Posts Tagged ‘Diets’

The food pyramid becomes dust

June 1, 2011
The Egyptian pyramids will always endure, the food pyramid, not so much.

The old, new food pyramid -- confusing!

The triangular-shaped guide to healthy eating with its levels for each basic food group is being ditched in favor of a plate-shaped symbol sliced into wedges.

Half of the “plate” is taken up by fruits and vegetables, the rest of the wedges filled out with grains and protein.  It also apparently features a small circle for a serving of dairy.

The idea is to have your real dinner plate mimic the 2-D guide — a move many nutritionists are praising.  One tells The New York Times the plate will be better than the pyramid because the current model “basically conveys no useful information”.

I’d have to agree.

I get that the smaller the pyramid level, the less you should eat something, but they put fats at the top!  I don’t know about you, but putting something  atop of everything else has always suggested it’s better than the rest and in this case, it’s not.

So bring on the plate.  It’ll be officially unveiled tomorrow.  I wonder how long it’ll take before actual dishes printed with the eating recommendations hit the market…

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You Scream, I scream

May 11, 2011

Spring for me doesn’t just mean warmer weather and days spent enjoying the outdoors.  It also means ice cream.  This is going to sound crazy, but there’s something about sunny days that makes me want ice cream.  Doesn’t matter the flavor or whether it’s hard or soft serve, full fat or low-fat, I just desire a big bowl of it everyday.   Yes, folks, ice cream is my Achilles heel.

Sure I could buy the low-fat or sugar-free kind and eat a 1/2 cup serving each day, but the problem is, if there’s a container of it in my freezer, I rarely ever can stop after one scoop.  It draws me back one spoonful at a time and before I know it, it’s all gone.  And this cycle happens every time I buy it.  I try to convince myself that “This time I make it last,” but it never does.  And there’s no way I’m quitting it, so here’s the solution I’ve come up with that seems to work.

Instead of buying a pint or half-gallon, I buy single serving products.  I find I can more easily turn down a second or third serving if things are packaged separately.  Must be some kind of weird mental thing, but it works.  It also doesn’t hurt that those single servings cost more and so I’m more inclined to make them last.

You know what?  I think it’s time for some ice cream!  Right now I’m loving the Starbucks Ice Cream Bars…mmmmmm!

Coming out of hibernation

March 31, 2011

As much as I hate to say it, bathing suit season is getting closer.  Now, while I’m not one to go on a crazy crash diet to shed those winter pounds (and neither should you!), I’m not against a kick-ass move that’ll whip those abs back into shape.

According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the best move for toning your abs is this:

Now just lift your legs and you're all set!

Lie face up on the floor, legs lifted to 90 degrees with your knees bent.  Extend your arms overhead.  Now curl your torso off the floor, lower and repeat! 

Work that move into your routine and you’ll have bikini-worthy abs in time for Memorial Day!

Equal Opportunity Eating Disorders

March 29, 2011

Pop quiz: When you think of a person who has an eating disorder what image comes to mind?

If you said a teenage girl, then you’re like most people, including myself.  Sure we’ve all heard the stats that teenage boys also suffer from eating disorders, but often it’s young girls who are the face of the disease.

But this is changing.

More and more, women in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond are being diagnosed and treated for eating disorders.  And we’re not just talking about women who have relapsed.  Many have developed the disorders midlife.

When I first found this out it seemed strange because I’ve always thought of older women as people who are very secure in their lives and at peace with the way they look.  But it turns out they’re just as insecure as the rest of us.  They’re also not immune to the psychological stressors that lead to an eating disorder.  Where a young girl turns toward obsessive exercising and control over her diet as a way to deal with her parents’ divorce, an older women turns toward the same behaviors as a way to deal with her own divorce.

The reason why not much attention has been paid to this group until now is because the normal symptoms of an eating disorder are easier to conceal in older women.  If a teenage girl stops getting her period, it’s a big deal.  If a woman in her 50s stops getting hers, it’s chalked up to menopause.  Osteoporosis is a warning sign in a young girl, but women tend to lose bone density as they age, so once again a symptom is overlooked as just being a normal part of the aging process.

So what can be done?  The answer is as simple as getting the word out that eating disorders don’t just affect the young.  Like many illnesses, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder can afflict any person no matter their age.  The next step would be to get these people the help they deserve.  Here are some resources:

Columbia Center for Eating Disorders at Columbia University

National Eating Disorder Association

Eating Disorder Treatment Centers

Ab-solute shocker

March 15, 2011

Conventional health wisdom has long held that fat stored around your middle puts you at a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke.  But new research totally upends that thinking.

According to researchers at the University of Cambridge in London, it doesn’t matter where you store your fat, just how much of it you have.  They claim if you’re obese than it doesn’t matter if it’s around your middle or in your thighs…being overweight automatically puts you at a higher risk for the aforementioned health problems.

What’s more, these British researchers also found that your BMI number isn’t an accurate way to determine if you’re more prone to developing heart disease.  Instead, they say tracking a person’s blood pressure and cholesterol is the best way to assess that risk.  They are quick to point out, however, that BMIs are a good way to identify who may be more at risk to develop high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  That’s because people classified as obeseusually tend to have both of these ailments.

What strikes me about this research is this: maybe now people will become less concerned about whether they’re an apple or a pear shape and focus more on getting their whole body fit and healthy rather than those perceived “trouble spots”.

SOURCE: Fat Alone, Not Where It Sits, May Be Key to Heart Problems

Fit-ting reading material

February 23, 2011

As you may have guessed from reading some of my posts, I’m not the biggest fan of women’s health magazines.  The conflicting information dispensed in their pages frustrates me to no end.  But I think I finally found a publication I can read without wanting to rip up the pages — it’s Fitness magazine.

I recently signed up for the More/Fitness Women’s Half Marathon on April 3.  As part of my registration fee, they threw in a subscription to Fitness magazine.  The first issue arrived in the mail yesterday.  Considering how much of a skeptic I am, I wasn’t expecting much.  But it’s surprisingly good! 

In its pages you won’t find a limited diet intended to help you lose 20 pounds before spring along side a recipe for a decadent chocolate cake.  Instead,  you get down-to-earth fitness advice (like which machines you can skip at the gym) and healthy recipes like chipotle vegetable chili.

Another thing I was very happy to see…only one photo of a woman in a bathing suit!  And even then, it was a bikini bottom paired with a sweater.  Weird, I know, but this was the winter issue.  (Hmmm…I guess that could explain the lack of scantily clad women, but that doesn’t seem to stop other women’s magazines of always featuring women prancing around in bikinis and lingerie.)

The only disconnect was the giant full page ad for Hydroxycut.  That product seems to go against everything the magazine stands for, but I can understand having to take ad dollars where you can get it.

Overall, I think the magazine definitely upholds its mission to “empower women to embrace fitness as a lifestyle — not an age or dress size–and to change the conversation from skinny to healthy”.   Glad to know I’m not the only one!

So if

Do menus with calorie counts work?

February 18, 2011

Back in 2008 when New York City ordered fast-food and other chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus, the eateries were livid.  They worried that when faced with just how many calories a Starbucks Venti Java Chip Frappaccino (440 calories) or one of Pizzeria Unos’ individual Chicago Classic Deep Dish Pizza (2310!) actually contained, they’d stop coming in search of healthier options.  Turns out the restaurant industry had nothing to worry about.

A recent study by researchers at New York University looked at whether the change affected the eating habits of New York City and Newark, NJ kids from low-income families.   (New Jersey served as the control group because the state doesn’t yet require calorie information to be posted).  They discovered that although 60 percent of the kids who ordered their own food noticed the information, 90 percent of them said the labels didn’t affect what they ordered.  It was the same when it came to kids whose parents ordered for them.

So are calorie counts a waste?  Not necessarily, say the researchers.  What they concluded from this study is that in addition to providing the labels, people need to be educated about what makes up a healthy diet.  In essence, what good is knowing how many calories something contains if you don’t know how many calories you should be eating in the first place?  But the question then becomes is it the responsibility of the individual or the government to get this information?  I should point out this NYU study comes federal officials write rules requiring chain restaurants across the country to post calorie information on their menus and drive-through signs.

An app-solutely easy way to lose weight

February 16, 2011

A year or so ago I blogged about the mind-boggling number of diet and fitness apps available to smart phone users. 

At the time, I didn’t have a smart phone of my own and had to rely on the experiences and recommendations of others, but not anymore.

Since getting my new iPhone last week, I’ve spent a lot of time trolling through both the free and paid healthcare and fitness apps.  Here’s what I’ve discovered.

Name something you want to keep track of and there’s an app for it.  Whether we’re talking calories, exercise, heart rate, sleep, your period, your pregnancy or the number of push ups you can do…there are apps available to help you monitor all of it.  There tends to be multiple versions of each so all you have to do is pick the one that appeals to you, your goals, and your wallet the best.

My go-to diet app is the one available for free from the Daily Burn.   

The list of foods in its database is extensive.  If  you’re lazy or having trouble mastering the touchscreen keypad, you can pay to upgrade to an app that’ll let you scan the barcode of any food item to log it.  Neat, right? 

