Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Earthquakes, Evacuations and Hurricanes--Oh My!!!

I know it's been wa-a-a-y too long since I've had  substantial blog of note, but as I described in an earlier post, for whatever reason Blogger wouldn't let me even view my blog for close to a week, and THEN I was on vacation by the time I actually could even attempt to post.

Then, all hell broke loose.  First, we had a minor earthquake while I was at the Jersey shore, just south of Philadelphia.   That actually wasn't too bad, and kind of interesting.  It was, believe it or not, the first time in my life I ever experienced an earthquake.  

Hell really started to break loose on Thursday, however, when an evacuation was ordered for Long Beach Island where I was vacationing.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Jersey shore, LBI is an island off the coast of NJ which is nothing more than an 18 mile long, 1 mile wide sandbar.   There is one road that runs down the center of the island, one bridge to and from the island, and, at the height of the summer season 250,000 people on it on a given day.   In the absolute best of circumstances, its estimated that it would take 22 hours to clear the island in an emergency.

With a history of severe flooding of the island and the bridge connecting the island to the mainland during tropical storms and hurricanes, the powers that be thought it best to start evacuating the island as Hurricane Irene made it's way up the coast.  

So starting Thursday afternoon we went into "hurricane mode."  Thursday we had to pack and leave the island, then Friday and Saturday were spent in "hurricane prep" back home in Connecticut.   Sunday we lost power, and the power remains out.

My yoga studio is closed due to lack of power, as is my martial arts school where I practice Tai Chi.  Luckily, yesterday and today I've been able to go for long walks prior to my husband leaving for work.   

With no school, I've had to watch and entertain the kids for the last two days, and tried to work in some exercise for all of us, including a walk along the Sound this morning in Westport were we surveyed some of the damage the storm did.

Prior to the hurricane hitting, I stocked up the house with non-perishable healthy foods and foods that wouldn't spoil easily, including cans of beans, nuts and dried and fresh fruits.  

Wish me luck in getting my power back, and once it does I'll be back to blogging regularly--I promise. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Maybe I should Just Get Divorced?

Because, according to this my marriage could be a source of weight gain. 

Unfortunately, I'm pretty happily married, so that won't be happening anytime soon.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blogger Issues

Sorry for not blogging in a while, but for some reason I couldn't access Blogger at all last week, and this week I'm on vacation.   I'll try to blog later today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Weight Loss in a Nutshell

Yesterday I friend who has been unhappy with her weight for years asked for advice as to what to do to get her weight under control.   This friend has tried every fad diet that has come down the pike and while she may have lost a few pounds on each, it always came back and then some.  

So here's what I told her:

1.  Dieting fucks up your system.   If you lose weight too quickly your body says "what the fuck????" and then works to put it back on pronto.

2.  Always eat the calories for the weight you want to be.   Look up how many calories you can eat a day for the weight you want to be for your height, weight and age.  Factor in physical activity, etc., then try to stick to it for the rest of your life.  If you eat for the weight you want to be, eventually you will be that weight. If you have a big meal one day, eat less until you make up the difference.   Remember that as you age, you have to eat fewer calories to maintain that same weight.

3.   If you're eating too many calories now, reduce to the amount you want to be at gradually.   See number 1 above as to the reason why.

4.  Learn to distinguish between food cravings and true hunger.   Chances are you haven't actually experienced a true hunger pain in your entire life.

5.   Don't eat processed foods.  If it comes from a bag, jar, box or bag and has ingredients you can't pronounce, just do not eat it.

6.   Eat any bad foods you truly love in moderation.    If you try to just deny yourself what you really love, you won't stick to a plan for the rest of your life.

7.  At least 75% of your diet should be plant based.   Meat, fish and dairy products should be the exception and not the rule.

8.  Of that 75% at least 50% should be raw, uncooked fruits and vegetables.

9.  Refined carbs should be a rare treat.  If you're going to eat bread, pasta or rice, make sure they are whole grains. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Truth About Protein

Whenever someone asks me about my weight loss, I tell them about my mostly raw, vegan diet.    This inevitably prompts what I call "the protein question," either "how do you get your protein?" or "aren't you afraid you're not getting enough protein?" or some other question along those lines.

I'm bringing this up today because I saw this on-line article that discussed the actual amounts of protein we really need.   The reality being, that people vastly over-estimate how much protein we actually need and this actually leads to an over consumption of protein.  As the article states:

In fact, the average person eats about double the amount of protein that their body requires, according to the results of 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I've blogged before that I got quite a bit of inspiration as to how to lose weight and keep it off from the book Skinny Bitch.

