— Top 10…

Top 15 Retirement Communities in Austin, TX

Posted on August 7, 2011. Filed under: -- Austin Related, -- Top 10... | Tags: , , , |


Here are the Top 15 Retirement Communities in Austin, ranked by number of independent living units as of May 2011. This information comes from the Austin Business Journal. Austin is a wonderful place to live and I hope you find the list useful.

1. The Lodge at Merrilltown

2. Tuscan Village

3. Westminster Manor

4. Rebekah Baines Johnson Center

5. Conservatory Senior Living

6. Longhorn Village

7. The Village at the Arboretum

8. Heather Wilde Park Retirement Community

9. Querencia at Barton Crek

10. The Heritage at Gaines Ranch

11. The Summit at Westlake Hills

12. The Clairmont

13. Parsons House Austin

14. Englewood Estates Inc.

15. The Continental

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Top 20 Most Romantic Cities in America, According to Amazon.com

Posted on March 1, 2011. Filed under: -- Top 10..., -- Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |


 (YOU CAN CLICK ON PICTURE TO ENLARGE)

Amazon.com releases the Top 20 Most Romantic Cities in America each year, and below I have the results for 2010. According to Amazon.com, after compiling sales data of romance novels and relationship books (Kindle Books and print books), romantic comedy movies (digital movies and DVDs), Barry White albums (CDs and MP3s), along with sexual wellness products, since Jan. 1, 2011, on a per capita basis in cities with over 100,000 residents, the Top 20 most romantic cities in the U.S. are:

1. Alexandria, Va. 

2. Knoxville, Tenn.

3. Orlando, Fla.

4. Miami

5. Ann Arbor, Mich.

6. Columbia, S.C.

7. Cincinnati 

8. Murfreesboro, Tenn.

9. Gainesville, Fla.

10. Tallahassee, Fla.

11. Vancouver, Wash.

12. Round Rock, Texas

13. Pittsburgh, PA

14. Salt Lake City 

15. Arlington, Va.

16. Las Vegas

17. Clarksville, Tenn.

18. St. Louis

19. Dayton, Ohio

20. Frisco, Texas 

In taking a closer look at Amazon.com’s “romantic” data, the company also unveiled that:

  • Alexandria, Va., knows how to keep the romance alive as America’s most romantic city (second year in a row!)
  • Needing to turn up the heat are El Monte, Calif.; Paterson, N.J.; and Miami Gardens, Fla., as the least romantic cities, coming in with the fewest number of overall purchases in the determining categories.
  • Florida is for romantics, with four cities–Miami, Gainesville, Orlando, and Tallahassee–ranked among the Top 20 most romantic cities.
  • For the second year in a row, Miami is the Sexiest City in America, winning the top spot in the sexual wellness category.
  • Of the Top 20, Knoxville, Tenn., is the most improved, jumping up 14 spots from last year to clock in as the second most romantic city.
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8 Things Your Hair Says About Your Health

Posted on February 24, 2011. Filed under: -- Top 10..., -- Uncategorized, health, Tips | Tags: , , , |


Did you know that the health of your hair and scalp can be a major tip-off to a wide variety of health conditions?

Here is an article from www.caring.com about your hair and your health. Their website is slooooow, so I thought I’d share the information for you here. Hope you enjoy!

“We used to think hair was just dead protein, but now we understand that a whole host of internal conditions affect the health of our hair,” says dermatologist Victoria Barbosa, MD, who runs Millennium Park Dermatology in Chicago. “Our hair responds to stress, both the physical stressors of disease and underlying health issues, and psychological stress.” Here, eight red flags that tell you it’s time to pay more attention to the health of your hair — and to your overall health in general.

Red flag #1: Dry, limp, thin-feeling hair

What it means: Many factors can lead to over-dry hair, including hair dyes, hair blowers, and swimming in chlorinated water. But a significant change in texture that leaves hair feeling finer, with less body, can be an indicator of an underactive thyroid, known as hypothyroidism. Some people conclude that their hair is thinning because it feels as if there’s less of it, but the thinning is due more to the texture of the hair itself becoming finer and weaker than to individual hairs falling out (though that happens too).

More clues: Other signs of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, slow heart rate, and feeling cold all the time, says Raphael Darvish, a dermatologist in Brentwood, California. In some cases, the eyebrows also thin and fall out. A telltale sign: when the outermost third of the eyebrow thins or disappears.

What to do: Report your concerns to your doctor and ask him or her to check your levels of thyroid hormone. The most common blood tests measure the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and T4. It’s also important to keep a list of your symptoms — all of them.

“A doctor’s visit is best to work up this problem; he or she may choose to do a thyroid ultrasound and a blood test in addition to an examination,” says Darvish.

Red flag #2: Scaly or crusty patches on the scalp, often starting at the hairline

What it means: When a thick crust forms on the scalp, this usually indicates psoriasis, which can be distinguished from other dandruff-like skin conditions by the presence of a thickening, scab-like surface, says Lawrence Greene, MD, a spokesperson for the National Psoriasis Foundation. Psoriasis is the most common of all the autoimmune diseases and occurs when the skin goes into overdrive, sending out faulty signals that speed up the turnover and growth of skin cells.

More clues: Psoriasis, which affects nearly 7.5 million Americans, often occurs in concert with other autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. If you have another autoimmune disorder, it’s that much more likely you’ll develop psoriasis. In turn, the discovery that you have psoriasis should put you on the alert for more serious conditions. Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop a condition called psoriatic arthritis, which causes painful swelling of the joints.

What to do: There’s a long list of ingredients that help relieve psoriasis, and treatment is often a process of trial and error. Topical treatments include shampoos containing coal tar or salicylic acid, and creams or ointments containing zinc and aloe vera. Hydrocortisone cream works to relieve inflammation. Prescription creams include vitamin D, vitamin A, and anthralin. Many patients also have great success treating the scalp with UV light therapy, and systemic medications such as cyclosporine work better for some people than topical medications.

It’s a good idea to see a dermatologist for help sorting out the various treatments, rather than trying to do it on your own. One thing to keep in mind: Psoriasis puts you at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, certain types of cancer, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and depression. So if your psoriasis becomes severe, bring it to your doctor’s attention as part of a discussion of your overall health.

