Saturday, July 31, 2010

Nice Day for a White Wedding

Oh, the irony.

The day before a friend of mine gets married, Chelsea Clinton is getting married.

They are both having evening nuptials. Apparently that's the thing to do this year.

What does that mean in Ish world? I'm screwed, that's all.

One day before the wedding (my friend's wedding), I have no dress. I have no shoes, I have no mani-pedi scheduled. I did get my hair done (or, as they say in the south, I got my hair did).

You can't hear me, but in my head I'm screaming, "What am I going to wear?"

See, I normally work day hours on Saturday. That, in my master plan, left me time after work to go to the manicurist near my office, grab shoes from the store across the street, currently on sale, then run to a store that has my sizes on the way home.

Now, because Ms. Clinton is getting married at 6pm today, I will be at work until well past 11pm.

Darn those selfish celebrities who think of nobody's life but their own!

Seriously, I'm trying to cope the best I can. I still have tomorrow to get things done, but I was hoping to use the time to finish off my extra writing projects. Some of them are due Monday, the nephew comes next weekend for a second time, and I want them all off my plate when he visits again.

I've got two almost done; two more to go. They take a lot more time than I thought.

So..I'm biking to and from work, but that's about all the exercise I can get in right now, which is not good. Last night I ended up with a popped tire and had to wheel my deflated bike to the subway and get on that to get home. That means lifting my bike up and down subway stairs, which I guess gives me bonus points, right?

I am so ready to finish up every extra thing in my life right now and return to what I was doing before: Losing Weight. I've been ready for the past month. I am now thisclose to being able to do it.

Prayer for the next two days: Let me get through this with minimal stress, let me stay calm and focused, and now that it's all going to turn out ok. The less I stress, the less I eat!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Am I the only one who thinks those sound like a new type of chubby toy?

Like Teletubbies, but much nastier?

So, I finally heard back from my nutritionist on the dreaded obesegens.

Here's what she had to say:

"There is some truth in this article – about endocrine disruptors (Nicholas Kristof at the Times has written extensively on that), the dangers of plastic and phthalates, in particular. But, they really overstate the case about these chemicals as a cause of obesity. Something to blame, an easy answer. Well, there are no easy answers, which you probably knew. And, there certainly isn’t enough evidence AT PRESENT to support some of the claims made. Future research may shed more light on these compounds and probably, the less the better. But, the old calorie equations (in vs. out) still reigns supreme when it comes to weight control."

I read that and thought, OOHhhgreat.

So there is something to it, but not too much. Oy vey.

Sometimes you just want to smack your head into a wall over this weight loss stuff. It's so frustrating!

Biked to and from work today, and it felt great.

Still no dress for the wedding, but hair appointment tomorrow.

One step at a time, right?

Lori suggested a body shaper, I may go that route. It really depends on the heat here in NYC. If it's over 90 degrees again, I don't think I could take it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I Have Gained Weight

Let's just get it out there.

I think it's about 10lbs. It feels like 10lbs. I'm trying not to let this upset me.

It's not the weight gain that most freaks me out -- it's how EASILY it comes back on.

One day I'm doing fine -- not quite on the mark, but not off. Then boom..the next day suddenly nothing fits the same, you start to notice small things, like the shirt that was loose around the hips isn't anymore, the chair that was comfy to sit in isn't anymore, and things like that.

I do know that this will be reversed. And soon. But again...I do find the speed with which backpedaling occurs totally TERRIFYING.

No matter how much we (or I) say otherwise, I guess there's always that feeling inside of 'Hey, I got this figured out now. I have BEAT this problem, and I never have to worry about it again, and you know what? Yeah, maybe now I can loosen up on what I eat a little bit.'

And you loosen up, and the next thing you know, it's a month later, and you're up 10lbs.

Here's where I stand now: the nephew left, but wants to come back in August. The freelance project is done, but I got a sudden offer to do some more work, and ... yes, I took it. I'm sorry, it was a decent chunk of money. And after the nephew's expensive week here, well...I could really use it to pay off my credit card bill.

All will be well, I know, but I'm drowning just a wee bit right now. I have a wedding on Sunday which will be attended by all my work people. I have not got anything to wear and really no time to shop. And do I really want to go buy a dress a size BIGGER than I was wearing a month ago? I think not.

But in all likelihood, that's what I'll have to do.

Meanwhile, I've just seen this (below). What do you wise folks say? Is this just marketing BS, or do we really have something to worry about here? I've asked my nutritionist, but she's ignoring me for some reason.

I saw this on Yahoo News this week. Note the irony of the title. Lose my "last 10lbs"? Hah! I'd settle for losing any 10lbs!

Why You Can't Lose Those Last 10 Pounds
by: Stephen Perrine and Heather Hurlock

On May 11, the White House announced it was targeting a new threat to America’s health and security. It wasn’t some rogue nation or terrorist organization, or a newfound disease or environmental threat. It was a class of chemicals that are making Americans fat. They’re called endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDCs. And chances are you’re eating or drinking them right now.

The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity released a report called "Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation." In the report they list endocrine-disrupting chemicals as a possible reason for increased obesity in the country and describe how scientists have coined a new term for these chemicals — "obesogens" — because they "may promote weight gain and obesity."

What does this mean for you? It means that weight gain is not just about calories-in versus calories-out.

No, America’s obesity crisis can’t entirely be blamed on too much fast food and too little exercise. We have to consider a third factor: the obesogens. They’re natural and synthetic compounds, and many of these chemicals work by mimicking estrogen — the very hormone that doctors DON’T want women taking anymore (as a large clinical trial linked hormone therapy to increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer, stroke, blood clots and abnormal mammograms).

Why traditional diets don’t work anymore

Because high school biology was likely a while back, here’s a quick refresher: The endocrine system is made up of all the glands and cells that produce the hormones that regulate our bodies. Growth and development, sexual function, reproductive processes, mood, sleep, hunger, stress, metabolism and the way our bodies use food — it’s all controlled by hormones. So whether you’re tall or short, lean or heavy — that’s all determined in a big way by your endocrine system.

But your endocrine system is a finely tuned instrument that can easily be thrown off-kilter. "Obesogens are thought to act by hijacking the regulatory systems that control body weight," says Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., curators’ professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri. That’s why endocrine disruptors are so good at making us fat — and that’s why diet advice doesn’t always work — because even strictly following the smartest traditional advice won’t lower your obesogen exposure. See, an apple a day may have kept the doctor away 250 years ago when Benjamin Franklin included the phrase in his almanac. But if that apple comes loaded with obesity-promoting chemicals — nine of the ten most commonly used pesticides are obesogens, and apples are one of the most pesticide-laden foods out there — then Ben’s advice is way out of date.

The obesogen effect is the reason why traditional diet advice — choose chicken over beef, eat more fish, load up on fruits and vegetables — may not work anymore. This is why we’re calling for a New American Diet.

See, while digging up all of this research on obesogens we’ve discovered some good news: There’s no reason why all of our favorite foods — from steak to burgers, from pasta to ice cream — can’t be part of a reasonable weight-loss program. We just need to get rid of old thinking. We can reverse the obesogen effect if we simply adopt these four simple laws of leanness:

Leanness Law No. 1: Know When to Go Organic
The average American is exposed to 10 to 13 different pesticides through food, beverages and drinking water every day and nine of the ten most common pesticides are EDCs. But according to a recent study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, eating an organic diet for just five days can reduce circulating pesticide EDCs to non-detectable or near non-detectable levels.

Of course, organic foods can be expensive. But not all organics are created equal—many foods have such low levels of pesticides that buying organic just isn’t worth it. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) calculated that you can reduce your pesticide exposure nearly 80 percent simply by choosing organic for the 12 fruits and vegetables shown in their tests to contain the highest levels of pesticides. They call them "The Dirty Dozen," and (starting with the worst) they are celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries (domestic), nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach, kale/collard greens, cherries, potatoes and grapes (imported). And you can feel good about buying the following 15 conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that the EWG dubbed "The Clean Fifteen," because they were shown to have little pesticide residue: onions, avocado, sweet corn (frozen), pineapples, mango, sweet peas (frozen), asparagus, kiwi fruit, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potatoes and honeydew melon.

