Tag Archives | Health

Sad about the end of winter? It could be Seasonal Affective Disorder.

How do you feel when ski season ends? Are you ready to move on to spring and summer? Or are you bummed out that it’s over?

Consider me the latter. The end of winter finds me in a bit of a funk. It’s not that I don’t like warm weather. I do. But I’m always sad to see ski season end, and yeah, I’m a bit depressed until I get used to the idea and find other things to do (believe me, I have a huge list of things I put off during ski season). Then I’m pretty much okay.

For some people, however, the change of season makes them more than just sad. You’ve probably heard about seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which affects about 4- to 6-percent of the US population. SAD typically causes depression as the days get shorter and colder. But about 10% of people with SAD get it in reverse — the onset of summer triggers their depression symptoms. No, it’s not as common as winter SAD, but yes, it’s definitely something that happens.

According to an article in Psychology Today, while winter SAD is linked to a lack of sunlight, summer SAD may be due to the reverse — possibly too much sunlight, which also leads to modulations in melatonin production. Another theory is that people might stay up later in the summer, throwing their sensitive circadian rhythms for a loop. Or  it could be a reaction to higher heat and humidity, since traveling to a cooler locale sometimes brings relief. There’s even a theory that says summer SAD may involve sensitivity to pollen. One preliminary study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found summer SAD sufferers reported worse moods when the pollen count was high.

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Winter- and summer-related SAD have different symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of winter depression include loss of energy, oversleeping, and weight gain. Summer depression symptoms, however, can include anxiety, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, poor appetite, and weight loss. Summer SAD can also bring a feeling of isolation, too. Most everyone is having a good time; why aren’t you?

So what are you supposed to do?

• Seek medical attention: If it’s getting in the way of your normal life, this is your best course of action. Because who knows: if it’s not SAD, it could be something else. So talk to your doctor. Once you figure out exactly what’s going on, you can explore treatment options.

• Exercise. I can’t think of a single thing that exercise isn’t good for, and this is another case where getting yourself moving can help. Regular exercise can boost serotonin and endorphins, which make our brain feel good.

• Do something you enjoy every day.  Find something each day that will make you happy, even if it involves staying indoors.

Relax. Studies show that relaxation techniques can have a profound affect on your ability to overcome depression and anxiety. Try to incorporate meditation, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, or yoga into your daily routine.

• Plan for it. If you know you’re going to experience summer SAD, be ready in advance. Organize your summer ahead of time so you can feel more in control. It’ll make it much less stressful when your symptoms kick in.

And on that note, I leave you with this rock n’ roll classic:

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Skiing through adversity.

skisalone (1)

No one goes through life unscathed. And while we all associate skiing with fun times, we can’t escape bad ones just because we’re on the slopes. Real life is out there, and it can intrude on us, wherever we are.

Everyone handles adversity differently. Some of us stop skiing, either permanently or temporarily. Take me, for instance. My daughter had health issues when she was little, and I ended up not skiing for about 17 years. It was just too……complicated. Then again, I wasn’t as into it as I am now, so it wasn’t something I even thought about much.

There’s no right or wrong answer for what you should or shouldn’t do. But studies show that exercise — and that includes skiing — can have a key role in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. And spending a day outdoors as the snow drifts slowly down, standing on a mountaintop taking in the views — all can bring a feeling of peace that cannot be denied.

I asked a few Ski Divas about the role skiing played during difficult periods in their lives, and here’s what they had to say:

Ski Diva #1’s husband passed away at the same time she was battling breast cancer:
Skiing was a great help after my my husband, Michael, died by helping me clear my head. When you ski, you can’t focus on anything else. So I never stopped. I knew Michael wouldn’t have wanted me to. The first time I skied the women’s Olympic downhill run at Snowbasin was bittersweet. I told my coach that I wished Michael was there to see it. “He did,” he said. Since then, my coach and his wife have become dear and valued friends. They’ve walked me through the years after Michael’s death, helping me use skiing as a way to face my fears and accurately assess that I can do this.

I also battled breast cancer eight months before Michael died. We caught it very early on a routine mammogram. I had a lumpectomy and radiation, which wrapped up just before Christmas in 2011. That had no impact on my skiing. However, the follow-up medication, Tamoxifen, was a nightmare. When combined with my underlying polycystic ovary syndrome, it wreaked havoc on my health. Together they slowed my metabolism way down and initiated an accelerated menopause with its attendant issues. I also suffered nearly all the side effects of Tamoxifen, the worst being 24/7 joint pain. This made skiing much more difficult; between the joint pain and the weight gain, it’s been a real struggle. But this also kept my stubborn/determined streak going.

To me, skiing represents overcoming adversity, not only in my life, but in actually learning to ski. I’ve never been a particularly athletic person, so being able to ski, and do it well, is a constant reminder to me that I CAN. That reminder is essential to me.

Another thing: when I’m on the mountain — when I’m really in synch with its contours and the snow — there’s a feeling of being one with a force outside myself that is truly powerful. I get a sense of timelessness, that I’m one person on one day in the eternity of this mountain. And at least once each day I stop somewhere that reminds me of Michael, and I give thanks for his life and that he introduced me to this delightfully addictive sport.

Ski Diva #2 went through a divorce:
To be honest, after the divorce, all I wanted to do was ski. But I think anxiety and stress caused me to struggle. I had panic attacks like I’d never had before, on terrain I’d skied comfortably just the year prior. Skiing was helpful primarily because I also worked on the mountain so I met lots of new people, including the guy I’m dating now. So even though I was struggling, I was also rebuilding a network of friends who share my passion for skiing!

I think the overall picture of the past year or more was that I went from being on almost a manic high, to the lowest of lows, which I’m still struggling to come back from. It created a lot of fears that I didn’t have before –primarily financial — that affected my entire life, and still do. It’s been pure hell at times. Having been out of the job market for ten years, then trying to reestablish myself in a business can be daunting for anybody. I’ve also found a person who’s had the patience to bear with me while I muddle through and try to find security and happiness again. The fact that he’s a lifelong skier who loves to ski with me has definitely brought joy back to the sport for me!

Ski Diva #3 endured the death of a parent:
My Dad died during ski season. It was sudden and unexpected. He had a massive heart attack, and it blew a hole right through my world. He’d always been extremely healthy, and though I knew intellectually he wouldn’t last forever, it was still very unexpected. Dad was the one who started me skiing when I was a kid, and even though I suffered the typical teenage angst, we still managed to connect when we were on the slopes. I skied a few weeks after he passed, and I couldn’t help but picture him out there with me. Sure, it was difficult, particularly at first. Enjoying myself — being happy — almost seemed wrong. But I knew he’d want me to ski, and I had so many happy memories of skiing with him that it seemed to help. He was my biggest cheerleader, and even seven years later, when I have doubts about my abilities, I can hear him say ‘you can do it!’

Thank you, ladies, for sharing your stories.

Finding something that can get you through a bad time is a blessing, and if skiing can help, then I’m all for it.

I wish you all peace, strength, and hope.

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Nutrition Tips for Skiers: Eat Smart, Ski More

We all know that food can make a huge difference in the way you feel. Eat crap and you feel like, well, crap. So it stands to reason that this would carry over to skiing. We may own the best gear and hit the hottest slopes, but if we haven’t fueled up the right way before, during, and after skiing, we won’t be able to ski to our full potential. It’s as simple as that.

Diana Sugiuchi has given this a lot of thought. A Registered Dietician and member of TheSkiDiva.com community, Diana runs Vertical Drop Nutrition, where she provides nutritional counseling, both personally and virtually, to skiers of all levels. In her new book, Eat Smart, Ski More, she offers practical tips and recipes that can help improve your stamina, strength, and concentration while skiing. She answers some questions about it here:

Eat Smart Ski More-19SD: What motivated you to write this book?
DS: A few things. First, I love to ski. And second, personal experience. A few years ago, I had a ski day where I didn’t feel that great or focused. I’d eaten a small breakfast some time earlier, and I realized I’d probably run out of fuel. So I went into the lodge, had a bagel, and I felt loads better when I went back out. Now, I’m a dietitian who works with a lot of athletes, and I know the right things to eat at the right time, but I still neglected this for myself. So I was pretty sure that people who aren’t dietitians aren’t fueling up the right way to optimize stamina, strength, and mental focus on the slopes. The sports nutrition resources out there for skiers are for competitive athletes. This book is aimed for recreational skiers who want to get the most out of their ski day. Skiers spend a lot of money on lift tickets, the right gear, and so on, but something as simple as eating the right things at the right time can mean a few more hours on the slopes each day, fewer injuries, quicker muscle recovery, and just a better ski day.

