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August 15, 2007

Keeping Fit: Is It 30, 60 or 90?

The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association just released new recommendations for daily physical activity for good health. The advice: 30 minutes moderately intense aerobic activity five times a week OR vigorously intense aerobic activity 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week AND 8 to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.

It's good to see we're back to focusing on some reasonable recommendations. A few years ago, when the newest version of the US Dietary Guidelines were released, it seemed the most we heard about in the media was the recommendation to get 60 to 90 minutes a day of physical activity. For a nation of folks who don't seem to be able to get 10-15 minutes a day of activity with any regularity, we thought this new guideline was a bit discouraging at the least. Guess I should have read the fine print -- it seems the 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity was for weight loss and maintenance of that loss.

Regardless, now the media has picked up on the 30 minutes a day, and I for one am thankful. While we at Green Mountain do see that for healthy weight loss, the longer times are definitely beneficial, we also see women who can easily feel overwhelmed with lifestyle change. The shorter times, while perhaps not as conducive to weight loss, still can make a huge difference, and are what we need for good health.

Of course, there's still the question for most of us at some point of how to get even the 30 minutes recommended a day. There's a good answer: become an intrinsic exerciser. Then the joy of movement keeps us moving.

That's a goal I think we can all agree on!

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Posted by Marsha on August 15, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 13, 2007

Weight Loss: 'Socially Contagious' Obesity Study Catches Critics' Attention

Two weeks ago, in my post, "Is Obesity Socially Contagious?," I reported findings from a study which was funded by the National Institute on Aging and recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study indicated that having obese friends may increase your own risk for becoming overweight. Critics of the study have quickly raised objections to the study findings and implications.

A Chicago Sun Times article, "Research supporting latest obesity study is pretty thin", purports that the study "may also contribute to prejudice against overweight people."

"This is another example of, oh, let's blame fat people and shun fat people as socially unacceptable," said University of Chicago professor Eric Oliver, author of Fat Politics. "That's the underlying message."

Turning the coined phrase 'socially contagious' on its head, Healthy At Every Size (HAES) website has published a critque of the obesity study entitled 'Is fat hatred contagious?' The article includes several examples of the biased way in which the results of the federally funded study has been reported in the media, including CBS, MSNBC, the BBC and others.

"What the Christakis-Fowler research actually shows is the social contagion of fat hatred, especially in regard to the way it's being disseminated and reported."

In particular, HAES argues, the media has portrayed this issue as mostly affecting women, while the original findings indicate that MEN were more likely to 'catch' obesity from other male friends, and that the average weight gain in those men was "only 5 pounds".

"Among friends of the same sex, a man had a 100%...increase in the chance of becoming obese if his male friend became obese, whereas the female-to-female spread of obesity was not significant..."

According to the HAES author, there has been no adequate discussion over whether the study results are, in fact, a matter of causation rather than correlation. The HAES article asserts that the following are key flaws of the study:

  • The data was reported as if it applied to all Americans and all social classes, even though it was a non-random sampling of a white middle-class community.
  • The "friends" and family members included in the study were only those whose names the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) participants.
  • Using BMI as an indicator of "obesity" is inherently problematic especially for men it doesn't discriminate between muscle and adipose tissue. Muscular men could be identified as "obese" even though their body fat percentage might be within "ideal" range.

In my original post, I raised concerns over the unintended consequences of this study. Would people begin to ostracize their 'fat' friends? Would this just be another excuse for people to blame others for their own inability to maintain a healthy weight? As the Chicago Sun Times points out, weight management and healthy eating are complex in nature, and there are multiple societal pressures that have an impact on obesity. With the media's eye on the 'obese friends' angle, the public's attention is focused yet again outside themselves and not on personal behavior.

"There's no denying social pressure can encourage you to engage in unhealthy behavior. Just ask members of AA or gamblers anonymous. But people who take responsibility for their physical condition by eating right and exercising have nothing to fear from overweight peers."

FEAR - especially the fear of fat - seems to always keep great media machine running, and this latest research apparently provides more fuel for the engine. Perhaps we would all be wiser to 'fear' the fear of fat! Fat prejudice is detrimental whether directed internally or externally, and often leads to restrictive dieting, unhealthy body image, eating disorders, and - no less significantly - the emotional pain of societal rejection. I'm afraid that, even though the researchers may have intended this obesity study to be helpful in gaining insight into the social impact on and possible treatments for obesity, the end result may prove to be more harmful.

By Laura Brooks

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Posted by Laura on August 13, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 10, 2007

Healthy Eating - What If Diet Foods Make You Fat?

An interesting new study came out of Canada this week. Albeit not surprising, it was discovered that feeding children diet and/or low calorie food and drinks can actually be a catalyst for weight gain later on down the road. How?

Researchers believe children brought up on low-calorie foods and drinks are more likely to over-indulge. They believe consuming diet versions of foods naturally higher in calories can actually make children’s bodies associate certain tastes with a lower in take of calories.

What happens is, children may overeat because their bodies think more food is needed to meet their energy requirements. Lead researcher Dr. David Pierce, from Canada's University of Alberta, proposes keeping all diet food and drinks away from children.

"The use of diet food and drinks from an early age into adulthood may induce over-eating and gradual weight gain through the taste conditioning process described," he said. "Based on what we've learned, it is better for children to eat healthy, well-balanced diets with sufficient calories for their daily activities rather than low-calorie snacks or meals."

The study, involving rats, found both lean and obese youngsters fed diet foods over ate during regular meals. However, the older adolescent rats, which were also fed diet substitutes didn’t.

"Parents and health professionals should be made aware of this and know that the old-fashioned ways to keep children fit and healthy -- well-balanced meals and regular exercise -- are the best," Dr Pierce said.

Dr. Pierce acknowledges that extrapolating the findings from rats to children is a bit of a leap, but the studies may offer some interesting insights about how early taste conditioning can lead to overeating and even obesity. "Our findings suggest that in young children, diet foods may be a poor substitute for healthy foods with sufficient calories to meet energy needs."

Doesn’t seem like we need a bunch of rats to tell us that.

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Posted by Cindy on August 10, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 09, 2007

Healthy Recipes: Rigatoni with Zucchini and Onions

Oh, the joy of soy! Soy protein may play an important role in healthy eating since soy beans contain many macro-nutrients required for good nutrition: all essential amino acids of protein, complex carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals such as calcium, folate and iron. 

Many health benefits of soy protein and isoflavones have been well-researched by rigorous clinical studies across several countries and many other proposed benefits are currently under study. Some of the results of those studies indicate that soy may help prevent certain cancers and heart disease, reduce hot flashes and lower cholesterol. (Source: Soy Nutrition)

When eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.
~U.S. Food & Drug Administration

If you've ever thought of tofu as bland and boring - think again!  Today's healthy recipe (courtesy of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association) is a zesty rigatoni, featuring zuccini and onion seasoned with garlic, basil, oregano and - if you like it extra spicy - red pepper flakes. It's tofurrific!

Makes 6 servings

2 c. zucchini, in 1/4" moons or chopped
2 1/2 c. chopped onions
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp soy oil
8 oz tofu, mashed
1 Tbs dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes (optional)
8 oz bite-size rigatoni or other small tubular pasta, cooked
2 c. fat-free marinara sauce
1/4 c. Parmesan-style soy cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Saute the zucchini, onions, bell pepper and garlic in the soy oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat until tender, adding water if needed to prevent sticking.

Combine the mashed tofu, parsley, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. Stir the cooked rigatoni into the tofu.

Lightly coat a 3-quart casserole with vegetable oil spray. Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce over the bottom. Layer half the pasta mixture, half the sauteed vegetables, and half the remaining sauce. Repeat layers and top with soy cheese.

Cover the casserole and bake it for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 10 minutes.

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 August 9, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 08, 2007

Healthy Weight Loss: Asking for Help

835334__life_beltA commenter on one of my recent posts on relapse prevention talked about the need to reach out for more support than she currently has. She’s right to reach out. Support is one of the top predictors of success in achieving change. Many of us don’t have enough of it. We feel like we are going it alone in trying to achieve our healthy weight loss goals. And we often are. One of the big reasons is that many people in our society still don’t understand that diets don’t work, and that healthy bodies come in all sizes.

The commenter said that reading this blog was one way she was getting support. But what about getting support from those around us? On her excellent website Nourishing Connections, Green Mountain consultant Karin Kratina, PhD, talks about how “it is human nature to need company, connection, empathy, understanding and support. She says if these needs aren’t met for a period of time, we develop coping mechanisms, one of which is emotional eating. If we want to let go of emotional eating, the first step is compassionate self care to meet those needs. Often, this means asking for help.”

