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Health & wellbeing | The Guardian

Latest Health & wellbeing news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice

It was a dangerous time, but my lesbian parents paved the way

Jeers of “Lara the Lezzie” accompanied me as I walked down the hallway. A girl at school had outed my family to the entire class. It wasn’t easy being the daughter of lesbians in the 1980s. Many of my friends’ parents had married right out of high school and started families shortly thereafter. LGBT families were just starting to become visible and my family was one of the first. This was before the first child was conceived through in vitro fertilisation in Manchester in 1978. Back then, children of LGBT parents were mostly the result of heterosexual unions, or occasional liaisons between lesbians and gay men with the intent of procreation.

In my case, my father and mother divorced when I was still in nappies, for reasons that had nothing to do with my mother’s sexuality. She went back to college and became active in the feminist movement of the 1970s, and once she found her voice she couldn’t imagine going back to a subservient role with a husband. She calls herself a “political lesbian” because for her, dating women was as much about finding her own feminist strength as it was about anything else. When I was three, my mother fell in love with Pat, a woman who had known she was gay since she was 12, if not earlier. In terms of the “born gay” versus “become gay” argument, I have one parent in each camp.

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Posted: July 22, 2018, 5:00 am

The nutritionist and former model, 43, on feeling the same now as she did when she was 17, vanity and being a role model for her daughters

I enjoy the feeling you get after exercise more than during it. I was always sporty at school and did a lot of Thai boxing when I lived in New York. I rode a horse for a long time. I love running and I’ve turned into a yoga bunny.

Despite being a nutritionist, I do eat sweets and bags of crisps. I’m all about a good relationship with food, which I think is one where you can have an ice cream without feeling guilty. I do realise my tastebuds are a bit warped. I was eating a flaxseed cracker the other day and said it was delicious and a friend said: ‘That is disgusting! Your tastebuds have gone horribly wrong.’

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Posted: July 22, 2018, 5:00 am

The author and Oxford fellow on the joys of the city’s Covered Market, the importance of tea and debating with his daughter

I go to sleep quickly. I need a minimum of six hours and I like to be in bed by 11pm. I often wake up in the night, so I’ll go downstairs to get a book – anything from Zadie Smith to John le Carré – to read. I’m awake when the alarm goes off at 6.25am. My wife is an artist, so she has a different routine; in the morning, we converse amicably, but briefly!

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Posted: July 21, 2018, 6:00 am

Barry’s Bootcamp started us on a ‘jog’ that is as fast as I would normally run, working up to a run that is faster than I have ever considered

Nigella Lawson once advanced the idea of using prunes to replace butter in a cake, saying it seemed unlikely, but that’s what they do in California, “where they make it their business to know that sort of thing”. This is what kept coming back to me in Barry’s Bootcamp, an extremely high-voltage exercise class whose composition was created by the original Barry, a gym instructor in Los Angeles. Does it have to be so hard? Yes. It’s from the city of the beautiful people. The principle is that you can fanny around all you like with yoga and aqua aerobics and body conditioning; but the only things that will really make a difference to your fitness – AKA how much of a Love Island body you have – are running and weights. Time-poor and in search of a six-pack? Stick to these.

I did an abs class, in which you move from a bench on the floor with a 5kg weight, doing endless crunches and variations thereof (side crunches, bicycle moves), to the treadmill, in roughly 10-minute intervals. On the treadmill, you are taken through a series of speed intervals, told what pace and incline to set on the machine in short bursts. It’s not as hectoring as you’d expect: perhaps ur-Barry was wont to yell at people about pain and gain, but Sandy, who started the UK branches with his brother and sister-in-law, is quite a reasonable man, saving his motivational blasts for the people who go all the time and really could run 10 miles an hour if they put their minds to it.

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Posted: July 21, 2018, 6:00 am

Concepts like ‘trauma’ or ‘violence’ have stretched to encompass things no previous generation would have worried about

Is everything completely terrible – or is the world getting better? It’s a popular topic of debate, because both claims seem to be true. On one hand, it would be foolish to ignore the statistics (poverty, violence and disease really are plummeting); on the other, day after day of awful news stories can’t just be dismissed. So I’m grateful for a fascinating new study, published in the journal Science, which sheds new light on such matters. Although it began with a seemingly unrelated, borderline absurd question: how would you define a “blue dot”?

