Lynya Floyd

Losing It!: The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet

Written on August 19, 2014 at 10:30 am , by

For the feature “Losing It!” in our October issue, writer Sheryl Kraft chronicled the weight-loss journeys of Family Circle staffers who agreed to try out six popular diets. But we put more than six plans to the test! Check out how one of our editorial assistants fared on a doctor-approved detox.

 

The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet

Best for: Moms who are committed to change and can afford the essential supplements required

Tester’s Weight Loss: 5 pounds

Reducing insulin levels is the key to losing weight, says Mark Hyman, MD, creator of this “reboot” diet that claims to bring your metabolism back into balance and activate your body’s ability to burn fat. Sugar and carbs are enemy territory, causing everything from type 2 diabetes to sexual dysfunction, he explains. Based on whole foods high in fiber and low in sugar and starch, the diet—which asserts you can lose an average of 8 pounds—eliminates gluten, grains, dairy, alcohol and caffeine. Instead, it stresses good-quality grass-fed animal protein, nuts, seeds, tofu, fruits and veggies.

Typical Meal: Skinless, boneless chicken encrusted with red chili pesto; sautéed spinach

Shopping List Surprises: Raw nut butters, tahini, Kalamata olives, almond milk

Supplements: Our friends at The Vitamin Shoppe helped Lauren pick out the best brands for all the pills the diet required, including vitamin D3, alpha lipoic acid, green tea catechins, PGX fiber and more.

Star Ratings
Ease of Use: 3     (5-Very Simple, 1-Just About Impossible)
Taste Factor: 4    (5-Every Meal Was Great, 1-It Was Barely Edible)
Time Factor: 3    (5-Putting Meals Together Was a Snap, 1-It Was Too Much Work)
Hunger Factor: 1  (5-Very Satisfying, 1-Stomach Always Growling)

Although our editorial assistant Lauren knew she needed this “kick starter” to lose the extra weight she’d recently gained, her admitted lack of self-control made her a bit nervous. But Lauren’s motivation to improve her overall health and get back in shape helped her stick with it, even though that involved spending lots of time in the kitchen. “Everything needs to be homemade,” she notes. Lauren liked the idea of detoxing both her mental and physical health with this plan, but in the end found some requirements—like eliminating caffeine, alcohol, gluten, dairy and sugar —too restrictive. “I am a firm believer that moderation is key,” she says.

Biggest Hurdle: The expense of the supplements

Simplest Challenge: Prepping the lunch salads

 

Special Delivery! Could a Little Purple Box Change Your Love Life for the Better?

Written on July 2, 2014 at 11:50 am , by

 

After we posted on Family Circle‘s Facebook page that we were looking for readers to try out a romance kit, my email inbox didn’t stop dinging for the next hour…plus. So many readers responded! We selected several moms from across the country and asked them to await the arrival of the Bedroom Chemist—a subscription service that delivers a discreet box of intimacy-enhancing products specially curated for, well, a good time. Every six weeks you get a bundle. No one knows what’s in the box—not the mailman, not your kids and not you—until you open it. We asked testers to try the products out and tell us what happened. Here, two testers share their stories.

Tester #1: “This Was One of the Most Romantically Fun-Filled Nights We’ve Had in a While.”
With a house full of kids—and all their various activities—there’s not too much time for romance. My husband and I made a decision that we were going to really make this past Valentine’s Day special. Our older daughter was in charge of taking her two younger sisters and her daughter to the movies. I made a nice romantic dinner for two with candles, wine and chocolate-covered strawberries. My husband even helped with the cooking!

After we enjoyed our dinner and having the house all to ourselves, we decided to try the kit. I lit the candle and left it on the nightstand for a bit to let the wax melt. This was our first time experimenting with a candle and it was so much fun! We massaged each other with some of the warm wax, which made our skin so smooth and soft. It also had a wonderful fragrance and made the bedroom smell really good.

It was also our first time using a vibrator, which was fun and interesting. We would probably try it again. We did not need to use any of the lube and with all the fun we were having, we forgot we had the sexy scratch-off cards. This was one of the most romantically fun-filled nights we’ve had in a while. Can’t wait until the next date night—we will definitely be using our kit again.

Tester #2: “I Would Recommend It to Anyone Just for Something Different.”
The biggest challenge that my husband and I have to intimacy is timing. We’ve been married 22 years and have two teenagers. I never would have thought that finding time to make love would be so hard once the kids got bigger.

I loved the idea of the romance kit just to make us make the time to be together. The kit came in the mail on a Thursday. I told my husband to reserve one hour on Friday for me. We eagerly anticipated the next morning. What happened? I got called in to work, so scratch that plan. It took a few days, but we finally got to try out the items.