She then goes on to discuss how asking for help isn’t the easiest thing to do. But the potential rewards are great. “As our needs are tended to, our need for emotional eating decreases. As we ask for help and risk developing nourishing connections with others, we transform not only our relationship with ourselves and others, but with food as well. And these long-term benefits are well worth the risk.”

We hope this blog provides valuable support, but also encourage you to acknowledge your needs and ask those around you to help you meet them, if necessary. That may mean education – teaching others that what you need isn’t another diet but the freedom to make your own choices.

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Posted by Marsha on August 8, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 06, 2007

Body Image: Model Health Inquiry Says Girls Under 16 'Should Not Model'

It has always been irksome (at the very least) how designers and modeling agencies try to pass off teenie boppers as adult women in advertisements and on the runway. Frankly, I don't care what cosmetic product or outfit is being pushed, telling adult women that they could or should look as slim and young as 14 year old is insulting and potentially damaging to their body image.

Furthermore, it is disconcerting to see emaciated adolescents made up in tons of makeup and sexy adult outfits. Just look at this picture of Lily Cole, who was a runway model at the age of 14. A little creepy, no?

This past spring, in response to concerns about the age and health of models on the catwalks at London Fashion Week, The Model Health Inquiry was established by the British Fashion Council (BFC). The probe was launched after controversy over the number of models aspiring to the U.S. size zero — the equivalent of a UK size four. The trend appears to have begun with celebrities such as Nicole Richie dieting down to the super-thin size.

What are initial results of the inquiry? Among other recommendations, the panel experts have advised organizers of London Fashion Week that girls under 16 should be banned from the catwalks.

It was "profoundly inappropriate" that young girls should be portrayed as adult women, said Panel chairwoman Baroness Kingsmill. "The risk of sexualising these children was high and designers could risk charges of sexual exploitation."

The panel of experts also called for greater protection for 17 and 18-year olds and strongly suggests that a union in the profession be created to bring oversight to the industry.

"During our investigations," reported Baroness Kingsmill, "members of the panel became increasingly concerned as we heard more details about the working conditions faced by many models and the vulnerability of young women working in an unregulated and scarcely-monitored work environment."

Startling Medical Evidence

A rigorous scientific study into the prevalence of eating disorders among fashion models has also been recommended by the panel. They had heard evidence that around 40 percent of models could have anorexia, bulimia or other food-related problems.

Baroness Kingsmill, the panel chairwoman, said that the inquiry heard from many models who described the fear of not being selected for work because they were not thin enough.

“We have been given startling medical evidence about the prevalence and impact of eating disorders in certain high-risk industries," said Baroness Kingsmill.

However, it was determined that the weighing all models is not a viable control, because this method has been considered ineffective in other countries and may even be counter-productive. An alternate approach, which is still being looked into, is whether models' Body Mass Index (BMI), or height/weight ratio, should be checked before they are employed. This approach has already been adopted by Madrid fashion week.

The members of the Model Health Inquiry panel include the fashion designers Betty Jackson and Giles Deacon, and Erin O’Connor, a model. Also on board are Sarah Doukas, the founder of Storm Model Management; Charlotte Clark, the co-director of INCA Productions; Paula Reed, the style director of Grazia magazine; Professor Wendy Dagworthy, the head of the School of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal College of Art; and Dr Adrienne Key, a consultant psychiatrist and eating disorders expert.

The British Fashion Council has indicated that it will accept the Inquiry's final recommendations when they are published in September, in time for the next London Fashion Week which is held that month.

I wonder...What would the fashion industry look like if there was 'truth in advertising'? Where models needed to prove they we over the age of consent, practiced healthy eating, were drug-free, and didn't over exercise.  How many size zero models would be left? Food for thought.

by Laura Brooks

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Posted by Laura on August 6, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 03, 2007

Healthy Eating - When Cake Is Your Best Choice

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time at all, you've heard us talk a lot about normal eating, appropriate portion sizes (the plate model) and making healthy choices. But, if you've really been listening, you know we don't believe there's any such thing as a perfect eater. In fact, the more relaxed you are about making choices and opting to take into consideration your wants and needs around food and eating, the more effective you'll be managing your weight.

