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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

I recently had the unique opportunity to interview a pioneer who has dedicated her career to bringing a voice to women’s sports, Jane Schonberger. Jane is the founder and “Chief Trailblazer” for Pretty Tough, a #1 site for female athletes and fans of women’s sports.

Geared toward young girls and their growing desire to play sports, Jane established the Pretty Tough (PT) brand to demonstrate that a woman’s femininity and desire to play hard can be strong and can co-exit. Not only does PT do an excellent job of conveying this message to an audience who needs to hear it the most, but the site also has some of the best comprehensive, up-to-date coverage of women’s sports available.

I am a strong supporter of this site and this company, and I wish Jane the best of luck in her future endeavors. (You might see me guest blogging for PT in the future).

Check out the below interview. I hope you enjoy her words as much as I have. Thank you, Jane, for your inspiration and taking the time to speak with me.

(MH) Tell me a little bit about yourself, your background and your role at Pretty Tough.

(JS) After a successful career as content developer and entertainment/brand marketing executive, I wanted to focus my attention on something I really cared about. I have two teenage daughters – both athletes – who are my role models.  I wanted to create a brand that spoke to them – and other girls of their generation – demonstrating that a woman’s femininity and desire to play hard and be strong can co-exist.

I teamed up with friends and colleagues that I’d worked with at Disney, Fox and other studios to develop and market the brand. I serve as the Chief Trailblazer but I have help from a talented group of writers, designers, consumer product gurus, licensing professionals, athletes and coaches.

(MH) Have you ever played sports? If so, which sports and how have they had an impact upon your current career and involvement with Pretty Tough?


(JS) As a kid I mostly played sports on a recreational level. I played tennis and swam competitively for a couple years but wasn’t a super serious athlete. The impact on my adult life comes primarily from lessons learned about goal-setting, perseverance and mental toughness.

Today I still play tennis and swim – I also love to hike and bike – and I play basketball on a Moms League at our local park.

I’m also an avid spectator – one of my daughters is an elite level soccer player, the other is a fencer – and I love going to youth sports competitions as well as college and professional sports events.

(MH) Tell me a little bit about the background of Pretty Tough (the book) and how the Web site and sports blog evolved from there. Does Liz Tigelaar have any continued impact on the site?

(JS) One of our early goals when we established Pretty Tough was to publish a series of books that featured young female athletes. We wanted stories about pushing limits and busting stereotypes – e.g. the popular jock can just as easily be a girl as a guy.

Razorbill, a division of Penguin Young Readers, shared our vision and bought the series. Pretty Tough was the first book. Playing with the Boys was the second in the series and we’re working on the third and fourth books now.

Pretty Tough novels illustrate the life of female athletes in a way that’s never been done before. We wanted to show the grittiness and sweat that athletes must endure to be the best they can be. The books also delve into the lives of the athletes—their friendships and romances—stuff that appeals to girl readers.

We created the Pretty Tough book series because we love to read, and as teens, we could never find good books with a female athletic main character. We hope readers can identify with our characters and see how they deal with a lot of the same issues teens face today.

Author/screenwriter Liz Tigelaar was brought on board because she supports girls in their quest to be both strong and tough athletes without losing their sense of girlie-ness and femininity.  She loved the idea of writing books about teenagers for teenagers that sends a positive message and she’s done a terrific job capturing the voice of our characters.

(MH) I noticed there is a PT Team. I’m curious, how did this group of people come together? How did you find so many voices to represent so many different sports?

(JS) We developed a sponsorship/ambassador program last year to recognize girls in diverse sports. We have an application process and girls on our team benefit on a variety of levels.  PT Team members get exposure on our site and via our marketing campaigns; they receive a free cap and shirt, stickers, and other promotional material. They also earn discounts on products purchased through our online store and commissions on sales generated by their efforts.


(MH) In my opinion, Pretty Tough covers sports better than many other resources out there. Who is in charge of updating and keeping track of all the latest female sports news? How do they do it?


(JS) Given our limited staff, the task of keeping the site up-to-date is my responsibility. We work with a talented group of girls and women who contribute material specific to their sport and occasionally assign articles we think will be of general interest.

We’re always looking for new writers and experts and want to provide a forum for all female athletes so hit us up if you think you have something to contribute.


(MH) I noticed there is a “Life & Style” section to the site. What is the purpose of this section, and do you think that section is important in order to attain viewers?


(JS) At our heart, we are a lifestyle brand and I think it’s important for girls to understand how sports and leading active lives are core to a healthy lifestyle. By profiling certain personalities and depicting popular culture, we are essentially connecting the dots and demonstrating how sports and sports themes impact our lives positively on a daily basis.

(MH) How does Pretty Tough profit from the site?


(JS) The site was originally established to develop brand awareness for Pretty Tough and serve as an online shopping destination for Pretty Tough products. It has since evolved into a marketing/advertising vehicle for complementary companies as well.


(MH) I was once told by a female sports blogger that a main reason women’s sports publications such as Sports Illustrated for Women have fizzled out over the years is because they can’t compete with the fashion and consumer magazines and publications, and there is limited interest in the sports news alone. What do you think about this?


(JS) I think that print publications in general are finding it difficult to compete with the internet and other content delivery options. Women’s sports magazines just happened to be at the forefront of pubs experiencing financial difficulties. The current trend is in niche content and given the targeted demographic, I think marketers will find women’s sports sites a more cost-effective way to reach their audience.


(MH) I’ve written about this a few times on my blog, but something that really is annoying to me is that male sports bloggers often only cover female sports when the participant is “hot” or attractive. Have you seen this or come across this? What are your thoughts on male sports bloggers?


(JS) Objectifying female athletes is a favorite pastime of many male bloggers. It’s obvious that “hot” or attractive personalities are going to garner more media attention (whether it’s David Beckham or Amanda Beard) but bloggers only interested in T&A are abhorrent. I love to see female athletes in the spotlight but it’s important to recognize their athletic talents and achievements as well as their physical attributes.


(MH) If you look back to the WNBA fight that happened a few months ago, why do you think that was so successful in grabbing so much attention?


(JS) Although it might not have been the kind of attention the WNBA wanted, the mini-brawl did shine the spotlight on the players momentarily. Female athletes are just as competitive as men and when pushed to the edge they are obviously capable of exhibiting the same lack of control.  The bigger question should be: Now that the women have shown they can fight like the NBA players – can they get paid the same as the guys too?:-)

(MH) Since I started covering the Olympics this year, my site traffic jumped. There seems to be a strong interest during the Olympics which fizzles out over the year. Have you seen this as well? What are your thoughts about the Olympics and its ability to generate an interest in female sports?


(JS) With all of the media hype and money spent on the Olympics, it’s no surprise that interest in all sports was heightened during the event. Athletes such as Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Allyson Felix, Sanya Richardson, Dara Torres, Kerri Walsh and Misty Misty May-Treanor received well deserved attention. Equally important was a focus on athletes like fencer Mariel Zagunis, pole vaulter Jenn Stuczynski and martial artist Diana Lopez. Hopefully interest in them and other female athletes will continue.

(MH) What do you think about women’s softball being eliminated for the London games? Do you think there’s a chance to bring it back?


(JS) Softball’s elimination from the 2012 Games sucks and since the basis of the IOC’s decision was nebulous at best, I think there’s a good chance they’ll reconsider for the 2016 Games.

(MH) It seems there is a large disconnect between the millions of girls and women (through college) who compete in sports on a daily basis and the few of us who cover and follow women’s sports as adults (after college). What do you think about this? Do you think there is a market out there for adult females who want to learn about and follow women’s sports?


(JS) I’m sure there is a market for adult females who want to follow women’s sports – albeit a small one compared to the male market. At PrettyTough.com we try to focus not only on the sports but also on the lifestyle aspects. Our audience is one that lives a “sports-inspired life” and is also interested in the health, beauty, and entertainment aspects of athletics.

(MH) What do you think is essential in capturing this market? What is holding it back from taking off right now? Why aren’t advertisers interested and investing (i.e., Sports Illustrated for Women got dropped a few years back)?


(JS) As mentioned before, niche content and a targeted demographic provide marketers with great opportunities. The cost of producing and distributing a magazine is significant but there are a number of alternative methods for delivering content that provide marketers and advertisers with cost-effective solutions. Companies seriously looking at the bottom line recognize that women involved in sports and living a healthy lifestyle are a valuable demographic with enormous spending power and they should be finding efficient ways to reach them.

(MH) What do you think the future of women’s sports will be? Do you think we’ll generate more attention, or do you think it has leveled off?


