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Healthy Reading; back pain survey; STD testing

The Happiness Project (Harper Perennial)

Writer Gretchen Rubin was sitting on a city bus when it hit her: "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter."

Rather than despair, she spent a year making specific, measurable goals and systematically reaching them. The result: a bestselling book that is both inspiring and funny. Now, groups around the country are using The Happiness Project as a guide to improve their own lives, step by step.

St. Petersburg life and business coach Yvonne Ulmer, who recently retired as the CEO of St. Petersburg College's downtown and Midtown campuses, will lead an eight-week Happiness Project group starting April 30.

Each Monday from 6 to 7 p.m., the group will discuss the book, share their successes and commit to action steps aimed at reaching their personal goals. The group will meet at Hooker Tea Company at 300 Beach Drive NE in St. Petersburg. Fee for the entire series, including resource materials, is $100. Sign up at or call Ulmer at (727) 410-0681.

The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet (HarperCollins)

Chances are good that if you've fallen off your diet in the past, it was because you felt deprived. According to Barbara Rolls, a Penn State professor of nutritional sciences, you can lose weight by eating more — if you choose the right foods.

In her new book, she explains her theory of calorie density. "Foods vary in the number of calories they pack into each bite. Reduce the calories per bite — that is, the CD (calorie density)— and you can eat the same amount of food (bites) while saving calories." Rolls' 12-week plan specifies filling and satisfying foods that won't overload you with calories.

One of the best features is the side-by-side photo comparison of meals and beverages that contain the same number of calories. For 500 calories, you can get a snack-type serving of pretzels and almonds or a full meal including a cup of salad, a cup of soup, a few crackers and a handful of grapes.

When you start to grasp the concept of calorie density, you'll think twice about grabbing a few pieces of candy when you could have had a whole bowl of fresh cherries.

The Little Book of Stress Relief (Firefly Press)

Now in its second edition, Dr. David Posen's collection of "52 prescriptions for a calmer life'' becomes more relevant with each new medical discovery about how stress can hurt both your mental and physical health.

This is the kind of book you can pick up and dip into for a few minutes at a time or study intently. Each chapter presents a story about a certain aspect of stress, and then provides concrete yet powerful tips to deal with each challenge.

Posen starts by explaining why stress can be both friend and foe, and explores the physical, mental, emotional and behavioral symptoms of stress.

From there, he moves on to dozens of all-too-familiar situations. Stopping unwanted thoughts, dealing with clutter, kicking the procrastination habit, handling difficult people, learning to relax — Posen tackles all these topics and many more with intelligence, warmth and humor.

And he shares his own experiences with his "medicine,'' including the time his wife got him to stick to his meditation practice on vacation. He's grateful, by the way.

OH, THAT ACHING BACK: When your low back hurts, do you pop a painkiller and stay as still as possible?

Physical therapists (and plenty of other health professionals) would say you've got it wrong.

The American Physical Therapy Association surveyed more than 2,600 people age 18 and older and found lots of misery and misinformation.

Among the findings:

• More than one-third of adults say low back pain has affected their ability to perform tasks (39 percent), exercise (38 percent) and sleep (37 percent).

• 54 percent of Americans with low back pain spend most of their workday sitting.

• 72 percent use pain medication to relieve symptoms; 55 percent use heat and cold packs.

Simple activity such as regular walking can help many people, but if problems persist, see a physical therapist or other appropriate health professional to get help devising a movement plan rather than a flat-on-your-aching-back plan.

FAST FIX SMUDGE TRICKS: If you've ever smudged your clothes with foundation or deodorant during your a.m. rush, you'll appreciate these tips from the May ShopSmart magazine:

• Put an old polyester scarf over your head before pulling on your clothes to keep makeup off.

• Remove deodorant streaks by rubbing with an old pair of panty hose, a nylon sock or a used dryer sheet.

• The foam on hangers from the dry cleaner can also lift deodorant marks and foundation. Wrap foam around your finger, press and gently brush on the stain to lift without smearing. Still there? Work in diluted Dawn blue dishwashing detergent with a toothbrush and rinse.

Free and reduced-rate STD testing: As many as one in two sexually active young people will contract a sexually transmitted disease by age 25 — and most won't know it because many are symptom-free. Although older folks are certainly not immune, about half of the 19 million STDs in the United States each year occur in young adults. At any age, STDs increase the risk of HIV infection and cancer; for those of child-bearing age, infertility also is a serious risk.

That's the reason for Get Yourself Tested, a national campaign to not only raise awareness, but also do something about it.

On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida is offering free standard HIV and chlamydia/gonorrhea testing, and reduced-rate rapid HIV tests ($20) at health centers including the one at 8950 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, Suite 102, St. Petersburg, where testing is available from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It's a good idea to get an appointment, though walk-ins are welcome. Go to or call (727) 898-8199.

STUDY ON FEMALE LOW LIBIDO: An estimated 40 million American women aren't as interested in sex as they once were. And while this may be neither news nor distressing to some, others are very bothered indeed. Dr. Mildred V. Farmer, medical director of Meridien Research in St. Petersburg, notes that low libido "is not a medical condition in itself but it can impact a person's self-image, well-being and relationship."

Meridien is conducting a ''late phase'' study for an investigational medication for the treatment of low sexual desire (the drug has passed all FDA safety requirements in previous trials). The study includes evaluations, counseling, investigational medication, physical exams and routine lab work. There is no cost to the volunteer. Compensation for time and travel are available, and confidentiality is assured.

If you are a healthy woman over age 21, in a stable heterosexual relationship, and have low sexual desire, you may be eligible to participate at a Meridien location in St. Petersburg (727-347-8839), Brooksville (352-597-8839) or Bradenton (941-756-8680). Call or go to for information.

Staff, wire reports

Healthy Reading; back pain survey; STD testing 04/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 20, 2012 4:30am]
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