Leanness Law No. 2: Don’t Eat Plastic
This ought to be a no-brainer. Indeed, you’re probably already thinking, Well, I don’t generally eat plastic. Ah, but you do. Chances are that you’re among the 93 percent of Americans with detectable levels of bisphenol-A (BPA) in their bodies, and that you’re also among the 75 percent of Americans with detectable levels of phthalates. Both are synthetic chemicals found in plastics that mimic estrogen — essentially, artificial female hormones. And like pesticides, these plastic-based chemicals trick our bodies into storing fat and not building or retaining muscle. Decreasing your exposure to plastic-based obesogens will maximize your chances both of losing unwanted flab and of building lean muscle mass. Here’s how: 1) Never heat food in plastic containers or put plastic items in the dishwasher, which can damage them and increase leaching. BPA leaches from polycarbonate sports bottles 55 times faster when exposed to boiling liquids as opposed to cold ones, according to a study in the journal Toxicology Letters. 2) Avoid buying fatty foods like meats that are packaged in plastic wrap because EDCs are stored in fatty tissue. The plastic wrap used at the supermarket is mostly PVC, whereas the plastic wrap you buy to wrap things at home is increasingly made from polyethylene. 3) Cut down on canned goods by choosing tuna in a pouch over canned tuna. And get any canned and jarred foods from Eden Organic, one of the only companies that doesn’t have BPA in its cans.

Leanness Law No. 3: Go Lean
Always choose pasture-raised meats, which, studies show, have less fat than their confined, grain-fed counterparts and none of the weight-promoting hormones. Plus, grass-fed beef contains 60 percent more omega-3s, 200 percent more vitamin E and two to three times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA, a near-magic nutrient that helps ward off heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and can help you lose weight, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) than conventional beef. If you must choose a conventional cut of beef, choose lean cuts top sirloin, 95 percent lean ground beef, bottom round roast, eye round roast, top round roast or sirloin tip steak. Bison burgers and veggie burgers are also great substitutes when grass-fed beef isn’t available. And select sustainable lean fish with low toxic loads (meaning low levels of toxins like mercury and PCBs). A study in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that even though the pesticide DDT was banned in 1973, the chemical and its breakdown product DDE can still be found today in fatty fish. Bigger fish eat smaller fish, and so carry a much higher toxic load.

Avoid ahi or bigeye tuna, tilefish, swordfish, shark, king mackerel, marlin and orange roughy — and focus on smaller fish like anchovies, Atlantic herring and mackerel, and wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Choose farmed rainbow trout, farmed mussels, anchovies, scallops (bay, farmed), Pacific cod, Pacific Halibut, Tuna (canned light) and mahimahi. Also, when you cook the fish, broil, poach, grill, boil or bake instead of pan-frying — this will allow contaminants from the fatty portions of fish to drain out.

Leanness Law No. 4: Filter Your Water
The best way to eliminate EDCs from your tap water is an activated carbon water filter. Available for faucets and pitchers, and as under-the-sink units, these filters remove most pesticides and industrial pollutants. Check the label to make sure the filter meets the NSF/American National Standards Institute’s standard 53, indicating that it treats water for both health and aesthetic concerns. Try The Brita Aqualux ($28,, Pur Horizontal faucet filter ($49, and Kenmore’s under-sink system ($60, However, if you have perchlorate (a component of rocket fuel!) in your water (you can find out by asking your municipal water supplier for a copy of its most recent water-quality report) you’ll need a reverse osmosis filter. But for every five gallons of treated water they create per day, they discharge 40 to 90 gallons of wastewater, so make sure it’s necessary before purchasing one.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On 14-year-old boys and calories

Guys, I've just spent a week with my nephew!

It was soooo fantastic. He is such a delight!

I couldn't log on and fill you all in because a) I was so tired at the end of each day it was all I could do to keep my eyes open and b) kids today apparently are born with broadband in their bones; I could barely pry my nephew off the computer long enough to check my e-mail (especially after he realized we don't have cable).

Here's what I've learned: 14-year-old boys want to eat, a lot, and often.

