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Archive for category health

Exercise Is Not The Main Way To Lose Weight. Diet Change Is.

So the results are in: Changing your diet is the better way to lose weight than more exercise. In spite of what Coca Cola and other sugar companies promise. Check out this video…

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I Am Not As Healthy As I Thought

I went to my first naturopath this month. I want to encourage you to consider going too, even though Wikipedia is very skeptical of the benefits.

My father was a chiropractor who was only sick four times in most of his adult life. In those long-ago days, when I was growing up at home, he and his colleagues were called quacks, ridiculed by most medical doctors, and even regarded as fakes. But I often heard at dinner how he was healing people who had come to him as a last resort after nothing else worked. So I have always been open to alternative health practices, including acupuncture and Asian healing methods.

Dad told me that “you are what you eat.” And he taught me to take vitamins every day, avoid excessive alcohol, drugs and cigarettes (although he drank and smoked himself). He also encouraged me to exercise and set a good example here, as he would walk on the golf course, rather than rent an electric cart. By following that advice and being gifted with great genes (parents died at 88 and 94), I have arrived at 75 with good health and the ability to play tennis three or four times a week, while many of my classmates are either dead, using walkers and canes, seeing doctors frequently, recuperating from surgeries and procedures.

So imagine my shock to discover that I have minor problems I never knew about until today. Just heard them after the most thorough analysis of my blood ever. Way beyond what I learn from my annual physical. EVERYONE SHOULD DO THIS!

For example, my lead and mercury levels are so HIGH (95th percentile) that I MUST give up tuna and swordfish for at least a year. Those top of the food chain predator fish are full of the stuff. Drat. I just had delicious tuna sushi last week. Who knew that it was my final morsel. And next I will have my well water tested for lead. Flint, Michigan seemed so far far away…

In spite of taking vitamin B-complex, my B-12 levels are so low that he gave me the first of three injections and then supplements to follow. I should be in the upper areas of a 200-1100 range: but I am only at 283. This huge deficiency might affect memory, balance, energy and make my nervous system so “restless” (rather than calm), that it shakes.

My kidneys need more water, and just like one tennis coach warned me, kidneys are hurt by too much Motrin, which I have been taking for months every time I play tennis to mask the discomfort from my tennis elbow. Now I should only take Motrin AFTER I play if it hurts…not before.

My magnesium level was only 4.5, instead of closer to 6.4. My thyroid is low, which can cause reduced cognition, sluggishness and digestive tract problems.

My Vitamin D level was only 33, instead of 45-plus, which is better for cardiovascular functions and reduced cancer risk. My selenium was also low, only 175, instead of closer to 350.

Now there was lots of good, even great news: no scarring of my liver after the hepatitis and jaundice I contracted in Korea, when I was 22. No Lyme disease, even though I had that in the last 20 years as well. No anti-immune problems, no lupus.

My cholesterol at 172 is ideal (thanks partly to the statin I started seven months ago, and I will begin taking a supplement to eliminate the tightness in my calves and back that is a common side-effect from the statin). I should be eating more plant oils, avocado, coconut, fish oil, shrimp, sardines with oil. These will all stabilize my nervous system.

So a new phase begins. It’s almost a decade since my annual blood test disclosed that my cholesterol at 239 was just touching heart attack range. I had to learn all about cholesterol and what foods cause the high levels. I gave up frequent–sometimes daily–pleasures, like butter and cheeses and ice cream and tasty, crispy, flavored chicken skin. I have survived well. Now it’s time to make some more changes. All a process.

But the results can be worth it…at least they are to me. Now if I can only improve my serve…

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Body Fat And Abs

revealing your abs by reducing your body fat

revealing your abs by reducing your body fat

Here is what you might look like if you reduce your body fat percentage. It might also help to do a little exercise as well…

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Kayla Instines Is An Instagram Fitness Star

Kayla's sharp abs

Kayla’s sharp abs

Here is an article about Kayla Itsines, who may be “Instagram’s biggest fitness star.” She has 4.9 million followers, many of whom show their transformations of weight loss and muscle building. Kayla cheers them on with motivational sayings, fitness and diet advice and personal anecdotes. I love the article’s reference to “photos of her abs, the definition of her six-pack so sharp you could cut yourself on it.”

So check out her Instagram feed and also the women who are taking Kayla’s body-changing advice:

I also like this story from an Australian magazine that describes how Kayla’s fame began:

When Kayla Itsines’ younger cousin suggested she download an app called Instagram to keep track of her clients’ progress photos, she didn’t think much of it.

Fast forward to the present and she’s Australia’s most popular personal trainer and is taking the fitness world by storm.

Itsines’ success came initially from her Bikini Body Guide eBook — and with newly released app Sweat With Kayla, she doesn’t look like she’s stopping any time soon.

“It all started when I graduated from the Australian Institute of Fitness in 2009 — my first job as a personal trainer was in a women’s-only personal training centre,” she says.