I should warn you that if you haven't read Skinny Bitch already it's pretty much a vegan screed trying to induce you to become a vegan in the name of being slim.  

Now, I'll never be a vegan (or vegetarian for that matter), but the book sites a lot of very interesting research to back up their cause (the footnotes and end notes are amazing.)   I too was under the "I need vast quantities of protein" misconception until I read Skinny Bitch and realized that not only was I eating far too much protein, but that that over consumption could lead to illness.

The other misconception I labored under was the best source of that protein.   When I started my weight loss journey, I assumed that if I was not eating vast quantities of meat, fish and dairy I would be protein deficient.   I now know that not only can I get enough protein from plant sources, but it's actually higher quality protein.

As the article states:

Whole grains, seeds, and some vegetables also contain protein, so consuming enough is not difficult even if you don’t eat meat. Vegetarians and vegans can easily get what they need by balancing complimentary proteins such as corn and beans or rice and tofu. Nutritionists used to recommend combining foods at the same meal, but research now shows that is unnecessary.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wasn't Kate Middleton Skinny Enough????

I'm always amazed at the profound need of catalog producers and magazine editors to take skinny women and photoshop them to the point that they look abnormal.  Case in point, Kate Middleton in her wedding dress.  

Check out the dreadful photoshop next to one that's not as dreadful here.

Frankly, I think the Duchess looks better before the waist slimming.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Another Reason To Go Organic

Organic agriculture fights the spread of antibiotic resistent bacteria.  A new study confirms that the wide-spread use of antibiotics on livestock causes naturally occuring microbes to become resistent to drugs.  The new study, was headed by Amy Sapkota of the University of Maryland and published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Too Poor to be Thin? CTD

Earlier this week I posted why I disagreed with a new study stating that it was too expensive for the poor to eat better quality foods.

Well, I'm not alone.  I saw this post on the Huffington Post and thought it was worth noting. 

Like me, the author blasts the "too poor to be thin" meme as nothing but an urban myth, saying:
Like everyone else, I had heard innumerable times that "more nutritious food costs more," but was never very impressed with the data given to support the claim. So my colleagues and I generated some. We designed a simple experiment: we gave a volunteer shopper criteria for more and less nutritious foods, and had her pick examples of both from multiple food categories. We paid the grocery bill, so she didn't need to worry about prices. We then compared the cost of more and less nutritious foods, category by category, from soup to nuts (well, soda to snacks, anyway). We found no difference. In almost every aisle of almost every supermarket, it's possible to trade up nutrition substantially without spending more money.
So why don't people routinely do so? Cluelessness. I don't mean that as an insult -- I mean literal lack of the clues required to identify the more nutritious foods that don't cost more!
He also brings up the health care cost issue as I did:
Next, there's tunnel vision. We think of the costs of food as if money spent on food has no impact on any other money we spend or make. This is certifiable nonsense. The personal costs of eating badly are enormous: ill health, obesity, high medical bills, absenteeism, presenteeism, lower income. Economists routinely think in terms of "externalities" -- the costs or savings associated with a choice that don't show up on the price tag per se. When thinking about the true costs of our food choices, we would be well advised to do likewise. Eating well is an investment in health, and health provides rich returns in both human potential and dollars.
Finally, he brings up what I always say, the focus is too much on quantity of food, not quality. After all, isn't it patently obvious that someone weighing 300 pounds is just eating way too much? Here's what he says:
Lastly, there is a cultural anachronism. Think, for a minute, about how you measure food value. If you are like most people, it's simple: more is better. The all-you-can-eat-buffet exemplifies this attitude, as does "super-sizing."

But is more really better? In an age of epidemic obesity, does more food -- and more calories -- per dollar spent really constitute a bargain? Is it ever a bargain to get more of what you already have too much of?

Throughout most of human history, calories were relatively scarce and hard to get, and physical activity was unavoidable. It was in this context that more food, more calories per unit "expense" (dollars, effort, risk etc.) became the prevailing measure of food value.

But we now live in a modern world where physical activity is scarce and calories are unavoidable. Being poor actually increases the risk of obesity! Increasing our chances of getting fat and sick at no extra charge doesn't exactly sound like a bargain. Getting more food at low cost and then spending a fortune to lose the weight we gained for free does not redound to the credit of our bank account, or common sense. Calories per dollar as a measure of food value is a cultural anachronism. It's long past time to think of nutrition per dollar -- or vitality conferred per dollar -- as a new-age measure of the value of food. On such a scale, even fresh produce is far more economical than we tend to think.
I like this guy's thinking. Like me, he doesn't give in to the meme, he challenges it. To say the poor have no choice, is to give them no hope, and when you have no hope, you don't try.

