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The Weight Loss Motivation Bible: How To Program Your Mind For Sustainable Fat Loss

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Don’t Stop Believin’

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How I Stopped Obsessing About Being Skinny

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I’ve always been passionate about being active, but I’d be lying if I told you that passion wasn’t once attached to the passion to be skinny. Skinny is a word I cringe at now, but for most of my life, skinny was everything.

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Part familial and part societal pressure, I grew up truly believing that being thin was synonymous with being beautiful. I’ve been on a diet for most of my life, not because I was overweight, but because the idea of being overweight was always a lingering worry, taunting me in the background. Although I was active, healthy, and toned, I never felt skinny enough, and it haunted me. I truly believed if I was skinny I would be happy and feel more confident.

The first time I ever gained real weight was my freshman year in college. I was ordering in, eating out, and drinking nearly every night. Immediately, I started up with two-a-day cardio sessions, barely ate a bite all day, then binged on a huge late dinner. At the time, I felt like I was being “good” and taking control of my body. I dropped weight so quickly, but it was at the price of my mental clarity, energy, and happiness. It was an unsustainable solution, and I put back on the weight just as quickly as I had taken it off — I knew I had to go about things in a different way. I cleaned up my act, cut out processed foods, and starting doing yoga every day, but I am embarrassed to admit that yoga wasn’t my primary form of exercise just because of all the healthy benefits it brought to my life — I saw it as a way to get skinny. A month into committing to a regular yoga practice, I began to acknowledge that my physical fitness was much more than a number on the scale or a body type I idealized. The stronger I felt in my yoga practice, the better I felt in the rest of my life. I stopped being as concerned about the skinny and started wanting more of that strong stuff.

This desire to be strong helped me realize the myth that lifting weights would bulk me up and make me feel unfeminine was just that — a myth. As soon as I unveiled the truth behind the myth, I started lifting and moving through bodyweight moves at home, and I began to see and feel a huge difference in my shape. I stopped stressing into fitting into a certain body type, because I was attaining something stronger, better, and more beautiful than I had anticipated. I was no longer about the number on the scale or the size of my jeans, and I found so much relief in giving up the numbers. Instead of obsessing over a tiny drop on the scale, I started reveling in the new definition I saw in my deltoids. Instead of trying to squeeze into my too-tight college pants, I realized that my backside had a little lift and was filling out my current jeans beautifully.

Once I realized I didn’t need to be thin in order to feel whole or content, I felt like I had been handed the keys to the kingdom. I am both thrilled and relieved that what was once referred to as a trend is starting to have some serious staying power. There is so much power in strength, and even more when there’s strength in numbers — I’m so ready for even more women to live by this truth! If you can relate to the anxiety I grew up with or you simply feel like the standard of skinny is unattainable (or, honestly, doesn’t sound like that much fun), stop being intimidated by the weight room, and try a workout program that supports your strength. If you’re anything like me, it will transform your life.

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Why Songs Get Stuck In Your Head—and How to Get Them Out 

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Why do some songs stick in our heads for infuriatingly long periods of time? According to the first large-scale study of its kind, it’s all about their combination of upbeat tempos, easy-to-remember melodies, and a little something unexpected. The new research looked at some of the most popular songs with this “stick factor"—and gives advice for how to get them unstuck, as well.

Tunes that we can’t seem to shake are sometimes known as earworms, or referred to in the scientific community as involuntary musical imagery. It makes sense that recent chart-toppers that get lots of radio play are more likely to find their place deep in our brains, but that theory—and the reasoning why some songs are catchier (and stickier) than others—has not been widely examined in a scientific way.

So Kelly Jakubowski, PhD, a former psychology teaching fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London, set out to do just that. Between 2010 and 2013, she and and her fellow researchers asked 3,000 people about their most frequent earworm, and compared those tunes' melodic features to other songs that were just as popular during the same time period (based on U.K. music charts), but were not named in the survey.

They found that the songs commonly cited as earworms were more likely to have fast tempos and, overall, fairly generic melodic contours. An example of a common contour pattern can be heard in Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, where the first phrase rises in pitch and the second falls, Jakubowski noted in a press release.

This rising-and-falling pitch pattern is followed in other nursery rhymes, as well, which makes them easy for young children to remember. And it's used in plenty of pop music, too, she says—like the beginning of Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger,” one of the most common earworms named in the study.

But earworms also tend to have some unique and unusual intervals, such as musical leaps or repeated notes, that set them apart from the average pop song. Jakubowski cites the opening notes of “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple, the chorus of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” or the instrumental riffs of “My Sharona” by the Knack as examples.

"Our findings show that you can to some extent predict which songs are going to get stuck in people's heads based on the song's melodic content,” said Jakubowski, who’s now a research assistant in the Department of Music at Durham University. “This could help aspiring songwriters or advertisers write a jingle everyone will remember for days or months afterwards.”

The study confirmed the idea that frequent and recent exposure to a song make it more likely to become an earworm, and that people who sing and listen to music often tend to experience this phenomenon more than others. It also found that words, images, and other associations can bring songs to mind, often from deep in our memories.

"We now also know that, regardless of the chart success of a song, there are certain features of the melody that make it more prone to getting stuck in people's heads like some sort of private musical screensaver,” said Jakubowski.

But here’s the part of the study you’ve probably been waiting for: what to do about it when it happens to you. Based on survey responses of what’s worked for other people, the authors make three recommendations:

1. Engage with the song. Many people said that listening to a song all the way through helps quiet the constant loop in their heads.

2. Distract yourself. Thinking about or listening to another song helps some people, too. In the study—which surveyed Brits—the top-named “cure song” was “God Save the Queen.” (Maybe the U.S. equivalent is the “Star Spangled Banner?”)

3. Let it be. Other people reported that the best way to get rid of an earworm was to just try not to think about it, and let it fade away naturally on its own.

Jakubowski says that 90 percent of us get songs stuck in our heads at least once a week, normally when the brain is not doing much—while we’re in the shower, walking, or doing mindless chores, for example. Further research on this topic could potentially help scientists understand how brain networks involved in perception, emotion, memory, and spontaneous thought behave in different people, she says.

The study, which was published today in the academic journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, lists the following as the most frequently named earworms. (Remember, the survey was done between 2010 and 2013.) We apologize in advance for bringing them up, as we know you’ll be humming them all week long.

Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
Can't Get You Out Of My Head – Kylie Minogue
Don't Stop Believing – Journey
Somebody That I Used To Know – Gotye
Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5
California Gurls – Katy Perry
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Alejandro – Lady Gaga
Poker Face – Lady Gaga

 

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

 

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How to Stop Blushing So Much

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Literature is full of blushing characters: Everyone from Elizabeth Bennet to Hermione Granger—heck, even the ax-wielding Annie Wilkes from Misery—occasionally blushes, and as a result, the reader tends to like them all the more. (Until, you know, that ax scene.) But what’s cute in a Jane Austen novel isn’t necessarily endearing to the shareholders at your annual company-wide meeting. … Or is it? 

“Blushing is quite unique,” says Rowland Miller, PhD, a psychology professor at Sam Houston State University who specializes in social emotions. When humans are faced with certain threats, the fight-or-flight response kicks in, and blood is diverted away from the skin, to the muscles. The opposite occurs when we blush—the blood flow increases to the skin via the veins of the upper neck, chest, and face.

So why does your autonomic nervous system want to throw you under the bus? Well, it may actually be trying to help you. “Blushing serves a useful function,” says Miller. “It’s an authentic, non-verbal apology for misbehavior.” And socially speaking, "misbehavior" has a pretty broad definition—leaving your fly unzipped or mispronouncing a word can count.

RELATED: These Personality Traits Are Linked to a Healthier Sex Life

Blushing is important, Miller says, because people who convey remorse are less likely to be ostracized by their peers. “If someone misbehaves and remains calm, they aren’t as well liked,” he explains. Example: If you knocked your friend’s iPhone into a swimming pool and just shrugged your shoulders, you would likely then have one less friend.

Research supports the theory that blushing helps us: People think better of us if we turn a little red after we make a social faux pas—more so than if we don’t blush, according to one 2009 study in the journal Emotion. And a 2011 study by the same group of researchers found that people who blushed after doing something wrong were more likely to regain their partner’s trust during a subsequent task. (Interestingly, people were less likely to trust partners who expressed embarrassment by averting their gaze and suppressing a smile; that expression was perceived as amused rather than ashamed.)

“You can’t blush on command, so if you do [blush], you’re perceived to be truly remorseful,” says Miller.  “You can’t be embarrassed about something if you don’t care [about it].”

RELATED: How You Feel About Facebook 'Likes' Says Something About Your Personality

Okay, you might ask, then why do I blush when I give a speech in public? One theory: Back in grade school, being singled out for good or bad behavior usually resulted in some kind of consequence, either from your peers or your teachers, says Dr. Miller. And those memories (do we ever get over 5th grade, really?) might be enough to trigger a blush as an adult, he explains.

So how do you make yourself stop blushing? It’s actually pretty hard. And, in fact, thinking about it might make it worse: One study published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy found that people who were told they were blushing (even if they weren’t), blushed more. “Believing that one will blush can act as a self-fulfilling prophecy,” the study authors wrote.

If you can’t psych that redness out of your cheeks, you can do the next best thing: Pretend as if it doesn’t bother you. Because really, it shouldn’t. Even though research shows that people think others look down on them for blushing, the exact opposite is true, says Miller. “Blushing is charming, and audiences judge people who are blushing more positively.” Realizing that your blushing makes you even more likeable, he says, might just be the best way to keep it under control.

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Do Healing Crystals Really Do Anything?

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Different stones are said to have different healing properties based on their color, mineral content, and energy output. (For example, websites promoting crystal healing tout amethyst as a remedy for sprains and swelling.) Some enthusiasts wear healing-crystal jewelry, sold in special shops or online; others may buy individual stones and keep them close by. If you do a quick search for “crystal healing” online, you’ll likely find a spa or holistic health center in your area that offers healing services using stones, in which a therapist places certain crystals along the “energy centers” (or chakras) of your body to restore positive energy.

RELATED: 4 Health Rumors You Seriously Need to Stop Believing

It sounds hokey, right? From a medical standpoint, it is. There’s no scientific evidence to back this practice whatsoever. Think about it: Placing a crystal on someone’s body to produce an internal change (e.g., erase a headache) does not make physiological sense. But, interestingly enough, past research has shown that crystal healing may have a significant placebo effect for those who believe in the practice, which may actually make them feel better, or at least more relaxed. So if you’re into this sort of alternative medicine, there’s little harm in giving it a go—as long as it’s not a substitute for real medical treatment when you need it.

 

Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.

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5 Things Everyone Should Know About Brain Tumors

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Earlier this summer, retired U.S. soccer player Lauren Holiday was sailing through her first pregnancy when suddenly, she began experiencing painful headaches. An MRI revealed a tumor on the right side of the 28-year-old's brain near her orbital socket, the Times-Picayune reports. 

Fortunately, the two-time Olympic gold medalist's growth is benign, operable, and not a risk to Holiday's unborn daughter. She's scheduled to have the tumor removed about six weeks after her delivery.

Though Holiday has a positive prognosis, her story is still scary because she's young and otherwise healthy—elite-athlete-level healthy. But next time you get a piercing headache, don't jump to any conclusions. The ones brought on by brain tumors aren't aren't your average headaches, says John G. Golfinos, MD, chair of the department of neurosurgery and co-director of the Brain Tumor Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. They're persistent, and tend to be worse in the morning and improve throughout the day. “That’s because when people are lying flat, the pressure in the skull and brain goes up, and during the day some of the pressure starts to go away,” he explains. What's more, brain tumor headaches are often associated with nausea and vomiting.

More good news: brain tumors are pretty rare. You have just a 1% chance of developing a malignant brain tumor in your lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. 

Here, Dr. Golfinos reveals more facts to know about brain tumors: 

Not all brain tumors are cancerous

“There’s a whole spectrum and range of outcomes for brain tumors,” says Dr. Golfinos. As in Holiday’s case, some are benign, “which means they grow very slowly in the brain or just outside the brain,” he explains. Others are malignant, grow very quickly, and are incurable.

RELATED: Early Signs of Stroke You Need to Know—Even If You're Young

Even benign tumors can cause major issues

The reason brain tumors can be so risky is that the skull is a thick, confined space: “So anything that grows inside or just outside the brain can take up a lot of room and press on important parts of the brain, causing a lot of problems,” he says. “That’s why we say with brain tumors, it’s not just what type of tumor is it, but where is it.”

The problems can include loss of vision, difficulties with speech, issues understanding language, or weakness on one side of the body. Symptoms can be subtle in the beginning, especially if they're caused by a benign, slow-growing tumor, says Dr. Golfinos. But if you notice any of those changes, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.

RELATED: 5 Times You Really, Seriously Need to Go to the ER

Brain tumors can’t escape your skull

Brain tumors are unique in that they can't spread to other organs, since they don't have the same access to the blood stream that tumors in other parts of the body do, says Dr. Golfinos. “The brain itself is a very privileged part of the body,” he notes. “It's good at keeping things out, but also good at keeping things in.”

Your phone won’t cause a tumor

You may have heard the myth that constantly talking on your cell causes cancer. According to Dr. Golfinos, you have nothing to worry about, since there's no good evidence to suggest this is true. The reality, he says, is that “[w]e really don’t understand what causes brain tumors.”

RELATED: 4 Health Rumors You Seriously Need to Stop Believing

You can't prevent tumors from developing

“Many people ask me if there’s anything they can do to avoid brain tumors,” says Dr. Golfinos. “And right now the answer to that is ‘no.’” That said, to play it safe, Dr. Golfinos recommends avoiding exposure to excess radiation whenever possible (by opting for an MRI over a CT scan for example), especially for anyone under the age of 18. 

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What Is Adrenal Fatigue? The Facts About This Controversial Medical Condition

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It seems like everyone's talking about adrenal fatigue, and it's pretty easy to see why. The condition's extremely-common-yet hard-to-pin-down symptoms include fatigue, body aches, trouble sleeping, and dark under-eye circles, and adrenal fatigue wraps them up in a tidy diagnosis that can supposedly be treated with a cocktail of supplements.

Thing is, there's no scientific evidence this condition actually exists.

An alternative medicine specialist named James L. Wilson first introduced the concept of adrenal fatigue with his 1998 book, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. The condition, as he explained it, is a group of non-specific symptoms associated with "below optimal adrenal function resulting from stress." When the adrenals (small glands that sit on top of the kidneys and produce vital hormones and help the body to regulate metabolism and respond to stress) are overtaxed, he argued, we can suffer from everything from "'gray' feelings" to the inability to leave bed for more than a few hours. Wilson offered "unique dietary supplements" as the remedy.

Nearly two decades later, there's still no way to test for the condition. What's more, researchers have uncovered no concrete evidence that stress actually does drain the adrenal glands. The Endocrine Society, a group representing more than 18,000 physicians and scientists around the world, doesn't mince words in its fact sheet: "'Adrenal fatigue' is not a real medical condition. There are no scientific facts to support the theory that long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress drains the adrenal glands and causes many common symptoms."

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"The symptoms people experience [when they believe they have adrenal fatigue] are very real, and sometimes it's difficult to have symptoms and not have a diagnosis, so that could be where the persistent myth of 'adrenal fatigue' syndrome comes from," says Salila Kurra, MD, co-director of the Columbia Adrenal Center and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

There really is harm in believing that myth and "waiting for the research to catch up," as some people put it, says Marilyn Tan, MD, an endocrinologist with Stanford Health Care and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Stanford School of Medicine in California. "Symptoms of fatigue, body aches, trouble sleeping, indigestion, and nervousness are non-specific and could be due to a variety of other diseases, including sleep disorders, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and thyroid disease," she explains. "To attribute all symptoms to a single diagnosis of 'adrenal fatigue' risks missing the detection of other treatable underlying diseases."

Confusing matters, there is a similarly-named condition that's widely accepted in the medical community, with research supporting its existence: adrenal insufficiency.

Primary adrenal insufficiency, also known as Addison's disease, occurs when the adrenal glands are damaged and can no longer produce enough cortisol, a hormone that plays a role in bone growth, blood pressure control, immune system function, metabolism, nervous system function, and stress response. It's very rare, affecting 110 to 144 of every 1 million people in developed countries. Autoimmune disorders cause about 80% of cases. Secondary adrenal insufficiency, on the other hand, is much more common, and occurs when the pituitary gland won't produce enough of a hormone that stimulates the adrenal gland to produce cortisol. It can be brought on by long-term glucocorticoid (steroid) use, pituitary disease, radiation, or other causes.

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Both types of adrenal insufficiency can be detected with lab tests, and patients suspected of having it might receive, for example, a morning blood test to measure their production of cortisol. "The reason you check cortisol levels in the morning to look for whether or not someone is making enough is because that's when it should be the highest," Dr. Kurra explains. "Most people with a normal sleep/wake cycle should have a spike of cortisol around 8 a.m." Adrenal insufficiency is a serious condition treated with hormone substitution and replacement, and people diagnosed with it are urged to carry medical identification so that they can receive appropriate help in the event of a crisis.

If your adrenal glands aren't working properly, your primary-care physician will likely refer you to a specialist. And take note: Although proponents of "adrenal fatigue" suggest treating yourself with over-the-counter supplements that promise "adrenal support" or "thyroid support," you absolutely should not do this to treat potential adrenal concerns of any kind. "If you take a supplement that has thyroid extract or adrenal extract, it could cause the symptoms of having too much of those hormones," Dr. Kurra says. "Supplements can also make your own glands—especially the adrenal glands, if you're taking some derivative of cortisol—stop working. Then, if you stop taking the supplement all of a sudden, your adrenal glands may not work; it takes time for them to 'wake up' again."

Plus, supplements have other drawbacks. "Most supplements are not only costly and not covered by insurance, but they are not FDA regulated," says Dr. Tan. "We do not have a full understanding of all of the effects of various supplements. Even though components of the supplements may be 'natural,' that does not mean they will not affect the body in adverse ways." They can also make it trickier for your doctor to help you: "Supplements make testing [for hormone levels] really difficult," Dr. Kurra adds. "We don't really know the active ingredients; there can actually be something in a supplement that gives false positive or false negative results." This is especially true when it comes to herbal remedies and multi-ingredient supplements; mega-doses of vitamins can have their own drawbacks, of course, but they are less likely to cause harm.

RELATED: Warning: Do Not Mix These Supplements

If you're experiencing symptoms that may have led you to believe you have adrenal fatigue, it's time to reach out to your primary care doctor, says Dr. Kurra. "A primary-care physician can help guide you in the direction of your treatment and, if you need to, help you find a subspecialist." Dr. Tan concurs: "This provider is the one who will be coordinating all your care between various other providers. Since the symptoms attributed to 'adrenal fatigue' can be non-specific, it is best to speak with your primary care provider so that he or she can better assess whether there is another obvious underlying cause." You've got all the background you need; now, make that call.

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Why positive affirmations really work

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Combat the negative thoughts and feelings by discovering how and why affirmations and positive reinforcement can help you succeed.

 

Looking at yourself in the eye in front of the mirror (or looking inward to your mind’s eye) and repeating positive affirmations is not a new concept. It’s a psychological ‘trick’ that has been used by those in the know to boost chances of success and to counteract the negative chatter that so often infiltrates our thoughts.

“Positive self-talk helps people to achieve good results in many areas, including completing simple and complex tasks, improving productivity, winning sporting events and boosting recovery and rehabilitation,” says psychologist Yuliya Richard.

“Individuals who can tell themselves, ‘Yes, it is really uncomfortable, but I can do it. It might be really hard and usually I run away from such situations but this time I will give it a go’, are more likely to take risks and overcome fears.”

Yes, positive affirmations work – when they’re well constructed – in more ways than one, says psychologist Lana Hall.

“Firstly, it means that you’re more likely to act in ways that bring you to your goal, because you’re regularly reminding yourself of its importance and so more likely to keep focused and motivated,” she says.

“Secondly, it helps you to be alert to opportunities that might help you reach your desired state. And lastly, affirmations can start to help you change your sense of self, your identity, to fit with your affirmation. This is a really key part of the change: believing that you are the type of person who can reach your goal. This is why a lot of resolutions end up failing: you say you’ll exercise regularly but you’re the kind of person who’s a bit suspicious of people who love to exercise. Your sense of self is threatened by your goal and so you don’t follow through.

“Tapping into your sense of identity is the scientific reason why affirmations are meant to be said in the present tense, as though you are already there.”

All these elements fit into what is known as the ‘confirmation bias’ – our tendency to look for information that fits with what we already believe.

“Every time you recite an affirmation, you’re confirming your belief, and so the affirmation makes it easier to see evidence that supports the affirmation, and harder to see the evidence against the affirmation,” says Hall.

For more motivational tips and advice read more about how to overcome motivational barriers. 

 

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