Thursday, June 11, 2009

Measuring Portion Sizes is an important part of your Weight Loss Program

Measuring portions sizes is an important aspect to the success of a weight loss program. Even the best diet plans will fail if you regularly overestimate portion sizes.

We have become somewhat desensitized to consuming massive quantities of food as servings in restaurants have increased dramatically in the last 50 years. The meals we indulge in when dining out are anywhere from two to eight times the standard recommended serving sizes based on the Food Pyramid and the guidelines provided by the FDA. This has led to an exaggerated view of what a normal meal should look like and gigantic portion sizes have spilled over into what we serve in our homes.

Consequently our waistlines have expanded, Type 2 diabetes has become somewhat of an epidemic and we consume upwards of ten times the amount of sugar than we did 50 years ago.

In the 1950s a serving of French Fries was 2.4 ounces compared to 7.1 ounces today. Fountain soda was typically 7 ounces and today has increased to anywhere from 12 to 64 ounces! A serving of pasta used to be 1.5 cups (cooked) but now we consider almost 3 times that amount to be 1 portion size.

It's no wonder we are getting fatter every day! To see success in your weight loss program, re-evaluate what a serving size should be. Measure food and beverages in weight and/or volume with scales, measuring cups, tablespoons, etc. Don't rely on eyeballing your meals. You may be quite shocked by how many calories are in your 'guesstimation' of your meals.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Healthy Snack Recipes

For a lot of us, summertime means barbeques, and potluck get togethers, picnics and perhaps beachside refreshments or boating beverages. There really is no reason to let your weight loss programs take a backseat this time of year. I'll share with you some healthy recipes that can replace the typical summertime indulgences of ice cream cones, potato salad and hot dogs without replacing the fun of summertime nosh!

This Red Pepper dip makes an excellent low calorie and delicious appy! Try it at your next get together or for an afternoon snack!

**For those of you using the Soccer Mom Weight Loss Program, count one serving as 1 carbohydrate**

Roasted Red Pepper dip

1/4 Cup Fresh Basil, chopped
1 Tsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Can (16 ounce) Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 Bottle (7 ounce) Roasted Red Peppers, rinsed and drained
1 Large Garlic clove
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Ground Black Pepper

Place first 5 ingredients in food processor and process until smooth. While processor is running, slowly add oil. Stir in salt and black pepper. Serve with crisp fresh vegetables.

Per serving (1/4 cup)
Calories: 62
Fat: 3.5 g
Carb: 5.9
Protein: 1.5 g

Check back often for more healthy cooking recipes!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Are you at risk?

The connection between body fat distribution and health risk

Medical studies have shown that ‘weight management' through the reduction of excess body fat plays a fundamental role in fighting disease and maintaining superior health. The research also linked the stress of excess body fat to major physical conditions such as, cancer, stroke, hypertension, and heart disease.

Without a doubt, excess body fat is a health hazard and should be avoided. One of the best ways to find out if you are normal, overweight, or obese, is by determining your BMI, or Body Mass Index. To calculate your Body Mass Index, take your weight (in kilograms), and divide it by your height (in meters) squared. A score of:

• 25.0 - 30.0 means you are overweight,
• 30.0 - 40.0 points to obesity,
• 40 and above classifies you as morbidly obese.

Since BMI describes the body weight relative to height, it is strongly associates with the total body fat content in adults - children's calculations are more complicated, because they also have to take gender and age into account.

Body shape and body fat distribution is important in determining a number of health risks. How your body is shaped, and where the fat bulges are hiding, is indeed relevant to your health. For example, the fat cells around the abdomen will release their fat more eagerly into the bloodstream than other fat cells. This means that ‘pot-belly' victims are more likely at risk to get narrowing arteries, diabetes and cancer. Fat mainly deposited in the lower half of the body, such as the buttocks, thighs and hips does not appear to have the same risk factor. Also, weight deposits in the waist region are generally more characteristic for men than women.

Are you at risk for disease?

Unlike popular belief, not just a big person is at risk for disease. A small individual with large abdominal fat stores (i.e. a ‘pot belly') increases his/her chances to get sick as well. The association between health risks and body fat distribution is usually determined as follow:

• Least risk - slim built without pot belly
• Moderate risk - overweight without pot belly
• Moderate to high risk - slim built with pot belly
• High risk - overweight with pot belly.

Waist circumference health risk indicator by gender

Waist Circumference indicates medical problems by men and women differently.

In men:

• 94 cm to 101 cm - risk increases
• 102 cm or more - risk increases substantially.

In women:

• 80 cm to 87 cm - risk increases
• 88 cm or more - risk increases substantially.

Other vital information

• Most people store their body fat in two distinct areas: around their hips (pear shape) and around their middle (apple shape).
• A person's genes will increase the tendency to develop fat around the waist.
• Being sufficiently physically active and not smoking will help decrease body fat.
• Eating unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat can decrease the risk of developing abdominal obesity.
• Age counts. Men older than 45, and postmenopausal women, all with too much body fat increase their chances to get severely sick.

So, if you are concerned about your health, why not take the time to determine your BMI?

Article Source:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Behave yourself at the gym

I found this article on MSNBC today and thought that a lot of you have probably experienced the same situation at your gym.

By Jacqueline Stenson
MSNBC contributor

Heading to the gym to blow off some steam? Good idea, as long as you don’t take out your stress on everyone around you.

It’s likely that anyone who’s spent time at a health club has seen some bad behavior, including the equipment hogs, the slobs who leave cardio machines dripping with sweat and the muscle men who grunt loudly as they lift oh-so-heavy weights that they have no intention of putting away.

But these are just a few of the ways that exercisers can be rude and obnoxious at the gym, fitness instructors say. Sometimes, things get downright nasty.

“I had to break up a cat fight,” says Peggy Gregor, group exercise director at Healthtrax Fitness and Wellness in Bethel Park, Pa.

It happened after a woman new to an ongoing fitness class took the spot on the floor that another attendee regularly claimed. A verbal argument ensued and quickly turned physical.

A yoga instructor in New York says a participant in her class let loose on the whole group — after she took a call on her cell phone.

She “rummaged for a good two minutes in her bag in the middle of class for her techno-blaring phone, then screamed into her cell phone at her boyfriend not to call her during yoga class, while we were all staring at her from our down dogs,” says Sadie Nardini, owner of the new Fierce Club yoga studio in Manhattan. When she got off the phone, the woman snarkily shouted back to the astonished group, “Sorry, I had to tell him not to call me during class!”

Nardini says that when she took her aside after class to talk about the diva behavior, the woman was offended, saying, “Well, I paid for this class. I can do whatever I want.”

The stress of the times could be one factor fueling this type of bad behavior, says Nancy Lerner, a psychologist in northern New Jersey. “What underlies anger is anxiety and fear,” she says. “There are a lot of angry people out there. The gym is another place for them to be pushy.” While exercise can be a great stress-reliever and mood-booster, some people’s behavior might be worse if sports or other forms of physical activity bring out aggressive tendencies, she says.

Lerner herself is currently involved in a dispute with another woman at her co-op gym who refuses to turn down the volume on the TV. The woman blasts “Frasier” reruns — refusing to let go of the remote control — while Lerner is trying to read on the treadmill.

“I asked her to lower the sound and she told me that I would have to get some noise-canceling earphones,” says Lerner. “I plan to attend the next board meeting and strongly suggest closed captioning on the TVs when others are working out.”

While stress may underlie some bad gym behavior, it’s a poor excuse nonetheless, says Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and the owner of the Protocol School of Texas in San Antonio, which specializes in corporate etiquette training. “Just because you’re more stressed doesn’t give you a free pass to be rude. We’re all stressed.”

Oftentimes, the way people behave at the gym is similar to their behavior outside of the gym, says Gottsman. So the person who’s rude at the gym is likely to be one of the people cutting in line at the coffee shop or screaming at a kid’s soccer coach.

As Nardini, the yoga instructor, puts it, many of the rude participants she sees seem to lack an “etiquette gene.” Others just want to be noticed. “They want the audience,” she says. “They don’t want to be a participant. They want to be the star.”

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cute idea. But is it worth $40?

Have you heard of this new diet plate? I just discovered this today on and although i think it could be a useful tool and a really cute idea I'm wondering if it's really worth the $40 plus shipping and handling? What do you think?

Can a plate help you lose weight?

By Diane Mapes, contributing writer

What it is: The Diet Plate (sale price $40, plus postage and handling)

What it claims to do: According to the Web site, the Diet Plate system is “the world’s first, original portion control method of weight management” – and with it, you’ll avoid all the guesswork of maintaining a healthy, balanced diet “whilst losing weight” (as you might have guessed by that “whilst,” the company is in England). The Diet Plate weight management system does this by providing you with “visual management of your daily intake of food.” In other words, the 11-inch plate and the accompanying Calibrated Breakfast Bowl are cluttered with visual clues (illustrations of food, tape measures, arrows, circles, etc.) that tell you how much you should eat of what. Diet Plates come in three “sizes” – male, female and child (this last has a wizard motif) – and are microwave and dishwasher safe.

My experience: When I first opened the box containing my Diet Plate and Breakfast Bowl (they’re a set), I thought they were adorable. Rimmed by a band of light blue (inside of which were affirming messages like “You can do it. Exercise daily. Diet with a friend.”), the plate was cleverly divvied up into different sections. Protein, represented by illustrations of ham and fish, went here; starch, marked by bowls of rice and potatoes, went there. A circle around the outside showed how much pasta you could dish up; a smaller circle in the middle helped solve the sauce dilemma. The Breakfast Bowl was less ornate but still helpful. Colored bands indicated how many cups of cornflakes or shredded wheat you should eat each morning (the booklet offered a breakdown of what line to use for a 200-calorie serving of various cereals). The whole system seemed cute, colorful and ingenious, and I sort of regretted having to cover it all up with food.

Cover it up, I did, though, nearly every night for two weeks (I did not tote my Diet Plate with me while dining out). When I ate a traditional meal like salmon, green beans and baked potato, the plate was an easy way to figure out just how much meat and starch made up an appropriate serving (you’re allowed to eat as many “free vegetables” as you like). I didn’t have to worry about calories or points or weighing my food on an awkward little scale. Nor did I have to hold a sizzling chicken breast next to that woman’s magazine standard – a deck of cards – to figure out the size of a proper serving. There was no gambling with the Diet Plate; I just had to cut a piece the approximate size of the wedge on my plate and I was good to go.

Of course, I still had questions, usually with regard to all-in-one meals like stir-fry chicken-and-veggies or steak tacos. According to the booklet, I was supposed to use the protein section for “mixed” entrees like steak pie, pork pie, Beef Wellington, salmon encroute, and sausage rolls (none of which were on my menu – much less my continent) and the starch section to measure lasagna, cannelloni, cottage pie, moussaka or pizza. But where did tacos fit into the equation? Was one a proper serving? Was two too much? It was a small but niggling issue that baffled my inner systems analyst. The plate also tempted my inner rule-bender. Some evenings, I would diligently stay within its tape-measure boundaries, but pile the starch or protein high. I’m not sure who exactly I was trying to fool with this gambit, but I did notice the booklet addressed this issue, so it may be a common Diet Plate ploy.

What the experts say: In a 2007 study conducted at the University of Calgary, 130 people with type 2 diabetes used the Diet Plate for six months in an attempt to lose weight. At the end of six months, 17 percent of the participants using the plate lost 5 percent or more of their body weight as compared to 4.6 percent of the people in the plate-free control group who lost the same amount of weight. In an article published in the Archive of Internal Medicine, researchers concluded that “the portion control tool studied was effective in inducing weight loss.”

Rebecca Solomon, registered dietician with Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, says portion control is critical for those seeking to lose weight, but other factors such as snacking habits, food choices, food preparation and support play a role, as well.

“Portion control works when people actually do it,” she says. “The problem is when people do things like portion control at their three meals a day and then endless grazing and snacking between meals.”

She also wondered if some people might be tempted to push the Diet Plate envelope: counting calorie-laden macaroni and cheese as if it were plain brown rice.

“In a society where our portion sizes have gotten out of control, I think a tool like this can be very effective, but I always think it’s critical to have a support and counseling component where you deal with the underlying eating issues,” she says. “Anyone can diet for a short period of time, but you need to keep these habits for life.”

Bottom line: All in all, I liked the autonomy of the Diet Plate system, which doesn’t preach at you to load up on Brussels sprouts or decry corn. The visual clues – like a 1-inch cube of Swiss cheese – were enough to let me know when I was overindulging. But while my Diet Plate worked fairly well at dinner (I’m a 200-calorie instant oatmeal fan so I didn’t need the Breakfast Bowl), I did fall victim to the late night snack habit so aptly illustrated by Solomon. I liked this product, but it did not help me lose the estimated one to four pounds a week mentioned on the Web site. Support seemed to be the missing ingredient on my plate. I looked for that support at but alas, that section of the site was under construction. Perhaps when it’s up and running, it will provide a portal to the kind of community (and accountability) a rule-bender like me clearly needs. If not, the folks at Diet Plate may want to develop a new component to their system: the Snack Sack.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Got the munchies again?

Looking for something to snack on? Warch this video I found on for some great tips!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jonesing for cookies

I just came across this story on MSNBC. It's pretty interesting and I thought it was definitely worth sharing!

WASHINGTON - Food hijacked Dr. David Kessler's brain.

Not apples or carrots. The scientist who once led the government's attack on addictive cigarettes can't wander through part of San Francisco without craving a local shop's chocolate-covered pretzels. Stop at one cookie? Rarely.

It's not an addiction but it's similar, and he's far from alone. Kessler's research suggests millions share what he calls "conditioned hypereating" — a willpower-sapping drive to eat high-fat, high-sugar foods even when they're not hungry.
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In a book being published next week, the former Food and Drug Administration chief brings to consumers the disturbing conclusion of numerous brain studies: Some people really do have a harder time resisting bad foods. It's a new way of looking at the obesity epidemic that could help spur fledgling movements to reveal calories on restaurant menus or rein in portion sizes.

"The food industry has figured out what works. They know what drives people to keep on eating," Kessler tells The Associated Press. "It's the next great public health campaign, of changing how we view food, and the food industry has to be part of it."

He calls the culprits foods "layered and loaded" with combinations of fat, sugar and salt — and often so processed that you don't even have to chew much.

Overeaters must take responsibility, too, and basically retrain their brains to resist the lure, he cautions.

"I have suits in every size," Kessler writes in "The End of Overeating." But, "once you know what's driving your behavior, you can put steps into place" to change it.

Jonesing for junk food
At issue is how the brain becomes primed by different stimuli. Neuroscientists increasingly report that fat-and-sugar combinations in particular light up the brain's dopamine pathway — its pleasure-sensing spot — the same pathway that conditions people to alcohol or drugs.

Where did you experience the yum factor? That's the cue, sparking the brain to say, "I want that again!" as you drive by a restaurant or plop before the TV.

"You're not even aware you've learned this," says Dr. Nora Volkow, chief of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a dopamine authority who has long studied similarities between drug addiction and obesity.

Volkow is a confessed chocoholic who salivates just walking past her laboratory's vending machine. "You have to fight it and fight it," she said.

Conditioning isn't always to blame. Numerous factors, including physical activity, metabolism and hormones, play a role in obesity.

And the food industry points out that increasingly stores and restaurants are giving consumers healthier choices, from allowing substitutions of fruit for french fries to selling packaged foods with less fat and salt.

Why is it so hard to say no?
But Kessler, now at the University of California, San Francisco, gathered colleagues to help build on that science and learn why some people have such a hard time choosing healthier:

* First, the team found that even well-fed rats will work increasingly hard for sips of a vanilla milkshake with the right fat-sugar combo but that adding sugar steadily increases consumption. Many low-fat foods substitute sugar for the removed fat, doing nothing to help dieters eat less, Kessler and University of Washington researchers concluded.
* Then Kessler culled data from a major study on food habits and health. Conditioned hypereaters reported feeling loss of control over food, a lack of satiety, and were preoccupied by food. Some 42 percent of them were obese compared to 18 percent without those behaviors, says Kessler, who estimates that up to 70 million people have some degree of conditioned hypereating.
* Finally, Yale University neuroscientist Dana Small had hypereaters smell chocolate and taste a chocolate milkshake inside a brain-scanning MRI machine. Rather than getting used to the aroma, as is normal, hypereaters found the smell more tantalizing with time. And drinking the milkshake didn't satisfy. The reward-anticipating region of their brains stayed switched on, so that another brain area couldn't say, "Enough!"

People who aren't overweight can be conditioned hypereaters, too, Kessler found — so it's possible to control.

Take Volkow, the chocolate-loving neuroscientist. She's lean, and a self-described compulsive exerciser. Physical activity targets the dopamine pathway, too, a healthy distraction.

Smoking didn't start to drop until society's view of it as glamorous and sexy started changing, to view the habit as deadly, Kessler notes.

Unhealthy food has changed in the other direction. Foods high in fat, sugar and salt tend to be cheap; they're widely sold; and advertising links them to good friends and good times, even as social norms changed to make snacking anytime, anywhere acceptable.

Train your brain — and your body
Retrain the brain to think, "I'll hate myself if I eat that," Kessler advises. Lay down new neural reward circuits by substituting something else you enjoy, like a bike ride or a healthier food.

Make rules to resist temptation: "I'm going to the mall but bypassing the food court."

And avoid cues for bad eating whenever possible. Always go for the nachos at your friends' weekend gathering spot? Start fresh at another restaurant.

"I've learned to eat things I like but things I can control," Kessler says. But he knows the old circuitry dies hard: "You stress me enough and I'll go pick up that bagel."