Sunday, August 19, 2018

Grieving a Beloved Pet's Death

When You Are Grieving the Loss of Your Beloved Pet
By Susan J. O'Grady, PhD

For many of us, our relationships with our pets are like no other. There’s an emotional attachment that is pure, genuine, and steady, no matter the changes in our lives. Pets give us their devotion without asking for anything in return. Their love is unconditional.

So when a beloved pet dies, the sense of loss can be overwhelming. We may even feel the same degree of grief as we would for a human member of the family, though we may not feel comfortable admitting it. Many of my clients feel ashamed of their grief following the death of a pet because it’s “only” a dog or a cat (or bird, fish, rabbit…), but there’s no shame in deeply grieving the loss of a pet.

We form strong bonds with our pets; the stronger our attachment, the more profound our grief. When a pet dies, many experience depression and often a significant disruption in their day-to-day lives. The grief process is similar to that when we lose a significant person: numbness and disbelief, sadness, and depression. Many people will feel guilt, especially if they had to make the difficult decision to euthanize their pet due to illness or age. We can also feel anger at family members, or a vet who we think didn’t show enough care or concern.

Grief can take different courses for each person. People who live alone, or who have limited social support, may have more difficulty adjusting to their loss. For older adults who live alone, the bond with a pet can be the most significant relationship they have and form a big part of their day, making them especially vulnerable to grief. For parents whose children have not been exposed to death before, losing a pet may prompt inevitable questions about what happened, where the pet went, and whether the pet is coming back. Each family has their own way of thinking about death; be prepared to share what you believe with your child. Our instinct is to avoid talking about death, but kids have a wonderful way of making sense of things that adults have trouble expressing.

Other factors affect grief also, such as how our pet died. Was it sudden, such as a burst spleen, or violent, as in being hit by a car? Death following a long illness where a pet is on many medications and has had painful medical treatment may initially bring relief because we know our pet is out of pain, but can also leave us feeling deep sadness for the suffering we know our pet experienced.

Just as you would talk with a therapist about the loss of a friend or family member, you can use therapy to discuss your feelings about your pet’s death. Give yourself the opportunity to express your sadness and to share your memories. Consider a grief ritual such as placing a stone in a special place in your home or garden. Don’t feel like you have to minimize the importance of your animal companion. Our attachment to our pet is a real relationship that may have spanned years and provided us with security, affection, and love. Don’t shortchange your need to grieve.


Pesticide Found in Cereal

Roundup Chemical in Your Cereal: What to Know
By Brenda Goodman, MA

Aug. 15, 2018 -- Lab tests of cereals and snack bars made with oats found that many are tainted with the weedkiller glyphosate. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the widely used pesticide Roundup, which has been linked to cancer.

The tests were commissioned by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group after internal FDA emails surfaced last year showing chemists at the agency were testing wheat, corn, and oat foods for glyphosate and had found “a fair amount in all of them,” but had not yet released those results to the public. The emails were obtained by investigative journalists working for the nonprofit U.S. Right to Know.

Out of 61 food samples tested, 48 had some glyphosate in them. The most heavily contaminated were made with conventionally grown -- as opposed to organically grown -- oats.

The highest level detected, 1,300 parts per billion, was in a sample of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats. The lowest level, 10 parts per billion, came from a sample of Whole Foods conventional rolled oats scooped from a bulk bin.  You can read the full results here.

Oats are the basis of many favorite children’s snacks, including Cheerios and other baby finger-food cereals. Because of their small size and still-developing bodies, babies and young children are more vulnerable to environmental harms than adults are.

Organic products had lower levels of glyphosate; and almost two-thirds of the samples made with organically grown oats didn’t have any detectable glyphosate at all. That’s not too surprising since glyphosate is banned from use in organic farming. Still, some organic products -- 5 samples in total -- did have some glyphosate.

Even organic oats can be contaminated if they sit next to fields where glyphosate is sprayed, or if they’re processed on the same equipment as conventionally grown oats.

What’s the Risk?

So how much should a parent worry about what they’re feeding their kids?

Experts are divided on this point. In 2015, the respected International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” There are efforts under way in Europe to ban the chemical. More than 1 million people signed a petition calling on the European Union to prohibit its use, and Germany announced plans to stop its use there by 2021.

Yet in 2017, the EPA said the chemical was “not likely” to cause cancer in people.

“This is where it gets tricky. This isn’t straightforward,” says Michael Davoren, PhD, who studies molecular toxicology at UCLA. He was not involved in the Environmental Working Group’s tests.

Olga Naidenko, PhD, the Environmental Working Group’s senior science advisor for children’s environmental health, says glyphosate shouldn’t be in food, especially the foods we feed to young children.

“We believe that toxic pesticides, especially ones that may be linked to cancer, really don’t belong in the diet,” she says.

But even Naidenko and her co-author, toxicologist Alexis Temkin, PhD, say the odds of getting cancer from eating glyphosate-contaminated oats are really low.

Based on their own calculations, they say a single serving of most of the foods they tested, eaten each day for a lifetime, would cause just one additional case of cancer in every million people.

“That’s such a low increased risk to speculate about,” Davoren says. “When you’re dealing with something like that, a 1-in-a-million increased risk of cancer, I would say that isn’t a significant level to be particularly concerned about.”

He says the risk definitely wouldn’t outweigh the health benefits of eating oats, which are high in fiber and low in fat.

In a statement, Monsanto, a company that makes Roundup and other glyphosate-based pesticides, said “the EWG’s claim about cancer is false. Glyphosate does not cause cancer. Glyphosate has a more than 40-year history of safe use. Over those four decades, researchers have conducted more than 800 scientific studies and reviews that prove glyphosate is safe for use.”

Does that mean glyphosate is safe? You could say the jury is still out on that, but actually, one jury is in back in, and they didn’t think so.

Last week, jurors in California found Monsanto liable for causing cancer in a 46-year-old groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson. Johnson was awarded $250 million in punitive damages after the jury said the company failed to warn the public about its products’ health risks. Johnson’s case is only the first to come to trial. The company faces thousands of similar challenges across the U.S.

Versatile, Popular Weedkiller

Glyphosate doesn’t merely kill weeds. It also helps get crops ready for harvest. Farmers spray it on oats and other grains so they can move into the field to harvest them sooner. It also helps to promote even drying so they can harvest more of their grain at the same time.

For years, the chemical, which was first used in the U.S. in 1974, was considered to be virtually nontoxic to people and other animals. That’s because it works by blocking an enzyme that’s only made by plants. Since people don’t make the enzyme, the chemical was thought to be basically inert in the body.

But some studies in cells in petri dishes and animals have found that glyphosate and the weedkillers that use it may be able to damage DNA.

Internal company emails presented as evidence in Dewayne Johnson’s trial show Monsanto knew it was “very vulnerable in this area” and that the company hired outside scientists in an effort to discredit this science.

Exactly how the weedkiller might be causing this damage isn’t clear.

Davoren says new studies are pointing to a possible explanation. Though animals don’t contain the enzyme that’s blocked by glyphosate, bacteria do.

In fact, in addition to marketing the chemical as a weedkiller, Monsanto patented glyphosate as an antibiotic in 2010.

Davoren says that because glyphosate is so popular -- it’s the most commonly used weedkiller in the U.S., with more than 250 million pounds used each day -- it’s really hard to avoid.

“We’re learning more and more about the complexity and the importance of the human microbiome,” says Davoren. The microbiome refers to the genes of trillions of bacteria that live in and on our bodies. Our bodies contain about 100 times more bacterial DNA than human DNA. “What’s going on in your microbiome can end up affecting your cancer risk.”

Davoren says the science is still early, but it seems like glyphosate may be most harmful to “good” bacteria -- the kind that dampen inflammation in the body.

“You’re potentially adding one more subtle environmental factor that could tip the scales from a healthy microbiome to an unhealthy microbiome,” he says, though this is still just a theory. Much more research is needed before this can be accepted as fact.


Best and Worst Thai Dishes

summer rolls

Best: Summer Rolls

At fewer than 140 calories each, this appetizer won’t spoil your dinner. Summer rolls feature a medley of veggies, including lettuce, carrots, and cucumber, along with noodles and shrimp. That’s all wrapped in a rice-paper skin. Have one roll and skip the dipping sauce, which tacks on extra sodium and sugar. Can’t find them on the menu? They’re also called fresh spring rolls.
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fried spring rolls
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Worst: Fried Spring Rolls

Sure, they’re filled with cabbage and carrots, but those veggies are stuffed into a flour wrapper, then deep-fried in oil. The result: Each small roll can pack in roughly 130 calories and 6 grams of fat. And that doesn’t include the sugary dipping sauce. Polish off an order of four, and you’ll take in an entire meal’s worth of calories.
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papaya salad
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Best: Papaya Salad

Start your meal with a serving of fruits and veggies. The main ingredient in this salad is crisp green, or unripe, papaya. One cup serves up 3 grams of fiber and more than all the immune-boosting vitamin C you need in a day. This shredded fruit is tossed with green beans and tomatoes. Peanuts add crunch, along with protein and heart-healthy unsaturated fat.
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thai fried rice
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Worst: Thai Fried Rice

This rice doesn’t have much fiber, and that can leave you feeling tired and hungry. Order the steamed brown rice instead. Research shows that eating plenty of whole grains, such as brown rice, can lower your chances of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
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chicken satay
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Best: Chicken Satay

Satays are skewers of grilled, marinated meat. Opt for the chicken, and you’ll score a low-fat dish that’s high in protein. That can help fend off hunger and set the stage for weight loss. Satays are usually served with a spicy-sweet peanut sauce. Instead of dunking each skewer, put a little on your plate. Two tablespoons of the sauce serve up 80 calories and nearly 10% of all the sodium you should get in a day.
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red and green curry diptych
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Worst: Red or Green Curry

Thai curries are usually made with a hefty dose of coconut milk, and that won’t do your diet any favors. One cup of the creamy milk packs in 445 calories. It also has 43 grams of saturated fat -- more than three times the recommended daily amount. For a healthier dish, order the grilled or barbecued curry chicken.
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tom yum soup
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Best: Tom Yum Soup

The scoop on this hot-and-sour soup? It’s a healthy pick. Tom yum has fewer than 100 calories per cup. It also has shrimp, veggies, and fragrant spices, such as lemongrass. Tom yum and other broth-based soups, like tofu-vegetable or wonton, are usually lower in fat and calories than soups made with coconut milk, such as tom kha.
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massaman curry
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Worst: Massaman Curry

Like its red and green counterparts, massaman curry gets its creaminess from coconut milk. But this version is made with peanuts and potatoes, so it’s often higher in calories. One cup can have more calories than a cheeseburger and fries -- and twice as much fat. And that doesn’t include the side of rice that comes with it.
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chicken larb
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Best: Chicken Larb

It may be a salad, but this dish can be a satisfying meal. It’s made with protein-packed minced chicken with cilantro, mint, onions, and chili peppers. And all that’s tossed in a lime juice dressing. Larb is often served with sticky white rice and lettuce. Use the lettuce leaves as salad cups, and you’ll get extra heart-healthy vitamin K. But skip the rice; it tacks on extra calories without adding much nutrition.
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pad thai
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Best: Pad Thai

This dish is a menu staple of Thai restaurants. It’s made from rice noodles sauteed with spices, peanuts, egg, and bean sprouts. Get it with shrimp, chicken, or tofu for lean protein, and extra veggies for fiber and vitamins. Just watch your portion: Pad thai clocks in at 300 to 400 calories a cup. Some restaurants’ entrees are three or four times that.
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thai iced tea
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Worst: Thai Iced Tea

This drink gets its sweetness from sugar and condensed milk. The result: a 16-ounce serving that can pack in more calories and sugar than a cup of ice cream. If you’re in the mood for tea, order a glass of the unsweetened kind. Along with the refreshing flavor, you’ll also get a health boost. Both black and green tea have disease-fighting antioxidants.
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stir fry
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Best: Stir-Fries

These often pair protein with veggies, like tofu with broccoli or basil chicken with string beans. That means you’ll get vitamins and minerals, along with protein to stay satisfied. Order the dish with brown rice instead of white, and you’ll get an extra 2 grams of fiber per half-cup of rice. Because the sauce usually has sodium, fat, and sugar, ask for it on the side.
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crispy fish
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Worst: Crispy Fish