I was excited about the candle. I love a massage. The problem with the candle is that it took a really long time to melt…Like, we got tired of waiting so we never used it. But it still sits on the nightstand for another day with better planning. The lubricant was the best of any we’ve ever used! But I’m guessing my husband applied too much of the “sensation-enhancing” balm—he couldn’t tell how many drops were coming out—because it was like I was on fire. The little vibrator was really cute and I liked the feel of it. But it just didn’t have enough power for us. Even though we didn’t love everything, all in all it was a great time and I would recommend it to anyone just for fun—and something different.

Want to spice things up between the sheets and try out this kit yourself? Check out the BedroomChemist.com ($50 or less per package) and let us know how it goes!

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The Most Vulnerable Time for College Kids

Written on May 8, 2014 at 12:59 pm , by

“She swears up and down they used a condom,” says Meghan,* 48, a mom of two from Missouri. But three years ago, Meghan’s 19-year-old daughter became part of the 11% of 18- and 19-year old girls who get pregnant each year.** What’s more, nearly three out of 10 girls in the U.S. get pregnant by age 20. During National Teen Pregnancy Prevent Month, Family Circle shares Megan’s story and offers expert advice every parent needs to know.

Three years ago, Meghan Davis’ life was in flux. “I was on my own,” she says. “I had just filed for divorce, left our big house and moved into a two-bedroom apartment with my youngest daughter, a high school junior.” It was Thanksgiving break and her 19-year-old daughter, Emily, was home from college and had swung by the apartment to check in. “She just sat down in the living room and didn’t say anything,” recalls Meghan, who had a weird feeling once her daughter arrived. “Then Emily just started bawling. She just cried and cried. And once she was done, she said, ‘I’m pregnant and I don’t know what to do.’”

A whopping two-thirds of teen pregnancies occur in 18- and 19-year olds, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. That’s older kids whose parents may be experiencing life changes themselves as their kids enter the workforce of head off to college. One of several factors that might put these older kids at greater risk is the fact that they’re entering a brand-new world.

“The most vulnerable time for kids on a college campus is first semester freshman year,” reveals Deborah Roffman, a sexuality educator and author of Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person About Sex. “They’re starting all over again. They’re wanting to fit in. They’re figuring out how to make decisions that will help them fit in—as opposed to how to make decisions in their own best interest.”

No matter how old your teenager is, you can still have a significant impact on the choices they make. “Even though you are losing a lot of direct power and control as they get older, what you gain is influence,” says Roffman. “Parents need to be involved in talking to their kids, no matter how old they are, about what their hopes and dreams are for themselves.”

Indeed, 39% of teens ages 13 to 17 say they have never thought about what their life would be like if they were to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy, according to new research from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Never. “It’s our job to reality-test them,” says Roffman. “Say, ‘If you make that choice, what will happen?’ Help them think critically about their choices by asking great questions.”

Conversation starters for older teens may not be intuitive, so we’ve created a list of them here, and Meghan adds to it. “If there’s one thing I could tell other mothers, I’d say get your daughter to think about herself,” she asserts. “Your daughter can’t just expect the man to be providing the protection; she has to take charge of her own life. I would’ve preferred that my daughter had taken care of birth control closer to the 100% effective mark herself.”

Getting as close to 100% protection as possible—if not through abstinence then by using two methods of birth control—not only protects against sexually transmitted diseases but can compensate for imperfect methods and imperfect users. “We do know a lot of young people are using contraception. They just might not be using it consistently or correctly,” explains Marisa Nightingale, senior media advisor for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “And if you’re not actively planning to prevent pregnancy, you’re essentially planning to get pregnant.”

After her daughter stopped crying, there were actually smiles. “My thinking was that there’s nothing to be done about it now. I’m not going to boo-hoo the whole nine months,” says Meghan. “Once Emily calmed down, I said, ‘Well, you’re pregnant. Are we going to be happy about it?’ And that made her laugh.” She admits that the timing was difficult and there have been some tough moments, but they came through them to better days without regret. “This is my first grandchild,” says Meghan of her now-2-year-old grandson. “Neither I nor my daughter would change a thing.”

* Names and identifying characteristics have been changed.
** Most recent data is for 2009.

Lynya Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine. Read more of her posts here.

Have you had a pregnancy scare with your older teen? Post a comment and tell us what happened.

Sex 102: 5 Questions to Consider Asking Your Older Teen

Written on May 6, 2014 at 11:12 am , by

You might think there’s nothing you can tell an 18- or 19-year-old about sex—well, nothing that they’ll actually listen to. But that’s not the case. “More and more studies say parents do have influence over their teens in terms of delaying sex and using protection when they have sex,” encourages Leslie Kantor, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. And with 11% of 18- and 19-year-old girls becoming pregnant in 2009 (the year with the most recent data available), sex talks are critical. “As high school comes to an end and transitions to adulthood begin, it’s important to have conversations with teenagers about both birth control and condoms so they can protect themselves against unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease,” says Kantor. Try these opening lines that go way beyond the birds and the bees.