In the experiment, participants were shown hundreds of dots in shades from deep purple to deep blue, and asked to say whether each was blue or not. Obviously, the bluer a dot, the more likely people were to classify it as blue. But what’s interesting is what happened when researchers began reducing the prevalence of the blue dots they displayed. The fewer dots that were objectively blue, the broader people’s definition of “blue” became: they started to classify purplish dots that way, too. Their concept of blue expanded, a phenomenon the study authors label “prevalence-induced concept change”. Which clearly has nothing to do with social problems such as poverty or racism – except that, actually, it might.

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Posted: July 20, 2018, 1:59 pm

Having a computer make adjustments while I sleep is far safer than trying groggily to make decisions in the early hours

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 14. This means my pancreas no longer naturally produces insulin; and without insulin, my blood glucose levels will go dangerously high. The biggest impact was on my sleep. I used to love lying in on weekends. After I was diagnosed in 2002, I had to set my alarm for 7am to take my insulin and eat something, then continue testing my blood sugar and inject myself several times a day.

This process became a little easier when I got an insulin pump, and later a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). The pump continuously infuses insulin into my body, and the CGM sensor can report my blood sugar every five minutes. At night, I relied on the CGM’s built-in alarm to wake me if my glucose passed the threshold that required immediate action; but though I tried several CGMs, the alarms were never loud enough, and they couldn’t be turned up or changed. I talked to manufacturers, but nothing improved. Once I went to college and lived alone, this became a bigger problem; I was increasingly afraid of going to sleep at night.

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Posted: July 20, 2018, 8:59 am

Ultramarathons have never had big financial rewards. A trophy, a T-shirt and maybe some free trainers is considered a good haul – but is that about to change?

Would you be more likely to set a personal best in your next race if someone offered you £100? How about £1,000? Or even £5,000? The people behind the Ultra Gobi, a 400km single-stage desert race in China, are hoping to find out whether money can make a difference by announcing a $10,000 prize for anyone who breaks the 71-hour course record.

“In 2017, Dan Lawson laid down an incredible gauntlet in the Gobi” says Pavel Toropov, the race director. “This unparalleled prize is a tribute to that performance and an incentive for the best endurance athletes in the world to challenge it.”

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Posted: July 19, 2018, 9:36 am

Government-owned company has back-pedalled on its pledge to cycle-proof the line, say campaigners, locking out cyclists for generations to come

The company building the HS2 high speed rail line is accused of watering down commitments on cycle crossings along the route, in a move campaigners say will endanger lives and lock out cycling for generations to come.

The government-owned company, HS2 Ltd, was accused of back-pedalling on its legally-binding assurance that it would “cycle-proof” phase 1 of HS2, from London to the West Midlands, earlier this year by Cycling UK, the national cycling charity. The assurances, which became legally binding when they were incorporated into the High Speed Rail Act, stated HS2 Ltd would have a dialogue with the Cycle Proofing Working Group (CPWG), a government advisory body, with the assumption that they would include high quality design standards.

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Posted: July 18, 2018, 12:36 pm

Struggling in the heatwave? Share your tips for cooling down, as well as your weekend exploits, below the line as usual

Sorry for the late blog this week, turns out that sometimes when you feel feverish in the heat, it’s because you are actually feverish, rather than just hot. In fact, I seem generally to be de-acclimatising to the heat. The first couple of weeks of the heatwave were just lovely -but while I’m certainly not complaining of the continued sunshine, I’m definitely not converted to the joys of a run in 30 degrees. Running on London streets at the moment feels like running in the Caribbean, only without the cooling sea breezes, beach-based cool down and, well, all of the good stuff.

Of course, hot temperatures do affect your running - even if you are used to more tropical climates than the UK. And that’s true for the very best runners too - in fact, a cooler temperature is even better for the super-speedy as they generate more heat. Even just an easy run when the temperature is as hot as it has been recently can feel an ordeal. Personally, I find it hits quite suddenly - the first couple of miles might be fine, but there’s a moment after that where my head just instantly goes from fine to “about to explode with heat”. Dousing a cap in water can help - or just trickling it down the back of your neck. Heading for shady woodland paths is ideal if possible, but alas, London has yet to build me a special shaded tree-lined 400m track.

