Thursday, 29 August 2013

Thursday's Random Thought (Monday Morning)

We all need a little uplifting now and again.  No matter our age, or which battle we are facing I think we can all take a page out of this amazing lady’s book on how to live life to it’s fullest as a healthy, happy person.

This is my little homage to 104-year-old Ida Hall.


I am not much of a morning person, so I take great comfort in the simple rituals that start my days.  My most difficult maneuver is getting my feet planted on the floor and putting one foot in front of the other to make it to the kitchen where I start the coffee maker, feed the cats and then shuffle into the bathroom for my shower.  By the time I’m done there I am a little wider awake and the coffee is ready to hopefully finish the job.  After taking that first sip of coffee I make my breakfast and sit down to watch City TV’s Breakfast Television.

City’s Breakfast Television is a “light” morning show focusing on human-interest stories, entertainment news, traffic and weather.  If there is anything earth shattering going on in the world there will be a few minutes coverage about it at the top of the hour in the news segment.  That’s about all I can handle first thing in the morning.

“Roving reporter” Jennifer Valentyne, travels to various locations across south-central Ontario to participate in events like charity runs, to check out Wiarton Willy on Groundhog Day, participate in new openings of stores, visit the Boat Show, the Car show, the Food Show, to welcome the new Pandas to the Toronto Zoo … I am sure you get the idea.  This past Monday her “Live Eye” segment was an early morning report from St. Hilda’s Towers, a fairly upscale retirement and assisted living facility.

I am not certain as to the number of seniors residing at the residence, but amazingly 14 of them are celebrating birthdays of 100 years or beyond in 2013.


Obviously St. Hilda’s takes extremely good care of their residents, but my mind does not travel in that direction early on a Monday morning.  Sadly, my first thought was “Geez, when the time comes, don’t put me in there.  They don’t let you die!”

My bad.

Sipping my coffee I continued to watch as Jenn interviewed those (mostly women !?!?!) celebrating the century+ milestone.  I was astonished at how beautiful these seniors were.  They were all decked out in their birthday celebration clothes enjoying a lovely breakfast with their family and friends.  (As I was sitting there in my favorite, seen-better-days bathrobe)

My father was in assisted living facilities due to his dementia/Alzheimer’s.  He was a wanderer so as his disease progressed so did the level of security in the residences in which he lived.  They were all lovely homes staffed by extremely caring individuals.  I have nothing bad to say about any of them.  But these ladies, they were a totally different story from any perspective I have about aging gracefully.

They were sharp!  No signs of dementia or fading faculties in these ladies!  They maintained their sense of humor, their pride in appearance, their activity levels (each taking part in exercise programs and social activities St. Hilda’s provides).  Aside from age, there did not seem to be any particular demographic represented.  Accents could be detected in some indicating Canada was not their country of origin.  Some were shy in speaking in front of the City TV camera and others were very comfortable.  They listened intently and answered Jenn’s questions patiently and thoroughly. 

The ladies were sitting at individual tables surrounded by their own families, friends and loved ones so could not compare answers to the questions, but when asked the secret to their longevity they all agreed it was living a life filled with purpose, fun and most importantly love.  Most agreed that having good genes helped a lot too!  The part that completely made my morning and sent me off to work with a smile was a comment made by 104-year-old Ida Hall

What a lovely affirmation of life to see on a Monday morning.

One of Ida’s fellow residents, Eva Altay, a native of Budapest, is by all outward appearances a feisty lady, full of gumption and determination.  She broke her hip recently while doing Tai-Chi (of course) and absolutely vowed that she would not be wheelchair bound.  She has been doing physio three-times weekly and credits that for keeping her mobile. Quoting from the Toronto Sun newspaper interview “’I look after myself completely,’ the petite former lawn bowler told me proudly.  ‘I try to be as self-confident as I can be.’”

Ida also takes part in the physio program three times a week and credits that with keeping her independently mobile, albeit with the help of a walker (cheerfully decked out with yellow roses).  She also participates in exercise classes. 

I can only hope to be as vibrant, active, sharp and happy as Ida if I am fortunate enough to make it to some ripe old age.  Personally, I think I am more apt to be the crazy cat lady, sitting on her front porch in her purple hat, shaking her fist and yelling at the kids to get off the lawn.

