Total Pageviews

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Sacredness of Sharing Food and the Experience of Eating is SO Health-Empowering!

When we break bread and give it to each other, fear vanishes and God becomes very close.

I read the above quote by Reverend Dr. Henri Nouwen a few days ago. It made me jump back! As my friend, Alice, used to say, "as you go through life, every now and then --beams will intersect--and you will know that you have been 'LED' to be and ARE exactly where you are meant to be".

Beams intersected! This quote embodies much in life that I have experienced and continue to discover, even strive and LIVE FOR, personally and professionally.

You see, so much of my life and ME is about FOOD -- studying it, buying it, cooking it, and of course, eating it. But, the MOST significant aspect about food that has always been inherent, almost UNNOTICED, in all of the times that have POSITIVELY affected my relationship with food (for example, balancing my diet, optimizing my nutritional needs, appreciating FULLY its myriad of colors, textures, flavors and the easy availability of the cornucopia of foods wherever I've lived) VERSUS all the negative associations I've struggled with regarding food (overeating -- especially of junk foods, my obesity struggle, my obsessiveness and compulsiveness about it) is the role the SHARING of food has played.

That is, whenever the dynamic of SHARING FOOD has been 'on the table' (no pun intended -- I think! haha!), indeed, the fear, the negativity, the sinister, destructiveness, evil of FOOD and what it does when it is abused, OVERused, hoarded, not evenly distributed globally -- VANISHES! Even more profound, GOOD and WONDERFUL things happen: people get to know each other better, families laugh and learn about each other's triumphs and struggles, bodies become healthy and content, brains are nourished and innervated, those that 'have' eat just enough for their needs and learn the joys of a BALANCED DIET and those that 'don't have' also receive the blessing of eating enough for their needs and the joy of HAVING enough, rich and poor become dignified, humanity is equalized, love develops, and God becomes very close!

My beloved father loved sharing with me all the good foods that he enjoyed so much. He wanted so much to make me happy and feel cared for, secure, and loved. It was NEVER his intention to overfeed me and initiate a state of obesity in me that I would struggle with -- as a child and teenager, into my early adulthood, and, actually, through many of my adult years. It was ME who made FOOD the focus -- not the SHARING OF FOOD. And so, to 'replicate' those feelings of happiness, security, comfort, and love that I experienced growing up with my amazing Dad, especially during the times in my life that I have felt disappointed, unloved, frustrated, unappreciated, insecure -- I would 'comfort eat'! ONCE I realized that all the GOOD that I experienced with Dad was more about the SHARING of food and NOT the food itself, I stopped the comfort eating! It was more about the shared TIME with Dad, the shared JOY, the KNOWING that he wanted the BEST he could give to me, and the shared LOVE -- NOT really food FIRST. Food was just the means to the end! Alleluia!

Becoming a dietitian was my destiny! It has enabled me to perpetuate the POSITIVITY of FOOD and all that surrounds it -- for myself, but also for others. Understanding food and how and why it works, once it reaches the body (nutrition), has truly been an awakening for me. It has been my privilege to have dedicated my life to dietetics and the people I serve through practicing my profession. It's one of the ways I SHARE the 'bread of life', myself, and God's gifts and blessings of food and nutrition.

Personally, this 'sharing' occurs through the activities I occupy myself in with food study, purchasing, preparation, cooking, and eating -- with my family, friends, and in serving the greater global community -- in my local sphere and throughout the world.

Many people look at grocery shopping and cooking daily meals as mundane and unimportant. In fact, shopping for, cooking, serving, and sharing meals is one of the most holiest of activities and that which leads SO many people to 'wholesomeness' and 'holiness'. The SACRED personal connection to goodness that occurs through sharing meals must NEVER BE UNDERESTIMATED!

Health is holy. Sharing HEALTHY food is the ultimate in serving my God in every way I can as I strive to seek and follow His ways. When the Lord Himself broke Bread and gave It to His disciples and said 'Take and eat', this was as close as one could get to Another and He made it possible! It is this Promise and Assurance and Gift of my Daily Bread that gives me strength and sustenance! I am thankful and I am healthy and I am strong! When God becomes very close to me, I know I'm in Good Hands!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Do Americans Hate Fat People? My opinion

I just read:

What's also interesting about this blurb are the comments. I mean, are people SO clueless and brutal??!! Well, thankfully, not all people are. I don't think the point of this article was to garner sympathy and 'acceptance' for obese or 'fat' people or, certainly, the obesity epidemic. It was absolutely NOT intended to muster up a whole 'pity party' for obese people complete with gushy, smushy, blubbering pats on the back and hugs all way round. NO one HATES 'fat people' more than people who re overweight hate themselves. People who struggle with obesity, regardless of the reason(s) it occurred, don't need Americans or Europeans or the man on the moon to hate them anymore than they hate themselves or to bring any more hate and negativity and hopelessness into their lives than they already have. THAT'S what this article, in my humble opinion, is just trying to say. NOW, the reasons WHY obese and 'fat' people ARE that way IS the real issue or, should I say, ARE the REAL ISSUES , as it is these underlying issues that have to be elucidated and dealt with in order to help EFFECTIVELY and SUSTAINABLY treat and prevent obesity. People do not set out in life to become fat and don't WANT to get or STAY obese. Blaming them or telling them, in so many words, that this is what they DO TO THEMSELVES, is not accurate. Yes, their eating and physical inactivity behaviors MAY result in getting them and keeping them obese, but these behaviors are DRIVEN by something -- emotional, physiological (actually, more patho-physiological), psychological, socio-cultural, environmental, etc. Whatever that 'something' IS or 'somethings' ARE has to be identified and addressed AS WELL AS HOW to regulate the eating and physical activity behaviors. All this article is trying to present is that obesity is a COMPLEX issue that cannot be oversimplified into just: overeating+not enough physical activity = obesity. It is downright FOOLISH to accept that people who are obese ONLY need to stop eating and exercise more and those that can't or won't are weak, lazy, stupid, stubborn, creepy, or whatever else you want to describe them as, in whatever negative terms you feel hits them hardest, in order to make it abundantly clear that they are HATEFUL IF THEY ARE FAT! Obesity IS wrong. It feels bad, it does bad things to the body, and it can look bad. But people who are obese ARE NOT BAD PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY ARE OBESE. Enlightening yourselves into understanding more about obesity, why it exists, and how to approach, treat, and prevent it can do much much more to arrest this senseless and sad epidemic and to truly 'ENLIGHTEN' -- spiritually, mentally, emotionally AND LITERALLY/ PHYSICALLY - those of our fellow brothers and sisters who are affected by it! Thanks for the article! :)

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Are People Just Giving Up??!!

As far as I travel and no matter where in the world I live, the United States will always be 'home' to me. I'm stateside, right now, and it's great to be back. It's clearly evident that the US is in a bit of an economic 'dip' right now -- at least as I observe what's happened in this beach resort town where I presently lay my head and hang my hat. Shops and businesses that have been here for years have closed. Shops that have hung on don't and CAN'T provide the good old-fashioned customer service that they did before. There are less people here at this time of year and I've heard from the year-rounders that this was the case all summer long. It appears that less people are going on vacations -- they just can't afford it! It's such a shame. People are still very friendly and accommodating -- there's just an air of insecure haste and urgency -- something that this far north end of this lovely beach city, situated smack dab on the Mason-Dixon line with its curious mix of Southern hospitality and Northern expediency, never-ever seemed to emanate. It's still wonderful to be here -- the beaches are, in my opinion, one of the best in the world and the overall atmosphere is still relaxing and fun. I really hope and pray that stability, if not gentle growth, is soon restored here and a sense of renewal permeates the hearts and minds of all that work and play here. Also, in my opinion, the USA, in general, is STILL the easiest, most enjoyable, the most HOPEFUL country to live in. Which is why, it has REALLY hit me on this visit back 'home' how UNHEALTHY so many MORE people look and move this time round. Regardless of what the statistics record or don't record, empirical observation affirms that obesity is on the rise here. It truly seems that people have just thrown their hands in the air and given up! When I talk to people -- not professionally -- just in conversations on the beach and in the shops (people know I'm an RD! -- so conversations often seem to veer toward 'diets' -- sigh...) -- no one seems to be concerned with how being obese or overweight affects their HEALTH -- it's more about how it affects their LOOKS! No one seems to be making the 'connect' between their shortness of breath, their sleep apnea, their high blood pressure, their skin rashes, their hormonal imbalances, or even their full-blown non-communicable chronic diseases -- whatever they may be-- and their obesity!!! Despite what the overload of messages coming out from government and private health agencies from all kinds of conduits -- newspapers, magazines, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, popular and learned publications, in medical offices and supermarkets, in schools and clinics, etc. etc -- people seem to STILL be ignorant of the HEALTH ASPECTS/ PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH BEING OBESE. The whole nation seems to be IN DENIAL! People still seem to be upset about being obese and overweight ONLY because it affects how it makes them LOOK -- what other people think of them because of being chunky, what clothes they can or cannot wear, what vibe they give off, how attractive they are to possible mates. And if they ARE obese or overweight and feel they LOOK GOOD, then they see absolutely NO PROBLEM with it! Somehow, the SUPERFICIAL MESSAGES ABOUT WHY OBESITY IS WRONG FOR PEOPLE seems to be getting through loud and clear while the deeper HEALTH ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH OBESITY ARE NOT BEING HEARD OR HEEDED! Of course, when a person does get a health affliction as a result of obesity -- Type 2 diabetes, CVD, COPD, certain cancers, GERD, whatever -- the health message seems more real -- but guess what?! It's often too late! OK -- it's never too late to change and start making healthier lifestyle choices -- but it DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY! People should not be getting these obesity-related health afflictions to begin with! I don't know the answer. Perhaps we need to stop emphasizing the LOOKS aspects a bit more when it comes to the 'wonders' of being svelte and beautiful or super-chiseled or 'buff' with 'six and eight packs' and all that nonsense! With the celebrity-obsessed culture we live in -- perhaps we've raised the bar way too high for ordinary people -- they feel they can never be as beautiful as the 'beautiful people', so why bother with just being fit and healthy! Even though deep-down, ordinary people are aware that performers, models, and celebrities go to extraordinary lengths and expense to achieve their looks and perfect bodies -- many many celebrities don't ADMIT the extreme methods they endure to be thin and buff. I KNOW that many celebrities also DO lead healthy lifestyles and I'm all for it when they speak about the diets they follow and the exercise regimes they adhere to, but only if they are being honest. It is their job to look great and they need to follow healthy plans, so just SAY THIS! And when they DO intersperse extreme regimes here and there in their quest for youth and slimness -- just OWN UP TO IT -- just SAY IT! It's much better for ordinary people to know that this is what people who look SUPER LEAN, if not downright scrawny, do to get that way and that it is NOT NORMAL or 'good genes' or even healthy! Don't make ordinary people feel like poor slobs who can never look good. Everyone has their individual claim to beauty and is entitled to shine! Being healthy is THE way to liberate the beauty. The point is BEAUTY and LOOKS STARTS with HEALTH -- not the other way around! We really need to do what it takes to help people make the 'connect'. Those of us that are health professionals need to be more direct and CORRECT and get the help our patients REALLY need -- not pills all the time, not a barrage of costly tests, but a referral to a registered dietitian or to a weight loss program WITH subsidized coverage. The media needs to be more responsible about glorifying the wonders of being scrawny and/or unattainable chiseled and buff states. Celebrities or those who KNOW they have a big effect on the public need to be honest. Overall, I would really like to see the day when ALL people, no matter what their socio-economic status is, can have ACCESS to BEST TREATMENTS. MONITORING, and ATTENTION. I know this may mean that government subsidies may have to be allocated to enable this scenario, but, in the long run, it might help with imminent escalating, unsustainable Medicare and Medicaid costs in the future. If you have any thoughts or ideas on this topic -- feel free to comment/share! Be happy, healthy, and beautiful! Mary-Jo, MSc, MMSc, RD :)

