Saturday, January 30, 2010

Feeding the kidlets

The other night during the SOTU address, President Obama mentioned that Michelle Obama was starting a campaign to combat childhood obesity. I'm interested to see what she rolls out.

It's really hard to curtail the sugar/salt/fat cravings of my kids. I have done pretty well at it, but it's tricky.

I am looking forward to what the First Lady rolls out. In the mean time, I thought this press release was a nice read,- especially the part about "running up and down the stairs to annoy me" ...that was funny.

She mentions things she did with her kids that seemed small but made a big difference. I already do most of those things, but I just like the way she explains how she did it. I am particularly interested in how she frames the issue in terms of living a healthy lifestyle, and providing the kind of traditions around the table where kids naturally develop healthy eating habits, rather than forcing them down their throats (I do some of that when frustrated-bad!). And she's not just talking about the obese teens who end up with gastric bypass surgery - she's getting at a more fundamental struggle to find the time as busy families to make sure nutrition is as much of a priority as say, piano lessons, or homework.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

If I were a baker...

I do warn against baking for people in serious dieting mode. Good cakes around the house are just REALLY hard to resist for most people. And sweet foods are high in calories, whether it's from organic sugar or agave syrup. I guess agave syrup is so sweet you don't use much of it - I don't totally get it. But anyway, I don't bake for 2 reasons:

1. I'm too lazy - baking always seems complicated to me
2. It's too tempting to have home baked goods in the house

However - for those of you who do bake - whole grain is better than not - so this book seems quite useful - lots of information about the history of grains, 300 recipes, all categories. And  it got really good reviews.

After reading the reviews I think I might like to have it as a reference source, even if I didn't use it all that much.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I want it!!!

Everything you're doing is wrong....

When people ask me if it was really hard I usually reply that "most of the time no, but sometimes yes."
The main reason it wasn't hard is that I wanted to be successful more than I wanted the food. And the main reason I felt that way is that I had a health scare. Not an actual health scare but a psychological one. I approached the age that my dad was when he had his first cancer and coincidentally that same winter two people my age were diagnosed with cancer. As they went through their horrible ordeals I read their blogs, growing more terrified and heartsick by the day. One ultimately died. Losing weight is not a cancer-prevention guarantee but it is a risk factor I could control.

So as I have reiterated often I have been doing a lot of reading and some things are starting to gel.
Here is my summary. All the books/media I have really found compelling are getting across the following message to the average American:

"Everything you're doing is wrong and everything you love is bad for you. Stop."

Most people react the following way,
"What??? No!!! But everyone I know eats that way. I can't deal with that. What am I supposed to do, eat cabbage and rice for the rest of my life? Never go out to dinner? Measure portions all day? That sucks!!! I'll never be able to do that."

So many of our leading healthy eating advocates are understandably trying to soften the blow. Pollan uses modern anthropology, Kessler uses neuroscience, Oz/Roisen use biology, Biggest Loser uses humiliation, Weight Watchers uses sympathy, nutritionists use big words (phytochemicals anyone?). I oversimplify of course. But that's the basic idea.

But how does one accept such a depressing idea??

I can speak to my own experience on that one.

I came to terms with that statement, incrementally, as I plodded through my first few months. It sucked. It was depressing. It was hard to accept. It seemed unfair. Impossible. Wrong. It involved letting go of lots of former sources of fun and pleasure.....but it does get easier over is replaced with other obsessions - exercise, fashion, blogging - I'm half kidding. But the brain does stop focusing on food so much.

One equally successful friend suggested her still heavy sister was not ready "give up food" -  She didn't mean her sister should starve herself, she meant her sister was using food as a mindless pleasure source regardless of it's health effects. I still enjoy food, but it's not my constant little pick me up.

I actually read where Oz talks about his own epiphany in this regard. He said he used to tell his patients exactly why their diets and behaviors were killing them and what steps they needed to take to feel better. But his heartfelt lectures didn't penetrate. It was too hard a message to hear so his patients just used the "head in the sand" method of dealing with their health. He decided to work towards understanding his patients' feelings. He strove to explain the biology in a way that empowered people to take control of their own lives, rather than alienating them with overwhelming directives. Hence his antics on Oprah displaying sickened lungs and livers, and his in-depth depictions of colonoscopies, etc. But his ultimate message is the same. Don't eat anything with "enriched flour" or more than 9 grams of sugar. That's still a tough sell.

To elaborate a little on the "everything you're doing is wrong" statement - it can be stated with more detail...
  • unless you get your weight and overall health under control you face pain, disease and even pre-mature death - potentially leaving your family and friends devastated.
  • the traditional American diet/lifestyle is almost uniquely unhealthy, and can even be conceived of as "poison" in that it kills us over a long period of time (processed foods, lack of veggies, too much volume, not enough exercise, etc.)
I had internalized those facts before I started - partly because of the cancer around me, partly from working at NCI, partly from all my reading. That is why it wasn't all that hard for me. What I did not know then, but do now is this last essential and extremely comforting point.
  • eating right and exercising is not as bad as it seems at first. I swear. You will eventually come to like it most of the time. (Most - not all)
For me, accepting the first two points made the turkey club with bacon and mayo really not all that appealing. I even began to see large portions in the same unattractive light - just like the mindshift about cigarettes that Kessler describes. When you want something else more than the food (like being healthy), and you see most "American" foods as a slow poison then the food loses it's power over you, "Should I have a cookie? I really want one. They're so good. But I shouldn't. I ate a big dinner. But just one. But I didn't exercise today. Oh well today's a waste anyway. I'll be better tomorrow."

For years I was tortured with that dialogue, but now I almost never am. I either don't want the cookie or I eat one, knowing I am usually pretty careful and I can control myself and eat just one.

And now, I like my new body and I want to keep it this way. And I want my clothes to fit comfortably. So those are strong additional motivators. But most importantly the cravings are largely gone. I'm free. And I like exercising. My brain now releases more positive endorphins (?) when exercising than when eating ice cream.

I never would have believed that one year ago. I know not everyone who loses weight feels this way. Some people find reaching their goal weight to be the toughest obstacle of all. I was lucky in that regard. At least so far.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I'm such a geek I find this fascinating

Somehow I missed this...and as an avid label-reader I find it fascinating. Labels are so confusing, misleading and plain old hard to read. This really does help. I would add other things as well such as requirements about standard portion sizes or at least easy to decipher portion sizes - how big is 1/13 of a cake?? And while they add the "High" warning in red, I'd like to see even more helpful "good choice" type information, although I know that is near impossible politically. Anyway, worth a read.

Direct link to before and after pdf...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Last Chance Workout

I shouldn't be this excited about a workout DVD -  especially one with "The Biggest Loser" in the title. But alas I am. I tried "The Biggest Loser - Last Chance Workout" from Netflix and I love it. It goes really fast and it's really hard. The contenstants are from season 8, which is the one I watched with Natasha. She came downstairs and said,

"There's Amanda!"
She really loves getting to know the contestants.
The DVD was obviously made quickly - there are mistakes, Jillian is in a more relaxed form. I like that better actually - seems more real. She messes up her script all the time, which makes her more endearing and less annoying than normal.
Here are the deets
-5 min warm-up - nice and long
-25 min main section - very fast-paced 30 second intervals switching between cardio and weights with repeating themes - like 3 kinds of jumping jacks interspersed with 3 kinds of push-ups
-10 min upper body weights (hard)
-10 min lower body weights (hard)
-5 min cool-down. I always skip this.

I fluctuate between 10, 5 and 6 lb weights. Can't do all the push-ups but I'm trying to force myself a little more.
$8 on Amazon. Hoping to pick 3 from Netflix and get free shipping.
Next up to try is Bob's Weight Loss Yoga - despite the fact that I don't like yoga I kind of want a change.  I just noticed that Jillian has her own Yoga DVD coming out in March as well.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I always felt this was true...but must move more during the work day

Get off your behind!
I do try and walk around the office instead of sitting all the time but it's hard. I used to exercise on the stairs at 2pm but now that I do it in the morning I should work in a few sets of stairs in the afternoon as well. The above article doesn't explain all the possible reasons why sitting is bad - and how to mitigate them...perhaps the original study has that. Any number of risk factors could be at play...but it seems pretty obvious that the human body was not meant to sit in one position for hours on end.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Recent cooking....

I meant to post these as I took them but didn't get to here is a long posting of various meals over the past couple weeks. All photos can be enlarged if clicked on...

I love apple pie filing but don't really need or even enjoy the crust. The above is simply sliced apples sprinkled with cinnamon and roasted. No butter, no sugar. I'm sure adding a few drops of butter would not add that many calories, but I didn't even miss it. I like my butter in places where I really taste it, like on toast. These apples are delicious fresh out of the oven and very good rewarmed in the microwave - on oatmeal or just plain. I didn't even bother to peel the apples so prep was literally spraying Pam on pan, putting 6 apples through the slicer and sprinkling the cinnamon-then roasting with my weekly veggies (squash, zucchini, cauliflower, etc.). Why didn't I ever think of this before???

I often talk about using baby lima beans. Soak overnight, simmer in morning before work/starting day. Puree some for thickener. I put the whole beans in any number of dishes, like the greens below, or have as an afternoon snack with a little sesame oil and soy sauce.

Bag of mixed Southern Greens, with various mushrooms, onions, peppers. Perhaps a bit too watery with all the mushrooms. Also added chicken broth and white wine. Pretty good, but this batch seems to need more oil for some reason. This keeps in the fridge REALLY well and can be an accompaniment to almost anything. I do so many variations on this - adding tomatoes, pureed squash, various meats, beans, as a pasta dish at room temp.

Big batch of TJ's whole wheat pizza dough. I bought two packages this time and made various pizzas, including individual ones for the kids. They used to really complain about the dark crust but are getting more accepting. Not really sure why. Partly because of the "kid's choice" nights each one gets. This pizza is really hard to control myself around. I try and make the crust thin but end up eating a lot of bread and cheese.

Close-up of ground turkey, artichoke heart, cheese, vodka sauce on left and arrugula, blue camembert, turkey  on right.

Alex eating "white pizza" with small chopped up yellow peppers. He finally admitted that roasted peppers taste good and since admitting it, eats them without complaint.

Natasha eating pepperoni pizza - turkey pepperoni but super-processed-industrial grossness. But yummy! Not sure why she didn't have a fit about the brown crust. Her complaints are mainly vestiges of toddler control issues, but she of course honestly prefers white crust to brown in addition to liking to control her food. On her night she often chooses frozen white crust pizza, which I grudgingly oblige her. I could have put some peppers on her pizza too but figured she had the tomato sauce.

Ok, I know I'm a Pollan junkie

I know - I'm in the "groupie" category when it comes to Michael Pollan, and I don't have the new book yet, but I really liked this interview on On Point.

His main advice is to cook. He also suggests planting a garden. We have no sunny spot for that. Bummer. Perhaps the most disturbing segment is about "pink sludge" in fast food hamburgers. He also says it really doesn't matter what you eat as long as it was found in some traditional cuisine. I find that interesting as I kind of poured over IDOF trying to figure out exactly what to eat. Finally I gave up. He says to use meat as a flavoring, which you have to do if you buy the kind he advocates. It's so expensive! But ultimately, I believe he's right.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I think I like Jane Brody

She uses the same, "exercise should be like brushing your teeth" line that I do.

Pretty common wisdom, but nice to read in a succinct article.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pork with balsamic reduction

Last night's dinner was so delicious I really couldn't believe it. It was all an accident. I started making greens so my mom could have some leftovers today - she's babysitting and loves them. Then I decided pork goes well with greens and that turned into a mini-masterpiece. It was a complicated dinner for a weeknight but since Dave and the kids were out and I got home kind of early I was able to pull it off.
  • Sautéed greens with yellow peppers, onions. Finished with a little truffle oil.
  • Pork with a balsamic reduction.
  • Whole wheat rigatoni, just drizzled olive oil and salt on top. 
The greens are a standard dish of mine - sauteed peppers, onions and garlic, put aside, greens also sauteed, and simmereed in chicken broth. Everything added back together at the end. Sometimes I finish with truffle oil. Sometimes I add pork or beans or even a can of tomatoes.

The pork was the standout. For some reason I decided to pan-fry the meat instead of roasting it, mainly due to time issues - I decided to add it to the greens at the last minute. So I drizzled a little olive oil, browned it on both sides, then turned it down and kept generously adding chicken broth to the pot. I left it medium rare, which is now safe, and results in an entirely different pork eating experience than the traditional well-done tough version. Then looking at my pan of pork drippings and chicken broth I decided to make a proper sauce, and added 1 tbs (only!) of butter. I really should have doubled the recipe but didn't realize how uch a person needs on his or her plate. Anyway, butter in, pan deglazed and then since we had no wine I squirted in a tbs or so of a balsamic reduction I've had forever. It's nothing fancy, from Trader Joe's. But the combination of those 4 ingredients was simply sublime. I really couldn't believe how professional it tasted. I highly recommend!

At any rate, I've watched a lot of cooking shows in my day and I remember learning "how to cook like a restaurant" and the answer is real stock (I even heard on The Splendid Table that veal stock is life-changing but I don't eat veal, let alone make stock). I used boxed stock but the Trader Joe's stock is very opaque and full of stuff. Other tips were use real butter, brown meat first, don't overcook, deglaze pans and salt generously. I did all of those things and sure enough it tasted like a restaurant.

I ate first, unable to wait for my delinquent family to arrive home from karate. As soon as Dave got home I started chasing him around the house.


But he was busy changing, putting things away, taking out the trash for this morning. He was getting more and more irritated at his chores until eventually he finished and I set the beautiful plate before him seen above. One bite and he really was instantly madly in love with me all over again I swear....

As well he should have been!

Side note 1: What did I eat? The above is Dave's plate. I didn't eat the greasy pasta, but saved my calories for the buttery sauce (2 tbs?), which in reality wasn't even that buttery, and about 4 oz of the really superior pork (maybe 5 with picking?). I also consumed an enormous portion of greens (2 cups). While I always eat a lot of grain at breakfast and 1 serving at lunch I do sometimes skip the rice/pasta option at dinner. This is mainly because I don't prepare rice/pasta in a particularly interesting manner. Often times it's the sauce that is really the compelling taste so I focus on  sauce for veggies and meat. By the time I realize I need to make a grain for the kids I'm creatively all tapped out and the grain ends up boring.

Side note 2: Is this a diet meal? So the meal was relatively healthy - It could have been lower fat - but it could have been a LOT higher fat too. I could have used slightly less olive oil and butter, but I actually didn't use all that much - perhaps 3 tbs olive oil and 1 tbs butter for 5-6 servings of food. Just enough to sauté the various veggies. It all adds up, but food needs to taste good, and veggies need some fat for mineral absorption. But you don't need 6 tbs oil for that. I would add that when a meal tastes extra good it's even more important to be able to control your own portion size. I can do that pretty easily now, but it took a lot of practice/evenings of tortured restraint to get to that point.

Side note 3: What did the kids eat? It was Alex's night to "choose" which he LOVES so he had asked for my home made macaroni and cheese with broccoli chopped up in there (recipe will come later). He actually requested a vegetable on his special night! We MADE them taste the pork in the sauce and they rejected it, purely on principal I'm sure. We kind of had a "your loss, more for us" attitude but next time I'll insist that they eat some.

Check out my famous friend!

I think this is so fabulous.

Amazing accomplishment, Indya. And now to be paying it forward is doubly exciting.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

For those times when you MUST have something sweet

The problem I have with baked goods on a diet is that even low-fat, low-sugar brownies still have 176 calories. That's kind of a lot. And they often don't taste very good. And indulging in sweet tastes just increases sugar cravings.