I say, that no matter what the budget, it is possible to eat healthy and be thin. As the author of this blog acknowledges, but doesn't state clearly, it's just a matter of learning HOW to do so.

Also, like me, he argues that one of the primary problems is not WHAT the poor eat but HOW MUCH they eat. We are now living in an age of cheap food, and cheap calories, but the "more is better food-wise" still holds a lot of sway. The more food and calories a dollar buys is primary, and more important than the inherent nutritional quality of the food.

Instead of "more is better" the poor should be taught that their their food dollars are best spent on better quality, not better quantity.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Working those Dairy Free Smoothies

As I discussed in this post, last Spring I managed to pack on 5 pounds so I re-committed myself to eating well to take the weight off. 

I'm happy to report that I managed to lose the weight.  I'm back down to 129 pounds, and am hoping to lose a few pounds more. 

Part of my recommittment to eating well involved creating new breakfast options for myself, including non-dairy smoothies.  I posted how I was making myself smoothies with almond milk, bananas, berries, and ice, and my commentators gave me some very good suggestions for making them better.

First of all, a major hat tip to Laurie who suggested using frozen banana.  It really does give the smoothie a lot of body, and allowed me to eliminate the ice cubes which created an unsatisfactory texture.  Whenever bananas start to turn brown, I peel them, slice them and store them in Zip-loc bags in the freezer to make smoothies with. 

Next, adding ground flax seeds was also brilliant.   My colon is forever grateful for that suggestion.

So, here is how I now make my morning smoothies.  I'm including calorie counts of the ingredients.

Banana Berry Non-Dairy Smoothie


1 medium-sized frozen banana--105 calories
1 cup fresh berries --45-85 calories depending on type of berries used
1 teaspoon ground flax meal-15 calories
4 ounces unsweetened almond milk--20 calories
6 ounces of water

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Total Calories 185 - 225

I found that this smoothie fills me up for the entire morning.

I'm also working on a Chocolate Banana Protein Smoothie, but that still needs work.   I'll get back to you with that one soon.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Meat Eater's Guide to Climate Change and Health

I've been advocating eating less meat for health and weight loss/maintenance reasons for a while now, but did you know that it also impacts climate change?

There is a fantastic report out by the Environmental Working Group that shows why we all need to be eating fewer animal products--both meat and dairy.  You really have to check it out there are all kinds of cool factoids and graphs.  

Like this one--if everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, over a year, the effect on emissions would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

Another interesting fact, a 2009 National Cancer Institute study of 500,000 Americans found that the people who ate the most red meat were 20 percent more likely to die of cancer and at least 27 percent more likely to die of heart disease than those who ate the least.   Another study found that those who ate the most processed meat had a 67% higher chance for pancreatic cancer then those who ate the least.

And for those concerned about their weight, this section will be of interest:

Recent research suggests that eating all this meat is contributing to the U.S. obesity epidemic. Several major epidemiological studies have found an association between high meat consumption levels and being overweight. A 2009 Johns Hopkins University study found that those who consumed the most meat consistently ate an average of 700 calories more per day and had a 27 percent greater likelihood of being obese than meat eaters who consumed the least (Wang 2009). Another large-scale European study found that men and women who ate the most meat consumed an average of 900 and 600 more calories per day, respectively, than those who ate the least. The study attributed weight gain to the high fat content and calories in many meats and concluded that “a decrease in meat consumption may improve weight management” (Vernaud 2010).

Friday, August 5, 2011


One of my readers posted a comment in my post Too Poor to be Thin? and added some additional commentary on her own blog

Here's what she had to say:
I always feel bad when otherwise intelligent bloggers post something that is so far off base that I kinda want to reach through the screen and give them a good shake and a healthy dose of reality. Today it was from one of my favorite bloggers at Losing Weight after 45 is a Bitch, who started off by mischaracterizing the study she was reporting on by saying "that you have to be rich to eat right." In all fairness, AP mischaracterized it as well in the same fashion. First off, she criticized the study for talking about "adding" nutrients, but the article clearly says "adding MORE .." (emphasis mine). She also talks about substituting a bag of potatoes for potato chips as an example. First off, A SINGLE Russet (baking) potato is $3.99 at Albertsons this week. A big bag of chips is $1.99. Second, potatoes: a lot of starch... not so much nutrition, except for the potassium. A lot of people who are poor live on filler foods like pasta, rice, and potatoes (when they can get them cheap) and use filling snacks like chips just to feel full. Beans are another item you have to be careful of but poor people eat a lot of... beans are also high in starch.

