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May 31, 2005

Can You LOVE Your Diet? Only If It Isn’t One!

Yes, it’s that time of year again…that special time when the morning shows and our ‘beloved’ Oprah begin bombarding us with images of young, beautiful women sashaying down the catwalk in the latest short shorts and tank tops for summer.  And advertisers depict young nymphs springing into swimming pools or sauntering down beaches, scantily clad in the newest swimsuits which most of us wouldn’t wear after the age of 20, if ever!  So, it’s a sure bet that many of my American sisters are in the throes of starting just one more diet to get ‘in shape’ for summer.

That makes it a perfect time to talk about a diet we can live with…even enjoy!  Not a weight loss diet per se, but a healthy eating diet that tastes so good, we actually want to eat it for how great it makes us feel (what a concept!).  An added bonus is that if we’re carrying around extra fat on our bodies because we’ve been eating poorly, we’ll probably find we drop a few pounds, too.  But even more importantly, studies show this diet can also help those of us who deal with insulin resistance, as part of diabetes or metabolic syndrome.  That can include many of us who don’t have any unnecessary fat on our bodies, even those who everyone would label ‘thin.’

I’m talking about the Mediterranean diet – lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, yogurt, cheese, beans, yummy olives and olive oil, nuts and moderate amounts of sweets, fish, poultry, eggs, and beef.  The key principles of this style of eating is that we eat an abundance of plant foods, which include potatoes (ohmigod!), breads and grains (double omg), beans, nuts and seeds as well as other vegetables and fruits. Olive oil is the main fat used – extra virgin is the best for drizzling over salads and grilled veggies. 

And the really good news:  Wine is an integral part of this diet.  About one glass per day for women, usually with meals.

What better time to start a new, healthier eating plan than the summer – with the bounty of fresh vegetables and different fruits available this time of year?  I’m getting hungry (and thirsty) right now….

Posted by Marsha on May 31, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2005

Don't Nit Pick at the Picnic!

Happy Memorial Day!

I don't know when I first became fascinated with food at the holiday's, but I know I was a very young child. I was mesmerized by all the special treats unique to the occasion.  The care it took to prepare special dishes, many I hadn't tried before.  The way everyone was enthusiastically ogling over a new recipe or the way the food looked so beautiful.  Happy times.  I suppose I made some emotional, even romantic, connection between the turkey on Thanksgiving, prime rib at Christmas, ham on Easter and potato salad and watermelon on the Fourth of July - with happiness and love.

Its unfortunate I spent the next 30 years dreading holiday's because they meant I'd be forced to eat those foods I perceived as 'bad'.  High in fat, loaded with calories or just plain 'not on my diet'!  It took me almost 3 decades to realize that eating any of my favorites foods, in moderation, wasn't going to add up to a bloody thing.  Because one serving of strawberry shortcake never made anyone fat!

So, the only tidbit I will offer you on this holiday, is to enjoy whatever dishes are traditional on Memorial Day in your family.  Because if you don't, it is not unlikely you'll find yourself tonight, alone in the dark, in front of your Thermador eating a cold meaningless spoonful of pork and beans, a tired deviled egg and horror of horrors some forbidden strawberry pie!

Why not enjoy it today, mindfully, with your friends and family?   The way God intended you to...with laughter, love and a little romance thrown in.  Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of the Department of Education - Oregon State University

Posted by Cindy on May 30, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 27, 2005

Marinated Strawberries in Phyllo Cups


We're marching closer to Memorial Day and here's a delicious dessert that's a real crowd pleaser. This recipe may seem to be a lot of work, but it's really easy to make.   It's definitely worth the effort…it makes an impressive yet light dessert that your family and guests will love!    Add a few blueberries and a dollop of whipped cream for a red, white and blue theme and you're ready for the parade!

Phyllo* dough cut into 12, 4 inch squares

Nonstick cooking spray

2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup vanilla yogurt

Whipped cream, if desired

Meanwhile, mix strawberries, sugar and vanilla, let marinate for 15 minutes

To serve, spoon strawberry mixture into phyllo cups.  Top each with 2 tablespoons yogurt.  Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.

*You’ll find phyllo dough in freezer section of supermarket. Thaw before attempting to work with it. You’ll need to buy more than you need, but can refreeze the remainder.

Posted by Cindy on May 27, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 25, 2005

Spiritual Hunger: What Are You Truly Hungry For?

It’s probably a holdover from my younger days, but I never put a lot of stock in discussions of spirituality until recently.  To me, the word always conjured up images of long-haired, long-bearded gurus who didn’t seem to touch my world.  A few years ago, however, I heard a woman speak on spiritual hunger, and given the relevance of what she had to say to the area I was working in, I sat up and paid attention.

The gist of her talk had to do with the fact that there are different kinds of hunger that may be affecting our eating behaviors.  One kind is obvious – physical hunger.  (Actually, that’s not always so obvious.  Following dieting advice that tells us to ignore our feelings of physical hunger and only eat at certain times, many women are confused about what physical hunger feels like.  But that’s a topic for another post.)  Another kind of hunger is emotional.  Most of us are tuned into that one because we’ve been convinced that we’re emotional eaters (again, a topic for another post).  The kind of hunger I want to focus on in this post is spiritual hunger.  I suppose spiritual hunger can fall under the category of emotional hunger, but I prefer to give it its own category because of the real weight it carries in our lives.

What is spiritual hunger?  My friend and colleague, Gretchen Newmark, MA, RD, describes it well in her paper titled Spiritual Hunger.  She mentions a Buddhist concept (oops – those gurus again – obviously, I should have listened long ago) called Duhkha, which “in part means the ordinary suffering we endure when, driven by habit, we constantly look to the next moment for fulfillment, rather than enjoying things are they are in the present moment.”  For weight strugglers, she gives a particularly apt example: “We might notice it while we are eating a meal and thinking about the next one, or when we don’t taste the bite in our mouths because we are hurrying to take another.”   She gives a number of other examples, too, that capture our harried lives that leave little time for recognizing and enjoying the pleasure, joy and even peace of the moment. 

Being the overachiever I am, I can definitely relate to this idea; I suspect that many of you do also.  My takeaway from it is to slow down, stay in touch with myself and start to enjoy my life a bit more.  There’s a real benefit to my eating here: By being in touch, I’m better aware of when I’m really hungry for food, and when my cravings actually stem from something else.

I encourage you to read Gretchen’s whole paper on the subject, but in case you’re still rushing, I share this little snippet of advice that leaves me with a wonderful feeling.  I marvel at the potential it holds if I can learn to practice it regularly:  “This very moment, we can look up from this page, take a breath, notice our bodies as they are right now, the surfaces that support us, the clothing and air that touch our skin, our thoughts and feelings as they come and go.  We can notice our breath, feeding and nourishing us.  We can say, ‘This is enough. This is good.’”   

Posted by Marsha on May 25, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 24, 2005

Diet Tip - Enjoy Your Food!

Imagine a day scientists discover that foods you like are more nutritious than those you don't.

That day occurred more than 25 years ago. A series of experiments run by researchers in Sweden and Thailand showed that people absorb more iron from meals that appeal to them than from meals they find less appetizing.

Promoters of good nutrition throughout much of the world appear to have taken note. Britain's number-one guideline, ahead of admonitions to eat more fiber and less fat, is simply: ''Enjoy your food." Norway, in its own set of guidelines, reminds its citizens that ''food and joy equal health," while Vietnam counsels people to have food ''that is delicious . . . and served with affection."

In stark contrast, the latest edition of the US Dietary Guidelines, released last month, make no allusion that nutrition and taking pleasure in eating have anything to do with each other. Some believe it may be that very disconnection that is contributing to Americans' less-than-optimal diets, not to mention obesity.

I really can’t add anything to this….if we could really stop and think about this the next time we look at “healthy” mush, and remember how wonderful fresh blueberries are, or the delight of spinach sauteed in garlic and oil rather than boiled to death.

For some help making these thought changes, take a look at Marsha Hudnall’s practical tips on adding pleasure to your eating in “Pump Up the Pleasure.”

Bon Appetit!

Posted by Gina V. on May 24, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 23, 2005

The Best Medicine Might Just Be Intrinsic

For me there’s one simple truth about exercising. I’ve never, ever, been happier than when I am.  And yes, even happier when I’m done.  Not because it’s over, but because of how good I feel about accomplishing something that’s really important to me and getting better and better at it.  Exercise really is about the way it makes you ‘feel’ rather than the way it might make you look. 

Not to imply there isn’t a desire to improve or maintain our  physical appearance, but the ‘aha!’ moment for me was when I realized a leaner body and/or weight loss came most easily when I embraced the psychological benefits - because they are immeasurable.  Increased confidence, self-esteem, relief from depression, anxiety and stress.  Not to mention the wonderful way being stronger makes you feel more powerful.

If this revelation in how you might approach exercise feels right to you, too, I highly recommend, 'Learn to Love Exercise', by Jay Kimiecik in Psychology Today. He has some very interesting insights about what he calls the ‘intrinsic exerciser.’  The core concept behind his theory is to exercise for its own sake.  To his point, if you don't get something out of every single run, walk or exercise class you take, you won't keep doing it.  Kimiecik talks effectively about reaching four mental states to develop a mind-set powerful enough to motivate you to exercise -- and like it -- under any life condition.  They are:

Personal Meaning Orientation


Inner Synergy


When you’re just starting out, it’s tough to remain motivated by telling yourself that the big pay-off is way down the road.  It’s going to take some trial and error to find an exercise plan that works for you.  When you find what you like and get better at it, you’ll find your own level of mastery and soon, before you know it, there will be a synergy and flow between exercise and getting what you want.  That’s powerful.

Just keep thinking that with every day, with every step, there’s a new, healthy and stronger you emerging.

Posted by Cindy on May 23, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2005

Grilled Chicken, Blue Cheese and Mixed Green and Arugala Salad

Summer's just around the corner, and it is the perfect time for easy, yet satisfying entrée salads. Starting with greens such as arugula, spinach or other varieties of lettuce, add your favorite protein, some additional vegetables and top with a sprinkle of cheese and/or nuts. Add a slice of cheese bread and lunch is served!

(Makes 1 serving)

1 cup mixed greens
1/2 cup Arugula
2 ounces sliced grilled chicken
1 thin slice red onion
3-4 thin strips red pepper
1 tablespoon crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon toasted walnuts
Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette (see Recipe for Living)

Toss greens with vinaigrette and on arrange on salad plate. Top greens with onions rings, red pepper strips and chicken slices. Sprinkle with blue cheese and toasted walnuts and serve.

If you enjoyed this recipe, come and enjoy our complete collection of healthy eating recipes.

Posted by Laura on May 20, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 18, 2005

The Call of Bigger, "Badder" Food

Did you catch the article in last Thursday’s USA Today Restaurant sales climb with bad-for-you food; consumers may say they want healthier options, but bigger, badder food still sells better.”  As the title clearly points out, Monster Thickburgers are much more popular items than salads at the corner fast food joint.  The article then goes on to quote Morgan Spurlock – the renowned nutritionist (that’s a joke, folks) of SuperSize Me fame – saying the reason we’re more enticed by the like of French fries than carrot sticks is that we’ve failed as a society to educate ourselves about the “long-term dangers of eating bad food.”

Surprise that it is, I happen to have a different opinion about the subject.  Psychologists tell us that fear doesn’t motivate change.  Worrying about what something will do to us in the future will not likely cause us to change our choices now.  I believe the appeal of “bigger, badder foods” has more to do with the mass diet mentality that has overtaken this country, combined with our on-the-run lifestyles that leave us starving at meals because we haven’t taken the time to feed ourselves properly.

Even if someone isn’t a conscious dieter, she or he generally believes that some foods are off limits. For the past 40 years or more, we’ve been virtually brainwashed with this message.  Which foods are they?  Foods rich in fat and sugar, of course – foods that we tend to like and are at our fingertips when we’re running around like crazy, driving kids to and fro or working through lunch and dinner. 

It doesn’t help that the portions we’re served are so large for some of these foods.  Research shows that we tend to be mindless when it comes to eating.  Put a big portion in front of us, and we’ll eat ‘til it’s gone if we’re not thinking.  Trouble is, when we start thinking, the diet mentality takes over.  We don’t usually think  about whether we really want to eat all that’s in front of us, we think about how many calories we’ll eat if we do.  Then we easily fall prey to feelings of deprivation – “I can’t have it all because there are too many calories.” 

Of course, if and when we have it, what happens? We feel guilty – and the ‘what the hell effect’ takes over.  “I already messed up, so I might as well not even try.” 

Unlike the solution proposed in the article on mindless eating that I link to above, and proposed by many traditionalists in the area of weight management, I don’t think the answer to this conundrum lies in having people be extra careful about the portion sizes of high-calorie foods.  That only takes us back to the deprivation cycle mentioned above.  The real solution is mindful eating, staying in touch with our bodies’ cues for when, what and how much we want to eat, feeding ourselves regularly and balanced so that our bodies can function the way they’re designed.  Mindful eating also includes eating what we want, but thinking about what we really want rather than mindlessly responding to environmental cues like the smell of Cinnabons wafting through the mall.   

Individual foods are not bad (unless they're spoiled).  A hot fudge sundae can be part of a healthy eating plan.  Sometimes we may want the large one; that’s okay because we’re generally satisfied after it, and we don’t think about hot fudge sundaes again for a while.  Any ‘extra’ calories we ate are reflected in subsequent meals; we aren’t as hungry so our bodies make up for the extra over time.  Other times we may want only a taste of hot fudge sundae so we order a small, or split one with a friend.  But when we forbid hot fudge sundaes, they’re all we can think about and, subsequently, all we want.

So lighten up, everybody.  Enjoy a burger and fries when you want it. By eating mindfully, you’ll likely find you don’t want Monster Thickburgers – they’re too much for most of us at one sitting.  And you’ll likely find you don’t even want hamburgers and fries or hot fudge sundaes or Cinnabons that often.  They get boring and don’t make you feel well if you eat them a lot.  In fact, you may find you don’t even like them.  But you’ll never discover that if you think they’re forbidden -- forbidden fruit is always the sweetest. 

Posted by Marsha on May 18, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2005

A Tale of Two Kitties

Cat_2I don’t know if you’ve seen animals “talk” to each other, or read any of the Rita Mae Brown’s mysteries solved by her conversational cats, but I was “owned” by two female calico cats - from the minute they were born to the minute they died - and I witnessed a lot of talking, fighting and taunting between them.

They were sisters, and had a brother and two other sisters that lived with other families. They were named Callie (obvious) and Beard (she had a black spot on her chin that made her look like she had one) and although litter mates, or what we would call “fraternal twins,” they were as physically and emotionally different as can be.

Callie was tall, beautiful, with slanty, aloof green eyes that she would half-close as she sat in replica of an Egyptian statue, curling her tail around her body past her front paws. Beard was squat, pudgy, with big round mischievous but friendly yellow eyes. She sat like a blob, with her tail straight out behind her, and made a point of flaunting her magnificent paunch. In fact, when the elegant Callie was eating, Beard would lumber by, which made Callie absolutely queasy and unable to finish her food which, of course, Beard happily finished for her. I have no doubt that was the Beard’s plan from the beginning.

I witnessed many conversations between the two, and usually over food, weight and body image (Callie berating Beard about all the above). To Beard’s credit, she didn’t let her size, her unfortunate name, or the taunts from her graceful sister hold her back. She was as inclined to be walking the rafters, or leaping from horse back to horse back as her lithe sister, she just made a little more noise when she landed.

As interesting as they were to watch and anthropomorphically ponder, what I find noteworthy was that these two sisters – twins, if you will – managed to have completely incompatible eating styles, temperaments, and opposite body types! With genetics factored out, environment factored out, and the idea of considering food an “addiction” for a cat absurd, what could explain these differences?

They were just different. Not better or worse, just different. There is real power in embracing that idea for us bipeds – no striving to have someone else’s body type, just make yours work for you! I think I could write a book called “What I Learned From My Cats” if someone hasn’t already written it.

Marsha Hudnall, co-author on this site once said,"If you are caught up in not liking yourself because of your size, it quickly starts whittling away at your motivation," says Marsha Hudnall, MS, RD, Green Mountain's program director. "That inner voice makes you feel helpless and hopeless."

Read   her fabulous article, “Accept Your Wonderful Self” to discover more about body acceptance.

An interesting note, despite the “obesity” of one, and the life-long lean of the other, they died within a few months of each other at 18 years of age. Their sisters and brother that did not live with them also died at 18 years of age…more on this in my next post.

Posted by Gina V. on May 16, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Through The Looking Glass

Through_the_looking_glass Beauty is only skin deep…beauty comes from within…it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Isn’t that what our mother’s and father’s told us? Not so, say many of today’s young women.

Illustration by sean tejaratchi - LA City Beat

Recently, Teen People conducted a study of over 1500 young girls ages, 13-18.  It wasn’t surprising to learn that fifty eight percent said women on television, movies and in fashion magazines, caused them to be very insecure about their own bodies. More than half felt they weigh too much, while the greatest percentage said they would change something about their bodies - mainly their stomachs. Perhaps, most disheartening, a third of the girls surveyed said their parents had urged them to change their weight - mainly to lose it. 

Another 2005 survey reported by the Sydney Morning Herald and conducted in Australia by The Heat Group, questioned over 1300 young women and discovered that 94 percent of girls aged 18 wished they were more beautiful, with young girls from all age groups admitting they would change every aspect of their appearance if they could. An astonishing 68% believe they were less attractive than the average girl and one in four would change everything about their physical appearance if given the opportunity.

But all is not lost, due to the efforts of some very strong-minded, intuitive and opinionated teens.

Clare Dougan, a 13 year old 8th grader, is fed up with the way young women are portrayed on television and in the movies. “We’re like second-class citizens compared to men in the movies,” says Dougan. “I do not like how girls and women are portrayed as senseless objects.”  This quote and the following appear in a recent article in

LA City Beat:

'Clare joined 76 girls and 47 adults from across the country for the fifth annual Turn Beauty Inside Out (TBIO) Conference this April, in Los Angeles. They gathered at the epicenter of superficiality to demand an alternative to the stereotypes, unimaginative story lines, and unrealistic standards of beauty that comprise Hollywood’s portrayal of women and girls. TBIO is the brainchild of the feminist girls’ magazine New Moon an acclaimed publication written and run entirely by young women. At a 1999 editorial planning retreat, members of the magazine’s Girls Editorial Board decided to dedicate an issue to the concept of inner beauty – an answer to People magazine’s annual “50 Most Beautiful People” issue. Their 25 Beautiful Girls issue generated so much buzz that New Moon decided to turn it into a year-round campaign.'  Read more... 

Help the important young women in your life silence their inner critic. Support and encourage who they are today, including all the elements they want to change. Visit, Self-Acceptance: The Key to Achieving a Healthy Weight at Fitwoman.com and get some more ideas about body image and self-acceptance. Take a look at some insightful questions that you might pose to the young women in your life – or answer for yourself.

Posted by Cindy on May 16, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack