Upper body beauty in 10 min

A few months after entering college, I knew I had a problem. The allowance my father constantly ran out two and a half weeks in to the entire month.
Cory Everson 2 lb. Wrist Weights (Pair)

“But it’s not enough,” I wailed, my eighteen year old mind unable to grasp the notion of budget management. It was in my wallet. It was cash. It was gone. “How about a credit card?” I suggested, hoping for a miracle. That financial tool had been given to older siblings, with mixed results.

“Not a chance,” he drawled. I was like Jan from the Brady Bunch, fourth in line behind our version of  Greg, Marsha and Peter in front of me. I was following in the footsteps of the athletic standout, the responsible one, the loud, always smiling gregarious one…all endowed with at least one good trait. Mine superior trait seemed to be my ability to spend money on frivolous items that did nothing to get me an A on my papers.

I cajoled. I had a temper tantrum. I cried.

“You didn’t need the fishtank,” Dad said, unmoved. “The ski pass was non-essential,” he continued, since I paid for the ticket on a weekly pass, with a massive discount as a student. My argument that the resort was close, but lame, held no sway.

Then Dad offered up another suggestion.

“Try going to the gym more. You have all this time to go shopping. Spend it exercising. Work it out.”

My fragile, pea-size brain nearly exploded from an aneurysm. Transfer the hours of window-shopping, make-up trying on, shoe-buying experiences I shared with my friends for an hour of sweat and pain? I told him he was asking the impossible, until he reminded me the track circled the weight room, inside the massive health facility. He knew wherefore he was talking: he’d gone to the same college.

“It’s where the football players train,” he said, he noted, suggesting I reconsider. “I’ll send you one more stash of money to get something to wear.”

He had me at ‘football players train,’ though I allowed  him to send me the money nonetheless.

It was in this house of pain that I learned to love and adore upper body workouts. For the avoidance of doubt (thanks studio, legal department for this wonderful phrase) are talking from the waist to the neck.

It was easy–and sit-ups I’ve already put forth on this blog, as well as the side bends. This blog, then, is going to focus on a few of the easy to do arm exercises. I’m going to write about two types: the machine-required and the non-machine required–with the caveat that P90X does a great alternate series of exercises that pretty much eliminates the need for a machine at all.

Simple, high impact arm exercises.

Without the machine

Arm exercise 1

  • When walking on the treadmill, standing (doing squats, or watching the TV) extend your arms shoulder height like an airplane. 
  • Clench your fist, bend at the elbow and draw in. When extending the arms back out, you can a) keep the first clenched, wrist up, or you can open the hand, the fingers flat and extending. Doing the former strengthens and tones the top of the arm; the latter works the upper arm/shoulder muscle.

Arm exercise 2

  • Begin with the same formation, clenched fist. Instead of dropped down at the elbow, turn up, like a bicep curl, taking the wrist to the shoulder.

Techniques and variations

  1. When I am standing, or walking on the treadmill, or doing knee bends–whatever–I’ll do sets of 25 under than 25 over. My shoulders and arms start to burn somewhere between 25-50. When the burn starts, I’ll rotate, going up for one step (touching wrist to shoulder) then down, dropping the arms, touching wrist to armpit.
  2. When I don’t have much time, or want to really lean out fast (as in, it’s Wednesday, and I’m going to wear a sleeveless/quarter sleeve on Fri or Saturday night), I’ll add wrist weights. These are the soft, pad weights that strap to the wrist, as opposed to traditional weights that must be gripped in the palm.  Those work–it’s just a bit more awkward.

These two, simple arm exercises work wonders for leaning out the arms, upper and lower triceps etc. It’s not for building bulk or adding mass. Won’t happen. Besides, I hypothesize the majority of women was toned, lean arms.

If you care to lean out, or tone-up your chest, from inner shoulder to sternum, where the v-neck shows your skin, here are two quick and easy exercises.

Exercise 1
GoFit Exercise Ball (75 cm)

  • If you have a balance ball, lie on it, with the middle of your back on the top. Use your feet for balance. Grip your weights (I use 8 lb, but started with 3, then 5…), extend your arms in a 90 degree angle, bent at the elbows, weights straight up in your hands. The palm of your hand should be facing forward, towards your legs.
  • Lift the weights up, over your head. Some trainers suggest lifting up and then touching the weights (the thought that this works the pectoral muscles). Other trainers have told me to lift straight up, particularly if your elbow joints are weak or sore. 
  • Repeat 15x, or until you have a hard time lifting. Even now, I do 3 sets of 15, before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise 2

  • Start with the same, beginning position, arms up. This time, turn the palm of your hand inward, so the weight (and your palm) is facing your head. 
  • Lift the weight directly over your head. 

My routine involves 3 sets of 15 reps each. If I’m really feeling gross, I’ll move it up to 20, but that’s tops.  I’ve found when I use 10 lb weights, I bulk up, so I use a lower weight with a high rep count.

These two exercises stretch, tone and lean out the space between the shoulders (you know, the female dead space that can be jiggly, and cause shirts to fit tight), along the shoulder blade–a very sexy stretch of skin–and then the v-line area.

You’ll see results very quickly.

The results paid off, for within two months of starting this regime, I was asked by a local gym owner to pose for a series of ads. The print ad was a zoom-in on my waist, slightly turned, as though I were doing a stretch. The space between my stomach and back appears to be about 2 inches deep. It’s a slight optical illusion, but my waist was quit trim. My hopes of becoming more than a local model were dashed however, when I saw the rest of the piece.

I’m headless and legless. They didn’t want those parts. Ouch.

I laughed about it with Dad during the first Christmas I returned home. In effect, he told me the workout was a whole lot cheaper than another fish tank, with better, long-term results.

Stretch mark prevention and minimization

babies don’t= stretch marks

Pregnancy is a life-changing event. The experience glorifies the female body, the powers of procreation, the miracle and beauty of life. It’s also the generator of fat feet, elongated chin skin, miraculous, speedy facial hair growth, and the mother of all cosmetic badness, stretch marks.

Wives tales have it that the white, spaghetti-like scars are nearly as permanent as tattoos and are not preventable. To have or have not relies on genes. Mother, grandmother or another woman is to blame. Science says it’s about fast weight gain.

Rog, a life-long man, (as far as I can tell), has stretch marks in specific places. Primarily in the areas where he gained weight rapidly, during the time when he went from a skinny, 175 lb, high-school basketball star to a beefy, 225 lb football player in the space of a few months. His neck was the only place that expanded like a blow-up doll but didn’t suffer from the stretch marks. His biceps, waist, butt and legs, all have the scars. At the time, he didn’t notice, nor care. He tells me they showed up when he lost the weight (along with his tan).

