Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
ou drink diet sodas so you won't get fat. It's the healthy thing to do, right? Uh oh. Now comes word from the Boston University School of Medicine that diet drinks can boost your risk for heart disease just like full-calorie, sugary sodas.
The Associated Press and Reuters report that people who drink more than one diet soda daily have the same risk for heart disease as those who consume sugary sodas, according to a large study led by Dr. Vasan Ramachandran.
But before you throw out all your diet drinks: Note there is no cause-and-effect relationship; diet drinks do not cause heart disease. Instead, it's a surprising link for which more research is needed.
Using data from a subgroup of the massive, multi-generational heart study that followed residents of Framingham, Mass., the researchers found that people who drank more than one diet or regular soda a day had a 44 percent higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome four years later than those who consumed less than one soda a day.
Metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk for heart disease, has several symptoms: excessively large waistlines, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low levels of "good" cholesterol, and high levels of triglycerides. "When you have metabolic syndrome, your risk of developing heart disease or stroke doubles. You also have a risk of developing diabetes," Ramachandran told Reuters. Researchers, who expected those who drank regular soda to have a greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome than those who stuck with the diet drinks, were quite surprised by the study results.
Specifically, those who drank one or more soft drinks--regular or diet--daily had a:
- 31 percent greater risk of becoming obese.
- 30 percent increased risk of developing a larger waist circumference.
- 25 percent higher risk of developing high blood triglycerides.
- 25 percent greater risk of developing high blood sugar.
- 32 percent increased risk of having low high-density lipoprotein or "good" cholesterol levels.
- And all of this adds up to a 44 percent higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
Barry Popkin, of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, doesn't put much credence into the findings, although he says the results aren't all that unexpected. He says diet sodas are largely consumed by people who have unhealthy lifestyles, even if they are thin, and it's those unhealthy habits that lead to the increased risk of heart disease--not the diet soda.
The study findings were published in the journal Circulation. The American Heart Association, which publishes Circulation, clarified that diet sodas do not cause heart disease and cautioned that it's better to have a diet drink than a full-calorie soda.
--From the Editors at Netscape
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Physical activity is essential to your health, but minor aches and pains can sometimes get in the way of doing the things you love. As a result, you might reach for commonly-used remedies to relieve your pain, or you may turn to even stronger remedies that may lead to dependency and have unwanted side-effects. Fortunately, there's a natural approach to finding relief from soreness, whether it stems from an aching back, stiff joints, or muscle strain that can accompany exercise. Soothing Support contains key Western and Eastern herbal dietary supplements scientifically shown to reduce inflammation, a frequent cause of pain. Extracts from herbs like Boswellia, Holy Basil, and Cinnamon inhibit the COX-2 enzyme, a chemical in the body that encourages the production of inflammatory compounds to provide natural pain relief. The Ayurvedic rejuvenating herbs in Soothing Support, Ashwagandha and Guggulu, have been scientifically proven to have anti-inflammatory properties. Suggested Use: Take two Soothing Support tablets daily. 60 Tablets per Bottle.
Available online at Chopra Center
Friday, March 28, 2008
The tenets of many religious faiths hold that life sprung from clay. Science has now backed that up. Researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have shown that materials in clay were key to some of the initial processes in forming life, reports Reuters.
The essential material is a clay mixture called montmorillonite that not only helps create little bags of fat and liquid, but also helps cells use genetic material called RNA--one of the key processes of life. Earlier research showed that clay could catalyze the chemical reactions needed to make RNA from building blocks called nucleotides. Reuters reports that scientists Jack Szostak, Martin Hanczyc, and Shelly Fujikawa have now figured out that clay speeds up the process by which fatty acids form vesicles, tiny bag-like structures. In addition, the clay carries RNA into the vesicles.
"Thus, we have demonstrated that not only can clay and other mineral surfaces accelerate vesicle assembly, but assuming that the clay ends up inside at least some of the time, this provides a pathway by which RNA could get into vesicles," Szostak said in a statement announcing the findings. "The formation, growth, and division of the earliest cells may have occurred in response to similar interactions with mineral particles and inputs of material and energy."
What does this mean? First, Szostak emphasizes the team is not saying this is how life started. "We are saying that we have demonstrated growth and division without any biochemical machinery. Ultimately, if we can demonstrate more natural ways this might have happened, it may begin to give us clues about how life could have actually gotten started on the primitive Earth."
But the faithful have long believed that life formed from clay and the dust of soil. In the Old Testament there are multiple references:
Book of Genesis 3:19
God speaks to Adam in the Garden of Eden and says: "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
"If he should take back his spirit to himself, and gather to himself his breath,
all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust."
When thou hidest thy face, they are dismayed; when thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
The research findings were published in the journal Science.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Guduchi is just beginning to become available in the West. It is usually a component of Ayurvedic formulas designed to enhance immunity and modify a person’s response to stress. Its traditional role has been in the treatment of infectious illnesses, ranging from colds to syphilis. It has a rejuvenative as well as detoxifying effect. Guduchi is often a component of formulas used in the treatment of chronic skin disorders such as psoriasis or eczema, although we have not seen any scientific studies that have quantified its role in dermatological conditions. It is also reported to be one of the best herbal medicines for gout.Latin name: Tinospora cordifolia 60 Capsules per Bottle.
Available at Chopra Center
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
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Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Your Genetic Autobiography
You and Your Prenatal Environment
This debate has enormous significance for the being who will emerge into the world nine months later. For example, your genetic potential at conception encoded a certain range of arterial flexibility. But how strong will your arteries be, and how flexible? A lot of the answers to those questions depend on what happens in the womb.
So that’s one of your first town meetings. The genes that encode the delicate branching architecture of your nerves and arteries show up, ready to take part. And there are our friends, environment and diet, up there on the platform as they will be throughout your life, helping your “cardiovascular genes” and “nerve genes” decide what to do. A good diet with lots of protein and healthy fats will encourage your artery genes to make your arteries rugged and elastic. On the other hand, if your mother is unlucky enough to be living in a famine, your “artery genes” will have to compete for those scarce nutrients with the genes that control the growth of other organs andtissues. The result might be a greater tendency for heart disease or high blood pressure. As you can see, the same genes are always at the meeting, but they’re responding very differently to the information given by diet and environment.
Obviously, the health of your arteries is only one of the ways that your tissues and organs are affected by your time in the womb. Those crucial nine months help determine whether you gain weight at the drop of a hat or lose weight far too easily. They help nudge you toward a hair-trigger immune response that views the entire world as its enemy, or toward a welcoming immune response that may not always know which invaders to turn away. They predispose you to certain foods that you’ll be able to digest easily and turn you away from others that won’t suit your particular metabolism and digestive tract. Right from the beginning, your genes interact with diet (in this case, Mom’s) and environment (in this case, the womb) to determine who you are.
And then you’re born. This is the point at which your GenoType is determined. Your GenoType represents your survival strategy, the decisions that have been reached collectively among your genetic potential, your prenatal diet, and your environment. Although the town meeting will continue for the rest of your life, with genes getting louder and softer in response to diet and environment, certain elements of this meeting are now fixed. They’ve formed certain patterns–one of six patterns, to be exact, which I’ve identified as the six human GenoTypes.
GenoTypes: A Human Survival Strategy
So far, we’ve been telling the story from an individual point of view–yours, to be exact. But since everyone in the world falls into one of those six GenoTypes, let’s step back for a moment and see where these GenoTypes came from.
In the beginning was the environment–a challenging place for our ancestors, to be sure. People had to make sure they could get enough food, that they could survive whatever climate they were born in or migrated to, and that they could resist infections from microbes, bacteria, and viruses.
Genetic inheritance played a crucial role in this survival. People with helpful genes survived; people with less helpful genes died. You’ve probably heard of this particular aspect of evolution as “survival of the fittest.”
Actually, survival of the fittest is more a fantasy than a reality. If only we humans were the fittest possible examples of our species, we’d all be a lot healthier, and I might be out of a job! In fact, evolution is more like a game of chance than any true contest. Sometimes the good players win; sometimes it’s just the lucky ones who survive. Sure, a lot of our genetic inheritance helps us beat the odds, but there’s also a big chunk of it that gets in our way or doesn’t play any useful role at all:
1. Sometimes the “good genes” that help us survive also have their downside. The genes that instruct our immune systems to react swiftly to bacterial invasion also overreact to produce allergies, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis. The genes that instruct our fat cells to hang on to every calorie in order to survive a famine also contribute to obesity and diabetes. The genes that program our immune systems to respond calmly to the environment, enabling us to tolerate a wide set of circumstances without getting sick, also tell that immune system to tolerate some deadly invaders that it ought to repel.
2. Sometimes mutations simply “happen.” Our genes are designed to reproduce themselves in exact copies, but of course, that’s not always how it works. Sometimes a gene reproduces slightly differently and that variation becomes part of our genetic heritage. Skin color probably emerged this way, as a mutation of the gene that determines skin pigment. Although originally we all had dark skin, those of us living in northern climates were better able to absorb vitamin D from the scarce sunlight if our skin was lighter; we also had less need of the darker pigment’s protective function. So having lighter skin was a mutation that survived because it actually did contribute to our survival.
To some extent, though, these mutations were just random, such as the mutations that produced such diseases as Huntington’s chorea or Tay-Sachs. Or, sometimes, they represent a trade-off between the lesser of two evils. For example, having sickle-cell anemia seems to be somewhat protective against malaria, so people with the genetic tendency to have one disease are meanwhile being protected against another.
As you can see, some mutations make our lives better, some make them worse, and some probably don’t make much difference either way. But the “bad” or “neutral”mutations don’t necessarily die out, and as we’ll see in a moment, the good ones don’t necessarily survive.
3. Sometimes who survives is just the luck of the draw. If all the strong young men die in a huge battle, the male survivors are not necessarily the healthiest–but they will have lived the longest. If an avalanche destroys three-fourths of a village, the remaining one-fourth who stagger down the mountain may be more lucky than fit. There is also what scientists call the “founder effect”: When a small group splits off from a larger group and migrates to a distant land, its members may carry only a fraction of the original population’s genetic potential. Whatever genes they managed to take away from the larger group, those are the ones that survive–and they’re not necessarily “the fittest.” Nevertheless, these are the survivors, the ones who pass their genetic inheritance down to the rest of us.
