Change Your Choices

Change Your Life…Tips for a healthier you

A Candy Warning from the FDA


Most licorice sold in stores (Twizzlers, etc) are not real licorice- read the label if in doubt

This comes from the FDA by way of

If you’re 40 or older, eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could land you in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia.

FDA experts say black licorice contains the compound glycyrrhizin, which is the sweetening compound derived from licorice root. Glycyrrhizin can cause potassium levels in the body to fall. When that happens, some people experience abnormal heart rhythms, as well as high blood pressure, edema (swelling), lethargy, and congestive heart failure.

FDA’s Linda Katz, M.D., says last year the agency received a report of a black licorice aficionado who had a problem after eating the candy. And several medical journals have linked black licorice to health problems in people over 40, some of whom had a history of heart disease and/or high blood pressure.

Katz says potassium levels are usually restored with no permanent health problems when consumption of black licorice stops.

Licorice, or liquorice, is a low-growing shrub mostly grown for commercial use in Greece, Turkey, and Asia. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says the plant’s root has a long history of use as a folk or traditional remedy in both Eastern and Western medicine. It has been used as a treatment for heartburn, stomach ulcers, bronchitis, sore throat, cough and some infections caused by viruses, such as hepatitis; however, NIH says there are insufficient data available to determine if licorice is effective in treating any medical condition.

Licorice is also used as a flavoring in food. Many “licorice” or “licorice flavor” products manufactured in the United States do not contain any licorice. Instead, they contain anise oil, which has the same smell and taste. Licorice root that is sold as a dietary supplement can be found with the glycyrrhizin removed, resulting in a product known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL, NIH says.

If you have a fondness for black licorice, FDA is offering this advice:

  • No matter what your age, don’t eat large amounts of black licorice at one time.
  • If you have been eating a lot of black licorice and have an irregular heart rhythm or muscle weakness, stop eating it immediately and contact your healthcare provider.
  • Black licorice can interact with some medications, herbs and dietary supplements. Consult a health care professional if you have questions about possible interactions with a drug or supplement you take.

If you’ve experienced any problems after eating licorice, contact the FDA consumer complaint coordinatorin your area.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Too much of this licorice might also cause problems!


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Have You Been Sneaking the Candy Already?


Back away from the bowl!

Did you dig into the Halloween stash yet?  Yes, I know it’s for the kids but I only had a few….

How much walking does it take to burn off those snack size treats? These amounts are approximate but you get the idea. 

1 fun size Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, Butterfinger, etc.=.80 mile or 1,600 steps, assuming your stride is 2,000 steps per mile

20 pieces of candy corn= 1 mile or 2,000 steps

2 Hersheys kisses=.50 mile

1 mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cup=1/3 mile or 660 steps

1 fun size M&M packet =.90 mile (really, almost 1 mile for that little packet? bummer)

Wow- that’s a lot of extra moving around just to break even!  Keep this in mind when you are tempted to reach for the candy bowl. 

If you do indulge- get up and MOVE!

Happy Halloween!


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How Well Did You Sleep Last Night?

Good Morning!  Do you feel refreshed?  Did you get 7-8 hours of sleep last night or are you ready for a nap as soon as you get up?

Did you wake up like this?

I have had some real issues with sleep and a recent article I read stated that you should log your sleep habits to see what is happening.  After writing it down, it was not a shocker to see why I wasn’t feeling rested in the morning.

The alarm goes off at 4:15 AM almost everyday so I can go teach an early class at the Y.  I then go to work all day and end up dozing on the couch in front of the TV by 8pm.  I wake up at 10pm, check a few e-mails, drag myself to bed and turn on the TV to watch Seinfeld.  I wake up to some informercial blaring and grab the remote to turn it off.  At some point during the night, Randy comes to bed after his couch nap and even though he tries to be quiet, I wake up.  During all of this I have 1 cat plastered against my legs and another who likes to lick my arm whenever she gets the chance.  Many nights I’m awake at 3am and can’t get back to sleep. 

If I fall back to sleep right many hours will I get?

Do your nights sound like that?  Most of us have some really bad habits that might be tough to break but getting a good nights sleep is crucial to good health- both mind and body.

