Artistic Pool and Trick Shot Competition Disciplines

Casual trick shot artists often have a few jaw-dropping trick shots up their sleeve. Using a cue stick and perhaps some props, he or she can force the billiard balls to move in seemingly physics-defying motions. However, professional trick shot artists or artistic pool players practice more than just a couple setup shots and skill shots. Competition requires them to master an arsenal of tricks that are divided into eight shot disciplines or categories — trick and fancy, prop/novelty/special arts, draw, follow, bank/kick, stroke, jump, and masse.

Trick and Fancy: In general, these shots are setup shots, meaning the multiple billiard balls are arranged in a specific manner such that a single cue stroke can pocket all the pool balls. A popular trick and fancy shot is the Just Showing Off shot.

Prop, Novelty, and Special Arts: Also known as the general amusement category, these shots are a mix of shots that use props such as the rack or bridge, require multiple balls to be shot within a short period of time (speed shots), rely on shooting balls with one hand, or contain some other criteria. A well known the Over and Under shot.

Draw: The basic premise of the draw shot is to hit the cue ball below center to give it some backspin. These shots require the cue ball to return towards the shooter after colliding with the object ball. The Cowboy Jimmy Moore Circular Draw shot is often seen on television competitions.

Follow: Follow shots are the reverse of the draw shots. The cue ball is hit above the center so topspin propels the ball along its original path after striking the object ball. An example of this type of shot is Hug the Rail.

Bank/Kick: In bank shots, the object ball has to hit at least one rail before sinking into a pocket. Kick shots, on the other hand, require the cue ball to hit a rail before contacting the object ball. One especially famous shot is the Hustler Bank, which was made popular in the opening scene of the movie The Hustler.

Stroke: Mastering any trick shot requires a good stroke or good technique, but the shots in the stroke category are particularly challenging and test both technique and control. In some of these shots, the cue ball is very close or even frozen (touching) the object ball. The (Hundred) Dollar Bill shot, which is used as a tie-breaker in ESPN’s Trick Shot Magic, is an example of a stroke shot.

Jump: In the jump category, the cue ball usually jumps over an obstructing pool ball, but they can also jump directly into another ball, creating unusual or surprising results. This discipline is one of the more exciting disciplines to watch. The One Handed Jump is very impressive.

Masse: Perhaps the most unbelievable category, masse shots involving putting an extraordinary amount of spin on the cue ball so that it moves along a curved path. This discipline is arguably the most difficult artistic pool discipline to master. A crowd favorite masse shot is the Rocket Masse.

Once you’ve mastered several shots from each of these categories, why not test out the competition circuit? There are several professional and amateur trick shot competitions held every year for you to compete in or just to watch.

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Discover Photography: The Art of the Image

Since the time of Stone Age Man, when images of the animals and men hunting were first used to decorate the walls of cave, we have been fascinated by the captured image. Although it was not until the invention of photography that truly made this fascination into an art form that everyone could enjoy regardless of artistic ability. People all over the world take pictures of themselves, relatives and friends, pets and landscapes whether or not there is a particular circumstance or reason for doing so. But how much do we actually know when it comes to photography? Below are some of the different kinds of photography that will help us learn more about the different ways of taking photographs.

Amateur Photography has grown in recent years with the advent of cheep digital cameras and this digital photography that has become easily accessible to the amateur due to the low cost of both equipment and reproduction of the images, that we will have a brief look at in this article.

Black and White or Monochrome Photography

The first are to consider is black and white or monochrome photography. This is not simply presenting an image in black and white. Black and white photography explores the contour and character, tone and texture, the aesthetic art and beauty of the subject. The two components of black and white photography that give depth and feeling to the image are the shadows and highlights, if we learn to use them then we can create great images.

Color sometimes obscures the texture and form of subjects, it draws our attention the way flowers attract insects and birds, and ripe fruit catches your eye on a tree. Sometimes that's what we want, but black and white can emphasize the texture of the subject.

The variety of ways that different colors convert to different greys means that you can have quite fine control over just what parts of your picture will be light and dark, in addition to lighting levels. The absence of light can be as important as the highlights. Good deep shadows can give a depth and solidity to an image. It allows us to separate out the effects of color and luminosity, put another way black and white photography allows us to use color more effectively.

Action Photography

Action Photography may be where the photographer takes pictures of sporting event, or of children playing, anything intact where there is movement. Either set the shutter speed to freeze the action or try a slower shutter speed to blur the movement. This blur effect can create the sense of drama and movement. If the subject is moving across the frame try to track the subject, this is called panning, the effect once perfected is the subject is sharp but the background has the movement blur giving the impression of speed.

