Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Just eat it.

Interesting post on this blog: about eating and intention. In the post, Karen says that she used to sneak food when she was young.
I had the opposite experience in my youth because my mother always made too much (you know, like the very old commercial about the "second turkey"). She made extra because the idea was to have a late night snack or second dinner should anyone get hungry after the first dinner. We never got hungry for the second meal during the week but there was something about Saturday night that caused my father and me to end up at the frig some time after ten o'clock at night, rummaging around for leftovers (the second turkey). There was no shame. It was expected. Hoped for, in fact. My mother enjoyed watching us eat the food she lovingly prepared. She was happy that we liked her fare so much that we couldn't fall asleep without a second (and sometimes, third) helping. There was no concern about calories or getting fat. It was about the joy of eating tasty food.
I never had to sneak candy either. My mother loved candy bars, especially ones that contained nuts, so there was always plenty of candy around the house. I never heard, "You'll spoil your dinner." If I wanted a piece of candy, she gave it to me because she knew I'd eat my meal. And here's the "ah ha", she knew I'd eat my meal because eating at mealtime had nothing to do with being hungry. It was mealtime, EAT. Because people in China were eating garbage in the streets. That made me shudder to think that there were people who had no regular meals; people who didn't get to sit down at the table, eat off of plates and enjoy a hot meal. I was privileged. I had not only the first dinner but the second one waiting in the frig should I get hungry late at night!
So I was brought up to ignore hunger and eat because the food is there. Eat it because other people some place in the world are hungry even if I'm not. Eat it because my mother cooked it for me. Just eat it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Perils of Salt

Just finished writing an article about sugar myths and realities. Learned a lot, as usual--that's one of the benefits (since money isn't!) of writing for a living. I learn a lot from the research I do for articles.
The Internet is not buzzing so much about sugar and HFCS any more. Now it's salt. Oh, yes. We Americans over-indulge. In sugar. In fat. In calories. In salt. No doubt about it. No arguments here. I'm thinking salt is more of a danger than the others, though. So last night while cooking dinner I really tried to pay attention to how much salt I use. Holy shit. A lot.
First, I don't measure even when I'm following a recipe. And you know how the TV chefs are always telling us to salt as we go along-salt the onions softening in the oil, salt the water liberally before you add the pasta, etc. So I sprinkle and dash and dump salt into everything. And, let's face, salt makes food taste better. Especially chocolate. For you non believers, just add a few crystals the next time you bite into a chocolate candy and you'll see how salt enhances the flavor of chocolate.
Salt is the darling of the chefs and apparently the bane of the medical community right now.
How to cut down on salt? The recommendations are lame just like they are for cutting back on sugar. You've just got to "retrain" your taste buds. Easier said than done. Even if you don't think you "like" salt, you do. Commercially prepared foods, whether canned, frozen, or restaurant food, is very heavily salted. We've grown accustomed to the taste.
I tend to think lots of restaurant food is too salty for my palate but give me one of those fabulous NY soft pretzels rolled in salt and I'm in heaven. The bland starchy pretzel is made very special by the salty crust.
As much as I love french fries, without salt I probably wouldn't eat as many (I'd still eat them...just not as many).
A burger. Love a good rare fatty burger. But without salt, I'd probably pass it up.
Chicken soup is flat without salt. And no amount of herbs can change that.
People, like me, who like chips probably like them for the salt (and the crunch).
Overcoming a salt habit is going to be a lot harder than overcoming a sugar habit.
I'll probably start out by not salting during cooking but salting at the table because right now I do both. I think salting at the table is a better idea because the salt will be more prominent since it will not be dissoved into the food. I don't eat many packaged foods so those don't contribute a lot to my salt intake. Restaurant meals are going to be a challenge. It's not like I can ask the chef to not add salt! How can we manage that one if we eat out a lot? It's easy to control what we do at home. But since most of us eat lots of our meals away from home, it's going to be a challenge.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The best laid plans gone astray....

The power lifting competition--for which I've already paid my entry fee--is February 27th. Oooh. My muscles just contracted when I wrote that! In order to have a competitive edge (and not have to lift enormous amounts of weight), I've got to lose ten pounds by then. Ten pounds. That should be something I, a nutrition expert, should be able to accomplish without much angst. Fruits and vegetables. Lean meats and fish. Low fat dairy. Whole grains. Eat only when hungry and eat just until satisfied. Come on. This should be a slam dunk for me. Right?
Eating out. Have to do it. Want to do it. It's my social life. Order sensibly? Don't want to do it.
Here's how my mind works: In the car driving to movies: Passing by Italian restaurant--"Mmmm. Meatballs and spaghetti". Passing by Japanese restaurant: "Mmmmm. Tempura." Passing by French restaurant: "Mmmmm. Frisee salad with lardons and poached egg."
Understand, it wasn't dinnertime and I wasn't yet hungry. Still, all the visual cues kept my mind on food--and none of it "diet" foods.
Even told friends with whom we spent the evening that I would be sticking to my "training" diet. Thought it would help me if I made that commitment at the start of the evening. But, no.
Got to the restaurant and lost my commitment immediately. Four people: Five appetizers, four entrees, four desserts.
The food and company were fabulous. I'm not sorry. I just wish I could understand how people do it. How do people lose weight and keep it off? How do they commit to a life of constant vigilance? How do they eat out and skip over the luscious food they want to eat? Even if the "healthier" fare is delicious as well?
Last night's meal had nothing to do with "emotional" eating. I wasn't depressed or sad or stressed. No one would have cared what I ordered. There was no outside pressure to consume huge quantities. And, in truth, I didn't walk away stuffed but rather satisfied. Many different flavors, textures and temperatures made the meal extremely satisfying.
Ah, well. Today is a new day. Which could mean, I am newly committed to a healthier way of eating or it could mean.....I have the opportunity to eat something wonderful at a restaurant of my choosing. Incorrigible me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A breakfast concoction that satisfies

I watch The Today Show most mornings for about 1/2 hour while I'm reading the newspaper and eating breakfast. I know. Reading and watching TV while eating is not a "mindful" practice. But I like multi-tasking!
So last week I saw Joy Bauer, a dietitian who is on The Today Show frequently, describe a sort of weird sounding dish: vanilla yogurt mixed with pumpkin puree. The anchor tasted it and declared it yummy but they always do that. Still, it looked good and I thought it sounded like it might actually be tasty. And filling. And, dare I say it, "healthy and low calorie". So I decided to try it.
Finding pumpkin puree after the holidays was a little difficult because most of the supermarkets were out of it. But I presevered.
I finally tried Bauer's concoction for the first time this morning and I have to admit that it was good--no, it was great. Container of fat free sugar free vanilla yogurt (100 calories) mixed with about 1/4 cup pumpkin puree (about 25 calories). No other ingredients. I suppose you could add pumpkin pie spice mix (just a very little, though) or just a light sprinkle of cinnamon or brown sugar or maybe a few chopped almonds but, to be honest, it's perfect the way it is.
Two ingredients. No cooking. No measuring. And so few calories! Vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, carbohydrates. A bonanza of goodness.
I ate it for breakfast but the dish could easily be served as a dessert.
Thank you, Joy.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why give up when you can add?

What did you give up for the new year? Sugar? Red meat? Dairy? Wheat? Seems like everyone has given something up or at least that's what I'm hearing at the gym. Funny that resolutions involve giving up stuff instead of adding stuff. I mean, if a person with a lousy diet were to add 8 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, a few servings of whole grain and two servings of milk and maybe drink a little more water, she'd probably be too full to eat candy, burgers and cake so she could bypass the "give up" for the new year resolution.
Just a random thought.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Fat Dietitian Trains for an Event

