How to prevent overeating when you’re stuck at home
Jared Leto gained 67 pounds to play Mark Chapman in “Chapter 27.” He did it to embody his character and earn a hefty paycheck — and then lost the weight afterward. But if you’re working at home just a few feet from the fridge and/or stress eating to make yourself feel better about social distancing, you don’t have such an excuse. And you’re risking permanent weight gain, chronic health problems and increased risk for infection with every couple pounds you pack on.
If you add 10 pounds, inflammation increases and that, say researchers from Cornell University, can reduce the number of taste buds on the tongue, making you eat more to get flavor satisfaction. That increases inflammation, upping your risk for infection, depression, gastro problems and some cancers. Another study found that inflammation alters your gene expression (they’re frowning!), increasing your risk for Type 2 diabetes.
So how can you stop yourself from eating more than usual?
■ Establish a routine. Write out a schedule of when you eat breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner. Post it on the fridge and stick to it, no in-between-times nibbling.
■ Plan your meals, with two to four servings of veggies and at least one of fruit for lunch (your largest meal) and dinner. Whole grains, low-fat dairy or no-added-sugar nut milk and berries for breakfast, or skip it. Then get those foods in the house and cook on! This is especially helpful now that going to the grocery store or getting a delivery is something you don’t want to do too often.
Exercise can do more than ease depression — it can prevent it
Actress, writer, director and producer Lena Dunham found that exercise was the key to getting on top of her emotional problems: “I know it’s mad annoying when people tell you to exercise, and it took me about 16 medicated years to listen. I’m glad I did.” We’re glad she found out how helpful exercise can be in reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety. But researchers now say if she’d been active years ago she might actually have dodged the blues.
Research published in JAMA Psychiatry found that swapping out sedentary time for regular physical activity prevents depression. The researchers say that you can get the protection with 15 minutes a day of high-intensity exercise such as running, cycling at 12-14 mph, singles tennis, soccer or basketball; or with an hour of moderate-intensity exercise such as walking, playing doubles tennis or cycling at 10-12 mph; or a combination of both.
Exercise boosts endorphins and triggers release of a protein in the brain that prompts nerve cells to grow and make new connections, including in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that’s associated with memory and mood. Better brain function means better mood regulation.
The trick is to find exercise you enjoy so that you do it consistently. Try a bunch of things out if you’re not certain what you like. Some people thrive doing solo activities such as bike riding; others do well in a competitive setting like tennis or in a structured yoga or tae bo class. There’s something out there for you!
It’s never been more important to stop chronic diseases before they start
When Bobby Womack and Candi Staton sang “Stop Before We Start” in 1978, they were talking about avoiding a broken heart — but that’s just one of the health risks you want to stop before they start, especially now that COVID-19 is here.
As data on the virus emerge, it’s becoming clear that folks with certain chronic conditions are at an increased risk of serious complications and death. That’s one more reason you want to maintain your youngest-possible RealAge. It not only helps you fight COVID-19, it puts you in the strongest position to resist whatever comes down the pike next. So, here are the stats:
■ In 95 percent of all COVID-19-related ICU cases, the patient was 80 or older and/or had obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, COPD or asthma, or immune suppression (from medication or a disease).
■ People with cardiovascular disease who contract the virus have a 13.2 percent risk of dying from it. Those with diabetes — a 9.2 percent risk. High blood pressure — an 8.4 percent risk. Chronic respiratory disease — an 8 percent risk.
■ No preexisting conditions? The risk of dying from COVID-19 is 0.9 percent.
So let this light a fire in you to make sure you avoid all highly processed foods, and red and processed meats, plus eat seven to nine servings of fruits and veggies a day, including only 100 percent whole grains. Even while you’re in lockdown, get 30-60 minutes of aerobic activity daily and strength-building exercise two to three times weekly. Then you can sing another Womack song, “Trust Your Heart.”
No screen time for 12- to 18-month-olds — period!
According to a 2017 Common Sense Census of Media Use of Kids Zero to Eight, U.S. children under the age of 2 spend an average of 42 minutes a day using screen media. That’s despite an American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that kids under 18 months should avoid all screen media, including TV.
If that gentle warning from the AAP didn’t keep you from plopping your smartphone into the hands of your fussy youngster, maybe this will. A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics finds that when 12 month-old kids regularly view digital screens, it’s associated with a 4 percent increase in autismlike symptoms (disconnection from interaction with others, for example) and the more daily play time young children have with their parents, well, that’s associated with a 9 percent reduction in the risk of autismlike symptoms.
It’s not that using digital devices increases the risk of diagnosed autism, but it does damage a child’s ability to interact with the world in ways that are essential for emotional and intellectual development. In other words, when you hand your baby/toddler a phone or tablet you are damaging your child’s future for some temporary peace and quiet.
So, if you can’t focus on your child in the moment, books, toddler-safe crayons and paper, balls, mobiles and soft blocks all provide brain-stimulating distraction for 12- to 18-month-olds. Give them a try when you cannot go nose to nose or toes to toes (floor time is great) with your child.
Are you part of the young and pre-frail generation?
IMDb lists “Good Will Hunting” as the No. 1 movie about the fear of failure. But we’d like to point out that with a little help, Will (Matt Damon) is able to overcome the crippling emotion and realize his potential. And, we hope you can do as well as Will, if fear of frail-ure is what’s haunting you.
It turns out that pre-frailty, which most people associate with advanced age, is as prevalent in 40-year-olds as it is in folks over 70. In fact, a new Australian study published in BMC Geriatrics found that pre-frailty occurs in 45 percent of people ages 40-49, and that’s about the same as the percentage for folks 70-75. When it hits in your 40s, it’s a glide path to early frailty, which is something everyone should work to avoid.
Pre-frailty means you are dealing with one or two of the following problems: declining energy, reduced muscle function, low grip strength, slowed walking speed, sedentary behavior and unintentional weight loss. Frailty is defined as having at least three of those issues.
Luckily, you can prevent and reverse pre-frailty and avoid the cascade of health problems that accompany frailty, from cognitive decline to broken bones.
The No. 1 way to prevent or reverse pre-frailty is exercise: 60 minutes, five days a week of walking, resistance or strength training, aerobics, jumping/stretching and, most importantly, fun! You can do yoga, jumping jacks, stretchy bands, walking up and down stairs, step-class routines, barre exercises or dancing — just get moving. You have nothing to fear but frail itself.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.