Health Food Stores: Is Bigger Really Better?

health food storesFinding quality health food stores is becoming more and more important as people are looking for ways to stay fit and healthy. Eating organically grown food is becoming for many the first step in achieving that goal.

Nowadays it seems there’s a health food store in every mall. Typically these are corporate chain stores like GNC and The Vitamin Shoppe that carry organic supplements.

Other stores like Walmart for example, although not considered a health food store carry such a large selection of organic foods and organic supplements that they too have become another resource for those looking for healthier food alternatives.

Then there are the small mom and pops that have been around for several years at the same location and are considered a part of the neighborhood.

Which is best?

Going with one of the big national chains or the local neighborhood store?

Well, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Price

Shopping at a large chain store will usually mean you’ll pay less than at a independently owned health food store.

Walmart is an excellent example when it comes to price. They are now the largest seller of organic goods in the US offering more than 400 different food items, supplements and even organic clothing. They have a reputation of getting the absolute bottom prices from suppliers. This allows them to undercut pretty much everyone else.

Allowing consumers to reap the benefits of getting otherwise expensive organically grown foods at bargain prices.

Small health stores can’t order in super large quantities so it costs them more. So in order to make a profit, they then have to charge you more for some items you may be able to get cheaper at a chain store.

Local health food store Selection

While the bigger chains will have a large selection, most of what they do offer are either their own in house brand or products from other large commercial manufacturers. Small family owned health food stores tend to carry smaller brands but also have a more diverse selection of various manufacturers both large and small.

This can be a major plus for some buyers who quite frankly may not trust the ingredients made from large corporate entities.

Personal Service

The small health store owners selling organic supplements and food products typically eat what they sell, they actually use the products and are more likely to be active in some form of organic gardening. Their level of expertise also tends to be quite diverse and can give you advice on specific supplements and organic food choices.

While larger chains have well trained employees, they aren’t necessarily living the “organic lifestyle” generally.

That’s not to say that every employee isn’t into health. It’s just that it’s more of a way of life for the small family health food store owners who literally live and breath living a certain way. They are more aware of the effects of chemicals and other unnecessary additives and are more likely to be concerned about what they’re selling to the public.

Chain stores are more concerned with making a profit.

Another point worth mentioning in terms of personal service is the one on one relationships and familiarity you get from a small food store. If knowing your name when you stop by is important to you then going the mom pop route is a definite plus!

Quality

This really depends on what you’re looking for when you shop. This is one area where “bigger” is not necessarily better. It’s really important to understand the standards can be night and day. The very popular Whole Foods and Trader Joes chains are popular health food stores for millions expecting higher quality organic foods.

While both are known for quality,both have also had their share of problems. Food recalls and most recently both chains along with others have been named in a lawsuit filed by the state of California for selling candy tainted with lead.

While bigger stores are constantly under the microscope, some smaller family owned stores can also have their share of problems with quality standards that may go unchecked simply because they’re small and may operate under the radar.

When it comes to quality it’s up to the consumer to ask questions and do their own research to determine if the quality of the goods being purchased lives up to their own set of standards.

A few simple ways to do that is to check expiration dates, read the labels and ask where the produce comes from.

It’s your health and your money, you owe it to yourself to take your time and choose wisely.


My first experience with laser hair removal

sexy hairless legsI’ve been debating getting laser hair removal for quite a while now and have finally pulled the trigger.

I just got back from my first session and thought it would be a good idea to share my experience with everyone in case your on the fence on doing the same procedure.

So lets start…

First, you need to realize that getting the laser treatment is NOT a one time thing!

In fact, I was told I’d need to go back as many as 6 times. In between each time I have to wait three weeks so that my hair grows. That’s a lot!

Plus I have light hair and light skin, so I’m told that it’s a little more difficult on my type of body.

But the way it works is that the laser kills a few hair follicles at a time. Also, not all of your hair follicles are growing at the same time. Hence the need to keep going back.

Great business model btw!

Laser hair removal is been around since the 1990s.

It’s also FDA approved, so they say it should be safe anyway.

