Eliminating Violence Against Women

Eliminating Violence Against Women

It Takes All of Us

November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  

As a health and fitness blog, our usual focus is on physical health, giving you the resources to feed your body in healthy ways and engage in heart and brain-healthy work outs. To a lesser but equally important extent, we also break into mental, social, and emotional health. 

Today we touch each of these elements of total wellbeing by talking about what happens when women are exposed to violence. Not only is it a matter of physical safety, but a matter of psychological, emotional, and social welfare.  

Observing this day affords us the opportunity to recognize a problem that affects an alarming number of women worldwide, and to express our solidarity with all victims of violence. 

How Real Is The Issue?

  1. According to a National Crime Victimization Survey, approximately 500 women in the U.S. were raped every day in 2008.1 That’s 182,500 women over the course of the year.


  2. In 2016, there were 1,809 women in the U.S. who were murdered in single victim/single offender incidents reported to the FBI and 85% of them were, or had been, romantically linked to their killer.


  3. According to a Global report, 51% of all detected trafficking victims are women and 20% are young girls.3


  4. Worldwide, around 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced forced sex in their lifetime.4 Based on data from 30 countries, only 1% of adolescent girls who have experienced forced sex reached out for professional help.4


  5. Child marriage still exists. Approximately 650 million girls and women alive today were married before their 18th birthday.5  

Violence Against Women Affects Everyone

Child peeking from the stairs

Consider that women who experience violence may need medical care and/or mental health services. Now consider that they may have children who witnessed or were affected in other ways by this violence who are now also in need of care to address trauma, behavior issues, and other potential concerns. This builds a harmful cycle of violence and trauma that can continue for generations.  

In addition to perpetuating this cycle, violence against women is significant enough to have an impact on systems like healthcare and social services. 

Looking strictly at the economic side of things, the impact on health and social services amounted to over $8.3 billion as a result of domestic violence in 2003.6 

What are Some Signs Your Situation is Not Normal?

Worried woman

To help focus our discussion, we will narrow our attention down to domestic violence. It is not strictly violence within an intimate relationship but can also refer to violence within families.  

Additionally, because it is not just women who are on the receiving end of domestic violence, we would like to offer information than can benefit everyone by looking into the signs and symptoms of a potentially toxic relationship.

According to PsychCentral, these are some of the potential indicators of psychological abuse within a relationship: 

  1. Gaslighting: False information is presented to you with the intention of making you doubt your own memory, perception, or sanity. 
    • Example: Complete denial from the abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred 
  2. Following abusive behaviors with apologies, gifts, and seemingly loving behaviors, only to repeat the abusive behaviors later on. 
  3. Making you believe that everything (even their anger or poor behavior) is your fault 
  4. Constant put-downs and excessive criticism 
  5. Refusing to communicate 
  6. Mean jokes or constantly making fun of you 
  7. Saying “I love you but…”
    • This statement indicates, “I love you now, but if you don’t stop this or that, my love will be taken away.” It is both a criticism and a threat that slowly strips away your self-esteem. 
  8. Saying things like “If you don’t _____, I will_____.” 
  9. Domination and control, especially using money or fear to impose that control 
  10. Withdrawal of affection 
  11. Guilt trips 
  12. Isolating you from friends and family 
  13. Constant calling or texting when you are not with him/her 
  14. Threatening to commit suicide if you leave 

Accessible Resources

If you, or someone you know, needs help, you can browse through resources by state, here. 

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers more diverse resources, including information about the National Domestic Violence Hotline the National Dating Abuse Hotline, the National Sexual Assault Hotline, and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, to name just a few. 

Other Ways to Help

Man supporting crying woman

Don’t blame the victim, even if they flat out say “It was all my fault.” Remember that signs of abuse often include feelings of guilt or responsibility for the situation. Instead, make sure they know it’s not their fault. 

Be a safe space for them. Leave your judgement at the door and simply listen 

Offer to call a helpline with them. 

Create a safety plan. A safety plan can consist of a meeting place, agreeing on a safe word, a specific number of phone calls to alert you that something is wrong, and more.

For more thought provoking posts, look for topics like our article on Mental Health Stigma or, help calm anxiety and ease stress by reading our 5-Minute Guided Relaxation post. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today. 


  1. “Violence Against Women Is A U.S. Problem, Too.” Amnesty International USA, 11 June 2011, www.amnestyusa.org/violence-against-women-is-a-u-s-problem-too/. 
  2. “When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2016 Homicide Data.” Www.vpc.org, Violence Policy Center, 2018, vpc.org/studies/wmmw2018.pdf. 
  3. “Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016.” Unodc.org, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2016, www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/2016_Global_Report_on_Trafficking_in_Persons.pdf. 
  4. “A Familiar Face: Violence in the Lives of Children and Adolescents.” UNICEF DATA, UNICEF, 17 Jan. 2019, data.unicef.org/resources/a-familiar-face/. 
  5. “Child Marriage: Latest Trends and Future Prospects.” UNICEF DATA, 12 Jan. 2019, https://data.unicef.org/resources/child-marriage-latest-trends-and-future-prospects/ 
  6. “Violence Against Women in the United States: Statistics.” National Organization for Women, 2019, now.org/resource/violence-against-women-in-the-united-states-statistic/#endref14. 

Dry Weather and Eye Health

Dry Weather and Eye Health

There are a lot of reasons for dry eyes at this time of year. Dry outside air, your heater at home or in your car, the dry circulated air in nearly every public building, and windy days kicking irritants into your eyes. Add to that the dry air of airplanes, trains, and other modes of transportation for your holiday travels, and your eyes will be screaming for moisture.  

Our eyes are irreplaceable, so we should care for and protect them as best as we can. The same way you’d use lotion on your skin, conditioner on your hair, and Chapstick on your lips, you should give the same attention to the health of your eyes. 

Here are some ways you can help care for your vision: 

01. Adjust and Limit Screen Use

Have you ever noticed that we tend to blink less when watching T.V, when using a computer, and when using our phones? Blinking helps our eyes distribute their natural moisture. The less we blink, the dryer our eyes will feel.  

The remedy we’ve heard that is our least favorite, is the suggestion to remind yourself to blink more. It feels so unnatural to consciously blink and it’s not likely to be the most effective solution if you can’t remember to do it.  

A more reasonable option would be to instill one or two eye drops into your eyes on television commercial breaks, to wear blue light glasses to filter the emissions from your phone or computer screen, or to place a protective screen on your device that blocks harmful light from getting to your eyes. 

You can also simply take more breaks from screen-time to limit the amount of eye strain and dryness you feel.  

02. If Possible, Limit Antihistamines

While they combat allergy symptoms, they can actually cause additional dryness to your eyes. They work by blocking your body’s response to allergens. Unfortunately, a typical response to allergens is watery eyes, so antihistamines can cause more discomfort if you tend to suffer from eye dryness. 

Other Medications Cause Dry Eyes 

According to an article by WebMD, other medications, that you may not be able to limit, can also cause dry eyes. Some of these include: 

  • Antidepressants 
  • Parkinson’s Medications 
  • Sleeping Pills 
  • Acne Medication 
  • Birth Control Pills and Other Hormones 
  • Blood Pressure Medications 
  • Nasal Decongestants 
  • Common NSAIDs, like Ibuprofen 

03. Do Eye Exercises

How often do we use the full range of motion our eyes are capable of? Probably not as often as we should. You can increase your exposure to bad puns and dad jokes to get some eye rolling in, or you can do some intentional eye exercises.  

Eye exercises can help comfort your eyes when they have been focused on a single object (like a computer) for a long time. Here are just a few simple ones that you can commit to memory for later use: 

Exercise 1: Pick out the farthest object in the room (or out the window) that you can see. Focus on it briefly, then move your eyes to something about half as far away. Focus on that for a few seconds before you shift your focus to something close to you. Do this exercise a few times. 

