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.