SD: Are skiers nutritional needs different than other athletes? And if so, why?
DS: Skiing involves both cardiovascular and muscular endurance plus a lot of mental focus. Making sure you are eating the right mix of nutrients and timing meals and snacks is so important to make sure that none of these suffer. In the cold, skiers may not feel thirsty, but because of the cold, dry air, and especially at high altitude, hydration is so important and can be harder to keep up with than for other sports.

Diana Sugiuchi

Diana Sugiuchi

SD: The book has a lot of great info, but one of the things that surprised me the most was your mention of beet juice as a preventive for altitude sickness. Really? 
DS: Yeah, beet juice! It can be a little “challenging,” as we say in the nutrition world, but it really works and there have been multiple scientific studies that back this up. It also helps with endurance. Unfortunately, you need to drink about 16 ounces for it to be effective, which isn’t going to happen for many of us. And cooked beets don’t work; they have to be raw, which is what beet juice is made from. A better option is to go with one of the powdered options, plus it travels way more easily. My personal favorite, and I am not compensated by them in any way, is Beet Elite cherry flavored powder. You just mix it with water and drink it like a shot.

SD: Did you create all the recipes in the book? 
DS: I did create them. These are all recipes I’ve come up with over the years with my main job, Nourish Family Nutrition, for cooking demonstrations, cookbooks, and just for fun. My family and friends were the tasters. The breakfast smoothie is a family favorite and my teen daughter loves the tart cherry cocktail apres ski; I just make hers without vodka.

SD: Were there any clinkers?
DS: Oh, yes. The beef stew I made with purple potatoes was such a colossal failure the whole family talks about it every time I make beef stew! Purple potatoes look super cool, but never ever use them in a stew. The whole thing turned this very unappetizing blue color and no one would eat it, even though it did taste good.

SD: Which recipe is your favorite and why?
DS: My personal favorite is the Sweet Potato, Peanut & Kale Soup with Chicken & Black Eyed Peas. I seriously could eat this every day in the fall and winter because I love the combination of flavors and it’s a complete meal in a bowl. It freezes really well so you can make a bunch and then freeze for later. I have brought it in a thermos with me for lunch while I’m skiing.

SD: I notice the apres-ski staple, beer, isn’t included. What’s your opinion of alcohol apres ski?
DS: Nope, I didn’t include beer, but I did include a recipe for a tart cherry cocktail. But nothing at all against beer. I am all for alcohol apres ski, as anyone who has ever skied with me can attest. I don’t advise drinking for the first couple of days when adjusting to high altitude and of course, overdoing at any time can lead to a bad ski day the next day. A good rule of thumb is to have at least one glass of water for every drink you have.

SD: How can someone get a copy of your book?
DS: You can buy it directly from my website, eatsmartskimore.com, and it’s in several ski and book stores.


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How to be Fearless.


Dara Howell (Canadian) Gold Medalist - Women's Slopestyle Freestyle Skiing

Dara Howell (Canadian) Gold Medalist – Women’s Slopestyle Freestyle Skiing

If you’re like me, you have mixed feelings about fear. On the one hand, fear is a kind of self-preservative. It can keep you from doing something stupid, like jumping off a cliff or driving way too fast or dropping into Corbet’s Couloir when you’re not that great of a skier.

On the other hand, fear can also be a prison. It can keep you from things that could be fun or even life altering. Like skiing that extra steep slope or leaving that spirit-crushing job or dumping that boyfriend who’s no good for you, anyway.

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately, and how it can hold you back. Not long ago I heard someone on the radio say, “Everyone is scared.  It’s doing it anyway that takes courage.” And it really hit home.

Believe me, I’ve had my share of fear. I’m as guilty as anyone of looking at a ski slope that I know I can ski and saying, “Ahhhh, I think I’ll go another way.” This is something I’m working on. The head can be a powerful deterrent to all sorts of things.

All the same, I think I’ve done a number of things that some might consider fearless. My husband and I left well established jobs and struck out on our own, starting our own ad agency that kept us going for 19 years. And when his first book, FINN, came out in 2007, we closed this same agency, sold our home in suburban Philly and moved to Vermont,  a place we truly loved, even though we had no jobs, family, or friends there.

Yes, these were scary. But you know, they turned out fine. And it taught me a lesson: Sometimes you just have to hold your nose and jump in.  Because if you don’t, you’ll never end up doing anything new. And that can make for a pretty boring life.

Most our fears are unfounded, based on patterns of thought we’ve created or false beliefs or scenarios. But that doesn’t make them any less real. And even though fear is completely normal, it can also be debilitating. The trick is learning how to leave your comfort zone behind so you can achieve things you never imagined possible.

So how can you move beyond fear to become truly fearless? Here are a few tips:

Explore your fears’ origins. Fearless people realize that fear is not so much about what scares you but why it scares you. For example, do you fear skiing a particular run because you’re afraid you’ll fall, or because you’re afraid how you’ll appear to others? Did you get hurt doing something once, and fear being hurt again? (The latter is something I’m dealing with myself, in the wake of a recent bike accident.) Recognizing where your fear comes from is an important first step in figuring out how to deal with it.

Ask yourself: what’s the worst that can happen? Chances are it’s not that terrible. I heard somewhere that 80% of fears never happen, and I’m willing to bet there’s a some truth in that. Is fear making a difference in your life? Is it preventing you from achieving something you’ve always wanted to do? Is it keeping you in the same old rut? Sometimes you just have to hold your nose, take a deep breath,  and jump into the deep end to move forward.

Don’t try to be perfect: After all, no one is. If part of what’s holding you back is fear that you won’t be perfect, forget it. You’ll never get there. Instead, take a realistic view of your abilities and what the outcome may be. Allow yourself to make mistakes — after all, that’s when learning and growth really occurs.

Build your confidence: Fearless people don’t spend time worrying about the worst-case scenario — they prepare for it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In skiing, this could be as simple as taking a lesson or practicing, practicing, practicing something you’ve already learned.

Break your fear down into smaller chunks. Taking things in smaller steps can make overcoming your fear a lot more manageable.

Visualize yourself being fearless. Studies show that visualization can be particularly effective in reducing fear and anxiety. According to research, visualization helps create a new neural pathway that primes your body to act in a way that’s consistent with what you’ve imagined. Even though this occurs without your actually performing the physical act, it provides a similar result. So if you visualize yourself doing something without fear, it can help you perform without fear, in real life.




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On your knees.

Since my bike accident last month, I’ve been thinking a lot about knees. My right knee suffered quite a hit: a gaping laceration that measured 6 inches across and perhaps 3 inches from top to bottom. Luckily, only a small part of my patellar ligament was damaged. It’s still pretty stiff, and my range of motion is somewhat limited. The good news is that there’s quite a bit of time before ski season, and I should be fine by then.

All the same, it’s given me a new appreciation for knee injuries. Up until now, I’ve been pretty injury-free. But it seems that a number of women on TheSkiDiva.com haven’t been that lucky, particularly with regard to their ACL’s. The ACL, or Anterior Cruciate Ligament, is one of the four major ligaments in the knee. It controls how far forward the tibia moves under the femur. (The tibia is the larger bone beneath your knee; the femur is your thigh bone). And it’s the first ligament that tightens when the knee is straightened. If the knee is forced past this point, that’s when trouble begins.

Knee joint anatomy

Knee joint anatomy

According to my research, female athletes are nearly three times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than men — a huge difference.

Which leads to the following question:


Oddly enough, no one seems to know exactly, though there are a number of theories. I’m no doctor or medical authority, but they seem to boil down to the following:

• Reduced muscle strength: Women have less muscle strength than men, so they rely more on the ACL to hold the knee in place. This can make the ligament more prone to rupture.

• Knee alignment: The Q angle, or the angle in which the quadriceps meet the femur, is greater in women than it is in men. Because of this, any twisting action can exert greater force on the ACL than it does in men. This, again, can cause it to rupture.

• Hormones: Yes, yet another thing we can chalk up to these buggers. On the up side, hormones can give women’s ligaments and joints greater flexibility. On the down side, if the other ligaments and muscles around the knee are so loose that they can’t absorb stress, then even normal loads or forces may be transferred directly to the ACL. And this can make it, yes, prone to rupture. Some studies even show that the knee can become even looser than normal at specific points within the menstrual cycle, making ACL ruptures even more common.

• Delayed response: It’s also been determined that women’s muscles that stablize the knee may take a millisecond longer to respond than men’s, and that this small difference could lead to an injury.

So what’s to be done? Is there anything, apart from not skiing (heaven forbid), that you can do to keep your ACL injury-free?