Red flag #3: Thinning hair over the whole head

What it means: It’s normal to shed approximately 100 to 150 hairs a day, the result of the body’s natural turnover. It’s when you notice considerably more hairs in your brush or on the towel after you shampoo — or when hair appears to be coming out in clumps — that it’s time for concern. One common cause: a sudden psychological or physical stressor, such as a divorce or job loss. Another: having a high fever from the flu or an infection. Diabetes can also cause hair to thin or start to fall out suddenly; some diabetes experts say sudden hair thinning or hair loss should be considered an early warning sign that diabetes is affecting hormone levels.

A number of medications also cause hair loss as a side effect. These include birth control pills, along with lithium and Depakote, two of the most common treatments for bipolar disorder. All tricyclic antidepressants, some SSRIs such as Prozac, and levothyroid — used to treat hypothyroidism — can cause thinning hair. Hormonal changes can also cause hair to thin, which is why both pregnancy and perimenopause are well known for causing hair to fall out, while polycystic ovary syndrome can cause both hair loss and overgrowth of hair, depending on how the hormones go out of balance. Thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism, is one of the most common causes of hair loss.

More clues: Check for tiny white bumps at the roots of the hair; their presence suggests that this is temporary hair loss rather than male/female pattern baldness, says Chicago dermatologist Victoria Barbosa. Any medication that interferes with hormones can cause this type of hair loss; the list includes birth control pills, Accutane for acne, and prednisone and anabolic steroids. Physical stressors that can lead to temporary hair loss include iron deficiency anemia and protein deficiency; these are particularly common in those who’ve suffered from eating disorders.

What to do: If you have what experts call temporary hair loss — to distinguish from hereditary hair loss, which is likely to be permanent — you’ll need to discontinue the medication or treat the underlying condition that’s causing the problem. It can also help to take supplemental biotin, which has been shown to strengthen and thicken hair and fingernails, says Barbosa.

And while vitamin D deficiency hasn’t been pinpointed as a cause of hair loss, research has demonstrated that taking vitamin D helps grow the hair back. “We don’t know how vitamin D contributes to hair loss, but we do know the hair follicles need good levels of vitamin D to recover,” Barbosa says. Recommended dose: 2000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily. In addition, talk to your doctor about getting your blood levels of iron checked for anemia, and take iron if needed.

Red flag #4: Overall hair loss that appears permanent, often following traditional pattern baldness

What it means: Both women and men are subject to what’s formally known as androgenetic and androgenic alopecia. It’s usually caused by a change in the pattern of the sex hormones, but diseases and other underlying conditions can cause this type of hair loss by affecting the hormones. In women, a derivative of testosterone is often the culprit, shrinking and eventually killing off hair follicles. Traditionally known as “male pattern baldness,” this type of hair loss is often hereditary and is typically permanent if not treated with medication, says Larry Shapiro, a dermatologist and hair surgeon in Palm Beach, Florida.

Men’s hair loss nearly always follows a pattern of thinning along the hairline, at the temples, and in the back of the scalp. Some women’s hair loss also follows this pattern, but more typically women experience thinning over the entire head.

Diabetes also can cause or contribute to hair loss. Over time, diabetes often leads to circulatory problems; as a result, the hair follicles don’t get adequate nutrients and can’t produce new hairs. Hair follicles can eventually die from lack of nutrition, causing permanent hair loss.

More clues: Certain underlying conditions can cause this type of hair loss by altering hormones; these include thyroid disease (both overactive and underactive thyroid) and autoimmune disease, Shapiro says. Many drugs taken long-term to control chronic conditions can have a side effect, in some people, of causing or contributing to hair loss. They include beta blockers such as propranolol and atenolol, anticoagulants like warfarin, and many drugs used to control arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions.

What to do: If you suspect a medication is causing or exacerbating your hair loss, talk to your doctor about whether an alternative is available that’s less likely to have that side effect. (But don’t just stop taking your medicine.) Minoxidil, the generic name for the drug marketed as Rogaine, is the primary proven method of treating androgenic hair loss. It works by blocking the action of the hormones at the hair follicle. It’s now available over the counter, so you don’t have to have a prescription, and it’s sold in male and female versions.

Another drug, finasteride, requires a prescription. Some women find that taking estrogen helps with hormonally triggered hair loss.

Red flag #5: Dry, brittle hair that breaks off easily

What it means: When individual hairs litter your pillow in the morning, this typically indicates breakage rather than hair falling out from the follicle, says Chicago dermatologist Victoria Barbosa. Breakage is most frequently the result of hair becoming over-brittle from chemical processing or dyeing. “Bleaching, straightening, and other chemical processing techniques strip the cuticle to let the chemicals in, which makes the hair shaft more fragile,” Barbosa explains.

However, certain health conditions also lead to brittle, fragile hair. Among them: Cushing’s syndrome, a disorder of the adrenal glands that causes excess production of the hormone cortisol. A condition called hypoparathyroidism, usually either hereditary or the result of injury to the parathyroid glands during head and neck surgery, can also cause dry, brittle hair. Overly low levels of parathyroid hormone cause blood levels of calcium to fall and phosphorus to rise, leading to fragile dry hair, scaly skin, and more serious symptoms such as muscle cramps and even seizures.

More clues: If the cause of your dry, brittle hair is an underlying health condition, you’ll likely notice additional symptoms, such as dry, flaky skin. Overly dry hair also can signify that your diet is lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in salmon and fish oil, as well as many nuts and seeds, particularly flaxseed.

What to do: No matter what the cause of your dry, brittle hair, minimizing heat and chemical treatment are necessary for it to get healthy again. If an underlying condition is throwing your hormones out of whack and in turn affecting your hair, talk to your doctor. The symptoms of hypoparathyroidism, for example, are often reduced or eliminated with supplemental vitamin D and calcium.

Next, deep condition your hair to restore it to health. Hair oils can help restore flexibility to the hair shaft, Barbosa says; look for products made with natural oils such as coconut and avocado oil, which penetrate the cuticle, rather than synthetic oils made from petrolatum, which merely coat the hair. Take fish oil supplements to renourish your hair. And minimize breakage while you sleep by replacing cotton pillowcases, which tend to catch and pull at hair, with satin pillowcases, which are smoother.