We all know life is about choices, but that doesn't mean we always have to be right or perfect. In this context, chosing well means eating food for many reasons. Like, because we're hungry, or we need more from a particular food group, because we like the way something tastes, or we simply desire an emotional payoff. Yes, 'normal eating' is sometimes about emotional eating. Human beings eat for emotional reasons every day, and a great percentage of them are not over-fat.

Normal eating involves acceptance, eating for pleasure, and trusting yourself. Most often it isn't the food that is at issue, it's our reaction around what we choose to eat. If you possess a dieter's mentality you probably frown upon the odd piece of cake. Unfortunately, depriving yourself that pleasure can often lead to eating insane amounts of cake  - out of shame, guilt and an all or nothing approach to what you perceive as a forbidden food. Remember, one piece of cake never made anyone fat. It's what you do after you eat that one peice of cake that matters.

Translation? Choosing a piece of cake, and eating it mindfully with your full permission, can actually be a very healthy choice in the scheme of things. No kidding! Only we can know what is appropriate and normal for each of us. And how great would it be to feel normal again?!

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Posted by Cindy on August 3, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 02, 2007

Healthy Recipe: Almond Cranberry Granola Bars

When you're active and need a lil somethin' to pick you up, these great tasting granola bars should do the trick! Almonds, honey, and cinnamon balance the tartness of cranberrys to create a sweet and energizing treat. Ask the kids to help out; you'll help to teach them that healthy eating can be fun!
(Today's healthy recipe courtesy of FreeCookingRecipes.net)

Serving Size: 1 Bar

1 1/2 c Rolled oats
1/4 c Oat bran
1/4 c Finely chopped almonds
1/2 ts Ground cinnamon
2 tb Vegetable oil plus
1 ts Vegetable oil
1/3 c Honey
1/2 ts Vanilla extract
1/4 ts Almond extract
1/4 cup dried fruit (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients and add to dry mixture. Mix until all ingredients are moistened. Press mixture into a rectangular shape 7 inches wide and nine inches long. (Wet hands or use one hand and a damp spoon.) Bake about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cut into 16 bars using a sharp knife. Separate bars slightly and return to oven for 3 to 5 minutes more. The browner the bottom of the bars, the crisper they will be when cool. The edges will crumble slightly when cut - set aside for a snack. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

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 August 2, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 01, 2007

Healthy Weight Loss: In Case You Need More Reasons Not to Diet

Take a look at this article on spiked, a website that touts itself as “an independent online phenomenon dedicated to raising the horizons of humanity by waging a culture war of words against misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, luddism, illiberalism and irrationalism in all their ancient and modern forms.”  I don’t know anything about the site, except that I like what this article on dieting has to say.

Particularly cogent excerpts:

Research finds that 90 per cent of American high school girls are dieting, despite the fact that many are not overweight or obese.

Almost half of these girls restricted their food intake to a mere 1,200 calories a day or less. The World Health Organisation defines starvation as a diet of less than 900 calories per day, yet many diets only allow between 950 and 1,200 calories per day.

A review of the major commercial weight loss programs concluded that even the comparatively successful programmes were characterised by ‘high costs, high attrition rates, and a high probability of regaining 50 per cent or more of lost weight in one to two years’.

The difficulties of dieting are usually put to one side when compared to the alleged health benefits. After all, don’t people who lose weight have a lower risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes? But those who accept the evidence about the dangers of obesity, based on epidemiological studies, should also be aware that there is equally strong evidence from such studies that dieting is bad for you. A National Institutes of Health conference that reviewed the evidence about dieting concluded: ‘Most studies, and the strongest science, shows weight loss… is actually strongly associated with increased risks of death – by as much as several hundred per cent.’

So what is someone who is clearly out of shape and unhealthy to do? Get healthy with a healthy lifestyle. That means eating well, moving your body regularly and thinking positively. It’s a far stretch from dieting because it’s something you can do for a lifetime – it actually feels good! – and it supports your body instead of creating problems for it. 

For help on thinking differently about eating well, physical activity and positive thinking, check out recommended reading on Green Mountain’s site. And let us know if there are any topics you’d like to hear more about.

tags: dieting, healthy lifestyle, healthy weight loss, spiked

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Posted by Cindy for Marsha Hudnall.

Posted by Cindy on August 1, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack