Mar 042013

If you’re struggling with your weight, put a magnifying glass up to the sugar you’re consuming. Studies show rats are more inclined to choose sugar than narcotic drugs when offered a smorgasboard of addicting substances! So don’t bash yourself for not having willpower–instead reconstruct the way you eat and you’ll be surprised at how much more control you have over what slides past your lips.

Sugar hides in places you wouldn’t imagine–spaghetti sauce, breads, crackers, cereals and other processed foods. I’ve read food labels and been stunned to see what lurks on the list. If sugar is near the top of the list of ingredients, there’s loads of it! Get food smart by reading labels and making and effort to reduce your daily dose of sugar, which can improve your health in more ways than one. You’ll miss the “high” you get from that insulin spike for awhile, but in the long run, you’ll have steadier energy and be less susceptible to binge eating and cravings for sugar-rich foods.

Try replacing cakes, pies, and candy bars with a piece of fruit. A slice of juicy mango or pineapple will put a burst of sweetness on your tongue and  provide your body with nourishment. So instead of finishing one simple sugar sweet only to end up desperately banging  on the outside of the candy machine an hour later, choose a snack item that will give you a steady stream of energy and allow your brain to focus on something other than getting your next “sugar fix.”

Are you still doubting you can do it? If you want to feel empowered, I urge you to challenge yourself to one week without candy, cakes, pies, cooking and puddings. Get them out of the house where they won’t tempt you to taste them and then embark on a low sugar diet. Remember, it doesn’t have to be tasteless–start trying new fruits and healthful recipes and before you know it you’ll find a whole new repertoire of healthy favorite foods. By the end of the week, you’re likely to find that you’re eating less and feeling better without sugar’s addictive disruption. Good luck! I’d love to hear your comments on how this goes 🙂

Jul 212012

This morning, I read a staggering statistic over a cup of Chai. 63 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Not good news at all for any of us. On the positive side, if you become aware of certain practices in our society that make us fat, you can keep yourself from becoming part of this statistic or arm yourself so you can start moving the scale in a downward direction.

I recently drove with my husband, son and mother to Colorado for my brother’s wedding. The entire trip, I was bombarded by billboards with photos of sundaes and sandwiches and lines about all-you-can-eat buffets. At hotels, morning breakfasts consisted of food laden with calories (biscuits and gravy, eggs smothered in cheese and sour cream). And at restaurants in general, we were served monster portions that could have fed three instead of one. Is it any wonder that we are overweight, when everywhere we go, we are programmed to finish the three-person plate, go for the all-you-can-eat buffet, and indulge in food with so much sauce, you can’t taste the original food (and could almost gain weight smelling it, it’s so caloric). Have you ever noticed what’s on the children’s menus–pretty much never anything healthy–it’s always fried chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and pizza without a single veggie.

TV can also send you running for the kitchen (or dialing for pizza in 30 minutes or less). Just when you’ve finished dinner, you turn on the tube to see someone pulling a cheese-rich slice of pizza from a plate, sinking teeth into a juicy sandwich or sipping an ice cold beer. My solution for that is hit the mute button and go do a small cleaning task. The worst thing you can do for your diet is eat while you are doing another activity such as watching TV or reading. When you eat mindlessly, you can easily consume a ton of calories without the brain even processing that the food was consumed. So afterward, you don’t even feel satisfied.

Even the grocery store can send us on a path of destruction. All I can say, is don’t go there hungry! The store managers know how to put all the most costly convenience foods just where you will see them and the packages have images that will get you salivating and forgetting they pack more calories than nutritional punch. My advice is to just steer clear of the frozen foods aisles and head straight for the produce section! Make a point of trying one new food every week that is healthy so you can acquire a new healthy taste. The more you eat fresh food, the more your tastebuds will come to appreciate food that’s not packed with artificial flavors and preservatives.