In addition to logging what you eat, you can also input personal information like your weight goal and it’ll suggest a caloric range for you to stick to.  You can also keep track of your exercise and even email questions to a certified personal trainer.

If you’re looking for something a bit more “hands-on” in terms of fitness, there’s definitely no lack of apps that offer to coach you or show you how to perform exercises.  You need to pay for most of those, with the average price around $1.50.

There are also apps that use GPS to track your runs/walks/steps.  I have yet to try one, but I hear most work great (until you get a phone call, but we’ll leave that for another post).

Overall, I think these healthcare/fitness apps are a great way to maintain your healthy lifestyle.  Let’s face it, we could all use a little help in sticking to our diet and/or exercise resolutions.  But when that help is so readily accessible, there’s really no excuse for failure.

The skinny bitch at fashion week

February 15, 2011

The skinny can that's making a splash at Fashion Week

Fashion Week is in full swing here in New York and the shows and new clothes aren’t the only things making headlines.  Pepsi took this week-long fashion extravaganza to unveil it’s new “skinny” Diet Pepsi can.  To say the thinking behind the design is flawed and offensive is to put it mildly.  The new can is taller and skinnier than it’s predecessor and will likely stand out amid all the short and squat soda cans out there.  No, what I take issue with is how the company has decided to market the new design.  Here are just a few words Pepsi uses to describe the new can: “sassier”, “stylish”, “confident”, “attractive” and “stylish”.

I get what they’re doing.  They’re trying to associate their product with all those fashionistas who flock to Fashion Week.  “Diet Pepsi: The latest must-have item!”  And yet it fails because in hyping a tall and skinny product as attractive and stylish, the company is implying  if you’re not tall and skinny (like those Fashion Week models) than you’re ugly with an out of date wardrobe. 

Sure it might be unfair to jump to the conclusion those skinny cans are a representation of what the company thinks confident and attractive women should look like, but consider this:  (1) They unveiled this product during Fashion Week and (2) most diet soda drinkers tend to be women. 

And I’m not the only one who’s insulted.  When this story broke last Thursday, the blogosphere blew up.  And then on Friday, the National Eating Disorders Association stepped into the fray calling Pepsi’s choice of branding words “thoughtless and irresponsible”.

I’ve never been a fan of Pepsi, but now I have even more of a reason to stick with my Diet Coke.

Eat this, not that, except when…

February 9, 2011

Lord knows there’s no shortage of dieting advice out there.   I mean we are talking about a $40 billion industry here.  All that information is bound to get confusing at times, which is why we turn to so-called health experts to sift through the clutter and tell us what to do, right?  But what happens when the people we rely on are bewildered themselves?

Let’s get back to those health magazines.  If you subscribe to any of them for a prolonged period of time you notice it’s just the same content recycled over and over again.  Not only that, a lot of what they’re telling you to do seems to contradict what they told you to do in a previous issue.  I draw your attention to exhibit A:

I was on a popular website when this headline caught my eye: “Diet Rules That Don’t Suck”.  Catchy,  no?  So naturally, I clicked through and found a list of “rules” that women should follow if they don’t want to miserable as they lose weight.  One suggestion is to eat less meat.  The thinking behind that one is that you’re cranky because you’re spending so much money on “healthy” foods, but not shedding pounds.  Ok, fine.  Not the strongest argument for going meat-less, but we can debate the pros/cons of cutting down on animal protein at a later time.

Now, two tips later, the article suggests another way to make your diet less sucky is to make sure you’re losing fat, not muscle.  The way to do this, we’re told, is to lift weights and eat a lot of protein.  Um, what?  Didn’t you just tell me to limit the amount of protein I should be eating?  Now you’re telling me I should be eating 2-3 ounces of lean meat every day?  What gives?

No wonder people are confused and can’t stick to a healthy eating program!  They’re told to do one thing and then told to do something else that completely contradicts the first.  And sadly, I’m not sure this is a problem that’s easily solved.  With all the money to be made, constantly bombarding  consumers with the latest “advice” which keeps them always looking for the next great weight loss “thing” is probably good for business.  I’m just not sure it’s so good for us.

But are the dieting industry and media really to blame?  You can’t deny the genius of those who tap into our insecurities about our weight to sell us a magic little pill or diet program that’ll melt away all our pounds easily.  But it’s not their fault that we’re so gullible and so overweight.  Let’s face it people, we didn’t get fat overnight and we sure as heck aren’t going to get thin that way.  We’re overweight cause we eat too  much and move to little.  I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s simple math…eat less, burn more.  Diets aren’t quick fixes.  They’re actually the first step you can take towards an overall lifestyle change.  But, boy, is that first step a doozy!