Monthly Archives: June 2009

"First Comes Love, Then Comes Obesity?"

I lovingly borrowed the title of this blog entry from today’s American Dietetic Association Daily News. I couldn’t have come up with anything more clever myself…wise people those ADA’ers.

It is wedding season, and yay for marriage!! I am a May 2009 bride and so now… I’m a married old hag myself. Turns out, my life may be over…or at least ending sooner than anticipated now that I’m in a romantic partnership for life.

Published in April 2009 by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (ew..) was a study performed on adult obesity in relationships [1]. What the study results revealed is that individuals in relationships with overweight individuals are more likely to become overweight themselves. BMI, thus, is correlated between spouses [2]. Worse yet, one’s chances of becoming obese double after just a few short years of matrimony [1]. And if you think you’re in the clear for living (in sin – kidding) with your boyfriend/girlfriend, you’re wrong. The study showed that those living with their significant others are also at risk for packing on “some excess lbs” [1].
While a woman’s risk of weight gain is incremental after year one, men’s weight gain spikes only between years one and two of cohabiting [1]. Gee, that sounds fair.

The study looked at dating, cohabiting, and married adult couples. Concordance of outcomes observed included obesity, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, screen time by romantic partnerships, and duration of time living with romantic partner. Negative obesity-related behaviors were most predominant in married couples while dating couples not cohabiting were less likely than cohabiting and married couples to become obese [2].

But…I guess I can see where the mistakes begin: wedding night. Forgive the RD…it was a rough job being the bride. You know what they say, be sure to eat. ….Check!
[1] Rochman, Bonnie. First Comes Love, Then Comes Obesity? Time. 2009.
[2] Gordon-Larson, Penny. Entry into Romantic Partnership Associated with Obesity. Obesity. Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. April 9, 2009.

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Filed under BMI, marriage, obesity epidemic, research study, weight gain


If your healthy habits aren’t habitual, train and trick yourself into making healthier food choices. Here’s my top 10 recommendations:

10. If you’re going to a restaurant which lists the nutrition facts online (consult websites such as or or in print, pick what you’ll order

before you walk in the doors. Don’t even look at the menu. Stick with the plan! P.S. I love the — check it out!

9. Pack your lunch! And when you pack it, make sure there’s

at least one truly satisfying item so that you look forward to your lunch and aren’t (as) tempted to head out with your co-workers to the nearest burger joint.

8. …when you pack your lunch, cut up and/or peel your fruit and vegetables ahead of time. That apple will be brown tomorrow, so you’d better not waste it.

7. If you go to a buffet, picnic, or place of infinite choices, survey your options before making your selection. Further, try not to let foods touch one another so you’ll pack less on a plate. If you must go back for second helpings, limit yourself to 1 item. Two items, tops.

6. In scenarios such as the above, use the “plate method” of serving yourself. Aim for 1/2 fruits/vegetables, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 carbohydrates. This will keep your calories down and ensure you’re eating a balanced meal.

5. At parties or restaurants (think chips and salsa on the table or the bread basket), sit AWAY from the appetizers and snack foods. They’re nothing but trouble!

4. If you have a craving (gyros come to mind for me), take a friend you can share with (as in half-and-half, not the infamous “80-20” plan) . Scratch the itch, but don’t draw blood…if you know what I’m sayin’.

3. Add fruit and vegetables to some of your favorite foods — zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions go great on a quesadilla (made with low-fat cheese and high-fiber wheat tortillas) while berries and bananas go great in your morning cereal or oatmeal.

2. Keep a piece of fruit in your car or office at all times. When the healthy stuff is easily accessible, you’re more likely to eat it. Further, if you’re finding it difficult to eat all your F&V’s, commit to having 2 snacks a day and making at least one a fruit or veggie. Another great idea is having a cut-up veggie tray with hummus or low-fat dip in your fridge at all times. If hunger is striking the second you walk in from work, the veggies can stave off hunger long enough to get dinner on the table without racking up the calories.

1. Bite it, write it. Keeping a food journal is the tried and true best method of keeping your intake in check. Keep a small journal or notebook with you and commit to writing down

everything you eat. When you’re accountable for writing it, you typically always think twice before eating it.

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Filed under 80-20,, dining out, food journal, lunch

Food for Sex

Last night I co-hosted a friend’s bachelorette party (bride on the right there). I was the first of my friends to get married, so this was all new to me. My co-hostess did some local research and we decided to book a “For Ladies Only” (AKA “FLO”) party. You know…lingerie, toys, lubes…the works. After seeing and reading some of the representative’s profiles online, I got
scared. “WHAT did we do? WHO is this stranger coming to give us a sex toy presentation?” My last thought, “NO ONE is going to buy anything!” Luckily, it was a busy week and I didn’t give much thought to the event.

We got this rep. Clearly, we landed ourselves a good one.

To my very pleasant surprise, we had a BLAST! Mixing a bride, friends, booze, and justified sex talk is just bound to be inappropriately fabulous, and doubly memorable. And it surely was. Our FLO rep ended up being a saint…and nearly 7 hours later, she was finally heading out with her suitcases of “product”. That last thought about people not buying stuff…couldn’t have been more wrong! Apparently her estimated 45-minute “presentation” (ours lasting 2 1/2 hours) and 1-hour order-taking (ours lasting over 4 hours), was a bit underestimated. Like I said, inappropriately fabulous…and doubly memorable.

So here I am sipping my cappuccino this morning recalling the happenings of last evening thinking, “Is there something edible besides champagne and strawberries that can ‘turn people on’?” (FYI: there were lots of strawberry and dessert-flavored edibles in the FLO rep’s stash).

Dear friend Google and I discovered some stuff that I found undoubtedly worth sharing with blog nation!

We’ve all heard that sex is great exercise, and I think most would agree. (Virgins and prudes, hit the treadmill…sorry!) Moreover, keeping a healthy diet heightens a positive attitude towards sharing your body and new experiences with your partner, says Lou Paget, author of “The Great Lover Playbook”. Surely that’s a great reason to tweak your diet, right? Better news yet, Paget claims that attitudes towards sexual experiences improve immediately when the diet is improved [1]. No waiting games or scale torture to endure in order to be sexually rewarded. Double bonus.

Lynn Edlen-Nezin, clinical health psychologist, states, “What’s good for your heart is good for the genitals.” In her book entitled, “Great Food, Great Sex: The Three Food Factors for Sexual Fitness”, she explains that eating right and keeping a healthy heart enhances sensations in the genitals, creating more pleasureable sexual experiences. Elden-Nezin, along with the International Journal of Cardiovasulcar Interventions, supports argenine supplementation* to aid in both male and female sexual arrousal. Nitric oxide (NO) being the culprit in the reaction. NO has been studied in regards to improved blood flow in coronary arteries [1].

All supplements aside, Elden-Nezin suggests the inclusion of “Staminators” in the diet for prolonged sexual arrousal. Such foods (high in arginine) include: almonds, walnuts, halibut, cod, and salmon [1]. Preparing the right meal for your sweetie could have dual arrousal factors: being catered to and naturally “drugged” for top performane! Suckers, they’ll never know…

Until my goodies arrive next week from the FLO rep, I’ll be cooking heavily with fish and nuts!

*I have not personally, to date, read any credible research on argenine and CVD and/or sexual stimulation. I am not recommending argine supplementation for said purposes or verifying this information.
[1] Frankel, Valerie. Spice Up Your Love Life with the Great Sex Diet. MSNBC. March 3, 2008.

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May I have that to go?

No, not my food. My soft drink. “May I please take my soft drink to go?” ::blink:: Congratulations, on a new means of complete and utter gluttony, Oklahoma.

Oklahomans know how to do one thing right: eat and drink. I’ve never heard of beverage “to-go” cups before moving here…and it pains me to great lengths that

my husband is a to-go cup convert. Sigh.

Mark and I were out to lunch yesterday at a local Mexican restaurant and at the end of our meal… asked the waiter for a “to-go” cup for his (diet) Coke. “Sure, no problem!” said the waiter, as he ran off for the Styrofoam cup, plastic lid, and new straw to-go (at no cost to the customer). I was in shock. That’s

my husband that just asked that? Disbelief! Disappointment, even. Sure, I understand the convenience factor, but I see a few issues with the whole ordeal.

Firstly, cost (and waste). It’s more common than not that restaurant servers here will ask the customer, “Would you like a to-go cup?”. As an establishment in search of a

profit, this is a huge financial mistake. Whatever, their loss, right? Second, I’d imagine that here in Oklahoma, most restaurant patrons are taking one of two beverages to-go: Coke or sweet tea. Roll your eyes at that stereotypical comment all you want, but I can nearly guarantee that as a fact. Thus, patrons are taking home or for the road, an additional 150-350 calories…after consuming a meal and however many other servings of liquid cavities while dining-in. Clearly unnecessary, to say the least. Lastly, this whole to-go cup offer is not only at the local Mexican restaurant, but at the chains like Chili’s and Olive Garden. Chain restaurants condone this? It seems so…tacky to me! I surely wouldn’t go into a 4-star restaurant and ask for my water to-go, know what I mean? Again, I’m at a loss as to the logic here, Chili’s. Get it together, I thought you were classier than that!

When my groom asked for that cup, I about crawled under the table in embarrassment…after shooting him a quick death stare. Oklahomans ought to learn: there’s a reason they’re the 5th fattest state in the US. Liquid calories to-go have no place in the diet…especially during a sedentary drive to their next destination. And this could be yet another reason Oklahoma is ranked #50 in terms of fruit and vegetable consumption, as well. You know what they say…high-fructose corn syrup is nearly crack.

Man, there’s work to be done in the OK! Sign me up for the challenge!

Disclaimer: While other regions may be guilty, I can only

judge based on what I know of Oklahoma.

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Fire up the grill!

It’s officially summer in Tulsa, and I hear the north is getting a steady dose of summer heat, as well. Mom informed me last night that their air-conditioning has been running all week. Translation: it’s blazin’ in Chicago. And summertime surely means one thing: grilling, cookouts, barbecue, and so on!

There’s a few grilling safety tips you should consider before enjoying your next nearly-charcoal burger, however. While grilling offers a quick and healthy cooking method, it can also produce carcinogenic foods (i.e. cancer-causing). You should avoid eating charred, blackened, or burned meats. The high temperatures of grilling can make cooking foods thoroughly a challenge, but the alternative just isn’t safe.

These cancer-causing compounds come in two forms: HCA’s and PAH’s. Heterocyclic amines (HCA’s) are produced when red meat, poultry, and fish are cooked at ultra-high temperatures. PAH’s, or “polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons”, are produced when fat drips from cooking meat into the grill producing a smoke. This smoke unsafely contaminates the food. These nasty PAH compounds are also produced when flames physically touch cooking food, causing it to blacken and char [1].
Some ways to make grilling safer and healthier include [1]:
– cooking leaner meats vs. high-fat and highly processed hot dogs, sausages, and bratwursts
– grill smaller cuts of meat to reduce cooking time and temperature
– remove all visible fat before grilling – this will cut down on the fat drippings which cause that harmful PAH compound production
– keep the grill grates and racks clean (you can use cooking spray to make cleaning easier)
– marinade meat before grilling — the antioxidants in herbs and spices* which are found in marinades can reduce the production of HCA’s
– red meat requires longer grilling time than poultry and fish, so opt for the latter
– use tin foil on grill grates and racks to provide a barrier between flames and food
– grill at lower temperatures and check internal temperatures for safety
– grill in the center of the grill, placing the charcoal on the edges of the grill to decrease PAH contamination
– remove charred and blackened portions of meat before eating
– add sauces at the end of grilling to avoid burning

And as always, vegetables come out on top. Grilling vegetables does not produce carcinogenic compounds…load up!

As pictured, shish-kabobs are a low-fat, balanced meal made on the grill. Marinade meat and vegetables (separately) in a teriyaki flavor, grill up, and serve over brown rice with low-sodium soy sauce. Delicious!

And for all you carnivores, choose red meat that is 93% lean or higher. My old timer parents made the switch so you can, too! For burgers, add chopped onion, seasoning salt, and pepper to your ground beef patties to enhance the flavor…sans the fat. I assure you, you’ll love that burger more when you know it’s a leaner choice!

P.S. Don’t forget the 100% whole wheat buns!

* marindaes containing thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil and parsley are highest in antioxidants
[1] Bankard, Lisa. Monday Medical: Summer Calls for Health Grilling. Steamboat Pilot & Today. June 22, 2009.

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Filed under cancer, grilling

A glass a day keeps the doctor away?

Quite possibly.

Red wine contains a potent antioxidant called resveratrol. It is found in highest concentrations in the skin of the grape to protect the fruit from bacterial and fungal invaders. Resveratrol is also found in peanuts, blueberries, and cranberries, however the skin of the grape and long fermentation process of red wine produce the highest concentrations of resveratrol [1].

It was suggested by top Harvard biochemists that this antioxidant can extend life by activating the “longevity” gene (sirtuin), slowing the body’s aging process and prolonging the development of chronic disease [2]. Research still in the works on those guys at Harvard…

Is red wine the ticket to eternal youth? I’m sure Dr. 90210 has something to say to the contrary. But, what does Mayo have to say?

Mayo Clinic supports the role of red wine in the reduction of LDL cholesterol (recall, this is the “bad” stuff), while protecting arterial walls of the heart. However, their stance on

resveratrol’s role on this matter remains up for dibs. There are studies out there suggestion resveratrol as the ingredient to thank, and others suggesting red wine providing no increased benefit to that of spirits or beer. Hmm…

Research confirms the role of alcohol (not just red wine) in the diet to 1) raise HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind), 2) lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind), and 3) reduce the incidence of blood clots [1].

To keep things in perspective, research is performed on those with “moderate” alcohol consumption. “Moderate” consumption would be defined as 1 serving of alcohol a day for women, and 2 a day for men. Professionals

do not encourage the intiation of alcohol in the diet if one abstains. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, obesity, liver damage, increased risk of certain cancers, and accidents [1].

Additionally, resveratol studies have been performed on animals and the dose used to produce desired health benefits would require the consumption of 100 to 1,000 bottles of red wine to produce similar results. So, as you can imagine, resveratrol supplements were produced as to offer the public highly concentrated doses. Mayo Clinic stated in March 2009 that more research is needed to support the role and required dosing to confirm suspected health benefits of the antioxidant. But, they do state that the evidence looks good for red wine! [1]

What we know:

1. If you drink alcohol, consuming a “moderate” amoung each day may provide health benefits.
2. When you drink alcohol, red wine may be your best alternative health-wise.
3. If you don’t drink, don’t start for health reasons.

All good news here for this vino lover!

I suggest:
Ruffino Chianti (approx. $8-15/bottle)
Collazzi Chianti Classico ($20/bottle)
Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva ($16/bottle)

…Just for you, Mary! Salute!


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Filed under antioxidants, cholesterol, wine

Go Greek!


Surprisingly, I’m not talking about gyros or saganaki, but rather, a study on the Mediterranean diet performed by the Medical School at the University of Athens, Greece. We’ve all likely heard of the Mediterranean Diet, but let’s refresh. Key components of the Mediterranean Diet include:

– plentiful exercise and meal times shared with family and friends

– consuming many fruits and vegetables daily
– including healthy oils in the diet such as olive and canola oils
– eating nuts (in small portions)
– the option of moderate red wine consumption
– marginal red meat consumption
– the incorporation of seafood and fish into the diet, at least twice weekly
– low dairy consumption

The Mediterranean “diet” is a

lifestyle for Europeans residing in Greece, Italy, and Spain most respectively. It is true that these countries consume an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, fish, oils, and in moderation, wine and alcohol. The positive health benefits of this Mediterranean diet were discovered over 30 years ago and have been a topic of much interest ever since.

During mine and my husband’s stint in Italy, we quickly learned that meal time was a sacred family time. The focus was not simply eating, but cooking, relaxation, and socialization. Wine was commonly consumed, even in places of business! At Mark’s work, there was a bar in the lobby serving alcoholic beverages, as well as cafes, espressos, and cappuccinos. Wine was served at restaurants for prices totaling less than water by volume at times. The abundance, selection, and freshness of produce found at stands street-side, as well as in the “lunga’s” (grocery store) far exceeded that found in America. And while fast food restaurants are not omit from European cities, they are not found on every street corner, but are spotted in places of heavy tourist traffic. But, of course.

Greece we found to be very similar. In Athens, moderate alcohol consumption and fruits and vegetables were staple items in most meals, along with lots of seafood and olive oil. Delicious!

Pictured on the left, fresh catch of the day coming in to the port of Poros. On the right, I give a BIG 2 thumbs up to fresh octopus! Yumm!

You can’t forget the pistachios in Greece — the best!

Greeks also have excellent taste in canines. We had to stop and say hi to the fellow bully and bully owner. : )

Mark and I in Athens at the Acropolis and the island of Poros

So what is it, specifically, in this Mediterranean diet that produces the proven health benefits? Is it the exercise? The healthy oils? The omega-3’s found in fish? Athens found out.

Published just last week in the

British Medical Journal were the results of a large-scale study aimed at revealing the relative importance of each component of the Mediterranean Diet. There were 23,349 Greek study participants ranging in age between 20 and 86. Their diet was recorded over an average span of 8.5 years. Both demographics and anthropometrics of the study participants were accounted for. Results showed that overall, those who consumed a Mediterranean diet were healthier as their mortality rate was decreased. A positive (although not statistically significantly) correlation was found between healthfulness and high fruit and vegetable consumption as well as high nut, legume, and oil consumption. An inverse relationship between healthfulness and meat consumption was found (though not statistically significant, either).

However……….there was a statistically significant positive health correlation seen with moderate ethanol consumption. Alcohol alone accounted for 24% of the overall health benefits seen with the Mediterranean diet. Alcohol consumption was most frequently noted to be wine consumed during meal times.

Moral of the study: wine does the body good!

Tomorrow, we’ll look into what it is about wine that provides all those health benefits…

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Filed under Mediterranean diet, research study, travel, wine