How Social Media Creates Loneliness

I haven’t updated in a while, but I found this, ironically, via Facebook today. It goes through how social media can help us feel connected yet make us vulnerable to feeling alone.

Advertisements

The Discouraging Workout Bloat

In July, I finally bit the bullet and signed up at my local gym! After 2 months of going regularly, the novelty of  a new gym membership has worn off a bit and my job has become more demanding as I become more acquainted with the product process. It seems that I have leveled off to going to the gym on average 4 times a week. I usually try to do Cardio Kickboxing sessions 2x/week, Body Combat classes 2x/week, and a Body Step class every other Sunday.

With all this new found activity, plus the sometimes physical nature of my job, you would think that pounds would be flying off me! While I feel as though I have lost some weight and feel SO much stronger and fit, I’m a little upset that my most self-conscious part of my body has GROWN. That’s right, this apple-shaped lady is complaining about THE TUMMY.

fatmouse

Figure. The infamous leptin-free mouse from like every Biology textbook. I’m not talking about hormone regulation of hunger at all in this blog entry, but this fat mouse is how I feel like some days.

Oddly enough, my waist felt the most slim when I didn’t workout at all! It is really upsetting to work so hard to try to be fit and healthy and not see the results you want. While I knew I wasn’t going to be lean after just a few months of going to the gym, I was hoping at the very least that my tummy would proportionally decrease along side the other fatty bits.

So, I went digging around online to see if this was a common thing. I found this great article from Live Strong: http://www.livestrong.com/article/439058-feeling-bloated-after-a-workout/

There are two reasons that stood out to me:

1) Water Retention

Live Strong points out:

“The amount of sodium in your body has to be in the right proportion to the amount of blood plasma. “

When you start a new exercise routine suddenly (like I did), it can send quite a shock to the system. It can be hard to keep track of how much fluids you are losing from sweat versus the right amount of intake you need to replenish.

Starving yourself of water (otherwise known as dehydration) may confuse your body into thinking you need to conserve the fluids remaining, decreasing the amount of sweat you produce. Alternatively, overhydrating yourself may cause a saturation of water within the body. Either way, the body is retaining fluid due to an imbalance of water intake and outtake and solutes concentrations.

water-JungleBook

Figure. For being an organism made almost completely of water, you would think it would be easier to keep properly hydrated.

2) Diet

I think this is the main culprit in my scenario. Increasing activity leads to increased appetite. Why? Because you are burning more calories, which calls for more energy, which can be fueled by delicious food! As I mentioned earlier, I felt way slimmer before I started going to the gym. The reason why is most likely because I ate less. I really didn’t eat as much food before as I do now because my body wasn’t hungry as often since it wasn’t doing much.

Now it’s the complete opposite! I need to eat at certain times and constantly snack to keep my tummy quiet.

hungerclock

Figure. Err’y day I’m shufflin’ stuffin’ mah face.

I think that I have been overeating despite my exercise efforts. I have started keeping a food log again using the free mobile app My Fitness Pal for the Android. It’s a really great, visual way to see what my eating habits are. It also keeps me conscious of the time of day and frequency of my eating (I log in my food intake real time!) and raises my awareness the calorie content and portion sizes of what I am eating. Plus, I love that I can use the bar scanner on my phone to get the calorie info fast!

SC20130830-213747

Figure. A screenshot of my very own My Fitness Pal entry! As you can see, I’m not really aggressively looking to lose weight fast. I’m more concerned about not gaining.

I used http://www.my-calorie-counter.com/calorie_calculator.asp to loosely estimate my Basal Metabolic Rate  to maintain my current weight (2147 calories per day). However, I’m trying to loose a pound per week. It takes 3500 calories to burn one pound. 3500 calories/7 days in a week = I need to consume 700 calories less than my daily BMR to lose 1 pound per week (2147-700=1447). I know that my goal according to the screenshot is 1350 calories, and the calculation yields about 1447 calories, but again these are just guidelines.

And finally, for some RE-MOTIVATION to go and work out despite some minor hiccups along the way, please read this hysterical Oatmeal comic on running. Not only is it funny, but it’s also really inspiring.

For the all 6 of the comic parts, go here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/running

running_2theblerch1_Oatmeal

Figure. A funny Oatmeal comic! I guess everyone has their own personal demon to conquer when exercising. The important thing is to know how to try to overcome it!

Best of luck with all your healthy endeavors!

The Science of Brain Freeze

With summer being whisked away so quickly, and school starting soon for colleges, this seemed to be an appropriate post. I don’t know about all of you, but I absolutely love frozen sweets. Ice cream, frozen yogurt, popsicles, slurpees, you name it!

However, if one consumes their delicious frozen delights at rapid speeds, one will experience the phenomenon known as “brain freeze.”

Brain-Freeze-Ice-Tray_3509-l

Figure. I love puns. Image source: http://www.neatoshop.com/product/Brain-Freeze-Ice-Tray

Also known as Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, brain freeze can be characterized by sharp pains at the temples or front side of your head. A common remedy is to place your tongue against  your palate the top of your mouth.

So why precisely would this be a solution?

“The scientists believe the increased blood flow could be part of a temperature-regulation mechanism. When it detects intense cold, the body pumps more blood to the brain to keep it functioning in a warm environment. But that activity may also be raising pressure inside the skull, producing the headaches we call brain freeze. Recovery happens when the artery returns to its normal size.”

— Direct quote about a Harvard medical study from: http://www.thekitchn.com/the-science-of-brain-freeze-the-atlantic-171476

So it seems that your tongue can act as a heat source so that the neurons in your palate that sense temperature and cause this increase in blood can flow stop adding pressure to your skull.

As pointed out by this blog, there could be a possible correlation of this temperature sensing mechanism between what causes migraines and triggers brain freeze: http://thebrainbank.scienceblog.com/2012/09/23/the-science-of-brain-freeze/.

Be sure to check out those blog links and hope you have an ice cream filled day!

gelatos

Figure. Holy mother of YES. Capogiro’s delicious gelato selection. Image source: http://www.uwishunu.com/tag/capogiro/page/2/

How Different Types of Happiness Affect Human Health

Sorry for the drop in posts this week. I had a few night shifts, so I have been trying to rest the past couple of days.

I wanted to share this interesting article I read about how human cells respond to types of happiness. While happiness in general is associated with better health, Science Daily explains the difference between hedonic and eudaimonic happiness.

Terms sound familiar? Probably because you have heard of them in your Philosophy 101 class. Hedonic happiness is defined as a simple happiness derived from a pleasurable experience. Eudaimonic happiness is a “deeper”  type of happiness that is driven by a noble cause, or as my Ethics prof taught me, a sense of duty.

happygrasscells

Figure. This picture has really nothing to do with the article, but they look like smiling, happy cells! It is actually grass cells seen under a microscope. Image source was provided by my friend, Christine: http://haha.nu/arts/photography/grass-cells-under-microscope/

Researchers have found  that people with eudaimonic well-being had a positive affect on their gene expression, showing decreased levels of CTRA in immune cells, whose expression is associated with stress. In contrast, hedonic happiness showed higher levels of CTRA expression, possibly because this happiness  is associated with consumption of “empty calories.” I’m not entirely sure what they mean by “empty calories” but I would assume that  hedonic happiness can be derived from drinking alcohol or eating food in larger quantities or lower quality (IE- fatty foods and sweets, yum!). These things may trigger the reward circuit in the brain, but also eventually lead to a negative impact in health if done excessively.

These findings may indicate  how important it is for humans, on both a mental and physiological level, to have a sense of purpose in their life. In discussions I have had in literature and philosophy classes, we have always talked about how this drive for greater meaning in life is what makes us humans so uniquely human, setting us a part from other species. It’s really cool to see how this can been reflected both on a biological level and not just a  “spiritual” one.

Got to love connections made between humanities and science. Deep stuff, man.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130729161952.htm

BzzReview: Dr. Scholl’s for Her

BzzAgent was kind enough to send me yet another Dr. Scholl’s product to try! For my first review on Dr. Scholl’s Massaging Gel Insoles, go here!

Dr.SchollsForHer

Figure 1. Campaign image from Bzzagent for Dr. Scholl’s for Her.

Introduction:

It would seem that Dr. Scholl’s is trying to cater to their female population with their new “For Her” line. The product I got to try is the For Her insoles designed for High Heels. To be honest, I wasn’t so sure how great of a judge I would be of these products because I need to wear these clunky safety shoes/sneakers everyday at work with a composite toe built in. Because I work in a manufacturing pharma site, there is danger a foot at every corner (Haha! Did you see what I did there?)! When I’m not at work, I have been donning up sneakers because I have been trying to be good about going to the gym again.

However, on the flip side, since I am not a big high heel wearer, I can give an honest opinion if they are effective or not since I am not “used to” wearing heels. Also, I have a relatively high threshold for feet pain because I’m constantly on my feet at work and go to the gym frequently (well at least recently).

2013-06-13 18.47.43

Figure 2. My Buzzagent package for the Dr. Scholls For Her High Heel insoles campaign.

Coincidentally, I get a company discount for Dr. Scholl’s products, but thanks to Bzzagent, I got to try it out for free! Along with my Bzz package, I got a bunch of $4 off coupons to share with family and friends that I talked to about this product. Just fyi, at full price I found these insoles to be about $8 at Walmart.

Experimental  Set-up:

Since I didn’t want a pair of heels I have already “broken into” and made comfy over time, I figured it was a good time to break out these new wedges I got on sale from Old Navy. For $13, I was pretty much sold. I’ve been looking for a strappy sandal wedge for a while, and the fact it’s caramel colored is a plus.

2013-07-06 16.56.52

Figure 3. My cute new Old Navy heels that will play a part in our insole experiment!

To do a fair judgement,  I actually work these shoes for 1 day (about 6 hours) while shopping last  Saturday WITHOUT the insoles.  Today I wore them for about the same amount of time, but with the insoles put in.

2013-07-06 13.36.49

Figure 4. Because I’m feeling extra snarky today, here is a picture of me before I ran outside today with my insoles as proof that I can wear heels without falling. I was channeling my inner Lord Elron (Lord of the Rings) with my braided bangs. Like my dresser in the background? That’s another blog entry waiting to happen.

Analysis & Results:

Appearance

If you are concerned that these insoles are going to look bad and everyone knows you are wearing them, then prepared to be pleasantly surprised! You can actually barely tell they are inserted. Once the adhesive part is exposed and flatten down into the shoe, the insole is pretty transparent minus the section by the ball of your foot (which no one else should be able to see no matter what heel you wear). Look at this shot of the inside of my shoes.

2013-07-06 17.00.10

Figure 4. Barely seen insoles in action!

Design

Just in case you are wondering the actual design of the insoles, here are some details:

  • Pretty narrow and long, but does not need to be cut down depending on shoe size.
  • Spongey/springy padding where the ball of the foot should be
  • Increase gel padding by the arch of the foot

Performance

Overall, I think that my foot did feel less stressed with the insoles in. I still experienced discomfort towards my toes, but I think that was caused by the crazy weaving by the toes my shoes had going on. I especially appreciated the extra gel padding by the arches of my feet. I think that the springy padding by the ball of my feet did help a little bit. The springy padding did not add extra bulkiness and did not make the shoe fit tighter (a common problem with other insoles). I think the springy part is a very important part of the insoles because most of the pressure caused by the height of the heels will end up at the ball of the foot. However, I was a little confused where to start the placement of my insole within my shoe. I sort of estimated around where my toes connect with the rest of my foot, but I’m not sure if that was the most optimal spot.

Conclusion:

Definitely at least try it! Much better than other insoles that I have tried to jam into formal shoes. These For Her Heels insoles don’t show at all and most importantly do not mess up the fit of the heel by just stacking a bunch of padding in.

Science News Trend: Circadian Rhythms

Work as been pretty chill lately, and since I can monitor our equipment from my work laptop, I have been eating lunch at my desk and reading some ScienceDaily.com articles to pass the time! Many articles that I have caught my eye recently have had to do with circadian rhythms, or the “biological clock” that our bodies instinctively follow. Since my new job has me working over night shifts depending on the schedule of our process, it perked my interest how going against one’s natural internal clock could be positive or negative for the body.

Unfortunately, one study has shown that those work nights are actually more likely to have issues with health as they age, including the development of metabolic diseases like diabetes. The SIRT1 protein was previously shown to protect the body from such diseases associated with aging,however new research has indicated that it also controls circadian function. Some possible applications are upregulating the amount of SIRT1 expression in the brain to trick the biological clock to slow down. The potential effects are the treatment or prevention of many types of diseases from developing!

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130620132320.htm

And don’t think circadian function only resides in the human brain! Another interesting circadian rhythm study had to do with veggies and fruits. The light and dark cycles that these vegetables and fruits experience actually help them detect when to increase the amount of insect deterring chemicals in their bodies to prevent being feasted on at around sunset when critters come out hungry. An interesting side effect of these chemicals is that they are found to be great cancer fighting agents in the human body. What is even more amazing is that these plants are able to maintain their circadian rhythms even after being chopped up.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130620132324.htm

So as you can see, if you are a night owl like me, you may be in a bit of trouble. While nothing is more relaxing to me than staying up a bit late to surf the net or watch t.v., it may be a good idea to have a good sleeping schedule from an overall health point of view.

biological-clock

Image source: http://www.toptenz.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/biological-clock.jpg

What causes one’s stomach to grumble?

So I’ve started doing a 12 hour shift at work for the past two days, so I was kind lazy this morning when I had to go to an 8 hour training  today. I basically ran out of the house with no breakfast and nothing but coffee in my stomach. Unfortunately for me, my stomach decided to be super obnoxious about it (maybe because I’ve been good about not skipping meals?) and growled SOOOO loud during the first 2-3 hours of the class. To make the situation worse, it was a tiny class with only a few people an the instructor, so it was pretty apparent where the awful noises were coming from.

poohrubmly

Figure. Rumbly in your tumbly, Pooh? I know that feel, bro.

One hour before noon, it finally stopped embarrassing me long enough to make it to the lunch break, where I consumed a buffalo chicken wrap heartily.

So what makes a stomach suddenly grumble or not grumble? Obviously, it is known to be a sign of hunger, but what is the the physiological reasoning?

According to the Mayo Clinic, hunger triggers the stomach’s nervous system to throw a shout out to the hypothalamus in the brain, which feedbacks a signal to back to the stomach and intestine muscles to contract and release digestive fluids (like the ever acidic pH of 2 stomach acid) in preparation for incoming food! This response by the stomach and intestines causes those unsavory noises to emerge from my your tummy.

So next time you have an ever awkward situation like me, beg your brain and NOT just your stomach for the noises to cease.

Source:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stomach-noise/nu00189