TV and Eating: A Bad Combination

TV and Eating: A Bad Combination

By Editorial Staff

It’s become commonplace: sitting down to your favorite meal with the television on. Perhaps it’s the time crunch people feel that makes them want to digest their food with as much information (news, etc.) as possible.

Or perhaps it’s the comfort that comes from watching your favorite show in the rare moments you have to actually sit down and relax. But regardless of the reason, eating and watching TV may be a dangerous combination.

Here’s why: Families that eat dinner in front of the television tend to eat less healthy food than when the TV is off, suggests research. These findings held up even when they weren’t actually watching TV, but merely had it on in the background to generate “white noise.”

This is the latest study to link what has been called “distracted eating” to unhealthy eating. In fact, research connects distracted eating to overeating, and “mindful eating” (as opposed to rushed / distracted eating) to the opposite. What’s more, excessive television viewing has its own drawbacks beyond its impact on eating habits: At the most extreme, watching three or more hours of TV a day may increase your risk of early death compared to people who watch less daily television. Taken collectively, the evidence suggests we keep that TV off whenever possible and find healthier ways to enjoy our free time.

Wide Awake in the Electronic Age: Our Kids’ Sleep Habits Are Suffering



Wide Awake in the Electronic Age: Our Kids’ Sleep Habits Are Suffering

By Editorial Staff

Smartphones, tablets and everything in between – chances are high that if your child’s over the age of 6 (and in some cases, even younger these days), they’re spending a considerable (read: unhealthy) amount of time engaged with portable electronic devices. At the same time, we’re finding that kids are suffering from sleep deprivation in terms of time spent asleep and quality of sleep enjoyed. Is there a connection? Yes, say researchers who reviewed various studies on the topic – and the news is even worse than you might imagine.

After reviewing 20 studies, researchers found that kids who used portable electronic devices near bedtime had more difficulty falling or staying asleep, and experienced poor daytime function because of sleepiness. Device use also contributed to lack of sleep compared to non-use: less than 10 hours per night for children and less than nine hours for teens.

But here’s the kicker: Even kids who didn’t use the devices, but had access to them, still experienced shorter sleep times. Children with bedtime access to devices close to bedtime three or more times a week also experienced less sleep and lower quality of sleep compared to children with less or no device access. Researchers speculate that access, even without use, can exert an influence on sleep because children are thinking about different aspects of the device, such as text messaging (e.g., “Has someone responded to that message I sent earlier?”).

Ready to limit your children’s (or your own) screen time? Click here for three ways to get started. For more information on another potential negative health consequence of excessive smartphone / tablet use, click here.

Five Things You Can Do To Boost Your Mood

Five Things You Can Do To Boost Your Mood

By Julie T. Chen, MD

Your mood is something that affects many aspects of your health from your heart to your thyroid to your sleep cycle to your menstrual cycle. So, as the daylight hours start to wane this winter season, how can you keep your mood elevated?

I always tell my patients in my integrative medicine clinic in San Jose, CA that mood is affected by many things. So, in order to address your mood concerns, you have to be willing to optimize many aspects of your life. But if you can do so, not only will your mood improve but also your overall health.

There are five easy ways to keep your mood elevated this winter season:

  1. Stay in touch with your loved ones
  2. Keep touching your furry friends
  3. Light therapy isn’t a thing of the past
  4. Keep your kitchen stocked full of vegetables and avoid sugars
  5. Keep your body moving throughout the winter season

Social support is something that is important in managing our mood. When we are surrounded by friends and loved ones, we manage our stressors and mood triggers better. Try to focus your time and energy on your friends and loved ones who are positive. If you are not in the best mood, don’t spend more time with people who are negative in your life. When you are feeling down, that is the time to find people who lift you up…not bring you down. I know that during the holiday season, there are a lot of social obligations, but just remember that you are the most important obligation and if you are already feeling low, find those who are uplifting to spend time with until your mood is better. You deserve to feel loved and cherished, so find those who make you feel this way to spend time with for the time being.

exercise - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkPets and animals seem to cheer people up and so if you are an animal person, you should spend time with your pet or spend time with your friends who have pets. Studies suggest that pets bring joy and those with pets feel happier.

I know that many of you have heard of light therapy during the winter season for seasonal affective disorder. If you have that, you should check with your doctor for support and potentially discuss the option for counseling. But if your main issue is the lack of light during winter time, you should look into investing in light therapy at home. If you have a healthcare account, ask your doctor to see if you can use that to get reimbursed for the machine to use at home.

What we eat can trigger our brain to secrete different chemicals. So, if you eat a diet high in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins in the form of vegetables and avoid sugars, your mood will likely be more stable. Many of my patients find that a diet rich in vegetables and low in processed foods and sugars help their mood quite a bit. But if you are depressed, the safest thing is to first see your doctor about it but in the interim, eating clean and healthy will only help.

Finally, exercise is always helpful for mood because when you exercise, you release more endorphins and helps to trigger better mood. If you are stressed and busy, exercise doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym. You can even go on walks and hikes with your buddies…this way you can combine tip number one and five together and you can spend time with loved ones while exercising.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to find support and ask for help when you need it. Your doctor cares about you…let him/her help you find some way for you to feel better because sometimes you need stronger options to help with low mood, so make sure to see your doctor to make sure you’re OK. But in the interim, these five tips should help you keep your mood up throughout these winter months.

Dr. Julie T. Chen is board-certified in internal medicine and fellowship-trained and board-certified in integrative medicine. She has her own medical practice in San Jose, Calif. She is the medical director of corporation wellness at several Silicon Valley-based corporations, is on several medical expert panels of Web sites and nonprofit organizations, is a recurring monthly columnist for several national magazines, and has been featured in radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews. She incorporates various healing modalities into her practice including, but is not limited to, medical acupuncture, Chinese scalp acupuncture, clinical hypnotherapy, strain-counterstrain osteopathic manipulations, and biofeedback. To learn more, visit

Stick to the Program: How to Make This the Healthy Holidays

Stick to the Program: How to Make This the Healthy Holidays

By Editorial Staff

Yes, it’s that time of year again: the holiday season. And with it comes the annual battle many of us have to maintain our health, fitness and sanity. You’ve worked so hard the past 10 months; why throw it all away now? Unfortunately, that’s what too many people do – eating right, working out, keeping stress low and optimizing their health and wellness from January to October, only to regress once November hits.

But that’s not your immediate future, because you’ve invested to much in yourself. And, as luck would have it, it’s also that time of year when we offer great ideas to survive what we like to call the “unhealthy holidays.” Take these tips to heart and stick to the program these holidays. After all, you’re worth it.

    • Less Is More: In general, the holiday season is all about excess; or at least the opportunity (read: temptation) of excess. That’s particularly true when it comes to food, which can turn ugly and sabotage your health efforts if you don’t rein it in. Moderation is the key, and the way to achieve moderation is to go to every holiday party / meal with a plan: less is more. Less piling on means more satisfaction; less helpings means more waking up on the right side of the bed, feeling great about yourself, not overstuffed and unmotivated.


    • healthy holidays - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkMore Is Less: In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, stress can overwhelm even the best of us. And when we’re stressed, we’re prone to comfort activities, which can lead to poor eating and discontinuance of our fitness routine. In this case, more is less: The more you stay true to your gym visits, nutrition plan, etc., the less stress you’ll feel, breaking the vicious cycle of stress, unhealthy habits, more stress.


    • Strength in Numbers: Chances are you haven’t succeeded the past 10 months entirely on your own, and now’s not the time to start. Sit down with your workout buddy, friends and loved ones who’ve helped you along the way and pledge to stick to the program through the holiday season. A little motivation can go a long way.


  • Movement Is Life: The more you move this holiday season, even if it’s not technically your standard exercise routine, is better than nothing at all. In fact, the holiday season often offers many unique opportunities for physical activity – taking a hike with holiday guests, playing a little family-against-family touch football game, etc. – that just aren’t available during the year.