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August 31, 2005

Do Diet Sodas Make You Fat?

A recent study out of the University of Texas Health Science Center may have left a few people scratching their heads in puzzlement.  It showed that people who drink diet sodas were more likely to become overweight than those who didn’t.  And the more diet sodas you drink, the fatter you’re likely to be.

How does that work?  Actually, it’s a good example of correlation, not causality.  The study was conducted by examining questionnaires and medical records of over 1,000 people.  It showed that the heavier folks tended to be the ones who drank the most diet soda.  That doesn’t prove that diet soda causes the weight gain; it just shows that when you see one (diet sodas), you likely see the other (higher weights).

This is an important distinction because research correlations are frequently but mistakenly assumed to be proof of cause and effect.  For example, one of the bigger arguments today in ‘weight’ circles is whether health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes are unavoidable consequences of obesity.  Said another way, there are people who are classified as obese according to the charts, yet they live healthy lifestyles and show it in terms of all health parameters except their weight.  Which is what the argument centers on.  If these healthy folks are also fat, then can weight be accurately considered an independent indicator of health?  It can, according to those who incorrectly cite correlational studies as the proof.  But when you look at healthy fat folks, you see there’s something else in play that correlational studies can’t account for – there has to be another causal factor. 

Anyway, back to the diet sodas. 

My personal take on this is that this correlation suggests something I’ve long noticed about the eating habits of many people who struggle with their weight.  They suck!  That is, they don’t eat well – they skip meals, they try to keep calories to a minimum, they’re constantly worrying about eating too much.  So when hunger attacks, what do they turn to?  Something calorie free that will hopefully turn their hunger down a notch.  Things like black coffee and diet soda seem to do that fairly well…for a while.  But then the hunger wins; good intentions for eating lightly go out the window in the face of extreme hunger.  Even if someone can manage to keep calorie intake low, they toy with reducing their metabolic rate, which then makes it even easier to gain weight. 

The last thing any of us who have struggled with weight needs is another food fear.  I strongly doubt that there’s anything inherently wrong with diet sodas that cause people to gain weight.  Instead, I think it’s how we use the sodas that’s the problem. 

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Posted by Marsha on August 31, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 30, 2005

Self-Esteem Vs Self-Acceptance

Self_love_1 I watch a lot of infomercials – always have. I find them far more entertaining than the regular programming. I particularly enjoy weight-loss focused infomercials, including the next greatest exercise, the next greatest diet, the next greatest supplement, the next greatest way of thinking to-lose-weight-mercials. You could call it an pre-occupational hazard J.

For years (as they’ve been saying the same thing for at least 30 years now), I’ve always marveled at the women that give testimonials on these things – they discuss how “they have so much self-esteem” now that they’ve lost weight, or fit into a certain size, or get “noticed.”  That’s my cue to scream at the TV, “so you’re saying your self-esteem is based on the size of your butt? What if you re-gain the weight?  Does that mean that you will have no self-esteem again?” (My cat doesn't care for my watching infomercials in her presence, she finds my talking to myself quite disturbing. >^,,^< (don't turn your head to see the kitty icon, look straight ahead)).

In doing a little research for this post, I was surprised to learn how much I didn’t know about “self-esteem” – like, for example, that you can buy a program, from one of over 7 million websites on the internet and get “it” (self-esteem, that is) from doing the exercises in the program. Or that “self-esteem” is considered the number one thing that kids need.

I do recall that a friend of mine that taught in the worst school, in the worst school district in the country during the 90’s (the decade of baseball wielding principal, Joe Clark, made famous in the movie, Lean on Me) was informed by the school administration that self-esteem should be the primary goal of the lesson plans. Lack of self-esteem was responsible for 11 year olds having babies, 6th graders running stolen car squads (very successfully, I might add), and the violence in the schools and streets. Yes, you heard right, self-esteem, not education, or a safe environment to learn, or enough textbooks, or motivated teachers, but self-esteem (maybe they should have put them all on diets and had them walk by construction sites - that seems to work for adult women).

New lesson plans were passed out to the teachers, and while the principal prowled the halls with a baseball bat (no kidding) the first morning the teachers were supposed to announce to the class, “you are a human being with value.” Then, the second day, the teacher was to announce, “now that we all have self-esteem, let’s move on to….”

So I’ve long wondered exactly what self-esteem is, and how it is monitored. Does it come and go with the size of your thighs? Do you get it when some tells you that you have it? Or can you download a program off the internet, practice for a while, then get it? Do you get it when other people tell you that you look good? What if someone doesn't comment on your looks on a particular day, does that mean you don't have any.

I had this reaction long before I was “enlightened” in my thinking about myself – I realized even as a kid that if “self-esteem” is so transitory, what's the point? After I learned how to eat and move my body for pleasure at Green Mountain at Fox Run, I was able to experience myself without limits. And I soon came to realize that everyone was barking up the wrong psychotherapeutic tree. Holding yourself in high esteem is a fine idea, but accepting yourself is where it’s at experientially.

Self acceptance doesn’t teeter on the brink based on your jeans size, or on your answers to an on-line questionaire, or announcements from your teachers or wolf whistles from strangers.

It is something you do practice and get better at all the time. It does allow you to make mistakes and learn from them instead of being derailed by them.

Self acceptance opens doors, windows, and worlds that you could never have walked, soareButterfly_flowerd through, or explored before.

The road to Self-acceptance is a personal journey, that can’t be scripted by someone else.

However, if you need to visit Size-acceptance as part of your journey to Self- acceptance, I suggest starting your journey here, with the thoughts expressed in Marsha Hudnall's article, Accepting Your Wonderful Self.

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Posted by Gina V. on August 30, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 29, 2005

Getting Your Z-Z-Z's?

I went shopping for a new mattress this weekend.  In preparation for the big purchase, I had to consider how my own sleeping habits have changed over the years.  How much I sleep, the quality of my sleep and how the consistent lack of sleep can contribute to other health concerns.  In particular, the way that sleep may affect weight loss - and weight gain.

A 2004 WebMD feature article written by Michael Breus, PhD, ABSM speaks in depth about the negative effects that sleep deprivation can have on efforts to lose weight:

“Studies published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet suggests that sleep loss may increase hunger and affect the body's metabolism, which may make it more difficult to maintain or lose weight.”  Read more...

Can’t Sleep?  Here are 10 Tips from the National Sleep Foundation

1. Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule including weekends
2. Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or hot tub and then reading a book or listening to soothing music.
3. Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
4. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
5. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
6. Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
7. Exercise regularly. It is best to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.
8. Avoid caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) close to bedtime. It can keep you awake.
9. Avoid nicotine (e.g. cigarettes, tobacco products). Used close to bedtime, it can lead to poor sleep.
10. Avoid alcohol close to bedtime.

For more helpful information on getting a better night’s sleep, visit the National Sleep Foundation website and learn more about ‘Healthy Sleeping Tips'.

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Posted by Cindy on August 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

Fresh Peach Salsa

Summertime means plenty of fresh peaches. Here’s a new way to feature this sweet, juicy fruit -- Peach Salsa. Pair it with a simple grilled chicken, meat or fish, and you not only have a very impressive entrée, you have one that’s a snap to make. We show it here with a grilled sea bass (brush fish with a little olive oil and lime juice and grill). This salsa recipe is a variation of the Cantaloupe-Pineapple Salsa recipe found in Green Mountain at Fox Run's Recipes for Living.

(Makes about 2 cups)

    2 medium (or 3 small peaches), peeled and cut in cubes
    1 tablespoon lime juice
    2 green onions, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    1/2 teaspoon finely chopped, seeded jalapeno pepper

Mix all ingredients in small bowl. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

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

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Posted by Laura on August 25, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 24, 2005

Gonna Party Like It's My Birthday

That’s ‘cuz it is my birthday! And yes, I still celebrate them. As a friend once said after hearing someone complain about advancing years, “It’s better than the alternative!”

So how am I going to party today? And what does it have to do with this blog? It’s a perfect opportunity to talk about normal eating, and how it includes munching on birthday cake and whatever else you like.

Most of us are familiar with the old diet approach to celebrating with food. You starve yourself most of the day so you are ‘allowed’ to splurge at the event. The outcome, however, is that often you’re so hungry by the time you get there, you overeat on the munchies, then either aren’t hungry for the entrée or opt for the ‘what the hell, I’m back on my diet tomorrow, so I might as well enjoy myself tonight’ approach where you eat even if you’re already full. Trouble is, you really aren’t enjoying yourself with the last approach – you feel ill, if you let yourself feel at all. And you’re mired in guilt at some point.

In the normal eating approach, however,
celebratory eating is healthy. It’s about enjoying yourself, having a good time, taking pleasure in traditions that so often include, if not focus on, food. While you’re enjoying, you’re in touch, not overeating to any great extent because that doesn’t make you feel well. It’s choosing a variety of foods that ends up as a balanced meal because that’s what tastes good and, again, what makes you feel well.

Or what about this scenario: You decide not to eat the ‘fattening’ stuff, so on your way home, deprived out of your mind, you stop at the convenience store and pick up a box of stale cookies, fantasizing all the while about the cake you didn’t eat. And then end up eating three times as much – of something you didn’t even really like!

