Friday, December 31, 2010

Doomed Resolutions (and how to improve them)

What are the two most common resolutions? No drumroll needed, weight loss is number 1 and number 2 is to not make any resolutions. Last year I gave you my 2 cents on resolutions in In Defense of Resolutions. I still remain steadfastly pro-resolution.  I rejoice in resolutions and encourage my clients do the same. But there’s a method to resolution-making: You need to make resolutions that are realistic – not revolutionary. Here are my five resolutions not to make, and what to do instead:
(I wrote this piece for Blisstree)
Result Resolutions. An example of these is the classic and clich├ęd aforementioned, “I will lose X number of pounds.” While it’s perfectly fine to wish for weight loss, this is no road map to get you where you want to go.
Resolution Evolution: Focus instead on the behaviors that may be holding you back. Is your oven being used as alternative storage? Maybe you need to cook more often. Is there only milk for your coffee in your fridge? Focus on food shopping. Are you hitting the vending machine during the afternoon at the office? Bring healthier snacks to work. If you change these behaviors, weight loss (and subsequent maintenance) stands a chance.
Never Say Never. No, Really. We all have our vices and it’s not out of the question to give them up. I have a good friend who started drinking green tea instead of soda (yes!), but you want to set yourself up to succeed and not aim to wipe something out completely.
Resolution Evolution: The key with a goal like this is to avoid using the word “never.” With the soda example, my friend first cut her “habit” down to one a day, then weekends only – and now she’s soda-free.
Flying solo. Let’s face it, whether you’re training for a running race or trying to eat less sugar you are going to stumble. When your internal motivation wanes, there needs to be a back-up plan or safety net. I can tell you when I had doubts while training for the Chicago Marathon, knowing I had blogged about it kept me on track.
Resolution Evolution: Accountability and support can help you stick to your resolutions. If your goal is to start working out, perhaps you can join a running group or select an ongoing yoga class. If you want to work on your eating habits, seek out a nutritionist or email a weekly food journal to a friend.
Putting-All-Your-Eggs-In-One-Basket-Resolutions. You want to make resolutionS, as in more than 1. For starters, there’s probably more than one thing you can benefit from improving, and some are easier to accomplish than others.
Resolution Evolution: At Foodtrainers, our clients make multiple resolutions and use them as a road map for the year ahead. Goals can be as simple as “learn to make soup” or “stretch more.” Rather than falling off the wagon, you’ll find that during different parts of the year you’re doing better with certain goals. You’ll also most likely be successful in a few areas and this will spur you on.
What Resolution? The sad fact is that well before we “spring ahead,” most resolutions have gone by the wayside (or jumped onto our backside). Instead of hanging on for dear life and regularly slipping up, expect inconsistency.
Resolution Evolution: Set a resolution reminder on your computer or phone for the first of every month. Perform a resolution review. If your workouts aren’t happening the way you had hoped, re-group and refine your plan. The act of veering and re-grouping is actually the number one weight loss skill.
For selfish purposes (not one to fly solo) some of my 2011 resolutions:
Run 2 half marathons- I am planning to kick off my 2011 running with the More ½ marathon and I’d love company. I most likely will pick a marathon (or ultra) but haven’t yet.
I’ve coined 2011 the year of the headstand for me. I stuck with yoga and now I want to face some of my flexibility “fears”.
Cycle for Survival is in February, I’m honored to be doing “Cycle” and I’m on team fearless. This is a huge source of inspiration for me, please help support the cause.
1 new recipe a week-I want to be less of a cooking creature of habit and will try at least one new something each week and tell you about it.
 I’m a financial imbecile and want to get on top of things.
And finally and I can’t believe I’m putting this out there. I want to write more. I love blogging and want to write the book I’ve been postponing.
What’s on your evolved resolution list? I’d love to hear and promise to check in with you and keep you honest.  Let’s check back on February 1.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Foodtrainers' Favorite 2010 Posts

Last week I mentioned to a fellow blogger that I didn’t see myself taking a break from posting while away. She said she was, “even if you post, do you think people will be reading?” She had a good point and the truth is I’m not sure. We’re completely snowed in here in Vermont. If I were on a beach vacation, I’m not sure I’d have my laptop handy to read blogs or write posts. I figured a good compromise was to compile a list of my favorite posts of the year. Why not jump on the year in review bandwagon? As I reread posts from this year, aside from the embarrassing typos what struck me most were the pieces I wanted to include in this list. Some were funny or timely but the sentimental posts were the ones that stood out. Thank you so much for reading this year, maybe you missed some of these:

NPO Forever- I wrote this after hearing about Roger Ebert inability to eat or talk. It made me think about what nourishment and mealtime really means.

