Saturday, December 11, 2010

Book Review: The Hidden Dangers of Soy by Dianne Gregg

Ever since my husband, who is a “health nut”, told me that soy is not good for you I’ve been avoiding it. I took my husband’s word for it, without studying it myself, knowing that he had done his research on this matter. I am glad we haven’t been eating soy in our household all these years, because recently, in a book called The Hidden Dangers of Soy by Dianne Gregg I discovered how many people have developed health problems eating soy. After having gone through a health crisis due to soy consumption, Dianne Gregg had done her research and wrote a book to help others who are suffering because of consuming soy. In her book she tells her story and stories of other people who had consumed soy and goes into detail about nutritional “value” of soy and health claims. For somebody who had made a choice not to consume soy she gives tips on how to avoid soy when purchasing food and gives soy-free recipes, and also provides allergy info and tips.
Dianne shares how she developed an allergy to soy and nearly died after going into anaphylactic shock. That experience prompted her to take soy completely off her diet. Through her research she discovered that so many people have developed serious health problems after consuming soy. It is hard not to add soy to your diet when it so widely promoted as the “health food”. Another woman in her book tells her story: “All the literature in all the health and fitness magazines said that soy protected you against everything from heart disease to breast cancer”.  In addition to all the claims regarding women’s health, to vegetarians soy is promoted as a healthy alternative to meat, to mothers with babies allergic to milk it is promoted as a healthy alternative to milk (in Britain and France they advise parents to avoid exposing children up to three years of age to soy). The author points out what Chinese discovered long time ago -- “that there were bad side effects from what we know today to be anti-nutrients or soy toxins” (in spite of the common belief Chinese don’t eat as much soy as we assume they do).The modern way of processing soy for consumption does not remove these toxins and even adds new ones. Dianne publishes testimonials of adults ending up being diagnosed with hypothyroidism, tumors, heart palpitations, hair loss and numerous other problems; babies are diagnosed with hypospadias, abnormal amounts of estrogen and growth problems. As these babies grow up they start having different health issues. It is a major blow for the parents to realize that the culprit of their child’s problems is soy.
With the consumption of soy rising, the percentage increases in allergies, asthma, ADHD and autism are astonishing. It is hard not to see a correlation. The author also mentions the countries that will soon require warning labels on all soy foods. With her book, Dianne Gregg brings awareness about the dangers of consuming soy and helps people make an educated choice on whether not to consume soy and soy products. After reading this book I know for sure that my husband and I have made the right choice not to eat soy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Top 10 Things I Like to Do Outdoors in the Summer

Summer was great! I had a lot of fun outdoors with my family and friends. I put together a list of my favorite outdoor activities to do in the summer to stay busy and entertained all summer long:
1.       Swimming
Swimming can be fun at the pool or at the beach.  Another option is to go to a water park in your area.  It is a great exercise for the whole body and what a wonderful way to cool off in a hot summer day!
2.       Snorkeling
Snorkeling makes swimming so much more exciting because you get to see what is going on under water, turning it into a real adventure.  You get to watch brightly colored schools of fish passing by, waving plants, coral and other inhabitants of the sea world. Snorkeling is cool and all it requires is a mask, snorkel and fins.
3.       Waterskiing
The sport of water skiing, riding on the skis along the water’s surface while being towed by a motorboat is a challenging and fun activity. You have to be physically fit to do this one and it requires control and balance in the water. It is exhilarating being out in the fresh air, gliding on the water, feeling the wind and splashes. For this activity you would need two people on the boat (driver and observer), skis, ski rope and ski belt.
4.       Sunbathing
What can be better than just lying on the warm sand and basking in sunshine, completely relaxed and forgetting about a busy life for a while. I try to sunbath between 8 and 11 in the morning and between 4 and 7 o’clock in the evening to avoid the searing sun. When you start getting suntanned it is better to limit sunbathing to 15 min and then gradually increase the time as you get tanner.  Try to avoid sunburn.
5.       Fishing
Fishing is a good way to bond with nature (and get a dinner). You can fish from a bank of a river or from a boat in the sea, whichever way you prefer.  Fishing rod and reel and the right lure are the main things you need.  You throw out a line and then sit back and relax.  Some fish are edible and some are sport fish. Big sport fish put up a lot of fight and it is exciting when you finally bring fish into the boat.  
6.       Mushroom hunting
It is so exciting to find mushrooms in the forest. You collect them by cutting them and putting them in a basket. It is important, however, to follow the safety guidelines, because poisonous mushrooms are commonly confused for edible ones. It is better to have an expert on mushrooms on your mushroom hunting team to help you sort out good mushrooms from bad ones. In my family it is my dad’s responsibility to do the sorting. You want to be careful to avoid mushroom poisoning which could lend you in the hospital after eating mushrooms.
7.       Gardening
You can surround yourself with colorful flowers that thrive in high temperatures and grow vegetables and culinary herbs in summer. Maintaining a healthy garden requires constant upkeep, too much water can be as bad for plants as too little water. Daily monitoring will be necessary for success. As the plants bring vegetables and flowers the result is very rewarding and gardening becomes a pleasure.
8.       Biking
Besides riding a bike for reasons like saving the money and reducing gas emissions, biking is just fun. You can go at a comfortable speed for you. It feels good to have the wind in your face. The ability to go anywhere you want gives you a sense of freedom. It clears your mind and energizes you. You see things from a different perspective (than when, for instance you are walking or driving a car) and you discover things you’ve never noticed before.
9.     9.   Playing badminton
I just love this game.  It is great physical exercise. Smashing the shuttlecock with a racquet and watching it go up in the air into your partner’s court is lots of fun. Sending a shuttlecock back and forth, running to this side or that side while trying to hit it before the shuttlecock hits the ground, can be quite challenging; especially if the wind is blowing! Better to do it on a wind-free day.
10.    Playing volleyball
What can be better than gathering a group of people to play volleyball? You learn to work as a team and it is a great exercise. All you need is a net and a beach ball. It is better to have plenty of drinking water to stay hydrated. Another alternative is to play volleyball in a swimming pool. You stay cool while playing the game.
Keep busy in the summer with these fun summer activities. These are not only a great way to celebrate the summer season, but also a great way to help beat summertime boredom!
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Using Imagination: A Tip on Memorizing Words in Foreign Language

Have you struggled when trying to memorize words in a language you were trying to learn? It is frustrating. Sometimes it feels like no matter how many times you repeat the word, and translation for that word, you still can’t easily recall the word.  But there is a way. This particular way uses our brains’ tendency to remember ordinary things in an odd or creative way, a way that stands out in our minds. This way of learning a foreign language is by word “association”. What do I mean? Recently I was reading a chapter on food in my Spanish textbook and I was trying to memorize food stuffs. The words “legumbres”, “frutas” and “tomates” were easy to remember because they sound almost the same as the words in English. “Legumbres” are almost like “legumes”,  “frutas” sounds  like “fruits” and “tomates “ are just like “tomatoes” -- plain and simple. But what about words like “mantequilla”, which means butter, “los guisantes”, which means peas and “al horno”, which means baked? How in the world do you remember these? The key is using imagination to come up with an odd picture involving the word you are trying to memorize.
Take, for example, the word “mantequilla”. What English word(s) does it sound like? To me, it sounds like two words, “man” and “tequila”. Now I need to come with an odd picture involving words “butter”, “man” and “tequila”. I can picture a man made out of butter drinking tequila. Next time I try to recall word “butter” this picture will most likely come up in my mind. Man plus tequila equals butter. Now I can quickly recall the Spanish word for butter.
Now I will take the next Spanish word “los guisantes”. This word sounds like “geese” and “ants” to me, but it means “peas” in Spanish.  I need to come up with an odd picture involving geese and ants and peas. Why not to put geese and ants together, roaming around eating peas. Not quite odd enough? Make the ants the same size as the geese who eat from the same buckets filled with peas.
The third word I am trying to learn is “al horno”, which means “baked”. With a little bit of a stretch “al horno” sounds, to me, like “horn in the oven”. In real life it would be odd to see a horn in the oven, baking away; this is an odd picture that stands out in my mind. So the next time I try to recall the word, “baked”, the picture of a horn in the oven -- “horno”-- will come up.
You get the idea. Maybe you would like to try this method and see if learning new words in a foreign language is easier. This method is one way you might use your imagination to increase your new vocabulary in a foreign language.