Unfortunately, the reason that Eva Altay and Ida Hall were in the paper was not because of Ida’s upcoming 105th birthday, but because cutbacks in government funding to the physio-therapy program at St. Hilda’s will keep her, Eva and other residents from receiving the much needed care enabling them to remain both mobile and non-dependent of full time care givers.  That, however, is a topic for another time and place.

Back to Jennifer Valentyne’s interviews that morning.  I went off to work with that big smile I mentioned before because when Jennifer walked over to Ida and showed her the paper, pointing out that Ida herself had made the front page (pictured below) …

… rather than becoming flustered by her new-found notoriety, neither embarrassed nor tickled to be on the front page of the paper, her only comment was “Oh my!  I look old.”

Bless your heart Ida … YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

H.A.L.T. - A Little Refresher

H.A.L.T. is an acronym that caught my attention.  It is sound, reasonable and do-able advice for anyone on a healthy eating or weight loss plan.  There are no earth shattering secrets revealed in the suggestions, and we’ve discussed every point somewhere along the way.  My thinking … it's put together in a very succinct and memorable fashion and it never hurts to have a refresher!

So, with much thanks to Daniel G. Amen, MD here is his H.A.L.T. plan to weight loss.
(website listed below)

Do you want to make it easier for you to stick with you weight loss plan? You need to put a H.A.L.T. to the barriers threatening to sabotage your progress.

The acronym H.A.L.T. is a term commonly used in addiction treatment programs that can be very helpful in dealing with the daily obstacles you face. I understand that you may not equate an addiction program with weight loss, but in my opinion, chronic overeating is akin to substance abuse. And H.A.L.T. has proven to be a very effective way to keep people on track when they are trying to change their habits.

H.A.L.T. stands for:

Don't get too HUNGRY.

Don't get too ANGRY.

Don't get too LONELY.

Don't get too TIRED.


Going too long without food lowers your blood sugar levels, which can lead to a variety of emotional issues, including feelings of anxiety and irritability. These may trigger your overeating.

Low blood sugar levels are also associated with lower overall brain activity, which is linked to an increase in cravings and impulsiveness. Heightened anxiety and irritability coupled with more intense cravings and impulsiveness is a recipe for overeating. Keeping your blood sugar levels even throughout the day is critical to keep you on track.

Tips to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels:

Eat a healthy breakfast—people who maintain weight loss eat a nutritious breakfast.

Have smaller meals throughout the day. Eating big meals spikes your blood sugar levels then causes them to crash later on.

You must stay away from simple sugars and refined carbohydrates, such as candy, sodas, cookies, crackers, white rice, and white bread. These also spike your blood sugar then cause it to crash later on.

Write down the things you plan to do to help prevent you from getting too hungry. Keep this list with you at all times.



Uncontrolled anger can send you racing to the cookie jar to calm your emotions.

When you feel mad, write down your thoughts and ask yourself, "Is it true?"

Practice deep-breathing exercises to calm your mind and soothe your emotions.

Count to 10. When you get angry try counting to 10 before reaching for something to eat. Sometimes that short delay can be enough to calm your temper and interrupt the urge to eat.

Get moving. If you feel anger bubbling up inside you, go for a walk or a short burst of exercise. This releases brain chemicals that help calm you down.

Express your feelings. After you have calmed down, express your feelings in a non-confrontational way. Letting your anger fester can drive you to overeat.

Write down the things you plan to do to help prevent you from getting too angry. Keep this list with you at all times.



Social skills and a positive social network are critical to your emotional well-being.

Working on your current social situation is important to healing. Here are some tips to increase your social bonding.
Enlist a team of supporters and healthy role models.

Volunteer in your community.

Join a small group at Church, a recreational sporting team, book group, or any other type of group that appeals to you.

Make it a priority to spend time with your friends and family.

Make a list of people you can reach out to when you are feeling sad, anxious, mad, or frustrated.

Write down the things you plan to do to help prevent you from getting too lonely. Keep this list with you at all times.



If you are tired your brain simply can't cope as well with stressful situations, leading to worse moods, more anxiety, greater irritability, increased anger, and more frustration. When your emotions are running wild, you are more apt to run to the refrigerator for solace.

In addition, lack of sleep lowers overall brain function, which leads to more bad decisions. Several studies have shown that lack of sleep leads to higher calorie intake and higher consumption of refined carbohydrates, which as you learned in the Don't Get Too Hungry section, causes blood sugar levels to spike and then crash.

Make sleep a priority to boost brain function, moods, and energy levels, and to improve judgment and self-control. Here are 10 ways to make it easier to drift off to dreamland and get a good night's sleep. Remember that we are all unique individuals and what works for one person may not work for another. Keep trying new techniques until you find something that works.

In a past blog I discussed the issue of sleep and weight loss.
The following are Dr. Amen's tips for getting a good night's sleep.

1.  Maintain a regular sleep schedule—going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each day, including on weekends. Get up at the same time each day regardless of sleep duration the previous night.

2. Create a soothing nighttime routine that encourages sleep. A warm bath, meditation, or massage can help you relax.

3. Some people like to read themselves to sleep. If you are reading, make sure it isn't an action-packed thriller or a horror story—they aren't likely to help you drift off to sleep.

4. Don't take naps! This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make if you have insomnia. Taking naps when you feel sleepy during the day compounds the nighttime sleep cycle disruption.

5. Sound therapy can induce a very peaceful mood and lull you to sleep. Consider soothing nature sounds, soft music, wind chimes, or even a fan.

6. Drink a mixture of warm milk, a teaspoon of vanilla (the real stuff, not imitation), and a few drops of stevia. This increases serotonin in your brain and helps you sleep.

7. Take computers, video games, and cell phones out of the bedroom and turn them off an hour or two before bedtime to allow time to "unwind."

8. Don't eat for at least two to three hours before going to bed.

9. Regular exercise is very beneficial for insomnia, but don't do it within four hours of the time you hit the sack. Vigorous exercise late in the evening may energize you and keep you awake.

10. Don't drink any caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon or evening. Also avoid chocolate, nicotine, and alcohol—especially at night. Although alcohol can initially make you feel sleepy, it interrupts sleep.

Write down the things you plan to do to help prevent you from getting too tired. Keep this list with you at all times.


By Daniel G. Amen, MD

Friday, 23 August 2013

Food Friday (2 More Summer Smoothies)

Before our TOPS meeting officially began this week we were talking about the abundance of fruit in the summer.  I love the peaches, nectarines, berries, golden plums and melons at this time of year.  One of my members mentioned that as much as she loves the summer fruits she is finding it difficult to get her recommended intake of fruit every day because she is getting tired of them. 

That surprised me because I am of the opposite opinion.  Come February and March I find myself willing to pay the (out of season) premium price for a couple of nectarines.  They’re always a little on the disappointing side as far as sweetness and juiciness, but what a taste sensation after months of apples, pears and bananas.

Watermelons are in season right now as well.  I love watermelon and seeing as I have difficulty getting my 8 glasses of water in every day … I allow as eating watermelon subsidizes at least some of my water intake deficiencies.  The tough part about buying watermelons is that you can’t see inside them.  And while I have cantaloupes and Honeydew pretty much figured out, I seem to get a dud watermelon two out of three times. Any and all suggestions on how to rectify this and pick a perfect watermelon every time are welcome!   It’s either pale or mealy, just basically looks too unappetizing to serve “as is”.

When I was traveling in Greece years ago the fruit vendors had a little apparatus that looked very similar to an apple corer that they would use to take a plug out of the melon you wanted to buy.  That way you could see what the inside of the melon looked like and even have a taste.  If it wasn't to your liking, you simply picked another one.  Seemed like a good idea to me!  However, I am fairly certain if I tried that here my local grocery store manager would promptly throw me out of the store.

All that aside … really, what do you do with a watermelon that is not quite up to snuff?  It’s not like you can throw it into a pie!

For some reason it had never occurred to me to throw watermelon into a smoothie!  So I was quite excited when I came across the suggestion under the heading “Sweet and Skinny Healthy Yogurt Dessert Ideas”.  Not only can you make smoothies, but also the site suggested freezing cubes of the watermelon (I also never thought to freeze watermelon before … it was just a day of revelations for me) and use the cubes to make a slushy type drink. 

Not that anyone needs a recipe for a smoothie, it’s easy enough to throw some berries, bananas ice and yogurt into a blender but here is the suggestion from Babble.


1 small watermelon
1 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1 cup strawberries (optional)

Fell free to add a handful of raspberries, blueberries or a few sprigs of mint, if you like.  The mixture, by the way, would also make great Popsicles – just freeze in a pop mold.

Now I know a lot of people throw dark leafy vegetables into their smoothies.  I can handle some spinach but as far as kale and chard go – I just don’t like the taste that they add to the smoothie.  And, no matter what everyone tells me, I can taste them in there.  I have nothing against kale and chard if they are cooked.  But just not in my smoothie.  The article with the suggestion for the watermelon smoothie also suggested adding parsley to a smoothie.

Everyone thinks of parsley as a garnish or a natural breath freshener.  Parsley has the same nutrients as any of its dark green leafy cousins.

Apparently (and no I have not tried it yet) you can’t see it (taste it?) as long as you use dark blueberries or the frozen strawberry-raspberry-blueberry fruit mix you can buy at the store (or make yourself if you are more industrious than I am)


1 banana, peeled and broken into chunks
2 cups frozen mixed berries (such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
1 big handful (or a small bunch) or curly or flat leaf parsley, stems removed
1 cup plain yogurt
½ cup orange or other fruit juice
2 tablespoons honey, or to taste

Put all the ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth, adding more juice, water, yogurt or berries as necessary to achieve the right consistency
Serve immediately.
Serves 2-3


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Thursday's Random Thought (Changes)

My best friend 'M' is also a member of my TOPS group.  She brought in this "Tip for TOPS" in the form of a quote ...

"If nothing changes then nothing changes"

It certainly makes sense in terms of weight loss, doesn't it?  I wanted to credit the correct author of the quote and discovered the whole quote reads ...

"Nothing changes if nothing changes, and if I keep doing what I've always done, I'll keep getting what I've always got, and will keep feeling what I always felt."

                                                                Author, Earnie Larson

Monday, 19 August 2013

Eat Beakfast Like a King

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!”

We’ve all heard those sayings at one time or another.  Old wives tales or truth?

Although skipping breakfast may seem a good way to eliminate calories, breakfast skippers tend to weigh more than breakfast eaters. And when people eat a larger-than-normal breakfast, they usually end up eating almost 100 fewer calories by the end of the day.  That is a significant number in a weigh loss effort.  Skipping breakfast in order to lose weight is a big mistake and is counter productive because it actually slows your metabolism and can lead to over eating.

Breakfast has been in the news the last few weeks.  I never thought I would be saying (typing?) those words, but there has been a lot of coverage of a new weight loss study at the Mayo Clinic which proves the importance of eating breakfast.  The 12-week study saw all the participants lose some amount of weight, but the participants who regularly ate a full breakfast lost significantly more weight than the others.

 The Globe and Mail summarized the results and reported, “Compared to the big dinner eaters, women who ate a 700-calorie breakfast and 200-calorie dinner experienced a 2.5-fold greater weight loss (19 pounds versus eight). As well, waist circumference, blood glucose and insulin levels improved to a greater extent in the high calorie breakfast group. Blood triglycerides levels fell 33 per cent in the big breakfast group, but increased in the big dinner group.

The participants who consumed half their daily calorie intake at breakfast reported being less hungry throughout the course of the day, so they were most easily able to stick to their meal plan. Remember Ghrelin, the hunger hormone talked about a few weeks ago? Blood tests done on the participants in the study had lower levels of Grehlin after eating the high-calorie breakfast.  That definitely explains no hunger pangs through the day.

Breakfast is exactly what the name suggests – Break Fast. It’s breaking the fast your body had while you were asleep for 8 hours (or however long you normally do). It is the first meal of the day, usually eaten in the morning (assuming you slept at night). If you’ve got a twisted sleep cycle (perhaps due to working on shift, etc) and you sleep in the afternoons, then your breakfast will be the first meal you have when you wake up. Breakfast does not follow the time of the day, but your sleep cycle, and helps kick-start your metabolism levels for the day, which is crucial to weight loss.

After virtually starving your body for the past 8 to 10 hours your goal should be to start the day with foods that give your body what it needs:  nutrients and energy.  Eating a proper breakfast helps jumpstart your metabolism, which is at its lowest levels after you have been sleeping.  Having your largest meal in the morning ensures that the food energy will be used as you go through your daily tasks.  The alternative is that you eat a large dinner and then do not use up all the food energy before bed.  The excess is then stored by the body – as fat.

So eating a large breakfast can help maintain the level of your metabolism, eliminate through-the-day cravings, lower the levels of Grehlin, lower blood sugar, make the body more efficiently use insulin and prevent belly-bloat, but is it always practical to have a big breakfast?  Personally, some mornings I have enough trouble getting myself motivated enough to brush my teeth and get dressed, much less cook myself a big breakfast.

Some people complain that they simply not hungry in the morning.  If this is true for you, it could be because you are still full from the night before.  If you begin a routine of eating less in the evening you may find that you have more of an appetite when you get up in the morning.

Some people simply do not enjoy breakfast-y type foods.  There is no rule that says you have to have eggs, cereal and toast in the morning.  Breakfast food can be anything.  It can be a sandwich, leftovers from dinner the night before, even vegetables or a salad.

The important thing is to eat something within one hour of getting out of bed, plan on eating more food sometime during they day.  It does not have to be a set “lunch”.  Plan ahead and enjoy healthy snacks that you can eat every couple of hours and then plan on eating less in the evening.

According to registered dietician Leslie Beck ( planning is essential and she recommends including the following in every breakfast.

Power up with protein

Adding protein to breakfast slows digestion and promotes a feeling of fullness throughout the morning. Studies suggest protein-rich solid foods curb appetite better than protein-rich drinks. Breakfast foods high in protein include egg whites, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, regular yogurt, low fat milk, turkey breast, smoked salmon and tofu.

Add healthy carbohydrates

Eating carbohydrate-rich foods such as whole grains and fruit at the morning meal fuels your brain and muscles. Research also suggests that carbohydrate at breakfast is important to help guard against abdominal obesity. Quickly digested carbohydrate foods with a high glycemic index (GI) – e.g. white bread, refined cereals, and pastries – are less effective at promoting weight loss because they spike blood sugar and insulin, which can trigger hunger and inhibit the breakdown of body fat.
Foods with a low GI release sugar more slowly into the bloodstream and don’t produce an outpouring of insulin. Low GI breakfast foods include grainy breads, steel cut and large flake oats, 100 per cent bran cereal, oat bran, apples, citrus fruit, grapes, pears, nuts, milk, yogurt and soy beverages.

Focus on fibre

Include 5 to 10 grams of fibre at breakfast. Like protein, fibre slows digestion and helps keep you feeling full longer after eating. Choose 100 per cent whole-grain breads, breakfast cereals with at least five grams of fibre a serving, and eat whole fruit instead of drinking juice.

Satisfy your sweet tooth

Adding something sweet at breakfast – a square of dark chocolate, a cookie or candy – has been shown to cut sweet cravings later in the day by preventing spikes in serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical.

Keep dinner small

To make dinner the lightest meal of the day, include 3 to 4 ounces of low fat protein such as chicken or turkey breast, lean meat, egg whites or firm tofu. Fill up on plenty of vegetables rather than starchy foods.

This is a great make ahead breakfast you can keep in the fridge for five days.  Breakfast is ready for each morning.   I have tried this recipe and even served it to company once. 

Blueberry and Raspberry Baked Oatmeal


1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, divided
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup maple syrup (I used sugar free)
1 cup milk (I used skim)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
1 cup blueberries or raspberries, fresh or frozen, divided

1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
2. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish. In a medium bowl, mix the oats, half of the walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to combine. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the syrup, milk, egg, butter, and vanilla.
3. Spread the sliced bananas in a single layer over the bottom of the baking dish. Top with half of the berries. Sprinkle the dry oat mixture over the fruit in an even layer. Pour the liquid ingredients evenly over the oats.
4. Sprinkle the remaining nuts and berries over the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned and the oats have set. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

It makes 6 servings.  Nutritional values will change depending on the fruit used.


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Do You Believe in Magic?

This particular topic started out as a little piece of grit under the tongue of my personal sensibilities.  Like the oyster I kept working at it and working at it trying to expel the grit.  Unlike the oyster, I did not spit out a pearl but a rant instead.  Sometimes I just cannot help myself.

 Anyone who has ever tried to lose a few pounds has probably at one point or another muttered the words “I wish there was a magic pill for this”.

We all know that there is no magic pill, but that does not stop big companies from preying on our simple wish and making billions of dollars in sales.  Are we all that gullible?  No – I think not.  I don’t believe it’s gullibility that makes us go out (at least once … come on … admit it) and buy a product that advertises itself to be the final solution to all your weight loss problems.  I’m sure that if I put my mind to it I could think of a product for every letter of the alphabet. 

Some promise to cleanse the fat out of your body (which just means you’ll spend your life in the bathroom).

Some promise you will never be hungry again (like the warriors in Kilimanjaro).

Some promise to rev up your metabolism (lack of sleep and an overdose of caffeine always being a good thing?)

Most of them claim that you have to change NOTHING!  Don’t change your eating habits!  Don’t do any exercise!  The weight will just magically disappear!

Take the pill.  Sprinkle the powder.  Mix the juice.  Drink the liquid.  Blend the smoothie.

I remember back in the day, and I really am dating myself by even mentioning this product, but you
could buy a box of “Aids”, horrendous tasting chocolate or butterscotch flavored concoctions that looked like candy.  Even the box looked like a box of chocolate and the squares were wrapped to look like individual caramels.  Eat two (bleccchhh) with a cup of hot tea one half hour before eating your meal and it would curb your appetite.  Truthfully it fooled you into thinking you were going to eat a candy and then tasted so disgusting that it killed you taste buds.  No wonder you lost weight – nothing tasted good after that.

These days every time you flip through a magazine there is a new miracle cure for obesity.  It changes weekly.  We’ve watched them come into vogue and then leave just as quickly … Hoodia, Acai Berry Concentrate, Sensa, PGX, Bitter Melon Extract, Green Tea Extract, Raspberry Ketone and lately it seems to be Green Coffee Bean Extract.  Granted, most of these will probably not hurt you if you take them (please note I said probably) but they are not going to be very effective in lowering that number on the scale either.  The only thing they will lower is the numbers in your bank account.

Prepare yourself; the rant starts here …

What really bothers me about these products is not that the companies manufacture them. It’s not that they are readily accessible at reputable drug and health food stores or even that people buy them.  The companies and the stores are in business to make money.  Manufacturers pay employees.  They need to ship the product, which in turn keeps transport companies in business.  Those transport companies make sure the product is unloaded into stores, which also have their profit margin, and they pay employees.  All these people pay their taxes (hopefully) and all these employees along the line go out and spend their money and that keeps me employed (hopefully), which allows me to go and spend my money.  All of that stimulates the economy.  Economics 101.  Supply and Demand.  All this to the tune of billions of dollars annually in North America.

I do get it!

The battle of the bulge does add significant fuel to the spin of the North American economy.

I am not even grossly upset that people buy them.  Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of psychological help to get things jump-started.  The mind is powerful and if you believe you are taking something that is helping you then it may very well be doing just that.  It’s a crutch, but sometimes we all need a little something to lean on.  Just make sure the product is not so bogus as to be actually doing you real harm.

I get that too! 

This whole post was brought on by a bored click onto a link at the side of another webpage.  The picture caught my attention more than the by-line.  My only thought was “Oh please, how is that even the same girl?”

Then, of course there was the picture of Kim Kardashian labeled Before and After.  I don't know what they are claiming by including the following picture, but I have been on Kim's diet and it DEFINITELY works ... it's called ... having a baby!  Really?  How dare they?

So much for truth in advertising, yet I felt compelled to move my mouse over the picture and left-click.  The link took me to a page for “Women’s Health News”.  It looked very similar to an established and reputable magazine.  You would think that all the information under a title like “Women’s Health News” would be fairly trustworthy.  Alas, that was not the case.

This brings me to the point where I leave disbelief behind, move past annoyance and travel well down the road to outrage.

People with titles (real or fabricated) in front of their names, people in positions of authority (real or imagined), people with a wide audience and the respect (earned or purchased) blatantly promote these products.

There stood Dr. Oz explaining to an enraptured audience how two test subjects lost weight by not changing anything in their daily routines except to consume a couple of Green Coffee Bean Extract capsules before each meal.  In previous episodes he extolled the virtues of Raspberry Ketones and prior to that the miraculous hunger-pang suppressing Hoodia Extract.  I don’t mean to single out the good doctor as there are many organizations (Herbal Magic), celebrities (Oprah, Cathy Smith and even weight loss gods Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper) and media (Good Morning America) who do the same thing with other supplements.   However, I do feel a little justified in picking on Dr. Oz because a year or so ago he made it a point in a press release that he emphatically DOES NOT promote any of these products.  He said that unscrupulous distributors Photoshop his face into product advertisements and unless viewers see him standing there saying the words himself … do not believe that the ads are directly quoting him or that he is endorsing the product.  Well!  In the case of the Green Coffee Extract, in the little video clip from a segment of his show, I saw his lips move and heard the words come out of his mouth at the same time.  I can only assume he is actually promoting this product.

I do not watch his program because it happens to be televised during a time slot when I am at work.  To the best of my knowledge he is a real doctor.  I know many people who watch his show regularly and have told me that he very often gives very sound advice on a variety of subjects.  He is well spoken, well liked and well respected by his viewers.  I have no way of knowing this for a fact (nor is it any of my business) but I can only assume that in light of the success of his daily program he is not under any sort of financial stress.  Why is he promoting a “magic pill”?

Again, I can in no way be certain and, yet again, nor is it any of my business, but he must be getting compensation for promoting this product.  It was a specific brand name that could only be ordered from a specific website.  That fact made abundantly clear by the segment’s guest warning potential buyers to spend their hard earned money only on that brand and “beware of imitations containing fillers and cellulose”.

My TOPS members often come to meetings with questions about advertisements or word of mouth from friends and relatives extolling the virtues of one diet fad or another.  I’ve been asked about everything from the Cabbage Soup Diet (if you can stomach eating cabbage soup for seven days, that one is not going to hurt you) to Bitter Melon Extract and Sensa™.  It usually leads to a lively discussion, and no product is promoted.  I am not a doctor and I do not play one on television but I take my role as group leader pretty seriously so I always try to look into it for them.  I rely on research.

Just in case you are curious –

Bitter Melon Extract is not sold as an aid in weight loss but has been shown to help regulate blood sugar in diabetics.  Even blood sugar levels do help in not having those mid-morning or mid-afternoon munchies.  The health professional I spoke to informed me it would not be significant enough to be counted as an aid to dieting.

Sensa™ is the product that you sprinkle on ALL your food before you eat and it claims to suppress your appetite so you feel full faster.  No one in any professional capacity had any opinions on this product so I resorted to on-line comments from users.  Hint:  do not get independent reviews from the product’s website – all the comments there are glowing.  I did a general search and found that every other comment was a complaint about having stomach cramps and/or irregular bowel movements while taking the product.  No one substantiated the weight loss the product claims in advertisements.  It’s a tempting one to want to try but there is another word of warning.  Many people were complaining that they were having trouble cashing on their “Money Back Guarantee”.

This Green Coffee Extract was a bee in my bonnet though.  So, in my official capacity as a (currently badly backsliding) TOPS group leader – I undid the top button on my too snug fitting jeans – and went on a little mission.

I questioned a doctor she said don’t bother with it, eat healthy, moderate exercise and lay off the sugar and salt – same result.  I thanked her and got out of there quickly, before she could pull out my file, make me step on her scale and mention it was time for my annual physical.

The homeopath I asked suggested some other more helpful products.  Not much help there, since he was basically in the same business so I shrugged, thanked him and left.

Three different health food store managers stated that it would not hurt you to take the product and it may help.  Not much commitment there.  I asked they had received any feedback on the product and was told that no customers have come back raving about it, but at the same time no one has come back to return the product demanding their money back either.

I find when a thread like this is pulled more information seems to materialize.  Maybe it’s because I am tuned in to the topic, or maybe it’s just the way my life works … I really have no idea.  I was walking past a magazine rack and noticed a by-line that said “Diet Pills that really work!”  I spent the $2.29 for the magazine and this is pretty much what I found out:

Doctors recently found out that the ketone that gives raspberries their sweet aroma also burns fat, especially belly fat.  Naturopathic physician Lindsey Duncan, N.D. went so far as to call it “great fat liberator”.
How to make it work for you?  Find the capsules at the drugstore or online, take 100 mg, 30 minutes before breakfast and again before lunch with a large glass of water.  Choose products labeled 100% pure raspberry ketone.
Interesting side note here:  Lindsey Duncan is the guest Dr. Oz interviews about the Green Coffee Bean Extract in which he states “I don’t usually don’t recommend weight loss supplements”.  Yet here he is quoted in a national magazine recommending yet another weight loss supplement.

Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D., author of Recipes for Health Bliss says it’s a “natural fat burner that raises your metabolic rate as much as 25%”.
How to make it work for you?  Stir a half-teaspoon of cayenne into a glass of water and chug before each meal.  Or take one cayenne capsule, three times daily, with water at meals.

This edible cactus from India has phytochemicals that help block enzymes that convert carbohydrates and sugar into fat.  “When these enzymes are blocked, the body can’t form fat, so it has to use it’s own reserves for energy.” says Duncan.
How to make it work for you?  Take one capsule 30 minutes before breakfast and again before lunch with a large glass of water.
Yep – there’s Duncan again promoting another supplements even though he “doesn't usually recommend weight loss supplements”.
This root is rich in a soluble fiber that swells to 17 times its size in the digestive tract, staving off hunger pangs, slowing food absorption and reducing insulin production after meals.
How to make it work for you?  Take two to four Konjac Root capsule with water 30 minutes before eating with a large glass of water.

I could go on and on but seriously – is it just me or do all the “How to make it work for you?’ instructions have something in common?  I’ll come back to that question.

I made it my business to look at some of these products on the shelf of my favorite drug store and if the outside packaging was not sealed with one of those annoying little circles of tape I even surreptitiously opened the box to peek inside.  Without fail, everyone I looked at included detailed instructions, warnings about getting a physicians approval before starting to take any supplements, a healthy eating guide and a moderate exercise recommendation.  Yes, even if they stated on the outside of the package that the consumer needed to make NO LIFESTYLE CHANGES they were still strongly recommending HEALTHY EATING AND MODERATE EXERCISE. 


Now back to the question I posed one paragraph ago.  Is there something that these products all have in common in their instructions?  I noticed most, if not all of them directed the capsules to be taken 20 to 30 minutes before one, two or all three meals with a LARGE GLASS OF WATER.


It seems to me that if you drink a LARGE GLASS OF WATER before each meal that is going to fill up your tummy.  This would more than likely cause you to eat less.  Plus, it has the added benefit of good hydration, better digestion and aids in absorption.  Add to that the strong suggestion of a HEALTHY EATING PLAN AND MODERATE EXERCISE and you may accidentally find that you are losing weight anyway! Save your money and drink your water.  You don’t even need a doctor’s approval to do that.  It’s just a thought.

So, bringing this too long rant to an end, my highly unscientific research conclusions …

Shame on you Dr. Oz!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Thursday's Random Thought (Invisible Exercise)

The TOPS groups in my area have been given a challenge this summer ... each week one group member had the responsibility of bringing in and exercise that (1) the group can do together at the beginning of the meeting, (2) is "do-able" by all group members and, (3) can easily be done at home throughout the remainder of the week.

My members have been great about bringing in ideas ranging from yoga stretches to exercises you can do at your desk to relieve stress.  I came across this one in my treasure trove of things I have "filed to use at a future date".  That's kind of my junk drawer of ideas.  I thought it would be perfect for our challenge.  It's called "The Breath of Fire" and it is considered an invisible exercise, meaning one can do it without others being aware ... so its perfect for that afternoon tension release or taking advantage of being stuck in a traffic jam during rush hour.

From Molly Fox's Yoga Weight Loss Program

Clear your mind and tone your abs with this yoga move.

Take a slow, deep breath - inhaling and exhaling through your nose - followed by a smaller half breath.
Now pull your lower (transverse) abdominal muscles up and in.  They're your deepest abdominal muscles, Fox says, and they help "contain" your organs.

Start pumping little breathes in and out through your nose, focusing on the exhalation.  This move strengthens abs and relaxes the normally tense diaphragm muscle.  

Try for three rounds of ten breaths several times a day.

It takes a little practice!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Food Friday (Vintage Advice)

This is some vintage advice from a 1917 U.S. Food Administration poster.

I find it interesting that the advice is exactly the same as what we are telling people today.  Does that mean we have come full circle?  Or do we just have to be reminded over, and over, and over, and over again?

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Thursday's Random Thought (Squeeze Out Some Willpower)

On the heels of my post about the stress balls and how massaging certain parts of the hand can impact other body parts I came across a small article explaining that researchers have found a simple secret to boosting your willpower.

If you’re on a diet and find it difficult to avoid the dessert table at the buffet, impossible to not buy a pastry with your coffee, or desperately want a second helping at dinner?  Take heart – there is an easy solution to your lack of willpower.

Keep a coin in your pocket!

Whenever temptation whispers in your ear (or makes your tummy rumble) squeeze the coin.  In this study, dieters who squeezed a coin when seeing cakes, cookies and other mouthwatering food found it far easier to say “No, Thank you”.

Now if you are anything like me you are shaking your head right now wondering who funds this research and how can get some their obviously excess coins to fund some research of my own?

Why does this supposedly work?  Apparently squeezing an object gives a big boost to areas of the brain that regulate willpower!

Hmm – Now, I cannot vouch for the validity of the information, but combined with what was said about the stress ball – it sure couldn't hurt anything.