Being Stressed Out! Bad for You and Your Health

A full 43 percent of U.S. adults suffer adverse health effects from stress, according to an American Psychological Association (APA) study. Jobs, money and health are cited as the “top three” sources of stress.

A little stress can be okay, but with the crazy time schedules we keep to these days, chronic stress can wreak havoc on our bodies. Stress can hit us an external force, like a big project at work, or a self induced internal force like doubting yourself.

When your body feels stressed or threatened, your nervous system kicks into overdrive.

“Fight or Flight”

Hormones including adrenaline and cortisol tell your body to get going to either fight, or run from the stressor. Adrenaline causes the body to increase energy supplies while cortisol lets your brain use glucose more effectively. It also tells your digestion to stop, and refocus the energy to external limbs (run away!).

Body Responses to Stress

Here’s what happens during your stress response:

  • Heart rate increases
  • Muscles tighten
  • Blood pressure increases
  • Rate of breathing increases
  • Senses sharpen

A Little is OK, More is Not Better

But what happens when you’re stressed all the time? Your body ceases to respond to each incident in the above ways and begins to affect not only your mood, but decreases your health as a whole.

Long term stress can affect you in the following ways:

  • Raises blood pressure
  • Suppresses the immune system
  • Increases the risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Contributes to infertility
  • Ages the body
  • Increases risk of depression
  • Causes sleep problems
  • Digestive problems like increased stomach acid (ulcers)
  • Increases risk of obesity
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Pessimism
  • Anxiety
  • Constant worrying
  • Aches and Pains
  • Increasing food consumption or decreasing it

With all the “down sides” to chronic stress, why do we put up with it? I have no idea, that’s a good question. One guess is that it’s that feeling of trying to “dig out” of all the “things” that seem to pile up on us.


We can’t do it all… so how does TRYING to do it all help us? Maybe it’s better to look at our 24 hours and spend it wisely. Then… Let it go.

How Do You Chill Out?

De-stress by reaching out to a friend for a great chat. Go for a walk or get some exercise in by going for a swim! Pause for a few minutes of deep breathing — or even better hit up a yoga or meditation class. You’ve got to take a little time for yourself to reduce stress before it affects health.

Remember, small changes for big results: stopping the stress before it becomes long term can keep the long list of problems I mentioned earlier at bay.

Reliving My New York City Marathon – In Pictures

The ING New York City Marathon is one of the world’s great road races, drawing more than 100,000 applicants annually. The 2011 race had 46,795 finishers — and I was one of them with a time of 4:36:44. Check out my race recap – and apply for the NYC marathon lottery. You won’t regret it. (Good luck getting in. It took me three years.)

Even though I have finished 7 previous marathons and ultra marathons I have never done the “red recovery routine” before. As a “powered by red” team member for NYC marathon, I had the perfect opportunity to try it out on myself.

Basically, I added in 10 ounces of tart cherry juice a day the week leading up to the marathon and for a few days after the race.

I’m completely sold. I cannot believe the difference in my post marathon recovery. I had minimal pain and inflammation compared to other marathons. I thought I’d eventually feel it 1-2 days post-race (due to DOMS) but I didn’t. Watch my full video experience here.

I seriously hope you consider trying the red recovery routine yourself. If you are curious about what is “special” about tart cherry juice, it’s the anthocyanins. Tart cherry juice has anthocyanins I and II in large amounts and they have been found to help reduce pain and inflammation in endurance athletes.

Race Preparation

I do so much to get ready physically and mentally for a race. One major thing I need is sleep. I was lucky because it was “fall back” time. I also got good sleep 2 nights before race day. I absolutely LOVED this from my race packet – a door sign for the hotel. Ha! It reminded me I needed to get that shut eye. It was lights out by 9:30 p.m. I woke at 3:30 a.m. for a minute but then got good rest/relaxation until 6:45 when I had to get out of bed to catch a cab by 7 a.m.

Getting to the Start

It was basically a race in itself. I took a cab to a ferry to a bus and walked to the start. But check out some of the cool sites along the way!

Leaving Manhattan – We had an escort with a machine gun! Don’t mess w/ marathoners!

