America produces 90 percent of them—with Maine responsible for 25 percent.
  3. How many berries can one bush produce in a year? Over 6,000 blueberries, making the blueberry a real price performer for farmers. They have only been commercially cultivated since the early 20th century, though. Before that, you had to collect them in the wild to make blueberry muffins (or paint).
  4. How long will fresh blueberries last in the refrigerator? Blueberries have a pretty good shelf life. They will last in the refrigerator for 10 days. Blueberries ripen on the tree and do not ripen further when picked, so when you buy fresh blueberries, what you see is what you get. Blueberries also freeze well.
  5. What vitamins are blueberries particularly high in? Blueberries have high levels of vitamins B6, C, and K. They also contain high levels of manganese and dietary fiber. Studies have shown that blueberries may lower blood cholesterol levels, prevent urinary tract infections, and lessen the effects of Alzheimer's disease.

The ABCs of IBS

Sunday, July 17, 2011 | 1 comments »

By Omar Shamout

As many as 20 percent of Americans suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While this painful condition technically just affects the digestive tract, its impact can reach far beyond simple discomfort, actually forcing people to change the way they live. IBS is a condition that's hard to diagnose, and because the frequency and intensity of IBS symptoms can fluctuate, many sufferers aren't even aware they have it. Fortunately, if you do suffer from IBS, changing the way you live can be easier than you think. It might even lead to a healthier and more active lifestyle overall.


What is IBS and how is it diagnosed?

IBS is a disorder of the intestines that's diagnosed more by what it isn't than by what it is. Although IBS shares symptoms with a variety of other conditions, including pain, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and/or constipation, the good news is that IBS doesn't worsen over time, nor does it contribute to more serious diseases of the digestive tract, like cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.

As with so many types of diseases and disorders that result in chronic pain, for sufferers of IBS just getting a proper diagnosis can be a huge hurdle. Many patients have described having had their symptoms dismissed as nothing to worry about. This is due in part to IBS's being a condition that's functional, rather than structural, biochemical, or infectious. What this means is that it's difficult for doctors to identify IBS via a test, X-ray, or surgery in the same way they can identify an injury, inflammation, or infection. While this is problematic for diagnoses, it's good news in the sense that IBS is less serious than conditions such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or inflammatory bowel disease, which cause physical damage to the body's organs. The only real way to diagnose IBS properly is by describing the symptoms to your doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms of IBS are:
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Bloating
  • Gas (flatulence)
  • Diarrhea or constipation—sometimes alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
  • Mucus in the stool
These symptoms have to be present for 12 weeks or more in order for a medical professional to make an accurate diagnosis of IBS. And if they don't, it's up to you to be an advocate for your own health care, and speak up if you feel something is wrong.

Trigger foods

IBS is a very personal problem. No two people have identical trigger foods that cause symptoms to start. While specific foods vary, the most common offenders are high-fat foods and insoluble (or high-residue) fiber. This means meat (especially red meat), dairy products, leafy green vegetables, fruit skins, whole wheat, and anything fried. Caffeine and carbonated drinks are also dangerous. Nicotine and alcohol wreak havoc on the digestive tract, so IBS sufferers should be wary of these, particularly in social situations. Unfortunately, insoluble fiber is a key component of a heart-healthy diet, so the trick is learning how to manage your intake. Luckily, many of the same techniques that aid digestion for IBS sufferers are also highly recommended methods to regulating your metabolism and keeping your blood sugar in check.

Digestion tips
  1. Eat small portions often throughout the day. This way, your digestive tract won't be overwhelmed. The emptier your stomach is, the less likely it is to get irritated.
  2. Start meals off with soluble fiber. This includes foods like rice, pasta, oatmeal, quinoa, potatoes, carrots, yams, beets, and barley. Soluble-fiber foods dissolve in water and are naturally easier to digest, because they pass through the system more quickly. This is especially important if you know you'll be eating a trigger food with your meal.
  3. Take your time while eating. Chew your food thoroughly and enjoy your meal. The faster you eat, the more air you swallow, which can cause bloating and make symptoms worse.
  4. Drink plenty of water. Drinking lots of water is important for a variety of reasons, in addition to aiding digestion.
  5. Try veggie-based products to replace meat and dairy in your diet. If you've discovered that a certain type of meat triggers your IBS more than others, try switching to a vegetarian version of it. If your store doesn't carry a large enough variety of veggie-based products, you can seek out a specialty store to find some great-tasting veggie versions of your favorite foods. There's also a plentiful variety of veggie dairy products available, which should aid your digestion considerably.
  6. Supplements. Calcium is essential for strong bones, but it's also useful in preventing muscle contractions like those caused by IBS. Magnesium is also important because it can help to relax the colon. You can find both in Beachbody® Core Cal-Mag supplements. Multivitamins like Beachbody's ActiVit® can help maintain digestive regularity.
If you're looking for more information about what and how to eat when you have IBS, there are a variety of manuals and cookbooks available to provide you with tips and instructions at your local library, your neighborhood bookstore, or online.

Stress and IBS

Stress and anxiety play a huge role in the onset of IBS symptoms for a great many people. Dr. Rodger H. Murphree, author of Treating and Beating Anxiety and Depression, writes:

"Research suggests that IBS patients have extra-sensitive pain receptors in the gastrointestinal tract, which may be related to low levels of serotonin. Decreased levels of serotonin may help explain why people with IBS are likely to be anxious or depressed. Studies show that 54 to 94 percent of IBS patients meet the diagnostic criteria for depression, anxiety, or panic disorder."

The type of stress that contributes to IBS can increase with major life changes like starting college or starting a new job, so it's important for IBS sufferers to seek treatment from a counselor or other medical professional who can help identify and treat psychological factors that trigger your symptoms.

Stay active

Apart from the obvious benefit to heart health and general well-being, exercise is a great way to increase serotonin levels, and help prevent IBS attacks from occurring. Try to fit in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. Yoga and meditation classes are also proven ways to relieve stress, thus helping alleviate IBS symptoms.

Other options

If you follow these guidelines and still experience symptoms of IBS, you may want to discuss medications with your physician. A variety of medications are prescribed for IBS; your doctor will be able to decide which, if any, is best for you.

There's no denying that IBS can be a real game-changer in anyone's life, but if you follow a few simple tips and guidelines, you can help keep your symptoms in check. Just ask questions, eat healthily, and take care of your physical and mental well-being, and you'll be able to deal with your condition without letting it control your life.

By Joe Wilkes

By now, most of us know what we should be eating—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fish, among other foods. But anyone heading off to the supermarket with a shopping list of the best recommendations for a healthy diet is in for a bit of sticker shock. Over a two-year period, a recent University of Washington study tracked the costs of "nutrient-dense" foods (foods high in vitamins and minerals and low in calories) and "energy-dense" foods (foods high in calories and low in vitamins and minerals—a.k.a. junk).* The nutrient-dense foods rose in cost by almost 20 percent while the cost of junk food declined. The study found that getting your average day's worth of 2,000 calories from the junk side cost $3.52 while getting your 2,000-calories' worth from nutrient-dense cuisine would cost $36.32. Since the average American spends about $7.00 a day on food, you can see where the rise in obesity might come from.


Other studies have shown similar findings. While the income percentage that Americans spend on food has decreased dramatically over the last few years, the obesity rate has risen even more dramatically, as has the incidence of type 2 diabetes, an obesity-related disease. And the obesity rate has grown the most in the most impoverished sectors of society, further emphasizing the connection between the rising costs of nutrient-dense foods, declining junk-food costs, and rising obesity rates. If you've priced out what a nice piece of Chilean sea bass with a side of asparagus costs compared to the latest offering from your local fast food joint's dollar menu, it's easy to be tempted to go to the dark side—especially if your budget is shrinking more than your waistline.

It is possible, however, to eat healthily and still have some money left over. Even on the tightest budget, you can do a little legwork and research to make the most nutritious choices for you and your family. And even if you're fortunate enough to have the cash to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, as my grandfather would say, "There's no point putting your paycheck through your stomach." (And he lived to be almost 100 . . . but that was before the advent of dollar menus.) Here are nine tips for getting the most nutritional bang for your buck.
  1. 'Tis the season. Eating seasonally is the best way to get the most delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. When harvest time comes around for your favorite fruit or veggie, the market is usually glutted, and following the time-honored supply-and-demand curve, the prices of those fruits and veggies plummet. And not only is it cheap to eat fruits and veggies that are in season, it's the best time to get the most flavor for your money. Most fresh fruits and veggies sold in the off-season are either shipped from faraway lands or produced in greenhouse factories and don't have nearly the richness of flavors produced by Mother Nature. It's a good time to stock up, eat what you can, and freeze or can the rest for a rainy day. If you're fortunate enough to live in a community with a decent farmers' market, it pays to get to know the men and women who are selling the produce. They can let you know when the best time to buy the best stuff is and give you a preview of what's coming up harvest-wise, so you can plan your menu accordingly.
  2. The big freeze. Speaking of freezing and canning, these are great ways to save money and still have your nutritional needs met. Not only are frozen and canned foods way cheaper than fresh foods, but in many cases, they're more nutritious. Fruits and vegetables are usually preserved within hours of harvest, when they have their maximum vitamins and minerals. Fresh fruits and vegetables can take days, or even weeks, to make the journey from the field to your table. Add that to any time spent lingering on supermarket shelves and then your fridge's crisper drawer, and suddenly, fresh doesn't seem so fresh anymore. And for many recipes, frozen or canned might even be better than fresh. A pint of fresh off-season blueberries can cost more than $5.00 while a one-pound bag of frozen blueberries can cost less than $3.00. And the frozen berries will be a lot better in your morning smoothie. Any chef will tell you about the virtues of canned tomatoes over fresh ones when making your favorite pasta sauce. The only thing to be wary of is the sodium and sugar content in canned goods or frozen veggies that contain high-calorie sauces or other not-so-healthy ingredients in not-so-healthy amounts.
  3. Shop around. Smokey Robinson was right. It does pay to shop around. Check out those supermarket circulars that are stuffed into your mailbox every week. Each week, your supermarket advertises "loss leaders," including fruits, veggies, lean meats, and fish. Their hope is to lure you into the store with these bargains that they don't make so much money on and tempt you to buy extra high-profit stuff while you're there. But if you stick to your list, you can fill your cart with the loss leaders and save a ton of money. They'll usually be items that are in season as well, since they're cheaper for the store to buy anyway. Also, signing up for their club or rewards cards can help save you money, too. It's better to monitor sales and promotions rather than clipping coupons, as coupons are generally for processed, less healthy foods—although you can sometimes find good coupons for canned and frozen produce.
  4. Get to know your grocer. And your butcher, your produce manager, etc. Find out what day produce is delivered to the store so you get maximum freshness for your dollar. Find out from the butcher when meat goes into the half-off section as its expiration date approaches. The meat isn't spoiled yet, and if you cook or freeze it that day or the next, it's no different from buying full-priced cuts and leaving them in your refrigerator for a couple of days. Only your pocketbook knows the difference. Also, many butchers will custom-grind for you without charge. If a package of factory-ground turkey breast costs $6.00 a pound and a whole turkey breast costs $2.00 a pound, why not buy the whole breast and ask your butcher to grind it for you? You'll save a lot of money, and you'll actually know what went into the turkey burger you're eating.
  5. Think outside the big box. Instead of always going to the big-box supermarket chains, investigate if there are farmers' markets or food co-ops in your area. The food will be fresher, cheaper, and hopefully, not as coated with pesticides, waxes, or other unsavory elements. It's a good way to save money and support your local community at the same time. You can get organic produce for the same price or cheaper than traditionally grown produce this way as well. (It's also worth checking out what your state defines as organic.) Organic food is great, but if you're trying to save money, traditionally grown food isn't essentially less nutritious than organic; it just may require a little more scrubbing.
  6. Start your own farm. If you have a yard, start your own vegetable and/or herb garden. With a little online research, you can find out what grows well and easily in your neck of the woods. And if you're an apartment dweller like me, you can get a lot out of a container garden. I have big pots on my balcony that keep me in tomatoes, peppers, and fresh herbs all summer long. And if you don't have a balcony, you can grow small pots of herbs in your kitchen—decorative, tasty, and economical!
  7. Plan ahead. Take some time on Sunday to plan out your menu for the week for all your meals and snacks. Find out what's in season and on sale in your area. If you can only make one shopping trip for the week, front-load your menu with fresh ingredients and stock up on canned and frozen items for the latter half of the week. One of the areas where my budget always falls apart is not having the ingredients that I'll need or a plan for dinner; I end up grabbing takeout or having food delivered—both unhealthy and expensive. Just by planning ahead and not wasting money on unplanned restaurant meals, you'll find that you have a lot more money to spend at the grocery store so you won't have to cut as many corners for the meals you prepare.
  8. Tap into tap water. Not your wallet. If you're going to spend money on your beverages, invest in a decent water filter to improve the taste of your tap water. As we've discussed in other articles, tap water is subject to a lot more regulations than bottled water, which is good for you, and it's not shipped in from Fiji or Norway, which is good for the environment. And it's practically free! It's a lot better for your waistline and your wallet than multiple trips to the soda machine.
  9. Take your vitamins. Here's the easiest, most economical way to ensure that you always get a base level of proper nutrition. Taking a good multivitamin and a fish oil supplement will help you get the benefits of a diet that would otherwise cost a whole lot more to get you the same nutrients you'd get from food sources—and fish oil supplements are especially good for those who don't care for fish.

By Elizabeth Brion

Summer's in full swing, and the thoughts of many fitness-minded people turn to working out on the beach. Sure, you could do dune sprints or that walking-backwards-in-the-sand thing—or you could hit Southern California's Muscle Beach and enjoy many of the amenities your gym has, except outside in the summer sun. Some consider Muscle Beach the birthplace of the fitness industry. Let's see how much you know about this legendary shrine to rippedness.
  1. False: Muscle Beach has been a landmark on Venice Beach since the 1930s. The original Muscle Beach was opened in Santa Monica in 1934 as a WPA project, but the scene got to be a little out of control and local vendors were not pleased by all the free entertainment competing with their for-profit wares. The city closed it down in 1959, at which point the bodybuilding scene relocated to Venice, where apparently vendors are more chill. The Venice location was renovated rather lavishly in 1990 and now has a giant concrete dumbbell on the roof and bleachers to hold observers, along with extensive weight lifting facilities.
  2. False: The original Muscle Beach is now a parking lot. That was the intention, but it escaped that fate long enough for people to become nostalgic for it, and in 1989 it was rededicated as the original Muscle Beach. Today, it's a more family-friendly attraction, featuring plentiful gymnastics training equipment and a jungle gym for the smaller kids to work out on.
  3. True: Muscle Beach has been much loved by Hollywood celebrities as well as fitness legends. You'll hear of Muscle Beach in conjunction with people like Jack LaLanne, Steve Reeves, Vic Tanny, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it was also a popular hangout for movie stars, including Clark Gable, Kirk Douglas, Jayne Mansfield, and Mae West. (I like to think that it was when Mae turned up that the scene got too steamy for the locals, but of course, I totally just made that up.) While it doesn't have the same pull for today's Hollywood A-list (and considering their recent behavior, I think we're all glad for that), you can still spot famous bodybuilders—and even the occasional Beachbody icon!
  4. True: Hulk Hogan once worked out there on an episode of Baywatch. I realize this is not the most useful fact to have in your mental library, but like many other people who went to high school in the 1980s, I can't pass up the opportunity to reference Hulk Hogan and Baywatch in one sentence. Because we love them both. Ironically or something. It's hard to tell the difference sometimes.