In the mood for fish? Steer clear of “crispy” or “fried” dishes. That’s code for deep-fried in oil, which means it has extra fat and calories. One study found that people who ate fried fish more than once a week were 44% more likely to have a stroke, compared with those who had it less than once a month. Do your health a favor and order your fish steamed, baked, or broiled instead.
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jungle curry
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Best: Jungle Curry

Most Thai curries are made with creamy coconut milk, but this one uses water, broth, or stock, so it’s lower in calories and fat. Order the tofu, chicken, or seafood version with brown rice for extra fiber. If you can handle the heat, get it spicy. A compound in chili peppers called capsaicin may help protect you against cancer and heart disease.
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fried bananas
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Worst: Fried Bananas

A fruit dessert is healthy, right? Not always. This version, called “gluay kaeg,” takes banana slices and dips them in a sweet coconut batter. Then they’re deep-fried in oil. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, go with the fruit sorbet or sticky rice instead. While those desserts have added sugar, they’re lower in fat than fried bananas.
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Getting Proximate to Pain and Holding the Power of Love

In this interview, On Being's Krista Tippett speaks with Lucas Johnson and Rami Nashashibi about the impact of growing up in minority communities, the influence of social change leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, the ideas of justice, love, and more. Lucas Johnson is an ordained minster, writer, and social activist in Amsterdam, who serves as the coordinator for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. Rami Nashashibi is the Executive Director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network and a recently awarded MacArthur Fellow.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Are Conflicted Feelings Normal?

What to Do When You Have Conflicting Feelings

You’re not sure whether you really feel sad about your friend moving, or excited by the prospect of visiting her at her new home in Hawaii. You know your sister is critical of you, but you believe she’s a kind person. Or maybe you can’t decide what you want romantically — as someone on the WebMD Relationships Message Board recently shared, some moments she feels totally in love with a new guy, but other times she feels drawn to reconnect with her previous partner. Though it can feel maddening, people often have thoughts and emotions that are a conflicted jumble.
When you believe that you need to pick which of your thoughts or emotions is your true experience, you have set yourself up for an exercise in frustration. It’s a lot like looking at a picture of a tree and having to pick what one color you are seeing. You might pick one color – say, green – when looking at the leaves, and then change your answer to brown when looking at the bark; only to change your answer again as you focus on the blackness of a knot in trunk. The truth is that your thoughts and feelings are equally rich experiences.
Unlike the uncomfortable exercise of deciding which one color a tree is, believing that you need to decide which thought or feeling is “true” can be extremely distressing. It can leave you unsure of yourself. The person who posted on WebMD’s Relationships Message Board clearly felt attracted to her new love interest, but also had unresolved feelings toward her old boyfriend that were interfering with the new relationship. This left her feeling “lost.”
Rather than trying to choose which feeling you are having or what thought you believe, choose to embrace the whole of your experience. Focus on clarifying your conflicting thoughts and allowing for your differing feelings. So, if your friend has moved, you might observe that you feel sad and excited rather then asking yourself, “Do I feel sad or excited?” Similarly with your thinking, you might note that you won’t have someone to spontaneously get together with and also that you will have the opportunity to nurture other friendships.
You might talk your thoughts and feelings through with a supportive friend, a therapist, or even on an online platform like the WebMD Relationships Message Board. Once you are clear about your differing thoughts and feelings and can accept them, you might find that you feel less lost – even if you are still unsure what you want to do.
If you have a history of a particular kind of inner conflict, then you might think about what themes you carry from the past. Rather than just focus on your current dilemma, think more about the theme. For instance, it could be that the woman who could not stop thinking about her last boyfriend tended to do this when she started feeling vulnerable in a new relationship. In this case, she might benefit from focusing more on her struggle with vulnerability rather than pursuing the old boyfriend.
By taking the time to become more aware of your inner conflicts and accept them, you are likely to be able to reflect on them more clearly. You are then more likely to make a wise decision – one that will help you move forward in a positive way, even as you continue to feel conflicted.