Red Flag #6: Hair falling out in small, circular patches

What it means: The body’s immune response turns on the hair follicles themselves, shrinking them and causing hair to fall out entirely in small, typically round patches. This kind of hair loss — which experts call alopecia areata — can also occur at the temples or at the part line. Diabetes can trigger the onset of such hair loss in some people. And it can continue to spread; in extreme cases, sufferers lose all their hair or lose hair over their entire body.

More clues: Alopecia areata can also cause the eyebrows or eyelashes to fall out, which in addition to the circular pattern can distinguish it from other types of hair loss. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition and has been shown to be more common in families with a tendency toward other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, early-onset diabetes, and thyroid disease.

What to do: The treatment most proven to work against alopecia areata is cortisone shots delivered directly into the scalp in the spots where the hair is falling out. “If you don’t get steroid injections, the circular patches will get larger and more cosmetically noticeable,” says California dermatologist Raphael Darvish.

Oral forms of cortisone and topical cortisone creams are also available, but topical cortisone is less likely to be successful unless it’s a mild case. Many doctors will also suggest using minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) to speed the rate of regrowth. Treatment may need to be repeated a number of times over a period of months.

Red flag #7: Yellowish flakes on the hair and scaly, itchy patches on the scalp

What it means: What most of us grew up calling dandruff is now understood to be a complicated interaction of health issues that deserve to be taken seriously. Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the scalp that causes skin to develop scaly patches, often in the areas where the scalp is oiliest. When the flaky skin loosens, it leaves the telltale “dandruff” flakes.

Seborrheic dermatitis coexists in a “chicken-and-egg” relationship with a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of a yeast that’s normally present on our scalps and skin. The yeast organism, Pityrosporum ovale, takes advantage of skin already irritated by dermatitis and inflames it still more. Some experts now believe that the yeast overgrowth may occur first, setting off the inflammatory reaction of the dermatitis, but that hasn’t been proven.

More clues: One way to differentiate seborrheic dermatitis from plain dry skin: When skin is dry, you’ll typically also see dry, scaly skin between the eyebrows and by the sides of the nose, says California dermatologist Raphael Darvish. Also, seborrheic dermatitis tends to be seasonal, flaring up during the winter and disappearing in the summertime. It may be triggered by stress as well.

What to do: See a dermatologist to make sure it’s seborrheic dermatitis. If so, “there are great prescription shampoos and creams that can correct this,” says Darvish. The most effective treatment for yeast overgrowth is ketoconazole, a newer drug that works by damaging the fungal cell wall, killing the fungus. It comes in the form of pills, creams, or shampoo under the brand name Nizoral. However, as an oral medication it has many side effects, so if you and your doctor decide on an oral treatment, an alternative antifungal, fluconazole, is preferable.

To calm flare-ups as quickly as possible, Darvish recommends using a prescription steroid cream. However, long-term use of these creams can thin the skin, particularly on the face, Darvish warns, so doctors recommend using them in short-term doses known as “pulse therapy.”

To prevent recurrence, it’s necessary to get the skin back in balance, and many experts recommend garlic for this purpose. You can either eat lots of fresh garlic, which might annoy those in close proximity to you, or take a garlic supplement.

Red flag #8: Gray hair

What it means: Many people perceive gray hair as a red flag, worrying that it’s an indication of stress or trauma. And history abounds with stories like that of Marie Antoinette, whose hair was said to have gone snow white the night before she faced the guillotine.

Experts tend to dismiss such fears and stories, explaining that how our hair goes gray or white is primarily influenced by our genetics. However, in recent years research scientists have reopened the debate. While they can’t yet prove or explain it, many researchers now believe that stress may trigger a chain reaction that interferes with how well the hair follicle transmits melanin, the pigment that colors hair. Researchers are looking at the role of free radicals, which are hormones we produce when under stress, and studies seem to show that they can block the signal that tells the hair follicle to absorb the melanin pigment.

Other experts argue that a trauma or stressful event causes the hair to stop growing temporarily and go into a resting phase. Then when the hair follicles “wake up” and begin turning over again, a lot of new hair grows in all at once, making it appear that a great deal of gray has come in all at the same time.

More clues: The schedule and pattern by which you go gray will most likely follow your parents’ experience. However, if you suspect stress is graying you prematurely, keep careful track of stressful events. People who experienced a traumatic event that they believe caused them to go gray have reported that their hair eventually returned to its former color.

What to do: If you believe that stress or trauma is causing your hair to go gray, boost your coping strategies by working on your reactions to stressful situations. Yoga and meditation, for example, are effective stress-management tools.

If you see results, you’ll know you’re on the right track. In the meantime, you might want to talk to your parents about how their hair color changed over time, and learn what you can expect. After all, if Great-Aunt Eliza first developed her dramatic white skunk streak in her mid-30s, that might be something you want prepare yourself for.

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18 Things Your Feet Say About Your Health

Posted on February 23, 2011. Filed under: -- Top 10..., -- Uncategorized, health, Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , |


My cousin is a podiatrist in Canada and is always encouraging “healthy feet.”

Below is an article I found from Caring.com, that outlines what your feet say about your health. Gosh, I had no idea our feet were such chatter boxes. I found the article very interesting and wanted to share it. Hope you enjoy and good luck having happy, healthy feet.

Here is the article:
“You can detect everything from diabetes to nutritional deficiencies just by examining the feet,” says Jane Andersen, DPM, president of the American Association of Women Podiatrists and a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association.

The lowly left and right provide plenty of insightful data: Together they contain a quarter of the body’s bones, and each foot also has 33 joints; 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments; and countless nerves and blood vessels that link all the way to the heart, spine, and brain.

Unresolved foot problems can have unexpected consequences. Untreated pain often leads a person to move less and gain weight, for example, or to shift balance in unnatural ways, increasing the chance of falling and breaking a bone.

So when the feet send one of these 18 warning messages, they mean business.

1. Red flag: Toenails with slightly sunken, spoon-shaped indentations

What it means: Anemia (iron deficiency) often shows up as an unnatural, concave or spoonlike shape to the toes’ nail beds, especially in moderate-to-severe cases. It’s caused by not having enough hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein in the blood cells that transports oxygen. Internal bleeding (such as an ulcer) or heavy menstrual periods can trigger anemia.

More clues: On fingers as well as toes, the skin and nail beds both appear pale. The nails may also be brittle, and feet may feel cold. Fatigue is the number-one sign of anemia, as are shortness of breath, dizziness when standing, and headache.

What to do: A complete blood count is usually used to diagnose anemia. A physical exam may pinpoint a cause. First-step treatments include iron supplements and dietary changes to add iron and vitamin C (which speeds iron absorption).
 

2. Red flag: Hairless feet or toes

What it means: Poor circulation, usually caused by vascular disease, can make hair disappear from the feet. When the heart loses the ability to pump enough blood to the extremities because of arteriosclerosis (commonly known as hardening of the arteries), the body has to prioritize its use. Hairy toes are, well, low on the totem pole.

More clues: The reduced blood supply also makes it hard to feel a pulse in the feet. (Check the top of the foot or the inside of the ankle.) When you stand, your feet may be bright red or dusky; when elevated, they immediately pale. The skin is shiny. People with poor circulation tend to already know they have a cardiovascular condition (such as heart disease or a carotid artery) yet may not realize they have circulation trouble.

What to do: Treating the underlying vascular issues can improve circulation. Toe hair seldom returns, but nobody complains much.
 

3. Red flag: Frequent foot cramping (charley horses)

What it means: The sudden stab of a foot cramp — basically, the hard contraction of a muscle — can be triggered by fleeting circumstances such as exercise or dehydration. But if it happens often, your diet may lack sufficient calcium, potassium, or magnesium. Pregnant women in the third trimester are especially vulnerable thanks to increased blood volume and reduced circulation to the feet.

More clues: Charley horses tend to rear up out of nowhere, often while you’re just lying there. They can be a single sharp muscle spasm or come in waves. Either way, soreness can linger long afterward.

What to do: Try to flex the foot and massage the painful area. You may also be able to relax the muscle by applying a cold pack or rubbing alcohol. To prevent cramps, stretch your feet before you go to bed. Then drink a glass of warm milk (for the calcium).
 

4. Red flag: A sore that won’t heal on the bottom of the foot

What it means: This is a major clue to diabetes. Elevated blood glucose levels lead to nerve damage in the feet — which means that minor scrapes, cuts, or irritations caused by pressure or friction often go unnoticed, especially by someone who’s unaware he has the disease. Untreated, these ulcers can lead to infection, even amputation.

More clues: Oozing, foul-smelling cuts are especially suspect because they’ve probably been there awhile. Other symptoms of diabetes include persistent thirst, frequent urination, increased fatigue, blurry vision, extreme hunger, and weight loss.

What to do: Get the ulcer treated immediately and see a doctor for a diabetes evaluation. Diabetics need to inspect their feet daily (older people or the obese should have someone do this for them) and see a healthcare professional every three months.
 

5. Red flag: Cold feet

What it means: Women, especially, report cold feet (or more precisely, their bedmates complain about them). It may be nothing — or it may indicate a thyroid issue. Women over 40 who have cold feet often have an underfunctioning thyroid, the gland that regulates temperature and metabolism. Poor circulation (in either gender) is another possible cause.

More clues: Hypothyroidism’s symptoms are pretty subtle and appear in many disorders (fatigue, depression, weight gain, dry skin).

What to do: Insulating layers of natural materials work best for warmth. (Think wool socks and lined boots). If you also have other nagging health complaints, mention the cold feet to your doctor. Unfortunately, however, aside from treatment with medication in the event of a thyroid condition, this tends to be a symptom that’s neither easily nor sexily resolved.
 

6. Red flag: Thick, yellow, downright ugly toenails

What it means: A fungal infection is running rampant below the surface of the nail. Onychomycosis can persist painlessly for years. By the time it’s visibly unattractive, the infection is advanced and can spread to all toenails and even fingernails.

More clues: The nails may also smell bad and turn dark. People most vulnerable: those with diabetes, circulatory trouble, or immune-deficiency disorders (like rheumatoid arthritis). If an older person has trouble walking, sometimes the problem can be traced to the simple fact that as infected nails grow thicker, they’re harder to cut and simply go ignored to the point of pain.

What to do: See a foot specialist or your regular physician for care and treatment. In serious cases, over-the-counter antifungals are usually not as effective as a combination of topical and oral medications and the professional removal of diseased bits. Newer-generation oral antifungal medications tend to have fewer side effects than older ones.

7. Red flag: A suddenly enlarged, scary-looking big toe

 What it means: Probably gout. Yes, that old-fashioned-sounding disease is still very much around — and you don’t have to be over 65 to get it. Gout is a form of arthritis (also called “gouty arthritis”) that’s usually caused by too much uric acid, a natural substance. The built-up uric acid forms needlelike crystals, especially at low body temperatures. And the coolest part of the body, farthest from the heart, happens to be the big toe.

“Three-fourths of the time, you wake up with a red-hot swollen toe joint as the first presentation of gout,” says podiatrist Andersen.

More clues: Swelling and shiny red or purplish skin — along with a sensation of heat and pain — can also occur in the instep, the Achilles tendon, the knees, and the elbows. Anyone can develop gout, though men in their 40s and 50s are especially prone. Women with gout tend to be postmenopausal.

What to do: See a doctor about controlling the causes of gout through diet or medication. A foot specialist can help relieve pain and preserve function.

8. Red flag: Numbness in both feet

What it means: Being unable to “feel” your feet or having a heavy pins-and-needles sensation is a hallmark of peripheral neuropathy, or damage to the peripheral nervous system. That’s the body’s way of transmitting information from the brain and spinal cord to the entire rest of the body. Peripheral neuropathy has many causes, but the top two are diabetes and alcohol abuse (current or past). Chemotherapy is another common cause.

More clues: The tingling or burning can also appear in hands and may gradually spread up to arms and legs. The reduced sensation may make it feel like you’re constantly wearing heavy socks or gloves.

What to do: See a physician to try to pinpoint the cause (especially if alcohol addiction doesn’t apply). There’s no cure for peripheral neuropathy, but medications from pain relievers to antidepressants can treat symptoms.

9. Red flag: Sore toe joints

What it means: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a degenerative joint disease, is often first felt in the smaller joints, such as the toes and the knuckles of the hands.

More clues: Swelling and stiffness usually accompany the aches. This pain tends to be symmetrical; for example, it happens simultaneously in both big toes or in both index fingers. RA develops more suddenly than degenerative arthritis, and attacks may come and go. Women are almost four times more affected than men.

What to do: A full workup is always needed to pinpoint the cause of any joint pain. For RA, there are many medications and therapies that can minimize pain and preserve function, though early diagnosis is important to avoid permanent deformity. (In the feet, the toes can drift to the side.)

10. Red flag: Pitted toenails

What it means: In up to half of all people with psoriasis, the skin disease also shows up in the nail as many little holes, which can be deep or shallow. More than three-fourths of those with psoriatic arthritis, a related disorder that affects the joints as well as the skin, also have pocked, pitted nails.

More clues: The nails (fingers as well as toes) will also thicken. They may be yellow-brown or have salmon-colored patches. The knuckle nearest the nail is also likely to be dry, red, and inflamed.

What to do: A variety of medications can treat both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and can restore the nail bed surface in many cases, especially if treatment begins early.

11. Red flag: Being unable to raise the foot upward from the heel

What it means: “Foot drop” (also “drop foot”) signals nerve or muscle damage that can originate well north of your feet — as far as your back or even shoulder or neck. Certain chemotherapy drugs can also cause trouble lifting the front part of the foot while walking or standing.

More clues: There may be pain and numbness as well, though not necessarily. Sometimes the pain is felt in the upper leg or lower spine, where a nerve is pinched (by damage or a tumor). In some cases, the foot drags when the person walks. It’s rare for both feet to be affected.

What to do: Report this serious symptom to your doctor. Foot drop can be completely reversible or permanent, depending on its cause and treatment.

12. Red flag: Dry, flaky skin

What it means: Even if your face or hands tend to be powdery-dry, don’t dismiss this skin condition on your feet. You don’t have to be a jock to contract athlete’s foot, a fungal infection that usually starts as dry, itchy skin that then progresses to inflammation and blisters. When blisters break, the infection spreads.

(The name comes from the moist places the fungus thrives — places athletes tend to congregate, such as locker rooms and pools.)

More clues: Athlete’s foot usually shows up between the toes first. It can spread to the soles and even to other parts of the body (like the underarms or groin), usually due to scratching.

What to do: Mild cases can be self-treated by bathing the feet often and drying them thoroughly. Then keep the feet dry, including using foot powder in shoes and socks. If there’s no improvement in two weeks or the infection worsens, a doctor can prescribe topical or oral antifungal medication.

13. Red flag: Toes that turn patriotic colors

What it means: In cold weather, Raynaud’s disease (or Raynaud’s phenomenon) causes the extremities to first go white, then turn blue, and finally appear red before returning to a natural hue. For reasons not well understood, the blood vessels in these areas vasospasm, or overreact, causing the tricolor show.

More clues: Other commonly affected areas include the fingers, nose, lips, and ear lobes. They also feel cool to the touch and go numb. Women and those who live in colder climates get Raynaud’s more often. It typically shows up before age 25 or after 40. Stress can trigger Raynaud’s attacks, too.

What to do: See a doctor about medications that can widen blood vessels, which reduces the severity of attacks.

14. Red flag: Feet that are really painful to walk on

What it means: Undiagnosed stress fractures are a common cause of foot pain. The discomfort can be felt along the sides of the feet, in the soles, or “all over.” These fractures — they often occur repeatedly — may be caused by another underlying problem, often osteopenia (a decrease in optimum bone density, especially in women over age 50) or some kind of malnutrition, including a vitamin D deficiency, a problem absorbing calcium, or anorexia.

More clues: Often you can still walk on the broken bones; it just hurts like heck. (Some hardy people have gone undiagnosed for as long as a year.)

What to do: See a foot doctor about any pain. If, for example, you’ve been walking around Europe for three weeks in bad shoes, your feet may simply be sore. But a 55-year-old sedentary woman with painful feet may need a bone-density exam. An X-ray can also reveal possible nutritional issues that warrant a referral to a primary care provider.

15. Red flag: Toes that bump upward at the tips

What it means: When the very tips of the toes swell to the point where they lose their usual angle and appear to bump upward at the ends, it’s called “digital clubbing” or “Hippocratic clubbing” after Hippocrates, who described the phenomenon 2,000 years ago. It’s a common sign of serious pulmonary (lung) disease, including pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer. Heart disease and certain gastrointestinal diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, are also associated with clubbing.

More clues: Fingers can be clubbed as well as toes. It can happen in just some digits, or in all.

What to do: Treatment depends on the underlying cause, so report this serious symptom to a doctor. (Physicians are also well trained to look for clubbed digits during exams.)

16. Red flag: Shooting pain in the heel

What it means: Plantar fasciitis — a fancy name for inflammation of a band of connective tissue (fascia) running along the bottom (plantar) of the foot — is abnormal straining of the tissue beyond its normal extension.

More clues: The pain starts when you take your first steps in the morning and often intensifies as the day wears on. It’s usually concentrated in the heel (one or both) but can also be felt in the arch or in the back of the foot. Running and jumping a lot can cause it, but so can insufficient support. You’re at risk if you go barefoot a lot or wear old shoes or flimsy flip-flops, have gained weight, or walk a lot on hard surfaces.

What to do: If pain persists more than a few weeks or seems to worsen, have it evaluated by a podiatrist. Stick to low shoes with a strong supportive arch until you get further advice and treatment (which may include anti-inflammatory drugs and shoe inserts).

17. Red flag: “Phee-uuuuw!” 

What it means: Though smelly feet (hyperhidrosis) tend to cause more alarm than most foot symptoms, odor — even downright stinkiness — is seldom a sign something’s physically amiss. (Whew!) Feet contain more sweat glands than any other body part — half a million between the two of them! And some people are more prone to sweat than others. Add in the casings of shoes and socks, and the normal bacteria that thrive in the body have a feast on the resulting moisture, creating the smell that makes wives and mothers weep. (Both sexes can have smelly feet, but men tend to sweat more.)

