3 Questions to Ask If You’re Pregnant

April 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Healthy

By Rachel Sarnoff

healthy tips for your pregnancy

Pregnant? Get ready for the god complex. Every mom I know talks about the saint that delivered her baby. The doctor’s word is taken as law, and heaven forbid your birth partner suggest otherwise. But are you and your doctor truly in sync?

In 2012, a University of San Francisco study of more than 2,000 obstetricians and gynecologists nationwide found that although they routinely discuss smoking, alcohol, diet and weight gain, most doctors do not warn their patients about environmental hazards as related to pregnancy.


If you’re pregnant, make sure your doctor knows the answers to these important questions that can protect your children’s health.

Yet studies link low levels of toxic chemicals in pregnancy to disruption of fetal brain and reproductive system development, as well as increased risks of birth defects, cancer, immune problems, asthma and other problems later in life.


In fact, in 2013, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine released a joint statement that said: “toxic chemicals in our environment harm our ability to reproduce, negatively affect pregnancies and are associated with numerous long-term health problems.”

Common sense, right? Apparently, not to the American Chemistry Council, which released a response through the Associated Press stating that the report would create “confusion and alarm among expectant mothers.”

I would say pregnant women would be alarmed by the ACOG/ASRM statement. But confused? There’s nothing confusing about these reproductive experts’ statement, nor is their anything unclear about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ position, as stated in 2011, which recognized that pesticides are associated with pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems, and recommended that pediatricians work with parents to help reduce the use of pesticides in homes and yards.

It’s pretty clear to me that the gynecologists, obstetricians and pediatricians who are primarily responsible for our children’s health are unified with the common goal of reducing exposure to toxic chemicals—especially in pregnancy.

Writing off pregnant women as “confused” by the truth that low doses of toxic chemicals can be dangerous, especially to children, is misguided logic. As parents, we need to get empowered about the decisions that can affect the health of our children. If you’re pregnant, or thinking about it, here are a few questions to ask the doctor you’re considering having deliver your baby:

  1. Should I be concerned about mercury in fish?
  2. Is organic food important during pregnancy?
  3. How can I reduce the amount of VOCs in my environment?

IMHO, the answers I’d want to hear are:

  1. Yes, avoid fish during pregnancy and supplement with omega-3 oils.
  2. Since studies have shown links between pesticides in pregnancy and lower birth weight babies with shorter term pregnancies; you should eat organic as much as you can.
  3. Use no VOC paints and avoid new synthetic carpets and furniture, especially those which are made with formaldehyde.

If your doctor doesn’t have answers or want to research these issues, consider whether or not he or she is the right doctor for you. Because if you’re going to choose a god for nine (ten) months, it should be someone you can trust to be as current—or more so—than you are about information that’s crucial to your baby’s health.

Portions of this story originally appeared on Rachel’s Huffington Post column.You can read more from Rachel on her site, Mommy Greenest


Maybe BPA Isn’t Bad For You?

March 27, 2014 by  
Filed under Healthy

By Rachel Sarnoff


I am so confused about BPA. For years I trusted studies that linked the endocrine-disrupting substance—a chemical used to harden plastics like water bottles, as well as to coat cash register receipts and line aluminum cans—with obesity, anxiety and reproductive problems.

Recently, a new study concluded thatprenatal exposure to BPA—before and just after birth—was linked to liver cancer. But on the heels of that study came another from the FDA that puts my beliefs about BPA in question.

For years I trusted studies that linked BPA with obesity, anxiety and cancer. But a new FDA study puts my beliefs about BPA in question.

But before we get to that, let’s review the history: In 2012, the FDA announced a nation-wide ban on BPA in bottles and sippy cups. The following year, California placed the chemical on its Proposition 65 list, officially recognizing it as a reproductive hazard.

In 2013, the UN and WHO called hormone-disrupting chemicals like BPA a “global threat;” shortly thereafter the California EPA office announced that BPA would be added to the Prop 65 list of chemicals known to cause reproductive toxicity.

But the new FDA study, published in the journal Toxicological Sciences, may affect these decisions. Scientists exposed rats to BPA as many as 70,000 times what the average American is exposed to. And they found no change in body weight, reproductive organs or hormone levels—in fact, there were no biologically significant changes at all. When exposure was in the millions, then the scientists saw hormone-related changes.

Does this mean I’m going to start feeding my kids a lot of canned food? Absolutely not. Unlike these unfortunate animal study subjects, we don’t live in a vacuum. I know that BPA is just one of at least 200 hormone-disrupting chemicals that all Americans are exposed to daily, and this study does nothing to address my concern about how they interact within a person’s body.  As much as I can reduce our exposure to BPA—along with other toxic chemicals—I will.

When it comes to my children, I follow the Precautionary Principle, which states that, “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”

Basically, I understand the FDA study in the context of the thousands of other studies I’ve read that raise red flags when it comes to BPA and health—especially for kids. I recommend these six easy steps to reduce BPA exposures.

What do you think? Does this FDA study change how you feel about BPA? What are you doing to reduce exposures? Please leave me a comment below. Thanks!

Photo Credit: Natural Grocers 

To read more from Rachel Sarnoff, check out her blog


Gay Dad: Sit Straight!

February 24, 2014 by  
Filed under Healthy, John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

By John Jericiau


At the moment, I’m sporting a deep dull ache in my low back. It came to me one morning, quite out of the blue. I don’t recall any incident or event that would bring this pain on, except last week I did act as ball boy during my sons’ tennis lesson. I pay good money for the session and I didn’t want time wasted while they themselves retrieved balls in the middle of their session, so I darted around the court catching a ball here and reaching down for a ball there, just like you see the boys 40 years my junior do during Wimbledon.

This pain hasn’t reared its ugly head since my last smart move years ago while washing the white picket fence in the front of our house. Both boys were around two years old and had just started their midday three-hour nap, allowing me to pick a project each day and attempt to complete it in the allotted time. To save time on this particular day, I got into a good rhythm of plunging my sponge into a large bucket of soapy water, scrubbing a slat with said soapy sponge, and then lifting and moving the bucket to the next slat, where I would repeat the cycle of plunging, scrubbing, and moving. It was an efficient way to get the job done – unfortunately, I chose to perform this job while remaining in the bent-over position for close to the three-hour mark. Upon hearing one of the boys cry out from inside the house, thereby marking the end of my allotted time, I tried but was unable to get erect (my body), or retrieve from the crib two important individuals (my sons.)

The pain eventually subsided – I think it was a week later – and now this current pain feels like a less intense reminder of that crippling incident. Luckily, I am a physical therapist, so I at least know what to do to soothe the pain (in general use ice, anti-inflammatories, and a good massage, but bag the useless Ben Gay, the TENS unit, and too much time on the heating pad.) I can help you to reduce your pain level, but as a knowledgeable PT I pride myself in being able to give information to help prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Some of this info is definitely applicable to us parents.

For one, think before you act. Don’t try to wash a fence in the bent-over position for three hours. Duh. Don’t just hop out of bed in the morning and start your Yoga routine, just because you’re worried that little Dustin will wake up at the sound of your first om. Get warmed up first. Walk around a little.

Don’t hold your baby over one hip while cooking, walking, or talking on the phone. That baby has grown right before your eyes into a 25-pound sack of potatoes. I doubt you would hold a 25-poung sack of potatoes for any period of time like this. You’d get on the floor or sit in a good chair and put said sack right in the middle of your lap, where your spine will remain protected and balanced.

Speaking of good chairs, your comfy cozy sofa is not one of them. Good low back support is crucial to maintaining the normal arch in the lumbar spine, and most sofas are notorious for forcing you to sit in a slumped position. Be sure to grab at least a couple of throw pillows and place them behind your back before you sit, so you can maintain what we call “lumbar lordosis” while feeding your baby and catching up on shows from your DVR.

When lifting or transporting your baby or toddler, be sure to remember these few tidbits: Keep breathing while lifting, so as not to increase the pressure between your vertebrae. Get your child as close to your body as possible before doing any lifting. It’s pure physics that having the weight as close to your center of gravity as possible reduces the strain on your back muscles and ligaments. This is exactly why you’ll see a fireman carrying a victim out of a burning fire slung over his shoulders instead of in his arms. And always ask your child to hang on to your neck/shoulders during the lift. Splitting the work with them makes everyone happy and healthy.

Easier said than done, but try to get some good sleep each night. A tired body means a tired back, and a tired back is more easily injured. Eat nutritious foods; what you put in your mouth directly affects your body’s ability to perform. Try to keep your stress level to a minimum. Stressed muscles lose a large amount of their normal flexibility, which means that simply reaching down to the floor for a fallen diaper can be met with disastrous results. Herniated discs have been known to occur simply by reaching for a pencil.

Any exercise routine would be beneficial to keeping your body in good condition, but if you only had time to focus on one body part I’d suggest your six-pack. It’s there (somewhere), and by performing a few crunches here and a couple of sit-ups there, you are keeping strong the natural “girdle” of your trunk. Act like you have strong abs at all times, keeping them squeezed in the “set” position during all activities. Do not protrude your stomach out and allow it to act as a shelf for your child to sit on while you carry him.

Our bodies don’t come with an owner’s manual. It’s up to us to use the knowledge we gain in order to break some of our life-long habits. And don’t be afraid to share this knowledge with your own children. Forming good postural habits at an early age (e.g. lift with your legs, not your back) will lead to a lifetime of good health.


Why a Personal Trainer is Inspired by the Seahawks

February 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Healthy

By Susan Howard
All season long my wife and I have watched the Seattle Seahawks battle and trounce team after team.   Coming into the Super Bowl with the winningest record, the Seahawks were still not favored to beat the Denver Broncos.  The quarterback Russel Wilson only in his second NFL season, seemed too novice and the team, several of whom were not first round draft picks, more like 4th or 5th round were not looked at as real contenders.  Beyond that the Seahawks have never won anything in franchise history.  Like nothing, for as long as there has been a team called the Seahawks.
But yet…not only did the Hawks win the Super Bowl, they obliterated Denver.
Russel said in a post game interview a few amazing things I want you to carry with you.  One, it’s not about the last play, it’s about the one play in front of you.  Stay in the moment and just go play by play.  Two, he recounted a phrase his father always told him, “Why not you?”
I wanted to share this supreme wisdom of a true champ, so that you may apply this to your own struggles.  Don’t waste time dwelling on your past successes or failures, it’s about the day in front of you, the person across from you, the run ahead of you now.  Each moment we are making decisions, what to eat, who to hang out with, whether to walk or drive, go to the gym or sleep.  We are in control of these choices, and they need not reflect mistakes of yesterday.  Otherwise you are living backwards, which translates into not living at all.  If life is an ever-changing journey, how can you possibly be alive living in the static past?
Stay in the present.  Then take a leap of faith and instead of looking around at other people’s amazing feats in awe, ask yourself, why not you?  It is you, you are the same infinite being full of possibilities.  You are incredible, you are a winner and if you think it will happen then let it be so!
I honestly believe that besides having the number one defense, the Seahawks won because they really thought they would.  Go out, dream big, work hard and get what you want.
My clients are making amazing changes all the time, transforming their bodies into ones that are stronger, function better and move faster.  If what you are doing isn’t working, ask why.  Why not you?

I’m Dreaming Of A Whole Grain Christmas

January 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Family

By Ann Brown

Whole grains


I am giving up white bread. And white rice. And all white food.

And, please, don’t go writing in to tell me how you gave up white food and now you are happy and healthy and bluebirds braid your hair in the morning. I am not interested.

I’m not doing this to look better. That particular ship sailed in, like, 1973. And it isn’t coming back unless I find a quarter million under my pillow and go in for a complete rehaul. And even then.

I’m not even doing this to feel better, which is the lie everyone tells everyone when they start eating healthier. Please. If you look like shit, you don’t care if you feel like gold.

I’m doing this because it finally got to me. This whole grains only scheme has been insinuated into our reality for so long, and touted so highly, that it just seems the thing to do. I guess when a ridiculous concept becomes widely accepted, it stops feeing ridiculous even though it totally is. Like the concept of Sara Palin running for President. Or the concept of rehab. Or women’s suffrage.

So, white is out in 2014. Whole grain is the new white.

Wade, did you hear that?

I am going to take this even a step further. I will be switching out all my white friends and replacing them with whole grain friends. White people just sit in your gut and make you feel bloated and gassy. Plus, when I start hanging with white people, I can’t just stop at one. Also, I think they raise my blood sugar level. What with their stollen and coffee cake and shit.

I expect huge dramatic changes when I make the switch to whole grain. I expect my novels will be published. I expect there will be no traffic on HIghway 43 coming in from Lake Oswego at rush hour. I expect Republicans will stop obstructing every fucking thing that is good for our country. After all, Republicans are pretty white. And bloated and gassy.

Out with white. Out with white.

Uh oh. That means no bagels. Fuck.

Yeah, I know about whole grain bagels and all the permutations thereof. But a whole grain bagel is about as comforting as a German accent in a room of Jews. Maybe I should start with merely limiting the number of bagels I eat. Instead of eating the entire dozen, I could eat, say, seven at one sitting.

And then go jogging.

To Germany. With Repulicans.

And then go to rehab.

2014 is gonna be awesome.


Tips from a Trainer on Keeping Kids Healthy

October 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Healthy

By: Susan Howard


This is my tater tot series part two, furthering the inquiry about how to keep your child at a healthy weight and give them habits for years to come.

Never tell your child to eat everything on their plate.

Teach them to listen to their body’s natural cues of hunger and fullness.  Let them be in charge of taking inventory as much as possible.

Fill their plates with tons of colorful nutritious options and then let them decide how much of what they eat.  Our pediatrician, Dr. Liddy, told us kids will self regulate if given the chance.  Isn’t that what you ultimately want?

When they are out of the house you aren’t going to be there telling them to finish their veggies.  (Unless they are still in the house after college, which seems common these days, but is a different story.)

Teach them about what food does.  Brandy is tireless in explaining that protein builds your muscles, milk helps your bones get strong, carbohydrates gives you energy and veggies help give you vitamins to see, and keep you feeling good.  It doesn’t have to be too complex simple stuff like that broccoli has fiber in it so you can poop.  Then they understand what a balanced diet is and why they need it.

Take them to local farmers markets, farms, and berry picking spots.  Teach them that food doesn’t come from a package, it comes from the ground or a pasture.  Allow your children to have a connection with what real food is.  No it’s not in a Twinkie wrapper.

Plant a garden, herbs is an easy one to start with, and let them help.  My daughter loves dirt and worms and being a little pioneer toddler, she’s a regular Laura Engles. She also now loves basil, parsley, and rosemary, and can pick it right off the vine.

Cook with your kids.  Start with something easy that involves a lot of stirring and pouring.  There is a fun recipe that is basically penne pasta, veggies and cheese in a muffin tin, super easy pasta muffins.

Make healthy foods flavorful.  Take a cooking class, buy a new cookbook, watch the Food Network.  If your kids aren’t eating it, up your game.

Limit excessive television watching.  One of my clients just told me her house rule, if the sun is out no television.  I like that because it seems to encourage kids to take on the day be active.

Inquire about the hot lunch program at your school.  Be involved and try link fresh produce with the cafeteria.  It is a battle worth fighting for.



Pitch Your Old Stuff

January 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Family, Healthy

By: Susan Howard

A client of mine lost about ten pounds last year and is holding strong to her new fighting weight.  “I am done,” she exclaimed.  “I am tired of gaining and losing the same ten pounds.  This time is the last.”  There was something very definitive about how she pronounced the end of the games she plays with her weight.  She is tossing away that habit.  Gone.

Another client who is now down a full clothes size was going through her closet realizing a bunch of stuff doesn’t fit -it’s too baggy.  “Give it away,” I tell her.  “I know,” she laments.  “But what if I gain it back, then I’ll have nothing to wear?” Exactly. First of all, the old stuff is probably out of style, and either way it fits the old you -not the one you are becoming.  Also, if you are frugal like I am and hate to spend money, then it could serve as an extra incentive to keep the pounds off.

Allow yourself to change, make changes, and then step into the new version of who you’ve become.

Creating new habits takes effort, making little decisions each day that culminate into a larger metamorphosis.  Only by exorcising your old self can you clear a space for the new you to be born.  Can I get a Hallelujah?

Let’s stay open and also take charge of 2013.  It is all inside you to have -whatever year you decide.  Make a choice and stick to it, be unwavering, be fierce.  You got this.  Now go get a garbage bag and throw out your old stuff or, even better, donate it.

A question to you the reader: have you been successful at losing weight and keeping it off?  If you have, let me know what worked in your transformation by commenting below.


Peace out.


Feeding Your Tot Tater Tots

September 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Healthy, Kids

By Susan Howard

Over half our country is considered overweight or obese.   We keep hearing these statistics about how fat Americans are, but how can we as parents do anything about the next generation of potential weeble wobbles?  Here are a few tactics to keep your little ones from turning into bigger ones.

Lead by example; make healthy food choices a part of your day to day regimen.

Put out a colorful bowl of fresh fruit that is visible to your family.

Let your children see you be physically active.  Be it swimming, running, weightlifting, hiking –whichever you pick, make it consistent.

My daughter sees me lace up my shoes and she asks, “Are you going for a run, Mom?”   At four and a half she is already asking if she can try and run with me.  They want to do what you do.  You are their mentor.

Be active with your children.  Coach their soccer team, practice playing catch in the backyard, or let your kid ride their bike while you run.

Create fitness traditions.   Sunday afternoon family bike ride, Thanksgiving morning 5k, Parent and me yoga, after dinner basketball hoops. Many of my clients get in an extra workout with their children by running with them at soccer practice, doing baseball drills, hitting tennis balls back and forth, you name it.  Nothing gives me more joy than to see parents passing the torch of wellness on.

Never eat out of a container.  Make yourself a plate with a portion on it!

(Confession: I mess this one up sometimes.)

Wait as long as humanly possible to introduce soda, or better yet don’t introduce it at all.  Even with the huge cash flow in soda companies I have never read anything good about it.  One would think they could find SOMETHING.  They can afford to hire scientist to try test after test.  Likely there is nothing to uncover except rotten teeth and obese kids.

Throw in some protein for most meals.  If you have a kid who likes eggs, that’s a great way for them to start their day.  Peanut butter and a cut-up apple is an easy treat, cheese sticks or yogurt.  You could try pieces of chicken with a mound of shredded cheese.

Offer veggies as often as possible, make it with something they like, put a thin pad of butter on top or sprinkled cheese.  Use spices as well; many kids (not all) like flavor.

If one parent is obese in your family, your child has a 40% chance of being obese. If both parents are obese, your child has an 80% chance of being obese.

Let’s tip the scale in the right direction.  We can inspire ourselves and our little ones.  They are watching you, believe me.


Bye Bye Super Size

August 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Healthy

By: Susan Howard

I love my wife, so when she asks her health obsessed trainer (that’s me) to pick her up a Mc Flurry from McDonald’s, I comply.  She is breastfeeding twins after all and who am I to deny her? She keeps it together, it’s the least I could do.

Newsflash: apparently there is a Rolo Mc Flurry that has been added to the fast food giant’s list of high caloric items.  I drive through and order my Rolo Mc Flurry and before I pull away am asked by the voice on the intercom, “Would you like the snack size?”  “What, uh yeah I want that.”  Just then in that exact moment I saw a small flickering light at the end of our country’s obesity epidemic.

Snack size means small, a reasonable portion, a snack, a treat.  If you recall in the 2003 documentary Super Size Me, the staff had been trained to try and up sell items costing merely a quarter more for two times the amount.  Now, in 2012 I was asked if I wanted a SMALL at McDonald’s.

Yes, yes I do.

Upon further inspection of the menu there is a list of items under 300 calories.  Yes I am still at the Mc Donald’s drive through window.  On that list includes the egg mc muffin which I have long told clients is a win, if you can bypass the belly busting hash browns.

Was it Paula Deans Diabetic scare?  Michelle Obama’s awesome arms?  Did someone in corporate just start to feel bad for helping to make our children super sized with a Sponge Bob toy, chicken nuggets, a wink, and a smile?  Maybe they just felt so ultimately dumb being singled out as promoters of obesity.  Even with the charitable work Ronald Mc Donald House has done, it’s definitely overshadowed by the Big-Mac-eating-coke-a-cola-drinking-XXL-children of our generation.

I try and keep an open mind and while I am not saying Mc Donald’s is the new Whole Foods, any flag waving in the breeze of wellness makes me smile.  You deserve a break today.

Yoga For Tight Guys

This is Move One in a series of moves that I will be showing you so you can do cool yoga poses even if you are tight.

Downward Dog

Come onto your hands and feet putting yourself in a V position, butt to the sky on a decline with your feet low, hands high (you could also put your hands on a stair).  Lengthen your legs and offer your chest through your arms towards your thighs.  Take your feet wide apart if you are super tight.  To work your back, bend your knees and straighten your spine.


Meanie Trainer Makes a Retraction

July 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Healthy

By: Susan Howard

I fear I was a bit negative in my last blog, telling you, the reader, that if you want to eat a nacho you’d better go climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to burn off all that extra calorie intake.  I feel bad, truly I do, for making food the enemy and asking you to have boundless will power.  And for basically being a meanie.

So this time I thought I would give you some positive tactics to stave off weight gain while still having a life.

  1. Start your day with eggs.  Protein at the beginning of the day helps to keep your glycogen levels even throughout the day, so you are less likely to crave sugary treats.  Hardboiled egg whites are best, 17 calories each, but whichever way you like is good with me.
  2. Order a starter salad at meals.  Studies show people that order salad are 20 percent less likely to overeat during the meal.  Also this can help you not eat the entire breadbasket, since you know a salad is coming.
  3. Pace.  Fidgeting, toe tapping, and standing are all calorie burners.  Want to stay trim?  Drink too many espressos and jitter away.
  4. Play.  Go in your backyard or to the park and play with your little ones or your big ones: Frisbee, catch, tag.  “You’re it.” “No, you are.”
  5. If you’re hungry, drink water first; you may be thirsty.  People tend to be dehydrated, plus your skin will glow.
  6. Clear your house of nutrient-void junk you don’t want to eat.  You can take yourself or your kids out for a special treat, but gallons of ice cream need not reside in your freezer.
  7. Use garlic, fresh herbs, shallots, ginger, whatever spices you like to tempt yourself to eat green vegetables.  Once they turn bright green stop the cooking so they are nice and fresh, don’t let them get all brown and mushy.
  8. Take walks.  Create a walking or bike riding habit.
  9. If you take in too many calories one day, so what.  Just try and get back on track.  Go to Whole Foods and spend too much cash on a bunch of healthy options for the next day.

10. Give thanks.  Appreciate your body for what it is. Show off the parts you love and make peace with the squishy parts -it’s all you.


Workout: Push ups (try to do 6 sets of 10)

10 Incline (hands on stairs, feet on ground)

Rest for 30 seconds

10 Flat (hands and feet on ground)

Rest for 30 seconds

10 Decline (feet on stairs, hands on ground)

Rest for 1 minute

Repeat 2 more times for a total of 6 sets.


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