I've written over and over and over about this topic. It's important to know. And it's also important to know the difference between someone who is firmly in the middle class and feeling the pinch of a changing economy and people who are genuinely below the poverty level. A while back (in 2007) I posted on the Congressional Food Stamp Challenge and discussed some of the foods the Congressmen (and women) who took the challenge ended up buying on their equivalent of food stamp budgets. You can see the official blog with information on those politicians who agreed to try to eat on what the average per person allowance for food is in families who are on food stamps. It's an eye opener.
Look, I like to hear divergent opinions, but $3.99 for a single potato?   Around here you can buy a 5 pound bag of russets for less then that.   I don't profess to be an expert on regional food prices, but if that is the case, then something should be done so that fairly priced produce is available nation-wide.

Another point, yes, a potato is a lot of starch, but it is still healthier than a bag of potato chips.    I was trying to do somewhat of an apples to apples comparison.   If you have a choice between eating a bag of chips or a baked potato, which do you feel you are better off eating for both your health and your weight?

And beans are simply an inexpensive protein source.   Yes, you probably are better off eating a leaner, meaner protein source such as fish, but the point was to try to be as cheap as possible.   Around here a pound of whole wheat pasta costs about $1.50, a can of lentils $2.   Add some garlic, olive oil, herbs for around another $2 more and you can feed a family of four for about $5.50.   Now, you could go to McDonalds and feed that same family on Dollar meals for about the same price, but which one do you think will lead to at least one member of that family being overweight?

But beyond that, let's get to the reality.   If someone on food stamps weighs over 300 pounds, they are eating an excess of calories.    Because processed food is so cheap, it leads to over consumption.   The problem we have in this country is not that people on food stamps are starving, it's that they are often-times obese.   They actually should not be consuming the overall amount of food that they are consuming.   They can afford to be eating more fruits and vegetables because they can and should be eating less.

But I realize that for the poor, the perception is that they have to "maximize" their food dollars by getting as much food for each dollar as they can.   My husband has a friend from college who is on Food Stamps and weighs over 300 pounds.   My husband relates to me about how he goes to McDonalds with this friend (who claims it's the only place he can afford to eat) who then super-sizes meals to get the biggest bang for his buck.

This guy weighs over 300 pounds and has serious health conditions (which is why he can't work and is on food stamps).   He doesn't need to be getting the biggest bang for his buck, he needs to be sitting down to a meal of rice and beans or a couple of baked potatoes even if it's overall less food then that super-sized McDonald's meal.  

And, let's not forget the inherent health costs of the diet of that supposedly more "affordable" diet of potato chips and McDonald's.   It's where the maxim "penny wise and pound foolish" comes into play.   The poor may be spending less on food now, but their future health costs will more than make up for any perceived "savings" later. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Problem with Serving Sizes

A very good article in the New York Times.

I have always took issue when serving sizes are less then the full package or can.  Let's get real here, who opens up a can of soup and doesn't eat the whole thing?   Does anyone actually dole out 2.5 servings?

Well, according to the NYTs very few do:

A similar number of the people asked, 61 percent, said they would also eat the entire can of a condensed soup, like Campbell’s Chicken Noodle, which lists 2.5 servings per can. A single serving contains 890 milligrams of sodium, and the full can has 2,390 milligrams. About 27 percent of respondents said they would eat just half a can in one sitting.
Also enlightening is the "zero" calorie claims of cooking sprays:

Another product that made the list of egregious offenders was cooking sprays, which list nutritional information based on “ridiculously tiny serving sizes,” the group said. One of the most popular, PAM, boasts zero calories and zero fat on the label of its original canola cooking spray. But that information refers to a spray lasting just a quarter of a second.

“That’s just not the way people use them,” Mr. Jacobson said. “It’s probably impossible to spray for a third of a second. We suggested six seconds might be kind of reasonable.” A six-second spray, he said, has 50 calories and six grams of fat. 

Too Poor to be Thin?

I always have problems with studies like this which claim that you have to be rich to eat right. 

First of all, it's kind of vague.  It says that adding potassium, vitamin D, calcium and fiber to diets will add hundreds to groceries bills, but then doesn't explain how or why.