Why should you care about any of this? Because the final effect of this whole process has been our six GenoTypes, which are extremely useful but very imperfect strategies for survival. Every GenoType has its upside and its downside. I personally can imagine ways to improve every single one of them, and once you get to know them better, I’m sure you will, too. In fact, that’s the point of this book: What the GenoTypes have begun, we can complete, maximizing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses through diet, supplements, and exercise.
Remember, your genes don’t stay fixed in their tracks. Instead, they keep reshaping themselves and you, just as they did when you were in the womb. Your cells are constantly reading the environment they’re in and altering their functions accordingly: Toxic or safe? Food-rich or barren? Threatening or welcoming? These conditions prompt your cells to turn various genes on and off, depending on how the environment is affecting them. These instructions are implemented at the town meeting, where the volume is turned up on some genes and turned down on others.
The end result is our six GenoTypes, each of which has its own unique pattern of “noisy” and “silent” genes. Accordingly, each of our six GenoType Diets is designed to alter that pattern to promote your optimal health and weight.
Meet the GenoTypes
So let’s take a closer look at these GenoTypes. What possibilities for human survival are encoded within these genetic and prenatal patterns? Before I introduce you to the GenoTypes, I want to caution you against two common mistakes. First, these GenoTypes do not correlate in any way to ethnic patterns. They seem to have developed tens of thousands of years before ethnicity emerged, and with the exception of the Nomad GenoType, which seems to have more than its fair share of redheads, they don’t follow any of the statistical patterns that do correlate with ethnicity, skin color, eye color, hair texture, hair color, ancestry information markers, mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosome DNA, and a host of others with far more technical names. In the end, I could find only a
few weak links with some of the ancestral DNA markers but absolutely no correlation with ethnicity–none. Just as anyone can be hot-tempered or optimistic, anyone can be any one of these GenoTypes, no matter their racial or ethnic identity or who their ancestors are. (And, just to make this crystal clear, no one can use this theory to “prove” that any ethnic group is superior to any other!)
Second, although I think it’s useful to speculate on how these GenoTypes emerged, I don’t really have the archaeological or anthropological evidence to tell that story. I know that six GenoTypes exist now, and I can deduce how they developed, but that’s the part of the story for which the evidence is still largely circumstantial. That’s because I’ve worked backward–I’ve identified the six GenoTypes that currently exist and then speculated about how they got here. Someone else will have to fill in the rest. Meanwhile, all you need to know is that by following the correct diet for your GenoType, you can multiply exponentially your chances for health, vitality, and maintaining your ideal weight.
So let’s meet the GenoTypes! You’ll read about each of them in depth in Part III, but here’s a preview that makes it clear how each GenoType represents a unique survival strategy. I like to think of them as easily recognizable archetypes, striding over the challenging terrain of the Paleolithic and Neolithic planet. Each GenoType has unique strengths that give them an advantage when dealing with food shortages, climate change, and infectious diseases, and each of them has unique weaknesses as well.
GenoType 1: The Hunter. This is one of the earliest surviving responses to the challenge of human survival. Beleaguered by what must have seemed like an overwhelming set of environmental challenges–hunger, climate, infectious diseases–Hunters exemplify a reactive approach, a quick and powerful response to every potential threat. “Shoot first and ask questions later” might be their motto. The upside: They’ve got immune systems that act swiftly to attack microbes, viruses, and bacteria that try to kill them, and they’re terrific at metabolizing the meat that is their primary source of nutrition. The downside: Their hair-trigger immune response can sometimes lead to overreaction in the form of allergies, asthma attacks, and other inflammatory conditions. Sometimes, as with the viral gastroenteritis to which they’re also prone, their immune response may target their own tissue as part of its effort to repel the invaders, a kind of “friendly fire” that can create more health problems than it solves. Another downside is Hunters’ inability to digest grains and some other types of food–it’s just not what their system is geared for. So our GenoType 1 Diet for Hunters helps calm their immune systems and keeps them away from the kinds of “reactive proteins”–lectins and glutens–that are likely to set them off.
GenoType 2: The Gatherer. If you need to survive a famine–and many of our ancestors did–GenoType 2 is designed to get you through it. Gatherers have thrifty genes whose primary goal is to hang on to every ingested calorie for dear life–literally. If the Hunter’s motto is “Shoot first and ask questions later,” the Gatherer lives by “Whoever dies with the most wins.” Gatherers learned in the womb that there wouldn’t be much food when they got out, so their town meeting quickly worked out a system whereby food conservation was its top priority. The upside to this approach is obvious: It kept them alive and able to bear or father children. The downside is equally obvious: In a more affluent society, Gatherers tend toward obesity and diabetes. Many of my Gatherer patients assure me that they’ve cut down their caloric intake to an almost starvation level–and yet they still can’t lose weight. No wonder: The more they starve themselves, the more their town meetings insist on hoarding food! Our GenoType 2 Diet helps Gatherers rev up that sluggish metabolism and return to their ideal weight, reducing the risk of diabetes and reversing the negative consequences of obesity.
GenoType 3: The Teacher. The Teacher represents the third basic response to a challenging world: altruism. “All you need is love” is the Teachers’ motto, and their immune systems reflect it. Perhaps because this GenoType emerged during a time when people were migrating more and living in more varied environments, Teachers are able to tolerate a wide variety of unfamiliar bacteria, viruses, and microbes, avoiding the hairtrigger symptoms that plague the Hunter. Unfortunately, they sometimes welcome infectious elements that they would do better to repel. Teachers may live for a long time without symptoms and then discover that digestive problems, lung disorders, or even cancer have been building within them for years. Our goal for Teachers is to protect their stomachs, colons, and lungs from the wear and tear of the environment .We want to keep their “good bacteria” happy and numerous so they can crowd out the disease-causing “bad” bacteria, yeast, and viruses. We also want to make their immune defenses more efficient by “teaching” them with food, supplements, and lifestyle to be more protective and discriminating.
GenoType 4: The Explorer. The first three GenoTypes were probably developed by our ancestors some 50,000 to 75,000 years ago. The Explorer is a newer model, maybe about 20,000 to 30,000 years old. Like Hunters, they’re reactive, but unlike Hunters, they’re highly idiosyncratic, reacting intensely to some environmental threats and not at all to others. For example, if you’re one of those folks who can’t drink coffee because it keeps you up all night, you’re almost certainly an Explorer. I have no idea whether Frank Sinatra was an Explorer, but he did popularize their motto, which is “I did it my way.” My theory is that in every population, you need some folks who do things very differently, so that if the majority turns out to be wrong, someone is there to offer an alternative. Explorers can do that–but sometimes they just seem naturally contrary. They’re more often left-handed, Rh-negative, and asymmetrical: Their left and right sides don’t match, right down to their fingerprints. They seem to have their own ways of digesting food, responding to disease, and otherwise coping with an ever-changing, unpredictable environment. I think of them as glacial refugees, continually forced from one home to another as they tried to escape the ice. They never had the chance to settle down into a stable relationship with one environment, so they couldn’t afford the blanket reactivity of the Hunter. Accordingly, they fine-tuned their responses–but in unpredictable and sometimes inexplicable ways. In modern times, they seem to have emerged from a highly unstable prenatal environment (asymmetry is usually a sign of that), and they’ve figured out while still in the womb that they’re going to have to adapt to wildly changing conditions. Their upside is that they’re good at that. Their downside is that odd things–like caffeine–can keep them up for hours. Our dietary goal for them is to develop calmer, more stable responses to the world, protecting them from their idiosyncratic but very vulnerable Achilles’ heels.
GenoType 5: The Warrior. Like the Gatherer, Warriors are a Thrifty GenoType, but I believe they, too, are a newer GenoType, perhaps dating from the Neolithic Revolution (about 11,000 B.C.E.) to the Iron Age (starting around 2000 B.C.E.). Instead of displaying the overwhelming thriftiness of the Gatherers, who hoard pretty much any calorie they can get their hands on, Warriors are more selective. If they’re physically active, their metabolism burns hot; when they lead a sedentary life, they tend to put on the pounds with alarming speed. I’ve called them “Warriors,” but perhaps “war survivors” would have been a better name: I’ve often thought that this GenoType developed in response to the scarcity of the post-Neolithic period, when agricultural technology was still at a very low level, trade was limited, and there were enormous disruptions resulting from war and the spread of “civilization.” Earlier in our history, most disasters were natural; then we started creating human-made catastrophes–war, conquest–and I think the Warriors were among the first survivors of these. The survivors in these warrior societies often had to produce large numbers of children, who had an urgent need to progress rapidly to adulthood. In a sense, their genetic inheritance is like the multiple copies of the photocopy machine, getting blurrier and less reliable with each replication. On the other hand, the harsh conditions of this “survivor” life have given Warriors some remarkable strengths: endurance, stamina. “Time flies when you’re having fun” might be their motto–but luckily, with the GenoType Diet, we can do a lot to prolong their life, health, and vitality. (I have a vested interest in the matter, since I’m a Warrior myself!)
GenoType 6: The Nomad. The Nomad is also a newer GenoType. Their survival strategy reflects a life of travel, encountering different environments and having to cope with a wide variety of challenges. Some of the first people to create a migratory life based upon the use of the horse, Nomads moved quickly over large swaths of territory, passing through a wide variety of climates and terrains. In such a life, any single survival strategy would have only a limited value, and it wouldn’t pay to be too reactive to any particular environmental factor. You’d have to learn tolerance–but a limited tolerance, taking in only so much of your environment and keeping your guard up at least some of the time. “A new career in a new town” is the Nomads’ motto, and, like the Teachers, their response to the environment is more toward the altruistic, tolerant side. They’re a bit more selective than Teachers, though, and somewhat better at filtering out hostile invaders like microbes and bacteria. The price they pay for their more selective immunity is a problematic connection between their immune system, their cardiovascular system, and their nervous system, resulting in a lack of coordination among the three. This makes the Nomad prone to highly idiosyncratic health problems, such as chronic viral infections, debilitating long-term fatigue, and memory problems. Although these are physical problems for sure, they are also often the result of a much deeper disconnect between the Nomad’s mind and body. Although well-functioning Nomads usually have wonderful abilities to heal their bodies through visualization, meditation, and relaxation, stress can cause their normal mind-body integration to disconnect so that their physical systems spin out of control. Our goal here is to defend those few places where Nomads’ immune systems are susceptible to problems and to increase communication within their bodies.
