Posts for: July, 2012

July 23, 2012
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The findings of a new study make it relatively easy to predict how much weight you will gain every four years of your life. The findings found independently associated indications of both weight gain and weight loss.

What you eat on a regular basis can contribute to how much weight you gain every four years.  Here is a list of foods and the amount of weight you will gain (and keep) or lose every four years:

  • Potato chips (1.69 lb weight gain every four years)
  • Potatoes (1.28 lb gain)
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 lb gain)
  • Unprocessed red meats (0.95 lb gain)
  • Processed meats (0.93 lb gain)
  • Vegetables (-0.22 lb lost every four years)
  • Whole grains (-0.37 lb loss)
  • Fruits (-0.49 lb loss)
  • Nuts (-0.57 lb loss)
  • Yogurt (-0.82 lb loss)

Researchers found that life style can also result in weight gain or loss. For instance regular physical activity can result in a loss of 1.76 lbs every four year interval of your life.  Alcohol use can also add pounds. For every drink you have on an average day, you can expect to gain about 0.41 lbs every four years.  Television watching works the same way. For every hour you watch in a regular day, you will gain 0.31 lbs every four years.

Sleep, on the other hand is a strange one.  The right amount of sleep is between 6 and 8 hours a night. Any more or less sleep will also cause you to gain weight.

While these figures may seem too small to be significant, consider the plight of a person who regularly eats meat and potatoes for dinner, snacks on potato chips and sugar-sweetened sodas, has a couple of beers in the evening while they watch three hours of television. The net result is a gain of almost 7 pounds every four years.

A guy starting at 180 lbs at age 20, will weight almost 250 lbs by age 60. Sadly, this is a pretty typical scenario for many American men. If we are talking about a petite high school cheerleader who weighs only 100 lbs when she graduates, will top 150 lbs before she reaches age 50.

If either of these people would exercise regularly (reducing 1.76 lbs every four years) and eat yogurt, nuts and fruit instead of potato chips and soda, they will cut out most of that weight gain. If they then just skip one hour of television per night (or one beer), they will effectively eliminate that weight gain.

What you do on a regular basis has a long-term impact on your weight and health. Little things add up.

July 16, 2012
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Stress can be a killer – quite literally, research suggests, but it can also make your day-to-day existence miserable. Who wants to walk (or rush) around all day as the oppressive weight of stress takes its toll on your body and mind? Here are five simple strategies to help you deal with stress and get back on the road to health and wellness:

1. Walk it off. There are so many physical and mental health benefits to a good walk; when it comes to stress, it’s the perfect opportunity to relax, enjoy the outdoors and reduce your stress, either by forgetting about it for a while or having the chance to process it. In fact, in many cases stress isn’t caused by a particular situation, but by the sense that you can’t escape your situation – your too-loud, too-hectic, too-frantic, responsibility-filled day. A walk is your chance to escape. From a biochemical perspective, it’s also a great way to relieve stress because physical activity promotes the release of endorphins, hormones known to relieve pain, reduce stress and increase your sense of happiness and well-being.

2. Talk about it. One of the things that makes stress so damaging is that we often keep it to ourselves. Sometimes talking about how stressed you are (and why) with someone else is exactly what’s needed to reduce it or at least understand it a little better – and that’s half the battle. Your significant other, a family member, a friend or even a co-worker might be just what you need to get your stress (and how it’s affecting you) out in the open. And once it’s out in the open, it’s easier to deal with. So talk about it with someone who not only provides compassion and understanding, but also has the capacity (and willingness) to tell you not just what you want to hear, but what you need to hear – even if it hurts a little. In the long run, honestly and openness will go a long way toward melting your stress away.

3. Distract yourself. Stress doesn’t have nearly as much power over you if you’re not thinking about it. That can be a challenge, of course, especially when your every thought is focused on a particular stressor, but it’s worth trying something – anything – to take your mind off your stress. This doesn’t mean taking a walk, because if you take it alone, you’ll likely obsess about your stress the whole time, and if you walk with a companion, you’ll likely end up thinking and talking about it, too. True distraction means doing something that forces you to discard your stress to the greatest extent possible – try a baseball game, a night at the movies (particularly pure action or comedy), or even a good book or board game at home. Anything that requires your mind to focus on something other than your stress.

4. Deal with it. Too often, people let stress build until a molehill becomes a mountain, occupying their every thought and affecting their every action. If they’d dealt with the issue (to the best of their ability) at the outset, it might never have gotten to that point. How do we “deal” with stress? It can involve any of these five suggestions, but there are definitely a whole bunch more. It boils down to a few simple rules: a) Recognize when you’re stressed; don’t ignore it or pretend you’re “fine.” b) Understand why you’re stressed; identify the source of the stress and think carefully about why it’s affecting you. c) Find a way to reduce the stress (or eliminate it entirely); if that’s not immediately possible, at least find a way to manage it so it doesn’t continue to build.

5. Find the positives. There’s a silver lining to every stressful situation or circumstance, whether it’s stress about your job or career, your relationship, your family life, your (lack of) free time, your finances or anything else. It might be difficult to see at first, but it’s definitely there. Think of stress as an opportunity to explore creative solutions that will not only ease your stress, but also reduce the chance it will return. What’s good about your job? Use the positives to maximize your experience with your current employer – or plant seeds for your next job. Relationship needs mending? Your stress is the motivator to sit down with your partner and discuss exactly what’s going wrong (and what’s going right).

July 09, 2012
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With few exceptions, distractions are rarely healthy, whether it’s being distracted by screaming kids while driving, distracted by mindless e-mail in the middle of your busy work day, or distracted by a loud noise just as you’re about to clean your sharpest knife. Being distracted while eating is also a big no-no, says recent research; in fact, it can lead to an all-too-common habit: overeating.

As reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people distracted during eating tend to feel less full after eating and also have more difficulty recalling exactly what they’ve eaten. The study assessed how playing solitaire on the computer during a fixed lunch, eaten at a fixed rate, affected food intake and memory of what had been eaten (courtesy of a taste test 30 minutes later). Participants not assigned to the study group ate the same lunch at the same rate, but without the distraction of the computer game.

The study authors’ conclusion says it all: “These findings provide further evidence that distraction during one meal has the capacity to influence subsequent eating. They may also help to explain the well-documented association between sedentary screen-time activities and overweight.”

Eating without distractions isn’t only a good way to avoid overeating; it’s also beneficial for your overall health and wellness – whether it’s eating away from your desk at lunch, giving yourself a much-needed break from the daily grind; or sitting down at the dinner table for a family meal instead of gluing yourself to the couch and watching TV.

July 02, 2012
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How much do Americans spend on (legal) drugs? Would you believe $300 billion – yes, we said billion – a year and climbing? More disturbing, of this annual revenue, a significantly larger percentage is spent on advertising than on research and development, according to several reports. Yes, the pharmaceutical industry spends billions to convince the public it needs drugs (and medical doctors that they need to prescribe drugs), makes billions more doing it, and spends a smaller portion of its earnings researching and developing safer, more effective products. Now there’s a formula for a healthy, safe America.

A pair of studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine provides more disheartening news, highlighting the medicine-money monopoly and its impact on health care. One study found that while doctors and hospitals spend staggering amounts of money to treat Medicare patients, how much or how little they spend has no correlation with patients’ health outcomes. In other words, prescribing more (or more expensive) medication doesn’t equate to better health outcomes. The study also found that in areas with higher per-capita medical spending, patients were more likely to receive “riskier” (and presumably higher-priced) drugs.

The second study in NEJM found that when Medicare stopped reimbursing doctors as much for certain drugs, doctors prescribed the drugs less. With higher reimbursement rates, doctors were more likely to prescribe – inappropriately or unnecessarily, according to the study.

So, let’s summarize: Big Pharma makes billions on drug sales every year and its revenues are only expected to rise in the coming years. The pharmaceutical industry spends more money convincing people to take medication than it does researching their effectiveness and safety. Doctors who get paid more to prescribe drugs tend to do just that: prescribe more, but doctors and hospitals who prescribe the most don’t seem to be helping patients any more than if they prescribed less drugs (or less expensive drugs). Health care costs and medication side effects skyrocket as we become a nation of pill-poppers. Not exactly what Thomas Edison envisioned when he predicted, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his or her patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

The next time your doctor starts writing you a drug prescription, ask them the following questions first: Are there are options we could try first that don’t involve medication? What are the side effects of this medication? How long do I need to take it? If it doesn’t work, what will we do next (besides going on another prescription for a different drug)? All good questions that deserve good answers before you make that trip to your local pharmacy.

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