More clues: In this case, the one olfactory clue is plenty.

What to do: Wash with antibacterial soap and dry feet well. Rub cornstarch or antiperspirant onto soles. Toss used socks in the wash; always put on a fresh pair instead of reusing. Stick to natural materials (cotton socks, leather shoes) — they wick away moisture better than man-made materials. Open up laced shoes after you remove them so they get a chance to fully air out; don’t wear them again until they’re fully dry.

18. Red flag: Old shoes

What it means: Danger! You’re a walking health bomb if your everyday shoes are more than a couple of years old or if walking or running shoes have more than 350 to 500 miles on them. Old shoes lack the support feet need — and footgear wears out faster than most people think, foot specialists say.

More clues: Blisters (too tight), bunions (too narrow), heel pain (not enough support) — if you’re having any kind of foot trouble, there’s at least a 50-50 chance your shoddy or ill-fitting footwear is to blame.

Older people are especially vulnerable because they fall into the habit of wearing familiar old shoes that may lack support, flexibility, or good traction.

What to do: Go shoe shopping. (I personally like Zappos.com)

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7 Tips for Negotiating With The IRS

Posted on February 18, 2011. Filed under: -- Money Help (in simple terms), -- Top 10..., . More Resources For YOU!, Tips | Tags: , , , , , |


Do you owe the IRS money? Or will you owe them money after this April? If so, here are 7 tips that I found helpful, posted on www.foxbusiness.com

From time to time every taxpayer will have to go head to toe with the IRS. Whether you are setting up an installment agreement, facing the auditor from hell, resolving a misunderstanding, or dealing with collectors on the phone or worse yet, on your doorstep, you would be well advised to heed the following suggestions.

1. You get more flies with honey. Dealing with bureaucracy can be very frustrating, but park your bad attitude and anger at the door. Take a deep breath, demonstrate a cooperative attitude, and proceed in an orderly fashion to resolving your issue. In my 28 years of dealing with the IRS, I have found that most IRS personnel are compassionate humans that bend over backward to find ways to resolve issues and help taxpayers. Of course you are going to run into that power-hungry, condescending, surly agent from time to time, but if you do, you can always trade up to a more understanding and respectful model by asking for the manager.

2.Use IRS lingo. When you use IRS lingo the agent you are speaking with will find you knowledgeable and may treat you with a little more respect. Here is some verbiage you may find useful:

  1. Ask for penalties to be “abated” rather than removed.
  2. Tell them, if it’s the case, that your failure to (pay or file or comply with a document request) was due to “reasonable cause.” Use this term if you didn’t just flake and have a good reason, which could include such things as unemployment, losing your records, losing your home, health problems, etc.
  3. If you can’t pay a tax bill because you are suffering financial reversals, you can ask to be deemed “currently not collectible.” If you are granted this status, they will leave you alone for an entire year while you get it together.
  4. If you feel a spouse or former spouse should be responsible for a tax matter, ask to be treated as an “innocent spouse.” There are certain criteria to this status; do some research or discuss the issues with your tax pro.
  5. If defending business deductions during an audit, the term “ordinary and necessary” business expense will help–but only if that’s really the case.

3. Don’t talk too much. IRS agents are trained to draw as much information from you as possible. Answer questions truthfully, but keep your answers short, succinct and to the point. There is no need to elaborate or discuss your personal life or disclose too much. This will only lead to misunderstandings and maybe even investigations.

4. Always tell the truth. Lies have a way of uncovering themselves. Once you are caught in a lie, you will always be suspect. And when you are suspect, you lose the cooperation you would normally receive. Don’t hide assets, don’t run for cover. There are many ways to resolve tax problems using a straightforward and honest approach. Lies may lead to jail time.

5. Only make promises you can keep. This is especially true when it comes to paying your liability. If an IRS agent asks you if you can pay $200 per month on a tax balance and you know you can only afford $100, tell him so. Indicate that you will try to pay extra when you can, but you are not going to set yourself up for failure by promising more than you are able. Throw that in with the fact, (if it’s the case), that you have always timely filed and paid liabilities in the past and now you need a break. Note that this will not work if their analysis of your financial situation indicates you can pay more.

6. Go to them before they come at you. If you are unable to keep a promise you make, tell the IRS immediately. The agency is usually so happy with the cooperation it will likely grant you the extensions you need. The collections department notes your file whenever you or your representative calls.

7. Stop the Interview. If at any time during an audit or a phone conversation you feel intimidated, disrespected, or out of your depth, simply say so and end the interview. Tell the IRS that you will be seeking representation and will get back with them soon. This will give you a chance to take a deep breath and discuss the matter with your tax pro. If you felt disrespected, you can always request a different auditor. Or if it was a matter of a surly customer service rep you were speaking with on the phone, you can hang up and call again in hopes of getting someone kinder or a little more understanding.

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5 Things You Need To Know About Getting Audited

Posted on February 12, 2011. Filed under: -- Money Help (in simple terms), -- Saving Money And YOU, -- Top 10..., -- Uncategorized, . More Resources For YOU!, Tips | Tags: , , , |


As tax time rolls around for all of us this year, here are 5 Thing You Need to Know About Getting Audited. At least according to Money Magazine. Enjoy!
1. AUDITS ARE ON THE RISE. Money says that the number of audits has risen steadily year after year, and that experts expect the trend to continue. They also add that audit letters typically go out 18 months after the filing date.
2. DELAYING CAN COST YOU THE RIGHT TO FIGHT.  If you receive a letter from the IRS be sure to take action within 30 days upon receipt. Otherwise dispute moves on to a collection agency, which becomes a total nightmare.  If you can’t get everything together in 30 days, you have the right to ask for a postponement. The IRS does not have to, but they should grant you more time if you need it to track down records.
3. IT CAN HELP TO HAVE A PRO ON YOUR SIDE. Almost 3/4 of audits happen by mail, with the IRS requesting certain documentation (like receipts) on a specific part of the return. You can handle this type of audit on your own, but if someone else prepared your taxes you should ask him to weigh in. The fee you paid could cover such help, and the agreement you have may put the person on the hook for mistakes. If the audit requires an in-person meeting, it will probably get in-depth with some issues. You’ll then probably want an advocate like a CPA on your side with audit experience. Expect to pay $500 to a few thousand dollars.
4. ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN BE USED AGAINST YOU. In other words, do not offer any additional information beyond what is asked for by the examiner.  
5. THE AUDITOR’S BOSS MAY BE ABLE TO NEGOTIATE. Unhappy with what the auditor is finding? Ask for his or her supervisor. Like in most situations, the manager has more angles to work.  If the manager doesn’t see your side, file an appeal. The other option is to take them through the legal system. Money says that may not be worth the cause unless there’s more than $10,000 at stake.
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10 Ways To Help Protect the Climate