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Posted: July 17, 2018, 10:08 am

On a hot, sunny Sunday evening, the ultra running star shattered the Lake District record that had stood for 36 years

He is the biggest star in ultra running; the winner of some of the biggest races in the world. Last year he climbed Mount Everest twice in one week, without oxygen. And on Sunday night, Kílian Jornet was to be found making history yet again on the fells of the Lake District.

The Bob Graham round is one of the most celebrated challenges in endurance sport, comprising a course of about 106km with an 8,200m ascent over 42 fells, which must be done within 24 hours. It was devised by a Keswick guest-house owner in 1932 and only about 2,000 people have completed the route within the time frame; becoming members of a very exclusive club. Yet, on a hot sunny evening, Jornet completed the route in 12 hours 52 minutes, shattering – by just over an hour – a record that had stood for 36 years.

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Posted: July 9, 2018, 10:24 am

Beautiful city trails and mountain air fuelled by Swiss chocolate - what could be better for a weekend of running? As always, share your own stories below the line

The best place to spend a scorching hot weekend is surely by water - nothing beats jumping into a cold, clear pool, lake or sea after a boiling run. And when that run is around the shores of Lake Geneva, and the water is cool, clear and inviting - well, who could resist? I spent the weekend running, walking, and eating (not necessarily in that order of quantity) in the beautiful Swiss city.

On Saturday, we went for a run with former UTMB winner Dawa Sherpa, who lives in Geneva - when he’s not paying for and building social housing for people who desperately need it back in Nepal. Within minutes of leaving the city centre, we were on shady trails - Dawa is definitely a man who won’t set foot on tarmac if there’s so much as 10m of trail you could run instead. We ran to the Jonction, where the Rhône and the Arve meet in a magical mingling of colours. Then along the Arve all the way to Mont Salève. At which point I took the cable car up, while my distinctly more hardcore travelling companion Susie Chan went up on foot with Dawa. Really need to get myself some friends who regard 5k as a sensible distance and don’t run 100 miles through Florida for fun ...

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Posted: July 9, 2018, 8:01 am

People left tired, irritable and less productive at work after nights of poor shuteye

Britain’s longest heatwave since 1976 has led to a upsurge in sleeping problems, with people left tired, irritable and less productive at work after sweaty nights of poor-quality shuteye.

Record temperatures of up to 32.4C (90.3F) have been stopping many people getting a proper rest as they struggle to get to sleep in rooms that are uncomfortably warm, experts say.

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Posted: July 13, 2018, 11:30 am

Blood tests on participants show profound impact work pattern has on hormones

Working night shifts can mess up the body’s natural rhythms so much that the brain and digestive system end up completely out of kilter with one another, scientists say.

Three night shifts in a row had little impact on the body’s master clock in the brain, researchers found, but it played havoc with gut function, throwing the natural cycle out by a full 12 hours.

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Posted: July 9, 2018, 7:00 pm

US delegation to the World Health Assembly reportedly deployed threats to try to browbeat nations into backing off the resolution

Advocates for improved nutrition for babies have expressed outrage over reports that the Trump administration bullied other governments in an attempt to prevent the passage of an international resolution promoting breastfeeding.

The US delegation to the World Health Assembly in Geneva reportedly deployed threats and other heavy-handed measures to try to browbeat nations into backing off the resolution.

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Posted: July 8, 2018, 8:31 pm

Growing number of business around the world are offering spaces for people to pay to take a snooze during the day

Would you pay $15 to take a nap? A growing number of businesses certainly hope so.

Nap York, a startup in New York City, is a wellness club that appreciates the business benefits of sleep. With live plants, soundproof curtains, noise-cancelling headphones and a dark, four-story environment, the company provides its “napping pods” for $15 a half-hour to anyone who wants to take a snooze any time during the day at its two locations near Grand Central and Penn stations. Depending on the pod chosen, customers can also enjoy phone chargers and “twinkling lights to mimic the starry night sky”, CBS News reports.

