Friday, April 20, 2007


There's a neat article in about a woman who lost over 100 pounds. I felt really motivated after reading it. Think about it -- she lost a small person and most of us are struggling with 20-50 pounds. It's like watching someone climb Mount Everest and knowing you can make it to the top of that hill.

But there was one quote in the article that I feel really summed it up for those of us trying to be healthier:

"I almost ended up in a box," she said. "And at that size, I didn't know how I would fit."

Congratulations to Rosie Murrell. She's an inspiration.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Blog Review

As my last semester as a graduate student winds down, I look back at my blog -- originally an assignment for my online journalism class -- and, I have to say, it's been a blast.

I deliberately did not share this blog with many friends and family. To be honest, I wanted to be able to blog freely and not worry about meeting the expectations of those who already know me. Especially since I chose health and fitness for this blog; it's a very personal subject, and it's not always easy to share your efforts and frustrations to lose weight with the people you see every day, especially if they've never had a weight problem.

I think I have been most surprised to find that people have actually read my blog. With the millions of blogs out there, a few people have actually made their way to Body Recovery and stayed to read and to comment. I thank them.

The readers have been the most rewarding aspect of this blog, including the comments of Dinah and Tess. They've been wonderful about sharing their own weight loss tips and struggles. They have not judged me when I have fallen off the health wagon, and have even had a bit of empathy. It's been wonderful to study health and nutrition in such an accepting and educational environment. I feel like I've learned a lot and have found myself going through my non-Web life thinking about my next post or posting and looking forward to the comments of those reading the blog. From them I have found support and inspiration.

Yet, I also feel that my blog has had a few holes. If I could change anything about the past few months, I would have added more pictures. Originally, I thought that readers would get bored looking at pictures of meals I made, but I think that even pictures of food would have added some visual interest to the page. Although, I have to admit, downloading pictures is one of my least favorite things. I enjoy taking and PhotoShopping pictures, but I truly hate waiting for them to dowload. I think that is part of the reason so many pictures never made it to this blog.

I also wish I had continued my "Produce of the Week" post -- for me and my readers. I enjoyed shopping for new and unusual produce, and I hope some people may have actually discovered a new vegetable or fruit to liven up their healthy diets. Somehow, as the semester got busier, I found myself with less time to search out new produce and relied on grocery store apples and oranges to keep going. Although, I do think my cats were happy to not have to pose with any more bananas on their heads!

Now that the semester is over, will I continue this blog? That's a hard question to answer, and I can only say, for now. As a journalist, I do have to be prepared for the day when writing in this blog may no longer be ethical. I attended a New England Press Association workshop on ethics, presented by Jon Kellogg, executive editor of the Waterbury (Conn.) Republican American. Kellogg brought up the question: Is it ethical for journalists to blog? In essence they're commiting the cardinal sin of journalism in their blogs -- expressing an opinion. Yet, blogs are written in journalists' personal time, off the clock, so to speak.

While there is no right answer, it is certainly an issue that I have to discuss with the editor who hires me. As a journalist, can I get on my blog and blast the FDA for its failure to regulate carcinogens in beauty products? The truth is, I'm just not sure. As a journalist, I must be unbiased. While this blog represent only my personal opinion, I would not want to be seen as biased in any coverage I might do on government agencies. Also, I must consider how my personal opinion could reflect on my employer.

So for now, I blog. In the future ... who knows?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Is Organic Healthier?

If you live in Maine, Village Soup reported that there will be a presentation "Healthy Eating for You and Your Planet," April 22 at the Jackson Memorial Library in Tenants Harbor, Maine.

So that got me to wondering -- Is organic food healthier food? Now of course, my first instict was to think that it must be, but since the government tells us there is no danger in these genetically modified foods, I thought I would do a little research.

Once again, big surprise, I have found that while the government hasn't told us the whole truth. While nothing is proven that organic foods are safer, plenty is suspected, including that the food is more nutritious. Also, illegal pesticides (which were banned because they were considered so dangerous) have been found in America's food supply. No big surprise, since we still produce them for foreign countries who haven't taken the steps we have to stay safe.

From "Organic Eating - Why Bother?" here are the top five reasons to eat organic:\

1. Fresh organic produce contains on average 50% more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micronutrients than intensively farmed produce.

2. If you eat dairy or meat products, eating organic has never been more essential to safeguard your health. Intensively reared dairy cows and farm animals are fed dangerous antibiotics, growth hormones, anti-parasite drugs and many other medicines on a daily basis, whether they have an illness or not. These drugs are passed directly onto the consumers of their dairy or meat, which contribute to meat related diseases like coronaries and high blood pressure.

3. Organic produce simply tastes better. Fruit and vegetables are much more full of flavor. Experiment with an organic carrot and a conventionally grown carrot. Which is sweeter?

4. Organic food is not really more expensive than intensively farmed foods, as we pay for conventional foods through our taxes. We spend billions of dollars every year cleaning up the mess that agrochemicals make in our natural water supply.

5. The few extra cents you pay for organic food may save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in doctors’ bills.

Note, not only to be get the chemicals through our food, but then we let them leach into our water supply. Yet the big food companies don't seem enthusiastic to hop on the organic bandwagon? How come? Is it because they can sell us cheaply produced goods, make more money, then let us clean up the mess? Why is the government spending tax money to clean up our land and water supplies instead of holding the companies that put the chemicals in the ground responsible?

Okay, I'm off my soapbox. I also want to point out to readers, that a 2003 study actually found more pesticides in the urine of children who ate traditional foods. While the food industry pooh-poohed the findings, claiming that no one could prove the extra pesticides were actually harmful, I think the research shows that we do need to be more careful about what we take into our bodies.

For those who feel organic food is just too expensive, one wife and mother who is training to be a naturopathic physician, shopped processed for her family for one week. The next week she shopped organic. She reported with careful planning, the organic food bill was less expensive by more than $1!

However, if you still believe you can't afford to buy all of your food organic, below is a list of different fruits and vegetables and their pesticide content. If you can only afford a few organic vegetables, try picking from the top of the list, where the produce has higher concentrations of pesticides. You could still reduce the amount of pesticides in your body and increase your health and safety.

Pesticide rating compared to stawberries. Source: Environment Working Group and the Nutrition Action Health letter, Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hidden Calories

I'm just home after waitressing for 12 hours straight. You'd think that I would lose weight just by waitressing, but not so.

However, while I was at work, for the first time I really looked at the food I was serving. Or I should say I really thought about it. I look at it all the time and think, "Yeah...that's what I'm having for dinner!"

It's amazing the calories restaurants hide in their food. Even when you think you're eating healthy, it can be hard to make a good choice. I work in an Italian restaurant. Eating light, you might choose the soup and salad. If you're feeling really virtuous, you might put the dressing on the side.

Yet, the minestrone soup has cheese melted into the broth for flavor. I learned this when waiting on a vegan customer tonight. She asked what her choices were and we ended up creating a veggie pizza without cheese because the soup had cheese in the broth. While the soup may be one of the lower calorie foods on the menu, it's still has a lot of extra fat hidden in the broth.

Then one of the cooks made a veal Parmesan by accident. As it sat in the window, I watched the tomato sauce separate. There was a good quarter cup of oil in the tomato sauce! Again, looking for something healthy to eat on the menu, I might gravitate towards some linguine with a plain tomato sauce. Tasty and healthy. Nope. There's a bunch of excess oil added "for flavor."

I'm starting to wonder if Americans even know what food tastes like anymore. There are so many oils and preservatives added to our foods to give it flavor, that it's feels impossible to go into a restaurant and order anything but a salad without dressing and feel confident that it's a healthy choice.

