Monday, October 31, 2011

Ignore Candy Calories this Halloween

This is a repost BUT when I last posted it I think only 3 people (myself included) read this blog. It sums up how I feel about Halloween and leaves me a little more time to get ready for the Halloween with my ghostbuster and stay puff marshmallow man. Is it in poor taste that I have an Amy Winehouse wig to wear?

Yesterday, I found myself clicking on a list for a Halloween candy calorie counter. I’ve also read numerous Halloween-focused blog posts and advised concerned clients providing them with a strategy for tonight. It no longer surprises me that a day meant to be child-centric takes up a lot of mind time for weight conscious adults because of the candy situation. Other holidays have their accompanying sweets there’s chocolate on Valentine’s Day and pie on Thanksgiving. Yet on Halloween candy, loaded with childhood memories and perhaps mentally off limits, trumps the others in terms of temptation and trouble. To soothe a potentially scary situation a few of my trick or treat tips:

1. Ignore candy calories.
We can all do the math and in fact, for a few publications, I have done more than my share of candy math. There are charts listing the higher calorie candies which includes many of the chocolately ones (Reese’s, Almond Joy, Mounds, Take 5) and the lower calorie (candy corn, 3 Musketeers, Peppermint Patty) but as I mention above I feel you should ignore them. Here’s the deal, it doesn’t matter to me that I can have 35 (35.2 to be exact) candy corn for 3 mini Mounds. I don’t like candy corn and would never forego a chance for an adorable and delicious Mounds. I don’t think we should pick our treat based on a chart. If you’re like me, at one time or another you’ve tasted them all (actually I have never had a Take 5) and know your favorites. Go with them and you may not have to eat 35. Another deterrent is to look at the ingredient list. The mouth-watering Mounds has rather inhibiting ingredients.

2. Children will not care about candy after 48 hours.
It happens every year. It’s mid November and I’m in my office. Without fail a few sessions will start like this “I was doing laundry and I spotted the kids’ candy, I had hid it from the kids.” Or, “it was late at night; I went into the kitchen and decided to have 1 piece of the Halloween candy.” Let’s just say the latter example doesn’t end with 1. I suggest letting your kids enjoy, within reason, their stash on Halloween. After that, present them with a small container and let them put 5 of their favorite candies in there to save. Do what you will with the rest but it needs to leave the house. You can donate it and send it overseas to soldiers (although lately according to reports not sure they need the extra calories), you can, as a client of mine does, put it out for the “candy witch” to take. Candy Witch takes the candy, brings it to children without candy and like the tooth fairy leaves some coins in return. I have no issues tossing candy. If that sounds wasteful I would argue that eating nutritionally void treats isn’t helping anyone.

3. Better Options Exist
I have to admit, I’m not anti sugar. Kids and adults have sugar, even the ones who say or whose parents say they “eat no sugar.” Everything from yogurt to oatmeal can have sugar in it. An article in the New York Times today states “candy provides only 6 percent of the added sugar in the American diet, while sweet drinks and juice supply 46 percent.” Having noted that sugar is prevalent there are better and worse ways to sweeten things. I am wearier of the dyes and high fructose corn syrup than I am of sugar. My kids selected Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks and Surf Sweets Sour Worms  to give out. Are these healthy? Appetizing? Absolutely not. They are free of high fructose corn syrup and use natural colorings. I also don’t happen to have any sort of a gummy habit so they’re also “safe” in that respect.
What’s your favorite Halloween candy? Most memorable Halloween costume?  Any trick or treat tips to add? And where are you on "sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't" (Almond Joy or Mounds)?
For the record, my favorite costume was ironically an M & M (I was green and my friend was brown). Our mothers made them. My least favorite was also homemade, it was the American flag. My mother made it out of tissue paper which of course tore and ruined my Halloween. My husband's homemade costume choice in college was "a pair of tighty whities" he made it out of a sheet with a sharpie. Creative, right?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Meeting Dr Oz and What he Eats for Breakfast

I am not easily impressed and rarely star struck. To me, people are people and famous or professionally successful are not attributes that will wow me at face value.  It’s only when meeting someone that I can really get a real sense. Is their eye contact or humor? Is someone quick to tell you who they are and what they know or are they curious about others? As I alluded to in the comments on Wednesday’s post, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Dr Oz this week and let me tell you he is the real deal.

I’ll backtrack a little. I was invited with a group of about ten other women with blogs or representing various websites to help spread the word about Dr Oz’s Transformation Nation campaign. Transformation Nation is based on 7 steps to improve health including sleep, learning your families health history, connecting with your doctor and stress management. There's also a million dollar prize involved. The plan was  to attend a taping of a show and then have a Q/A with the doctor. Yesterday morning we all assembled in the lobby of 30 Rock before heading upstairs to the studio. We boarded the peacock-carpeted elevator to the 6th floor. Once there, a comedian warmed up the audience comprised mostly of  middle-aged women in brightly colored sweaters. 
I can’t disclose much, until the show airs, about the exact content of the show but I’ll tell you the subject matter was right up my alley. After the taping we had a chance to sit down with Dr Oz. He greeted all of us and we took some quick photos. Then it was time for the questions. Transformation Nation pairs the Dr Oz Show with Weight Watchers and as I sat through the show the Weight Watchers mentions rubbed me the wrong way. Dr Oz’s nutrition advice focuses on whole foods and health and Weight Watchers on points calculated around calories.

At the risk of insulting Dr Oz, I had to ask about the partnership. Not one to hold back, I was the first to raise my hand and said “any reservations about teaming up with Weight Watchers?” Dr Oz raised his eyebrows and for that pause before he spoke I felt my heart race convinced I had said the wrong thing. He then explained that a lot of thought went into it. He hasn’t endorsed foods or products before. When they polled their viewers about who they trusted; they trusted WW.  No part of his answer was defensive or dismissive and I was left understanding the relationship and their need for Weight Watchers fire power. Relieved, I relaxed a little and jotted down notes from the other questions.

When asked about his diet Dr Oz says he eats the same breakfast every day (according to Monday’s post that would make him a boring eater). It’s Greek yogurt and blueberries and he clarified “low-fat not nonfat you shouldn’t eat nonfat dairy.” He has ½ green drink before the show and saves the other ½ for later. Dr Oz was asked about the HPV vaccine for boys (he’s in favor of it) and cleanses. He views cleanses as “a change to reboot taste buds” which I thought was a great way to describe it. When the topic of feeding children was brought up, Dr Oz mentioned the importance of repeated tries (12) with new foods and remarked “I don’t mind what they eat at 5 but what they eat at 35.” Dr Oz took his time answering each and every question. He gave examples, quoted articles. While I find it hard to read the paper some days, Dr Oz seemed as though he fits it all in. He came to the conversation as a doctor and a father and a husband much more that a TV personality. He was generous with his time and knowledge and, needless to say,  I was so impressed.
What impresses you when you meet someone new? What do you think of Dr Oz's nutrition advice? Have you heard of Transformation Nation? If not, check it out and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cooking Homework

I am jealous of my kids. It's not because they get to play sports every day or can take three bites of ice cream and feel full or even their ten hours of sleep each night. Nope, I am jealous of their homework. I covet their list of assignments, their notebooks with separate folders and their nightly reading; it makes me miss school. It has been many years but my inner nerd hasn’t faded. And sadly, though the PhD is a bucket list item, depending on the day, I am not headed back to school any time soon.

My friend Shari has a great blog called My Judy the Foodie (I shamelessly linked to the post where she asks me “is homemade healthier”). She's teaching herself to cook using her mother's recipes. It occurred to me that, in a way, Shari has created a cooking school for herself with her mother as her teacher. Shari is a great storyteller and readers follow her buy a Dutch oven, plant an herb garden and make her first holiday meal. As I've watched Shari learn and grow I've done what any friend would. I’ve grown jealous of Shari too.

I miss the challenge of entering new territory and gradually gaining proficiency. I even crave the inevitable fumbles along the way. I cook, you see, but I keep to my comfort zone. As a parent, I encourage my kids to try new things. I nudge my non-cooking clients to use their ovens and try easy recipes and then go home and whip up my old, reliable ones. So rather than sit here and let my jealousy surge, I thought of a solution. I’m assigning myself homework. In the next month (deadlines need to be realistic) I’m going to:
  1. Buy a new slow cooker and use it
  2. Bake at least once; while I cook I’m baking illiterate

 *For extra credit, I’ll make at least 1 dish without a recipe if I’ve completed #’s 1 and 2.

I’d love for you to join me and assign yourself homework too.
Don't be a slacker, what’s your cooking homework going to be? Can you pick one ingredient or type of cooking you’d like to tackle in the next month? In my school copying is fine so feel free to try one of my assignments. Oh and anything you’re jealous of? You can vent it here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bore Yourself Thin

"Variety's the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor."
William Cowper, British Poet

Much of the resounding nutrition advice hinges on variety. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables or eat a variety foods as you’re more likely to meet your nutritional needs or even eat a variety of  of fish so you lower exposure to mercury or PCB’s.  However, is variety the “spice of life” when weight loss is concerned? Perhaps, when things are too “spicy” there is more temptation.

Carolyn and I were discussing this in the office lately as she’s running our 4-week Dine & Detox program. Despite the fact that participants are without meat, wheat, sweets (and then some) there are few complaints and great results. Many new clients mention being confused about what to eat, fewer choices can increase clarity. One of Carolyn’s clients said “the guidelines are very clear, not having a ton of choices makes it easier to choose foods at the grocery store.”

Some of this is emotional but there's a physiological component too. Hollie A. Raynor, M.S., R.D., and Leonard H. Epstein, Ph.D., of the University of Buffalo authors of a study on the subject reported  “we found that dietary variety could increase food consumption in both humans and animals. Both people and animals will eat more food when a meal or diet contains greater variety of food, which can eventually cause weight gain.”*

Our food supply plays on this principal. From healthy food to junk we are bombarded by newness. How many flavors of M &Ms do we need? Or what about the mango nectarine or pluot?  We were all fine with the regular nectarine but depending on your eating habits, curiosity makes you want to try the new thing. While I am the ultimate guinea pig with new foods, I can’t help put think about the old cat and curiosity…it didn’t end well.

I had a client I saw over 10 years ago. Whenever I urged him to switch things up he’d make only the most minor changes. Perhaps cucumber would change to tomato in his lunchtime salads. He didn’t want to waver too much. He lost weight and lowered his cholesterol and I didn’t see him for a long time. Years later, he came to see me; he wanted to “check in”.  When we discussed his eating I realized he was still eating the same exact way. Boring worked for him.

Boring can also backfire. If you’re so bored with fish dinners that you’re fantasizing about pasta, you want to plan some flexibility. You also want to have a rotation. When starting a weight loss plan have two items in a weekly rotation. You can also add some “spice” within a template. If your two breakfast choices are eggs or yogurt there are plenty of ways to change things up without feeling confused about what to eat.

Another tip is to reduce the number of foods at one sitting. Work with two to three items per meal if you want to test out “boring” eating. We are more likely to get satiated with fewer tastes at one sitting. This is anti-buffet eating. While variety may be the spice of life, we have an exercise we do with clients called a “KISS Day”. It’s a play on “keep it simple stupid” but we prefer to call it  “keep it simple skinny”. 
Would you describe your eating as varied or boring? Do you like pluots or the new M and M flavors? What was your eating like 10 years ago?

*"Dietary Variety, Energy Regulation, and Obesity," Hollie A. Raynor, Ph.D., and Leonard H. Epstein, Ph.D., University of Buffalo; Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 127, No. 3

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Second Slice of Pie (for Charity)

Wednesday, I was about to get on a call with a writer for Oxygen Magazine about, of all things, whether or not to eat before exercise. As I sat at my desk reviewing my notes, I received an email from a client. She forwarded something she received from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s marathon and triathlon fundraising group Team in Training (TNT). Many years ago I ran a marathon with TNT and even conducted sports nutrition lectures for a few them. While I have not worked with them in many years, I have the utmost respect for what they do both for research and the individuals they train. Many participants are first timers who complete in half marathons, full marathons and even Ironman races. 

While I do think TNT is great, that was a little bit of fluff, here is what the email said and it’s not pretty. I'll paraphrase but you can read the whole thing here.

Subject: You’ll earn an extra slice of pie
Though not a pie person, they pulled me in. The email starts with “the holidays are nearly upon us”.  Thanksgiving is over a month away so I’d have to disagree there.  They go on to say, “while everyone else is feeling guilty about that second slice of pie, we say, “Go for it!”  TNT coaches will get you in great shape “training to do something extraordinary while you’re making the difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families.”  And then there’s the list of “exciting events” you can sign up for.

Translation: If you sign up and agree to raise money for one of the races below you can stuff your face this holiday season and end up like one of the overweight people in the accompanying photo. They are smiling because they have a massive sugar high and have not yet crashed. The have medals around their necks are for not only having the suggested second piece of pie but the whole friggin’ pie (a Runner’s World approved food).  Didn’t you hear when you run a marathon you can eat whatever you want? Yep, it’s true and when you run one for charity you can double that.
Give me a break, this is a recruitment letter. Some PR team penning it felt they could bank on the promise of eating food, sans guilt, getting people to sign up. My issues with this strategy are numerous. They are playing off of many people’s holiday anxiety. A month ahead of time they are telling us to blow it. “Go ahead…indulge.” They do not mention treating yourself to a piece of pie or your favorite food they want to have two. They tell you that despite indulging your coaches will get you in great shape. And the kicker? They throw cancer in there. As my client said, “this is bait and switch in the name of charity.”

If you run a marathon or raise money for charity do it because you want to get in fantastic shape or because it’s a cause you really believe in. You can’t eat whatever you want when training for a marathon or any other time. Guilt or no guilt indulging without restraint leads to weight gain.  And if you really want to “earn” or burn off two pieces of pie, plan on running 9 miles.
Do you find exercise makes you eat more or less? What do you think of Team in Training’s strategy with this email? If you think it’s sneaky, tell them. In their words “Go for it!”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reference Jeans and Fat Clothes

I couldn't find a photo of the gold dress.
I am not one of those people who can tell you what I weighed at various milestones in my life. I could tell you what I wore. Growing up, my mother delighted in helping me select clothing for special occasions. In rare moments of adolescent appreciativeness, I recall feeling so grateful that she’d go to whatever store I chose after a long workday to ensure I had what I felt I needed. So despite the fact that I’m not that much of a shopper, I love something new for a vacation, party or even important work event. I could tell you about the puffy gold (yes gold) dress my “friend” talked me into for our shared sweet 16 party; friend’s dress was sleek and sexy and though not dress-related we’re no longer friends. There was also the pink number I wore to my college graduation dinner at Emeril’s and the green sundress for the brunch the morning after my rainy wedding. Fashion blunders aside, when I think back I can also pinpoint exactly how I felt in these outfits.

Chances are, most of you can name the articles of clothing you sported when you felt your best. We also have outfits for our less than stellar days. Clothing plays an interesting role when you’re loosing weight.  One client, we’ll call J (for jeans), told me at our initial session that she wanted her “reference jeans” to fit again.  A month into our weekly meetings, I inquired about the jeans and J told me “not there yet”.  A month later I was informed, “we’re making progress”.  Weeks passed and finally J bounded into my office “I can get them on, the reference jeans zip…but they’re not suited for outdoor use yet.” I cracked up knowing exactly what she meant. Fitting and being wearable are not the same thing. Then, not long after the jeans zipped, J made a decision. It had been so many years since she wore them and she just didn’t like the reference jeans any more.

Sometimes we hang onto clothing because there’s sentimental value and other times there’s the hope that we’ll fit into it again. Like J, another client who’s losing weight had a plan as she started fitting into things again. She told me she’d get rid of items once they fit but only after she had the chance to wear them once. Again, it I wasn’t so much the actual fashion of these items but the size reference.  And while we all have skinny jeans or smaller sizes, there are also the fat clothes. I returned to work fairly soon after having each of my boys. One of the many joys of owning your own business is that there is no paid leave. There was no way in hell I was going back into my office in maternity clothes so I bought a few pair of pants in a larger size. I saved those pants and would slip into them long after whenever I was feeling pudgy. The last thing I want is anything close to my body when the bloat monster attacks.

I thought most people were like me and wore larger clothes when they felt blechy and smaller clothes as confidence increased but a session yesterday showed me this wasn’t always the case. This client, “T” said “when the scale is up I wear my tightest clothes to remind myself I want them looser.” I said, “so you torture yourself into eating better?” Wow, I wonder what she thinks about when looking back. Perhaps it’s something like “I remember that outfit, I couldn’t breathe at all in it.” T would probably like J's reference jeans.
Do you have any reference items of clothing? What are your memories when you recall feeling your most confident or fit? What do you wear when you’re feeling a little larger? And can you believe I wore a gold puffy dress? So sad.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Michael Pollan, Gluten and our Favorite New Snack

This morning we sent out our monthly morsels newsletter entitled “Gluten Free You and Me?” Gluten seems to be on many of our minds. Market Melissa is going to tell you more about our take on the GF scene.

 Not so long ago gluten free was reserved solely for those with celiac disease. Now gluten free regimes are we being utilized by people with digestive issues, athletes, headache sufferers, those with skin conditions such as eczema, children with ADHD and autism and individuals with extreme fatigue. Six percent of the population suffers from a condition called gluten senstivity, where consumption of gluten can cause unpleasant side effects such as gas and bloating. At Foodtrainers, we don’t see this as another dietary flash in the pan; this is way more than a fad.

The question remains, why do we all of a sudden see a surge in not only celiac disease, but also the incidence of gluten sensitivity? Tthe number of people being diagnosed has increased due to awareness on the part of the doctors and patients but surely there must be something else at play.  One viable hypothesis is the idea that our wheat has changed, increasing the amount of gluten, and therefore causing a negative response in some people.

We were surprised to read Michael Pollan’s two cents on gluten in the recent New York Times Magazine annual issue of Food. Normally Pollan is dead on in his analysis of our food system (except when he’s insulting nutritionists); however, we disagree with his gluten conclusions:
“Could it really be that bread, a staple of Western civilization for 6,000 years, is suddenly making millions of us sick? I'm dubious.”  What struck a cord with me was that, in the same article, Pollan mentions changes in our production of meat, poultry, milk and even rice.  A few paragraphs after gluten he says, “Yes, it's true that people have been eating white rice for centuries. But the rice has changed, and so have we. Millers today do a much more thorough job of "polishing" rice than they once did — that is, whitening it by removing the nutritious bran and germ from the grain. (The same is true of "white flour" as well — it's a whole lot whiter now than it used to be and therefore less nutritious. Nice going!)" We’ll give Michael Pollan a pass, he’s hard at work on a new book and perhaps he hasn’t had the time to research gluten the way he should. 

Many share Pollan's skepticism yet issues with gluten are real; when some people avoid it they feel better. This is something those of us who study our food system shouldn’t ignore. In addition to the gluten content of wheat, according to the USDA we are consuming more wheat now than we used to. There’s also some who note that the type of yeast used has changed. Yeast used to be mostly slow rise for bread. This increase rising time allowed more time to ferment. Fermentation produces organisms crucial to gut health. The gluten puzzle isn’t solved but pieces are coming together, stay tuned.

OK, enough ranting. For me, no post is complete without a good product find. There are a lot of duds in the gluten free category but we found a gem. Our friends over at Sheffa, who produce delicious snack mixes, have come out with a bar in four delicious flavors: Rosemary, Sesame, Spicy and Everything. What makes these bars unique is that they aren’t sweet, thus the name Savory.  They are gluten free, nut free, soy free and vegan. Turns out you can please everyone. So what’s in it? A mix of brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, chickpeas, sunflower seeds and a touch of olive oil, offering up 7g of fiber and 4g of protein. We promise you’ll fall in love too. You can snag some in our gluten free bundle  or be on the lookout for them in stores this month.
So tell us, why do you think there is a rise in celiac and gluten intolerance cases? Do you currently follow a gluten free diet? Any GF products you are currently crushing on?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Coffee Talk: Is it good or bad and should you give it up?

I am biased. When I read a study with conclusions in favor of something I like, I am sucked in. Headlines such as “good news for social drinkers”, “how cheese may save your life“ or “the benefits of being glued to your laptop” would get me to read and possibly hunt down and hug the author.  I know to then look at the sample size or research methods and while I don’t necessarily change my behaviors or recommendations, with the study du jour, I can certainly feel vindicated. So a couple of weeks, when I saw “Coffee may help lower depression risk” in the Wall Street Journal, though I’ve never been truly depressed, it felt like “score one for team coffee.”

Coffee can be confusing. It seems to be popular to part with coffee though most people, when pressed, wouldn’t have a good reason for that. In a recent post, one reader asked this question with their commentIt seems that for every article out there that says to go without coffee, there is another article praising the advantages of some caffeine. I don't go overboard, but I really do enjoy a small or medium cup of coffee every single morning. That is where it ends... please tell me what I would gain from giving this up (believe me, it is a point of contention in my household at the moment) Thanks!” Because I’m not convinced we must give it up, I’ll instead present the case for coffee and you decide where you stand.
 I started this with saying I’m biased on this subject and will start with coffee’s “perks”.  When someone criticizes your coffee tell him or her it:
  • Is rich in antioxidants (with the “a” word possibly the most overused in nutrition land). Antioxidants prevent oxidation and oxidation leads to aging. This is the proposed mechanism for coffee decreasing a cognitive decline later in life.
  • Reduces risk of Parkinson’s disease
  • Reduces risk of diabetes
  • Reduces the risk of cirrhosis of the liver (which to me means it sort of counteracts your PM glass of wine)
  • Reduces the risk of gallstones (which are on the rise in the US) and kidney stones (do you know how painful kidney stones are?)
  • Reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s
  • Reduces the risk of asthma, caffeine in coffee is related to theophylline, an old asthma medication. Caffeine can open airways and improve asthma symptom.
  • Makes you more alert and think better
And let’s be honest, coffee helps you “go”.

Coffee is also a nice little helper when it comes to endurance sports. Coffee can increase the time to exhaustion. Caffeine may alter the perception of how hard you are working. During testing, athletes were asked to judge their effort, which is referred to as the rating of perceived exertion (RPE). Some studies have yielded significantly lower RPE's when the athlete used caffeine. A little trick our runners and tri clients use is to decrease coffee the week prior to a race thereby increasing coffee’s effects on race day. A little caution to non-coffee people, coffee will not help you if you spend half the race in the porta potty. If you are unsure if you tolerate coffee, test it out on a day you have time to spare.

I do suggest being a coffee snob. Coffee is one of the heaviest chemically treated food commodities in the world. The most common chemical used in coffee production is synthetic petroleum based fertilizers that slowly destroy the soil's fertility and seep into local water supplies. It’s important to go organic which will ensure that you’re not drinking fertilizers or pesticides every morning. Other things to look for are shade-grown and fair-trade which guarantees safe growing practices and protection for the farmers using these superior methods. In NYC, I like Le Pain Quotidien’s coffee.

Though I could be the president of the coffee fan club, I’m not an advocate of unchecked caffeination. Two cups is the maximum coffee I’d suggest per day and for the record, like the commenter above, I’m generally a one-cup a day girl. Most afternoons are green tea with the occasional thoroughly enjoyed espresso.  I would cut your coffee consumption if you have palpitations or irregular heartbeats, severe PMS, insomnia, panic attacks or bladder problems. Speaking of sleep, a caffeine cut off is a good idea and I’d suggest 8 hours before bed or 3pm if you go to sleep at 11pm. It can take up to seven hours to metabolize caffeine.  The older we are, the longer it takes.  And if you are on birth control pills or estrogen, the half-life of caffeine may be doubled.  For the life of me, I’ve never been able to understand how some people can have coffee and fall right to sleep.

If there’s one group I worry about coffee with it’s women trying to conceive. There may be as much as a 30 percent increase in early miscarriage of normal pregnancies for women who drink one to two cups of coffee a day.  One study has shown this goes up to 40 percent with four cups.  There’s also concern about caffeine consumption while trying to conceive.  Some studies have shown infertility rates double for women who drink more than two and a half cups of coffee a day. Another “con” for coffee is that it is acidic and therefore not suggested for those with reflux either.

No coffee talk would be complete without mentioning what goes into coffee. While the coffee itself isn’t a problem, adding artificial sweeteners (the pink, blue or yellow) or too much sugar or agave is. I would also suggest organic milk of your choice (dairy, almond or coconut) and not a reduced-fat version. If it’s coffee with skim and Splenda or no coffee, I’m would advise no coffee. I have to run now, I smell that delicious aroma and hear the Capresso snorting (which means it’s done). Are you a coffee drinker? Are you concerned with seeking out organic coffee? Have you considered giving coffee up?
took this photo in the French Quarter, couldn't resist

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Holding It

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, last week I attended an event for Mom Energy at the original Organic Avenue location. On our way down, after the “bite size” incident, Melissa and I spoke. I told Melissa that I feel I walk away from Ashley’s talks learning something. You’d think the same was true of all nutrition lectures but too often I feel I’m hearing information that isn’t new or presented in a way that leaves me thinking. Ashley started out the talk pointing out key things that we can all do to feel energized. At one point, each person attending was asked to pick one area they could improve upon. One man (clearly Mom Energy isn't just about moms or women) vowed to drink less alcohol, another to sleep more. I was having trouble coming up with something I wanted to drastically change because the truth is, I do whatever is in my power to feel good and rested. There was a degree of smugness as I mentally reviewed my “energy” practices.

 Then the topic of time management came up and Ashley asked if any of us were guilty of “holding it in” when we had to urinate. If there were guilt-o-meters mine would’ve been buzzing away. Because I see clients back to back, there is often no allotted to use the restroom. And I can’t even blame it entirely on client sessions because if I’m writing something or preoccupied, I can easily ignore the urge to go and had never thought about the consequences.

Ashley explained that urinating is one way of releasing toxins and that if you hold it, the toxins stay in. As the daughter of a urologist, she had been strongly advised against holding it. So I had it, my energy Achilles heel. I promised to work on it and Ashley has been tweeting me reminders since. Like everything else, I first had to research this holding it.  Turns out holding your urine can lead to UTI’s and other infections, as urine sitting in the bladder becomes a medium for bacteria to grow. Additionally kidney problems can develop as the bladder receives urine from the kidneys via the ureters. Incontinence is another possibility as your bladder becomes stretched  (not something I need after a bladder that’s still recovering from 2 pregnancies and as my mom says will “never be the same”) and for men holding it can cause pain in the testicles (nice). Another issue with holding it is that after the sphincter muscle is contracted it is difficult for it to full release when in fact you “go” leaving some urine in the bladder. This is called dysfunctional voiding. If you need a visual, check out this segment from The Doctors where they show what happens to your bladder when you hold it.

As much as all of this freaked me out, the real message I took from this was that we can’t ignore our body’s signals. Whether it’s fatigue or hunger or the need to use the bathroom, your body will compensate to get what it needs but not always in a positive manner. A lot of wellness comes down to time management and clearly there’s something wrong with my workday if I do not even have time to go to the restroom. In some ways I feel I “fit it all in” but like many working people and mothers it’s sometimes at my own expense.
Any health behavior you feel gets marginalized when you’re busy? Do you hold it? Maybe need to break and go right now? 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Carbo Loading's Finish Line

When I was doing my nutrition training, over 10 years ago, sports nutrition went something like this: eat carbs and only carbs and before a race whatever that amount of carbs was multiply it by a factor of at least two.  Once I started counseling runners and triathletes and running marathons myself I realized that no diet, especially not one where peak performance was the goal, could revolve around one macronutrient. My sports nutrition clients eat a diet similar to my other clients with the exception theirs may be more finely tuned. You can’t eat a trough of pasta and feel good the next day (sorry if the photo misled you).

So in comes a client last week, she’s training for the New York marathon and very savvy when it comes to training foods. “Did you see the new Runner’s World she asked? I told her I hadn’t. “There’s an article on carbo-loading and a ridiculous photo with a mountain of pasta.” I told her I’d check it out. I was going on a trip in a few days and I always bring a stack of magazines to devour. The next day, the client emailed. She sent me the link to the article, minutes later she sent another email with the message “you didn’t get the lovely pasta shot, so I took a screen shot, attached!” I explained I was saving the article but I was now extremely curious.

Friday, I boarded our early morning flight to New Orleans. I flipped open Runner’s World and found  “Fill ‘Er Up. The article is love letter to the carb, specifically the white carb. It’s as imbalanced as Mount St. Pasta (pictured above). We’re told “most runners know they should eat pasta, rice, potatoes or other high-carb foods before a half or full marathon.” Immediately, I was thinking alone? What about omega 3’s for inflammation? Or vegetables for fluid and antioxidants? They’re clear though “carbs should make up 85 to 95 percent of your prerace meals.” Fruits, though high in carbs, are discouraged with the exception of bananas or peeled apples or pears. We’re warned other fruits may give you trouble. In the same paragraph the nutritionist quoted encourages her clients “to indulge in white bread and skinless while potatoes” since both are easily digested.  I’m reading and getting incensed while airborne. I’m thinking since skinless potatoes and wonder bread break down into sugar, why not make things even easier and crack open the Domino box for dinner?

Carbs are an important part of an athlete’s diet during training and pre-race. Baked potatoes (with the skin), sweet potatoes, brown rice, sushi, quinoa and soba noodles, gluten free pasta and oats are some examples my clients enjoy. They are mostly “brown carbs” or “good” carbs and though some are fibrous, it’s not as though I’m advocating 5-alarm chili. There’s also the question of portion.  In addition to the pasta picture, there’s an equally obscene stack of pancakes, caption “tall order”, and another nutritionist’s concern that we learn about carbohydrates “so you can toe the line fully fueled and ready to go.”  I don’t think most runners or Americans need an introduction to carbohydrates (we’ve met thanks) nor encouragement to mainline them. If pasta’s your prerace preference, that’s fine but some fish or chicken and even salad will not kill you, if you’ve trained with these foods. In fact, they will help.

The author makes the point that as you taper/run less in the days leading up to a race, glycogen (stored carbs) accumulates. To me, “carbo loading” (would someone explain what a “carbo” is?) happens naturally as you store more carbs (in the new millennium we dropped the “o”) when you’re burning fewer. Another good point made is that you don’t need to increase your calories, just the proportion of carbs, leading up to the race. But there’s an adjacent “good eats” sample day suggesting far from good foods such as bagels, sweetened yogurt, Gatorade, cookies, orange juice, Swedish Fish, chocolate milk oh and for some “easy to digest” fiber black beans and salsa. Now this day may put you in a diabetic coma or nauseate you but it will not make you perform better.

Though Runner’s World’s nutrition information can be a little dated, a few pages later there is a great recipe for Sweet Potato Muffins with ginger and whole-wheat flour from Mark Bittman. On page 46, Dr Weil suggests talks about fiber and anti-inflammatory foods. That made me feel a bit better, they had me worried we were back in the 90s for a minute.  Have you trained for any type of race? What is your pre-race meal? What do you do when you read nutrition information that seems off? How do you feel when you eat a boatload of pasta?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bite Size

Tuesday night, I went to an event at Organic Avenue. My friend Ashley Koff was hosting a seminar for her new book Mom Energy. Organic Avenue is on Suffolk Street on the lower East side of Manhattan. From where I live and work it’s the equivalent of getting to San Diego from Portland, Maine. Market Melissa and I decided the subway was best and that we’d meet on the 14th street platform. The talk started at 6pm and so, at rush hour, the train was fairly crowded when I got on. I made a seat for myself between two people each greedily occupying 1.5 seats on either side. It strikes me as extremely selfish that people sprawl out while others don’t have seats but, undeterred,  I directed my tush at the yellow-orange colored half seat giving them the choice to move over or have me sit on them.

Seated and kindle-less, I looked around. Directly across from me sat two ladies talking. One of them had the most beautiful purse; it was woven with all different shades of brown, really unusual. As I contemplated the purse, the woman reached into it and took out a package of rice crackers. I couldn’t completely see but my guess would be Edward and Sons (gluten free!) black sesame rice crackers. The crackers are divided into compartments with maybe 15 rounds in each one. Purse lady, with rather large hands took the majority of one compartment in her hand. She offered the package to her friend who reached in with tweezer-like fingers extracting two black crackers.

There was something about this interaction that I couldn’t stop watching. First, I find a lot of public eating sort of revolting. I suppress my need to fully inhale when riding the subway and here these women were snacking away. I can’t help but thinking there are only certain places we should eat and the sidewalk, subway or drivers seat of a car don’t make my list. Purse lady disagreed. She popped her crackers whole into her mouth. Like the dolphins  with fish at SeaWorld they seemed to disappear without visible chewing.  Tweezer-fingers held her two crackers between her thumb and pointer finger. She was telling a story and every so often she would bring the cracker to her mouth biting off ¼ of the cracker max at a time. There was about one bite per stop on the train.  Purse-y started on the second compartment and once again passed the package to her friend who shook her head declining. I was staring to such an inappropriate extent I may have caused purse-y to unzip her gorgeous bag and put the crackers away. At Times Square they got off; my impromptu focus group about snack habits adjourned. A pack of mall chicks, with cheap purses, took the newly-vacant orange seats.

I could’ve mentioned earlier that Pursey was slightly rotund and Tweez, like her frail fingers, was petite but I don’t think that matters. I loved the slow, dainty way Tweez ate; however, there are many times I eat more like Pursey. Soon enough I was at my stop, I got off and found Melissa. At Organic Avenue (which I will tell you more about) we were greeted by Ashley and an array of juices.  I selected a shot glass sized cucumber juice and took little, slow sips just as I imagined Tweez would’ve.
What do you think about street or subway eating? Do you watch what and how people eat? And do you eat more like Pursey or Tweez? 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Do you talk skinny and order fat?

The drive thru, can't really be good, can it?
Yesterday, I taped a segment for CBS (I am providing the link even though I look line a senior citizen). There are times I’m asked to do something in media and I pass either because of scheduling or if I feel it’s not in my area of expertise. Other times, the subject of a piece isn’t necessarily exciting but I agree to participate. My clients in PR remind me it’s good for the “brand” (which seems to be the business word of the moment). And then there are times a story is right in my nutrition strike zone.  Yesterday was a “strike zone” subject for me. The segment was based on an article entitled “Customers think about healthy food but order the opposite” The concept was that Americans say they want healthier menu items but continue to “double down” and order the artery cloggers.

One of the people points raised was that some people view eating out as a treat. “If I wanted to eat healthy I’s stay home” said one person interviewed clearly with no Foodtraining under her belt. While I understand (and help clients plan for) birthday dinners and special events, not every meal out can be “special”. The National Restaurant Association reported  “an average of one of five meals consumed by Americans-4.2 per week- is prepared in a commercial setting.” That figure sounds a little low to me but we still cannot have four treat meals a week and expect to maintain our weight. Most treat foods or temptations aren’t going anywhere. My suggestion is to keep treats to once a week.

The reporter then presented me with this scenario “sometimes you plan to have the salad but it comes time to order and the burger or the fries just sound so much better.” First, the restaurant is well aware of how scents and visuals can sway purchasing. Impulse decisions have derailed many determined salad scoffers. From fast food to fine dining all menus are available online.  Study before selecting. As I said on camera, you want to make your food decisions before you’re actually ordering.

In the original article, someone else said “I wouldn’t go to a fast food place if I wanted something healthy.” This was a good point. For one thing, fast food “heathly” items can sometimes seem like an afterthought. The brown lettuce or the icky packet of dressing isn’t all that appealing. Then the establishments say, “we tried healthy menus and they don’t sell.” Wendy’s is mentioned later in the article as one of the first to try to “go healthy” in the 80s “with a short-lived effort to sell tomato halves filled with cottage cheese and pineapple chunks on lettuce leaves.” The thought of eating that nauseates me.  The food has to taste good and I have to think if the R and D went into the healthy menu selections that goes into the fries, offerings would be different. I think Starbucks has done a great job with healthful items. They have their plain oatmeal and also an egg and spinach wrap. I’d have to check this but I believe they are both good sellers. As hokey as it sounds it’s important to order the healthy items. Restaurants listen to sales to drive decisions. You can vote for fresh food or you can vote for French fries.  What’s it going to be?
Do you order “skinny” or “fat” when you’re out to eat? Why do you think only 23% of Americans order healthier items? What do you think can change this?
Congratulations to Gina, Lisa, Kristin and Julie, the winners of our Tata Harper and Odacite' giveaway.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Kirstie's Organic Misstep

Kirstie looks a little like Fergie here, no?
I don’t know about you but I find it hard not to root for Kirstie Alley; she’s quirky and likeable. I root for Kirstie Alley as I do for all my clients, hoping that they can make the positive changes with their eating that they are seeking. After years of counseling I am fairly good at reading genuine readiness. Until recently, Kirstie seemed to want weight loss but there was an awkwardness, you got the sense there was something being withheld. I caught a glimpse of Kirstie on Dancing with the Stars and she was fantastic. I observed the previously missing ingredient, which was self-belief.

Kirstie Alley has slimmed down further since the show. Many of her weight-related tweets have said things to the effect of I’m not on any diet it’s just organic eating and exercise. Oh yeah…and I have this company I founded called Organic Liaison too.  I had heard bits and pieces about Kirstie’s company and have to say I liked that there was an emphasis on organic food and farmers markets. I was curious to learn more.  When I went to the site disappointment set in. My “dodgy detector” was beeping away. Pricey supplements are center stage. The worst part is that there are no ingredients listed for any of the supplements.  This is a serious red flag. Aside from the lack of information there’s automatic monthly billing which just rubs me the wrong way. If you'd like to come with me on this disturbing ride watch this video. Kirstie shows you a box full of bottles and says "it's all you need for a month."  Some of the concepts the supplements address: sleep, relaxation and GI function are sound but without ingredients this is shady.

As far as the organic component, despite my initial interest you can’t help but feeling the organic umbrella is nothing more than a hook.  There’s information on farmers markets but you don’t need to pay a monthly fee for that. Many people criticized Kirstie’s insinuation that pesticides in our food may affect our metabolic levels. While this has yet to be proven, I wouldn’t entirely dismiss that notion. There’s also the “liaison” component of a menu planner, journal, group chat and blog. This type of service can be found on other sites for a lot less money. You are forking out money for the pills. Sad.

The other question I had in reviewing the materials was whether being overweight or having lost weight makes you an expert (Daphne Oz I’m talking to you too).  Sure, this seems to be working for Kirstie or she’s thinner right now but we don’t know about Kirstie or this regime long term. There are no studies or long-term data to support some rather serious claims.

Kirstie looks great; the woman is 60 years old. She also has a dance instructor that travels with her and a lot more support in place than an online chat room. If Organic Liaison was about putting high quality ingredients into your diet, it would have my vote. As for taking things without knowing the ingredients or dosage…I graduated from college already.
Have you read about Organic Liaison or known anyone who has tried it? What do you think of the concept? Do you think Kirstie Alley is someone to take weight loss advice from? If there was a pill that could make you loose weight but you weren't allowed to know what it was, would you take it?
Skincare giveaway winners will be announced Wednesday, comment by Tuesday for a change to win.