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December 13, 2006

"I'm a Normal Person"

Katewinslet02_1 The Associated Press carried a story about Kate Winslet, most famous for "Titanic" and also staring in “The Holiday,” where she said some pretty provocative things about body image and glorification of certain sizes recently.

After describing glamorization of ultra thin celebrities as "unbelievably disturbing" and keeping magazines featuring such women away from her 6-year-old daughter, Kate goes on with my favorite quote from the story (read the full text here)

“I hope that in some small way I'm able to say, 'I'm a normal person, I'm doing all right.' I've got a lovely husband and children and I didn't lose weight to find those things, and those things are what should be important.”

It’s odd to think that we live in a world where Kate Winslet – a pretty shapely babe that is definitely not overweight – has to defend herself as a “normal person” because she chooses not to restrict food to maintain an artificially low weight, like others in her profession.

Sometimes this just leaves me speechless – what is really driving these kinds of ideas of beauty? I think back to my women’s studies minor…ovatoriums (ovary sanatoriums), diagnosis of hysteria and lunacy for any inconvenient female, corsets, foot binding, neck stretching, high heels, and can't see that now favoring and promotion of impossibly small women (do you know that Nicole Ritchie weighs 84 pounds???) is any different. What do these things have in common – several were considered “healthy,” they served to control unseemly exuberance, they limited ability to defend oneself, restricted movement and ability to breathe properly, and all of these "good ideas" are unique to women as a standard of rather odd ideas about health and beauty (I don't recall reading about removal of testes as a treatment for adultery, do you?).

I don’t claim to have a cure or answer and I can’t really make sense of the motivations for what passes for a good idea, but I can see a pattern that hasn’t changed for centuries. Today I’m joining Kate – I’m going to be an example of  a “normal person.” Join us - stand up straighter today, hold your head high, and realize that pride and self-esteem have nothing to do with size. Refuse to buy into any of the latest health, beauty or fitness trends intended to make women less, instead of more. I hope I pass you on the street, with your head high too.

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Posted by Gina V. on December 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 12, 2006

Holiday Foods & Food Cravings

Gingerbread_girl The holiday season is in full swing at this point.  I’ve received BIG presents of chocolate (including the Harry & David/cheesecake kind) from at least two family members, and I’ve got several holiday parties and a trip that promises lots of good eating on the horizon.  Needless to say, my usual eating pattern has shifted just a TAD to include richer foods than usual. 

Rather than be anxious about all these literal and figurative riches, I’m enjoying the season.  I learned long ago that if I don’t let myself have what I think I want, I’ll end up eating even more of it than if I just go ahead and enjoy.  Sally Squires in her Washington Post Lean Plate Club column recently discussed a study on food cravings, and it reminded me of this point.  She quoted a study published in the journal Appetite that showed ‘overly restricting some foods, especially carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and cookies, can backfire and fuel cravings.” 

Food cravings are a complicated subject, about which a lot of research is going on.  At Green Mountain, though, we’ve discovered there’s great help to be gained from the idea of moderation.  Not only do we avoid the rebound effect mentioned in the study above, it helps us continue to feed ourselves well in the midst of plenty, such as the holidays.   

Moderation requires that we support our bodies by eating well and staying active, listening and responding intelligently to the cues our bodies give us.  These tips from our FitBriefing on carbohydrate cravings can help us do this.

• Eat regularly – when hungry, generally about every 3-5 hours.
• Eat well balanced – that means a balance of protein foods; vegetables, fruits, whole grains and starchy vegetables (which include plenty of fiber), and healthy fats most of the time.
• Eat what you like – to avoid the diet deprivation that can trip us up. If this is confusing because of the previous point, read our FitBriefing "Redefining Healthy Eating"
• Stay active – so your body can operate efficiently.

As you go through the remaining days of this holiday season, try to put and keep these simple guidelines in place.  They can make the difference between a joyous holiday season and one fraught with food and weight worries.

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Posted by Marsha on December 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 11, 2006

Holiday Shopping - The Workout

When the holidays roll around there’s lots to do. Every year I start out with great intentions, but no matter how well I plan ahead I still find myself running around like a crazy woman, picking up last minute stocking stuffers or trying to find something essential like chestnuts.

When our daily schedules are thrown for a loop like they are during the holidays, other things can get thrown to the wayside – like our fitness programs. Although, it may be less than an hour out of your day, with all that juggling, exercise is still an easy ball to drop.

I like to think about activity during the holidays a bit differently. There are many ways to make all that running around work for you. This doesn’t mean you should throw the baby out with the bath water, it just means there are many ways to incorporate some purposeful fitness activity while you’re running around doing Santa’s business.

Here are some tips to start you thinking:

  • While standing in those long lines, remember to keep your feet shoulder width apart and remain soft in the knees. Hold your tummy in tight for 30 seconds and release. If you’re holding heavy bags and they have handles, try some curls. (This also works great with laundry detergent in the supermarket!).
  • Walk briskly, with purpose, to and from stores. Hold your head up and breathe!
  • When taking the escalator ‘up’ – walk, don’t ride.
  • Sometimes you have no choice but to park far away from your intended destination. If you normally walk for exercise, you will be able to enjoy the fruits of all your ‘training' - because walking will not seem like a chore.
  • The ladies dressing room is a great place to get a few stretches in. When your back is aching or your feet are about to give way – sneak in and go through some light stretches. This will help you get your second wind.
  • Remember when you’re squatting or lifting during the holidays really think about the motion - squat and push up with your legs, not your back.
  • Pack healthy snacks and toss them in your handbag before you take off and eat frequently, this will stave off hunger and keep you feeling focused and energized.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and definitely wear those tennis shoes!

Here’s to Healthy, Happy, Holiday Shopping!

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Posted by Cindy on December 11, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 08, 2006

New Diabetes Drug on the Horizon

There's some news on the Type 2 Diabetes front.  A recent report from a study conducted on 278 patients at 56 medical centers in the United States and six other countries found that rimonabant (brand name Acomplia), helped improve blood sugar control while also promoting weight loss in patients with type 2 diabetes. It is important to note that the drug maker Sanofi-Aventis released these study results.

Another promising find is the drug seems to have a positive effect on good and bad cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides – other risk factors for developing Type 2. This is the second study to find that rimonabant improves blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The previous study, funded by Sanofi-Aventis, was published online Oct. 27 in the journal The Lancet.

Rimonabant is approved in Europe but has not been approved in the United States.

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Posted by Cindy on December 8, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 07, 2006

Holiday Fruit Bars

Holiday_fruit_bars Combining nutritious ingredients like rolled oats, dried fruit and nuts makes for a tasty and festive looking holiday dessert. For a change from chocolate, bring these great-tasting bars to your next holiday party! This recipe makes 16 bars.

Fruit filling:
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup sugar
3 /4 cup water

Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan. Cook over medium-low heat stirring frequently until thickened, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup all- purpose flour
1/4 finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 8x8 inch baking dish. Place ingredients in a medium bowl, stir until moist and crumbly. Press ½ of crumb mixture evenly in the bottom of pan. Spread with fruit filling. Top with remaining crumb mixture and press lightly. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for about 1 hour. Cut into bars. Serve and enjoy!

For more healthy recipes check out the other delicious recipes listed on this blog or visit Green Mountain Healthy Living Recipe Favorites.

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Posted by Marsha on December 7, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 06, 2006

Laughing Our Way Through the Holidays

Reindeer_dog I spent the day yesterday holiday shopping with a close friend.  I was able to cross a few things off my list, but what i really got out of the day was a lot of fun.  We laughed so much!  Not sure exactly what we were laughing about, but we seemed to find humor everywhere we turned.  When i finally made it into bed last night, it was with a peaceful, all-is-well-with-the-world feeling, even though I've still got a ton of things to get accomplished in the next few weeks.  Needless to say, that really felt good.

In the midst of holiday preparations, it's easy to get lost in stress.  Finding the humor in our daily lives can be a significant boon to easing stress.  According to an article on about.com, the benefits of laughter include:

  • Reducing stress hormones (like cortisol)
  • Increasing health-enhancing hormones (such as endorphins)
  • Providing physical and emotional release
  • Providing a workout of sorts ("a belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart.")
  • Distracts from anger, guilt, stress and negative emotions
  • Provides perspective to "help us view events as 'challenges', thereby making them less threatening and more positive."
  • Helps us connect with others. 

If you were lucky enough to join us this past fall for our humor week at Green Mountain, you received expert instruction in how to bring more humor into your life.  We plan to repeat that excellent program next year -- we'll let you know when as soon as it's scheduled.

In the meantime, resolve to make humor happen for you.  The about.com article lists a few ways.  Read the article for detailed info, but I just highlight them here.

  • Check out comedies on tv and videos (caution: avoid the marginal ones -- of which there are plenty on tv; they may frustrate more than entertain you)
  • Laugh with friends.  Go to movies or comedy clubs as a group.
  • Find humor in your life.  Laugh instead of complain about your frustrations. 
  • 'Fake it until you make it.'  Faked laughter actually provides the benefits of real laughter!

Happy Holidays!

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Posted by Marsha on December 6, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 05, 2006

Too Jiggly to Get Jiggy With It? Never!

Images_3 I read a story about a significant barrier to exercise – embarrassment. I’ve been with Green Mountain so long, I’d forgotten the horror of what it used to be like to ponder going to the local gym that advertises via extreme “hard bodies”. I recall going to a chain fitness studio that is really into promoting the hard-body image – and found it filled with mostly those over 60, so go figure.

I can also recall dealing with “trainers” at the gym – ie guys that benchpress more than their IQ and considers anyone who can’t a sub-person – that dispense “nutritional” and “lifestyle” advice like a soda pop machine – with about as much substance behind their recommendations as is in a can of diet soda!

Have you ever not stretched because you didn’t want to look stupid, or worse, didn’t want to bend in a way that might make your derriere a target of eyes and arrows? I have – but not any more. Is it (my) advancing age, or have I fundamentally changed the way I think about my health – I just don’t care how I look to other people. I’m gonna do what I gotta do, and that’s that!

Whatever you do - don't let embarrassment stop you from a healthier lifestyle! If it's become a barrier though, consider a plus-size fitness studio or DVD's. Kelly Bliss makes excellent fitness routines for use in your own home, and she also has a Plus-Sized Yellow Pages to find size-friendly businesses of all kinds. Remember, you get there whether it's over the top, underneath or around the sides! Make the journey work for you!

Credits: Photograph by George Sakkestad

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Posted by Gina V. on December 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 04, 2006

Sure, I Can Do That! (grrr)

RosietherivetorI was talking to one of my friends this weekend. She was lamenting about her job and the time it takes out of her life - or as she put it, ‘what life?’ To make matters worse (she’s in retail), the holidays are approaching and she’s already burned out and helpless to make any changes. I asked if her company provided any incentives for healthy lifestyle programs, a gym or gym memberships, flex time, day care and she just rolled her eyes. Our conversation reminded me that I posted on this subject quite some time ago and maybe it was time to post it again. The following is a post from May 2, 2005 and I think it’s relevant enough to take another look.

Is Your Company A Healthy Lifestyle Advocate?

Can you believe it was almost 20 years ago when we watched Gordon Gekko spew, “lunch is for wimps!” (Wall Street – 1987). Which makes me wonder…has corporate America’s attitude really changed that much? Perhaps, it’s a bit Pollyannaish to assume a corporation might change its business model to make it easier for me to improve my health. Nevertheless, it seems obvious that employees work harder and are more productive when they're rested, healthy and managing their stress.

Corporations need to mitigate the contradiction from what they say and what they do by offering employees more meaningful ways to meet their fitness and healthy lifestyle needs. Maybe even the powers that be where you work. Let’s get real for a minute. Where do we spend most of our adult lives? All I know is for the last 20 years I haven’t been spending much time lounging on my deck watching the sunset.

Do you know where your company stands on work life balance? (I know, you’re just too busy working to find out). A lack of programs where we work doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be empathetic to the plight of the employer. Trying to fit healthcare costs into a profit and loss statement can be nothing short of a magic act these days, much less selling the idea of special programs that offer ‘added value’ to those guarding the bottom line. Nevertheless, what more could your organization do to be proactive in the fight for your health and well-being?

Most American companies address the issue around work life balance in a mission statement somewhere, but let’s just say there’s a lot more talkin’ than walkin’. In a nutshell we seem to be lagging behind other countries. The European Network for Workplace Health Promotion believe that workplace health initiatives in the U.S. take on a much more ‘individual responsibility’ approach to employee health and fitness than our Canadian and European counterparts. Our work life conscious friends to the north (The Public Health Agency of Canada), are not only taking a stand, but more importantly taking action, by providing business case templates identify organizational needs, audience, and long-term profit, with case studies to boot.

So, can corporate America really afford to believe they’re not accountable for the health and wellbeing of their employees? The question poses more consideration than healthcare. It’s not a red state/blue state kind of argument. It’s cultural. And I encourage you to find out…and then speak up.

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Posted by Cindy on December 4, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 01, 2006

Wear Sunscreen

I went to the dermatologist yesterday for the yearly mole scan. All that sun over the years, especially when I was young, has finally caught up to me. Every morning I look in the mirror and I find a new mole, freckle, wrinkle or unidentified object that says….you should have worn sunscreen sister!  But, back in the day of iodine and baby oil, it was all about the tan.

All this talk about sunscreen reminded me of a wonderful speech written by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich, which was given to a group of graduating college students. It always makes me laugh, cry and want to pass it on…


Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth.
Oh, never mind.
You will not understand the power
and beauty of your youth until they've faded.
But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of
yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much
possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.
You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future.
Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as
trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things
that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that
blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts.
Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy.
Sometimes you're ahead,
sometimes you're behind.
The race is long and, in the end,
it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive.
Forget the insults.
If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters.
Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know
what you want to do with your life.
The most interesting people I know didn't know at
22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some
of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees.
You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't.
Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't.
Maybe you'll divorce at 40,
maybe you'll dance the funky
chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.
Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself
too much, or berate yourself either.
Your choices are half chance.

So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body.
Use it every way you can.
Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it.
It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions,
even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines.
They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents.
You never know when they'll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings.
They're your best link to your past and the people
most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go,
but with a precious few you should hold on.
Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle,
because the older you get, the more you need the
people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it
makes you hard. Live in Northern California
once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths:
Prices will rise.
Politicians will philander.
You, too, will get old.
And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you
were young, prices were reasonable, politicians
were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you.
Maybe you have a trust fund.
Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse.

But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the
time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy,
but be patient with those who supply it.
Advice is a form of nostalgia.
Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal,
wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts
and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

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Posted by Cindy on December 1, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack