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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tip: Spurn Supplements; Consume Fresh Fruits and Veggies

Go and Bobbie, 2008

Bobbie and Go, 2011

My sister Go Nodar and I have often been asked if we were twins, even though our ages are eight years apart. Now that I've lost weight, we get asked if we're twins more often than usual. The photo on the left was taken in 2008. The photo to the right was taken a few weeks ago. Instead of aging three years, I'm three years healthier, stronger, and happier. Some say I'm even prettier.

Beauty has never been a high priority for me; health has.

According to a study from Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, obesity rates have risen dramatically in every state over the past two decades. In addition, Americans who made less money and had less education were more likely to be obese. Adults making less than $15,000 per year, for instance, had a 33 percent obesity rate, compared with a 21.5 percent rate for those making at least $50,000 per year.
Oh, heavens, that information means that obese folks are more likely to be considered less educated, and the obese make less money. Which came first, though? Did we grow in size because we didn’t know any better (less education) or had boring, low-paying jobs because of our lack of education and entertained ourselves by overeating? Perhaps obese people don’t get hired for higher paying jobs, too.

The order of things doesn’t matter. The fact remains that obesity rates are rising, and obesity has an impact on every aspect of our lives, including our health, our happiness, and our finances. It’s a fight every day of my life to stay conscious of what I put into my mouth and what consequences that food will have on my life, my body, my future, and my existence.

Since starting a food plan a year ago, I haven’t bought a single carton or cone of ice cream, for example, whereas ice cream used to be a staple in my freezer. At any given time, I could open the freezer and choose from two or more flavors. No more. Do I never eat ice cream? Not really. At a conference last weekend, participants were served ice cream, and I happily ate mine, the first ice cream I’d tasted in a year. I could have gone back for seconds, as did many other participants, but I didn’t. Conscious eating.

Even though I consciously make unwise choices on occasion, the wise choices far outnumber the unwise ones, these days. I pull little tricks that lower the calorie count of some things that I like to eat. I extend my salad dressing with low-calorie lime juice, instead of adding more salad dressing. I use cottage cheese on my waffles instead of whipped cream. I eat hummus and popcorn chips for a snack instead of a bag of potato chips. I snack on pecans instead of candy. I almost always, every day, eat a salad for either lunch or dinner, and I don't mean a salad with my dinner. The salad is the dinner. I fill it with great things. I choose from things like Romaine, sugar snap peas, spinach, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, grapes, apples, pineapple, dried cranberries, pecans, sunflower seeds, almonds, avocado, and much more. I toss in any leftover cooked veggies I may have. I add a handful of leftover protein of any kind, and I add salad dressing and lime juice, and munch down.

Folks who write to me about their frustration with being at a plateau forget to congratulate themselves for having lost weight and not regained it. Even a plateau can be good news; it means we’re not regaining our lost weight, when statistically most people regain their lost weight.

When we tend toward obesity, every day is a trial; everything that goes into our mouths is a challenge. We can let our vigilance slip now and then, but never for long.

I know my daily salads are key to making me feel better. Eating right to feel better is a message I see more and more, these days. From the CVS Minute Clinic I read the following and more good advice, which I found especially unusual, because the pharmacy that sells supplements does not recommend them. Read on, and to read the whole article, see

Feel better. Eat produce.

Produce has certainly earned its healthful reputation. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and fiber, and low in calories and fat. These factors contribute to health benefits including

• Lower blood cholesterol levels
• Decreased risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease
• Decreased risk of certain types of cancer
• Lower blood pressure
• Lower risk of overweight and obesity

Think 5 to 9

A total of 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day is recommended. It may sound like a lot, but a serving is probably smaller than you think.

One serving of fruit equals:

• 1 medium piece of fruit, such as an apple, banana, orange, pear, or peach
• 1/2 grapefruit
• 1/2 cup chopped, cooked, or canned fruit, including berries and grapes
• 1/4 cup dried fruit (Dried fruit often has more calories and sugar than fresh fruit)
• 3/4 cup 100% fruit juice

One serving of vegetable equals:

• 1 cup raw, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, romaine lettuce, and broccoli
• 1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw
• 3/4 cup 100% vegetable juice

Don’t “cheat”

While it may be tempting to just pop a supplement instead of eating more produce, this is not the best way to go.

The majority of the research has shown positive health effects from foods rich nutrients, not from isolated nutrients. Experts think it may be the package of nutrients in fruits and vegetables that delivers the biggest health benefits. Plus, there are hundreds of phytochemicals in each bite of fruits and vegetables that are not available in pill form.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Only Two Components to Weight Loss

Ruth Ayers sent an e-mail and said the following:

"I'm fresh from weigh-in, and I lost only half a pound last week. I was very disappointed after all my hard work last week. The record is in my food diary, and it shows that after I spent a year losing thirty pounds by September 2010, I haven't lost any weight since. The half pound makes a full pound total weight loss for 2011. This is very discouraging. Does anyone in your group have any suggestions that might help?"

I said I’d put her question on my “Don’t You Dare Call It a Diet” blog and ask others. I know it’s difficult for some to comment directly to the blog, so if you have tips for Ruth (and all of us), send me an e-mail at or

Meanwhile, here’s what I said to her:

You’ve lost a pound this year, and half a pound in the last week, yet your note says “I haven’t lost any weight since (September 2010).” A pound is a pound, and it counts, big time, in the weight-loss game. Give yourself credit for the half pound last week and the pound this year. Embrace it. You did it! It also means you haven’t gained back any of the thirty pounds you lost last year, which is vital. Our bodies have a way of demanding that they return to our former fat state, after we lose weight. Statistics are against us. The majority of people who lose weight, even with bariatric surgery, regain the weight they lose. With that information in mind, celebrate that you haven’t gained; you’ve still lost weight.

The next thing to do is to learn more about hormonal balance. I’ll be adding more of that information to my blog as I learn more. My brilliant cousin, Dr. Scott Isaacs, specializes in weight loss through hormonal balance (so much of it has to do with our food choices), and he has a blog called “Outsmarting Your Hungry Hormones.” Check it out and sign up for updates at

Now for what not to do. Don’t starve yourself. Eat properly, conservatively, yet often, in small meals. Nutritionist Mary Strugar notes, "The role of appetite is key to weight loss—a detrimental cycle of food restriction that causes hunger pangs may lead directly to overeating.

Also add a little more exercise to everything you do. If you have stairs at home, walk up and down them a little more often than you normally do. If you walk your dog, walk a little farther than you usually do. If you work out regularly, add a little more aerobic exercise to your workout. If you don’t work out regularly, find ways to do so.

For me, I make one meal a day--either lunch or dinner--a salad. I add a handful of protein to each salad, too--some leftover poultry, pork, fish, egg, or even ground beef.

The two components to losing weight are food intake and calorie output. It’s that simple. Eat right (and most of us already know what’s right) and exercise. Why, though, is it so easy to say and so hard to do? For that I have no answer.

Also, in case you missed the comment by Ginger Collins, here it is:

"When I told my doctor about my seemingly insatiable appetite, she told me to cut the chemicals, and I'd see a difference. I quit drinking diet soda (even the stuff sweetened with Splenda) and cut all canned foods containing preservatives. Now, if I can't pronounce the ingredient, I won't eat it. I really do feel a difference. I'm not constantly craving, and I've even lost a few pounds."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tip: Stay Strong!

Everything we do, all day long, every day, relates to our health, well-being, and weight gain or weight loss. Weight loss, especially, requires a mind-body connection that cannot be broken for a moment. In a fleeting moment, I am able to convince myself that I deserve those four squares of dark chocolate embedded with almonds, and they won’t have an impact on my health or weight. One little slip, and I’m on a downhill trail. Why is that?

Nutritionist Mary Strugar had the answer when she said, "Foods with a high fat and sugar content cause certain chemical changes in the brain similar to those experienced when someone has used an opiate, so it is easy to see why some people find it hard to control food cravings.”

The problem with opiate-like substances is that when they enter your body, your body soon craves another infusion and then another and another. While I fooled myself into thinking dark chocolate and almonds are both good things to eat, because they both have health benefits, I forgot that a dark chocolate square also is laden with fat and sugar, and fat and sugar are as bad as any authentic opiate. Once I eat something even slightly sweet, I soon crave more. Once I cave and eat more, something in my brain says it’s okay—and even mandatory—to do it again and again.

While dark chocolate does have health benefits, moderation is key, and I’ve heard that it should be eaten perhaps twice a week in small quantities, and that’s it. Once I bought that gigantic dark chocolate and almond bar (Trader Joe’s is at fault, right?) and tasted one square of its deliciousness, I still had another dozen or more big, fat squares available, so I ate another square, and then another. Thankfully I managed to spread out my consumption of that gargantuan candy bar over a two-week period, but all the while, my body was screaming, “Sugar and fat! Give me more sugar and fat!”

Such inner voices can destroy a food plan quickly. Thankfully I had a wake-up call when I went to the doctor for a routine blood test. During intake I’m always told to get up on the scale, and to my horror, I learned I had gained (not lost, folks, but gained!) two pounds since my weigh-in at his office two months prior. Because I’m not naked at the doctor’s office, the way I am when I weigh at home, and because the doctor’s scale is no doubt more accurate than my home scale, and because I’m not weighing first thing in the morning at the doctor’s office, I’ve always weighed a few more pounds there than I do at home, but what did his scale read? The dreaded 200, the mark I swore I’d never see again.

Of course the truth depressed me. What did I do in the past when I was depressed? Eat chocolate, of course! Did I eat chocolate this time? No. Instead I analyzed the last few months of my life, and I know this: I reached a plateau of weight loss and was having trouble breaking through. My inability to report a weight loss on my blog led to my not writing in my blog as much. My not writing in my blog meant I was a little less accountable for my actions. Being a little less accountable meant I could eat that chocolate or take a second helping or eat more pasta than I should.

It may be the middle of the summer as I write this entry, but I’ve been snowballing, gathering excuses, rolling downhill, and getting larger in the process. I had one word for what I needed to do: Stop!

After the weigh-in at Dr. Lee’s office, I stepped off the scale and stepped back into the weight-loss mindset. The chocolate bar was history, although it probably lives on, clinging somewhere around my middle. Back to blogging, eating consciously, working out, and walking farther and more often with my dog.

On the good side, my blood test results were the best they’ve been in years. Although my cholesterol and blood sugar both had been mildly elevated for years, they are now in the normal range. I credit the cholesterol reduction to the addition of ground flax seed and fish oil to my daily routine, both recommended by my doctor. He believes as I do that it’s always better to take natural substances than to take drugs. I have desperately wanted to avoid taking statins, believing that any drug that requires I have my liver tested regularly for damage can’t be good for me.

Anyway, I’m back on track. I weighed in today at home, it being Monday, and my weight is back closer to what it was at my lowest on this food plan. I am back on track. I will not join the majority of people who gain their weight back after losing it. Even if I never go below 190 again, I’ll never go above 195 again, either.

How frustrating it is, though, to realize I cannot let anything slip. I can’t let my food plan slip. I can’t let my blog slip. I can’t let my exercise program slip. I envy the folks born with small frames and whatever genes there be that fight off obesity, but I’m all the more triumphant for being in charge of myself, my mind, and my weight. I'm convinced it makes me a stronger person.