Thursday, November 30, 2006

Coupons and more coupons

I buy a lot of stuff online. I don't always look for coupons when I check out though, and I really should because there are so many available! One such site that offers online coupons is at Their alphabetical list is pretty extensive. For example, there are plenty of Office Depot coupons you could use in conjunction with the special deals they often offer. 10% off any order? I could use that! $10 off a $50 purchase at PETsMART? I could use that too. Oh and how I love that store. They have everything, I'm always there browsing for stuff. I was amazed at how many offers and discounts were listed here.

Anyway, buying healthy food is always more expensive than the regular stuff, so if I can save money elsewhere to compensate, then I'm a happy camper.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Exercises for drifting kneecaps

Just in case some of you were wondering what exercises I was doing to make my kneecaps drift back to where they're supposed to be, I'll share. I'm all about sharing.

The problem I had was my inner thigh muscle, the vastus medialis, was weaker than my outer thigh muscle, the vastus lateralis. This was pulling my kneecap out of alignment, so I needed to strengthen the weaker muscle to pull the kneecap back. I found this photo of a knee labled with its appropriate structures for reference.

The one I practice while standing alone in the elevator is easy, they're like half-squats. Stand with your feet at shoulder width. Point your toes out at a 45-degree angle. Now bend your knees and lower yourself about 6-12 inches, whatever feels comfortable for you. Now push yourself back up. Repeat this several times and you should feel the medialis muscle being worked.

The other exercise I do while watching TV is done sitting down. They're like leg lifts. Lift one leg up so that it is straight. Point your toes out at a 45 degree angle again. Now bend and straighten the leg with your foot at this angle. You can use weights to work them harder if you wish. Again you can feel that inner thigh muscle being worked after a while. Do the same thing with the other leg. You'll want to do the same number of reps so both legs will be even.

Exercises take time before you can start seeing the effects, but they will work. Just have patience and perseverence.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Self defense as exercise

I once took a karate class as a child, thinking it would be fun because I loooooved kung fu movies on TV. Ugh, it was boring. I did not have the patience to learn all the beginner steps and all the proper movements. But for those who do, this is excellent exercise. Martial arts has traditionally been great for your health not only because of the physical activity but also because of the propery breathing techniques they have you do. You'd be surprised how much breathing properly can affect you.

Practicing at home is how you become good at it. It helps to have martial arts equipment available for you to practice on. I think it was more fun for me to pretend to be a martial arts expert at home than to actually attend the class. I'd kick, punch and jump around, pretend to throw ninja stars and fight with swords. I'm sure I got even more exercise pretending than I ever did in class. Fun times.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Pain is a messenger

Nobody likes pain. Well, there are a few twisted individuals who do, but for most of us if we smack our shins against a table, we're not gonna enjoy it. Understandably, most of us want to live pain-free lives. Pills to kill various kinds of pain is a huge business.

There are certain situations where you shouldn't try to immediately drown the pain. Pain is your body's way of telling you something is wrong. Awhile back I started having random moments of pain in my left knee. Some days were worse than others, but it never really went away. Someone suggested that using Icy Hot would help with the pain.

This is the wrong way to think when dealing with newly discovered pain. I shouldn't be worrying about what product I can use to make the pain go away, I should be worried about what was causing it in the first place. If you treat the source, the symptoms will go away. So I went to a doctor specializing in sports medicine because they see knee injuries all the time.

He took X-rays to confirm, but he was pretty much able to tell what was wrong just by looking. It seems my kneecaps had drifted slightly off to opposite sides because the outer thigh muscle was pulling harder than the other thigh muscle.They were no longer floating in the middle like it was supposed to. To correct this, he showed me leg exercises I could do to strengthen the weaker muscle and pull the kneecaps back into place. I did them whenever I was in an elevator by myself or at home watching TV. A few months later, the pain went away, permanently.

The moral of this story -- treat the cause, not the symptom. That pain is trying to tell you something, you should probably listen.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Supplement Reviews

It seems like they've got a supplement for everything these days. You want to lose weight, gain weight, be smarter, whatever it is, there's a claim somewhere that they can help you if you take their supplement. Who can you believe? Certainly not paid celebrities.

There's a review site that might be able to help. With so many supplements, some with esoteric names like Cissus RX or Xyience, it's hard to figure out what's right for you. I trust user reviews more than those written by anyone else because they're not in it for the money.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The effects of dieting and fasting

Curious about fasting and its effects, I did a little more online research. When I do such research, I avoid sites that are selling things. I always find testimonials to be dubious and subjective. I look for independent sites, and stories written by average people with the goal of sharing, not selling.