By Stephanie S. Saunders

You may have noticed at your local gym that weight lifting is becoming tres a la mode among the spandex and sweatband set. Unfortunately, this upswing in resistance training also means an upswing in injuries. An article in the New York Times recently reviewed a study of weight lifting injuries over an 18-year period, which showed there were almost one million Americans who visited an emergency room, injured, as the result of weight lifting. Ninety percent of those injuries were attributed to free weights. While women were more likely to drop the weights, resulting in fractures, men were more apt to create strains or sprains. Either way, as fantastic as it is that people are realizing how much they can alter their bodies with a couple of dumbbells, it makes you feel like a dumbbell when you drop one on your foot.


So let's look at 10 ways to avoid upping your insurance premium while still obtaining the physique of your dreams:
  1. Warm up. Yes, you've heard "warm up before exercising" since junior-high PE class, although most of us looked at it as a way for lazy instructors to burn up class time. But are we really aware of the benefits of warming up before resistance training? Increased muscle and body temperature reduces the risk of strains and sprains, and also allows the muscle to contract more forcefully. Warming up creates less overall stress on the heart and activates your body's natural cooling system, a.k.a. sweat, to prevent overheating. Warming up creates greater range of motion around a joint and helps us get mentally prepared for the task at hand. So take 5 minutes, jump on a treadmill, and give your muscles a chance to wake up.
  2. Use your thumbs. What gives us greater dexterity than most animals on the planet? Yes, it's our opposable thumbs. And yet, a great number of people do not include this strongest of digits in their weight lifting routines. It's similar to the way the British upper class sips their tea, only no one needs their pinky to stabilize a teacup. Without your thumb, your fingers cannot create a complete circle, which in turn means a dumbbell could go flying. So stop trying to look pristine and actually grip the weight with all five digits.
  3. Get by with a little help from your friend. Asking for help in the gym, or even from someone you live with, is often as painful as asking for directions on a road trip. Yes, you want to appear like the superman or superwoman who's strong enough to handle it alone, but sometimes a spotter can make all the difference between success and a squished pinky toe. They don't need to spend all day with you, and in fact, you can politely thank them and offer to return the favor if needed, while simultaneously walking away. But asking for 30 seconds of their time could save you a lot more time in an emergency room.
  4. Record your progress. If you've done P90X®, Tony has drilled into your head the importance of recording your weights and repetitions, every time you work out. This is extremely important not only to create consistent change in your physique, but also as a safety measure to keep you from overdoing it. Since most of us cannot remember our mother's phone number, how do we expect to recall every single weight of dumbbell we used over the last several days, weeks, or months? And if we aren't sure where we left off, how are we to know where we are going? It's pretty common for someone to confuse the number, try to go too heavy, and end up knocking themselves in the head with a dumbbell. (At least I would like to think it common, since I once gave myself a concussion.) Start where you left off, and make small increases according to your workout plan.
  5. Have lighter weights/bands available. Yes, you can use those 20-pound dumbbells for bicep curls, and yes, you can get through 6 repetitions very effectively. But as your form starts to fail, an injury is more likely to occur. So, as opposed to throwing in the towel and watching that TurboFire® video from your couch like it's an episode of One Life to Live, have lighter weights or resistance bands available to continue your set. Or consider investing in dialing weights like the Bowflex® SelectTech® Dumbbells, where making the weight lighter or heavier is one click away. Whatever the case, do not assume that one pair of dumbbells is going to be enough to work your entire body safely.
  6. Consistently check your range of motion and momentum. It's really easy to go a little bit farther than we should, which can cause all kinds of problems. This is the original intention for mirrors lining the walls of gymnasiums. Yes, it was actually to check your form, and not just to stare at your big, beautiful biceps. But since most of us don't have mirrors lining our living rooms, make sure you are using the appropriate range of motion for every exercise you do. In other words, don't let your elbows go beneath you in a chest press, don't let your knees go out over your toes in a squat, and don't hyperextend your back in a lat pull. Should you be unaware of the proper range of motion for an exercise, ask for some assistance.
  7. Slow down, Turbo. Be slow and controlled about every movement. This is not an exercise in momentum. And although there are amazing cardiovascular benefits to weightlifting, it's not like you are trying to sprint around the track with a vampire bat chasing you. You can keep a good pace without letting momentum take over. Not only is it much safer, but much more beneficial to your overall progress.
  8. Accessorize appropriately. This isn't a suggestion to wear a rhinestone weight lifting belt—although that'd be kind of cool—but to use some basic innovations in resistance training equipment in order to stay safe. Weight lifting gloves can be an inexpensive and invaluable tool in helping maintain grip on free weights, barbells, and pull-up bars. Tony Horton's PowerStands® can take strain off wrists, forearms, and elbows when doing push-ups. The P90X Chin-Up Bar can change your grip to accommodate a more comfortable or versatile pull-up. Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells can take strain off your upper extremities and back by only requiring you to use one set of dumbbells to do everything, and not bending over to pick up 10 different sets. A plyometrics mat can take strain off your knees, ankles, and hips by creating extra cushion while jumping. And using a Beachbody Balance Ball or Squishy Ball to assist in core work can make your spine more comfortable, while working your abs. Using the right tools can sometimes make a huge difference in results—and safety.
  9. Assume the position. One of the most horrifying things to observe as a fitness professional is how people actually get into position with their dumbbells. Lying down to do a bench press and reaching down with your arm behind you to pick up 30 pounds is way too common—and dangerous. Or how about the diving forward, as if you were entering a pool, to pick up dumbbells for a set of squats? From my perspective, watching that is scarier than Friday the 13th falling on Halloween. So to avoid strains as the result of bad pick-ups, use the following rules:
    • When picking up dumbbells for a standing exercise, try to start with them on a rack or chair at waist height. If they are already on the floor, pick them up one at a time, with bent knees, and put them someplace higher.
    • When using dumbbells for a seated exercise, or lying-down exercise, put one on each knee to begin. As you lean back, lift each knee one at a time to help you get the weight into place.
    • If you are using dumbbells for a prone or kneeling-on-one-knee exercise, make sure the weight is already within arm's reach and maintain a flat spine as you lift it up.
  10. Clean up after yourself. Not to sound like your nagging mother, but don't be a slob, even in your own home. Many injuries happen as the result of someone tripping over that weight or medicine ball someone left lying on the floor. As my mother used to say, it takes just as long to put it where it belongs as to throw it on the floor. We know this isn't really true, but if it keeps you from slamming into the ground, a couple extra seconds is worth it.
If you've spent any time with P90X or ChaLEAN Extreme®, you know the transformative power of resistance training. And with a bit of preparation and thoughtfulness, it can be an injury-free endeavor as well. Just remember that getting injured will derail your training faster than a visit to Hometown Buffet®. It's worth a little extra energy to avoid it.

