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July 30, 2007

Is Obesity 'Socially Contagious'?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/images/300/hayfever_cold.jpgI wonder, will this study put a new spin on the phrase: ‘With friends like these, who needs enemies'?

Results from a recent federally funded study suggest that even if your friends and family live far away, if they become obese, chances are you will too.  Ok…what are the odds, you ask? Well, if your close friend is obese, you’re chances of ‘catching’ obesity go up 57%.  In the very closest of friendships, the risk almost tripled. The surprise is that this percentage is significantly higher for friends than siblings or spouses (40% and 37% respectively). "We were stunned to find that friends who are hundreds of miles away have just as much impact on a person's weight status as friends who are right next door," said co-author James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego.

The study was published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine and funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Researchers analyzed medical records of people in the Framingham Heart Study, which has been following the health of residents of that Boston suburb for more than a half century. They tracked records for relatives and friends using contact information that participants (12,067 in all) provided each time they were examined over a 32-year period.

Social ties apparently had more of an influence than genetics.  The researchers calculated that, on average, when an obese person gained 17 pounds, the corresponding friend put on an extra 5 pounds. Natural weight gain and other factors were taken into account. Geography and smoking cessation had no effect on obesity risk. Gender also had a strong influence. In same-sex friendships, a person's obesity risk increased by 71 percent if a friend gained weight.

At first glance, it’s reasonable to simply think that people who are overweight have similar eating and exercise habits. But indications are that there’s more to it, and that if your relatives and friends are obese your concept of what is ‘an acceptable weight’ changes.

Researchers say that, potentially, more effective way to help the obese may be to treat people in groups instead of just the individual.

"Because people are interconnected, their health is interconnected," said lead author Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a Harvard sociologist.

Will some people feel discouraged with this new information and be tempted to abdicate their individual responsibility for their weight? People already blame each other for passing on the common cold! I can just see a new kind of finger pointing from the fallout of ‘socially contagious’ obesity: “Don’t blame me for me being fat, I caught it from you!”

Well, don’t diss or ditch your friends just yet. “The last thing that you want to do is get rid of any of your friends," says Fowler." There is a ton of research that suggests that having more friends makes you healthier.”

You don’t need a new set of friends, but you may want a foster a new perspective. When making healthy lifestyle changes, it's important to become more aware of your surroundings, relationships and attitudes. But, at the end of the day, it's still up to you to concentrate on YOUR actions and YOUR healthy eating choices for weight loss success, regardless of what anyone else does. And who knows? Maybe your friends and family will 'be infected' with motivation, too!

By Laura Brooks

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Posted by Laura on July 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2007

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

"What people think of me is none of my business" - Anonymous

I love that quote. It resonates with me, because even at 50, I struggle with it. Much less so than when I was younger, but the push and gravitational pull of others expectations can be very powerful. 

One of the biggest insecurities we have is often associated with how our body stacks up to what we perceive to be an accepted standard of beauty. This unrealistic comparison can do many of us in. However, building a better body image is paramount if we’re going to begin down the road to healthy weight loss.

Changing a negative body image and learning to be comfortable and content in our bodies is possible when we understand how we’ve learned to judge ourselves based on criteria that is impossible to achieve.

“A negative body image interferes with weight loss,” says Mimi Francis, MSN, behavioral health therapist at Green Mountain at Fox Run. “When our motivation to lose weight is appearance, it doesn’t hold up. It works against us because we get depressed. We think we have too far to go, or things aren’t changing quickly enough. When we compare ourselves to others, we’re likely to give up right then.”

“Other people’s comments hurt the most when they fit with what we already believe about ourselves,” says Teri Hirss, MEd, therapist in health psychology at Green Mountain. “It’s up to us to choose whether we’re going to take on what others say, or brush it off and get on with living our lives the way we want to.”

Here’s a great article by Sophis Dembling, of the Dallas Morning News, on this very topic - how bonding over poor body image is a no-win proposition.

Excerpt from:

The Skinny On 'Fat Talk' - It's A Way To Bond, But Is It Healthy?

"Guys know better.

When the woman in their life asks, "Do I look fat?" guys respond, "Gosh, I love you more every day, honey," or "Now would be a great time for me to start painting the kitchen, don't you think?" or, "Hey, is that a UFO up there?" Anything to avoid fat talk.

For women, however, fat talk is social currency."

Read more 'here'

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Posted by Cindy on July 27, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2007

Healthy Recipe: Cherry and Smoked Turkey Salad

Remember the old expression 'life is a bowl of cherries'?  Well, eating cherries can also make for a healthy lifestyle. Cherries are a good source of potassium, a nutrient that may help to control blood pressure and reduce the risk for hypertension and stroke (source: Northwest Cherry Growers).  So dig in!  They're in season until the end of August. 

Smoked turkey, tangy mango and tart cherries make this healthy recipe a mouth-watering summer salad extravaganza!

Makes 4 servings

12 ounces smoked turkey, sliced
2 cups Northwest fresh sweet cherries, pitted
1 mango,* pared and sliced
1 kiwi fruit, sliced
1 cup Napa cabbage, shredded
Spicy Dressing

Arrange turkey, cherries, mango and kiwi fruit on shredded Napa cabbage. Drizzle Spicy Dressing over salad.Spicy Dressing: Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 clove crushed garlic until hot but not smoking; cool and remove garlic. Add 2 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon each honey and hot dry mustard** and ½ tsp each ground ginger and salt; mix well. Makes about 1/3 cup.

* One large nectarine may be substituted for mango.
**One tablespoon of your favorite mustard may be substituted.

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 Laura on July 26, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 25, 2007

Healthy Eating: What a Difference a Plate Makes

We've used smaller plates at Green Mountain for years. The fact is, when you have a regular size portion on the humongous plates that are the rage these days, well, it looks paltry. Deprivation sets in immediately.

I thought this recent post by nutritionist colleagues was great in showing the difference a plate -- and bowl -- makes.

This brings me to a recent discussion we had on our alumnae support board about portion size. The question was whether portion size information was inherently depriving.

My answer: It's all in how you use it. We recommend using portion size information to help us get started. Sometimes when we're trying to eat well, we actually underfeed ourselves. Then that leads to overeating most of the time. If we start with standard portion sizes, then use our hunger cues (mindful eating) to help us decide if it's too much, if it's just right as it is, or whether we need more, then portion size information can be a useful tool. If we use it as a limit -- 'that's all we can have' -- then obviously, it has great potential to become deprivative.

Commonly thought of as a diet technique, portion size information, like other 'diet techniques,' can be made into an intuitive eating tool with the right attitude.

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Posted by Marsha on July 25, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 24, 2007

Happy Feet Mean Happy Trails!

I’ve been hiking a bit more as of late in an effort to get outdoors. I use to walk, run and hike a lot, but not so much this past year. One thing I’d forgotten is how long it takes to toughen up your feet. Oye, the blisters! In the last few weeks I’ve treated a blister on every toe.

Blisters are the worst, because they usually don’t occur until you’re half way through your walk or run and realize the journey home is really gonna  hurt! I swear it would be easier to hobble home on a sprained ankle than trying to deal with just one tiny blister on your toe!

So, I thought as a favor to myself and some of our readers, I’d provide some tips on blister prevention, as well as what to do when you have a blister in the middle of a work out and what to do when you get home.

Some great tips: How to avoid blisters 

Sources: about.com and ehow.com

*note: tips from users on these websites are not recommended.

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Posted by Cindy on July 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 23, 2007

Weight Based Discrimination Affects Overweight Children Too

Were you ever overweight as a child and had to endure the inevitable onslaught of teasing from other children? 'Sticks and stones', right? Well, not so fast.  A new study released shows how weight-based discrimination against children has a powerful impact on young people's quality of life, body image and self-esteem.

"The stigmatization directed at obese children by their peers, parents, educators and others is pervasive and often unrelenting," researchers with Yale University and the University of Hawaii at Manatoa wrote in the July issue of Psychological Bulletin. The paper was based on a review of all research on youth weight bias over the past 40 years, said lead author Rebecca M. Puhl of Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

"The quality of life for kids who are obese is comparable to the quality of life of kids who have cancer," Puhl said. "These kids are facing stigma from everywhere they look in society, whether it's media, school or at home."

Racism, antisemitism, sexism: these are all prejudices that society now combats openly, but this report demonstrates how the bias against overweight kids is socially accepted, hardly ever challenged and often overlooked. Surprisingly, even parents often regard and treat their own children negatively. Several studies showed that overweight girls got less college financial support from their parents than average weight girls. Other studies showed teasing by parents was common.

"It is possible that parents may take out their frustration, anger and guilt on their overweight child by adopting stigmatizing attitudes and behavior, such as making critical and negative comments toward their child," the authors wrote, suggesting further research is needed.

Stereotypes of obese children are blatant and widespread in today's society. "Mean, stupid, ugly and sloppy" are some of the negative adjectives that children - even as young as three year old - have used to describe overweight peers. And, in a 1999 study of 115 middle and high school teachers, 20 percent said they believed obese people are untidy, less likely to succeed and more emotional.

The Yale-Hawaii research cites evidence that overweight adults face discrimination and calls for more research be conducted to see whether negative stereotypes lead to discriminatory behavior against children as well. It also recommends finding ways to reduce stigma and negative attitudes.

"Weight-based discrimination is as important a problem as racial discrimination or discrimination against children with physical disabilities," the report concludes. "Remedying it needs to be taken equally seriously..."

We live in a world where adults berate and punish themselves and each other openly for being overweight.  Is it any wonder so many smart, attractive and capable women and men are driven by fear into desperate dieting, binge eating, emotional eating, or other eating disorders? I'm sure you'll agree that it's high time we take the weight of this stigma off everyone's shoulders, but the reality is, until enough grown ups repudiate these external and internal attitudes, 'fat' will remain a powerful and debilitating label for ourselves and our kids.

By Laura Brooks

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Posted by Laura on July 23, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2007

Healthy Weight Loss: Managing Food Cravings

When we think we're dealing with carbohydrate cravings, a new study published in the International Journal of Obesity suggests we're really just craving calories. But not just any source of calories...something that has a lot of them. We're hungry, and we want something to satisfy. As we all know, that's usually not a carrot stick.

The study was part of a larger one that looked at various effects of energy restriction. It found that while 91% of people report food cravings normally, the figure rose to 94% when dieting. I'm surprised. I would have thought it might be closer to 100% when dieting.

Another finding: People who gave in to their cravings less frequently lost more weight. Duh.

And another: In the release, one of the researchers says "What is commonly called carbohydrate addiction should probably be relabeled as calorie addiction." Addiction? I'd say everyone is addicted to calories, whether we label them as a craving or not! We can't live without them.

On first reading this release, I didn't know whether to celebrate or laugh. It's great to see evidence supporting what we've long observed at Green Mountain at Fox Run. When participants report food cravings, we encourage them to examine their cravings, and determine whether they are the result of hunger rather than some undeniable urge to eat a specific food. We've found that when we eat regularly and don't get too hungry (part of mindful eating), and let ourselves eat foods we like, even high-calorie ones in moderation, food cravings aren't really such a problem.

But the way the other findings are reported is discouraging. Rather than questioning whether dieting is an appropriate undertaking, the researchers just say that we need to 'give in' less frequently to the cravings (or actually, they're talking about giving in less frequently to the hunger) to get where we want to go with the diets. So we're back to the old willpower bit.

And to call hunger a calorie addiction! Do I need to say more?

To make matters even worse, this work was paid for by our taxes.

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Posted by Marsha on July 20, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 19, 2007

Healthy Recipe: Strawberry Vinaigrette

This healthy recipe is one that is often requested at the women's weight loss retreat, Green Mountain at Fox. It adds a light and refreshing taste to many salads, but here it is paired with a mixed green salad topped with fresh berries and orange sections. The goat cheese slices rolled in chopped pecans makes it even heartier. Enjoy!

(Make 1/2 cup dressing)

1/2 cup fresh cut-up strawberries
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon honey
Dash of salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

Note: If fresh strawberries aren’t available, frozen will work well, too.

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 Laura on July 19, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 18, 2007

Healthy Eating - Moderation vs All or Nothing

I can’t ignore the fact that some foods just don’t agree with me anymore. I try to ignore it, let me tell you! I give them up (gluten and dairy) for a little while and then re-introduce them right back into my diet hoping that this time they won't bother me. But they always do - eventually.

I’m not giving them up because I think they’re bad, I just don’t tolerate them well. Either way, I miss them. And it's the 'missing them' part that can become troublesome. It's how I start to think about these foods when I realize I can't have them that plays with my emotions and can turn a healthy respect for sour dough bread into an obsession!

I find that recognizing why I crave them helps to take away some of the desperation and urgency around having to have them. Normally, there is something very powerful about allowing yourself to feel no food is off limits. But, when a particular food or foods really do become off limits, what do you do?

For me, I think coming to terms with how much importance you place on certain foods begins to take some of the power away and gives it back to you.  Prior to my ‘restrictive diet’ period, I would allow any and all of these foods in my diet and still manage my weight pretty effectively.   

I guess all I’m saying is, if you find yourself craving foods that you feel are trigger foods or foods that are bad for you, try and think about them differently. No one food ever made anyone fat - in moderation. It's finding that balance that's the key.

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Posted by Cindy on July 18, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 17, 2007

Give Your Daughter the Gift of a Positive Body Image

101 Ways to Help Your Daughter Lover Her Body
By Brenda Lane Richardson and Elane Rehr

From birth to her teenage years, help your daughter to develop the confidence, physical strength, emotional maturity and respect for her body. You may even pick up a few pointers on treating yourself more kindly too! This book shows you how to inspire your daughter to participate in sports, challenge media messages, deal with difficult emotions and 98 other ways to encourage her to love herself.

To order this book or Green Mountain’s cookbook, Recipes for Living, which includes more than 50, delicious and healthy recipes, visit www.fitwoman.com or call Green Mountain at 800.448.8106.

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Posted by Cindy on July 17, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack