Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Bike Named Simple

There is an absolutely fantastic piece in Salon by a guy who lost 100 pounds after he moved from the mid-west to New York.   For anyone trying to lose weight, I highly recommend reading the whole story.

How did he lose 100 pounds in a year?
Back in the Midwest, where I lived my entire adult life, the most common question was, "How did you do it?" Some people asked with a wink and nod -- you know those vain coastal people and their shortcuts. No, I didn't have surgery, didn't take supplements, didn't hire a trainer or even buy a miracle-cure book.
I walked more, and I ate less.

Part of my diet plan was simple necessity. Back home, I drove a car everywhere I went. I cherry-picked parking spots to get as close to the door as possible, shaving my walk to the minimum. But my normal daily walk in New York City was about three miles, just getting to school, walking to work either in Greenwich Village or Midtown and meeting my friends and wife for dinner.
Another thing that helped (and something I've strenuously advocated for) where calorie counts on menus:

At the same time, I cut back my eating. The first week in New York I went to Chipotle, something familiar from back home, and I was confronted with a menu that prominently listed each item's calories, posted by law thanks to a 2008 regulation championed by Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The truth was shocking. The tortilla alone was 290 calories, plus beans and rice added another 250 calories. That was 540 calories before I even made a real choice. For my favorite burrito -- chicken with corn salsa and guacamole -- the grand total was about 960 calories. Here I was making "healthy choices" at Chipotle, and I'd blown nearly half a day's suggested calories.
Just as I always argued, knowledge is key if you want to lose weight.

This man's story is truly inspirational.  He even made room in his diet plan for eating pizza frequently. 

And, when he hit a plateau, he just started exercising more and even more weight came off.

So, in the end, the story is the same.  More exercise and healthier eating lead to significant weight loss.  

And, he realizes these are permanent changes:

There is still a fat person inside of me, and keeping the weight off has not always been as easy. After hitting my goal, I gained 10 pounds back quickly and I realized I had to stay disciplined. I had to change my habits forever, not just for one year. Now I count my calories and weigh myself daily.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Your Diet Coke Problem is a Problem to Your Waist-line

If you think you're doing your waistline any favors by drinking a chemically-brewed, sugar free soda concoction your just plain out-right wrong.    A couple of new studies found that people who drink diet sodas had bigger waists and were more likely to have diabetes then those who did not.

After completing a two decades long study epidemiologists from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio reported data showing that diet soft drink consumption is associated with increased waist circumference in humans,

A second study that found aspartame raised fasting glucose (blood sugar) in diabetes-prone mice.

Quotable quote:

"Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised," said Helen P. Hazuda, Ph.D., professor and chief of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology in the School of Medicine. "They may be free of calories but not of consequences."

The statistics are mind boggling.  The study showed that diet soft drink users, as a group, experienced 70 percent greater increases in waist circumference compared with non-users. Frequent users, who consumed two or more diet sodas a day, experienced waist circumference increases that were 500 percent greater than those of non-users.

So the science is clear.   If you want a slim waist ditch the diet coke.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's the Calories Dummy

A new study once again bursts the bubble concerning lower-calorie foods.

It turns out that we respond to calories in food more than taste. That's why when we eat low calorie versions of foods, we're not as satisfied. In a nutshell:  
We are so convinced that the tongue is the source of culinary joy — we eat too much ice cream because we want to make our mouth happy — but it’s not. Instead, we eat calorically dense foods because we are also trying to pleasure this secondary pathway, which responds not to the nuances of flavor but to the brute intake of energy. (On a more depressing note, this research also explains why the obesity epidemic is so hard to fix. Let’s imagine, for instance, that some genius invented a reduced calorie bacon product that tasted exactly like bacon, except it had 50 percent fewer calories. It would obviously be a great day for civilization. But this research suggests that such a pseudo-bacon product, even though it tasted identical to real bacon, would actually give us much less pleasure. Why? Because it made us less fat. Because energy is inherently delicious. Because we are programmed to enjoy calories.)
I've blogged about this before. The reality is that if you want ice cream, you're better off eating a small bowl of real ice cream (and the absolute, best, creamiest, most natural stuff you can find), then eating a lot of some reduced calorie pseudo ice cream crap. 

Your body isn't fooled by some low calorie pseudo-food.   It wants the real thing, and so will respond by just eating more of whatever plasticized, aerated junk you're eating.   In the end you wind up eating more calories then if you just went and how the real stuff to begin with.

The way to cut calories and lose weight (and maintain it once you've lost it) isn't to eat reduced calorie anything.   The key to weight loss and maintenance is PORTION CONTROL.  

Michael Pollan in his Food Rules exhorts to eat less, but eat better.   The reality is, that once you get used to it, you really only need to eat a lot less then what you've grown accustomed to eat.   We're so used to humongous, steroid-sized portions of food, that we've forgotten that we can actually survive all morning on what is now called a "mini" bagel.    

The trick I found, was to gradually reduce portions so that my "new" normal is almost half the size of what I previously ate.   Trying to reduce "cold turkey" didn't work because my body was used to the bigger portions and I was too hungry between meals.  By gradually reducing porions, however, I adjusted with little discomfort.  

So now when I want dessert (and because I have a sweet tooth, I frequently do), I can limit myself to one, really good cookie, or one scoop of really good ice cream.   I take my time to eat my indulgence, and afterwards I'm completely satisfied.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Personal Set-backs

My shoulder has been acting up again.   That means I've been unable to do many of my favorite asanas when I practice yoga, including Bakasana. 

If you're unfamiliar with yoga, this is bakasana:

This asana is one of the first "I can't believe I'm actually doing this" asanas I achieved after I started practicing Ashtanga yoga.  

If any of you have ever practiced yoga at a "serious" shala you know what I mean.   You start by taking your first yoga class and you can't even touch your toes, then you look over in the room and there are yogis doing hand stands or putting their feet behind their heads.  You look over at these contortionists and think "yeah, I'll never be doing that."  

But, then you start practicing yoga regularly and before you know it you're standing on your head without leaning against the wall, and you can get your head down to your leg as you reach down and grab your feet.    Lotus comes naturally after a couple years of regular practice.

You become amazed at what you accomplished, all the more so if, like me, you never started practicing yoga until well into your 40's.

Bakasana is actually not that hard to do once you've built up some upper body and core strength (from all those chattarungas) and you practice it.   You simply place your knees onto your forearms, lift your head as a counter-balance, lean forward, and look out over the abyss. 

The first time I was actually able to balance in bakasana I knew I could conquer just about anything yoga had to throw at me.   I was so excited the day I first flew, that when my husband came home I had to demonstrate.

Before I knew it, the time I could remain in bakasana lengthened.   Eventually I was able to lift myself up and kick out my feet to land squarely in chatturanga.  Then I learned to move from bakasana to tripod headstand then back to bakasana and out to chatturanga. 

I've always loved practicing bakasana. It's such an amazing freeing feeling to be up there, balancing my legs on my forearms, flying but for the tenous connection between the floor and my hands. When I'm in bakasana I feel that I can still do just about anything with my body now that I'm 50.  I feel  that age is no hinderance to anything I want to accomplish.

But for the past few weeks I can't practice bakasana because it's causing too much pain.   This has happened periodically for the last few years.  My shoulder hurts, I pull back on practice, it feels better, then all of  a sudden the shoulder acts up again and I have to pull back.  It's frustrating to come so far, only to be stopped because my body is not co-operating.

My shoulder has been an off and on problem for close to two years now.  I don't know how I hurt it.  There was no "ouch" moment when I suddenly realized that I hurt myself.   It was a gradual pain that slowly got worse.

I've sought medical attention for it, and have been on anti-inflamatories, got physical therapy, etc.   The pain subsides for a while, allowing me to go back to a full yoga practice, and get on with my life, but then the pain usually roars back to life again.

Last week I saw my orthopaedist again, and he's ordering an MRI.

The shoulder has, of course, been affecting other parts of my yoga practice beyond bakasana.   Chatturangas hurt, so I've had to modify my sun salutations.   I can't go all the way up in back-bends because I don't want to put pressure on my shoulder, etc. 

It's affecting my life as well.   Carrying in groceries has become painful because of my shoulder,  When I'm working with my athletes for Special Olympics skiing, I often have to pull someone along, with great pain to myself.    Sometimes just the weather makes it act up.   I find myself taking Motrin or Advil for my shoulder every time it's damp and cold out.

My orthopaedist thinks I may need surgery.   For a working mother, fitting surgery into my life is, of course, difficult.  

But then I think about flying in bakasana and how much I want to be able to feel that freedom without the fear of feeling pain afterwards.

So, if the doctor says surgery is the answer, then surgery it will be.

Personal set-backs are always demoralizing and it's easy to lose focus and want to quit just because you can't progress the way you want.   I've known plenty of yogis who stop practicing just because they're injured.   They take sort of an all or nothing approach to the practice.

But I like to look at injuries as opporunities.   Sometimes when we can't do something, it opens up our awareness to other things we may not have noticed previously.   When I'm not injured, I'm so focused on pushing up to a full back-bend and remaining there, I often forget that the true purpose of a back-bend is to arch the back and stretch out all the muscles in the front of the body.  By pulling back and not going all the way up, I can actually got deeper into the pose then I would otherwise. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fat Ronald

You know, if McDonalds is going to continue to use Ronald McDonald as a spokesperson, then I think they should update him to this:

After all, this image, by Ron English, better represents what McDonalds' food is all about.   Maybe there should be public service announcements with with Fat Ronald eating a Whopper and saying "eat this, and you could look like me." 