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Posted: July 8, 2018, 10:00 am
Sales have soared as ‘clean eaters’ hail the health benefits of the kitchen cupboard staple

It’s a new twist on “an apple a day” which has caught the imagination of health-conscious millennials, celebrity food bloggers and A-listers such as Jennifer Aniston, Katy Perry and Victoria Beckham.

Apple cider vinegar is enjoying a huge revival in the UK as a kitchen cupboard staple, hailed by the “clean-eating” generation as the latest wonder ingredient which can be knocked back daily as a general tonic.

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Posted: July 8, 2018, 5:00 am

There are many diets you can follow if you want to live more healthily, but it’s hard to know which has the best long-term effects? Luckily, a team of experts has done the research

Losing weight is a common new year’s resolution. Even when dressed up as a pledge to eat more healthily, it can be tinged with self-loathing. Those pigs in blankets, mince pies and Baileys. Why, oh why? But at least anyone who wants to improve their diet has a fantastic resource to help them. With perfect timing, a US panel of experts in diet, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and food psychology has scrutinised and ranked 40 diets. Its listings, which are produced annually, show which diets are best for short- and long-term weight loss, which are easiest to follow, which you are most likely to stick with – and which are unsafe because they don’t supply enough nutrients.

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Posted: January 5, 2018, 4:18 pm

A new study suggests canine-lovers could be 23% less likely to die from heart disease – or it could just be that healthier people prefer dogs

Dogs really are our best friends, according to a Swedish study that says canine ownership could reduce heart disease. A study of 3.4 million people between the ages of 40 and 80 found that having a dog was associated with a 23% reduction in death from heart disease and a 20% lower risk of dying from any cause over the 12 years of the study. Previous studies have suggested dogs relieve social isolation and depression – both linked to an increased risk of heart disease and early death.

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Posted: December 4, 2017, 7:00 am
More than a quarter of new fathers in a new study showed significant levels of depression – what are the causes, and what can they do about it?

Men don’t go through pregnancy or childbirth. Their hormone levels don’t nosedive. They don’t get sore nipples. What exactly have they got to be depressed about? Quite a lot, according to research from Sweden showing that, over the past 10 years, a significant number of men have struggled with the transition to fatherhood.

This latest research tries to quantify just how many men get postnatal depression. Previous studies have found between 4% and 10% of men, while, in this smallish sample of 447 Swedish fathers who volunteered (and may therefore not represent your average dad), a surprising 28% of men had symptoms that scored above mild levels of depression. Overall, 4% had moderate depression. Fewer than one in five fathers who were depressed sought help, even though a third of those had thought about harming themselves. While women in the UK are often asked a series of questions that screen for postnatal depression (which affects up to 13% of women), the mental health of fathers is rarely assessed.

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Posted: November 13, 2017, 8:00 am
If you have sensitive skin, doctors recommend moisturisers without fragrance or allergic ingredients, but terms such as ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘dermatologist-recommended’ are often just marketing tools

What do you look for in a body moisturiser? Is it the smell, how smooth it leaves your skin feeling, or how much it costs? If you are attracted by terms such as “dermatologist recommended” or “hypoallergenic”, you may be disappointed. A study of the top 100 best-selling whole body moisturisers found that not only did prices vary by 9,400% but that 95% of the products claiming to be dermatologist-recommended had at least one ingredient that could cause an allergy. Of the hypoallergenic moisturisers, 83% contained a substance on the allergen list of the North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG). The most common potential allergy-causing ingredients were fragrance mix and paraben mix (a preservative).

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Posted: October 30, 2017, 7:00 am

A new report suggests that young people are aware of their parents’ drinking – and it may well have an impact on their relationship with alcohol. So should you keep booze out of the family home?

When you’re drinking wine at home, don’t look as if you’re enjoying it – at least not if you have kids. How much you drink, how often you say: ‘Ah, that’s nice,’ while imbibing and whether you use alcohol as a reward or coping mechanism can all encourage adolescents to drink, according to a report last week from the Institute of Alcohol Studies.

In case you think it’s OK for teenagers to drink, the Department of Health advises children have an alcohol-free life until the age of 15 and only one drink a week until they are 18. In 2009, Prof Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer at the time, warned that “exposing children to drink-fuelled events” was one of the root causes of the UK’s drinking problem.

