Flirting for Health

By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA
Marketing/Media Writer, Strategist and Consultant




A group of mature women, in their late 50’s, perhaps 60’s, is clustered on the sidewalk on yet another hot autumn day. The weather is better suited for a mid summer beach vacation than an average Thursday in September. It evokes the feeling of lazy summer afternoons where one has nothing better to do than be just bored.

The women are giggling and stealing glances towards a second story window. From this distance I assume they are talking to one of their friends in the apartment above. As I approach them, the upstairs window slowly comes into view from behind the branches of a tree. The window is shut tight against the elements but the curtains are pulled aside and, towards the bottom of the frame, is a man’s head. With a full head of grey hair and a happy grin, he is admiring the women below. He is the focus of the women’s attention. Very aware of his presence, they act dismissively towards him but it’s clear that they are flirting and are enjoying his attention as much as he is enjoying theirs.

In this predominantly Armenian city in the heart of a major American city, this small scene, which took place on a busy street surrounded by the symbols of the 21st century, their behavior erased all the modern sounds and images and pulled me back into an era that existed long before my time. An era when most Armenians lived in villages, perhaps surrounded by the lush fields of the Ararat plains or along the shores of the Mediterranean, when young women giggled and flirted with boys while under the watchful gaze of their elders.

During the course of the summer, several outdoor festivals drew crowds of young people where groups of girls walked shoulder to shoulder by groups of young men with low slung shorts and carefully coiffed hair. Neither group would look at the other but each was highly aware of the other. Their nuanced interactions, made up of sidelong glances and physical posturing, was apparent only to those still in tune with their inner teenager.

Despite the forty year gap, the women on the street were no different than the teenagers at the festival. Now it seems there are health benefits to flirting. Engaging in a little harmless flirting helps you feel good, generates positive energy and builds confidence and self esteem. Unarguably humans are social creatures. We crave attention and even if we are getting sufficient amounts of it from those closest to us, we still want more.

First of all, flirting reminds us that we are still attractive. A well placed, sincere compliment, especially from a stranger, boosts our self esteem, which some studies show increases our brain functions.

Second, in a healthy relationship, flirting can only bring the couple closer to one another. A little harmless competition rebuilds a little of the mystery that drew the couple together in the first place. This certainly can reignite the passion of the early days of courtship when everything was new and fresh, conversations lasted into the night and the evening help many other possibilities.

And lastly, flirting is a well known stress reducer. It allows us to escape, no matter how briefly, the weight and tedium of our overscheduled daily lives.

In an informal poll conducted by Yahoo, 50 percent of respondents said they felt “young and sexy” when flirting and 37 percent said they were in a better mood after flirting, like a “natural high” possibly caused by a surge in hormones.

Admittedly there is a fine line between innocent flirting and the kind that gets one classified as the office slut or the unfaithful spouse. The goal is not to “score” but simply be charming without crossing physical boundaries or becoming sexually explicit.

Although our social norms have evolved since the days living in the village, not much has changed in the interactions between men and women. Given the stressful conditions of living in a big city, with its myriad of challenges, it seems this time worn activity has kept its appeal and is actually good for you. So indulge your sense of fun, whether it be one-on-one or in groups of friends, just like the women on the street, so that those watching from a distance don’t see the grey hair or the wrinkles but the lighthearted teenagers we all once were.

8 Ways to Burn Calories and Fight Fat

By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA


For years, products have been marketed with the promise of helping you burn more calories. But is there really anything you can do to increase the number of calories your body burns each day?

Well, yes and no, experts say. The truth seems to be that the No. 1 way to burn more calories is the old-fashioned way — by moving more.

“Essentially, we know of no way to burn more calories or up our metabolism than to move more,” says Barry M. Popkin, PhD, director of the Interdisciplinary Obesity Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Still, research suggests that there may be a few other ways you can increase calorie burn. Here are eight possible ways to burn more calories and fight fat:

1. Exercise to Burn Calories

Christopher Wharton, PhD, a certified personal trainer and researcher with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, put it simply: “The more time spent exercising and the more vigorous the exercise, the more calories will be burned.”

Indeed, obesity expert George Bray, MD, with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., believes that taking a brisk walk every day is probably the single most important piece of advice for anyone wanting to burn more calories.

Obviously, when you exercise, your body burns calories to fuel your activity. But exercise is the gift that keeps on giving. That’s because even after your workout has ended, your body is still burning more calories.

While it’s hard to pinpoint just how long this effect lasts (it varies depending on body composition and level of training), “it’s safe to say metabolic rate can be elevated with aerobic exercise for at least 24 hours,” says Wharton.

If you want to prolong this calorie-burning effect, Wharton advises exercising for longer periods.