So my message for you is to rethink all this. For one, why do we eat? Ideally, it should be for nourishment, not simply to satisfy some temporary lust for taste. The more you eat food overloaded with additives, the less you will be satisfied with foods that improve your health like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. They don’t have any flavor, people sometimes say. That’s because your tastebuds have become deadened to the taste of real food. Give them time and they will be satisfied with a hint of garlic or a touch of ginger, instead of five dollops of sour cream.

Part of my weight-maintenance and health program involves avoiding too many meals out. That way I don’t have numerous opportunities to eat foods over which I have no control. Few menus offer caloric content and I don’t know if my vegetables are steamed, sauteed in olive oil or some kind of trans-fat laden grease. I also sometimes ask people about my meal (like what is in that butter dish? butter, margarine, etc.) and if they can’t tell me, I never go back.

If every person demanded that restaurants serve smaller portions, healthier fare, and provide nutritional content, they would have to deliver. Instead, we allow them to take advantage of our gluttony and our senses, which lead us to make poor nutritional choices. Some people would rather not know how many calories they are consuming so it doesn’t inhibit the enjoyment of their meal. But this temporary enjoyment comes at a high price in terms of health not only for us, but for every other American. And anyway, I would ask you, do you really want to adopt a mantra to live by that is “ignorance is bliss?”

Nov 162011

If you are the first one to correctly guess what I just ate (hint: it was delicious), I will send you a free copy of my DVD, Personal Best Stretch: Move Better Than Ever! Bring it on…

Oct 132010

Are you looking for something tasty and healthy to snack on today? Below are some of my favorites…

1) Red grapes with cinnamon (Miraval Fitness Supervisor Pam Trudeau shared this one with me)- Wash and then sprinkle with cinnamon so it sticks to the wet grapes. Delicious!

2) Cantaloupe shake – dice up cantaloupe and toss in the blender with some ice. Truly refreshing.

3) Yogurt Drink (served at many Indian restaurants) Pour a cup or so of plain yogurt, 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and a few mint leaves into the blender. Nice and refreshing.

4) Yogurt Dip – Add a little salt to some plain yogurt and use it as dip for cucumber slices or whatever raw veggies you love.

5) Berry shake – Add a cup of frozen blueberries (or another berry favorite), a cup of almond milk and a half a banana into the blender.

6) Energy shake – If you need extra calories to keep your weight up, try a cup of almond milk, a banana and a half a cup of peanut butter.

7) Ginger snaps (Trader Joe’s are the best) – a little sweet and soothing on the stomach.

8) Sliced wheat pita and hummus – need I say more?

I hope you will ditch the chips and try one of my favorite snacks today. Happy munching.

Jun 152010

Far too often people cope with stress by reaching for a piece of candy or a cookie. Others can’t stop at one or two and end up eating the whole bag or box. Hardly ever are the foods people reach for to calm themselves healthy (when was the last time you reached for a carrot stick when your boss chewed you out?) Usually, people grab items loaded with salt, sugar and/or fat. Once the thrill of the binge ends, the net result is guilt and low self esteem. If this sounds all too familiar, below are some suggestions for how to reduce your stress level without expanding your waistline.

The first step is to put a halt to using food as a stress reliever. When you need to relax, try some of these other tools and stay clear of the refrigerator until you feel calm.

1 – Step outside for a long walk, preferably someplace quiet where you can feel in-tune with nature.

2 – Slip into a warm bath. Make it even better by pouring in some of your favorite bath oil, reading a favorite book or listening to music.

3 – Put on your gardening gloves. Touching the earth and plants can be very soothing.

4 -Write down your thoughts without worrying about grammar or punctuation or writing it so someone else would want to read it. Sometimes just unloading what’s on your mind without having to censor it can do wonders for your stress.

5 – Engage in a favorite hobby. Whether you like quilting, knitting, painting or working with clay, just indulge in some quality “me” time.