Experts suggest that most men and women need about seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Yet there are many differences in how men and women sleep. In general women tend to sleep more than men, going to bed and falling asleep earlier. A woman’s sleep also tends to be lighter and more easily disturbed. Women are more likely to feel unrefreshed even after a full night of sleep.

So- what should we do to ensure we are getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep?  

The following tips are provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to help you get the most out of your sleep:

  • Make your bedroom a comfortable and safe place. Reduce noises and extreme temperatures that might disturb you. Make the room as dark as possible.  Even light from an alarm clock can disturb you. 
  • Go to bed only when you are sleepy and use the bed only for sleeping and sex.
  • Take the TV out of the bedroom or don’t turn it on at night. Do not use a computer within 2 hours of going to bed. Light from these sources block melatonin, a hormone that is necessary for sleep.
  • Begin rituals to help you relax at bedtime, such as taking a soothing bath or enjoying a light snack.
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends and holidays.
  • If you need to take a nap, keep it to less than one hour and take it before 3 p.m.
  • Only drink caffeine in the morning, and avoid alcohol and cigarettes late in the day. You night think caffeine doesn’t affect you, but it does. 
  • Stay away from fatty, spicy foods that are likely to upset your stomach or cause heartburn.
  • Set aside time during the day to get all of your worries out of your system.
  • Increase vitamin E in your diet, or take a vitamin E supplement.
  • Hormone replacement therapy may help you sleep better by relieving severe hot flashes related to menopause. Ask your doctor for advice about this kind of treatment.
  • Only use sleeping pills when supervised by a doctor

I started a new sleep routine a few weeks ago and while it is still a work in progress, I really feel better and more awake all day.

My number one tip?  Take the TV out of the bedroom or don’t turn it on at night.  This is a TOUGH habit to break but it really does work. Most of us think we have to fall asleep with the TV on, but the light and sound affect us in ways we don’t realize.  Even using a sleep timer to turn off the TV is not enough, don’t turn it on at all

Make sure the room is dark.  The only light I have in the bedroom at night now is the alarm clock and that is set to dim.  Some people even put the clock under the bed so there is no light at all. 

Go to bed at a time that allows for 7-8 hours of sleep.  I get up at 4:15 so I now go to bed at 9 or maybe earlier.  That’s a tough one, too, but it sure helps.  Don’t allow yourself to fall asleep on the couch, if you’re tired- go to bed!

Have a light snack before going to bed and make it a routine. Have a banana, cup of yogurt or an apple.  This is especially important if you are getting up early to work out.  I like a cup of sugar-free hot chocolate and a piece of whole grain toast.

The one thing I haven’t done yet is kick the cats out of the bedroom.  Sleep experts all say that pets should not be in bed with you as they disturb your sleep but these experts must not have cats pounding at the door to get in or crying pitifully all night.  That is one habit I don’t think I can break!

With just a few changes you can wake up like this!

Changing your sleep routine can be tough after all these years but it is extremely important not only to your physical health but to your mental health as well.  Make a few small changes at a time and before you know it you will wake up refreshed and ready to take on the world!

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How to Keep Your Heart Healthy


Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States so we should all be concerned about our heart health.  Prevention is the key, here are some tips to help reduce your risk.

> Convince your spouse/partner to quit smoking.  Non-smoking partners face a 92% increase in their chances of heart attack than those who live with non-smokers.  Breathing secondhand smoke boosts LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, decreases HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and increases your blood’s tendency to clot.

> Walk, run, lift weights or some other form of exercise for 30 minutes a day/4 days a week.  People who do this have a 60% less chance of having a heart attack than their non-exercising counterparts. 

>Lose 10-20 pounds.  If you are overweight, losing 10-20 pounds could reduce your risk of heart attack by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

> Drink 5 glasses of water a day. Men who drank that many 8-ounce glasses were 54 percent less likely to have a fatal heart attack than those who drank two or fewer. Researchers say the water dilutes the blood, making it less likely to clot.

> Eat fish at least twice a week. eating fish at least twice a week can lower your heart-disease risk by more than 30 percent. The magic ingredient is the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Good choices?  Salmon, tuna, and sardines.

>Ask your doctor about Vitamin E and Aspirin. Men who took the antioxidant and the blood thinner daily cut the plaque in their clogged arteries by more than 80 percent, according to a recent study.

>Eat watermelon. It contains about 40 percent more lycopene than is found in raw tomatoes, and a new study by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service shows that your body absorbs it at higher levels due to the melon’s high water content. Half a wedge may boost heart-disease prevention by 30 percent.

>Count to 10. Creating a 10-second buffer before reacting to a stressful situation may be enough to cool you down. Men who respond to stress with anger are three times more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease and five times more likely to have a heart attack before turning 55, say researchers at Johns Hopkins University

 Thanks to Men’s Health for these tips- but they aren’t just for men.  More women die from heart disease than all cancers combined so we need to develop some heart healthy habits as well. 

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Happy Mincemeat Day!

There are just not enough desserts with meat in them!

There is a national holiday for  almost any kind of food and today happens to be Mincemeat Day.  I’ve seen mincemeat pie but have never had the urge to try it.  And what exactly is mincemeat?  Here is more than you need to know…

Mincemeat dates back to medieval times. It was a way to preserve food. It was also a treat, mixed with sweet fruits. Somewhere in the last half of the 1900’s, it lost it’s popularity. A whole generation has grown up, not knowing what it is, or having ever tasted it. Today, it is most often served as Minced Meat Pie. Over the years, the amount of meat in the recipes was reduced. In older recipes, you will find meat and/or suet among the ingredients. More modern recipes, it contains little or no meat, and is largely a fruity pie. It remains a traditional pie at Thanksgiving for many families.

So, just what is mincemeat? It is a mixture of minced (or chopped up) meats, suet, and fruits.  The meat is usually beef, either ground up or sirloin. Fruits include raisins, apples pear, and others. Sometimes liquor is added, most commonly brandy or rum. WOW- there really is meat in mincemeat pie! 

What about nutrition? I have seen mincemeat on the shelf for years but never looked at the label. This was a surprise:



I try to never buy food that has any form of sugar in the first 4 ingredients so I guess mincemeat is out.  (there are 4 types of sugar in this product but none are called sugar, can  you find them?)  Darn- the combination of raisins, apples, and BEEF in a jar sounded delicious. 

Gobbling down 1/3 cup will set you back 190 calories. There is no fat, low sodium and tons of sugar.  Put this in a pie crust and I think it might kill you.  I prefer death by apple pie if I have a choice. 

Now you know more about mincemeat than you did 5 minutes ago.  Happy Mincemeat Day- don’t celebrate too much!

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Time for a Treat!

Saturday was a beautiful day in Northeast Wisconsin, which is rare in late October.  We were running some errands and found ourselves having lunch at the Atlas Coffee Mill in Appleton.  They have a beautiful outdoor deck that overlooks the Fox River, I thought it would be too cold (after all, it was only 60!) but the sun was shining so we sat outside to eat.  You never know when it’s the last nice day so we like to take advantage of every one. 

Beautiful late fall day. MIght be the last before the snow falls.

The Atlas has many fairly healthy choices which makes it easier to eat well.  Randy had a breakfast burrito which was eggs and veggies in a whole wheat tortilla served with fresh fruit (including raspberries!)  I had a Portobello Mushroom Panini filled with cucumber, feta cheese, and hummus.  I ordered the half-size which was more than enough.  It was served with a side of kettle chips (11 chips. Surprisingly, that was enough when it is portioned out instead of the whole bag)

While we ate we watched the ducks, geese, and seagulls while hoping to see some bald eagles (darn-none today). And then it happened.  I went inside for a refill of Diet Pepsi (no lectures on diet soda, please), and I spotted the giant chocolate chip cookie.  In a moment of weakness,  I found myself buying that cookie. 
This is how a cookie should be served!

The cookie was warmed, served on a glass plate with a side of fresh fruit.  I ordered one so we had to split it.  Half was plenty and just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.

The message here?  If you eat healthy most of the time, it is just fine to treat yourself once in a while.  And be sure to share that treat- you’ll both enjoy it and you will only get half the calories!
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I’ve been shot…have you?

And it didn't hurt one bit!

This has  nothing to do with our new concealed carry gun law, I’m talking about a flu shot. We went to Walgreen’s the other day for our annual shots, just walk in,ask for a shot and they’ll shoot you.  In and out in 5 minutes.  Well, not exactly because they gave us a coupon for $3 off a $15 purchase so I had to buy $15 worth of stuff I didn’t know I needed! 

Anyway, the next day I felt a little “off,” and I blamed it on the flu shot.  I knew this was wrong but had to do some research just to prove that the shot did not make me sick. 

WOW- checking the internet for information about flu shots and vaccines in general is like walking into a mine field!  There are lots of differing opinions and I’m sure you have your own thoughts as well but I prefer to follow science and research so I went to the Centers for Disease Control website first.  This is what they have to say:

Can the flu shot give me the flu?

No, a flu shot cannot cause flu illness. The viruses contained in flu shots are inactivated (killed), which means they cannot cause infection. Flu vaccine manufacturers kill the viruses used in the flu shot during the process of making vaccine, and batches of flu vaccine are tested to make sure they are safe. In randomized, blinded studies, where some people got flu shots and others got saltwater shots, the only differences in symptoms was increased soreness in the arm and redness at the injection site among people who got the flu shot. There were no differences in terms of body aches, fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat.

More information about these studies is available at:

Why do some people not feel well after getting the flu shot?

The most common side effect of the flu vaccine in adults is soreness at the spot where the shot was given, which usually lasts less than two days. The soreness is often caused by a person’s immune system making protective antibodies to the killed viruses in the vaccine. These antibodies are what allow the body to fight against flu. The needle stick may also cause some soreness at the injection site. According to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), rare symptoms include fever, muscle pain, and feelings of discomfort or weakness. If these problems occur, they are very uncommon and usually begin soon after the shot and last 1-2 days.

Ok- so I didn’t get the flu from the flu shot.  Just decreased energy and maybe a low grade fever that lasted a few hours. 

I also went to Yahoo! Answers to see what people were saying about flu shots.  I found out that flu shots are a scam made up by drug companies, that they can cause Alzheimer’s, and that all shots harm your immune system and make you weak.  I didn’t see any scientific data or studies to back up these claims but I want you to know that there is another school of thought.  I’m guessing most of these people have never seen a child die from the measles or crippled by polio but I’m not going to get into that as it really is a loaded topic!

Let’s go back to flu shots.  Do you need one? That’s your choice but here are the recommendations from the Mayo Clinic:

Who should get the flu vaccine?

Since the 2010-11 influenza season, the CDC has recommended annual influenza vaccinations for everyone age 6 months or older. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk of influenza complications, including:

  • Pregnant women
  • Older adults
  • Young children

Chronic medical conditions can also increase your risk of influenza complications. Examples include:

  • Asthma
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Obesity
  • Sickle cell disease

I don’t fall into any of these categories (no, I am not “older” yet!), but I work with the general public and the general public is always coughing and sneezing and not washing their hands so I made my own high risk category of “I am around sick  people all the time” 

Your best bet is to talk to your doctor to see if you should get a flu shot.  If nothing else, wash your hands with soap several times a day, eat healthy, exercise and get enough sleep. 

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Sunday Morning Thoughts

A couple of things happened this week that, while not related, made me think. 

 1- Part of my job duties include answering e-mails for the supermarket chain where I work.  While most are pretty ordinary- looking for an item, compliment, question, etc., there are others that just set me off.  We have raised the bar very high in terms of customer service so I understand why our shoppers expect more but sometimes a particular letter just gets my goat.  We received one this week from a lady who was very upset with our deli.  Why?  When we slice her cheese it doesn’t fall into a neat stack, sometimes a few are turned and then there is potential for the corners to break and heaven forbid we would have to eat a slice of cheese with a broken corner.  She went on and on with a laundry list of complaints.  Luckily, I did not have to answer this one as I might have had to rewrite a few times! 

2- We have a home in Manzanillo, Mexico where we spend some time in the winter.  Manzanillo was hit by Hurricane Jova this week and while we didn’t have any damage, thousands of people lost all their belongings and their homes were destroyed or damaged.  The pictures and video of the are heart-wrenching.  Many of the people there don’t have much to begin with and now they have nothing.  Homes are filled with mud, streets and bridges are damaged.  Emergency shelters are set up but it will take a long time for the rural areas to recover from this. 