By Valerie Watson

When I set out to write this week's quiz, I took a look at the two main articles and thought, "OK. Turbo. Beef. Cows that move fast!" Sadly, a brief spate of Interwebs research proved this to be a lean topic indeed.

Cowboys will tell you that trying to get cattle to move at high speeds is counterproductive. Their job when bringing grass-fed cattle down from the grazing lands is to get the dogies to move just fast enough to get where they're going without having them sweat off any of the valuable beef weight they've put on while they've been fattening up. I found mention of a one-mile cow race in which a top bovine speed of roughly 8 miles per hour was achieved, and some anecdotal evidence of cows traveling anywhere from 5 to 20 miles per hour, but I found nothing concrete and scientific, with the levels of trustworthiness we usually demand of the reference materials we use for our newsletter quizzes.

Still, this got me thinking: what animals move the fastest, and where do cows fit in that hierarchy? I know the top speed my two cats can achieve while running across my living room floor is only limited by the speed at which I move the laser pointer they're chasing. (And, of course, the nearness of the wall.) Recent news stories about the British cat with the bionic legs aside, there are measurable land speeds for a variety of the earth's critters. Your job? Rank them from fastest to slowest.
  1. Cheetah – When sprinting, a cheetah can achieve land speeds from 65 to 70 miles per hour. (This is when they're not distracted by activities like lounging, wearing sunglasses, and snacking on cheese puffs.)
  2. Ostrich – At its fastest, an ostrich can run 45 to 50 miles per hour. You'd probably run that fast, too, if people were trying to make purses and burgers out of you. Poor gawky long-legged bird-beasts.
  3. Bison (the most cowlike creature on the list!) – A bison's top speed has been clocked at 30 to 35 miles per hour. Why they couldn't satisfy my curiosity and also test a cow I may never be privileged to know, but I'll have to be satisfied by this cow-adjacent data.
  4. Usain Bolt – The human sprint champion's top measured speed works out to 27.3 miles per hour. No jokes necessary; the dude is just fast. (As long as he's not racing against, say, a non-cheese-puff distracted cheetah. OK, one joke.)
  5. Squirrel – A squirrel can run 10 to 12 miles per hour at top speed. Sadly, during peak squirrel season, I've seen abundant evidence that this is not always fast enough to outrun the cars on my street. Squirrels also aren't always fast enough to get away from (political correctness alert! I do not condone this behavior in any way) my dad's BB gun.

Test Your Yoga IQ!

Saturday, July 09, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Stan Malihee

Yoga is gaining popularity across the country, but especially in Southern California. When I first moved out here, people would ask me if I did yoga, and I would always reply with a favorite joke: "I'd try yoga, but I'm afraid I would levitate into a ceiling fan." Then one day Tony Horton stopped by Beachbody Headquarters and offered a free yoga class to all interested employees. Ninety minutes and 40 gallons of sweat later, I was totally converted, and now I truly believe in the tremendous powers of this ancient practice. How much do you know about yoga?
  1. False: Yoga is approximately 3,000 years old. Although the specific year the practice began is under debate, the Yoga Sutras—a Sanskrit collection of works written by Patanjali—date back to more than 5,000 years ago. To give you a perspective on how far into history that is, back then America wasn't even the best country on Earth yet.
  2. True: Yoga consists of what are referred to as "the eight limbs." Yoga is believed to be made up of eight limbs: the asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), yamas (restraints), prayahara (withdrawal of senses), niyamas (observances), and samadhi (absorption). Hmmm . . . eight limbs, postures, breathing, concentration, meditation, restraints, withdrawal of senses, observances, absorption . . . sounds like my prom night!
  3. True: Basketball superstar LeBron James does yoga. The star forward has had a highly successful and predominantly injury-free career in the NBA thus far, and James himself attributes some of that to his practice of yoga. Additionally, 11-time NBA champion head coach Phil Jackson is a proponent of the practice. And that's saying something. This is a dude who, when he wants to wear all of his championship rings at once, has one for every finger on both hands, and has to wear one on his toe. (Or at least I hope that's where he wears it!)
  4. False: Yoga is risk free. I have a friend who hurt her back while transitioning out of the "upward dog" position, and her doctor told her that many of the injuries he sees are from yoga. So, like anything else, if it has the power to strengthen you, it also has the power to hurt you if done improperly. But everything in life involves risk, so don't let that stop you. Yoga is a wonderful exercise that can have enormous benefits. After all, if it's good enough for Tony Horton, LeBron James, and more than 5,000 years of avid practitioners, it's good enough for anyone who takes his or her health seriously. And that's no joke.

By Stephanie S. Saunders

When I reached the venerable age of 18, my mother handed me a Costco®-sized bottle of calcium and told me if I didn't take them daily, I'd end up looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I shrugged off the advice; although I knew osteoporosis ran in my family, I also knew athleticism did not. I was the super athlete who had an incredibly healthy diet. I believed I was immune from all degenerative diseases, regardless of my family history. The funny thing was, we were both wrong. Osteoporosis can affect anyone. However, taking a pill isn't the only way to keep it from affecting you. So what is osteoporosis, who is at risk for it, and what can we do to avoid it? Let's have a look.


Osteoporosis is a loss of bone tissue and structure, which can lead to fracture. Your bones get so weak and porous that a simple fall, or even a sneeze, can cause a break. Any bone can be affected, but osteoporosis seems to cause more hip, spine, and wrist fractures than anything else. It is believed that 10 million people today have osteoporosis, many of whom are unaware they have it, as the disease shows no signs of existing before a break. Once the break occurs, not only is hospitalization fairly certain, but an average of 24 percent of hip-fracture patients over the age of 50 die in the year following their break.

Certain people are more likely to develop osteoporosis than others. Being a woman is the number one risk factor (just 20 percent of the people affected are men). Other risk factors include age, family history of the disease, being small and thin, low estrogen levels, smoking, heavy alcohol use, inactive lifestyle, overactive lifestyle, use of steroids and some anticonvulsants, certain diseases including anorexia and rheumatoid arthritis, and dietary concerns such as low calcium and vitamin D intake as well as excessive intake of protein, sodium, and caffeine.

To find out if you have osteoporosis, you will take bone mineral density tests (BMD) using a central DXA, which stands for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. These fancy X-rays can tell if a person has low bone density as well as the rate of deterioration. They can also predict the chances of fracture in the future. This can help the health care provider decide if treatment is necessary. Unfortunately, these tests are usually done after the age of 50, when the damage is already done. So how do we prevent getting there?

Ways to avoid osteoporosis:
  1. Start early. If you are under the age of 20 and are reading this, start taking care of your bones now. Eighty-five to ninety percent of all adult bone mass is acquired by the age of 20. Yes, 20. Unfortunately, many of us oldies were more concerned about how we looked in a bathing suit than about bone loss. So if you are young, start focusing on it now.
  2. Get your calcium and vitamin D. The appropriate intake of calcium, 1,000 to 1,300 milligrams a day, is extremely important. And if you think that Starbucks® latte has you covered, you are not quite hitting the mark. Eight ounces of milk only provides about 30 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)*. Eight ounces of plain yogurt provides 42 percent of what you require, while 8 ounces of calcium-fortified orange juice gives you about 25 percent. The FDA has also stated that you can get your daily requirement of calcium through certain vegetables, but you will be eating A LOT of broccoli. The secret is to consume all of the above and consider a supplement like Beachbody's Core Cal-Mag. The body absorbs smaller quantities of calcium much more effectively, so splitting that 1,000 milligrams into two doses is your best bet. Also, intake of vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and for bone regrowth. Most people require between 5 and 10 micrograms daily and can easily attain this as many foods are fortified with vitamin D. But if you're really worried, one teaspoon of cod liver oil will nail your recommended daily allowance, and it's delicious to boot. Not!
  3. Exercise. Engaging in regular weight-bearing and muscle-building exercise is your next defense in avoiding fractures. Yes, all your hours of P90X can actually help your bones in addition to your abs. Studies over the last 10 years indicate both aerobic and resistance training have an effect on bone density, with resistance training being more beneficial. The National Osteoporosis Foundation suggests weight-bearing exercises be done for at least 30 minutes a day (these include dancing, running, jumping rope, stair climbing, etc.) and resistance training 2 to 3 times a week with the focus on 8 to 12 different exercises. If you are already doing INSANITY®, P90X®, or TurboFire®, you're working far beyond the requirements. If you haven't quite begun your program, and you might be at risk for fracture, make sure you seek the advice of a health care professional before beginning.
  4. Avoid the bad stuff. Avoiding smoking, alcohol, and excessive amounts of protein might assist in preventing osteoporosis. Significant bone loss has been found in older men and women who smoke, and women smokers create less estrogen and experience menopause sooner. Smokers who suffer fractures take longer to heal. While there are studies showing the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, drinking as few as 2 to 3 standard drinks a day can interfere with the absorption of calcium and vitamin D. Excessive alcohol consumption also interrupts normal hormone function, which in turn reduces estrogen and testosterone levels, and increases the risk of osteoporosis. And consumption of excessive animal protein might actually affect bone density adversely, in the absence of calcium. While the kidneys can handle high-protein diets in short bursts, getting more than 40 percent of your calories from animal protein can create a higher excretion of calcium in urine and fecal matter, but there are different schools of thought as to where the calcium is coming from. Keeping your protein consumption to a more moderate level, or increasing your calcium intake, might help your bones in the long run.
  5. Get tested. If you are over 50, it is definitely time to talk to your doctor. If you're under 50, but have any of the risk factors stated above, a bone density test could save you years of pain and a vast amount of money. There is presently no cure for osteoporosis; there are only treatment options. There are several medications that help in prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Bisphosphonates, antiresorptive medications, and anabolic bone-forming medications have all been approved by the FDA and can certainly help in the war against fracture.
Osteoporosis isn't necessarily a life-threatening disease, but it is something that will truly affect your quality of life if you are faced with it. Prevention can begin now, and a few alterations in lifestyle might be all that's required. You can choose to ignore it at 20, but at 60 and 70, do you really want to be paying for your mistakes? Personally, I'd prefer to be scuba diving in Bora Bora, spending my children's inheritance instead of hobbling around on a weak hip. So be dense in your bones, not your brains, and start thinking about it. Your skeleton will thank you someday.

By DeLane McDuffie

Over the course of history, many inventions have come about by complete accident. Vulcanized rubber, the pacemaker, plastic, and penicillin are just a few of these discoveries. But it doesn't stop at the inedible. Frank Epperson accidentally left his drink outside in the cold (Popsicles®), and Constantin Fahlberg spilled a chemical on his hands in his lab, forgot to wash it off, and later ate an unusually sweet dinner roll (saccharin). See if you can guess which of the following statements are truths and lies.
  1. True: Many people claim to have invented the ice-cream cone. Nick Kabbaz, Abe Doumar, David Avayou, and Charles Menches all claimed to be the king of the ice-cream cone. In 1902, England's Antonio Valvona received a patent for an "Apparatus for Baking Biscuit Cups for Ice Cream." The following year, Italo Marchiony acquired a patent for a "molding apparatus for forming ice-cream cups and the like." However, the International Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers (IAICM) throws its support behind Ernest Hamwi, a pastry maker at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair who gave a fellow vendor a hand. The vendor had run out of ice cream dishes, and Hamwi rolled up some of his pastries into cones, a sweet and tasty substitution.
  2. False: Potato chips were created out of sadness. They were created out of anger. In the early 1850s, you didn't want to mess around with Saratoga Springs' chef George "Speck" Crum. Criticize his cooking and you would be sorry. Cornelius Vanderbilt didn't get the memo. While dining at the Moon's Lake House, he sent back his fried potatoes because they weren't crispy and crunchy enough. Chef Crum, incensed over the customer's lack of gratitude, sliced the batch of potatoes as thin as he could, refried them in hot grease, and dumped on a ton of salt. But Vanderbilt loved the "sabotaged" dish, and potato chips were soon a national sensation.
  3. False: Teabags were invented by the British. Tea seller Thomas Sullivan needed to keep his costs down. So rather than send out loose tea to his clientele, the New Yorker saved money by sending out small silk sachets of tea. Ironically, many of his customers misunderstood his intentions. Instead of cutting the sachets to brew the loose tea, they dunked the whole sachets into their teacups. It caught on, and the silk teabags were later replaced with gauze. The British didn't accept the teabag for almost 50 years.
  4. True: Cheese puffs were made by accident in Beloit, Wisconsin. It's only right that cheese puffs were invented in a state known for its cheese. To ensure that its animal feed didn't have any sharp hulls in it, The Flakall Company developed a grain-grinding machine. So that the machine wouldn't clog up, moist corn kernels were poured into it. Edward Wilson noticed that the machine would get insanely hot when left running, and the damp corn kernels would exit the machine in puffy strips—immediately hardening when exposed to air. Wilson took the strips home, threw on some oil and flavoring, and became the daddy of the original cheese curls, or puffs, or whatever you want to call them.
  5. True: The Graham cracker was developed to curb people's sexual urges. Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham's theology was simple; he preached that everyone should have clean diets and practice "clean" living (regular bathing, exercise, 7 hours of sleep nightly, daily toothbrushing, fresh air, etc.). During the 1820s, he believed meat, spices, and alcohol fueled sexual lust, leading to human suffering, indigestion, poor circulation, spinal diseases, insanity, epilepsy, and other unpleasant issues. He was an advocate for unprocessed foods and detested refined white flour, which was stripped of dietary fiber. Therefore, he made Graham flour from unbleached whole wheat, from which the Graham cracker sprang forth. During that time, most people wrote him off as a nutcase (mainly because of his views on sexuality), but a lot of his philosophy would be later adopted by vegetarians and the health-minded. Graham had a great strategy, though. There is nothing sexy about a Graham cracker.

Facts on Fiber

Sunday, July 03, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Omar Shamout

When I was very young, my mother implored me to eat my bran flakes or else I wouldn't get enough fiber. I don't know about you, but from the age of four on, anything my mother told me to do automatically became worth avoiding at all costs. Plus, the word "bran" sounded like "bland," so my mind decided I was going to dislike it before even trying it. But in hindsight, perhaps my mother knew what she was talking about. Fiber is essential to maintaining a healthy digestive system, while also having positive effects on your heart, cholesterol, and blood sugar.


What is fiber? Fiber is a complex carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. It is so complex, in fact, that the body can't digest it.

Note that I wrote whole grains. When it comes to grains, you'll find the fiber in the outer shell, or bran (there's that word again). The problem that many of us face in getting fiber from breads, pasta, rice, or cereal is that the processed foods we know and love are made from refined grains that have been stripped of the bran and therefore contain very little fiber. And just because it says "wheat" somewhere on the bag or box doesn't mean it has fiber in it. Wonder® Bread is made from wheat. If you want the whole deal, you need to verify that the ingredients list whole wheat or another kind of whole grain. And even then, check the fiber listing on the nutrition facts panel to see how much you're getting.

What does fiber do? There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber goes through your system "as is," and helps to regulate bowel movements. As insoluble fiber moves through the digestive tract and colon, it takes other things along with it, thus beefing up your stool and making it easier to pass. This is a simple and easy way to aid in weight loss because you're eliminating more waste from your body.

Because it dissolves in water, soluble fiber takes on a gel-like consistency in the stomach, slowing digestion and lowering blood sugar levels by slowing the rate at which sugar is released into the blood. Soluble fiber also regulates cholesterol by binding with fatty acids. If these benefits aren't enough to convince you, fiber has also been shown to reduce the risk of coronary artery (heart) disease and type 2 diabetes. Here is a chart that breaks down how much fiber is recommended by the USDA in order to accomplish the aforementioned benefits and maintain a healthy diet:

Age 50 and younger Age 51 and older
Men 38 g 30 g
Women 25 g 21 g

But I don't like the way fiber-rich foods taste! We get it, and food manufacturers do, too. They are realizing that consumers have gotten increasingly savvy about what goes into their food (and subsequently, into their bodies), and are offering more and more whole-grain options of popular brands. Taste preference is all about what you know. Obviously, refined flour-based foods are appealing because they taste good, but a large part of their dominance is based simply on the fact that we are used to them. If you make a commitment to buying whole-grain products, your taste buds will adapt, and you will learn to prepare whole-grain foods in a way that works for you, and combine them with other foods that will leave you happy and healthy.

It's also important to realize that you don't need to change everything about the way you eat overnight. Small changes can add up. If you don't like whole-grain bread, start with adding more apples or beans to your diet. Have fun and experiment. Don't get frustrated because you don't like eating bran muffins and proclaim that fiber isn't worth the trouble. There are always solutions to a problem if you're patient enough to find them. For a great source of gourmet, high-fiber recipes, check out The High-Fiber Cookbook by Bryanna Clark Grogan.

Supplements, you say? If you change your diet and you're still not getting all the fiber you need, supplements are a great way to boost your fiber intake. The main drawback to fiber supplements is that you deprive your body of the other vitamins and minerals that you would be consuming along with the fiber you get from foods. If a food is high in fiber, it's probably high in many other things that are good for you too, and you end up killing eight essential birds (or vitamins) with one stone (or bowl of lentil soup). Keeping this in mind, let's explore four popular forms of fiber supplements:
  1. Apple pectin. Pectin is a compound found primarily in apples, but also in plums, peaches, and other fruits. It's useful in easing ongoing conditions such as diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. It acts as an antioxidant, which has been shown to have a positive effect in reducing the risk of certain cancers and lowering cholesterol in the bloodstream. As a result, it is especially recommended for those who eat a high-fat diet.
  2. Psyllium husk. The dried covering of plant seeds, psyllium husk contains a whopping 71 grams of fiber in only one-third of a cup. Some people are very allergic to psyllium husk, so always consult a doctor before adding this or any other supplement to your diet.

    One side effect to psyllium husk powder, and high-fiber diets in general, is that it can give you gas. A lot of gas. The best way to deal with this unfortunate problem is to increase your daily fiber intake slowly. A sudden increase of 20 grams of fiber or more per day will cause a lot of discomfort, so allow your body to get comfortable with a new diet, and don't rush into it. Also, popular fiber supplements such as Metamucil® merely combine psyllium husk with sugar, so you're better off skipping the sweetness and going for the real thing.
  3. Flaxseed. Flaxseed is a wonderful plant food because it contains not only soluble and insoluble fiber, but also high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which greatly reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and fight different types of cancers, specifically of the colon, prostate, and breast. Lignans found in flaxseed have also been proven to prevent the incidence and growth rate of tumors in cancers that are sensitive to hormones. One or two tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily is the suggested dose, and it can be easily added to foods like yogurt, cereal, soup, etc. However, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised not to supplement their diet with flaxseed until further studies examining its effect on them are concluded, and again, it's important to consult with your physician about adding any supplements to your diet.
  4. Wheat germ. Wheat germ is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, but is more known for its high quantities of B vitamins, which aid in regulating metabolism and stress levels, and vitamin E, which benefits the skin.
Whether you do it because Beachbody told you to, or simply because you think it's about time to heed some of your mother's advice, figure out a way to get the recommended amount of fiber in your diet, and it may help you achieve a smaller waistline as a result, whi