But I thought this recipe looked ok for those times you REALLY need something sweet. I would recommend individually wrapping the brownies in tin foil and freezing them. Much easier to eat one small portion that way. And I would make them smaller - these have 176 cals each, for 12 brownies, so I would cut 20 brownies instead, if possible, for a treat of about 100 calories. Also the recipe has 6 tbs of chocolate chips. Removing those would make them a lot less caloric - without the chips you could probably cut 16 for 100 cals each but I'm kind of guessing.

And I thought this woman's story was kind of crazy. She lost 212 pounds and is a size 6!

Brownie recipe.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The girl on the elevator

So I will start out by saying that my pet peeve is when someone who does not look disabled presses the elevator button to go one or two floors. It ties up the elevators, which are extremely slow to start with, wastes electricity, and is not a particularly healthy habit. I feel it is emblematic of laziness in general but I know that's not fair and unproven. So the other day someone did that and while silently cursing her I discretely looked her up and down a bit. She was well dressed, put together-looking in general, very young - maybe 22-24. She could maybe have stood to lose 5-8 pounds, but was by no means heavy. Yet. I couldn't tell if she looked like she was an exerciser or not. She looked like a sweet person. Regardless, she had gone to the first floor to get a Coke and a bag of Doritos and took the elevator back to the 2nd.  Somehow, assessing this young woman made me really sad for our country. Young people! What is wrong with them today??

She was doing so many things wrong I was just irritated - not at her but at our society that produced her. For some reason I thought she was a nice person. But why was she eating that crap? I don't even think those things taste good. Why didn't she walk the one floor? What was going through her 22 yr old mind? Doesn't she read any of the guilt-inducing media I suffer through daily about our planet and our obese society? Doesn't she care about those of us who work on the 7th floor!? For the record, I do walk often but not always. It depends on what I'm carrying and how energetic I'm feeling. But 7 floors is a lot in an overcoat and with heavy bags.

If we can't get NIH employees living healthier habits then what hope is there?? I mean, I'm kind of kidding, and a lot of NIHers are healthy but there is some truth to the idea that employees of the largest public health institution in the world (I think) should know what healthy habits are and the impact of not partaking in them. There are programs for HealthyFeds, etc. but they're not working well enough.

OK. I will stop now. This is a big topic that I can't even begin to cover. Time to move on.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

One year ago today!

Or maybe it was one year ago tomorrow. Either way I can't believe it's been a year since I resolved to become a healthier person. That was a very low point. Uncomfortable in my too-tight jeans, feeling badly about how I looked to my husband, worrying about becoming a health statistic as I prepared for my first colonoscopy. I remember dodging cameras, hiding in baggy clothes, feeling resigned to premature middle-age (at least looks-wise).

I feel so much better now in so many ways: more energetic, attractive, strong, on the right track. I still worry about genetic diseases, with good reason, but I'm doing everything in my power to reduce any unnecessary risk. I lost more weight and become more athletic than I anticipated. And I certainly never thought that I would be successful enough to inspire other people.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


It's no secret that I don't like most low-fat foods, dairy aside.
I especially can't stand low-fat mayo. But mayo is so caloric it's ridiculous. Now I could eat it more often, but I just tried to wean myself off of it in general so that I don't expect it with every sandwich. But sometimes a girl wants some mayo! And I ONLY eat Hellman's. Unless some one makes it from scratch, but that doesn't happen often.

So my compromise is flavoring low-fat mayo. Before continuing I will note that I still don't like the concept of fake foods, and don't eat a ton of them, but even I reach my limits with beans and rice with Swiss chard. Sometimes a girl wants a burger with mayo! See last post. Usually I just eat the real thing in a small portion, and I will do that with real mayo but when eating flavored mayo low-fat works just fine.

So my two stand-bys are:

  • mayo with pesto (I use bought pesto usually)
  • mayo with curry paste

I think it's about 2/3rds mayo to 1/3 flavoring.

