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Monday, 31 January 2011

Say 'Cheese' but NOT on everything!

Cheese is a wonderful, nutritious, and amazing food! The vast array of varieties offer an unbelievable taste experience and depending on its aged-ness, the tastes and textures make it even more intriguing and delectable. In countries, such as Holland and France -- thank goodness, there are still bona fide cheese shops, where cheese is the exclusive product sold and savoured.

Buying cheese in The Netherlands is a lesson, in itself, about cheese! When one can be regaled by the 'kaasboer' with the difference between young and old cheese -- both in the making AND the tasting -- well -- it's an experience that I HIGHLY recommend and is not to be missed, if you ever find yourself visiting Holland -- even if your visit is for other reasons -- ie -- the flower fields, the Van Gogh and Rijks museums, the Anne Frank House, and to see Amsterdam, in general.

Similarly, for soft cheeses, one can't beat France. I once visited a farm in the town of Meaux in the Brie region of France. This is where one of the finest Brie cheeses is produced, named, 'oddly enough' -- Brie de Meaux. It was here that the CALCIUM content of cheese REALLY hit home when I learned that over 25 LITERS OF MILK is used in the making of just ONE WHEEL of Brie de Meaux.

So, indeed, cheese is an excellent source of CALCIUM, containing a range of 55-260+ mg PER OUNCE among the natural hard cheese varieties (cheddar, brick, cheshire, swiss, gruyere, colby, muenster, gouda, edam, etc).Cheese is also a great source of Phosphorus. It also contains a fair source of Potassium. And, it is a great source of complete protein -- around 6.0-7.0 grams per ounce.

But, of course, one HAS to be aware that cheese is also HIGH in kcalories, fat, and Sodium.

On average, ONE OUNCE of hard cheese contains about 100 kcals +/- 20 kcals, 8.0 grams FAT, and 100 -- 400 mg of sodium! Processed cheeses like American contain even more kcalories, fat, and sodium!

So, an OUNCE of cheese -- which is the equivalent of about FOUR DIE (as in dice) is almost as high in kcalories as a scant TABLESPOON of butter, has more than half the fat of a Tablespoon of butter, and can yield about a third of the recommended daily sodium amounts for most people!

Which is WHY -- DO ENJOY CHEESE, but NOT in the copious amounts that it is obviously being consumed in the past 25 years!

Cheese seems to be added to everything these days! People seem to think it is NORMAL to slap on 1-2 slices of cheese when making a sandwich or on top of a cheeseburger. Instead of just sprinkling cheese over an 'au gratin' type dish -- often we LAYER a thick topping over the other ingredients and we end up getting MUCH more fat, kcalories, and sodium for a dish than we think. We seem to 'slather' cheese over Nachos and other Mexican dishes, Italian dishes, and even on baked potatoes, broccoli and other vegetables, and any sandwich, in general we're consuming.

It's just WRONG! In fact, IMO, this ubiquitous use of cheese is as contributory to the obesity (and possible sequelae -- HBP, HTN, CVD, DM, metabolic syndrome) epidemic as the guzzling of sugary soft drinks.

It HAS to stop!

PLEASE ENJOY cheese in MODERATION, if not, even better -- in scant and thoughtful amounts. I guarantee -- you will enjoy the flavour, texture, and beauty of cheese EVEN MORE than when you eat large amounts of it.

Soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert, Neufchatel, Blue, Gorgonzola, Stilton, etc. are so concentrated and punget, that often people self-regulate the amounts consumed -- but even with these cheeses -- watch your intake! -- especially if you use them to make sauces. And, pregnant women must avoid soft cheeses for the listeria microorganisms which could be harmful to the developing fetus.

Cheese like ricotta and cottage are also very nutritious, but always try to choose the SKIM, and/or LOW-FAT versions -- even though these are STILL quite high in sodium and actually, depending on the %fat, could also be appreciably high in fat and kcals -- check LABELS!

If you have any further questions about specific cheeses -- please feel free to ask me.

But, overall, my message is -- ENJOY CHEESE, but in small amounts! Discover the beautiful tastes, textures, and uniqueness of foods WITHOUT SO MUCH cheese OVER them or just sprinkle a wee bit over foods. I promise -- you will be MUCH more satisfied!!!


Monday, 24 January 2011


People who make you feel bad -- whether intentionally or unintentionally -- can really undermine, sabatoge, ruin, and crush your plans to live a healthy lifestyle -- to eat what's good for you and to stick to your exercise schedule. People who bring you down can trigger your need to 'balm' yourself and your hurt, causing you to stuff yourself with junk or high-fat-high-calorie foods. This whole dynamic is not only SOUL-ROBBING, it's BODY-ROBBING. It can get right in the way of YOU loving yourself to go after the life you want to lead, be the person you want to be, and look like the person you ARE, on the outside, as the person you are on the inside.

Soooooo, please -- stay AWAY from people who affect you like this!!!! Find a way to not have to be around these people and if you MUST -- try to have someone who is GOOD for you around. If you MUST be around people who bring you down, if you have the strength, tell them about it, talk to them. If you can't -- write your 'hurt' and your feelings in a journal, in a letter to someone who understands and loves you, and even to one of us 'bloggers' out here in cyberspace. Just DON"T ROB yourself of your soul, your body, and your dignity! No one should and DOES have that kind of power over you!

Keep smiling!:))

Friday, 21 January 2011

Lonliness and obesity

"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

When I was in college, I had the privilege of hearing Mother Teresa speak. She was a tiny women, physically, but the scope of her eyes, as she looked around the crowd, and the power of her words, as calm and composed as she was as she spoke -- were immense!

I had desperately wanted to go to India to work with her. I had worked with Father Ed Brady, the Dean of Human Peace and Development at St.Joe's in Philly, to help alleviate the local hunger and malnutrition problems in the poorer areas of Philly. You see, early-on, even before I studied nutrition in depth, I realized that being obese, doesn't necessarily mean a person is well-nourished. In fact, many obese people, especially children, are 'malnourished' and 'undernourished' in the necessary nutrients. I know I was. So, as ironic as it may seem, getting involved in Hunger and Malnutrition, even though I struggled with my weight, was not entirely crazy. The world isn't always as simple as ignorant, self-righteous people would like it to be.

Anyway, Father Brady had spent 18 years in India with Mother Teresa. He told me I needed $800.00 to go. I didn't have that kind of money, then, nor did my parents. But, as Mother Teresa spoke, it seemed she looked DIRECTLY at me as she explained that there are all kinds of 'hungers' in the world -- the 'hunger of the human heart' being, probably, the most devastating. She said that not all of us are called to go to India and/or minister to the physically hungry, but, rather, to listen to Our God and to hear our own call as to where we must serve Him best.

People suffering from obesity often are so heart. They are ignored, have no one who loves or admires them, and often, are made to feel invisible. People are always talking about being and staying positive, and embracing the 'can-do' attitude, and reaching goals, and being always GREAT ....accomplished, great-looking, famous, powerful. So, lonely, 'pathetic'-looking obese people are only a very tangible sort of sign of 'failure' or problems or negativity to many many people. And people and society don't WANT to be confronted with these images -- it's ALL about -- perfect, beautiful, pleasing, and, again, that over-used word --POSITIVITY!!

Don't get me wrong, of course, I strive to be positive and want people to look and feel their very best. That's why I'm here -- remember ....'we mean to be the people we mean to be' and all that. But we need each other to lift one another 'up' and to recognize that we are all suffering -- in some way. People that suffer from obesity just happen to 'wear' their problem on their body. Just as the person who is physically hungry needs food, or the person who is going through a painful divorce needs support from friends, or the person who is depressed needs medication and therapy -- a person who is obese needs and is WORTH looking at, helping in EVERY way that is possible, and LOVING!

And, that makes me, even more, want to open my eyes and heart to those people who are SO beautiful, but obese. Those of us who struggle with our weight, need to find ways to engage ourselves so that we don't feel so 'different' and dis-enfranchised -- certainly not to the point of being 'left to be lonely' and, thus, 'alone', on our own, and 'abandoned' when it comes to dealing with our weight problem in CORRECT ways -- to treat and prevent it.