I didn’t accrue stretch marks on my legs, butt or anywhere else when during my first pregnancy. I believe it’s because I was younger, in better shape, but also religiously used an oil concoction of vitamin E, A and baby oils.

Youth and resilience also probably played a role. The first time around, I was in my early twenties, jumping around all day as a part time aerobics instructor before I got divorced and had to get a real job at a desk. The jumping stopped, the residual effects probably keeping down the expansion of my bod.

The second pregnancy, nearly 15 years later, kicked my proverbial butt. I was high risk, on the verge of losing the embryo, had to go on progesterone, and promptly started eating everything in sight. The doctor had warned me I’d have rapid weight gain, and my “skin might suffer,” but it didn’t matter. I nearly knocked him down, needing my Taco Bell fix like a meth addict needs one less tooth.

For months 3-6, while I was on progesterone, my brain stopped working. (The nerves connecting the stomach to the brain actually stop working, so the brain thinks the stomach is always empty. Willpower be gone. The brain overpowers rational thought). At one point, I was on my fifth trip to Taco Bell of the day, and my son, fifteen at the time, literally clutched his stomach and groaned “no more Taco Bell…I can’t do it anymore!!” That was when we thought Christ was coming, for only He could get between me and my Supreme Beef Burrito with extra sour cream.

However, the damage was done. My stomach looked like someone had taken a white, chalk marker and drawn vertical lines from waist to the bottom of my bum. I’d been religious about putting oil on my stomach, but not on my rump. Now, my paranoia (and vanity) kicked in. I realized that in a bathing suit, my butt would always be covered (for I don’t live in Rio) but my hips were a different matter. It didn’t bother me the half-moons were destroyed. But by gosh, I wasn’t going to ruin those hips.

Off I ran to the Internet and Pregnancy magazines, looking for every bit of information on stretch mark prevention. I found plenty. The products suggested were blended with a few symptoms I also noticed.

Watch the signs

Itching skin. If you start itching, that’s the first sign you are gaining weight. Even now, as I hover within my ideal weight, give or take 5 pounds, I can feel the telltale itching signs and lay off the muffins. It always begins with itching on my outer hips.

Water weight versus gaining weight. Weight will come and go, and shifting definitely occurs. Watch where the weight collects. If it collects near the lower leg or just above the knee, this can be prevented by moderate walking. To do nothing (unless medically advised) increases the chance that these often-seen areas will be ruined afterward.

Great products for prevention as well as removal

Fate was on my side when I happened to be pregnant at the same time as Gwyneth Paltrow. She was vocal, and she was helpful. Unfortunately, she was living in London, using products I couldn’t pronounce nor ship over to me without paying a fortune. Thus, I had to turn to my local boutique stores, then test out products.

My favorite product line is Belli Pregnancy. It has a line for pregnancy and another for stretch marks, post pregnancy. I’ll admit I combined 2 products from the pregnancy line, and applied 5-6 times a day.

The Elasticity Belly Oil was the number one product I used all the time. Any place I used this during pregnancy 2 and 3, I don’t have a single line. During pregnancy #3, I also used this on my bum and legs, and at least didn’t get any more.

After I applied the oil, I then applied Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula. This has Vitamin E, and notes on the outside of the vat that it “softens rough, dry skin and smoothes marks and scars.” Rog noticed a huge difference after I started using this. One can buy this pretty much anywhere.

Post pregnancy, I used the products from Belli.

This included: the Say no to stretchmarks products.

Men–for those of you who have read this far, I recommend the following gifts to spoil the girl you know, love, or want to impress with your knowledge and sensitivity. The Pregnancy Gift set

If you want to go the extra mile and hit the bonus round, get the 8 oz bottle of body firming serum. It’s specially designed for the soft skin of the breasts, butt etc. (the very parts we all care about), pre, during and post pregnancy. At $34 bucks, it’s a fraction of the price better known brands that don’t work half as well. This is tops.

Last but not least, if you have money only to buy 2 things….pre and post, go for the oil, mentioned above, and then get the Minimizing Stretch Marks lotion. This is included in the gift set, and as a stand alone ($49) it’s a bit more, but again, the amount goes a long long way.

Keep the beauty of pregnancy intact by maintaining the bod before and after. Beware though. You might find the man (or other) in your life sneaking your stretch mark products in the bathroom.

Winter Headaches & Nosebleeds

Woke up with a dull headache, thought about chocolate and my lack thereof, affirmed I hadn’t had a sleepwalking event, and had my ah-ha moment.

Dehydration.

It takes me a few, unfortunate mind-pounding, head swelling experiences to remind me I’m to blame for not  taking in enough water. When the summer turns to fall, and it’s no longer hot, I forget to drink gallons of H2O. My skin turns from pear to prune. So bad that when I took a bath last night, the skin was actually rolling off my body when I loofa’d.

“What is that?” Rog asked, curious if I had some sort of rash in a shall-not-be named location,

“Skin,” I said. The weirdest part was it came from odd places, like my shin. The shin is covered by a very thin strip of skin, perhaps the last bastion of weight gain. The one place I might need extra epidermis, and it’s peeling off me like an apple skin as it prepares to be sliced and diced for a pie. The thought occurs that I might want to aid cell regeneration by guzzling some water before hitting the bed, but I’m distracted by other, post-bath issues and wake up at 4. I figure my head hurts because the cats want food, the dog wants out. I do both, wandering around in a fog.

This morning, when I raise my bones out of bed, blood spurts forth from the wrong end. My nose. A bloody schnoz is the call signal for lack of hydration, at least for me. I get nose bleeds when I’m at a high altitude, like, right before I married Rog at the top of a 10,000 foot mountain in Colorado (it was a lovely photo opp as you can imagine, the tan, cashmere outfit sporting droplets of red, the tears of a clown). The other time I get a bleed is when I don’t drink water.

In an attempt to verify my unique, Swedish brand of headache+blood, I turned to a few valid sources of medical information about the causes of nosebleeds. I was fairly distressed to learn that nosebleeds can be signs of everything from liver disease and other forms of cancer, but dismissed the very notions between gulps of water and pushing more spoonfuls of carrots deep in to Sophia’s mouth. Oddly, the remedies were all over the map-vitamins, minerals, eating, the standard. A friend of mine, suffering from cancer and the treatment therapies therein, uses dark, leefy green vegies to stop or at least slow down, nose bleeds.

I don’t have time for that. I don’t have time to bleed. I have fifteen minutes. That’s all the time it took took to heal my pounding head, stop the bleeding. At least from my nose.

With that thought, happy Friday.

Oh, and hey, shout to Luxembourg, yet another new country added to the list of where readers hail from. A fine country, interesting background. I’m not sure the country was done justice when the tourism office in the US said the number one reason for visiting was the view to the Europe. Not sure what that means. The tallest mountain? The highest building? I’m confused. I would have gone for number five: the country has more 5-star restaurants per capita than any other European country. Now we’re talking.

As I plan my next trip, I’m going to down more water. Bleeding on fellow travelers isn’t cool.

Getting rid of the Turkey Gobble: working out that jaw

Thanksgiving Day conjures some wonderful, homey, cuddly memories. Like getting a turkey drunk and watching Dad chase it around an enclosed, dirt yard before grabbing it by the neck and lopping its head off with a cleaver large enough to make Stephen King proud.



kandinsky_wwi.jpgThat was Honduras, this is America. I was told Martha Stewart inebriates her turkeys as well, before plucking and beheading. Do you think she actually does the beheading, or does a lackey from the back room. She definitely strikes me as the type of broad with no qualms watching the blood spurt in all directions, covering her linen-cotton mix apron in a Kandinsky-esque theme of randomness.

All things turkey are good, including the faux birds that vegetarians eat, the tofurkey. Regardless of carnivorous status, we must agree on one thing.
Which Celebrity Needs Some Chin Work?
Turkey gobbles aren’t attractive on anyone, including turkeys.

I know. At this point, you are wondering what turkey-gobble has to do with workout Wednesday blog #2. I’m getting there. First, you must have the backstory on the turkey gobble, that once-tight skin underneath a strong, hard jawline that resembles a tent awning after twenty years of torrential rain, snow and wind. Its taught, smooth surface now droops and sags in uneven patterns, flapping this way and that with each chew or three-consonant word. The same skin that has a ten-second delay after your head turns, the way my cat’s jello-like underbelly swishes and swerves a minute after he turns towards me.
Now that you’ve been traumatized with the visual, do the self-gobble check. Look in the mirror, face front, then turn to either side. No cheating. No tightening of the jawline or stretching the neck like an ostrich. Relax, let the jowls down, and have a moment of honesty with yourself. No ones watching, the camera is off (promise).
If, when looking straight ahead, you lack the bulldog jowls on either side, be happy. You’re a third of the way to winning.
Now turn to either side. Do you have skin that cuts the hypotenuse of the triangle between your the base of your neck and your chin? If the answer is yes, then you, my friend, have a turkey gobble.
This isn’t meant to be hurtful, it’s fact. Some blessed folks have the ability to keep the skin taught. My mother, is over an age that shall not be named, has never had a stitch in her body other than for childbearing purposes, nor a shot of botox, and wouldn’t deign to get plastic surgery. This is the luck and beauty of her Swedish roots. She doesn’t actually need it, since she lacks the necessary sagging skin.
I, on the other hand, see the initial signs. It is just a titch, in my words, the jawline is still strong, but the beginnings are occurring way way in the back, where I swallow. I fear this is the beginning of the end.
Frantic, I call mom, and ask for her secrets. She reminds of her words of wisdom she proffered to me as a 13 year old.
“Do you still loofa?” she asked.
“Of course,” I replied, slightly offended. Loofa’ing, which my Swedish sisters have made a verb, involves a very elaborate system. Take a .99 cent loofa, or soft scrub you can purchase at any Walgreens, Target or drugstore of choice, use a soft cleanser, but if no cleanser is available, water is just fine. Rub this in circles, about 5-10 times in a particular area of the face, neck, neckline, chin, forehead, back of neck, or anywhere you don’t want wrinkles to show up in 20 years. The key is not to do it hard, or you run the risk of breaking capillaries. The skin should sting slightly.
pd_smooth_and_renew_loofah_pads.jpg
A standard loofah
“How much?” she inquires, testing my memory.
“Been doing it twice a day,” I say proudly.
“That’s the secret.” She then went on to point out other people we know who haven’t been as diligent as myself in using the loofa.
“Mom, I never do my throat,” I said. Chinline yes, throat no. 
“Get going,” she says. The skin regenerates every seven years, so says my aesthetician, and since he also does Sharon Stone and other celebs who, generally speaking, use him more than the plastic surgeon, I believe him.
Bless my mother, and all Swedish women. They are tight with money and long on wisdom. Why spend more than .99 cents when you don’t have to?
I remember that others exist that are in fact, tighter than a piece of cole wedged in my husbands hand. Thus, for those that don’t want to spend the .99, here are a few more nuggets of wisdom:
1. Use mom’s second answer: the chin-stretch. It’s ugly, so don’t do it in front of children. They will turn to drugs. Take your lower jaw and stretch it as though you were Edward going in for the kill on Bella. The veins should pop out on your jawline. Mom affirms doing 20-50 of these a day, in addition to the loofa-ing has kept her from having the gobble. (I do these when no one is looking).
2. My 60ish man friend, father of 4 and a vain person himself (CEO of a media company), is a bit overweight, has hair in the wrong places (on his back instead of his head) but by golly, he cares about the gobble. One day, while he admired my jawline, I returned the compliment, fanning his ego by asking about his secret.
“Pull the neck up 50 times a day,” he said. He proceeded to tell me he saw it on an informercial, and had been following the regime without fail for sixty days.
“It’s working,” he said, convinced. “Even my wife can tell.”
He demonstrated, and it’s a slight variation on the teeth-pull manuevuer of my mom,  like Jacob without fangs.
If fangs and teeth aren’t your thing, and you aren’t wanting to loofa for 20 years, then you have no choice but to whip out the credit card and get a face or chin lift. According to the advice from reputable surgeons, a single or double lift (e.g. slice and pull method) is the way to go. 
I did the right thing and dialed up a few friends who are in their late 50’s who had the procedure. I’ve seen all the women (and one man who got a microderm abrasion instead), all with very different results. Turns  out, the difference seems to be more geographical than anything. By that, I mean this: (yes, 9th grade grammar works for others than Stephanie M)…
dr-robert-rey-launch-of-dr-reys-shapewear-0Vm6mP.jpgSan Francisco and Seattle plastic surgeons go ‘subtle’ said one woman. The chin and neck was a soft stretch, not hard, the kind that makes you think the customer has gone to another yoga class instead of under the knife. Contrast this with LA or Vegas, where the bigger, bustier, tighter and whiter are the adjectives that come to mind. I’m thinking of that 92101 plastic surgeon show, with the good-looking latin surgeon Dr. Ray, who couldn’t stop talking about his black belt. He never met a patient he couldn’t push from attractive obscurity to freakish side-show. When you have that type of Carol Burnett treatment, the skin is wound tighter than a snare drum, leaving me wondering if the person (nea, victim) is going to snap off the bottom jaw when taking a bite of an apple.
That brings us back to the low, or no cost forms of turkey gobble treatments. Exercise and eating right, of course, but going with the loofa, chin and neck stretching exercises seem to be the limit. It’s worked for mom, it’s working for me. Instead of posting a shot of my jaw profile, I’ll take one now and post it in five years to see how nature has treated my Edwardian/Jacob neck preening.
In the interim, I’m going to give a shout out to a new reader from Latvia. Was it the cankles that drew you in??
What do I know about that lovely country? How to spell it, actually. I need a Latvian recipe. I looked up Latvian cookbooks and the first item Google delivered was a pork recipe. I love the other white meat. So thank you, my new Latvian reader. We might have a love of bread and pork in common (we can jump the water together and take in a porkbun or two from our Chinese friends). The cheese also looks divine, but bad for the turkey gobble.

