Sunday, January 30, 2011

women and alcohol

The effects of alcohol are stronger in women than in men, and women who drink too much alcohol are more likely to suffer from significant alcohol problems than men, studies show. In addition, women who have alcohol problems have higher death rates due to suicide, accidents, and other health related issues — more than twice the rate of men. Given these facts, you may be wondering: Why do women drink, and what can you do to enjoy alcohol without risks to your health?

Understanding Why Women Drink

Women drink for many of the same reasons that men drink: to relax, to gain confidence in social situations, to get to sleep, and to relieve stress.

Other reasons why women may drink alcohol include the following:
Women are more likely to drink if they have problems with a loved one.
Alcohol problems are more common in women who are unmarried, divorced, or separated.
Women whose husbands have alcohol problems are more likely to drink themselves.
Women who have been sexually abused are more likely to drink to excess.
Women may start out drinking more. Seventeen percent of ninth grade girls admit that they had more than five drinks at one time in the past month. This is a higher rate of drinking than for boys of the same age.
Alcohol Affects Women Differently Than Men

The blood alcohol level in a woman who just drank the same amount of alcohol as a man will be higher because women are usually smaller, have less water in their bodies, and metabolize alcohol more slowly than men.

This means that the brain and liver of a woman who drinks are exposed to more alcohol pound for pound than a man's brain and liver. Women who have alcohol problems may drink less than men but still experience the same level of impairment. They can also develop liver damage and other alcohol-related health problems more quickly than men, even though they may be drinking less.

Benefits of Alcohol in Women

If you are a woman over the age of 55, one drink per day may lower your risk for heart disease. Moderate drinking for a woman is defined as one alcoholic drink per day. This translates to one 5-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce bottle of beer, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.

On the other hand, women who drink beyond moderation may increase their risk of heart disease. If you are younger than 55, there may be no health benefits to alcohol consumption.

Risks of Alcohol in Women

Too much alcohol consumption clearly has risks for both men and women. Other risks to women who drink alcohol include:

Cancer: Women who drink alcohol may increase their risk of breast cancer and head and neck cancers.
Brain damage: Alcohol kills brain cells and women are more susceptible to this alcohol effect than men.
Pregnancy: Alcohol can affect a woman's ability to get pregnant. In addition, alcohol use during pregnancy can have serious harmful consequences on the unborn child. No amount of alcohol consumption is safe during pregnancy.
Victimization: Women who have alcohol problems have a higher risk of becoming victims of sexual assault or other acts of violence.
Depression and personal injury: In addition, alcohol consumption can contribute to depression, sleeping problems, heart failure, falls, and poor nutrition in women, especially older women.
Warning Signs of Alcohol Problems

If the effects of alcohol are causing problems for you or for others, you may have an alcohol problem. The risk of developing an alcohol problem is greater if you have a family history of alcoholism. Some warning signs of alcohol problems are:

Missing work or school because of drinking
Driving while impaired by alcohol
Having a strong urge to drink
Needing more alcohol than you previously did to get a pleasurable response
Finding that people who care about you are concerned about your drinking
Having more than seven drinks per week
Finding yourself drinking alone or early in the day
If you think you might have an alcohol problem, it's important to get help. Experts believe that the hardest part of getting better is admitting you have a problem. Contact Alcoholics Anonymous or talk to your doctor if you are concerned that you may have an alcohol problem.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Walk More!

Why Can’t We Just Walk More?
I was recently on the prowl for news items for my most recent column, and I came across a research study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine. It was about how Americans have fallen behind compared to many other countries in terms of walking.

According to the study, adults in western Australia, Japan and Switzerland averaged 9,695, 7,168 and 9,650 daily steps, respectively; adults in America averaged just 5,117 steps each day.

The study also pointed out that the “median weight gain in U.S. adults is 1.8 lb per year, and this type of ‘creeping weight gain’ is a serious problem.” It sure is a problem, especially considering we live into our 70s.

Simply adding 2,000 steps per day, or about 1 mile of walking, can make a huge difference. We all surely have 20 extra minutes.

America on the Move, a non-profit group actually came up with a list of 100 ways to add 2,000 steps to your day — here are the first 12. You can read all of them here.