Frankly, I never saw the appeal of McDonalds food.  I can honestly say that I haven't eaten in one since I was a teen-ager.  I just never liked the food (one of the benefits to being a picky eater.)  I'd go with my friends and just sit there sipping a diet soda (bad habit, I know, but I eventually broke that one). 

As an adult, I've driven a hard line with my kids.  I've never taken them to eat in a McDonalds (or Burger King), and although they've gone on occasion with friends or sitters, they know better than to ask me or their Dad to take them there. 

The funny thing about not taking your kids to McDonalds is that there are a lot of people who seem to feel that its somewhat akin to child abuse.  

I've had numerous discussions with people who try to impress on me that I am somehow denying my children some kind of fundamental aspect of kid-dom by not hauling them to McDonalds and teaching them to eat grease-laden, sodium-drenched food remnants. 

Believe me they've had happy and content child-hoods despite the lack of Happy Meals (and don't get me started on those land-fill filling toys--how many billions of years will that Spider-man action figure be sitting in a landfill?).

Besides, what of the billions of children who grew up before McDonalds existed?   Did they somehow or another have unfulfilled childhoods?   McDonalds actually never came to my town until I was a teen-ager, so does that mean that all the kids growing up in Suburban New Jersey in the 1960's were deprived?

I've always preached that if you want to lose weight and keep it off, then you need to bring your whole family along in the journey.  

No man is an island, and if you want to eat healthy, unprocessed nutritious food, your whole family has to eat that way.   You can't eat healthy if you have a kitchenful of Cheetos, Doritos, Chips-a-Hoy and Lunchables--even if it's "just for the kids."

You know what?? Not only should you not be eating that crap, your kids shouldn't be either.  

And, restaurant options can't include anything with a drive-thru window.  


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Science for Sale

Big tobacco was able to muddy the scientific waters for years by hiring scientists to produce "data" to obfuscate the truth regarding the dangers of cigarette smoking and second hand smoke.

The technique worked so well (by delaying the inevitable), that it was quickly picked up by Big oil to cloud the truth about climate change.

Now, with the increasing awareness of the negative health effects of obesity, we have a new industry willing to find sciencists to obfuscate.  Big Sugar has now become the Sugar Daddy of any scientist willing to say that their products won't make you fat

In a nutshell, a scientist who has taken money from Kraft, McDonald's, General Mills, Kellogg's, Mars and Nabisco, is now taking a position entirely contrary from every other "honest" (i.e., non-purchased) scientist that soda is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic in the US.   Kind of like what Big Tobacco and Big Oil's scientists did, this guy is claiming that there is no "clear evidence."

Here's what they do:
In a recent commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association, respected food researchers asserted that the industry has participated in "deceptive science and advocacy." They say "the food and beverage industry has created or funded front groups reminiscent of the tobacco institute that give the appearance of grassroots support."

The groups, they say, include Americans Against Food Taxes and the Center for Consumer Freedom, organizations that are largely funded by the food and beverage industries.

"Big tobacco, big sugar," food researcher Popkin said, "identical in the way they treat scientists."

Popkin admits he has taken some industry money for research but, he says, turned down many of big food's most tantalizing offers.

"I've been offered $5,000 to go speak to this meeting or that meeting," he said. "You get $2,000 to $5,000 a day. They'll fly you on business class tickets to exotic places. They'll take you to Paris or Rio. They'll take you to places in Brazil."

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was criticized for taking $10 million for obesity research from the soda industry, and after the American Association of Family Physicians took money from Coca-Cola, some members ripped up their membership cards.
In a way, I can't blame Big companies for doing this. After all, they have businesses to run. But I do blame the "scientists" and organizations that take their money.  It's plainly obvious that the scientific community needs higher ethical standards, and needs to enforce those standards stringently.

Don't Worry. Be Happy, and Lose Weight

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Selfish Giving Part Deux

Doing good while doing yourself bad.  Sometimes you just got to see it to believe it:

Give blood and you can get a Whopper to clog your arteries:

How about saving the planet, but polluting yourself?

What the cluck??? KFC offers buckets of chicken to help raise funds for Breast Cancer research?

And, how about Coco-Cola sponsoring continuing education courses for dieticians on, of all things, bone health? 

If you want to read a good argument as to why not for profit organizations shouldn't take money from soda manufacturers, read it here

Stephen Colbert, of course, has something to say on the matter.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Salute the Sun

As I wrote over the Winter, I'm one of those people who is really affected by the lack of sunlight.   As the Winter solstice approaches, all I want to do is go into "bear mode," and sleep all day.   Getting out of bed in the dead of the night is a huge challenge for me, and by early afternoon, I usually find myself wanting to take a nap. 

The exact opposite is true as to the Summer Solstice.   As the days get longer, I find myself waking up earlier and staying up later.   The sun is up around 5 am these days, and I'm up and out of bed with it.

The Summer Solstice for me is kind of like another New Years.   It's a time to make new resolutions for eating healthier and finding ways to be more active during the day.

And, because I'm not in "bear mode," I generally find these resolutions easier to keep.  

This year my Summer Solstice resolutions include recommitting to raw food.   I was really, really good for quite a while in keeping at least 50-60% of my weekly diet raw, but that seems to have slipped some over the past 6 months.  I'm resolving to not only eat at least 60% raw over the week,  but even go higher than that to 75% now that summer is here and all kinds of fresh, locally grown, fruits and vegetables are available.  

I'm also recommitting to reducing my refined sugars and grains.   My sweet tooth, unfortunately, tends to get the best of me, and I've been eating far too much white bread.  

Getting back into a daily yoga practice, again, is also on the list.   I was really good at this for a while as well, but lately there have been days when I didn't even fit in a 10 minute practice.   So it's back on the mat again for me.

BTW, in the Ashtanga yoga tradition, its traditional to do 108 sun salutations on the Summer Solstice. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Dollar Menu

What a buck gets you calorie-wise.

Check it out here if you're having a hard time reading it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Selfish Giving

From the annals of completely ridiculous comes this:

Get that???? Buy a super huge cup of a sugar-laden cola and KFC will donate $1 to fight juvenile diabetes.  

Now, according to the blogger who posted this, that cup of cola you're buying to donate to this cause contains a whopping 800 calories and 56 spoonfuls of sugar.

Am I living in some kind of alternative universe?   Is it, or is it not, unbelievable that some company would encourage it's patrons to buy a product that will likely lead to their someday being diagnosed with diabetes to support a group that funds research on diabetes?

Now I realize that Juvenile diabetes is different from Type 2 diabetes in that juvenile diabetes isn't caused by excess sugar intake or obesity, but, the two conditions are related.  It just looks bad to slap a "diabetes" fund-raiser promotion of a mega huge cup of sugary chemicals.

And, what, may I ask, would ever induce people at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to sign off on this????  Are they really that desperate for funds?  

The blogger states it well:

I’ve said this before: I don’t have a problem with nonprofits and fast-serve chains doing cause marketing. What I do have a problem with is when fast serve chains like KFC encourage consumers to buy products that directly contribute to the health conditions – in this case diabetes – they are supposedly trying to prevent by partnering with the cause in the first place.

I'll have to clarify again that juvenile diabetes is not caused by excess sugar intake, but what the blogger missed is that someone with juvenile diabetes cannot drink this caloric disaster because of the sugar.

Wouldn't it have been nice if the promotion was actually on a product that those affected with Juvenile diabetes could have partaken in?    Or, even better, on a product that was actually healthy for the entire customer base of KFC?  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mental Health Break

Hat Tip to thewwchick over at Leading the Weigh.   

I always appreciate how comedy often gets the point across better then actual reasoning does, and this cartoon clearly hits the nail on the head.

You can't take things too seriously, although I do believe that obesity in America is a serious problem.   And, as this cartoon highlights, the problem is caused by overeating of over-processed foods.

Well done.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

No Envy Here

Just a reminder that, despite what Sarah Palin says, our health-care system is not the envy of the world.    

The conservative prime minister of Great Britain is promising citizens that the British socialized medical system will not be converted to an "American style" insurance based system.  

Seems that talking changes to the British Medical system to make it more like ours is akin to talking about converting our Social Security system to 401(k)-like savings accounts--sure to get you voted out of office.

I'm bringing this up as just a reminder about how our perceptions of ourselves don't always accord with reality.  

In my "real life" I actually spend a lot of time writing and researching about health care systems both here and abroad, and I'm always shocked out the blatant misperceptions that Americans have about our health care system.   I'm also always shocked at how they perceive health care systems in other countries.

The reality is that we have the most expensive health care system in the world that delivers some of the worst outcomes for a broad range of ailments.   Our waiting times for most procedures are no better then in other countries.  You'll wait just as long to get an MRI here as you would n Canada.

Furthermore, it's a myth that Canadians travel to the US for medical care, and the fact is that one of the biggest sources of fraud in Canada is Americans pretending to be Canadians to Canada to get health care services there.   

If you don't believe me, check out stats from the OECD and Canada. 

We tend to think that our system is "the best" because there are a lot of financial interest who want to keep our system as it is, and they spend a great deal of money on propaganda.

Propaganda tends to rule the day over reality, and realizing that propaganda is propaganda is the first step in losing weight.

Health care claims on food is nothing but propaganda.    If something claims its good for you or will make you thin, it's more likely than not that it won't.    There's money to be made by selling you junk food, and businesses will do whatever it takes to sell you that junk food.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bottled Earth is Good For You

Ever wonder what happened to the Biosphere 2 Experiment?

For those who don't know, or are too young to remember, Biosphere 2 was an experiment to see how self-supporting stations in space might work.   Starting in September 1991 a group of self-proclaimed "bio-nauts" lived in a sealed, self-sufficient, three acre complex for two years.

As part of the experiment, the Bio-nauts had to grow and raise their own food.   The complex was equipped with an area to grow crops, and their were food animals such as chicken and fish as well.  But, because the bio-nauts were scientists with little back-ground on growing crops or animal husbandry, there was less food available then originally expected.
Between the diminished calories and the hard labor needed to raise that food, all the bio-nauts lost significant amounts of weight.  They were described as "starving" and "guant."

But although the Bio-Nauts starved their health actually improved.   Their health was closely monitored, and, in the end:

When the crew emerged from the experiment after two years, the project was judged by the media to be a failure. Early in the second year, carbon dioxide levels had risen so high (twelve times that of the outside) that the crew were growing faint and Walford asked for more oxygen to be pumped into the structure on two occasions. The Biosphere had proved not to be a self-sufficient, autonomous world as it would need to be if it were to become a base station on another planet. In 1999, by which time the Biosphere had been taken over by Columbia University as a research center into the effects of climate change,Time magazine judged it one of the hundred worst ideas of the twentieth century. But Walford’s experiments with diet, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in December 1992, were judged a success. The bionauts not only showed dramatic weight loss (stabilizing at an average of fourteen percent overall), but also lower blood pressure and cholesterol, more efficient metabolisms, and enhanced immune systems.

Now, as the article showed, these people were pretty much always hungry, and actually resorted to things such as stealing food.   It's interesting to note, however, that despite the fact that they all came out "gaunt" they were actually in better health then when they weren't "starving."

Now, I wouldn't recommend sealing one's self up in an hermetically sealed, self-contained, eco-system as a way to lose weight, but it does demonstrate that part of the problem today is not lack of food, but the over-abundance of it.

We can survive on less food (although constant starvation is not a state anyone wants to be in), than we think we need.   But food is being overproduced in this country and because we over-produce food in this country, those excess calories have got to go somewhere.   The somewhere has turned out to be our hips, thighs, and stomachs, to the detriment of our overall health.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cleaning House--Going Digital

It's that time of year again.  I find myself inexplicably drawn to emptying closets, throwing out piles of paper and hauling car-loads of stuff to Good Will.

Maybe is the warm,weather.  Maybe it's because there's more hours of day-light so I'm more aware of the clutter.   But, for whatever reason, I feel compelled to de-clutter my life.

This year the big clean up was going digital.   Believe it or not, until last week, I still was using a FiloFax to schedule all my appointments and keep names and addresses.   For those of you who don't know a FiloFax is an organizer and way back in the 1980's it was considered, the chicest, most up to date, way to keep all your contacts, appointments and other information.   Instead of buying Apps on-line at the Apple Store, you would go to stationary store and buy inserts for your FiloFax.  I once had a NYC Subway map and a ruler inserts in my FiloFax.

I also had a couple of Rolodexes strewn around the house.  One Rolodex originally dated back to my first legal job out of law school.   Often, e-mail addresses where on the computer, phone numbers in one Rolodex, and addresses in the FiloFax.  I even had some phone numbers on my cell phone that weren't written down anywhere.

But, two weeks ago, I got an iPhone, and I resolved to finally move all my appointments and contacts to iPhone and Computer. 

I went through my address book and sadly noted the friends that had moved and I no longer had contact with, yet there they were in my book listed with a phone number and address that no longer applied to them. 

Then, there were the relatives that died but their information lived on in my address book.   I went through my address book page by page, and only entered the contacts that still existed in my life into my computer.   In a way it was sad to leave those old names behind.

Then I went through the Rolodexes.   The Rolodex in my office had contacts that I hadn't contacted in over 20 years, and trade and business organizations that either were no longer in existence or which had long merged out of existence.   The New York City shop where I bought my son's layette 17 years ago was in another Rolodex, even though I remember noting it going out of business over 10 years ago.   Business cards stuck into the Rolodexes were gone through and discarded if not current or listed businesses never used and unlikely to be used.

It was a pretty laborious process and took hours upon hours to complete.

But now its done, and, in its own way, cleansing.

It feels good to see clean spaces were unseemly looking Rolodexes once sat.   I also no longer have sticky notes everywhere noting down those phone numbers that for some reason never made it into the address book or Rolodex.