Exercise 2: Use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes of eye-straining work should be paused for 20 seconds so you can look at something 20 feet away.  

Exercise 3: Without turning your head, use only yours eyes to look to your far left, then look to your far right. Then look all the way up and then all the way down. Repeat this a few times. Follow this with rolling your eyes 3 times to the left then 3 times to right.  

Some free smartphone apps can send you notifications after a certain amount of phone use, or according to a timer if you want to monitor your computer or television time. This will help remind you that it’s time to rest your eyes and do some exercises. Some will even walk you through various eye muscle movements. 

04. Turn Off Your Heater & Bundle Up

Running the heater creates a toasty and comfortable space in these cooler months, but it can wreak havoc on your hair, skin, hydration, and of course your eyes! Save your body and save on your electric bill by bundling up in blankets or warmer clothes instead of running the heater. 

Another option is to run the heater before going to bed to warm up your space, and then turning it off so it doesn’t run all night. 

If it’s just too cold to do without your heater, or perhaps you’re a “fan” of running the fan year-round, consider investing in a humidifier. You can also wear an eye mask to bed to help keep air flow from making direct contact with your eyes and drying them out during the night. 

05. Keep Eye Drops Handy

Artificial tears or lubricating eye drops are a life saver for people with dry eyes. You can choose between the individually packaged vials that are usually preservative-free and disposable, or you can buy small bottles for extended use. There are also gel-like drops that can provide longer-lasting relief, but because they’re thicker, they may blur your vision temporarily. It may be preferable to reserve these for nighttime before you go to sleep.  

Pro Tip: Try refrigerating your eye drops for an extra refreshing burst of relief.  

06. Eat a Balanced Diet

Nutrients in your food can help give your eyes what they need to create tears and keep your eyes feeling fresh.  

Vitamin A, which is known for being good for your eyes, can be found in carrots, eggs, and dairy.  

Vitamin C is great for the blood vessels in your eyes.1 Increase your intake by eating oranges, kale, lemons, and broccoli.2  

Omega-3’s are fatty acids that aid in your visual development and support your retina health. They also combat dry eyes.1 Find Omega-3’s in fish, avocado, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.3 

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help protect your eyes by fighting off free radicals. You can find Vitamin E in almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and peanuts.1 

07. Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes

It can be tempting to rub your eyes when they feel itchy and dry, but the best thing you can do is to avoid doing exactly that. Try to find relief in some of these other ways and keep hydrated to give your body the moisture it needs from the inside out. 

For information on how to care for your eyes and your sinuses this season, read our article on How to Manage Autumn Allergens at Home. To learn more about the nutrients in your produce and whether freezing them strips their nutritional value, listen to our Podcast on Fruits and Veggies. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 


  1. Silver, Natalie. “7 Best Foods for Healthy Eyes.” Healthline, 9 Feb. 2017, 7 Best Foods for Healthy Eyes. 
  2. Hill, Caroline. “20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin C.” Healthline, 8 June 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-c-foods#section1. 
  3. Hjalmarsdottir, Freydis. “12 Foods That Are Very High in Omega-3.” Healthline, 30 Sept. 2019, www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-omega-3-rich-foods#1. 

Coping with GERD and Its Symptoms

Coping with GERD and Its Symptoms

Statistics show that “more than 60 million American adults experience heartburn at least once a month, and more than 15 million adults suffer daily from heartburn.”1  

This month is GERD awareness month, and while it isn’t a fancy name for heartburn, heartburn is a major symptom of this disease. We’d like to explain what it is and share some ways to help treat and prevent its symptoms.

What is GERD?

Fresh mint leaves
Cup of coffee

GERD, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, is a digestive disorder that causes the contents of your stomach to move back into your esophagus.1

If you are familiar with acid reflux, another way to understand GERD is that it is a more severe and recurring form of acid reflux.  

The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn. With acid reflux, the heartburn may be brought on by certain foods or beverages. With GERD, the triggers are similar, but you may experience heartburn 2 or more times a week!2  

Some GERD triggers include: 

  • Chocolate 
  • Peppermint
  • Fried or fatty foods (this includes cheese and avocado) 
  • Coffee 
  • Alcoholic beverages 
  • Citrus fruits and juices 
  • Tomato products 
  • Peppers 

According to the Mayo clinic, additional symptoms, aside from heartburn, include “regurgitation of food or sour liquid [vomiting], difficulty swallowing, coughing, wheezing, and chest pain — especially while lying down at night.”2 

Red peppers

Who Can Get It?

Anyone can develop GERD or experience varying degrees of its symptoms. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains that you are more likely to experience GERD if: 

  • You are overweight, obese, or pregnant: This is because the extra pressure on your abdomen can cause the muscle that separates your esophagus from your stomach to relax or weaken. 
  • You take certain medications like: 
    • Asthma medication 
    • Calcium channel blockers 
    • Antihistamines 
    • Painkillers 
    • Sedatives 
    • Antidepressants 
  • You are a smoker, or you are exposed to secondhand smoke

Natural Remedies

Glass of Water with spoon of baking soda
Girl blowing bubble gum balloon

The Fisher-Titus Healthy Living Team, of the Fisher-Titus Medical Center, composed this list of 7 natural home remedies for GERD. You can view the full details about each remedy on their website here 

  1. Baking Soda: 1 tsp with 8 ounces of water to neutralize stomach acid 
  2. Chewing Gum: Chew sugar-free gum 30 minutes after eating 
  3. Don’t Lie Down After Eating: Eat 3-4 hours before you lie down 
  4. Eat Low or No-Acid Fruits: Fully ripened Bananas, Apples, Honeydew, Cantaloupe, and Watermelon 
  5. Ginger Tea: Consume before meals to prevent symptoms 
  6. Mustard: 1 tablespoon of mustard to ease symptoms 
  7. Chamomile Tea: 1 cup 30 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime 
Assortment of Low Acid Fruits
Cup of Chamomile Tea

Lifestyle Changes Can Help 

In addition to avoiding certain foods and beverages, lifestyle changes can help you mitigate the symptoms and avoid flareups.  

The Mayo Clinic suggests that affected individuals try: 

  • Losing excess weight 
  • Eating smaller meals 
  • Raising the head of the bed 
  • Avoiding tobacco 
  • Not wearing tight fitting clothes around the abdomen 

 Is There a Treatment for GERD? 

Many doctors will prescribe nutrition and lifestyle changes to treat GERD and that’s oftentimes enough for milder cases. Over-the-counter antacids are also commonly recommended.  

For more severe cases, doctors may go a step further and recommend prescription medications to help manage symptoms, order an endoscopy to look for irritation or inflammation in the esophageal tissue, or they may order an upper gastrointestinal x-ray to rule out other potential conditions.1  

If you have any concerns about your gastroesophageal health, talk to your doctor to get personalized information and the most accurate course of action for your unique situation.  

For our registered dietitian’s insights on spicy foods and what they do to your insides, check out her answer to this reader’s question on Hot Peppers! Or, take a look at her answer to this question on Inflammatory Foods and their effects on your GI tract. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 


  1. “GERD: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Remedies for Relief.” Edited by Minesh Khatri MD, WebMD, 2019, www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/reflux-disease-gerd-1#1.


  2. Kashyap, Purna. “Acid Reflux and GERD: The Same Thing?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 31 July 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/expert-answers/heartburn-gerd/faq-20057894. 

Daylight Saving 2019: The Impact on Your Circadian Rhythm

Daylight Saving 2019: The Impact on Your Circadian Rhythm

Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, November 3rd. The clock will turn back 1 hour and, theoretically, you should be gaining an hour of sleep. However, many people end up struggling more as a result of this time change. 