“How do you feel about LARCs?”
If talking about birth control is on the table, be sure to bring up all forms that are available to teens. LARCs—Long-Acting Reversible Contraception—include options like the IUD and Implanon, and they mean your teen doesn’t have to remember to take a pill daily for pregnancy prevention. “Not all parents know there are really highly effective methods of birth control out there that are appropriate for teens, like the IUD and the implant,” explains Kantor. “New studies show they’re extremely protective.” Not only is this a good conversation starter for you and your kid, but it’s one he can spark with his partner and she can begin with her ob/gyn as well.

“Are you comfortable talking to Dr. Williams?”
“I’ve heard from young people that they’ll lie to a doctor if that doctor is being judgmental,” reveals Marisa Nightingale, senior media advisor for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. If your teen doesn’t have a good relationship with their doctor, it’s time to repair it or find a new person they can relate to and won’t be embarrassed to go to for help. Allowing younger teens a few minutes alone with their MD—instead of monitoring the whole appointment—helps build that relationship.

“So where exactly is the campus health clinic?”
If your kid’s in college, waiting until Thanksgiving or spring break to see a doctor at home isn’t always the best idea. If they need faster care or have pressing questions, they should know where to find answers at school. Again, being at ease speaking with an MD is critical. “It’s not just knowing where the campus health services are, but helping to give your kids a confidence booster to handle themselves in a clinic setting too,” explains Nightingale.

“How do you know if someone wants to have sex with you?”
Chances are they’ll be conjuring up images of a movie scene while you’re about to drive home a much more real message about consent. “I think giving consent is something young people are not getting enough information about in their school sex education programs,” says Kantor. “We have to help young people understand that if someone is drunk or high they can’t consent to have sex in a number of states. The absence of no doesn’t mean yes.”

“Do you think you’ll want to stay in our hometown after graduation?”
This isn’t about your desire to turn their bedroom into a crafting corner. It’s about getting them to imagine their future, like with this app. “What profession are they interested in? Where do they want to live? Really considering these things makes them think about how becoming a parent as a teen would get in the way of that,” explains Kantor. “When teenagers are ambivalent about pregnancy, they’re more likely to take risks. So just getting young people to think, Is this something I’d want? gets them to delay sex and use birth control.”

One last, critical message that experts want to drive home with teens: “You can always say no to sex—even if you have said yes before,” explains Nightingale. “That’s really important for young people to know.”

Lynya Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine. Read more of her posts here.

Have you taken the “sex talk” to the next level with your older teen? What messages were important for you to share? Post a comment and tell us.

Who’s Most at Risk for Teen Pregnancy? (You’ll Never Guess)

Written on May 5, 2014 at 11:47 am , by

“Nothing shook our family like my teenage daughter’s pregnancy,” says Andrea*, 53, a Washington-based mom of three. And she’s not alone. Even though there have been tremendous declines in teen pregnancy, almost three in 10 girls get pregnant in the U.S. before age 20. As part of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, Family Circle will shine a light on sex stats that will surprise you, offer expert advice every parent must hear and share stories of the most vulnerable group of teens—they’re not who you think—starting with Andrea’s daughter.

 

One August morning, Andrea Richards, a mom of three, climbed out of bed and made her way downstairs to find a letter sitting on the table. It was from her daughter, Kate, and the message would send her frantically rushing back upstairs to wake her husband.

Kate was three months pregnant. She didn’t know how else to break the news to them. And she had packed up and left home in the middle of the night.

“I was devastated,” says Andrea, who was 45 at the time. “Kate was an honor student. All the hopes and dreams of her going to college were gone.” Those dreams were just weeks away from being realized: Kate was 18, working a part-time job in retail and slated to start community college in the fall.

STILL AT RISK
Two-thirds of all teen pregnancies occur in 18- and 19-year-olds, according to research done by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (TNC). That’s right, older kids. “Many people find that surprising because they might be more accustomed to seeing images of girls in the media who are 14, 15 or 16 and pregnant,” says Marisa Nightingale, senior media advisor for The National Campaign. “But the average age for sex is 17 for boys and girls. So 18- and 19-year-olds are more likely to be sexually active. And nothing magical happens overnight when someone turns 18 that makes them less likely to get pregnant or better at using contraception.”

Before you start to wonder if the numbers are skewed toward teens who get hitched after graduation, let’s dispel that notion. The vast majority (86%) of all births to 18- and 19-year-olds were to unmarried women, according to the Centers for Disease Control. So we’re talking about teens who have just nabbed their first job or already gotten an acceptance letter from college, or they may be making their way through freshman year. But in one pivotal moment, the blank slate of their future—and likely yours, mom, as well—now has something permanently written on it. For Kate, that pivotal moment was on prom night.