Monday, 15 August 2011

Simple Summer Supper

I had chicken breasts that I thought I would marinate in garlic, a bit of olive oil, and lemon juice before throwing on the grill for dinner last night, but one problem -- I forgot to marinate them! It was a cloudy night, we were all a bit lazy anyway, and no one felt like firing up the grill (which means DH!).

So, what to do with 4 chicken breasts?!

I saw that there was some thin-sliced prosciutto crudo in the fridge and I had some fresh helda beans (the flat Italian green beans)I needed to really use up -- and I became inspired -- well -- just -- because what I ended up cooking was SO easy, anyone could do it!

Simple Summer Supper

Succulent Prosciutto Chicken Breasts
Green Beans Parmesan
Roasted New Potatoes

Brandy Peaches with Light Vanilla Ice Cream

Ingredients for 4 persons:
4 chicken breasts with skin removed -- cut in half and slightly flattened
Dijon mustard
8 paper-thin slices of prosciutto crudo
300 grams (about 1 1/2 cups) helda beans, trimmed, rinsed and cut into slantwise bitesize pieces
5-6 fresh baby pomodori tomatoes or equivalent amount of any ripe tomatoes
2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese 500 grams (about a pound) new potatoes

4 whole ripe peaches or nectarines
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 Tablespoons cognac, brandy, whiskey, whatever!

Light vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt OR plain yogurt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C)

Boil new potatoes. Drain and with a fork, slightly 'scratch' each potato, leaving skin on. Spray or LIGHTLY grease a roasting tin with olive oil. Toss potatoes in and roast for about 40 minutes or until bubbling and golden.

During the first 15 minutes the potatoes are in oven, prepare the chicken breasts.

Smear the top of chicken breasts with some Dijon mustard and then wrapped them all in the prosciutto crudo and lay them in a baking dish. Put them, covered with foil in the top shelf of the oven for about 25 minutes. Put the potatoes in the bottom half of oven. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, uncover chicken.

I trimmed and rinsed the beans and cut them slantwise into bitesize pieces. Steam them for about 3 minutes until they are 'al dente' -- DO NOT drain liquid out yet!!! Toss in 5 chopped baby pomodori tomatoes (any ripe tomatoes will do) with a dollop of olive oil and 'stir fry' the beans and tomatoes until the tomatoes are somewhat softened. Sprinkled some grated parmesan cheese over the bean/tomato mixture. Keep the bean/tomato/parmesan mixture warm until chicken and potatoes are just about done. DO NOT drain liquid out!!

About 2 minutes before chicken breasts are done and you have already uncovered them, NOW, drain out any fluid from the bean/tomato/parmesan mixture OVER onto the chicken breasts. This creates a flavorful, nutrient-rich sort of 'sauce' for the chicken!

Plate everything out -- chicken, roasted potatoes (which should now be done, bubbly and golden), and beans -- onto warmed plates.

Lightly salt potatoes, if desired.

For dessert, melt butter in shallow non-stick pan over a medium heat. Add brown sugar and stir gently till dissolved. Lower heat to low. Quickly place whole peaches or nectarines in pan, ladelling each one with the butter/brown sugar while gently tossing them around over a low heat until slightly softened. Add brandy at last minute or two. Plate onto dessert plates and add dollop of ice cream, frozen yogurt, or plain yogurt


PS -- As I am STILL watching my carbohydrate intake, I left off the potatoes and brandied peach and had a fresh peach, instead. Thus, this meal was entirely flexible for someone on a carb-limited diet!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

In 'hiddeness' we find our true selves. HJM Nouwen

In our society we are inclined to avoid hiddenness. We want to be seen and acknowledged.
We want to be useful to others and influence the course of events. But as we become
visible and popular, we quickly grow dependent on people and their responses and
easily lose touch with God, the true source of our being. Hiddenness is the place
of purification. In hiddenness we find our true selves.

- Henri J. M. Nouwen

I write fairly regularly here on my blog. I 'share' the blog entries on Twitter. I sincerely hope that people who want and need to read whatever I post feel welcome and, somehow, find easy access to read and I strive to post things that will be of true help to them as well as informative.

I KNOW I could be MUCH more aggressive about linking my blog onto more sites -- especially places that are popular and esteemed to be the 'it' sites. But, I actually don't want that. It's not that I don't want to reach out and help people. It's just that I've never been very good at self-promotion.

I am a very simple person and I'm not very tech-savvy.

I like to keep things simple and uncomplicated.

Life and people are complex and complicated enough.

I only hope and pray that people don't think that what I share here isn't worth sharing or isn't useful just because it doesn't have flashy promos and big- shot sponsors behind the blog.

And, like Dr. Nouwen states in his reflection above, I strive not to get hung up on peoples' responses or how many 'followers' I have or anything that distracts me from my God-inspired vocation to serve the people who are struggling with obesity, fitness issues, and learning about tidbits and information that can help them lead healthier, happier lives.

And, please know that anyone who needs help or has comments or questions, can always contact me.

Star Bene!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Rightly Nourishing The World -- One Mouthful At A Time!

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.
Mother Teresa

George Herbert was credited as stating: "Whatsoever was the father of a disease, an ill dyet was the mother." [Jacula Prudentum]. Presently, I spend most of my time ministering to people who struggle with obesity/being overweight, people trying to learn how to lead healthier lifestyles, and folks needing advice on how to change their diets to rectify symptoms of diet/poor-fitness related maladies or to improve their health. This statement of Herbert, a 17th century English country parson and 'doctor', reverberates in my mind, time and again. Obesity is truly a form of MALNUTRITION that causes tremendous bodily damage and needs proper treatment and attention to resolve it and its sequelae.

BUT, lately, as I view horrific images being telecasted on TV and posted online, I am STARKLY and SADLY reminded of what this statement means, but from the opposite reality. The vivid depictions of people, especially children, suffering from the malnutrition of hunger and UNDERNUTRITION -- marasmus and kwashiorkor or the M-K mix -- has moved me beyond tears. In the course of my practice, I have attended to undernourished people while working in hospitals, volunteering at orphanages in developing countries, working as a consultant for the UNHCR -- people living in very poor areas/conditions, students, refugees, those suffering from diseases or conditions that cause an inability to eat,digest,absorb,or excrete nutrients. But, watching a WHOLE POPULATION of people, born with otherwise healthy, functional bodies literally wasting and ravaging away because of the natural famine and drought BUT, ALSO because of not having food aid being delivered to them because of corruption -- well -- it's devastated me to the core. I felt I HAD to DO SOMETHING!

And so, I'm fasting.

That's right -- I am fasting right now. I will most likely drop a few pounds, but that is not my primary reason for fasting. I am a nutritionist -- a dietitian -- remember?! Fasting is not really something I recommend for busy, active people as it can set them up for all kinds of untoward repercussions -- light-headedness, fainting, fatigue, nausea, constipation, dehydration -- as well as lowering one's metabolic rate and rebound bingeing and fat gain -- an ESPECIALLY destructive process if you try fasting as a quick fix to losing weight.

But, sometimes in life, one is just compelled to throw away all the 'wisdom' of the most studied and sensible, and DO what NEEDS TO BE DONE! And, for me, after seeing the images of the emaciated, wasting children in Somalia -- crying and posturing in pain -- I just KNEW my prayers were not enough. I felt DRIVEN to add FASTING to my plea to the God of Creation to, somehow, intervene, to alleviate the suffering of the beautiful people in Somalia.

I am not a politician, a world leader, an influential person, or a saint. I'm just a normal person who wants to help, in my small way, to show these people I care and I love them. Oh, they may not see or know me or what I'm doing at all, but I truly believe that offering up the sacrifice of my true hunger, my NEED to fuel my body, my JOY in eating and food -- offering up my own discomfort -- WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.


In practical terms, I have calculated that I would've spent, this week, about 58 GBPs or the equivalent of $89.60 on my food intake. So, I have sent a $100 donation to Action Against Hunger for their effort to supply nutritious food in Somalia. I hope this helps. I am going to try to continue to eat less after this week of fasting is over, and donate the continued 'savings' of my food expenditures, for as long as I can.

I also want to help try, in my own small way, to set a precedent for doing what it takes to end the travesty of the co-existing malnutrition of obesity and undernutrition. That is, if MORE people in the wealthier countries COULD and WOULD eat less and decrease the obesity epidemic -- which is draining so much money, time, and efforts from medical and public health organizations, private industry resources, governments, personal resources -- then we MIGHT have more resources and be able to MORE EFFICIENTLY and EXPEDIENTLY respond to undernutrition, famine, and drought in the world.
When I say 'set a precedent', I mean, mainly for myself, but if it serves as an example to others, then, so be it.