Now you’ve got some idea of how the GenoTypes developed and a thumbnail sketch of each GenoType.You may be wondering how you can determine which GenoType you are.You can just take my word for it, figure out your GenoType in Part II, discover your GenoType in Part III, and begin following the diet for your GenoType in Part IV. But if you’d like to know more about what those tests are based on, turn the page and start reading Chapter 2.
The GenoType Diet: Change Your Genetic Destiny to live the longest, fullest and healthiest life possible
by Peter J. D'Adamo
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Purity of life is the highest and truest art.
What is a personal revolution, and why do we need one?
Many of us are searching without knowing exactly what we are looking for. Some of us go on a diet to lose weight and try all kinds of programs and workshops to make ourselves feel better, or perhaps we throw ourselves into our work and seek wealth and status to fill the void, but underneath, an emotional emptiness remains. No matter how much we try to gloss over that yearning with temporary fixes, it is still there, whispering the truth: that what we need isn't another quick fix, but a rather a rebirth -- a whole-life revolution.
When I was born, my parents' Yoga and Health Center -- the first of its kind in San Francisco -- was already well established. Famous yogis would come and stay at our home, and we would go to India often for research. Because I was always around yoga, I just kind of picked it up by osmosis. As an adult, it became a natural way of life for me, and for years it seemed as though I was either studying under a guru, practicing yoga, or teaching.
But as I acknowledged in Journey into Power, at a certain point I felt as though the yoga process was failing me. What was supposed to produce miracles in my life just wasn't. Without realizing it, I had bought into the notion that something outside myself could "fix" me. The practices were calming me down a bit on the surface, but they were not enough. Something deep down was still missing. Perhaps my body was healthy, but my soul felt empty. My relationships weren't really working, and in many ways, my lifefelt futile. I knew I needed something more.
Many of us reach this point, yet somehow we get good at masking it. When someone asks us how we are doing, we automatically say, "Really great...things are so good...no complaints," but the truth underneath says differently. Eventually we can't fake being healthy or spiritual or pretend that "everything is just fine" any longer, and we either land in an emotional fetal position, ask for help, or both.
In my most desperate moment, from somewhere deep in my soul, I asked God for help. I had heard the phrase "Ask and ye shall receive, knock and the door of your mind will open," but it took a humbling emotional pain to understand what that really meant. I asked and I knocked, and as promised, a door was opened. It didn't swing open, as I had hoped; it barely cracked an inch. However, it was as though I were living in a dark room and that tiny crack in the door provided me with the light I needed to see the truth. I finally started to see that real health means wholeness on all levels and a deep and true connection to what is most sacred: the truth within our hearts. I realized that in order for my life to really change, I needed to be willing to surrender all the parts of myself for transformation. It wasn't enough to just work my body and my life on the surface; I needed to look within, take responsibility for my own path, and completely overhaul everything from the inside out.
Once I woke up and really got it that I couldn't just throw myself into the mechanics of the practice without also seeking wholeness and expect to feel better, I began to see the real gifts yoga can offer. In the end, yoga is not a magic cure-all, but the way it challenges our bodies, moves our stuck emotional energy, clears our mind, and inspires us to seek and live in truth can be a catalyst for amazing growth. The style of yoga I practice and teach, which I call Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga, is ultimately a system of physical, mental, and spiritual awakening that integrates the whole person, on every level.
Ultimately, the yoga program found in this book is about developing a soulful perspective to the question that I hear nearly every day in my classroom: "How did I get myself into this state, and how can I get out?" The Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga method offers us the understanding of our condition and the road map to get ourselves out into a more sculpted and awakened life -- whether that be a stronger, more powerful, or pain-free body, a heightened emotional intelligence, or a spiritually deeper experience of life.
The word yoga, in fact, means "to join one point to another," "to leave one place, space, condition and move toward a better one." We can use the practices to move us forward, but we will see the results we seek only if we are wholly willing to be fully present and accountable for the reality we have created in our bodies and our lives and to take full ownership of the revolution we know we need. Taking responsibility for the self means taking action, and this program is about taking action.
This program is designed to challenge your personal philosophy and your body so that you can tap unknown resources within yourself. Very often after someone or something challenges us we say, "I learned a lot from that experience, but I wouldn't have chosen it." It could be some physical challenge that came our way, a failed relationship, or a career decision. When something pushes back at us and bumps us against the fabric of our own being, it forces us to examine who we are and how we see things. In those moments, we can see and start to live in truth, which is the beginning and real basis for any lasting transformation.
A rock climber resting on a safe spot on a cliff must face her ingrained patterns and fears in order to move forward toward the next scary spot. After completing the journey, the climber looks back and feels good about what she's done, because she met a challenge and as a result developed self-respect and a new view of life. This program is meant to challenge your ingrained patterns and propel you to radically move forward and up, away from the plateau where you currently rest.
Once we accept responsibility for ourselves, we can become our own teachers, healers, and motivators. I can promise you that once you take full responsibility and spark your inner revolution with full consciousness, the practices you learn in this program will never fail you. Never. You won't need drugs, surgery, machines, or miracles to transform. All you will need is yourself and your new understanding of what it really means to live an awakened and truthful life.
The Great Masters
My good friend Krishna Das tells a story about how when he and his friend Ram Das were younger, they went to India expecting to leave the Western world and all its beliefs behind. They saved their money and journeyed on this huge pilgrimage to cash in on the exotic enlightenment that Indian mysticism seemed to offer. They believed there was something out there -- over there -- that would give them the insight and tools they needed to transform their lives, to fill in the missing piece of their existence. When Krishna Das and his friend finally sat at the great guru's feet, they heard him simply giggle and offer, "Be like Jesus!"
This wasn't what they were expecting. But like so many westerners who came after them, they believed they needed to look elsewhere for the answers, when much of the ancient wisdom and timeless guidance we need is right here, within our own heritage and our own hearts.
You might expect that I would base the majority of my teachings on the ancient yogic texts and philosophy, but after spending a lifetime immersed in it, I can honestly say that much of the teachings of the East don't make sense for us here in the West. It has become very popular to dress things up with Hindu mysticism, but all the flowery language and talk about peace, chakras, samadhi, and grand promises of spiritual enlightenment can easily become distractions. I've seen so many enthusiastic people sincerely seeking a better way get sucked into the black hole of yogic promise. Blindly worship a guru, contort into strange poses, control your breathing...it all fits perfectly into the dark side of what is wrong with American culture. It appeals to our Madison Avenue-fed belief that happiness is found on the outside.
In this book, I attempt to bridge the gap between the wisdom of the East that can and does apply to us here and the teachings of great masters such as Jesus and Moses. We forget that what these masters taught lies at the heart of what we seek in yoga, and they stand as perhaps some of the greatest yogis who have ever lived. Many of us have rejected these teachers in favor of what we perceive as the more mysterious and fascinating ones from faraway cultures, but the teachings of one can enrich the teachings of the others.
The purpose of this forty-day program is to lead you into your own personal revolution. Like the great masters, you will come to understand that all health and vitality is the outward reflection of a pure heart and right intent. As you start to align your mind with the Laws of Transformation in Part One, you will start to see that the transformation happens naturally. You will lose weight, if that is what needs to happen; you will become less reactive and more calm; your bad habits will start to release their grip on you. You will discover, as I did, that external changes happen when we adjust the inner workings of our minds -- when we adopt a philosophical foundation that gives our growth greater purpose and meaning.
Why forty days? Because the number 40 holds tremendous spiritual significance in the realm of transformation. Jesus wandered in the desert for forty days in order to experience purification and come to a greater understanding of himself and his mission. Moses and his people traveled through the desert for forty years before arriving at their home in the holy land. Noah preserved the sacredness of life by sailing his ark for forty days and forty nights. According to the Kabbalah, the ancient Jewish mystical text, it takes forty days to ingrain any new way of being into our system, and that is what we are aiming to do here: wipe out the old and welcome the new. In forty days, you can shift into a whole new way of living and being.
Here in these pages, I hope to tap ancient wisdom to address the Western world's desperate need for real health, and create a relevant and practical program to spark radical changes within you. Allow these forty days to be a chance to use the tools here to stir things up and see what you are made of. You're not here by accident -- you opened this book at the right time, in the right space. If you honor the inner voice that says you are ready to let go of the past and create a new reality, I am confident you will find your way home to the mental clarity, lightness of body, and illumination of spirit that comes with whole-life health.
Copyright © 2004 by Baptiste Power Yoga Institute, Inc.
40 Days to Personal Revolution: A Breakthrough Program to Radically Change Your Body and Awaken the Sacred Within Your Soul
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Friday, March 21, 2008
1. FREE YOUR MIND AND THE WEIGHT WILL FOLLOW
I want to tell you that no matter how insurmountable your problems may seem, you can change your life for the better. If I can do it, so can you.
In many ways, I feel everything finally came together for me last summer, I went to Washington, D.C., to receive the first Journal of Women's Health award from Bernadine Healy, M.D., the well-respected editor of the Journal and the former head of the National Institutes of Health. When I went to the podium to receive the award, I was truly moved. Here I was, being recognized for what I call my truths: to help others and speak out for those who don't have a voice.
As many people know, I wasn't always so strong or sure of myself and much of that insecurity had to do with my weight. I have had a weight problem practically all my life and I always will. But now, things are different -- and they can be for you, too.
When I look back, I can dearly see the real problem with my weight began at an age when my world should have only revolved around riding my beloved horses. At 12 years of age, the world should be a thrilling and exciting place, filled with endless possibilities. Yet when I was 12, it was starting to crumble like a house of cards. Mum had just left for Argentina. Although I always admired her and never blamed her for following her heart, her absence left a tremendous hole. I ate to compensate for that loss.
For years, I did the craziest things to lose weight, like the fad diets, the vitamin pills, the fasts. By now, everyone has heard about the bizarre meat and oranges diet, the one I lived on for weeks before my wedding to Andrew. On this diet, I could eat all the meat and oranges I wanted, so I'd have my huge steak night after night and think all was right with the world. In hindsight, I can see that going on that diet was the act of a desperate woman, but at the time, the only thing that filled my mind was my wedding and the fact that I'd be walking down the aisle. Although I got great comfort from the thought of Dad being there with me, I was terrified -- the entire world would be watching as Sarah Ferguson become Sarah, wife of Prince Andrew and The Duchess of York. I couldn't hide. I would be on display and I just had to look good.