It’s not being deprived, feeling guilty if you eat something that’s rich in fat or sugar, but knowing that it all balances out if you let your
internal cues guide you in choosing what, when and how much to eat. It’s not feeling like everything you eat has to meet nutrition ‘rules.’ Actually, if you follow every piece of nutrition ‘news,’ you might feel like those keep changing anyway. They don’t – the basics have been the same since the early days of nutrition guidelines.

But for fun, I’d thought I’d share one piece of ‘news’ that gives the nutrition anxious among us one more reason to feel great about eating chocolate – on your birthday or any other day. The American Heart Association recently published
research that shows dark chocolate may reduce blood pressure and improve insulin resistance. As if I needed any encouragement!

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Posted by Marsha on August 24, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 23, 2005

Fat - to Eat or Not to Eat.

Photo by Byron Crawford,
The Courier-Journal

I recently came across this article, about a woman that was denied insurance for being "overweight" in 1923 who is now celebrating her 100th birthday.

It appears that the insurance agent didn't have any respect for her size - 160 pounds - or her eating habits - "She is still eating sausage fried on the same GE electric range -- and eating ice cream that she keeps in the same GE refrigerator -- that she got in the mid-1940s when her home was wired for electricity." Her daughter-in-law remarks, "she's always loved the fat meat." It would appear that the insurance agent missed the boat.

I'm not suggesting that everyone have double portions of fat back at every meal, I do think that this tale shows that being so obsessed about fat grams in anything that might touch our lips doesn't necessarily mean what we've been led to think it means - avoiding fat in food doesn't mean life-everlasting (and the proverbial "gold star") nor does imbibing fat mean instant death, immediate arterial clogging, or condemnation to the nether regions.

In fact, it appears that women can be helped from ingesting the right kinds of fats - here's a short list of conditions that can be alleviated with diets higher in Omega 3's (the kinds of fats found in salmon, flax seed, walnuts, etc)

  • Depression
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Fatigue
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Joint pain

A Fit Briefing article, "Fats of Life" discussed the idea of adding fat for health and satiety:

"Other research suggests that eating patterns that include moderate amounts of monounsaturated fats may also help us lose and keep off excess body fat. One reason seems to be that people feel more satisfied with the foods they are eating, largely because of the flavor. Fat also appears to help us manage hunger better, possibly because it causes the body to produce the satiety hormone cholecystokinin."

So think twice before you turn down something just because you think it's "fat" or as we tend to call it "fattening," it might help you out live your insurance agent.


Posted by Laura on August 23, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 22, 2005

Every Little Bit Counts

When I was younger, I had a habit of setting grandiose goals for myself.  The trouble with all or nothing goal setting is there’s no room for celebration if you accomplish anything less than what you set out to.  I suspect most of us have long ago let loose of the strangle hold of perfection – or at least understand that seeking perfection gets us into trouble. 

But, if for some reason, you’re still adhering to the perfection principle you may be interested to learn when it comes to improving your health, every little bit counts. The truth is, where weight loss, fitness and healthy living are concerned, there’s increasing evidence that even the smallest changes made for the better can bring positive and meaningful results.

A recent example comes to us through a new study conducted at Wake Forest University, on 142 adults with arthritis in their knees.  What the researchers discovered, was that for every pound lost, there was a four pound reduction in the force striking their knees. When you think about it, that’s considerable relief.   

In reference to diabetes, Dr. Judith Fradkin, head of diabetes and endocrinology at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says, “The goal should be to become healthy, not become a fashion model.  If you move in the right direction even a little bit, that can make a big difference in health. That is one of the most important public health messages to get out to people.”

So, whether you’ve set out to lose a considerable amount of weight (diabetes and weight loss), or kick your fitness program up a few notches, remember that as you move along the road to reaching your goals, that positive changes are taking place one step at a time

Link to the July 2005 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatisim, for more information on the Wake Forest study.

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Posted by Cindy on August 22, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 18, 2005

Old Fashioned Oatmeal-Blueberry Pancakes

Oatmeal pancakes are good all year around, but this is the time of year to make a blueberry version. These sweet juicy berries, high in fiber and antioxidants, are at the peak of their season right now.

(Makes approximately 10 3-inch pancakes)

    3/4 cup old fashioned oatmeal
    1 cup water
    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1 egg, slightly beaten
    3/4 cup fat-free (skim) milk
    1 cup fresh blueberries
    Plain yogurt, if desired
    Vermont maple syrup

To cook oatmeal, combine oatmeal and 1 cup of water. Cook either conventional or microwave method according to package directions.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Mix egg and milk in another medium bowl. Add flour mixture to egg mixture; stir until well bended.
Stir in cooked oatmeal.

Heat griddle or skillet: grease if desired. Pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto medium hot griddle. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes or until puffed and dry around the edges. Before turning add a few fresh blueberries to each pancake. Turn and cook approximately 2 more minutes or until golden brown.

We like the pancakes topped with plain yogurt, the rest of the blueberries and a splash of Vermont maple syrup. Yum!

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

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Posted by Laura on August 18, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 17, 2005

Muscles are da Bomb

I started strength training a few years ago, and one of things I noticed the most was my ability to put my suitcase into the overhead compartment on an airplane.  No longer did I have to strain to get it up there; I lifted it with ease and felt a good degree of pleasure – and pride -- as I did so.

I wager that many of us have only thought about strength training as another step in our weight management efforts.  Recent findings, however, have poked a hole in the theory that we can significantly increase our metabolism – and thereby burn more calories – if we build muscle through strength training.  Sally Squires in her regular column in the Washington Post quotes David Nieman at the Human Performance Lab in North Carolina as saying adding two pounds of muscle will only increase your daily needs by 24 calories.  Not worth the effort in my book.

That doesn’t mean, however, that strength training doesn’t have an effect on our efforts to maintain a healthy weight.  Which brings me to the real reason I strength train.  It makes me feel sooooo good.  I feel strong.  I feel toned.  My aches and pains diminish…and sometimes even disappear.  Because I strength train, I have the energy to follow a healthy lifestyle. In my book, that’s worth all the effort.

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Posted by Marsha on August 17, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 16, 2005


050802_dovegirlslede_wide_3Did I get your attention with that word? If you're like I was a few minutes ago, you have no idea what that word means. Apparently if I had paid more attention to Gulliver's Travels, I would know this work, as Brobdingnagian is from Brobdingnag, a country of giants in Swift's Gulliver's Travels.  Allow me add to your vocabulary...


  Brobdingnagian \brob-ding-NAG-ee-uhn\, adjective:
    Of extraordinary size; gigantic; enormous.   
humongous, immense, mammoth, colossal.

And here it is used in context in a few sentences -

"The venture capital business has a size problem. A monstrous, staggering, stupefying one. Brobdingnagian even."
     --Russ Mitchell, "Too Much Ventured Nothing Gained," Fortune, November 11, 2002

"Any savvy dealer . . . will try to talk you up to one of the latest behemoths, which have bloated to such Brobdingnagian dimensions as to have entered the realm of the absurd."
     --Jack Hitt, "The Hidden Life of SUVs," Mother Jones, July/August 1999

"This campaign for Dove's new line of firming products (lotions and creams and such) is everywhere you look. The ads made their debut in last month's fashion magazines and they now grace every outdoor surface in sight. Buses, bus stops, billboards, buildings-I can't walk three blocks in my D.C. neighborhood without encountering another of these Brobdingnagian babes." 
     --Seth Stevenson, When Tush Comes to Dove. Real women. Real curves. Really smart ad campaign.  Posted Monday, Aug. 1, 2005, at 7:15 AM PT Slate.

I wish I could make you hear the sound in my head, the sound of a record needle being ripped across a record. Since when did women size 6 to 12 become "humongous, immense, mammoth, and colossal"? Has everyone become so used to viewing 97 pound Nicole Richie that she's become the norm? Something is really out of whack in our culture. The average American woman is somewhere between a 12 and 14 according to a 2004 survey by SizeUSA (a project sponsored by Target and JCPenney stores among others). The writer that used the term "brobdingnagian" later gushes that he's attracted to one of the girls, then goes on to say, "Eventually (though perhaps only subconsciously), they'll come to think of Dove as the brand for fat girls. Talk about "real beauty" all you want-once you're the brand for fat girls, you're toast."

Meanwhile, over at Newsweek, it's the "Summer of Dove" by Susanna Schrobsdorff  Newsweek Updated: 8:17 p.m. ET Aug. 5, 2005, who asks the question in my brain in her subtitle (albeit in a more polite way than I would have), "Are the women in the company's new ad campaign too big to sell beauty products, or have our minds gotten too small?" (I would have said, "have our minds gotten too warped").

I think the answer to that question is provided by Lucio Guerrero, a staff reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times who was apparently offended by the sight of the ads on his commute, wrote on July 19:  "Really, the only time I want to see a thigh that big is in a bucket with bread crumbs on it." Apparently Mr Guerrero is less offended by the typical model, an emaciated 14-year-old dressed up in lingerie like a hooker showing her wares in Amsterdam.

Yup, "warped" is the only word for it.

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Posted by Gina V. on August 16, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack