Tag Archives: health

Fighting Breast Cancer

Think of eight women you know and love. It shouldn’t be too difficult to come up with eight. Now, think of women who are simply friends and acquaintances. Women who may have families, children, and other people who love them. Did your list get longer? Ours did.

Here’s a sobering thought to accompany that list: about 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Those who have regular exams will have a better chance of catching it early and beating it, but until a cure is found, we will continue to lose mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends to the disease.

By raising awareness and working towards a cure together, we can be apart in changing these sobering statistics. October is the month set aside for breast cancer awareness, but it is something we should be thinking about year round. Too many women (and men), of all ages, have lost their battle with breast cancer in our area and worldwide.

In their quest to help find a cure, the Blue Ridge affiliate of Susan G. Komen has raised more than 1.5 million dollars for local and national breast cancer programs and research.

Lisa-and-MJ1Their October ribbon report spotlight features Lisa and her dog, MJ. Lisa and MJ were both diagnosed with cancer in the late months of 2013. Lisa explains when she feels weak she just looks to MJ for motivation, “I have learned so much from MJ. Sometimes I think about my cancer and how I might die. Then, I watch MJ. She wakes up everyday happy. Having cancer does not depress her or ruin her days. So, my advice is to live everyday like MJ!”

Lisa is one of many people living with breast cancer, and every penny donated, every hour volunteered, every mile walked is one step closer to finding a cure. That means every person giving whatever they can is contributing to a day when Lisa does not have to think about her cancer and the chance that she could lose her fight. They are helping her work towards happiness and hope– and another day to wake up happy, like MJ.

If you or someone you love are facing a similar battle and have questions or concerns, you are encouraged to call 1877-GO-KOMEN, a free breast cancer hotline offering professional support. For those wishing to donate their time or money to finding a cure, please visit www.komen.org.

Written by Kristi Hall

Stinging with Energy

bellaonline4We all run out of energy and need a pick me up at some point of the day. Your choice of energy fuel can make a difference in how long you stay energetic. 

Some turn to energy drinks to satisfy the caffeine rush but the variety of caffeinated drinks can have risks after consumption. Side effects range from shaking, dizziness, headache and a crash that can make you feel more exhausted than before you consumed the drink. 

A more natural and safe product to grab is one of Honey Stinger’s energetic snacks. 

Why honey? Honey is a natural sugar and rich in carbohydrates, making it a great fuel for your muscles. The honey-based products are beneficial before, during and after exercising.

Honey Stinger’s products range from energy gels, organic waffles, organic energy chews, energy bars, protein bars, organic honey and even treats for the little ones.

All the products have an assortment of flavors depending on the item. A few of the flavors offered are: strawberry kiwi, lemon, pink lemonade cherry cola, dark chocolate coconut almond, and many many more!

All the products offered from Honey Stinger have a shelf life between 12-18 months from the date of manufacture. Since the ingredients are all natural, they are a safe alternative for kids and perfect for an after school snack.

You can purchase Honey Stinger directly on their website or check out their store locator to find the closest store selling Honey Stinger products!

Written by Kristi Hall

Pure Barre Update!

New Image4156Bella girls Stacey, Cory and Hayleigh continue to enjoy their Pure Barre workouts each week! Every class is still challenging, but their ability to concentrate and learn the routines has increased. They have also learned something very important about getting in shape: your weight is literally JUST a number.

“I have not lost weight, but my clothes are too big. Inches have disappeared from my waist and I feel more confident every day,” explains Hayleigh. “Getting healthy and losing fat from your entire body does not happen after the first class, the second class, or even the third! It is a permanent lifestyle change you have to make in order to really see and keep your results.”

They also continue to value the personal interaction they have with instructors before and after class. The encouragement is inspirational and something they carry with them once class is over. “To date, the most apparent transformation that has taken place through my Pure Barre experience has been my strength,” says Cory. “My arms are toner, my core is tighter and my confidence in myself and ability has grown.”

Visit www.purebarre.com for details on how to sign up for your first class and begin your journey to a better, healthier body today.

Stay tuned– our November issue will feature the final results!

10 Foods Impacting Your Mood

Did you know the food you eat can literally make you feel happy or sad? Nutrition is one of the main components of mental health, so it’s important to stock your plate with good food while cutting some of those less beneficial alternatives.