Little did I know (I was only 26 after all) that the wedding was just the start of life under the microscope. Despite being married to the man I loved, my weight was still an issue and life at the Palace did little to make my world seem more in control. There were endless events and meetings to attend, people to report to. On top of this, my husband was frequently away at sea; Andrew and I were together an average of 42 days out of the entire year. Needless to say, I felt isolated and alone. Food (my favorite snacks were sausage rolls and egg mayonnaise sandwiches) was my one constant comfort.
Being in the public eye, I couldn't simply fill up and then retreat from the world. Others always noticed my weight. The press took great joy in reporting the ups and downs of my size. When I had Beatrice, my weight hit an all-time high; needless to say, after the birth the press was on a roll. "Great Fun Fergie" became "Fat, Appalling Fergie."
The stress was overwhelming. It's terrible when you walk into a room and see people nudge one another, wink and say, "Check out her backside," then give a little laugh. I've always had a rebellious streak so my reaction to this behavior was, "OK, fine, you don't like me like this, well, OK, then, I'll just eat more." And I would eat and eat. On the outside I was defiant and headstrong. On the inside I felt horrible and was terribly judgmental of my body and myself.
I was on this weight roller coaster for years. When my marriage disintegrated, I truly thought I couldn't handle much more: the press was unrelenting, the British establishment was watching my every move and I was heavily in debt. Looking back, I can see I was at the end of my rope. I had finally reached rock bottom.
When Weight Watchers approached me to act as a spokesperson I was surprised. Here I was, a single working mother who certainly had her share of highs and lows, in life as well as with my weight. How could I motivate others to take control of their lives when I was still struggling with mine?
I had been on Weight Watchers before, when I was 19, and lost a good amount of weight. I knew the program was safe, smart and effective. And I believed in it. Truth is a big thing with me. I don't -- won't -- do anything I don't believe in because it would be a lie. So, I thought if I do this, follow the Weight Watchers 1*2*3 Success® Weight Loss Plan, people just might say, "If she can do it, so can I." I said yes. That was two years ago.
What have I discovered about the world and myself in the last two years? I've learned a good deal about good nutrition, eating well, exercising and the importance of having a support network. I get great satisfaction out of helping others, whether it's through my charity work or my role as a spokesperson for Weight Watchers.
I now understand that in the past I derailed because people expected me to be something I was not. They wanted me to be demure and sit quietly and do as I was told. Now I know I can't -- I won't -- be someone I am not. I'm opinionated and spontaneous and, at times, difficult. I'm a redhead with a bit of fire in her. I'm living my life as I see fit, despite what others think or what the press say about me. Today, I'm living my life according to my truth.
2. FOOD IS NOT THE ENEMY
When I did a promotional tour for my cookbook with Weight Watchers, Dining with The Duchess: How to Make Everyday Meals a Special Occasion, I would answer the first question that was on every interviewer's mind before he or she asked it: "I don't cook," I would begin, "but I know what I like, I know what tastes good and I'm a perfectionist when it comes to food." While many may say, "She has it easy, she has a cook," the truth is I still have to sit down with her and plan my family's meals. I also think it's amazing that at almost 40 years of age, I suddenly have found a healthier and more enjoyable way to eat.
Not surprisingly, one of the biggest changes in my life since I've lost weight involves my eating habits. They had to change, otherwise I wouldn't have the stamina to maintain the hectic pace of my schedule and be a good mother to my girls. I realized that in the past I had been eating to fill a painful empty space deep inside me. I did not want to look at my true feelings, so I suppressed the pain by eating.
In the past, I would starve myself, shed a few pounds, then go straight back to my old ways and regain the weight (plus some, more often than not!). Now, I've learned that once you find a sensible eating plan, no food is off limits or "bad." To lose weight, you mustn't be on a diet. You have to develop an eating routine that can become a way of life for your life.
I've found a plan that's safe and sensible and works for me. I like real food -- like the pastas and risottos in my cookbook, as well as cold ham with chutney, baked potatoes with butter, and a glass of wine with dinner. In the past I did what a lot of women who try to lose weight would do: I'd cut back drastically during the week and go mad on the weekends, eating whatever I wanted. I would then get "back on track" and go on a diet on Monday. Somehow, I always felt sad because I thought I had to give up the foods I loved in order to lose weight. Now I've found that's just not the case. I can follow my eating plan anywhere in the world, at restaurants, and with my family and friends. Like any parent, I'll occasionally take my girls out to a fast-food restaurant. We sit on the toadstool chairs and have our fizzy drinks and burgers. I'll take a handful of fries, knowing that I don't have to feel guilty -- and that I can stop at that handful.
Of course, watching portion sizes and making smart choices on a regular basis are also important. I know I can't have a huge plate of creamy risotto every night. It comes back to the control issue: I needed to educate myself and learn what a sensible portion of pasta or just a pat of butter looks like. I also needed to learn when to stop, whether it's after one bite or one cookie. When I'm traveling and just dying for a sweet, I might order it but take just one spoonful -- like the time on a recent flight when the flight attendant on the airline wheeled the cart of butterscotch sundaes down the aisle. I didn't have to totally give in. A few spoonfuls satisfied me.
But like most women, controlling my eating habits isn't always so easy -- or private. For example, sometimes I just say to myself, I'm going all out. For example, one evening I went to a favorite restaurant with a group of friends and decided it was my night off. I had my roll with butter, my favorite risotto and my wine. It's natural and healthy to go off your eating plan once in a while. However, with me, the difference is that the next day, it was written up in the papers, suggesting I shouldn't be a spokesperson for Weight Watchers. Well, the truth is, if they really knew anything about the Program, they'd know that you can eat what you like, as long as you watch your portions and plan a big meal into your whole day.
3. ONE STEP AT A TIME
I was an active child. I rode horses from a young age and was always the first in line to be a part of any game. I still ride today and I love to ski or play a game of squash or tennis.
Because I've always been so active, you'd think that exercising is an integral part of my life. But I'm very much like most women when it comes to working out: It's something I will constantly have to make an effort to do for the rest of my life. Exercise is different from activity. Activity reminds me of children playing: moving, jumping, running or just doing something that is fun and spirited. Exercise, on the other hand, can be a chore. But it is imperative for your well-being.
Through the years, I have learned to change my attitude toward exercise because, ultimately, I know that exercise has helped me lose weight and provides me with the stamina I need for my busy schedule. For instance, when I filmed my television special, Adventures with The Duchess, I had to scuba dive, mountain climb, even swing on a trapeze! Some of the things I did were fun (the trapeze); others were terrifying (like the mountain climbing). Yet I know it would have been impossible for me to do any of these activities if I didn't exercise regularly.
My longtime trainer, Josh Salzmann, has been a big help with my exercise program. We've been working together since the late 1980s and he's the one who encourages me to push harder when I think I've had enough. Josh also knows when to tell me to ease up. I can be very competitive with myself, but Josh reminds me that there are times when I just have to, as he would say, "chill out."
Workout time with Josh is important to me. It's one of the few times I won't allow myself to be interrupted. We have a schedule: Sometimes I ride the exercise bike, other times I use the stair climbing machine. I'll do some strength training and stretches. Our sessions vary because, as Josh has told me, I need to listen to my body and respect its limits from day to day.
When I'm feeling trapped and can't even think about exercising, I remember what Josh always tells me: "If you're really healthy and fit, you'll have a good resistance to illness and a high energy level -- you'll also look your best."
I've also learned it is critical to make your workout appealing and convenient. For instance, I prefer morning workouts at a health club or at my home. I like listening to music when I work out; I'm a big Elton John fan. My favorite part of the routine is when I'm pedaling on my bike, meditating and listening to music; it's one of the few times I get to turn off my mobile phone! The part I hate: push-ups!
4. IT TAKES SUPPORT TO SLIM DOWN
I have discovered that learning about sound nutrition is relatively easy compared to using that information wisely. For me, using my head -- and not my heart -- to make food decisions is always a challenge. One incident that I clearly remember occurred recently after I had started the Program. Things were going swimmingly until I was preparing for a trip to the States. I was feeling anxious and suddenly found myself falling into my old habits, seeking out my trusty "comfort" foods. I also had great difficulty controlling my portions: I would have two croissants or a few more cookies than I really wanted. I didn't know what was wrong, but clearly I felt like I was beginning to spin out of control.
I immediately called my friend Sarah, a fellow Weight Watchers member, and she came over. As we talked, I unearthed the nasty root of my sudden overeating: I was anxious about leaving my girls to travel (this also was shortly after the death of Princess Diana and the girls understandably didn't want me out of their sight). Now I know that this is a trigger for me. I'm aware of it and try to keep it in mind.
Discovering triggers helps you understand yourself better While I have been working on my weight issues, I have discovered other interesting facts about myself -- for instance, I now know I'm a people pleaser. I always want others to like me and think well of me. I remember recently having to make an appearance on an American television program. I wanted to pick up my girls from school before I left, so I took a rather late flight from London to New York the day of the show. I knew it was going to be tight, but I really wanted to spend the time with my girls. Of course, things went wrong. We ended up taking off late because the airplane had a major problem with its navigating system. We sat on the runway for hours and I just kept thinking over and over, "What am I going to do?" I couldn't be late. I was so nervous. I truly did not want to let the host or the audience down. After several minutes of this, I realized I had to calm down, telling myself to relax since there was nothing I would do to change the situation. We eventually took off and I made it to the taping (although it was close!).
When I go to a Weight Watchers meeting, there is always support. We are all there for the same reason: primarily to lose weight, but also to understand how we got ourselves into our predicaments. So if you gain a pound or two, everyone knows what it's like and will try to help you figure out why.
A good support network should be a positive force in your life. At the meetings I've attended, everyone is so up, it just lifts you. It's like a tonic. I love the sense of support and friendship; it leaves you feeling you are not on your own or isolated. This time around, I learned that you don't have to be an island, all alone, when you're on a weight-loss program. Seek out support, be it your spouse, a friend, family member, even your children. Use their shoulders; you'll do the same for them at one time or another. If you find it might be too difficult relying on close friends or family members for your weight support, find a support group that makes you feel comfortable and welcome.
The day I reached my weight goal was one of the proudest of my life. Everyone was so supportive and positive. Like most women, I will always want to lose a few more pounds, but knowing that I reached my goal through my own sheer will and the help of my friends was incredibly satisfying.
5. I CONTROL MY WEIGHT, IT DOESN'T CONTROL ME
Weight is not just a "fat issue." When I talk about weight, I know I'm talking about a major health issue. I also am not afraid to say that dealing with weight is a mood-altering experience. If you gain a pound or simply wake up one morning feeling fat, it can leave you mad, frustrated, difficult, cranky. It affects your marriage and your self-esteem; it causes problems at work. And it can make you feel worthless.
How I feel about my body and my weight can dictate how I feel for the rest of the day. For instance, even if someone says casually, "You look fine," I might reply, "Thank you," but deep down I know I don't feel fine. Maybe I know I've eaten too much and that the new black swimsuit I've bought for a family holiday is a little too snug. I know I have pushed the suit back further and further away in my drawer. Ultimately, I know I can only push the suit so far: Like my weight issue, it's there and eventually I'll have to deal with it.
I also see that I need to keep my stress level down if I am going to stay in control. I use my workouts to keep myself focused and in control. Josh always tells me that fitness is more than muscle: I have to be physically, emotionally and spiritually fit to be well. My workouts are about decompressing; they reduce my stress and clear my head so I can concentrate on the important matters at hand.
So when things get rough and the world seems insane, how do I get back on track and in control? I keep the truth. I think one of the greatest things in life is to be able to gather the courage in yourself, hold your head high and ask yourself, "Am I being true to myself?" When you can answer with a resounding yes, then you've reached your goal and you are a success.
Dieting With the Duchess: Secrets and Sensible Advice for a Great Body
Copyright © 1998 by The Duchess of York and Weight Watchers International, Inc.
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Thursday, March 20, 2008
Welcome! I'm glad you've decided to try the South Beach Diet and have taken the first step toward a future filled with health and vitality.
Good Fats, Bad Fats
Fat is an important part of a healthy diet. There's more and more evidence that many fats are good for us and actually reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. They also help our sugar and insulin metabolism and therefore contribute to our goals of long-term weight loss and weight maintenance. And because good fats make foods taste better, they help us enjoy the journey to a healthier lifestyle. But not all fats are created equal--there are good fats and bad fats.
"Good" fats include monounsaturated fats, found in olive and canola oils, peanuts and other nuts, peanut butter, andavocados. Monounsaturated fats lower total and "bad" LDL cholesterol--which accumulates in and clogs artery walls--while maintaining levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, which carries cholesterol from artery walls and delivers it to the liver for disposal.
Omega-3 fatty acids--polyunsaturated fats found in coldwater fish, canola oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, almonds, and macadamia nuts--also count as good fat. Recent studies have shown that populations that eat more omega-3s, like Eskimos (whose diets are heavy on fish), have fewer serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes. There is evidence that omega-3 oils helps prevent or treat depression, arthritis, asthma, and colitis and help prevent cardiovascular deaths. You'll eat both monounsaturated fats and omega-3s in abundance in all three phases of the Diet.
"Bad fats" include saturated fats--the heart-clogging kind found in butter, fatty red meats, and full-fat dairy products.
"Very bad fats" are the manmade trans fats. Trans fats, which are created when hydrogen gas reacts with oil, are found in many packaged foods, including margarine, cookies, cakes, cake icings, doughnuts, and potato chips. Trans fats are worse than saturated fats; they are bad for our blood vessels, nervous systems, and waistlines.
As this Guide went to press, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that by 2006, food manufacturers must list the amount of trans fats in their products on the label. (The natural trans fats in meat and milk, which act very differently in the body than the manmade kind, will not require labeling.) Until then, here are a few ways to reduce your intake of trans fats and saturated fats, South Beach style.
Go natural: Limit margarine, packaged foods, and fast food, which tend to contain high amounts of saturated and trans fats. Make over your cooking methods: Bake, broil, or grill rather than fry. Lose the skin: Remove the skin from chicken or turkey before you eat it. Ditch the butter: Cook with canola or olive oil instead of butter, margarine, or lard. Slim down your dairy: Switch from whole milk to fat-free or 1% milk.
Good Carbs, Bad Carbs
Carbohydrates, foods that contain simple sugars (short chains of sugar molecules) or starches (long chains of sugar molecules), have been blamed for our epidemic of obesity and diabetes. This is only partially true, because there are both good and bad carbohydrates. The good carbs contain the important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are essential to our health and that help prevent heart disease and cancer. The bad carbs, which have been consumed by Americans in unprecedented quantities (largely in an attempt to avoids fats), are the ones that have resulted in the fattening of America. Bad carbs are refined carbs, the ones where digestion has begun in factories instead of in our stomachs. The good carbs are the ones humans were designed to consume--the unrefined ones that have contributed to our health since we began eating! Unrefined carbohydrates are found in whole, natural foods, such as whole grains, legumes, rice, and starchy vegetables. They're also called complex carbohydrates, so named for their molecular structure. Besides being packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, good carbs take longer to digest--a good thing, as you'll soon see.
Refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, are found in packaged, processed foods, such as store-bought baked goods, crackers, pasta, and white bread.
Refined carbohydrates are made with white flour and contain little or no fiber. In fact, many products made with white flour are advertised as fortified with vitamins and minerals, because the process of turning grain into white flour strips away its fiber and nutrients. One of our South Beach Diet rules is to avoid foods labeled as "fortified." Current evidence is that fortification with vitamins does not recreate the benefits of the natural vitamins that have been removed.
Despite the fact that good carbs are a critical part of a healthy diet, the typical American diet is filled with the bad kinds. And when we're overweight as a result of a diet laden with bad carbs, our bodies' ability to process all carbohydrates goes awry. To understand why, you need to understand the role of the hormone insulin.
The South Beach Diet Good Fats/Good Carbs Guide: The Complete and Easy Reference for All Your Favorite Foods
by Arthur Agatston
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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
_ Keep appealing foods by your bed (crackers, matzo, almonds, hard candy such as lemon drops, pretzels, or apple juice or carbonated fruit drinks in an ice bucket), and eat or drink some of it before rising.
_ Don't drink citrus juice first thing in the morning.
_ Have a snack before going to sleep. This will help keep nausea at bay during the night.
_ Eat lots of small meals.
_ Alternate liquid snacks and solid snacks.
_ Eat foods with a high liquid content, such as watermelon.
_ Avoid greasy, rich foods; they're more difficult to digest.
_ Never leave the house without food.
_ Avoid sources of odors, such as refrigerators, trash cans, dirty diapers, pet products and boxes, gas stations, public restrooms, and coffeepots. Have somebody else open the refrigerator door and dispose of the trash whenever possible, and enlist someone else to change diapers.
_ Ask your partner, a friend, or a relative to prepare food or bring home takeout meals.
_ Use air-conditioning; heat and humidity exacerbate nausea.
_ Rely on warm clothes and keep the use of artificial heaters to a minimum; these accelerate fluid loss.
_ Avoid poor-quality computer screens and videos, which can cause nausea-producing dizziness.
_ Keep lemons on hand to smell; their scent has proved useful as an antidote to nausea-provoking odors. Rinsing your mouth with fresh lemon juice and water also may alleviate symptoms.
_ Experiment with Sea Bands (wristbands for seasickness, sold in pharmacies), acupressure, and hypnosis.
_ Get up slowly.
Makes 12 muffins
These will keep in a cool place for 5 days and freeze well.
These are power-packed muffins, with a high-protein grain (rye or barley flakes), whole wheat flour, and yogurt and eggs. You can make them sweeter if you wish; just add another tablespoon or two of sugar or honey.
2 large eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1–2 tablespoons mild-flavored honey (such as clover), to taste
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
1 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
1/3 cup unbleached or all-purpose flour
1/3 cup soy flour or rye flour
1/3 cup stone-ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1/3 cup barley flakes or rye flakes
1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Oil or spray a 12-cup muffin tin.
2.In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, yogurt, milk, oil, honey, and nonfat dry milk.
3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir into the wet ingredients with just a few strokes. Fold in the dried cherries or cranberries and barley or rye flakes.
4.Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a rack.
5. Serve cooled. Store in a cool place in plastic bags. If freezing, transfer the muffins to zipper-lock freezer bags. Thaw in the microwave or toaster oven before serving.
Copyright © 2002 by Martha Rose Shulman and Jane L. Davis, M.D.
Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Every Woman's Guide to Eating During Pregnancy
by Martha Rose Shulman
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..oatmeal. It's hot, tasty and quick to make. Best of all, it can dramatically lower your cholesterol.
The link between eating oatmeal and cholesterol reduction is stronger than when the Food and Drug Administration initially approved the health claim's appearance on food labels in 1997, concludes a new study from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
If you are concerned about your cholesterol, the results might make you change your breakfast menu to include oatmeal:
- Total cholesterol levels are lowered through oat consumption.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the "bad" cholesterol) is reduced without adverse effects on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL, the "good" cholesterol) or triglyceride concentrations.
"Whole-grain products like oatmeal are among some of the best foods one can eat to improve cholesterol levels, in addition to other lifestyle choices," Anderson said. "Lifestyle choices, such as diet, should be the first line of therapy for most patients with moderate cholesterol risk given the expense, safety concerns and intolerance related to cholesterol-lowering drugs."
And that's not all. More recent data indicate that whole-grain oats, as part of a lifestyle management program, may confer health benefits that extend beyond total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol reduction, Anderson said.
Recent studies suggest eating oatmeal may:
- Reduce the risk for elevated blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and weight gain.
- Reduce LDL cholesterol during weight-loss.
- Provide favorable changes in the physical characteristics of LDL cholesterol particles, making them less susceptible to oxidation. (Oxidation is thought to lead to hardening of the arteries.)
- Supply unique compounds that may lead to reducing early hardening of the arteries.
"Since the '80s, oatmeal has been scientifically recognized for its heart health benefits, and the latest research shows this evidence endures the test of time and should be embraced as a lifestyle option for the millions of Americans at-risk for heart disease," said Anderson.
The study findings were published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
--From the Editors at Netscape
Nature's Path Organic Instant Hot Oatmeal
8 Packets - Net Wt. 14 oz (400g)
* No Additives or Preservatives
* No Chemical Pesticides
* USDA Organic
* Apple Cinnamon
* Flax 'n Oats
* Maple Nut
* Multigrain Raisin
"Humans and plants have much in common. Both enjoy sunlight, music and tender loving care." - Laura Stuchinsky, Quoted from The Future is Abundant
A hot steaming bowl of oats not only warms a person to the core, it's also good for you! Oats provide the benefits of a soluble fiber. Researches have found that the soluble fiber in oats may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by affecting blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood lipids. Some preliminary research indicates that moderate exercise and the consumption of oats may have a positive effect on the immune system.
Oats in foods may also reduce the glycemic index rating. A controlled supply of glucose to the blood provides a steady level of energy for all types of people, and in particular those with diabetes.
The rolled oats used in our instant hot oatmeal are produced from whole grain steel cut oats. The bran has not been extracted so you can start the day with a delicious whole grain bowl of oats. Diets that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol and that include soluble fiber from oatmeal may reduce the risk of heart disease. References upon request.
Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 3g of soluble fiber from whole oats per day may reduce the risk of heart disease. One serving of this whole oats product proves 4 grams of this soluble fiber.
What's Good About Certified Organic Goodness?
* Good Food
o No pesticides
o No herbicides
o No GE ingredients
o No preservatives
o No additives
o No irradiation
* Good Ecology
o Enriched soil
o Less soil erosion
o Less groundwater pollution
o Improved farm biodiversity
Apple Cinnamon Ingredients: Organic oat flakes, organic evaporated cane juice, organic dried apple, organic cinnamon, sea salt, natural apply flavor
Flan 'N Oats Ingredients: Organic oat flakes, organic evaporated can juice, organic flaxseed, sea salt
Maple Nut Ingredients: Organic oat flakes, organic evaporated can juice, organic hazelnuts, natural maple flavor, sea salt
Multigrain Raisin Spice Ingredients: Organic oat flakes, organic wheat flakes, organic evaporated cane juice, organic raisins (coated with organic expeller-pressed canola oil), organic brown rice flour, organic corn meal, organic cinnamon, sea salt
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
...before 5 a.m. And it's best for your heart health to sleep in until 7 a.m. or 8 a.m.--every day.
That mantra of "early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" is all wrong--at least in terms of health. To the delight of night owls everywhere, researchers from several universities and hospitals in the western Japanese city of Kyoto, have concluded that early-risers have a higher risk of developing heart problems than their friends who sleep in later.
Agence France Presse and Bloomberg News report that the Japanese research team found a definite link between wake-up times and a person's cardiovascular system. "Rising early to go to work or exercise might not be beneficial to health, but rather a risk for vascular diseases," said an abstract of the study, which followed 3,017 healthy adults ages 23 to 90. Specifically, the team found that people who habitually rise before 5 a.m. have a 1.7 times greater risk of high blood pressure and are twice as likely to develop hardening of the arteries as those who get up at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m.
If you get up early to exercise, you might want to rethink this plan. The study also found a possible link between vascular disease and early birds who start their day with a vigorous workout. "The results are contrary to the commonly held belief that early birds are in better health," lead study author Mayuko Kadono, a physician at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, told Bloomberg News. "We need to find what the causes of this are and whether exercising after waking early is beneficial."
There is one possible gotcha: In this study, those who rose early were typically older. And older people are, in general, at a higher risk for cardiovascular problems than younger people. So was the increased risk because they rose early or because they were older? Additional research is needed to determine the answer to that.
Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attack, stroke and hypertension, is the No. 1 cause of death worldwide. The study was presented to the World Congress of the World Federation of Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine Societies in Cairns, Australia.
--From the Editors at Netscape
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Monday, March 17, 2008
I'm going to tell you more about how to find restaurants that make it easier to eat healthfully, but first I think it's important to recap just what it is that constitutes good eating. My philosophy is that it takes more than just a good working knowledge of nutrition to change your eating habits for life and lose weight for good. You need to walk before you can run! That's why in the first book in this series, Get With the Program, I covered the initial steps that I've found help people get on track to a slimmer, healthier body: making a commitment to yourself, becoming stronger and healthier through exercise, and getting a grip on emotional eating. The second book, The Get With the Program! Guide to Good Eating, is aimed at helping you decipher the glut of nutrition information out there so you can choose good-quality food in reasonable quantities -- the key to healthful eating and weight loss.
Now I want you to get a handle on restaurant dining. I hope that at this point, whether you have read the other books or not, you already have a pretty good grasp on the components of a healthy diet. Let's review the basics as they apply to restaurant food.
What Defines a "Good" Restaurant Meal?
The best restaurant meals have the same (or close to the same) healthful qualities your home-prepared meals have. Here are six attributes to keep in mind before you order.
A moderate number of calories. "Moderation" can be an infuriating word. Nutritionists use it all the time, the government advises it, and still nobody really knows what it means. My definition of a moderate-calorie meal is a meal that leaves you neither stuffed nor feeling superhungry. But it's also important to look at your meals in the larger context of your daily calorie intake.
As you probably already know, to lose weight, you must expend more calories than you consume. It's that simple. But you personally are more complex than a simple equation. You have a certain frame size, your own specific metabolism, a particular amount of activity that you do each day, and your own individual goals. For that reason I can't tell you the exact number of calories you should be taking in. What I can tell you is that a good way to judge your calorie needs is to pay attention to your body and its requirements.
First, are you eating enough to satisfy your nutritional needs? You want to get enough carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals to keep you healthy. That's of number one importance (and something that many weight-loss plans don't take into account). Second, are you gaining weight, losing weight, or staying the same? That's an obvious indication of whether you're eating too much or too little. Third, how hungry do you feel? If you're trying to maintain your weight, you should eat when you're truly physically hungry and stop before you feel stuffed or are no longer physically hungry. If you want to lose fat, you should stop when you feel as though you'd still like to eat a little at the end of a meal -- but just a little. That feeling is your body warning you that it's going to dip into your fat stores, which is exactly what you want to happen.
I think it's healthier to proportion your calories relatively equally throughout the day rather than eating (as many people do) a tiny breakfast, a good-size lunch, and the big traditional American dinner. Ideally, it's best if you can even consume more of your calories in the earlier part of the day; however, no one meal should be overly large -- that can trigger an unhealthy insulin surge (more on this in a moment). If you eat a moderately sized breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus one or two small snacks during the day, you'll be on the right track. (Remember, of course, that if you want to lose weight, the total calories of your meals will need to be lower than the number of calories you burn during the day.)
Over the years, most people have gotten used to the idea of having their largest meal at dinnertime, but there are several reasons not to follow that tradition. You see, each time you eat, your body responds by increasing your metabolism. But your metabolism also has a natural arc to it, which appears to decline as it gets closer to bedtime. By the time you're asleep, it'll have nearly shut down, which may be why the food you eat in the evening doesn't increase your calorie-burning ability as much as the food you eat earlier in the day. Your body, once it's settled into its resting mode, doesn't want to get revved up again.
Another reason it's important to distribute your calories carefully is the fact that eating the majority of your calories at one meal can create an insulin spike, causing your body to store fat. When you take in a high dose of calories -- and, in particular, carbohydrate calories -- your pancreas gets the message to pump out more insulin than is ideal. Insulin is responsible for moving glucose (blood sugar) out of the bloodstream and into the body's tissues; large amounts of insulin increase the likelihood that the glucose will be stored as fat. An insulin spike caused by a big meal will encourage your body to tuck away more fat -- no matter when that oversize meal occurs. If, however, you spread your calories out over many hours, your insulin will stay at a reasonable level and your body will be less likely to hoard fat.
While you should always aim to have a moderate-calorie meal -- whether that means ordering sensibly or wrapping up half of a big meal and taking it home -- there will be times when you end up eating a restaurant meal higher in calories than you'd like. Just keep things in perspective, it's eating supersize dinners consistently that's going to be detrimental to your health. Just pare down your next meal (or meals) a bit or be a little more active the next day to get back on an even keel. You can even take action immediately after eating. If time allows, grab your dining companion and go for a postmeal walk.
Appropriate portion sizes. It will be a lot easier to keep your calories in check if the meals you order are reasonably proportioned. Here is what a healthy "serving" looks like:
- A serving of rice (and other grains), pasta, or potatoes is equal to 1?2 cup -- which looks like half a tennis ball. A one-serving baked potato can fit in the palm of your hand. (A lot of restaurant baked potatoes are giant-sized!)
- A serving of meat, fish, or poultry weighs 3 to 4 ounces and looks the size of a deck of cards or a computer mouse. (Anything in excess of that, set aside to take home.)
- A serving of cheese is 1 ounce, about the size of your thumb.
- A serving of cooked vegetables is 1?2 cup, 1 cup for fresh greens. I wouldn't worry about the portion size of vegetables as long as you're eating them without added fats. A serving of fruit is 1?2 cup -- again, half a tennis ball.
- A serving of dairy is 1 cup, the size of a full tennis ball.
A good balance of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. To be healthy, a meal needn't have an ideal percentage of each nutrient -- what's important is that you get a good balance of fat, protein, and carbohydrate throughout the day. If one meal is short on protein, for example, you can always make up for it later. But I also think that the best-case scenario is to eat a meal that combines the three main nutrients in reasonable proportions. What's reasonable? It's hard to say specifically. Each of us has genetic differences and different levels of activity that influence our metabolic rates and, by extension, our dietary needs.
That said, there are some safe percentages of fat, carbohydrate, and protein that you can start with, then tweak as necessary. I suggest you begin by breaking down your total number of calories in this way: 50 to 55 percent carbohydrates, 25 to 30 percent fat, and 15 to 20 percent protein. See how these proportions work for you -- and by that I mean how they make you feel, how much energy they give you, and how well they're helping you accomplish your goal of attaining or maintaining a healthy weight -- then adjust and readjust as necessary. In general, the more active you are, the more carbohydrates you can handle.
In regard to an individual meal, consider that fat, protein, and carbohydrate complement one another, which is why the best meal has a combination of all three. Fat and protein, for instance, slow the digestion of carbohydrate; they keep your blood sugar from rising too quickly and causing a corresponding surge in insulin. Having some fat and protein on the plate will also keep you from getting hungry again too quickly, helping to control your appetite and keep you from excess snacking. Fat also makes food more palatable; it tastes good and makes you feel as though you've eaten a "real" meal.
Carbohydrates also have an important place on the plate. For one thing, they generally come with important nutrients, including fiber (more on fiber in a minute), and they also have an effect on how satisfying you find a meal. One of the reasons many people end up going off low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets (and gaining back the weight they lost) is that they miss the taste and texture of carbs.
Just as the calorie count of your restaurant meal may not end up being perfect, its breakdown may not end up being ideal either. But this doesn't have to be a problem; you can balance out your intake on other meals or snacks later.
Reasonable amounts of healthy fats and an absence of unhealthy fats. Contrary to what the whole fat-free boom has led us to believe, fats are an important part of the diet. That is, healthy fats are an important part of the diet. The difference between olive oil and margarine is a big one.