Shooting Action Shots of Athletes, people and animals in motion, and other moving objects create wonderful photo opportunities. However, capturing fast action on a digital camera can be challenging.

Certain settings on many digital cameras allow photographers to photograph action in a point-and-shoot mode specifically designed for moving subjects. Other times it is up to the photographer to manipulate the digital camera to achieve the best possible photos.

Digital cameras with less shutter lag capture better action shots. Regardless of your camera's specifications, you can further minimize shutter lag by pre-focusing before you snap the picture. To do this, hold down the shutter button halfway and then once the camera has focused; press it down all the way to take the shot.

Fast shutter speed allows photographers to capture great shots of moving subjects. If your digital camera supports a slower shutter speed, it is still possible for you to shoot some wonderful action shots. It may take some practice, but try panning the camera, keeping the lens on the subject's action.

Shoot in continuous mode if it is available to you. You might feel like the paparazzi when you first get started, but you will love how this quick mode does not let you miss a shot! Digital cameras that support continuous shooting work nicely for action shots because they are able to write all the photos to memory at the same time instead of one by one.

Anticipate the action and position yourself accordingly. If you are shooting sports, camp out by the goal line or find a good location where you can get clear shots of the athletes.

Invest in a good lens. Many action shots will benefit most from a digital camera with a 200mm lens, though you can interchange lenses for different effects. Zoom lenses work wonders for sports action shots.

Aerial Photography

Aerial Photography is best if you want to photograph a landscape or cityscape. Sadly we can't all afford to have our own helicopter, but great effects can be achieved from the top of tall buildings, bridges or mountains. So although true aerial photography may be out of reach, we can still have the illusion of aerial photography.

Travel Photography

Travel Photography is not just about your holiday snaps. It is about capturing something of the feel, the emotion, the essence of a place. It is about telling the story of the people and the landscape; It captures the mood and the setting. But you don't need expensive foreign holidays; travel photography can be your record of the next town or city or even neighborhood. As a is an exciting local city for me to explore, but with the added advantage that it is not far to travel to.

When photographing people in their local context there are a number of techniques that I try to use but keep in mind the principle of treating people with respect.

I've already talked about making shots contextual but one great way to do this is to think about what's in the background behind the people you're photographing. Ideally you want something that's not too distracting but that adds to the context of the place you're shooting in. Another technique for shooting shots of people that ignores the 'contextual' rule is to find a brightly lit position with a dark background. This can really help the face you're shooting to pop out and capture the viewer's attention.

Some of the best shots I've taken of people while traveling have been where I've tightly frames people faces. This means either getting in close to the person or having and using a good zoom lens.

Go for natural (un-posed shots) – While sometimes the posed shots can work quite well they can also lack a certain authenticity. Photograph your subject doing something from their normal daily life, at work, the marketplace, home, or just crossing the street etc.

Most of the shots I've taken of people over the years while traveling have been of single subjects alone in the shot. This is partly just my style but is something I've become quite aware of in the last few months. Adding a second person into an image takes a photo into a different place. No longer is the shot just about a person and their environment but it somehow becomes relational. The viewer of the photo begins to wonder about the relationship and a new layer is added to your image.

Quite often it's the shots of people dressed in national costume that tend to attract photographers when traveling. While these shots can be very effective I wonder if they are always really representative of a culture. Quite often these people have dressed up especially for a show or tourist attraction and the majority of people in that country look quite different. Mix up the types, gender and ages of the people you take photos of and you can end up with a very effective collage of faces of a country.

It goes against the nature of most travel photography which is usually very fast and spontaneous, but if you can spend time with people, if you have the opportunity to sit with a person for a longer period of time and photographed them in a more extended manner This enables you to tell the story of the individual and can lead to some wonderful sequences of shots using different photographic techniques, lenses and situations, while the person becomes more relaxed around the camera.

Keep your camera to the eye for taking those spontaneous shots between the more posed ones. It's amazing what images that you can find when the person isn't 'ready' for you to shoot. These shots often include people interacting with others or expressing true emotion. I find setting my camera to continuous shooting mode often leads to some wonderful candid shots. If conditions permit don't replace your lens cap until you pack your camera away.

When it comes to choosing lens, I find that a focal length between 24mm and 135mm is a good range to work with. Going for wide angle lenses can also produce interesting shots but you will often find that they do distort your subject's face a little. Choosing a longer focal length can be useful for putting your subjects a little more at ease.

Underwater Photography

Underwater Photography has become more accessible with the advent of cheep underwater cameras. Whether you intend to take photograph in a pool, lake, river, or the sea underwater photography can be one of the most exciting and rewarding things to do.

The difficulties you encounter when in shooting underwater can be summed up in one word, "limitation." Communication and travel below the surface are limited. Natural light and visibility are limited. How you tackle these limitations depends on your skill underwater and your photographic equipment.

However the most important advice you can receive has little to do with photography, and everything to do with your safety. A watery environment can be a dangerous one, even if it is a swimming pool. No photograph is worth your life. Depending on the type of underwater photography you wish to practice, you must first acquire the appropriate specialized knowledge and training, and obtain certification from a qualified instructor. This applies to every aspect of underwater activity, from basic swimming skills to advanced sub aqua diving techniques.

This list is by no means exhaustive; they are just some of the various types of photography you can discover. There are so many other forms of photography from infrared to medical, street, landscape, portrait, macro and Panoramic photography. Photographic work can be divided into dozens of categories, many with lots of sub-categories. But for now, just go and have fun with your camera and discover the joy of photographing you chosen subject!

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Hot Air Balloon Rides Across Leicestershire

Beautiful landscapes, timeless countryside and charming settlements are what make Leicestershire a region widely recognised for its beauty. There’s something for everyone, with the hustle and bustle of traditional market towns, to the distinct scenery of Charnwood Forest. A hot air balloon ride over Leicestershire provides the perfect chance to observe this county from a truly unique perspective, allowing you to take in the region in its full scenic glory.

One of the tremendous sights visible from the air is Stanford Hall. The stunning mansion was built in the 1690s for Sir Roger Cave and is still home to his descendants. It is undoubtedly one of the most exquisite examples of the architecture in the area. The property is set in acres of gardens and really is a must see for anyone in the area. Stanford Hall is a popular launch site in the county, allowing many people to enjoy the wonderful sights of Leicestershire from above.

Another of the outstanding views is Rutland Water, the largest man-made reservoir in Europe. It covers an astonishing 3,100 acres and has a 25 mile road circling the perimeter. It supplies the driest and most densely populated part of Britain, East Anglia, with the vast majority of its water supply.

As well as areas of tremendous natural beauty, these are the perfect locations to set off on your magical ballooning experience.

While you’re visiting the region, there are many other places to explore. The city of Leicestershire is a thriving city full of surprises. It boasts Europe’s largest outdoor covered market, as well as the National Space Centre to explore. There are over 150 interactive exhibits and at the time of writing, visitors can upgrade their ticket to an annual pass free of charge.

As well as the diverse, cultural city of Leicester, there’s also Melton Mowbray. This picturesque town is home to one of Britain’s favourite snacks, the pork pie. Leicester is also known for producing the world famous cheeses Stilton and Red Leicester. Be sure to taste some of the world’s finest dairy produce while you’re in the county. The county is also the home of two of Britain’s last homegrown vehicle manufacturers, Noble and Triumph.

Wherever you are in this stunning rural county, you will never be too far away from a dream balloon flight that will provide you with an airborne adventure, allowing you to experience the county in a way you’ll remember forever.

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Manchester United Sign Fred

Manchester United unviels Fred

Manchester United sign Fred for 52.5 million pounds on a five year deal from Shakhtar Donetsk with a one-year contract extension. The blue half of Manchester and the current English Premier League champions, Manchester City were also in the race to sign the twenty-five-year-old from Shakhtar but were beaten by United for his signature. The club has a history and an attractive trophy cabinet which way bigger than City and is the reason why Fred chose to join Manchester United.

The Brazilian said that he has chosen Manchester United over their bitter rivals Manchester City to win trophies. Fred was unveiled at Manchester United on Thursday by their mascot, who is also Fred playing the piano. The Brazilian is known for his creativity and brilliant vision in the midfield. Mourinho has been looking to sign a player with a similar profile. Fred will still have to fight for a starting place ahead of Ander Herrara and Juan Mata alongside Pogba and Lingard.

Manchester United was clearly looking to splash big after they fell short of the League leaders with a huge margin. however, last season was Manchester United’s best one since the retirement of their iconic manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

The club has seen a difficult period since Sir Alex retired after a stay of 25 years following which United have appointed their third manager in Jose Mourinho. With David Moyes struggling with his players and was sacked within 10 months of his appointment. His successor Luis Van Gaal lasted for 2 seasons but was criticised for his boring gameplay and 3-4-2-1 formation. Even though Van Gaal had experienced success in Europe with Bayern Munich and Ajax with his tactical philosophy but failed to live up to the expectations at Manchester United. He was sacked with a lot of bitterness at the end with the club’s board. Following the two failures, Jose Mourinho was appointed.

Manchester United’s signings under Jose Mourinho

The Portuguese man has splashed around $300 million in the transfer market and made some iconic signings since his sacking from Chelsea.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic for free from PSG.

Paul Pogba from Juventus for $100 million which was the most expensive transfer until last year when Neymar switched to PSG.

Nemanja Matic from League rivals Chelsea. He has cemented his place as a defensive midfielder and improved the team significantly.

Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal in the winter transfer window. The deal was a swap for Henrikh Mkhitaryan who was struggling for form since his arrival from Borussia Dortmund.

Victor Lindelof from Benfica. The Swedish player has failed to show consistency like most of other Mourinho’s signings but has been excellent at times.

Diego Dalot is the new right back signed this year before Fred. The twenty-year-old is assumed to be the best right back in his age group.

Read more at FRED IS A RED

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Brad Thorn: A Tribute

What can be said of this man and his career that hasn’t been already? His commitment and passion towards both rugby union and rugby league is something that can be admired and respected by all, and should serve as a benchmark, albeit a very high one, that any professional sporting player should strive to achieve. You have to admit that if you reached for Brad Thorn and only just missed, you’ve still done pretty well.

His first stint at the Brisbane Broncos is immediately note-worthy, not just for his own personal achievements but the speed in which they were achieved. The 94 season, in which he debuted in week twelve, saw him take out the rookie of the year award with representative honors for Queensland and Australia to follow within the next three years. The 97 grand final would be Thorn’s first taste of premiership glory, one he would experience the following year and then again in 2000.

After achieving success at every level in rugby league, Thorn turned his attention to the ruthless and unforgiving world of New Zealand rugby. Someone of lesser talent and determination may have stumbled in this new, harsh environment but he barely missed a beat. The Canterbury Crusaders took out the NPC with Thorn slipping, almost effortlessly, into the position of lock forward. A chance to become the first man since Bill Hardcastle to represent Australia in rugby league and New Zealand in rugby union was offered to him at seasons end, but he turned it down citing his uncertainty of his commitment to the fifteen man game. But, come 2003, he could resist the temptation no longer and made his official debut for the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup and continued to represent them in the Tri-Nations which New Zealand would go on to win.

A final NPC with Canterbury would see Thorn return once again to the Broncos in 2005. While many expected to see the champion forward in the twilight of his career, nothing would seem further from the truth. He would go on to not only represent Queensland but also take out another premiership in 2006. After being named one of the 20 greatest Broncos to ever play for the club, he made the decision to, once again, switch back to rugby union.

Thorn was again in unstoppable form, achieving Crusader and All Black selection in only his second year back in the game. After more super 14 titles and Tri-Nations success he finally reached the holy grail of rugby by taking out the World Cup after a hard fought 8-7 win over France in 2011. As if this wasn’t enough, a short stint with European champions Leinster would see him add the Heineken Cup to his long list of achievements.

When you want to describe a man like Brad Thorn any number of superlatives will do. But to fully understand just how remarkable this career is, you must first realize that it hasn’t even finished yet. That is correct, at age 37 Thorn has signed on with Super Rugby franchise the Highlanders for the 2013 season. For myself, it seems almost certain that this will be his swan song but for some reason a lingering doubt remains. I guess with someone like Brad Thorn, can you ever be sure of anything?

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Has Any City’s Sports Teams Won All Four Major League Championships in One Year?

The simplest answer is no. No city has hosted the current owner of Vince Lombardi Trophy (National Football League), Larry O’Brien/Walter A. Brown Trophy (National Basketball Association), World Series Trophy (Major League Baseball) and Stanley Cup (National Hockey League) in the same year. The closest any city has come so far is 1988 when the Raiders, Lakers, and Dodgers all brought championships to Los Angeles. Six other times, a city has hosted two out of four champions:

  • 1956: New York Giants (NFL) and New York Yankees (MLB)
  • 1971: Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL) and Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB)
  • 1976: Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL) and Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB)
  • 1999: Dallas Cowboys (NFL) and Dallas Stars (NHL)
  • 2001: Denver Broncos (NFL) and Colorado Avalanche (NHL)
  • 2002: Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Anaheim Angels (MLB)
  • 2004: New England Patriots (NFL) and Boston Red Sox (MLB)

Students of sports history, however, are aware that these four trophies have not always represented «the» major leagues. There are the defunct competing major leagues such as the pre-merger American Football League or the World Hockey Association to consider. Also, the NBA was not always the major league in basketball, and other leagues have a good claim to being «the» major league for basketball at various times. Finally, we should at least consider the champions of the Canadian Football League considering the number of NHL teams from that country.

Broadening the definition like this adds relatively few cities to our list. Twice in the late 20’s three of four major league champions were from New York: the Giants, Yankees and Brooklyn Celtics in 1927, and the Yankees, Rangers and Brooklyn Celtics in 1928. The Brooklyn Celtics played in the American Basketball League, at a time when the NBA did not yet exist.

Other two-champion cities considering these competing and defunct major leagues are:

  • 1930: Montreal Canadiens (NHL) and Montreal AAA (CFL)
  • 1932: Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL) and Toronto Argonauts (CFL)
  • 1942: Toronto Maple Leafs (NFL) and Toronto RCAF Hurricanes (CFL)
  • 1944: Montreal Canadiens (NHL) and Toronto HMCS Donnacona
  • 1947: Chicago Cardinals (NFL) and Chicago American Gears (NBL)
  • 1947: Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL) and Toronto Argonauts (CFL)
  • 1948: Cleveland Indians (MLB) and Cleveland Browns (AAFC)
  • 1977: Montreal Canadiens(MHL) and Montreal Alouettes (CFL)
  • 1987: Edmonton Oilers (NHL) and Edmonton Eskimos (CFL)
    Notes:

    • The Toronto RCAF Hurricanes and Montreal HMCS Donnacona were football teams from various armed forces bases which competed for the Grey Cup during WWII.
    • The Chicago American Gears were in the National Basketball League. The NBL merged with the Basketball Association of America (BAA) in 1949 to form the current NBA.
    • The Cleveland Browns started their history in the All-America Football Conference. The AAFC competed with the NFL for four years. In 1949 the AAFC partially merged into the NFL, the Cleveland Browns won the NFL championship the next year.

So while no city has completed what might be a «GrandSlam» of major league team sports, New York (twice) and Los Angeles (once) came close.

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Spanish Primera Division News and Notes

There has been a great deal of action and excitement over the past couple of weeks in the Spanish Primera Division, and the news and results have been coming in fast and furious since the season ended just two weeks ago. Let’s take a look at everything that has transpired over the course of the past few days to get an early look at what the Primera Division will look like next year.

Barcelona Retains Crown

Barcelona was able to win the Primera Division again this year by beating Valladolid 4-0 in the final game of the season. Barcelona was also able to set a Primera Division record this season by accruing 99 total points over the course of 38 games played. Lionel Messi led all scorers this season on Barcelona with 34 goals in league play and 47 goals in all competitions, which tied the club record set by Ronaldo in the 1996-1997 season. Real Madrid, despite having one of the highest payrolls in Primera Division history, was only able to garner second place. Finishing three points behind Barcelona, Real Madrid finished runner-up for the second straight season despite having one of the greatest collections of players ever assembled on one team.

Team Movements

Next season, the UEFA Champions League will be the homes of Valencia and Sevilla, as both teams qualified through their finishes of third and fourth, respectively, within the Spanish Primera Division. 5th-place Mallorca and 6th-place Getafe have secured spots in next season’s UEFA Europa League while Valladolid, Tenerife, and Xenex have all been placed in the second division.

Summer Transfers

Ricardo Costa has been transferred to Valencia on four-year free deal. Costa had been playing for Lille, but Valencia’s inclusion into the UEFA Champions League forced them to have to make this deal. Costa joins Mehmet Topal, a midfielder from Turkey, who also was signed just a few weeks ago to strengthen the Vallencia team going into next season’s play.

Barcelona continues to get stronger, as they worked out a deal with rival Vallencia to transfer David Villa to the Barcelona squad. Villa has passed his physical examination and is now a member of the powerful Barcelona championship team. In his last five seasons, Villa has averaged 22 goals scored per season, which ranks him near the top of that category in La Liga.

Atletico Madrid, who were able to clinch the inaugural UEFA Europa League title, has gained a transfer in the likes of Arsenal’s Fran Merida. Merida comes to Atletico Madrid on a free transfer for a four-year deal. Merida hasn’t seen a great amount of big-game action since joining the Arsenal squad in 2005.

Sevilla has gotten Mouhamadou Dabo from AS Saint-Etienne on a free transfer. Dabo’s agreement with Sevilla extends the length of four seasons. Part of Dabo’s contract will include a 25 million euro buyout clause. Dabo, a fullback is able to play on either side of the field, with most of his time from this past season spent on the left side of the field.

Coaching Change

Real Madrid parted ways with coach Manuel Pelligrini to bring Jose Mourinho as their new coach for next season’s play. Pellegrini departs at the midpoint of the new two-year deal that he signed before the beginning of this past season. Mourinho, who is currently under contract with Inter Milan until 2012, will need to work out a plan with that squad before he can make settle in to his new home with Real Madrid.

