Exercise Don’t Hibernate!

Exercise

Exercise well this winter, don’t stay shut away indoors watching films, over-eating and feeling shut in all day long – not for more than just a few festive days anyway. As the New Year approaches it is a perfect time to seize the opportunity to plan some winter exercise and start to look forward to a fitter shapelier 2016. Read on to discover the best antidotes to total hibernation this winter…

Enjoy Huge Health Benefits

Exercise offers an incredible range of benefits for the body, mind and soul:

It increases the lean muscle that eats up fat and glucose

It helps to shift unwanted fat

It increases your metabolism

It helps to reduce your waistline

It reduces your risk of getting diabetes and heart disease

It increases your feel-good serotonin levels in the brain

It can help with depression

It can reduce your stress levels

It can reduce your blood pressure

It makes your heart stronger

It reduces your cholesterol

It increases your circulation

It triggers the production of enzymes which remove bad LDL cholesterol

It increases the size of proteins to stop bad LDL clogging arteries

It makes bones and joints and stronger and more flexible, making us less likely to get arthritis and osteoporosis

It aids digestion

It improves our overall appearance.

Overcome Your Own Excuses

If you are the sort of person who will come up with lots of reasons why thy ‘can’t’ exercise in winter, then you are far from alone. But really, where there’s a will… Don’t dismiss exercise and an option because of the weather; be realistic. If you are cold to start off with, you won’t go out in the cold. Cold can immobilize, so make sure you are warm to start off with. You won’t venture out if you are already too chilly. Dress warmly and strip off layers, then simply carry them when warm. In the snow…walking or trudging is good as it is harder work and you do get puffed. Skiing and snow fights also make for great exercise when it turns very cold: let it snow!

Exercises to Burn Fat

If you haven’t exercised in a while and let’s face it many people haven’t then you need to go easy in your first few sessions. The type of exercises you need to do to effectively to get that fat burning, is exercise that gets you out of breath. The heavier you are the more weight you will lose initially. A good tip is to trick your body into thinking it is heavier. Carry weights in a back pack, it works a treat.

Walking

Walking is always a good exercise, whatever the time of year and you can build on your time. You can go all out and do an hour in one hit, or you can break it up and do 4 x 15 minute bursts. It all adds up. Eventually doing it all in one go can be better as you will be able to maintain an increased heart rate for a longer period and this helps strengthen your heart.

Step Tracker

If you can walk 10,000 steps a day you will lose weight. Investing in a decent step tracker is a good idea. You will be surprised at the number of steps you do each day. Unless you are a nurse walking all day most people don’t generally get near 10,000 steps.

DVDs

Weatherproof exercising. There are so many exercise DVDs available, it can be hard to choose, but as a rule, the simpler the exercises, the better. Don’t overestimate your abilities by going for something super-tough at first; it will put you off. You should start with something you can easily manage and work your way up to harder exercises

Walk Aerobics

Put some music on and march on the spot for 20 minutes. You can mix it up with knee lifts, kicking legs forward and backward leg curls towards the buttocks. Do 10 of each and return to walking on the spot in-between. Try it, it really works; great for when it is tipping it down. Break it up in the beginning, it all adds up. Try to fit in 2 x 20 minute slots or 4 x 15 in the beginning and work up until you are doing an hour a day. Easy, and you can get the breathlessness that indicated fat-busting going. Doesn’t cost anything, except time.

Upper Body Exercises

As you get fitter you can bring upper body exercises into your walk routine. Start by raising your arms above your head as if doing weights. Got some food cans in the larder? Use these as weights, Rocky-style. It starts building that muscle you need. This really helps increase the heart rate.

Home-Walking

Some people feel too embarrassed to walk or jog outside because of their weight. This is sad, but no excuse not to exercise. If this applies to you just walk around the house as much as possible: corridors, lounge, dining room and kitchen, up and down stairs as much as possible and try to cover several miles each day. This will lower your blood sugar levels and help you lose weight.

Don’t forget, you can make life even easier by buying a walking machine: you can position it in front of the TV if it makes you happier.

Home Walking

10 Top Home Exercise Tips

  1. Step up and down. Everyone has at least one step in their house. If you have stairs, try going up and down ten times. You will life your body weight and get puffed out.
  2. Squats. Find a table or bench top to steady yourself and do 5 squats.
  3. Washing line wind up. If you have a line with a winder, wind the washing line up and down a few times. A full line is even better when you get your strength up.
  4. BBQ Lift. If you have a large BBQ with a hinged lift open and close ten times. Try one-handed lifts.
  5. Cleaning windows. Great for upper arms and shoulder joints. Clean your windows once a week even if they are clean, or if you prefer try scrubbing the shower screens.
  6. Gardening has always been great exercise. Sweep your pathways, do some weeding and rake.
  7. Try stretching rubber resistance bands. These are clever, cheap exercising aids that physios use; but them in sports shops or online. They often come with a set of exercises that work key muscle groups.
  8. Swimming is fantastic and if you are lucky enough to have a pool at home, you will be in great stead. However, walking in water is also great resistance training for muscles. Plus you stay nice and cool and don’t put undue stress on joints.
  9. Bike riding is great fun and it really works the leg muscles. You can ride around your home town with relatively little fuss or outlay; if you don’t own a bike, second hand ones are not expensive.
  10. Stationary bikes are also excellent, as long as you do actually use it and don’t just let it sit there gathering dust. Set it up in front of a good movie and pedal yourself fitter.

17 Alternative Therapies That Could Change Your Life

Therapies

Many types of alternative therapies (also called complementary medicine or integrative medicine) come from traditional medicine practices of particular cultures and have been used for hundreds or thousands of years. Some are hands on, some hands off; for some, you work with a trained practitioner, and for others you can DIY. You’ll find a wide variety of therapies to explore.

Even though many of them haven’t been proven through controlled clinical trials to do what they say they can do, all of these alternative therapies have proponents who swear by them. You may discover that one of these therapies works for you, even if science can’t (yet) explain it.

(Note that this is not a medical website and I am not a doctor. This article is intended only as a brief introduction to a variety of therapies, and is not an endorsement of any or all of them. Enjoy!)

Acupuncture

What it is: Small needles are placed in the skin at acupuncture points to address different issues.

May be especially helpful for: pain relief, especially back and joint pain.

Acupressure

What it is: Like acupuncture, acupressure is centered around working with the acupuncture points on the body. Unlike acupuncture, needles aren’t used. Practitioners often use their hands and fingers instead.

May be especially helpful for: pain relief, including headaches and stomach aches

Therapeutic massage

What it is: Massage is already known as a stress reliever and is often seen as a luxury or a treat, but deliberate bodywork can do much more than simply aid relaxation.

May be especially helpful for: muscle pain and tightness, stress reduction, increased circulation

Reiki

What it is: A Reiki practitioner lightly place their hands on different areas of your body to manipulate your energy and improve health. Unlike a typical massage, with reiki you stay fully clothed.

May be especially helpful for: reducing pain and anxiety

Chiropractic

What it is: Doctors of Chiropractic often focus on the health of the spine and make “adjustments” in order to affect other parts of the body.

May be especially helpful for: back and neck pain, headaches, arthritis

Applied kinesiology

What it is: A system of evaluation involving “muscle challenges,” “chemical challenges,” and “emotional challenges” followed by a treatment plan that avoids drugs and surgery.

May be especially helpful for: relieving emotional stress, addressing emotional issues

Feldenkrais Method

What it is: In this method of “somatic education,” a practitioner works with a student to help them become aware of the way they habitually move and how that might be affecting their quality of life. The practitioner then leads the student through slow, repeated movements to replace undesirable movements with more beneficial movements.

May be especially helpful for: improving coordination and flexibility, increasing range of motion, reducing pain

Alexander technique

What it is: Like Feldenkrais, this technique is more about education than direct physical or energetic manipulation. The instructor helps the student become aware of when they respond to situations by tensing up so they can unlearn that response. Alignment and coordination are focuses of this technique.

May be especially helpful for: reducing chronic tension, improved posture and coordination

Trager psychophysical integration

What it is: Another method of somatic education, the Trager approach involves both a passive component (where the practitioner gently manipulates the body to teach the student how to move with more ease and less tension) and an active component (where the student learns some simple movements know as Mentastics).

May be especially helpful for: increasing ease and range of motion, promoting relaxation

Cupping

What it is: Cups are placed on the skin so that the air is drawn out and a suction effect occurs, encouraging blood flow, chi movement, and toxin removal. “Wet cupping” involves controlled bloodletting, while “dry cupping” doesn’t.

May be especially helpful for: alleviating back and neck pain, addressing high blood pressure, reducing stress

Moxibustion

What it is: Cones or bundles of “moxa” – dried plant materials – are burnt on or near the skin, manipulating the body’s chi.

May be especially helpful for: relieving the pain from arthritis, addressing digestion problems

Homeopathy

What it is: Plant-based homeopathy “remedies” are created to address a variety of physical and psychiatric ailments, using the concept of the Law of Similars in which “like cures like.”

May be especially helpful for: chronic issues like fatigue and stress

Homeopathy

Bach flower remedies

What it is: There are 38 of these patented “remedies” or “essences” made from flowers, each of which is intended to treat different emotional states like jealousy or lack of self confidence. To use the remedies, add a couple drops to spring water and drink.

May be especially helpful for: ridding unwanted negative emotions and replacing them with positive emotions

Herbal medicine

What it is: This general term encompasses medical practices that use plants to cure physical and emotional problems. Different practices of herbal medicine have developed in China, India, Indonesia, and in the Americas among the native peoples.

May be especially helpful for: improving skin condition, addressing digestive problems, relieving headaches and pain

Aromatherapy

What it is: The use of aromatic oils from plants and flowers to improve mental well-being. Oils can be massaged into the skin or simply inhaled to be effective.

May be especially helpful for: relieving pain, improving mood, focusing the mind

Music therapy

What it is: A music therapist works with you to tackle emotional and cognitive problems through music. That can mean listening to particular types of music or it can mean actually singing and playing instruments. It may be effective for certain populations, including people on the Autism Spectrum, those with Alzheimer’s, and children with emotional problems.

May be especially helpful for: aiding rehabilitation after a long illness, managing pain

Hypnosis and hypnotherapy

What it is: A hypnotherapist can help you break a bad habit or build a new habit by helping get you into a hypnotic state where appropriate goals are suggested to you. After coming out of hypnosis, you follow up with action to support those goals.

May be especially helpful for: breaking bad habits like smoking, overeating, biting nails, and wetting the bed, or building good habits like brushing teeth and exercising; also used for pain relief

Dead Sea Mud: Clear Skin for the Party Season

Dead Sea Mud

When the party season comes around, we all want to look our absolute best. Looking good during the season of velvet, fake fur, real diamonds, sequins and (normally) no tan can come down to one simple thing – having a beautiful complexion anf feeling great to boot.

The skin can become dull and problematic during the winter. Some people find that the skin becomes dry and lacklustre, others suffer from breakouts as the skin works less efficiently. Some get chapped skin, others might find that the skin on the face and elsewhere may just need a wonderfully stimulating, soothing boost… which is precisely where Dead Sea Mud comes in.

Dead Sea Mud is an extraordinary substance, famous throughout the world as being rich in nourishing, soothing, purifying, detoxifying, stimulating and health-giving minerals. But the big questions remain – what exactly is it and what can you actually do with it? What can it help with and how? Read on…

What is Dead Sea Mud?

Dead Sea Mud has been harvested from the banks of the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, lying between Jordan and Israel. It contains around 45,000 million tons of salts which are extraordinarily rich in 26 or more minerals the world-famous Dead Sea Minerals. It is extremely beneficial for the skin and body. It is not what we think of as mud or ‘dirt’ in the ordinary sense – it is in fact alluvial silt that has washed down to ground level from the majestic peaks in the surrounding landscape, ending up on the shores of this inland sea of salt.

Critically, this is mud that has evolved over thousands of years as layer upon layer of silt has settled to create this remarkable natural gift. Dead Sea mud is exceptionally high in levels of calcium, magnesium, potassium, boron, strontium and iron and can supply the body with many of its essential mineral needs.