I'm fasting because I CARE about people who are emaciated and suffering on the other side of the world. I WANT them to know they are not forgotten or unloved or unwanted. As Mother Teresa stated above -- THIS is actually the GREATER issue here. I'm trying, in my own small way, which, by the way, is paltry and SO insufficient compared to THEIR reality -- to show solidarity with them, in their pain. Of course, I am unworthy to truly share in their pain and suffering, not REALLY experiencing it as they do, but I'm fasting for them and I'm trusting God will do the rest in passing my love and concern and 'message' to them.

You know, I was the kid who wanted to change the world -- well, at least the aspects of the world related to the capacity I was becoming somewhat proficient in, as a dietitian and nutritionist. When I was in college, I started a group called N.E.E.D. -- Nutrition Education for Equitable Development! We would go into poor neighborhoods in the city with our notepads and flip-charts and lots of fresh food as well as canned and packed goods. We would hand out all the food and feed the people while explaining all about good nutrition, eating healthy on a budget, shopping tips, etc. This activity and group dissolved once we all started needing to focus our attention to organic chemistry, foods and nutrition, statistics, economics and for me, what was probably the hardest course I've ever taken in life -- 'Basic Clothing Construction'! You see, my BSc was in HOME ECONOMICS-Dietetics! I couldn't and STILL cannot hardly sew buttons properly, let alone make skirts, dresses, slacks, and even a jacket, I believe from scratch! For me, almost hopeless! Shortly after I, thankfully, graduated -- I had plans to go to India with a priest who worked with Mother Teresa there. I organized a whole concert to raise money for Hunger Awareness and Donations to Third World countries. Harry Chapin performed!! I truly thought I was on my way!

It wasn't meant to be. I didn't have the money required to go to India. Father Brady (the priest) told me to work a bit, earn the money, and then come on over. Well, the time and these plans were side-swept by 'life'. Working in hospitals led to more work in hospitals and then grad school and then specializing in pediatric nutrition and then more work in hospitals, private practice, teaching, more grad work, post-grad work, research, working in industry, marriage, moving abroad, children, family responsibilities, and more grad work, teaching, and private practice.

BUT, I'm still ME. I think those words, above, of Mother Teresa, who I heard personally utter, as I sat in an audience hearing her speak -- have made me realize that I ended up being exactly where I needed to be. Throughout the course of my professional and personal life, I have come to realize that there ARE all kinds of human hungers and poverty MUCH GREATER than actual physical poverty and hunger and it was my place to be wherever God wanted me to be to serve Him and the world, in the ways I have TRIED to serve -- to the best of my ability. Sometimes, the 'wealthiest' of clients and patients I have come across, have been the most damaged, lonely, and devastated in and by life.

And so, I continue to pray and obey. But, today, as I said above -- this is not enough! It is time for me to deny myself one of my greatest pleasures and joys in life -- eating and food. It's not noble or admirable of me in any way. It is simply necessary and the way I want to try to show my love and respect for my beautiful brothers and sisters of Somalia. And, of course, most importantly I seek to obey God's call and to glorify Him with thanks and love for all the blessings of this world.

The people of Somalia AND the people I see and deal with every day, in the course and scope of my practice, AS I, too -- have beautiful and efficient bodies. I just want to be an instrument, in whatever ways I can, to optimally and rightly nourish the world -- perhaps ONE MOUTHFUL AT A TIME. I pray that as I fast and deny each mouthful I NEED and DESIRE, may a mouthful somewhere in Somalia be fed with blessed relief and pleasure -- may a mouthful of an obese person somewhere in the world be fed with nutritious and optimal food for their body's needs.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Nutrish and Delish: Barbecue Sauce -- Healthier Version

For finger-lickin' good summer meals -- nothing beats a homemade barbecue sauce to tenderize and flavor your meats, chicken, and even vegetables.

Homemade barbecue sauce tastes infinitely better than anything that comes out of a bottle or jar AND you can control your ingredients so that it is ALSO so much HEALTHIER. You will find, too, that the healthier versions are lighter and give a more refined flavour than the thick, almost sickly-sweet bottled gunk.

Just for your information and comparison purposes, know that:

ONE SERVING (about 100 ml)

Bottled barbecue sauce (for example, Heinz)contains: 140 kilocalories, 31.7 g carbohydrates (of which 29.2 is sugars), 1.1 g protein, 0.3 g total fat, 0.5 g dietary fiber, 600 mg sodium

Homemade barbecue sauce, made the regular way which usually uses much brown sugar or maple syrup, contains: 160 kcals, 30.8 g carbohydrates (of which 26.2
sugars), 1.46 g protein, 4.1 g total fat,1.0 g dietary fiber, 910 mg sodium

The following recipes are MUCH HEALTHIER AND they are just as tasty, if not BETTER-TASTING!

This first recipe uses fresh plums in place of most of the brown sugar that is normally used to make a regular homemade sauce. Fresh peaches and apricots also make a great barbecue sauce, but plums give the nice 'tang' to the sweetness.

Barbecue Sauce made with fresh plums

1 tsp unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon margarine
1 onion, chopped
garlic, 2 cloves, minced
ketchup, 1 cup or 8 oz. or, better yet, 2 chopped medium ripe tomatoes or 15 baby pomodori tomatoes, chopped
cider vinegar, 1/3 cup or 2 oz.
1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
plums, 2medium or 5 small, chopped with skin on
Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup or 1 oz.
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
salt, dash
1 tsp black pepper

Melt butter and margarine in saucepan. Add onion and cook until almost transparent. Add garlic and cook about 2 minutes. Add plums and cook until starting to soften
Add remaining ingredients and stir well. If too thick,at this point, can add cold water, but only to 'saucy' consistency -- never too 'liquidy'. Simmer until mixture boils, then lower for 15-20 minutes until thickened.
Set aside. Prepare your ribs, chicken, pork chops, or whatever you would like to marinate with the barbecue sauce. If I'm using ribs (ESPECIALLY pork), I always simmer first in a big pot for 45 minutes before laying in a baking or grilling pan covered with the barbecue sauce and then I cook them for a further 25-30 minutes with the barbecue sauce cooking into them. I also cook my chicken and pork chops first a bit (say 20-30 minutes -- depending on thickness of meat), before covering with barbecue sauce and returning to grill or oven to finish the cooking process. As the meats cook, the barbecue sauce almost melts into the meat and gives it a shiny, glistening barbecue finish as well as that fantastic barbecue aroma! For vegetables, you do not need to pre-cook before adding barbecue sauce for cooking.

This barbecue sauce recipe makes enough for 6 servings or 1 large pan of meat or vegetables.

One Serving (about 100 ml), made with ketchup, contains: 96.5 kcals, 19.1 g carbohydrate (of which 15.3 sugars), 2.3 g total fat, 1.04 g dietary fiber, 562 mg sodium

IF YOU REPLACE the ketchup with fresh chopped tomatoes, you get a similar tasting barbecue sauce AND the nutritional contents are EVEN healthier as ONE SERVING THEN contains: 64.5 kcals, 10.6 g carbohydrates (of which 7.18 sugars), 2.3 g total fat, 1.33 g dietary fiber, 174 mg sodium. You would add the chopped tomatoes after the plums have started to soften and then wait for the tomatoes to soften a bit before adding rest of ingredients and proceed, as directed, above.

I always make my recipe with fresh plums AND tomatoes (I use baby pomodori tomatoes) as I can't believe how much LESS sugars, sodium, and kilocalories and more fiber there is using this recipe and the flavor is SO tasty and delicious! Once all these flavors meld together and then cook into the meat and/or vegetables, you don't miss the brown sugar and ketchup AT ALL! I promise!!
Enjoy! ;)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Question: When Will Obesity Epidemic End? Answer: When YOU DECIDE It's Over

The fates lead those who will, those who won't they drag. an old Roman saying

Ten years ago, right about this time of the year, I was writing a paper about the epidemiology of obesity. I was also conducting some very interesting research on childhood attitudes and behaviors on dietary intake, physical activity, and perceptions of body weight and image. My paper and research was being scrutinized and read by prominent researchers and public health strategists in the field. I was hoping to somehow make a difference toward what seemed like a hopeless situation, at that time, to help decrease the surge in the incidence and prevalence of obesity. At some point in the very long paper, here's excerpts of what I wrote in 2001:

'...the esteemed Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dan Glickman...succinctly, but profoundly stated, "our greatest challenge as policy makers and public health advocates remains to translate what the experts know in[to] what people do."...

In order to move global obesity prevention forward, from what experts know to what the people do, two major factors will have to be present:

1) environments --national and global--that enable, invite, and encourage health-promoting, obesity-prohibiting attitudes and behaviors


2) a shift in current responses of the public from obesity-causing attitudes and behaviors-- especially regarding dietary intake, physical activity and inactivity, and perceptions of weight and health -- to desired responses that are more consistent with health promotion and disease prevention.

Both factors are inextricably linked, especially in demand/supply, market-driven countries -- both established and developing. However, the environment needs to change first in order to elicit the desired responses. Obesity-enabling aspects of the environment are so ubiquitous at this point in time, that it is almost impossible, even unfair, to expect people to change. Experience has already proven, time and again, that people do not change, even under what experts think are the most optimal conditions:

1) evidence-based advice/recommendations,
2)appropriate manner to deliver recommendations, utilizing well founded models and theories, such as, social cognitive theory, the transtheoretical model, motivational counselling, relapse prevention...
3)signs from patients/clients of heightened knowledge of untoward effects of disease and benefits of prevention and proper compliance with recommendations.

The fact is, until environments that people live in, can empower them to live the recommendations, extolling the virtues of healthy eating and physical activity habits and expecting people to follow suit, is a futile charade, until behaviors and habits necessary for health-promotion and disease prevention become less "virtuous" and more "normal". Moreover, it is extremely confusing and de-motivating when people hear, read, and see messages from "experts" while society promotes, allows, encourages, and rewards an environment that makes it easier and more inviting to do exactly the opposite of recommendations. This whole dynamic greatly de-values evidence-based information, and renders the hard work and sound advice of obesity experts impotent.'