Kayla with adoring fans

Kayla with adoring fans

“The women there were lacking confidence and weren’t concentrating on how they felt as much as how they looked — I really tried to change that.”

When Ms Itsines went solo and started her mobile personal training business, she began uploading her clients’ progress photos to Instagram — and followers began asking if she could help them in different States.

“I just said unfortunately I couldn’t because I was in Adelaide,” she says.

“I met Tobi (Pearce, Itsines’ partner) and he said ‘The way you train is unique, why don’t you create a guide for them?’

“I was just like ‘Oh, nah, I don’t think anyone would buy it’. As I retell the story I kick myself.”

But make the guide she did and as more people bought the Bikini Body Guide and started following Ms Itsines, the more her influence grew.

It’s obvious she isn’t as concerned with being famous as she is with helping people with their health and fitness, though — and women gaining confidence is her number one priority.

“I love helping people in general, it’s just what I do,” she says.

“I’m really trying to get rid of that whole fad and diet approach and concentrate instead on how people feel. I want to give them a maintainable and sustainable lifestyle they can have forever.”

Ms Itsines names her world tour as the highlight of the journey so far.

“My favourite experience was London because I couldn’t see the girls before I came out — I got to open these double doors and they were all standing in front of me,” she says.

“It was an amazing experience.”

Perhaps most importantly, Ms Itsines is staunch in her opinion about fad diets — she advocates a lifestyle change for her clients which will last a lifetime.

“I want clients to feel good about themselves — that’s something I try and bring across,” she says.

“I want to get the girls feeling better, rather than always focusing on what they look like.”

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How I Improved My Posture

Poor Posture by Paul Rogers

Poor Posture by Paul Rogers

Here is a predictable article about posture: how important it is, how to adjust chairs and computers to improve it, consequences of slouching and carrying book bags on just one shoulder.

But it really hits home for a couple of reasons. First of all, my father was a chiropractor who told me all the time to stand up straight. He knew better than most about the ills that resulted from slouching. And not just physical problems, but mental ones too.

In fact I was quick to tell my closest friend that he was looking like an old man, because he was slouching so much. But he kept doing it.

And then as I aged, my wife would sometimes point out that I was not standing up straight. But I kept doing it too. I asked my doctor about it at my last annual physical, and he had a simple–but maybe not correct–explanation. He said that I could see that I was shorter by more than an inch. This was because seven decades of activity and defying gravity has worn down the discs between my spinal vertebrae. AND I WAS LEANING OVER (SLOUCHING), BECAUSE IT FELT MORE COMFORTABLE.

I definitely was uncomfortable a lot from a stiff back. He said that maybe I had some arthritis creeping in. I bought a new mattress, and that was a considerable improvement: it decreased my morning back discomfort. So did hot morning showers.

But then a strange event happened. My daughter emailed me that she was very disturbed that I was bending over all the time. She noticed my slumping during her last two visits. I immediately admitted that I felt old doing it, didn’t like what I looked like in the mirror, and gave her the story from my doctor about the thinner discs and arthritis.

But it still bothered her…and she asked if she could help? I told her to text me now and then to remind me to force myself to stand tall. I would picture those professional dancers who look like puppets with strings attached to their heads, pulling them practically off the ground.

And guess what. I started finally to remember. Something my daughter triggered allowed me to completely change my behavior. I was suddenly noticing all the time…whether when washing dishes, showering, walking, sitting at the computer,etc…that I needed to stand tall. And miraculously, some of the discomfort and stiffness in my bank began to lessen and go away. It has been amazing!

Why my father’s words and my wife’s observations–all conveyed gently and with loving concern–failed to lead to any change is troubling to me. But maybe now that I am older, the terrible prospect of becoming OLD!!! was enough to finally frighten me into action.

Fighting inertia and lifelong habits is always a major, sometimes insurmountable, challenge. For two or three weeks now, I have been able to modify my patterns. I will keep searching for a transferable explanation that I can utilize in other situations, where I wish to alter my behavior.

Let me know if you have any insights.

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Awkward Lingo And Acupuncture

Funny to read in the December 21 post that Jason is also suffering from “tennis elbow.” My injury is from too much tennis. His is from strenuous arm wrestling. But I never heard of “arm wrestling elbow.” He is lucky that he can continue training during his inflammation.

For months now I have been advised to either have surgery or take Cortisone injections. I did neither. But I also didn’t stop playing–just cut back and learned a two-handed backhand. I did have five iontophoresis treatments, in which a medicine solution is poured on a patch that has an electric current sent through it that forces the liquid by osmosis to penetrate the skin and the muscle. Each session was about 20 minutes.

The therapist also used acupuncture at the same time for three sessions. During the second time, the muscle sort of jolted or popped or released when the needles were inserted. I don’t recall having acupuncture before. My father was a big believer in acupuncture long before it was legal in this country. He had an acupuncture doll showing where the meridians are and may have been one of the only chiropractors in the US in the 1950s who used his thumbs on the pressure points.

I wasn’t totally cured, but the discomfort is much much less. Unfortunately I have held off for months now using weights and doing push ups, so my upper body muscles have really dwindled.

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It’s All Relative

At the end of the summer, I was proud to boast that I had played tennis 18 times in 24 days…including two days with two matches each. But it was too much, and I acquired the infamous “tennis elbow.” Damn. I was playing so well, and now I was hurting. I felt pretty sorry for myself as my right arm had pains every time I hit the ball. I was envious of guys who had no injuries. I was disappointed that the top-level game I was playing (for me) had dropped drastically. I certainly didn’t want to take weeks or months off. Sucks. Even though it is only a game, I love the challenge, the exercise, the sweating and satisfaction. But it was a major setback.

Then I went to a college reunion and learned that one of my fraternity brothers there has cancer, and it is serious, and he may not make it to the next reunion in two years. Yes, at my age too many people are dying. So both college and high school reunions are every two or three years now.

Three weeks later I went back to Florida for my high school 75th Birthday Party. And again I met a classmate who just finished six months of chemo and was told that he is not likely to live more than two years and maybe as little as six months.

So it’s all relative, right? How can I bemoan a measly tennis elbow discomfort, when others my age are dying. No comparison. I am still playing sports and looking ahead to the possibility of 10-15 years of more life. I better not complain even the tiniest whimper. Yet we all forget these realities, when we want more money, time, success, happiness. We are all so greedy and unsatisfied. Is it just the nature of human beings to strive always for more?

I like to think that I am grateful much of the time. That I know this lesson well. That I am not as grasping or insensitive as many others who don’t even notice, much less care about, those who are less fortunate. But even I was disgusted with my injury. It took two trips to reunions to put life back in perspective.

How about you? Are you looking up enviously at those with more and better all the time? Or do you have the ability to look at those who have less and harder lives and feel blessed at your good fortune or wise decisions?

I can see how hard it is sometimes for me…even to make this confession. I came back from the second trip on the 16th of November, but couldn’t bring myself to write this post until now.

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Slowing Down Aging

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 4.53.07 PM

Here is an interesting (though lengthy) article about causes of aging, which lead to decay and death. However some mammals, like whales, can delay aging and live to 200 years. How does this happen?

I was surprised to read that “…a huge body also puts you at enormous risk of cancer, thanks to simple mathematics: the more cells you have, the more likely you are to develop a harmful mutation. (Indeed, one study found that taller people are slightly more likely to develop cancer than shorter people, for this very reason.) And the problems become even greater the longer your life span. “When you live longer, you go through more (cell) divisions, so the likelihood of cancer increases hugely,” says Leonard Nunney at the University of California, Riverside, who researches the evolution of cancer.”

Who’d have guessed? Maybe this is one reason some Asian cultures have lower rates of cancer than Western people. Of course diet could also play a major role.

Interesting to think about, even if you can’t make yourself shorter!

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Did I Overdue It?

From August 12th to September 4th is 24 days. I am proud to say that I played tennis 18 times. Hardly tired. Thrilled I could do it. At the end, on the day of my “big” tournament match (that I lost), my arm was hurting. Poor backhand technique, maybe a strain, tennis elbow or just too much of a push.

Since then I have held off playing some times, hate the idea that I might be out for weeks or months, doing exercises, resting…until I am invited to sub. Can’t just stop for two weeks and really give it a rest. Love the game too much. Afraid of not being able to play.

Great to have passions. Stupid to risk serious injury. But I write these words after playing last night and not being smart enough to cancel tomorrow’s scheduled game.

Why are we all so silly???

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Life And Tennis Update

Well that was a big gap in writing anything. Longest since I started this site in April 2009. I was definitely in a funk about all the sad personal events as well as the global crises. But there is mostly good news.

I went to a second cardiologist who gave me a special new test for coronary disease and learned in 15 minutes that my blockages are right in the mid-point for people my age. In fact some arteries are only 15-20% blocked, while others are 30-40% blocked. Invasive surgery to look with a camera and possibly put in a stent is only done if the blockage is 80-90%. So no surgery necessary. That was a relief.

Being given the go-ahead to play as much tennis as I wanted–or could–I accepted invitations to substitute in other games in addition to my twice-a-week regular dates. But I overdid it a bit, playing six times in six days (twice–morning and afternoon–one day for 4+ hours total). That week stretched out to 10 times in 12 days, and I admit that I am sore and tired. The biggest problem is the 80-degree plus heat…because playing in the cooler, late afternoons (6 pm) is much easier.

Next challenge of course is to improve my game…a constant in my life.

