Tag Archives: health

Something old, something true, something followed, something brewed


Pike’s Place Market – decked out for the holidays

Seattle is one of my favorite cities.  I am here for the weekend, mainly to see Allen Stone and the band (which includes my son, the bass player) perform at the Paramount Theater.   The show last night was sold out, and the group did not disappoint Allen’s home town crowd.  Of course I was not disappointed, but hey, I’m the mom of the bass player – not exactly unbiased, I admit.

Don’t worry.  I’m not going to just go on and on about my wonderful son.  I know that may not be all that interesting to many of you.  So . . . I promise to tie in some health and nutrition themes.

Something Old

Let’s talk about age.  My kids call me “old”, a “geezer”, etc.  (all in fun, of course, because otherwise I would give them a good whack, even if they are 20-something).  There is, in fact, no more of a reality check on chronological age than attending a show put on by a group of young musicians.

This is not so true when one attends a show by an older artist – say, Jackson Browne.  When Peter and I recently did just that, we found ourselves in the midst of an amazingly homogeneous group of people with lots of gray hair (or no hair at all).  We looked at each other, wondering if it could really be possible that we did not look out of place, considering how young we must look – hah!  We may be a bit in denial about the aging process, but we are not completely delusional.

This is when I remind myself how much FUN I am having!  I am truly happier than ever, and I am looking forward to many of the parts of what comes next:  grandchildren, travel, time with friends, time for hobbies, in general more TIME.

So I am a little on the more “experienced” end of the groupie spectrum.  I’m OK with that.  A young spirit can be cultivated.  Staying healthy really, REALLY helps.  And please try to avoid magnifying makeup mirrors.  Every time I stay in a hotel, I am reminded of how “distorting” they are.  I prefer the look from a few feet away – which actually works just fine as my eyes get more “seasoned” with time. Continue reading

More Clues to a Long, Happy Life

The title grabbed my attention – “The Island Where People Forget to Die”. The article appeared in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday, and I have been thinking about it all week.  Click on the link, if for no other reason, to see the picture of the absolutely radiant, very elderly man with the sharp outfit.  It made me smile looking at his uninhibited partially toothed grin.

I spend the bulk of my working life focusing on the way people eat, yet it is clear that longevity and quality of life are determined by more complex combinations of lifestyle factors.  The people on the Greek island of Ikaria do not own watches!  They do not pay attention to time at all!!  Think about that for a moment.  How much of our stress is connected to the clock, deadlines, perceived life-or-death goals?

Another thing that struck me as significant about their lifestyle, made all the more evident as I watch the news accounts of people coming together in response to Hurricane Sandy, is the importance of interconnectedness.  We simply live better and longer when we have strong social bonds.

And what about activity level?  We like to call it “exercise”, but the people on Ikaria just keep active in their daily lives – no need for a gym.  In fact, the vast majority of those over 80 are still active.

Yes, they eat well too – a Mediterranean diet, with locally grown food and very little meat.  They drink some wine and a little coffee, and don’t eat processed foods.   Home-baked sourdough bread is a staple, along with herbal teas from local plants.

This way of eating has an impressive amount of research supporting it, but I think there may be another factor at play.  I cannot picture Ikarians poring over the internet obsessing about what they should or shouldn’t eat.  I think they just eat as they live – in touch with their bodies.  They eat what is fresh, when it is available, in the quantities needed to feel nourished.  I believe they enjoy their food and do not over-think eating.

And they smile.  Check out that picture again.  What a nice look!  It’s called happiness.

Another “Off” Message

They did it again!  Lucky Magazine, that is.  It shouldn’t have caught me off guard – I noticed a similar ad last time I picked one up – but sitting under the dryer at the salon this morning, I did not expect it.

My accessories are the only things that fit.  Fill the void.

My thoughts about this one are the same as last time, when the message was even bolder . . . check it out.  Apparently this is a regular theme now (“Fill the void”).  I don’t wonder why.  It certainly caught my attention.

No One Wants to Eat Dinner With Me

As I typed the title of this post, it brought back a memory – random thought – of past formal dinners, seated next to strangers, making chit chat.  “So, this is such a lovely event, . . . la, la, la, la . . . yes, it has been a beautiful autumn . . . oh, you have a dog too – what kind? . . .  yes, I work outside my home – I’m a dietitian.