NOW, BACK TO 2011!
I stand by everything I wrote in the above, to this day, EXCEPT ONE THING....TODAY, I feel very strongly that the factor that NOW needs to CHANGE, FOREMOST, is:

2) a shift in 'responses of the public from obesity-causing attitudes and behaviors-- especially regarding dietary intake, physical activity and inactivity, and perceptions of weight and health -- to desired responses that are more consistent with health promotion and disease prevention.'

You see, the environment HAS changed! I would hope that I had something to do with that -- who knows? I certainly tried my best to work darn hard on that research and paper.
And, of course, we have a LONG way to go and much more still needs to be done, but there has been a fairly decent response from governments, industry, restauranteurs, public health agencies, society, and medical and other health-care communities to make changes so as to enable folks to make better choices. OF COURSE, there are numerous instances of companies acting like they ARE making changes, when, in fact, they are just engaging in tricky marketing, while they still peddle high-sugar, high-fat, low-nutrient, high-calorie foods and beverages -- often with a warped 'health halo' on their respective innovative food or drink.. And, initiatives that proclaim to be encouraging more physical activity backslide constantly. So, we still have fattening foods and opportunities for sedentary activities and lifestyles readily accessible and ubiquitous and there are STILL body weight and image issues GALORE to contend with -- BUT -- thinking and attitudes about obesity-enabling and encouraging HAS, at least, been knocked down a peg or two from when it was running amok and at its 'zenith of nonchalance', in my opinion, from say -- the late 1980's and through the 1990's.

So, the environmental response seems to be a scenario of the 2 steps forward, 10 steps backward 'tug'.

The fact is -- to MOVE FORWARD to SUSTAIN THE MOMENTUM to continue the changes in the 'environment' -- PEOPLE will NOW NEED TO MAKE CHANGES!

YOU will have to make decisions to EAT HEALTHIER, ENGAGE IN MORE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, STOP WATCHING SO MUCH TV AND SITTING IN FRONT OF THE COMPUTER, and just optimize your behaviors and take full advantage of any and all changes in the environment that have been made.

WHEN YOU --- ALOT OF YOU -- through mass population response, at a continuing and sustained level, show the food and beverage, entertainment and media, exercise and physical activity industries; restauranteurs; civic planners and governments; and health-care sectors that THIS IS WHAT AND HOW YOU WANT TO LIVE -- THESE ARE THE SERVICES AND PRODUCTS YOU WANT -- then all these sectors will have NO CHOICE, but to continue to SUPPLY what YOU DEMAND -- FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN AND YOUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN and SO ON!!

THEN, my friends, WILL and can the OBESITY EPIDEMIC END!!! It is NOW UP TO YOU!!!

Believe me, I KNOW that doesn't make it any easier to MAKE the CHANGES. BUT, it is what has to happen and it IS possible. If you want to change and feel you need help, get it. If you contact me, I will help you get started.

Someday soon, I look forward to reading -- heck, maybe even writing myself -- a new paper on how the obesity epidemic was eradicated.

I'm really trying, each day, to live my health-promoting, obesity-eradicating changes and behaviors. It's not easy for me, folks, but I'm doing it! I've made MY DECISION(S) to do it.


Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Lose weight and keep it off for good...ah...EXCEPT if you're already OBESE!

Well, I just attended an excellent seminar by Dr. Robert Kushner on 'The Physiology of Obesity' and learned lots of new information that has been generated by a whole host of very hard-working obesity specialists who have done some remarkable and robust research studies on the hormonal and (patho)physiological pathways of appetite and body weight regulation.

The GOOD NEWS -- If you have gained weight over your holidays and/or have put on a few pounds over a couple years -- you CAN lose it and KEEP IT OFF FOR GOOD -- once you stop the period of overeating and GET BACK to your usual intake of kilocalories AND continue to move and live, probably get back to your usual exercise regime, so as to get back to your 'usual' weight and eating pattern. So, YES, you MUST exert a bit of discipline to get yourself back on track, but once you exert a bit of this discipline and come to your senses, apparently, your HORMONES will BEHAVE and help to get your appetite under control, enable you to regain that youthful, healthful figure, and PHYSIOLOGICALLY set you up to keep your weight in check. YAAAAY!

Oh....the BAD NEWS -- NONE of the above happens IF YOU ARE OBESE!!!! Whoops! Sorry -- those of you who desperately NEED all the PHYSIOLOGICAL HELP you can get as you emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually struggle to whack the weight off and feel and look decent, dignified -- perhaps just plain 'normal' and 'acceptable' -- well... YOUR HORMONES and HOMEOSTATIC and HEDONIC SIGNALING PATHWAYS are MUCH MORE primed and inclined to KEEP YOU OBESE and/or, WORSE YET -- MAKE YOU GET OBESE AGAIN EVEN IF YOU'VE SUCCEEDED (through the blood, sweat, and tears of dieting and working out!!!) in whacking off quite a chunk -- say 10% or so -- of your unsightly flab!

It's like this:

1. IF you ARE OBESE and Not Trying to Lose Weight
If you're obese and not doing a heck of alot, if anything, about it -- PHYSIOLOGICALLY, your hormonal and metabolic pathways signalling things like, oh ,say -- you are full, you've had enough food for your body's needs, your body fat stores are excessive, you are carrying way too much weight for your bones and organs to bear and function properly, you need to STOP eating, you need to GET UP OFF THE COUCH AND MOVE, you are NOT MOVING ENOUGH and certainly not like your beautiful body is hard-wired to move since the beginning of time == well, they are completely turned OFF, in a way, to HELP YOU HELP YOURSELF! It's a sad and ironic conundrum! YOU ARE THE VERY PEOPLE who NEED all systems to be GO and in HELP mode, but the reality is that the obesity, itself, prevents the body from getting back to optimum function. No surprises, there, though! I think we've all known that for years -- its just now, it's more known WHY and HOW. Well, at least we know a BIT more -- there's STILL alot NOT KNOWN!

God help you! Every pathway and signalling substance possible is conspiring to get you to hang on to the weight and fat, get you to overeat and KEEP overeating, and make your hard efforts to burn off the kilocalories less effective so as to KEEP YOU FROM EXPENDING THE ENERGY YOU NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT! Now, THAT SUCKS!!!!! Again, for many of us who have tried to lose weight and have succeeded only to find ourselves back at square one after a few months or years -- NO SURPRISES here -- right? We just know a bit more WHY and HOW this HEARTBREAKING scenario happens. But, again, as much as we do know about this phenomenon -- there's still alot NOT KNOWN.

For me, the MOST IMPORTANT TAKE HOME LESSON from all of this information about 'The Physiology of Obesity' is this:



And if they already are -- get them to the GP, a dietitian, or to whomever you can to GET HELP to GET THEM TO NORMALIZE not just their BODY WEIGHT, but their PHYSIOLOGY!!!!! What I didn't mention above is that ALOT of the pathophysiological occurrences in obstructing successful alleviation of the obese state has to do with fat cell number and size and the amount of time the obese state has been sustained -- SO -- the SOONER you get a person to lose the weight and do what it takes to 'normalize' their body's weight and functions and get into a situation where dietary intake is more in alignment with energy expenditure (that is, activity levels and kcals needed to move the body), the LESS FAT CELLS the body will have and proliferate, the SMALLER the existing FAT CELLS WILL STAY, and the less chance of the 'RATCHETING UPWARD' effect the body will have -- that is -- the phenomenon when the body just continues to keep getting bigger and bigger, the appetite continues to also get bigger and bigger, and the body then REQUIRES more and more and bigger and bigger to the point that the 'obesity' becomes the body's preferred state and THIS is what makes it SO HARD to REVERSE the obese state.

Now, I also STRONGLY feel that for those of us who are obese and strive to lose weight and keep it off, for good -- just KNOWING what we're up against HELPS. What we DO HAVE working FOR US is the simple laws of physics! The less you put into your body and the more you move -- IF YOU KEEP IT UP over time -- the body WILL respond to CONTINUE to lose weight and KEEP IT OFF. The take home lesson, thus, is to JUST KEEP AT IT and DON"T SUCCUMB TO THE (patho)PHYSIOLOGY of obesity!

I MEAN IT!! We KNOW the odds are totally stacked against successfully losing weight and keeping it off but that's doesn't mean we should stop working at it.

And, the folks researching solutions and alternatives continue to work hard on possibilities for relief on many fronts: medications, procedures, genetic and epigenetic therapies, and, of course, diet, physical activity, and counselling that WORK most efficiently.


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Last Time You REALLY Felt Hungry?

Lately, in the popular and medical news, there has been a flutter about pinpointing the MAIN reason why people are consuming too many kilocalories -- that is -- IS IT too big of portions at meal times or is it TOO MUCH SNACKING? Apparently, a few studies have shown that PORTION SIZES AT MEALTIMES have actually only increased by 20, perhaps 30% and that it is an increase in snacking that is responsible for overeating.

My take on this is this -- OF COURSE, portions at mealtimes have not increased THAT much -- certainly not enough to fully account for the excessive kcals we're eating, but that's only because, people don't really NEED to increase portions THAT MUCH at MEALTIMES, because they are most likely ALREADY FULL from the INCESSANT EATING!

I can't even describe the other-than-mealtime-eating as SNACKING. It truly IS incessant, continuous eating. It MAY not be actual 'CHEWING EATING' all the time, but the fancy-schmancy coffees and smoothies and frappes and other DRINKS now available are LOADED with enough kcals to account as WHOLE MEALS. And, THEN, there ARE the actual SNACKS == even snacks that are CONSIDERED HEALTHY and OK TO SNACK, let alone the usual chips, candy bars, cakes and cookies, ice cream cones, etc. Those granola bars, pots of yogurt (especially with the 'add-ins' like chocolate sprinkles, granola and muesli, crunchy carob and nut mix, for example), cups of fruit, 100 calorie bags of this or that -- ALL ADD UP to equal OVERCONSUMPTION FOR YOUR NEEDS!

People constantly feel they NEED to be eating! This is not normal. The body is not hard-wired to be in a CONSTANT STATE OF DIGESTION! I don't care how much it keeps your metabolic rate humming along at an increased pace -- it's NOT WORTH IT! The body needs TIME to rest and digest.

It's OK to FEEL HUNGRY!!! It's NORMAL to experience GENUINE HUNGER and to have 3, perhaps 5 hours lapse before you eat ANYTHING -- snack, high-kcalorie coffee concoction, and certainly your next meal.

You only need to drink water inbetween meals. If you MUST eat something, if you feel a 'dip' inbetween meals -- A PIECE OF FRUIT or A CARROT or A SCANT HANDFUL OF NUTS ought to suffice. IF you are eating healthy, wholesome, balanced foods at mealtimes -- you probably won't even experience the need to snack -- physiologically, that is.

The NEED to snack is socially and mentally mediated from environmental suggestions. Its not real, IF YOU ARE AT A HEALTHY WEIGHT and FITNESS LEVEL.

IF YOU ARE OBESE, then you DO have a NEED to eat much more than if your body was at it's ideal weight -- but this is at the expense of your body's health. This is what makes controlling your appetite so hard. This INCREASED NEED FOR FOOD is a result of a distorted state of your body. Somehow, you have to find a way to get your body closer to it's true and ideal muscle to fat ratio and body weight and then, the kilocalorie needs will be much easier to control. Of course, you first have to START with finding a way to, somehow, regulate your kcalorie intake so as to lose the fat tissue that is clogging your body's TRUE FUNCTION and NEEDS and STATE-of-BEING.

What I see happening in the environment today is the way it was for me during my whole childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood -- I grew up Italian. My environment was all about -- "manga, manga"
I don't blame my parents and grandparents and my upbringing. If anything, it has enabled me to truly understand what GOOD food is all about and has led me to the profession I have dedicated my life to -- dietetics. It has also given me a very strong EMPATHY for those people who struggle with obesity and has blessed me with the ability to effectively treat and help them.

What I HAVE had to do regarding my own struggle with obesity is basically, to just 'GROW UP'! Through my understanding of my OWN reality of life and my own body, I have had to really be mature about my situation and recognize that I live in a different world than they did and that I must cope with all these environmental food cues and DISCIPLINE myself to WALK AWAY and not feel the NEED to eat ALL THE TIME. How I was raised was as it was. They had NO IDEA that overfeeding me would prime me to struggle with my body weight my whole life. When I FINALLY established what I needed to do in order to RE-PRIME my body and DEAL with my food/eating past and issues, I've gotten better at controlling my body weight and fat, getting my body to FEEL, LOOK, and BEHAVE HEALTHY and FIT and flesh out a life and body that staves me off from staying/becoming obese. Of course, I am not perfect about always living this, especially during the times in my life when I have been vulnerable. But, I'm proud to say, for the most part -- I LIVE my understanding and true needs EVERY DAY. It's not easy for me, but I truly feel, by the grace of God, and by the prayers and strength of my ancestors that have come before me -- I succeed more than falter!

And, I must say -- it's WONDERFUL to actually FEEL HUNGRY!!!! I am SO lucky that I live in a country and environment where I CAN feel hungry and then have the assurance that I will be fed.

When was the last time you REALLY felt hungry? Embrace this feeling more often. Allow it.


Thursday, 30 June 2011

The 'X' Factor To Weight Loss -- Accountability

'Accountability' is a critical factor and an extremely important tool on your journey to lose unwanted fat weight, keep it off LONG-TERM, and SUSTAIN your hard-worked-for level of fitness.

No matter what plan you have chosen to achieve your goals -- diet, exercise program, preferably a combination of these two factors of energy input/output -- you MUST incorporate some way of ANSWERING TO SOMEONE OTHER THAN JUST YOURSELF.

This aspect of 'accountability' is actually a very big reason why many programs succeed at all -- programs like Weight Watchers and similar weight-loss groups, successive personal trainer sessions, TV weight-loss shows, participation in weight-loss studies -- ANYTHING whereby you find yourself being OBSERVED, WEIGHED, and MEASURED by someone else. Yes, it IS the actual diet and exercise, YOUR DISCIPLINE, and all that YOU ARE DOING getting you the results, BUT it is extremely helpful and important for you to get FEEDBACK and MONITORING and to have a way of KEEPING TRACK of your results -- ACCOUNTABILITY. Moreover, having to 'report' to someone just makes you somehow stick to your plan better.

Just think of how great you feel when you step on the scale and see that lower weight/and/or fat reading or when you have your waist and hips and other measurements taken and they are less than last week's! It's SO motivating to have that 'mentor' person or the practitioner enter this new data onto YOUR record and to hear them praise you or be awed by your results and to just AFFIRM that all that you are doing WORKS!!! It's very helpful to experience this process REGULARLY and to have these regular, timely results charted. Sometimes, it's cool to keep a VISUAL display of your progress, by photos, charts, graphs,journals, etc. It all helps.

It's human nature to want and get feedback!

Whoever it is you are reporting to should be someone you respect and trust -- for their knowledge and expertise, but also because you are convinced they have your best interest at heart and that they want you to succeed. It should not be someone who SHAMES you or BELITTLES you, if you don't come up with desired results, but rather, someone who can help you analyze and determine what's not working for you and how you can 're-work' and re-strategize to get the results you need to achieve your goals.

Accountability is an important part of weight loss success. If you don't have this incorporated into your plan -- whether it is a structured program or just you initiating changes -- GET SOMEONE ON BOARD to be accountable to as you execute your plan.

This will truly make a difference in achieving your goals! COPACETIC! ;)

Monday, 27 June 2011

Nutrish and Delish: Authentic Indian is low-fat, hi-pro, and healthy!

The beauty of making your own Indian food is that it tastes SO much better than take-out AND, you save thousands of kcalories and grams fat -- REALLY! Home-made Indian food is SO much more lighter to the touch with the fats needed to cook it as well as other fattening ingredients like coconut milk or cream. Also, once you set your mind to making and enjoying a dish or two, you have a host of the NECESSARY INGREDIENTS in your kitchen cupboard which makes it handier and easier to cook your home-made Indian delicacies for the next time you fancy it. And, honestly, it REALLY DOES NOT REQUIRE ALOT OF TIME AND COOKING EXPERTISE!. A book I would HIGHLY recommend is:

Curry Easy by Madhur Jaffrey, Ebury Press, 2010. The following BRILLIANT recipe is from her book on page 191. I recently made it and served it with grilled salmon. We didn't have naan or any other starch with the meal -- only cucumber and coriander salad with plain yogurt. What a quick and easy, yet satisfying scrumptious, filling meal!

Goan-style Dal Curry

This delicious curry can also be made with moong dal (skinned and split mung beans) or mixed half and half with them. Serve with rice and some fish. Serves 4-5.

200 g/7 oz red lentils (skinless masoor dal), washed and drained
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt
50 g/1 3/4 oz fresh chopped coriander
1/2-3/4tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoons olive or rapeseed oil
1/2 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 medium onion, peeled and chopped
10-15 fresh curry leaves or 6 fresh basil leaves, torn
1 tsp peeled and very finely chopped grated fresh ginger
1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed

Put the lentils and 700 ml/24 fl oz water in a medium pan. Bring to the boil but do not let boil over. Skim off the froth and add the turmeric. Stir, cover partially, reduce the heat to very low and simmer gently for 40 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, salt, coriander, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer. Cover, lower the heat.

Pour the oil into a small frying pan and set over a medium-high heat. When hot, put in the mustard and cumin seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, a matter of seconds, put in the onion and curry or basil leaves. Stir and fry until the onion starts to brown. Now put in the ginger and garlic. Stir for one minute, then empty the contents of the pan into the lentils. Stir to mix.

Enjoy! ;)

Friday, 24 June 2011

Most Important Determinant To Successful Fitness Goals

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen. Ralph Waldo Emerson

It doesn't matter how unfit, out-of-shape, overweight, or obese you are.

There is SO much information, now, and SO much known on how to change from bad habits to good habits, and SO many experts 'out there' to help you, and many many options available to you.

BUT, none of it -- not the MOST successful of programs or approaches or solutions will make it happen FOR you UNLESS you not only WANT IT, but DECIDE TO DO IT!!!!!



The beauty of doing it yourself is that once you MAKE THE DECISION, somehow, everything starts falling into place to MAKE IT HAPPEN:

....the advice of the experts FINALLY makes perfect sense to you.

....somehow you FIND THE TIME to work out, exercise, and prioritize fitness activities into your life. actually LIKE working out and ENJOY the time you spend being physically active also find time to shop, cook, and choose for wholesome, healthy foods and beverages also really and truly ENJOY healthy eating and how it makes you feel AND look

and the list goes on and on.

DECIDE TODAY, RIGHT NOW ----- and seek information, experts,and help.

More importantly, if your DECISION is REAL, the information, experts, and help somehow will FIND YOU!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Summer Solstice Salad -- Nutrish and Delish

For me, nothing says summer like an innovative, fresh, and easy-peasy salad that can be served with grilled fish, chicken, steaks, burgers, and even just by itself with some tuna or salmon or egg mixed in.

Today is a great day to eat 'al fresco' and enjoy the wonderful feel of a late setting sun. You may even be in a spot to catch the sight of that breathtaking summer solstice sunset. Soooo, you absolutely don't want to be just fussing in the kitchen -- especially if you're having guests and you, TOO, want to HANG OUT, relax, enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds and catch up for some pre-dinner drinks and gossip.

This salad is best made ahead of time and just forget about it until serving time. It's terrific. Make it TONIGHT!

Summer Solstice Salad (Fresh Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes)


Large bowl (at least 500 g) Fresh Green Beans -- normal, fine or haricot verts -- whatever you like -- trimmed and tailed

Fresh, ripe cherry tomatoes -- a punnet or about 300-400 g or 4 vines -- I prefer the vine tomatoes

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or can use 1 Tablespoon frozen chopped garlic

1 medium red or yellow onion or 4 shallots -- peeled and sliced thin

1 Tablespoon fresh parsley

1 tsp fresh thyme

Olive oil -- the best you can afford or find

Red Wine Vinegar, the best you can afford or find

salt and pepper


1 punnet (300 g) fresh white mushrooms -- gently wiped clean and sliced

a handful of black olives


Briefly steam the green beans -- just a few seconds more than blanching. Drain (there should be scant water) or save the bean juice in ice cube trays to freeze and use in stews and sauces. Immediately after draining, rinse the beans briefly in very cold water. Put beans into your serving bowl or the bowl you will make and keep the salad in until time to transfer to a serving bowl.
Rinse and pat dry cherry tomatoes and you can either keep whole or cut in half. I prefer to cut in half to release some flavor in the marinaded mix. Pour into the green bean bowl.
Add garlic, onion, parsley, thyme, and other optional ingredients, if using.

