The holidays are upon us once again which brings an increased urge to overindulge in many things including food. Many wonder how to avoid holiday overeating. I often wonder how to avoid overeating in general. I think many of the principals that help us avoid overeating at any time of the year apply to holiday overeating as well.

Watch Your Portion Size

Being conscious of how much food we put on our plate is one of the keys to preventing overeating. Did you know that a portion of meat is equal to 3 ounces of lean meat? Can you picture how big 3 ounces of lean meat is? It is not very big at all.

As a side note, a good rule to follow with meat and portion size is this. For red meat, a portion should be approximately the size of your palm and about ½ inch (1.3 cm) thick. For chicken and pork you can extend the size to include up to your first knuckle. For fish you can include the size of your entire hand (fingers and palm). This is so much easier than a food scale, but I would encourage you to weigh a piece of lean, cooked meat on a scale if you have the chance. Most of us are visual creatures. This will help.

But back to portion size. Make sure you are conservative when filling your plate. Go heavy on the vegetables and light on the stuffing, gravy and meat. Also, use a smaller plate if possible. This has been shown in studies to help people take less food and therefore eat less. Easy, huh?

You can also try limiting yourself to one serving. Be strong.

Eat Slowly

Another way to avoid holiday overeating is to eat slowly. It takes a while for the “full signal” to get from our stomachs to our brains (this is very unfortunate, but it may have been useful long ago when food was scarce and a big score meant we should gorge ourselves). Since this is the case, eating slowly gives that signal extra time to develop and get to our brain.

Eating slowly has other great benefits too. It will help avoid gas and indigestion, and it gives us time to enjoy the company around us. A slow meal with family and friends is priceless and something we often take for granted. I think it can lead to increased well being through better relationships. You also get a chance to taste your food more and appreciate what you are eating.

Everything in Moderation—Including Moderation

Finally, remember the title immediately above. Life is about enjoying yourself and your environment. Sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind and indulge. This is great. Be thankful that you can do so. Do so safely (chew thoroughly and don’t drink and drive) and with those you care about. This is a wonderful time of year, and it is entirely possible to keep up a healthy lifestyle with a bit of planning and willpower. Happy holidays!

The Heart Benefits of Chocolate

I came across an article in the paper today on the evidence of heart benefits from chocolate. I think most of us have heard of the studies that have found a small amount of dark chocolate each day is good for your heart. This study was actually an analysis of studies, and I will tell you what it discovered.

But first, I would like to point out some of the advice given by the lead author of the study because it is important. His main point was that chocolate, like so many other things in life, should be eaten in moderation. It is incredibly likely that if you eat large amounts of chocolate, any health benefits contained in the chocolate are going to be canceled out.

An important aspect of this review of studies to point out is that none of the studies reviewed involved randomized controlled trials. These are the best types of studies to conduct, but also the most difficult, because researchers can control for one variable. Therefore, a cause and effect relationship can possibly be established. Possibly .

It is interesting that the newspaper article I read on the study mentioned this at the end of the short article. You will find this a lot with news articles reporting science. They go for the headlines first, and that often involves trumpeting up the findings of a study first followed by the details (the most important point if the details even make it into the article).

The piece of information being shouted by the article stated that “an analysis of studies including more than 100,000 subjects has found that high levels of chocolate consumption are associated with a significant reduction in the risk of certain cardiovascular disorders.”

These seven studies looked the consumption of a wide range of different chocolate. They included candies and candy bars, chocolate drinks, cookies, desserts and nutritional supplements. There were a lot of measures that linked the consumption of chocolate to lower rates of stroke, blood pressure, coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions.

This report was published in the British medical journal BMJ. It showed that people in the group that ate the most chocolate had decreases of 37 percent in the risk of any cardiovascular disorder and 29 percent in the risk for stroke.

But again, keep in mind the limitation of the study. Plus we don’t know the specifics of the studies that were reviewed for this study. Remember that there are studies out there saying many different things and reporting contradictory conclusions when compared to each other. You have to keep in mind what good science is. From good science you will get good findings you can actually use.

In the meantime, a moderate consumption of chocolate is good for the soul. That is just my opinion. If you are on the paleo diet you may want to check out my paleo cookbook review to see if there are any chocolate recipes for you to try. For all those not following the paleo diet, you can certainly take a look at the paleo cookbook review as well. It is very worthwhile in my opinion. Just like eating a bit of chocolate every day.

The Science of Gaming in Healthcare

I came across an article today that got me thinking a bit about technology and health. This particular article announced the launch of a new scientific journal that will focus on the science of gaming in healthcare.

One piece of information that struck me, but also made complete sense on about two seconds of further thought, stated that numerous studies have shown that better gamers make better surgeons. When think of the manual dexterity, hand eye coordination and quickness of mind that it takes to be a good gamer I can immediately understand that these skills directly transfer to the skills a surgeon uses every day.