I found one such story here. It's a little long, but goes into great detail about the various diets this person tried and how each one made her feel. What I found particularly interesting was how some of them made her feel fantastic or joyous, but after getting off the diet the weight would all come back.

One of the alarming side-effects of fasting is malnutrition. She tells us about how her gums started to recede and her hair became brittle. It's a really interesting story that anyone interested in weight loss should read.

Mortgage stress is still damaging stress

Any of you who follow my personal blog know that I am in the process of selling my house. The stress of owning a house was never the problem, it was the stress of paying for it. As a first time home buyer, I was completely clueless about loans and financing and all that stuff. I relied heavily on letting the loan broker and realtor handle everything. I just cared about getting the house.

Well let me tell you, no matter how odious a task it may be, it pays to learn about this stuff before you get involved in it. I had no idea about all the fees and percentages and penalties... it was an ocean of numbers I didn't want to swim in. I should have at least learn to float in it.

What I should have done was learn enough about mortgages to at least know what I was agreeing to. You may like to think your broker has your best interest at heart, but that's just being naive. Mine was a family friend and I still found out later that there were some illegal fees charged to me. Don't be a sucker. Do your homework before making such a huge commitment.

PKU and dieting

Two posts ago we talked about phenylketonuria (PKU) and how those who have it cannot consume much protein. This means they need to avoid high-protein foods like meat, eggs, dairy, beans and peas. This restriction means that most of my advice about balancing your carbs goes out the window for those with PKU.

So what's the best way to diet if you have PKU and you need to drop a few pounds? Since you're limited to fruits, vegetables and grains, the trick is to make the right choices. I used to have a vegetarian friend who ate no meat, but ate lots of pre-packaged starchy frozen dinners. She was overweight because she made poor choices. The same advice goes to you as to any other dieter: stay away from fried foods and refined carbs as much as you can. Some whole grains contain more protein than others, so find out from your doctor which ones are best for your condition.

A reader pointed me to, a really ugly website with a lot of interesting information about weight loss. Her (the reader's) main question was what I thought about fasting. Since I have not studied nutrition or medicine, I can't say with any authority that fasting is good or bad. There are some cultures that incorporate fasting as part of their traditions. Some believe that it's a good way to purge your body. What do I think?

I think, in moderation, it might have its merits. However, fasting over a long period of time will cause your body's metabolism to slow down to compensate for the lack of fuel. If your goal is to burn more calories, you don't want your body to slow down. The site mentions losing weight quick with enemas and fasting... that alarmed me a little because enemas aren't natural. You don't see animals pumping water into their backsides, why should we?

The rest of the information on the site makes a lot of valid points, but since I've done no scientific research myself, I can't say whether they're accurate or not. (The alternating font colors certainly don't help!) I'd be interested in finding out what some of you thought about the information presented there.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Getting more readers to your blog

Like any blog owner, I often think about how I can get more readers. It's an ego thing, you know? If I have more readers, people must like reading what I write! (I know I like reading what I write, but maybe that's just me being full of myself.) I like to think that, if only people knew that my site existed, maybe they would become a regular visitor.

But how? Search engine marketing is one way. As involved as I am in online activities, I've never really looked that much into search engine optimization. It does require a lot of effort to become good at it, which is why it's so much easier to just hire a professional. Apogee is a big player in this field, and actively involved in SEMPO, an organization created to educate and foster awareness of search engine marketing and its role in marketing as a whole.

If you don't put yourself out there, no one will know you're there.

What is phenylalanine and phenylketonurics?

I received a request from a reader (wow I have readers!) to post about phenylalanine and phenylketonurics. Big words that I knew very little about. Well I'm all about learning new things, so let's get started.

Phenylalanine is a naturally occuring amino acid found in complete proteins and aspartame. When you consume meat or drink a diet soda containing aspartame, your body breaks it down into its individual components. The proteins are broken down into separate amino acids and aspartame is broken down into phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol.

For a regular person, phenylalanine is just another building block for the body to use. People with the genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) are unable to process phenylalanine because they lack a particular enzyme. Too much phenylalanine built up in the body can lead to mental retardation, muscle aches and even seizures. You can read more about this condition here - it's written in easy to understand, non-medical terms.

The reason a lot of diet or sugar-free products contain warnings about phenylalanine is because they are artificially sweetened with aspartame. Phenylalanine isn't harmful by itself. It is only those with PKU who need to watch out for it.

I'd like to go into more detail about how those with PKU have to deal with diets differently from the rest of the population. This will be a separate post later because super-long posts scare people away.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Home improvement as exercise

Working on home improvement projects around the house are a great way to exercise and get some stuff done at the same time. I've done a few woodworking projects like little footstools, and let me tell you, by the time I'm finished I'm sweatin' and tired! This is especially true if you're using hand tools like saws and hammers. The finished product is never truly perfect since, to be honest, I don't exactly know what I'm doing. I'm just sawing wood into what I think are the right sizes and them putting it together with what I think will make the sturdiest product.

However there are some projects that, unless you know what you are doing, you don't want to tackle by yourself, no matter how much exercise you'll get from it. If you try to install new flooring without actually knowing what you are doing, you could bring down the value of your house because of the uneven job you did. You could even make your home into a dangerous place if you play around with the electrical wiring by using guesswork.

Your health is important, but your safety is even more important. For the big jobs, it's best to find local contractor services to do it right.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Quick vegetables when you just don't feel like cooking

In the evenings I don't always have the time or inclination (let's just say that sometimes I'm too lazy) to prepare fresh vegetables for dinner. I've found that an easy way to have some ready pretty quickly is to keep a big bag of frozen veggies in the freezer.

True, you can't beat fresh vegetables in terms of nutrition and flavor. Some of that is lost or degraded when you freeze things. However it's worse when you get it out of a can, and not nearly as bad as going without vegetables at all.

You don't even need to know how to stir-fry (which is really simple BTW). You just need to have a little steamer. If you don't have one, invest in one. The smaller ones don't take up much room -- it basically consists of a pot to hold water, a second, flatter pot with holes in the bottom, and a lid. The lid fits both parts, so you can use the water-holding part as a regular sauce pot.

On many occasions I've opened the freezer, grabbed the bag of frozen veggies, tossed a bunch into the steamer, and 15 minutes later it's done. You can do other things while it's steaming because you don't have to be there while it cooks. It's awesome.

I've heard some rice cookers have optional steaming pans you can put in to use it as a steamer. It's worth looking into because it saves a lot of time if you don't feel like cooking.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I don't need to clip these coupons

The other day I was shopping for a specific brand of protein/nutrition bar (I'll write more about it later). They aren't very big yet and are only available in select stores. I decided to see if I could find them online and, wow, Amazon really does sell everything.

However what I didn't think to look for was an Amazon coupon code to my my purchase even cheaper. I'll occasionally look for coupon codes for certain sites, but I usually end up on sites full of annoying popup ads and other irrelevant crap. Now that I've found this site for coupon codes it should be a lot easier. All the deals are presented up front and crap-free. I'm a lot less inclined to click [X] here compared to other coupon sites.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's that time of the month, run!

PMS is something that most women are familiar with, and everyone likes to joke about. But when you're cramped up, bloated and snapping at people left and right, there's nothing funny about it. When your estrogen levels jump just before your menstrual cycle (guys, just nod and pretend like you understand) it's one of the causes of many of the unwanted side-effects associated with PMS.

Proper nutrition also plays a vital part in combating and eliminating PMS. One study found that women who took 1200 mg of calcium daily showed a 50% reduction in PMS symptoms after three months. B vitamins are another nutrient essential to fighting PMS. When there is a deficiency of B vitamins in the body, the liver's function is impaired and estrogen levels are elevated as a result.

I found this site that offers great information on foods you can eliminate to help alleviate PMS symptoms. I didn't know most of this stuff, so if you're a PMS sufferer, this is worth looking into.

Weddings and weirdos

I have a friend who once got enganged, sent out invitations and made reservations and everything, then cancelled the whole thing. Now she's doing it again... with the same guy! Can you believe that? She's weird. She better not be spending another fortune. Better to get cheap wedding favors than to spend a lot and regret it later. Shopping online for these things will probably yield much better prices than the old fashioned brick and mortar stores. And with places like The Knot Wedding Shop offering quick turnaround delivery, you don't have to worry about not getting it in time.

Regardless, she's going to go ahead and do whatever she wants to do. It's not like she listened to any of us the first time around. Why should the second be any different? Did I mention she was weird?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Disclosure Policy

This policy is valid from November 7, 2006

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. On occasion I accept paid insertions or other forms of compensation. Although I may get paid to post on certain topics, I will never post things I believe are untrue are believe to be harmful. I will never choose to post about offers that require me to only give positive reviews. To me that is deceitful and refuse to participate in programs with such requirements. You can count on that.

This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.

When faced with a smorgasbord of cookies...

I just got back from a sort of conference/meeting where all the employees sat on uncomfortable chairs while the president of the company talked for an hour. The only thing to keep me awake were the cookies. Oh the gourmet cookies.

While the best choice might have been to abstain, we have to enjoy a few things now and then, right? It's all about choices. In front of me were 6 different kinds of cookies and brownies. The wisest choice is probably the oatmeal raisin cookies. You've got good-for-your-cholesterol oatmeal, antioxidant-rich raisins and protein-powered nuts. Yes you've got sugar and butter too, but we're trying to choose the lesser of the evils here. If you hate oatmeal cookies, then the next best choice would be whatever has nuts in them. They are a well-rounded source of nutrients in an otherwise nutrient-deficient snack food.

Bottom line is, if you can't say no, at least try to choose the most nutritious option.

Seen your doctor recently?

Do you like your doctor? Or maybe you hate your doctor and are currently searching for a new one. Whichever is the case, your opinion is worth 5 free music downloads. Vimois a site where you can compare various health-related things, such as doctors, hospitals and health insurance.

In order for the doctor comparisons to be effective, they need people to share their opinions. Whether you want to recommend a doctor or warn people about a bad experience, Vimo is the place to do it, and you can get five free MP3s out of it too!

It's apalling

I'm apalled at the number of people in my office that walk the hallways in the early morning with a bag of chips in their hands. Even worse are the ones with chips in one hand and a soda in the other. What are these people thinking? Obviously not about their health.

It doesn't take much to improve your diet. If you love chips and soda too much to give it up, fine, don't. But for the love of all that is good don't eat that crap as a meal replacement! If you're one of these guilty people, shame on you. How much harder is it to dump a pouch of instant oatmeal into a bowl and microwave it with some water? Even one of those breakfast bars would be better.

You have to think of your body as you would any machine. If you don't put the right kind of fuel into it, it's going to break down. But unlike that beat up little Ford you drive, you can't buy a new one.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'm a lizard without humidity

Since I was little I've had severely dry skin. It's often itchy and sucks in lotion like the desert floor during the first rain of the season. It must be a genetic thing because my sister isn't this way. The dry air of Southern California doesn't help at all either, especially in winter. The cold, dry winter air also aggravates my slight asthma condition. It sucks.

When I visited Miami a a couple years ago, the heat was a bit oppressive, but the humidity felt really good. I wasn't a human lizard all the time and my asthma never kicked in. The moist air helped a lot. The only way to duplicate this at home without picking up and moving is to get a humidifier.

I don't know the first thing about humidifiers and the different kinds available. A complete guide to buying a house humidifier is a good place to start. Like air purifiers, there are many different humidifying technologies to choose from. This site does a nice job describing each, along with a description of desireable features. After figuring out which kinds are suitable for your situation, I would recommend reading a few user reviews to make sure certain models are reliable and effective.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I heard it through the grapevine

Some folks try giving out raisins instead of candy on Halloween. I applaud their efforts, though I'm afraid it's likely wasted on most kids. These little boogers angels want sugar. Little do they know, raisins actually consist of about 60% by weight of sugars -- about half fructose and half glucose.

But this does not automatically mean raisins are on the same level as candy. Raisins are actually high in antioxidants, with levels comparable to those of prunes and apricots. And just because they often stick to your teeth doesn't mean they'll rot them out like caramels will. Research indicates that the stickiness of a food is not an indicator of its effects on oral health. Raisins have been found to contain several chemical compounds that may assist in fighting oral bacteria. In a laboratory, extracts from raisins were found to slow the growth of Streptococcus mutans, the main bacteria behind tooth decay.

So parents, if you can, try to convince your little one that raisins are like candy. Only they won't make your teeth fall out. It's worth a try!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Crunch time

For those of you still making the effort to exercise at home (and I applaud those efforts!), sometimes a little extra equipment helps. I came upon this device called the Ab Lounge 2. I don't think I ever saw the first incarnation of it, but this one is making its rounds across the infomercial circuit. Since I don't watch infomercials, I can't say what I think of its demonsrations. However I can make a few observations about how it looks to me.

It looks like it would be more comfortable than doing your crunches and sit-ups on the floor, but I've sat in similar lounge chairs before and those tubes eventually dig into your legs. However since you're exercising and not lounging, this might not be an issue.

However I like that it folds up like a lounge chair for easy storage. Most exercise equipment is annoying in that it's always laying around in your way because it's too bulky or heavy to put away. The ab lounge is light and foldable, so you can stow it behind the couch when not in use. Let's just hope spend more time on it than your couch!