Charity Events & Fundraisers


These are often some of the most fun things your group can do. The fact that you can raise money doing it is a bonus. I won’t list every possible fundraising event you can do for your school, church group, or sports team, and couldn’t even if I wanted to. The only limit to what you can do is your imagination.

There are, however, several types of events that have been around forever because they work!

A Car Wash: The Perfect Cheerleader Fundraiser

OK, truth be told, any group can give a car wash. I’ve seen little league baseball teams do it, and when I was in high-school, my Key Club did it. However, and I’m not saying this to be sexist, but if you have high-school or college girls in your group, and they give a car wash, you can be certain that every guy with a car is going to come by. When my Key Club had a car wash, we were pretty evenly mixed between guys and girls, but the vast majority of folks who drove up were guys who wanted to talk to the girls.

Pancake Breakfast: Hard Work, but Great Money

I grew up in a small town in Alabama. Once a year our Key Club would take over the school lunchroom and put on a pancake breakfast with our local Kiwanis Club. I don’t know exactly how much money was raised, but at $3 per person, we had people lined up from 5:00am to almost noon. You need cooperation from your school (or somewhere with an industrial size kitchen), and a lot of willing hands, but this can be a great “one day” fundraising event.

Bachelor/Bachelorette Auctions

These can be a ton of fun, but they’re really only suitable for older groups, such as college groups or local charities. If your high school group has enough “older brothers” or “single moms” or “dads”, then you could put on this type of event as well. Usually, though, these functions are put on by local charities, with local celebrities and personalities serving as the bachelor or bachelorette.

An alternative form of this that might be more suitable for younger age groups is a “hired hand for a day” auction. In this form, you simply auction the use of one of your group members to the highest bidder for a few hours of work, usually something simple like raking leaves, mowing the lawn, etc. There can be numerous variations on this theme, so be creative, and consider how best your group could use this type of fundraiser.

Fun Runs/Walks

I use to love these. Typically held on a Saturday morning, several dozen up to a few hundred folks would gather to run a short distance such as one mile (or walk it, in many cases). There are many ways you can use this as a fundraising event. Typically, the entrants (the runners) would pay an entry fee (say $20), and get a free event T-Shirt. You can often get local businesses to cover the cost of printing the t-shirts, sometimes by having “sponsored by” type ads screen printed on the shirt itself. Our local hamburger joints would always donate 100’s of hamburgers, hot dogs and cokes and thousands of French fries for the participants’ lunch. Local businesses love to help worthy local causes… you just have to ask them.

One variation on this technique is used most famously by the March of Dimes. Each year they hold a ten mile walk-a-thon, where the walkers go around and get people to pledge various amounts for each mile they walk. While that’s the most common approach, be creative, and see what your group can come up with.


This article just scratches the surface. There are infinite ways in which your group or team can hold a fundraiser on a Saturday morning or afternoon and help from animal rescue programs until human trafficking awareness. Be creative. Get your group together and have a brain-storming session.

What You Need To Know About Wine And Pizza

So, you’re reading this article and you’re thinking: what? No way! Pizza and wine could never work! But that is a huge mistake, my friend, and certainly a travesty that you have been missing out on one or the other of the two delicious parts to a whole previous to this article. This said, you are not alone considering that pizza would not work with wine; but again, you are mistaken. Just because pizza may be considered a less formal food than what many consider of wine, does not mean that the flavors cannot work beautifully together. So, I dare you, read the guidelines below about pizza and wine pairings and try it for yourself. Trust me, you will thank me for this eye-opening experience.

Ok. So if you are like me, you always thought the only alcohol that tasted good with pizza was beer, right? Well, of course, it does, but that’s not all. Though beer and pizza may seem to be on the same wave lengths as far as simple flavors and price, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t some wines out there that won’t bring out the flavors in pizza just as nicely, just differently. So stop thinking that pizza is for informal occasions and wine for formal events and start opening your mind to a whole new world of taste experience: one that crosses boundaries and for good cause!

Red Sauce Pizza: When considering pairing your favorite wine with pizza, and wondering if it is a huge faux pas to the wine appreciation world, consider this: pizza is pretty darn close in ingredients to pasta, and pasta dishes are one of the best things noted to pair with wine. This said, what goes best with your standard red sauce pizza with mozzarella and toppings? Treat the acid of the tomato sauce with an acidic red wine for the optimum flavor extravaganza. Try some medium bodied to bold, acidic reds such as: Chardonnay, Chiante, Cabernet, Shiraz, Sangiovese, or even a powerful Zinfandel.