She is so beautiful in the morning sun. Thanks to the People of France for this gift – Libertas – the Roman Goddess of Freedom!

Pre-Race at Staten Island

Here I am with an 87 year old woman who has completed over 20 New York marathons! You go girl…

I made a friend on the bus from the State Island ferry to the start line. I can’t tell you how excited I was to be invited to start the race with them. They were doing a 4 min run, 1 min walk pace for a 4:45 finish. That was in the zone of my time so I figured, what the heck! It was great to have some tempo buddies. And… I got someone to draw cherries on my face to help me “rock the red”!


Random Race Photos

It’s not easy to run and tweet, let alone grab pics, but I managed to do it. Here are a few things I captured that weren’t completely blurry :)

Mile 1-2

I think this was the prettiest bridge. Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn

I took more pics but they were very blurry so I didn’t include them here. It was basically crowd shots — awesome spectators — and shots of bands. There were 130 bands total. THANK YOU for keeping it fun! There were great signs. My fave “Because 26.3 would be just crazy”. I also enjoyed the kids passing out oranges and suckers. So cute!

Bridge Queens to Manhattan – Right before mile 16 – Hubby is waiting for me at 63rd St

Mile 18 – Have U Hugged a Firefighter?

(don’t know this guy at all, but things like that happen when you’re that far into a race!)

Mile 22 – Wow, more firefighters!

Mile 25 – Central Park – Just capturing the last mile!

Post-Race in Central Park

We got a goodie bag that included an apple (of course) so I took a pic of me getting my own “bite” out of this BIG apple.

The Bling

And of course, it’s all about that BLING :) so here’s mine….

Inspiring Women at the 2011 AALU Annual Meeting Today!

Today is going to be a great day! That’s because I get to do what I love best… talk! (LOL, seriously, I was voted “most talkative” in middle school and high school). No. What I love best is engaging people and helping them think differently about their health and wellness. I want people to see their daily choices about nutrition, exercise, and managing stress as self-care. Unfortunately, we don’t. Most women (97%) spend most days “bashing” the way they look. We don’t get any help from certain forms of media either. Take this month’s issue of Marie Claire. They published self-proclaimed “nutritionists” daily food journals. One woman starved herself all day and then binged on fruit, smoothies, and a box of macaroons once she finally let herself eat at dinner time. That’s disordered. Period. And any real nutrition expert with proper training would be able to tell you that (as if you couldn’t figure that out for yourself!)

So today is going to be a great day! Today I get to speak with influential women and clear the air. I’ll bust some serious myths about healthy eating… such as “eating after 7p.m. causes weight gain”. I’ll take them on a “flavor tour” tasting four different chocolates and documenting flavor notes. (This is a stealth way of teaching mindful eating, using all their senses. Savoring chocolate and choosing your favorite based on taste, not a food label.) I’ll show them how they can start with any food and “add nutrition” by adding veggies, nuts or seeds, beans, and herbs. We’ll also make a vitality fruit smoothie (banana split flavor – oh yeah!) using the approach of “add nutrition” – and the best part is I’ll be working with a 12 year-old girl (the granddaughter of the President of the women’s group).

I get so excited about every speaking engagement like it is the best one I’m going to do. I realize that I might only have an hour of their time. But a lot can happen in an hour. I hope to bring a more positive message about health, wellness, and body image to the group. I hope to change at least one person’s life today.

(And one other cool thing… yet totally unrelated… I’m speaking after George Bush! I won’t even run into him as we are in different rooms. This meeting boasts a list of major “world class” speakers Dennis Miller, Steven D. Levitt author of Freakonomics, Veteran Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile… just to name a few! I kinda can’t believe I’m part of this meeting.)

Learn more about my speaking: and my online community for self care the “ME” movement on Twitter @ScritchfieldRD and #mefirst

Talking Natural Colors on NBC with Tom Costello

I was honored to give an interview as part of a story on artificial colors. There is mounting concern about the safety of artificial colors in U.S. food products (anything from sweetened drinks, colored candies, and even mac-n-cheese. The FDA is holding meetings over the next few days to discuss the latest evidence and possible link between artificial colors and ADHD.