Additionally, it talks about ADDING these nutrients, not substituting.  If you're not spending $3 on a bag of potato chips you can then take that money and buy a few potatoes, bake them and viola you've added fiber and Vitamin D to your diet (while eliminating salt and fat).

Now, I don't want to seem to be insensitive, but, I'm sorry, there are better food alternatives for the poor than eating $1 meals at McDonald's.  

Because my grandmother was an Italian immigrant I grew up eating a lot of "peasant" food, and a plate of beans and rice is a cheap alternative to a fast-food burger that provides you with a lot more nutrients and a lot less fat and sodium.    Another alternative is pasta with lentils.   It's cheap, it's filling, and it won't make you balloon up to 300 or more pounds.  

Or how about something as simple as a banana for breakfast or a baked potato for lunch? 

If you're not buying fast food and junk food, then that frees up funds to buy food that is healthier, more nutritious and less fattening.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Happy Meals?? I Don't Think So.

I guess this is older news, but I'm just finally getting around to commenting on it.  

Last Tuesday McDonalds announced that they will be tweaking Happy Meals to make them more "healthy."   Here's what they had to say:

The new Happy Meal will automatically include both produce (apple slices, a quarter cup or half serving) and a new smaller size French fries (1.1 ounces) along with the choice of a Hamburger, Cheeseburger or Chicken McNuggets, and choice of beverage, including new fat-free chocolate milk and 1% low fat white milk. For those customers who prefer a side choice of apples only, two bags of apple slices will be available, upon request.

Get that?  The only real change they are making is that they will now be including apple slices (no doubt drenched in some chemical to keep them from turning brown).   Notice that soda is still looks to be the default option, but you now have the choice of getting low-fat milk.

Yippee!!! Problem solved!! We can now all sleep easier because kids eating Happy Meals will now get some disgusting apple slices which they may or may not eat.   That will more then make up for the excess trans fats, sodium and added sugars they will be consuming along with those apple slices.

Marion Nestle, as always, has some excellent commentary on the change on her blog.    Marion points out that McDonald's move has less to do with actually being concerned with childhood obesity then business.   Sales of Happy Meals are down because kids don't want the junk toys anymore.  

It seems that marketing food as "healthy" is the newest way to increase sales these days, so what does McDonald's do?  It makes some negligible improvement to an overall unhealthy pile of crap and calls it "healthy" (which is why you should never believe marketing). 

If that ain't corporate whitewashing, I don't know what is.   Do you really think that McDonald's would be adding apple slices to a Happy Meal if they didn't think there was money to be made?

Here's the deal, if you really want your kids to eat healthy, then don't ever take them to McDonald's.   "Healthier" Happy Meals are certainly not the solution to the child-hood obesity epidemic in this country, particularly when they are not so much "healthier" but really just "slightly less unhealthy."

If McDonald's really wants to do right by kids and work to help end the child-hood obesity epidemic in this country there is actually one positive step they could take--they could stop their predatory marketing practices aimed at kids. 

Instead of a "healthier" Happy Meal, let's get rid of the junky toys, the playgrounds and Ronald McDonald.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why Can't We Get Good Apples????

Last week I journeyed up to Montreal to visit my cousin for a long weekend.   It was wonderful spending some girl time with my "little" cousin (who is now 34) and touring the city from an "insiders" perspective.  

Although we share the same continent, I always find that travelling to Quebec is like travelling to to Europe.   I may have never stepped on a plane, but it feels like I did.   Everything is so European from the language (French) to the restaurants, food stores, and bakeries.

One thing that really struck me, as it did when I travelled in Ireland last year, is how good the fruit is.  Why is it in America that when you buy an apple, nine times out of ten it's inedible?   Yet, in Montreal no matter where I bought apples they were delicious.  

I really would like that mystery fully explained to me.   I buy and eat plenty of apples in the Fall when they're local and fresh picked, but once January hits you pretty much can't find a decent apple.

Yet, last April in Ireland and last week in Montreal, every apple I ate was fabulous.

The other thing that struck me in Montreal, as it did in Ireland, was portion sizes.   Restaurant portions were way smaller then they are here, and even pastries and bread products, such as croissants, muffins and bagels, were smaller.  You didn't see the humongous portions and pastries on steroids you see here.

You can see the influence of fresh tasting fruit and smaller portions on the street.  I didn't see one obese person the whole time I was there.   I saw plenty of heavy people, but overall, they were much thinner.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Been Away, but I'm Ba-a-a-ack

Sorry for the silence, but I've been away.   I promise to get cracking on new and interesting posts ASAP.