White Sauce Pizza: If you are more of a white pizza fan-that is someone who leaves out the tomato sauce when serving up the slices-then you certainly have your own set of options for wine as well. Since the pizza has light and mild flavors, try a light and mild wine-preferably white to bring out the full flavors in each of the pieces to the tasting experience. Good examples of light white wines that would work great with white pizza are: Sauvignon Blanc, Champagne, and Pinot Grigio.

Whatever you opt for in the wine aisle of your favorite store, try to remember that though pizza is not chopped liver, pre-made pizza is certainly is not something as refined and sophisticated as culinary creations go, so you shouldn’t splurge on that super expensive red or white you have your eye on. Instead, save that wine experience for something that is a bit more complex in flavor-such as perfect crust pizza made in a proper Californo pizza oven.


Is Tooth Whitening the Secret of Happiness?

Everybody wants to know what the secret to a happy life is – and the answer could lie in your smile.

Tooth whitening may sound like a shallow cosmetic procedure for the rich and famous. But in fact, tooth whitening could be at the heart of a happier life. Acting happy or forcing yourself to smile has been proven to make you happier. The phenomenon was discovered by psychologist Fritz Stack who in 1988 carried out an experiment: he asked one group of participants to force a smile by placing a pencil in their mouths for 20 seconds, without touching it with their lips. The other group he asked to frown. The experiment revealed that those who forced a smile reported that they enjoyed a comedy show more than the frowners. The reasons are thought to be physiological – your mind reacts to the physical act of smiling. Tooth whitening will make you feel happier about your smile encouraging you to smile for no apparent reason just to flash your sparkling teeth!


Tooth Whitening to Flash Your Smile

According to the magazine Psychology Today, you need to forget about money and stop worrying about ageing, the key to happiness is acting happy. Some people have a naturally happy disposition regardless of what life throws at them. There are four components that are important for happy people:


  • You have to like yourself! Happy people have good self esteem. If you hate your teeth, invest in tooth whitening – life’s too short to feel unhappy because of something that’s easily fixed. The best predictor of happiness is satisfaction with the self (not family life or friends!) It goes back to the cliché, to discover love you need to love yourself first. Remember: there’s nothing wrong with self enhancement.
  • Be optimistic (but realistic) – if you’re filled with hope, you’ll be happy. Always see the glass as half full. Studies have proven that optimists have been found to be healthier too as pessimistic mindsets make us more vulnerable to illness. Optimists also enjoy greater success because they’re more likely to say yes to people than no.
  • Be Outgoing – People who are happy to flash happy-go-lucky smiles tend to feel happy with their looks and teeth. Tooth whitening has been used by every Hollywood celebrity around to boost their appeal! The more self assured you are, the more likely you are to like yourself and exude confidence – qualities that are likely to bring you success in life. Extroverts are statistically more likely to get married, find a good job and have close friends.
  • Be in Charge of Your Destiny – If you hate your yellowing teeth, take control and book a tooth whitening session! People who feel they have personal control over their lives have been found to be happier. Feeling in control can create ‘extraordinary positive feelings of happiness’ and help you deal with stress.

Personality is hard to change but if you want to become a happier person, you can act yourself happy. By presenting yourself in a self enhancing way (rather than a self-deprecating way) you will change how people respond to you and build better self esteem. So get smiling!

Make Your Own Low-Sodium Pizza

Delicious and Healthy Alternative Italian Favorite


The basics of a pizza are fairly simple, and generally are healthful ingredients. There’s the crust, the sauce, the meat, the cheese, and the seasonings. That’s where the “basics” end and the creative juices can begin flowing.

While you may have given up a weekly visit to Pizza Hut, California Pizza, Sbarro’s, or Domino’s, it is not the end of the world. You can put together a heart-healthy and fantastic tasting pizza that has half the sodium of the average cheese (no meat) pizza at any of these pizza parlors – and this recipe includes meat!

