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Following a mild heart attack at age 54, I quit tobacco cold turkey and started tackling my other addictive behaviors and the demons that fed them. Health, wellness and nutrition took center stage in my life, but not without a struggle. Because emotional eating remains my chief addiction, this category will lean toward the search for a healthy relationship with food. However, the struggle between addressing emotional cravings and achieving a fit and balanced lifestyle should resonate with anyone unhappily engaged in self-destructive behaviors. The hunger behind most addictions is the same; the machinery is the same. I’m hoping I can help.

25 Healthy Holiday Choices

December 14, 2014 – 2:24 pm |

While I scramble to finish my latest post, I would like to use this article as a place card. Author Sue Redfearn offers advice on how to stay ahead of the season’s food temptations. Published by WeMD, it has been reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy MD, MPH.

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Want to enjoy a tasty and fulfilling December, without all the regret come January? Here are 25 tips that will keep you on track this holiday season.

  1. 1.Eat early. Don’t skip breakfast, says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietitian. “Don’t let last night’s big meal keep you from having a healthy breakfast today, and every day,” she says. If you don’t commit to breakfast, you may spend the rest of the day overeating.
    2. Graze. Eat small meals throughout the day. It helps you keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady. You’ll be less likely to feel moody or stressed, and you’ll be less likely to overeat at parties. Also, if you don’t arrive at the party with an empty stomach, alcohol won’t hit you as hard.
    3. Work out. Exercise keeps your metabolism going, helps you digest and burn off calories, and can stabilize your mood.
    4. Do a trade-off. “For every alcoholic drink you have during the holidays, tell yourself you need to be physically active for 30 minutes to burn it off,” says Jamieson-Petonic, who’s also an exercise physiologist.
    5. Stay hydrated. Choose water or low-calorie drinks . A handy tip: “Twenty ounces of water 20 minutes before each meal keeps you hydrated while reducing cravings and calories when you eat,” Jamieson-Petonic say
    6. Pack snacks. Heading to the airport? Make sure to bring some healthy snacks, like trail mix, whole-grain crackers, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
    7. Map it out. Road tripping? Plan ahead, so you can stop where healthy food is available.
  2. 8. Ditch the comfy pants. Loose-fitting clothes make it easier to overeat, Jamieson-Petonic says. Wear form-fitting garments that will let you know you’re overdoing it.
    9. Lighten your drink. A wine spritzer is a festive way to keep calories and alcohol content low. Or consider light beer or a mixed drink with half a shot in it — make sure the mixer is low- or no-cal.
    10. Simply sip. Make that drink last all night by taking tiny sips. You’ll cut down on calories, and also keep a clear head all night.
    11. Window shop. Buffet time? Cruise the food before digging in. Think through what’s offered, and pick only the things you really, truly want.
    12. Veg out. Hit the crunchy vegetables. Hard. They’ll fill you up, making you less likely to overeat.
    13. Go lean. Choose lean proteins: turkey (without the skin), fish (skip the fatty sauce), and pork. They can fill you up and give you lots of energy.
    14. Embrace the season. Enjoy the festive holiday fare you can’t get any other time of year, like stuffing and pumpkin pie. Have those special foods in small amounts, but avoid things you can get all year, like mashed potatoes.
    15. Give in. If a tiny portion of pie won’t cut it, then eat a full slice, just this once. But consider leaving the crust, which is filled with saturated fat and calories.

 

Photo: Alamy

16. Think small. Always use a small plate if there’s a choice. That helps you keep portions modest.
17.Don’t crowd your plate. Play that game you used to play as a kid — don’t let your foods touch.
18. Do it yourself. Bring your own amazing, low-cal dish. Make your contribution something super-healthy and extremely tasty that you love. If all the other offerings are too rich or fatty, you can rely on your own cooking.
19. Step aside. When you’ve had your fill at the buffet table, move away. The farther you are from the food, the less you’ll try to get back to it. If you have to stand in the same room with the food, keep your back to it.
20. Have one bite. Eat all the desserts you want — but just a bite of each. That, Jamieson-Petonic says, is a way to not feel shortchanged — but also not go overboard.
21. Choose fruit. Contribute to the party by bringing a big fruit salad. The sugars in fruit can squelch your desire for other sweets.
22. Get chatty. Look for chances to catch up with friends and family you haven’t seen in a while, Jamieson-Petonic says. Focus on conversation, and you’ll eat less.
23. Savor your food. Taking time to appreciate each bite can help you eat less, Jamieson-Petonic says.
24. Take stock. When holiday food cravings hit, stop and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” Just a few seconds might reveal that you’re really just tired or sad, or feeling something else that’s not hunger. A little talk with yourself can spare you some unwanted calories.
25. Breathe and have fun. Remember that the holidays are about spending time with relatives and friends. Take a deep breath, smile, and connect.