Mix gently. Add about 1/4 cup olive oil and sprinkle about 1 Tablespoons red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. This part of the 'dressing' will be up to you and your tastes.My husband likes about 1/2 cup olive oil to 1/4 cup vinegar, but I find this too heavy handed. I prefer a 'light touch' No matter how much oil and vinegar I use, I ALWAYS whisk my vinegar into my olive oil first and then pour over the salad. This seems to make a better salad!

Serve immediately or chill until needed.

This is SO good with some crusty bread, but I'm watching my carbs right now -- so NONE of that for me :(

ENJOY!! ;)

Need To Shed That Extra Weight?! Make It Simple For Yourself!

I know you desperately want to lose your unwanted extra fat weight. I know you're longing to be fitter, to feel better, to look great, and to show yourself and the world the REAL YOU -- the person, who, on the outside, expresses the person you are, on the inside.

SO many factors come into play as to WHY IT IS SUCH A STRUGGLE to achieve that goal and that reality. In my previous post, I alluded to some of that -- the fact that obesity is a multifactorial event that warrants a multidisciplinary approach. On top of that, there is SO MUCH INFORMATION everywhere you turn about it -- what to do about it, HOW to manage it, what happens if you don't lose your fat, what research is showing about this nutrient and that food or this enzyme and that hormone and how it affects your ability to lose or gain weight, what exercises you need to be doing and for how many minutes of your day, your week, your LIFE!!

It's great to see so much effort and time, and focus on obesity and the obesity epidemic and ways to resolve it.

BUT, it's very important for YOU to just DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO FOR YOURSELF.

If what is holding you back from achieving your goal is mainly EMOTIONAL, then seek and get EMOTIONAL or PSYCHOLOGICAL COUNSELING.

If it's lack of knowledge about food and nutrition, then invest in dietetic advice. Your local GP and/or hospital will have a dietitian on staff or access to information on how and where to see a dietitian to help you sort out your nutritional needs. You may even need to go on a drastic Very Low Calorie Diet or Low Calorie Diet before you reach a weight whereby you achieve your 'optimal-lifestyle' diet, thus, you NEED the expertise and monitoring of a qualified, knowledgeable dietitian (preferably a REGISTERED DIETITIAN) or nutritionist.

If it's lack of exercise or physical activity -- enlist the assistance of a personal trainer, join a gym, or just start walking, swimming, cycling, hiking, etc. more. If you feel too unfit or unwell to exercise, then PLEASE, pursue getting a full medical check-up and get your GP on board from the get-go to help you get moving in the right way and with monitoring and support! And if the GP puts you off or patronizes you, INSIST on being taken seriously!!!!

The point is -- MAKE IT SIMPLE for yourself. Reflect and decide what is the MOST LIMITING FACTOR that stops you from GETTING THE BODY YOU WANT and BEING THE PERSON YOU WANT TO BE -- the BEST VERSION of yourself! Once you tackle the ONE THING that is YOUR GREATEST OBSTACLE -- the other factors' of the MULTIFACTORIAL enigma of obesity will start to fall into their proper place.

And, if it's not YOU YOURSELF, but a LOVED ONE -- ESPECIALLY if it's your CHILD -- PLEASE, I IMPLORE you -- do whatever you need to do for them to address the ONE THING they need to do to lose their overfat status and get the body they have been blessed with become FIT and HEALTHY -- SOONER rather than later!!!

Start with the ONE issue that needs attention THE MOST!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

'The Obesities'

Early in my studies, as I was starting research for my first Masters thesis, I came across a term 'the obesities' described by the members of the first Fogarty International Task Force on Obesity. The paper I was reading nicely delineated/described how 'obesity' is not really a single, cut and dry, frank presentation, but rather, a general term to get one into the 'ballpark', so to speak, whenever a person who was overweight or obese would present, and that the MULTIFACTORIAL and MULTIDISCIPLINARY nature of obesity -- both in its causes and approaches for best-treatments -- can never be overlooked when evaluating an individual.

NOW, this was in the 70's -- a time when obesity was not yet the full-blown epidemic that it is today. The whole 'foodie' culture with the increase in eating out and convenience foods/microwaving phenomena and internet and the increase in TV watching and channels was kind of in early stages, but, nevertheless, evolving at a rapid pace.

Thus, the folks who were obese, then, were mainly probably those who had strong genetic predispositions and/or those who were already into the overeating/under-exercising/sedentary way for one reason or another. But, the 'obesogenic environment' with its easy-and-everywhere access to active and passive environmental cues to enable SO MANY PEOPLE to be in the 'overeating/under-exercising/sedentary way' was not yet as ubiquitous and sustained as it has been in the last 20-25 years.

But, STILL -- even with FEWER people being obese -- experts KNEW THEN that obesity had to be assessed and approached differently depending on the factors causing it or contributing to it per individual OR, perhaps, targeted groups.

THIS concept of 'the obesities' STILL needs to be considered today -- even MORE so than ever, in my opinion.

Just when we need to be more sensitive to the needs of why and how people become obese in order to really help them effectively lose fat and keep it off -- we seem to be bombarding the public with the SAME messages and making everyone feel they have the SAME REALITY OF OBESITY.

People who have strong genetic predispositions and who may be in situations where they struggle with achieving and sustaining targeted weights and fat levels, super-obese people who are in the morbidly-obese range, and people who are overweight or mildly obese, and even those who have a few pounds to shed ALL SEE AND READ AND HEAR the SAME MESSAGES about how, why, and what-to-do regarding their 'obesity'. They are offered the same set of options for dietary plans and regimes, exercise recommendations and programs, and all the information out there now about stress and the psychological/emotional and psychosocial aspects that they need to be aware of and methods to address those factors/issues, as they strive to succeed in getting fit.

TV shows, social networking messages, internet adverts, gyms, commercial weight loss and diet centers, programs, and products, and even medical practices are all just seeing a person as 'obese' and then offer up THE solution(s) to make them NOT OBESE.

It's like the world has gone into panic mode in order to try to wipe out this epidemic at the expense of actually taking the time, genuine expertise, and discernment in truly arriving at the differentiated diagnosis of an individual's 'obesity' and proffering a plan that really meets their needs and appropriate goals.

Of course, there are targeted options for the classification of morbidly obese people -- bariatric surgery or procedures in all their variants, like gastric bypass, banding, stapling and/or fasting regimes,drugs, and other radical measures, BUT, what IS genuinely happening today is that many of the people who are mildly or moderately obese are ALSO able to get these procedures and operations. If one has the money or insurance coverage, it's become a personal choice to opt for procedures that should really just be targeted to the resistant few.

Likewise, people who are morbidly or moderately obese, but with genetic factors making diet and exercise interventions less effective than they should be or afflicting these folks with very high relapse/recidivism rates are being viewed EXACTLY the same as people who are just overweight and need to change their eating habits a bit and/or increase their physical activity to get back to the optimal weight they may have had a few years earlier.

People who are 300+ lbs are hearing the SAME messages about what to do to get 'fit' as people who are, perhaps, 25 lbs over their ideal body weight. Even the whole definition and image of 'fitness' is bombarded to the GENERAL PUBLIC as being the ULTIMATE for EVERYONE regardless of their baseline or starting point or where they REALLY need to get to in order to improve their HEALTH, but also THEIR LOOKS and IMAGE.

It is doing the general obese/overweight public a vast disservice by not making them aware that each individual case is different and that there are subtle, often blatant differences in how one needs to proceed in order to achieve an optimal and lasting body weight and body fat percentage and overall level of fitness and well-being relative to that person's needs and goals.

Certainly, there are principles, guidelines, and treatments that are common to all obese and overweight people. BUT, it is very important for those working with obese people and for obese people themselves to recognize their own OBESE HISTORY and REALITY and embark on a treatment plan that BEST WORKS for their individual needs and goals! Certain GROUPS may have similar needs and goals, thus,making GROUP TREATMENT entirely possible, but only if the OBESE HISTORY and REALITY of the WHOLE GROUP is similar.

'The Obesities' is very real and this concept must be respected as we strive to decrease the obesity epidemic.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Nutrish and Delish!! Fresh Strawberry Bread-- One For You and One For Me

Summer is nigh!

This is the time of year when strawberries are abundant, juicy, and extra tasty. However, if you find yourself with leftover strawberries or if you are hankering for a delicious summery tea-bread -- the following recipe is fantastic!

I like it because it uses polyunsaturated, healthier oil instead of butter and it yields TWO loaves, so you get twice the reward for your preparation and baking work -- one to eat today and the other to freeze (it freezes VERY well) or share with a neighbor or friend. This recipe is based on the recipe I found in, although I have doubled the amount of strawberries that they list as I wanted to add much more of the anti-oxidant goodness of strawberries to the bread and get the most nutrients for my kcalories when I indulge. I also have made it using 1 cup of wholemeal flour in place of 1 cup white all-purpose flour and it comes out still very good and moist and light.

For those of you who follow an EXCHANGE LIST type of meal plan, I calculated that you would need to count a slice of a loaf (1/12 of a loaf or about a 1 1/2 inch slice) as 1 bread + 2 fruits. Thus a piece of this bread IS pretty potent, but it's meant to be one of your occasional 'treats' in life. Why not?! Enjoy!

Fresh Strawberry Bread

Original Recipe Yield 2 - 9 x 5 inch loaves


3 cups fresh strawberries
3 1/8 cups all-purpose flour (may substitute 1 cup wholemeal flour for 1 cup white, if desired)
2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). LIGHTLY butter and flour two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.
Slice strawberries, and place in medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, and set aside while preparing bread mixture.
Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in large bowl: mix well. Blend oil and eggs into strawberries. Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, blending until dry ingredients are just moistened. Stir in pecans. Divide batter into pans.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until tester inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn loaves out, and cool completely.

Servings Per Recipe: 24 or 2 loaves serving 12 slices per loaf.

Nutritional Information:
Strawberry Bread

Amount Per Serving/Slice

Calories: 242

Total Fat: 12.5g
Cholesterol: 35mg
Sodium: 161mg
Total Carbs: 35.4g
Dietary Fiber: 0.8g
Protein: 2.8g

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Nutrish and Delish: Easy Fish Stew Supper with Low-fat Cornbread

If you want something easy, economical, and incredibly healthy and delicious -- think FISH. The beauty of fish stew is that you can make it all upmarket and fancy and use FRESH FISH (whatever you fancy, but a mix of some white type of fish and shrimp/prawns are basic, in my opinion) and HERBS (again, to taste --rosemary, thyme, parsley are good ones) and GARDEN-RAISED VEGETABLES (tomatoes, zucchini/courgette, carrots, fennel, celery) OR you can use frozen fish, supermarket veggies,even canned and frozen vegetables, and dried herbs and you will get similar results -- tasty and filling, YET healthy! Here's my quick recipe, but you can use whatever fish, herbs, and vegetables you want and/or have on hand/can afford:

Fish Stew


2 large washed, unpeeled carrots, chopped -- large or small chunks, as you like
2 celery stalks, plus inner leaves chopped
1 large onion or 2-3 shallots, chopped finely
1 red chili pepper, de-seeded and chopped very finely (omit this if you don't want any 'kick' to the stew)
1 Tablespoon chopped frozen garlic or 3 gloves chopped fresh garlic
2 small courgette, split in half and chopped into chunks
2 cans chopped tomatoes (I always use 1 can of cherry-tomatoes, if available)
1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 large or 4 small frozen cod filets(about 16 ounces or 500 grams -- about 1/2 kg)
1 large bag of frozen uncooked large(king) prawns/shrimp
1 glassful white wine
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 2 tsp. dried
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp dried
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
splash hot pepper sauce, if desired, for extra 'kick' if you like it VERY hot
salt and pepper, to taste

Let olive oil spread hot over a medium heat in a large stock/stew/soup pot. Add all chopped vegetables and sautee` until soft. Add canned tomatoes and an additional 2 cans of water (rinses out remaining tomatoes, too!) and bring to a gentle boil for about 8 minutes. Now gently add all fish and bring to a gentle boil (this will take another 5-8 minutes) and then lower the heat to simmer for about 15-20 minutes more. While it is simmering, splash in the white wine and add the herbs and hot pepper sauce. When it is done, add salt and pepper, to taste and keep on low heat.

Low-fat Corn Bread -- Preheat oven to 190 C or 400 F. SCANTLY grease a 9 inch square tin with oil, baking margarine, or butter.

2 1/2 cups ground corn meal or polenta meal
3/4 cups self-raising flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1 large egg
1 cup fat-free plain yogurt
skimmed milk -- enough to just wet mixture

Sift dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Mix egg and yogurt together in small bowl. Add egg/yogurt to dry ingredients. Add milk to whole mixture just enough to wet to thick pouring consistency. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown and springs back in center.

Serve fish stew in large bowls with a square or two of warm corn bread! Or you can serve with crusty bread or garlic cheese bread, if feeling indulgent. This recipe feeds at least 4 persons, generously or 6 people.

PS -- no bread if you follow a carbohydrate-free diet of some sort -- Paleo, Atkins, for example. It's still a filling meal!


How Do I Eat? Let me count the ways....'Food Icon' vs. 'MyPyramid' vs. 'Food Guide Pyramid'

I'm quite excited to see what the new 'Food Icon' is going to look like.

I, personally, have never been able to use the 'MyPyramid' or the 'Food Guide Pyramind' that the USDA have produced for teaching or for explaining, in PRACTICAL terms how to eat healthy. BUT, these 'tools' WERE handy to give an IDEA to people that variety and basic foods from all the food groups were important as they made decisions about WHAT to eat. It was in discerning HOW TO EAT where these guides fell short. They were glossy and colorful and nice to handout as a generic 'start' as I BEGAN my education and counsel, but I ALWAYS had to provide additional guidelines on specifics -- how many servings, the size of servings, how to shop and cook, how to decide what foods fit into what food groups -- what was highest in protein, what was highest in carbohydrates, what DID contain enough fat to deem it a 'fat', what to absolutely limit to 'x' number of servings per day or per week and, certainly, depending on age, sex, baseline, and health preclusions, what foods to eat for BEST tolerance, digestion, absorption, and SPECIFIC needs and requirements for optimal nutrient yields. And, all that doesn't even get into how to help people eat healthy keeping in mind their cultural and personal preferences, their budget, their emotional and historical associations with foods, and any other foods/eating issues they might have!

In all fairness, I have not been able to use ANY of the food guide charts and icons produced from ANY COUNTRY I've lived and worked in, to suit my purposes of educating, illustrating, and ensuring practical understanding and behavior change for the public and clients I've worked with in these countries. It's just VERY DIFFICULT to come up with something -- ONE CHART or GUIDE or LIST OF RECOMMENDATIONS -- that people can go home with and refer to to make them know EXACTLY what to eat and how -- the day they leave you, the day afterward, and every day, thereafter. People need clear instructions and, THEN -- evaluation of understanding, monitoring, updating and revision of guidance depending on progress (or lack of), and a 'tool' that thy will be able to refer to just as a 'double-check' -- not so much as a definitive sheet of information that they have to rigidly adhere to. Actually, the BEST instructions/ sheets that we can give folks are the ones that they won't need once they've mastered healthy eating pertinent to their present needs and their EVOLVING needs.

But, I never expected one 'tool' to be able to do it all. That's why I'M THERE -- to translate the science of nutrition into the foods you actually need to end up eating to get the nutrients you need for OPTIMAL HEALTH. Of course, if an instructional tool can stand on its own and yield as much helpful information and guidance as possible, then GREAT. But, I hardly think the new 'Food Icon' will be all that. Maybe I'm wrong. I'll let you know after I see it.

Meanwhile, I don't think you can go wrong by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables; low-fat sources of protein like chicken, fish,lean meats; reduced-fat cheese and dairy; a few eggs per week; whole-grains, such as brown bread, rice, pasta; and fats that are high sources of essential fatty acids and omega-3-fatty acids, like polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated oils and foods, such as avocados, fatty fish, nuts. And, ALSO, use common sense when consuming higher kcalorie foods such as carbohydrates and fats and WATCH PORTION SIZES, EVEN IF THEY ARE HEALTHY FOODS! And, it goes without saying that fried, refined, sugary, and junk foods (you KNOW EXACTLY what they are!!!) need to absolutely be limited to occasional treats.

I know that the folks at the USDA, the CDC, and all the other food and nutrition research and regulatory agencies and institutions work very hard at generating what they want to be helpful, practical, and useful guides and tools. I'm confident the new 'Food Icon' will represent the fruits (and vegetables -- sorry! can't forget those!) of all their earnest, best-intended efforts.



Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Obesity 'Anomie'

You've heard about the 'social contagion' of obesity -- what I discussed in my previous post -- when people tend toward being or becoming obese because their social contacts are.

But there's also a vast number of people who are or become obese and overweight because they feel ALIENATED and ISOLATED from the people of the social circle they are in BECAUSE of their obesity. Their social contacts -- friends, spouses, co-workers and colleagues, family members -- all seem to be rather fit and slender. The obesity of ISOLATION is when YOU -- the obese person -- is the ODD PERSON OUT. And even if you are not really super-obese -- if you feel chubbier, chunkier, a bit out a shape as compared to the SUPER-fit and svelte people you hang out with -- it's even more alienating. And this feeling of being so much BIGGER and heavier and perhaps, more unattractive, 'different', even 'abnormal' from the rest of the 'gang' can lead you to comfort eating, excessive eating, addictive eating -- especially when you are alone, and you become even heavier and more unfit than when you first felt 'different' from others in your social circle.

Food becomes your friend, your spouse, your love, your WORLD, really, and your secret 'balm' against the cruel world. And, of course, this may lead to even MORE isolation, alienation, and loneliness as you retreat from social interaction for fear of rejection, ridicule, feeling 'odd', or feeling ignored and 'invisible'. This last reality is really a crazy one -- when people who are a bit heavy or chubby are not even regarded at all -- treated as if they are 'invisible' because they don't OOZE that 'coolness' of being slender, even skinny in a society that seems to worship the 'super-skinny' look.

Often, people who are overweight, perhaps, mildly obese, get even HEAVIER -- moderately and morbidly obese -- when they feel alienated and not looked upon as desirable and worthy.

This is sad because, at that point, they may become irreversibly unhealthy. When they were slightly over their healthiest weight or, more correctly, body fat level, they could get into a healthier range of body fat easier and with more dignity and grace. Once they get to the super-obese state, the struggle is that much harder and the body is now set up for some of the chronic illnesses to complicate and isolate their lives even more.

And, many SUPER-OBESE people DO live isolated, lonely lives. They are shunned and not getting proper treatment for their obesity, nor do they have the confidence or self-motivation to get out themselves or to go after proper help. Their lives are spent chasing after the symptoms and problems associated with the chronic diseases they ended up getting from being obese. It's a vicious circle.

It's REALLY BAD when all the slender people in the social sphere of the obese/overweight friend, spouse, family member, co-worker try to inflict their standards and perspectives on food and exercise on the obese person. I know this is done, most of the time, to HELP that person, but let me tell you -- it often is damaging as it makes the person who has a weight problem feel even WORSE as they feel incapable or HOPELESS.

The fact is -- everyone has a very different HISTORY of food and physical activity. There are cultural differences, for sure -- but even within a country or neighborhood -- some families and people value sports or exercise or fashion or academics or whatever, far more than food or just spectator activities. But, this doesn't make the people who were raised highly valuing, even PRIORITIZING food in their lives as well as less active leisure activities, BAD people or less interesting or less 'cool' or more stupid or lazy or less loveable/likeable. Well, it shouldn't, anyway. There are many people in the world who are raised valuing food and less active leisure activities more than sports,fashion, academics, etc, etc. who are NOT obese or overweight and who are, actually, skinny and slender and THEY are not lectured upon and gawked at and presumed to be lazy and weak.

Presumptuousness and inflicting your own standards and values of food, exercise, body images, and beauty onto a person who has DIFFERENT standards and values of food, exercise, body images, and beauty can really get in the way of truly understanding why a person is obese and how to REALLY help them out.

