• How Your Back Can Keep Cookies Out of Your Mouth

    But what does a back have to do with a mouth? If you’ve ever felt pain in your back, well, it has a lot to do with it.

    You probably never think about your spine when you’re cramming junk food in your pie hole. But just because you can’t see your spine doesn’t mean it isn’t affected by your nutrition. Eating to keep your spine healthy then becomes a motivation to keep eating healthy—even over the holidays, even at a Chattanooga holiday party.

    But I Want Some Eggnog

    Let’s say you’re visiting relatives in Chattanooga this week so you decide to stay at the Mayor’s Mansion Inn bed and breakfast. Sounds lovely—until you hear that cookies and eggnog are part of the welcome party. Cookies and eggnog will be fun going down, of course, but the high sugar content in both will lead to stress on the heart . This creates a domino effect, eventually affecting blood flow to the spine. If you have a history of pain in your back, you do not want to mess with blood flow to it. Reduced oxygen and minerals to the spine can lead to degeneration of the spinal discs , spelling pain for you.

    So while some eggnog and cookies consumed before bed at the Inn aren’t immediately going to make you double over in pain, the sugar and fat they supply to your body takes away from the nutrients and oxygen that need to be delivered to the spinal discs.

    What to do?

    The obvious answer is to just say no. No thank you, because we can’t be rude to our hosts in Chattanooga, the Scenic City of the South. Sure, we can say “no” all day long. But realistically, all the rich, welcoming food of the holidays is going to get to you, and you’re going to cave. So you need a plan.

    One idea is to make your own alternatives. This Chattanooga TV station, channel 3, published an eggnog recipe on the lighter side. It recommends “sweetener to taste” rather than a bucket of sugar. So maybe you call ahead and offer this light eggnog recipe to your hosts at the Inn, or maybe you just be “that guest” who brings their own eggnog to the party. Maybe you just eat your own baked goods at home, go have fun without eating any sweets, and chow down when you get home again as a reward. Either way, you’ll need this very helpful list of alternate sweeteners to get you started in the right direction with your own holiday baking.

    Are you motivated yet?

    Most people have very tangible reasons for sticking to a diet plan long term. They have a disease, like diabetes or heart problems. They are overweight and have found a way to keep losing weight. That’s why it’s a little harder to stick to a healthy lifestyle when your motivation is your spine—you can’t see it, and unless you suffer from chronic pain, you can’t feel it.

    But this doesn’t mean your spine isn’t worth eating for, even when you’re faced with piles of luscious pies and ladyfingers. We’ve already read with that link up there about spinal disc degeneration that unless your spine gets enough oxygen and nutrients from blood supply, the casings on your discs will fail, causing excruciating pain. So while your back doesn’t hurt now, it may a few years from now—which is reason enough for most people to stay on a healthy track.

    What’s your healthy strategy?

    If you’re serious about staying healthy over the holidays, then you’ll be interested in creating alternatives to stick to a plan. In the Chattanooga area, stores like Earth Fare and Whole Foods exist to help you stay on track with products that are hard to find in general grocery stores. You can stay healthy this holiday season!

    What are your food strategies? Do you nibble at forbidden foods so you don’t crave them later? Do you bring your own snacks to parties? Let us know in a comment below!

  • Unraveling the Mystery of Barefoot Shoes

    Have you ever slipped your foot into the glove-like interior of a barefoot shoe? You have to place each toe in its individual casing, making your foot into a hand for just one weird moment.

    You might be surprised to hear that not all barefoot shoes are shaped like foot gloves, though. In fact, barefoot has another name: minimalist. Minimalist shoes aren’t shaped like feet—they just remove most of the padding we’re used to so that our feet can flex better while running. What, then, is all the buzz about?

    Barefoot Running

    Let’s start with the basics: just what is this barefoot running phenomenon? A reporter from the Guardian tells us that barefoot running is nothing new, but only a section of the population were into it. When Chris McDougall published the book Born to Run , a study of barefoot runners in Kenya, it suddenly became a mainstream practice.

    The point of barefoot running is to change your jogging gait from hitting your heel first, to hitting the front of your foot first. The idea is that this is more efficient and prevents more injuries. Does running barefoot really do this? We’ll explore that in a minute.

    Minimalist Shoes

    Nobody went completely barefoot, of course. There’s too much concrete in our country, too many dangers on the road. So companies developed shoes that could function like you don’t have anything on, yet still provide protection.

    Barefoot shoes range from transitional to full-on glove, so the term “minimalist” is used to cover all types. Transitional shoes look just like normal running shoes, but really have very thin soles so the ball of your foot hits before your heel. Examples include Nike’s Free , New Balance’s Minimus , and Adidas’s Adapt . Vibram is a shoe company famous for their foot glove construct, called, fittingly, the FiveFingers . If you’re brand new to barefoot running, start with a transitional shoe and work your way up to the FiveFingers. But keep in mind, says a shoe blogger , everybody is different, so you should focus on choosing a shoe that works best for your body, not what someone told you would work best.

    Barefoot and Your Spine

    Now we come to the big question. Since Born to Run was published in 2009, have we been able to tell that barefoot running is actually good for us? And more to the point—for our backs? According to Stanford sports medicine physician Dr. Michael Fredericson , not necessarily. The only conclusive evidence they’ve found is that it more efficiently dissipates forces of stress to our joints in the spine and lower body. It hasn’t proven to prevent injury. Our shoe blogger suggests that if you really want to keep injury at bay, you should switch things up every week. Don’t go cold turkey barefoot—run barefoot some days and go with a regularly padded shoe other days. This will strengthen the muscles of your feet without putting too much strain on them.

    Do you run barefoot?

    So what’s the verdict? Barefoot running can reduce the impact of running to your joints, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent injuries. The choice is up to you. Do your own research, try on some shoes. To get you started, we’ve found a pros and cons list .

    And once you’ve decided whether or not to go minimalist, let us know about it! Leave a comment so our readers can hear how barefoot running works—or doesn’t work—for you. Are you already a barefoot runner? We’re curious—does your back feel better or worse? Our readers want to know, so leave a comment now!