Sunday, December 27, 2009

Is your job making you fat?

Love your job, but it doesn't love you? 

Many of the jobs held by Americans these days have two counts against them.  The first is the sedentary nature of most jobs.  Unlike jobs of the past, today most of us work in offices, at desks, and sit in meetings.  Secondly, those same offices encourage snacks, eating lunch out, bringing lunch in, donuts at meetings, etc.  The two mixed together are a program for disaster!

A recent study conducted by the University of Chicago in 2001 found that a worker in a sedentary career may end up with a Body Mass Index 3.3 units higher than someone in a highly active job. If you’re 5'5" this can mean an increase in weight from 140 pounds to 155 pounds!

Below are some of my thoughts on how to counteract the sedentary revolution:

1.  Be sure to eat.  Your body does need energy, for stress management and brain food.
2.  Compensate for your inactivity by joining a gym, or exercising before or after work.
3.  Get your co-workers involved in some non-food activities with you, like a volleyball team or a lunchtime class.
4.  Try organizing a healthy food lunch exchange, or instituting a healthy food rule for meetings.
5.  Stash healthy snacks at work, so they are handy, and will lesson your indulgence in naughty office goodies.
6.  Try an exercise ball for your office chair, do some "deskercise" during work, or get up and deliver the memo in person, or go and talk directly to the individual 4 desks down instead of calling.
7.  Make mindful choices for your meals at work, and plan ahead to avert dietary disaster!

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Well, we're almost done with the holidays, and a tough season it has been, what with all of the holiday goodies, eating out, and parties!  If you've weathered this storm, then you can certainly be prepared for New Year's and it's champagne and all night barrage of eating.  Or maybe this is just because my husband is Russian, and New Year's is a huge holiday for them.

I suggest starting the New Year with a good workout.  That way, you get rid of some of the excesses of the night before, and start the New Year out right.  It sets the tone for the rest of the year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Stroke Risk

Improvement in Stroke Risk Depends on Exercise Intensity

Ischemic stroke is a consequence of atherosclerotic plaque build up in the arteries that deliver blood to the brain. Genetics aside, the most common causes of stroke include having diagnosed conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension, being overweight, and/or smoking. A recent study published in the journal Neurology suggests that a lack of moderate to vigorous physical activity should be added to the list of direct causes of ischemic stroke. Previously, researchers believed that physical activity was important for its indirect effects on body weight, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.

Researchers collected baseline information on leisure-time physical activities from over 3000 stroke-free older men participating in the Northern Manhattan Study. Over the course of a ~9.1 year follow-up, researchers documented nearly 240 ischemic strokes. Interestingly, 40.5% of the population studied was inactive. Moreover, it appears that participation in moderate to vigorous physical exercise was essential to reducing stroke risk when compared to "any" physical activity and even weekly total calorie expenditure.

Although previous studies involving women have reported that light activities provide a small reduction in stroke risk, this study is the first to indicate a need for higher intensity exercise to improve stroke risk factors.

Willey, J. Z., et al, Physical activity and risk of ischemic stroke in the Northern Manhattan Study. Neurology 73: 1774 – 1779.

Preventing Knee Pain

Learn to Prevent Knee Pain by Understanding Risk Factors

Although Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) represents the most common form of knee pain previous knee research has focused primarily on ligament injury and degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis. PFPS, often referred to as "Runner's Knee" is typically understood to be a type of tendinopathy characterized by pain and inflammation around the front of the knee cap. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine researchers report findings of multiple biomechanical risk factors that may be modified to prevent PFPS.

Nearly 1600 participants from the US Naval Academy were tracked for up to 2.5 years beginning in July 2005. Researchers collected baseline data on all participants. Initial testing evaluated jump-landing characteristics using 3-D motion capture, lower body isometric strength, and lower extremity structural alignment.

It was determined that the following factors contribute to the development of PFPS including poor quadriceps flexibility, increased pronation or excessive hip internal rotation during landing from a jump, weak quadriceps and hamstrings, excessively strong hip external rotators, and increased navicular drop representative of weak arches.

By including these factors in a pre-participation screening for individuals with a history of PFPS an effective prevention strategy may be developed. Individuals with current PFPS, however, should be referred to a medical professional for evaluation.

Boling, M.C. et al (2009) A Prospective Investigation of Biomechanical Risk Factors for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Yummy!! Stuffed Figs!

Stuffed Figs

Ingredients: 1.10 dried figs

2.1/4 cup shredded or ground coconut

3.10 tsp. raw almond butter

4.10 whole pecans

Preparation: Split the pitted figs and fill them with almond butter. Roll in the coconut and press the pecans on top. That's it! :)  What a quick and easy appetizer or even dessert table item for the holidays!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday treat!

Goat Cheese Kisses

Each of these bite-size savory treats has a bit of dried fruit tucked inside for a slightly sweet surprise.

Makes: 2 dozen pieces

Preparation time: 35 minutes


3 tablespoons hazelnuts or pistachios (3/4 ounce), finely chopped

6 ounces creamy goat cheese

6 dried apricots or dried figs, each cut into quarters


1. Line a plate or small tray with wax paper. Place nuts in a shallow dish. Scoop a heaping 1/2 teaspoon goat cheese and press a piece of dried apricot (or fig) into the center.

2. Wrap the cheese around the dried fruit to form a ball. Roll the ball in the chopped nuts to create a crust; set on the plate or tray. Repeat with remaining goat cheese, dried fruit and nuts.

Let's eat!
Nutrition Facts

Per piece:

28 calories

2 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono)

3 mg cholesterol

1 g carbohydrate

1 g protein

0 g fiber

26 mg sodium

Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Challenges

The holidays are such a tough time of year.  There are all of the parties, so food is plentiful, and time is at a premium.  Here's what I usually observe during the holidays, as a trainer.

*One cookie won't hurt (make that two, no three!) 
     Well, one won't if properly budgeted for, but a plateful will not help you!
*I won't eat all day, then I can eat whatever I want at this party.
     No.  Your metabolism will bottom out, then you will eat and your body will conserve that food well and store any extra as fat.  This is a great way to put on weight.
*Missing one workout won't matter.
    Yes, this one matters just like all the rest.  If you don't burn regularly, especially during this time of year, you will put on fat.  Your body is programmed to do so.  And, this usually turns into a whole bunch of missed workouts!  Danger, Will Robinson!
*Also not on my list as a good idea:  skipping the whole month to enjoy festivities.  You will pay dearly for this one come January.

So, stick with your regular workout program, eat sensibly, don't starve, and don't overeat.  My Mother always says "everything in moderation"!

Sirloin and Portobello Stew

Sirloin & Portobello Stew

Meaty mushrooms and tender sirloin are a perfect pair in this richly flavored stew.

Serves: 4

Preparation time: 40 minutes


1 pound sirloin steak, trimmed of fat, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1/3 cup all-purpose flour OR 1/3 cup potato or tapioca starch

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

6 cups chopped portobello mushroom caps, (about 6 medium), gills removed if desired

2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed and patted dry

2 plum tomatoes, chopped

2 cups frozen cut green beans, thawed

14-ounce can reduced-sodium beef broth

2/3 cup red wine

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


1. Place steak in a medium bowl and sprinkle with flour or starch; turn to coat. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the steak (reserving excess flour) and cook, stirring once or twice, until browned on most sides and still pink in the center, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

2. Add mushrooms, onions and tomatoes to the pan and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the vegetables have released their juices, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the reserved flour over the vegetables; stir to coat. Add green beans, broth, wine, thyme, salt and pepper; increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the broth has thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the steak and any accumulated juices and cook, stirring often, until heated through, about 2 minutes.


Nutrition Facts

Per serving:

334 calories

9 g fat (3 g sat, 5 g mono)

50 mg cholesterol

22 g carbohydrates

34 g protein

4 g fiber

499 mg sodium

903 mg potassium

Nutrition Bonus: zinc (33% Daily Value), potassium (26% DV), iron & vitamin C (20% DV)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Seasonal Affective Disorder Awareness Month

Does colder weather get you down? For many people, the shorter days and long, dark nights of fall and winter can lead to a mild or severe depression known as seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Anyone of any age can develop SAD, although women in their 20s are especially vulnerable. If you notice symptoms like weight gain, daytime sleepiness, increased irritability and anxiety, and social withdrawal in yourself or a loved one, it may be time to seek treatment for SAD.

Coping strategies:
  • Exercise, 3 to 5 times per week (increases endorphins).
  • Exercise outside (helps to increase vitamin D levels).
  • Check with your doctor; vitamin D supplements may be in order.
  • Get sufficient sleep at night.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables to insure proper nutrition.
  • Engage in activities that make you happy, such as a hobby.
  • Start a book club or other group activity to help keep your mind active.


Friday, November 20, 2009

The Perfect Crunch

What makes the perfect crunch?  Is the movement from the shoulders, and how exactly do you tighten "from the inside"?

Start by lying on the floor, with your knees up and your feet on the floor.  Then inhale, and exhale all the air out of your lungs.  This should tighten your abdominal muscles "from the Inside", or bring your "belly button to your spine".  Now keep that tight, and breathe normally--excellent!  All right, now, I want you to lift your head up off the floor, finger tips lightly supporting your head, and then lift the shoulder blades up off the floor.  You're halfway you lift, exhale, as you lower, inhale...

Now for the other half.  Pull in from the bottom half, as well.  Tighten your pelvic floor, and draw that tight as you lift your upper body, squeezing from both that's a perfect crunch!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Night Eating...

How appropriate, as it is night-time now, and the chocolate is calling...

Night eating is a problem for many people, but I guess the first question usually is:  is it really that harmful.  Well, technically, your body does slow down a bit in preparation for rest, so you will burn a bit less a night that the same snack in the morning.  The real problem lies in whether you are eating the bulk of your calories at night, or are spacing them throughout the day and also having a small snack at night. 

The former is more harmful than the latter for a couple of reasons.  If most of your calories are being consumed at night, then your body really is starving for food all day, and your metabolism is slowing down to accommodate.  Then, when you begin to eat, you overcompensate because you are really hungry.  You tend to lack the control necessary to stop, and you tend to make less healthy choices.  I'm thinking of the tired working person on their way home, who didn't plan dinner, is starving, and ends up at the drive through with 2000 calories worth of McDonald's.

A better approach would be to space those calories throughout the day, and then budget for your nighttime snack, if you like to have something after dinner.  Think ahead and plan for your hungry times, making sure you have healthy choices readily available.

Have a great night!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pumpkin Halwa Recipe

Makes 12 servings

This is an Indian Sweet, and it is delicious!  You can cut back on the sugar if you need to, and butter would work for the ghee, if you don't have any.  Created by Svapna Sabnis.

16 cups shredded pumpkin
1 Tbsp ghee
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 cup sliced almonds (for garnish)

Stir fry pumpkin in ghee on low heat until reduced to about 1/4 volume.  Add brown sugar and cardamom.  Stir 5 minutes.  Top with almonds before serving warm.  Svapna says she did the first part in her slow cooker, and it made the process much easier.

Calories:  189
Saturated fat:  3.9g
Cholesterol:  3mg
Sodium:  20mg
Carbohydrates:  39.2
Fiber:  10g
Sugars:  22.7
Protein:  4.5g

White Bean Dip

This tasty dip, adapted from Karen Solomon's recent "Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It" (Ten Speed Press: $24.95), will wow a crowd.  Adapted by Svapna Sabnis.

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup loosely packed, chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tsp extra virign olive oil (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Place cannellini beans in bowl, and mash with fork; set aside.  Heat a small pan over medium heat; add 2 Tbsp. and let it warm.  Add garlic and sage.  Stir constantly for 4minutes or until garlic is brown and sage is crispy.  Pour hot oil over beans; stir.  Garnish with 1 tsp, and add salt and pepper, to taste.  Cover and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Yield:  (serving size:  2 Tbsp)
Fat--4g (sat. 1g, mono 3g, poly .g)

Ethnic Food Extravaganza...

What fun!  Yesterday, we had an ethnic food extravaganza at my home.  Requested by my Saturday, 11:30 a.m. small group, it included such food items as a Russian Viniagrette Salad,  Indian Lentil Salad, German potato soup, veggies with white bean and sage dip, Cuban black beans on rice, and Norwegian sour cherry pancakes, fruit and yogurt dip.  Recipes were required (I hope to be receiving them, though Svapna gets extra points for having typed versions!!).

I will be including all of these in my book, assuming it ever gets done (fingers crossed!).  Most of the recipes were healthy, gluten free, and vegetarian.  I think they could fit into almost all of the chapters of my food allergy cookbook, though the yogurt dressing won't go into the milk-free zone, and the pancakes will not be in the gluten free section:)

Of course, prior to this, we had the usual workout, this time with bars, walking lunges, lots of abs, and conversation--this group cannot be stopped from exercising their jaws!!  But that's the point, isn't it?  To have fun while your exercising?!  Positive experiences build positive people!

Friday, November 13, 2009

What's eating you?

Sometimes, it's not what you're eating, it's what's eating you.  Are you an emotional eater?  Do you feel down, and then reach for the chocolate?  If so, you're in good company!

How should you deal with it, once you know you have a problem?  Below I've listed a few tips that I think will help you weather your emotional storms.

  • Fill up with fresh fruits and veggies, preferably organic.
  • Reach for dark chocolate (the darker the better/70% or more cacao) when you crave chocolate.
  • When you are feeling down, go outside, and grab a breath of fresh air
  • Make yourself a cup of tea/green tea/decaf will distract you, and calm you.
  • doesn't have to be at the gym!  Think Deskercise!
  • Get enough ZZZ's
  • Play with your dog, cat, or other furry pal
  • Get a hug (research has shown this to elevate mood).
Have a wonderful Friday the 13th!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Joint health

Did you know that losing one pound of weight will take 4 pounds of pressure off your joints?  So, lose 10 pounds, subtract 40 pounds of joint wear and tear.  Wow!

Calculate your caloric needs

You are what you eat...

What you eat does matter, so to that end, what should you be eating? How much depends on whether you are trying to maintain your weight, or whether you are trying to lose weight.

To estimate how many calories you need in order to maintain your weight, you will need to do a little math. By using a simple formula known as the Harris-Benedict principle, you can assess your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Then, to lose weight, you'll need to cut calories from your daily intake, or burn extra with exercise.

Calculate your BMR:
Your BMR is the amount of calories your body needs to function. We use about 60% of the calories we need each day for basic bodily functions such as breathing and digestion. Other factors that affect your BMR are height, weight, age and sex.

65 + (4.3x weight in pounds) + (4.7x height in inches) - (4.7x age in years)

66 + (6.3x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)

This formula applies only to adults!

Calculate your activity level
  • If you are sedentary; BMR x 20%
  • If you are lightly active; BMR x 30%
  • If you are moderately active (you exercise most days a week); BMR x 40%
  • If you are very active (you exercise intensely on a daily basis, or for prolonged periods; BMR x 50%
  • If you are extra active (you do hard labor, or are in athletic training); BMR x 60%

Add this number to your BMR

The result will be the amount of calories you can eat each day to maintain your current weight. If you want to lose weight, you will need to create a calorie deficit through exercise or intake reduction. You can re-calculate your BMR as your status changes.

An easy way to get lots of fiber, lower calories, and tons of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, is to eat 2-3 fresh fruits each day, and 5-6 servings of vegetables. These high water content, low caloric density options will fill you up without ruining your calorie budget.