These are just a couple choices. It works with anything - the more intensely flavored or spicy the better. I  wouldn't even qualify this post as a 'recipe' posting, but flavoring mayo - full-fat or low-fat is one of those things that is simple and delicious but very often forgotten about. I forget about it all the time.
I should try making my own mayo but that seems hard. I can barely make a vinagrette that doesn't separate.

OK - off to scramble eggs for the kids for dinner.


Last night I ate too much. No big deal, I don't usually do that but the story of how and why is kind of instructive.

I decided to make burgers. I do this often, and usually I eat a turkey breast burger. I know, some of you think it's dry and bland but I like it. Really I do. For me the burger is more about the whole burger experience - bun, toppings, condiments. And I've gotten to the point where I find plain ground beef too rich and overwhelming.

At any rate - I have an exception. Trader Joe's makes these frozen buffalo patties, complete with mushrooms and cheese all mushed in. They are bad for so many reasons - not local, frozen, shipped across country, stuffed with cheese and God knows what else, 270 calories and 18 grams fat per patty, processed. I mean the list goes on. But they are DIVINE! My whole family loves them.

So I haven't made them for a while, due to lack of grilling in general, seeing as my grill is still covered in snow. I was craving them and decided to make them in the oven on broil. I cut them in half because they're huge and I had little whole wheat potato buns and little kids. I caramelized some onions and made some curried mayonnaise. I reheated some broccoli. I assembled a burger and took a bite - while waiting for others to arrive home, ostensibly to see if the curry mayo went well with the already highly flavored burger. "Oh my God. Sometimes I'm such a good cook, I just kill myself," I thought. I mean that's not really cooking, more assembling, but whatever, I was impressed with my last-minute dinner preparation.

Within a few seconds the mini-burger was gone. Half a patty 135 cals, bun 100 cals, mayo/onion another 40? (it was low-fat mayo - I know, see next post). I was not even close to satisfied. When I made these during my losing period I would eat that amount and then add lots of veggies and maybe eat another bite or two of a leftover kid burger and force myself to stop - and then eventually I would be full. Or more likely, I would grill both the buffalo burgers and the turkey burgers and eat a whole turkey burger and a few bits of buffalo. They are very rich. I always wanted more but would control myself. This time, I was not close to full, nor close to satisfied. One mini-burger wasn't enough eating for me. I decided to eat a second concoction, but this time substituting the patty for broccoli. Really, it was all the flavors and textures together that were so good. I didn't need that high-calorie patty! So I compiled my broccoli,onions and may onto my mini bun and started eating. This was just not working. I grabbed another greasy patty half and started eating that with my fingers. Soon enough, I had eaten both the healthy broccoli burger AND the patty. This is something like 10 points and I usually eat 7 (when losing I ate 5-6!!!).

OK so what happened? Why was I not full? Why couldn't I control myself? In theory the full-fat burger should have been more filling than the low-fat turkey burger. Even later in the evening I wasn't super full.

Here is what I think happened. First of all, I was just hungry. I had had a pretty light day. So the 300 calorie dinner really wasn't enough. I needed at least 400. But why wasn't the fatty/caloric burger more satisfying than the drier turkey one? Here I think is the essence of why most doctors recommend low-fat protein for dieters, (aside from cholesterol). After eating what was basically a slider, I just hadn't enjoyed the visceral pleasure of eating for long enough. Not only was it not enough food, but it was not enough relaxing, chewing, enjoying. It was also certainly not enough time for my stomach to tell my brain I was full. Or whatever that saying is. Back when I was losing I had a crazy amount of control - and even then I would usually use a floater point or two on buffalo burger night...but now, I'm not used to eating such tiny portions nor to eating dinner with such strictness. The biggest difference between maintenance and losing for me is my dinner consumption.

OK - to extrapolate up a level, away from my experience...most people don't want to change their habits. They want a diet to fit into their current lifestyle. They want to eat a burger, not half a burger. So by far the path of least resistance is to use low-fat mayo and cheese (yuck) and use turkey instead of beef and put a big hamburger on your plate.