OTID- I often hear from people who feel they are doing “all the right things” and still not losing weight. OTID is one of those reasonable, every day things that can change your day and your weight.

Not About Cupcakes- this was one of my first non-nutrition posts. I was emotional and chose to share those emotions on the blog. I’m happy I did as a) not everything is food-related and b) I can now look back and smile.

Potty Talk –There’s only so much talk about eating and ingestion one can do without talking digestion (and doody). 

Pre Beach – A client asked what she can do (in 2 weeks) to maximize beach body potential. We’re not talking long term and sane. My secrets for the short run.

In Fatness and in Health- my reaction to an article on marriage and body weight and my husband’s admission that he would not necessarily love me fat.

Les Enfants- I am anti-chicken finger and believe kids should eat what adults eat. On a family trip to France I learned that there’s a middle road.

Pinkberry Drama- we blogged about Pinkberry, they threated to sue us…it was a wake up call in terms of nutrition information, the power of social media and how companies respond when questioned.

Chicago Marathon- my inspiration then and now.

All About Organics- this post attempts to enlist my readers as organic activists on their own turf. Also, stay tuned for an exciting announcement, taking this to the next level, in January.
 Is it presumptuous to ask if you have any favorite Foodtrainers’ blog posts? I’d love to know what struck a chord with you. Or, if you blog, what are your favorite posts you wrote? I have time on my hands to read them. And any topics you’d like covered in 2011?


Friday, December 24, 2010

Sugar and Spice

It’s complicated enough dealing with all our different living family members this time of year. Yet, for me and I’m sure many of you, holiday time and all it’s associated traditions, remind us of those we are missing, those who aren’t with us. It can be a certain food or a trip, the temperature outside or a song and consciously or not we are reminded. I was looking though old photo albums this week. I was trying to find some photos of my husband skiing as a child. I though my kids would love to see these as they now ski each weekend. In the process of looking I found many other photos, like the one above, that I didn’t even know we had taken and that I’m not sure I even remember.

Tonight, on Christmas Eve, we gather with my family.  My dad was Jewish but grew up in Italy. Living in a country where Christmas was everything, their family gathered on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t religious but the tradition stuck. The other tradition was the Christmas cookies. I remember many December days where we would sit at the dining room table with mounds of walnut and hazelnut dough. I would take a piece and fashion it into my version of a crescent and place it on the baking sheet. Periodically my dad would review my “line-up” politely pointing out the ones in need of a makeover. I like these cookies but truth be told I like the memories attached much more. My brother in law is making the cookies for us this year.

Anyone who knew my dad or Guy knows he loved a good laugh. I can picture him, martini in hand, in his armchair by the tree looking dapper and taking in every conversation. If we were here tonight I would share this recent story. Yesterday I was getting ready for work. I pulled a black dress out of the closet I had purchased in November but never worn. You see, after work yesterday we were off to Swedish-Jewish Christmas with Marc’s family. Now you know why my 6 year old raised his hand when asked who celebrated Kwanza (we don’t by the way). He assumed we truly celebrated “everything.” Anyway, back to the dress. As I zipped the dress I remarked to my husband that it was tighter than I recall. For those of you who don’t know Marc he’s a “fixer.” If anything is broken Marc can rig it in a way to get it to work. He has the same approach to people. If I’m sick, it’s rarely “I’m sorry you’re not feeling well.” More likely “what are you taking?” or “did you go to the doctor?”
Marc looked at me and the dress expressionless and said “well you’re not running as much as you had been.” I stormed out of the room.

Marc followed me downstairs “c’mon you look great, you always look great, don’t be silly.” “First, you look great should have replaced that running comment” I said. “And second, nothing you say now matters.” Then, the fixer, said “I’m the same way I haven’t been on my bike as much since it’s cold even I have gained a couple of pounds.” I left for work annoyed but not really annoyed. After running an October marathon I’m running a couple of days a week and doing yoga or skiing on the others. I’m running 10 miles (in a good week) instead of 30. So my size 2 dress is a little snug and will probably me more snug after the Christmas cookie later today although I’m off for a run now.
Are your clothes, despite exercise, a little snug? Has your significant other ever said something while you got ready that made you nuts? 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Foodtrainers' Favorite Daytime Drink

I am a sucker for packaging. I buy wine based on the label and my favorite skincare has a clean modern design. Ultimately though, if it isn’t good wine or there aren’t good ingredients in a food or cosmetic, I will not purchase it but I like pretty things. In full disclosure I will tell you that I received an email last Friday from Paige at Herbal Water. I’ve loved these interestingly flavored water for a while. They have no sweeteners or juice added and instead use natural flavors like lemongrass and cardamom. My only objection to these drinks was the container…plastic. Paige told me they were sending me out some of the new sparkling waters to try.

When I arrived at work on Monday, the packages from Herbal Water were already there. I opened the box of sparkling water and my excitement intensified. They were beautiful frosted, large, GLASS bottles. The labels were in bright colors and the flavors, Ginger Lemon Peel and Cinnamon Orange, were right up my alley. I put them in the refrigerator and then realized I didn’t have much time before my first client arrived. Into the freezer went Ginger Lemon Peel with a little worry that the bubbles would make it explode. It didn’t explode and with the enthusiasm of a 3 year old I poured a glass of my new sparling water. I also left the bottle on my desk to show it off.

It isn’t easy to get giddy about water but this water feels special. They have a lot of flavor (think lemon zest not lemon). They could easily work as a hostess gift. They’re also great for pregnant women who cannot have “real” drinks and just fun for a change of pace. Is it non-nutritionisty that I also wonder how these zero calorie mixers will work in drink drinks?  I hope not.
Do you fall prey to pretty packaging? What are you favorite water variations? Are you sparkling or “flat”?
*Be sure to comment there’s a sampler of Herbal Water we’re giving away to someone who does and here’s a coupon ($12 off) in case you do not win.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Good Manners or Good Health?

On Friday, I was a guest on “Whole Living” on Martha Stewart radio talking healthy holidays. We discussed holiday parties and the holiday mindset and then, my favorite part of the show, we opened up the phone lines to callers. One caller, I believe his name was Brad, said that over the holidays there would be one day where he would be at 4 different homes.  He asked the best strategy for his day. While four family visits in a day sounds like a doozy, many of us will be confronted with some sort of hostess or host dilemmas in the next couple of weeks. So how can you manage good manners and good health?

First, what I find when I’m hosting a party is that I really want people to take whatever is being offered. Whether it’s a welcome cocktail or a passed hors d’ouerve, your radar is up for who accepts and who declines the food and drink. As a guest, remember you can accept without needing to ingest. Politely receive your plate of food or glass of wine and nobody will notice what you actually consume.

Second, I am a fan of strategic eating. If, like Brad, you have a day or week filled with family and food you should have a strategy too. Once you’re at a gathering and the holiday music plays and delicious aromas infuse the air, it’s too late. Pick one “forbidden fruit.” I’m sorry if this doesn’t sound festive but a fruitcake on each butt cheek isn’t the way I want to deck my halls. For one gathering you may say you’re laying off the desserts, at another you may curb the carbs. The nice thing (yes there are nice things) about family is that you generally know what to expect. If Grandma Edna has baked Christmas cookies at EVERY Christmas, chances are there will be a cookie jar. Traditions apply to food and there will be few surprises.

Finally, never underestimate the value of a thoughtful hostess gift.  Grandma Edna above doesn’t want a bottle of Absolut (or maybe she does) and the calorie counter doesn’t want chocolates. A delicious tin of  tea, your favorite sweet treat work well. Some of my favorite gifts have been special vinegar or hone. It is the thought that counts and let’s be honest the bottle of wine in the tin foil wine-store wrapper doesn’t show much thought. If you’re going to pass on the pie (or accept it but not ingest it), better if you brought something special with you. With these tips you’ll fine you can be polite and not portly, well-mannered and well.
Any host or hostess horror stories to share? Do you eat to please at family or holiday gatherings? What are your favorite host or hostess gifts?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Shiver Yourself Skinny

Last week I was on a field trip with my son’s class. We went on a hike and it was freezing out. Toward the end another mom and I were joking about having to hit the restroom and she said, “the cold always makes me have to go to the pee.” I agreed then wondered why this was the case.  I emailed, Foodtrainers’ favorite doctor, and recent NYC marathon superstar, Dr O with my cold weather questions.

So, Dr O  can you explain this need to “go” when the mercury drops, is there a scientific explanation?
We have to pee more when it is cold because to maintain a core temperance, of around 98.7, our very smart bodies make the blood vessels close to the skin constrict to expose as little blood as possible to the cold.  This results in more blood in circulation, being filtered by the kidneys, and so more urine is made.  The opposite happens in the heat.  The kidneys are so smart and so underrated!

And why do our noses run during exercise or out in the cold weather?
Our noses run in cold weather because cold air is normally a lot drier then hot steamy air so our noses produce more (in my case today A LOT more) fluids to keep the nose moist.

What do you see in the ER when it’s cold out?
Hypothermia is a big problem this time of year. We have already admitted someone to the ICU with it (he was homeless and drunk) but people need to know that when exercising, this time of year, to always have their phones and ID with them.  Also, always tell someone that you are going out and what time to expect you back.

And finally (and most importantly, ha!) I heard cold weather can lead to weight loss, any truth to this?
 I think you’re referring to brown fat. Brown fat is a type of fat that burns fat. White fat is the fat your body stores excess calories in. It was thought that only infants have brown fat and that it helps them stay warm. In 2009, scientists found that adults have some of this brown, fat-burning fat.  In studies subjects exposed to colder temperatures, for longer periods of time increased their brown fat. So, in theory, in theory you can shiver your way thin.

Thanks Dr O, that’s exciting. The brown fat shows us  the upside of cold weather, we just don’t want to get carried away in our pursuit of weight loss and end up like the homeless man in the ER with hypothermia! 
Do you have any cold weather questions for Dr O? Do you have any things you feel your body does (or doesn’t do) when cold? And how friggin’ cool is brown fat?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ballet Brouhaha

Since Black Swan came out, there seems to be a bit of chatter about dancer's bodies and anorexia. Do you think the movie may encourage behavior associated with eating disorders? And of course, there is the NYT critic who made the comment that Jennifer Ringer, a dancer in the Nutcracker "ate one two many sugarplums".  So curious about your thoughts on all of this.

I should say that I haven’t seen the movie Black Swan. A lot has been made about the 2 main characters, Natalie Portman being one of them, losing a tremendous amount of weight for their roles as ballet dancers. Natalie Portman’s character has an eating disorder in the film and from what I’m heard looks gaunt, almost sickly in certain scenes. While the story line doesn’t glorify her eating disorder I will tell you, with certainty, that many will sadly emulate both her weight loss and physique.

Even if it’s mentioned that a certain character or celebrity “almost died” due to their restricting, there will be those taking notes on what they feel is a seminar which may as well be entitled “how to restrict (or binge) and purge.” This was the case with Portia de Rossi’s recent press and book. I cringed as I heard her describe eating 85 (not sure the exact number) calories per day as I new that disclosure would be someone else’s goal.

Black Swan has been picked up by “pro-ana” or pro anorexia sites referred to as “thinspiration” and “eating disorder porn.”  On one hand there are those with eating disorders or a proclivity to develop an eating disorder but I think many other people are unknowingly affected. I don’t think we can deny that images of super skinny women play with our perception of normal. Even hearing that an, already slim, actress loses 20 pounds suggests that she had 20 pounds to lose.

As for the NY Times critic, roles have been reversed and he’s been slammed by many. I’ve heard arguments about the need for diverse body types in ballet, Jennifer Ringer’s “past” eating disorder has been mentioned and the ballerina herself called herself “not fat but womanly.”

I’m really uninformed today because I haven’t seen the Nutcracker this year either. I did watch Jennifer Singer’s today show appearance and clips (like the photo above) of her dancing. I see to evidence of over “sugar pluming” or overweight. I don’t. However, I am going to have to side with Alastair Macaulay, the critic, on this one. Whether we’re paid for it or not, we all judge. We look over the bodies of fitness instructors, professional athletes and our peers. The other issue is that certain professions demand that you’re trim. I joke that if I gained 20 pounds I would be out of a job. If someone is judging their fully clothed nutritionist they are certainly picking apart a dancer in a tutu.

Jennifer Ringer is a grown woman, a mother who most likely has been critiqued her whole life. A part of me worries the message this brouhaha sends to young girls but sadly if girls are in ballet or gymnastics they are hearing a lot of this. If nothing else, the movie and Macaulay have provided the subject matter for us all to discuss these issues.
Have you seen Black Swan or NYC Ballet’s Nutcracker? Do you think that the movie or the critic crossed any lines? Are there sugarplums in real life?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Double Chocolate

People often say to me, knowing that I am a nutritionist, “your kids must eat really well.” For the most part, my boys are good eaters. I find the biggest struggle with balance. I make an effort not to present healthy foods as the only foods and not to have treats off limits. Now that my children are a little older, I find they take less policing as they understand why certain foods are less healthy, at least I thought that was the case.

Our family skis most (ok pretty much all) weekends from December through March.  My sons are in a ski program. They are with the same kids and teacher each weekend and really get to know their way around the mountain. Most parents choose to put money on the kids’ lift tickets so that they can purchase snacks when they come in for breaks. Unlike ski school, the kids don’t go to a separate building with specified food. They may take a break at the summit or one of the base lodges, wherever they are they tend to come in mid-morning hungry.

I was thrilled when I found out about this debit card option. It eliminated the worry of either boy losing their money or us forgetting to give them money. Plus, the kids love what they think is a “credit card.” This was the first weekend of their program and they had a few snack questions before drop off. “Can I get candy?” I told them candy wouldn’t fill them up and maybe they should get something else like cereal. “Can we get Gatorade?” I told them it wasn’t the best drink and to stick to water or some hot chocolate (probably as sweet as Gatorade but no coloring, better ingredients).  They had a great first day skiing, chose pretzels and sun chips for snack. Given the less-than-stellar options, it was fine.

Yesterday was rough weather for skiing. It started as snow, progressed into hail then sleet and finally rain. Marc and I went inside after a few (ok 2) runs with zero visibility. Our friends told us most of the groups were upstairs and some parents were pulling kids out. We went to check on them. We located one boy, I’m purposely not telling you which one. This son was wet from the weather and diplomatically, in front of his instructor said, “I’m having fun but I can leave.” Our other son’s instructor told us the other child was downstairs getting something to eat.

I turned to head down the stairs and collided with this rosy-cheeked child of mine. His hands were full of food and drink and he had that guilty/busted look on his face all parents know.  Clutched in one hand was a bottle of water and in the other? A snickers bar AND a brownie. My initial reaction was to laugh, I did and told him to have his snack and meet us downstairs. The more I thought about it though I was a little upset. I do not pack a snack for the boys, do not expect them to choose the apple every day and know my children come by their chocolate love honestly; it’s genetic. My issue was with the volume. Choosing both the chocolate and the brownie seemed like the mouse really playing when the cat was away.

I later asked my son about his snack and he said, “it wasn’t candy or Gatorade.” Technically this was true, I didn’t make too much of it. I told him that one snack is probably sufficient and if he wants a second item try for a fruit. Of course chocolate guy’s brother chimed in “next weekend I am going to get an apple for my snack.” The truth is, all children will go to school or camp and will be left to make their food choices eventually. When I think back, I can think of snacks around the swimming pool or at canteen at camp with fond memories. My realistic hope is that some of this Foodtraining my kids have received will rub off. I hope that they will be able to strike a healthy balance for themselves where chocolate and apples can coexist.

P.S. In full disclosure, I came to these somewhat rational conclusions only after “with all I taught him he chooses this” and other thoughts were cleared.
What do you make of this episode? What were your favorite childhood snacks? Do you think most kids go overboard when parents aren’t present? And finally, snickers or brownie?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gleeful Glutton or Meager Eater?

(This is from a post I wrote for my favorite site Blisstree)
Yesterday I was reading a blog that referred to the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas as “The Eating Season.” I hadn’t heard this specific phrase before, but in my line of work, I certainly can’t escape talk of festive foods and highly caloric holiday treats during this time of year. Clients are fearful that they’ll indulge and backslide, and the media is full of strategies and tips (some coming from yours truly) to allegedly improve habits and quell this fear. I say “allegedly,” because I often feel like all this treat-talk and holiday help may be doing more harm than good.
 I would argue that there are multiple “eating seasons.” This month we’re thinking latkes, Christmas cookies, and chocolate Santas, but pretty soon it’s chocolates for Valentine’s Day, macaroons for Passover, candy on Easter, and — before you know it — time for some hot dogs and at least a few margaritas. So there’s actually no one time of year to fear, no Christmas conspiracy, just some holiday foods and parties to navigate just as you do other food-centric celebrations, so take a deep breath.
Pick your Pleasure
When I suggest navigating seasonal selections, I’m met with questions like the one Blisstree’s Christine Egan posited: “Can we discipline ourselves to not succumb to all those holiday food triggers, without feeling like we’re totally depriving ourselves of any and all holiday fun?”
My answer? If this season being an edible minefield is the first eating exaggeration, then the idea that budgeting has to be boring is the second. As adults, most of us are adept at impulse control. If not, I would’ve slept until 10 a.m. this morning (not 5 a.m.), skipped my workout, and grabbed a corn muffin on my way to work in my PJs (if I went to work at all). While my reality couldn’t be more different, I don’t feel deprived. And sure, there are always plenty of holiday food triggers, but availability doesn’t necessarily need to lead to indulgence. If that were true, I would’ve had cheese 20 times on my way to the office in addition to the corn muffin. So pick your pleasure.
I am someone who can live without a latke so with Hanukkah celebrations this past week I was fine to forego lotsa latkes. On Christmas Eve, on the other hand, I would gladly skip dinner or presents or Santa versus eschewing my brother-in-law’s homemade egg nog (spiked, of course). What are the holiday foods and beverages you think you cannot live without? I’ll grant you those, but you need to know the foods (other than fruitcake) that you can pass up. But this isn’t black-and-white situation; you don’t need to join the gleeful gluttons or the meager eaters.
Where there’s celebratory there should be Spartan
Finally, I'd like you to think of December 22 or December 28. These days aren't Hanukkah or Christman or Kwanzaa. You're not likely to attend a holiday party or gathering every single day. There are many days during the "eating season" that are "regular" December days. Keep these days slightly Spartan. Skip the sweets and the carbs and work out for an hour. If you implement a couple of these days per week, you'll balance out that egg nog and won't get mistaken for Santa Claus (okay, maybe make that a 90 minute workout).
What are your favorite holiday foods? What is your method for monitoring them?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Snack of the Week

I suggested Food Should Taste Good to a client with a chip habit. I told her about my 2 love children. First there was  "Lime" and later  "Cheddar".  My client showed up at her next nutrition session visibly annoyed.   She sat down and unloaded "so I'm wondering why you didn't tell me about The Works, this is the best Food Should Taste Good flavor and you didn’t’ mention it. Did you think I couldn’t be trusted with them?” I tried to diffuse her anger and told her I hadn't tried The Works. They were a new flavor and I would never intentionally withhold crucial snack information. My client calmed down and the session ended nicely.

A few days later I was with my family in Vermont at the local Shaws market. I was going up and down the aisles explaining to my kids why we couldn't buy the junky items they requested. Finally, I spotted Food Should Taste Good chips and staring me in the face was "the Works". We opened the bag right there in aisle 4 and they didn't disappoint. It was as though an everything bagel had been transformed into a snack food. We all loved them. My 8 year old said " Mom you have to buy these again." I emailed  my client to tell her about my 3rd child.
What are your favorite snacks? Your favorite Food Should Taste Good flavor? And if you were a bagel what type would you be?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Watching Weight Watchers

I don’t belong to a gym anymore. As much as I like to run outside, I despise what one of my fellow bloggers refers to as the “dreadmill.” When I had a gym membership I saw too many people simply going through the exercise motions. Perhaps they were on the elliptical but concurrently reading or chatting; needless to say I can’t imagine they were getting much out of these “workouts.” We all know there’s a difference between a good sweat and gym activity where you barely need a deodorant  re-apply. There is a difference between quantity and quality. Weight Watchers, the  well-known weight loss program, is attempting to show their members that this difference applies to food.

The original Weight Watchers Points system pretty much allowed people to fit any food into their repertoire provided they did so in the right quantity. I have had clients, Weight Watcher alums, who joked that they could eat pizza every day using the points. Of course this would mean eating little else to allot for the pizza. Though I’m a nutritionist, I can see the appeal of the pizza diet.  However, you don’t need a degree in dietetics to know this isn’t the best way to eat for health, for energy…even for weight loss.

Kudos to Weight Watchers, with 750,000 members enjoying the points system, for overhauling a successful system.  The day the new PointsPlus system was revealed, I was interviewed for a yahoo story on the changes.  I likened the change to going from PC to Mac, a recent transition I had made. Change, especially when it comes to something you use daily or multiple times a day, isn’t easy. We take the leap hoping that in the long run the change will be worthwhile. One has to think that Weight Watchers wouldn’t have risked all of this if the results will not be the same or better. A side note, never in the 9 years of Foodtrainers, have I received more new client inquires as the day the Weight Watchers story ran. Also interesting is the fact that many of the people curious about our services were surprised they had to pay (at all!).

One of the main changes in PointsPlus is that fruit and vegetables are “free” meaning you can technically eat as many as you want to. When I first heard this I was encouraged as this would nudge people to eat  fruits and vegetables they may have previously passed on as a “waste of points".  For weight loss though,  I’m curious to see how people fare with unlimited fruits. I’ve always held that it’s possible to “over fruit” or eat a fair amount of calories from fruit and slow weight loss. We’ll have to see if people end up eating a bunch of bananas a day and how this works out.

Another feature of this new system is that a food hierarchy is presented. Foods with the same calories may have different amounts of points based on their ingredients, fiber and how long they will keep you satiated. Again, this is logical and Weight Watchers is moving away from "a calorie is a calorie" fallacy. While it may sound cynical, I am not sure Weight Watchers members will embrace this concept. In a recent New York Times story on the changes, one woman expressed that she was used to eating anything she wanted and now would feel as though she was on a diet. To that I say, Weight Watchers is a diet and as adults we should realize some foods are superior to others.

I tip my invisible hat to Weight Watchers; to me the PointsPlus plan is sound and has the ability to move hundreds of thousands of people in a better food direction. We’ll have to wait and see if people want to stop reading their magazines while working out and really start eating better.
Have you ever done Weight Watchers? What do you think of the new plan? Do you read while working out?

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Walk In the Park

I always joke that I need my workouts to help me distress. It always seems that “mean mommy” makes an appearance on the days when there isn’t time for a run. I had previously chalked this up to the endorphins from exercise, the power of a good sweat and the boost I get from listening to my favorite music. I may have missed that where I do my workout is just as important as whether or not I do it. I marvel at Central Park when I’m running.  When I look around it seems incredible to have such beauty in the middle of a city.  I snapped the photo above during my run today.  Thinking about this post, I focused more on the scenery and less on my speed.

A study conducted in the UK compared a group walking in a shopping mall to another group walking in the park.  After walking in the park 90% of participants claimed increased self esteem, 88% improved mood and 71% felt less tense, these numbers were under 50% in all criteria for the mall walkers. Other research showed people slides depicting scenes from nature and mood was significantly improved.

Here are some of explanations given as to how outside time is beneficial:
Natural and social connections: watching wildlife, evoking good memories, spiritual feelings
Sensory stimulation: colors and sounds, fresh air, enjoyment, escape from pollution, contrasts with urban life, being exposed to the weather
Activity: using manual skills, physically challenging activities such as digging or cycling
Escape from modern life: time to think and reflect, clear the head, get away from pressures and stress.

In terms of exercise, a 1994 study out of the University of Utah compared the 5K times of runners on treadmills, an indoor track and outside. The fastest times were recorded outdoors, the slowest on the treadmill. Runners on the treadmill perceived their workout to be more strenuous than those who ran at the same intensity outside. In fact running outdoors scored higher than the treadmill in the areas of positive engagement, revitalization, tranquility, course satisfaction and lower in the time to exhaustion.

Again, I have to emphasize that while exercising outdoors can be a major mood booster, as little as 5-10 minutes spent outside, even stationary, can make a difference to your stress level and your outlook. Those 10 minutes a day may keep mean mommy (or mean daddy or mean coworker) away.
How will you spend time outside today? Perhaps snap a photo and send it my way. Do you feel being outside is beneficial/believe in "ecotherapy"?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oprah Oh No

When Oprah talks people listen. They have listened for a quarter of a century. Oprah can make books bestsellers, can create careers for the experts she features and pretty much has the Midas marketing touch. The New York Times recently described people clamoring for the few unbooked spots on her show this season, her final “Farewell Season". I am an Oprah fan; my DVR is crowded with the shows I record daily. Any viewer can sense the ante has been upped this year. Audience members are going to Australia and driving home Volkswagens. Even celebrities seem to be stopping by for one last chance to talk to O and promote their work. Yet in all of this excitement, something we expect from Oprah has been disregarded. It seems Oprah has already said farewell to health.

Over the years, we’re watched Oprah run a marathon, venture into veganism and get into a whole lot oh hot water when she questioned the safety of our beef. Viewers have related to Oprah because despite the chef and the trainer when it came to weight and food, Oprah was one of us. Oprah can go camping on her show but who really thinks she is doing that when the cameras aren’t rolling? And while I loved my first Jetta (and was sad when I crashed it), I don’t think O is driving one.  Weight and food is different, Oprah’s weight fluctuates and so we really feel she means what she’s saying when she talks about it.

Last week Oprah’s favorite things aired. Unfortunately this is product placement at its best. For companies and audience members this was the final and "ultimate" favorite things and the gifts were major. There were diamonds and I pads, cashmere and cruises and there was food…if you would call it that. Oprah, with millions or billions watching, eagerly praised pails of popcorn, she commended croissants and mentioned to moms that this certain mac and cheese was the perfect family dinner on a busy night.  While I am all for the special splurge, I felt I was watching an opportunity pass. Oprah could have thrown in her favorite fruit delivery, post workout snack, she could have said something to the effect of  “we all know you can’t eat mac and cheese every day” nothing.

Everyone is entitled to a mistake; even Oprah isn’t perfect. I kept my DVR taping and continued to loyally watch O’s shows.  Yesterday, Oprah hosted Nicole Kidman and her country music husband Keith Urban. It wasn’t the best show. It was a little bit of a mish mosh as Oprah was really talking up her upcoming Australia visit.  Oprah chatted with Keith about rehab, to Nicole about motherhood (let’s not forget “Nic” has 2 teenage children, she was a mother before Sunday Rose), she gave away one last ticket on the Australia trip and then it happened.

Oprah was talking about the great food in Sydney and she selected the apex of Aussie cuisine none other than... McDonalds. Yes, in an embarrassing nod to one of her Sydney sponsors she presented Australia’s Mc Donalds as different from the United States versions. They then cued waiters to bring her audience McDonalds wraps and smoothies (I wrote about these smoothies in case you’re curious). Plus, there’s more! Every person on the Australia trip got a gift card. God forbid Americans leave their fast food habits at home; they can now eat McDonalds for free down under. Oprah took a bite of her wrap and it was all I could do not to cry on my comforter.

The season isn’t over. I’m holding out hope that Michael Pollan will come back or maybe Dr Weil.  Oprah always seems to have a soft spot for kids perhaps Jamie Oliver will be on pushing parents to cook more. Hey, I’m not too shabby. I can put on a pretty dress and tell Oprah about my favorite food and fitness finds too.  I just hope Oprah doesn’t forget about the other “O” in this country obesity and that she hasn’t said farewell to health.
Did you watch either of these shows? Do you O has missed the boat or am I overreacting? Who would you like to see Oprah have on to redirect this junk food train?