The good news is yes. Studies show that improving muscular power and strength can help. These are two different things. Strength refers to the amount of force that can be applied to a muscle, and power to the combined factors of speed and strength. Weights and resistance training are good for the former, and plyometric exercises for the latter. Plyometrics are designed to produce fast, explosive movements in which the muscle is loaded and unloaded in rapid sequence.

My advice: if you want to begin any kind of program to help your ACL, consult a good physical trainer. Start your training well in advance, and your knees will thank you next season.

I hope I haven’t jinxed myself by posting this. I’m a little superstitious, and I wouldn’t want to attract the evil eye. All the same, and not being one to take chances, I hope you don’t mind if I include the following picture. Maybe it’ll help.


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10 Ways to Avoid Getting Sick When You Travel.

sickSo who has travel plans this summer? You? And you, too? I’m not surprised. Ski Divas aren’t the sort to sit around and veg on the couch. We want to take trips and have adventures, even if they don’t involve skiing. And we don’t want anything to get in the way of our fun.

Nonetheless, sometimes our bodies remind us who’s really in charge. I remember being on a plane from Steamboat with a guy hacking and coughing in the row behind me. Sure enough, a couple days later I came down with a miserable cold.

This isn’t uncommon. The Wall Street Journal cited a study that found you have a 20% increased risk of catching a cold on a plane. Another study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research found that colds may be more than 100 times more likely to be transmitted on a plane than in normal life on the ground.

But it’s not just colds that are the problem. I’m sure you’ve all heard about those awful outbreaks of GI infections on cruise ships, where hundreds of passengers are stricken with vomiting and diarrhea. Not a vacation highlight, I’m sure.

You don’t have to trust to luck to stay healthy. There are a few things you can do to minimize your chances of falling ill:

Boost your immune system.  The best way to stay healthy starts way before your trip begins, with a good immune system. According to Consumer Reports, there are more than 1,000 products on the market that claim to fend off disease. But honestly, the best way to improve your immunity is very simple: maintain a healthy lifestyle. Get enough sleep. Eat healthy. Take vitamins. Exercise. Don’t smoke. Reduce stress. Maintain a healthy weight. Control your blood pressure. And if you drink alcohol, drink it in moderation. Good advice, even if you’re just staying home.

Wash your hands. A lot. This seems so basic that it shouldn’t even need to be said. But yet it does. I don’t want to sound like a germaphobe, but according to the Mayo Clinic, cold and flu germ-laden droplets may remain infectious for several hours, depending on where they land. And some viruses can live on surfaces for as long as seven days. In any event, why take chances; just wash your hands, particularly before you eat. According to the CDC, proper hand washing requires at least 20 minutes of scrubbing. And according to a recent study published in Time magazine, it makes no difference whether the water is hot or cold.

Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated helps maintain the mucus in your throat and nasal cavity, which provides a good barrier against germs. That said, be careful of the water you do drink. No doubt you’ve heard about people getting sick from drinking tap water while overseas. This isn’t necessarily because the water is contaminated. It could just be that it has local  bacteria that your body isn’t used to. So if you’re traveling abroad, you might want to drink bottled water or invest in a water filter.

Carry wet wipes. Hand sanitizer, too. I do. I use them to wipe down my seat tray and arm rests on the plane, as well as the TV remote in a hotel room, the faucet, and pretty much anything else I can think of.

Eat healthy. Sure, vacation is a time to indulge a little and try something new. This is fine. But remember, all things in moderation. And consider the source. If no one is eating at a particular restaurant, there may be a reason. When in doubt, eat food that’s either boiled or peeled. Germs will be killed off pretty much universally by boiling, and can’t get into food that has a peelable skin. Some people recommend taking probiotics for a few weeks before vacation, the idea being that populating your gut with healthy bacteria or yeasts can help fight disease-causing organisms.

Make sure you’re up on your vaccines. Depending on where you go, you may need special shots. Visit the CDC Travel Health site for details on the vaccines you’ll need for various parts of the world, as well as other important information to stay healthy while you travel. It also doesn’t hurt to make sure your tetanus shot is up to date.

Don’t forget your meds.  Be sure to bring along any prescribed medications you need. And it wouldn’t hurt to throw in some  Tylenol, Advil, and Immodium, too. It’s not a bad idea to bring along some motion sickness pills, either, if you’re planning on a cruise.

Use insect repellent.  Mosquitos can spread all sorts of diseases (according to Wikipedia, these include  malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever, filariasis, Japanese encephalitis, Saint Louis encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis and Zika fever. Phew!). Then, of course, there are tick-transmitted diseases, like Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These little bugs can cause a lot of trouble. So bring along some insect repellent and be sure to use it.

If you’re going abroad, make sure you have medical coverage. If not, buy some. But before you do, check with your medical insurer to see if you’re covered by your existing health plan. Even if your health plan does cover you internationally, you may want to consider buying a special medical travel policy.

Going up? Acclimate.  If you’re taking a trip that involves any significant increase in altitude, give yourself some time to adjust at lower elevations first. It doesn’t matter if this is your first or tenth trip over 8,000 feet; altitude sickness can strike at any time. The human body actually takes weeks to acclimate to high elevations, but since you probably don’t have that much vacation time, give yourself between 48 and 72 hours to adapt. It also helps to avoid tobacco and alcohol and drink lots and lots of water. If you start to show symptoms of moderate altitude illness, don’t go higher until your symptoms diminish.


Stay safe, stay healthy, and have fun, Ski Divas!


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Why you need a vacation.


Incredible as it sounds, I’m already planning my ski trips for the coming season. I know, there are months between now and then, but I’m still excited. I have a lot of cool stuff coming up, and it’s looking like a great winter.

Seems like I may be unusual. New research suggests that 56 percent of Americans haven’t taken a vacation in the past 12 months. That’s 10 million more people than the year before. In fact, the US is the only advanced nation that doesn’t mandate time off. By law, European countries get at least 20 days of paid vacation per year; some receive as many as 30. Australia and New Zealand each require employers to give at least 20 vacation days per year, and Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off. What’s more, Americans are taking the least amount of vacation in nearly four decades. And some 25 percent of Americans and 31 percent of low-wage earners get no vacation at all, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Pretty crazy, don’t you think?

People don’t take vacations for all sorts of reasons. Some are afraid of falling behind at work. Some fear losing their jobs. And some risk losing income when they’re not working.

This is really a shame. Vacations are important. All of us need a chance to recharge the batteries; to blast out the cobwebs; to remind ourselves of what it means to be human again. And apart from the shower or bed in the middle of the night, some of my best ideas come to me on the ski slope, which is no where near my desk.

There are plenty of health reasons to take vacations, as well: In a study of 13,000 middle-aged men at risk for heart disease, those who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were found to be 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least one week off each year. Vacation deprivation may be equally hazardous for women. In the Framingham Heart Study, the largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease, researchers found that women who took a vacation once every six years or less were nearly eight times as likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year.

Other upsides to downtime, according to Healthnet.com, include the following:

  • Decreased depression – A study conducted by Marshfield Clinic of 1,500 women in rural Wisconsin determined that those who vacationed less often than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression and increased stress than women who took vacations at least twice a year. Similarly, the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind Body Center surveyed some 1,400 individuals and found that leisure activities – including taking vacations – contributed to higher positive emotional levels and less depression. The benefits of vacationing also extended to lower blood pressure and smaller waistlines.
  • Less stress – A study released last year by the American Psychological Association concluded that vacations work to reduce stress by removing people from activities and environments that tend to be sources of stress. Similarly, a Canadian study of nearly 900 lawyers found that taking vacations helped alleviate job stress.
  • Improved productivity – The professional services firm Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees and found that, for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent, and frequent vacationers also were significantly less likely to leave the firm. Additionally, research by the Boston Consulting Group found that high-level professionals who were required to take time off were significantly more productive overall than those who spent more time working.

So what does all this mean? Maybe you should put vacation right up there with eating healthy, exercise, and getting enough sleep. Tell your boss it’s good for you.

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Mosquitoes driving you buggy? Me, too.

photo from WebMD.com

photo from WebMD.com

A big advantage of taking up a winter sport is that you don’t have to worry about bugs. To me, this is a real plus. I’m the sort of person who mosquitoes find irresistable (and yes, there’s a scientific basis for this. More on that shortly).

RonZalmeCartoonIt turns out that I’m not the only one. Mosquitoes seem to be causing problems for a lot of people this summer. Take the athletes for the 2016 summer games in Rio. A number have already stated they won’t go because of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Even Lindsey Vonn, who planned to attend as a spectator, is taking a pass.

Zika isn’t the only disease we can get from mosquitoes. There’s malaria, dengue, chikungunya, West Nile, and encephalitis.  According to the World Health Organization, mosquito bites result in more than a million deaths each year. Most of these are caused by malaria. That said, there are more than 2,500 species of mosquito, and different mosquitos spread different things. The Zika virus, for example, is transmitted by an infected mosquito from the the aedes genus.

Here in the US, malaria isn’t a huge problem. Although we still get a few hundred malaria cases per year, most are in travelers returning from a malaria-ridden country. Instead, you’re more likely to suffer from an itchy welt  — annoying, but certainly not dangerous. Unfortunately, if you want to engage in outdoor activities during the summer — as many Ski Divas do — mosquitoes are something you just have to deal with. So what’s to be done? Is there any way to keep from being eaten alive?

As I said before, I seem to get bitten more than my fair share. And I’m not imagining it, either. Scientists have determined that some people are more prone to mosquito bites than others.  One study found that in a controlled setting, mosquitoes landed on people with Type O blood nearly twice as often as those with Type A. (My husband is a Type A, I’m Type O). Another reason can be the bacteria on your skin. To a mosquito, certain combinations of bacteria smell particularly enticing. And there’s also exercise. An increase in body temperature attracts them, too, as does the carbon dioxide we exhale and the lactic acid we produce. And yes, they’re also more attracted to beer drinkers and pregnant women.

Is there any way to keep mosquitos from biting?

Well, yes, there is. Obviously, one way is to cover up as best as you can, and use an insect repellent that contains DEET.  DEET worries me, though. While it’s not a carcinogen, long-term exposure may cause moodiness, insomnia, and impaired cognitive function. Studies have also shown that after high concentrations of continued exposure, DEET can cause hypertrophy of the liver and kidneys as well as stimulation of the central nervous system which can cause tremors and seizures. DEET products also have the potential to damage the water supply. DEET can not only harm aquatic life-forms, but it can also enter the drinking supply as runoff if farmers mishandle the product.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to stay bite free that don’t involve DEET:

• Avoid fragrances and scented soaps and body washes.

• Avoid food that contains high levels of salt and potassium. This will reduce the amount of lactic acid that your body produces, thereby decreasing the likelihood that your scent will attract insects.

• Use natural oils, such as lemon oil, citronella, cinnamon, castor, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, clove, geranium and peppermint oils. These are natural, effective ways mosquito repellents and are not threatening to the environment.

• Wear light colors. Dark colors stand out to mosquitoes who are looking for food, but light colors appear less attractive, since they look for colors that contrast with the horizon line.

• Use a fan. A light wind makes it harder for mosquitoes to fly. Direct the air flow downward since these pests fly low to the ground as they try to avoid the wind.

• Pray for winter. Mosquitoes hibernate. They are cold-blooded and prefer temperatures over 80°F. At temperatures less than 50°F, they shut down for the winter. The adult females of some species find holes where they wait for warmer weather, while others lay their eggs in freezing water and die. So yet another reason to dream of ski season.






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Do I mind? Yes, I do. A look at mindfulness.

meditation-courses1Like a lot of Ski Divas, I do my best to stay in shape. I get out on my bike a few times a week, and I spend a fair amount of time in the gym, doing cardio and lifting weights. And though it’s not always easy, I try to eat right, too.

But while the physical stuff is important, there’s more to staying healthy than just nutrition and exercise. Call it spiritual well being, call it mental health, but I think being truly healthy requires a balance between both mind and body. Anyone who’s been depressed  or anxious can attest to this. If you’re unhappy, if you’re stressed, you can end up feeling pretty crappy. There are all sorts of scientific studies that back this up; I’m sure you can find them if you search the web.

So this past January, I thought I’d give meditation a try. Like a lot of people, I’d heard a lot about something called mindfulness — how it helps with everything from depression and anxiety to lack of focus and sleeplessness. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure I’d be a good fit. All I’d heard about meditation was that you were required to empty your mind, and to me, that seemed like an impossible task. I’m the sort of person who when someone says, ‘Don’t think about an elephant,’ well, that’s all I’ll think about. On the other hand, committing to meditation seemed pretty low risk. I’t’s not like I had to ingest any special pills or foods or train to run a marathon. I didn’t think I had anything to lose. Besides, how could it hurt?