“I didn’t suspect this with her at all. We had everything in order,” says Andrea, who shares that her daughter was “in love with love” and dating a boy she and her husband didn’t approve of. They kept close tabs on her. “We drove Kate to prom. We knew where she was going to be. She even called me at midnight and asked if she could spend the night at a friend’s house. I said no. Curfew was 2 a.m.,” remembers Andrea. “So whatever decision Kate made between midnight and 2:15 a.m., when she walked in the door to our home, changed her life forever.”

 

FINDING THE WORDS
“I told Kate that I hoped she wouldn’t have sex with someone until she was old enough and ready. I was never going to take her to get contraception because it was never okay to have sex before you were married,” explains Andrea. She says she had plenty of “sex talks” with her daughter, who was raised with the family’s Catholic beliefs, and was devastated that she and her husband were the last to find out their daughter was pregnant. “Other kids knew. Other parents knew. No one said anything. Things would’ve been quite different if someone had told us. We would’ve sat down and talked to Kate. She didn’t have to leave the house. We wouldn’t have wanted her to do that.”

Not only does the “sex talk” need to be an ongoing conversation with your child, experts suggest that it also needs to be a broad conversation. “You’re trying to build sexual confidence,” explains John Chirban, a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of How to Talk with Your Kids About Sex. He points out that this isn’t about just having the strength to say no, but also accepting all the potential consequences of saying yes…and what can happen next.

“It’s role-playing, talking about incidents and teaching your child to direct and manage their sexuality. As a parent, it’s incredibly important to own your point of view and be true to what’s spiritually or religiously correct,” says Chirban, a father of three. “But just saying no doesn’t respond to what a teenager is feeling in the heat of the moment in a relationship.” At the same time, saying yes has consequences that extend way beyond those two teens.

GOING FORWARD
Today Kate lives in another state and is engaged to be married—but not to the father of her now-8-year-old daughter. Andrea’s relationship with Kate is much improved and she absolutely adores her granddaughter. Still, everything that’s happened since she found that note hasn’t been easy. “This isn’t a club I would’ve wanted to join,” says Andrea. “But things are turning out okay today.” One message that she wants other moms to hear: “It’s a hard road, but believe me, you have enough love for your daughter and grandchild to pull through.”

*Names have been changed.

Lynya Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine. Read more of her posts here.

Has your child ever had a pregnancy scare? Post a comment and share what happened.

 

My Birthday Bucket List

Written on April 7, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

On my special day, I asked Facebook friends for something out of the ordinary. When you’re careful what you wish for, amazing things come true.

You know that moment when you’re in the midst of doing something…and then suddenly, vividly recall why years ago you stopped doing that thing? (Think: generously inviting a clingy neighbor to a girls’ night out.) Well, I had one of those moments last November.

I was staring at myself in the mirror of a studio at New York Sports Club. The instructor queued up a hip-hop song I’d never heard before and started counting down 3-2-1 until a group of us would knock out a 46-move combo. Ah, cardio dance classes. I’ve always been horrible at them, much preferring the two-step of the treadmill. I fumbled my way through the shoulder pops and sideways slides, sneaking cheating glances at the rest of the class. Why was I putting myself through the wringer at 11 a.m. on a Saturday? Because of my Facebook friend request.

A few years ago, I started asking my friends to skip posting on my wall the simple (but appreciated) “Have a great birthday!” Instead, I made specific requests for my big day. One year, it was to share a favorite time together. (“Dinner at Emeril’s flagship restaurant in New Orleans,” wrote a former coworker.) Another, it was to share the best piece of advice they’d ever received. (“If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain,” a friend declared. I love that.) Last year, though, I was craving adventure. And something that would deepen my relationships with my friends, coworkers and relatives. People may complain about how technology distances us from those we love, but I’m pretty adamant that it can actually bring us together.

So I posted:

“Dear Friends: I’m marking tomorrow as my Bucket List Birthday. As I celebrate another year, I humbly ask you all a favor. If you leave birthday
wishes on my page, please note one epic adventure that we haven’t been on that you hope we will have one day soon. It can be anything: Running a marathon  together. Crafting an award-winning  story. Anything. And I promise I’ll  spend the rest of my life trying to make  it come true. Love you all!”

Flash-forward to me at 11 a.m. one Saturday in a hip-hop dance class with my friend Jeffrey. And—surprisingly enough—the Saturday after that as well.
You see, when Jeffrey left a message on my wall about the class, he was just hoping we’d spend time doing something he loved. But after failing pretty miserably at the first class, I realized that while my body was willing, my brain was weak. My muscles had gotten a good workout; it was my mind that was lagging behind. I’d had the dance equivalent of talking on your cell phone while pedaling on an exercise bike. Next class, I brought my Dancing with the Stars A-game and recalled three times as many combinations. When I high-fived Jeffrey at the end, you would’ve thought I’d scored a touchdown at the Super Bowl.

Admittedly, some of the escapades on my bucket list may take a lifetime to achieve—so I’m glad I gave myself that long. One friend asked to co-author a book together, another wants to kayak in Maui, and a third hopes to host a reunion concert by our favorite band from the ’80s (Guns N’ Roses) with a red-carpet guest list including, well, our friends from junior high.

The very first reply to my birthday request was about a recipe—no surprise, considering the number of culinary successes I’ve posted. Apparently I had uploaded pictures of some homemade Oreos to my feed no fewer than four times in the past year, and my friend was tired of the mouthwatering tease. Okay, okay, whipping up Oreos isn’t exactly an adventure, but it did lead to quality time together when I dropped off a tin full of the cookies.

A few of the requests helped me hone serious negotiating skills. One friend wanted us to run the San Francisco Marathon. Ever since my first marathon, which was hilly and slow, I’ve had two requirements for the course of my next one: flat and fast, two things the City by the Bay’s course most certainly is not. As thrilling as the idea of booking it through Golden Gate Park and past Fisherman’s Wharf sounded, the idea of all those hills had me mentally pulling the covers over my head. The elevation chart for the race looked like a 26.2-mile EKG chart—pun intended. I countered with the Chicago Marathon, she came back with Philly, and for now, we’ve agreed to run the More Magazine/Fitness Magazine Women’s Half-Marathon in New York.

Other friendly posts required an arsenal of planning tools, from vision boards to travel guides. I’m not sure when CBS is taking applications for The Amazing Race, but I know who my partner will be and we’ve got to start working on our audition video. I’ve also been asked to plan an epic night of cocktail-bar-hopping in Manhattan. I don’t know if that means the entrance has to be hidden behind a phone booth (yes, that does exist here) or the drinks need to arrive on fire, or something in between. But either way, I’m sure it’ll be a night to remember. Every time an encounter gets crossed off my list, I write about it on Facebook. As with any to-do list, it feels like a pat on the back when you check off items. But I’ve also noticed that each “task” has me challenging myself in a new way, learning more about myself and encouraging my loved ones to dream big. A friend once told me, “You have to take the journey to know where the journey will take you.” I couldn’t have asked for better road maps than last year’s birthday wishes.

 

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How Much Do Food Labels Matter?

Written on December 31, 2013 at 1:21 pm , by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t feel like winter until the temperature dips below freezing and I whip up a big batch of chili that makes my house smell heavenly—but is still healthy. Instead of ground beef, I use ground turkey which cuts, among other things, the fat and calories. And because I like to know it’s organic and antibiotic-free meat, that usually means a trip to Whole Foods.

It’s not cheap, but there are some health splurges I’m willing to make and this happens to be one of them. My chili recipe is heavy on cholesterol-fighting kidney beans and I needed two cans, so, on this particular day, I decided to save some time and pick them up at the same supermarket. What Whole Food had to offer cost a few cents more than what I usually get (hmmm), was in a small box (interesting, no can) and had a label stating that this was not a genetically modified food (wow!). No GMOs?

Australia, Italy, the United Kingdom and 61 other countries require labeling of genetically engineered foods. But while the overwhelming majority of Americans say they’d like labeling (and our Family Circle Facebook poll even showed 99% of you want labeling), the numbers don’t work out that way in voting booths. This winter, Washington state’s Initiative 522 (which would have required genetically engineered foods to be labeled as such) failed to be passed with 54.8% of voters saying no thanks to GMO labeling. Perhaps concerns about additional costs and unclear legislation turned the tide in a different direction?

It may surprise you to know that we’re probably already consuming a fair amount of modified foods. “Most soybeans, corn, canola and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are genetically modified for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It: How to Decode Food Labels and Make the Healthiest Choice Every Time. That means everything from your breakfast cereal to your taco shell to your soda could contain GMOs.

Experts continue to debate over whether you should or shouldn’t be concerned about GMOs. They also go toe-to-toe over whether you should or shouldn’t care enough to see them labeled. There are certainly pros and cons, with a great rundown here. If you choose to go the non-GMO route, there are options out there to make it easier. Whole Foods, for example, has pledged that by 2018, all products in their U.S. and Canadian stores will be labeled to indicate whether they contain GMOs. And already, a great number of them do—like those red kidney beans that I did end up buying.

Increasingly, it seems that we live in a world where you need to vote with your dollars. It happens with what we listen to: Opposed to that racy song they’re playing on the radio? Don’t let your kid download it for $1.29. It happens with what we watch: Upset about all the violence in flicks these days? Make sure the next $100 you drop on family movie night goes to a comedy. And it appears that it’s happening with what we eat.