Contract Extension

A one-year contract extension has been given to Atletico Madrid’s coach Quique Sanchez Flores. After winning the inaugural UEFA Europa League title, Flores led Atletico Madrid to a 9th-place finish in the Spanish Primera Division this past season.

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How To Stop Eating Sugar

Sugar is one of the most addictive foods we can put into our bodies. Sugar is the ingredient that I believe kept my animal brain caught in a repetitive cycle of binge eating.

Sugar addiction goes beyond candy and cakes… it’s the simple, refined carbohydrates that cause an insulin spike in our blood sugar. This also triggers parts of our brains which can become addicted, just like someone becomes addicted to heroin.

I’ve gotten many emails from readers asking questions about how to deal with their addiction to sugar, which is usually the triggering food for a binge. There are common themes in the questions, and I can relate to many people who are disgusted with their failed attempts to break the habit.

The most common reasons people try to stop eating sugar are usually due to poor health, feeling obsessed and «crazy» around it or trying to lose weight. Many people share that they can’t seem to break away from bread, pasta, sweets or alcohol. The most frustrating part, I think, is that most of us realize that junk food and processed foods aren’t good for us. But even though we know that, trying to break a habit of eating it regularly can be very challenging.

Before I pin-pointed sugar as the culprit for my addictive behaviors to binge eating, I would go most of the day eating very little (to make up for a binge the night before), and using sugar substitutes in my coffee or drinking diet soda to stave off hunger. By evening, I would be starving… and naturally craving foods with instant energy, like carbs and sweets. By this point, my animal brain was feeling deprived and looking for energy. My ability to consciously choose healthy food options was severely negated because my brain would be in survival mode.

Because I’d binged the night before, it made it very easy to again turn to binging because I had started creating a habit. Once a habit forms, your brain has begun creating neural pathways that make repeating the habitual behavior much easier the next time.

It wasn’t until I reached very low points in my habits, hating myself and my inability to stop binge eating, that I started seriously studying what was going on with my behavior. That’s when I discovered how addictive sugar can be, and realized I was battling a hormonal shift in my brain each time I ate sugar. Not only had I created a behavioral habit, but I was dealing with an addicted brain.

There’s no easy way to quit a habit when you have an addiction. To cure yourself from a habit and addiction to sugar, you have to stop eating it. In order to do that, it really helps to know what to expect from your brain as it breaks an addiction. When you know what to expect, you can deal with challenges as they come up.

The things I found most useful were understanding how the brain works and studying the psychology of habits. Then I began to apply what I’d learned and was able to break through my binge eating habit.

Quitting sugar meant also giving up my devotion to artificial sweeteners. I had to do this for two reasons: one, to adjust my taste buds so that I wouldn’t crave sweetness, and two, to restore the proper gut flora in my belly to begin to metabolize food normally again.

As I broke my addiction to sugar, I replaced sugary foods in my diet with healthy fats. I found that eating healthy fats, proteins and an abundance of vegetables curbed my cravings. For this period, I stayed away from carbohydrates (refined or whole grain) and fruits.

Once I had broken my addiction (it took about 2 1/2 months of focused effort), I had replaced my diet with all whole foods and began incorporating fruit and whole grains. The fruit tasted yummy and sweet at this point, and I would be satisfied having fruit or a bowl of oatmeal at the end of the day when I normally would have craved sweets or sugar-free candies.

Now, I notice that if I start to pine for sweets, it appears to be after I’ve gone several days without whole grains or unrefined carbs. I feel comfortable with having some whole grain toast, oatmeal or something similar… and the temptation goes away. For me, eating whole grains work better to curb the sugar craving than eating fruit, because fruit metabolizes quickly and raises blood sugar faster.

Here’s some key tips for how to start breaking your habit and stop eating sugar:

1. Don’t replace sugar with artificial sweeteners.

According to an article in the Huffington Post, a 2013 study in the journal Diabetes Care found that artificial sweeteners can actually alter the way the body metabolizes sugar. A 2008 animal study found that rats given artificial sweeteners ate more calories throughout the day and as a result, gained weight. The researchers found that the ingestion of artificial sweeteners essentially caused confusion between the gut and the brain. The authors of the study stated that, «sweet foods provide a ‘salient orosensory stimulus’ that strongly predicts someone is about to take in a lot of calories. Ingestive and digestive reflexes gear up for that intake but when false sweetness isn’t followed by lots of calories, the system gets confused. Thus, people may eat more or expend less energy than they otherwise would.»

Replacing sugar with sugar-free foods or sweeteners is like swapping out cigarettes for cigars. It does nothing to alter your taste preferences and cravings for sugar. And it appears that it can even trigger you to eat more, and change the bacteria in your gut… causing your body to actually metabolize more calories from the food you put into your body.

2. Try adding milk and exercise.

Sugar gives you a «feel good» response, and that’s part of what you become addicted to. So the key is to add in other ways to get that response instead of sugar.

What if you could boost one of your most efficient acting «feel good» effects through other things, like milk or exercise?

One study for example, showed that consumption of whey protein (a major protein found in milk) increased serotonin (a feel-good hormone first isolated at the Cleveland Clinic that is associated with mood elevation). Other studies have found an association between exercise and serotonin increase as well.

3. Try healthy fats and get away from «fat free» processed foods.

Healthy fats, like those from olive oil, avocados, coconuts, nuts and seeds, not only provide nutrients for your body, but they make you feel satiated. Though it seemed counter-intuitive to me at the time, I increased my fat intake when I first started working on breaking my habit. I used half-and-half in my coffee, started putting avocados and nuts in my salads, enjoyed cream cheese and ate whole eggs instead of egg whites. I was surprised (and grateful) to find that this really helped curb my sweet cravings.

Fat free varieties of foods are generally injected with a heap of chemicals and added sweeteners to make them taste decent even though they are fat free. This is similar to eating sugar-free stuff; it’s filler food that doesn’t help anything. It either triggers you to eat more («hey, it’s fat free, why not?») or leaves you wanting something more fulfilling.

4. Don’t get too hungry.

This was another hard one for me, because I was so used to depriving myself all day long in order to balance out the effect of my binge eating. So I had trained myself to completely ignore my hunger cues. By the time I would sit down to eat, I would be starving… and, obviously, binging was the natural result.

Eating small amounts of food throughout the day keeps your blood sugar on even keel. This keeps your body from craving simple carbohydrates in order to get quick energy. It also prevents you from feeling like you want to eat the kitchen sink when you finally allow yourself to eat. It can go a long way towards helping you break a binge habit or sugar addiction.

5. Get rest.

Stress is a huge activator for triggering a craving for sweets. Why? Because the sweets give that «feel good» response that provides a temporary respite. It’s also «comfort food» that your animal brain naturally wants when it feels threatened with stress.

How do you cure stress? Obviously, life sometimes has circumstances where you can’t avoid stress. But there are ways you can care for yourself during these times to help. Plus, at the rapid pace many people have today in their lives, we’re generally always under a certain level of stress.

Getting quality sleep and taking a day or two off once a week isn’t a luxury… it’s a necessity. If you’re sleep deprived or burned out, you’re not going to make quality choices. Your animal brain will kick in to help you survive… and we know how much the animal brain likes quick energy from simply carbs and comfort foods.

Add an hour to your sleep however you can – go to bed 15 minutes earlier, then 30, then 45, then an hour. Turn off your screens an hour before you want to go to bed. Arrange a 20-minute power nap in the afternoon. Go to a park and chill out when the weather’s nice, even if it’s only for a half hour.

6. Try gum and tea.

Gum and tea keep your mouth occupied when you’re feeling nibbly. Tea comes in hundreds of varieties and flavors-as does gum. Popping in a stick or having a cup of tea can get you over an afternoon slump or after a meal when you’re craving something sweet.

ENVÍO y DEVOLUCIÓN GRATIS – Gran colección de Camisetas de fútbol oficiales – Descubre camisetas de equipos y selecciones europeas en camisetafutboles.com. by Chelsea Lorynn O’Brien

Waterloo-Pinckney Recreational Park: Chelsea, MI

To kick off the first hike of Spring, I took off to Chelsea, MI to trek the 36 mile behemoth that is the Waterloo-Pinckney Recreation trail. With the snow melting, creating lots of puddles and mud along the way, Water-loo still offered all of the great sights and could easily be considered the "grandaddy" of all hiking trails in Michigan's lower peninsula.

Waterloo-Pinckney could easily be considered the "grandaddy" of all hiking trails in Michigan's lower peninsula. From it's trail.com page Waterloo is home to 36 total miles worth of trail and has elevations reaching to 1,128 feet! The combination of these two factors made for a great morning hike and presented much more than just the opportunity to walk in a straight line. Much of the trails had both steep inclines and declines which made for a very interesting experience. The trails being a mixture of ice and mud, climbing certainly became a challenge along the way and descention became quite an obstacle as well. Trying to avoid long slides or dangerous falls, I would certainly advise anyone considering this park to have a partner with you! As in all things, safety is key to a great hike and having assistance on this trail is definitely advised.

WEAR THE RIGHT SHOES

This trail is not for beginners! Therefore, wear shoes that provide optimal traction and grip as incline and decline will certainly work against your advantage at some point during the hike. If you find yourself in a difficult maneuver or situation, having on the right shoes will be half of the solution! Never underestimate the uses of having the correct hiking gear but this is especially for sure if you intend to hike this trail and get the best experience from it possible!

Overall, Waterloo provided lots of great sights, trails, and experiences. For my hiking partner and I, we learned that chemistry and depending on each other is quite necessary to complete some trails (though we did not think it possible in Michigan). There were times we needed each other's assistance in reaching the top of certain peaks and also smoothly descending areas we had climbed. Without one another, we could have certainly been stuck in a few places / situations or they would have been far more difficult to solve. Waterloo-Pinckney is definitely one for more advanced hikers but is sure to be worthwhile if trekked!

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Champions League – Second Round Preview

The 21-22 February will see the 16 remaining teams in the Champions League battle it out for a place in the coveted final held on 17 May in Paris. The second round fixtures have been decided so here is a run down of who is left in the competition and their chances of progressing to the quarter finals:

Inter Milan vs Ajax

Inter qualified comfortably from Group H as winners and have a favourable match against Ajax. The Dutch side qualified as runners up of Group A without too much trouble. Inter are overwhelming favourites to qualify for the quarter finals and striker Adriano, with four goals so far in this competition, poses the main threat. Manchester City.

Verdict: Inter to qualify at 2/5.

AC Milan vs Bayern Munich

Milan stuttered through the first round, with just three wins in six matches, before eventually topping the group ahead of PSV Eindoven. Andriy Shevchenko is the tournament’s most dangerous striker with six goals. However, Bayern Munich should not be underestimated. They dumped out Arsenal at this stage last season and were only edged out by a single goal against Chelsea in the quarter finals.

Verdict: AC Milan to qualify at 4/6.

Liverpool vs Benfica

The Reds take on the team who dumped Manchester United out of the Cup and are firm favourites to progress to the quarter finals. Liverpool were unbeaten and hadn’t conceded a goal in 11 league and Cup games until Sao Paulo denied them the World Club Championship on 18 December. Benfica’s 2-1 win over Manchester United was a shock result, but one they are unlikely to reproduce. Ronald Koeman’s side are only sixth in their domestic league and are likely to see their interest in the Champions League come to an end at this stage of the competition.

Verdict: Liverpool to qualify at 4/9.

Barcelona vs Chelsea

This was the most «anticipated» draw in terms of a replay of last season’s second phase encounter. Barcelona have won 13 games straight in La Liga, while Chelsea have topped the Premiership since August, losing just one match, against Manchester United, all season. Barcelona have also been unstoppable in Europe, winning five out of the six group. Despite the unquestionable talent at his disposal, Jose Mourinho may find his Chelsea team outgunned this time around.

Verdict: Barcelona to qualify at 5/6.

Lyon vs PSV Eindoven

Lyon are a team not to be underestimated in this season’s Champions League and won their group ahead of the glamorous Real Madrid. John Carew is Lyon’s top goalscorer with four goals while Juninho has laid on three assists. PSV will have their backers but Lyon remained undefeated in the group stage and should edge this encounter.

Verdict: Lyon to qualify at 1/2.

Villarreal vs Rangers

An upset could be on the cards in this encounter with Rangers a large price to qualify ahead of Spaniards Villarreal. Under-fire Rangers boss Alex McLeish may be ridiculously off-the-pace in the Scottish Premier, but he has got it right in Europe and Rangers have become the first side north of the border to venture this far in the competition. Villarreal scored just three times in six group stage matches.

Verdict: Rangers to qualify at 5/2.

Real Madrid vs Arsenal

This is the first time the two have clashed in Champions League and the bookmakers are having difficulty separating them. The Gunners won their five opening matches in the group stage before an experimental line-up drew 0-0 with Ajax in the final round of fixtures. Real Madrid have plenty of attacking power in their line up but are suspect at the back which could be to Arsenal’s advantage.

Verdict: Arsenal to qualify at 10/11.

Juventus vs Werder Bremen

Juventus stormed through the group stage, winning five out of six matches, with David Trezeguet scoring four goals. The «Old Lady» have already beaten and lost to German opposition in the competition this season, with two 2-1 results against giants Bayern Munich in the group stage. Werder Bremen are at their best at home, demonstrated in the 5-1 demolition of Panathinaikos and 4-3 victory over Udinese.

Verdict: Juventus to qualify at 4/11.

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