Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My relationship with exercise

I have a relationship with exercise that amazes people who don't like to work out. I like exericse. In fact, I love to exercise. I look forward to going to the gym. I wrote a short essay about my feelings that was published at a new site:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Menu info meant to scare me

How do I feel about listing calories on a menu? Sick to my stomach. Well, maybe that's a little dramatic. Actually, I don't care. If I can look in the mirror and not see my second chin then I can read a menu without "seeing" the calories.
It's not only about the calories--even though I do have a t-shirt from last year's ADA meeting that says "It's the calories, stupid".
Yes, it's about the calories. Calories in vs. calories out. I accept that when calories are out of whack with expenditure, we get weight loss or gain. But I don't eat calories. I eat food. So when I look at a menu, I look at ingredients and cooking method. Do I want red snapper? Do I like carrots? Am I in the mood for grilled or fried food? Choosing a menu item just because it's lowest in calories seems out of touch with what's important about healthy eating--the nutrients.
We've pretty much scrapped the "all foods fit" mantra because I think many dietitians no longer believe that all foods fit. Maybe it's because we've gone overboard with eating the foods that are at the far end of the not so good continuum and forced them to fit. And in some ways, "calories" are to blame. Let's see, I could eat one whole eclair if I just drink water for breakfast because then my whole day's intake will be 1200 calories. Or I could eat 1/2 eclair and have one hard boiled egg for breakfast and still stay within my calorie limit.
I don't think that's the kind of thinking we had in mind with "all foods fit".
Back to menus. Life long weight maintenance (even if it means maintaining weight at a higher than "best" weight level) needs intuitiveness and mindfulness. Knowing when you've had enough. Paying attention to what you're eating; to what you're ordering. And maybe knowing the calories can help but that's just the beginning.
So a salad that includes avocado and nuts and salmon would be much higher in calories (from fat) than a salad of chicken breast, lettuce and cucumbers. In this case, are the calories that important? Or are the ingredients, all recommended for health, as important? I don't think any one would deny that both salads are probably good choices for healthy eating even though the avocado, salmon, nut salad would be way higher in calories. Choosing the lesser caloric salad would mean getting way less of some of the nutrients we consider important for health like omega 3 fatty acids.
Obviously people are interested in calories. That's why the "eat this not that" books have done so well. But choosing a cucumbers over an avocado just because of calories isn't necessarily good nutrition.
So can we expect to see menus list items in ascending order of calories with a dry lettuce wedge listed first and grilled chicken with steamed broccoli last?
I can't be "scared" into losing weight. Of course, knowing that the "big ass burger" (actual menu item in AZ restaurant) has twice the calories as a regular burger is interesting and scandalous news. But understanding why the burger is so caloric might be more instructive to help me make better decisions in the future than just trying to scare me out of ordering it by listing the calories. Oh, and since the big ass has vegetables on it and the plain burger is just meat, it might actually be better to eat 1/2 the big ass for the same number of calories. Making choices on calories alone is not always the best way to choose.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thanks but no thanks

A post on twitter this morning offered the "convenience" of a BMI chart. Um, yeah, thanks but no thanks. Everyone should have a BMI Chart hanging on their frig, I guess. At least the dietitian who posted the offer must think so. Here's what I think: If you're fat, you know it. If you're denying it, finding out your BMI probably isn't going to increase your awareness. Being fat and avoiding knowing that you're fat is not rational so why offer a rational solution.
Even looking in the mirror at your naked reflection doesn't do it. I know I rarely see my body when I look in the mirror. I focus on my face, especially my eyes and hair because they're my best features. If I do "look" at my whole body (and I rarely do because I don't want to be blinded by its beauty), I see what I'm wearing and that's about it.
For me, the best "measure" of fatness is actually just that: a measure. When I measure my waist, even if I cinch in the tape really tightly and hold my breath, the obvious is obvious. I'm fat. The buttons popping off my pants, the muffin top peeking out above the waist line of my way too tight jeans, the flesh under my neck--I can ignore those so easily. But for some reason the tape measure really works for me.
Damn that tape measure. Is it possible, I wonder, to stretch out that tape measure so that it is no longer accurate? Excuse me while I go experiment. Denial is my friend.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Halloween Pig Out

