Amelia Harnish

In Defense of Decadent Holiday Foods

March 27, 2013 at 3:07 pm , by

We’ve seen quite a few stories this week offering tips for sticking with your diet during the spring holidays. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Easter and Passover are all about family time, fun and most importantly, food. Worrying about your waistline at Easter dinner or beating yourself up over indulging in a chocolate bunny can totally ruin it. “Food is intertwined in tradition and celebration, and that’s totally okay,” says Sally Kuzemchak, R.D., and frequent LHJ contributor. “It’s important to acknowledge these are special foods that mean something to us, and it’s good to enjoy them.”

Yes, exactly. We say forget the guilt and go for it (with some moderation, of course). Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your indulgences this week.

Savor your favorites. If you look forward to your sister-in-law’s famously rich macaroni and cheese on Easter every year, why change it? “I am not a fan of lightening up traditional foods or favorite family recipes,” Kuzemchak says. “Enjoy your favorites, but get back to your usual eating habits the next day.”

Save yourself for the right dessert. Eating too many Cadbury eggs or handfuls of jelly beans can make you feel gross and tired rather than satisfied. “Instead of pillaging the bowl of pastel M&M’s, save it for the homemade pie or allow yourself a good dark chocolate bar,” Kuzemchak says.

Drink to your health. ‘Tis the season for Manischewitz! If you indulged in the traditional four glasses at your family’s Seder, worry not. It’s just one day out of the year. “There are antioxidants in wine,” says Kuzemchak. “But moderate drinkers get the most benefits.”

Photo copyright Oksana2010,

What You Haven’t Heard About OTC Pain Meds

February 27, 2013 at 10:57 am , by

You probably keep ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen in your medicine cabinet at all times. Why not? Any one of these can work wonders for everyday aches and pains like headaches or menstrual cramps. You don’t need a prescription to get these drugs—and you’ve probably used them hundreds of times—so it may seem like they’re harmless. But new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that overuse of OTC pain medications may lead to hearing loss.

Yup, you heard that right. The study scanned the pain-pill habits of more than 62,000 women over a 14-year period and found that those who used ibuprofen or acetaminophen two or more days a week increased their risk of hearing loss by up to 24 percent, depending on how much they took.

No one’s sure exactly why this is, says lead author Sharon Curhan, M.D., but it may be that these drugs inhibit blood flow to crucial parts of the inner ear, or destroy antioxidants that protect the ear’s delicate structures from damage. “Hearing loss is increasingly common and often disabling. Our findings suggest that frequent analgesic use may be an important but preventable contributor,” she says. (You may be taking even more analgesics than you think, she adds, since certain cold meds contain them too.)

That’s not the only harm OTC painkillers could cause. “While bad side effects are fortunately pretty rare, there are some other possible ones,” says Gary Dorshimer, M.D., section chief of general internal medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital, in Philadelphia. “Among them, OTC pain meds could cause hormone changes that reduce your kidneys’ ability to process certain minerals, or dampen the effectiveness of ACE inhibitors, a type of drug used to control high blood pressure.” An even bigger risk, he adds, “is when you ignore a warning on the label that says, ‘Don’t take this drug for more than X days before speaking with your doctor.’ You could have a problem that needs medical attention.” Masking the pain won’t make it go away and could give it a chance to get more serious.

In fact, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you find yourself relying on OTC pain pills on a regular basis for a recurring problem of any kind, like headaches or backaches. “Talk over the risks and benefits of using over-the-counter painkillers for your problem. Try to determine the exact cause of your pain, and explore whether there are other alternatives to using medication,” says Dr. Curhan. There may be lots of other things to try, from physical therapy to massage or even acupuncture.

Check out our guide to the risks and benefits of different painkillers here.

Photo by Dick Ercken

Ask a Doctor Anything, Anytime, With HealthTap

February 20, 2013 at 1:14 pm , by

When you’re not feeling so well, the first thing to do is call the doctor… right? Maybe in a perfect world, but we all know that getting an appointment with a physician can be time-consuming and a lot more difficult than it should be. Enter HealthTap, a web site and mobile app that lets you pose questions to real doctors and get answers fast.

“In our research, we found that 25 percent of doctor visits in this country are just question and answer,” says Ron Gutman, founder and CEO of HealthTap. “But on average, it takes 20 days to get an appointment. We saw a huge opportunity there to help people save time and money.”

The service first launched almost two years ago as a resource for new moms (who famously have endless questions for their pediatricians). Now HealthTap boasts a network of 32,000 doctors in 128 different specialties. All you have to do is go to and register or download the app on your iPhone or Android smartphone. Then you can search by topic or ask a question, which will be matched to an appropriate physician. You will get an e-mail or notification on your phone when a doctor has answered.

When we first heard about HealthTap, we were intrigued but thought for sure there must be a catch. But after meeting Gutman, I’m sold. The physicians are all screened for credentials via each state’s licensing boards. In addition to the Q&A feature, you can access a directory of doctors in your area, all ranked by quality based on other users’ experiences, and schedule in-person appointments right through the app. Another cool feature is “TipTaps,” which are short, doctor-written tips in areas like beauty, diet, exercise or parenting that are delivered by text message or e-mail. All these tools are free to use, but you can also pay for premium services, which include virtual, private consultations and the ability to ask longer questions. (There’s a 150-character limit for the free service, which I guess counts as a catch, albeit a small one in the age of Twitter.)

So while it’s no replacement for an in-person visit with a doctor who knows your medical history, HealthTap is great for when you just need quick, reliable medical information or advice. I used it recently to sleuth out whether the annoying itchiness I was experiencing in my left eye was pinkeye or just allergies. I got my answer within 24 hours (who knew one eye can be more allergic than the other) and bought some OTC eye drops, which saved me a trip to my doctor.



Try This Heart Healthy Recipe (You Won’t Miss The Salt!)

February 12, 2013 at 5:53 pm , by

We’ve been blogging and tweeting nonstop this month to get the message across: Way too many women are dying of heart disease. One of the things you can do to keep your heart healthy is cut back on salt to prevent high blood pressure. That’s why we tapped our friend Jessica Goldman Foung, also known as Sodium Girl, to share some delicious recipes from her new book Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook.

By Jessica Goldman Foung

Why not do something for your heart this Valentine’s Day? Not just your figurative heart—the one that beats for your special someone—but your actual heart that beats to keep you going. Back in 2004, when an aggressive attack of the autoimmune disease lupus caused my kidneys to fail, my eating habits had to change a lot. When you have excess sodium in your diet (and trust me, if you’re not paying attention, you probably do), the extra salt spills into your bloodstream, which makes you retain fluid and raises your blood pressure. Your kidneys normally regulate your sodium level, so for me, losing the salt was a must.

It took a life-threatening event to get me to ditch salt, so I know it’s hard. But what I learned is that nearly everyone can—and should—cut back. The average American consumes almost 3,500 mg of sodium every day, which is double the recommended amount.

Without salt, I became more daring and playful in the kitchen. I started eating vegetables that used to scare me like bok choy, leeks and Brussels sprouts, and I experimented with cuisines I’d never tried, including Moroccan, Indian and Korean. I was determined to make over salty meals that I’d always loved, which led to discovering many replacements for high-sodium ingredients, like soy sauce. Yes, even soy sauce! So I know anyone can do it.

I had to figure it all out on my own, so I’m happy to share a recipe to get you started. Read more for one of my favorite low-so recipes: Tamarind “Teriyaki” Skewers (pictured above). Read more

Three Fitness Trends to Shake Up Your Routine

January 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm , by

It’s not yet the end of January, which means you’re probably still on track for reaching your healthy resolutions. But maybe you’re starting to get really, really bored with the elliptical? We normally eschew trendy exercise routines, but trying something new (and maybe a little outside your comfort zone) every once in a while is a great way to keep things interesting. Here are a few fun fitness trends you might want to check out.

1. Spin for the Soul
Spinning classes have always been popular at gyms, but cycling seems to be taking over. You may have heard about the almost cult-like classes at SoulCycle, described recently as “part dance party, part therapy, part communal high,” or the rival Flywheel Sports, which bills classes as an “amazing escape.” If you need a new obsession, you might start there. Or you could try spinning for good at Cycle for Survival, a series of fundraising events at Equinox Fitness Clubs across the country. Participants spend the day cycling to raise money for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s rare cancer research, a sadly underfunded cause. Anyone can sign up! Learn more here.

2. Unwind with Self-Massage
The MELT method is a series of gentle exercises and self-massage techniques using balls and foam rollers. Sue Hitzmann, a manual therapist and exercise instructor who developed the technique, opens her new book by explaining how she learned to manipulate natural “vibrations” to “restore balance in the body.” Sounds wacky, I know. But I decided to try one of her classes here in New York City recently because I’ve heard foam rollers can work wonders on achy muscles, and I wanted to learn more. Hitzmann showed us simple exercises for massaging our feet and hands using rubber balls, along with some breathing techniques. It felt pretty good, but it wasn’t until we moved on to massaging our spines using a soft foam roller that I converted. I sit at my computer constantly, which is murder for the neck and shoulders. I’ve tried everything from yoga to chair massages, but nothing has released the tension in my upper back as quickly as Hitzmann’s techniques. You can buy supplies and how-to DVDs at Hitzmann’s web site or look up a MELT class near you.

3. Play Like A Kid
Gyms can be expensive or intimidating, which is why we love the idea of “natural movement” fitness. If harsh lighting and communal locker rooms just don’t sound appealing, something like MovNat might be right for you. Instead of training by lifting weights or running on a treadmill, natural movement systems like MovNat focus on the ways you played as a kid: running, jumping, climbing and so on. Erwan Le Corre, who created MovNat in 2008, recently described it this way to Time HealthLand: “This isn’t about the elite fitness of winning gold medals. It is about doing the movements that make us humans, and acquiring a physical competence that we can maintain for a lifetime.”



Meet Our New Health and Wellness Blogger Team

January 16, 2013 at 4:01 pm , by

Did you get your hands on a February issue yet? We announced our first round of Journalistas, a team of bloggers we’ll be working with to bring even more cool stuff to the Journal. In the spirit of the new year, we started with our favorite health-savvy ladies. We will be tapping them for fresh takes and great advice on health, nutrition and exercise. The team’s first assignment? Share your healthy-living philosophy in 140 characters or less.

Carla Birnberg
Mizfit Online,
“My equation: move every day + meditation + mindful eating – negativity = feeling great!”
Carla Birnberg is a personal trainer, mom, blogger and fitness fiend. She’s been blogging since 2001, and she launched MizFitOnline in 2007 to share health and fitness knowledge with people who don’t have time or money for their own personal trainer. Besides her thoughtful advice and witty tweets, we love Mizfit’s tagline: “Because fitness isn’t about fitting in.”


Lisa Cain, Ph.D.
Snack Girl, @Snack_Girl
“Small steps make big changes. Fall in love with healthy food. Guilt is a waste of time.”
Lisa Cain may have a doctorate in evolutionary biology, but her real obsession is healthy food, specifically healthy snacks. She and her husband Matt try their best to stay away from too much packaged stuff and instead focus on creating recipes with fresh veggies from their backyard garden. She shares lots of tips for incorporating fresh ingredients and her recipes are so creative, like this zero-guilt chunky onion dip or these DIY peanut butter cups.


Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks, co-founders
Black Girls Run, @BlackGirlsRun
“It’s simple: water, yoga, running and balance,” says Carey
“My recipe for healthy living: run, eat clean and meditate,” says Hicks
According to the CDC, four out of five African-American women are overweight or obese, an unacceptable statistic if you ask the ladies behind Black Girls Run. Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks launched the site in 2009 to encourage African-American women to make exercise and healthy eating a priority. Besides the inspiring blog, you can organize a running group and stay motivated by joining the BGR network.

Lisa Collier Cool
Yahoo! Day in Health, @LisaCollierCool
“To boost heart and brain health, I clip on a pedometer every a.m. and go.”
Lisa Collier Cool is an award-winning health journalist and author whose work has appeared in the Journal. She blogs about the day’s health news for Yahoo!, which means writing about everything from new research on redheads to how to get six-pack abs.


Jenn Walters
Fitbottomed Girls, @FitBottomedGirl
“Walk my pup, eat veggies and lean protein, and do what brings me joy!”
FitBottomedGirls started as a way for two fitness-obsessed friends to stay in touch. Now it’s an online fitness mecca. Jenn Walters updates multiple times each day with everything from DVD reviews to tidbits on healthy eating to personal exercise triumphs (and trials).

Erin Whitehead
Fitbottomed Mamas, @FitBottomedMama
“Eat breakfast every day, get plenty of sleep, run around with my kids, love and laugh.”
Even before the Fitbottomed Girls got pregnant, they thought a site for busy moms to get fitness advice was a great idea. So after Erin Whitehead gave birth to her daughter, she and Walters launched their sister site for FitBottomed Mamas. She posts tons of advice for fitting exercise into your schedule, working out when you’re pregnant or recently post-partum and staying healthy while managing the demands of a growing family.

Watch for our health Journalistas online and in the magazine, and stay tuned to meet our beauty and style teams!


Trick Yourself Into Getting Fit in 2013

January 9, 2013 at 11:38 am , by

‘Tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions, which means all over the country people are renewing their vows to get fit and lose that weight. Are you working on your own health goal? We figured you might be.

It’s a sad truth that most women who resolve to get their butts in gear in January are back to their old habits by springtime. That’s why we asked Carla Birnberg, the personal trainer behind and a member of our brand new blogger network, to give us some novel tips for sticking with it.

Do less than you think you can do.
Yes, you read that right. Do less. It’s not helpful to push yourself as hard as you can when you’re first getting started, Birnberg says. That’s just going to lead to burnout. Instead, jog fewer miles at a slower pace than you think you can do, or better yet, start by simply going for an evening walk and build from there.

Play instead of work.
Instead of thinking about exercise as another chore, turn your workouts into a game. One of Birnberg’s favorite things is playing hopscotch with her daughter. The hopping around works your balance, core strength and it gets your heart pumping. It’s fun, calorie-torching perfection, she says. (That’s Birnberg above during one of her recent “playouts” with her daughter.)

Break your big goal into smaller goals.
So you want to lose 20 pounds? That takes a long-term commitment, which can easily wane when you don’t see any payoff right away. Instead, try breaking it down into a bunch of smaller goals. For example: “This week I’ll go for a jog three times,” or even, “Today, I will eat five servings of vegetables.” Not only does this way give you more chances to succeed and gain confidence, it also forces you to recommit to your big goal every day.

Want more? Follow @MizFitOnline on twitter and check out Birnberg’s brand new e-Book here.