The Basic Pizza Ingredients and Their Sodium Content

  • Pizza Shell (one medium pizza for two people) – look for Mama Mary’s which has 186 mgs of sodium for 1/4 of 10″ crust. The average of other brands (i.e. Boboli) for 1/5 of crust (one slice) averages 330 mg of sodium.
  • Pizza-style tomato sauce – Ragu’s Pizza Sauce Homestyle has 260 mgs per 2.2 oz serving (compared to their Pizza Quick Traditional which has 380 mgs). Other brands may go as high as 780 to 800 mgs. of sodium.
  • Olive oil (extra-virgin) or canola oil – zero milligrams of sodium

Meat Toppings

  • Ground Beef – 90% lean, 85 mg sodium per 3 oz serving
  • Chicken – thigh meat, skinless, broiled, 46 mgs per thigh; white meat 3 oz. broiled, skinless, 64 mgs per serving
  • Italian sweet sausage – Perdue turkey sausage, grilled, 490 mgs per 3 oz serving (regular Italian sweet sausage may have up to 900 mgs per 3 oz serving.)
  • Pepperoni – hard to find a “low-sodium” brand, but Wegman’s Italian Classic deli Italian sausage is 480 mgs per 1 oz. serving. Use very sparingly, if you must!

Fruit and Vegetable Toppings

  • Onions – 0
  • Fresh tomatoes – 1 mg per thin small slice (.5 oz)
  • Mushrooms – 0
  • Artichoke hearts – 1/2 cup boiled, drained, no salt added, 80 mgs sodium
  • Pineapple – 0
  • Fresh basil – 0
  • Fresh spinach – 8 mg
  • Pesto – 1/4 cup, 720 mgs (may vary by brand, but is very salty.)
  • Pine nuts – 0


  • Provolone – Sargento, regular, full-fat, 1 slice (.7 oz) – 125 mgs sodium (reduced fat is 140 mgs) Alpine Lace Reduced Fat & Sodium – 190 mgs. (per 1 oz); shredded – Sargento Aged 1/4 cup – 240 mgs.
  • Mozzarella – fresh, 1 oz balls, 20 mgs. Kraft Natural Shredded, 2% Milkfat, 200mgs per 1 oz. Most part-skim mozzarella is between 175 and 200 mgs per oz.
  • Swiss Cheese – 1 oz. slice, 54 mgs; shredded, 1 cup (3.8 oz) 207 mgs
  • Parmesan – 1 tablespoon grated, 76 mgs (.2oz)

Toppings to be Avoided

  • Anchovies
  • Capers
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Shaved Parmesan
  • Hot Italian sausage
  • deli meats like ham, bologna, salami, bacon

Recipe for Home-Made Low-Sodium Pizza

Prepare your pizza oven.

  1. Use one 10″ shell, brushed with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Spread half of a jar of pizza sauce (7 oz.) over entire crust.
  2. Slice fresh tomato thinly, approximately eight slices, and place four on each half/side of pizza. (Two per slice).
  3. Slice the onion thinly, and separate the ring sections individually; place around pizza evenly.
  4. Brown 1/3 pound (approx. 6 oz) hamburger, (or use one cooked chicken thigh or 1/2 cooked chicken breast, skinless). Drain and distribute the finely-broken up ground beef around the pizza surface.
  5. Top with broken-up pieces of one slice of provolone, 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, or 1 oz fresh mozzarella. A combination of any of these is okay if you are careful to measure and take into account all amounts of sodium.
  6. Pineapple chunks, mushrooms, fresh basil leaves, and Italian spices such as oregano, basil, and black pepper, may be added to taste.

Grill the pizza directly on the oven rack placed in the center of the oven. Set the temperature according to directions on the package (start at 450 degrees, to preheat the oven, turn down to 425 and cook for 7-10 minutes.) Cut into 6 slices, 2 slices per serving. Serves 2-3.

Sodium totals will vary depending on the toppings you choose. The basic combination of sauce, olive oil, ground beef, tomato, onion, and Swiss cheese will be approximately 1100 mgs of sodium for 2 slices. If your diet restricts you to 2000 mgs daily or less, this is the amount in half a day’s allowance. A half of a cheese pizza (no meat) at a pizza fast-food chain averages 2100 mgs of sodium.

The pleasure in making your own low-sodium pizza is in the variety of toppings you can add to add interest to your diet, while being in control of your sodium intake. You don’t have to deny yourself the yumminess of “real” pizza!

Flax: Holistic and Natural Health From a Centuries-old Herb

How does something so small become one of nature’s most nutrient-packed and potent holistic food? Flaxseed has been utilized throughout the ages with documentation indicating cultivation in Babylon around 3000 BC. The health benefits of flaxseed so impressed King Charlemagne during the eighth century that his entire kingdom was required by law to include it in their daily diet.

Flax -Holistic and Natural Health From a Centuries-old Herb

Natural Health Begins With Natural Foods Such as Flax

This small package of nutritional power contains high levels of the vitamin B complex, manganese and magnesium. However, this is far from flaxseed’s total package. Containing high performance compounds which include omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and fiber, flaxseed is quickly gaining a reputation as today’s wonder food. These three compounds are all essential for optimum health and to maintain a well-functioning system.

Omega-3s are the good fat the body needs in order to support a healthy heart while the lignan compound includes both antioxidant elements and plant estrogen. Flaxseed is known to contain the highest amount of lignan among plant foods and has been noted as an agent in the prevention of breast cancer. Finally, flaxseed contains that all important fiber. Insoluble and soluble fibers are both needed for a well-functioning digestive tract.

flaxseedsFlaxseed Fights Cholesterol, Constipation and More

A seed with a punch, flaxseed has been documented as a preventative against a number of cancers, including breast, colon and prostate as well as a growth inhibitor of tumors. The antioxidant compounds may be effective against heart disease, cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, constipation and hot flashes. Individuals with diabetes may also benefit as flaxseed is also adept at blood sugar stabilization.

Natural Health the Easy Way Using Flax

bread with flaxseedsAdding flaxseed daily is a simple and easy process. The ground seeds may be added to salads, cereals, and yogurt, bread or muffin recipes. Today, it is already included in a variety of prepared products such as bread, crackers, pasta, snack foods, hummus, oatmeal and waffles.

Always check the labels and purchase products with ground flax rather than whole. It can also be added to condiments such as mustard or mayonnaise and included on sandwiches and in spreads.

This nutritional powerhouse is available in a number of forms, including whole, which can be ground as needed, already ground or in pill form as flaxseed oil. Ground flaxseed tends to offer the greatest benefits as it is easily absorbed, while whole flaxseed tends to pass through undigested. An electric coffee grinder is the perfect appliance for grinding whole seeds.

It is recommended that the whole seed is purchased and ground as needed. Both whole and ground should be kept in the freezer to maintain freshness. The freezer prevents oxidization and nutritional value loss.

Exercise Tips for Busy People

Exercise Tips for Busy People

While most experts will advise that a rigorous workout followed by a strict diet can help you lose chunks of fat, not many people have the time to follow the same. Traffic and long office hours make it impossible for people to work out at the gym on a regular basis. The need of the hour is some effective exercises or activities that could possibly fit in your busy routine itself, especially during those phases when you have missed gym for weeks.

Keeping the constraints of time, distance and lifestyle in mind, here are a few effective exercise tips that easily fit in your routine.

Exercise Tips for Men

Exercise Tips for Men

  • If you find it too lazy to wake up early and go for a full jogging session, try waking up only 15 minutes before your normal waking hours. Power jogs of 15 minutes in the morning or after coming back from work are highly effective.
  • “At work, use staircase instead of lifts. The more floors you climb, the better for you,” writes RJSKOCCHAR in his the article “Office Health and Fitness Regime – Burn Calories While in the Office” on the Health n Fitness Care website.
  • In another article entitled “Tips for Top 10 Effective Office Exercises” by the same writer, he writes, “In case your workstation is on the first or second floor, avoid using internal phone facilities. Instead, take the stairs and meet your colleagues in person. This helps you socialize, connect and also a good way to keep those calories burning.”
  • If you have a sedentary job, stand up after every one hour and stretch your body. Follow this by bending your upper body and then stretching your hands till they touch your toes. A set of five on an interval of every one hour is effective.
  • Men should try washing their cars every weekend and we mean a full washing session – cleaning, polishing etc. It’s a great stress buster and also good for your abs.
  • If you have kids, join them in their games and other activities.

Exercise Tips for Women

Exercise Tips for Women

  • Household work will not only help you burn calories, but also tone your abs. So, sweeping, cleaning, and gardening are actually fun ways to lose weight for women.
  • Window shopping – “Shopping can burn some extra calories”, write Alan Titchenal and Joannie Dobbs in an article on the Nutrition ATC website. It’s amazing how one hour of window shopping can help you burn calories. It is a treat for your eyes, mind and body!
  • With most housewives, the beginning of the day is very hectic with activities like sending kids to school etc. Here’s good news! Experts actually say that afternoon is the best time for workout because your body is light. So join that special 50% discount afternoon membership and get your dose of fat loss exercises just before lunch time.
  • For working women, those frequent face washes and touch-ups in the ladies room can be utilized by climbing up to a washroom on the floor which is above or below your workstation.

Even though these tips might help you stay a little fit, the benefits of complete workout session are far better. However, till you manage to get some time to visit the gymnasium, do keep following these effective exercises tips that will keep you “fit” without hampering your busy routine!

Natural Sleeping Remedies – Stop Insomnia Without Sleeping Pills

Natural Sleeping Remedies - Stop Insomnia Without Sleeping Pills

Everyone has the occasional sleepless night where you just aren’t tired, something is playing on your mind or the neighbours are making way too much noise! But for people who suffer from insomnia a sleepless night is a regular and incredibly annoying occurrence.

Anyone who suffers from insomnia can of course try sleeping tablets. However, many people are wary of unnatural sleeping aids as they can be addictive, have unpleasant side effects and simply mask an actual underlying problem. So if you can’t sleep but don’t want to take sleeping pills why not try some of these natural sleeping remedies.

Herbal Sleeping Remedies

herbal sleeping remedies - lavender

Herbal sleeping remedies help aid sleep not just by calming and relaxing the physical body but also by creating a calming environment and relaxing the mind. Lavender can be found in many room sprays, scented candles and massage oils, all of which can create a relaxing environment and relax the body, which is ideal for a good night’s sleep.

herbal sleeping remedies

Other herbal sleeping remedies include chamomile, lemon verbena and lime flower. All of these can be found in specialist herbal teas, another product that actively relaxes the body for sleep and creates a calm atmosphere. Many people recommend hot milk for getting to sleep so why not hot, herbal tea!

Change Your Diet to Help Aid Sleep

foods that promote sleep

It may seem obvious to say but both caffeine and sugar can have adverse affects on sleeping patterns. Caffeine in coffee, soft drinks and chocolate bars can give the body too much unwanted energy, cause restlessness of mind and body and disrupt sleep. Meanwhile, too much sugar during the day can cause uneven blood sugar levels at night or a “come down” from a sugar high, resulting in poor sleep.

Alternatively, there are many foods that are good for sleep. Believe it or not, bananas are a fantastic sleeping aid. Bananas contain soothing serotonin and the muscle relaxant magnesium. A couple of bananas half an hour before you go to bed could be just the right natural sleeping remedy you need.

Other foods which are good for sleep include:

  • Turkey – Rich in the body’s natural sleep inducing chemical Tryptophan.
  • Almonds – Full of Tryptophan and Magnesium and quite yummy.
  • Dairy products – Try milk or cottage cheese as a sleeping aid (as long as you’re not lactose intolerant!).
  • Honey – A relaxing food product that is especially good for sleep when mixed with lemon in hot water.
  • Potatoes – Can help cleanse the body of sleep preventing acids.

lifestyle changes that aid sleepLifestyle Changes That Can Help Aid Sleep

A simple, regular bedtime routine can be a very effective natural sleep remedy. Going to bed at the same time every night, doing the same cleaning routine before hand or reading for the same amount of time etc. can be a great way to naturally regulate the bodies sleeping pattern.

Another natural sleeping remedy in terms of lifestyle is literally exhausting the body! Insomnia can be caused by either too much physical energy or too much mental energy. If you have a physically strenuous lifestyle but not mentally strenuous lifestyle, try reading every night before bed to exhaust the mind. However, if it is the other way around, try exhausting the body with regular exercise.

Natural Sleeping Remedies

So there you have it, why not try some of these natural sleeping remedies to help tackle insomnia and restless nights. All of these techniques are quick, easy to do and mean you can get to sleep without having to use unnatural sleeping tablets.

Disposable Contact Lenses: A Great Option for Contact Lenses

Disposable color blend contact lenses offer many advantages, particularly because they are more convenient, easier to care for and pose fewer health risks to the eyes. Disposable contacts are prescription contact lenses that are made for one-time use (daily contacts) or extended use (up to two weeks), which are thrown away after the intended replacement schedule.

As with any contact lenses, disposable contacts and daily contact lenses must be purchased and used with proper care. From the moment you buy contact lenses to the moment you dispose of them, you must remember that contact lens safety is essential because the eyes are an entry point for germs and bacteria which can cause serious eye infections and injury and can even lead to blindness.

Here are a few safety tips for contact lens users that should be reviewed, even if you have been using disposable contact lenses for years.

Purchasing contact lenses:

If you choose to buy contact lenses online, make sure that you are buying from a reputable source and that the boxes come unopened and undamaged. Always have a proper contact lens exam and a contact lens fitting with an optometrist before ordering online to make sure that you find the best contact lenses for your eyes, including the type of lenses and how they feel in your eyes. Also, make sure that you consult with a professional to understand the required replacement schedule and care for your disposable contacts. You can order contact lenses online through our website via our contact lenses online order form.

Contact lens solution:

With so many lens solution options to choose from it is hard to figure out what you need. Daily disposable contact lenses actually don’t require contact lens cleaners because they come in lens solution and you throw them away after each use. Many people choose these lenses because of their ease and hygiene. It may be good, however, to have a multi-purpose solution on hand in case a lens pops out or drops while you are applying it.

Reusable disposable contact lenses do require cleaning and storage. Make sure that you always clean your contact case and that you dump old solution and add fresh contact solution with ease use.


Applying contact lenses:

Always wash hands before touching lenses, when applying and removing them. If you wear makeup, apply makeup after you put in your contacts and never put eye makeup on the inside of your eye, such as the inner lid. If your eyes sting or burn, take out your lenses.

Wearing disposable contacts:

Always follow the eye doctor’s replacement schedule when using disposable contacts. Disposable lenses are made of a different material that is meant for disposal which will break down after time. Over time proteins and lipids accumulate on the lens which increases the risk of infection. In addition, the lens itself could tear and cause damage or discomfort.

If you are interested in trying out disposable contact lenses, you should consult with an optometrist to determine which replacement schedule and brand is right for you.

Avoid Overeating During Holiday Meals This Holiday Season

Keep from overeating this holiday season with a healthy eating plan that is easy to follow. Enjoy the holiday meal without skipping the good stuff!

Holiday meals are filled with savoury foods that most do not consume on a regular basis. Filling a plate with food, eating, then going back for seconds before having dessert is a common routine at holiday meals. Yes, it is delicious and most cannot get enough of it until they have to unbutton their pants and lean back to take a nap. Before going overboard with the holiday meal consider what the food is actually doing to the body and how to prevent it from occurring.

Over Eating Health Concerns

According to Consumer Reports on Health, a large holiday meal could quickly surpass 4,000 calories. A meal such as this can cause a cardiac output of blood to rise and divert to the intestines to help aid in the digestion process. This can take up to six hours and will leave other organs deprived. Carbohydrates in holiday meals tend to be high which causes insulin to rise preventing the coronary arteries to relax.

Fat content is another concern with holiday overeating. Not only will the fat cause unwanted weight gain it can also trigger a gallbladder attack, especially in those who have gallstones already. Most holiday meals are not low in sodium which can lead to acute heart failure in persons who have had a problem.

How-to Eat Healthy at Holiday Meals

Woman having salad meal at the restaurant

One of the most common mistakes people make is to arrive at their holiday meal hungry. Avoid the temptation to skip breakfast to ‘save room for later’. It is the holiday season, whip up a nutritious holiday inspired breakfast and have a small snack an hour before the meal begins. A snack could include a small serving of oats, a bowl of whole grain cereal, or a granola bar.

As the holiday meal begins, if possible, eat a salad first. It is alright to taste all the foods that seem appealing, but don’t pile a huge plate full of food. Instead, opt for small food portions. Use a salad plate, it is smaller than a dinner plate and will give the illusion that the plate is filled full. Drink plenty of water with the meal to aid in digestion. Don’t try to finish the food too quickly, eat slowly and savour every bite.

Weight Loss Tips for the Holidays

Some areas have scheduled holiday walks, bikes, or runs. Begin a few months in advance and prepare for one of these activities. If none are available, grab a friend or family member and head to the gym for an hour before the holiday meal begins. This could be a wonderful time to spend time with family members that do not live near or that only come to town during the holidays.

Some families enjoy other outdoor activities such as basketball, soccer, horseshoes, bad mitten, horseback riding, touch football, etc. Start a new tradition this year and come up with some outdoor fun activities the whole family can enjoy. After all, holidays are about spending time with family.