LONG PAUSE.  Diner seated next to me glances cautiously at her plate, stiffens up a bit, and after a longer pause, timidly apologizes for her food choices.  “I don’t usually eat like this.”  (Head drops in shame.)

Oh, please!  I have to go through my usual apologies for my buzz-killing presence.  “I think food should be enjoyed, and I certainly enjoy mine,” I offer.  She looks unconvinced.

When I sat down to write this post, my line of thought was on last night though.  Peter called early in the day to say that he would not be home, so I called a good friend to see if we might be able to go out for a quick bite after work.  No luck.  Alright, I thought, this is a chance to order food from the vegetarian restaurant I love.

Carrying my little plastic bag inside at 7:15, I reached in the dark for the light switch.  I heard the rattle of Stella’s collar in the family room, and then the slow tap-tap-tap of her paws across the wood floor as she moved toward me.

Here is a confession – I do not really like to eat dinner alone.  It feels funny.  I usually eat with Peter.  Candles, home-cooked food, a small glass of good wine, pleasant conversation.  Not a plastic bag – albeit with yummy food! – and an empty house with an old deaf dog who is back on the couch – and back asleep –  after saying hello.  Thank goodness I could at least forego the plastic utensils they offered at the restaurant.

As I set the table for one, I felt a little better.  Real silverware makes such a difference!  I grabbed a match and lit the candle.  I felt a little cozier.  I put my meal on a real plate – “No, I will not eat directly out of the take-out container,” I told myself.  I opened a bottle of wine and poured a small amount into actual stemware.  Now the scene actually looked inviting.

Sitting down to enjoy the meal, I realized I had reaffirmed the value of ambiance. It does affect the experience of eating – a lot.  I must admit that it was difficult to sit and just eat though.  I couldn’t resist a bit of multi-tasking, with the newspaper spread out next to me.  Ah well, at least I wasn’t in front of the TV or computer.

My Dinner Companion

More Nutrition Confusion: Skip Breakfast?

If you forget to feed me breakfast, you’d better hide your sandwich.

Skip breakfast and feel more mental clarity, lose fat better, live longer?  Huh?!  Haven’t we all been told that people who eat breakfast supposedly live longer.  I also read a recent study that found men to be 20% more likely to develop diabetes if they are habitual breakfast skippers.  I also have believed – based on studies and my own experience – that skipping breakfast does NOT make my head clearer, but instead makes it hard to focus.

But here I am, looking at an article in my husband’s latest Men’s Journal making a case for regular fasting, every day or several times a week for time periods of 24 hours, plus or minus.  “Skip breakfast, feel better”, the magazine cover teases.

Proponents claim that you will burn more fat by using ketones for fuel instead of carbohydrates.  Some of them even recommend exercising in this state of temporary starvation.

I must admit that my brain started bouncing back and forth between these two very different viewpoints, until I stepped back a little to see the big picture – always a much more valuable outlook.

How the science will shake out on the topic is yet to be revealed.  There are studies and experts on both sides.  What I know is that any of the proposed methods suggested in the article would be very difficult for any of my weight loss clients, as well as for myself.

The methods used by those who were interviewed for the article are:

1.  Mark Mattson (“The Alzheimer’s Expert”):  No breakfast or lunch Monday through Friday, while working out 4 of those days.  (My note:  Most people I know binge when they go this long without food, with or without exercise.)

2. John Olson (“The NASA Guy”):   ” . . . normal diet on all days except Tuesday and Wednesday.  Then I limit myself to about 600 calories per day . . . . ”  (My note:  Talk about setting yourself up for a binge and food obsession!)

3.  Valter Longo (“The Cancer Expert”):  “I don’t eat lunch – that’s how I keep my weight in place.  My diet is mostly vegan with low protein.”  (My note:  You keep your weight in place by eating fewer calories than you burn.)

4. Brad Pilon (“Intermittent-Fasting Guru”):  “The way to make fasting work for the masses is to do 24-hour fasts.  It’s easy to remember:  ‘I stopped eating at 2pm today, and I can start again at 2pm tomorrow.’  My program is composed of two 24-hour fasts a week . . . . ”  (My note:  Really?  This is a fast for the masses?  It may be easy to remember when to eat, but how easy is it to do that twice every week?!)

5.  Mark Sisson (“The Paleo Guy”):  Most days, I simply have a compressed eating window.  I eat two meals a day, generally between 12pm and 7pm.  Since I train at 9:30 most mornings, I train in a fasted state and don’t eat for a few hours afterward.”  (My note:  This would probably be easier for me to do than the other methods mentioned, although still far from easy.  I think many people would still be prone to overeating after fasting until noon, unless they consistently wake up late.)

I think it’s great when anyone finds something that works for them and is healthy, but  I don’t think we can definitively say whether or not the intermittent fasters have discovered a healthier way to eat.  Even if we could, this would still be unrealistic and unsuccessful for most people battling extra fat.   Research suggests that overweight people may have exaggerated hunger already.  Hardly a plan for the masses!

This reminds me of the people who deliberately eat significantly fewer calories than they need everyday in order to live longer.  While studies make a case for increasing longevity by doing this, it is clear – at least to me – that this is not a way most people would choose to live.  Starvation – temporary or more permanent – leads to overeating.  This is what I observe, and this is what leads me away from recommending anything too extreme.

How many times a day should you eat?  The answer is not simple.  My personal belief is that 2 times is too few and more than 5 or 6 is not usually necessary or helpful.

Lifestyle Is More Important

I just read results of another study that draws a possible connection between heart disease risk and a genetically determined trait.  This time it is blood type.  I am Type A, so I am – according to this study – 8% more likely to develop heart disease.

Those with A, B, or AB blood types appear to have a higher risk than those with the O blood type.  The researchers point out that this is probably not a very powerful indicator of risk, and that lifestyle makes a big difference.

I think lifestyle is THE most important determinant of heart disease risk in almost all cases.  The expression of genetically inherited traits is influenced by how we live – how we eat, what we eat, how we manage stress, activity levels, even happiness.

As someone with a family history of heart disease, I find this comforting.  So far there is no truly accurate way to determine who is going to develop heart disease and who will not.  Cholesterol measurements in a standard lipid panel are just not very predictive of risk.  More detailed testing is better, but there is still no consensus on an accurate predictive test for heart disease.  I think it is more complex than the presence of an ear lobe crease.  Whatever our risk factors, advice is similar.

Focus on lifestyle.  Improve eating habits and stay active.  This is what we can control.

Fresh, Light, Delicious

Try this simple tabbouleh recipe.   I enjoyed it with baked whitefish with almond slices, and roasted baby bok choy and green onions. (Just roast with olive oil, salt and pepper at 425 degrees – about 20 minutes.)  The fish can be baked at the same temperature during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking time.   Continue reading

Almonds Lower In Calories Than We Thought!

Yes, it seems that almonds have a whopping 32% fewer calories than previously assumed.  A new study reports that our previous method of measurement was not accurate for humans, and the newest measurements make almonds look even better than before.

We already knew that almonds have healthy fats.  Previous studies have also shown almonds to be a good snacking option for keeping hunger under control.  Now it seems that more of them can fit into a healthy eating plan without weight gain.  Bonus!

A Whole New Outlook

Here is a great example of what happens to attitude when people approach weight loss with a long-term outlook.  (from one of my group participants)

I’ve changed.

Every summer my family (6 siblings, spouses, children) get together one weekend in summer for a Brewer game and associated frivolity.  By frivolity, I mean:  lotsa beer, food, music, sun, fun and story telling.  It starts on Saturday . . . and goes on until about noon today (Sun) after we finish a home-cooked breakfast (by my master short order chef sis-in-law).  Then they all take off . . . . Continue reading

Way Easier Than Pie

Why is it so darn hard for people to eat vegetables?  I’ve heard all the excuses:  “They rot in the refrigerator before I can get to them,” (How about frozen?), “The kids won’t eat them” (They are much more likely to eventually eat them if they see you eat them!), and the most common one . . . “They take too long to prepare.” Continue reading