The body’s circadian rhythm is the regulator of many important biological processes. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) explains it as a “24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and [that] cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.”1 It functions best when your sleep and wake habits are kept consistent.1 

Generally, this rhythm is what causes sleepiness in the evening as natural light decreases and alertness in the morning when there is plenty of light. Depending on your habits and your environment, you may be accustomed to waking or sleeping in very different light conditions. This is why flights into different time zones, daylight savings adjustments, and latenight events can wreak havoc on your system, your focus, and your memory. Your body must work to alter its entire biological routine. 

Another common problem that crops up around the same time as Daylight Savings, is Seasonal Depression.

Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, this is a type of depression that begins and ends around the same time every year, usually in the darker and cloudier fall and winter months. This is partly due to reduced sunlight. Less light affects your circadian rhythm, your serotonin levels (which affect your mood) and your melatonin levels (which affect your sleep patterns).2 

If you’re not sure whether this is something you are experiencing, you can read through the symptoms on the Mayo Clinic website. A more complete and accurate picture, however, should be sought from a professional with the skills to officially diagnose this disorder. 

How To Adjust Your Sleep Habits for a More Restful Night 

Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol in the Late Afternoon and Evening 

We are all very well-aware of the effects of caffeine on our ability to sleep. The effects of alcohol on sleep, however, are perhaps not as known.  

For a long time, the concept of an alcoholic “nightcap” before bed was popular and promoted as a way to improve your ability to sleep. In an article on alcohol and its relationship to sleep, a quote by researcher Irshaad Ebrahim explains why this is not the case.  

Ebrahim states that, while alcohol may help induce sleep, it disrupts the second half of our sleep cycle, particularly the quality of REM sleep.3 

REM sleep is important for the storage of memories, for learning, and for balancing our mood.4 A later comment by sleep Specialist Dr. Michael Breus explains that using alcohol as a sleep aid will actually increase the likelihood that you will “sleepwalk, sleep talk, and have problems with your memory.”3 

The ultimate takeaway is that caffeine and alcohol are both great disrupters of sleep. 

Stick to a Sleep and Wake Schedule 

Have you ever noticed that your body will naturally wake up around the time your alarm is supposed to go off, even on the weekends? This is because the body likes to have a rhythm in the way in operates.  

You can teach your body to follow a certain schedule by sticking to your sleep and wake times even on days when you don’t have anything-in-particular on your agenda. This will make it easier to adjust as needed.  

Dr. Rafael Pelayo recommends changing sleep schedules in 15-minute increments every 2 to 3 days.4 Following this system, you would need about 8 to 12 days to adjust your sleep schedule by one hour. It seems like a long time, but gradually making changes will help your body ease into the new schedule more smoothly than if you attempt to make the switch overnight. 

Use a Nightlight 

If you wake up at night to use the restroom, having a nightlight will make it easier for you to find your way without having to turn on bright lights or walk into any walls. 

Also, if you know you tend to wake up at night feeling thirsty, keep water at your bedside to avoid a walk to the kitchen that can also cause your body to slip into morning-mode. 

Try Artificial Light to Assist You with Waking Up 

Certain Wi-Fi capable light bulbs can be set to turn on, or gradually get brighter, around the time you want to wake up. Some lights are really good at mimicking the gradual increase of light that tricks your body into thinking the sun has risen.  

As the light filters through your closed eyelids, your body will naturally ease you out of sleep. If you don’t want to invest in a Wi-Fi capable light bulb, turning on the lights as soon as your alarm rings is another way to help kick the sleepiness and help you rise.  

To hear from Dr. Bob Davari about the importance of sleep and to get more tips on how to improve your rest, listen to Episode 33 of our Podcast. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 




  1.  “What Is Circadian Rhythm?” National Sleep Foundation, 2019, www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/what-circadian-rhythm. 
  2. “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 Oct. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651. 
  3. Mann, Denise. “Alcohol and a Good Night’s Sleep Don’t Mix.” WebMD, WebMD, 22 Jan. 2013, www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20130118/alcohol-sleep#1. 
  4. Stewart, Kristen. “How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule: Everyday Health.” EverydayHealth.com, 6 Feb. 2018, www.everydayhealth.com/sleep/insomnia/resetting-your-clock.aspx. 

Are There Benefits to Getting Scared?

Are There Benefits to Getting Scared?

What Happens in the Brain When You’re Afraid? 

On a biological level, we know that, when you’re afraid, certain hormones are released in the body to prepare you for a fightorflight response. The primary hormones involved in this process include adrenaline (also known as epinephrine), norepinephrine, and cortisol.  

These three hormones give your body a boost of energy, channel your focus, and divert blood flow to your major muscle groups. Once this happens, your body is primed to respond to the perceived danger. 

If you don’t enjoy the heart-pounding startles, you might wonder why anyone in their right mind would put themselves through this experience on purpose. Yes, the body gets a surge of anxious energy, but you also experience the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine.  

Dopamine is what is commonly associated with the brain’s “pleasure center.” It’s a source of the excitement and relief that comes after a scare and when your brain realizes you were never in any real danger. For spook-seekers, this is the experience that makes the scare worthwhile. 

What Exactly are the Benefits? 

Margee Kerr, the staff sociologist at ScareHouse, tells The Atlantic all about the reasons why some brains enjoy fear. In the interview, she reminds us that the enjoyment of scaring and being scared goes back to the telling of ghost stories around a campfire, gothic writings of the 19th century, and tales of creatures like the Chupacabra or the Loch Ness Monster. As human beings, we have had this interest for a long time. 

Social connections, she explains, are part of the reason we love to be frightened. Happiness and fear both initiate the release of oxytocin (the love hormone), and help us bond with the people we are experiencing these emotions with. Kerr shares an article by Shelley Taylor, Tend and Befriend: Biobehavioral Bases of Affiliation Under Stress, that demonstrates how a special closeness is developed with those who are with us when we are in an excited state. More importantly, it stresses how this can be a very good thing! 

When you tend to or receive care from someone in a moment of fear or anxiety, the chance that you will befriend them increases. According to Dr. Kerr, this is because human beings need each other during periods of stress, so the body responds chemically in ways that help form a bond with others who are in the experience with us. Of course, this is limited to the experience being a positive one that does not actually harm you in any way. 

This is why you see people huddled together as they tread through a darkened maze or haunted exhibit, and why popcorn-flinging horror movie nights are also enjoyed worldwide.

The Best Place to Enjoy a Good Scare 

The best place to get your chills and thrills is someplace that poses no real threat to your safety. You brain needs to know that your body is not in any real danger after your automatic fight-or-flight response kicks in. Dr. Kerr reflects on how many times she’s seen a person scream and jump at the ScareHouse and immediately after start smiling and laughing. It really is interesting to consider how quickly the brain can process our situation and let the rest of our body know if the fear was just a false alarm. 

Are There Drawbacks? 

As nearly every suspense movie has proven, anything can have a dark side. Maybe don’t drag your friends to a fright-filled attraction if they really don’t want to go. Sometimes the aversion has roots in trauma, PTSD, or phobia. Being conscious of what is age
appropriate is also important. This is because children are often unable to differentiate between feigned danger and what’s real. What you intended to be a fun experience may end up being traumatic for a child. Sometimes, you just have to make a judgment call, but doing so can help ensure that everyone has a good time and is able to enjoy the spooky excitement.  

For some tips from our dietitian on how to treat yourself this Halloween without all the guilt, read her post on Tricks and Treats for Halloween Cheats. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 


Ringo, Allegra. “Why Do Some Brains Enjoy Fear?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 31 Oct. 2013, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/why-do-some-brains-enjoy-fear/280938/. 



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