It took me a while to decide whether I should buy my own machine and do it at home, or go to a spa which is what I ended up doing.

Let’s face it have no idea what I’m doing I’m hoping that the people at the laser hair removal near Leesburg VA know a lot more than what I do.

I guess so far so good. As I don’t have any pain or anything like that. They used a numbing cream on my face before they actually use the laser. But I had to pay extra for that.

It’s kind of strange to be getting it done. Simply because there’s no noise or anything like that. It’s just the light that you see.

One thing I was told to do is not play with the hair even though it may look like it’s falling out.

This can cause infection and of course blemishes on the skin if I do. So that’s going to be kind of annoying.

Overall this is going to cost me about $900. It’s a bit of money so that’s why I’ve been debating on it so long.

But the same time the cost of razors and even more importantly the time it takes me to shave my legs every single day far outweighs the $900 and the amount of sessions I have to do.

In the greatest part of his once this is all done it’s done for life.

No more shaving, yay!


Interview with a slimmed down success story

woman running for exerciseWe’ve all seen the commercials and read the ads touting women who have dropped several pants sizes in less time than it takes to find form-fitting jeans.

Well my friend Katie managed to do just that – and melt 26 pounds off her body – in the time it took to plan her wedding.

There were no diet pills, exercise DVDs, or radical workout regimens involved.

She shed the weight naturally with a few key lifestyle changes and supplements to stay healthy.

I was in awe of her transformation both for how quickly it happened and for how sparingly she hit the gym.

Inspired by a reader’s comment on my nutritionist vs. trainer post to learn more about Katie’s weight loss journey, I sat down with her for an interview.

Read on to find out how she did it.

What motivated you to slim down?

When my hubby-to-be and I set a date for our wedding, I didn’t think I would need more than six months for me to get everything ready, including my body.

But then I weighed myself for the first time in a long time and came to the sickening realization that I had gained 33 pounds since my thinnest point during college.

What had happened?

I was a RELIGIOUS exerciser, running anywhere from 5-30 miles a week, taking spin classes, supplementing with weight training, and doing everything I thought I needed to do.

Needless to say, something was wrong – whether it was my habits, my metabolism, hormones, or maybe just my perception of what I was really doing!

What was your daily routine during the period of weight gain?

Over the past five years, my weight has fluctuated between those 33 pounds, reaching highs and lows and places in between. I have had personal trainers, gone on marathon-training benders, followed Weight Watchers, flirted with South Beach – you name it.

Sometimes the diet and/or exercise thing worked, sometimes it didn’t.

The first personal trainer I hired in my post-college years was a former NFL football player who used to kick my butt with weight training. I definitely saw results, but my appetite grew and when I finally stopped working out with him, I started to put the weight back on.

When I realized what was happening, I decided to go back to running – first 2 miles, then 5, then longer 8-10 mile runs.

All the running burned so many calories that I pretty much ate whatever I wanted (within reason), got to a fairly comfortable weight, and stayed there.

But over time, my now-husband and I settled into comfortable evenings together with dinner and a bottle of wine.

And once work became really busy, going to the gym and the long runs fell completely by the wayside.

So when I stepped on the scale last summer and realized where I had gotten myself, I decided I HAD to get a grip and get myself back in shape.

How did you get started?

The first thing I did was consult a physician.

I needed to make sure I didn’t have some sort of thyroid problem or other hormonal imbalance that had caused the weight gain.

A trip to the GP and Endocrinologist later, I learned that I was fine and would have to monitor my diet and exercise more carefully.

So I initially tried to make lifestyle changes on my own.

I started going back to the gym, cut out that glass or two of wine and dessert that I had become comfortable with every evening, realigned myself, and dropped nearly ten pounds in just a few weeks.

But those first ten pounds were easy.

I had 15-20 more lbs to go before the wedding (now five months away) and needed someone to seriously help me get in gear and stay in gear.

Where did you turn for help?

I went to my gym and met with a trainer.running for weight loss

Ironically, the first guy I met was another former football player.

I knew that he could get me into shape, but I was worried that it would send me on a whole repeat of the cycle I had experienced just a few years prior.

So I started talking to him about nutrition and asked what advice he could offer me.

He stated the obvious: egg whites, turkey, veggies, fruit…duh. When he realized that I needed more specialized help, he turned me over to his female colleague, Jen.

At first I was wary of working out with a female trainer.

I had watched the female trainers in my gym and their clients never really seemed to sweat it out the way I wanted to.

I didn’t want some silly stretching moves and squats alone.

I was a generally athletic person, and I wanted to be sure I would get my money’s worth.

DID I EVER!!!

What made you click with this trainer in particular?

Jen turned out to be not just a personal trainer, but a personal trainer AND nutritionist combined.

One of the most important things which I firmly believe contributed to my ultimate success was that Jen was 1. also a woman and 2. also built kind of like I am.

She UNDERSTOOD!

We could commiserate about food and exercise and social eating and wine and going out with friends and how it all affects the waistline.

It was like a diet/exercise/nutrition/social support system all in one.

How did her plan for you work?

The first thing Jen had me do was keep a food journal.

Keep in mind that I was already trying to be healthy and push past that 10 lb-loss I had already achieved.

But when she finally reviewed my week-long journal, she pointed out something which wasn’t initially obvious to me: I was eating TOO MUCH SUGAR!

A tiny bite of candy here, cereal (even the stuff that seems “healthy”), dried fruit, fresh fruit, wheat bread, whole grain waffles… they all sound okay in moderation, but I needed to work on what I was eating and when I was eating it.

The change in diet also meant I needed to start taking some supplements as well as my aging body needed different nutients that I hadn’t needed when I was younger.

So I began taking IDLife nutritional supplements to balance out my calorie intake versus the nutrients I needed.

So she sat down with me to go over some guidelines and how I could make better choices.

What were the general rules?

– Try to cut out dairy (cheese, cow milk etc).
– Move towards more organic, less processed foods. If what you’re about to eat says “Natural Flavoring” on the label, you should put it down because it’s not natural at all.
– Stay away from “white” foods – i.e. refined breads and sugars.
– Replace regular bread with Ezekial bread.
– Cut out meat and move towards more vegan options, though fish and turkey or chicken are okay in moderation.
– Drink a ton of water.
– Cut out caffeine and sodas (even diet), and replace with herbal teas or fresh juices.

What were some sample meal plans?

Breakfast:
– Protein shake with soy or almond milk and frozen fruit OR
– Ezekial bread with natural almond butter and jam OR
– Amy’s Organics tofu scramble
– Green tea (coffee with soy milk on occasion)

Lunch:
– I had a lot of Amy’s Organics meals because I knew how many calories were in them and could regulate.

I also cooked grilled chicken with re-fried beans and steamed spinach/broccoli on the side to take to work with me.

For something quick, I would grab a bowl of soup.

I also frequented an all-natural Mediterranean take-out place by my office that has falafel salads with fresh hummus, beets, cucumber, tomato, olives, and avocado.

Or I would substitute dinner options below for lunch.

Dinner:
– Stir-fry with tofu, veggies, Tamari soy sauce, and agave nectar
– Brown rice pasta with Rao’s tomato sauce
– Quinoa with lentils
– Soups, salads, etc
– More Amy’s organics

Snacks:
– Nuts
– Popcorn with nutritional yeast
– Raw veggies with hummus
– Fruit with a protein like peanut butter or nuts
– Hard-boiled egg
– Blue corn chips on occasion with guacamole or re-fried beans and soy cheese.

Any other diet tips?

Jen highly recommended the Skinny Bitch recipes – I tried a couple and they are actually pretty good.

I also did cleansing/juicing days where I would eat only fruit and raw vegetables and some nuts, and drink a ton of water.

I never did a great job at these, but if I were hungry, I’d throw in some low fat re-fried beans or an Ezekial wrap to fill myself up.

By no means was I perfect at the diet thing.

I had a glass of wine or a beer here and there and I couldn’t give up my dark chocolate-covered almonds with turbinado sugar and sea salt from Trader Joe’s.