What I'm trying to say is -- people who are struggling with obesity need to feel AS VALUED and DIGNIFIED as the uber-fit celebs or local 'hotties' or people who are NOT obese or who never have been, as they work WITH CARING professionals or family members or friends or spouses or other PEOPLE, to get healthy and look better.

And, I'm not talking about espousing the 'Fat is beautiful' attitude or campaign. IMO, that is delusional. Fat is NOT beautiful -- it's unhealthy, it's unsightly, and it's heart-breaking -- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I would be wrong and remiss if I didn't point that out.

I just want to encourage lonely, obese people to feel they are worth it -- worth asking questions to any fitness guru they find on-line, worth seeking the CORRECT help they deserve, worth knowing that they are attractive and beautiful and that they need to do what it takes to take care of the body they are born and blessed with. And that DOES mean losing weight! They don't have to do it alone and there are genuine people and places available that care.

Smile! :)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


"The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties." Abigail Adams

Habits can be good or bad, but in reading this quote that Abigail Adams wrote in a letter to her son, John Quincy Adams, as he was getting ready to embark on a voyage overseas to accompany his father on a diplomatic mission, I somehow know she meant it to mean that he would only become stronger, healthier in mind, body, and spirit and develop GOOD habits as he experienced the hardships and anxieties of being separated from her, and on a ship which could become chaotic and go under with just one tumultuous storm encountered.

Developing good habits demands a vigorous mind and disciplined spirit. Attaining and/or sustaining a healthy, toned body demands that good habits be practiced, for the most part. It's just not easy. But, the more you practice GOOD habits, the more NATURAL they become. And there's something about the rewards of good habits that seems to hard-wire the brain and the mind to WANT to keep up good habits! It's a win-win ONCE you get into the rhythm of GOOD HABITS.

BUT, making the first steps to START good habits or even MORE difficult , OVERCOMING bad habits BEFORE starting good habits -- well, that's tough. BUT, TOTALLY POSSIBLE and DO-ABLE and actually , NECESSARY if you want to age well and have a great life. Getting through difficult times doesn't mean life is not full, happy, or rewarding, and joyful.

It keeps the mind VIGOROUS, the body HEALTHY and BEAUTIFUL, and the soul EVER-SEARCHING, but PEACEFUL and JOYFUL!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Does your diet affect your stress levels?

The short answer is ....YES!!!

If you are eating a healthy, wholesome diet comprised of the right amount of total kcalories for your needs with an optimal mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and you eat at intervals spaced out throughout the day so as to regulate your blood glucose and synthesis and secretions of key hormones and other substances in the body, then you will really find your feeling of well-being, calm, and sanity will prevail. Honest, you won't be as cranky, tired, or sluggish. AS LONG AS you ARE getting enough kcalories per day -- ie -- don't starve yourself! That makes people cranky!
So, for women -- about 1800 kcals per day and up to 2200 or more, IF you ARE regularly exercising!
For men -- 2200-2600 kcals per day -- again, higher end intakes to correlate with more active of the species. And, PLEASE, folks -- these are GENERALIZATIONS and AVERAGE, sane recommendations. Of course, -- your age, height, and sex affect recommendations as do if you are tiny, small-framed, genetically pre-disposed to gain weight, very sedentary, low muscle or lean body mass or on the other hand, big-framed, tall, extremely active, high lean body mass -- the numbers will change!!! You can always ask me for individualized advice. There are a few good equations available to calculate pretty closely your total daily kcalorie needs: The Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation, the Cunningham Formula, the Katch-McArdle Formula (this gives BMR -- basal metabolic rate and then another factor is multiplied, depending on your level of activity). Again, if anyone is interested in obtaining these equations, comment at the end here or email me --

Avoiding high fat (especially saturated fat), sugary (simple carbohydrate, like soft drinks, candy, white breads and cakes, donuts, etc), high salt and sodium (chips,other salted snack-foods, salty crackers,pepperoni and other salty meats, salted nuts), and too much alcohol can make a big difference in how your body reacts to stressful situations AND in priming your body to be full of the nutrients and substances it needs to decrease stress from occurring, in the first place.