Circle around the block when you go outside to get your mail
Walk the outside aisles of the grocery store before shopping
Walk the track at a nearby high school — four laps is roughly 2,000 steps
Make several trips up and down the stairs doing laundry or other household chores
Pass by the drive-thru window and walk into the bank or restaurant
Stroll the halls while waiting for your doctor appointment
Listen to music or books on tape while walking
Invite friends or family members to join you for a walk
Accompany your kids on their walk to school
Take your dog for a walk
Start a walking club in your community
Walk to a nearby store, post office, or dry cleaner to accomplish errands
And yes, while some of them may seem pedantic, obvious and nearly silly, it’s worth reading, digesting and thinking how you can come up with ways to increase your walking. Walking is clearly one of the simplest, easiest way to keep fit, lose weight and feel good.

Bottom line: Walking works. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that people who live in the suburbs — and therefore drive everywhere — weigh 6.3 pounds more than urbanites who are able to walk more in dense cities. Think about Manhattan, the heart of New York City, which has one of the lowest obesity rates in the country, and many experts attribute this to the fact that so many of its residents walk regularly.

Here are a few of my own tips:

Get creative. Parks, paths, trails — find them and use them on a regular basis. If you know where they are, map them out using or google maps. Also check out,,,, and for interesting walking ideas.
On rainy days, use the shopping malls — again, while window shopping you will have walked the entire mall before you know it.

Make it scenic. Even in your own area there are things to see, there is beauty or interesting things everywhere. Sightseeing is very distracting, and before you know it, you’ll have walked a few miles while discovering more about your neighborhood or even a new neighborhood.
Research shows that the more scenic your walks are, the more you’ll want to take them. Seek out the best-looking walking routes. Some parks offer trails specifically designed for hikers.

Make it practical. A common complaint is being too busy to exercise. So fit in your walking with things you need to do anyway. The dog has to get out, so why not take him for a walk? The kids need to go to school — why not walk them to the bus stop?
If it’s too far to walk all the way to the store or wherever you need to go, drive or take the bus halfway and walk the remaining distance.

Buy a pedometer. What? You don’t own one? They’re not that expensive and there is a ton of research showing how accountability works. Check out this article I wrote on pedometers and buy one today.

Depression and Exercise

Q: I've read a lot in the past few years about exercise as a valid treatment for mild to moderate depression. How much exercise should I get to help me manage depression? How does exercise help with depression in the brain?
It is true that exercise has mood-lifting effects, and in several clinical trials these effects have been comparable to those of antidepressant medications. Most of the studies have evaluated relatively light programs of aerobic exercise; even brisk walking may be sufficient for some people.

Usually, these programs begin with relatively brief periods of exercise (that is, 10 or 15 minutes every other day), then increase the duration gradually over several weeks. Regular swimming sessions could serve the same purpose. The most important thing is to find a form of exercise that you like and that you can work into your schedule; the right “dose” of exercise is the one that works for a particular person!

There are several explanations for the therapeutic effects of exercise, including the so-called runner’s high, which is thought to result from endorphins (naturally occurring opiate-like substances in the brain) whose release is triggered by the activity, and a simple improvement in morale derived from initiating an active, healthy change in one’s lifestyle.

The beneficial effects of exercise should not be thought of only as an alternative to conventional forms of treatment: Although there haven’t been a lot of studies, there is every reason to believe that the addition of an aerobic exercise program can enhance the effects of a range of treatments.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Healthy Snackin

Healthy Snacks to Control Hunger
Trade in vending machine junk food for smart snacking choices that both satisfy your hunger and contribute to good health.
By Chris Iliades, MD
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

Snacking has become part of the American diet. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, kids today snack twice as often as kids did 20 years ago. But snacking isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Smart snacking can be part of a healthy eating plan — it doesn't have to mean wolfing down junk food. Eating healthy snacks can help curb your hunger, keep you from overeating at mealtimes, and provide energy for your busy day.

"The key to healthy snacks is to plan them so that you are not snacking impulsively," says Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, clinical associate professor at Boston University. "You can use a healthy snack to add important nutrients you need in your diet and to keep you away from those empty calories at the vending machine."

Benefits of Healthy Snacks

The key to healthy snacking is picking healthy snack foods. "Choose foods that you need in your diet, like low-fat dairy products for calcium and vitamin D, and fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Studies show that Americans need more of these nutrients, and your snack is a good place to get them," says Blake. Healthy snacks can also:

Control hunger. Snacks that are high in fiber like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains make you feel full; therefore, you'll be less likely to overeat at mealtime.
Boost energy. Timing snacks throughout your day can keep you energized and alert.
Curb cravings. Planning a healthy snack during your day will help you avoid indulgences like a chocolate bar or chips.
Tips for Snacking

Strategizing your snacking habits will help you make smarter choices about what and when to eat. "You need to develop healthy eating habits around snacking just as you do with the rest of your diet. Mindless snacking should be avoided," warns Blake. Here are some additional smart snacking tips:

Control portions. Snacks should be kept to about 250 calories.
Consider timing. Blake recommends snacking when you’re hungry and need the energy, such as mid-morning and mid-afternoon, and avoiding after-dinner snacking.
Plan ahead. Make healthy snacks at home and bring them with you. Take along healthy beverages, too, so you won’t be tempted by soda.
Make the right selections. Healthy snacking requires healthy shopping. First, learn to read — and understand — the information on food labels. Just because a food says "all natural" doesn't mean it's good for you. “Natural” juice drinks can be filled with sugar, and an average granola bar gets 35 percent of its calories from fat.
Examples of Healthy Snacks

There are many healthy snack options available. "Try fortified yogurts, or mix some protein and fiber for a healthy snack. A slice of cheese on top of a slice of apple will give you protein for energy and fiber to fill you up. Another great choice is 100-calorie microwave popcorn. Popcorn is a filling, whole-grain snack," says Blake. Here are some other snacks that’ll please your palate:

Chopped raw vegetables with low-fat dip, dressing, or peanut butter
Bread sticks, whole-grain pretzels, or sliced pita bread with hummus or spicy mustard
Frozen fruit in an ice pop or blended into a smoothie
Homemade trail mix of whole-grain cereal with chopped nuts and dried berries
With these tips and the right planning, snacking can be both an enjoyable and nutritious part of your diet.

Standing for Something

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.”

Reflection by Anthony B. Robinson

Who are your enemies? Do you have enemies? Sometimes, you get the impression that success in being a Christian would be being so nice as not to have any enemies whatsoever. Being a good Christian means being liked by all, being sort of like the “most popular student on campus.” Really?

Scripture is forever mentioning our enemies. Here the Psalmist prays that God would lead him “on a level path because of my enemies.” Jesus did not say, “Don’t have any enemies.” He said, “Love your enemies.”

While setting out to make enemies is certainly not the point, standing for something and making a difference will probably make you some enemies. Early in ministry I was stunned, frankly, by the number of people in one congregation who were disturbed by my leadership. I sought the counsel of a mentor who listened to my bewildered complaint. He then said, “If you’re not making some enemies, you’re probably not doing your job.” Are we, my Christian brothers and sisters, doing our job?

But the Psalmist, and Jesus, recognize that having enemies, which may come with the territory of faithfulness to Christ and his way, also brings with it spiritual danger. If we enjoy having enemies or focus overly much upon them, we are in danger of falling. Hence, the Psalmist prays, “Lead me on a level path because of my enemies.”

Dare to live in such a way that you could actually tick someone off. And don’t ever think that is the point. The point is not to have enemies. It is to live a life so centered in God and God’s way that it just might happen.


Grant me the courage, Lord, to live in a way that makes a difference, even makes enemies. And grant me the grace, if not to like, then to love my enemies. Amen.

About the Author

Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Christians don't need Denial

As Christians we don’t need to traffic in denial. We can afford to be realists. We are free to face the truth about ourselves: good and bad are inextricably intertwined within us. Sometimes we act nobly, but even then our motivations can be mixed. This is not a hopeless admission. We are free to be realists because our hope is in God. In confession, we rely not on our own goodness, but on God’s forgiveness. The God in whose presence we see our lives with jarring clarity at the same time shows us that we are loved, nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

There will never be another NOW

There Will Never be Another Now

Excerpt from Matthew 9:14-17

Jesus told them, "When you're celebrating a wedding, you don't skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now.”

Reflection by Ron Buford

Three religious groups are represented here, each of which viewed time differently: The Pharisees to whom Judaism owes a debt of gratitude looked to the past to preserve it; John’s sect, which some think were the Essenes, warned of the coming destruction calling people to repent, fast and be baptized; but Jesus said, “Don’t miss this special time right now.”

As a kid, I remember coming home one weekday evening to the smell of fried chicken, fried corn, greens, cornbread, candied yams, homemade peach cobbler. Oh my! The best china and silver were stacked on the table. I asked Momma (whom we affectionately called Queen Dorothy behind her back):

“Who’s coming?”

“Just us,” she said.

“Why the food and fine china?” I asked.

And as only Queen Dorothy could say, “Because we are the most important people to ever sit at this table. . . . Now set the table, boy.”

Wow! Momma knew Jesus’ sense of “now.” Even in those improving but still-troubling times of lynchings, church bombings, riots, marches, student protests, assassinations of our political leaders, my Dad’s humiliations as a Black man, and our not being able to live or go just anywhere in town.

That evening, we said grace over an extravagant meal in the spirit of Martin Luther King, who said, “I may not get there with you, but I’ve been to the mountaintop and Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord.” Past, present, and future sat at our table that night, and when I remember it, I taste all three . . . . seasoned with Momma’s lesson from Jesus: Love the people in your life . . . right now.


Gracious God, thank you for this day and help me to show surprising, extravagant love to those closest to me . . . today. Amen.

About the Author
Ron Buford, former coordinator of the UCC’s God is still speaking campaign, currently serves as Director of Development for the Northern California Nevada Conference

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Belief Matters

Your mind is your best friend when it comes to achieving goals. You have to believe that you CAN do amazing new things. The mind is very powerful and can either be a tool to help or hinder us. I believe that running is at least 50% mental. Chances are that your body can go the distance, if your mind doesn’t talk you out of it.
One of the “secrets” of successful athletes, business people, and politicians is that they have confidence. You have to eliminate the negative self talk that goes through your mind frequently and replace it with positive truth. Get rid of “I can’t” from your vocabulary. Surround yourself with positive, encouraging people as much as possible.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

FIT Support Study

Thinking about setting some new fitness goals for 2011?
We are more likely to be successful in our goals when we have support and encouragement from others.
Join Pastor Sarah and others who want to be healthier in body-mind-spirit for a time of reflection and support. Tuesdays at 1 PM at the Arnolds Park City Hall. Wednesdays at 9 AM at the Community Room at our YMCA in Okoboji. OR Wednesdays at 7 PM at Calvary UMC.

All are welcome!

FIT for Life: Exercise burnout

Two of the most popular New Year's resolutions are to exercise more and get in better shape. Many people start January with high hopes of big success, yet by March find themselves struggling to get to the gym and watching their home treadmill collect dust. What happened in the intervening weeks?

A simple thing called, "exercise burnout," most likely. "Positive enthusiasm often turns into negative because the individual forgets another key component of success: moderation," says Erica Tuttolomondo, athletic director at Rush-Copley Healthplex, a fitness center in Aurora, Ill.

While many believe the faster and harder they exercise the better; in reality, this can lead to physical and mental exhaustion. Overtraining can cause loss of appetite, lack of progression, extreme fatigue, and even recurring injury. The mind, too, needs time to adjust to exercise. "For many, the thought of exercising every day becomes a chore," says Tuttolomondo. And that's when many people quit.

Beat Exercise Burnout

"Spend a week evaluating current activities," says Thomas A. Fox, an exercise physiologist and author of The System for Health and Weight Loss. "Look at what you're eating, and even use a camera to help. Then it's easier to know what to change."

If exercising is new to you, start out slowly, gradually building up to a reasonable routine. Beginners should keep with the same routine for a couple of months. At first, you will notice physical and mental changes until eventually your body adapts to the routine and hits a plateau. At this point, it's time to add variety to the workout by using different machines or adjusting frequency, intensity, and time spent exercising.