Christmas dinner

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I Hate Halloween

October 28, 2014 – 5:45 pm | 2 Comments
candy corn

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I hate Halloween. Not only because I think it’s genuinely creepy – I have no taste for the macabre, effigies of ax murder victims on people’s front lawns or adult friends exhibiting bizarre behavior from behind their masks – but also because of the candy that’s everywhere.

candy corn


The magazine, Diabetes Forecast, has created a table of the carb, fat and calorie content of common Halloween candies. If we plan to indulge, we can at least keep track.
Candy Calories Fat (g) Carbs (g)
Snickers, fun size 80 4 10.5
Snickers, mini 43 1.6 4.4
3 Musketeers, fun size 63 2 11
3 Musketeers, mini 24 0.7 5
Skittles Original, fun size mini 60 0.5 14
Butterfinger, fun size 100 4 15
Butterfinger, mini 45 2 7.25
Candy Corn, 1 oz. 100 0 25.6
Milky Way, fun size 80 3 12
Milky Way, mini 38 1.6 6
Almond Joy, snack size 80 4.5 10
Almond Joy, mini 67 3.6 8
Hershey’s Kiss, 3 pieces 67 4 8.3
Kit Kat, snack size 70 3.6 9
Kit Kat, mini 18 2 5.6
Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkin 170 10 18
Twix, fun size 80 4 10
Twix, mini 50 2.6 6.6
Peanut M&M’s, fun size 90 5 10.5
M&M’s, fun size 73 3.3 10.6
York Peppermint Patty 140 2.5 31
York Peppermint Patty, mini 50 1 11
Tootsie Roll 23 0 4.6
Charms Blow Po 60 0 17
Jolly Rancher 23 0 5.6
Smarties roll 25 0 6

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Nightmare at the Museum

July 10, 2014 – 6:21 pm |

 

ScreamWe all have our moments – although in this case, it should have been one moment because we are supposed to hit rock bottom only once – but let’s be merciful and remember that the best laid plans of mice, men and women who want to lose 100 pounds often go astray.

So let’s put it this way: One of my bottommost moments occurred at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, other wise known as “The Clark” in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

It was a picture-perfect mid-August afternoon. My best friend Michele’s birthday. At her request we nipped down to Williamstown and met with another friend who lived in Great Barrington for lunch. We ate an excellent Chinese meal, strolled around the charming downtown and window-shopped some cute stores before setting off for The Clark, which is justly celebrated for its French Impressionist and Academic paintings, British drawings, oil sketches and silver.

The building was under renovation that summer but still open and featuring a special exhibit of recently excavated artifacts from Shanxi and Gansu provinces of China, many of which had never been exhibited outside the country. I have a curious affinity for ancient Chinese culture and I was looking forward to coming within arm’s reach of these religious and ritual relics and what had been described on the web site as “a magnificent house-shaped sarcophagus.”

By the time we got to the Clark, however, I was in acute pain. Not just stiff and sore, but nearly incapacitated. I had been dealing with serious chronic pain for several years and it wasn’t getting any better. A combination of flat feet (which orthotics merely exacerbates), plantar fasciitis, spinal stenosis, sciatica and an impaired sacroiliac had begun to limit my life in really noticeable ways.

Add to this mix, the aging process and 140 pounds of excess weight and I had reached a point where severe pain prevented me from standing for more than four minutes at a time or walking more than one city block before I needed to sit and lull the pain until I could stand for another four minutes or walk another city block.

While my friends used the bathroom, scouted the bookstore and mapped out their route through the museum, I leaned against the information desk in the lobby in a dead halt and posture of despair. I was with my best buddy Michele, who was well aware of my chronic pain, but the friend from Great Barrington was her friend and someone I had only just met. I did not feel comfortable showing so much discomfort, self-disgust and vulnerability to a stranger.

How does one explain to a stranger who had planned a fun and festive afternoon with the girls that one has just reached a moment of life-paralysis? That at age 60, one can stand in the middle of a buzzing, busy lobby and feel as helpless as a one-year-old child? If I can’t walk, I can’t live. If I cannot walk, I cannot see the world. I felt as though I had just fallen out of legitimate, three-dimensional life into a void. I no longer qualified as human.

I glanced across the cavernous lobby and saw a bank of manual wheelchairs lined up against a wall. The very idea broke my heart, but it seemed the only solution at that particular moment. I was in so much pain I wasn’t sure I could even get to them and I almost asked an attendant to help, but bitterly, almost in anger, I forced myself to hobble across the lobby.

I managed to reach the wheelchairs on my own and that is when I hit bottom.

Little tags on their cushions warned that they had a weight capacity of 250 pounds.

A billowing gray mass clouded my vision and my soul. I felt a kind of death, a deep-set, sick apprehension that my life was coming to an end. The shame would kill me.

I weighed well over the capacity of these chairs.

Even my only solution was not an option.

This turned out not to be the case, thank God. I spotted a short row of wheelchairs with a 350-pound capacity. Michele, who is 15 years younger than me, looked startled and a little disappointed when I rolled the wheelchair up to her and stifled my humiliation long enough to explain that the only way I was going to see the tomb guardian beasts and luxury goods of ancient China would be if she pushed me. Her friend drifted off and didn’t say much to me after that.

By the time we got to Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and Monet, I was back on my feet, pushing the wheelchair, which gave me something to lean on so I could still sort of walk and a convenient place to sit when the pain got to be too much. Believe me, it felt better than being pushed and being made to feel passive. Powerless. Old.

That afternoon I discovered that I did not like Renoir but that art can still thrill and uplift when I looked across the room and saw quite by surprise Frederic Remington’s “The Scout,” the well-known painting of a lone Blackfoot Indian mounted on a horse staring across a snowy plain at night. I also discovered that afternoon that I was fatter than I had ever imagined I would be and that the pain had become debilitating and that my situation was unacceptable.

A month later I wandered into the offices of the Biologic Integrative Healthcare and Wellness Center in Brattleboro, where its owner, naturopath and nutritionist Dr. Samantha Eagle, took me in hand and achieved what Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous and psychotherapy had not. I started losing weight. I guess I was ready.

I still have a long way to go in my struggle against food addiction and I know that in the best of all worlds we should not be motivated by fat shame and stigma. But for me, rock bottom was my nightmare at the museum, the sharp pang of mortification I felt when I realized that because of my weight how close I came to missing that magnificent house-shaped sarcophagus and Remington’s incandescent “The Scout.”

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