I faced the age-old question I guess all parents/guardians do -- how do you encourage a child to eat well, and yet not transfer your food issues/problems onto him or her?

I found the answer during our rapid, one-day edumacational trip to Philadelphia (the child is shockingly unaware of basic American history, and with Philly just an hour Amtrak ride away ... well, we took advantage and zipped down for the day. Plus I simply HAD to run up the Rocky steps at the Philly art museum).

Anyway, we ran out of the house without eating breakfast, but snacked on grapes and apples I had brought with me. Then we had a small bagel each with cream cheese when we got to Philly, and split a yogurt with granola and raspberries on top.

We didn't eat for the rest of the day until about 4pm, when we stopped at Reading Market for a late lunch. If you haven't been there, it's heaven and hell in one. A huge, massive food court with Amish bakeries and butchers and jam/butter/homemade peanut butter sellers, plus all sorts of hedonistic food vendors pushing gyros, cheese steaks, etc etc etc etc....

Of course we were ravenous when we got there, and I thought for sure I'd made a huge tactical error. I suggested he start with just one item -- one thing he really wanted to eat, be it a cheese steak, a burger, or whatever. He chose a piece of pizza.

So we both had one. But just one. Then I let him walk around the huge market again for round two, because he said he was still hungry. To my surprise and shock, he eventually wandered into the salad bar stall!!

Was this because I hadn't pressured him, I wondered? He chose lots of veggies, greens, some fruit and a bit of mashed potato. Wow! I was so pleased with him.

Then he wanted dessert. This took a bit more finagling. In the end, we split one piece of cheesecake and two decadent cookies. It was one sweet too many, really, but he definitely didn't want anymore after that. We trained it home full, happy and totally tired from our day.

It was so awesome!

During his 10 day visit I did eat a lot of things I wouldn't normally eat. But I tried to not OVEREAT, if you know what I mean, and I think generally I did ok.

We also logged in two separate bike rides of 25 miles each. My butt was killing me after each ride, but it was worth it! He loves to ride in the city, and except for the heart palpitations I get watching him navigate the heavily trafficked avenues, I love it too. Generally we stick to the safe bike lanes along the no-car west side bike lane, or Central Park, but when you are doing the mileage we did, sometimes you just have to venture into the main streets. He did pretty well and listened to me without throwing me any 14-year-old 'tude, which was nice.

He has trimmed down a lot since I last saw him, and I am so happy for him. Could my positive attitude about my weight loss have something to do with it? Maybe...or not. But he accepted the gentle guidelines I put on him about eating without his usual defiance (or any of my mulish rebelliousness when my mom tried to do that to me -- although she was not so gentle). I think he really doesn't have any big food issues, and I truly hope he stays that way forever.

So, I'm back and trying to resume normal life. Will be checking in with y'all soon.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Your Brain, on Exercise

One more reason to work out: it makes your brain grow! I biked for hours yesterday -- not planned, but that's how it the day evolved. I survived the heat (barely) but got a vicious sunburn on the back of my neck. Ow!

Check this out from today's NY Times:
Phys Ed: Your Brain on Exercise

What goes on inside your brain when you exercise? That question has preoccupied a growing number of scientists in recent years, as well as many of us who exercise. In the late 1990s, Dr. Fred Gage and his colleagues at the Laboratory of Genetics at the Salk Institute in San Diego elegantly proved that human and animal brains produce new brain cells (a process called neurogenesis) and that exercise increases neurogenesis. The brains of mice and rats that were allowed to run on wheels pulsed with vigorous, newly born neurons, and those animals then breezed through mazes and other tests of rodent I.Q., showing that neurogenesis improves thinking.
Phys Ed

But how, exactly, exercise affects the staggeringly intricate workings of the brain at a cellular level has remained largely mysterious. A number of new studies, though, including work published this month by Mr. Gage and his colleagues, have begun to tease out the specific mechanisms and, in the process, raised new questions about just how exercise remolds the brain.