I'd like to see our restaurants post their nutritional information right in their menus, the way food in the grocery store has the nutrition on the labels. Maybe then we'd actually be able to evaluate our choices instead of guessing and hoping for the best.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Burn, Burn, Burn

There are a lot of articles on MSN today about keeping your metabolism going. And for the most part they're all offering very similar tips, some helpful, others not-so-helpful. At the top of the list are:

  • Eat often -- Otherwise your body will try to conserve energy as fat.
  • Drink water -- It can boost metabolism and keep you from feeling lethargic.
  • Eat a balanced meal -- It helps the body keep its metabolism going. Refined sugars, can slow the body's metabolism down.
  • Build muscle -- It uses more calories.
  • Exercise -- Ditto.
  • Sleep -- Muscle is regenerated in the last few hours of sleep. Don't miss out on that!
  • Don't stress -- Studies have shown that people who stress often have more weight in their stomach area.
  • Drink green tea -- Five cups a day can boost your metabolism.

I thought it might be a good idea to review some of the basics of weight loss as we head into the weekend this Friday the 13th. Although, if someone can tell me how not to stress or how to drink five cups of green tea EVERY DAY, I'd love to hear it.

But we must also remember that part of staying healthy and fit is not beating ourselves up. While good choices are key to getting healthy and fit, accepting who we are and how we look is just as important.

So in the spirit of self confidence, check out this slide show of beautiful women who have learned to love parts of their body that aren't part of society's beauty ideal.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Officially Horrified

Yesterday I attended the "Toxic Truth" presentation at Northeastern. The topic was harmful chemicals in our beauty products. Although the program was short, I learned a few things. Namely:

  • The FDA does not regulate what goes in to beauty products for the most part.
  • Cosmetic companies' claims are not evaluated for truth.
  • Many major cosmetic companies used chemicals that are know to cause cancer and birth defects.
  • Nearly 70 percent of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bodies.

Most of this information comes from the campaign for safe cosmetics. I truly had no idea how bad many of the basic cosmetics are. For example, some nail polishes contain formaldehyde! The campaign is working for legislation that would subject cosmetics companies to some oversight.

In the meantime, the campaign offers some basic facts and truths as well as a list of companies that have agreed to produce safe cosmetics. There is also a report on the toxins commonly used in cosmetics and their effects.

I'd like to see a lot of these safer alternatives more readily available. While Internet ordering is fine, sometimes I forget. And I don't have 3-5 days to wait for shipping. Until the government gets off its duff and starts advocating for us, hound your local drugstore to carry at lease one safe alternative to the toxins that sit regularly on their shelves.

Here's a couple of pictures from the workshop today.


Dinah made a great suggestion about dancing as a way to work out. I did a little research, and dancing is great exercise as well as being a lot of fun. I'm wondering if anyone out there also uses dance to stay in shape. How do you do it? With friends or alone? Lessons, videos or in your own home? What kind of dance have you tried? What kind of dance do you do? Dinah, if you check in, I'd love to hear more about your dancing and what you and your friends do. How long have you been doing it and have you noticed changes in your body?

I did come across an article that suggested dancing is good exercise -- the article said "for singles," but we'll just leave that off. Anyway, if you scroll all the way down the page, there is a great chart that lists different kinds of dance and the pros and cons of each. If you're thinking of trying dance, it might be a good place to determine what kind of dance you'd like to try.

The BBC had a good article about dancing for fitness as well. And this must take quote of the week for all of you who (me!) who are feeling like you may just not be coordinated enough to dance:

Many people think they can't dance because they have poor coordination, but
anyone can dance - if not always elegantly.

Feel better now?

And winding up on fitness, I found an article on that suggested fencing is also a great mind - body workout. Fencing requires good physical conditioning and tactical thinking. The article said:

It is sometimes described as chess at a hundred miles an hour.

Now that would be fun!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Drink Milk, Quit Smoking?

A new study at Duke University reveals that a healthy diet may make it easier for smokers to quit smoking. Researchers asked smokers to rate the effects of food on the taste of their cigarettes. The findings:

  • Cigarettes taste best with meat, alcohol and coffee.
  • Fruits, veggies and dairy products impair the taste of cigarettes.
  • Menthol cigarettes show the least susceptibility to flavor changes.

So if you're working on getting healthy, the first step --obviously-- is to quit smoking. No point in losing weight and exercising if you're going to end up with lung cancer. I say this as someone who loves smoking. It really is too bad that smoking isn't like taking your vitamins.

But, alas, it isn't. I went on Wellbutrin for three months to quit and was able to stay smoke-free until my friend asked me to be maid of honor in her wedding (long story). So now I'm back on Wellbutrin and hoping to quit again, this time for good.

But there are a bunch of options, including nicotine patches, nicotine gum, hypnotism and a new pill that may alter the taste of cigarettes.

I think what's most interesting in this new study from Duke is that most of us believe that quitting smoking will cause us to gain weight. However, if we're able to combine quitting smoking with a healthy diet, it seems that we might strengthen our chances of quitting smoking and not gaining weight, since hopefully the diet changes would offset the weight gain.

And the study makes sense. Are you a smoker? Try lighting up after drinking a glass of milk. Gross.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Toxic Beauty

There seems to be more and more in the news about cancer-causing chemicals found in beauty products. I think the focus on this has become more intense because we're beginning to realize that if we can absorb birth control and nicotine replacement through our skin, perhaps our moisturizers and lotions are entering the bloodstream as well.

There are a number of articles and Web site dedicated to organic beauty products. Ironically, many people with sensitive skin have difficulty with organic beauty products -- often they're allergic to the plants used to create the lotions. So each of us has to find the right balance for us.

In the interest of learning more about chemicals in beauty products, I'll be attending an event at Northeastern University called "Revealing the Toxic Truth" at the Curry Student Center Wednesday, April 18, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The speakers will be on from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., so if you're interested and in the area, you can probably shoot in on your lunch break. I'm really excited because I'm an absolute skin care fanatic. I'll let you know what I find out.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Healthy ... Right!

So I'm reading an article by the Monterey (Calif.) Herald's food editor about a new Web site -- a healthy dining finder.

Cool, I think. Just enter your zip code and you will be given a list of healthy dining options in your area. Fantabulous.

Mike Hale, the Herald writer, then goes on to expose that the site is full of chains that pay a fee to be listed on the Web site. I'm sure he's mistaken. No Web site calling itself the could seriously be taking money to list restaurants. It defeats the purpose of getting an independent look at the healthy options in your area.

Hale isn't mistaken. I typed in my own zip code and found that the "healthy" restaurants in my area included Chili's, Domino's Pizza, Burger King and Arby's. Seriously. According to the Web site:

Entrees (or full meals) must include at least one (emphasis added) of the following:
fruits and/or vegetables
lean protein, i.e., skinless white meat poultry, fish/seafood (including salmon), tofu, etc., with no more than two red meat dishes per restaurant
100% whole grains

By these standards, I can throw lard on lettuce and call it a healthy meal.

This is a site in collaboration with the National Restaurant Association.

Thanks, but I don't need any help finding my way to Burger King.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Integrating My Nutrition

I met with my integrative nutritionist last night who has unveiled my new healthy eating plan. First of all, I will say, for the most part it's simple and traditional -- whole grains, veggies, meat, and some dairy. But it does bring in some new elements:

Be happy. Karyn pointed out to me that people who are excited about and involved in life often don't eat as much. It's something to keep them alive, not something to do. She referenced children outside playing who often don't want to come in for supper. When they finally do come in, they take just enough bites to keep their mom happy and rush right outside again.

Enjoy cheating. If you're going to cheat, savor the food. Don't gobble it so fast you have to cheat again to feel satisfied.

The five fingers. At each mean, Karyn suggested that I eat a portion of veggies the size of my hand, a starch the size of my palm, a meat the size of three fingers and an other (fat, dairy, fruit, etc.) the size of two fingers. I should eat three of these "plates" of food each day. It doesn't matter if the food goes in all at once or in various snacks throughout the day.

Breathe deep. Chew well. When you're done eating, you're done eating. So learn when enough is enough. Chew food for about 30 seconds so the brain has time to catch up with the stomach's "I'm full" signals. Also, breathe deeply between each bite and slow yourself down.

Sea kelp. Karyn said a shaker of sea kelp is a great replacement for salt. It adds extra minerals to your food.

Keep in mind, this is my healthy eating plan. Yours may differ, since each plan is tailored to the individual. Also, Karyn involves herself in supporting your efforts, holding you accountable for reaching your goals and helping you improve the overall quality of life. It's a very holistic approach to weight loss.

I meet up with Karyn in two weeks. I'll let you know how I'm doing.

Just Work Out

An article I read today suggested that as long as you work out, it doesn't really matter what you do or where you do it. Whatever gets you moving is a good thing. So now I can stop complaining about how I don't have enough money to go to the gym and throw myself into Denise Austin. I'm also thinking about taking a karate class. I always feel better about working out when my mind is engaged as well. So I think picking up a new skill while exercising will help keep me motivated.

If anyone's reading this, feel free to comment on what you do for exercise and how you stay motivated. It's be great if we could all learn from each other.

Off to see the nutritionist today. I'll let you know how it goes.

And lastly, check out this article from New Zealand about how eating healthy can boost self confidence.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

(Don't) Drink Up

eDiets has an article offering 8 Ways to Lasting Weight Loss. While many of the tips are the same old tried and true "tricks" we've come to expect, such as don't eat junk food, one tip stood out for me: Don't drink your calories.

It's something those of us seeking a healthier way of life tend to forget from time to time -- those coffees and teas and frozen, extra chocolate mochachinos have calories too. As I sit here writing this, there's a cup of coffee (light, two sugars) by my side. While I do get in my eight glasses of water a day and avoid soda, I do drink coffee. I don't even think the sugar in the coffee is a big deal, it's the cream. Switching to milk can cut the calories, but whole milk still offers up a fair amount of fat and calories. I actually measured how much milk I need in a large coffee to make it that lovely caramel color I adore -- a half cup! I wouldn't drink a half a cup of whole milk or cream. Perish the thought! But I drink it every day (and sometimes twice) when I have a coffee.

Then there's the diet soda pitfall. New research is showing people who drink diet soda have a higher incidence of obesity. While researchers aren't sure why, there is proof that rats who are given artificial sweetener crave more calories. That means all those sugar free juice mixes we use to add some flavor to our water may not be any good either. I believe flavored waters also have artificial sweetener.

I like to add some fruit to my water -- a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange to zip it up, keep it calorie free and stay natural. Now I have to work on drinking black coffee or cut my food calories to accommodate my cream habit.

And a quick note to Tess ... I agree, most of us eat when we're stress. Those who don't -- Pffft!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Back to Normal

It's Monday and things seem to have returned to normal. My mother is home and the doctor won't let her return to work for a few weeks. And I am back on schedule. I definitely feel I've gained some weight this past week instead of losing it. Ed and I ate out a lot this week and, to be honest, I didn't put a lot of thought into my food choices. Instead, I ate a lot of comfort foods. It really was my fault. I'm seeing more and more healthy food choices for people on the go. I certainly could have headed to the salad bar at the hospital cafeteria or packed a nutrition bar and a yogurt to take with me. Instead, I used my personal life as an excuse to overeat.

So I spent some time this weekend thinking about emotional eating. I found that there are a lot of great tips out there for those of us who eat under stress. If you look, there are tips on recognizing emotional eating, why you eat, and ways to stop.

So I'm meeting with my integrative nutritionist to set up a plan this Wednesday. I plan to talk with her about my eating under stress. I also plan to start carrying fruit with me. That way if I really can't control myself, binging on a apple isn't as bad as hitting the vending machines. Exploring the whys of my emotional eating may take more time, but it has to be done if my weight loss is going to be permanent.

I may not reach my goal by graduation, but I certainly can by my wedding day.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Selfish or Healthy?

Well, Mom is spending her first day "at home" today. Except she's been everywhere but home. Ed is with my parents in Taunton right now while I'm home near Worcester. My parents and Ed made an executive decision and gave me the day off. I feel a little guilty about it, but Ed is between jobs right now and they've been running errands all day. I suggested to my mother that I come down before class and she sounded a little tense. Apparently my evil sister-in-law is coming down with the grandkids and my mother is afraid that I'll scare my nephews.

So I'll spend the day tomorrow. My brother and his family will be moving that day, so my mom can breathe easy. If I sound like I'm rationalizing, it's because I am. Why is it so hard to take a day off? As a society, I think we often put others before ourselves, not even taking a break when we need it. I don't think that's the way to better health. But I don't think taking a day off if you can't do it without self-flagellation is any good either. Why is it we have such a hard time saying this is what I need to stay healthy?

The doctors agree that my mother's heart attack was from stress. Stress she had been holding in and not dealing with because she put everyone else's comfort first. Where is the line between taking care of ourselves and being selfish? I think Americans often have a heard time recognizing the difference. For example, Ed is spending the day with my parents today so I can catch up on some work. So I told him that I would spend tomorrow with my parents while he stays home and relaxes. He's fighting me on it right now. Not because he doesn't need a break, but because in his heart of hearts, he feels like it is morally wrong to do something for himself if everyone else's needs aren't met.

In turn, my parents are insisting their fine because they don't want to be a burden or to selfishly absorb our time. So they would rather disobey doctor's orders rather than have us take time to help them out.

I have no words of wisdom here. I can only say what I've observed is that in general our society doesn't seem to have a healthy attitude. We either can't seem to take care of ourselves because we're too busy taking care of others or we only take care of ourselves and don't even notice others around us.

So when is it okay to be selfish?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What a Week

My mother came home from the hospital tonight. The doctors did not find any blockages or damage to her heart. So, again, thank you for all of you who are pulling for her. It looks like she's going to be okay.

What the doctors believed happened is that my mother got so stressed out that she actually shocked her heart. She claims it was my engagement -- a day she thought she'd see sometime after the Apocalypse.

But needless to say we're all very happy to have her home. Her and my dad are going to need us around a bit more, but things are looking positive.

And Tess, I have no idea how people can be so cold. I'm just glad I relieved my stress before I had a heart attack myself. I'm still grinning about it!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Getting Healthy

Thanks to Tess and others for their prayers. My mother and I both appreciate them. She's still in the hospital tonight. They're running more tests tomorrow.

More and more, I realize there are all different kinds of ways to be healthy. One can just be putting your anger in the right place. Doctors believe my mother's heart attack may have been stress-induced. A fancy way of saying she's holding her anger in. So today I did my heart good and let some of my anger out.

My sister-in-law is a raving witch (substitute that for the word of your choice). I called her and my brother today to ask them if they could give my father a ride to a doctor's appointment. They said they were too busy. She suggested that my parents face up to the fact that they need to hire someone to take care of them.

She constantly says that it's not her and my brother's responsibility to help our. She's also naturally thin and blond, so she's always good for throwing a few snide weight-related remarks my way. Finally today four years of anger came tumbling out, mixed in with a lot of four-letter words.

I suppose I should feel bad for losing control of my temper. But I have to tell you -- I feel great. I feel about 20 pounds lighter. I took control and refused to allow myself to be bullied any more. Even better... they agreed to give my father a ride.

So look at that person that's really making your life miserable. Then, tell them off. It feels as good as going for a run. And all that stress really can land you in the hospital.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Holy Cow

That about sums it up. This has been a crazy weekend. Ed and I headed to Chicago, the culinary Paris of the Midwest. I'm sure you can fill in the blanks. We spent the weekend walking around and eating deep dish pizza.

But I have new motivation to stay in shape.

Ed proposed.

I'm not kidding, even though I thought he was when he asked me. We were in Millennium Park, in front of The Bean, when Ed dropped to one knee and proposed. Even better, there were teenagers nearby who erupted into cheers when I said yes. It was a blast. Here's a picture Ed and I took of The Bean at night. Notice the Chicago skyline reflected in the background.

Needless to say, I'd like to be a slender and lithe bride, but I'll settle for average.

On a more serious note, my mother had a heart attack today. I wish I could say I didn't see this coming, but she's overweight, doesn't watch what she eats and avoids exercise at all costs. Even the slightest physical exertion leaves her flushed and breathless.

It happened today while she was at work. She felt chest pains radiating down her left arm, so she decided to make a doctor's appointment. For tomorrow. No kidding. Fortunately, she works in a doctor's office and they called 911.

But I can see myself in her. We're built the same. In the future I'm stiff from lack of exercise, my heart is out of shape and even getting up off the couch requires some effort. I was kind of thinking that when I'm 65, Ed and I will be riding camels through Egypt and I'll be whining about the hot sun. I don't want to spend the retirement years sitting in a hospital bed with oxygen up my nose.

So I've had two big kicks to get up and get working out. Time to break out the Denise Austin and get moving.

And if you're reading this, say a quick prayer for my mom.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Welcome to 2007

Okay, I'm trying a podcast here. I spent the weekend talking to some of my fellow waitresses about the challenges of staying fit and healthy when you're surrounded by food. It was a lot of fun to hear different points of view, and it definitely proved I'm not alone. None of us are. Anyway, here are the results:

Get Fit and Creative

While surfing the news for the latest in health and fitness, one thing I noticed today is there is an awful lot of stories about ways to make fitness more interesting. It seems like the newest and best thing is something that can promise us a little change from the daily fitness grind.

I don't know what it is about exercise, but doing it day after day can get boring. Especially if you don't vary the routine. Every now and then it also comes up in fitness news that if you don't vary your fitness regimen, not only do you get bored, but your body gets bored, and starts burning calories more efficiently. In other words, you're working your butt off, but it's not going anywhere.

So a couple of thoughts on this:

Skip an exercise routine. Just try to move for 30 minutes every day in whatever way strikes your fancy. If you're in the mood to take a walk, don't deny yourself the pleasure because it's your strength-training day.

If you can, work out with a friend. Even if the routine is the same, the conversation will be different. Just be wary of this. When a friend of mine had a baby a few years ago, we tried doing an exercise tape together every day. At one point we spent the entire morning in our sweat pants, eating Oreos, playing with the baby and watching Jerry Springer. So maybe it's better to work out with an acquaintance.

Join a gym. Many of them offer free classes to members. Then you have built in variety -- and access to the latest trends. There's an article in about Zoomba, a mixture of aerobics and Latin dance that's making an appearance in gyms. There's also belly-dancing, Pilates, yoga, boxing and even pole dancing.

Use a medicine ball. These can add a new challenge to your strength training. And, if you happen to be a bit of a klutz (yes, my boyfriend calls me Donzilla), just trying not to fall off the ball can bring a whole new challenge to your workout.

And finally, for those who can, try a personal trainer a few times a week. They can tailor a workout especially for you, including functional fitness. What's more motivating than someone who's sole purpose that day is to get you out of bed and working out?

Please note, these are just my thoughts on fitness, and I'm certainly not a doctor.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sometimes, Bigger is Just Bigger

The Stockton Record out in California (that haven of all things slim) has a great article about portion sizes. Typically restaurants serve enough food per plate to feed two people. The article, written by Sara Cardine, discusses how these large servings are beginning to affect what we eat at home. Namely, Americans are all out of whack when it comes to determining a portion size. It even comes with a handy-dandy guide to portion sizes. Some myths the article addresses as well:

Myth: Eating the correct portion sizes and amounts will never fill me up.
Fact: The stomach has an amazing ability to stretch and shrink to accommodate your intake. When you eat less, eventually a shrunken stomach will register fullness faster.

Myth: I'm a man and I need my meat.
Fact: "People think of protein as only meat," restaurant consultant John Britto said. "There are lots of other proteins in your diet." These include beans, nuts, seeds and eggs.

Myth: Now I'll never be able to eat out.
Fact: When you order your food at a sit-down restaurant, ask for a to-go box and put the extra aside for future meals.

Myth: It'll cost an arm and a leg to buy all those fruits and vegetables.
Fact: Buying produce in season will cut costs. Frozen versions, packed with all the same nutrients, are another option. Bad food and big portions can cause serious health risks in the long run, dietitian Rosario Aguirre said. "Is that worth the money?"

It's funny this article comes out now. I was watching my boyfriend's youngest daughter eat last night. She had an appetizer, an entree and dessert. But she only had a little bit of each. She started with mozzarella sticks, leaving some on her plate simply because she was done. I thought she was full, but no, she then ate about half her pizza. Finally, she finished up with a small serving of ice cream. While her food choices aren't all I could wish for, I love her eating style. Somehow she has a handle on how much she can eat of any one course and still save room for what's coming up. Not me. I eat until it's gone. Then, if I'm too full, I soldier on, since I ordered it, the food is so good, this is my favorite part of the meal, or whatever excuse pops into my head.

I don't think I need add that my boyfriend's daughter is naturally skinny. Which prompts me to ask, how many "naturally thin" people instinctively have better habits? I'm sure hereditary, and sometimes medical conditions play a role in our weight, as well, but perhaps there is more in our control than we realize. Perhaps part of "hereditary fat" is simply bad habits that are passed on from generation to generation. I'm going to try to eat like my boyfriend's daughter this week and see what happens.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Eat a Veggie

The Columbus Dispatch reported that only one-third of Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables. Most alarming is that this number falls short of the government's goal of getting 75 PERCENT of Americans to eat two fruits and only 50 PERCENT of Americans to eat three veggies a day. So the message I'm getting here is even our government doesn't think we can exist as a healthy nation. Only 50 percent of us will ever reach a healthy lifestyle. Talk about being doomed to failure.

That said, a Newton, Mass., woman is putting out a skin care line that will give skin plenty of fruits and veggies. It's called Be Fine Food Skin Care. The Boston Herald reported the skin care line, which includes avocado, pomegranate, mushrooms, etc. will be available in CVS stores. I haven't tried the line myself, though, so don't take this as a recommendation. I just think it's a neat idea.

Perhaps we could just eat a little moisturizer each day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The High and Low (Tech) of Weight Loss

It seems that what's old is new and what's new is new in the world of weight loss this week.

First up, there's a cool new site for those interested in using their computer to monitor their weight. It's called Weight Loss Pal. It's a free Web site that will let you keep an online food diary, log your weight each week, upload photos as your body changes and create a chart that graphs your weight loss. You log in, so your progress (and fat-day photos) are not available for everyone to see. Definitely worth a look-see. Many researchers say keeping a food diary can help those looking to change their lifestyle see where they slip up and realize exactly how much they're eating. I'm not sure I really want to know. But I guess to get healthy, I've got to face the ugly facts. Sometimes, I think a tapeworm would be easier. ; )

In the vein of tried-but-true advice, Hamilton Erridge has written "Creating Your New Lifestyle." His says those who want to lose weight must change their lifestyle and their habits. While this isn't big news, what's new is Erridge himself lost 100 pounds by changing his ways. And he's willing to share his strategies. He has said of his book:

I wrote this book with one simple goal in mind - to allow anyone on any diet the opportunity to gain control, create new skills and behaviors, and learn to not only lose the weight, but keep it off for the rest of their lives.

And finally, in the not-related-to-anything-in-particular category, a big congrats to my friends Mike and Suze on their beautiful new addition, Isabella Kathryn. She was born March 13 and weighed 8 lbs, 14 oz. Good job, guys. I'm sure they won't mind me stealing a photo from their blog:

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Minutes Add Up to Hours

It used to be that 10 minutes plus 10 minutes plus 10 minutes of physical activity did not equal 30, at least not according to most exercise scientists. Today we know it does.

That's the latest from MSN's health and fitness Web site. An article on MSN today is recommending the "Easy Does It" approach to exercise -- working smarter, not harder.