A healthy fat is a fat that decreases the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Some healthy fats also raise the level of HDL ("good") cholesterol in the blood, helping to keep the arteries free and clear. An unhealthy fat, on the other hand, raises LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and can even lower HDL levels.
The healthiest fats are olive and canola oils. Both of these have a large percentage of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. (Almond, sunflower, avocado and peanut oils, peanut butter, cashews, walnuts, and almonds are all also high in monounsaturates.) Another class of vegetable oils are the polyunsaturated fats. These include corn, soybean, safflower, and fish oils. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids, found in high-fat fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) and flaxseed, also have a number of health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and possibly other inflammatory conditions.
There are basically two types of unhealthy fats: saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats are those found in animal foods such as whole-milk dairy products and red meat. Coconut milk, coconut oil, and palm oil also contain saturated fat. (However, their positive and negative effects on our health are being debated.) Trans fats are generally vegetable oils that have been put through a process called hydrogenation in order to make them solid or semisolid. They're found in most margarines and shortenings and, because they're often used for frying, are abundant in fast foods. They have a long shelf life, so they're also found in a lot of processed foods such as snack crackers and cookies. Researchers now believe that trans fats are even worse for you than saturated fats. There is, for instance, some solid evidence that trans fats raise bad LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while lowering good HDL cholesterol levels. They may also increase the risk of blood clots.
It's often difficult to tell what kind of fats are used to make a restaurant meal, but it doesn't hurt to ask. Many restaurants make a point of using olive and/or canola oil and, if they don't advertise it on the menu already, will be happy to tell you so. Many fast-food restaurants also now list the ingredients, including the fats, on their Web sites, and some even include the exact number of grams of trans and saturated fats found in individual menu items. A few even list the trans fat content of their food, something you will be probably be seeing more of soon. The government has mandated that food manufacturers list trans fat content by 2006, and one can hope that restaurants will follow suit.
Whether or not trans and saturated fat contents are listed on a restaurant's nutritional information page, there are some obvious red flags you can look for. If an entrée is covered with cheese, drowning in a cream sauce or butter, or topped with bacon bits, you can bet it's high in saturated fat. Trans fats are not as easy to detect, but you can ask if a dish is made with margarine and watch out for anything fried.
Occasionally, in the guide to specific restaurants that begins on page 52, you'll see that I recommend ordering a fat-free salad dressing or other fat-free food. This isn't because I think you need to keep your diet fat free. As I've said, reasonable amounts of healthy fats are an important part of the diet. But restaurants generally add fat to food in so many places that I think the more you can do to keep your meal moderately lean, the better. Fats, even good fats, are high in calories, so it's important to keep them in check. Whenever you can get a cook to prepare your food with minimal added fat, do so. Chefs want their food to taste good, so they generally make liberal use of oils and butters unless directed otherwise. A gentle reminder that you're perfectly willing to forgo all that fat will generally help.
Fiber and phytochemicals. Fiber plays a significant role in keeping the body healthy, and it can be a great ally in weight loss. It aids in removing waste products from the body, slows down digestion, and provides volume to help satisfy your hunger. Some of the best sources of fiber are whole grains, but sadly, beyond a few health food and macrobiotic eateries, most restaurants do not serve them. If a restaurant does, take advantage of it: order the whole-grain toast, the brown rice, the oatmeal or All-Bran; whole grains also have other important nutrients besides fiber, such as antioxidants, that may help guard against disease.
If you're at a restaurant that doesn't offer whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables are another good source of fiber. A stir-fry or a fruit salad can help you bulk up your diet, as can ordering several sides of vegetables with your entrée. Getting a liberal amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet will also help you increase your intake of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are compounds made by plants that have a beneficial effect on the body. Scientists are only beginning to scratch the surface of the usefulness of these compounds, but they do know that the more phytochemical-rich fruits and vegetables we get in our diets, the lower our risk of disease. A general rule of thumb is that the more brightly colored the fruit or vegetable, the more phytochemicals it contains, so choose a colorful meal.
Lean protein. We all need protein. It provides the basis for building, maintaining, and repairing body tissues -- something, especially as an active person, you cannot do without. Protein also helps you burn calories, and in fact it precipitates a bigger thermic effect -- a surge in calorie burning triggered by eating -- than any other nutrient. You may have been led to believe that you need to eat heaps of protein, but that isn't the case. If you eat protein to the exclusion of carbohydrates and fat, your body will break down your muscles for energy, limiting the amount of calories you burn (muscle requires a lot of energy to maintain, and the more you have of it, the more calories you burn, even at rest).
Making 15 to 20 percent of your total calories protein foods is adequate, but it's also critical to make sure that you choose the right protein foods. Animal sources of protein tend to go hand in hand with saturated fat, but lean sources have only minimal amounts. I'm not saying you shouldn't eat red meat, but I think you'll find that restaurants tend to use fattier cuts (they're more tender), so you're better off sticking to fish and other seafood, egg whites (a few egg yolks a week are okay if you do not have elevated cholesterol), white-meat poultry, and lean cuts of pork. If you do order red meat, ask for the dishes that use leaner cuts, such as sirloin and round, and trim any obvious fat off yourself.
You can also, of course, get protein through nonanimal sources, such as nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy products, and soy products such as tofu. If a restaurant serves soy patties (for example, Boca Burgers) or tofu, take advantage of them. Just be certain you know how they're prepared. Tofu, especially at Asian restaurants, is often served fried. Whole-milk dairy products, of course, also contain a lot of fat (and it's saturated fat), so stick with nonfat or low-fat options.
Minimally processed ingredients. In an ideal world, every dish you order at a restaurant would be made from fresh food, with no preservatives, chemicals, or ridiculous amounts of added sugars and salt. In the real world, restaurants often use processed products -- higher-end places less so, but less expensive restaurants usually depend on them to keep their prices down. Keep a watchful eye. Whenever possible, order dishes made "fresh" on the premises, such as salads, homemade soups, and vegetable sides.
Drinks without added sugar or chemicals. One thing that every restaurant has is water, your top drink choice. Those of you who have read my previous books know that I am a fierce advocate of drinking lots of water throughout the day -- a minimum of six eight-ounce glasses a day and preferably more like nine. Here's why: Being dehydrated diminishes the body's ability to perform virtually every physiological function, including fat metabolism. Dehydration also makes your body go in search of water, but somewhere along the way it gets interpreted as hunger -- a phenomenon I call "artificial hunger" -- and causes you to end up eating more than you should. Dehydration also causes the digestive system to work at a diminished capacity, potentially preventing you from getting the nutrients you need and triggering unnecessary eating to make up for the shortfall.
So water is what you should drink. If you find water just too boring, consider the new flavored vitamin waters being served at some places. They have a touch of flavor and very few calories. What shouldn't you drink? Avoid sodas, which are really just sugar, water, and artificial flavor, and diet sodas, which are water and chemicals with little redeeming nutritional value. Juices -- at least some juices -- do offer many vitamins, but they are also highly caloric, so I suggest you limit your intake or order your juice cut in half with club soda (it will also halve the calories).
Chances are, you're going to eat more calories when dining out than you would at home; ordering a drink with a substantial number of calories will just bump up the number even more. And those beverage calories can really add up. For example, one 20-ounce soda has about 250 calories. If you get two refills, you've consumed 750 calories of nutrient-free soda, more calories than you probably want to consume for your entire meal! For similar calorie-related reasons (and others), alcohol is another drink I recommend you limit; I'll talk a little more about that in a later section.
The danger of ordering coffee at a restaurant is that it's often a bottomless cup -- get assigned a friendly waitress, and before you know it you've downed five cups! And if you take your coffee with cream and sugar, it won't only be excess caffeine you're getting. Many people don't even register the calories they get from adding cream (which also has saturated fat), most artificial creamers, and sugar to their coffee. Yet they can add up to quite a bit if you're drinking more than one cup.
If you're a regular coffee drinker, I recommend switching to decaf as often as possible, if not entirely. Likewise with tea. Most restaurants offer decaffeinated coffee, and many also offer herb or decaffeinated black teas. Consider ordering green tea. Although it has some caffeine, it also has phytochemicals, which researchers have found may protect against many diseases, including cancer. If you prefer iced tea but your dining spot doesn't offer any of the healthier variations, order hot herbal or green tea and a big cup of ice and make your own.
Before I go on, I just want to reiterate that it's not important that every meal you eat be perfect. You may find yourself in a restaurant where you just can't seem to find anything on the program to eat. Or you may find yourself in a restaurant on a day when you're feeling vulnerable or in the mood to indulge -- there are healthy things on the menu, but you just decide not to order them. Either way, you're going to be fine. It takes 3,500 calories to gain a pound, and that's quite a bit more than one splurge.
What matters most is consistency. If you eat healthfully 90 percent of the time, those rare restaurant sprees aren't going to harm you. Just don't get caught up in thinking that you've blown it, so why not blow it some
more? Enjoy yourself and recommit to the program at the next meal.
Restaurant Reconnaissance: Picking the Right Place Is Half the Battle
Convenience is often the reason people give for choosing a particular restaurant. Force of habit is another. But if those reasons have you tethered to a spot that doesn't really suit your needs, I hope you'll shake up your routine and find a better place (or places). The sure way to get a healthy meal when dining out is to go to a restaurant that pays attention to its customers' needs. The best places either have plenty of sensible choices on the menu or welcome special orders.
The guide at the back of this book will help you get a feel for which chains fit that criteria (and which don't), but to find out what independent eateries can offer you, you're going to have to do a little legwork. Here are the criteria you should use to find a "good" restaurant.
Does it offer several healthy entrées? Many restaurants position themselves as "splurgeterias" -- places where people are supposed to indulge. When that's the case, they usually don't bother putting anything low in fat and calories on the menu -- and, of course, that's their prerogative. Your prerogative is to dine somewhere else. To my mind, the best type of restaurant is one that has not just one or two but many healthy options on the menu. Don't get me wrong -- I'll take one or two; however, limited options can get boring. You're more likely to stray into the indulgent area of the menu if the nutritious side dishes are restricted to, say, one big salad with fat-free dressing or an egg-white omelet. So whenever possible, choose a restaurant that has varied low and moderate calorie choices.
Will they prepare food "your way"? The two words I hate to see on a restaurant menu are "No substitutions." I can understand why some fast-food restaurants live by that credo since it helps them get food out fast, as the label implies (although some of them don't get food out as fast as they'd have you believe). But even some fast-food joints are open to fulfilling special requests, and it seems to me that a place that makes food to order should be able to accommodate customers' (reasonable) demands. That said, many places are very obliging, and this is particularly true if you're a regular customer.
If it doesn't have a particularly healthy menu, does it at least have enough of a selection to allow you to cobble together a healthy meal? As I mentioned, there are restaurants that are meant for splurging and restaurants that stubbornly resist substitutions and other requests. Sometimes, if the menu is large enough, you can work around these limitations. It might be just a matter of ordering two first-course appetizers (such as soup and salad) instead of a first course and an oversized entrée. Perhaps you might order from the list of side dishes (a baked potato and a side of spinach or mixed vegetables). Such a meal might not always be perfect, but it's a good way to stay on the program in a pinch, and you can always make up for what you might be missing (in the case of the above examples, protein) at your next meal.
Now that I've given you my definition of the best kinds of restaurants, you'll need to go out and identify them. Say, for instance, there are several cafés and bistros near your workplace. Collect menus from all of them. See which of them have the most health-conscious offerings, then make it a point to patronize those restaurants. Knowing the menus of several restaurants will also help you steer colleagues and other business associates to the places that you know serve healthful dishes, rather than letting them steer you to places where you'll have a hard time finding anything you want to eat. The same goes for restaurants near your house. Do the research; you may find that some of them have better options than you expected.
Do some reconnaissance before you travel as well. This may be as simple as looking through guidebooks to find restaurants with healthy selections or, if necessary, making a few phone calls. If you'll be staying at a hotel with a concierge, phone ahead and ask for suggestions. He or she probably already knows a few places. The concierge or the restaurant you're interested in may even be able to fax you a menu at home before you leave. Or look on the Web; you may find everything there that you need to know.
If you're going on a road trip, the smartest thing you can do is pack your own food. But if that's not practical, find out what restaurants will be on the route you're traveling. If you know that, for instance, you can always find something healthy at Denny's, go to the Denny's Web site and check its restaurant locator to see if there's a branch on your travel route, then plan your stops accordingly. This might sound a little obsessive, but there is nothing worse than being stuck on the road and forced to eat at a place where the healthy pickings are slim. A little foresight can make a big difference.
Finally, become a menu collector. I have a special drawer at home devoted to a stash of menus from restaurants in my area. This not only helps me know what will be in store for me before I go but also gives me a chance to think about what I'm going to order. I find that it's often easier to make healthy choices if you don't have the pressure of the waitperson standing over you while you try to decide. Going in with your mind already made up about what you're going to have can also help you resist the kind of why-not-join-the-gang pressure when everyone else starts ordering fried calamari and cheese-drenched nachos.
Basic Strategies for Staying on the Program
To some extent, when you dine out you're always going to be somewhat at the mercy of the restaurants you go to. You can, though, can take certain aspects of restaurant dining into your own hands. Here are some tips.
• Stand your ground when it comes to choosing a restaurant.
Sometimes it's friends, sometimes it's family, sometimes it's business colleagues -- there are many people who may try to pressure you into eating at a place that you know is going to make it difficult for you to find something healthful to eat. If you can't persuade your dining partners to go to your top choice, at least find a compromise. Keep in mind, too, that there are other places to have business meetings and/or socialize beside restaurants. Meet for tea or a drink at a place where you can order something nonalcoholic. Go to the movies and out to a coffeehouse afterwards, rather than to the movies and dinner. In the summer suggest a picnic so that you can bring the food you want to eat, or consider entertaining at home so that you can make a healthy meal.
• Snack a little before you go out.
This is an old trick, but it works -- and not just for keeping your ordering under control at restaurants. It's also a great technique for ensuring that you don't overeat (or overdrink) at parties. The idea is this: When you arrive at a restaurant (or an event with food) feeling famished, you are going to want to attack the first plate of food you see. At a restaurant, that's usually the breadbasket, at a party the tray of appetizers. When you're hungry, your rumbling stomach is going to overrule your rational mind when it comes to ordering, leading you to order the steak with bleu cheese sauce; satiety will keep you cool, calm, and collected enough to order the grilled fish.
• Avoid the bar.
I don't believe that everyone needs to be a teetotaler to stay on the program. But I do believe that you're better off being an occasional drinker. Some wines and spirits contain antioxidants, but for the most part, alcohol calories are empty calories that you don't need. They offer you no fiber, vitamins, or minerals. If you're so inclined, have a drink or a glass of wine once in a while for pleasure, but don't make alcohol a regular part of your day.
Restaurants like to get you into the bar whenever possible. They make a lot of money off alcohol (even more than they make off food), so it's not surprising that the hostess will try to steer you to the bar while you wait for your table. If you do end up at the bar and you feel compelled to order something, ask for a juice spritzer (juice cut with carbonated water) or mineral water.
• Decline wine and other alcoholic drinks at the table.
As soon as you get to the table, your server will undoubtedly come around pushing more alcohol (servers always seem disappointed if you don't order wine). Resist the pressure. These days, servers in finer restaurants also generally try to push bottled mineral water. Water, is always good in my book, and if ordering a bottle will get you to drink more of it during your meal (water from the tap in some municipalities tastes awful), go for it. Sometimes just the idea that you've paid for it will induce you to drink it! Yes, restaurants tend to overcharge for mineral water, but you'll be much better off if you spend your money on water rather than on alcohol or soda.
• Ask your server not to bring the bread basket (or chips if you're in a Mexican restaurant).
Even if you've vowed to have just a single piece of bread, you may find it hard to resist going for more, especially if you have to wait a long time for your meal. It's easier not to have the bread on the table. If your dining companions want bread, you can ask them to keep the basket away from your side of the table. You can also take a portion of bread or chips and then ask the server to remove the basket.
• Make your server your ally.
Your waiter or waitress is your conduit to the kitchen and key to getting what you want. Thus, the better your communication with your server, the better your meal will be. Learn and use your server's first name. Make eye contact, explain what you want, ask questions. If you're a regular at a restaurant and know you can count on a particular server to be receptive to your needs, request to be put in his or her section. You want to have the person who'll make sure your salad dressing comes on the side and that your toast is dry, not slathered in butter.
• Look at the ingredients, not just the dishes listed on a menu.
What you see on the menu is not all that you can get. If, for instance, a restaurant offers omelettes, it can probably also make you an egg-white omelette. If pasta with broccoli is an entrée, it can probably also bring you a side of broccoli with your chicken. You'll find that some menus are written in stone, but most restaurants will allow you some leeway -- they want you to leave happy. It certainly doesn't hurt to ask. If they say no, just be gracious -- and then cross that restaurant off your list of accommodating places.
• Order small portions.
This might seem like a tall order, given the fact that the portion sizes in restaurants these days border on the obscene. You can often get around this by splitting a meal with your dining partner or having your server wrap up half of your meal so you can take it home. Sometimes restaurants charge a split fee, which I admit is annoying. But you'll be doing yourself a favor if you just pony up the modest fee. (Some places don't actually make you pay it.) You'll end up with a healthier meal and you'll save money.
Another way to get around the big-portion dilemma is to order appetizers as your entrée: soup or salad and an appetizer or two appetizers and one entrée split between two people. If your dining companion isn't willing to share, many finer restaurants will also shave entrées down to smaller, appetizer proportions if you ask.
• Pass on the buffet.
America, I know, loves buffets. Economically, I have to agree that they're a bargain, a lot of food for a moderate amount of money. But what are you really getting? The food is never as hot or as good as food that's been made to order. Other people (perhaps even sniffling and sneezing people) have been poking at the buffet before you, and, I don't know about you, but standing in line for food makes me feel a little like cattle. Plus a buffet isn't really conducive to enjoying the company you're with. As soon as you sit down, your dining companion is up and back for seconds. It's like musical chairs!
The worst thing about buffets is that they're an invitation to overeat. It's hard not to want to sample everything and thus hard not to end up taking in more calories than you should, even if your portions are small. Salad bars are better than full buffets since the choices are limited, though you still need to be careful about piling your plate too high with calorie-heavy "add-ins" and drowning it all in high-fat dressing. If you do find yourself at a buffet, try this strategy: eat only the things that you really, really love and forgo things that you can get elsewhere or make at home. Better yet, save the buffets for at-home potlucks with family and friends. At least then you can add some healthy dishes of your own to the table -- and you won't feel as though you need to eat "your money's worth."
• Beware of hidden calories.
Not all dishes that sound healthy actually are. As I surveyed restaurant menus for this book, I found that many nutritious-sounding dishes, such as some of the chicken salads, actually had more saturated fat and/or calories than the foods that you'd expect to be worse (such as simple hamburgers). Find out how something is made before you order it. For instance, is the chicken in the chicken sandwich breaded and fried or grilled without the skin? Does a salad have cheese and fried noodles or chips mixed in? Does the turkey come swimming in gravy? Get the facts before you order.
• Be smart when it comes to salads.
Salads often sound healthy but in reality may not be. What's more, a healthy salad can be made considerably less healthy just by the dressing you choose to put on it. Many places now offer reduced-fat and low-calorie dressings, which can really help improve the quality of your salad. But when they don't, order your dressings on the side and rather than pouring the dressing on your salad, dip your fork into it, then take a bite of salad. Very little dressing sticks to the tines of the fork, but you'll get some of its flavor with each bite. You can also use a little bit of oil and vinegar or lemon juice instead of prepared dressing.
• Don't let "eating like a bird" jokes bother you.
For some reason best left to psychologists to explain, people don't like to see others eating healthfully when they are eating poorly. I guess it has something to do with guilt. It's not your job to make other people feel comfortable with their decisions to overindulge. Your decision to make healthful changes in your life was made on behalf of yourself, not anyone else. Keep that in mind, and I think you'll find it much easier to resist the urgings of friends and family to overeat.
• Save dessert for later.
One little trick I play on myself is that instead of ordering dessert at the restaurant, I suggest to my dinner companions that we go somewhere else. Often by the time we drive or walk to the next place, I realize I'm not even hungry anymore and I end up skipping dessert entirely. When you order dessert immediately after dinner, you haven't yet had the chance to get up and see how your body feels. And if you're really still hungry for dessert? Hopefully you've steered your group to a place that serves healthy dessert choices.
Copyright © 2004 by Bob Greene Enterprises, Inc.
The Get With The Program! Guide to Fast Food and Family Restaurants
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