Posted on February 12, 2011. Filed under: -- Energy/Being GREEN, -- Top 10..., -- Uncategorized, Conservation, Tips | Tags: , , , |


According to Austin Energy, below are 10 tips on how to better conserve energy, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

1. WALK, BIKE or RIDE THE BUS: I rode the bus and walked everywhere I needed to go for years when I lived in Pittsburgh. I stayed in great shape and felt healthier, even though it made my wallet fatter from all of the savings from not maintaining a car.

2. DRIVE SMART: Maintaining your vehicle and keeping your tires properly inflated saves money on fuel AND reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Double win!

3. INSTALL COMPACT FLUORESCENT LIGHT (CFL) BULBS: They are 75% more efficient, last up to 10 times longer and produce less heat than conventional bulbs. A single CFL can save you more than $80 over its lifetime depending on local electric rates. Yet, the small amount of mercury contained in these CFLS has gotten numerous Americans to worry about their health and the environment. Did you know that if every household replaced one conventional bulb, the CO2 reduction would be equivalent to taking 1 million cars off the road! Make sure you change at least one bulb today…

4. PURCHASE ENERGY STARPPLIANCES: ENERGY STAR appliances save you money by using less energy, which also means fewer greenhouse gas emmissions. Your local energy company may offer rebates for swaping out your old appliances for new ENERGY STAR appliances. Check with them today!

6. CONSERVE WATER! It takes a lot of energy to transport, treat and heat water. You can use LESS water by installing low flow showerheads, faucet aerators and low flow toilets. Wondering where all of your water usage is going? Check out this water use calculator today! http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/watercon/calculator.cfm

7. USE YOUR APPLIANCES EFFICIENTLY: To save both water and energy: only run a fully loaded dishwasher or washing machine; put a thermal blanket on your water heater if it is more than 10 years; and use the warm/cold or cold/cold settings on your washing machine. If you don’t run full loads, be sure to adjust your water settings to not use more than necessary per load.

8. REDUCE, REUSE AND RECYCLE: It takes a lot of energy to make, package and transport products. Making products out of recycled materials uses less energy than processing never used materials.

9. COMPOST FOOD WASTE: By composting food scraps and yard trimmings, you keep these materials out of the landfill, where they would produce methane gas. Methane gas has 23 times the heat trapping capabilities of CO2. By composting, you can avoid production of this gas and return much needed nutrients to the soil. Or, you can fill the bellies of local pigs by giving them your food scraps:)

10. USE YOUR VOICE!! Share the tips you’ve read here with others. We can all make a difference, one person at a time.

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50 Ways To Conserve Water

Posted on February 12, 2011. Filed under: -- Energy/Being GREEN, -- Top 10..., -- Uncategorized, Conservation | Tags: , , , , , |


In case you missed it, I work for my local energy company. As a result, I’m overwhelmed with conservation tips and information and thought I would share these water tips with you. This list comes from the City of Austin Water Authority. Feel free to share the tips with whomever, or to visit their site for more information.

  • Replace older toilets with low-flow models to save up to 50%.
  • More plants die from over-watering than from under-watering. Be sure only to water plants when necessary.
  • Install water-saving showerheads that use 2.5 gallons per minute or less.
  • Report water waste from malfunctioning irrigation systems.
  • Use a grease pencil to mark the water level of your pool at the skimmer. Check the mark 24 hours later. Your pool should lose no more than 1/4 inch each day.
  • Make your next clothes washer a water-saver.
  • Use sprinklers that throw big drops of water close to the ground. Smaller drops of water and mist often evaporate before they hit the ground.
  • When washing dishes by hand, use a sink full of soapy water — don’t let the water run.
  • Water lawns during the early morning when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces evaporation and waste.
  • Place an empty tuna can on your lawn to catch and measure the water  output of your sprinklers.
  • Scrape food from your plates instead of rinsing. Newer dishwashers and detergents get dishes just as clean without the need to pre-rinse.
  • Hand-water with a hose where possible. Homeowners who water with a handheld hose can use one-third less water outdoors than those who use automatic sprinklers.
  • Cook food in as little water as possible. This will also retain more of the nutrients.
  • Operate automatic dishwashers and clothes washers only when they are fully loaded or set the water level for the size of load you are using.
  • Fix toilet leaks. Plumbing leaks as a whole account for 14 percent of water consumed in the home, according to a study sponsored by the American Water Works Association.
  • Install water-saving aerators on household faucets.
  • Buy a rain gauge to track how much rain or irrigation your yard receives.
  • Fill your pool a few inches lower than usual.
  • Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil. Mulch also helps control weeds that compete with landscape plants for water.
  • Chill drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the faucet until the water is cold.
  • Clean your driveway or sidewalk with a broom, not a hose.
  • Purchase a rain barrel to capture rainwater for use on your landscape.
  • Choose drought-tolerant plants when landscaping, and group plants with similar water needs together (hydrozoning).
  • Divide your watering cycle into shorter periods to reduce runoff and allow for better absorption every time you water.
  • Use a commercial car wash that recycles water. If you wash your own car, park on the grass and use a hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle.
  • Position sprinklers so they’re not watering driveways and walkways.
  • Make sure you know where your master water shut-off valve is located. This could save gallons of water and damage to your home if a pipe were to burst.
  • Fix leaky faucets. A steady faucet drip can waste 20 gallons of water a day.
  • Adjust your lawnmower to cut grass to a height of 3 inches or more. Taller grass encourages deeper roots and shades the soil to reduce moisture loss.
  • Encourage your employer to promote water conservation in the workplace.
  • Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and save 4 gallons a minute. That’s 200 gallons a week for a family of four.
  • Do not use running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. Defrost food overnight in the refrigerator or use the defrost setting on your microwave.
  • Start a compost pile or scrape food into the trash instead of running your garbage disposal, which requires a lot of water to work properly.
  • Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects and other similar waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
  • Place a bucket in the shower to catch excess water for use on plants.
  • Don’t install or use fountains or other water ornaments unless they use recycled water.
  • Avoid over-seeding your lawn with winter grass. Once established, rye grass needs water every three to five days, whereas dormant Bermuda grass needs water only once a month.
  • Stick to the watering schedule during the summer, and turn off your irrigation system in winter.
  • Wash vegetables and fruits in a bowl or basin using a vegetable brush; don’t let the water run.
  • Use a timer on hose-end sprinklers to avoid over-watering.
  • When the kids want to cool off, use the sprinkler in an area where your lawn needs it the most.
  • Only water your lawn when needed. You can tell this by simply walking across your lawn. If you leave footprints, it’s time to water.
  • Take a 5 minute shower or a 6-inch-deep bath.
  • If you own a pool, use a cover to reduce evaporation.
  • While fertilizers promote plant growth, they also increase water consumption. Apply the minimum amount of fertilizer needed.
  • Aerate your lawn. Punch holes in your lawn about six inches apart so water will reach the roots rather than run off the surface.
  • Check your water meter and bill to track your water usage.
  • Turn the water off while you shampoo and condition your hair and you can save more than 50 gallons a week.
  • Support projects that will lead to an increased use of reclaimed waste water for irrigation and other uses.
  • Get involved in water management issues. Voice your questions and concerns at public meetings conducted by your local government or water management district.
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5 Slim Down Strategies to Get a Lean Belly–FAST!