How Dead Sea Mud Helps Your Skin

Here are 5 truly fantastic ways in which Dead Sea Mud can help to get your skin ready to party all through the festive season:

Clearing up Acne

Dead Sea Mud contains many beneficial minerals, but it has also been shown to annihilate acne-causing bacteria. The unique, dark, enriched Mud can be used in masks, exfoliators, lotions and soaps to great effect. This is because Dead Sea Mud has been proven to have antimicrobiological properties. In other words, when scientists carried out lab tests where they exposed acne-causing bacteria to Dead Sea Mud, the results were astonishing – the bacteria rapidly lost its viability, it could not survive.

That is great news for anyone who suffers from acne and wants a highly effective natural solution. Apply Dead Sea Mud as a face mask and let it rest on your face until it starts to dry, then rinse your skin clear. Do this on a weekly basis and the improvements in the condition of your skin can be dramatic – wave goodbye to unsightly, uncomfortable acne.

Preventing or Reducing Wrinkles

Dead Sea Mud has a significant role to play as part of a highly effective anti-aging treatment. Studies have shown that Dead Sea salt when applied could lead to as much as a 40% reduction in the depth of wrinkling in the skin.

When it forms the basis of a face mask, Dead Sea Mud can have incredible results. The highly saline Mud actively helps unfold the wrinkled skin area and generate new cells so that the complexion becomes smoother and less lined. The difference in the tone and texture of the skin can be visible after just a few applications of Dead Sea Mud.

Soothing Eczema

The extremely high concentrations of salt and minerals in Dead Sea Mud can work absolute wonders on skin that is itchy and sore with eczema. People sometimes think eczema skin is dry, because it lacks oil, but it is actually because skin afflicted with eczema does not retain enough water. To correct dryness, the best thing to do is to mask the skin in Dead Sea Mud for 20 minutes, then bathe, pat the skin dry and apply a natural emollient like Argan oil to lock in the moisture.

Soothing Eczema

Easing Aches and Pains

The exceptionally high concentration of minerals in Dead Sea Mud is thoroughly recommended for natural relief of aching muscles which can be caused by arthritis pain, plus to help relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia, muscle stiffness, joint inflammation and back pain. Applying Dead Sea Mud can help ease knee aches and pains by stimulating the circulatory system and relaxing the nerves. Research from Ben Gurion University concluded that patients who were treated with Mud compresses made mineral-rich Dead Sea Mud reported less knee pain from osteoarthritis. It has proved equally effective for chronic low back pain – in studies pain severity was reduced in patients who had been treated with Dead Sea Mud compresses. Try applying Dead Sea Mud to painful joints such as knees, wrists and elbows. Leave it on until it dries and then rinse it clear for the best results.

Cleansing and Minimizing Pores

A Dead Sea Mud mask can vastly improve your complexion by improving elasticity and minimizing pores, increasing radiance and vitality. Apply a purifying mask of the mud to your face and leave it to dry. As it does so, toxins are drawn out from your skin cells. The skin of your face is left looking clean, clear, well-nourished and refreshed.

The purifying face mask works by creating a seal over the skin. The blood circulation increases, and the face becomes warmer, so that the pores release sebum and toxins through perspiration, as well as absorbing nourishing ingredients in the Dead Sea Mud mask. The skin is also more able to absorb vitamins, proteins and Dead Sea minerals and therefore to regenerate a healthy cell layer. These benefits last for some days as the performance of the skin’s vital regeneration functions are enhanced and the skin’s texture is visibly improved.

Where Can I Find Dead Sea Mud?

Dead Sea Mud comes in many forms and is used in a wide variety of products. If you would like to apply a body wrap or facial mask, try Seacret or the Ahava range of products which is available from a high street chemist such as Superdrug. There are also Dead Sea Mud soaps such as the range offered at Boots.

Super foods: Winter Salads

Winter Salads

Have you bought into the power of super foods? We certainly have. There is strong evidence that natural foods, from the ordinary, dark green broccoli and kale, to the extraordinary goji berry, acai berry and flax seed, are jam-packed with exceptional levels of nutrients, including essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Moreover once we get into the groove of eating healthily, we discover that the foods that are fantastically good for us are often also the most genuinely delicious.

The big thing about winter food is that it can often set us craving for sweet, sticky pudding and floury eats when what our body really needs to fend off all those winter colds are plenty of fresh fruit and veg:real super foods. So, what better way to give your system a real seasonal boost than to enjoy huge platefuls of delicious super foods in winter salads which as packed with some of the most nutritious vegetables, and occasional fruity additions, to be found. Tuck in – good health!

Chicken, Kale and Broccoli Superfoods Salad

This delicious winter salad packs in nutrient rich broccoli and super-boosts it with delicious fruity goji berries. A superbly healthy seasonal supper.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

6 skinless chicken breasts

200g kale, chopped

1 head of broccoli, florets chopped into small pieces

2 Granny Smiths apples, cut into matchsticks

2 large carrots, grated into long strips

1 large handful of parsley, roughly chopped

1 quarter of red cabbage, finely chopped

1 large handful pine nuts

1 handful of goji berries

1 tbsp of olive oil

For the dressing

125 ml fat-free natural yoghurt

2 tbsp olive oil

Juice of one lemon

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 good grinding of salt and pepper

Method

Drizzle the chicken breasts in olive oil and grill them under a medium heat until they are cooked through, in about 25-30 minutes but test with a knife to ensure there is no remaining pink.

While the chicken is cooking, get a large bowl and toss all the chopped vegetables and fruit together, reserving the pine nuts. In a smaller bowl, place the yoghurt, lemon juice, crushed garlic and whisk them together, then season well and mix again.

When the chicken is nearly cooked, heat a small frying pan without oil on the hob. When hot, scatter in the pine nuts into the pan and let them toast, tossing and stirring so as not to catch or char. When they are nicely dark gold and heated through, turn off the heat.

Remove the cooked chicken breasts from the oven. Take two forks and shred the chicken in the pan. Tip the hot chicken over the bowl of vegetables, then pour over the small bowlful of dressing. Mic well. Divide the winter salad between four or more plates, scatter over the toasted pine nuts and serve.

Superfoods_Salad

Spinach and Avocado with Cranberries

Vitamin-rich, fibrous spinach, avocado with its wealth of good fats and super Vitamin C source cranberries all pack a punch in this tasty, light, meat-free meal.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

400g baby spinach leaves

1 large handful of rocket

2 large avocadoes, sliced

2 tbsp sliced almonds

2 tbsp dried cranberries

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

For the dressing

4 tbsp olive oil

Juice of two large lemons

1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Salt and pepper

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Mixed all the green leaves in a large, decorative bowl.

Take a baking tray and evenly spread the sliced almonds all over. Toast them for 5-10 minutes until golden.

Meanwhile, slice avocadoes, thickly and lengthways. Add the avocado to the leaves. In a small separate bowl, mix the ingredients for the dressing and whisk them into an emulsion.

Finally, scatter the toasted almonds and cranberries over the green leaves, pour over the vinaigrette dressing and toss well, then serve.

Beetroot and Butternut Salad

Lovely colourful beetroot boosts the blood and has been proven to enhance physical performance. Twinned with butternut it makes a wonderful autumnal supper.

Serves 4

400g rocket

4 fresh beetroots, sliced into discs

1 large butternut squash, cut into small cubes

2 tbsp pine nuts

1 tbsp of olive oil

For the dressing

4 tbsp olive oil

Juice of two large lemons

1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Salt and pepper

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Take a large baking tray and arrange the cubes of butternut at one end and the discs of beetroot at the other. Drizzle with a little olive oil roast for 35-40 minutes or until golden and tender.

Take a large ceramic bowl and arrange the rocket leaves in it.

In a small separate bowl, mix the ingredients for the dressing and whisk them into an emulsion.

Heat a pan, scatter in the pine nuts into the pan and let them toast, tossing and stirring so as not to char them. Turn off the heat after 5 minutes, or when well toasted.

Take the golden, roasted squash and tender hot beetroot and tip the pieces over the salad leaves. Next, pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. Finally, scatter over the toasted pine nuts.

Salmon and Flax Salad

Not strictly a winter salad, this delicious light dish is packed with Omega 3 and 6 and good fats, as well as plenty of fiber for a taste of summer even in the darker months.

Serves 4Salmon and Flax Salad

Ingredients

4 fillets of salmon

1 medium aubergine

1 large iceberg lettuce, torn into pieces

2 beefsteak tomatoes, in chunky cubes

1 medium cucumber, in chunky cubes

4 tbsp flax seeds

For the dressing

3 tbsp sesame oil

Juice of 2 limes

Salt and pepper

Method

Pre-heat the oven to180 degrees Celsius.

Place the aubergine onto a dry baking tray or into a roasting tin and leave it to cook for 30-35 mins, turning once, until crisp and browned at the edges, and thoroughly squashy.

Fifteen minutes into the aubergine cooking time, place the salmon fillets, skin side down, onto an oiled baking tray and place them into the over for 15-20 minutes or until the moment that the flesh is no longer translucent.

While the fish and aubergine are cooking, tear the iceberg lettuce into pieces and scatter into a large bowl. Add the cucumber and tomato and toss. Take a very sharp knife and cut the salmon into inch-square chunks and roughly cut the aubergine flesh into slightly smaller cubes too. Add to the salad vegetables.

Mix the dressing in a small bowl or jug, whisking well with a fork. Pour it over the salad, tossing the ingredients well once again, the sprinkle over all the flax seeds and serve.

20 Fun and Effective Alternatives to Meditation

Hate to meditate? You’re not alone. Although it seems like it should be the easiest thing in the world, sitting still and breathing deeply for even 5 minutes can be a big challenge. But since meditation is so beneficial to both mind and body, it’s worth trying to work it, or one of the alternatives below, into your regular routine.

1. Tai chi

This Chinese martial art is studied widely around the world for its health benefits, and it’s even been called “meditation in motion.” Common practice of tai chi (or t’ai chi) for health typically involves slow, deliberate movements through a sequence. Because it’s low impact, it’s great for a wide range of ages and fitness levels, and it’s known to calm the mind and improve the stress response.

2. Qigong

Also originating from China, qigong (or qi gong, chi gung) is a meditation-in-motion practice that also incorporates slow movement and energy work. It has many of the same health benefits as tai chi, but may be more suitable for people with fitness limitations.

3. Yoga

Great for the body, great for the mind. Some types of yoga focus on the meditation aspect more than others, like hatha, kundalini, and yin. But you can deliberately incorporate meditation and mindfulness into any form of yoga you choose.

4. Running

Many runners enter a flow state which looks a lot like meditation: time doesn’t seem to pass at the same rate, the sense of “self” becomes less clear, and attention is focused on the current moment.

5. Swimming

For physical types who don’t fancy running, swimming is an alternative that also does wonders for the body and the mind.

6. Rock climbing

Like running and swimming, rock climbing is a full-body sport that’s physically challenging. Unlike running and swimming, where you can get into the groove of the repetitive motion, rock climbing requires you to be mindful of each and every step you take.

Rock climbing

7. Golf

Golf requires patience, precision, and control of the body and the breath. Played with the goal of staying in the moment, it can be a wonderful alternative to sitting meditation.

8. Time in nature

A round of golf also has something else going for it: it’s outdoors. Being in nature – whether you’re running, boating, taking a walk, or just sitting quietly – improves your immune system, mental well-being and ability to focus.

9. Time with animals

Pets can be such powerful influences on our emotional health that many people have medically recognized Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). Whether we care for them or simply spend some time around them, animals can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and focus our attention on something other than ourselves and our problems. The next time you take your dog for a walk or sit down with your cat, choose to be mindful and present in the moment. If you don’t own a pet, consider volunteering at a shelter. It’s win-win.

10. Gardening

Benefits of gardening go beyond spending time in nature: nurturing living things and tending their well-being is good for your well-being, too. And even simple gardening tasks like weeding can get you into the beneficial flow state.

11. Laughing

Meet up with a funny friend, watch a funny video on YouTube, or listen to a stand-up routine and laugh. In addition to just being fun, a study last year showed that laughter led to increased levels of gamma waves, brainwaves shown to increase during certain types of transcendental meditation.

12. Playing music

Deliberate practice of an instrument requires focused attention and connects your body and mind together. To make it effective as a meditation practice, just enjoy the experience of practicing scales or working on a tough passage, and don’t be overly attached to the outcome. Stressing about whether you’re playing well is not the point.

13. Listening to certain types of music

Drumming has long been used in many cultures for spiritual purposes, and one of the reasons is that it’s an effective way to manipulate your brainwaves. Drumming or listening to regular, rhythmic drumming increases alpha waves, the same seen in deep relaxation and light meditation. Other types of music, including trance and minimalism, may do the same.

14. Puzzles and games of logic

Doing a Sudoku or playing chess requires you to use logic and imagination, and it stretches your problem-solving skills to the limit. In addition to keeping your brain healthy and your mind sharp, it’s a great way to focus your attention on one thing and clear out the frustrations of your day.

15. Memorizing a poem

Memorizing a poem, like doing a puzzle, requires focused concentration that crowds out other stressful thoughts like what you’re making for dinner or how you’ll pay the bills next month.

16. Coloring

Grab some crayons or colored pencils and get coloring! This creative and attention-focusing activity is becoming popular among the mature crowd, and you can now find a variety of coloring books geared towards adults. Get an extra dose of spirituality and color in mandalas.

17. Knitting

Knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, embroidery, tatting, and other kinds of needlework not only focus your attention and engage your creativity, they also let you get into the flow state through repetitive motion.

18. Ship in a bottle

If knitting isn’t your thing, maybe building things is. Model kits for airplanes, ships, cars, buildings, robots, etc. give you the satisfaction of creating something with your hands while calming your mind and making it focus on one task.

19. Doing the dishes

Next time the sink is full, think of it as an opportunity rather than a chore – an opportunity to get into that state of mindfulness that’s at the heart of effective meditation. A recent study showed that mindful dish washing led to positive results like decreased nervousness and increased inspiration.

20. Bricklaying

Seems like a strange entry, but like many other items on this list, laying brick requires focus and a methodical approach to the task at hand. Winston Churchill famously had the hobby (he was so into it he joined the union of bricklayers and masons in 1928), and if it was good enough for Churchill, well, it’s probably good enough for us.

Bricklaying

Bonus: Meditation

Okay, this one is cheating a bit… meditation as an alternative to meditation? But hear me out. When we think of “meditating” we think of sitting still (possibly in the lotus position) for a period of time in a quiet room, eyes closed, and we’re told to clear our minds completely and just sit. For most of us, who have families, jobs, responsibilities, and long to-do lists, that’s easier said than done.

But that’s just one kind of meditation – there are many more. Instead of trying to clear your mind, you can meditate by focusing on something like a physical object in your hands, a mantra, a sound, or even the number of breaths going in and out of your body. You may want to choose a Zen Koan or a passage from a meaningful book to think deeply about during your meditation time. Just choose your object of focus and bring your mind back to it when you notice your attention drifting, and boom, you’re meditating!

Maintain Year-Round Beach Body Fitness With These Awesome Tips

At the start of the year, when thoughts turn to the impending summer months and exposing our bodies on the beach, we are usually sufficiently motivated to put ourselves through regular, intense sessions at the gym.

We pay close attention to our diets, follow the rigorous workout routines afflicted upon us by the fitness instructor, and begin filling our wardrobes with smaller clothes in readiness for hitting the sand.

But then, once the cool winds of autumn set in and it’s time to once again dust off the winter clothes, motivation wanes and with it that hard-earned beach body. Next year, however, we’ll do it all again. A grueling cycle of getting in shape, letting it all go and then starting from scratch every year. This is comparable to walking up the down escalator and stopping halfway for a rest.

Getting to beach body fitness is a tough battle, so once you achieve your goal it is better to maintain it long term. Ditch the in shape/out of shape cycle and stay beach body fit year-round. It’s easier than you think!

Abandon The “Dieting” Mentality

Lots of people are typically tempted to jump on a crash diet at the first sign of sunny weather. This type of thing might produce short-term results, but the usual calorie restrictive diets are not sustainable. Most of these diets are tedious and life-draining, which would explain why most people abandon them at the earliest opportunity.

To maintain a fit body all year round, you have to ditch the short-term dieting mentality. Instead, adopt a lifestyle buoyed by positive eating habits. Carefully planned and periodical dieting can help you to achieve certain goals, but maintaining the results will require a commitment to providing your body with the proper nutrition all year long.

This doesn’t mean eating lettuce for breakfast lunch and dinner. It means consuming a balanced diet of protein-rich foods, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.

Set Year-Round Goals

Think about how motivated you were to get in shape for summer. Perhaps it was the goal of being able to slip into a stylish new bikini, or to show off washboard abs while sunning yourself. After the summer season, those goals disappear and so you lack the required drive to keep working out. You’re tempted to eat lots of “comfort foods”, and thoughts of fitness fade to non-existence.

To stay beach body fit all year round, you need to set goals throughout the year. This could be milestones that align with holidays or events, like Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or birthdays.

Slimming to fit into a Christmas party dress, for example, might be a useful goal. If you want to lose a few extra pounds, buy a smaller outfit and set a goal to fit into it by a certain date.

Round Goals

Change The Scene

Boredom is another key reason that people abandon their fitness efforts midway through the year. Going through the same exercise routines, with the same people, in the same place can soon become unstimulating. It helps to occasionally change things up a little.

If you generally exercise outdoors, you can easily change your surroundings by going to a different park, run a different route, or try a few indoor sessions. Likewise, if you usually go to the gym you can exercise outdoors or, especially in the winter months, do a few workouts at home.

Whenever feel that familiar feeling of lackluster simply try a change of scenery. You will be surprised at how invigorating this simple act can be.

Variety is The Spice

In addition to a change of surroundings, it is also helpful to change your workout routine periodically. A mundane, repetitious routine can quickly drain motivation, causing a build-up of excuses and a reduction in exercise frequency. It’s time to spice up your fitness regime with a little variety.

Try experimenting with fitness classes. There is usually a wide selection of these to suit all fitness levels; Spin, Zumba, Boxercise, the list could go on. You could also get out of the gym environment altogether and take up some other fitness boosting activity such as dance classes, rock climbing, or even outdoor yoga.

There is a whole range of activities to choose from. Maintain your usual exercise routine, but be sure to switch things up every now and then. Your body and mind will be grateful.

Cheat from Time to Time

Seven days a week slogging it out in the cold, dark gym, five meals per day of tasteless, dull food, and countless weekends of watching your friends down exotic cocktails while you sip spring water. It’s enough to make you cheat. And why not go ahead and cheat! You’ve earned it after all.

But, slow down a second. This doesn’t mean wolfing down copious amounts of junk food in one debauched weekend. No, instead of blowing all your hard-earned gains and risk high cholesterol due to overeating, consider giving yourself a small reward. Depending on your metabolism you might allow yourself one cheat meal per week.

Cheat meals are moderate indulgences that do not jeopardise your overall fitness goals. They should allow you to remain on track without adverse urges to start eating the wrong kinds of foods again. View these meals as a reward for all your hard work during the week. But remember, if you haven’t earned the reward don’t have the cheat meal.

Easier Done Than Said

Maintaining a year-round beach body is easier than the alternative. If every new year you hit the gym after six months of hibernation, it will be like living in Groundhog Day or year. The same process of scrambling to get fit in time for those sunny days and skimpy clothing over and over again.

Instead of rushing up the down escalator and having to stop halfway for a rest, why not take it at a steady pace. You are less likely to require a rest stop, and before you know it, you will find yourself at the top.

If You’re Doing These Exercises In The Gym, You’d Better Stop Now!

Exercises

If you perform exercises in the gym you might think that everything you have learnt is effective, safe and good. After all, other people are doing the exercises, the machines are customized to accommodate the particular exercise, and the fitness instructor included it in your workout plan.

Now let’s set aside those mind-boggling exercises that you see the one oddball doing week in, week out. That one where you simply have to shake your head in bewilderment and secretly wonder about the person’s mentality. No, the exercises under scrutiny today are some of the most common exercises available.

The exercises here are not completely useless, but the risks of doing them far outweigh the benefits. That is not to say that some people can’t derive some benefits from these exercises. As the old saying goes “there is no such thing as bad exercises – only bad ways to do good exercises.”

Behind-the-Head Lat Pull downs

The problem with this exercise: This exercise has long been invalidated and discredited, but it appears the news has not been passed on to some instructors and gym users. In the old days people thought it was a good idea to pull the bar down behind the head in an effort to better build, tone and strengthen the latissimi dorsi (lats). However, it has since been discovered that this exercise puts a great deal of stress on the shoulder joint.

Michele Olson, PhD, NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialists and an ACSM fellow explains what happens during this exercise motion – “The top of the humerus is actually pushing outward and away from the joint, overstretching the tendons and ligaments on the front of the shoulder”. This puts the person doing the exercise at greater risk of injury.

This is particularly troubling for people whose job renders them deskbound. These people are highly likely to have poor posture, and/or rounded shoulders. Behind-the-head lat pull downs will exacerbate the misalignment.

What to do instead: Using the same machine, you can work the lats effectively by pulling the bar in front of you. Sit with your back straight, torso leaned back slightly ensuring the spine is kept straight. Pull the bar down towards your chest, but make sure it does not go past your collar bone. Return the bar to the starting position under control and repeat.

Back Extension

The problem with this exercise: The humble back extension apparatus can usually be found in the far corner of most modern gyms. Some people use it to do exercises focused on their abdominals, but the main purpose of this machine is to strengthen the lower back. The irony is that in many cases users will end up achieving the opposite; they may actually be causing severe back damage.

This machine encourages you to put your back in a forced hyperextension position. This makes the spine vulnerable. It means that extra care and attention is required for each rep. However, many people end up risking the facet joints in their spine by performing the exercise in a fast a jerky manner.

While this machine can help people achieve a stronger lower back, the risk of spinal damage, particularly in the inexperienced and hard-headed, belies the rewards.

What to do instead: Try getting down on all fours and simultaneously raising opposite arm and leg.

Back Extension

Upright Rows

The problem with this exercise: Upright rows can be performed using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, or pretty much any type of weight you can lay your hands on. It is touted as a good exercise for developing the trapezius muscles and deltoid heads. But it is controversial.

Why? Because the range of motion with this exercise causes the bone in the upper arm (humerus) to knock against the acromion process (AC) joint. This could lead to compression of the nerves in the shoulder as well as cartilage damage in the AC joint. Arthritis usually ensues at this point.

What to do instead: An effective, and safer, exercise for hitting the deltoid head are side lateral raises. Grab a pair of modest weights and with your feet planted shoulder width apart raise your arms out to the side so that they are parallel with the floor, palms facing down. Return the weight to your side under control and repeat.

As for the trapezius, Some simple shrugs should help you beef up those traps. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, keep your arms hanging by your side, palms facing the body and lift your shoulder towards your ears.

AB Twist Machine

The problem with this exercise: Admittedly, this machine is not as commonly found in gyms as some of the others mentioned. Nevertheless, it is worth noting. As with most dangerous exercises, this one puts the spine at risk. The rotation movement is derived almost exclusively from the lumbar region, which puts a lot of pressure on that sensitive area. Furthermore, the abdominal muscles are not designed to encourage rotation, they are designed to prevent it.

This, and any exercise that promotes rotating against strong force while the lower body is fixed is a bad idea. The spine is placed under great stress and is severely prone to injury in such a position.

What to do instead: If shaping those oblique muscles is your primary goal, try the safer alternative of using tubing or cable to perform short range twists. This method allows for some hip flexibility and relieves the pressure on the spine.

Remember, just because you see someone else doing it in the gym, doesn’t mean it is safe or effective. Most machines found in the gym can be used to good effect if you understand how to perform the exercises correctly. Otherwise, at best you could be wasting your time, but at worst you could be doing some serious damage.

Grab a Green Smoothie

Green Smoothie

You may have seen a friend or colleague sitting at their desk with a bottle or jar full of green juice, while everyone around them has an elevenses of coffee and cake. Or you may have noted a visiting relative passing on the buttered toast for breakfast and downing something green from the blender instead. Little wonder: there’s a fit and healthy new army of people who have discovered the benefits of drinking a green smoothie for breakfast or lunch. And this green smoothie army is growing. And their skin’s glowing. Want to join them?

What’s in a Green Smoothie?

All-natural, freshly made green smoothies are bursting with vitamin-packed ingredients. They typically contain at least one type of fruit – pineapple, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, apple, banana and mango are all great for starters. In some cases these fruits are even better when frozen – you can buy them fresh and stick them on the ice tray shelf for a couple of hours – especially frozen blueberries which can add a hit of icy sweetness to any blended drink.

Next comes the green part. You need to give every smoothie a lush vitamin boost by adding two handfuls or more of fresh leafy greens such as kale, spinach, lettuce or chard. Put the ingredients in the blender cup and then top up with a little water or coconut water to loosen the mixture, then blend until thick smooth and a shade of green. Truly, it’s the 21st century breakfast of champions!

Why Drink Green Smoothies?

Apart from pure water, green smoothies are more or less the healthiest things you can suck up through a straw. They are an outstanding source of vitamins and minerals and, because they are made with green leaves rather than pure fruit, they are not as high in natural sugars as fruit smoothies. The amount of soluble and insoluble fibre that they contain is also excellent, which is great for both your heart and your digestive system.

More than that, though, without making a green smoothie, it would be very hard to pack even half as much low-calorie, nutrient-dense delicious goodness into your daily diet, unless you planned to spend ages every day chewing and swallowing. Plus, green smoothies hydrate you as they feed you with vitamins. They really are all-round good guys.

Fresh, Not Bottled

The best way to enjoy a smoothie is freshly made. The bottled versions may be better than many other drinks, but they can never be as good as a fresh green smoothie. This is because one of the major benefits of the smoothies – the richness in nutrients – decreases over the time the bottles are on the shelf. If you plan to enjoy a green smoothie, simply use one of the recipes below and your own blender – it will be ready in seconds.

Super-Boosted Detox Smoothies

You can also enjoy smoothies as part of a weight loss diet or add ingredients for a period of detoxing. One of the best ways to do this is to add a specially prepared detox blend such as SkinniMini. Their blend contains seven super-cleansing goodies – chia seeds, psyllium husk, acai berries, goji berries, spirulina, maca and flax seed. This blend basically takes your already healthy green smoothie and super-boosts it into a detox drink and a powerful diet aid which you can take for 10 days to lose up to 10lbs (please consult your doctor first).

Avoiding Alkaline Build-Up

The most satisfying way in which to enjoy an effective green smoothie regime is to make sure that you often rotate the types of green leaves used. Not only will this change up the taste of your ultra-healthy breakfast or lunch – a kale-based smoothie tastes different to a spinach-based one – but it also helps to avoid a build-up of alkaloids which can cause mild but unpleasant symptoms such as stomach aches.

It is very simple to rotate your greens: just buy (or grow for even fresher produce) several types and use them fresh each day – not in mixed handfuls but one type at a time. So – day 1, kale; day 2, lettuce; day 3, spinach and so on… just don’t use the same green leaf every day. Keep mixing it up and you will be enjoying the ultimate in your own personalized range of health-food cocktails.

Avoiding Alkaline

Fancy a Smoothie? Try These…

With such a towering Everest of health benefits, it is hardly surprising that so many people love drinking their own fresh green smoothies. Here are some of the most appealing and easy recipes for you to try out if you would like to try one for yourself:

Berry Healthy

2 handfuls of leafy greens

1 cup of coconut water or plain water

½ cup of frozen peaches

½ handful of fresh or frozen seedless grapes

1 cup of frozen blueberries

Jamaica Cocktail

2 handfuls of leafy greens

1 cup of coconut water or plain water

1 bananas

½ cup of pineapple chunks

1 cup of frozen peaches

Banana Dreamboat

2 handfuls of leafy greens

½ cup of frozen pineapple chunks

1 kiwi

½ frozen banana

½ cup of almond milk

½ cup of coconut water or plain water

Each of these recipes makes at least two full servings and the method is simply to blend until thick, green and creamy.

Get Creative

The great thing about making green smoothies is that you can have fun with them and get as creative as you like when concocting your drinks. If you feel like it, add a spot more of this and that wherever and whenever you please – a stick of celery, a touch more apple, a decent squeeze of lime – the opportunities to try out your own favorite flavors and create new combinations are literally endless.

As long as it tastes delicious to you, it contains plenty of green leaves and does not overdo it on the fruit front, your green smoothie will be just right. Gulp it down with pleasure, knowing that you are working some seriously low-cal, vitamin-rich wonders for your whole body, mind and soul.

Eating the Caveman Way: Simple Paleo

Caveman Way

You may have caught onto people in the office, friends and loved ones shaping up with the Paleo diet. You might have heard that they have lost an amazing amount of weight with a quick easy and diet where they could eat steak and never go hungry. You may even have admired the results; thought ‘Wow, how did Susan/John/The Wilsons’ get so slim so fast? Chances are it was with the Paleo diet.

What is Paleo?

There is nothing new about the Paleo diet. In fact it is named after the Paleolithic era, or Stone Age, over 2.6m years ago. What is newer is the approach. During the last century, doctors experimented with diets based on high protein and fat content, low carbs, with fantastic results. It was the diet of hunter-gatherers, the food we had evolved to consume before the age of agriculture came and seeded an obesity epidemic. This, in short was the start of Paleo.

More than Just Meat

Most Paleo calories come from eating meat, of course, but also poultry, eggs, fish and seafood. This is complemented by fats from plant foods such as avocados or olives, plus fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The diet is essentially high in protein and low in carbohydrates. The great news is that this normally means high on taste!

What are the Paleo No-Nos?

On Paleo, you cut out foods that can slow your metabolism down or cause blood sugar spikes and weight issues. This means alcohol (cavemen only drank water), no processed foods, no sugar or sweets, no grains (cereals, rice, wheat, bread, pasta, corn etc), no dairy and no legumes (peas or beans). Don’t use bottle or packet sauces, but flavor everything with herbs, spices, pink Himalayan salt and pepper.

Plenty of Tasty Paleo Positives!

Don’t despair. Paleo is all about what you CAN eat…. And there is a lot of great food. All meat, fish, shellfish and eggs can be eaten, although lean and organic are best. Paleo fruit are any that could have been foraged – all berries, apples, citrus fruits, plums, cherries and so on. Also vegetables are those which would have been foraged too – not root vegetables but practically everything else. You can also eat olives and olive oil, avocadoes, nuts and seeds.

In addition to water, do drink unsweetened fruit and vegetable juice, plus tea and coffee, as long as you use almond milk in them.

Paleo Helps You Lose Weight

The Paleo methods match your diet to your body’s genetic programming. You can boost your metabolic rate, improve digestion, regulate hormones related to energy and fat storage, reduce hunger and prevent cravings for unhealthy foods.

Our bodies have been programmed to eat Paleo for tens of thousands of years. The foods that you cut from your diet are foods that we’ve only been eating for the last one percent of recorded human history “new” foods which slow digestion and metabolism, unbalance our hormones, and cause our bodies to both get hungry and store too much fat. Paleo says we not need modern grains, legumes or sugars.

Why the Paleo Diet Works

  1. Paleo eating helps you shift the pounds because:

 

  1. Carbs from plant sources can help reduce cravings and increase energy.

 

  1. High-fiber foods keep you full for longer, without all the starch.

 

  1. Protein helps build lean muscle, so you burn fat faster.

 

  1. Cutting out sugar as well as eating a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy fats can drive weight loss, help blood sugar regulation and more.

 

  1. More fresh fruits and vegetables, especially berries help you metabolize fat.

 

  1. No calorie counting makes it easy to follow

 

  1. You rarely feel hungry or lacking in energy. Quite the opposite – you are likely to be bursting with vitality!

Get Healthy Forever

Once you adopt the Paleo lifestyle, you will see it is not a ‘fad’ or a short-term weight loss fix. While you may start to lose weight very quickly, it is a way of eating and living that can last, for many, a lifetime. And that can mean health benefits right now, later on and that carry through into your ripe old age. That surely has to be a lifestyle worth celebrating with a cheeky cherry juice on the rocks. Cheers!

The Omnivore Way- Eat to Live and Live to Eat (Part 1)

omnivore

I’m old. Just wanted to get that right out of the way in the beginning.

Not exactly retirement age yet but deep enough into middle-age that if you gave me a good pair of binoculars I could probably spot the edges of the pasture we’re all promised as our ultimate reward.

This is, whether fortunately or “un”, life.

But I can still beat the majority of American men a decade or two younger than myself in a footrace, on a football field or in a single game of one-on-one basketball (2nd game I gotta sit down for sure). Please trust me when I say that this is no boast nor any hamfisted claim to my superior size, strength or athleticism. Indeed when it comes to size, strength and all things athletic, I am decidedly average (and yes it did pain me to type that). The primary reason, you see, that I can best most younger men in these feats of dubious fitness is simple-

Most American men are soft, slow and fat.

And getting softer, slower and fatter every day.

Let’s put it this way- If the current generation had been tasked with storming the beaches at Normandy then right now we’d all be learning how to goosestep in gym class and every home would feature a portrait of Uncle Adolph hanging in our living rooms.

Much like those aforementioned athletic contests, this is simply…NOT RIGHT.

And while it’s true that there are a number of valid reasons both general and specific for this desperately disturbing trend, among the most absolutely legitimate has to be-

THE WAY WE EAT.

Please notice that I didn’t type “what” we eat (that’s a different conversation).

And Ladies, we’re not excluding you from our communal gastronomic sins, but for the purposes of this piece you will not be required to take the test at the end.

But please PAY ATTENTION nonetheless.

Yes, there’s something seriously dysfunctional in our partaking of our daily bread and so these words are typed in a sincere effort to offer a alternative approach that may prove not only much healthier, but much less stressful all around as we refocus our lives, regain our vigor and rev up our engines for the battles that are surely on the horizon. We give you all-

The TOP FIVE OMNIVORE WAY TIPS to Healthy Eating!*

And let’s begin with those areas in which we could all use a little improvement (or maybe a lot)-

  1. Don’t Eat Angry Seriously. Far too many of the people I observe sitting down to a meal eat as if it’s a bare-knuckle bout between them and their dish and consequently, they do everything in their power to get the fight over with as quickly as possible. I mean I’ve tucked into appetizers to enjoy then looked up to see dinner companions throwing down their napkins and walking away from the table, having demolished their entrees and apparently scored a TKO! It’s not a fight people. Food is here to ENJOY…so take your time and CHEW YOUR FOOD! Which leads us to…
  2. Savor the Flavor Yes, the real key to getting the most out of every nosh, snack or meal is to truly savor the explosion of flavor that is happening in your mouth. Close your eyes, feel the feeling, enjoy that spicy/salty/savory/sweet/sour blast and let it linger there as you munch the delicious goodies. It not only adds to your pleasure but it also helps your digestion.
  3. Less Equals More In this country we often fall victim to the “bigger equals better” approach and far too often apply that approach to our food. One important aspect of the Omnivore Way is that we literally “eat ANYTHING we want”. But that doesn’t mean we eat any SIZE we want, a subtle but crucial distinction. In my house for example, we LOVE ice cream and eat it almost every day. Our standard serving size is two perfectly satisfying scoops of our preferred deliciousness after dinner. Eating a half-gallon of the same is NOT going to be a better dessert experience…trust us on this one. Simple Omnivore Math- 8 slices of pizza is not necessarily better than 2 (no matter how much the 5 year-old inside you says different). Which brings us to…
  4. Eat Smarter to Be Harder Look. Proper Omnivore eating habits aren’t ONLY a matter of self-discipline, but let’s cut the PC bulls**t right here and now…some manageable amount of self-discipline IS required! The lifetime reward for this small amount of restraint is that you’ll discover your body actually runs much MORE efficiently on quite a bit LESS food than you previously considered healthy. Our cavemen ancestors didn’t start cramming groceries into their faces every time they sat down in front of their TV’s kids. And yes…sometimes you’ll discover a shocking new sensation happening to your body called- A tiny bit of hunger! Don’t panic at these minor pangs. You’ll not only survive this incredible hardship, you’ll thrive! Then you’ll smile when you look in the mirror. Which leads us to…
  5. Eat What You Want That’s right…we said it and we MEAN IT! We have no idea what calories are (and we certainly don’t know how to count ‘em) but we do understand that life is SHORT and the available global menu is LONG! So if we practice all the above tips with any degree of adult responsibility and restraint, then guess what? We get to enjoy ALL THE ADULT PLEASURE…ALL THE TIME! Want ice cream for breakfast, pizza for lunch and a hamburger for dinner?

hamburger

Hey, it’s your world Baby…have at it!

Just remember- Smaller portions are ALWAYS better because you have to fine-tune your fuel

And always chew and enjoy THE HELL OUT OF ALL YOUR FOOD, all the time, everyday and in every way.

This is the Omnivore Way, Grasshopper.

Soon you will be Fitter, Stronger and Faster

*Notice we never say diet anywhere.

Read: The Omnivore Way- A Roadmap to Health…and Pleasure (Part II)

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