"So, Sharon, how's the training for the power lifting event going?" I hate answering that question because I'm not sure how it's going. I hope to compete in the AZ Senior Olympics on February 27th in the power lifting event for women. I didn't start training in earnest soon enough although I'm always training. I have a ham string injury which keeps me from training the dead lift so I'm concentrating on bench press and squat. But if I only do two lifts, I cannot win a gold medal. I would just be doing it for myself. And that's okay. But winning would have been nice. Very nice. Really nice.
So, how am I doing? Well, I'm feeling great. Energized. Strong. Until the bar is on my shoulders. Then, not so strong. But I'm working on it. Concentrating. But most of all, I'm having a great time. Gosh, I love to feel strong and powerful. Even when my lift is not perfect, not exactly what the judges would judge as a fair lift, I love the feeling of strength. My favorite sensation is the blood rushing to the muscle a few seconds after the lift. This is not pain. This is exhiliration. It's my "high".
I'll keep plugging away, hoping that I will be strong enough in just a few short weeks. But at 65, those muscle fibers just don't respond the way they used to so who knows. Still, nice to have a goal.
And what about being fat. Well, that isn't hindering the training but it will stand in the way of winning. A formula of body weight and weight lifted is used to determine the winner. The more I weigh, the more I have to lift. So if I weighed less, I might have a better chance of winning! Weigh less. It might be easier to just get stronger.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I very much appreciate the precious few comments I get to my blog posts. It lets me know that someone has read what I've written. In case you didn't know, I moderate my comments. That means that your comment only appears if I say it's okay. If you write to me just to plug yourself by including your web site or contact info in your comment then you should know that your comment will not appear on MY blog. I have a list of blogs that I follow/recommend. I'm always adding to those. If you are not on that list but would like to be added, I'm happy to take a look at your blog. But I'm not going to promote anyone else in the body of my blog unless I want to. So, please keep your comments coming but do not include your web site in your comment. If you do, then you won't see it on my blog. Thank you.

On Being Fat....

Wish I'd written this.......

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Born thin

Every once in a while I go back over some of my earlier posts. Since this is sort of like my not so private diary, reading what I've written weeks or months ago helps me reevaluate what's been going on. A little like therapy! Remember the time I was interviewed for the article on the Surgeon General's weight? I noticed, on rereading, that I was quoted (and I'm sure I said it) as saying that I wouldn't want to be counseled by some "naturally thin" person. So, there you go. I was guilty of not realizing that no one is actually ever naturally thin. That everyone, in her way, works at it even if it is second nature to eat mindfully and healthfully. Yes, we've probably all got a set point, as someone who sent in a comment reminded me, but even if your set point is low, you could get fat. And if your set point is high, you can stay lean. True that some of us have to work harder at it than others (and those are the ones we love to hate when we see them eating burger loaded with stuff)but really everyone's gotta watch what they eat. I'm enlightened now.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Weird blog post

Yesterday I wrote a post praising Susan Burke for her writing on "naturally thin". She contacted me today to ask me if I know about this:

What? WTF....I hope I haven't offended anyone but that's how I felt when I saw that my words had been lifted and transformed into something negative and also unintelligible.
If anyone knows what this is, please let me know.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

If you're the type to read "diet books", then you might take a look at Making Weight Control Second Nature by Susan Burke March, MS, RD, LD/N, CDE. (Disclaimer, Susan is a colleague and a friend.)
Susan makes an interesting point in the introduction to the book: She is very lean and people presume that she has been that way her whole life. She mentions that she was once 40 pounds heavier (wouldn't I love to only be 40 pounds overweight!)yet people presume that she is "naturally thin". Susan doesn't think anyone is "naturally thin" but that everyone who is thin works at it. Maybe some people don't have to work at it as hard as other but even people who've never been fat, don't gorge themselves on hot fudge sundaes and fried chicken every day.
I do agree with her. We've all seen a slender person eat a huge meal and that's what makes us think, "She's naturally thin. She can eat whatever she wants." Well, she can't eat whatever she wants and she doesn't eat whatever she wants all the time. That's the point. "Naturally thin" people, those who are lean and maintain their leanness throughout life, are probably much more mindful eaters than those of us whose weight fluctuates between fat and very fat.
Think about it. We base our belief that someone is naturally thin and can eat whatever she wants on occasional observations of the person stuffing her face. But what about how that person eats every day? Every month? I have no scientific evidence to back this up but I'm confident in my presumption that "naturally thin" people don't eat the way I do.
Take a look at Susan's book.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Biggest Biggest Loser Contestants

I think I should rename this blog Biggest Loser Groupie. After tonight, I know I'm going to be glued to the TV every week. Did you watch? OMG. I was crying throughout the show. These people. I'm so sorry. I'm so happy. It's amazing that they can exercise the way they do. Amazing. I can't complain tomorrow at the gym. They've motivated me! Is that possible. Me? I work out every day but after watching these huge people push themselves, I know I've been slacking! Can't wait to get to the gym.
And does Jillian look like she's lost a little weight? Why, I think she does. And has she sweetened up a little? Why, I think she has. I bet she got a lot of grief for her attitude last season.
And tonight for the first time, the dietitian was on camera! Yea for Cheryl Forberg, RD. Thank you Biggest Loser for finally acknowledging that there is a dietitian associated with the progress the contestants make.
Can't wait until the finale to see how everyone looks. I might even be able to tolerate the product placement and flagrant commercial messages for chewing gum and water filters and protein powder and whatever else just to know that this group is getting the help they so desperately need.

Monday, January 4, 2010

It's 2010: Welcome to working out

I expected the gym to be packed with people who had resolved to get fit in 2010. At 7:30 this morning, it was just the regulars. My trainer said that those new year resolution people start showing up the second week in January and they're usually out of steam by the end of January.
I think I know why. Oh, sure. Some of them are just plain lazy. Sometimes life gets in the way and they don't have time to come back. And lots of them really didn't mean it anyway. They just joined because they thought that  fitness would magically be transferred to them by virtue of having a gym membership.
But what about the others--the ones who were earnest when they joined? Why do they fall by the wayside after a few short weeks?
The gym is a friendly place to me. I know how to use the equipment. I talk to strangers. I like to sweat. And I know gym etiquette: how to wait for a machine when someone else is using it, for instance.
But newcomers don't know how to behave or how to use the equipment. Some gyms offer an orientation but if you're completely ignorant about how to work out then a quick orientation is going to go in one ear and out the other. Believe me. I've been there.
I think it would be better if the gym offered three free training sessions with a trainer instead of a cursory orientation. Enough time to get a handle on how to use the equipment. Enough time to learn a little, if only by observation, about how to behave. And enough time to decide if you want to continue with the trainer (believe me, a very good idea!).
Of course, if everyone who joined the gym showed up, the place would be overflowing with sweaty bodies. The owners expect that most of the new members will guiltily pay their dues but not go regularly, crowding the bikes, bumping into each other in the showers.
So if you're new to working out and your gym doesn't offer free training sessions, I suggest you make the investment. Especially if you're serious about getting fit.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Say it isn't so

While on vacation in LA, I was attacked by some evil GI bug. Never really felt sick but nothing I ate stayed in my digestive tract for very long. I tried to "rest" my gut by not eating but I got too hungry! So I decided to stick to "simple" foods (aka, low fat, low sugar). That didn't help but I was afraid to deviate from that diet so I stuck with it for four days. No ice cream. No desserts of any kind. Nothing fried (boo hoo).
Drove home to Phoenix yesterday. Six hours in the car. No food. Too scared to eat since so many of the rest stops in Arizona are closed due to budget constraints.
Anyway, today decided to eat whatever. I guess GI bug got tired of my body and has departed. So I bought six pints of ice cream. Yes, six. I like to mix and match. Love to eat one scoop of each flavor. Oh, and Magic Shell. I know. That's disgusting. But I love it. The way it gets hard and crunchy over the soft creamy ice cream. Great mix of textures. And, yes, I know that Magic Shell has no flavor. So what.
I filled a soup bowl with six scoops (rather large ones), one of each flavor, topped with Magic Shell.
I am sad to report that for the first time in my life, I was unable to finish the ice cream. What! In fact, I didn't really enjoy what I was able to eat. Why!
That's the saddest experience I've had in a long time.  I might not like ice cream any more. Say it isn't so!