Damage from Hurricane Jova




Muddy water flooded villages.

 The cheese complaint and the hurricane, while two totally different occurrences, reminded me of this quote. 


If you have:

Food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep..
-You are richer than 75% of the world.
If you have:
Money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change..
-You are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthiest.
If you are:
Attending college, or planning on attending college..
-You are among the top 1% educated globally.
If you woke up this morning,
with more health than illness.
-You are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week.
If you have never experienced:
the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation.
-You are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.
If you are reading this message:
you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read at all.
We all take these things for granted, and most of us who apply to everything on this can still find things to complain about. We’re so lucky but we don’t realize it. so just think about how fortunate you are, be thankful for the loved ones in your life, and smile.




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Is “Text Neck” Real? Yes. So is Computer Neck, Couch Neck, and Reading Neck!


Do you catch yourself in this position?

“Text Neck” has been in the news this week because a chiropractor has copyrighted the term and has come up with a treatment plan for those suffering from head, neck, and shoulder pain.  What sort of position is your head in for most of the day?  For me, I’m at my desk working on the computer for 8+ hours.  If I’m not on my computer, I am looking at my phone (texting) or making a call with the phone cradled between my head and shoulder.  In the evening I spend a few more hours laying on the couch with my laptop either surfing the web or writing blogs.  As I write, my neck is killing me and I know this posture is terrible but sitting up just seems like too much work!

There are many articles about setting up your work station correctly but the topic today is how to relieve a sore neck and shoulders through a series of exercises. 

Time for a Posture Check!

Why should we care about neck and head position?

Poor neck posture leads to a Forward Head Position which is one of the most common causes of neck, head and shoulder pain. This can be a result of injuries like sprains and strains of the neck leading to weak neck muscles, poor sleeping positions and the illustrated examples of driving stress computer neck, couch neck and readers neck along with improper breathing habits. Up to two-thirds of computer users complain of neck and shoulder pain by midday.  Left unchecked,  this can cause muscle spasms, compression of nerves or a degeneration of the spinal column. Chronic cases bring a litany of problems: stiffness, headaches, work absenteeism, emotional stress and missed workouts.

Even if you are in good shape and exercise daily, you still need to pay attention to your neck during the day and take frequent stretch breaks.  A friend from the Y suggested trying some desk yoga with Rodney Yee.  Wow!  He has several short videos on You Tube that I will feature in upcoming posts but today let’s release some neck tension with a 4 minute relaxation break.  You should do this at least twice a day. 

 Ahhhhh…..doesn’t that feel great?  Take a few minutes several times a day to take care of yourself.  Your body will thank you!

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Time to Squeeze our Buns!

We all know that slumping is bad for our posture, but did you know that sitting is just as bad?  In fact, it might be worse!  We tend to sit a lot.  Some of us sit at a desk all day, others in a vehicle.  We sit to work on the computer and to watch TV.  So, why is sitting so bad?

When you sit, the muscles on the front of your hips become short and tight while your glutes (butt) actually lose the ability to contract.  (think of pancake batter spreading out in a pan)

The combination of tight muscles in front and weak muscles in back causes your pelvis to tilt forward which is not an attractive look.  Even if you are thin this posture will make it appear that your belly is sticking out.  This also puts a lot of stress on your lower back which can lead to pain.

What do sitters need to do to keep our lower half balanced?  Here is a video that demonstrates a great exercise for your glutes, no equipment needed. I prefer to do this with my toes raised, pressing through the heel. Do 1 set of 8 on each side then do 1 more set on each side. To finish, see how long you can hold in the up position, pressing your hips toward the ceiling and giving your butt cheek a big squeeze. Work up to 30 seconds on each side. Remember, when you do one side- you have to do the other!

Hip flexors should also be stretched everyday. There are many stretches but this is my favorite:

Don’t get frustrated if these moves aren’t easy, it took awhile for you to lose strength and flexibility so it will take a while to get it back. Do what you can and then give it a bit more each day. Your bottom half will be in great shape before you know it!

Tomorrow we’ll do some exercises to help ease “Text Neck.” Yes, there is such a thing and we are all suffering from it!

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