Health and wellness tips from Indiana University
Teen romance -- are you an informed, "askable parent?" Think hard and you might recall your first teenage romance. You couldn't sleep or eat -- you couldn't wait to see each other again. You talked on the phone for hours. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, many parents face a challenging balancing act when their teens, just like adults, want to show and express their feelings for their loved ones. Parents want to validate their children's feelings of love and affection while hoping the romance does not include having sex. "Discussing sexuality issues with teens can be a difficult conversation to have, let alone even initiate," said Catherine Sherwood-Puzzello, a clinical assistant professor in Indiana University Bloomington's Department of Applied Health Science. Her research and teaching interests include human sexuality and public health education. "The best advice is to become an informed and 'askable parent.'" Parents cringe at having "that" conversation with their children for many reasons. Sherwood-Puzzello offers some tips to help parents and their children open the lines of communication.
- Become informed. Many parents don't know the answers to their teens' questions or they simply don't know how to answer the question. They might feel uncomfortable with the topic, yet fear their teen will get misinformation from other sources. The first step, Sherwood-Puzzello said, is for parents to become informed so fears can be reduced. These Web sites and books can help: http://www.familiesaretalking.org/resources/rsrc0000.html; http://www.iwannaknow.org/parents/index.html; http://www.greattowait.com/parents/index.html; Raising a Child Responsibly in a Sexually Permissive World, by Sol Gordon and Judith Gordon (they coined the term "askable parent"), and Did the Sun Shine Before You Were Born, by Judith Gordon, Vivien Cohen and Sol Gordon.
- Be direct about expectations and limitations. These can include such things as curfews, discussions about the appropriate age for dating, and clearly communicating family values about abstinence. This may mean having frequent discussions about the positive aspects of sexual abstinence to reinforce this expected behavior. Sherwood-Puzzello said parents need to be clear about consequences if the expectations are not met. She said parents need to start talking about their expectations and limitations when their children are very young. Young children challenge family rules on a daily basis just to test their parents and to determine whether the rules have changed -- this "challenge" continues into the teen years.
- Be there. Make sure teens know a parent is available to talk. Talking with teens about sexuality will not encourage them to have sex, Sherwood-Puzzello said. It sends the message that someone cares enough to discuss such a sensitive topic and can develop a stronger bond between parent and child.
- Tune in so they don't tune out. Parents need to prepare their responses when the questions are asked. "That's a really good question," is a good first response, Sherwood-Puzzello said, because it allows for the door to stay open and the conversation to continue. Answer only the question the teen asks -- teens will tune parents out when the discussion turns into a lecture, when yelling or shouting begins, or when the parent answers a question with a question. Establishing trust is critical.
- Be a good role model. Parents can be the best person to show appropriate ways their teen can express love and affection. Parents need to be clear about their own sexual attitudes and values. Parents need to discuss their attitudes about love, affection, intimacy and sex with their teens, while at the same time modeling the family values.
- Romance. Parents can steer their children toward healthier and safe ways to show love, such as putting love notes in unexpected places or sending a loving e-mail. Check out the heart with this item for more ideas.
From pet peeves to persistence -- how to stick with your workouts without sticking it to your brothers in iron. Sticking with a workout regimen takes strategy. Diving into the gym without annoying the gym veterans takes some consideration and know-how. Bryan Stednitz, assistant director of Fitness and Wellness for Indiana University's Division of Campus Recreational Sports, and Chris Arvin, program director for Fitness and Wellness at the division, offer both -- tips for how to stay in the weight room and look good doing it.
Pet peeves to avoid:
- In your own little world. Especially when the gym is crowded, be aware of your surroundings. "One of the worst things you can do is take up space or equipment by being on your cell phone or just standing around talking," Arvin says. Chances are good that somebody is waiting to use the equipment you are using. If you are going to the gym to work out, then work out.
- Leaving puddles of sweat. Nobody wants to sit or lay down in a pool of your sweat. Many facilities, such as IU Bloomington's facilities, provide towels and squirt bottles to wipe down the equipment when you're moving on in the workout. Also, put weights back when the workout is complete.
- Excessive noise. "Nobody likes someone who screams during their sets," says Stednitz. If you're really pushing yourself, some grunts on the last couple reps are to be expected. But don't let out a Tarzan-like scream every time you push the weight. And try not to drop the weights. Not only is it obnoxious, you can damage them and yourself.
- Bad form is well, bad form. It happens all the time; someone puts on way too much weight, can't do the exercise correctly, and looks foolish. Not only is this dangerous, it is counter-productive. Using the correct form, getting the full range of motion on your exercise, while using less weight will give you a much better workout.
- Cutting in line for the machines. Many facilities have sign-up sheets for elliptical machines, treadmills and other exercise equipment. Once signed up, don't be late.
Five tips for making the most of your workout:
- Slow but steady wins the race. "Lots of people either hurt themselves or burn themselves out by exercising too much," Stednitz says. "But it is important to be consistent. Work out more than once a week. Make it a priority by putting it on your calendar.
- Find a partner. Partners are great for holding you responsible and making sure you get to the gym, Stednitz says. They make the time pass quicker and can give you a spot if you need one. If you can't find one, consider hiring a personal trainer, especially if you need help learning the correct techniques.
- Make it fun. "Do something you enjoy," advises Stednitz. "If you make it fun, you're more likely to stick with it.
- Be persistent. If you miss a couple of days, don't fret, it happens. "Don't let a couple missed sessions deter you," says Arvin. "All is not lost." It takes a long time to get in shape, and it also take a long time to lose what you've gained.
- Ask questions. Find out what resources are available to you, such as assistance with spots, finding a workout or getting tips from trained staff. Some facilities offer special programs and workout areas for specific needs, such as private spaces where smaller groups can meet - less people and less mirrors.
Shopping for a pill to round out your diet? If your New Year's resolution this year involves improving your diet, try looking to food instead of a pill for that overall balanced nutrition, says Sara Blackburn D.Sc., R.D., clinical associate professor of the Nutrition and Dietetics Program at the Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Under the scrutiny of research, complementary medicines involving supplements are proving less effective than hoped. Blackburn said supplements are a reasonable option when a person has a nutrient deficiency or when a particular nutrient is limited in his or her diet. She said this deficiency may manifest itself in a medical problem, thus she encourages people to work with their family physician or a dietitian to determine the best course of treatment. A real gift to ourselves, said Blackburn, is daily "body wellness care," which involves putting care of yourself first.
"In a land of plenty, we don't think we have problems with malnutrition but we do," Blackburn said. "Folks limit themselves all the time, and as a result do not make wise food choices, thinking they will correct it later."
Blackburn offers the following suggestions:
- Look to food. The emphasis should be on foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. The goal for fruits and veggies, Blackburn said, is five servings a day, which is about 2.5 cups of each. A 10-ounce, bottle of orange juice, for example, is about 2.5 servings.
- Oldies but goodies. Sleeping eight hours per day, eating a nutritionally balanced diet and exercising regularly is the triad for good overall health promotion and disease prevention.
- Federal guidelines. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, which is the most recent set of guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA, supports the use of B12 for people older than 50; iron and folic acid for women of child bearing years and vitamin D for older folks, especially those with dark skin. The guidelines can be found at http://www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines/.
- Too much of a good thing. Large doses of some supplements, such as vitamin A, can be toxic. Blackburn recommends that vitamin and/or mineral preparations have the minimal levels as recommended by the recommended daily allowance.
- Cost and quality. The cost of a vitamin or supplement does not indicate its quality. Information about potency is included on supplements' UPS label, which follows recognized processing standards.
- Expert help. This Web site, http://www.eatright.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/index.html, can help viewers find registered dietitians near them.
For further assistance with these tips, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITORS: This monthly tip sheet is based on Indiana University faculty research, teaching and service. "Living Well Through Healthy Lifestyles" is the guiding philosophy of IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In keeping with that philosophy, this tip sheet offers information related to both physical and mental well-being. Faculty in other IU schools and departments also contribute their expertise in this area.