I remember the fads of aerobics, Sweatin' to the Oldies, the Cindy Crawford workout, tai bo and a million others. Now we know any exercise is good exercise and it doesn't have to leave us prostrate on the floor, gasping for breath and praying for the pain to subside. We can exercise for 10 minutes three times a day or 30 minutes at a time. In fact, this article even offers some suggestions of how to work in exercise each day:

If you climb the stairs for 10 minutes rather than taking the elevator; spend 10 minutes briskly walking with your co-worker to sort through an issue rather than discussing it over e-mail; or walk for 10 minutes in the mall while shopping, you reap the same fitness benefits as if you’d exercised continuously that same amount of time.

Take a look at this article. It offers some great suggestions and some helpful pointers. For example, did you know you should toss your sneakers after 300 miles?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Light Dawns

With daylight savings time coming three weeks earlier, we all have more light after work to exercise. The Marin Independent Journal suggests that the extra time could help us live healthier. What I found particularly interesting about this article is the idea that the extra daylight may not just help us pickup our healthy summer lifestyle just a bit earlier, it may also help us cut our negative habits:

Jacquie Phelan is the rolling force behind Wombats - the Women's Mountain Bike & Tea Society. Phelan says the extra hour can be as much about what you're not doing as what exercise you might squeeze into that time.
"It might just be one less beer," Phelan says.
She also likes the idea of putting some activity between dinner and bed. "They get a little exercise and digest a little better."

If you're looking for some additional exercises to tone up for the summer the Denver Post has some ideas for simple floor exercises you can add to your cardio. What I particularly like about these exercise (aside from the journalistically-inventive beach spin they put on the story) is they can be done at home (free!) and each exercise is modified for beginner, intermediate and advanced fitness levels.

So why is it that we park as close as we possibly can to the grocery store, then pay money to go to the gym to walk our way to fitness?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring Break and General Aggravation

Okay, so I did very little that I don't normally do on my spring break. I did, however, get caught up on some homework that has been hovering in the background, bake a birthday cake with real buttercream frosting (whipped it for an hour!!!) and went to my internship. I also picked up some freelance work.

I also gained 5 pounds. No kidding. I'm sure you're thinking I overachieved during my spring break but, no, it took hardly any effort at all. Actually, the problem was a Christmas gift. My mom gave me body lotion for Christmas. I used it and broke out into such a bad allergic reaction that I had to be given steroids. Now, I'm off the steroids, but battling the weight gain. And HUNGER!!!! I mean it was like those old cartoons when someone's talking and their head turns into a chicken drumstick. That was me this week. Except I pictured buffalo wings.

Anyway, suffice to say it was a long discouraging week that did not resemble any spring break movie I have ever seen. I was afraid someone might harpoon me on the beach if I attempted Cancun.

The good news is I got a great comment from Tess, who lost over 140 pounds after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Now that's an inspiration. If you can check out her comment in the previous post. If she can do it, I have to believe I can.

Now if I can just stop scratching....

Friday, March 9, 2007

Inspiration and Hope

I haven't been blogging much recently. Somehow spring break is busier than the regular semester. I've been cleaning up a lot of errands that have been waiting in the wings for me. And it's Ed's birthday on Tuesday. If anyone has a stellar birthday gift idea, send it along.

But much has happened in my world of weight loss. Firstly, don't get excited, I haven't lost a whole bunch of weight. What I did do is meet with Karyn Bender, who is an health counselor focused on integrative nutrition. The idea is to take the best and the brightest from all the diets out there, look at my lifestyle and food preferences and create an eating plan customized for me. So by combining healthy foods and foods I like to eat, hopefully I can achieve overall wellness and health. We meet again in early April and she should have a plan worked up for me. In the meantime, I am going to continue to work some exercise into my schedule. I have realized that while I am often busy, frequently I am also lazy.

In the meantime, a friend of mine has been following the Biggest Loser Club diet. This is based on the television show, "The Biggest Loser." The Web site allows people to plan menus, create a shopping list and hear inspirational stories. She says it has worked for her in a way that many diets haven't by making her believe that she can succeed. She said she feels connected to "Biggest Loser" contestants, and they inspire her. She has been losing a half pound to a pound each week and is thrilled with how livable the diet is.

And finally, thanks to Tess for the great cottage cheese dessert idea. I never would have thought about making a cottage cheese sundae. Excellent!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


I tried roasting vegetables in the oven with a touch of olive oil. I did the works -- eggplant, zucchini, red peppers and garlic. The idea was to store them in the fridge so I could quickly grab some veggies for lunch.


Roasted veggies are great, but don't expect to eat them the next day. In fact, make only what you can eat in one sitting or you'll spend the next week choking down limp, flavorless vegetables, wondering what happened to the delicate flavor of garlic, vegetables and olive oil you had originally prepared.

This is true. I have another half an eggplant to go.

On the bright side, Ed bought fresh chives and mixed them with non-fat cottage cheese. Yum! I don't even like cottage cheese, but the fresh chives really added a great flavor. A half a cup of cottage cheese served on a couple of slices of crispbread is filling, high in fiber and really good.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Wellness Goes Mainstream

Even the police are getting on the health train. It's worth noting that the local sheriff in Cleveland, Tenn., published an article in the Cleveland Daily Banner introducing a wellness and fitness program for the county's police officers. The plan is designed to help deputies implement healthy lifestyles. The officers will also be assessed on a regular basis to ensure that they're fit and able to perform their job duties.

It's about time. I've seen many police officers that are out of shape, but more and more departments are requiring that police pass a physical fitness test. It's not fair to officers to not require that they stay in shape. If they're going to have a dangerous job, their bodies had best be in top shape -- for the people they protect, themselves and their families.

I'm also seeing a trend towards total wellness. An article in the Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald is featured an article yesterday, "Time to take care of you." The article talks about increasing health and fitness through better living. While healthy eating and regular exercise are a part of being healthy, this article also talks about mental health, taking down time and time management to get more done in less time -- hence, less stress overall. Here's an excerpt:

Step back from your life for a minute. What do you want it to look like and how does it really look now. If you are feeling out of control and your health is starting to show signs of being ignored, what can you do? What would you need to do to get your life more balanced?

Start with prioritizing. Look at what you did yesterday. What actually needed to get done and what could you have set aside permanently or temporarily? What new responsibilities did you take on that you could have said "no" to? When was the last time you drew the line separating designated work time and personal time? What could you have delegated to others? When could you have multitasked to accomplish more in less time?

And finally, throw some fruit in your salads! It adds some new textures and tastes to a old standby. I've been adding orange pieces, dried cranberries or apples ... I'm turning into a salad diva!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month. The American Dietetic Association is using this month to educate people about eating right.

The theme this year is "100 percent fad free." The Web site offers all kinds of information about good nutrition, including healthy eating recipes, a nutrition quiz and ten reasons to see a nutritionist.

I like the concept of fad free. The association is the country's largest grouping of nutritional professionals, so very likely you will hear much of the FDA-approved nutritional information. I still think it's a great place to get a handle on the basics. And a few more recipes never hurt.

Also be careful: This is still a trade association. They definitely have an interest in pushing people to visit dietitians.

Friday, March 2, 2007

It's All Downhill From Here

A new study found that as we hit middle age, we slow down on exercise and that's a big part of the middle age spread.

I can definitely understand why. As I get older I find myself with a tighter schedule, more responsibilities and a need to grab sleep when I can. But this study makes me feel like I really need to find some sort of exercise I can enjoy and stick with now, so exercise becomes part of my daily life before I get any busier.

I've been thinking about running. Most runners I know say the endorphins are incredible. I was talking to one woman yesterday, and she told me that she ran seven miles a day. I don't think -- actually, I know -- I couldn't run seven miles. Not even if I was being chased my an ax murderer. I might speed walk the first mile, then I'd probably just give up and let him hack me to pieces.

I'd like to be able to run without having a small heart attack. It would feel good to be fit. I think you'll be seeing more on running in upcoming blog entries.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I found a nutritional consultant in my area that focuses on overall wellness and integrative nutrition.

It's an exciting concept that teaches students how to build healthy food into daily life. Integrative nutrition teaches all of the dietary theories out there, takes the best from each and helps each person sculpt their own nutritional plan.

Karyn Bender, the counselor in my area, offers help in setting up an eating plan, dealing with cravings and finding ways to work healthy eating into every day cooking.

She also focuses on primary foods -- how exercise and spiritual wellness can affect your overall health.

I have set up a meeting with Karyn next week. She offers a free consultation and I'm interested in finding out more about integrative nutrition. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Skin Care

Since I've begun eating healthier, I've noticed my skin has improved. After drinking eight glasses of water each day, I've noticed I no longer wake up looking like a raging alcoholic (I'm not), with puffy eyes and sagging skin. This has made me wonder what else good nutrition can do for my skin.

So I'm thinking of including skin care as part of this blog. While I still intend to focus on healthy eating and exercising, I plan to add in changes I notice in my skin tone and texture, as well as the odd article on skin care.

I do believe skin protection is essential to good health, especially if you have very fair skin as I do. And good skin can only improve your physical appearance.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I Completely Forgot....

...about malls. While I continue to avoid my treadmill, which is lurking in the corner of my spare room, and we're buried in snow here in the Northeast with more on the way, I've been making excuses not to wake up a little earlier and exercise.

An article in the Pensacola News Journal reminded me that malls provide a great -- and warm -- opportunity to get some walking in. Even better, the scenery actually changes as you continue to walk, unlike a treadmill. Many malls even open early to allow walkers to come in and walk before the stores open, which is a great opportunity for those with 9 to 5 jobs or a bad shopping addiction. It's also a safe place to walk with no ice patches. I guess I don' have any more excuses.

Also it's worth noting that Livin' La Vida Low-Carb has posted a number of new blogs about weight loss that's worth checking out (yes, I made the list) and it looks like there's some great blogs out there, including some about losing the baby weight, so check it out.

And finally, if you like an English muffin in the morning, check out Thomas' Light English Muffins. There's EIGHT grams of fiber in each muffin and they taste like the low-fiber original. This may also be a great choice for those who are looking to watch their carbs.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

I Love Pizza Hut

Last night Ed and I took the kids to Pizza Hut. I was really impressed to find they had nutrition pamphlets that included healthier menu suggestions.

While I prefer to support the local businesses, most chain restaurants offer nutrition information on their Web site, making it easier to eat healthy. Pizza Hut has a nutrition calculator so you can customize your pizza, then figure out its nutritional content. So if you are heading out to eat, check out the restaurant's Web site. For the most part, you can skim the nutritional content of your choices and plan a healthy meal before you even leave the house.

For those following Weight Watchers, Applebee's has a 10 points or less portion to their menu. Even if you're not counting calories, most of the options under this heading are healthy choices.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Reading Between the Lines

There is an interesting article about MSG --monosodium glutamate -- on The Common Voice. I'm sure you remember, there was a big no-MSG push several years ago and now many Asian restaurants advertise that they don't use MSG in the food.

In brief: MSG is a white, crystal like substance (think sugar or salt) that has no taste, but brings out the flavor in foods. A number of people are allergic to it and experience headaches, chest pains, etc.

Most of us are familiar with MSG. However, this article on The Common Voice -- reprinted from a blog, Livin' La Vida Low Carb -- reports that there is a large debate about whether MSG is safe for consumption and whether it makes food taste so much better that you eat more.

But here's what I didn't realize and find shocking:

Most disturbing about MSG is the fact that the FDA completely allows food manufacturers to put this chemical in foods without ever using the word MSG on the label. That's right! They don't want you to know it's in there, but it is. You may recognize MSG in any number of euphemisms on the product packaging, such as "flavors," "natural flavors," "yeast extract," and more.

Huh? In trying to eat natural healthy food, if I saw "natural flavors" in the ingredients list I sure wouldn't be thinking about MSG, even if it does occur in nature. The FDA recommends healthy-eating guidelines, yet winks as corporations continue to add junk to our foods to make them taste better, last longer and generally rake in more profits? Isn't it time the FDA decides where its loyalties lay?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More New Guidelines

Once again there are more new guidelines from the AHA. Sigh. It seems that if you don't start eating right at the age of five, you should start digging your grave.

Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but really, sometimes the guidelines do make you feel as if working at getting healthier is a lost cause because you've already done so much damage. And sometimes, you feel like they're your grandparents who are just learning to work their VCR when the rest of the world has moved on to DVDs. Or like my mother, who just got e-mail, but hasn't yet learned to reply. She claims she enjoys reading my e-mails, though.

Anyway, the new guidelines are for women are focusing on being healthy before you get diabetes, heart disease, etc. They also stress a need for fresh fruits and veggies, 60 - 90 minutes of exercise each day and an aspirin to prevent heart attacks. In short, they recommend what the rest of us have been trying to work into our lifestyles for some time.

So that's my angina for today: Why do the big associations (heart, cancer, FDA) feel like a healthy lifestyle isn't valid until they weigh in on it? And why does it take them so long to change their guidelines? With science and knowledge evolving every day, their recommendations almost seem like old news.

However, on the bright side -- Ed made a great low-cal chili last night. We bought a Weight Watchers cookbook. It's in a binder so you can lay it flat on the counter and it's full of low-calorie, low-fat recipes. While I'm not on Weight Watchers (I find counting points makes me think about food more) they do find a lot of sneaky ways to insert lots of flavor into meals in a healthy way. If you can, their recipes are worth a look. Especially if you have an Ed that's willing to help out with the cooking.

Fitness for Real Life

There's a new gym out in Albany, Calif., that seems to be catching on -- The Ice Chamber. According to the article I read, it's fitness for real life. There are boot camp classes in the mornings that people attend five days a week. The routine always changes, and it incorporates cardio, strength training, yoga, pilates, etc. The focus is not just making customers look and feel better, but also to help people live their everyday life better. The workouts are supposed to make you better able to lift groceries, work around the house and generally kick butt.

The Ice Chamber started when the owners and husband and wife team, Steven Khuong and Maya Garcia suffered a miscarriage. Maya then went from a couch potato to a fitness machine. I like the idea that these guys have been where we are and changed their lives and their bodies. It makes you realize it can be done. Their baby is due in April.

The site even has a blog and I have to say, the people look like they're having a blast. Does anyone know of a place like this in Massachusetts?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Taking Umbrage

The Daily Times in Maryland published an article about the challenges women face to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. While there are numerous things we need to keep track of -- diet, exercise, sunscreen, etc. -- the author mentioned one aspect I hadn't thought of: safe sex.

It occurs to me that while discussing health and fitness, I have discussed mostly eating and exercise habits. There are a lot of other personal habits that we should also be paying attention to. This article points out some oft-neglected points of staying healthy, including safe sex and using sunscreen every day. While Ed and I have talked to his children about safe sex, we don't approach it from a healthy lifestyle point of view. Perhaps we should be making connections with our children between safe sex, using seat belts, having yearly physicals, eating healthy and exercising regularly.

This article certainly showed me how narrow my focus has been when blogging about health and fitness. However, I do take umbrage with one statement in the article:

Women need to be especially conscience of their health issues since for many, they are the one everyone counts on in the family for nutrition and health needs.

Pfui! Everyone needs to participate in the family's health.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The New Diet Drug

I suppose I can't ignore it, since it's been all over the press for the past week or so, but Xenical, a prescription drug for weight loss, will be going over the counter. Orlistat, the OTC version, will offer about half the dose of Xenical and will be coming out this year. The drug blocks enzymes that digest fat, so the fat passes through your body. According to an article in The Monitor in Texas:

The biggest side effect is loose stools, especially if people continue to eat meals high in fat while taking the pills. Eating meals with about 15 to 20 grams of fat per meal can help dieters avoid experiencing that, according to GlaxoSmithKline’s Web site for the drug,

Practically speaking, the drug works on two levels — it keeps the body from absorbing fat, and the threat of a long trip to the bathroom discourages people from eating much fat in the first place.