I know many Food Guide Pyramids and Dietary Guidelines recommend something like 55% carb, 15% protein, and 30% fat comprise your caloric distribution, but I personally prefer to recommend people to distribute as 50% carb--emphasizing COMPLEX carbs, 20% protein -- emphasizing LEAN and Low-fat, and 30% fat -- never more than 10% of fat coming from saturated fat,and the bulk of fat coming from poly- and mono-unsaturated with daily good sources of omega-3-fatty acids (salmon walnuts, flaxseed).

IF a person is involved in REGULAR, HEAVY, STRENUOUS endurance sports, then a higher carb percentage is probably better (55%), but, for most of us, 50% carbs per day is great and enough.

Including tryptophan-rich foods in your diet can really help to balance your stress levels: cottage cheese, brown rice, avocados, walnuts, bananas, tomatoes, legumes (soy, lentils, carob, peanuts, baked beans), all lean meats, but especially, turkey. Chocolate(dark) and tea can also diminish stress levels, but in REASONABLE amounts. 1 ounce of dark chocolate (about the size of 1 1 1/2 " square) is enough! Choose caffeine-free teas in the evening.

Tryptophan is the source of serotonin AND melatonin in our bodies, so the sleep-wake cycle is optimized -- thus, you will sleep better and have enough of the 'happiness hormone' to kick in when you need it!

Avoiding EXCESSIVE caffeine -- say more than 4 cups per day (that's 240 ml per cup,folks! -- large servings from coffee chains yield double, often TRIPLE that amount!).

Avoid excessive alcohol -- 1 drink per day for women: 2 drinks per day for men or equivalent per week, but NO binge drinking -- ie -- having all 7 or 14 drinks at once!

These are just minimal tips. Of course, include green leafy veg (Swiss chard, spinach, spring greens, kale) and a variety of fruits and other veg (carrots, butternut and acorn squash, sweet poatoes are also stress-busters). Fat-free and low-fat dairy -- milk, yogurt, even ice milk and ice creams are great -- only a couple servings per day if you're adult and 3-4 for children and pregnant.

I really and truly feel much of the radical and fanatical -- even criminal -- behavior we are seeing today is related to junk food eating. There is so much wonderful, colorful, delicious, healthful food available next to all the junk -- if we start eating better, demand that better foods be AS accessible and inviting as the junk, then companies will scramble more to deliver better variety, taste, and access. It IS improving on all those fronts and we ARE on the road to seeing that 'win-win' scenario of better food and healthier eating. We just need to be consistent, continue to make healthy food and eating our lifestyle habit that STICKS, and connect the dots that .... it DOES make a difference -- for YOUR stress level and in YOUR life, but also for the betterment of the community at-large and the world.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Stress and your weight AND waist!

You've HAD IT! You've really really been watching your dietary intake and making sure you're eating all the right foods, practicing portion control, disciplining yourself not to snack or eat junk foods,watching your alcohol intake AND you've been exercising regularly -- at least 3 -- more like 4 to 5 times a week for at least an hour each time to include cardio- and weights. BUT, you're not budging on the scale and you even think you may be getting thicker around the middle!!!! You've been so UPSET about this and super bummed out and even lie awake some nights wracking your brain as to what you're doing wrong. You scour the internet looking for answers. Even during your work breaks, you buy and read magazines, often while eating your lunch, frantically searching for articles on why you can't seem to shift your weight. You're SO worried about it because you're hearing about all the awful illnesses associated with extra weight == diabetes, CVD, cancer, stroke, etc == especially if you have a big waist.

You're even down on yourself about it. Some days you really feel outright depressed about it. And every now and then, you don't like to admit it to anyone -- even yourself -- you DO say, "heck with it" and pig-out on cookies, cake, donuts, ice cream, chips, crisps, Doritos, whatever -- or maybe a few glasses of wine or beers too many.

Does this sound like you? If so, read on.....

It's the STRESS, stupid!

Well, I don't mean to really call you stupid because you are NOT stupid -- just UNAWARE that being STRESSED out -- TOO stressed out and depressed and continuously obsessed and STRESSING about your weight is the VERY reason WHY you're not dropping the weight, especially around your middle. You see.....

Stress, INDEPENDENT of diet and exercise, has been found to cause the body to secrete hormones that make it MAKE FAT, HANG ON TO FAT, and PREVENT FAT FROM BEING LOST.
On top of that, even in the presence of adequate kcalories and carbohydrates, if you are STRESSED OUT, your body THINKS it has to break down whatever muscle tissue you have and the body will use the substances from the broken down muscle tissue to make the glucose it THINKS it's not getting! AND, the fat that the body makes has a preference to store itself around your vital organs -- your liver, kidneys, pancreas, and the adrenal glands (where the hormones are secreted from, in the first place) to PROTECT you. Trouble is -- you don't need 'protecting' -- especially when it results in you having a big old belly!!

Cortisol causes this. Hypersecretion of cortisol also causes increased inflammation, decreased immunity, bone weakening, fatigue, bloatedness, and distension, frequent colds and flu, and infections of all kinds -- boils, acne -- possibly.

And those OCCASIONAL splurges you take -- a bit of nibbling on junk and a wee tipple too much -- just adds to the hypersecretion of cortisol.

And if there's a MAJOR STRESS in your life (moving, job loss or change, divorce, sleep deprivation/disorder, death of a parent or loved one) -- your cortisol level can REMAIN ELEVATED for MONTHS!!!! YIKES!!! ALSO, it seems that if you are not really a fit, conditioned person and you go on a kick to get fit for, like, a couple days -- sweating your guts out and working your muscles to your max -- you add to the hypersecretion of cortisol EVEN more!!! YIKES!!

Also, if you go on a rigorous fast or crazy starvation-type diet, it makes cortisol spike, too! YIKES!!!

So, what do you do?

Firstly, FIND whatever it takes for you to DE-STRESS -- breathing exercises, meditation, music, exercise. But, please work UP to an exercise regime that enables you to get conditioned before you put your body at stress while exercising -- TOO MUCH stress, that is. Exercise is stress, but GOOD stress, if done properly.

Proper exercise releases endorphins, and enables epinephrine and nor-epinephrine to be released, too, which competes with cortisol and acts to induce lipolysis and release glucose and fatty acids appropriately to fuel your body's needs -- rather than the catabolic products of cortisol hypersecretion. Some cortisol IS necessary. It's the OVERsecretion that is harmful.

Hire a personal trainer! This is an investment that will work wonders for you as you strive to tweak out an exercise program that suits you. Any really good PT won't gouge you for months. A few key sessions and then a few more AFTER a few months on your own to monitor your progress, ought to do the trick.

So, proper exercise can, then, cause EXACTLY what you want it to cause -- weight loss, fat loss, and the reduction of your waist, and the improvement of your health and well-being -- Yaaaay!

So, chill, everyone!! Don't undermine your own hard work by stressing about it. All good things take time. The most important thing is to stick with it and be happy with the journey. The results will come and will be more glorious than you could have ever hoped for!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

It's Open!

The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door,..... Love After Love by Derek Walcott

..... There's a new foot on the floor, my friend,
And a new face at the door, my friend,
And a new face at the door. The Death Of The Old Year by Alfred Tennyson

So, when one door closes, another one opens. IT'S OPEN! Today, January 1, 2011 is the first day of the NEW YEAR and the door stands open wide for you. No matter what has happened last year, last night, even up to a second ago -- you're HERE, NOW, and that means you can step in, and greet yourself to the new you!

It's scary to let go of the old year, isn't it. Even if it was a rot year, it was a year you KNEW and you seemed to get through it. Tennyson took a whole long poem before he arrived at his exciting new door. It was tough for him to say good-bye to the old year. But it died and was gone and he either would die with it or step a new foot onto the floor and greet a new face. Walcott affirms that you will assuredly greet yourself with elation as you walk in, with a true heartfelt love. You will, no doubt radiate that love, too.

So, go ahead. Wave good-bye to 2010. You knew it, you loved it and all it had -- happy or sad, but's it's gone.

Step in to 2011. It's a new day and alot unknown on this side of time, but the door is WIDE open..... with hope, with possibilities, and with all that you are looking for to make it a happy, great year!

Love after love is the best!