Adopting a different strategy to cope with stress may be difficult for awhile. The sacrifice will be well worth the effort, though. Once you get in the habit of using non-food methods to decompress at the end of the day, you will feel more relaxed than you ever did before. Not to mention that you will feel much more in control of your weight and your life.

May 142010

You would think that someone drinking a diet soda would tend to watch his or her weight and eat light. Unfortunately, many people drink diet sodas while consuming amounts of high calorie food. What is it about certain situations that trick people into eating more than necessary? Its something that food companies count on, that American desire to eat big portions. Take for example those foods labeled “light,” “low calorie” or “healthy.” You go through that package faster than a “normal” package of food and then you have to buy another one sooner, right?

Studies have repeatedly shown that people tend to eat larger quantities of foods they perceive to be healthy and/or low in calories than those without a similar label. This, in fact, could lead to someone having two bowls of “light” ice cream instead of one small bowl of regular ice cream or a half dozen “low fat” cookies instead of three regular ones. When you look at total calories, a large quantity of any item, healthy or not, is likely to tip the scales in the wrong direction. This is NOT healthy for you.

Make it your goal to not fall prey to that voice in your head saying “its healthy so go ahead and have as much as you want.” Send the food company executives running into the boardrooms, scratching their heads and wondering why people are taking so long to get back to the store.

Limit your consumption of any food item to one serving, rather than allowing yourself a carte blanche to eat as much as you want just because the food is supposed to be healthy. Then it will be your wallet, not your waistline that will be expanding.

Apr 212010

Many recent articles have discussed the health risks associated with too much sodium added to our foods; high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Because of these risks, the FDA is working to regulate manufacturers so that they reduce the amount of sodium added to foods. The recommended intake is 1500 mg or less, the maximum healthy amount is 2300 and the average American intake 3400 mg according to an April 21 Associated Press release.

Since I consider myself to eat a very healthful diet, I found it an interesting exercise today to add up the sodium in my diet today and discovered that sodium was hiding in foods I never imagined.

Breakfast (pre-swim workout)
Cup of English breakfast tea – 0 mg
English muffin with raspberry jam – 269 mg
1 cup of XOOD sports drink – 105 mg

Breakfast 2 (post-swim)
1 cup oatmeal – 0 mg
1/2 cup milk – 120 mg
1/2 cup strawberries – 0 mg

Lunch
2 string cheese – 400 mg
1 whole wheat bagel – 400 mg
1 cup raspberry yogurt drink – 100 mg

Dinner
Bowl of Split pea soup – 690 mg
1 cup Mushrooms/asparagus – I added the salt – probably 500 mg

Doesn’t this sound like I did well? Truth is, my daily sodium intake is slightly over the 2300 recommended healthy maximum at 2315 mg even though I believed I was eating very healthfully. I learned a lesson, never imagining that salt would be present in yogurt or milk!

The moral of the story? Read your labels carefully and make sure you aren’t getting more sodium than you bargained for. Eat close to the source and avoid processed foods laden with hidden sodium.

Mar 052010

If you are tired of following complicated diet plans and eating measured portions out of packages, maybe you should try the Mediterranean diet. These foods pack in the nutrients without all the calories, preservatives, and saturated fats.

What comprises the Mediterranean diet? Nuts and seeds, fish, lean meats, legumes, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Not only is this diet anti-inflammatory, which means you’ll likely have more energy and feel less achy on this plan, you’ll also be able to control your weight and reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

Feb 012010

Deciding what to eat pre-race can be a challenge at best, a performance buster at worst. Hundreds of articles  tell us what’s best to eat  and drink before a race, but we all digest food a bit differently, to me, it makes sense to do some individual research on your own body to see what’s really best. Its been my experience that the magic bullet for one athlete is the fatal one for another. For example, most energy gels and bars cause me major intestinal distress. My husband, Chris,  does  half marathons and is a Shot Blok addict! He just wouldn’t leave the house on race day without them. For me, anything with major caffeine is sayanara. And anything with a lot of preservatives is pretty close to the same. While I can stomach exactly one sports drink and very few foods, an Arizona Masters teammate at the 2009 SCY USMS Nationals in Fresno chugged a Starbuck’s Cappucino before diving in the water to set a national record. I couldn’t have drank that and swam well to save my life!

After a few very uncomfortable races, I began experimenting with foods to figure out what worked best. In general, I do well with a light diet of mostly simple carbohydrates before a race. Most of the time, I eat an English muffin with creamed honey and a banana. Occasionally I eat waffles and grapes. Oatmeal, my favorite breakfast on non-racing days, makes me feel too heavy when I compete.

I finally found a sports drink that keeps me hydrated without upsetting my stomach. XOOD. The green tea formula is absolutely the best. I have suffered intestinal distress for years during races, especially after running.  I tried a sample of this drink at a trail running race 9 and ever since, XOOD has been a part of my calm stomach as well as my racing plan!

Here’s a few quick suggestions to help you figure out what to eat and drink pre-race:

1 – Experiment with foods before a training session. If you plan to eat 90 minutes before a race, eat 90 minutes before you train. If you have a good workout afterward, try it a few more times to see if you can get consistent good performance results with that meal. If you get a bad result, move onto something else. In general, you want to be hydrated and eat foods rich in simple carbohydrates.  Simple carbohydrates are digested rapidly so that energy can be delivered to the muscles. Complex carbohydrates consumed in the days leading up to  the race will also enable your muscles to store extra glycogen which will also enhance performance. Proteins and fats are slower to digest. Eat too much of these  on race day and you will have more e blood flowing to your stomach than the muscles and will likely feel sluggish. Experiment with amount as well as the kind of food. If you are too hungry when you race, you may feel weak or get an upset stomach.

2 – Never try something new on race day. Although my stomach is more sensitive than most, I have found this to be a disaster every time I have tried it!

3 – You may need a different diet and to eat different amounts of food to prepare for different races. I eat less when preparing for running races compared to a sprint triathlon or a swimming race. If you are doing a race that will take more than 90 minutes, it is prudent to replenish yourself with energy drinks and gels or light food along the way.

Below are some foods I prefer pre-race:

-English muffins, waffles, toast, bread, berries, grapes, bananas

Below are foods I consider too heavy to eat pre-race:

-bagels, oatmeal, pancakes, eggs, steak, bacon

Below are foods that upset my stomach pre-race:

-dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese), citrus fruits

Well I hope you are ready to begin your research. If you keep track of what works and what doesn’t, before you know it, you’ll have your own winning formula for a pre-race meal.

2009 Tri XOOD Racing Team Weekend Training in Patagonia

2009 Tri XOOD Racing Team Weekend Training in Patagonia

Jan 102010

Photo for fitness article by Susan Dawson-CookAn article written by Michael Hill of the Associated Press and published in the January 8, 2010 issue of the Arizona Daily Star states that of 10 chain restaurants studied, menu items had caloric content an average of 18 percent higher than published. So it could be that that “500 calorie” burger actually has closer to 600 calories. Exact caloric content of foods can be difficult to control. One person’s application of mustard or mayonnaise to a bun may be done thicker than another’s. Then a  little bit larger bun or slice of meat can add up to even more calories. In the Arizona Daily Star article, Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University described nutritional labels as ballpark figures and not scientificially precise.  Even caloric listings on packaged foods at the grocery have been found to be up to 8 percent lower than actual.

Our tendency is to say “Oh well. What is another 100 or so calories?” I’m here to tell you over the long haul, every calorie counts. An excess of only 100 calories, consumed daily over a period of 1 year, will leave you almost 10 pounds heavier by the end of the year!

My recommendations? If you want precision  in caloric estimations, eat fresh and eat at home. When keeping food logs, restaurant going customers should record caloric values  that take into account this  average discrepancy (recording a 20 percent higher caloric value per item than is listed in published literature).