Sometimes cooking will hinder the activities before the meal. In this case, save the activities for after the meal, but before the dessert. When asked to take home leftovers, if possible, decline. When leftovers are taken home, take only a small portion and save until the next day.


Discovering Kava – The Root of Serenity

Long-used by South Pacific islanders to soothe the nerves, kava is now one of the top-selling herbs in this country. But promoting tranquility in one of the most serene corners of the world is one thing while easing tension in a society of revolving debt and traffic jams is another. Is this ancient remedy a solution to modern-day stress and anxiety?

An elixir of kava rootFound in the plant’s roots, kava’s main calming ingredients are known as kavalactones. These fat-like substances relax the body and induce sleep, acting somewhat like the tranquilizers Valium or Xanax, although researchers aren’t exactly sure how the herb works. In Germany, kava remains one of the most popular doctor-recommended remedies for frayed nerves. The German Commission E, an FDA-like panel of experts that evaluates the safety and effectiveness of botanicals, has given the herb its stamp of approval.

What the Evidence Shows

Critics have questioned whether there’s a sound scientific basis for recommending kava in supplement form. Kava supplements, after all, are nothing like the sharp-tasting, homemade South Seas brews traditionally served in coconut shells (although you can still order the herb this way in South Pacific kava bars). Nor is the herb being used in the traditional sense. Polynesians drink kava to relax at social gatherings and tribal ceremonies. They don’t pop a pill because they’re anxious about boarding a boat.

A handful of short-term studies, most conducted in Europe, have found that kava helps reduce tension and improves mood in people who complain of stress, anxiety, or certain phobias. In the most recent report, presented at a symposium on alternative therapies last year, scientists followed 60 men and women with chronically high levels of stress and anxiety. Half the subjects got two 200 mg kava pills a day, while the others took a placebo. After four weeks, only the kava users showed a significant reduction in daily stress from personal relationships and other types of hassles.

To date, there has been only one longer-term controlled study on kava, which lasted six months. Although it found that kava relieved anxiety far more effectively than a placebo, it and other research suggest that kava may not be a quick and effective remedy for people with unusually severe anxiety.

Nevertheless, there is compelling anecdotal evidence that kava eases the tension caused by everyday life stresses. The herb appears to relieve mild anxiety in less than an hour, but studies have found that it typically takes a week to exert a meaningful effect. People report that the herb helps them to feel relaxed, content, and more willing to socialize. At a reasonable dose, kava will not affect your ability to think and reason, and there is no sluggishness the next day. In some respects, then, kava is the Polynesian equivalent of alcohol, minus the hangover and slurring.

Safer than Drugs?

Doctors in this country are beginning to pay kava some notice. Dr. Roberta Lee, the senior fellow at the program of integrative medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson, recommends kava for some of her patients, particularly those who suffer from anxiety on a regular basis. “At this point,” she says, “it appears it may be safer than conventional anxiety medications.” She warns, however, that kava should not be combined with drugs such as Valium or alcohol because it may cause excessive sedation. And she would advise pregnant or breastfeeding women not to use kava because it can pass into breast milk. She also stresses the importance of combining the herb with other anxiety-reducing techniques, such as hypnosis and breathing exercises. The University is currently beginning a long-term study of kava for mild anxiety.

Shopping for Kava

Look for a solid, liquid, soft gel, or whole herb product that’s standardized to contain at least 30% kavalactones, the active ingredients in the herb. Dr. Lee says that German brands may be a good bet because herbal quality and content requirements are much stricter in Europe than in the U.S. She adds, however, that the larger manufacturers in this country, such as Nature’s Way, Enzymatic Therapy, Eclectic, and PhytoPharmica, also seem to have a good product. “I would certainly steer people away from bulk herbs,” cautions Dr. Lee. “We don’t know their age, and they’re exposed to oxygen and may already be oxidized.”

Suggested Dose

For bouts of stress or nervousness, take up to 250 mg of a standardized kava extract three times a day. Higher amounts may cause you to feel disoriented. Take with food for best absorption. Although side effects are few–mainly stomach discomfort–long-term use (more than three months) may lead to discolored, itchy skin.

Important Note

The FDA has recently issued warnings on kava due to its adverse effects on the liver. Before using this herb, please read this entry.