I have tried not to take that approach, as it results in a lot of bad guar gum-filled substitutes, and can lead to bland, not-filling eating. But no rule should be hard and fast, and I see the merits of trying different things different ways. It is also especially important to recognize that high-fat foods are extremely high in calories. and if you're going to eat them you need a fair bit of control. That does come over time, thank God. Now I eat 4-5 walnut halves instead of 15 and it's actually a very healthy snack. I even can have a tub of them in my desk drawer. But when starting out, the control is difficult. It's easier to substitute out ingredients. post is about low-fat mayo. Can you even stand waiting??

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Premium jeans conversion chart

To anyone who buys premium jeans....supposedly you can use this to order online and get a good fit. Hmmm.
I'd be afraid to do that but I thought some of you might like this anyway. What the hell is a -4???


Original context...

Yay! Finally a useful book...

I've been waiting for this book for a while.  An interesting concept that should have been written long ago. Perhaps it was but probably not by such a good writer.  From the examples it seems too high-level and like I already know the stuff but hopefully there is more useful stuff in the final version.

I like how Pollan worked with doctors on this book. I especially love the notion of the health insurance companies putting pressure on the food industry. Awesome!  Editorial on Huffington Post here.

This looks fun too...gotta love Stewart...although something seems weird with the video...

No sweets

A bit of a caveat - this will be repetitive for long-time blog readers, but I know I have some new readers out there recently....900 hits in the past few weeks!


There are lots of serious, well-researched, scientifically sound books on sugar.  These books explain sugar-addiction (slightly frightening)  and insulin-levels and all sorts of biological reasons why sugar is bad for the body and how the body metabolizes food. It leaves the body quickly and you end up hungry and craving more of it. I won't add to the blather as another un-trained voice but rather just note that sugar consumption leading to weight gain is a pretty well-known phenomenon. Here is a quick quote from Dr. Oz's website:

When you eat sugar, it stimulates the release of dopamine into the nucleus accumbens, which makes you feel pleasure. The brain recognizes and likes this feeling and begins to crave more. It may startle you to learn that heroine, morphine and sugar all stimulate the same receptors in your brain.
It takes 28 days to detox from most addictive substances, and sugar – hidden in fast food, low-fat options and condiments – is certainly an addictive substance.
 ...or you can read David Kessler's book, "The End of Overeating" for lots of detail.

I have read different suggestions as to how much sugar should be acceptable in a "serving". Dr. Oz says 5 grams of sugar, Jackie Warner says 9 grams. Either of those knocks out a ton of foods, especially sweetened yogurts and granola bars.  I found a petition on the FDA website from 1999 urging the FDA to set the recommended daily allowance at 40 grams of added sugar (there is none now).  I think that means in addition to the sugar found in dairy and fruit, but I'm not sure. Artificial sweeteners are just gross to me and do nothing to diminish the cravings, although certainly in my life I've had a fair share of Diet Coke. We all have our foibles. I'm a bit confused about the whole idea of honey, maple syrup and especially agave nectar. Those natural products seem better than high-fructose corn syrup for some reasons. But at the end of the day, too much sweet stuff is too much sweet stuff. Honey doesn't keep you full even if it has some natural enzymes that are healthy in another way. A drizzle is fine, but 3 tablespoons is probably too much for someone trying to break those sweet cravings, stay full and limit calories.

I'm not usually a fan of baby-steps. They don't result in large amounts of weight being lost, but rather 5 lbs or less usually. But it can be hard to take on everything at once, and reducing sweets is a great starting place, especially at this time of year when it's easy to have re-calibrated your sweets intake to be higher than normal.

Furthermore, the truth is, most sweets aren't that good anyway. So after holidays are over a starting place can be to put the cookie down and get the sweets out of the house so you're not torturing yourself. You don't need 7-layer dream bars and gingerbread cookies covered in M&M buttons calling you from the cabinets. A "once a week" sweets rule to help deal with the temptations (or twice a week if you need it) works well.

It's not as bad as it sounds, I promise. In fact, getting that sugar monkey off your back can feel quite liberating.

