Body News, Health & Fitness, Wellbeing

6 Surprising Health Benefits of Foot Reflexology

When it comes to pain management, there are two types of people in the world: those who grin and bear it, and those who don’t manage it well at all. And the best place to spot these two camps? At any foot reflexology centre, of course! Tan Lili speaks to two co-founders of recently opened parlours to find out why more and more young people are drawn towards this holistic therapy.

If there’s one guilty pleasure I don’t ever wish to give up, it’s gotta be my almost-weekly visit to a foot reflexology centre. I can’t even remember when or how my obsession with this treatment began, but it’s become one of my favourite ways to decompress – and probably the closest I’ve been to experiencing the delicious tension between pain and pleasure.

For the uninitiated, Chinese practitioners believe that the different nerve-rich areas on the soles of your feet correspond to specific parts of your body, so by applying pressure to targeted points, it stimulates the body’s natural healing ability. This helps rebalance the body’s Qi and promote a sense of wellbeing.

Different parts of the feet are said to correspond to different parts of the body.

Different parts of the feet are said to correspond to different parts of the body.

Interestingly, what was once deemed as an ancient 3000-year-old Chinese practice has recently gained a foothold among the younger crowd as a form of modern holistic therapy. Jumping on the bandwagon are The Good Sole at Quayside Isle, and Feet Haven at Serangoon Garden. “I guess the main reason is due to the proximity of various operators and shops,” says Nicholas Poh, co-founder of The Good Sole. “More shops are opening in shopping malls in Singapore and, naturally, they are able to reach out to a wider audience. Not to mention, it has amazing long-term benefits. I’m one who goes for foot reflexology regularly since I was young, and I absolutely love it.”

Below, Nicholas and Dennis Toh, CEO and co-founder of Feet Haven, tell us more about the different health benefits you can enjoy from foot reflexology:

Boosts blood circulation

The skilful techniques of practitioners are said to improve blood flow and circulation, carrying along oxygen and nutrients to your body’s vital organs to promote organ function and cell growth. An improved blood flow and circulation brings with it a whole host of health benefits, some of which can be found below.

reflexologyReduces pain

An experience backed up by countless studies, pressing certain points on the feet prompts the release of endorphins – a class of neurotransmitters that is often referred to as the body’s natural painkillers.

Alleviates insomnia

Because foot reflexology brings about a relaxed state of mind and relieves stress, it can help improve improve the quality of your sleep in the long run. The Good Sole’s Nicholas used to have insomnia but he swears he’s been sleeping like a baby ever since he got hooked on foot reflexology!

Improves digestive system

The digestive system is a pretty complex one; it involves a whole lot of organs and other systems (nervous and endocrine), which is why all of us experiences digestive problems at many points in our lives. There are several digestive reflexes on the feet that, when pressed, give your digestive system a real workout, relieving common problems like constipation, indigestion, flatulence and bloating.

Kicks up energy levels

If feeling sluggish after lunch is a near-daily struggle, you might want to consider getting a foot rub. Exhaustion and fatigue can be due to low blood sugar levels; by working certain points on the feet, it may help regulate the levels over time. Foot reflexology also stimulates the production of adrenaline to give you an instant perk-me-up.

Enhances memory and concentration

When pressure is applied to the brain reflexes on the feet, it helps facilitates blood circulation and the delivery of nutrients to the brain, resulting in increased mental clarity. In fact, a study conducted in China found that foot reflexology helped enhance the memory of senior patients suffering from dementia.

The Good Sole is located at #01-19 Quayside Isle Sentosa Cove, Tel: 6268 4842; Feet Haven Reflexology is located at #01-01, 136 East Coast Road, and 4A Maju Avenue, Serangoon Gardens.

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction.

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How To Nurture A Positive Body Image

Avoiding negative thoughts about the way you look may not always be easy, but learning to love yourself—inside and out—is a beautiful thing. This article by Canyon Ranch will help you take that all-important first step.

beautiful

Cultivating a positive body image can be challenging. We are often our own worst critics. When you look in the mirror, you may zero in on one area of your body that you wish was smaller, smoother or just plain different. But chances are you’re the only one being so hard on yourself. The people who love you aren’t looking at your thighs or your crow’s feet—they only see the person who always makes them laugh, the one who cooks magnificent meals and lights up the room with a smile.

Recognizing and celebrating the inner beauty that others see shining through rather than focusing on “fixing” your perceived flaws is an important step toward cultivating a positive body image. Removing the phrase, If only I looked like… from your vocabulary is another. “We all spend huge amounts of time comparing ourselves to others,” says Ann Pardo, M.A., L.P.C., B.C.C., director of life management at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. But in the end, these comparisons often do little more than lead us further down a path of negative thinking, of striving for some unachievable body ideal. So, the next time you notice yourself engaging in self-criticism, consider using these suggestions to shift gears and change course.

1. Focus on You
With the daily barrage of “perfect” bodies we see in magazines and on television, comparisons are all but inevitable. But research shows doing just that can lead to a negative body image. Whenever you catch yourself playing the comparison game, consciously decide to stop. Let your logical brain take over: Remember that no one is perfect—the images you see in magazines have likely been airbrushed and retouched. And don’t forget that everyone is unique; try not to use others as a reference point for who you should or can be.

Try this: Stay away from the mirror if you're not feeling so good about yourself today.

Try this: Stay away from the mirror if you’re not feeling so good about yourself today.

2. Step Away from the Mirror
Constantly checking (and obsessing about) your appearance and perceived physical flaws also reinforces a negative body image. If you find yourself often sneaking a peek at your reflection, consider setting limits. Allow yourself to look in the mirror as you get ready to go out, but only once or twice. If you give yourself fewer opportunities to critique your appearance, you may find that you think less about your looks and spend more time thinking about other things.

3. Look at the Positive!
Self-esteem improves when you begin looking at yourself as the sum of all your parts, not just your looks. This “whole person” approach means not focusing on what you lack, but on everything you have to offer and that you do right. Every few days, jot down a different set of five positive attributes: personal strengths, abilities, achievements, things you admire about yourself and like about your looks, things you did or do well, and so on.

4. Exercise, Eat Well and Pursue Your Passions
Taking care of your health and allowing opportunities for personal fulfillment sends the message—both to others and to yourself—that you are worthy and valued, which helps increase self-esteem. Be sure, however, to think of workouts and your diet as a way to stay healthy, not a means to the perfect body. “Our culture is extremely misinformed about weight and body image,” Pardo says. “Very few people understand that mental and physical fitness are what really matter.”

5. Tweak Your Self-Talk
Listen carefully to what you tell yourself. My skin is horrible. I am uglyHow did I get so fat? Some people are so used to putting themselves down they don’t even realize they do it. But it’s never too late to change the dialogue. Try this: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a close friend. Also remember that feelings aren’t facts; just because you may feel unattractive one day doesn’t mean you are. This isn’t easy, especially if you’ve been engaging in negative behaviors for years, but once you learn to recognize the negative self-talk, the next step is to alter it. Make an effort to put a positive spin on whatever you otherwise would have criticized.

6. Dwell on Solutions, not Slip-ups
Focusing too much on mistakes can deal your self-esteem a major blow, Pardo says. If you fall off the diet wagon, for example, don’t label yourself a failure and give up. Instead, consider that the diet you chose may not have been right for you. Explore what went wrong, but in the context of how you can change or do better next time. A mistake or failure is an isolated incident, not indicative of who you are.

Bottom line: “Living in joy and contentment is a much better goal than correctly following some diet based on vanity rather than on self-improvement for the greater good,” Pardo says. Be kind to yourself, and set your sights on happiness, not perfection.

Make Happiness your goal today!

Make Happiness your goal today!

This article was contributed by Canyon Ranch. Canyon Ranch is a pioneer in the field of health and wellness will be bringing its integrative and customized wellness programmes to Treasure Bay Bintan, a resort destination on Bintan island.

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Body News, Health & Fitness

Material World Team Does The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The Material World team does the Ice Bucket Challenge and besides posting up our video, here, we would like to share 5 facts about the challenge.

1. ALS is short for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It is also often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” and is a progressive neuro-degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body.

2. While many may have criticized the Ice Bucket Challenge for being a gimmicky, self-promoting stunts for those who want to up their social media presence, the Challenge has raised some US$13.3 million for the ALS Association between July 29 and August 17. Compared to the same period last year where the association only managed to raise US$1.7 million.

3. In Singapore, it is better known as Motor Neuron Disease (MND). For those of you taking this Challenge, you may make your donation to SPD, formerly known as the Society for the Physically Disabled. It is a non-profit organization that helps about 4,600 people with disabilities including those suffering from MND through a wide range of programmes and services to encourage self-reliance and independence. You may donate through their GiveAsia page. Click here to donate to the SPD.

4. Interesting fact: Former US President George W. Bush had initially refused to do the Challenge and was simply going to write a cheque. But his wife, Laura Bush, doused him with ice water anyway. He then challenged Bill Clinton.

5. Celebrity Pamela Anderson has refused to take on this Challenge, stating that ALS Association funds outdated and cruel animal testing. In a statement, she wrote, “Trying to cure human diseases by relying on outdated and ineffective animal experiments isn’t only cruel – it’s a grave disservice to people who desperately need cures.” She has challenged medical researchers and charities: switch to what she called “sophisticated” non-animal testing methods, such as computer modelling and using “human volunteers”. We can’t speak for Anderson or ALS Association but if you want, feel free to make a donation instead to a charity of your choice.

The Material World will be donating $400 to the SPD (see Point 3). We hereby challenge the following individuals/groups to take on the Ice Bucket Challenge and make a donation. We are daring …

JANE NGIAM, Editor-in-chief of Tatler Singapore

JOCELYN TEO, Assistant Vice President, Communications at CK TANG Limited, and her TEAM

BOON, Co-founder of Beauty Cleanse

 

Good luck!

Love,
Material World

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When It’s More Than Just A Stomachache – Tan Lili

How do we know if that nagging discomfort is simply a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or something worse? Tan Lili speaks to a gastroenterologist and an urologist to find out more.

This abdominal pain is not a first-world problem, thank you very much.

This abdominal pain is not a first-world problem, thank you very much.

All of us experience abdominal pain many times in our lives, but because stomachache is so common, diagnosing the cause of it can be difficult. At best, it is mild and can be effectively treated by self-medication – which is usually the case; at worst, it could be a sign of something sinister and lead to life-threatening consequences if not managed early.

The most common cause of abdominal pain, according to Dr Lim Lee Guan, Specialist in Gastroenterology & Consultant, Raffles Internal Medicine Centre, is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Studies showed that the prevalence of IBS in Singapore was 8.6 percent in 2004 – up from 2.3 percent in 1998. But how do we know if the pain is caused by something more serious?

“Abdominal pain may be sometimes be caused by serious conditions, such as acute appendicitis (severe pain in right lower abdomen) and acute cholecystitis (inflammation of gallbladder, usually with pain in right upper abdomen),” says Dr Lim. “In females, abdominal pain may also be caused by gynaecological conditions, such as ectopic pregnancy. These conditions may be life-threatening if they are not managed early. These conditions require specialised treatment in a hospital, and could involve surgery.”

Below, Dr Lim explores the different causes of abdominal pain and their symptoms.

IBS

A condition in which you suffer from abdominal discomfort that’s often accompanied by diarrhea, constipation, or alternating diarrhea and constipation, IBS is the most common cause of abdominal pain in Singapore. Management includes lifestyle and dietary adjustments as well as medical treatment. Some of the former include avoiding stimulants such as caffeine, dairy products and artificial sweeteners; drinking lots of water and avoiding carbonated beverages; and maintaining good physical fitness.

Heartburn

A burning sensation felt around the lower chest area, heartburn is caused by gastric acid refluxing into the oesophagus/food pipe. It can be treated via over-the-counter antacids, which work to quickly neutralise acid and soothe the burn. Lifestyle changes can also be adopted to improve your heartburn symptoms, like eating slowly and avoiding trigger foods such as caffeine.

Ulcers

Stomach and duodenal ulcers are caused by variable factors such as Helicobacter pylori and medications (e.g. NSAIDs), which result in the thinning of the layer of mucus that is supposed to protect your stomach from digestive juices. This, in turn, causes painful sores in the stomach lining or small intestine. Medications are usually prescribed to alleviate the symptom; if the ulcers perforate and bleed, an endoscopic treatment would be required.

Gastroenteritis (stomach flu/food poisoning)

Common symptoms of patients with gastroenteritis include abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, you can get dehydrated, in which case you may need intravenous hydration. Most acute gastroenteritis cases improve with symptomatic treatment, although in some cases antibiotics may be needed.

Appendicitis

The pain is felt over the lower right part of your abdomen, and it can either come on slowly or manifest as sharp, stabbing pains that worsen with movement. Caused by an inflammation of the appendix, it requires immediate medical attention and surgery to remove said appendix (don’t worry, we can all live without it). If not treated quickly, the inflamed appendix may perforate or burst, which could lead to peritonitis – a potentially fatal inflammation of the abdomen’s lining.

Since the abdomen constitutes the part of the body between the chest and pelvis, you should never rule out urological conditions when experiencing abdominal pain. Here, Dr Fong Yan Kit, Specialist in Urology & Consultant, Raffles Urology Centre, explains two possible causes:

Bladder Infection

It is very common among women – most would have at least one infection in their lifetime. The typical symptoms are lower abdominal pain, associated with painful and frequent urination. Bladder infections are generally not serious and can be treated with antibiotics.

Kidney Stones

Pain caused by obstructing kidney stones is one of the worst pains one could ever experience. It typically starts from the loin then radiates to the groin. The treatment depends on the size and location of the stones. While small stones can usually pass through the urinary tract, larger stones would need to be fragmented through either shock wave or laser therapy.

This list, of course, only serves as a general guide to the more common causes of abdominal pain. Always consult your doctor if your, um, gut tells you your condition requires medical attention.

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

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The 9 Secrets of Hollywood Diets Uncovered – Matthew Fam

Hollywood celebrities often tout novel dieting techniques for a fabulous bod – be it fasting or the exclusion of certain food groups. So what ARE the star-approved diets out there, and what are the health precautions you should be aware of when undertaking your quest for body beautiful? The 9 health facts of Hollywood diets, here.

Gwyneth's boldly chic outfit at the L.A. red carpet premiere of Iron Man 3.

Gwyneth’s gams are the REAL showstopper at the L.A. red carpet premiere of Iron Man 3!

1. The 5:2 Diet
Can’t stand the thought of dieting 24/7, but want slender stems like Gwyneth Paltrow? Behold the 5: 2 diet. The part-time regime works as such: you eat whatever you want during a 5-day period, then stick to a 500-calorie intake for each of the remaining two days.

The celebrity-backed fad (Gwenyth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez among its devotees) keeps weight down while boasting long term benefits of preventing Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer.

2. Why should I fast?
The answer lies in IGF-1 (no, it’s not a strand of avian flu). Insulin Growth Factor-1 is a hormone that boosts the reproduction of cells. As we age, the production of this stimulant wanes, so less new cells in our body are made and the older, wearied ones work harder.

What fasting does is to kickstart the sensitivity of IGF-1, keeping cells youthful and pretty while fending off age-related diseases. Sweet.

3. So how much IS 500 calories?

Brace yourselves: a single portion of hawker centre-bought char kway teow alone is 742 calories. So imagine having less than that for an entire day! Your 500-calorie fast can either be broken up into bite-sized meals, or consumed in a single feeding at the start of the day. However, in order to reap maximum benefits of fasting, the latter option is advised. (Fat-burning perks of fasting reportedly commence only after 18 hours into a fast.)

"Give me my lemon cleanse or I ain't performing for no Super Bowl," we imagine  Beyoncé would say.

“Give me my lemon cleanse or I ain’t performing for no Super Bowl,” we imagine
Beyoncé would say.

4. The Lemon Water Diet
Think solid food diets are for scaredy cats? Beyoncé attests her regular bouts of lemon water cleanses to being absolutely bootylicious.

These intense lemon cleanses- each lasting for up to one week- reportedly wipe the health slate clean by allowing your body to completely remove any toxins within your system. Majority of your mass lost will be water weight, but it leaves your complexion surprisingly clearer. Fans of the lemon cleanse- now put your hands up!

5. The ‘No Dairy’ Diet
Get this: the ability to digest lactose past the age of three is actually considered a genetic mutation! (60% of adults cannot digest this naturally-occuring sugar found in cow’s milk.) Not only that, excess diary in your diet reportedly causes higher frequencies of adult acne. Cue screams of horror.

PS, Megan Fox says she doesn’t do dairy. Period.

6. So what alternatives are there to cow’s milk?
Soy, almond, and rice milk are par for the course, but keep an eye out out for carrageenan. According to this article, several of your USDA-approved organic foods contain- and don’t freak out- these cancer-causing nasties. So when in doubt, always check the ingredients list!

Uma Thurman's a total softie for desserts!

Uma Thurman’s a total softie for desserts!

7. The Ice Cream Diet
Uma Thurman once claimed she ate nothing but desserts and ice cream in order to slim down for her role in Kill Bill. Sounds crazy? The diet works on the basis that consuming less calories than what you need would result in weight loss. So technically, you can lose weight by eating small portions of Ben & Jerry’s throughout the day.

However, what this fad fails to alarm is the poor nutrition afforded by desserts alone. Good for a quick weight loss, maybe. But not for a long term healthy lifestyle.

Kim swears by Atkins to maintain her killer curves.

Kim swears by Atkins to maintain her killer curves.

8. The Atkins Diet
With a slimmed midsection, Kim Kardashian keeps her hourglass-figure in check with this famous diet. The grand old dame of weight loss techniques was popularised by a research paper titled “Weight Reduction” by Dr. Atkins himself in 1972. Essentially, all you need to know is that “carbs are the enemy” (Yes, Rihanna totally said this before!)

The Paleolithic (‘Paleo’) diet follows the same carb-banishing route: meals are characteristically free from any type of carbohydrate, focusing instead on intakes of protein, fruits and vegetables.

9. Protein Overkill
Now before you bite into that steamed chicken breast, STOP RIGHT THERE. Studies by Dr Valter Longo, Professor of Cancer Research at the University of Southern California support the no-protein camp. According to him, high protein consumption is as bad for your body as smoking!

 

The allure of Hollywood fad diets are undeniable. However, we can’t simply assume that they work just because a celebrity who endorses it looks fab on the red carpet. What we may not realise is how these calorie-crunchers were probably supplemented with a rigorous fitness regime in the first place.

Moreover, as with any diet, consistency is key. Sure, some of these diets can promise a reduction in dress size or a slimmer physique; but these may also come with a series of health setbacks. So shake off those rose-tinted lenses the next time you go gaga over a celebrity weight loss fad.

 

What other Hollywood diets do YOU know of? Share with us in the comments section below!

About the Author: Matthew Fam is a contributing writer of Material World, and has worked at Cosmopolitan Singapore as an intern and Contributing Beauty Assistant. He writes, teaches, and performs for the stage. Matthew enjoys museum visits, Singaporean Theatre, and spends too much of his undergraduate allowance on magazines.

 

If you liked this post, you might also like:

1. 6 Ways To Lose Weight Without Stepping Into A Gym – Matthew Fam

2. Top Weight-Loss & Nutrition Myths, Debunked – Tan Lili

3. The Yummiest Salad Place In Town! – Denise Li

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[Infographic] What Does The Colour Of Your Nails Tell You? – Tan Lili

For starters, if your nails are whitish, it could be an indication of kidney or liver disorders. Find out more about nail colours and their associations with health, as well as what you can do about them.

Some women are obsessed with painting their nails, so much so that they feel bare without the sight of bright-coloured nails on their digits. But this infographic isn’t about that kind of nail colour.

Nail abnormalities – including discolouration – can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health condition. “The skin is the largest organ in the body,” explains Dr Paul Chia, Specialist in Dermatology & Consultant, Raffles Skin & Aesthetics. “Therefore, any underlying ill-health can also affect the nails and their appearances.”

Find out if your nails display any of the colours below, then read on for our interview with Dr Chia for nail health tips.

Infographic provided by Dr Paul Chia, Raffles Skin & Aesthetics

Infographic provided by Dr Paul Chia, Raffles Skin & Aesthetics

When is it a concern to see a dermatologist?

Nails often reflect our general state of health. Changes in the nail – discolouration and thickening – can signal health problems, such as liver and kidney diseases, heart and lung conditions, anaemia and diabetes.

Although rare, melanomas and other skin cancers can grow under the nail. Melanoma is a form of cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin).

The most common early presentation of a melanoma of the nail unit is a dark-coloured streak within the nail plate. Occasionally, skin cancers in the nail unit can also present as a deformed nail or bruising under the nail.

See your dermatologist if you notice any changes in your nail to check for any underlying medical condition.

Are ladies more susceptible than men about these health conditions?

Women and men are affected similarly by nail disorders. However, certain nail disorders are more commonly seen in women.

Brittle nails, frequently accompanied by nail splitting, are more common amongst women. Frequent wetting and drying of the hands is the most common cause of brittle nails and nail splitting; this condition is common among homemakers, nurses, and hairdressers. Nail splitting may also be caused by nail cosmetics (hardeners, polish, polish removers/solvents) and pedicures/manicures.

Besides, don't you find artificial nails horribly disturbing?

Besides, don’t you find artificial nails horribly disturbing?

Women are also more likely to wear nail polish and artificial nails. Besides brittle nails, nail cosmetics have been known to cause contact dermatitis (skin rash resulting from sensitivity to nail polish constituents), discoloured nails and onycholysis (separation of the nail from the nail bed).

Women who wear high heels and pointed shoes with small toe-boxes are also more likely to develop nail problems. These include ingrown toe nails, subungal hematoma (bruising under the nail, appearing as a blue-black discolouration), and fungal nail infection.

What are the available treatments?

The treatment depends on what the nail disorder is. If you notice any changes in your nail, you should consult your dermatologist to check for any underlying medical condition. Depending on the nail findings, your dermatologist may do other investigations to check the state of your health.

Occasionally, a nail biopsy (procedure to obtain tissue for pathological examination) may be required, especially if a skin cancer of the nail unit is suspected.

Nail problems commonly seen in women like brittle nails, nail splitting, ingrown toenails and contact dermatitis are often treatable and preventable. This can be achieved by educating the patient on ways to keep her nails healthy.

Here are some tips:

  • Cut your fingernails and toenails straight across and rounded slightly in the center. This will prevent the development of ingrown toenails.
  • Ensure that your nails and skin are well moisturised by applying moisturising cream regularly, to prevent brittle nails and nail splitting.
  • Wear proper-fitting shoes. Tight shoes can cause ingrown toenails.
  • Do not try to self-treat ingrown toenails, especially if they are infected. See a dermatologist.
  • Do not bite your fingernails. You can transfer infectious organisms between your fingers and mouth. Also, nail biting can damage the skin around your fingers, allowing infections to enter.

For ladies who always paint their nails, their nails may be discoloured. How are they able to tell if they possibly have certain health conditions from their nails?

Nail plate discolouration occurs with prolonged use of coloured nail varnish, particularly with deep red nail polish. This staining will usually fade spontaneously 14 days after the nail varnish has been removed.

Nail discolouration from health conditions usually do not resolve by themselves. Moreover, people with underlying health conditions usually have accompanying symptoms to suggest their health condition (e.g. in people with liver problems, they may have jaundice), in addition to their nail changes.

Are there any health risks from the prolonged use of nail varnish?

There are concerns that some nail polish might contain toxic chemicals like dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde. These chemicals can cause cancers, birth defects and developmental problems in children of pregnant women who have had extended exposure.

Even if they are present, the levels of toluene and DBP found in nail products are generally at levels considered safe. Generally, they are a minor health concern for nail varnish users.

However, nail varnish is a relatively common cause of contact dermatitis. This is the inflammation of the skin that occurs when you come into contact with a particular substance. The chemical most responsible for allergic reactions to nail varnish is tosylamide formaldehyde resin. Sensitivity to the offending agent may cause a rash not only around the nail area but also around areas that are commonly touched, such as the eyelids, mouth and chin, and sides of the neck.

What are the health risks of nail biting?

Woman biting nailsAlthough nail biting is unlikely to cause long-term nail damage, it is not without risks. Nail biting can result in inflammation and infection of the nail fold (the skin around the nails). It can also increase the risk of transmission of germs from the nails and fingers to the lips and mouth.

More importantly, compulsive nail biting is sometimes a sign of an underlying mental health condition, such as anxiety or an impulse control disorder.

Tips to stop nail biting include:

  • Avoid factors that trigger nail biting, such as boredom
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress and anxiety
  • Occupy your hands or mouth with alternate activities, such as playing a musical instrument or chewing gum
  • Discuss with your doctor if fingernail biting persists along with anxiety and stress

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

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Top Weight-Loss & Nutrition Myths, Debunked – Tan Lili

We are always on the lookout for easy ways to get back on the healthy track but, more often than not, these shortcuts sabotage our plans faster than we can celebrate our newfound wholesome lifestyle. Correia Claudia, a dietitian from Raffles Hospital, puts five of the most common weight-loss and nutrition myths to bed once and for all.

Myth #1: We do not need to eat food rich in carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are used by the body mainly as a source of energy. The Health Promotion Board recommends that around 50 percent of our caloric intake comes from carbohydrates; however, there are different types of carbohydrates: refined and unrefined.

CarbohydratesUnrefined carbohydrates are a valuable source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. They are rich in vitamin B complex, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B6, all of which are crucial for the good functioning of the energy metabolism for growth, to tissue repair, to maintain normal function of nervous system, etc. Dietary fibre is crucial for the gut health and is associated with the prevention of certain cancers. Examples of foods that contain unrefined carbohydrates are wholemeal grains such as brown rice, wholemeal bread, noodles, pasta, soybeans, kidney beans, oats, fruits, dairy products, etc.

Refined carbohydrates are normally found in sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, candies, cakes and other sweet processed food. These foods have a low nutritive value and they are normally called empty calories, because they are depleted of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Plus, its consumption is highly associated with diseases such as diabetes and obesity. We should refrain from eating these foods. The World Health Organisation is currently preparing to review their recommendations to reduce the intake of sugars to less than five percent of the total energy intake per day. This will mean that in a 1,800kcal diet, we should only have less than 23g of sugar (around 5 teaspoons) in a day.

Myth #2: Vitamin supplements are essential.

A diet that includes foods from all four food groups from our food pyramid will provide all the nutrients necessary for optimal health. Only in very certain conditions – pregnancy, for instance – will it be more difficult to meet adequate amount of vitamins and minerals with a normal diet. Some people even believe that taking multivitamin supplementats will reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Last year, a systematic review of evidence for the benefit of vitamin and mineral supplements in community-dwelling, nutrient-sufficient adults for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer concluded that there is very limited evidence of the benefits of the multivitamin supplements. Before starting on multivitamin supplements, you may want to check with your doctor or dietitian.

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information

Myth #3: People diagnosed with diabetes should only eat specialised products for their condition.

Not necessary. Besides being more expensive, some products specially designed for diabetics with lower sugar content have higher amounts of fat on order for the food to taste good. Furthermore, the ideal diet for a diabetic does not differ from what is recommended by several organisations such as American Association of Diabetes and the Health Promotion Board for healthy population: small and frequent meals; preference for wholegrain products; vegetables and fruits; low in fat; and reduced intake of processed foods rich in sugar and fat. Therefore, a person with diabetes does not need to go for specialised products.

Myth #4: To lose weight, we only need to reduce calories. The type of foods we choose doesn’t matter.

There is some truth in this statement. The formula for weight loss is basically that the amount of calories consumed must be lower than the amount of calories that are spent. Sometimes I hear people say they are counting calories to lose weight; so, if they have their breakfast at a fast-food restaurant, they will refrain from eating more during the day. Foods are more than just calories, they contain nutrients that play a crucial role in our metabolism and health. Foods should be chosen according to their nutrient density instead of just their caloric content. When we refer to nutrient density, we are talking about the amount of fibre, vitamins and minerals, and the antioxidants. Foods that are normally nutrient-dense are low in calories. Examples include vegetables and fruits. In contrast, we have foods like fast food that are dense in calories but very low in nutritional value. Nutrient-dense foods will assist with weight loss because they increase satiety, regulate your bowel movements, and support energy metabolism. In order to reduce your calories while still following healthy eating, follow the Raffles Healthy Eating Plate.

Tips to eat healthily:

  • Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables (e.g. salad, leafy vegetables, brinjal, carrots, broccoli)
  • Fill one-quarter of your plate with whole grains like brown rice or whole-wheat pasta.
  • Fill one-quarter of your plate with proteins like a lean meat or fish
  • Have one serving of fruit on the side. It is recommended that you have at least 2 servings of fruit per day.
  • Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. Opt for plain water instead.

fit-health-women-a2319Myth #5: We should detox every now and then.

There are plenty of detox diets – they normally involve following a very restricted plan that is low in calories. These diets do not have any scientific evidence, do not follow a healthy diet and they may cause serious illnesses if taken to the extreme.

The liver, kidneys, lungs are already normal detox agents of our body hence we do not need to follow detox diets to do that. The only “detox” we should be following is the one that allows us to go back to healthy eating.

You will feel the difference from a sedentary lifestyle with food that is rich in animal and processed fat (saturated and trans fat) and sugar from soft drinks and sweets when you adopt a healthy lifestyle of which you hydrate yourself with water, eat wholegrain foods, vegetables and fruits, lean meats or fish, choose healthy oils and have them in moderation and, of course, to exercise regularly.

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

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Body News, Health & Fitness, Infographics

[Infographic] Overcome Your Body Confidence Crisis, Please! – Deborah Tan

Beauty brand Dove revealed that only 2 percent of Singaporean women feel they are “beautiful”. Deborah Tan talks about this confidence crisis facing women and how to overcome it.

The Beauty debate is a whirlpool many woman writers try their best to avoid. It’s definitely easy to go all the way and proclaim that women should love themselves, and the way they look, wholeheartedly and unconditionally. But, is it really this straightforward?

As a former beauty writer and a magazine editor, I have found myself struggling to talk about beauty because there is no clear-cut line distinguishing what is right and what is wrong.

Yes, I agree we should not air-brush every image inside a magazine to death. Yes, I think the use of models and celebrities in advertising is manipulative. No, I don’t think using beauty products and wearing makeup makes me a traitor to the body-love movement. No, I think it’s perfectly okay to want to use skincare to get good skin, to want to exercise to have a great body, and to blow my hair cos I love it big and bouncy.

The point I’ve always tried to make is, beauty is something we should enjoy, and we need to take a chill-pill when it comes to the way we look. Most importantly, I think we should NEVER let ANYONE tell us if we should be fat/thin/pale/tanned/Asian/Pan-Asian/whatever. A long time ago, I wrote a commentary about an article applauding a magazine for using a plump celebrity on its cover. I felt uncomfortable because the original writer was – in a way – promoting another body stereotype. She failed to see that her stance on what magazines should put on their covers was also encouraging an “ideal” look.

Most people think there are only two sides to the body-love debate: if you reject what is natural, you are subscribing to evil. But there are so many facets to this topic! Just because you don’t want to be fat, it doesn’t immediately mean you want to be stick-thin. Just because you want to do something about your cellulite, it doesn’t automatically make you a member of the Loathe My Body Club.

Our relationship with our face and body is a complicated one. Each of us have days when we feel awesome, days when we feel “blob-by”, days when we feel we can get away with not exercising, days when we feel we can’t. Most of us have hang-ups about our appearances, the key is: do you pinch the dimply skin on your thigh, tell yourself you may go to the gym later, and get on with life? Or, do you decide because of your cellulite, you should imprison yourself at home?

Watch the Dove: Patches video here!

Watch the Dove: Patches video here!

The statistics of a Dove survey – as you’ll see in the infographic below – is shocking. Only 2% of women in Singapore feel they are “beautiful”. Is it because we think “beautiful” is a word that should only be used to describe Hollywood celebrities? A superlative word reserved only for women with, what we perceived are, breath-taking appearances.

How can we all start to feel more beautiful? As Dove’s latest body-love video “Patches” shows, it is – first and foremost – a state of mind. Do we choose to embrace what we have been given, make them work for us OR, are we going to let ourselves be held down by our so-called inadequacies?

I would like to recommend 5 ways we can all start to overcome our personal crisis in body-confidence:

1. Exercise
It floods your body with feel-good hormones so that when you look at your pictures, you are less critical of your “flaws”. As you become healthier, stronger and fitter, you will also see your body in a whole new way – suddenly, your “thunder thighs” that can run a marathon are weapons, not flaws.

2. Stop buying into cheesy “fitspo” talk
I don’t think they are inspiring at all. In fact, I feel “fitspo” talk is a form of guilt-tripping. Not every woman needs to lose 5kg. Not everyone feels good pushing themselves hard. Just like how we refuse to let anyone tell us how we should look, we have to put our foot down and stop letting people tell us how much we should sweat, what we should eat …

3. Pull out of the Body-Hate Club now!
Stop contributing to the Body-Hate conversation! Recently, I was trying on a dress at Zara and a group of ladies walked into the fitting area to try on clothes. One person lamented about her belly, another followed with comments about her own thighs, a third chimed in and started on her skin … it was just one massive body self-pity club!

4. There is no magic number
Your chest doesn’t have to measure 36 inches, your waist doesn’t have to be 24 inches, and your weight doesn’t have to be 45kg. And it’s perfectly OKAY to not fit into a Size 8 dress.

5. Believe in the good
I don’t get why we are so eager to believe in the bad things people say about us but choose to ignore the good things others tell us. It’s like we have this pathological desire to want to hear that we are fat, we are overweight and we are ugly. I think we need to start ignoring the negative and ENJOY it when people say, “You don’t need to lose weight”, “You look great”, “I don’t see anything wrong with your nose”.

REMEMBER: If you don’t start seeing the Beauty in yourself, it will be challenging for others to see it in you.

Enjoy our infographic here:

Statistics provided by Dove. Copyright of Material World LLP.

Statistics provided by Dove. Copyright of Material World LLP.

Let’s make a commitment to our bodies right here, right now! In the Comments section below, complete this sentence: “I will stop worrying about the way my _______ looks.” I look forward to reading your answers. 🙂

 

Infographic produced by Material World using figures provided by Dove’s PR agency Ate Integrated Communications. This post is in neither paid for nor advised by Dove or Ate. All opinions are the author’s own.

 

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She says, “I will stop worrying about the way my jawline looks.” Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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Body News, Health & Fitness, Wellbeing, Workouts

Let’s Get Moving! – Tan Lili

Astronomers say the universe is expanding. Apparently, so are the humans living on planet Earth. Why is obesity becoming a worldwide trend, and why should YOU be worried? Read on for all the need-to-know facts.

material world obesity 2

It’s no news; obesity has been recognised as a global epidemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 1997. But according to the latest statistics from Overseas Development Institute, nearly 1.5 billion adults around the world are obese or overweight. That’s one-third of the world population or, to really put things into perspective, one in three adults.

The two main contributing factors shouldn’t come as a surprise – 1) according to the United Nations, the global consumption of fat, salt and sugar has increased exponentially over the past 30 years; and 2) our increasingly sedentary lifestyle (a recent study found that only one in three people in Singapore exercise on a regular basis!).

As much as we love to eat unhealthy processed foods and hate working up a sweat, the serious health implications – cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, etc. – of obesity ought to reshape the way we live. In fact, a WHO report states that nearly 2.8 million people worldwide die each year as a result of obesity.

Just recently, in a bid to fight obesity in Singapore, the Health Promotion Board launched the 1 Million kg Challenge – yep, the challenge is for Singaporeans to lose 1 million kilogrammes collectively. Coca-Cola Singapore has also recently launched Movement Is Happiness, a campaign that aims to highlight the emotional benefits of physical activity. But while it’s great that such initiatives are being rolled out, they would only be effective if we also adopt a positive attitude towards healthy living.

From now until the end of April, expect to see Coca-Cola's "Movement is Happiness" pop-up activity stations across Singapore.

From now until the end of April, expect to see Coca-Cola’s “Movement is Happiness” pop-up activity stations across Singapore.

We speak to Dr Abel Soh, Specialist in Endocrinology & Consultant, Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre, to find out more.

The Health Promotion Board recently launched the 1 Million kg Challenge in a bid to fight obesity in Singapore, whose rate has risen significantly over the years. What do you think has caused this spike?

The increasing rate of obesity is not only seen in Singapore alone but around the world. Many factors contribute to this trend but the two most important ones are dietary changes (consumption of a high-fat diet and overeating) and reduced physical activity or lack of exercise.

Apart from heart-related problems, what are some of the less-talked-about consequences of obesity?

Some of the less-talked-about consequences of obesity include high blood pressure (hypertension), high blood sugar level (diabetes mellitus), high cholesterol level, increased risk of stroke, gout, sleep apnea, arthritis of the knees and ankles, and urinary incontinence in women. Obesity is also associated with a higher risk of developing certain cancers – colon, prostate, breast, and endometrium.

For those of us who are overweight, what are some lifestyle changes we should adopt to lose the excess kilos?

In order to lose weight, lifestyle modification is crucial. This includes dietary changes with reduction in intake of calories with or without the use of meal replacement. Increasing energy expenditure through increased physical activity and exercise is important not only for weight loss but also for subsequent maintenance of a lower body weight.

What can friends do to help encourage us to do something about our weight without coming across as brusque?

Weight loss can be difficult for many individuals who are overweight or obese as it involves changes in behaviour and habits that have been formed over many years. Encouragement from family members and friends can certainly help to reinforce the new lifestyle changes needed for weight loss and weight maintenance. Family members and friends should avoid making judgemental statements about the individual’s weight or body shape. They can encourage the formation of new, healthy lifestyle changes by joining with the individual in eating healthily and engaging in regular exercise.

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets 

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Body News, Health & Fitness

Embarrassing Women’s Health Questions, Answered – Tan Lili

When it comes to our private area, it can be embarrassing bringing up our concerns to a doctor. Lili takes one for the team, and grills a gynaecologist on the burning questions all of us have (but don’t dare to ask). 

There are many health concerns that we’d have no qualms bringing up to a doctor. And then there are those that are so mortifying, we’d rather stay clueless and even suffer in silence, resigning ourselves to the possibility that we would have to live with this condition forever.

The good news is, most of the embarrassing troubles down below are very common and can be treated or prevented. Dr Tony Tan, Specialist in Gynaecology & Obstetrics and Consultant, Raffles Women’s Centre, answers some of them.

health problems

Q: I have recurring yeast infection. Is there a way to treat it once and for all?

A: Unfortunately, it’s not possible. It is however possible to identify factors that may predispose one to getting recurring vaginal yeast infections. These may include stress, use of oral contraceptive pills, use of antibiotics, and wearing nylon underwear or tight-fitting jeans. Once these predisposing factors are identified, avoiding these factors may reduce the recurrence of vaginal yeast infections. Using a maintenance treatment with anti-fungal treatments for six months may prevent the infections as well. However, it may recur again after stopping the treatments. Some patients have found some relief with lactobacilli treatment, and the preventive use of the feminine vaginal douches when not having the infection.

Q: I love my boyfriend but I’m not particularly thrilled about sex. Is there something wrong with me?

A: Loss of libido is a common problem that affects many women at some point in their life. This is often due to stress in relationships or work, anxiety, exhaustion, depression, or important life-changing events such as pregnancy, giving birth or breastfeeding. Relationship problems are the most common causes of loss of libido – and vice versa. Loss of libido may be a problem when it is persistent over months. It may be due to long-term medical problems such as heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, or certain medications including some antihypertensives, antidepressants, anti-epileptics, etc.

Q: I’m always initiating sex with my boyfriend. Is there something wrong with me?

A: There is nothing wrong with you. As long as both of you feel fulfilled with your sex life, there is nothing wrong with who initiates sex. If you are bothered that you are always the one doing so, discuss this honestly with your partner and find out if there are reasons for this.

Q: How much daily discharge is normal? Should I be worried if I have to wear a panty-liner every day?

A: Most vaginal discharge is physiological. The amount is variable. After deliveries, many women do complain of increased vaginal discharge and may have to wear a panty-liner every day. It is unusual if the vaginal discharge smells or causes itch. And if it occurs after unprotected sexual intercourse with multiple partners or with a partner with multiple sexual partners, it’s best to immediately see a gynaecologist.

Q: I have a painful bump (feels like a pimple) in my vaginal area. What’s causing it?

A: It could really be a pimple. Sometimes it is a cyst, such as Bartholin’s cyst, which occurs like a retention cyst in the vulvar area.

Q: Is it true that if I’ve had a miscarriage, it will be harder for me to conceive in future?

A: In general, no – unless there were complications after the miscarriage that may cause adhesions within the uterine cavity or the tubes.

Q: Can my doctor tell if I’ve had an abortion, miscarriage or STD before?

A: Pregnancies do sometimes leave traces in women’s bodies, including changes to the areola of the nipples, pigmentation over the midline of the abdominal wall, stretch marks, etc. The cervical opening may appear pinpoint if there have not been any pregnancies before, while it may appear flattened if there had been an abortion or miscarriage. Some STDs will show up on blood tests (e.g. syphilis, HIV, herpes) even if they have already been treated.

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.

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Body News, Health & Fitness, Wellbeing

I’m Tired. Are You? – Deborah Tan

Her phone dropped and she didn’t hear it. Deborah Tan realizes today that she is officially tired and sleep-deprived.

Have you ever gone through a day feeling like you’re walking in a haze? Okay, it’s not the annual forest-fire haze I’m talking about here. I’m talking about this mental-haze where you feel as if your mind is so clouded with fatigue, it feels as if every breath you take and every move you make, you are being weighted down by sandbags.

While I have had such episodes before, I don’t think I’ve had it as badly as I did this morning. As I got into my car to get to a meeting at Raffles City, I felt it hit me like punch. My eyes, though open, could barely focus. There was a subtle, but definitely obvious, throbbing at the back of my head and it was slowly spreading to my neck and shoulders.

Although I perked up slightly for my meeting and was most definitely present and functional, my mind started buzzing again the moment the adrenaline left my body. All I could hear – between my ears – were sounds that resembled a static screen.

Three minutes after I drove out of Raffles City, I reached for my phone to check the time. As I felt around inside my bag and then on the passenger seat, a sinking realization struck me: my phone wasn’t in the car with me. The exhaustion, coupled with the frustration, was almost too much to bear. I took a deep breath, turned to the radio station that plays classical music (to soothe the raging beast within) and drove back to Raffles City. There was no other way to deal with this but to head back to the mall and retrace my steps.

The Case of The Missing Phone
It didn’t take me long to find my phone – thank god. The first place I looked was the parking lot I had parked my car earlier. There it was, under the car that was now there. The phone must have fallen out of my hand as I got into the car, balancing my laptop and notebook in one arm.

And Next, The Case of The Malfunctioning “Printer”
An hour later, back at the office, Vanessa, Denise and I were preparing to leave for a meeting. I needed to print out something so I told them I’d see them outside. I stood in front of the printer for a couple of minutes wondering why it was taking this long to churn out the documents when … I realised I was standing in front of the water dispenser.

While it was easy to laugh off this blooper, I recognize I have a bigger problem and I need help.

exhaustedcouchAdmitting That I Am Tired
I think I have to admit that I’m exhausted. Denise wrote on Monday how she is running herself into the ground and trying to keep afloat of all the things that are happening in her life. While I don’t think I’m verging on a burnout, I can see myself suffering physically. When I get home, all I want to do is lie on my couch and not move a single muscle. I often find myself too knackered to even get a drink of water and will only eat if someone’s there with me. At night, I’m too fried – mentally – to sleep. I fret over work that needs to be done, I go through every minute detail of the business hoping I’d discover something that … I don’t know … would assure me it’s alright to go to sleep.

Truth be told, I am too tired to even entertain the thought of taking a shower. I want to pay people to wash my hair for me because I cannot imagine mustering the strength to blowdry my hair.

Are You Tired Too?
I bet you are. I’m not the only person who’s suffering from not having enough rest. My sister, a mother of three young kids – all under 7, wrote about how she barely sleeps through the night anymore. My cousin once told me she can’t remember what’s it like to sleep for 8 hours uninterrupted. It’s not just mothers who are suffering. Anyone who has to juggle work with life is probably wishing they can accomplish all they’ve set out to do and STILL get enough sleep EVERY DAY.

Why Do We Do This To Ourselves? 
There are many reasons why we are all feeling tired. Some don’t get enough sleep because they feel that night-time is the only time they have to do the “leisurely” stuff like read a book or catch up on Sherlock. For me, I don’t get enough because I am too afraid to sleep. Whatever the reason, it’s time we recognize no reason is ever good enough to sacrifice sleep for. There are actual tangible health benefits that come with getting your 8 hours of shuteye. One, it helps your brain detox itself of Alzheimer’s-causing toxins, two, it helps your body repair its damaged cells, and three, your skin needs sleep in order to get better.

Beyond the health benefits, adequate, quality sleep is a life-saver. I’m ashamed to say I have dozed off at the wheel more times than it’s acceptable. Being sleep-deprived means I’m not as “engaging” as a girlfriend as I should be because whatever energy I have left to be “human”, I save it for my clients and for the people I meet at work. We often save our most terrible selves for the ones most forgiving of our shortcomings. And it shouldn’t have to be like that.

sleepSay “No” To Being Sleep-Deprived
We all need to make a conscious effort to SLEEP better. I shall aim to follow the rules below – starting from today.

Save it for tomorrow
We all live to fight another day. If something can wait, save it for tomorrow. If a deadline can be negotiated, save it for tomorrow.

Lights out
Lose all the light in your bedroom. If your curtains are letting even a glimmer of light into your room, invest in thicker ones. Keep your phone on a table at least 20cm away. If your phone blinks whenever a new email comes in, find a way to turn that off.

Exercise, exercise, exercise
Overeating and/or a lack of exercise contributes to an increase in fat around the throat, which could affect the quality of the sleep you and your partner get. Even if sleep apnea isn’t a problem, exercising helps to regulate body temperature, which can aid sleep. Exercise is also a stress buster. So if stress is keeping you awake, get onto that treadmill.

Exorcize your ghosts
Don’t waste time and energy recounting all the stuff that made you unhappy during the day. I know many of us tend to replay the arguments we had with people, thinking of the things we should have said and done, obsessing over how others would now be perceiving us. Rather than let such things play over and over inside your head, why not just read a flighty work of fiction and lose yourself in a little fantasy instead? Oh, don’t read using your iPhone or any gadget that gives off light. Use a Kindle or a real book.

Pray, meditate, stretch …
Do whatever it is that relaxes your mind and body. A 2-minute breathing practice and some easy stretches will prepare you for bed and help you sleep much deeper.

Most importantly, be patient. If you have been a poor sleeper for way too long, you will not be able to sleep continuously for 8 hours. Don’t stress yourself out, just try your best. If you wake up after just 3 hours of sleep, don’t turn to your phone or turn on the TV. It’s like hot yoga – even if you can’t go on – try to remain in the room and build your “tolerance”. Lie on your back, close your eyes, and just breathe …

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She is going home to sleep after this post. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.

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Body News, Health & Fitness, Wellbeing

Sing Me To Sleep – Tan Lili

In this day and age, sleep feels almost like a luxury when it is in fact a necessity – a necessary evil, as many would put it. With World Sleep Day just around the corner, it’s high time to adopt a new attitude towards sleep as well as develop some new habits to help you sleep better.

How I look like every morning - only 10 times less attractive.

How I look like every morning – only 10 times less attractive.

There are so many things to do, people to see, deadlines to meet, places to be … yet there’s so little time. If only we had more waking hours a day. Sleep is overrated, anyway. Besides, there’s always the weekend to catch up on lost snooze time.

Unless you live in a country that isn’t relentlessly fighting for the top spot in practically everything, you would have likely agreed with the above sentiment. To me, though, sleep is never overrated. So often in the middle of the day, I’d think of my bed with equal parts longing and anguish – longing to lie down on it; anguish for my wishful thinking. Not too long ago, I worked from 10am to 6am for three consecutive days, surviving on only two hours of sleep per day (and countless cans of Red Bull). On hindsight, it’s amazing how far we can push the human body, but that is something I’m certainly not dying to find out.

According to the National Sleep Foundation in the US, seven to nine hours of sleep per night is recommended for adults. A report published last year found that the percentage of the sleep-deprived in Singapore is higher than the global average of 29 percent, with almost one-third of workers here sacrificing sleep for personal and work commitments. While missing a couple of hours of shut-eye every night may not seem like much, a prolonged period of insufficient sleep can lead to serious complications. It may point towards underlying health problems such as stress and depression, and increase the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Health issues aside, lack of sleep has been linked to poor work performance and even car crashes.

Does sleeping in on weekends make up for lost sleep then? Kind of, but not really. A new study led by researchers at Penn State University of College of Medicine, USA, revealed that weekend recovery sleep does negate some of the deficits associated with mild sleep deprivation, such as improved levels of daytime sleepiness. However, attention levels, which dropped significantly during the week of mild sleep deprivation, remained low even after the weekend recovery sleep. This means, catching up on lost sleep on weekends is best used occasionally or only as a short-term remedy. For better sleep in the long run, try these tips instead:

Put that phone away. Really, I mean it. As tempting as it may be to refresh your Instagram feed just one more time or check your mailbox again because you never know if a client had an urgent message to relay at 1.30am, place your phone somewhere far beyond your reach. Studies have shown that exposure to light from electronic screens can affect levels of melatonin, a hormone you shouldn’t mess with since it regulates your body’s internal clock.

Create a relaxing sleep environment. Set aside at least half an hour before bedtime to put your mind to rest. Listen to soothing music, take a long bath, light an aromatherapy candle, and make sure your bedroom light is off. The next time you find yourself tossing and turning in bed, get up and try these non-stimulating activities to lull yourself to sleep.

Exercise regularly, but not just before bedtime. Aerobic exercise has been shown to help improve your sleep, but make sure it’s done at least four hours before you go to bed as exercise boosts energy levels and raises your body temperature.

Avoid late-night alcohol consumption. And meals, for that matter. Having a nightcap in the hope of a good night’s sleep is a common misconception many of us are happy to follow, but while alcohol does induce sleep, it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This means, late-night alcohol consumption can disrupt your sleep later on in the night and result in drowsiness and poor concentration the next day.

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets

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