Some of the most reverberant recent studies were performed at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. There, scientists have been manipulating the levels of bone-morphogenetic protein or BMP in the brains of laboratory mice. BMP, which is found in tissues throughout the body, affects cellular development in various ways, some of them deleterious. In the brain, BMP has been found to contribute to the control of stem cell divisions. Your brain, you will be pleased to learn, is packed with adult stem cells, which, given the right impetus, divide and differentiate into either additional stem cells or baby neurons. As we age, these stem cells tend to become less responsive. They don’t divide as readily and can slump into a kind of cellular sleep. It’s BMP that acts as the soporific, says Dr. Jack Kessler, the chairman of neurology at Northwestern and senior author of many of the recent studies. The more active BMP and its various signals are in your brain, the more inactive your stem cells become and the less neurogenesis you undergo. Your brain grows slower, less nimble, older.

But exercise countermands some of the numbing effects of BMP, Dr. Kessler says. In work at his lab, mice given access to running wheels had about 50 percent less BMP-related brain activity within a week. They also showed a notable increase in Noggin, a beautifully named brain protein that acts as a BMP antagonist. The more Noggin in your brain, the less BMP activity exists and the more stem cell divisions and neurogenesis you experience. Mice at Northwestern whose brains were infused directly with large doses of Noggin became, Dr. Kessler says, “little mouse geniuses, if there is such a thing.” They aced the mazes and other tests.

Whether exercise directly reduces BMP activity or increases production of Noggin isn’t yet known and may not matter. The results speak for themselves. “If ever exercise enthusiasts wanted a rationale for what they’re doing, this should be it,” Dr. Kessler says. Exercise, he says, through a complex interplay with Noggin and BMP, helps to ensure that neuronal stem cells stay lively and new brain cells are born.

But there are caveats and questions remaining, as the newest experiment from Dr. Gage’s lab makes clear. In that study, published in the most recent issue of Cell Stem Cell, BMP signaling was found to be playing a surprising, protective role for the brain’s stem cells. For the experiment, stem cells from mouse brains were transferred to petri dishes and infused with large doses of Noggin, hindering BMP activity. Without BMP signals to inhibit them, the stem cells began dividing rapidly, producing hordes of new neurons. But over time, they seemed unable to stop, dividing and dividing again until they effectively wore themselves out. The same reaction occurred within the brains of living (unexercised) mice given large doses of Noggin. Neurogenesis ramped way up, then, after several weeks, sputtered and slowed. The “pool of active stem cells was depleted,” a news release accompanying the study reported. An overabundance of Noggin seemed to cause stem cells to wear themselves out, threatening their ability to make additional neurons in the future.

This finding raises the obvious and disturbing question: can you overdose on Noggin by, for instance, running for hours, amping up your production of the protein throughout? The answer, Dr. Gage says, is, almost certainly, no. “Many people have been looking into” that issue, he says. But so far, “there has not been any instance of a negative effect from voluntary running” on the brain health of mice. Instead, he says, it seems that the effects of exercise are constrained and soon plateau, causing enough change in the activity of Noggin and BMP to shake slumbering adult stem cells awake, but not enough to goose them into exhausting themselves.

Still, if there’s not yet any discernible ceiling on brain-healthy exercise, there is a floor. You have to do something. Walk, jog, swim, pedal — the exact amount or intensity of the exercise required has not been determined, although it appears that the minimum is blessedly low. In mice, Mr. Gage says, “even a fairly short period” of exercise “and a short distance seems to produce results.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How Hot Is It?

It is so hot in NYC right now that I have had to move my cat into the bedroom because the mere sight of his furry, six-lb body gives me a heat rash.

Oh lordy, it's a sizzler today.

I rode my bike anyway, heat be darned. I can actually handle biking (moderately) better than walking in the heat because at least you get a little self-generated wind. Walking just lets the sun pound you into the pavement, I've found.

Really loving Lori's post on mindful/intuitive eating right now. It's speaking to me. I fear my set point IS 250 lbs. I swear that is the weight my body is always trying to get to. I hate it.

I have more thoughts on this that I will share soon, and a possible experiment I may try.

Until then, I've got to stick my head in the freezer to survive this night. Even the glow of the computer screen is too hot for me to handle.

Hope all is well (and I will keep riding my bike tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, even if it's 102 degrees (which is seriously is right now)).