What Your Body Shape Says About Your Health

body shapes comparison

One Piece of the Puzzle

Your body shape can say quite a bit about your health. But it’s important to remember that it’s just one factor. People of all shapes and sizes can be healthy -- or at risk for problems like heart disease or diabetes. You should see your doctor for regular checkups to test your blood pressure, cholesterol, and other measures of your health.
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female distance runner
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One system separates body shapes into “somatotypes.” The ectomorph type has a narrower frame, thinner bones, and smaller joints, and may be flatter in the chest and butt. Think of the typical build of a distance runner, fashion model, or ballerina. Though you may look skinny and find it hard to put on weight, you can have more body fat than you think, especially as you age. That’s because your body often processes food quickly, which makes it harder to build muscle.
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green bay linemen
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This somatotype usually has more body fat and muscle, smaller shoulders, shorter limbs, and larger bone structure. Think of football linemen, shot put throwers, or curvier women. You may gain weight easily, especially in your lower belly and hips, and find it harder to lose. This may be in part because your body is more likely to store “high carb” foods as fat instead of burning them.
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professional soccer players
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This somatotype has an athletic, strong build with wide shoulders, a narrow waist, and low body fat. Think of the typical build of sprinters or soccer players. Because you’re naturally strong and lose and gain weight easily, your body type is well-suited to muscle-building activities like bodybuilding.
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woman with pear shaped body
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Pear Shape

It combines a slimmer “ectomorph” upper body with an “endomorph” lower body. People with this shape have extra fat in the hip and thigh area. It’s more common among women, and it may be part of the reason they often live longer than men. That could be because belly fat, more common in men, is linked to more health problems than lower-body fat. One study found that in some cases fat in the hips and thighs was linked to lower odds for some diseases.
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man with apple shaped body
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Apple Shape

Also called a “beer belly,” it means you have more fat stored around your stomach, while your lower body stays thin. It’s more common in men, and it's worse for your health than the pear shape. That’s because belly fat is often a sign that you have more fat deeper inside, around your internal organs, as opposed to just beneath the skin. That kind is more closely linked to heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol.
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bmi index illustration
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Body Mass Index (BMI)

Doctors don’t rely on body shape alone to know how healthy you are. They use a few tools to measure how much body fat you have, and BMI is one of them. It’s a number calculated from your height and weight. A score of 25 or more suggests you’re overweight; 30 or more points to obesity. But it doesn’t measure body fat directly or tell you where in your body the fat tends to live.
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woman measuring waist close up
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Waist Size

This is a simple way to measure how much fat you have around your belly, which can tell you your odds for health problems, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. To check yours, line up a measuring tape with your belly button and wind it once around. (Don’t suck in your stomach when you measure.) In women, 35 inches or more is a sign of too much belly fat. In men, it’s 40 inches. These numbers may vary slightly if you have a very large body size.
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waist to hip ratio illustration
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Waist-to-Hip Ratio

It’s another way to gauge the fat around your midsection. Measure your waist just above your belly button and divide that by the measure of your hips at their widest point. Anything greater than 0.85 for women or 0.9 for men puts you in the danger zone for health problems. Is it a better measure than just your waist size? The research isn’t clear. But many studies suggest that both do a good job of predicting health risks.
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woman training on an elliptical
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Bigger Thighs, Better Health?

Scientists studied about 3,000 adults for more than 12 years and found those whose thighs measured less than 24 1/2 inches were more likely to have heart disease and other health problems. And the problem got worse as thighs got thinner. However, the study didn’t track whether the people’s thighs were larger because of fat, muscle, or both, so it’s hard to tell why they were better off.
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senior man working out in gym
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Arm Yourself

When doctors kept track of 4,000 men between ages 60 and 79 to figure out their body composition, they found that along with slimmer waists, bigger arms seemed to predict longer life and better health. Those who had larger mid-arm muscle measurements lived longer. It may simply be that muscular arms reflect a healthier lifestyle, but the muscle itself may also help.
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couple walking with dog
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Exercise to Stay in Shape

Often, your body shape is something you’re born with. But no matter what you look like, there are lots of things you can do to be healthy. Exercise can help you get rid of deeper fat and build muscle, even if your weight stays the same. And if you lose weight, regular workouts can help you keep it off. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week. Building muscle with weights or yoga can also help.
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family preparing healthy meal
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Eat for a Healthy Body Shape

Trans fats and sweetened foods and drinks seem to boost belly fat. Eat a diet focused on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. And look for lean protein like skinless chicken, fish, eggs, beans, and low-fat dairy.
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Don't Let Summer Depression Get You Down

School’s out. It’s hot. And you’re not having any fun.