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Body Issues

Below are the articles in the Body Issues category. Each article title is followed by a brief summary introduction to the content. Click "Read Excerpt" for a more comprehensive review. Click "Add to Package" to buy or redeem the article.

Body Issues

Addictive Eating: Are You Powerless Over Food?

Identifies the common markers of addictive eating and the reasons behind this compulsive behavior.

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The holidays of winter often bring to mind the image of a full table—and a full stomach. We gather with friends and family and feast merrily on pies and potatoes, turkey and ham and all of the fixings that many of us dearly enjoy.

There is another side to that pretty picture, however.

What if our extra consumption of calories during the winter is fueled not by good cheer and companionship, but by anxiety? And, further, what if it’s not the gathering of loved ones that we most look forward to, but the food that we can’t get out of our minds?

Also, while we may welcome gatherings with friends and family, they do bring with them extra stress and preparation. Add to the mix the anxiety caused by a sputtering economy, and many of us might find ourselves reaching for “comfort” food.

Aging Well by Eating Well

How simple changes in your diet now can exert a major influence on how well you age into your golden years.

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Our health and how we age are not only dependent on our genes, exercise and a postivie attitude. Our diet is a major influence on how well we look and feel as we head for our golden years. Hippocrates said that food is our first medicine. It's also the fountain of youth! Simple changes in your diet now can make aging well all the more likely.

Before we get to diet, however, there is one vitamin (really a type of hormone) that most of us are deficient in but that is essential to good health. It's vitamin D (specifically, vitamin D3), and many longevity experts call it the miracle anti-aging vitamin.

A lack of D3 is thought to be a factor in many health problems, from increased cancer risk to inflammation to osteoporosis. Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. But most of us don't get enough sun. Since our level of vitamin D decreases with age, and it is almost impossible to get through diet, most people take it in supplement form. Your doctor can arrange for a simple blood test that will determine your vitamin D3 level.

We also tend to become deficient in B vitamins, especially B6, as we age. This vitamin is one you can easily get through food. Choose chicken and other meats, and cod, salmon, halibut and tuna among fish. Vegetables such as bell peppers, spinach, yams, broccoli, potatoes with the skin on, asparagus, and green peas are also excellent sources of this essential vitamin. And snack of sunflower seeds, peanuts, cashews (but opt for the unsalted variety) to get a good dose of vitamin B6.

Body Image—It’s Not What You See, But How You Feel

Poor body image is pervasive, but with some effort we can learn to love our form.

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Ours is a nation that starves, diets, purges, binges and exercises to the point of creating serious health problems, sometimes even causing death. And most of us are at least dissatisfied and at worst even hate some parts of our bodies. This is especially true for women, but men have body image issues, too.

How to turn the self-loathing into self-loving? Like all good and lasting things, it won’t happen overnight. It begins with small, positive steps. Here are just a few.

• Find at least one thing you like about your body. Write it down. Tomorrow, find another.

• Get rid of all the clothes that you don’t like or that make you uncomfortable.

• Tell your body how much you appreciate its wondrous abilities.

Food Doesn’t Have to Be a Four-Letter Word

How did one of our most basic needs become the enemy?

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Fat. It’s what many people tend to see in the mirror. Like Alice in Through the Looking Glass, people with eating disorders inhabit an alternate reality, perceiving themselves as “fun house” reflections sporting thunder thighs and prominent girth—even if this image holds nary a grain of truth.

The pressure to look good is no secret; it’s bred into us from birth. Advertising especially targets prepubescent girls, hawking make-up and designer clothes. An Exeter University survey found that by the time they’re teens, more than half of all girls say their appearance is the prime concern of their lives.

Not every teen who diets to fit society’s definition of beautiful will develop an eating disorder. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetics, psychological issues, and social factors, such as a culture that promotes thinness above all else. Eating disorders are, however, an epidemic:

•Seven million women and one million men suffer from an eating disorder.

•86 percent are afflicted before they turn 20.

•Only half say they’ve been cured.

How Well Do You Love Your Body?

On hot summer days, when bodies are more on display, a person may feel vulnerable if his or her body isn’t a perfect 10. But this quiz teaches that obsessing on one’s perceived flaws is counter-productive.

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Focusing on the ways our body serves us and how we can serve it helps us to accept—yes, even love—our bodies and stop obsessing about its appearance. Take this Thriving quiz to find out how well you love your body. Our own opinion of ourselves influences others’ opinions of us much more than we realize.

1. I appreciate that my arms enable me to hold someone I love, that my thighs enable me to run.

2. I wear comfortable clothes that I really like and that feel good to my body, rather than trying to hide or camouflage my body or to follow uncomfortable fashion trends.

3. I judge myself as a whole person, not just as a body.

4. I do things that let me enjoy my body—dance, take a hot bath, walk, get a massage.

5. I notice that the appearance of people I admire is unimportant to their success and accomplishments.

Keeping the "Healthy" in Food

Practical tips to ensure that the food you eat is as chock full as possible of healthy enzymes, vitamins and minerals.

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Crisp carrots and asparagus. Glistening tomatoes. Firm potatoes. You know fresh food when you see it—and when you taste it. So how can you best ensure that as you store and cook your food it retains the highest nutritional value? Well, it depends on who you talk to. Experts don't always agree. However, there are some general rules of thumb that will ensure that the food you eat is as chock full as possible of all those healthy enzymes, vitamins and minerals.

Eat your food soon after you buy it. Most of us store our food too long, especially if we buy large quantities at those low-cost bulk food stores. But time, light, heat and air are enemies of nutrients. Just the process of transporting food from the farm to your local grocery store—which can vary from days to weeks—has already reduced some of the nutritional value of those foods. So the top tip is to buy small quantities of fresh food locally (especially from your local farmer's market), use it soon after purchase, and then replenish your stock as you need it.

Store food properly. In general, when properly stored, fresh vegetables and fruit "last" for about one to two weeks without losing too much of their nutritional value. Veggies are best kept in the refrigerator in airtight containers. Some kinds of vegetables can last longer than a week or two. For example, peppers, squash, celery and green beans can last up to a month. Root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips and radishes will keep up to eight weeks. Beets and sweet potatoes for up to ten weeks. Fruits, once they are ripe, are best kept out of the sun, in a cool spot with less light.

Learning to Live With (and Love) Yourself

Mary thinks she’d be happy if she could just change her weight, her looks and her job. Sean believes that he’s an okay person except for his anxiety, impatience and quick temper. But would “self-improvement” really make them happier?

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Who among us doesn’t believe that with a little tweaking, we could be just right—self-realized, self-actualized and self-helped to just short of perfection? But, the problem for many is that all the books, self-improvement tips and positive affirmations don’t seem to make us any happier. Worst of all, the minute we “fix” one ugly piece of ourselves, another nasty monster rears it head and starts screaming for attention.

When does self-help become self-hell? What would happen if we simply started by realizing how wonderful we already are?

As the pioneering psychologist Carl Rogers once wrote, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

“Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering,” writes Tara Brach, in her book, Radical Acceptance. “The more we anxiously tell ourselves stories about how we might fail or what is wrong with us or with others, the more we deepen the grooves—the neural pathways—that generate feelings of deficiency.”

Listening to Our Bodies: They Know More Than We Do!

The body holds much of the information we need to function at our best, but too often we ignore its messages and plow ahead with what our minds tell us.

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We take another extra-strength aspirin rather than investigating what’s causing our head to ache. We use more caffeine or sugar to give us a lift when we feel tired, rather than hearing our body’s message about needing rest or recognizing our fatigue as an early symptom of burnout we’d do well to heed. A look at our pets may be all the message we need about the value of naps....

These days we’re notorious for putting deadlines ahead of the protests of aching bones or inadequately nourished bellies. (Is there hidden wisdom in calling a due date a deadline in the first place?) Instead of asking our body what it wants, we go for the quick fill-up or the comfort food that may be the last thing we really need.

So what to do to give your body an equal say in how you use it?

Start with the breath. Breathing consciously is a major part of body awareness. Turn off thoughts and just let yourself experience the inflow and outflow of breath. Label them, “In. Out. In. Out.” Note how and where you are breathing or failing to, a clear sign something important is going on.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How Your Body Image Could Be Harming You

Having unrealistic expectations about what our body should look like can be an underlying cause of issues in virtually every area of life. By acknowledging the impact of body image on our lives, we can refocus our lens and keep a healthy view of what we see.

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Do you ever have thoughts like these?

My life would be better if I looked better.

I will never look as good as _____________.

My _________ is/are so ugly.

I am so fat.

That scale/size can’t be right.

I look disgusting; no one could ever love me.

If you do, you’re not alone. In a seminal study from the 1990s, author and psychology professor Linda Smolek found that 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then. And women aren’t the only ones with poor body images; numerous recent studies show that men are becoming increasingly afflicted as well.

Body image is not just a problem of being unhappy with what we see in the mirror, but also that our perception of what we see is skewed. For example, a University of Colorado study showed that the same women who overestimate the size of their waists by 25 percent were still able to correctly estimate the width of a box.

Move Your Body, Move Your Soul

Drop the word “exercise,” throw out the term “physical education” and stop cowering when you hear “dance.” Replace those loaded terms with the sheer joy and simple pleasure of moving your body.

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No matter your size, your shape, the flesh that jiggles, the bones that stick out, the maleness or femaleness of your contour—you will find in your moving body an expression of your deepest desires, your visions, your dreams, your one true voice that is inside you always.

“Nothing is more revealing than movement,” said pioneering modern dancer Martha Graham.

Graham understood the body as a source of insight into some of the core issues of one’s life—a source of knowledge and transformation, a pathway to awareness.

When we “move to learn,” rather than “learn to move,” we enter unknown inner territory. We begin to discover aspects of ourselves and our lives from fresh and refreshing perspectives. The personal history stored in our body becomes accessible for examination and dialogue.

Self-Acceptance is an Action

Self-acceptance means being for oneself, not against. It’s about accepting shortcomings as well as strengths. And it’s vital for growth and change.

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Self-acceptance is something we do, not just something we feel. To say “I value myself” is an act of self-affirmation that provides a base from which self-esteem develops.

When we practice self-acceptance we don’t have to condone or even like everything about ourselves. In fact, it’s almost certain that we won’t. What it does mean is that we recognize and accept our thoughts, our actions, our emotions, our bodies, our dreams — everything about us — as our own.

“But I don’t want to be insecure (or afraid or judgmental or angry or fat or old or alcoholic or any of a dozen other things),” someone might say. “If I accept that about myself, it means I don’t want to change. Or I won’t change.”

Here’s the paradox: without acceptance of what is, it is impossible to change.

Top 10 Ways to Eat Healthy Every Day

A comprehensive list of 10 ways to eat healthy every day on your way to becoming a "new you." This list is good for those wanting to lose weight or improve health.

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Whether you are dieting to lose weight or changing your food choices to improve your health, making change isn't always easy. Experts say that we have to stay with a change for at least 28 days to make it "stick." Here are 10 ways to make your new food habits a solid part of the "new you."

1. Start slowly and be realisticThe reality is that old habits die hard. So don't try to do too much too quickly. Make one or two changes at first, solidify those new habits, and then when you feel ready, take the next step. It's better to make a few healthier choices—not drinking sugary sodas or switching from fast food to home-prepared food—than to completely change the way you have been eating all at once.

2. Get support Find a nutrition buddy! It's easier to make changes when you declare your intention to others out loud. Once you do, select a few supporters to lean on during those times when you feel yourself wavering. Team up with a friend. Ask a sibling or spouse to cheer you on. Get the support of your social circle for when you go to parties or get-togethers.

Top 10 Ways to Practice Acceptance

Ways to practice self-acceptance and deepen your understanding of yourself.

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Self-acceptance is an action; it is something we do, not just something we feel. Try these 10 ways to practice acceptance.

1. Your body. Stand naked before a full-length mirror and notice your feelings. If you never would do something like that, notice and accept that, too.

2. Difficult emotions. When anger, fear or jealousy arises, focus on it. Breathe into it and notice how the feelings begin to subside.

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