By Jenna Hanington

Bathing Suit Season

The sun is shining, spring breakers are heading to and from the beach, and neighborhood pools are about to open again. This means that summer is almost here! Rejoice! Yet there’s always that one little thing holding us back from running outside and jumping into the pool: bathing suit season.

The phrase “bathing suit season” can strike fear into the hearts of many. No matter how many times we tell ourselves that the models in the magazines have gone through hours of airbrushing and Photoshopping to look as flawless as they do, we still can’t help but hold ourselves to those standards. When we step into those swimsuits, suddenly we feel embarrassed and self-conscious about our bodies. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there.

Bathing suit season doesn’t have to be scary. It should be fun! Think of it as a time to show off some newfound confidence. Try using some of these tips that I’ve been sticking to for the past few years. If they work for me, they can work for you too:

  • Don’t compare yourself to other people. Everyone has their strengths and flaws. Focusing on someone else’s strengths can make you ignore your own. There were always friends who I envied every time I went to the pool, but focusing on the things I was proud of helped me feel confident again.
  • Find a bathing suit that flatters you. There are plenty of articles and guides out there that can help you find the right suit for you. My friends and I always check out magazines to see what shapes and patterns will work the best for us. It might be stripes for one person, but solids for another!
  • Remember that being skinny does not equal being happy. Being healthy and confident are much surer ways to find real beauty.
  • If you start feeling self-conscious, try accessorizing. Add a hat, a colored shirt, or a cover-up—anything that will help you feel both comfortable and confident while wearing a bathing suit. I’ve found that a cover-up or a stylish hat can serve multiple purposes. They not only provide comfort, but also sun protection!

These are just a few tips that have helped me through many bathing suit seasons, and hopefully many more to come. I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is just to be happy with who you are. If it’s good enough for you, it’s good enough for everyone else too. Now get out there and show those bathing suits who’s boss!

Photo: Brand X Pictures
Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 11:24 am

By Jenna Hanington

Stress Eating

Your boyfriend or girlfriend just broke up with you, you didn’t get the grade you were hoping for on that math test, or you didn’t make the team that you just tried out for. What do you do to try to make yourself feel better? Many of us turn to food for that “feel better” fix.

Most of the time, it doesn’t even matter what kind of food it is – even just the act of eating feels good. When I was getting ready for all of my AP exams in high school, the stress of studying started to make a lot of junk foods look really, really good. AP Calculus test tomorrow? Maybe a chocolate bar will make me feel better. AP Spanish exam, too? How about another bag of popcorn? It was only a few stomach aches later that I realized that emotional eating wasn’t the way to go.

Do you ever turn to food when you’re upset or stressed out? Does a bad break-up or a week full of tests make you want to crawl into bed with a gallon of ice cream? If so, here are a few examples of things that helped me to stay away from unhealthy, emotional eating:

  • Get out and do something when you’re feeling down. Lying around only gives you more time to think about the things that are stressing you out. And, if you’re exercising or hanging out with friends, chances are you’re not eating. And another bonus—moving your body releases some ‘feel good’ chemicals, which will make you feel better and more energized
  • Put some healthy snacks in a bowl before you start studying and keep them near you. When I used to start feeling tempted to drown those pre-test sorrows in junk food, I would turn to the closest thing to me. Trust me, if there’s already food within reach, the desire to get up and find more food miraculously goes away.
  • Chew gum. This one is probably the easiest. If you’re upset and you feel the urge to get out that gallon of ice cream, pop in a piece of gum. You still get some flavor and the feeling that you’re chewing something without all of the unhealthy calories. I used to keep a variety pack around so that I wouldn’t get bored with one flavor.
  • Talk to your friends or family. The cool thing about talking is that you can’t really eat at the same time. Talking through your problems can often make them seem a lot less daunting. This used to help me a lot, and still does today.

Try a few of these out and see what happens. Then, come up with few of your own ideas. Challenge yourself. If you find that steps you’re taking on your own aren’t working for you, try talking to a parent or counselor about it. Sometimes, emotional eating can be bigger than just you and me.

Jenna Hanington

Jenna Hanington is a student at Georgia Tech studying Communications and Literature. She loves being physically active and spending time outdoors.

Photo: iStockphoto
Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 12:08 pm
October 20, 2011

If You're Bored, Read This!

By Jenna Hanington

One of my teachers once told me that to be “bored” is to be “boring.” Talk about some eye-opening advice.  Luckily, I’ve found that boredom is just about the only one of life’s problems that has an easy solution.

Have you ever found yourself wandering around with nothing to do? In middle school, this was a regular thing for me. Sure, I played soccer and did homework after school just like every other kid, but between activities I was—well, boring. When I finally made the transition from middle school to high school, I decided that boredom had to go.

At first, I spent a few boring hours trying to figure out how to not be boring. Then, I decided to get involved in some activities at my school. I’d always been pretty good at soccer, so I tried out for the soccer team. I was a decent runner, so I went out for the cross country team too. Student Council? Sure, why not? And while I was at it, I might as well join the yearbook club and the volunteer club too. All of a sudden, all of those hours that I had spent being bored dwindled down to nothing. I was constantly occupied, constantly entertained and constantly enthralled by this newfound “lack of boredom.”

Do you see how simple it is? Whenever you find yourself caught in a fit of boredom, it’s as easy as finding a way to occupy yourself. Try joining some clubs or teams at school, make a goal to finish a certain number of books by the end of the school year or call up some friends to hang out. Try not to spend idle hours in front of the TV or lying in bed. There are always things to do—it’s just up to you to go find them.

Jenna Hanington

Jenna Hanington is a student at Georgia Tech studying Communications and Literature. She loves being physically active and spending time outdoors.

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 11:45 am
October 11, 2011

Easy Healthy Habits

Did you know that for some people, too MUCH focus on losing weight – the number on the scale – can actually make them more likely to GAIN weight? A much better approach to getting healthy is to follow these rules as often as you can, and allow yourself days to cheat without feeling guilty.

  • Eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables each day
  • Eat 3 meals a day, no skipping breakfast!
  • Keep screen time to less than 2 hours a day.  Yes, that includes texting!
  • Be active doing something you love at least 1 hour a day

Drink almost none of the sugary stuff.  All you need is plain old water and milk.  Everything else is a treat.

Sarah Armstrong

Sarah C. Armstrong, MD is the Director of the Healthy Lifestyles Program at Duke University. The program focuses on empowering kids and families with the skills and knowledge needed to live a life of healthy eating and active lifestyles.

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 10:14 am
October 6, 2011

Reaching Out

By Hansa Bhargava, MD

I love Halloween. When I was a high school student I really looked forward to dressing up, going to parties and having fun. There was always a big Halloween bash at our school, and my friends and I would go find costumes together and have a blast at the party.

I remember a girl that didn’t seem to enjoy our school celebrations very much. She sat in front of me in English class. She wore glasses, was slightly overweight, and always knew the answer when a teacher asked a question.  I’m sure that she got straight A’s, but she didn’t look very happy.  She was always alone, and I often saw her walking home all by herself after school.

One day, I found her sobbing in the girls’ bathroom.  I didn’t really know her, and I wasn’t sure what to say. So I sat down beside her and after a few minutes she started talking. She hated school and hated her life.  Her parents were going through a divorce and she didn’t have anyone to talk to. It turned out that she was really lonely and didn’t feel like she had any friends.

I felt really bad. Here I was, enjoying my friends, my family, shopping, and parties; meanwhile this girl sitting right next to me was going through a really difficult time. That day, I invited her out to the mall with my friends. We got to know her, and do you know what? She was really nice and a lot of fun.

Do you know someone like this in your class? Someone who may be lonely and feel left out of things?

Try reaching out to them—you may end up helping someone out, and could make a good friend in the process.

Posted by: Hansa Bhargava, MD at 1:43 pm
October 4, 2011

Rock the House!

What are you supposed to do if you’re stuck at home and the weather’s too bad to go outside?  It’s easy to spend most of the day sitting watching television, on the phone, or playing video games.  But you can be active!  You can work up a sweat and get your heart beating with activities in your house just like if you go outside or play basketball with friends.  Here are some good indoor activities:

  • Dance!  Turn up the music (hide in your bedroom if you’d like) and dance!  You can get better exercise dancing than playing outside if you really get into the music.
  • Turn on a workout DVD or video, or find the exercise channel on cable, and join in.
  • Hula hoop or jump rope.  It depends on how much space you have, but you can even make friendly competitions out of them.
  • Make up active games inside the house with the rest of your family.  For example, create relay races.

These are just a couple options of how to spend a day in the house that can be both active and fun!

Diana Dolinsky

Diana Dolinsky, MD, MPH is a pediatrician with the Healthy Lifestyles Program at Duke University. The program focuses on empowering kids and families with the skills and knowledge needed to live a life of healthy eating and active lifestyles.

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 2:21 pm
September 29, 2011

Stress Less

By Jenna Hanington

Have you ever been so stressed that you thought you might explode, or maybe just break down? You’re not alone. Stress affects everyone, and we all have different ways of dealing with it.

School can be stressful, no doubt about it. There’s the stress that comes from the pressure to get good grades, upcoming tests and projects, filling out college applications and competing in sports. Sometimes all of these things hit at the same time, which can make you feel like you’re holding the weight of the world on your shoulders.

There were a few times in high school when I really thought that stress was going to get the better of me. One night in particular, I remember sitting at my desk and staring at a long list of everything I still needed to do. Study for an AP test, do a math work sheet, finish a college application…and the list went on. Not to mention that I had a soccer game the next night and needed to be rested. Glancing at the clock, I realized it was already 10pm. It was going to be a long, stressful night.

Does this situation sound familiar? This was the first time that I really understood the dangers of procrastination. After staying up until 3 in the morning, I vowed to myself that I was going to make an effort to stop procrastinating. The best tool I found for this was to keep a planner for myself. I made schedules and “to-do” lists, kept track of when all of my school assignments were due and made lists of important application dates. Finally, I was on time for everything, and this made all the difference. No more late nights, no more rushed deadlines and no more “please keep me awake” bottles of soda.

Unfortunately, I sometimes found that keeping a planner wasn’t enough. Stress isn’t just about crazy schedules – we have worries that stress us out, too. Worried about what you got on your last test? Do you have try-outs for a sports team looming over your head? Take a few minutes and try some of the things that I used to do.  I promise, they help.

  • Blow off steam by taking a walk, going for a jog or lifting some weights. Exercise has that wonderful ability to take our minds off of the stressful things in life while keeping us healthy at the same time.
  • Leave yourself 30 minutes to  chill-out before bed (reading works for me). Having time to unwind is good for the mind and body.
  • Schedule time to catch up with friends. Sometimes talking through the things that are stressing you out can help you put things in perspective.
  • Take a power nap. A quick 30 minute nap can leave you feeling rejuvenated.

Penciling in these short activities can make you feel more balanced, less stressed out, and ultimately—healthier.

Jenna Hanington

Jenna Hanington is a student at Georgia Tech studying Communications and Literature. She loves being physically active and spending time outdoors.

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 10:25 am
September 27, 2011

The Power of Sleep

So who knew that getting enough sleep was super important if you are trying to be healthier?  It’s true – you need eight or maybe even nine hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.  When you are able to get that, your brain is sharper, AND your body is stronger, with a faster metabolism!  Strong body plus faster metabolism equals a healthier body and weight.

Here’s what to do:

1.       Drink little to no caffeine. That means most tea and soda, even diet. If you are going to drink even a little, drink it before 2:00 in the afternoon.

2.       Decide ahead of time what time you want to go to bed, based on what time you need to get up.

3.       Set a timer or alarm for 30 minutes BEFORE that time!

4.       When that timer goes off, wrap up anything left undone like homework, phone calls, txt’ing, computer time, cleaning, getting ready for tomorrow, TV shows.

5.       Turn the TV off!  TV interrupts your sleep even if you don’t realize it.

6.       Have a dark, quiet room.  If you are nervous or used to noise and light, try a very dim nightlight (not your TV, that’s too bright) and a box fan or soft, calm music with no words.

7.       Enjoy your sleep!

Even in the summer, it’s a good idea to get this much sleep at night. 3am to 11am doesn’t work nearly as well because your body recognizes the daylight and doesn’t sleep as soundly.

Try it! Add a good night’s sleep to healthy food and good activity, and see how your body responds.

Martha Nelson, PA-c is a physician’s assistant with the Healthy Lifestyles Program at Duke University. The program focuses on empowering kids and families with the skills and knowledge needed to live a life of healthy eating and active lifestyles.

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 10:31 am

By Hansa Bhargava, MD

I met a girl, Julia, in my office the other day. She’s 15 and came in because she’d been feeling really tired. Her mom said she had a hard time getting up for school and couldn’t concentrate in her classes. She got an “F” on her last math test and she was worried about her grade point average. ”I am going to be a junior next year and I have SATs,” she told me.

When we started talking about a typical day for her, the real problem started becoming a bit clearer.

Julia gets out of bed about 10 minutes before she has to leave for school. She throws on her clothes and runs to catch the bus. Forget breakfast. She doesn’t even have time to drink a glass of water before she goes. She barely drags herself into her first class. By her second class, she’s so hungry that she can’t pay attention to the teacher because of the noises her stomach is making.

By lunch hour, she is ravenous and runs to the school cafeteria. Usually, she told me, she downs a bag of chips and a diet coke before she even gets to the cashier to pay for them. In the afternoon, she’s pretty sleepy and usually takes a nap when she gets home. Then she doesn’t go to sleep till 1am.

Have you ever done this? Not eaten breakfast and then totally inhaled tons of food – only to feel really sleepy in the afternoon?

Not eating breakfast and not sleeping enough can have this ‘domino effect’ on your life. You didn’t get enough sleep, so you didn’t have time for breakfast. Then you are so hungry that you want to eat your desk, so you overload at lunch. The big lunch makes you sleepy so you need a nap. Then you text until 1 am and the whole cycle starts again. The sad part is that it affects every part of your day AND your ability to pay attention in class. When Julia and I started talking about this, she realized it was a vicious cycle that she had to break. She started eating breakfast and going to bed by 10pm, and she’s now feeling much better and more energetic.

Breakfast really IS the most important meal of the day. And getting enough sleep will make you more energetic, and help you concentrate more at school. These small changes can have a big impact!

Posted by: Hansa Bhargava, MD at 1:42 pm
September 20, 2011

Just Add Water

“Aww, man, water is boring. I can’t live without my sodas… or lemonade… or sweet tea… or fruit punch…”

Yes, you can! It is important to drink more water and to limit your amounts of sweetened beverages.  Drinking appropriate amounts of water helps to keep your body hydrated.  Drinking a glass of water before and after you have a meal can also assist with feeling full after eating appropriate serving sizes of a healthy meal.  When you drink your calories, not only are you getting extra calories that make it harder to control your weight, but you are also missing out on the nutritional value that should be included in those calories.   Remember that it takes about 3500 unused calories to give your body a new pound of weight.  Two regular cans of soda per day gives you about 240-280 empty calories and can easily contribute to adding a new pound almost every two weeks.

There are lots of easy and/or fun ways to drink more water:

  • For additional taste, consider adding a couple of slices of lemon, lime, orange, pineapple or even cucumber to a glass of ice cold water to give it flavor.
  • Consider buying flavored carbonated waters as an alternative to soda.  They do have flavor and they still give you the fizz, but without the calories.
  • There are various products that can be added to water to flavor it.  These are ok to use occasionally in place of things like sweet tea or regular Kool-aid. But this doesn’t change the importance of learning to enjoy plain ol’ H2O.
William Lawrence

William Lawrence, MD is a pediatrician with the Healthy Lifestyles Program at Duke University. The program focuses on empowering kids and families with the skills and knowledge needed to live a life of healthy eating and active lifestyles.

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 10:06 am