It's also more efficient.  I know longer have to remember to bring my "book" with me to make appointments or else have to make follow up phone calls since I always have my calendar with me on my iPhone.   I also don't have to always hope I remember to call "so and so" once I get home because all my numbers are now on my iPhone.   I can call someone and schedule and appointment as I sit in the car dealership waiting for them to change the oil in the car.

Doing a cleanse is kind of the same thing.  I just wrapped up another short cleanse this week, and, in a way, it's similar to cleaning the house.   It's work, and maybe takes some extra time, but, in the end, I always feel that it was worth the effort. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

You is who You is--Accept it and Be the Best You Can Be

Before we were married, my husband and I went out to a bar with a friend of his.   At some point in the evening, this tall, willowy, model-type creature strolled into the establishment with her long, straight, platinum blond hair flowing half-way down her back.

I felt a sudden stab of jealously as all the male eyes (and most of the female as well) in the bar went to this being as if drawn by a magnet, since I was (and am) pretty much the complete antithesis of this goddess--short, curvy with curly brown hair.

My husband's friend made a comment about how "gorgeous" this ethereal image was, to which my husband replied "she's not really my type."  His friend then retorted "Of course not, you only like short girls with boobs and big butts."

I then looked over at my then boyfriend, future husband and thought, "OK, now I see the attraction."

I thought of this as I was reading a recent special issue of Yoga Journal called Yoga for Weight Loss.

There were a couple of articles I found of interest (sorry but the magazine is not on-line so I can't link to it.)   The first was called Start Where You Are and details how heavier people can start and continue practicing yoga.   In it, the author wrote, "For large folks interested in exploring yoga, it can be helpful to explode the myth that good health comes only in thin packages."

I know this to be true.  Through the years I have had many larger friends who were active and healthy.   Their body type, however, pretty much dictated that, like me, they were never going to be built like Gwyneth Paltrow.  

The other article I read with interest in this publication was Love Your Body--It's the only one you've got, and, no matter how different it may look from your ideal, it's doing its best to serve you well.

I think the tag line pretty much says it all.

I've realized a long, long time ago that no matter how much I diet and exercise, I'll never be a tall, willowy blond.   I'm a short, curvy, brunette and will always be a short, curvy brunette (despite a brief period when I was indeed blond).

But, just because I'm a short, curvy brunette, doesn't mean I can't be the best short, curvy brunette I can be.    I can still watch what I eat, exercise and be fit and healthy.     

And, while there are plenty of guys who would love to be with that tall, willowy blond, one of the most special guys in my life (the others being my Dad and my son) actually prefers being with a short, curvy brunette with wild, curly hair.

And, that's all that matters. 

Blogger Problems

Blogger seems to be having one problem or another these days.   The latest snafu is that I can't comment on my own blog (although I can comment on other blogs).  I've tried responding to several of your comments for a few days now with no luck.

Hopefully, the problem will clear up soon.   Until then, please understand my silence.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Splaining Sugar

I found a really great article explaining how different sugars effect the body, how you become sugar dependent, and the difference between processed and unprocessed sugars.  Read it here.    (BTW, isn't this illustration fantastic?)

I found this article particularly interesting because I just had a discussion about sugar with a fellow sweet-tooth the other day.   I was explaining how I managed my longing for sweets by eating both fresh fruit and dried fruits (dried apricots and dates are always in my house for when I just got to have sweet).  

My friend looked at me and said "but you're still eating sugar, isn't sugar just sugar?"

But, as I explained to her, and this article explains as well, not all sugars are created equal.   Natural sugars found in there natural states don't have the negative effects on your health and weight that processed sugars do.  

BTW, here's a great "raw" berry tart for dessert for this time of year.   I make this all the time and everyone loves it.   Plus, it's so easy to make, and takes less then 15 minutes to put together.

First take an equal amount of pitted raw dates and raw pecans and process in a food processor with a couple of tablespoons of water until it's sticky and you can pat it into a pie plate.   Pat this "dough" into a pie plate then fill with whatever fresh berries are in season.  I've used various combinations of raspberries, blueberries, sliced strawberries and black-berries.

If you want to be decadent (and no longer "raw") serve with either fresh whipped cream or ice cream (just a small dollop or scoop!!).   

I swear that people love this dessert and haven't a clue they're eating healthy (or, at least mostly healthy if you use the whipped cream or ice cream).   I once brought this dessert to a party, and one guy ate practically the whole tart before anyone else was able to get any.  


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Eat Your Plate.

In case you didn't hear, the US government has a new food icon for eating well.   Marion Nestle has a great blog about it here.

I happen to think that this new icon is a huge improvement over the food pyramid. 

Let's face it, when you looked at that pyramid did you have any idea how much of each food group you were supposed to eat?? 

With the plate, it's all so much clearer.  The majority of your diet should be plant based, with a little meat and dairy on the side, not vice versa.

Still, as Nestle points out, there is room for improvement.

But at least it's a step in the right direction.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Husband's Away so It's Detox Time

Since I'm trying to a few pounds and because I believe that cleansing is an overall good thing, I'm starting a detox today.
My husband left on  a business trip yesterday morning (Sunday) and won't be back until late Tuesday.   I generally find that cleansing while he's away is easier then when he's home.

When my husband first told me about this business trip two weeks ago, I thought it would be great to do a serious deep cleanse, like a juice detox.   I thought I could start it Sunday when he left and carry it through to Wednesday.

But then I realized I had a dinner out scheduled for Saturday and a fund-raiser last night, so I couldn't do the necessary "prep" work for a serious cleanse (which involves going off sugar, caffeine and meat, dairy, eggs and fish prior to starting).

So, I'm repeating the light cleanse that I did this Winter and blogged about here.   I brewed up the special tea yesterday, and am committing to eating nothing but fresh fruit and vegetables all day.   I may try to juice cleanse tomorrow into Wednesday after I've had a day to "clean out" my system, but this is probably a good strategy given my constraints.


Friday, June 3, 2011

The LIME Diet

I'm on the LIME Diet to lose weight.  LIME stands for "Less Intake More Exercise." 
Fad diets come and go, but I've found that the one and only way to lose weight and keep it off is to eat less and exercise more.   Period. End of story. 

I've tried fad diets.  I've tried taking "magic" supplements and pills.  But neither fad diet nor magical concoctions ever led to permanent weight loss for me.

I've been trying to keep that in mind as I reorganize my life to lose the pounds that I've put back on, and to keep them off once I lose them again. 

Now the "More Exercise" part of the equation isn't a problem for me, motivation wise.  I happen to love to exercise and could really do it for hours a day.  Unfortunately, I can't.  I have kids, a husband, a job and a house.   So as much as I love to spend whole days hiking, biking, practicing yoga, etc., I just can't.  

But I do manage to get a fair amount of exercise in every week because I love to do it.   I walk at least five days a week, practice yoga at least 3 and Tai Chi at least once.  I also started working out with a personal trainer once a week.   Plus I ski, hike and cross country ski whenever I can.

No, for me the issue is one of less eating.  I love to eat. 

I am lucky in that I'm a somewhat picky eater,and that saves me on many an occasion.

Passing a McDonald's is easy for me because I just don't like the food.  Never did.  When I was a teen-ager when my friends were ordering Big Macs and Shakes, I'd just order a diet soda.

I'm also good with passing up junkier processed foods for that reason.

I also don't like foods such as Ham, hot dogs, bacon and many kinds of beans.  If I'm at some one's house and they serve ham, I'll pick at it to be polite, but it's pretty easy for me to leave it on the plate.

But, I do love sweets.  You can put a bag of Oreos in front of me and I wouldn't feel the least temptation to reach in and grab one.   If, however, you put a plate of fresh, home-made or bakery-fresh, chocolate chip cookies in front of me, I'm going in. 

I also just love good food in general, and tend to overindulge when I'm in a good restaurant or at some one's house who really knows how to cook (and, being that I'm Italian, we have a lot of good cooks in my family).

But, I realize that I have to step back, breath, and just eat less.   I have to remember portion control, and that while I can taste, I shouldn't gorge.

I have to keep the first part of the LIME diet in mind whenever I eat--Less Intake, and hopefully that will lead to less me.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

New Beginnings--Non-Dairy Smoothies

As I blogged the other day, I've put on a few pounds.   One of the things I've discovered since I've hit 40 (and I'll be 50 in a few months) is that not only is losing weight a bitch, but just maintaining it is even a bigger bitch.  

It can take me an entire month to lose 2 pounds, and then I'll put those two pounds back on in 2 weeks.  

It takes constant vigilance to make sure that I don't gain any weight and if I do put on a couple of pounds those 2 extra pounds doesn't turn into 5 and then 10 pounds.  

So, when the scale hit 5 extra pounds I realized I needed to rethink and revitalize my overall eating and exercising plans.  

I fell off the weight-maintenance wagon food-wise because I got bored.    You go into new eating habits with such gusto, but then before you know it you're in a rut and looking for a little excitement.  

I've always allowed myself to go "off diet" occasionally to enjoy a minor indulgence.   Those "occasional" indulgences have become a bit too frequent of late.

My busy social calendar and unwillingness to draw attention to myself also did me in.  I believe in not being a "Food Pain in the Ass" at social events.  Nothing bugs me more then people expecting special treatment because they don't "eat meat" or are on the latest restrictive fad diet.    I believe that if someone invites you to their house or you go to a social event you either eat or don't eat what's presented and shut up.  The only time I think you're justified in getting special treatment is if you have real food allergies, etc.