But I got in the habit of picking healthier options like Tofutti cream cheese and Tofutti ice cream sandwiches.

Making these small adjustments definitely made a difference.

How did your exercise regimen change?

training for weight lossAs far as working out, Jen and I met twice a week – once for an hour session and once for a half an hour session.

During our sessions, we would do sprints on the treadmill, squats, lunges, free weight training, floor ab exercises, work with the Bosu ball, balance exercises, various types of push-ups (who would ever think regular push-ups are the easy choice!), plank, 100s, bicycles, etc.

She told me I should be working out a couple of days a week on my own, but I honestly did not have the time to do it that often.

Sometimes I would squeeze in a run on the treadmill or go for a walk, but I mostly relied on my sessions with her.

What results did you see?

Jen and I would weigh and measure my body every couple of weeks to track my progress.

It was a great way to stay on target and, even if the scale didn’t budge, to see the inches come off.

I found it really fun and fulfilling. What surprised me throughout the whole experience was that I was now working out less than I had been previously, but seeing more results.

For me, I think working out less was important because it helped curb my appetite. And working out less was realistic for me at that point because of everything going on in life (work, graduate school, wedding planning).

I just didn’t have a ton of time on my hands. Overall, I lost 26 lbs and multiple inches from my body.

I’m firmly back down to a size 8, though I can wear a 6 in certain clothes, which is super exciting given where I started (12).

How will you maintain your weight loss moving forward?

For me the key now is keeping up the lifestyle and hard work to keep the weight off.

I will say, though, that the biggest change has been a lifestyle overhaul – I have changed the way I eat, the way I look at food, and the way I look at exercise, and I think I’m much more balanced now.

Working out is important, but it is not everything. Having the time to run 5-8 miles a day is just not an option for me given my career path, family obligations, and current school obligations.

I love to exercise, but the most important thing is finding the right combination of nutrition and fitness to suit your body at certain points in your life. I weigh myself religiously right now (as I transition out of working out with my trainer), and hope to hit my stride soon.

I’ve gained back one pound since my lowest point before the wedding, but I am committed to staying within a five pound range going forward.

I think I can make it work this time!


Valium And Xanax

Prescription drugs have become a big business in our world today. Valium And Xanax

There are so many different types of drugs today that it is very important to know the differences in the most used forms.

Our society has a lot of stress associated with working and raising a family.

So much so, that many have taken to getting using drugs to aid in the reduction of this stress.

High school students and college students are also using xanax for either recreational reasons or prescribed by a physician and purchased at an independent pharmacy because of anxiety attacks.

Due to this, there are many drugs on the market now the deal with anxiety, stress, insomnia, and mild depression.

Two of the most common medications for these conditions are valium and xanax.

Xanax (alprazolam) and valium (diazepam) are in the benzodiazepines family.

Disontinuing either medication can be difficult due to withdrawal symptoms and their are addictive issues and warnings to be aware of.

Side effects, abuse and addiction are important to be aware of with these medications.

They each can lead to an increased tolerance which then requires a higher dosage for the same results.

Often xanax abuse symptoms are not recognized or admitted by users.

The dopamine centers are effected and this is part of the hooking quality.

Valium is a known medication for the treatment of anxiety, back pain and for those who have trouble sleeping (insomnia).

We have often heard of our mother or our friend’s mother taking Valium to calm themselves down.

This drug is still prescribed for people who have a hard time coping with stressful situations.

This drug can and has been over used by those who just want to get relief.

Though xanax and ativan are have been prescribed more lately, some physicians as well as patients prefer valium.

Xanax is prescribed for certain types of anxiety like panic attacks and mild to moderate states of depression.

Your physician will make a determination of what he thinks is best.

Both drugs affect your brain and spinal cord which is needed to reduce the effect of anxiety and depression.

These drugs do contain side effects that you should be aware of.

Valium users can experience some mild drowsiness, tiredness, weakness of the muscles, or feeling uncoordinated.

If any of these common side effect become overly irritating or won’t go away, consult with your primary physician.