Are you concerned about GMOs? What percentage more in price, if required, would you be willing to pay for non-GMO foods? Post a comment below and share your thoughts.

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What It’s Like to Be Blind

Written on October 10, 2013 at 2:30 pm , by

Would you be able to tell cayenne pepper from chili powder in a grocery store—with your eyes closed? Could you sense if traffic were moving or at a standstill by just listening to the flow? While these scenarios may give you pause, they’re the everyday reality of the 285 million people worldwide who are visually impaired or blind. And while complicated, many would tell you these situations are more manageable than you fear. “I don’t hear any better than you,” a legally blind mom of two once told me. “You just don’t use your senses. When you can see a bus coming, you don’t have to listen for it.”

Today marks World Sight Day, which brings awareness to visual impairment and blindness across the globe. But rather than ask you to close your eyes and imagine what life might be like for the blind for a moment, I’d like to tell you what life was like for me for an hour.

A while back, I went to “Dialog in the Dark,” an exhibit that has been traveling the globe and stopped at New York City’s South Street Seaport two years ago. At the start, you’re given the appropriate mobility cane for your height. Then you enter a room that’s pitch-black—and remain in complete darkness for the remainder of the exhibit.

A legally blind guide takes you from one pitch-black room to another, each of which simulates the sounds, vibrations and temperatures (but not sights) of iconic locations in New York: a bustling train that you have to get on and off. A grocery store where you open a fridge to locate a container of milk. A city park where you feel for a bench to sit down on. All in complete darkness.

Some people panic and have to leave the exhibit. Others embrace the experience while they try to discern lemons from oranges in a supermarket setting or listen carefully for conductor announcements to make sure they get off at the right train “stop.” Regardless, you’ll never interact with a legally blind person the same way again.

On this World Sight Day, I want to encourage you to go get your vision checked—especially if it’s that appointment you’ve been meaning to get around to but haven’t in forever. Eye diseases (like macular degeneration and glaucoma) are silent but cause significant damage and vision loss if untreated. And 80% of visual impairment is readily treatable and/or preventable. But, most important, I’d like to influence how you react the next time you encounter a legally blind person with some advice I got directly from legally blind people.

Offer but Don’t Be Offended. “Don’t hesitate to ask a blind person if they need help crossing the street, for example,” one of the “Dialog in the Dark” guides told me. “But don’t be offended if they decline.” It may sound simple, but I’ve seen people get rubbed the wrong way when a blind person declines their help. There’s no need. Know you were available for a good deed and keep going.

Follow Their Lead. I was recently traveling from Philadelphia to New York by train when a woman with a Seeing Eye dog sat near me. The couple standing in front of her sparked up a conversation, asking multiple questions about the dog and their routine. I have no doubt that they meant well, but it was a bit invasive and her brief answers should’ve been a cue to cut the conversation short. When the train stopped, I offered to help the woman find her way to taxi stop. As we walked, she confided in me how awkward it is when strangers recognize her dog on the street and call it by its name. Imagine if a stranger you couldn’t see came up to you while you were walking somewhere with your child and started interacting with your little one by name. There’s nothing wrong with being just as friendly with a blind person as you’d be with a sighted person. Just field their reactions the same way.

Act Normal. “A lot of sighted people treat the visually impaired as if they’re mentally impaired,” that mom of two I mentioned before shared with me. Think about it: Have you ever spoken louder or slower when communicating with a blind person? “People have the misconception that just because you’re visually impaired, there must be something else wrong. Just because I don’t have sight, doesn’t mean I don’t have vision.”

What will you do to mark World Sight Day? Book your next eye appointment? Donate to a local charity? Post a comment and let me know.

Lynya Floyd is health director at Family Circle magazine. Read more of her posts here.

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Four Reasons Why Moms Should Care About the Affordable Care Act

Written on October 3, 2013 at 9:30 am , by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe you’ve got so much on today’s to-do list that looking into health care just slipped to tomorrow’s goals. Or perhaps you don’t think the changes put into motion by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) apply to you. Either way, we’re here to tell you that the process is easier than you think and definitely worth your time. Last week, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius stopped by Family Circle’s office to chat with us about the October 1 debut of the ACA’s health insurance marketplace at healthcare.gov. “Don’t believe this isn’t for you,” she says. “Go check it out.” Here, four surprising reasons moms should give the site a click.

1. You’re covered by your spouse’s insurance.
This summer, United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) made headlines by announcing that it would no longer provide coverage for employees’ working spouses who could get insurance from their own employers. If that could happen to you, why not take a look at the options you’d have on the health exchange? “This isn’t about people losing coverage, it’s about people having affordable options,” says Sebelius, who reminds us of another benefit to not having insurance tied to your employer. “Regardless of what your job looks like in the future, you’ll continue to have this coverage.”

