My feud with the scale

Submitted by Hillary on Wed, 01/17/2007 - 3:12am.

Right now I’m in a fight with my scale.  It says I haven’t lost any weight since right around Thanksgiving. I say even with all the Christmas cookies I consumed, that should be impossible.  Particularly since I never stopped working out and I’ve been very good since the start of the New Year.

Jerky scale.  It may have the power right now, but I will win in the long run.  Sooner or later, it will have to move!  And in the right direction, too!

I see my next milestone!

Submitted by Janetcooper07 on Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:01pm.

I am within a lb. of 170! that is insane, I am really proud of myself, I did it.  Ok, I admit that I had some help along the way, but I am going to be under 170 lbs for the first time in years, I mean a number of years.  23 lbs. lost, that is a toddler! 

 No one has heard of the diet smart plan at work, but they notice my results and then try to recruit me for weight watchers.  I said no but I would like someone who was on the plan to communicate with, not a coach, but someone to share with.  Nicky is the closest thing, but she is done so everything is in the past for her.  She is such an inspiration, I hate her!!

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Day 90

Submitted by Janetcooper07 on Sat, 01/13/2007 - 12:51pm.

I have to be very good in my food diary or I get a rather blunt email from my coach letting me know that "I know better", and he is right, I do.  The Diet Smart Plan keeps you on your toes, and maybe that is why I am doing so well, I have never really lost weight until now, and today I was at 172, down another lb! 

I didn't turn in a food diary for a couple of weeks and I got it, both barrels.  What is interesting is that then was when I didn't lose as much weight as the other times when I was sending in my food diary and getting the feedback.  More incredibly, I now snack twice a day w

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Balducci’s, you jerks

Submitted by Hillary on Fri, 01/12/2007 - 2:14am.

I’ve been having a series of meetings at my office this week.  Yesterday we got breakfast and lunch in from Balducci’s, and everything they sent was delicious.  I had a little tiny pastry with strawberry jam for breakfast, and a tasty veggie/whole wheat pita sandwich for lunch, along with fresh fruit, potato salad and some fancy cheese and crackers.

Today, on the other hand, they forgot to send breakfast, so someone from my office had to run out to Panera to grab bagels and cream cheese.  And she had to place a last minute order from Chicken Out for lunch.  Guess who doesn’t really feature any vegetarian options?  That would be Chicken Out.  They have chicken Caesar wraps, and barbeque chicken wraps, and Asian chicken wraps, and something that I think was turkey, but they definitely don’t have veggie wraps.  I know this because I wasted a bunch of time doing the awkward “poke the wrap without touching it while trying not to hold up the line” maneuver.  I had mashed potatoes and a quarter of a chocolate chip cookie for lunch, which is not exactly healthy. 

Topomax and the Ever Changing Blood Chemistry

Submitted by L_ANSARI on Tue, 01/09/2007 - 4:58pm.

January 9, 2007
Day 161

The migraines have continued. I have tried going off anything that might be related to them. The neurologist has prescribed Maxalt for occasional attacks, which works great except in cases where headaches occur more than a few times a week. I have been batting a thousand there. My most recent headache started before Christmas and now has continued 15 days. It is ever present and it is scaring me to death. I can’t sleep until 3:30-4am typically and am up again at 8:45. It’s crazy. I think my fiancé wonders when I will crack. Working out actually helps wake me up but in the morning I am physically running into things, things like doors and walls. He’s also kinda amazed I can function going to bed so late and then getting up earlier. He’s usually a little more wrecked when he goes to sleep at 4am. Either way, now the neurologist has prescribed me prophylactic drugs (Topomax) and warned me against continuing with Jenny Craig. Plus I get an MRI at 8am tomorrow morning. Nothing could be more fun!

Dining Out Mediterranean

Tuesday, January 9, 2007 - 4:47pm

By Donna Feldman, MS, RD

Thanks to the growing interest in Mediterranean-style foods, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding restaurants that offer these selections when dining out. Just Google “Mediterranean restaurants” and you’ll find lots of choices in most major cities. But don’t feel that you’re limited to themed restaurants if you want to stick to a Mediterranean diet. Most restaurants have menu items that fit the Mediterranean description, even though they may not be labeled as such. You just need to know how to recognize them.

Fast food
If you’re lucky enough to have a falafel stand nearby, you can enjoy fast Mediterranean foods like souvlaki, salads, vegetables and gyros with pita bread. But if this isn’t available, you can put together a Mediterranean-type meal at many fast food restaurants, if you choose right. Take Wendy’s. A Basil/Pesto Turkey Frescheta sandwich or a Chicken Ceasar Salad would each fit roughly into the Mediterranean definition. Unfortunately, the olive oil component would be lacking, but if you only occasionally eat at fast food restaurants, it’s not a big deal.

Cheeseburgers and fries are fast food staples, and frankly don’t fit a Mediterranean diet plan. Here are a few food selection tips to help you stick to a -mostly - Mediterranean diet in fast food restaurants:

  • Avoid items with cheese or mayonnaise spreads.
  • Avoid fried potatoes and breaded, fried meats.
  • Meal-sized salads, with chicken or turkeys are good options.
  • Grilled chicken sandwiches, without cheese, are okay.
  • Avoid soda pop, desserts and chips.

Sandwiches, etc.
Subway has positioned itself as the go-to sub shop for lowfat choices. In fact, most of Subway’s fresh, lowfat subs are suitable for a Mediterranean diet, again minus the olive oil. The turkey wraps or chicken spinach salad are also options. Your favorite sub or sandwich shop probably has similar choices. When in doubt, refer to the tips above. If you avoid cheese, mayonnaise spreads and fried foods, you’re on the right track.

What, no pizza?!
Actually, Italian pizza is a quintessential Mediterranean food, but the Americanized version places too much emphasis on mounds of cheese and high fat meats. If you can find thin-crust pizza, that’s your best bet, as long as the bottom isn’t swimming in oil. True thin crust pizza should be dry on the bottom. Then order lots of vegetable toppings, with no meat and light on the cheese. If you can choose feta cheese, go for that. An ideal pizza would be thin crust, with feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, fresh spinach and perhaps olives, mushrooms and peppers.

Fast casual
There are hundreds of fast casual restaurants, both national chains and locally owned. Most are likely to have menu items that fit into a Mediterranean diet. Some may even label the choices as Mediterranean, but use your judgment. One restaurant’s “Mediterranean” style may mean a lot of pasta, no olive oil, and no fresh vegetables. When in doubt, salads with olive-oil dressing and some meat or fish, plus a whole grain roll are fail-safe Mediterranean dishes, as well as sandwiches with low-fat meats and lots of veggies.

With fast casual, as with fast food, avoid sandwiches that feature lots of cheese and mayonnaise, or breaded, fried meats. For hot meals, a plate of fried chicken and mashed potatoes won’t fit the Mediterranean plan, but grilled chicken and vegetables on rice would be acceptable. The main shortcoming of all these restaurants will be the lack of olive oil. If you aren’t sure whether or not olive oil is being used, just ask.

High end eateries
If you don’t mind the cost, you’re more likely to find food closer to the Mediterranean ideal in more expensive restaurants, where chefs are willing to cater to patrons’ requests and health concerns. Most such restaurants use olive oil for salads and cooking anyway. And you are less likely to find dishes smothered in cheese. Simple meals with fish or meat, vegetables, salad, olive oil dressing and quality bread should be easy to find, if not exactly cheap. As for dessert - if you must indulge in a fancy dessert, find something you can share with others at your table. Or just enjoy an espresso or some tea.

Conclusion
Sticking to a Mediterranean food plan while dining out is not impossible. Once you know what to look for and what to avoid, you should find this easy to do. The hardest part might be maintaining the self-discipline to forego choosing old favorites. If your plan is “Mostly Mediterranean” rather than “Strictly Mediterranean” you have room to indulge in the occasional cheeseburger or fried chicken.

Can't Decide What to Name This Blog

Submitted by L_ANSARI on Tue, 01/09/2007 - 4:47pm.

January 8, 2007
Day 160

Ok, I just saw an ad for Thai restaurant intern. You have to be an intern now before working in a restaurant. Oh.My.God. No, I'm not trolling the restaurant ads because I am so hungry. I am looking for part-time work that falls into the narrow chasm between time around my son and time before internship starts.

Another random factoid of the day- I saw a man get out of his pick up truck wearing red fishnets, red high heels, a red short mini skirt, and a sweater and fake breasts. Gotta love the city.

I have had a day that can be described as a whirlwind of emotions. I totally broke own a few hours ago when I missed yet another psychiatrist appointment for my son. AHHHHH! I cannot get my act together. I am stretched too thin say my friends and fiancé. But I say bring on the dancing girls, I need more work to make me feel valuable and validated! More scheduling forces me to be more organized. This week sums up the problems thus far in my life-ambivalent.

The Mediterranean Diet - A Way of Life

Tuesday, January 9, 2007 - 4:43pm

By Donna Feldman, MS, RD

The Mediterranean diet is not new. In fact, it is ancient. Inhabitants of the Mediterranean basin have been eating this “diet” for centuries. According to Artemis Simopoulos, of The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, the term “Mediterranean Diet” is misleading, since there as many Mediterranean diets as there are countries around the Mediterranean Sea (J. Nutr. 131:3065S-3073S, November 2001). The result is that no one owns the Mediterranean diet the way Atkins or South Beach are ‘owned’ by the respective book authors. No one person or organization is uniquely qualified to dictate what a Mediterranean Diet looks like. Many interpretations are possible, but health researchers are in agreement on some of the basic principles gleaned from years of research on the relationship between local diet and disease patterns on the island of Crete, part of Greece. Studies begun in 1960, and continuing into the 1990s, show Cretan men to be the longest lived of other populations in the study, and to have the lowest percent of deaths caused by heart disease or cancer, thanks to their traditional Mediterranean diet.

Historical perspective
Chances are, when you hear Mediterranean, you think olive oil. And with good reason. The Mediterranean basin is considered the birthplace of olive oil. Wild olive trees are native to the region and are well adapted to the poor, rocky soil and hot, dry climate. Despite primitive processing methods, olive oil was widely used for lamps, lotions and in food thousands of years ago. Archaeological evidence indicates use of the oil along the eastern Mediterranean region before 4000 B.C., and in the Greek isles by 3000 B.C. Indeed, given the climate and geography, there were few other sources of fat in the diet. In Greece, for example, some 60% of cultivated land is still devoted to olive trees. Olive oil is a cultural phenomenon as much as a food.

But people cannot live by olive oil alone. The only domestic animals that thrived on the rocky landscape were goats and sheep, providing milk to make yoghurt and cheese. Large fields of grain crops were not possible on the steep terrain, but small plots of vegetables and legumes were. Various nut and fruit trees are native to the Mediterranean, thanks to mild winters. And of course, the sea was a constant presence. Without the tides and storms common in open oceans, fishing provided a ready and reliable source of high protein food.

Finally, there are grapes and wine. Like olive trees, grape vines are adapted to the Mediterranean climate, and were cultivated by ancient people. Wine has been consumed for thousands of years, and is still an important part of daily life. Most of the Mediterranean countries’ current food guides recommend moderate wine consumption.

Traditional Mediterranean
The health benefits of this high fat diet were first recognized in the 1960’s at the same time health officials in the U.S. were pushing for overall reduction in fat intake, to prevent heart disease. Strangely, on Crete and around the Mediterranean, the high fat intake (around 40% of calories) didn’t increase heart disease. So researchers zeroed in on olive oil, by far the biggest source of fat in the diet. The traditional foods of Crete provided few sources of the saturated fat that is so common in American and other Western diets. Most of olive oil is monounsaturated fat, and research has since shown that this particular form of fat is actually beneficial and does not contribute to heart disease.

The traditional diet is very simple:

  • Breads, grains, legumes (beans), fruits and vegetables predominate
  • Olive oil is used liberally in daily food preparation
  • Fish, cheese and yoghurt (both from goats and sheep) are the main protein sources
  • Very little meat is eaten, and available meats are lean
  • Desserts are rare, honey is widely used for sweetening
  • Wine is consumed daily

Contrast this list with a typical American fare:

  • Meats and high fat cheeses are eaten daily, in quantity
  • Cooking fats are primarily vegetable oils and hydrogenated shortening
  • Many fried foods are consumed
  • Sugar intake is high, due to soda pop, desserts and sweets.
  • Breads and grain foods are predominantly from refined white flour
  • Snack foods are common
  • Vegetables and fresh fruit are a small part of the diet
  • Salads are usually covered in vegetable oil-based dressings

Compared to American foods, traditional Mediterranean foods are low in trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, lower in saturated fat and higher in fiber and higher in omega 3 and monounsaturated fats, from fish and olive oil.

Subsequent clinical studies comparing Mediterranean-type diets, emphasizing olive oil, to the low fat diet recommended in the U.S. showed the Mediterranean diet had more beneficial effects on key indicators of heart disease risk (Ann Intern Med. 2006 Jul 4;145(1):1-11). Such studies continue, but are prone to problems, especially when conducted in non-Medieterranean countries like the U.S. Unless food is provided to the study subjects and intake is monitored, there is no guarantee that subjects will be able to stick to this diet on their own. If they don’t, the study results are compromised.

Why it’s healthier
It’s tempting to attribute all the health effects of the Mediterranean Diet to olive oil and wine. What could be easier? Just add olive oil to your food and drink more wine, no need to change anything else. Wrong. Nutritionists, including Simopoulos, point to many components of traditional Mediterranean foods that affect human health. The effect of the monounsatured fat in olive oil is well known, but other components of the oil may have beneficial biological activity. High intake of fish means high intake of omega 3 fats, which are also known to provide health benefits. The reliance on plant foods, in particular whole grains, beans, fresh vegetables and fresh fruit means a high intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

The Mediterranean Diet may also be healthier based on what it does not contain: trans fats, a high proportion of omega 6-type fats, such as from vegetable oils, and sweeteners like sugar and high fructose corn syrup. It is also likely lower in protein and salt than typical American diets, with few additives other than herbs and spices.

Warning: with all the talk of the Mediterranean “diet”, this is not in fact a weight loss diet. It may not even be lower in calories, depending on how much is eaten and what foods are chosen. Olive oil is still a fat, and has just as many calories, tablespoon for tablespoon, as corn oil or butter. Typically, fat is almost 40% of calories. How much olive oil is that? For a female who eats about 1600 calories a day, that’s about 6 tablespoons of olive oil. On the other hand, the higher fat content of the diet makes it more satisfying. Low fat diets are frequently criticized for having too little satiety value, leaving people constantly hungry.

Let’s say you make a serious effort to stick strictly to a Mediterranean food plan. You give up soda pop, chips, French fries and all the other high calorie food traps common in typical American diets. You may end up losing weight by eliminating those sources of unnecessary calories and increasing intake of more satisfying foods like vegetables and whole grains. If weight loss is one of your goals on a Mediterranean diet, you still have to pay attention to portion sizes and daily exercise. Mediterranean cuisine is known for heart health, not for any magic effect on metabolism.

Mediterranean foods and you
Other articles in this series provide some guidance on the basics of Mediterranean food selection, dining out,  and eating at home. The traditional Mediterranean Diet can be an extremely simple food plan to follow. Strange or hard-to-find foods and ingredients are not necessary, nor are complicated recipes or expensive restaurants. However, there is a wealth of resources for anyone who wants to cook more Mediterranean-style dishes. Cookbooks and the Internet can help with cooking tips, ingredients, recipes and menus.

The main problem will be implementing a Mediterranean diet in the midst of an American food environment. Many foods common to everyday life just won’t fit. Can you live without sweetened coffee drinks with whipped cream, bagels and cream cheese, burgers and fries, soda pop, chips, smothered burritos, enormous portions of meat, stacks of pancakes and supersized desserts to name just a few examples? Occasional indulgences are built into the Mediterranean diet. The seemingly daily indulgences common to some American eating patterns won’t work.

Conclusion
The Mediterranean Diet is an ancient cuisine with a message for health conscious people today. The health benefits are well documented. The basic plan of simple foods, most of which are widely available, make it a great choice for people concerned about heart disease and cancer risk. Mediterranean cuisine should be on everyone’s table.

Mediterranean Cuisine and Cancer

Tuesday, January 9, 2007 - 4:32pm

By Donna Feldman, MS, RD

While much of the interest in the Mediterranean diet has focused on the beneficial effect on heart health, this style of eating has another possible benefit - it is associated with a lower risk of cancer. The reasons for this effect aren’t clear. It’s likely that several food components work together against cancer.

Higher omega 3 fats
One key difference in the Mediterranean diet is the higher ratio of omega 3 fats to omega 6 fats. High fish consumption accounts for much of this difference, as fish are the major dietary source of omega 3 fats. Also, olive oil is the predominant food oil, not the high omega-6 vegetable oils common in the U.S., and other many other Western countries. As a result, the omega 6-to-omega 3 ratio gets skewed much lower by a Mediterrnean diet. Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory, and are suspected of having other anti-cancer properties, such as inhibition of cell proliferation and tumor formation.

Plant foods
Another major factor of the Mediterranean diet is the reliance on plant foods as the basis of the diet. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables make up the base of the pyramid. As a result, daily intake of plant fibers, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and numerous other biologically active food components is high. In particular, fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, selenium and glutathione are associated with lower cancer risk (Eur.J.Cancer Prev. 2004 Jun;13(3):219-30). Mediterranean foods are rich in all these.

Olive oil may also have unique protective effects. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (www.aicr.org), olive oil contains over 30 plant compounds that show anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. Increased self-destruction of cancer cells and slowed development are other possible effects. More research will clarify these effects.

Isn’t wine protective?
Resveratrol, recently in the news as a promising antioxidant, is only one of many substances found in grapes and wine that may be protective against cancer. It does have some antioxidant and anti-mutagenic properties (www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/nutsupdrugs/res_0224.shtml). Grapes and wine contain several other known antioxidants, such as quercetin and gallocatechins, which are found in many fruits. So relying on wine for antioxidants is unnecessary. Certainly, as part of a Mediterranean eating plan, moderate wine consumption can contribute health benefits. Simply drinking more wine on top of an unhealthy diet is unlikely to be helpful.

Will a Mediterranean diet cure cancer?
The research on Mediterranean foods and cancer is, so far, all about cancer incidence. As such, the data say more about the possibility that this type of diet suppresses cancer development. It doesn’t say anything about the possibility that a Mediterranean diet will cure cancer that already exists. In fact, no particular diet is known to cure cancer. Certainly, any cancer patient who wants to switch to this diet during treatment or recovery should consult with his or her oncologist and dietitian. Some food components could interfere with drug treatments, and a patient’s personal health care team would be best equipped to evaluate those concerns on an individual basis.

Conclusion
The preventative effect of a traditional Mediterranean diet on cancer incidence has been documented. What is harder to measure is exactly which aspects of the diet cause the protective effect. The message is that, if you are looking at the Mediterranean diet for cancer prevention, you can’t pick and choose certain foods, like fish or olive oil, while ignoring the basic food plan. The whole diet seems to work as a package. Fortunately, the package is full of simple, great-tasting food that shouldn’t have a detrimental impact on your lifestyle, but may have a beneficial impact on your health.

 

Mediterranean Food at Home

Tuesday, January 9, 2007 - 4:29pm

By Donna Feldman, MS, RD

Looking over the food groups on the Mediterranean Pyramid, you likely have one of two reactions:

This looks pretty easy

-OR-

There’s nothing to eat!

Your reaction depends on how you already go about choosing food everyday. If you enjoy cooking, eat most of your food at home and enjoy new tastes, you shouldn’t have any problem. In fact, you might already be eating Mediterranean-style meals without labeling them as such.

If you hate cooking, eat in restaurants and rely on convenience foods every day, don’t give up. Mediterranean eating, in it’s purest form, can be very easy, with little cooking necessary. For tips on dining out, see (Dining Out Mediterranean). In fact, the simple approach to the Mediterranean Diet is especially well-suited to single people and childless couples, whether busy with a career or retired.

Stock the basics
First, fill your refrigerator and pantry with the basics of Mediterranean dining: plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, olive oil and whole grain foods. Vegetables can be used simply, as salad or crudités. Dips or dressings should be based on olive oil. You can make your own simple dressing with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, or buy prepared ones. But when you buy, be sure olive oil is the first, and hopefully only, oil listed on the ingredients list. While a food label might catch your eye when “Olive Oil” is blazed on the front of a package, the ingredients list may show olive oil listed last, after salt. Clearly not worth your money.

As for bread and grain products, buy whole grain items whenever possible. Most grocery stores now stock whole wheat artisanal breads, as well as whole grain sandwich breads. Whole grain pasta is also widely available, may of which have little taste difference from while flour versions. Pita breads or other crispy flat breads can substitute as crackers or chips for dipping or snacking.

Protein sources
Typically, in Mediterranean cooking. meat, poultry or fish is used almost as a condiment rather than the main focus of a meal. This means less is eaten at one time. Red meat use is traditionally low compared to fish or poultry. If you decide you like red meat more will eat it more frequently, stick to the leanest cuts and use cooking methods that limit added fats. A dinner of grilled beef kabobs, grilled vegetables, salad and bread is just as Mediterranean as the same dinner with grilled chicken.

There’s also room for flexibility regarding other protein foods like cheese, yoghurt and eggs. Milk is not widely used in the Mediterranean region, but it is common in the U.S. If you enjoy cereal and milk for breakfast, make those part of your Mediterranean plan, as long as the milk is lowfat and the cereal is whole grain and low in sweeteners. In many Mediterranean countries, breakfast amounts to little more than strong coffee and a bit of bread. Sandwiches are another more typical American item that can be adapted to Mediterranean eating. Use whole grain bread or pita, and build the sandwich with turkey or lean beef, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, red onion and a dash of olive oil or yoghurt dressing instead of mayonnaise.

You won’t be buying…
Think of the money you’ll save by not buying stuff that just has no place in a Mediterranean Diet: chips, soda pop, pastries, cookies and candy.

For snacks, stock up on nuts like almonds and pistachios, or dried fruit of any kind, as long as it’s not coated in chocolate. Yoghurt and cheese make convenient snacks as well.

Incredibly easy menu
Here’s a very easy, simply, (almost) no-cook menu for a day of Mediterranean eating:

Breakfast
Yogurt, fresh fruit, coffee, whole grain roll

Lunch
Turkey sandwich on pita with tomato, lettuce, onion, sprouts and olive oil and vinegar dressing; tea/coffee/water, fresh fruit

Snacks
Small yogurt with honey, dried fruit and almond mix

Dinner
Grilled chicken breast and zucchini basted in olive oil and herbs, tossed salad with olive oil vinaigrette, whole grain French bread, wine. Dessert: fresh fruit.

Conclusion
A Mediterranean diet can be as simple or complex as you make it. There are plenty of delicious, traditional recipes for dishes like moussaka, paella, bouillabaisse, spanakopita and hundreds of others. If you enjoy cooking, find some Mediterranean-style cookbooks or check out the many websites devoted to Mediterranean recipes, such as http://www.greecefoods.com/. If recipes aren’t your thing, stick to simple foods and simple preparation. After all, the simple version of this diet is the same traditional version that is known to have so many health benefits.