Definitely seek medical help if you experience any rash, itching, breathing difficulty, swelling, a sore throat, chest tightness, memory loss or confusion as this is serious.

Xanax use can cause you to experience mild side effects like a change of appetite or sexual desire, dry mouth, lightheadedness, dizziness, and constipation.

Severe side effects are similar to valium but also include decreased urination, hallucination, changes in menstruation, and muscle spasms or twitching.
Dealing with anxiety can be difficult without assistance.

Whether you take prescription medication or not, it’s critical to develop techniques to reduce stress.

Try to use natural methods before opting to use any medication.

Remember that valium addiction is a serious problem.

Many people suffer from a benzo addiction and struggle with a cycle of stopping and starting over and over again.

Rehab centers help people taper off and learn more effective strategies to cope with daily anxiety issues.

There are also anti-depressants that are used instead of benzodiazepines both for ex-addicts and those with addictive personality tendencies.


Shopping at Your Local Organic Grocery Store

organic fruitChoosing to buy food from the local organic grocery store is becoming more and more of the norm for many parents.

The constant news about environmental hazards and possible dangers associated with our food supply has millions of parents seriously considering choosing only organic food options for their children.

Healthy eating has always been the number one concern when it comes to the health of children and goes far beyond just getting enough fruits and vegetables.

Now the challenge is making sure the quality of the food is just as high as the nutritional value.

The Problem

A recent study by Stanford University has caused quite a stir in the organic farming and organic food stores community as well as with pediatricians.

The main conclusion was that organically grown foods are not healthier nutritionally than non organically grown foods.

Another important conclusion that came from that same study is the one major difference that is even more important to parents.

The tipping point for parents opting to feed their children organic fruits, vegetables, milk and meat products is the amount of pesticides added to non organic foods. That’s why I use a local catering Houston company to supply all the food in our company now.

The Facts

The American Academy of Pediatrics has made it perfectly clear that in spite of the Stanford study, they are uncomfortable with any amount of pesticides added to foods especially where young children are concerned.

According to pediatricians, very young children are highly susceptible to foreign toxins because their immune systems are not fully developed.

On the other side of the coin, the amount of “allowable” pesticides in foods, according to the federal government is not enough to cause harm to either children or adults.

Pesticides and Child Development

Pesticide spraying – Opting to shop from organic grocery store for pesticide free organic foods.

A report released by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) cites a troubling finding.

Female farm workers in California who were exposed to pesticides while working during their pregnancy, gave birth to infants whose motor skills like learning to walk for example were delayed.organic grapes

Additionally they also found these children had developmental delays ranging from language difficulties, cognitive thinking, social and emotional problems.

Pediatricians also worry about the long term effects young children may have due to early exposure of pesticides.

Unfortunately, the data just isn’t there yet as there hasn’t been enough studies conducted on the subject itself.

It could be several years before we know for sure if the developmental delays like those found in the babies of female farm workers is just the beginning of something far worse.

This gives parents another strong case for opting to shop their local organic grocery stores or health food stores for a healthy diet of pesticide free organic foods wherever possible.

In the meantime, parents will need to be diligent about keeping up on the latest news and trends.
Take the time to learn more about organically grown foods, dairy and meat.

Have a conversation with your child’s pediatrician and let him or her know what your intentions are in terms of dietary changes.

It’s also important to know that not all of the non organic foods produced contain the same amount of pesticides.

Some fruits and vegetables like apples for example contain a large amount of pesticides. While sweet corn contains very little.

When shopping at your local organic grocery store or health food store be sure to inquire about where the food they’re selling comes from.

Ideally, you want to go with locally grown foods as opposed to those shipped from across the country.

Produce begins to lose it’s nutritional value pretty rapidly once picked.

So obviously anything picked and shipped long distance and stored in a warehouse is not going to be nearly as nutritional as something picked and shipped locally.

The difference can be significant.

Think, a week or longer from farm to supermarket long distance, versus a few days if purchased locally.

Your child’s health is important, so take the time to do your homework before you buy.