I'm concerned about the potential for abuse here. The drug could be helpful for people who eat too much fat, and may serve as a training tool for those really seeking the road to a healthy lifestyle by making the dieter uncomfortably aware of poor choices. But it could also be used by those with eating disorders in much the same way as laxitives are. The thing about OTC drugs is that while the drug company points out the dose will be only half of that in a prescription, what's to stop people from taking as much as they want?

I'd also like to know what the long-term affects are: Will people get caught in a situation where they fail to change their lifestyle so they stay on the drug indefinitely to maintain their weight? What are the affects of people who stay on this drug long-term? I don't think this is an inherently bad medicine, I'm just not sure it should be used without a doctor's supervision.

I'd much rather continue to keep plugging away at an overall healthier lifestyle that I can maintain. Even though I wouldn't mind waking up tomorrow 20 pounds lighter, I'd like to keep it off too. There's a great lifestyle program on that seems much better long-term than a pill:

Warm Up -- seven to eight minutes of light aerobic activity intended to increase blood flow and lubricate and warm-up your tendons and joints. You can call this fast housecleaning - vacuuming, sweeping, mopping. :-)

Resistance Training -- Train all major muscle groups. One to two sets of each exercise. Do one set at first, then rest for a minute when you advance to two sets.

Aerobic Exercise -- Pick two favorite activities, they could be walking, jogging, rowing, biking, inline skating, cross-country skiing, whatever fits your lifestyle. Perform 12 to 15 minutes of the first activity and continue with 10 minutes of the second activity. Cool down during the last five minutes. You can do some exercises in your home, then go for a brisk and slow down for the last few minutes.

Stretching -- Wrap up your exercise session by stretching, breathing deeply, relaxing and meditating. When starting an exercise program, it is important to have realistic expectations. Depending on your initial fitness level, you should expect the following changes:

From one to eight weeks -- Feel better and have more energy.
From two to six months -- Lose size and inches while becoming leaner. Clothes begin to fit more loosely. You are gaining muscle and losing fat.
After six months -- Start losing weight quite rapidly. This is a very conservative estimate. It is possible to lose weight the very first week, it just depends on how completely you follow the plan and on your own metabolism.

Instead of counting calories, weighing meals, counting points or whatever other systems various diets use that almost require a bookkeeper, use these easy-to-follow guidelines:

- The key to eating well is variety and advance preparation. Eat three small meals and three small snacks throughout the day. Don't let this overwhelm you; you are discovering a whole new concept of the word "meal". If you've prepared ahead as explained above, this should be no problem. It doesn't need to include extensive cooking and preparation time.

- Limit your fat intake to only what's necessary for adequate flavor - a dab of butter and a smidgeon of sour cream on that baked potato, a quick spray of cooking oil on a frying pan, and so on.

- Drink at least eight 8-oz. glasses of water throughout the day. You can vary this too. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or a couple tablespoons of bottled fruit juice to a glass of water, just for added interest interest.

- Take a multi-vitamin each day to ensure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Watch those portions

As I was surfing through, I saw an article that warned of "Diet Derailers," those little habits you don't think about that can be unhealthy for you. Most of them were the run-of-the-mill habits we all know about -- not getting enough sleep, eating too fast, getting too hungry, etc. But one of the habits was eating out. Duh, you say? Most of us know that eating out is diet death, you say? Restaurants double your portion size, so the trick is to eat half the meal, right? Wrong. Check out these absolutely horrifying and sad -- I love Cinnabon! -- facts:

According to the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, a single restaurant meal often could feed an entire family. A pasta dish at an Italian restaurant might include eight 1-cup servings. A rib dish might have a pound of meat—more than five servings. A side of fries might include 70 of the little devils, which is seven servings. And a nut-filled cinnamon bun in a mall food court could total 1,100 calories—more than half the calorie intake on a typical weight-loss diet.

Catch of the Day

There's some proof on that lean pork may help you lose weight. The article goes on to say that women who had a diet of 30 percent protein, compared with a group who ate 18 percent protein kept more of their lean muscle mass. So I think the lesson here may not be lean pork, but lean protein. I know my meals always last longer if I include some form of protein, and keeping your lean muscle mass is especially important for women. Mild weight lifting is usually recommended to help stave off osteoporosis.

So to that end, Ed made some lean protein last night. We picked up some frozen cod fillets at Whole Foods. Not fish sticks, but just plain cod that had been frozen. That works better for us than fresh fish, since we try to hit the grocery store only once a week. Ed mixed some Dijon mustard, a splash of lemon and a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, dipped the fish in it, lightly sprinkled the fish with breadcrumbs and baked it for about 15 minutes. The result was a great tangy fish that we accompanied with a salad. And it only took about 30 minute to prepare from the freezer to the plate. And yes, I did the dishes.

Other interesting articles today include a weight loss survey that lists lack of incentive, hunger and bad days as the top three reasons people fail to stick to a diet. It also offers some tips to avoid these pitfalls, so it's worth a look.

And finally, Marks & Spencer, a grocery chain in the UK, is beginning to staff its stores with a diet advisor. Shoppers can get on-site advice as they're shopping about which products support healthy eating. We definitely need that in the States!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Produce of the Week

This week I tried a tomatillo. Actually, I tried to try a tomatillo. I roasted it into oblivion, so I never actually got to taste it.

Anyway, the tomatillo is a little green tomato in a husk. You peel the husk, and you're left with the tomatillo. Wash it -- the husk leaves it sticky -- then you can use it to spice up salsas and salads or roast it with other veggies for a side dish. The tomatillo is often the ingredient used in green salsas. It's also used in Mexico to fight fevers.

I'm actually looking forward to picking up another and trying it. Below is a picture of one of Ed's daughters holding the tomatillo before I killed it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

There's a lot going on in the nutrition world today.

First of all, Luna bars are coming out with a nutrition bar that will include tea and be geared towards a specific area of health -- skin care, longevity, etc. They're called Luna Tea Cakes. I kind of like the idea, not only because I'm a skin care fiend, but also because if you follow advice and drink 8 glasses of water a day, then try to fit in a cup or two of tea, you'll float away. I also have found the Luna bars to taste good, be filling and contain at least a serving of calcium for about 180 calories. If you're interested in reading more you can check out the press release.

The Dallas Morning News has also published an article that recommends using brown rice to get more fiber and whole grains into your diet. That's not new -- doctors and nutritionists have recommended it for quite a while -- but the article offers up a Mediterranean-style rice pilaf that works well as a side dish. And any way you can get fiber in your diet is good. It may make your dinner more filling, prompting you to eat less.

Also, take note of Boston University's student newspaper The Daily Free Press. There's an article on the Sargent Choice food line -- a line of healthy foods available to BU students. While the foods may not be lower in calories, they focus on replacing ingredients in recipes with healthier alternatives. For example, a Sargent Choice chocolate chip cookie is made with whole wheat flour. A Sargent Choice muffin offers a smaller -- read more reasonable -- portion and includes healthier ingredients. I think it's a great way to get students thinking about their health.

And last but not least, if you're planning on staying in on Valentine's Day, as most of us in the Northeast are after getting clobbered by snow, has some low-fat options for a special dinner with your honey. The recipes include salmon and asparagus, shrimp and tomato spaghetti and -- bless them! -- chocolate dipped strawberries. Even if you're not cooking tonight, it's worth a look.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hell yeah!

There is a great article in the ContraCosta Times about the image of weight loss we're being fed as a society. The author, Joan Morris, particularly blasts diet companies trying to push the idea that weight loss is quick and easy to sell pills and diet products. Weight loss isn't quick or easy and most of us who achieve it still won't end up looking like a supermodel. We'll be healthier, we'll feel better, but we won't suddenly have the body we had when we were 16. Here's what Morris had to say about the Jenny Craig commercials that tracked Kirstie Alley's very public weight loss.

Kirstie, bless her heart, has dropped a lot of weight, but she hasn't turned into a pencil-thin woman. She still have curves. She still has a stomach. She still has work to do. In other words, she looks like a regular person working her way through weight loss.

But in the commercials, they photograph her mostly from the front, which accentuates her new size until you catch a glimpse of her in profile. Then you realize that part of the weight loss is actually an optical illusion, the product of tight clothes with a slimming cut, or a tummy concealed by a large purse or pillow.

And in trying to hide it from us they are sending the message that there's something wrong here. Kirstie has been dieting for months, and she "still" isn't thin. And because she isn't, then they have to hide it, because heaven knows, a slightly overweight person is just not good business.

The ContraCosta Times also offers a Diet Club. If you want to join, you can e-mail

Monday, February 12, 2007

Today is Not a Good Day

I have fallen off the wagon today, and I'm feeling a bit bruised. After a busy weekend, I failed to get up this morning and get in some exercise. Yet, for some reason, I had time to sit down with a pancake breakfast (and bacon) and a good book.

I think I need to work in some relaxation time, so I don't keep cutting my exercise time to relax. There is a cute article about blogging and whether it makes you fat. I don't know if blogging makes you fat, but I can tell you a desk job certainly does. While I was in college I ate whatever I wanted, walked to all my classes, had a physical job and maintained a healthy weight with no problem. I graduated from college, got my first desk job, and packed on the pounds. I managed to take them off only to put them back on when I started grad school.

So if you're working a desk job, I think you have an extra challenge in maintaining your weight. You may find that you have to eat a little less and exercise a little more to get the same results as someone who has a more physical job. Also, be aware of when you're eating out of boredom. Some desk jobs can be deadly dull (like my first one) and the thought of taking a walk to get a snack seems like a fantastic reprieve. Fight the urge. Walk around the office, but don't stop at the vending machine.

That said, I must say I regret wasting my 18-year-old body thinking I was fat. If I had known then how truly lucky I was, I would have joined a nudist colony.

Friday, February 9, 2007


Since my biggest problem is staying motivated, I did a little research today on motivation and fitness. I found to be really helpful.

The information was broken out and it was easy to find what I wanted. It's a great place to check out basic health and fitness information. There are tips on motivation, exercise and eating healthy. There are tips on fat burning, muscle building and losing weight. There is also a fitness calculator and info on different types of exercise from cardio to yoga, from
abs to thighs. Even better, the topics are organized in a column running down the left side of the page, so it is easy to find what you're looking for.

Here are some tips from readers about what keeps them

"I was wondering what keeps you motivated...I know one thing that helps me is to keep a log book of the days I exercise and the things that I did." Sweet-pea

"For me, my goal is to compete. And I want to be at the very best I can be. I wake up at 4:30 in the morning to work out. It can be hard at times because we never know if what we do would pay off." ERICS13

"My motivation.....a pair of size 8 Calvin Klein's hanging in the back of the closet. I not only want to wear those jeans but I want them falling off! :)" STARSUPONTHA

"I've gained 20 pounds on my bench press max in six weeks. On the wall of my gym, there's a list of names for bench press records: 275, 300, 350, 400. I want my name on the 350. I could take the 275 and maybe even the 300 right now, but I want the 350. And when I get it, and I will, I'll aim for the 400. Just getting me on the bench is enough to get me started." PARISI88101

"1. Feeling good- I gained weight my senior year of college and felt incredibly bad about it, as I had been really fit before that...2. Britney Spears videos - I am not thinking I will ever look quite like that, but why not have a goal of some sort?" Songbird

"I can't speak for anyone else, but my motivation comes from family members. First is my better nutrition and regular exercise is a normal occurrence at our house. My second motivation is from my father...My Dad died when I was 9, heart attack at 45. I am closing in on 40 and I decided that I shouldn't allow myself to follow in his footsteps." THEBIGDT

"My motivation to workout is how I feel each day. If I'm tired, depressed or achy, I know exercise will bring immediate relief and will last the rest of the day. I'll sleep better and have more energy to get things done. My entire day is better when I exercise...can't beat that with a stick!" Ab_Exercise

"The hardest thing I find is just getting there, once your there it's fine, so if you just keep your focus on being at the gym instead of focusing on the journey you might find it easier!" MELLICENT

Waste or Waist?

To a reader who asked: I got the red bananas at Hannaford's in Concord, N.H. It's one of the bigger ones with a large produce section.

Many of us belong to the Clean Plate Club -- we couldn't leave the table until our plates were clean. We essentially grew up on overeating. I know I still have a hard time to stop eating when I'm full if my plate is not empty. A nutritionist I knew once told me she thinks of throwing away food as a choice between "waste or waist."

That got me thinking: If we clean our plates, eating food we don't need, isn't that waste too? We're not using the food; we're just carrying it around with us as fat, rather than letting it sit in a landfill or become compost to enrich the earth. In a sense, overeating is waste. And it doesn't help those without food when we gorge ourselves. Those starving people in Ethiopia my mother always told me about aren't one bit better off because I'm stuffed.

That said, sometimes it's hard to stop eating because the food is just so good. I'm still working on that.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Produce of the Week

This week I will be trying out the red banana. It's exactly what it sounds like -- a red banana. It's eaten and stored the same way as a regular banana, but has a light raspberry banana taste. Above, my cat Scraps plays Carmen Miranda with the bananas. I hope you appreciate the picture. She's not speaking to me right now. I spent a half hour chasing her around the apartment with produce. I'm not sure if the glowing eyes are the result of the camera's flash or the devil within.


There's an interesting article coming out of the UK about using karate as a fitness tool. Unfortunately I don't have time to do this, since I seldom get home in time. It's a shame because I think karate is a great way to go, especially if you sometimes feel like a hamster, running on your treadmill to nowhere. With karate, you can pick up a new skill, get in shape and learn to protect yourself. I think it especially works for those people who need to engage their mind while they're working out. (I once fell off the treadmill when I got to an especially interesting part of the book I was reading.)

That said, fitness continues to remain a struggle. I weighed in today. I lost no weight. The good news is I didn't gain any weight. But the fact still remains that fitness is integral to me losing weight and achieving a healthier lifestyle.

So I've decided to try to squeeze in two 15-minute session of exercise a day instead of trying to get all 30 minutes in at once. I'm hoping the short spurts won't seem as daunting. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


I’m really disappointed in many of the health and fitness blogs out there. I have been looking for advice, new recipes and fun ways to work in exercise. Instead, I feel like I’ve found a lot of advertisements.

It seems like every health and fitness product has its own blog and uses it as just another form of advertising.

Here in Boston we’ve just wrapped up the Adult Swim debacle, where Lite-Brite-looking marketing devices were placed about the city. Unfortunately, the city of Boston thought they might be bombs. I’m sure you’ve all seen it on the news – and heard all the discussions about guerrilla marketing.

I'm tired of being jumped by advertisements in the blogosphere. I search blogs for what might be promising new information, and it turns out to be more advertisements. Some of the information might be good, but how can you trust it when it comes from people pushing an agenda.

Among some of the blogs I’ve been disappointed by:

Healthy Weight Loss Recipes – The ideas might be good, but look at their profile and they’re on Herbalife.

Healthy Living Hub – The profile includes a list of the writer’s other blogs. I’d like to know a little bit about the blogger before I use the blog’s information.

The Bikini Body Diet – Again, no info on who’s behind the information, but it does include advertisements for diet pills.

About Health Tips – No information on who is behind the blog. The profile lists the writer as “Finance ClubInc.” So I have to assume this company will eventually feed me information on their products.

Fresh Talk – This is a healthy eating blog written by the editor of The Packer, a trade magazine for the produce industry!

One blog did stand out: Obesity In The News. This is a blog written by Shefaly Yogendra in the United Kingdom about the issue of obesity. It’s not a weight loss blog. It’s not a fitness blog. It takes a step back and looks at the wider issue of obesity. As Yogendra writes:
I wanted my blog to be different - one to acknowledge the complex nature of obesity; one that looked beyond food into trends in physical activity, genetics, socio-economics, politics and innovation; one that analysed themes of bias, stigma, discrimination and interest groups variously aligned.

It’s a good blog. Check it out.