The Fastest Way to Learn Numbers in a Foreign Language

For those who have been doing physical exercises on a regular basis and studying a foreign language there is a way to memorize numbers fairly quickly.
All you have to do is, instead of counting your repetitions in English, start counting them in the foreign language you are trying to learn. I, for example, have been studying Spanish for the past three months, and when I got to the chapter about numbers in my textbook I tried to memorize them. I thought I did. However a little later when I tried to recall certain numbers I couldn’t. When somebody told me a sentence with a number in Spanish I couldn’t instantly figure out what that number was. One day, when I did my usual workout, it hit me that instead of counting pushups in English I could count in Spanish. I would get a lot of repetitions that way too! So instead of inwardly counting “one, two, three, … , fourteen, fifteen” , for example, while lifting weights,  I count “uno, dos, tres, …, catorce, quince”.  Or when I am doing yoga, I count till hundred while doing each pose. And if I want to make it more challenging I can count to over a hundred. Furthermore, in my reading, if I encounter numbers in millions it is easy for me to read these numbers because they are constructed by adding “mil” for thousands and “millones” for a hundred thousand.
When I started this practice, I would sometimes forget about counting in Spanish and "slip" into counting in English. I had to catch myself and revert to counting in Spanish. Now I automatically count in Spanish when doing my exercises. What I notice now is that when I exchange a few words with somebody in Spanish and I have to come up with a number in Spanish, I can recall the Spanish number instantly. Try it and see if it will make a difference in your effort to memorize numbers in a foreign language.

Social Support is Essential for First-Time Mothers

Most first-time mothers say that isolation is one of the big challenges of caring for a newborn. It is easy to stay home and become isolated as it can feel quite challenging to get out with a baby. (Some mothers feel embarrassed when a baby is crying in public and can’t wait to go back home). Feeding, changing, bathing and settling the baby are all new tasks a first-time mother needs to learn to perform. Not having somebody around at home a mother may not be sure if she is doing things the right way when caring for the baby. Also a new mother needs to find time to take care of her own needs. Problems may arise if a mother is isolated and does not get social support. For example, a mother may develop a postpartum depression and it may go unnoticed, posing a risk to herself and her baby.  Or a baby may not reach important developmental milestones for some reason; the baby’s condition may get worse as time passes without anybody around to point it out and recommend appropriate professional intervention. Family, friends and professionals, like doctors and nurses, midwives, lactation specialists, trained coaches and support groups should be there for the mother from the day the baby is born and especially throughout the baby’s first year (and even earlier, during pregnancy).
Family and friends can give emotional and hands-on support to the first-time mother. Immediate family and some friends can be there for the mother 24/7, especially during the first several weeks after delivery of the baby. A woman’s mother or sister can help her feed and change a baby, especially if a mother decides to go to work full or part-time shortly after delivery.  A husband/partner can go shopping for groceries and diapers. A friend can take the baby for a stroll in the neighborhood if the mother needs a break to do something. Each family tries to figure out what works for their baby and themselves. Family and friends can remind the mother to make appointments with a pediatrician for regular checkups.
Specialists, like pediatricians and nurses, midwives, lactation specialists and trained coaches provide mostly informational support. They assess the baby’s health and recommend a treatment if the baby needs it. Some states, like New Mexico have programs like the First Born program where a trained coach pays home visits. One First Born coach has said, “The voluntary program offers all first-time families of newborns (including adopting parents) the opportunity for free home visits by a trained coach who provides them with information, support and encouragement as they deal with the joys and challenges of parenthood.” This is a great program for first-time mothers who live far from their families and have no friends around.
It is essential for the mother to find support groups where women support each other to clarify challenging areas in parenting and in life in general. It is quite an accomplishment to get to the first meeting and is not to be underestimated. The group is a safe place to practice feeding  and the handling of crying in public. Mothers in groups like La Leche League share helpful tips and information between each other, answer question and clarify doubts. It is important for the mother to spend some time outside the home in a group with other mothers who can understand and support her.

Without the social support it would be very difficult for the mother to take care of her baby and herself. Being isolated, she would struggle and have problems. Family, friends, professionals and support groups form a social support circle that helps a first-time mother so she can enjoy and delight in her new baby.

Knitting and Crocheting – a Time to Relax and Reflect

When I was a teenager I learned to knit. After I learned to knit I became attached to this activity. Going to school and taking various tests and exams was stressful. After doing homework for a while I would stop and take my knitting needles and yarn and start knitting a project --a sweater, for example. During these early years I didn’t question myself as to why I was drawn so much to knitting. Now, as a grown up, I understand the reasons. There is something soothing and relaxing about knitting. Making stitch after stitch, row after row, a piece of clothing grows right in front of your eyes.  You are relaxing and creating something at the same time. You go at your own pace and there is no rush.
Recently with the help of the book I learned how to crochet. Crocheting is different from knitting, but has the same benefits.  It is so nice to come back home from work, from the fast-paced world and after dinner, sit down in a comfortable chair to crochet or knit. They say it is good to start unwinding a couple of hours before going to sleep, and this is my way of unwinding. The speed of my thinking gradually slows down as I go into my mind over what happened throughout the day, making plans for the next day. I visualize achieving my goals while preparing for a wonderful day tomorrow. Tiredness from the day catches up with me after about an hour of crocheting or knitting. Then I am ready to go to bed.
I can say that crocheting and knitting is a form of quiet meditation as well as a calming and creative activity. Now, if you ask me which I like better -- knitting or crocheting -- I must say, both!

Book Review: Why Mars and Venus Collide by John Gray, Ph.D.

Recently I’ve read the book, Why Mars and Venus Collide, Improving Relationships by Understanding How Men and Women Cope Differently with Stress by John Gray, Ph.D. I absolutely loved the book! I must say, this is a much needed book for couples because it educates and gives insights and specific tips and strategies on dealing with stress in men and women. 
The book explains how our brains are structured and function differently thus effecting our behavior. In a chapter called Hardwired to Be Different the author points out that “Men and women possess two different types of brains, designed equally for intelligent behavior”.  The main difference is that men have more gray matter than women do and women have more white matter than men do. This fact alone explains why we excel at different tasks and communicate differently.  The chapter also points out why men are focused on one task at a time and women are multitasking, as well as why men are risk takers and women are conservative and prioritize security. Because of the fundamental difference in brain structure and function women should not expect men to behave like women and vice versa.  We should respect these differences and work with each other keeping these differences in mind.
Another part of the book points out the difference in hormones and how it effects our behavior. Special emphasis is made on stress hormones and their effect on a man’s and a woman’s wellbeing.  Women generally need to focus on keeping their oxytocin levels up and men need to focus on keeping their testosterone levels up. The author gives a list of 100 ways a woman can raise her oxytocin levels and 100 ways a man can help a woman raise her oxytocin levels. I found the 90/10 solution for a woman to keep her feel-good hormone up especially revealing; this is something I always will keep in my mind. There are also tips on how a woman can help her man raise his testosterone levels.

Three chapters of the book the author dedicated to explaining why the fights start, what we can do to prevent them, how to stop a fight and how to make up after a fight. These chapters are loaded with helpful tips and suggestions. From now on I will keep in mind that "mixing feelings and problem solving simply doesn't work". The author suggests that we have two types of conversations -- one to lessen emotional tension, called Venus Talk, and the other to solve the problem.

I had several "Aha" moments while reading the book. This is the book I will be referring to to get answers and reminders on how to deal with stress and improve a relationship with my partner. Now I have a better understanding of our differences and what my partner and I need to effectively cope with stress. I know that applying the tips and strategies described in the book will help couples bring the best out of their partners.