The segment featured a mom who has claimed her child’s behavior has improved when the artificial colors were taken out.

[watch it]

We need to follow the science – absolutely. But let’s look at the big picture 70% of Americans don’t get the whole food fruits and veggies they need. The foods with artificial colors should not be part of our “typical day” of food intake anyway. Since we’re getting over 3 times the safe amount of added sugar and not enough nutritious foods, there’s a lot we can do to shift that balance — and whether artificial colors are “good” or “bad” — eating right is the right thing to do for our long-term health and wellness.

Here’s what you can do:

  • half plate fruit or vegetables
  • 80% of your food in the day minimal processing – nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, eggs, beans… you get the idea
  • don’t fear fat – olive oil, avocado, nuts/seeds, salmon, yogurt (full or low fat) and regular fat cheese are good for satisfaction and pleasure just be careful of portions because fat is high in calories
  • look for short ingredients lists on packages and make sure you don’t need a chemistry degree to pronounce the ingredients – companies are making chips and snacks with a few simple ingredients – reach for these in moderation

Capsaicin for Weight Loss?

By Carlene Helble-Elite Nutrition Intern

Have you ever taken a big bite of salsa only to recoil at the intense spice? The big bang happening with each scoop is due to capsaicin. Capsaicin is found in super hot peppers, like cayenne, but you may have also seen it as a topical cream or dietary supplement. The capsaicin within that spicy hot food is doing you some good by acting as an antioxidant but also strengthens lung tissues, helps relieve pain, and aid digestion among other great things.

The topical cream is actually a pain reliever and anti inflammatory, which first excites pain signals in the body (through nerves in the spinal cord and other areas of the body) and then decreases them. When the cream is applied, the ‘substance P’, which is an important transmitter of a pain message going to the brain, is inhibited.

Capsaicin as a supplement  is used as a digestion aid by amping up the amount of digestive juices in your stomach and fighting bad bacteria. Besides pain relief and digestive help, this chemical compound has research indicating capsaicin can help prevent heart disease by preventing clotting, hardening of the arteries, and lowering blood cholesterol levels.

Recent research in the International Journal of Obesity by Maastricht University in the Netherlands, is showing capsaicin can also decrease appetite, leaving the weight loss world is on the edge of its seat. During a study, 24  men and women were given about ½ a teaspoon of red pepper, close to .9 g of the red pepper which contains 0.25% capsaicin, thirty minutes before every meal. Other members of the study were given a placebo without their knowledge. After eating their meal, the subjects’ saity increased when they were given the red pepper, and less calories and fat was consumed. Those who took the placebo had minimal change in saity compared to saity after a meal when they didn’t take the placebo. The study also found that post consumption, more energy was expended by those involved in the test. Capsaicin creates these results by increasing thermogenesis (the body burning energy from food released as heat), “enhancing catecholamine secretion from the adrenal medulla”.  The increase in thermogenesis suggests a change in “substrate oxidation from carbohydrate to fat oxidation”. These amazing outcomes that say capsaicin increases fat burning and weight loss almost seem too good to be true! The results are legitimate and strong, but like all new research, multiple studies should be done to test the consistency.

That spicy kick in your food has great benefits! From anti-inflammatory properties to current results indicating fat burning, capsaicin is a powerhouse. Eat those peppers! Just be smart about it. Some red pepper flakes on 4 slices of thick crust pizza aren’t going to do much for fat burning.

Relationship Between Steroids and Weight Gain

Do you currently take a steroid to treat arthritis, asthma, or chronic joint or muscle pain? Have you noticed increased weight gain since beginning your steroid treatment? A common side effect of corticosteroids that occurs in the majority of patients is weight gain, and if you’re on a steroid regimen it may be to blame for unwanted and hard-to-lose pounds.

Steroids come in many forms and serve many different purposes. Here are some of the most common steroids and what they are used for include:

  • Prednisone - a corticosteroid that prevents inflammation and is usually taken to treat allergic skin disorders, breathing disorders (like asthma), ulcerative colitis, lupus, and psoriasis. Can be taken in a pill or inhalant form.
  • Cortisone – a corticosteroid that is also used to prevent inflammation in skin and breathing disorders, lupus, and ulcerative colitis. Cortisone injections can also be given directly into a joint or muscle to reduce inflammation and lessen pain associated in the region
  • Hydrocortisone -a mild corticosteroid that is used to reduce the itching, swelling, or burning associated with skin conditions. It is applied topically to treat conditions such as insect bites, poison ivy, eczama, rash, and dermititis.

If you’re on one of these medications, it may be beneficial for you to understand how they work in your body. Steroids affect  fat metabolism, and this can lead to increased fat deposits in your abdomen. Furthermore, the steroids increase your appetite which leads to a higher intake of food and excess calories.

While any weight that you gain during steroid treatment should come off within 6 months to one year post medication completion, there are things you can do now to avoid excess weight gain.

  • exercise regularly
  • pay attention to how much you’re eating
  • if you notice an increased appetite, try to plan meals for the day so that you’re eating small, healthy meals every 2-3 hours.

Dr. Cheskin, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, notes that “just because a medication is associated with weight gain, doesn’t mean that everyone taking it will experience weight gain.” While some individuals experience side effects of medications, not all will. Document any sudden weight changes that you notice with this medication and talk with your doctor about it.

Attune Probiotics: Delicious Dark Chocolate!

By Carlene Helble- Elite Nutrition Intern

Whenever I see bars touting health claims in a chocolate flavor…I become a bit skeptical. If I buy this, is it really going to taste good? Should I just eat a high sugar candy bar if it makes me happier?As I tested an Attune probiotic bar from Rebecca’s Healthy Living Summit gift bag, I was totally blown away. The Dark Chocolate Raspberry bar was amazing. So amazing, I didn’t find myself wishing I was eating a candy bar.

Here are the highlights of the Attune Bar:

  • Dark chocolate with 68% Cacao (dark chocolate has more benefits for your body than milk chocolate.)
  • 4 g fiber
  • 90 calories
  • 5 times the live active cultures in yogurt
  • Very rich: Although the serving size is one bar, I had a friend try part of it, and they couldn’t manage more than 1/4 of the bar because it was so heavy. I could see myself having half of a bar as part of a mid morning snack with a banana.

What are probiotics anyway?

According to NIH “Probiotics are live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut. They are also called friendly bacteria”. Probiotics are generally used to offset any side effects of antibiotics or for general digestive well-being. You don’t need supplements to get probiotics though! Some yogurts, tempeh, and miso carry strains of ‘good bacteria’.

Read more about the other products I tried, like some delicious fruit leather you can make yourself!

Cushing’s Syndrome

Over-eating isn’t always to blame for people who struggle with extra weight. For some, the weight may come from health complications and disease.

Cushing’s syndrome is a health problem that affects 2-10 people per million. For those who are diagnosed, it is a serious issue for many of their organs and systems,and can cause weight gain.

Hypercortisolism is when levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) are elevated for a long period of time, which is the cause of Cushing’s syndrome. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and is responsible for many mechanisms in the body, including blood pressure regulation, maintaining cardiovascular function, response to stress and metabolism regulation for fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Because of the vast array of responsibilities, excess cortisol can produce many complications in Cushing’s syndrome.

Signs and symptoms include: weight gain in the stomach, face (moon face) and back (buffalo hump), red or purple stretch-marks, muscle weakness, depression and anxiety, acne, decreased libido, headaches and possible glucose intolerance (diabetes).

There are two types of Cushing’s syndrome: exogenous and endogenous. Exogenous is caused by use of oral corticosteroid medication, which is prescribed for asthma, arthritis, irritable bowel disease, lupus, and patients who have received transplant organs. Endogenous is caused by tumors on or near the adrenal glands, or primary adrenal gland disease, both of which can interfere with cortisol production.

Though Cushing’s syndrome is quite rare, it usually affects women more so than men, ages 20-50 years. To get tested, it is best to call your primary healthcare doctor first. Generally they will do a physical examination to assess the signs and symptoms, and then will perform urine, blood or saliva tests. If you are not on any medications that could affect your cortisol levels, they may decide to do imaging tests to screen for tumors as well.

Knowledge Doesn’t Necessarily Lead to Smart Choices

This is a direct line from my “Nurture Principles – find wellness within” keynote. I can honestly say that there are things I know I should do but don’t. So big deal we’re human, right? Well… not so fast. I think the disconnect here is that we don’t think about the long-term impact of our day-to-day choices. We’re just getting through the day. Hence, we easily say we don’t have time, motivation, or money to exercise. We not only need to know our DAILY CHOICES MATTER, but we also need to BELIEVE that our ACTIONS can make a difference!

I was reading this MSNBC article about a recent survey that demonstrated our lifestyle choices don’t match our fears.

The Bupa Health Pulse survey found that four in five, or 80 percent, say they are worried about developing chronic diseases.

According to the Geneva-based World Health Organisation, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases accounted for almost a third of all deaths around the world in 2005.

Nearly half of the 12,000 people questioned across 12 countries admitted they only exercise for an hour a week or less.

When asked to name their biggest barrier to making healthier lifestyle choices, 24 percent of those surveyed cited lack of time, almost a fifth cited motivation and 14 percent blamed the expense.

“We know from research that exercise is one of the most effective lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of developing long-term conditions,” said Julien Forder, a senior research fellow at the LSE, who worked on the report. “Nearly a third of cardiovascular disease and more than a quarter of diabetes could be avoided if everyone started to exercise.”

When asked about the fears of developing chronic diseases, a third of respondents were most worried about cancer compared to only 11 percent being most worried about heart disease, and only 8 percent about diabetes.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Paul Casciato)

It seems to me that they are “worried” but not that worried. They don’t want to face it right now. Too much “else” going on. Well, if not now, then when? Hopefully it won’t be too late. Because you can’t wish away years of unhealthy behavior. What are YOU doing to take care of yourself? What would you say to people working on taking that first BIG step?

America Fails in Eating Fruits and Vegetables

By: Elizabeth Jarrard

The National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance (NFVA) recently released a report that showed in an average day, only 6 percent of individuals consume the recommended amount of vegetables and 8 percent the recommended amount of fruit. The US’s report card didn’t look to great, and even received a couple Fs.

The societal cost of NOT eating fruits and vegetables: $56.2 billion (grew 9% each year over last 5 years), growing health care cost of treating diet-related diseases To put this in perspective, eight of the states with the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption are also in the top 10 states with the highest obesity rates.  William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity said,

“A diet high in fruits and vegetables helps maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risk of several serious, chronic diseases. We need to continue our effort in making the healthy choice the easy choice.”

Fruits and vegetables are cancer fighters, heart protectors, and just plain delicious. And as Joan Salge-Blake RD, always says, “They’ll fill you UP before they fill you OUT.”

So how can you make the healthy choice and increase your fruit and vegetable consumption? Here are some great tips from the Fruits & vegetables: More Matters Campaign.

  • Pick up a banana or apple in the dining hall and eat it as a snack
  • Pack a healthy lunch, with at least
  • Add strawberries, blueberries, or bananas to your waffles, pancakes, cereal, oatmeal, or toast.
  • Top toasted whole-grain bread with peanut butter and sliced bananas.
  • Add vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms or tomatoes to your egg or egg white omelet.
  • Add some cooked dry beans to your salad. Or, if you have a sweet tooth, add chopped apples, pears, or raisins.
  • Have soup. You can stick with the basics like tomato or vegetable soup or mix up some minestrone or veggie chili to cut winter’s chill. When possible, choose soups with less sodium.
  • Try eating at least 2 vegetables with dinner
  • Snack on vegetables like bell pepper strips and broccoli with hummus
  • Stash bags of dried fruit at your desk for a convenient snack.
  • Drink a fruit smoothie made with whole fruit, ice cubes, and low-fat or fat-free yogurt.
  • Top a cup of fat-free or low-fat yogurt with sliced fresh fruit.
  • Canned, dried, and frozen fruits and vegetables are also good options. Look for fruit without added sugar or syrups and vegetables without added salt, butter, or cream sauces.
  • Ants on a log isn’t just for kids- put some natural peanut butter on celeries and top with raisins·


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