“Studies have shown that with increases in exercise time, the elevation in resting metabolic rate is prolonged,” he says.

2. Do Strength Training to Build Muscle

When you exercise, you use muscle. This helps build muscle mass, and muscle tissue burns more calories — even when you’re at rest — than body fat. According to Wharton, 10 pounds of muscle would burn 50 calories in a day spent at rest, while 10 pounds of fat would burn 20 calories.

“The most effective way to increase metabolism and burn more calories is by aerobic exercise and strength training. Both are important,” Megan A. McCrory, PhD, a researcher with the School of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University, says in an email interview.

Strength training becomes especially important as we get older, when our metabolisms tend to slow down. One way to stop this is to add some strength training to your workout at least a couple of times a week. The largest muscles (and therefore the largest calorie burners) are in the thighs, abdomen, chest, and arms.

3. Drink Caffeinated Green or Black Tea

Caffeine is a stimulant, and stimulants tend to increase the calories you burn. One likely reason is that they give you the short-term impression that you have more energy, which could mean you move more. Caffeine may also cause metabolic changes in the body that can result in more calories burned.

“Even older studies have suggested that 250 milligrams of caffeine consumed with a meal can increase the calories spent metabolizing the meal by 10%,” says Jamie Pope, MS, RD, LDN, a nutrition lecturer at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. Over time, this could be significant, Pope says in an email interview: “About 75 calories per day translates to over 2,100 calories in a month’s time.”

Over the past few years, some studies have hinted that green or black tea may have benefits beyond the caffeine they contain.

One study noted a reduction in food intake in rats that were given a polyphenol found in green tea. Another study, in humans, concluded green tea had heat-producing and calorie-burning properties beyond what can be explained by caffeine. When 31 healthy young men and women were given three servings of a beverage containing green tea catechins, caffeine, and calcium for three days, their 24-hour energy expenditure increased by 4.6%, according to the research from Lausanne University in Switzerland.

Drinking tea with meals may have another fat-fighting effect. Tea extract may interfere with the body’s absorption of carbohydrate when consumed in the same meal, according to a study published in the September 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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While all these possible effects are slight, there is yet another bonus to drinking tea. Having a zero-calorie cup of tea instead of a beverage with calories (like a soda) will certainly reduce the number of calories you take in.

4. Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals

Every time you eat a meal or snack, your gastrointestinal tract turns on, so to speak, and starts digesting food and absorbing nutrients. It costs calories to fire up the human digestion machine, so it makes sense that the more small meals or snacks you eat through the day, the more calories you’d burn.

There isn’t much solid evidence for this effect, McCrory notes in an email interview. But many experts believe that, compared to eating one or two very large meals, this is a more healthful way of eating anyway. And if it leads to even a few extra calories being burned, even better!

5. Don’t Skip Breakfast

Evidence supporting a link between skipping breakfast and increased body weight is growing, according to a recent editorial in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Some research has shown that when people skip breakfast, they tend to eat more calories by the end of the day. Other studies have suggested that skipping breakfast is associated with a higher body mass index in teens.

While we could use more research in this area, eating a healthy breakfast certainly makes sense as a lifestyle habit.

6. Eat Low-Fat Dairy

The calcium from low-fat dairy doesn’t specifically help burn more calories, but it may do a couple of things to help discourage body fat. Results from a recent Danish study suggest that we might absorb fewer fat calories from a meal when we consume calcium from low-fat dairy.

In another recent study, eating more calcium-rich foods — including low-fat dairy products — appeared to be linked to lower amounts of belly fat, particularly in young adult white males.

7. Drink 8 Cups of Water a Day

“Just about everything you call on your body to do burns calories, including absorbing and utilizing water while maintaining fluid balance (sometimes by excreting excess),” says Pope.

Drinking almost eight cups of water (2 liters) may help burn nearly 100 extra calories a day, according to findings of a small study from Germany, notes Pope.

That may not sound like much, but it could add up to 700 calories a week or 2,800 calories a month. And that’s by doing something we should do anyway to keep our intestines and kidneys happy, and to help keep us from confusing thirst with hunger. (Pope does add a caution not to overdo it; it is possible to drink dangerous amounts of water.)

8. Fidget

Any type of movement requires energy, and fidgeting definitely qualifies as movement.

“Older studies suggest additional calories can be burned each day with fidgeting,” says Pope.

One study even found that informal movement such as fidgeting may be more important than formal workouts in determining who is lean and who is obese.

Diet and exercise are good topics to discuss with your doctor. Before starting a new exercise regimen or supplementing your diet, it would be good to talk it over with your doctor. If you have certain medical conditions or are taking certain medications, there may be activities or dietary supplements that you should avoid.