Julie Bain

Obsess Less About Germs

November 14, 2012 at 9:53 am , by

What is that nice stagehand doing to me, right, on the Today Show set—and why is a toilet there, you might ask?

Oh, the glamor of television! He was unzipping my dress to hook a microphone pack onto my bra so I could talk to Hoda and Kathie Lee about the Germs story in our November issue. We wanted to show some household items that may (or may not) carry germs that can make you sick. Thus, the toilet.

It’s cold and flu season, and you’ve got to protect yourself from those viruses. But do you need to obsessively clean every square inch of your home? No.

In fact, experts told us, while germs are everywhere, only about 1 percent of them are the bad kind that can make you sick—and many actually keep you healthy. Plus, even if you come in contact with bad bacteria or viruses, they won’t make you sick unless they get into your body. How do they do that? Mostly by your hands. So your first line of defense is to keep your hands out of your eyes, nose and mouth. And wash your hands often with good old plain soap and water. (The antibacterial kind may contribute to antibiotic-resistant bugs.)

Before we went on the air, Kathie Lee shared that she’s not a germophobe at all—and she seldom gets sick. Good for her! See our TV segment by clicking here. Some of the advice will surprise you!

And see all of our info and advice in “A Non-Neurotic Guide To Germs” in the November issue of Ladies’ Home Journal or by clicking here.


7 Things I Learned From Hurricane Sandy

November 1, 2012 at 10:58 am , by

Still no power in my neighborhood in Manhattan—including cell service. But I’m lucky I can walk to my office uptown, which does have power. I feel like I was very well prepared for Hurricane Sandy, but I still figured out a few things I could do better next time.

1. Take your batteries out of their packages before the storm. I had plenty of spare batteries, but when the power actually did go out, the big flashlight I had within reach became dim very quickly. I sorta panicked. I found the new D batteries, but they were in that hard plastic clamshell packaging that you need a chainsaw to open. I found some scissors and hacked away at in the near blackness, cursing loudly and nearly cutting my finger off in the process. (Reminder: make sure your first-aid kit is fully stocked!) I suggest putting all your spare batteries, sorted by size, in zipper bags in a kitchen drawer.

2. Keep an old-fashioned phone that plugs directly into the wall. The only reason I keep paying for my land line every month is for occasions like this: storms and power outages. My plug-in cordless phones don’t work without electricity, so I keep an old plug-in corded model in a kitchen drawer near the phone jack. As soon as the power went out I plugged that baby in and called my sister. Since the cell signal also went out in my area, it was my only link to the outside world and I was grateful to have it.

3. Buy a headlamp. A relative gave me one in my Christmas stocking last year, but I’d forgotten about it. I discovered it right before the storm and was so glad I did. It was comfortable and perfect for reading after dark. Also for getting down the pitch-black stairwell of my building, hands free.

4. Don’t panic about the toilet. I had filled numerous buckets for manual flushing, but I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough if the outage lasted long. My brother gave me a great tip: If your toilet no longer has water, you can line it with a small trash bag, use it and when necessary, tie it up and put it in the trash. For some reason, that gave me great comfort.

5. Wash your produce before the storm. I had gone to the farmer’s market on Saturday and bought a bunch of lovely fresh fruits and veggies. But I didn’t think to wash them and put them away ready to cook. My gas stove is still working but my bottled water supply is precious. I didn’t want to waste a bunch of expensive (and heavy to carry up nine flights of stairs) bottled water to wash my Brussels sprouts. I should have planned ahead.

6. Clean out the freezer. I removed most of my perishables and threw them away yesterday before they started getting stinky. But I didn’t think to remove the frozen spinach. And let me warn you, frozen spinach leaks giant puddles of green water. I sopped up pools of it this morning. Even if perishables feel cool, it’s best to throw them away. Bacteria can grow at relatively low temps, so don’t take a chance with dangerous pathogens.

7. Buy your favorite comfort foods. I heard from so many friends on Facebook about the foods they were cooking before and during the storm and how much comfort they brought. Believe me, no one was craving steamed broccoli. It was all about pasta, cheese, bread, cookies, cupcakes. I was glad I’d bought my favorite spicy organic ginger cookies. They soothed my nervous tummy. I had plenty of wine on hand, too. A crisis is not the time to go on a diet; you can do that after the power is restored.



Update From LHJ In Sandy’s Aftermath

October 31, 2012 at 11:23 am , by

The photo above is from yesterday on Third Avenue in my neighborhood where the power is out. Lines were out the door at the one bodega open—lit by candles! The only traffic was a convoy of National Guard vehicles.

Hello from New York in the wake of Sandy! It’s been a stressful few days, but as usual, New Yorkers are tough and resourceful. A handful of us who could walk are here at the LHJ office today. Others who couldn’t get in are working from home, if they have power.

I live downtown where the power went off Monday night about 8 pm and I’ve been playing Pioneer Woman since then. It was fascinating to walk north this morning from No-Man’s-Land to the Promised Land—the land of milk and honey and hot coffee. And heat and internet access and cell service and toilets that flush. It does remind me how delicate and vulnerable our infrastructure is, and that we cannot take it for granted. That’s my deep thought for the day.

Meanwhile, I need to find a hair salon since it’s been awhile since I had a shower. (I had smart advice from a Gulf Coast relative experienced at hurricanes: buy organic baby wipes for basic cleaning while the shower is not an option.) I’ve been asked to fill in on the Today Show tomorrow, so good hair is important. I’ll be taping a segment on Germs that will run on Friday in the always fun and wacky Hoda and Kathie Lee hour. Tune in if you can!

Search For The Best Sugar-Free Chocolate

October 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm , by

Don’t raid your kids’ Halloween candy till you read this!

My name is Julie and I am a chocoholic. I’m also a health editor, so when I learned that dark chocolate with high cocoa content is the healthiest, I focused on that. I got used to that deep, complex flavor and firmer texture that’s usually not as creamy as milk chocolate. Dark chocolate contains flavanols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that are good for your cardiovascular system. Yes, there’s fat in there, too, but it’s mostly the good kind. Health food, right? Well, yes, in moderation—except for the added sugar.

Americans eat an average of 21 teaspoons of added sugar a day, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association—way more than the six teaspoons the American Heart Association recommends as the max for women. That added sugar is being implicated in everything from obesity to diabetes to heart disease, so I wanted to cut back. But most of the sugar-free chocolate I tried was, well, nasty. And it contained chemicals and artificial sweeteners, which I’d like to avoid. Then I discovered chocolate bars made with stevia, which many experts say is a safe, natural no-cal sweetener. Jackpot!

My colleagues and I tasted several brands that are widely available and came up with two favorites: Dante (top in photo) and Lily’s (bottom).

• The Dante bar, at 98 percent cocoa, is a study in purity with just three ingredients: chocolate liquor, stevia and vanilla. Surprisingly not crumbly, it melts in the mouth with deep, rich, classic dark chocolate flavors, subtle sweetness and a touch of tannic bitterness in the aftertaste like a fine red wine. For the true dark-chocolate aficionado. The 1.6-ounce bar has 10 thick squares; each has only 26 calories. The bars, which come in plain paper wrapping, are made in small quantities to order on amazon.com; eight bars for $29.95.

Lily’s original 55 percent cocoa dark chocolate has a few more ingredients that give it a more melty mouthfeel and better approximates the flavor of familiar sugar-sweetened chocolate. The 3-ounce bar has 30 little squares to savor; each has only about 11 calories. It comes in other flavors, too (see photo; I love the coconut). These are available at Whole Foods and on amazon.com; 12 bars for $58. A portion of the profits support childhood cancer.

These bars aren’t drugstore cheap, but they are worth the investment, both for the taste and for your health. Once you try them, you may never reach into your kids’ plastic pumpkin again!


Ladies’ Home Journal Was Fighting Cancer in 1913

October 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm , by

Does going to a hospital scare you? Then just imagine what having surgery was like a century ago! It was a different world, with crude tools, scant blood supplies and high rates of infection. The year 1913 was key to a lot of changes in the practice of surgery, though, as it marked the founding of the organization now known as the American College of Surgeons. The ACS has helped improve the quality of care ever since, and today it has 78,000 members.

To celebrate its centennial, the ACS just debuted a cool interactive timeline of milestones in surgery. (A book is coming out, too.) And guess what? Ladies’ Home Journal played a key early role. In 1913, the ACS began an effort to inform the public about the importance of early detection and treatment of cancer, and its chairman collaborated with LHJ on a major article (above). Called “What Can We Do About Cancer? The Most Vital and Insistent Question in the Medical World,” it was a thorough, detailed and candid piece that busted many of the myths of the time and was written to “educate the people to save themselves.” (Click here to see the year 1913 on the timeline. The LHJ story is the 5th milestone in that year.)

Here’s a bit from the article’s section on breast cancer: “More generally than any other organ, the breast is the point of attack in women. Here the outlook is most encouraging…. As soon as the lump is noticed, unless its non-tumorous nature is definitely determined, the proper procedure is to have a competent surgeon (preferably at a well-equipped hospital) remove it—a safe and simple operation. Then, while the patient is still under the anesthetic, a microscopical examination is made, which should determine pretty accurately whether the growth is carcinoma. If so, the whole breast must be removed at once. It is the only chance, and a very favorable one.”

The article also tells how vital it is not to delay as soon as a lump is found. Believe me, women were not getting that kind of clear info in those days. The ACS timeline says that the LHJ article “helped to revolutionize the public’s understanding of the disease.”

We’re proud of our long history of working closely with physicians and top medical organizations to provide cutting-edge health information that is accurate, authoritative—and even lifesaving. (Compelling and award-winning doesn’t hurt, either!) Millions of women still count on Ladies’ Home Journal to help them make their most important health decisions, and we take that responsibility very seriously.

Food Addiction: Gotta Have It?

September 19, 2012 at 9:31 am , by

Have you ever joked that some foods you crave (French fries, red velvet cupcakes) are like “crack” to you—even if you have no idea what crack is actually like? Is there a treat you’re truly incapable of resisting? Join the club. For me it’s dark-chocolate caramels with sea salt, among other things. Hello, lover!

No, we’re not just weak and have no willpower. The science is catching up and showing that addiction to food is every bit as real and powerful as addiction to drugs, alcohol or tobacco, says weight-loss expert Pam Peeke, M.D., below, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland. That’s why she wrote her new book The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction. (Take her quiz to see where you fall on the food-addiction scale, here.)

LHJ: I overeat sometimes, but I’d never really thought of myself as similar to a “cokehead,” as you put it. Your book doesn’t coddle us with feel-good platitudes; it’s tough and science-based. So what made you decide to use the language of drug addiction throughout?

PP: I didn’t decide; the patients did. For years I’d been hearing men and women of all ages using drug vernacular to talk about food. They’d say, “I can’t get off the stuff,”  “I need a hit,” or “Withdrawal is killing me.” Years ago we didn’t have the neuroscience to back it up, but now we do, and I talk about it a lot in the book. If you line up a cokehead, a meth-head, an alcoholic and a food addict and watch them under functional MRI machines, and tell them their substance of choice is on its way, their brains all do the same thing: The reward center spews out the pleasure chemical dopamine. They’re indistinguishable.

LHJ: So you can’t just say, “Hey, eat less.” It’s not just a matter of practicing willpower and moderation, is it?

PP: Hello. Try talking to someone in full-fledged addictive mode and say, “Oh, you need to practice moderation, so let’s just take this bottle away.” Really? I don’t think so.

LHJ: So the concept of food addiction is finally getting some respect. But while you don’t need drugs to live, you’ve got to eat food. Please don’t tell us we can never eat the foods we love again!

PP: You have to identify the foods that are like crack to you, and then you have to detox from them. And let’s face it, the majority of what we got hooked on is trash to begin with. But there are things you’ll learn to do from my plan that will train the prefrontal cortex part of your brain to find equal pleasure elsewhere—from healthy, whole foods, from mindfulness and meditation, from physical activity that’s fun. Believe me, it can be done.

LHJ: Will I stop wanting the junk food?

PP: Are you kidding me? Who wants junky food-like products after you’ve been able to drop the weight and feel fantastic? Y’all better have a conversation with yourself before you do that. For some people who are more mildly affected, you can have some re-exposure to your danger food. But is it worth it? If you’ve done the work in this book you’ll have built such a powerful prefrontal cortex that most likely it will be a moot point.

Chocolate photo copyright Madlen, Shutterstock





You Could Be Having A Heart Attack

August 22, 2012 at 9:48 am , by

On Monday Rosie O’Donnell reported on her blog that she had a heart attack. She knew she was having symptoms that could be a heart attack. She Googled it. She even took an aspirin. But she didn’t call 911. That happens way too often, says cardiologist Holly Andersen, M.D., a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board. I called Dr. Andersen as soon as I heard. She’s director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital and has been a key source in several LHJ stories on women and heart disease, so I knew she’d have a lot to say about this.

JB: Rosie O’Donnell is 50 years old. She looks like the average American woman. She probably thought it couldn’t happen to her and was in denial, right?

HA: Right, and that’s why we need to raise awareness. She thought she was having a heart attack and took an aspirin. That is denial and making excuses: “It can’t be me. I don’t have time for this right now.” And that’s why we have to get the message out that it can be you.

JB: But she seems to be okay.

HA: She’s very lucky to be alive. If she had a 99 percent blockage in her left anterior descending artery, the so-called widowmaker, it could have closed off and she could have had sudden death. Younger women who have a heart attack are more likely to die from it.

JB: Why do more women die from heart attacks?

HA: Right now a young woman who has a heart attack in this country will wait longer before going to the emergency room, will be less likely to have classic symptoms of a heart attack, will be less likely to have a diagnostic electrocardiogram and consequently will be less likely to be diagnosed correctly. But even if she is diagnosed correctly, she will be less likely to get all the life-saving treatments she needs. And even if the decision is made to give them to her, they will be given, on average, 13 minutes later than they’re given to a man. Those of us who treat heart attacks have a saying: Time is muscle. But even when you control for all of those variables, a woman will still be more likely to die from a heart attack than a man, and the youngest women have the greatest death discrepancy rates compared with men. We don’t know why.

JB: Are women’s heart-attack symptoms really that different from men’s?

HA: Instead of feeling like an elephant is sitting on her chest, a woman may feel pain in her back, shoulders, neck or jaw. She may feel dizzy and sweaty, have extreme fatigue or shortness of breath. However, pretty much everybody recognizes that there is something wrong. It’s not okay to just go to your doctor. If you think you’re having those symptoms, call 911 and get to the emergency room.

JB: So don’t be embarrassed or worried that the doctors might think you’re overreacting?

HA: Oh God, no. We’d much rather be taking care of indigestion in the ER than missing heart attacks. I have this patient who’s a life coach. She went into atrial fibrillation, and her heart was racing so much she felt like she was going to die. So what did she do? She went into her bedroom, put on nice clothes, put on makeup, packed everything, then told her friend and then called 911. Men don’t do that. It’s insane!

Heart disease is the biggest killer of women, and we’re losing the battle. We need to get women to understand that they’re at risk and get them to help us fight the battle. So let’s raise awareness, talk to each other, try to practice risk reduction. But if you think something’s wrong, absolutely call 911. Rosie was really lucky—but you might not be.

Click here for more heart health resources.

Photograph copyright lenetstan, Shutterstock