2. You have a child with a pre-existing condition.
“What I find all the time is these parents are terrified that something will happen to their own insurance coverage so that somehow they’ll run out of care when their kid needs it,” says Sebelius. “But also they’re terrified that once their child ages out of the protection of a family policy, their choices will be limited.” Now those kids can’t be turned down because of their condition.

3. You’re part of the sandwich generation.
If you’re looking out for a parent who gets Medicare, this a good time to review their health care plan. “Nobody has to do anything if they’re on Medicare,” says Sebelius regarding the new exchange. “But they may have some better choices in the market than they ever thought they’d have.” Make sure your parent is getting the best deal by seeing what’s out there—or simply make sure they’re maximizing their Medicare benefits, many of which have gotten stronger with the ACA.

4. You’re on your own for insurance right now.
Working for a small business—or owning one—means you may already be searching solo for health insurance. “This is your new opportunity because you currently don’t have a lot of protections that people would have if they worked for a large employer,” says Sebelius. “Price is one. You don’t typically have anyone contributing to your policy. So you’ll get—depending on your income—some help to pay a premium. But more importantly, there are a whole set of benefits that come with these new policies, such as maternity coverage and screening for depression.”

If you’re one of the 18.6 million uninsured women in America, you have until March 31, 2014, to enroll in a plan. Go to healthcare.gov right now to see options and pricing.

Have questions about the Affordable Care Act? Email us at health@familycircle.com and we may choose yours to answer in an upcoming blog post.

 

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What To Say When Your Kid Is Overweight

Written on May 20, 2013 at 8:45 am , by

The other day, a mom friend told me about something unnerving she saw at a teen pool party last summer. “There was an overweight girl there and I watched her wolf down two slices of pizza and a handful of chicken nuggets in about five minutes flat,” she recalled. “I don’t think she even realized how much she was eating and she didn’t stop long enough to find out.”

Moms make countless smart decisions every day to keep their families healthy. Maybe you avoid tossing a tempting bag of potato chips into your shopping cart so your kid will snack on something more nutritious instead. Or perhaps you make sure that half of everyone’s dinner plate is filled with fruits and vegetables. But what about the health choices your kids—like that girl at the pool party—make when you’re not around?

“That girl has a mother who is very conscious of her daughter’s weight, serves healthy food at home and even sends her kid to exercise classes,” my friend said. “But as soon as the daughter is out of her mom’s vision, this is what she does.” And with nearly one in three children in the U.S. being overweight or obese, that teen’s mom isn’t the only one trying to make a difference.

This month, we got expert advice from moms and weight loss experts on how to talk to your child when they’re carrying around extra pounds. Check out “Weighty Matters” for advice on helping your kid make good decisions so you can improve their health when you are (and aren’t) in the room.

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5 Things Vanessa Williams Wants You To Do For Your Heart

Written on May 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm , by

Chances are your handbag is better equipped to deal with a broken nail than a heart attack, according to a new survey. But actress Vanessa Williams says a simple addition could—and should—change all that. She’s teamed up with Bayer HealthCare and WomenHeart to launch Handbags & Hearts, a national campaign to encourage women to stash aspirin in their purse in case of a sudden heart attack. We caught up with Williams, a mom of four, while she was taking a break from her Tony-nominated Broadway show The Trip To Bountiful. Here, she shares five ways we can all make heart health a priority.

1. Know Your Family History
“Both my grandmothers died of heart issues,” reveals Williams. “My mom’s mother died at 64, but my dad’s mother died at 28 of a heart attack. We’ve been hyperaware of heart issues my entire life.” Williams values the importance of family and makes sure to stay close even if she’s all the way across the country. “My children always know that I’m present and available,” says the actress, author and singer whose youngest, Sasha, is 13 years old. “That’s the wonderful thing about FaceTime and texting. If there’s a question, they can see my face, hear my voice, read my words. I’m always available.”

2. Squeeze In A Good Workout
Heart attacks take the lives of 250,000 women each year. “You’ve got to make time for exercise,” says Williams who says showing up for a class at a gym helps keep her accountable. “Or try getting up an hour early for your workout. Or if you want to watch TV, jump on a treadmill while you’re doing it.” Mixing things up also makes her passionate about moving. Right now she’s is all about cardio-kickboxing, a heavy-bag class, yoga and dance.

3. Say Goodbye to Stress
“You can alleviate stress by staying fit, meditating and relaxing, but it’s also a mindset,” says Williams who co-wrote You Have No Idea with her mother, Helen Williams. “If you want to get stressed out, you will. When you feel like you’re losing control of your balance, you have to remember to breathe.” One of her favorite ways to unwind: music.

4. Don’t Buy The Bad Stuff
It’s the easiest way to avoid telling your kids to not eat that candy or that they’ve had too much soda. “If you don’t have it in the house, the temptation is gone,” says Williams. “It takes extra effort to indulge if it’s not as close as the kitchen.” One thing in particular she hopes moms will pass on buying more often: processed foods. “They’re the easiest to prepare, but not the best,” she says. “Instead have the right basics in your refrigerator so you don’t have to reach for processed foods.”

5. Stock Your Pocketbook
“You can lessen the risk of major damage from a heart attack if you take aspirin immediately,” says Williams. But that aspirin has to be readily available and what better place than your purse? Check out the Handbags & Hearts site where you’ll also learn signs of a heart attack that are unique to women and mouse clicks can turn into up to $200,000 in donations for WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women With Heart Disease Heart Disease.

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Celeb Q&A: Autism Advocate Holly Robinson Peete Answers YOUR Questions

Written on April 23, 2013 at 8:30 am , by

Holly Robinson Peete and her son Rodney James (RJ). Photo Credit: Christopher Voelker

Last week, Family Circle interviewed actress Holly Robinson Peete about issues that were on our mind. This week, we interviewed her to get answers to what’s on your mind. That’s right, all these insightful questions came to us via our Twitter and Facebook accounts. Read about how a gluten-free diet affected RJ (Holly’s 15-year-old son with autism), ways to get employers to hire adults with autism and more.

Q. There has been such a surge in the number of autism diagnoses lately and many of us are looking for answers. @REALMOMMA2155 is curious if you think genetically modified organisms (GMOs) contribute to the diagnosis.

A. I’m not a doctor or scientist. I’m just a mom. But I do think there’s a genetic predisposition and there are environmental triggers. I feel like that combination, in my child’s case, is what resulted in autism. I also feel strongly that we’re not looking at environmental triggers. We’re not looking at each kid as a separate, genetic being. We line them up and say: ‘All kids should do this, eat that, get this.’ It’s important that we look harder.

Q. Speaking of what kids eat, Janeen Marie wanted to know if you tried putting RJ on a gluten free diet. 

A. Yes. One of the best tips I got from another mom was to hurry and get him tested for allergies and food sensitivities. He tested off the charts for gluten and wheat. It was more difficult for him to connect when he was eating pizza and birthday cake. He functioned much higher when he was not on any gluten products. But that’s just my kid. Every parent should know what their kid is sensitive to food-wise.

Q. What about sleep? Kim Luallen was curious if your son is a non-sleeper and if you had any suggestions.

My son does have trouble falling asleep and like any teenager he needs his sleep. We use melatonin. I never recommend anything, but that’s worked for us. We use it in very low doses and we find it gives him that little window to fall asleep. I know they’re still doing studies, but for our kid it has been a miracle.

Q. Donna Willis Coghlan wrote in asking about education: “How can we get schools to focus on the strengths of these kids? Many have unique skills that could be enhanced to give them an occupation someday, but instead they’re continually forced to be like ‘typical’ kids,” she says.

A. It’s very difficult when schools fall into the cookie cutter mode. There are so many gifts that kids with autism have that need to be nurtured. Most times, that’s something you have to do on your own or enlist after school help for. Also, get connected with other parents who are experiencing what you’re going through. I know it’s easier said than done, but I know families that have moved to other neighborhoods or cities that are a little more autism- and special needs-friendly than where they were. It’s all about being an advocate, staying online and looking in your community for help.

Q. Kathleen Stuart wanted to know about outlooks for adult life: “If your child is fairly high functioning – but needs assistance – there isn’t much out there in the way of adult programs or job assistance,” she says.

Yes, there isn’t much out there. The unemployment rate for adults on the autism spectrum is hovering around 90%. It’s high and that’s another message we have to get out. These people can not only be great employees but they can be your best employees. They’re loyal, have a sense of purpose, want to be somewhere every day, love routine.

I always find out very specifically about corporations who hire special needs adults. At my agency there are several. I always say I’ll be a great patron if you hire these adults because they need this and you need them. We’re getting a database for the HollyRod Foundation site of companies that work hard to employ adults with autism. We also have a tremendous amount of excitement about the fact that we’re going to be opening a compassionate care center in another year and will have a restaurant run by adults with autism there.

Q. On top of your foundation work, you’ve also co-authored the children’s book My Brother Charlie with RJ’s twin sister, Ryan. @Patti_pmbelo tweeted us wanting to know if you plan on writing another children’s book on autism.

A. Yes. Ryan and I are writing a follow-up to My Brother Charlie about autism and adolescence. We’re writing about the struggles people don’t talk enough about, the difficulties children have when they cross over into adolescence, the surge of hormones, puberty. It’s a different set of challenges when they’re on the autism spectrum. In some ways it’s like getting the diagnosis again. You have to come up with a new game plan. We’re hoping for a April 2014 publishing date.

Want to hear more of Holly Robinson Peete’s thoughts on autism? Click here.