By Jenny Everett, SELF magazine
From the Twinkies diet to the breastfeeding wars, this year had plenty of health controversies to discuss around the water cooler. Here are HealthySELF's Top 5, and what you can learn from them.
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The controversy: Scary images on cigarettes. This fall, we were told that beginning on June 22, 2011, the Food and Drug Administration will require tobacco companies to include graphic images on their cigarette packaging. The FDA is considering images including a close-up of decaying teeth and mouth sores, a shot of a man dying of cancer and one of a little girl screaming (featuring the words, "Waring: Tobacco smoke can harm your children"). While many people are all for the redesign, others are doubtful that the scare tactic will work.
Bottom Line: You know that cigarettes are terrible for your health. If you smoke, resolve to quit today. Check out this list of 10 Reasons to Stop Smoking and this Timeline for Ending Your Cigarette Habit from Nathan Cobb, M.D., assistant professor at Georgetown University Medical Center.
Related: The Jump Start meal plan
The controversy: Kim Kardashian slams public breastfeeding. Around the same time that reality star Kourtney Kardashian was pumping breast milk on an episode of "Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami," her more-famous sister Kim wrote on Twitter: "EWW Im at lunch, the woman at the table next 2 me is breastfeeding her baby w no coverup." Kim claimed that the tweet was a misunderstanding, but much of the Twitterverse was peeved about her comment. Later in the year, supermodel Gisele Bundchen declared that there should be a "worldwide law" requiring mothers to breastfeed for six months. Moms who can't breastfeed due to their work schedules or for physical reasons did not take kindly to her remarks.
The takeaway: Breastfeeding provides healthy benefits for the baby and the mother, but every woman has a different experience. Milk doesn't always come in, you might run dry after just a few weeks or months and the baby sometimes requires extra nutrition that breast milk can't provide. When to stop breastfeeding is a decision between you, your doctor and nature. Because we know you're wondering, click here to find out if breastfeeding really helps melt off baby weight.
Related: Who Are the Happiest Celebrities of 2010?
The controversy: The Twinkie diet. In November, we were shocked to learn that a Kansas State University professor lost 27 pounds in two months on a "convenience store diet" that consisted of Twinkies, Doritos, Oreos, Little Debbie and Hostess snacks, powdered donuts and the like. He ate one of these "bad" foods every three hours to prove a point: That weight loss is as simple as counting calories (he stuck to 1,800 a day). The professor did take a multivitamin while he was on the diet, and balanced the junky meals with fruits and veggies.
The takeaway: Clearly, there is very little that's healthy about this diet. It worked for two months because the professor was counting calories but, duh, this is not a smart long-term solution.
Want a better plan? Check out our new Jump Start Diet designed by Jillian Michaels.
The controversy: The "morning-after pill." This year was the first full year that a form of emergency contraception called Plan B One-Step was available to women over-the-counter. The pill is sold without a prescription to anyone over the age of 17, and should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex (or if contraception fails). While many women and women's rights advocates are happy to have another option in case they have a scare, others are outraged, calling it an "abortion pill" and saying it will encourage reckless sex.
Related: Need a running plan? Try one of ours!
The takeaway: You should be having safe sex -- period. However, if you're in a situation where the condom breaks or you realize you missed a pill, Plan B is a good option. "As an industrialized nation, we still have a 50 percent unintended pregnancy rate," says Edward Linn, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University. "Of those women, a significant number are using contraception but are failing because of improper technique or other issues." As for it being an "abortion pill," it's absolutely not. It can prevent a pregnancy from occurring, but it won't affect an existing pregnancy. Here are 5 more things every woman should know about emergency contraception.
The controversy: Miley Cyrus smokes Salvia. Earlier this month, it was hard to miss the viral video of teen superstar Miley Cyrus taking a bong hit, then erupting into laughter. We assumed it was marijuana, but according to Cyrus' camp, it was actually Salvia, an herb native to Mexico that's part of the mint family. When smoked, it can cause hallucinations. It's not illegal in the U.S. (though it is banned in at least 15 states), but the Drug Enforcement Association does include it among "drugs and chemicals of concern."
Related: Try these 6 Easy, Natural Mood Lifters.
The takeaway: The long-term health effects of Salvia are unknown -- just because something isn't illegal doesn't mean it's not dangerous (cigarettes, anyone?). We don't mean to sound like your mom, but we can think of many other ways to have a good time. See how our favorite celebs boost their happiness.
Which health controversies got you riled up this year?
More from SELF:
- Heidi Klum's Happy, Healthy Life
- 10 Ways to Lose Weight Like a Guy
- How to Destress with Yoga: How To Do A Sun Salutation
- The Workweek Diet
- Makeover your upper body now!
Photo Credit: WWD