Have you gone to the supermarket this week? Huge displays of huge bags of miniature candy bars. Every kind imaginable. With nuts. Without nuts. With nougat. With raisins. With unidentifiable crunchy stuff. I don't really "like" chocolate but how can you walk past the rows of candy and not be tempted. You can smell the chocolate in the air. It's almost Halloween. Not a holiday I celebrate. No kids at home. None on my street. Rarely does anyone ring the doorbell. But just in case.....I mean, I'm just trying to be a good neighbor. So I'll buy a bag (or two) of candy so I'll be prepared should someone come knocking. I wouldn't want to disappoint the kids. It's all for them. Right? And then, it would be a sin to throw away good candy should no one come knocking.
I remember when the kids were little. They'd come home with bags groaning under the weight of candy. I allowed them to eat until they were close to vomiting. And then I'd freeze what was left to dole out slowly over the next few weeks. But first, and I know I'm not the only mother who's ever done this, first I would cull a few of the best candies for myself. After all, I worked for those calories. Walking up and down the block with the kids, checking each piece of candy to make certain it was safe to eat. That can make a mother hungry, you know.
So what.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Joyful Exercise

This video of "piano" steps was passed around with glee yesterday on a bunch of dietitian web sites ( It's worth the few minutes to view it. Dietitians are all clamoring about what a good idea it is because it would mean more exercise. Me? I think it's joyful. Exercise? Sure. But it's just one flight of steps--albeit a steep one and certainly worth the energy expenditure. But watch the video and you'll see wonderment and people just having a good time. I would love the opportunity to play on those steps. You'll understand when you see the video. At least, I hope you'll understand.
And maybe people would exercise more if the activity were fun. I can't say that riding the elliptical, even while listening to my favorite songs, is fun. That's why I like to take aerobics classes once in a while. For the fun. I can't "whoop" when I'm working out alone on the bike. I mean, I'd like to but I'd probably be escorted out of the gym by the people in white coats. And why? Because when we exercise alone, we don't expect those joyful sounds. But it's okay in class. To count down out loud and to whoop and whee as much as we want. At least it's acceptable where I work out.
So, yes, I wish we had those steps here. Not because they would provide an opportunity to exercise but because they would provide an opportunity to have fun (the site is called fun theory, after all!). Don't miss the point. Go out and have a good time while you're burning some calories and strengthening your heart and your bones.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Food Rules and Rules of Food

I'm so disturbed by this essay in NY Times Magazine:

I feel that it is a cry for help from the author. How could the Times have published this without another piece to balance it? Something on "normal" eating.
The author claims that she is not "anorexic" because she is not "fashionably skinny" as though anorexia were a body type and not a behavior! My goodness. This is clearly a case of disordered eating. Her machinations are painful to read. She loves to eat and eat out but doesn't really allow herself to enjoy the pleasure of eating.
She eats only once a day, eschews all carbs (seems like even whole grain ones) and admits that no "nutritionist" would recognize her diet as a diet. Please. Someone step forward to help this woman before she develops (if she hasn't already) some very serious deficiencies.
Her rules are crippling. All about what not to eat. Please, Elyse Resch or Michelle May, contact this woman. Help this woman. And when she's more comfortable in her own skin, perhaps she'll write a response to her essay. Soon.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Words of Wisdom on Facebook

About five years ago I went to a National Speakers meeting. I met Michelle May, Phoenix physician . I eavesdropped as she talked to a friend of mine about her weight loss program called Am I Hungry?. Fast forward two years. I was writing an article for Today's Dietitian on The Reverse Diet. I remembered Dr. May and decided to contact her for some quotes. We met, talked for way longer than necessary for me to get quotes but I was intrigued with her and her ideas. Since then, we've kept in touch kind of randomly. I've followed her "career" as her program has expanded. Dr. May's second book, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat has just been published. She continues to inspire me especially through her postings on facebook.
Look, I'm still fat. I still eat too much. I'm still struggling with mindfulness and intuitiveness and making better choices. But I do get something from reading her remarks like this one:

Put a sign on your fridge that says: If you're NOT hungry, what you're looking for is NOT in here.

How many times a day do I find myself walking to the fridge or to the cupboard looking for something even though there's no rumbling in my tummy? Boredom? I don't know. I'm not an "emotional" eater. It doesn't matter if I'm sad, glad, pissed or tired. I eat because I want to eat. I don't lose my appetite when I'm sick or unhappy and I don't get hungrier when I'm sad or angry. And being happy (or unhappy) doesn't make me thin!

Anyway, I'm suggesting that you "friend" Michelle May on facebook or on twitter so you can read her daily posts. Perhaps they'll inspire you--maybe not to make any immediate changes but just to ponder a little. Hey, it's a first step!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Still watching Biggest Loser

I wasn't going to watch. Biggest Loser conflicted with So You Think You Can Dance--a much happier show. But I watched anyway. That's what happens when you're addicted! The show is actually kind of boring. Repeating scenes over and over. I don't get it. They've got to have hundreds of hours of footage. Why repeat so much? Whatever.
I would have thought that such heavy people would be losing faster. I wonder if they've upped the calories the contestants eat. Or they've cut back on exercise compared to other seasons.
Last night's episode was very nutrition centered. I think the contestants have learned a lot. You can see the influence of the RD when they looked at the chicken entrees--talking about skin, asking how the side dishes were prepared, wondering if there was sugar in the barbecue sauce. But, where oh where did they learn that they should avoid pineapple, grapes and bananas? And why were they taught that? Berries are lower in calories but why avoid those three innocent fruits? Ones which happen to be my favorites!
And when Jillian, dear Jillian, tries to talk about nutrition she stumbles and mumbles. She should stay out of the nutrition discussions. Stick to screaming in the contestants' faces with such encouraging words as, "when you die" I know you've had enough. What?
The product placement is really getting annoying. The camera focuses on a contestant taking out a piece of gum from a package. Oooh. That's exciting footage.
I hope I'm busy next Tuesday night so I can't watch the show.
Here's the best way to watch the show: Tune in for the first few minutes, which include a nice summary of the previous week minus the repeated segments. Watch the last fifteen minutes so you can find out who gets tossed out and what they look like now as well as the drama for the following week. And that's it. I mean, who has to watch the sweating and panting and groaning and complaining and gamesmanship and crying in the middle?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fat, Sugar and Salt...Oh, my!

I'm still reading David Kessler's book, The End of Overeating. I thought I'd be finished by now. It's certainly riveting but life intervened. Anyway, I'm back to the book. Can't wait until I get to the part that tells me how to stop being seduced by the fat, sugar and salt the evil food industry has secretly added to the prepared foods I buy.
Yes, even I am sometimes amazed by the number of calories in restaurant and packaged foods. Absolutely floored. I don't think people are ordering the "blooming onion" thinking it's a low cal appetizer but who knew how many calories (1500) were in that crispy delight? And don't you dip the onions in Ranch dressing? If not, you should (NOT).
Since I don't frequent chain restaurants (and in truth, I've never had the "blooming onion" although I've had fried onion rings many times), I've sort of convinced myself that if I order smartly, I'll get something that passes for healthy food. But that's a delusion. Because I've worked in restaurants. I know how food is prepared. And I know that if it tastes really good to me, then it is indeed full of, as Kessler points out, fat, sugar and salt. Because my palate is addicted to fat, sugar and salt.
And that's the main problem for me. Yes, I know when I'm satisfied. I know when I'm overfull. I can look at a burger and get pretty close to guessing the weight. I can control the portion size when it comes to feeling full but I cannot control the urge to eat more sugar, fat and salt.
They've hooked me! I'm addicted. So should I try a slow detox by avoiding certain foods when eating out? Should I avoid eating out all together???? Please, don't suggest that I do that. I can't bear to think about cooking three meals a day every day of every month. I love to cook--just not for the two of us. I like to cook grand meals with many courses involving hundreds of ingredients, lots of utensils and copious amounts of food. But dinner for two. Boring.
And what about food shopping? Trader Joe's, evil Trader Joe's. They tempt me with each new product. Bottled sauces (that I could make on my own) entice me. Curiosity takes hold and I have to buy them even though the label screams salt, sugar and fat at me.
So no restaurants. No supermarkets. No specialty stores. But even my local farmers' market is chock full of temptation--breads, cakes, cookies, tamales, prepared dressings, bbq sauce. Is there no haven for me?