Ten minutes ago I learned that a man I knew and respected–but haven’t spoken to in 11 years–retired at age 65 last June, only to discover in January this year that he had cancer. Didn’t even know it…and then he died two weeks later! So sad, so terrifying.

This is how life is…it’s not extraordinary. Today and last week the global stock markets are falling in huge ways, people are losing their life savings, there is panic and regret and fear of the future. Completely understandable.

All the more reason to enjoy and accomplish, while we have the chance. You can’t put off all the good times for the future, because you may not have a future. It’s just the way it is…

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90% Healthy

When I was divorced from my first wife in 1975, I felt like I joined half the human (American) brotherhood. I mean half of all marriages failed, and mine was merely another one of millions. Too bad that I thought my marriage would last my lifetime. Surprise!

On July 1st I had a similar realization: I learned that in spite of my healthy ways, and maybe due to bad genes, I not only had a PVC, but I also have coronary artery DISEASE! I have been in shock. I was reminded that I AM an American male, and after consulting two other doctors began taking a daily aspirin and statin pill. I was devastated. I am still stunned.

I have now had in the last two weeks more aspirins than in my entire life. I am no longer this incredibly healthy guy. Everyone I talk to has been taking statins for 10+ years. And as one friend said to help me rationalize and feel better, “You used to be 100% healthy. Now you are still 90% healthy!”

My uncle died of a heart attack at 51. My father had cholesterol counts in the 300s. My younger brother has high cholesterol and had a double bypass. So maybe my good health is only because I have watched my diet, stayed thin, exercised constantly. Still a shock to have anything wrong…which is exactly how most people my age live all the time. At least those who have survived this long.

My cardiologist said that some patients are so shattered by the psychological effects of learning what I learned that they opt for surgery just to find out how serious the artery is blocked. I don’t think I want to do that.

But then on Saturday the 11th, my dog friend Bella died. Two days later, my son-in-law died. He was only 50. Yesterday another friend in his late 40s had unexpected surgery. It has been a very sad and confronting time. I always say that life is fragile. No doubt about it these days.

Let’s see if I can play tennis this evening…have to stay active and healthy. The doc said exercise is essential, and there is no such thing as “too much” of it.

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Confronting Death And Illness

Bella resting

Bella resting

It’s been a confronting month with regards to health and exercise. I am still doing 5-15 minutes of something, whether push ups, flys, etc: yesterday was 1318 consecutive days. I have also been playing tennis 3-5 times a week…even 6 times one week this month.

But I also didn’t pass my annual physical EKG automatically…a PVC (premature ventricular contraction) that necessitated two stress tests, the second with radioactive isotopes to look at my heart muscle with a cat scan. The cardiologist meeting is coming up July 1st, but it sounds like it’s NOT life threatening. She said I could continue playing tennis and to just watch out for symptoms greater than being out of breath for 5-10 seconds after a tough point. One player told me it takes him a minute or two to recover.

I only needed to raise my heart rate during the tests to 124 before quitting after one more minute of fast walking. I went to 170 and 155, which was terrific for my age group. I also started taking a baby aspirin a day, and after two weeks of this, I will have had more of those pills than in my entire life. I do like the citrus flavor.

However I really mind being normal and having health issues like everyone else I know. I am not used to it. I am spoiled. I have been blessed with good genes and also consciously avoiding bad foods and habits. In fact my cholesterol went down again to 187 from 196 last year, 218 in 2008, and 237 in 2005, when I first learned I had a problem. Changing my diet and exercising more often has really paid off. But I still have a slight abnormal blockage in one artery it appears.

I know, I know…it’s better than most guys my age. And nothing worth mentioning compared to others with far more serious illnesses, like cancer. Even my dog has cancer, has received chemo treatments for months and has not eaten for almost two weeks now. I thought we might put her down this morning, but we decided to wait another day. These sick friends and relatives have upset me terribly. I have been down and in a funk, though not depressed. It’s so sad, and I hate feeling helpless.

My dog breed’s life expectancy is 12-13 years. Bella is 12 1/2, so she is right on schedule and has had a great life. I can live with her demise more easily. When my father died at 88, I felt like he had also enjoyed a good run. And I have already had 74 years, so I won’t complain. Though when I had my birthday in April, I realized I may have “just” another 10-15 years…until I was shook up in May by my physical.

But it is very upsetting when friends in their early 50s become seriously ill, like one who died a few years ago at 54. I know Life is not fair, but it still pisses me off to see randomness in action. Living is such an uncertain and fragile adventure. Another friend fell two weeks ago and landed on her chest and knees. No broken bones, but she might have hit her head and been seriously injured. Two days ago I fell over a curb inside a restaurant, where it was dark and there was a gap between the potted plants. Luckily I landed on my knees and hand and didn’t shatter my right, tennis wrist.

I never forget that I could be living in a war zone, or starving, or lacking water. My friends from California who stayed with me this weekend were thrilled to take a shower that lasted more than three minutes. We must all savor the good moments.

Bella on Father's Day

Bella on Father’s Day

I will miss many of those I had with Bella, as she chased tennis balls I hit and flushed pheasants I often missed. She has been a loving friend and companion. As the android said in Blade Runner: “Time to die…”

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Benefits From Just 10 Minutes Of Exercise

Here’s an article for really busy people that promises a benefit for just one minute of all out exercise…in three bursts of 20 seconds each. Including warm up, cool down and slower in-between-the-extreme segments, it’s a total of just 10 minutes. And it needs to be done three times a week: 30 minutes total.

The comments are pretty funny…with one saying people who don’t like to exercise should learn to enjoy it…and many saying that you should take your health more seriously than just giving it 10 minutes…especially when so many folks are spending hours sitting on their couch watching “junk TV.”

Anyway, here are a few words to give you a better sense of the recommendations from this research:

“Then they asked the volunteers to complete a truly time-efficient, interval-training program using computerized stationary bicycles. Each session consisted of three 20-second “all-out” intervals, during which riders pushed the pedals absolutely as hard as they could manage, followed by two minutes of slow, easy pedaling. The riders also warmed up for two minutes and cooled down for three, for a grand total of 10 minutes of total exercise time, with one minute of that being the intense interval training.

“The volunteers completed three of these sessions per week, leading to 30 minutes of weekly exercise, for six weeks.”

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Would You Pay To See A New Film About Sugar?

So here comes a new documentary for movie theaters claiming that the cause of obesity, diabetes, overweight is the sugar and fat in our food. One in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050. 95% of our population will be overweight or obese within 20 years (it’s 66% now) Sugar is in 80% of all processed food products. The sugar and junk food lobbies deny there is any problem at all. This is like when the tobacco companies swore that cigarettes weren’t harmful.

This crime is so obvious, I can hardly believe people don’t know it. A man asked me today at tennis how he could lose a few pounds around his mid-section. I said eat less, especially sugar, and that includes wine, which metabolizes into sugar. Another man mentioned that it’s also important to enjoy life, and wine helps people do that.

I agree. I have always had a sweet tooth for baked goods. It’s almost impossible for me to give up those great sweet tastes. But I do eat less ice cream and sorbet (no cream/cholesterol) and pies and cakes and cookies. The effect of sugar on the brain appears to be identical to what cocaine does. Pretty seriously addictive.

However I seem to have more discipline than the average person. I am determined to stay fit and healthy in addition to living longer. This is a huge challenge for most people. How do you handle it?

The film was produced by Larry David’s wife, Laurie David, who also produced An Inconvenient Truth with Al Gore, and former CBS-TV news anchor, Katie Couric. I am sure Laurie’s association with the political left will inhibit many Republicans from watching the film or considering its message. Too bad. Sugar is bad. Avoid it to whatever degree you can.

Your life and health depend upon it…

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Pictures Of Beauty Are A Marketing Lie

I bumped into three videos by the Dove soap company about how women see themselves and don’t like what they see. Studies show that there are certain desirable standards of beauty in each culture, and if you don’t measure up, then you use make up, clothes, plastic surgery, exercise, diet to change how you look.

The first two Dove videos below show how the ad/marketing world manipulates pictures to meet those desired standards. Of course there is no truth in advertising rule that requires these digital changes to be declared. So the average viewer concludes she is imperfect, misses the mark, and spends dollars buying products to make herself more closely aligned with the cookie-cutter ideal of her particular culture.

even Barbie dolls reflect our culture's obsession with thinness

even Barbie dolls reflect our culture’s obsession with thinness

Then I found two more about how the standards of beauty for American women have changed over the years. Even the Barbie doll became thinner. The video above says it plainly: no one looks like the pictures in the magazines. Not even the models. It’s a complete lie.

The last video shows how ridiculously thin some models and people are. Looks dangerous to their health to me. Like concentration camp prisoners. Not my ideal of attractiveness at all.

I am guilty myself of expending considerable energy to have abs, defined muscles, a more youthful look. So as much as I scorn the low self esteem of the women who have been tricked for money, I have no right to be overly critical. But it’s easy to understand why women spend half their annual wages in some South American countries to have plastic surgery enhance their breasts and butts, and women around the world spend billions on clothes, lotions, make up and other beauty products.

What do YOU think?

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Cosmetic Surgery For 13-Year-Old

before and after nose job

before and after nose job

So many of us exercise to build muscle or lose weight. And one of the benefits we strive for is to look better in the mirror, on the beach and to others. These positive body changes affect our self-esteem, our love lives, the partners we attract.

I have written before that plastic surgery is a short cut to achieve the same goals…and in a few cases–like a nose job–it may be the only way to come closer to your physical ideal. After all, no one can exercise your nose to look thinner.

The video questions the morality of whether or not such cosmetic surgery is okay for a 13-year-old, who in this case was bullied by cruel schoolmates and called Big Nose Taylor to her face. What do you think?

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You Have To Laugh At Life

hahahahahahaha. Ya got me!

So just ONE day after my last post about how fragile Life can be, I start having shooting pains in my abdomen—about 12 of them over the last three days. Like an ice pick stabbing in my right side. Of course it’s the weekend, so I don’t rush to the doctor. But should I go to the emergency ward?

And I had just had two really intense workouts, so I was admiring my abs and feeling strong and healthy. By yesterday I was reading about appendicitis, hernia, diverticulitis, colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, looking at pictures of human anatomy, changing my diet, wondering how I could have an ulcer, fearing I am bleeding internally, thinking maybe I tore muscles, also feeling slight tingling up my right side and extending to my triceps. I mean this is crazy. I am SO healthy.

Yet here I am worrying about illness and death. Terrible. Are all these fears just a few millimeters below the surface of my daily mental life? Are these the anxieties I and others live with all the time? Pathetic. But nerve wracking.

So I changed my diet immediately, because the pains often came on when I started eating. I gave up gas-producing carbohydrates. I threw out some prepared foods. I drank more water. I semi-fasted. I skipped a daily yogurt. Maybe I was having modest food-poisoning? Maybe I had caught an intestinal bug. I didn’t have fever, shakes, dizziness, etc.

For the moment I feel OK. But these kinds of extreme frights are ridiculous. How do I stop them?

…20 minutes after writing this, I read a column about trauma that started like this and just embarrasses my feeling any anxiety about a few stomach pains. Life is fragile and also totally relative.

Tragedy has twice visited the Woodiwiss family. In 2008, Anna Woodiwiss, then 27, was working for a service organization in Afghanistan. On April 1, she went horseback riding and was thrown, dying from her injuries. In 2013, her younger sister Catherine, then 26, was biking to work from her home in Washington. She was hit by a car and her face was severely smashed up. She has endured and will continue to endure a series of operations. For a time, she breathed and ate through a tube, unable to speak. The recovery is slow.

…two days after writing this, the nurse practitioner at the doctor’s office told me I had probably strained a muscle, and I should take it easy for a few days: fewer reps, less weight, if I insist on my daily exercising. Today is the 27th, and I seem to be healing…

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Life Becomes More Fragile

I was a bit scared this week, when someone had to stop playing after just three games and said it was his heart. Should he go to the hospital? Are his tennis decades at an end? It was the same court, where a man just dropped and died at age 85 some years ago.

Two summers ago, I played doubles with a man in his early 70’s who stopped after just a game or two. His playing days ended right then. Too much pain in a leg after giving it a few weeks rest, I think. This August he was riding his bike and his heart gave out. How awful.

At my local indoor courts, I always see the “old-men’s game,” because they are there five days a week at 8:30 AM, and range from mid-80’s to 90 years old. Some can hardly run or move quickly. But I long to join them, if I make it to their phase of life. For now I admit that there is a tiny bit of anxiety that any serious ache or pain might signal the end of my athletic days…maybe my life. A constant fear that I can usually dismiss and forget about it.

Anxiety is a deadener in its own right. Millions have it, own up to it, try to overcome it with drugs, meditation or therapy. I know a retired cardiologist who dealt with life and death issues by burning up his tension running a few miles every day. And many friends talk about their fear of those doctor visits, when they might hear the dreaded diagnosis that will lead to no more: sports, athletics, frivolity, and life.

When I watch the deer and birds outside, they are constantly alert to danger from predators…every time they put their heads down to eat. In a developed country’s middle-class society, we generally don’t have to worry about being cut down physically by bullets and bombs–though car crashes are a risk–but there is still the reality of the doctor saying we too have a terminal illness. So it goes. Whatever. It’s why I play while I can and strive to live healthfully.

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A Moment On The Lips, Forever On The Hips

Un momento en los labios, para el resto en las caderas. That’s the phrase I bumped into in a Spanish language phrase book. The editor sure has a sense of humor.

I remember my capoeira mestre telling me he never ever drank a drop of alcohol. It was like taking poison. It would affect his athletic performance for sure. Yet just two days ago a friend who is considering expensive stem cell injections in another country stated that if he gave up drinking, he would grow more stem cells naturally. But he loves his wine or liquor too much.

I know former alcoholics (they would say they are never “former”) who refuse to take one drink for fear that their old compulsions will take hold. I understand completely how one little slip can lead to much bigger deviations. On a recent trip to Spain and France, it was impossible not to be served meat, cheese and cream in the food. It was everywhere, and these are three foods I gave up to keep my cholesterol low. I definitely miss chorizo sausage, so I had one little taste. Suddenly I was eating cured ham, salamis, lamb. Heavenly tastes. I tried cheeses I used to eat, had vegetables in cream sauce, and many flans with egg yolks. It was all delicious.

Of course I thought neurotically that I was on the way to killing myself. Ridiculous. But I started rowing again in a hotel gym on that trip. That kind of cardio really burns up the cholesterol. Thank goodness I left after 12 days of this food orgy. I was thrilled to get home and eat more normally for me. Much healthier.

But the idea of a short term deprivation for a longer term benefit is too difficult for most people. Whether the goal is to lose weight, be healthier, or save money. Humans want the immediate gratification. Just heard about a recent study testing whether people could give up some money in the short run to make more over time. If they had to wait a few hours or a day, they could. Wait a few days or a week…forget it. No wonder people can’t save money or invest in long term projects with payoffs years away. It’s how our species functions…maybe how we have survived for centuries. We will see if this pattern works when dealing with commodities shortages and climate change. In the short run, see if you can give up one food pleasure for a week. Catholics do it for Lent, right? Isn’t that 40 days?

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Plastic Is More Harmful To Your Health Than You Ever Imagined!

I saw the two-hour TV documentary Plastic Planet about how pervasive plastic is in our lives and how horrible it is for our health. Unbelievable. Unimaginable. It’s in our food, water and even our blood. We cannot escape it. It causes allergies, obesity, cancer, heart disease and even sterility. We are in big trouble here. Shrink wrap, food containers, baby bottles, pacifiers, ketchup bottles…plastic is everywhere.

You can see some of the story in the trailer above and the two video excerpts in English below. Not sure where you find the whole movie in English, but here is the link to it with German subtitles, but much of the language is English. The film was made by Werner Boote over 10 years and by visiting 14 countries. I am going to stop drinking out of plastic bottles, definitely not refilling them, and switching to glass storage containers. Lucky for me, I made it this far in my life without serious damage. But I remember my father could only wear white socks, because the dyes in colored socks gave him itching rashes. Who knows how much the plastic in your life is affecting your health. Check it out.

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Keeping Sports In Perspective And Dealing With Envy

I write this after a week of sadness from the Boston bombings. Right now the manhunt is on for the second suspect.

I have been playing a lot of tennis: tomorrow will be 12 out of 18 days. When I missed shots yesterday, I couldn’t get upset—I was alive and safe. I was healthy enough to be active, while others my age are dead, too sick to run around, or not fit enough to play. Yesterday I hit the best lobs of my life. My ground strokes are improving after I learned a new technique. My serve is a bit harder.

I also had a physical and received the blood work: my cholesterol is still below 200 (197) and my PSA is healthy. Avoiding all those delicious cream sauces and desserts and buttery breads has some benefit. I do miss them though.

I am certainly proud that all the hard work and discipline is paying off. Some boys in their 20’s tell me that I still inspire them with my healthy living. Unfortunately, there are people who are older who find my good health and physical activity “irritating.” They seem to be envious and don’t want to hear about it. They resent my good genetic inheritance. They are jealous that I am able to make myself avoid certain foods, minimize alcohol and fat intake. It is frustrating for me that I have to hide this physical success. Yet here I am the second time in 10 days dealing with other people’s annoyance at my achievements. But it is how humans are. Some things don’t change…you can see infants fighting over who is better and who should keep the toys. Adults are often just infants in grown up bodies…

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Feeling Apologetic For Success

April 5th was my 72nd birthday, and it sounds old old old. I feel like I am in my 50’s, and people tell me to act as young as I feel. So I do. I played two hours of tennis each of five of the last six days. I did my daily exercises, and have done that now for 514 consecutive days. I still watch my diet and avoid excessive food portions and alcohol. And it has been paying off: the deprivation and discipline are keeping me fit.

Though I haven’t had the serious illnesses that many of my contemporaries faced, I am concluding that a lot of my good health is pure luck. I just happened to be born with “good” genes. And I dodged some accidents that others might not have been lucky enough to avoid. (However I did return from an army tour in Korea on a stretcher with hepatitis.) I don’t quite feel guilty, but the more people of all ages I meet who are sick or injured, the more I feel a bit apologetic. I am even hesitating to write these public words, because I don’t want to upset others who read them. Or create jealousy.

In a doubles tennis match this week, I kept returning balls at the net that one opponent was hammering at me. He became so frustrated that I almost felt sorry for him. He kept his cool and often hit away from me, but he seemed to grimace a lot each time I volleyed his ball back for a point. Why in the world do I feel the least bit of empathy for his frustration? I wish I had the killer instinct on the court or was at least indifferent to his annoyance. Yet that is not who I am…I feel badly.

Similarly when I can move and play sports ably, while others are handicapped by age, injury and infirmity, I feel defensive. Yet so much of it is just luck. I just happen to be controlled enough to exercise, to stop eating when I am full, and to eat more healthfully by avoiding fat and salt. It’s who I am and how I turned out.

Sometimes it’s hard to accept who we are, whether bad and failing or good and succeeding. I know, I know…it’s a high-class problem…and after writing these words earlier, I read the paper and saw that an acquaintance I liked died a couple of weeks ago after a long battle with cancer. She was 71.

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Oh No! I Am Going To Die!

Went to the doctor for my annual physical today…he gave me an A+ and said of all his patients in their 70’s, I am in the best shape. Unimpressed, I asked him about his patients in their 60’s, and he said I am near the top of that group too. Everything looked good…as usual. All the exercise and healthy eating is still paying off.

I had just spent a week in Florida visiting my old high school classmates. One was lucky to be alive after serious health issues and weeks in the hospital. I hope I can hug all those guys again next visit in the fall and that none have passed on to loftier pastures. One said he doesn’t recognize his face in the mirror. I told him to start “youthing” the image by coloring his hair, so it isn’t all white. The guy who’d been hospitalized said he didn’t have any hair left to color!

On the way out of the doctor’s office, feeling pretty happy with the doctor’s comments, a staff member suddenly yelled back anxiously that I couldn’t go yet. The doctor needed to talk to me. Uh oh. This has never happened in 20 years.

So back to the examining room to wait impatiently. My blood pressure had tested 20 points higher than the year before: 130/70 up from 110/70. Maybe there was something wrong with my heart. Unlike previous visits, the doctor had been so prompt that the EKG was taken after he examined me, rather than before. So I guessed he had looked at it and seen a problem. Now he was going to give me the bad news. Ten minutes earlier I was talking about living to 90 or 100. Now I feared he was going to tell me to go to a specialist, a heart surgeon, who knows what.

Two weeks ago a friend went for her annual physical feeling fine. She had major surgery a week later. Tomorrow another friend will have surgery. I know of a number of people who feel fine, go to their physical and learn that they have terminal illnesses. WHY DOES MY DOCTOR NEED TO TALK TO ME AGAIN? WHAT THE HELL COULD BE WRONG? I am too agitated to sit, so I pace around heading towards a panic.

The medical assistant comes in and places the paper print out of my EKG on the table. I look at it, trying to decipher the peaks and valleys. Two lines look totally uniform. But two others have spikes in just two places. Another line has descendant drops in just two places. Has my heart failed? Are my tennis days over? Will I need surgery? Take a deep breath or three and calm down. But this has never happened before. Is this a panic attack? Where the hell is the doctor? Rehearsing his speech to tell me that I have a serious problem?

He comes in at last after maybe 10 lifetime minutes. He looks at the EKG. Three seconds later he casually announces that the paper copy confirms his earlier exam. ” You’re fine. See you in a year.” We shake hands, and he heads for the next room. He has no idea what I went through. A woman friend tells me this is what she goes through every time she has a mammogram.

Painful. Horrible. But I am relieved that my conscientiousness about health, diet and exercise—combined with good genes—keeps me going without grief and justified anxiety…

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20 Fitness Tips From Some Experts

looks like Arnold did squats too

looks like Arnold did squats too

the pain shows, doesn't it?

the pain shows, doesn’t it?

This article sounded questionable, when I clicked on it. But it has many familiar suggestions that I agree with, and it also leads to decent videos and other short articles. So check it out. I was especially interested to read that squats are better than crunches for building abs, and that sleep plus decreased carbohydrates should reduce female belly fat.

Let’s hope these ideas will work. I am going to do some squats right now—just after two hours of evening tennis—to get in shape for two more hours of tennis tomorrow morning.

tips for squats

tips for squats

are squats better than crunches?

are squats better than crunches?

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Physical Activity Feeds Your Brain

Two weeks without tennis wasn’t SO bad, because at least I was walking and climbing steps each day during sightseeing in Japan. My first week home, I played tennis four different days, and though I am still jet lagging, and almost collapsed in the third and fourth sets two days after returning, my game and energy improved greatly by the end of the week.

Now here is an article suggesting an emerging scientific view of human evolution: we are clever today in part because a million years ago, we could outrun and outwalk most other mammals over long distances. Our brains were shaped and sharpened by movement, the idea goes, and we continue to require regular physical activity in order for our brains to function optimally.

Later on, the author writes, if physical activity helped to mold the structure of our brains, then it most likely remains essential to brain health today…Recent studies have shown that “regular exercise, even walking,” leads to more robust mental abilities, “beginning in childhood and continuing into old age.”

Well looking at Buddhist temples and gardens for six hours a day in 40-degree weather sure took its toll on me…I was often exhausted. And I suddenly became aware of all the people behind store counters standing all day to earn a living. I basically sit a lot, writing or reading on the computer. Tennis stamina aside, I am definitely not used to being on my feet for hours and hours. However real physical body movement is now a regular part of my life. It’s good for health and stimulates my brain. Are you keeping active? And fiddling with a TV remote or game controller does not count as useful physical activity!

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