This peer-reviewed journal titled Games for Health will focus on how games can impact healthcare. Some of the topics that will be covered in the journal include nutrition; weight management; self-management; cognitive, mental, emotion, and behavioral health; and disease prevention.

As many of you know, video games have found many practical applications in a variety of fields. They are used for flight simulation, battlefield exercises and mental rehabilitation. I have been using Lumosity for about two years now. Lumosity is a popular online game website devoted to improving your brain’s performance in several areas. These areas include flexibility, speed, attention, memory and problem solving.

I have found that the site does a good job creating games that are fun to play while being beneficial. These games, administered in a regime laid out by a qualified professional, have been found to help improve students with learning disabilities by several studies. Studies have also shown these brain games slow cognitive degeneration in older people.

But video games are only a recent development in mankind’s gaming history. Many games provide great cognitive benefit. Chess is certainly one legendary example of this. A good chess player needs to be able to plan ahead, anticipate opponent’s moves, and adapt when the unexpected occurs. Legendary chess players are said to be able to analyze hundreds of different scenarios when planning each move. This is pretty amazing.

Crossword puzzles are another example of a brain healthy game that is extremely popular. These little word puzzles help us with our creative thinking, vocabulary and other language skills. Even putting together a crossword puzzle is an art in and of itself and a great brain exercise.

Almost all people like to play games. They are enjoyable and a good way to bond with family and friends. They also make us feel good and reduce stress. Make some time for games that will challenge your mind. It is a health thing to do.

Personal Massage Techniques

I wanted to take another post to talk about the incredible glory of massage and some of its benefits. In the last post on massage, The Glory of Massage, I spoke about some of the benefits of massage and how to find the right masseuse for you.

For those of you that don’t have a lot of cash to burn on massage, I recommended trying a massage school where the students practice on you. While these massages can vary in quality depending on where the student is at in their education, they can be much more inexpensive than a professional.

Another option I want to talk about today is do-it-yourself massage. We actually do this to ourselves all the time. We rub areas that are sore, tight or hurting in order to relieve the pain. I often take this one step further and make it a routine.

Since I tend to run a lot, I pay special attention to my feet. Actually, there are some that feel the feet are connected to the entire body and massaging particular areas of the foot will directly benefit corresponding parts of the body.

I’m not too sure about the above theory, but I do know that a foot massage feels really good. It also helps increase circulation, which is almost always a positive thing. It is really important to take good care of your feet on a consistent basis. Foot injuries are incredibly frustrating. The healing process for a foot injury can be hampered by the fact that we have to use them so much. Therefore, take care of your feet.

You can soak your feet in warm water and Epsom salt to get them ready for a massage. After that you can spend five minutes massaging each foot. A little massage oil or something similar will help reduce friction. I also like to lie on the floor with my feet elevated for about five minutes. The idea is to have your feet elevated above your heart at the least. I like to get right next to a wall to position my feet so the bottoms are facing the sky.

There are also many do-it-yourself massage devices on the market. I have experience with three that I find to be worthwhile. The first is simply a hard foam cylinder with a diameter of about 6 to 12 inches (depending on the type you buy). They are usually a foot and a half or so in length. They are known as foam rollers if you would like to Google that.

These devices are used on hips and the sides of your upper legs. They feel amazing! Seriously. So many people suffer from tightness in their hips. It is an area that can carry a lot of stress that is often ignored. Once you massage this area, you will realize how much tightness it can carry, and you will be amazing at how great it feels.

The second massage device I used semi-regularly is a vibrating massage wand. I believe min is from Sharper Image. It does look a bit like it is for private fun time in the bedroom, but I have found it beneficial. I especially like it for my feet and my shoulders and upper back. I can be a bit cumbersome, and it is often hard to reach some areas of the back while staying relaxed (staying relaxed while enjoying a massage is surely the best way to go!).

The final device I have is, I believe, from Brooks Brothers, and it is a massage chair for your back. It actually isn’t a chair, but it goes on a sturdy chair to turn that into a poor man’s massage chair. This device is decent. I don’t find that is very effective in relieving problems, but it does feel nice and get the mid and lower back massaged quite well. It is not too great for the upper back and shoulders, as it doesn’t seem to have been designed for this. You can get a decent rub on them by sliding down in the chair, but it is inconvenient

Remember to experiment with all these different types of massage to find what works best for you. You can also get your significant other to perform some work on you but it is always polite to return the favor. My girlfriend and I find that it is best to rotate days that we take care of each other. We do this because it really sucks to be all nice and relaxed from a good massage and then have to give one. Oh, and one final thing. Remember that you really shouldn’t get a massage before you exercise. You really don’t want your muscles that relaxed. I find they are much better after a workout or even a few days after an intense workout when the muscles are rebuilding.