I used to be very good at the just "not eating" thing.   I would go to some one's house and usually be able to fill up on vegetables and avoid the high calorie stuff.   If I knew the food options most likely would be nothing but processed junkier food, I'd eat a big salad before going so that I would be less tempted by the wide array of crap.  These days, however, I'm not so good.   Not terrible, mind you, but not as fastidious as I used to be.

So, it's time to regroup, reevaluate and revitalize.

I need to get out of my food rut.  I've been eating pretty much the same standard fare for breakfast and lunch for several years now.  For breakfast I have my "standards" of oatmeal, fresh fruit, juice or eggs.   Lunch at home is always a salad, and pretty much the same exact salad every day.

So, do get myself out of the rut, I thought I'd start with creating a new breakfast option for myself.

Now, I've never been much of a smoothie person, primarily because most smoothie recipes I'd seen rely very heavily on milk and yogurt.   Since dairy doesn't really "agree" with me these days (I'd be bloated and gassy for the rest of the day if I started my day with a standard smoothie), I decided to experiment with a non-dairy version.

Basically, I've been combining bananas, berries and almond milk in my blender with some ice cubes.   This morning I blended:

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, strawberries and raspberries
1 very ripe banana
1 cup almond milk
1 1/2 cups ice cubes.

The flavor of my new breakfast concoction is actually quite good, and the smoothie fills me up enough to get me through my entire morning (which always includes yoga, a walk or a personal training  session).

So, now I have a new menu option.  The only problem is that making smoothies has me seriously wanting a new blender.   I've been lusting after a Vitamix blender for years, but have never felt comfortable enough to make the financial splurge (Vitamix blenders start at $499 in the Williams-Sonoma catalog).

However, if the smoothies help me to stick to my weight loss/maintenance goals and lose the weight a bit faster, maybe I'll reward myself with a new blender????

Probably not, but maybe the next time a financial windfall comes in.

Shout-Out to a Great New Blog

A local yoga studio owner has started her own blog, and her opening salvo chronicles her struggles with food addiction.   It's worth a read. 

Here's a short sample of what she has to say:

"I actually know exactly why and if you have like twelve more hours I could tell you the whole sad fucking story that led me up to this very moment while I STILL stuff my face in a futile attempt to feel better, still chasing the high that I felt when I was 5 hiding in my closet eating a can of cake frosting...still trying to fill the this hole to no avail, none whatsoever. After a few years I figured out that figuring out why was just as empty as the food itself, which is just as empty as the lack of something inside me.
Oh don't get me wrong, there is the momentary glee as the chocolate hits my tongue and the temporary thrill of a Quarter Pounder with cheese, super sized fries with two apple pies (and, of course, a diet coke ‘cause I don't want to drink all that sugar!? fucking insane person), but the thrill gets shorter and shorter and harder to find. Which makes me have to eat more and more to try to find something to fill me up. The more food I consume, the more I am consumed by food. Nothing is ever enough or hits the spot. It is endless and pointless and utterly devastating--to me, to my son, my husband, and my world around me. This is where I learned I am powerless and when I dive down the rabbit hole, my life becomes completely unmanageable...they call this hitting bottom:"

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Visual Reminder

I know I've posted this before, but I keep needing to remind myself to get out of the car more and move. 

Be Prepared for alot More Gastrointestinal Problems

House Republicans do not want to fund a new law meant to cut back on food born illnesses.   Furthermore, if that wasn't bad enough they also want to cut an additional $87 million from the FDA's budget, expect to hear about a lot more people getting sick from the food they eat.

While the whole Washington Post article is worth a quick read, here are some of the repercussions of not funding the law and cutting the budget:

"The proposed budget cuts would also hinder the FDA’s ability to increase scrutiny of imported foods, according to food safety advocates. The new law requires the FDA to create a system of third-party certifiers to ensure that food coming into the United States meets the same safety standards as food produced domestically. Without additional funding, the FDA cannot create that system, said Erik Olson, director of food and consumer product safety programs at the Pew Health Group, part of a coalition of public health advocates and food makers.

“These cuts could seriously harm our ability to protect the food supply,” said Olson, who is hoping the money will be restored by the Senate, which has not proposed its spending plan.

The House subcommittee also proposed a $35 million cut to the Food Safety Inspection Service at the Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for the safety of meat, poultry and some egg products."
Hey, I get it--we're in the middle of a deficit crisis and money has to be saved.  By why subject millions of American citizens to disease and possibly death, yet refuse to touch the military budget?   Or how about that aid to Americans farming abroad (talk about sending jobs overseas!!), that was mentioned in the Post?