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Posted: October 23, 2017, 6:00 am

Give her time and space to try to begin to explain what’s wrong, says Annalisa Barbieri

I am in an awful situation and at a loss as to what to do. My 59-year-old husband is in a nursing home with a terminal condition. I have a 19-year-old who has just left home (I gave her an ultimatum because of repeated bad behaviour), and my 27-year-old daughter and nine-year-old granddaughter live with me. Until a few months ago, my older daughter had only dated; she didn’t introduce my granddaughter to any of these men. However, she has now met a lovely man who stays on weekends, and that is becoming a problem. My granddaughter is happy in his company until her bedtime, when she becomes abusive and violent (she has trashed her bedroom many times). She is mostly fine with me – she can be a bit rude, but I can handle that. At Easter, when my daughter and her boyfriend were out on a date, my granddaughter cut long slits in their clothes and bed sheets.

They go out a lot at the weekend all together and, despite having great experiences, my granddaughter can still sulk and be moody. She says she hates her mother’s boyfriend, but is happy to spend time with him alone. What can we do?

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Posted: July 20, 2018, 2:00 pm

As I prepare for womanhood, who do I turn to for guidance?


I am a young woman who is privileged in many ways: I live with the man I love, I have a career I am passionate about and I enjoy the simple pleasures of life. But I find myself embarking on my journey through womanhood with no guidance. A few years ago, I was rejected by my abusive parents and, after trying to rebuild the relationship, it became clear I was not wanted. Several years on, I find there is a hole I don’t seem to be able to fill. Sometimes I just need maternal advice. Where should I look for this? Should I even be looking at all?

When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Private Lives asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments that appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed.

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Posted: July 20, 2018, 11:00 am

I lost my virginity at 27 and not in a good way. Now I have huge trust issues, and my efforts to fix my problems have just made things worse

In a nutshell, I loathe my body. I feel nothing during sex or dissociate entirely – I’ll sometimes even feel a void, an emptiness where a feeling or sensation should be. I lost my virginity at 27 and not in a good way. My difficulty reading body language complicates things enormously and I’ve a basket-load of trust issues. I’ve tried guides to fixing such problems but trying to follow them made things a lot worse. I’m well into middle age with almost no experience – yet older men are supposedly attractive with wisdom, confidence and stability that I totally lack.

Dissociation is an important symptom. I suspect that your words “not in a good way” represent a vast understatement, and it is really important to address that issue as a priority. People sometimes enter dissociative states as a coping mechanism to avoid the pain of trauma or to exit an unbearable situation. However, “disappearing” in this way will not help you to heal, and healing is a necessary precursor to enjoying sex in the way you want.

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Posted: July 16, 2018, 7:00 am

Your frustration is understandable, Mariella Frostrup tells a woman who wants to save her parents’ marriage. But this is not your mess to clear up

The dilemma My parents have been married for 31 years. In February, my father told us that my mother has been having an affair – mostly not a sexual relationship, but an extremely close friendship with her work colleague – for over five years. Having found love letters addressed to her, he said they were going to try to work things out. I know they both said and did things that reflect badly on each of them, but that hasn’t really bothered me. What has really upset me is that my mother just left, refusing to tell any of us where she’d gone. Worse, she now seems to be trying to hold Dad responsible for all the issues in the marriage. She has accused him of ruining our relationship with her because he has been very open about trying to move on. But she’s been distant, angry and, frankly, unpleasant, since we found out. I guess the question I have is: how do you talk to someone who doesn’t want to talk? And is it really our job to save a relationship our mother doesn’t seem to want any more?

Mariella replies It’s a tough one. Mediating between your parents is not an enviable position to be in, particularly when at least one of them isn’t interested in making up. Taking sides in any separation is best avoided and never more so than when the divided lovers are the people who made you. It’s hard to watch those we love tear each other apart, and the emotional complications are even more challenging when augmented by the deeply held desire in every child for the union that created them to prove an enduring one.

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Posted: July 22, 2018, 4:59 am
Content Was Refreshed: 22 Jul 2018 | 07:30:30
Last Modified: April 28, 2018