As a note of disclosure, I still eat sugar - probably more than I should. I usually limit my sweets to sweetened whole grain cereal, "diet" cookies and gummy vitamins. I eat those daily, but only after I did my own little "detox" experiment to get rid of the constant sugar cravings.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

DVD preview

For some reason it never before occurred to me to look on Netflix for exercise DVDs. Not only do they have a huge selection, but many of them are even available instantaneously. Of course I need better equipment for that to happen. But while exercise DVDs are cheap to begin with, I have bought a couple that I didn't like. I should have thought of previewing them a long time ago.

Finally, a BMI alternative that is simple and makes sense

I have long advocated a pair of jeans as a BMI alternative, but that's not really scientific enough for most of us, me included. I read a second article by Dr. Oz last night, having ignored it for days assuming it was the same article as the first, but on a different web site. I think he generally focuses on older, more obese people, but he is probably the best person out there at putting difficult medical information into layman's terminology.

So in this second article on New Year's resolutions, he suggests that a simple comparison of your height, in inches to your waist (waist being the spot that creases when you bend to the side according to shopping web sites) is a better health predictor than bmi. Your height should be more than twice your waist. I'm happy to report I'm 67.5 inches tall and have a 29-30 in waist (how tight should that tape be??). So I'm healthy! Maybe I'm measuring at the wrong place though as he says my waist should be at least 32.

At any rate - it's a really good article - positive and makes sense. His show on Jan. 4 promises to be about exactly what we should be eating. I'd like to see that. I have no DVR so someone watch it for me!

Friday, January 1, 2010

My body would never look like hers even if I starved myself.....

young female athlete

I used to think that thin people were more willing to pay attention to what they ate and how they exercised, because they had bodies that easily responded to eating well and allowed them to be thin. That is, I felt that I was hungrier than most people and would always have a big butt and thunder thighs so what was the point of really trying? In order to be thin I'd have to starve myself and run 5 miles a day. Or so I thought. Well I think in reality I was eating way more than I realized and agonizing about when to go on that run for much longer than the actual run took - and I did no weight training. I knew all these girls who could eat french fries every day and end up thin as a wisp and of course they didn't seem to try at all.

Well this may have been true in high school and college but it's rarely true anymore. And I think those girls probably snacked less and exercised more than I realized. Reshaping one's body seems impossible to face from the outset. It takes a the better part of a year, or at a minimum six months for a body to really change. I think my body continued changing through September, which would have been 9 months, and perhaps my skin even got a little tighter after that, although I'm not smaller in clothing size or pounds than I was in September.

I was never thin and muscular before. I think if I had been, I would have felt more inclined to try and get back to that place. Now if I were to gain weight, I would know what it takes to get it off and get my body back. It wouldn't be some abstract idea that seemed an impossible feat and not realistic for my particular body.

I don't know if I have a bigger appetite than most people or a slow metabolism. Some days I feel like I do and other days I'm satisfied eating 1400 calories pretty handily. I see how much more my daughter is focused food than are some of her friends-and always has been-it's not something she learned recently. Maybe I was born interested in food also. Now that I eat and snack less I think about and am distracted by thoughts about food much less than when I ate all the time. It does get easier.

I think people look at me now and assume I exercise 90 minutes a day or starve myself. I don't do either of those things. I exercise about 30-40 minutes a day - but every day. And I think I eat about 1400 calories a day but I don't totally count anymore. No foods are totally off limits but I don't over-indulge very often.

What I'm saying is, after watching 2 hours of the Biggest Loser and thinking about my own body, I think I was wrong back then. I didn't just have a slow metabolism or a big impossible-to-shrink butt. I may have been right that living the thin life didn't come naturally to me, but it wasn't out of my reach either. It just seemed so hard to achieve and to come at such sacrifice that I didn't really even try. But those girls I grew up with who had the naturally athletic figures always tried because they always knew what was on the other side of that effort. It was never an abstract notion to them. Now though we all need to do the work more or less.

But if you think you don't have a body-type that could ever be 'svelte' you're probably wrong.