Avoiding Pre-Period Weight Gain

Ah, a joyous topic. Full of cramping, tight-fitting jeans highlighted with a crabby attitude and bad breath. Does a woman exist who doesn’t suffer from this? Or man, for that that matter. My husband would say it’s as hard for him as it is for me, and he contends his suffering began long before my own. It wasn’t until I was thirty that I even knew when it was coming, spared as I was from the call signals of stomach pains, food cravings or attittude. That was about the time yet one mor prediction of my mother’s came to fruition: my period would bother me.

For trues.

Since Rog keeps piping in from the other room, as he prepares for a two-day offsite on digital crimes (those things that exploit children and how to fight, catch and incarcerate the bad guys), he is ‘recommending’ I do this by age so that the guy can know what the heck is going on with his girlfriend. As I can’t speak for all females, I’m going to do my best on what I experienced, along w/what I’ve heard.

Teens
for me, limitied issues. some friends had severe issues. A cousin had miserable cramping an weight gain since she started her cycle at 12. Craving also hit at this time, up to 60% apparently, but the lust of chocolate has the collateral damage of headaches and fatigue after the crash.

Twenties
Seemed to depend on diet and weight. When I was heavier, as in, a 10 pound difference, I felt rumblings between my pelvic bones, and gained 4-5 pounds. When I lost 5, the aching disappeared, and I gained 1-2 pounds.

Thirties.
Don-don-doooon. This was big. A minimal weight fluctuation, such as 5 pounds, hit me much harder. Also, this marked the beginning of cramps. In my case, this meant a dull-aching between my pelvic bones, but not much more, until after the birth of Porsche, when I was 37. When the period erected itself from dormancy, at nearly 39, the ache required a hot bath, the temperature so hot Rog likened it to liquid lava.

Forties
This didn’t have much of an impact on my cycle directly, but it sure did take a toll on my metabolism. Both mother and older sister had long predicted I’d likely fall victim to the Swedish gene factor that included a dramatically slowed system after 40. And I’m talking, Molassis in the winter slow. For, as my legal friend says, “for the avoidance of doubt,” I had to split my cardio workouts to a morning session as well as an afternoon session to jump start the bod.

Now, no one wants what a former boss termed Hilary Clinton cancles (calf+ankles). (Yes, he did say that. Tech executives aren’t lauded for diplomay or tact. It’s as thought the brilliance of constructing 1’s and 0’s negates the sensitivy quotient God endowed in all mankind.

Throughout, one of the key factors were exercising and drinking water. It seems as though the working out not only limited the weight gain, but flushed the water from my system.

The weight usually leaves on it’s own the day of I start my period, heralding loose fitting jeans. Since one can’t do much about the hormonal changes in the bod, lets focus on the lifestyle choices that can work for the waistline, as opposed to against it.

Tips for keeping off the Pre-Period Weight Gain

1 Include physical activity. Since the body won’t feel up to it, instead of a 40 min routine, try twenty in the morning. No jumping jacks? Try some leg lifts to get the body moving. No sit-ups? Try some back arches (or up-dogs) for yoga folks in the now.

* rotate the workout, and put the most intense workout in the morning. This means cardio earlier if at all possible. It gets the blood pumping, working for you all day.

2. Skip the salt. Limiting salt is a good thing, particularly if you aren’t drinking lots of water. The hidden sources of salt are sneaky–soy sauce, canned anything-but vegies in particular, soups and deli meats, my favorite. This is such a dilema, because I crave sugar AND salt during my pre-period stage. The hormone changes run amok, so I like to throw down chips with a chocolate candy chaser. Not good.

* Add more protein. It negates my desire for sugar, which then reduces my need for salt. My choice is usually fish, but when in a rush (and in the morning), I’ll whip up scrambled eggs. If I have time or desire, I’ll select egg whites only, or a hard boiled egg san yolk.

3. Healthier eating–like fruit with lots of water, vegies and nuts are good. Avoiding the caffeine and alcohol comes from the Mayo Clinic (not me).

* Eat the apples. My body responds very well to eating apples on the first day of pre-cycle weight gain, usually sluffing off the extra poundage by the following morning. Apples are also fantastic the first day I start, as it reduces the extra bloating or cramping I feel.

4. Add minerals and supplements

* take a multivitamin. This gives a bit of everything.
* Vitamin B6 playes a role in synthesising certain brain chemicals that control mood and behaviour.
* Vitamin E and Magnesium are both great. E helps breast tenderness and Magnesium is classed as “nature’s tranquilliser” and helps anxiety, tension etc.

Now, this topic is particularly relevant on this day, the 17th of November, so I must go drink some H2O, do 10 jumping jacks and up-dog.

My tree and the Truth of Mineral Water Hazards

Now this  is a cool coat tree

Before I get to the point of the blog–check out the tree. I had Terry come back to add a few more branches, upping the coat hooks from an impressive 29 to 73 on the custom coat tree. If only I can get that many friends of mine to drive to the Washington hinterland residence I call my home…..as an afterthought, Terry thought the top of the 8 ft tree was calling for a birds nest. It’s a fine line between cool and tacky. As I’m not in to killing birds (or taking of life in general), a stuffed falcon is out. I don’t want visions of Pet Cemetery past coming alive. Plaster? Very seventies in a Chucky kind of a way. Maybe a cowboy hat, though I only have a girly-girl pink one, (apparently, my only ode to being feminine). I’ll leave it as is for now, unless a reader has a creative suggestion.


to the real topic of the blog now…

When I posted my find on suppressing my appetite by drinking carbonated water, my personal email account was diluged by readers, mostly women, who were concerned about all the harmful effects of carbonated water. “I’d thought” mineral water didn’t fall in to the sugar-filled, calcium-draining liquid of sugar drinks or soda. Not to be the purveyer or bad or unhealthy information, I went on a mission.

To backtrack slightly, in our house, “I thought” is a lightening rod for a fight. As in, “I thought,” I took out the trash (this would be me, not Rog). 


“Hmm,” Rog invariably responds. “No. Either you did, or you didn’t. If you ‘thought,’ that means you don’t ‘know,’ thereby requiring a verification of said taking out of the trash.” 

Thus, I “thought” mineral water was a good alternative to food (and better than regular/other carbonated drinks). Guess what readers. On this singular item, I can now say I’m a bit more enlightened about carbonation, enamel etc., Can I certifiably say that I “know” based upon my reading? Only if I trust the sources I read.


I actually learned quite a bit, so the exercise was good.


The summary

  • it’s good for you (it has minerals that aid calcium vs reduce it)
  • it doesn’t erode enamel
  • mineral water (and sparkling mineral water) is different from carbonated water, which itself, is not so bad, since the CO2 is miniscule. Its the sugar, fructose, coloring etc that’s terrible. in fact, mineral water stops being good the moment a flavor is added.
  • mineral water is great for the lactose intolerant
  • basic carbonated water contains few side effects and may actually have some health benefits.
  • drinking mineral water actually slows the drain of calcium from the body, instead of accelerating it!

teeth-stem-cells.jpg

To wit…my evidence, nea, evidentury support…

First the background..From the Livestrong site on the benefits of mineral water….this is a great description:
Mineral water contains dissolved minerals that occur naturally in groundwater, and the water is collected from a spring or pumped from a well. Sparkling mineral water also contains natural gases or is artificially carbonated with carbon dioxide. Countries set standards for a certain amount of minerals required for bottled water to be labeled “mineral water.” Many people like to drink sparkling mineral water not only for its taste but for its health benefits.





Claim…
Mineral water has bad minerals (as in, tap water, or bottle water is better due to lack of minerals.


Drinking sparkling mineral water is a way to obtain minerals without also consuming calories, as noted by the Magnesium Online Library. Sparkling mineral water usually contains calcium, magnesium, potassium and sometimes sodium, the most common minerals in groundwater. Some sparkling mineral water contains chromium, copper, zinc, iron, manganese, selenium or other minerals, all of which are important for health. Mineral water is the best source of minerals in water other than some tap and well water. Some tap water, however, contains fluoride and chlorine, which is a concern for many people. Distilled water has no mineral content, and soft, filtered and many brands of bottled water have very little or no mineral content. (Livestrong article)


Claim….
Mineral water drains calcium


A 2005 study in Spain, published in the “British Journal of Nutrition,” showed that women who drank a liter of carbonated mineral once a day lost less calcium than when they drank tap water. The scientists concluded that when mineral-rich carbonation evens out acidity in the body, it helps keep the calcium locked inside bones.Cola beverages have been implicated in bone loss due to their high phosphoric acid content, which leaches calcium out of the bones. But plain carbonated mineral water contains high levels of bicarbonate and is an alkali beverage, the opposite of acid. 


Claim
Mineral water is terrible for the lactose intolerant


People unable to consume most dairy products because of lactose intolerance can obtain calcium from mineral water. A review of studies published in Osteoporosis International in 2000 determined that absorption of calcium from calcium-rich mineral water appears to be at least comparable to, and possibly better than, that from dairy products. (Livestrong article)
Claim….
Mineral water negatively impacts cholesterol and causes other health issues,the way carbonated drinks 

Lowering Cholesterol

Drinking sparkling mineral water can reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, and increase the good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, according to a study published in 2004 by the Journal of Nutrition
What does all this mean? I still have about 8 glasses of still water (filtered), but I have my non-flavored mineral water in the morning (1-2) then another 1 or so in the afternoon. Between my chamomile tea (sans sugar), I’m floating around, a literal roly-poly water balloon. Don’t prick me, I’ll burst.

Additional information….Fizzy drinks have historically been associated with negative health effects including tooth decay, obesity and calcium depletion. However, certain types of carbonated beverages actually promote particular health benefits including hydration and weight loss. Carbonated water is simply fizzy water, to which flavorings may be added to make a seltzer. Sodas, also referred to as “pop” or “fizzy drinks,” are flavored and sweetened carbonated drinks which do not contain alcohol.

Carbonated Water

Carbonated water is almost as beneficial to health as still water. There is a very slight increase in the ability of sparkling water to cause dental erosion when compared to still water, but still the negative dental effects of carbonated water are negligible, as it is the sugar content or acidity level of carbonated beverages which lead to negative dental effects.

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/255248-health-benefits-of-soda-carbonated-water/#ixzz150CUfF80

Snorting V-C, and other cures for the common cold

Somewhere in the dark hole of Idahoian calcutta, my entire family got infected with the seasons first cold. This begat sore throats, runny noses and eye leaking. I called upon my grandmother’s tried and true cures, chamomile tea with a bit of honey for the sore throat. While that worked, for really sore throats, I use the concoction recommended by my homeopathic swami:

8 oz warm-hot water
1/8 tsp salt

My swami suggested gargling this. It kills bad bacteria plus allays the pain.

For a sinus infection, or even a runny nose, use the same as the above, but use a eyedropper to put some in your nose. Lean back, put 3-5 drops in each, then blow. It works like a charm. The whole family did it tonight and we are much better.

When you have the triangle of death going in, throat, nose and leaking eyes, pull out the Aconitum, but also pick up the Trace Minerals. This, according to Porsche, tastes like the back of an yack’s fan-fan, (another word for fanny). It is horrible, and when I say that, you know it’s vile. You’ve been warned. It comes in drop form, so put it in orange juice, warm water or anything else that masks the taste, though it’s not really possible. You can take it straight, by pouring it in the back of your throat, then giving it a chaser with water or something else. Oh-now that I’ve told you how bad it tastes, it’s a blend of many vitamins and minerals.

The combo of the trace minerals stopped the burning in my chest that started last night. The cough that started disappeared and now I’m only dealing with a headache over my right eye. More chamomile tea on the way…

Preventing colds..

This is a much better way to go. 2 things. 1-take prenatal vitamins. For 5 years, I took the prenatals and didn’t get a single cold. nada one. Don’t have to be pregnant to enjoy the longer/stronger nails and nice hair. Rog has been popping my multi-prenatals for years. Just ask him to do the hair-flip a’la Charlie Angels.

Another great source of staving off badness is Vitamin C Crystals. It’s 100% pure vitamin C in white crystal form. Here again, bitter, but not a yaks behind. (I use Trader Darwin’s from PCC or Whole Foods). Actually, it’s not snorted, I just couldn’t help myself from using that title. My guess is it would burn like the mother of all white powder. It’s actually put in water.

Place a 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon in your drink of choice. I tend to put this in warm water, then drink it down. My brothers put a half teaspoon in whatever. The downside is the hershey squirts (thanks Rog). More commonly known as diarrhea. The body an only absorb so much vit C. so be kind to yourself. Or your behind.

And on that nice, happy note, I’m going to take a hit of nose drops and gargle of salt with a vitamin C chaser.

WW part 2-grapes, election day sayings & the woman at the bank

The second post for Workout Wednesday was intended to focus on grapes. Yes, grapes. Specifically, frozen grapes.

Frozen grapes are just about the sweetest food I’ve put in my mouth, and are a great transition from kicking the (bad) sugar habit. Room temp-they are simply grapes. Frozen, the texture is more substantial, which tricks my mind in to thinking I’m eating a food that’s more satisfying than it actually is. Thus, grapes are a great snack, instead of the 3 pm M & M’s I downed for years in the corporate world.

Now, with that out of the way, I’m going to write about what’s really been on my mind for 24 hours. It was the lady in the line at the bank.

I was in a rush, I’ll admit. My left leg twitching and shaking, like a dog dying to scratch an itch with its back leg. Two people were in line ahead of me, three tellers were busy with customers requiring third party out of state checks, and I’m twitching.

To pass the time, I examine those in front of me. The short woman defies description due to any unpolitically correct thing I might say, and her son, who was being good, all things considered. He took endless amounts of candy from the bin, his holiday stash probably already socked away in his little round belly, but at least he wasn’t jumping on the chairs. Well, it’s more accurate to say he stopped his impressive backflips when she told him the third time, offering up a penalty of no more candy. Beyond her was the woman who caught my eye.

She was shorter than me by an inch or two, although she wore red, custom shoes that looked like a snazzed-up pair of orthodics, an idea that has probably made someone a millionaire. After all, the world is getting older, and seniors want cool-looking shoes while they gallivant between the bridge table and the dining room. In any case, her hair cut was short and stylish, the bottom hairs above the neck line.

Now, as we all know, the neck tells the truth about age. A facelift pulls back ten years, losing weight eliminates another five or ten. But the neck line–well, that’s the last frontier of plastic surgery. From what I understand, the front of the neck is nearly impossible to pull up, back or smooth by needle or laser. Certainly, the back of the neck, a four in square of skin, is all but ignored by the vain. Thus, when a woman (or man) gets a short hair cut, the skin reveals all.

Looking down from her neck, her body was slim over American-Eagle style knit top and her light khakis. It was an odd juxtaposition to the cane she held in her left hand, leaning on it to move forward, an inch at a time.

I saw a glance of her left cheek, and I was sure I knew her. It took me a while, but the out of state checks hadn’t cleared, so I did my best to be subtle. When she walked to the far teller, I was a bit closer to identification, and then she opened her mouth. Her distinctive lilt, one composed of a woman southern bred but New York influenced, made it easy. She was my pilates teacher from five years back. The woman who kicked my butt all over the club, along with woman half her age. Truth was, she only had two years on me,  the mother of a sixteen year old, long divorced, vibrant, full of life and built like a rock. In the time it took for her to deposit her check (or whatever she was doing), I wondered what road the woman had journeyed to age her twenty years instead of five.

It was a sobering experience. She said several times “I’m getting better,” or “it’s getting better,” and “I’m feeling good,” before she said farewell to the teller, grabbed her cane that she’d set against the teller counter, and slowly moved out of the bank. She didn’t recognize me, but no surprise there. I was big of hair, light of makeup, jeans and cowboy boots, a far cry from the lean, ponytailed, done-up-to-workout girl I was pre-children. (oh, hear the wistfulness in that statement).

On a daily basis, I read quotes that go like this…the man (insert bad thing here– lost is job, wife divorced him, dog got run over), but he forges on “at least I have my health.” It’s such a trite phrase I get inured to the real meaning.

Until I see someone like my former pilates instructor.

Sure, I’ve had a broken arm, a serious issue with a bladder infection, and pre-stage breast cancer. Yet somehow, the very ‘internallness’ (there I go, doing my Don-kingism making-up-words-thing again), is different from a visibly physical ailment. All my issues are internal, a hallmark character of a carcinosum personality. I’m sure if my personality “type” was one wherein physical issues were manifested externally I’d be a bedridden, wheelchair-driving legless individual.

Today, being the day after the elections, I read a line from a (former) congressman who’d lost his seat. I won’t identify the party, since I don’t want to be all political. However, he actually said, “it’s not so bad. At least I have my health.” Prior to yesterday, I’d have read right over the comment, not even bothering with a yeah-whatever. Today, I read it and thought if he truly understood what having health means. Probably not. I didn’t, prior to my own personal experiences. It was just a meaningless phrase that really says “life’s not all that bad. I have other good things that compensate for what I’ve just gone through.”

Next time I suffer from loss, disappointment or other upsetting event, I’m not going to talk about my health and gratitude therein. I’m going to be clear about the fact life isn’t all that bad. I’ve got a lot of good going on, and that includes, but is not limited to, my health.

Workout Wednesday- Awesome food suppressant

You heard it here first. Forget diet pills and drugs, shots and starvation. I’ve just tested and proved a great appetite suppressant, and I’m so excited, I really can’t wait another day, for tomorrow’s installation of workout Wednesday. I’m doing it now.

San Pellegrino bottled waterDrum roll….Mineral water. For trues (for non-American’s, this slanglish basically means, “for reals,” which itself, is a bit of slanglish, which in turn, means, “really, truly” and for the avoidance of doubt, “absolutely, I’d never lie about something as important as this.”

First off, I hate mineral water and all things carbonated. My hatred started in eigth grade, when I played multiple sports, season after season, requiring me to miss meals at home. Afraid I’d gain weight, I turned to the candy stand offered at the school. Unwilling to gain weight on a diet of chips and candy, my food of choice was actually a drink- Diet Coke. To the uninitiated, it tastes like battery acid, but I got used to it since it also staved off hunger pangs. When I felt the irritating grating within, I threw down another diet Coke. Thus began a multi-year habit of drinking bottled battery acid.

This continued until I was a freshman in college. Unwilling to gain the freshman 15, I would drink 2-3, 60 ounce mugs of Diet Coke. Every convenience store had specials on 60 ounce’s, and I was a regular. Then a crazy thing happened. I started to hurt when I went to the bathroom (number 1 for those that care). I had no idea what was going on or why. A virgin I, (Yes, it’s true), and stubborn, I figured it would go away. It didn’t. It got worse, until one morning I was in the shower, in so much pain, blood running down my leg, I thought I was going to give birth to an alien.

I called mom.

“Are you having sex?” she asked bluntly.

“No!” I replied, shocked not that she asked the question, but that she thought I had. I was the girl who feared I’d never have a date for prom, and had to ask guys to homecoming. The tall, formerly buck-tooth girl with an insecurity complex. “What does that have to do with anything?” I asked defensively.

“Just checking. You have a bladder infection,” she said, matter-of-factly.

“A what?” I asked blankly.

So it was that she flew out, took me to the doctor, I got “inspected,” and was given a brew of cranberry juice (which made it worse due to all the sugar) and some pills. Fortunately for me, the infection hadn’t yet reached my kidneys, or I’d have been in real trouble.

Since sex was out as a cause (again, verified by said “inspection”–and you can bet the look on my moms face as she sat in the examination room was sturdy like a block of wood,  (and I learned about the strange chemical reactions when sperm met up with a vagina it didn’t like), the doctor asked about my diet. She soon pin-pointed the source of my problems: Diet Cokes.

“Lay off them,” she counseled. “In fact, cut out carbonation altogether.”

The three days after this appointment were the worst in my life. Physically. Divorce. Child birth. Nothing compared to the utter agony of withdrawal from the boatloads of caffeine I’d been injesting since 14. For a month following the detox, I was the walking dead, a zombie with no energy and bad breath. It took a solid six months to “feel normal,” though I was in the middle of puberty the last time I remembered what feeling normal meant. Furthermore, the doctor put the fear of God in me, telling me I’d likely ruined my chances of getting pregnant or keeping a child (and given all that I subsequently suffered, she was probably right).

Since then, I’ve rarely had soda at all, and when I do, I splurge on a Sprite. Even that tastes overly sweet however, so I’m one of those boring dinner dates that drinks water. Further, alcohol holds little appeal, due to the extraordinary high sugar content.

Back to the mineral water….it’s now been twenty years, and I’d been paranoid about liquid carbonation in any form. Rog, my dear husband, is the opposite. He is drawn to sugar, carbonation and any combination therein like a dog to its vomit. He can’t stay away.

“Just try some,” he says to me over a week ago. I do. It takes like liquid dirt.

“It will fill you up,” he says. “Trust me.” It’s not the trust part I’m worried about. It’s the bloody, Hitchock knife in the shower scene I’m worried about (sans the knife of course).

“If you have issues, you’ll know in a few days,” trying to cajole me into drinking the stuff. “Besides, anyone masochistic enough to be a writer can endure drinking dirt for a few days.”

He had a point on that one.

So I force myself to sip down a bottle of Peligrino. Took me an entire day. Horrid. Raw sewage can’t be that bad, I think. The next day, I upped it to a bottle and a quarter. But Rog was right. The carbonation filled me up, and I was so obsessed with the notion my taste buds were dying, I forgot all about eating. On day three, I’d lost two and a half pounds.

The drink suddenly started tasting good.

I had one in the morning, one for lunch and another for dinner (actually, I had them before breakfast, during lunch and between lunch and dinner…my goal wasn’t to stop eating. Rather, stop snacking and being hungry all the time).

Guess what. 6 pounds gone, and that was about 2 weeks ago. Some say this might be unhealthy. I’d counter with “I had a lot of extra waterweight (or fat) that needed to go.”

I’m kind of a freak about eating ‘clean,’ at home…e.g. steaming green beans in water with salt, sauteing scallops in lemon juice, salt and pepper. So it’s not like I run around jamming down deep fried chicken. That said, I’m packing around an extra 10 easy that never seems to leave my body, no matter what I do or how I do it.

This is a miracle drug as far as I’m concerned. I’ve learned to overcome the dirt-like taste, must as I’ve learned to ignore the after-smell of a man in the bathroom. Both cause me to lose my appetite, but only one causes me to lose weight.

Water taste tests and teeth whitening comparison results

On a dismally gray day, nothing says happy louder than a nice, white, set of teeth. Not the glow-in-the-dark white sported by those in LA, or the painted on white I see in commercials. We’re talking the three-shades lighter than normal that are perfectly happy.

After fifteen years of being my own personal Proctor and Gamble focus group, I consider myself something of a teeth whitening authority. If you don’t believe my credentials, ask Rog. When Rog and I were dating, an odd, thirteen years ago, he had the gall to debate my ability to be an objective, third party expert on all things comparative.

“Take water for example,” he said. “You have this stupid preference for Fiji water, and claim you can tell the difference.” Fiji was, and still is, one of the more expensive brands on the market, this, being the reason Rog thought that I had to have it. “You believe if it’s more money, it’s better.”

“No,” I replied. “It simply lacks that gross aftertaste of most bottled waters.”

“Right,” he returned. “Let’s take a test to prove it.”

He left my apartment at the top of Noe Valley, drove down into the Mission district and purchased twenty or so different brands of water. He set the kitchen up like one of those ketchup stands, pouring and a few inches in each glass. To make ultra-sure I wasn’t cheating, he then blindfolded me.

One by one, he lifted the glasses to my hand and had me identify the water.

Aquafina” I said after taking a sip of one. I’d know the Riverside, California bottled water anywhere, primarily because I’ve been to some sorry parts of Riverside, and am pretty sure I’ve got by the bottling plant, too close to a sewage treatment and water run-off facility for my tastes.

“Dasina,” I said after taking a sip of another. When Pepsi finally bent to public outry, and placed “public water sources” on the label for each, the implication was a resevoire. But can we define resevoire please? This could be my little pond on my property, that sometimes serves as the resevoire for duck pooping, deer-drinking, frog-hopping, Sarah and family-swimming hole. Gerrooosss.

“To be clear,” I told Rog, when he gave a shout of frustration, “the number 2 bottler in the world gets this water from common tap water.” If I want to use tap water, I’ll take the filter off my home filter and get it direct, I said (this being back in San Fran).

We continued going through the exercise, though his face was a mask of disappointment as I continued to nail the water. To no-one’s surprise but his own, I picked up the Fiji water with a look of superiority, and drank the whole thing.

This, my friends and readers, is my lone qualification to now get to the heart of this blog: Teeth whiteners.

Experience number one was with a laser procedure that cost me $1,200 in San Francisco. I was single, twenty-seven, and still thinking I had some left-over badness from braces as a teen. The process meant my gums were covered with wax, my mouth stretched so far back I could have kissed my earlobes, goggles were placed on my eyes and bad music covered my ears. Two hours later, I emerged a new woman. No eating chocolate, coffee or wine for 2 weeks, the doc said (I abided by not imbibing the latter two during that time, only eating chocolate with my “back teeth”) and went on my way.

The results were amazing. I had a nice, white teeth. Even my brother complimented me, telling me I was “smiling bigger.” True. My teeth remained bright for about a decade.

Then came the real shocker. I couldn’t do it again. In the decade since I’d had my teeth done, lasers had all but been phased out. I’m sill not clear on why, however. Perhaps the advent of do-it-yourself whiteners had killed the market, like Victoria Secret’s push-up bras hurt the market for those pills from Sweden guaranteed to increase your breast size two times (don’t ask. it’s true. and they are still available).

Nonetheless, when Rog’s teeth surpassed mine in color, something had to be done.

My first foray into home based teeth whitening included the toothpaste. Tried Crest, Aquafresh, and Tom’s Natural. No visible difference. It could have been due to the fact my teeth were already somewhat white.

I discarded the idea for a few more years, then went for the big guns, the Rembrandt set of toothpaste and self-adhesive strips. This seemed to do the trick during the 2 weeks, and I noticed. However, the sets were $32 bucks, and it felt like I was suddenly a man, copping to a haircut every other week. I didn’t want to pay that kind of money.

The smart answer would have been to cut out chocolate, but no. And since I don’t drink coffee, tea, red wine (or any wine), or smoke, I wasn’t willing to get crazy. Thus, I continued my search.

Next up were the whitening strips. I tried Crest Whitening Strips. Those darn product managers at Crest did a good job on me, for I’m nothing if not a brand-loyalty shopper. The whitening strips had dropped dramatically in price (Walmart has good deals-see above), but I’m sure Amazon does as well. In any case, the downside of these strips is that they dissolve and get messy. I hated pulling out the strips, getting goo on my hands, then brushing, then rinsing…blahblah. I found myself not using the strips regularly, only on self-inflicted deadlines, like a wedding, a meeting or getting ready for bikini season.

The journey for tooth enlightening led me to molding. Rog went cheap, and got some molds that get hot, dunked in water or something, then pressed in to the mouth. I must not have a big mouth, for these molds were made for Garganta. After I’d attempted to cut down, shape and hone a set that actually fit, I felt like an ancient stone carver had nothing down on me.

This led me to the hallowed doors of my dentist.

Dentist-molded: @$250 bucks. Dentists also make the trays for hockey players like my husband. So of course, they can do trays for teethwhitening. Most dentists now also sell sets of peroxide whitening, a box of 4 syringes (used to pour into the trays) is $25. Each syringe lasts about 3 treatments. So, for $25 bucks, one gets 12 treatments, give or take.

This is a far superior cost-return solution than any other. The singular downside is the tray needs to stay on 30 minutes, and is used once a day. Initially, my teeth became sensitive to the solution, but it’s gone away. Also, I tend to get lazy about the tray. 30 minutes is an eternity in my world, and I can’t talk on the phone with trays in my mouth, even custom-made ones. This begat, my latest find:

The pen.

For the teeth whitening novice, two types of “pens” exist. The first type of whitening pen is an actual type of ‘paint’ that gets painted on. It was made famous on World’s top model, when that white, spikey-haired gay man whips out a pen and says “open wide girl, your teeth are yellow,” and then paints her teeth white. It would be my personal Maslow table that led me to watch the one moment of the one episode that I’ve ever seen, before or since. God knew I was searching for an answer, and he gave it to me.

I looked on line. I purchased. I used. and then, I threw away. For twenty-five bucks (I succumbed for the two-for-one marketing ploy), the paint was little more than a temporary write-on. It didn’t really work. It tasted awful, and I was worried I’d get some asbestos-side effect like blindness by putting a paint on the enamel of my teeth. Call me a nut, for I’m good with peroxide, which to extend the metaphor, is probably like paint thinner. And that leads me to the second type of pen.

The peroxide pen. This was my latest purchase, just last week. And friends, I’m sold. Here’s why. Unlike the self-applied dissolve strips mentioned above, the goo emitted from this pen is as benign as it can be, and not half as annoying. Because I’m a marketing freak (and you have read this far, and have a right to know) it’s the Listerine Whitening pen. It works like a lipstick, wherein the bottom of the pen turns, cranking out some clear goo at the top. I’m typically driving somewhere when I whip out my pen, turn the nob and run it along my teeth. Its nice, top edges are perfect for getting in the cracks and crevices between my teeth and along the gum line. The two best parts of this include the price: which was $12.99 at the local supermarket (QFC) and the fact I can apply it three times a day. Again, I do it while I’m driving, since one can’t eat or drink for 30 minutes after application. This ensures I don’t eat bad, stain-producing foods.

And to be clear, (disclaimer coming) I don’t get any money from these endorsements, nor am I a Listerine bigot. It was the only pen on the supermarket aisle. Perhaps others exist. If I were a thorough focus group, I’d know this, but I don’t! (and since no professional reviewer am I, it eliminates any obligation I might feel to give you alternatives. sorry)

Now, do even more alternatives exist? YES. Rog swears by the Listerine whitening girggle. Specifically, this is a Pre-Whitening Rinse, that has lightened his teeth by at least five shades that I can tell. Here’s the deal with it–he uses it in the morning and night, BEFORE brushing his teeth, per the directions. Yet, when I tried it, it was like acid on my gums. Yes, acid. It wasn’t that it physically hurt my gums, it disintegrated them. Truly. I could literally feel the top layer of my gums skimming off like the top layer of grunge on a bog. Rog’s gums then, must be the teflon-caoted kind, because his gums had no ill affects. Go figure.

Now, for people who don’t want to mess with trays, strips, pens, mouthwashes or toothpaste, you can do the permanent route. Get your teeth filed in points like a dragon and have veneers attached. Depending on the quality and doctor, you’ll be paying a grand on up per tooth. Some are thick veneers, and the more expensive ones, that are look more natural, are 2-3 grand per tooth. The results are instantaneous. Wedding in Vegas tomorrow? No problem. The downside, as I’ve witnessed with some friends and associates, is that veneers are nearly as susceptible to stain-causing elements as natural teeth.

Then guess what. Veneers can’t really be whitened. The only choice at that point, is to get the veneers replaced, or, as one friend did, knock out the entire set of teeth, and have an entire bridge screwed in to the bone. Sometimes it’s hard for me to look at him, knowing he’s ripped through three sets of teeth, real and not, and now has long screws keeping in his pearly whites. I’m a visual girl, and he’s like dracrula. And some point, his choppers are going to drop in the soup at our dinner table, and it will be all she wrote.

The good news is that you have lots of options. Since I’ve “mostly kicked” my chocolate habit, my teeth might stay a bit whiter longer. But I keep the pen handy in my purse. Love that thing.

PS: Today, our water is from a well, two hundred feet in the ground that comes down from a mountain. It comes out tasting pretty good, though we have a filter that removes some of the metal taste that has a nasty side effect of damaging the neurological health of small children. Thus, I still have my nice, thirty-day supply of Fiji water in the garage, though I have been known to slurp a Smart Water no and then.

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