So what exactly is mindfulness, and what does it involve? Basically, mindfulness means paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without making any judgements. The idea is to focus your awareness on the moment while accepting and acknowledging your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings as if from a distance, without judging them to be either good or bad. Instead of letting life pass you by, you live in the moment. According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness offers a whole host of benefits: everything from stress reduction to improved focus and less emotional reactivity. You can read more about them here. Take a look; it doesn’t sound bad.

So did I light incense, sit in the lotus position, and chant a mantra like Ommmmmm? Did I travel to an ashram in Nepal, seeking a guru who could provide me with extra special guidance?


This is a new world. I did what any self-respecting individual does these days: I downloaded an app, or in my case, Headspace.com.

Headspace has a pretty good gimmick: it offers 10 free sessions to get you started, after which you pay by the month. For me, paying works; it gives me the incentive I need to stay committed. Once you subscribe, there are a  number of series that address a variety of topics like depression, anxiety, focus, creativity, and more. You can choose the length of time you want your sessions to last; mine are 15 minutes. Throughout, you’re guided by British mindfulness expert (and former Buddhist monk) Andy Puddicombe. Andy has a genial way and a calm, friendly voice that makes him easy to listen to. He also provides a lot of tips and advice not only on meditating, but on how to apply what you’ve learned throughout the day. I haven’t completed all the series but I have found some repetition, from one to another — which really doesn’t bother me. As they say, practice makes perfect.

For those who are particularly goal oriented, there’s also a way to track your mediation stats. For example, Headspace tells me I’ve completed 254 sessions for a total of 58 hours of mediation time, with an average duration of 14 minutes. This seems kind of OCD for something that’s supposed to be pretty laid back, but that’s okay. It’s interesting to see how the time adds up.

So what do you think, Ski Diva?
Has it helped? I think so. I don’t suffer from depression and I’m not particularly stressed, so I can’t speak to that. But I actually enjoy the quiet space it creates for me each day. And I think it helps me be a bit calmer and provides me with the tools I need to see things a bit differently, too. I also think it’s made me a bit more patient, which is a huge plus for me, and I think I’m a better listener, too.

I’m hoping the benefits will transfer over to skiing. I do suffer a fair amount of height anxiety and yeah, sometimes I get a little scared, when I really shouldn’t. So stay tuned; I’ll keep you posted,.


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It’s your week to get healthy, Divas!


Let me be the first to wish you a very happy National Women’s Health Week!

What? You’ve never heard of it?

I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

Well, maybe not. Don’t let my feigned indignation fool you. I mean, it’s not like it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, or even President’s Day. I’m not surprised I caught you unaware.

But maybe that’s a mistake. After all, we should all know — and celebrate — a week that’s devoted especially to women’s health. As women, we have a tendency to put everyone else first. We take care of our kids, our spouses, our pets, our parents, our homes, often neglecting our own needs in the process. And that’s the problem. If we’re not healthy and happy, we can’t do anything particularly well (and this includes skiing).  It’s all a matter of balance. By putting ourselves first, we actually give ourselves the ability and strength to take care of others better and do the things we want to do. It’s not being selfish. It’s being smart.

Which brings us to National Women’s Health Week.  The week was developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health to promote women’s health and its importance, and to  empower women to make their own health a priority. It also encourages women to take the following steps to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases:

  • Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings. There’s a terrific interactive screening menu on the National Women’s Health Week website. You can use it to figure out which screenings you need and when you them.  For someone like me, who can find all this very confusing, it’s defintely worth checking out.
  • Get active. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 20 percent of adults in the U.S. are meeting both the aerobic and muscle strengthening components of the federal government’s physical activity recommendations. So how much exercise is enough? I did a blog post about this once. You can check it out here.
  • Eat healthy. This is a key component not just in keeping  your weight under control, but in preventing disease, keeping your energy up, and making you feel all around better. You know the drill: reduce your fat, sugar, and processed foods, eat more veggies, fruit, and whole grains.
  • Pay attention to mental health,  including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
  • Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle or ski helmet, and texting while driving. This includes skiing safely, too. Watch out for skiers around you. Look uphill before you start. Ski in control. And if you ski in the backcountry, take the necessary precautions and get avalanche training.

So do yourself a favor. Take some time this week to think about what you can do to improve your health and well being. And instead of setting it aside for later, take action now.

And have a good week.

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