(JS) I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. Just as college sports has exploded in the past 20 years, women’s sports will be the next huge growth area. College basketball games used to be played in empty arenas  – the first nationally televised game wasn’t until 1968 (UCLA vs. Univ. of Houston). Today there are entire cable networks devoted to college sports and they’re big business for all involved. Women’s sports will follow a similar trajectory.

— I’d like to thank Jane Schonberger again for taking the time to speak to me. Her words and mission at Pretty Tough are critical in our ongoing fight to bring a voice to women’s sports online.

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When health and technology meet, a scary thing happens: there’s an obesity problem. Check out this hilarious video about the Wii Fit, the latest invention to keep kids fat. I love this video!

My favorite part is when the narrator says,

“Instead of having your kids get outside to play and get exercise, why not have them stand right in front of the TV? You’ll save that money on soccer registration.”

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When I saw this video on Good Morning America today, I could not believe it. A wildly popular YouTube video shows cell phones, when placed toward each other, can actually produce enough microwaves to pop popcorn. Gross.

So this got me thinking. If it’s powerful enough to do this, what’s it doing to our ears?

I remembered an article that I recently posted on the site which I am Editor for, Hesfit.com. In a piece about cell phone usage, writer Denise Musumeci uncovers a link between cell phones and brain cancer — a correlation that, although not proven, IS existent.

“I think the safe practice,” said Dr. Keith Black, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, “is to use an ear piece so you keep the microwave antenna away from your brain.”

A microwave antenna? Since when?? THIS explains the popcorn. But is it safe? We’re not sure. In fact, the FDA also admits that the average period of time that cell phones were used is three years, which is not enough time to measure the long-term risk of cell phone use.

“Three types of tumors have been associated with wireless phones: glioma tumors, salivary gland tumors, and acoustic neuroma. All three types of tumors are very rare, however, heavy use of cell phones increase this risk. According to the New York Times, “Last year, The American Journal of Epidemiology published data from Israel finding a 58 percent higher risk of parotid gland tumors among heavy cell phone users.”

What’s also unknown is the effect it will have on children, who are growing up using these things from a young age (I’m only 22, and I didn’t have a cell phone until I was about 15).

“Young people who are still not fully grown face a lifetime of increasing cell phone use and will ultimately face more exposure in the long run than those who didn’t start using cell phones until well into adulthood.”

Experts recommend — if you use a cell phone, wear a headset, if possible, to avoid holding the antenna near your head.

Yikes. Scary thought.

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It’s almost 1am; I just got done watching Randy Paush’s The Last Lecture. Having been diagnosed with brain cancer, this professor of computer science at Garnegie Mellon University gave a talk about life to a group of 500 attendees at the University. The lessons learned can be applied to people of all ages and walks of life.

Randy has some great advice in this piece. You can tell he is incredibly intelligent. And when you combine that kind of intelligence with an ability to speak, educate and socialize, you can truly change the world. I think with this lecture, he has done just that.

Randy’s lecture has generated national attention online (the YouTube video has over 2 million 600 thousand hits) and the print version of this lecture continues to be a best-seller.

My favorite part of the video is his “head fake” analogy. He expalained that when you make people believe they’re having fun and not learning, that’s when you can teach them the most. He’s absolutely right.

Randy emphasized the importance of childhood dreams. One of his biggest dreams was to play in the NFL. Not having totally completed this dream, Randy said that it doesn’t matter, because he’s taken lessons from football that he carried over to his life as an educator.

Telling myself that I would only watch a few minutes of the video, I ended up staying up the entire one hour and 18 minutes to finish this lecture.

Randy is an excellent example of an individual who has changed the world. And he just happened to have played sports as a child. Coincidence? Probably not.

If you haven’t taken an hour out of your life to watch this video yet, what are you waiting for?

Click here to watch it in YouTube.

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Saturday morning, I was among the 50,000 participants in the Susan G. Komen National Race for the Cure, a 5K event held in Washington, DC. The event raised $4.9 million to fund the breast cancer research community health programs for the medically underserved in the National Capital area.

Next year, the event will be named the “Susan G. Komen Global Race For the Cure,” as the event is now a global leader in the breast cancer movement.

It was a hot one on Saturday morning — temperatures reached a high of 98 degrees. With 50,000 sweaty bodies around you, I’d say it feels like that temperature almost doubles. And for some reason, when you’re on the National Mall, it feels hotter than ever.

But I got it in in about 30 minutes. 10 minute mile with a delayed start and extraordinary heat — not too bad.

Seeing all those people come out for this event really says something. With all those people at the event, it shows great support — but it also means that breast cancer is a real problem in this country.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 182,460 women in the United States will be found to have invasive breast cancer in 2008. About 40,480 women will die from the disease this year. Right now there are about two and a half million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

Taking action by participating in events such as the Komen Race for the Cure or the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life shows support toward a better future. I’d like to congratulate all the survivors, individuals, companies and sponsors for participation and support.

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tomatoThe Food and Drug Administration is alerting consumers in New Mexico and Texas that a salmonella outbreak is linked to raw red plum, red Roma, or round red tomatoes. This problem seems to be associated only with states in the Southwest, but has raised food concerns throughout the world as tomato season comes full bloom.

The tomatoes in question are associated with 57 cases of salmonella (17 have been hospitalized). On June 3rd, the FDA announced their warning. The story hit Good Morning America today (a little late, don’t you think?)

According to the FDA,

“Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections particularly in young children, frail or elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.”

Apparently, these suspect tomatoes actually came from Mexico, and are not the fault of U.S. produce industry.

However, according to Marion Nestle’s What to Eat blog, the FDA created a “tomato safety initiative” in 2007 which is voluntary for growers in U.S. and Mexico. Nestle is calling for a mandatory initiative, based upon globalization and food safety risks.

I’d venture to say that Nestle is on to something here.

Also, just as a tip, always wash your produce before you eat it. You never know where it’s been and who has touched it before you.

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As I posted earlier in my Ranting About Red bull piece, energy drinks should be NOT be consumed by kids and teens. More importantly, they should not be consumed with alcohol (by anyone, not just kids and teens).

Gerald Pugliese recently wrote in Disease Proof that energy drinks like Red bull contain a ton of caffeine.  Ingesting this much caffeine can increase a child’s risk for a heart attack. Here’s what Gerald quoted:

“After drinking a cup of coffee, blood pressure can rise up to 5 or even 10 millimeters of mercury,” said Dr. Charalambos Vlachopoulos from the Cardiology Department of the Henry Dunant Hospital in Athens, Greece. Increases of this magnitude can increase a person’s risk of suffering from a stroke or a heart attack.

A recent article from the New York Times Well blog (Tara Parker-Hope) points to new research that says that teenagers who drink energy drinks—which are LOADED with caffeine—are more likely to engage in “risky” behavior. Here’s what she had to say:

In March, The Journal of American College Health published a report on the link between energy drinks, athletics and risky behavior. The study’s author, Kathleen Miller, an addiction researcher at the University of Buffalo, says it suggests that high consumption of energy drinks is associated with “toxic jock” behavior, a constellation of risky and aggressive behaviors including unprotected sex, substance abuse and violence.

The finding doesn’t mean the drinks cause bad behavior. But the data suggest that regular consumption of energy drinks may be a red flag for parents that their children are more likely to take risks with their health and safety.

So please, do not drink Red bull. In an ABC news report, they reported that teens and young adults are drinking Red bull in droves.

These days, many teens and young adults choose to stock up on energy drinks such as Red Bull to keep them energized throughout the day and night. According to a Simmons Research poll, 31 percent of U.S. teens — approximately 7.6 million — said they consume energy drinks. On average, they consumed 5.3 glasses in the past 30 days.

College students, on the other hand, consumed 5.6 glasses in the past 30 days.

Many of these teens are combining Red bull with alcoholic beverages.  it is reported that the side effects are very dangerous and not worth the extra “buzz” you might feel.

“You can hinder your respiration,” said Roger A. Clemens, of the University of Southern California’s School of Pharmacy. “From a public health perspective, you should not mix stimulants with alcohol.”

“When you combine those two together, you always have a risk,” he said. According to Clemens, some major concerns with mixing these two drinks include, but are not limited to, cardiovascular risk, impaired judgment, shortness of breath, dizziness, disorientation and rapid heart beat.

So please, don’t follow the crowd. Especially if you’re an athlete. It’s just not worth it. Parents, discourage this behavior in your kids, please.

It makes me think, if these drinks are so bad for you, why doesn’t the FDA step in and do something? Caffeine needs to be regulated a little more carefully.

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