Posted on February 10, 2011. Filed under: -- Top 10..., health, Tips | Tags: , , , , , |


 

Since I’m creeping to 30 this year, I recently started paying a little more attention to my health, so you may see some health-related blogging from me. Hopefully it’s a win-win for us because health it is something we all should pay closer attention to, especially if we want to live long, healthy lives, which is something I certainly am hoping for.

Today I was reading Women’s Health, and here are their Top 5 suggestions to slim down AND get a lean belly—FAST!! They focus on belly fat because your health risks climb right along with your waistline.  Apparently, high levels of belly fat are associated with heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer, but obese people are also 37% more likely to die from injuries sustained in a car accident!! Yikes.

1. NEVER GO ON A DIET. Skip the cabbage soup diet or atkins and start focusing on eating great-tasting, belly-filling foods that will keep you satisfied so you wont be likely to overeat. Try wholegrain cereal, oatmeal, green tea, tuna, salmon, apples, walnuts and lean chicken, beef and pork.

2. MUNCH MORE OFTEN. The key is to never be hungry so you don’t overeat and so you can think straight. If your food supply slacks off, you have a “invitation” to gluttony.  Women’s Health recommends eating every 3 hours, starting with breakfast.  A study from the University of Massachusetts Medical Schools determined that folks that skip breakfast are FOUR AND A HALF times more likely to be obese than those who make time for it. Wow, I think I should start eating breakfast. They suggest that each of your snacks has a good mix of protein, fat, fiber and carbs. They add that eating on this schedule will solve the biggest problem people face when it comes to losing weight: being too hungry to keep it up.

3. DRINK PLENTY AND DRINK SMART. Beverages with added sugar account for nearly 450 calories per day in the average American’s diet. That’s more than twice as much as we were drinking 30 years ago. Now is the time to improve your water intake. Women’s Health says to have a drink of water when you first wake-up in the morning (my guess is probably after we brush our teeth), one midmorning, one before you eat lunch, one midafternoon, one before dinner and one as a nightcap around 8pm. If you stick with this plan, you’ll crave soda less. And if you still crave soda for the caffeine, they say to swap it for coffee or milk. Other smart choices include low-calorie homemade juice, unsweetened ice tea and flavored seltzer water (just be sure to skip those that are high in sugar, fructose corn syrup or any kind of artifical sweetner).

4. COOK IT YOURSELF. After a crazy day, it’s easyto eat at a restaraunt or grab take-out. When we do this, we give up control (and a lot of money!). Plate sizes are larger than they were a few decades ago and often contain more calories. When you cook at home, you tend to linger longer over a home-cooked meal, which has been linked to consuming less calories. Plus, kids who grow up in families that regularly observe the evening meal do better in school, weigh less and are more likely to stay away from drugs.

5. EAT SIMPLY. Ever read the label on boxed or canned food? If so, you’ll know it has tons of additives you probably have never heard of. Instead, stick with foods where there is only one ingredient. What this means is you’ll spend more time in the aisles you should be in: produce, meat and dairy. Women’s Magazine adds that “that’s where all of the slim women shop.” Lucky me.

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5 Tips on How To Eat Less

Posted on February 10, 2011. Filed under: -- Top 10..., health, Tips | Tags: , , , , , |


According to Women’s Health magazine, 80% of people who lost weight and kept it off had something in common: they ate less. Below are some simple tricks to cut back:

1. TURN OFF THE TV. Researches at UMass found that people watching TV consume 300 more calories while watching TV.

2. SLOW DOWN. Cut calorie intake by 10% just by taking a moment to breathe between bites, according to researchers at the University of Rhode Island. It takes 20 mintues for the “I’m full” signal to get from your brain to your belly.

3. SERVE SNACKS IN A DISH. And then put away the package 🙂 This way, you’ll be less likely to eat an entire bag of chips in one shot.

4. GET A CHANGE OF SCENERY. Australian researchers found that visual distractions can help curve cravings.

5.  ADD PROTEIN TO YOUR DIET. Protein is digested slowly by your body so it makes you feel fuller longer. Protein also helps build muscle and muscle burns fat, so eating protein is important if you are trying to lose weight. Adding foods such as egg whites, beans, and low fat cottage cheese will boost your protein intake and help you feel fuller longer.

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