“Food can definitely alter your mood,” says Dr. Shoshana Bennett.“Sometimes the effect is immediate, other times there’s a delay of an hour or so. Over time, the wrong foods can create a continuous foul mood or negative state of mind. Many people still aren’t making the connection between their emotional well-being and what they ate for dinner – or the last 200 dinners.”

Bennett explains that certain foods can negatively affect the neurotransmitters in our brains; these chemicals control sleep, appetite, mood and more. Bad foods can also cause inflammation, which may lead to other physical and mental disorders. She recommends eating these five types of food to feel happy, healthy and balanced:

1. Complex carbohydrates
Foods like beans, potatoes and whole grains are necessary for staying upbeat, as the complex carbohydrates they contain help the brain make serotonin, a mood-changing chemical. Without enough complex carbohydrates, a person can become angry and depressed.

 2. Cold-water fish
Salmon, mackerel and sardines are high in the omega-3s that help boost mood. Several studies show that a deficit in omega-3 fatty acids is linked to anxiety and depression. Most people in the U.S. don’t eat enough fresh, cold-water fish, so supplements are required.

“It’s important to use omega-3 supplements of pure quality,” says Bennett. “This means knowing where the fish comes from and how the supplements are manufactured.”

3.  Selenium
“Research shows people with low levels of the mineral selenium have poorer moods, including the tendency toward depression,” Bennett says.

Foods rich in selenium include shellfish, tuna, nuts, seeds, fish, pork, chicken and pasta. Bennett cautions that too much of this mineral is not healthy either, and recommends checking with a health care practitioner for guidance before taking selenium as a supplement.

4. Folic acid
A diet too low in folic acids can deplete serotonin. Research suggests that depression can be relieved by taking folate supplements or eating more food containing folate, such as spinach, lentils, garbanzo and other beans, romaine lettuce and broccoli.

“Folate is water-soluble, so your body does not store it,” says Bennett. “You need to eat foods regularly that contain it.”

5.  Vitamin D
Vitamin D-rich foods like eggs, milk, cheese and fatty fish (like tuna) help to activate serotonin. Furthermore, research shows a strong connection between low levels of vitamin D and symptoms of depression.

Knowing what foods to skip is just as important as knowing which foods to eat, so Bennett recommends cutting down on these “bad-mood foods”:

1. Sugar
Eating sugar provides a rush of energy, but soon afterward, blood glucose levels drop and lead to low mood and short-temperedness.

2. Sweeteners
Aspartame and other sweeteners can cause depression and insomnia since they block the production of serotonin. If you want a sweetener but are trying to avoid sugar, use stevia or xylitol instead.

3.  Processed carbs
Snack foods, white bread, most cereals and pasta contain processed carbs that negatively affect blood sugar levels the same way as sugar.

4. Hydrogenated oils
Trans fats are physically and mentally dangerous because they can contribute to depression and other illnesses.

5. Sodium
High sodium can negatively affect the neurological system and contribute to depression and fatigue.

“You don’t have to make major changes all at once,” says Bennett. “It’s often more beneficial if one small, realistic alteration is made at a time. Once you experience the payoff – not just read or hear about them – then it becomes fun!”

Body Image After Age 50

Mother Nature is cruel. In addition to hot flashes and night sweats, I’ve gained nine pounds in the last seven months and outgrown most of my clothing.

Going from a size zero to a size four and acquiring a jelly belly may not seem significant. But for someone who runs 25 to 28 miles a week and isn’t much of an eater, it’s pretty disturbing.

At the age of 51, I’m smack in the midst of perimenopause, a term describing the hormonal roller coaster prior to menopause. According to the internet, diminished estrogen levels are to blame for my weight gain. The loss of testosterone has reduced my muscle mass and lowered my metabolism. Online articles by medical professionals offer meager advice: “Move more!” (I already run 80 to 90 minutes four or five days a week), “Cut calories!” (Steamed vegetables comprise my dinner most nights), and the ever helpful, “reduce stress!”

Many products promise relief. There are progesterone patches and creams, herbal remedies, medical grade supplements, and bioidentical hormones.

Given the controversy over hormone replacement therapy, and the fact that I am a wimp who avoids taking medication unless it is really necessary, I opted to start with Estroven, an over the counter product from Trader Joe’s. If they sell it at Trader Joe’s, I reasoned, how harmful could it be? Or how effective? My hot flashes continued, and I struggled not to gain anymore weight.

“Sorry!” The 50-something female cashier said when I returned the product. “I tried this stuff too. It does nothing!”

Tired of listening to myself complain, I consulted my gynecologist. “Eat fewer salty snacks,” she advised.

Since I haven’t eaten a potato chip since circa 2003, I decided it was time to change doctors. My new GYN was much more sympathetic. “The weight will come off once you get through the process,” she reassured me.” But you will lose your waist.”

Lose my waist? That explained the jelly belly. She was a good listener, so I forged on. “My boobs are huge,” I whined. “Huge!”

I explained that in addition to larger pants and tops, it was also necessary to buy new bras, which became too tight within a few months. “Don’t throw away your old bras,” she advised. “Your breasts will return to their normal size.”

I took a breath and started to relax, until my doctor said, “and then they will become pendulous.” Pendulous! I thought, what an interesting word to describe my body, like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe story. I went home and replayed the conversation for my husband “Pendulous, pendulous,” we said it a few times together.     

Mother N. might be cruel, but she is on schedule. I haven’t had a period since last summer, so my doctor thinks I should be nearly finished with the bloating and weight gain of perimenopause.

Until I complete the transition though, I’ve asked my husband to gain a few pounds; take a couple of extra helpings of mashed potatoes and apple strudel for the team. Being the generous guy that I married, he’s made the sacrifice.


Beth Herman is an artist and essayist. She enjoys running the city streets of Washington and the hills of Charlottesville in almost equal measure.


Your Time Could Change a Life

wings6Gleaning for the World is announcing their new women’s program, WINGS. Around the world, women are forced out of their schools, jobs and society because of their monthly cycle. Annually, these women lose months of education and income because they do not have access to feminine hygiene products. It is devastating and abandons so many to violence, exploitation and prostitution.

These desperate women resort to any means available for help. They walk to landfills to get newspapers, dirty rags, corn cobs and even bark. In places where taboos are the worst, some women are forced to sit on dirt mounds or above holes for hours at a time.

This new program is an incredible solution. These kits provide all the supplies women need for their monthly cycle and can last for up to three years. That is an extra nine months of education, income and freedom. What’s more, it helps improve their self-esteem and empowers them to reclaim their future. No longer do they have to hide each month or dig through garbage to find makeshift supplies.

“I have been to some of these communities and met these women,” says WINGS program spokeswoman, Danielle Sarchet. “I have seen the happiness on their faces when they realize what they have, and it moves me to know that the volunteer efforts of women in Virginia will change these women’s lives.”

These kits are assembled by volunteers in Central and Southwest Virginia. Due to the donation of supplies and volunteers, they are produced at far below retail price. Fifteen dollars will produce and ship one kit to a woman in the developing world.

If you would like to volunteer to produce these kits (in part or in whole), contact Danielle Sarchet, WINGS and GFTW Volunteer Coordinator, at Danielle@gftw.org or call (434) 993-3600. For more information on what you can do to help, visit gftw.org/wings.

5 tips to avoid holiday weight gain

Who doesn’t love the smell of a warm kitchen during the holidays? They’re designed around food and bringing family, old friends and new friends together. However, holidays can also be a detriment to your healthy lifestyle and cause you to lose your focus through the end of the year.

But they don’t have to.

“Think of fall as the perfect time to reassess the state of your health and prep for the challenges of the holiday season,” says Alicia Rodriguez, corporate registered dietician at Life Time – The Health Way of Life Company. “When it comes to nutrition and avoiding weight gain, my motto is, keep it simple and easy.”

Here are some tips to help you do the same.

Bulk up your plate with protein and vegetables

The side dishes at most holiday meals are often as good as the turkey or ham, but stuffing and mashed potatoes aren’t the best way to fill your plate. One way to avoid-weight gain is to build your plate with protein. This should be easy since holiday dinners revolve around meat. Second, fill your plate with side dishes that include vegetables. You may have a little spot left on your plate – use this space for your “indulgence.” When you look at your plate, the goal is that the majority is still providing you with good nutrients and reduced carbohydrates.

Use the “fork” trick

Many of us go back for seconds, and even third helpings at holiday meals. This year, focus on asking yourself if you’re enjoying your food. To help you answer this question, use the fork trick. Once you take a bite of food, place your fork down on the plate and let it go. Chew your food, swallow and then pick it up again. The key to this trick is letting go of the fork. This will remind you to slow down, enjoy your food and converse with friends and family.

Avoid the clean plate club

Growing up, many of us were always told “You can’t leave the table until you finish everything on your plate” and inevitably, we spent many nights sitting alone at the dinner table. These days, Rodriguez advises her clients to eat until they are full and, if their plate is not clean, it’s OK. Focus on one plate of food, slow down and be careful not to overeat. Overfeeding is never really a healthy thing to do.

Share your dessert with a loved one

After a satisfying meal, it is hard to avoid the sweet smells of pumpkin -or warm apple pie. If you choose not to skip dessert, share a small slice with a loved one or new friend. If you are hosting, designate one family member to bring dessert to limit the endless selection of pies and reduce the urge to over indulge.

Make like a turkey and trot out the door

Start your holiday with a new tradition this year and gather the family to do something active. Take a walk to a local park, put together a family friendly flag football game, rake the leaves up in the yard (and jump into them) or encourage the family to sign up for a run/walk event such as the Drumstick Dash in Roanoke.

Holidays are a time to be thankful for family, friends and everything in between. Savor the moment, really take time to taste your food, get out and have some fun, and avoid the-holiday weight gain.

Maximize snack mixes

Everyone wants to enjoy foods they can feel good about eating, and snacks are no different. While carrot sticks and crackers with cheese are great go-to options, it’s important to mix things up. Snacking should be tasty and combine an interesting medley of flavors, as well as include whole grains and vitamin-rich ingredients, resulting in a savory, nutritious nibble.

When deciding between your favorite snacks, there’s no need to sacrifice flavors and seasonings often reserved for main course dishes. Instead, look to combine different food groups to create unique, delicious snack mixes. A mix can not only pack a lot of flavor but also can be full of nutrient-rich vitamins and whole grains.

The perfect snack mix combines flavors, textures, seasonings and tastes.

* Whole grain crackers add heartiness to your snack leaving you deliciously satisfied.

* Adding vegetables such as leafy greens adds vitamins and minerals – a perfect low-calorie addition.

* For extra crunch, popcorn or nuts are flavorful ingredients to add to your mix for a wholesome, appetizing snack.

Chef Rocco DiSpirito, known for his best-selling healthy comfort foods series Now Eat This!, created Brown Rice Triscuit Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crumbled Snack Mix, a tasty mix of popcorn, kale and the new Brown Rice Triscuit, which is baked with 100 percent whole grain brown rice. This snack mix is one great way to reap the benefits of whole grains in a distinctive new way.


Brown Rice Triscuit Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crumbled Snack Mix (Yield: 9 servings, about 1 cup each, Prep time: about 10 minutes, Processing time: about 10 minutes)


Olive oil cooking spray

3 tablespoons popping corn kernels

1/8 teaspoon each salt and crushed red pepper flakes

1 bunch of Tuscan kale (about 15 leaves), or 4 loosely packed cups of leaves only (remove tough center stem with knife or kitchen shears)

20 Brown Rice Triscuit Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crackers, quartered

1. Spray a medium-sized saucepot with 1 second of cooking spray; add the popcorn kernels and place over medium high heat. Cook, covered, shaking occasionally until the kernels have popped, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat; place popcorn in large bowl and season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

2. Lay the kale out in batches in single layer on microwave-safe plates. Spray each plate with 1 second of cooking spray and microwave on high for 1 minute. Flip the leaves, then microwave on high until the leaves are dried and crisp, about 1 minute. Continue microwaving, if needed, turning every minute until crisp. Repeat with remaining kale.

3. Break the kale crisps into bite-size pieces. Toss with the crackers and popcorn and serve.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 80 calories, 2g total fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 90mg sodium, 14g carbohydrate, 2g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 2g protein