It is VERY IMPORTANT to appreciate and EMBRACE the differences that people have about the importance of food and exercise in their lives and to learn to respect, appreciate, and embrace all perspectives on what constitutes an ideal body image and definition of beauty.

What IS very important is to help people achieve their 'personal best' --- for HEALTH, but ALSO for their OWN body image and type and within the realm of what makes THEM feel and look beautiful. THEN, can they feel 'normal' and socially embraced and respected and UNDERSTOOD and a worthwhile, integrated member of society -- at least in the social circle they may be a part of where most people are a certain weight or height or look, eat, and move differently than they do.

It's prophetic that the NORMAL distribution is a bell-shaped curve. If everyone who was considered NORMAL all looked the same, the shape of NORMAL would be a straight line -- a skinny, uninteresting straight mark.

So, curves are NORMAL and this is desirable. Of course, when too BIG of curves occur, then unhealthy conditions can and do follow. THIS is where the problems begin.

Let's strive to understand, respect, and love all the differences in perspectives on values and standards about foods, exercise, body images, and beauty. This will, hopefully, prevent the phenomenon of OBESITY ANOMIE from occurring, contributing to the obesity epidemic from the OTHER end of the spectrum as the OBESITY CONTAGION.

BOTH realities have to be considered.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


Experts have identified that a 'social contagion' for obesity is a factor contributing to the increase in incidence and prevalence of obesity. If you have obese social contacts -- you are STRONGLY more likely to be get or be obese yourself.

This makes sense. You start to feel more comfortable being overweight or obese if your family and friends are in the same situation. Eating and exercise habits of friends are likely to be similar -- thus resulting in similar energy intakes and expenditures -- which leans toward the habitually positive end for everyone -- resulting in the 'whole gang' becoming overweight/obese. The Harvard researchers ran a mathematical model clearly predicting that this phenomenon will result in an estimated 42% of the adult population, eventually, becoming obese (we are now at 34% prevalence) in, say, another 40-50 years!

So, friend -- BEWARE. If you are not yet overweight or obese like the rest of the 'gang' -- give it time -- you'll get there! Certainly your children will! :(

AND.... if you are a person who LONGS to be svelte, slim, trim and fit -- I guess the take-home lesson of this research is -- choose your friends carefully.
Before you get too close to anyone, look them up and down, with dogged scrutiny for any signs of blub or chubb -- anywhere -- love handles, muffin tops, double chins,bat(sometimes called 'bingo') wings, cherubic cheeks, chaffing thighs, tree-stump legs, and big ole' jelly bellies. Check, check --here or there? Walk on by.

No, run! Run like the wind. As a matter of fact -- steer clear of not just friends, but ANYONE who you may spend alot of time with and hang out with -- lovers, spouses, family members, perhaps work associates -- who may be on the chunky side. Never mind if they are kind, caring, funny, intelligent, hard-working, loyal, loving people -- a person's gotta do what a person's gotta do. And a big personal goal of yours is to be fit and thin and you DON'T want to run the risk of screwing your life up and increasing your odds and becoming yet another obesity statistic by interpersonal association with unfit, fat folks.

WAIT A MINUTE!!! 'Modelling' research (from the Harvard study and others) ALSO shows that, on the other hand, weight-loss efforts, AS WELL, are enhanced by having a strong social network of support and IF, the 'gang' is all trying their level best to shed the unwanted fat and change over to obesity-busting habits and lifestyles, then the probability that EVERYONE will succeed, increases.

And why didn't the researchers perform a similar study or run a similar model to verify that, likewise, 'fit' begets 'fit'?? That is, that trim and fit people who hang out with trim and fit people have a certain percentage of possibility to get and become trim and fit because of THEIR social contagion? I mean, of course, we can infer and/or deduce that this happens, but the study(ies)and model(s) are NOT there! That would REALLY strengthen the power of the mathematical modelling. But, I digress here....

In my humble opinion, the REAL take-home lessons of the research is that:

1) this information is NOT conclusive or certain as it is based on a mathematical model which IS just THAT -- a PLASTIC source of data which CAN be CHANGED ....IF...

2) YOU decide TODAY to become the SOLUTION instead of part of the PROBLEM to this 'mathematical' conundrum! YOU HAVE THE POWER and ABILITY TO BE A MATHEMATICAL GENIUS!! YES, YOU!!!

In other words -- please enjoy the company of a variety of friends, lovers, family members, spouses, children, work associates, etc., but PLEASE eat balanced, healthy foods and decide TODAY not to overeat YOURSELF or encourage others around to overeat or be sedentary BY OVEREATING and BY BEING SEDENTARY YOURSELF! And, DO IT! LIVE IT! You don't have to lecture or warn or recommend or say a word to your friends and loved ones! JUST BE A QUIET (or LOUD -- depending on how you are), FUN-LOVING EXAMPLE of HEALTHY EATING. Likewise -- BE ACTIVE! GET ACTIVE! GET YOUR FRIENDS and LOVERS, and KIDS and MOMS and DADS, and HUSBANDS and WIVES to get active. You don't have to push and prod and lecture and be all naggy and self-righteous and boorish about it.

Just be a great friend, spouse, lover, family member -- heck -- 'SOCIAL CONTACT' and SPREAD HEALTHY LIVING!

Let the retooling of the mathematical models begin! :)

Mary-Jo R. Overwater, MSc, MMSc, RD

It's kind of fun to do the impossible. Walt Disney

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Weight-Loss, Fitness, and Medical Professionals -- Who is YOUR 'go-to' person(s) when you are struggling?!

It's not easy being green. Kermit the Frog

I'm the 'expert'. I look, behave, and think perfect when it comes to my fitness, weight, and food choices and intake.

I have all the knowledge and the ability and that makes it SO much easier for me to look, behave, and think in ALL the right ways in order to eat right, exercise properly, and look amazing at ALL times.

Isn't that right?


I don't look perfect. I don't think things through properly and make all the right choices ALL the time.

I'm just like you. I struggle, too.

I admit that having knowledge about foods, nutrition, metabolism, and having an understanding of the many related aspects of fitness, such as exercise physiology and stress management -- DOES help to make me more AWARE of what I need to do to make best choices. And it DOES motivate me to really and truly LIVE my knowledge. Not because I KNOW IT ALL -- but because I feel so incredibly privileged to have had the chance to study all of this and to learn the TRUTH of foods, nutrition, metabolism, physiology, patho-physiology, stress management (all of which is EVER-evolving and new, exciting, helpful stuff being discovered all the time). It has really been a dream come true and a lifesaver for me in managing my own struggle with obesity and poor fitness, THUS, I DO feel a very serious responsibility to live out this TRUTH -- for myself AND as an example to others. Especially during these days when obesity AND poor fitness have escalated to such epidemic proportions.

We NEED dedicated LEADERS to help get the GOOD NEWS and the TRUTH out -- about how to become lean, healthy, and fit.

I take my role as one of those LEADERS very very seriously.

But for me, a person who has spent a good deal of my life being obese -- my childhood, adolescence, early adulthood -- it STILL is an enormous challenge to consistently apply all the knowledge, all the techniques, all the action that is required to STAY trim and fit AND to force myself to get back on track when I relapse.

YES, I relapse! Not often, mind you -- but, being the 'EXPERT' -- when I relapse, it's DEVASTATING! Firstly, to myself, and certainly to my clients and to the world, in general. Recently, a 'relapse' happened to me as a result of losing my beloved Mom not too long ago. This brought up all kinds of weight and food issues as well as the profound grief I found (and find) myself experiencing, and I just succumbed -- plain and simple. Fortunately, I believe, BECAUSE I was (and AM) in such good health BECAUSE of living YEARS of healthy choices -- in my dietary intake, my exercise habits, my sleep habits, and stress management -- I've not slid to the point of no return. But, I haven't found it THIS difficult to STAY on track with my healthy lifestyle in a LONG time -- perhaps, since I FIRST started to LIVE the TRUTH of FOOD, EXERCISE, and MY BODY -- years ago -- in graduate school.

I am VERY hard on myself. That's the problem. IT IS PRECISELY BECAUSE I have the knowledge and the understanding that it hits me that much harder that I am FAILING.

AND, more importantly -- WHO DO I GO TO WHEN I NEED HELP?

Right now, it is no one.

When I was working in university hospital settings and , subsequently, research departments of universities, I had good friends who were MDs and nurses, epidemiologists, and 'fitness' academics -- experts who ALSO knew 'alot' about health and disease, exercise, foods and nutrition, metabolism, -- but they were obese or overweight or ALSO struggling with their OWN body fitness. I helped them. As the nutritionist, I had that extra 'helping', if you will, and pardon the food reference, of the knowledge about foods, recipes, healthy shopping and cooking, and eating, in general. With this type of information plus the commitment to exercise more -- both cardio- and muscle-strengthening -- we ALL succeeded. I monitored them and THEY monitored me! Being a dietitian and nutritionist really does BOMBARD you with FOOD CUES all day long and IF you, yourself, have or have HAD struggles/issues with food, weight, body image, poor fitness, etc -- IF YOU DON'T have a way to keep YOU motivated, BALANCED in mind and body, and MONITORED -- it can overtake you -- particularly when you are at a vulnerable point in your life. For me, incorporating daily, moderate to strenuous exercise into my life, and the support of mutually struggling,yet understanding PEERS were the blessings I needed to keep me on track.

Since life for me has evolved into mainly being in private practice, I don't have that peer comraderie on a daily basis anymore. I have friends who I can talk to, but I always end up answering all their questions about foods, nutrition, how they need to get fit, etc. and counseling and motivating THEM. And because to them, I still LOOK 'fine', they don't take it seriously if I say I'm struggling.

I also don't feel comfortable going to the local GPs, personal trainers, or even, counselors of any kind -- as this may affect my own credibility and perception of excellence, effectiveness in my profession.

I am an extremely self-motivated, self-starting person, so every day is a new and wondrous beginning for me. But, when I need that extra 'helping' of support when the moments come when I find myself 'slipping' -- I'm a bit lost right now.

Any other 'experts' out there -- I would appreciate ANY suggestions:

WHO DO YOU GO TO when YOU are struggling?

Peace! :)