Self Compassion vs Self Indulgence: Being Kind to Yourself May Help You Lose Weight

April 07, 2011 1:06 PM by sandik

Sandi Kaplan, MS, RD, Associate Director, Clinical Development & Support:


Would you ever talk to your loved ones the way you talk to yourself in your head? Are you someone who uses adjectives like “lazy”, “pathetic” or “stupid” to describe yourself even though you would never describe others that way?

If so, you are not alone. There is a whole new area of psychological research called self compassion which focuses on how kindly people view themselves. The research shows that many people are very kind and supportive of others yet endlessly berate themselves.

The interesting part from a health point of view is that people who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic. Preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.

I have talked to many patients about the fact that self compassion is a very important first step in behavior change. The response I most often get is: “But if I don’t yell at myself, then I will never change anything.” The belief is that if you don’t whip yourself into shape, then you will stay on the couch forever.
The truth is that self compassion is not the same as self indulgence. If you care about yourself and view yourself kindly, you will most likely choose to treat yourself in a more healthful way.

This approach is backed up by a 2007 study at Wake Forest University. 84 female college students were asked to take part in what they thought was a food-tasting experiment. At the beginning of the study, the women were asked to eat donuts.

One group was instructed to be compassionate with themselves in relation to the food. “I hope you won’t be hard on yourself,” the instructor said. “Everyone in the study eats this stuff, so I don’t think there’s any reason to feel real bad about it.”

Later the women were asked to taste-test candies from large bowls. The researchers found that women who were regular dieters or had guilt feelings about forbidden foods ate less after hearing the instructor’s reassurance. Those not given that message ate more.

The hypothesis is that the women who felt bad about the donuts ate more as a result of emotional eating. The women who gave themselves permission to enjoy the sweets did not overeat.

Think about how you might respond to a friend who is struggling with his exercise plan. Would you yell at him, tell him he has no self-discipline and that you won’t like him until he starts exercising? If you did that, do you think he would be more motivated to make positive changes?

So why do we think that approach will work well for ourselves? We are more motivated to make changes when we accept our strengths and weaknesses and are kind to ourselves.

Many of us have longstanding habits of being mean to ourselves. We need to actively develop more self compassion. It can be helpful to start by writing down the negative things we tell ourselves. It can be eye opening to just start to notice what those things are and how often we are saying them.

The next step may be to build self compassion into our regular routines. Can you stop for a moment and rub your neck or your shoulders? Can you take an extra ten minutes to make the food on your lunch plate look attractive? Can you tell yourself some of the kind things you say to your friends?

Kindness truly can move mountains. You may notice that you feel more relaxed and that you even have more energy for the changes you want to make. Here’s to self compassion – give it a try and see what you think.

Obesity, Michelle Obama, & Community-Empowered Change

April 05, 2011 7:08 AM by ariyahd

Ariyah DeSouza, Associate Recruitment Marketing Manager:


The CDC reports that today nearly one in three American children ages 6 to 19 are overweight, while one in five are obese. The childhood obesity rate tripled between 1980 and 1999, creating an epidemic and a generation of people with shorter life spans than their parents.

Michelle Obama has called childhood obesity both a health and an economic issue for communities that “can drastically alter the economic landscape of our cities and towns for generations to come." She believes everyone must work together to abolish this epidemic. If we’ve learned something from her husband’s term, it’s that a leader can’t drag whole communities into change unless they’re up for it. You cannot empower others; people empower themselves.

You can, however, through your leadership provide people the support they need. The National League of Cities (NLC) has been working with the first lady in supporting municipal officials’ adoption of a holistic solution to childhood obesity. Obama’s Let’s Move! program aims to reduce our nation’s childhood obesity rates within a generation through the reform of behavioral and environmental factors.

Cities and towns electing to participate in the initiative must choose at least one action to take in the following 12 months in each of these four areas:

1. helping parents make healthy family choices
2. creating healthy schools
3. providing access to healthy and affordable food
4. promoting physical activity

Participating officials will submit an end-of-year report describing their city’s or town’s actions. These communities will be recognized on the Let’s Move! website, and mayors may participate in conference calls and events with federal staff to share ideas and challenges.

The Let’s Move! website includes a blog, facts for raising healthier kids, recommendations for eating healthy and getting active, and steps to taking action. Officials can visit the US Department of Health & Human Services website to sign up.

As a collective, we need long-term, strategic solutions to resolve a problem of this scope and endurance. I appreciate the education and tools the White House is giving businesses, communities, schools and parents to address childhood obesity.

The investments recommended by this campaign might seem too simple or minor – but not if you understand their long-term necessity. For example, as Obama puts it, “By building more sidewalks, you could help kids get healthier today and reduce health costs and budget strain tomorrow. By investing in more nutritious school lunches or more P.E. time, you can take steps that will lead to a healthier, more productive workforce in the future.”

The first lady cited statistics. In the ten cities with the nation’s highest obesity rates, the direct costs connected with obesity and related diseases are $50 million per 100,000 residents. If these ten cities reduced their obesity rates to the national average, they together would save $500 million in healthcare costs every year.

Fortunately, more than 500 cities have decided to take charge and have signed up as Let’s Move Cities and Towns.

Their investments today should pasy off for US employers tomorrow. Obese children are likely to turn into obese adults. Overweight and obese adult workers today miss 39 million work days and cost employers $13 billion in healthcare annually. And today’s obese children affect today’s workforces. Studies show that obese children are less healthy and miss far more days of school on average. For the parents of those kids, that can mean more tardiness, more early departures from work and higher absenteeism to stay home to care for these kids.

Some employers might prefer to operate in locations where citizens are healthier, given higher worker productivity and lower health costs. The California Department of Health Services reported nearly $25 billion in private and public medical services, lost productivity, and workers' compensation in one year alone, attributing these costs to the 59% of California adults who are obese or overweight. In a 2004 article in the Los Angeles Times, Susan Foerster, chief of cancer prevention and nutrition for the California Department of Health Services, cited “car-dominated or unsafe neighborhoods and limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables” as possible sources of the state's surge in obesity. She also stated that “it's not a matter of simply pushing away from the table or getting up off the couch—the increase in rates over time has been a function of changed lifestyles and changed environment.”

No one disputes that Let's Move! addresses some key issues with long-term strategies. A major concern that many obesity experts and medical groups have raised, however, is that the initiative doesn't treat kids who are already obese – a staggering 20% of American children ages 6 to 19. Current treatment options are rarely reimbursed through insurance and few people have access to them, especially minority and lower-income families whose children are more likely to be impacted by obesity.  Ideally, our government would advance solutions for both treatment and prevention.

If you want to engage in the movement on a fun level, check out the Let’s Move! Facebook page.

Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?

March 30, 2011 12:46 PM by beths

Beth Shepard, MS, Mind & Body Clinical Content Development Team:



The religious community received some startling news last week with an unpublished study out of Northwestern University linking weekly participation in religious activities with increased risk of obesity.
After following 2,433 men and women for 18 years, researchers concluded that normal-weight young adults who participate in their religious communities at least once a week were 50% more likely to be obese by middle age. And that’s after adjusting for age, race, sex, income, and baseline body mass index.

Does this mean that people of faith who want to avoid obesity should quit going to weekly worship? No.

First of all, this data has yet to appear in a peer-reviewed journal, so we don’t know all the details of the study and whether the results can be generalized to the entire population. So let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.

Faith community participation has been linked in numerous studies with increased longevity, less cardiovascular disease, reduced risk for depression and suicide, less stress, stronger immune systems, and better quality of life. For example, the Adventist Health Study followed more than 34,000 people over 12 years and found those attending worship services regularly were 20% less likely to die at any age.

Hospitality and fellowship are key elements of most faith communities. Eating is a naturally social activity, so it’s no surprise that food and drink are often abundant at faith community gatherings. I attend a Lutheran church, where potlucks and pie socials are deeply ingrained in the culture of the congregation. We hold bake sales for disaster relief, dessert auctions to raise money for youth programs, and soup suppers during Lent. The Julefest bazaar is a lefse, krumkake, and sandbakkel extravaganza as we enjoy traditional Norwegian holiday treats.

Like many faith communities, the Lutheran church isn’t known for welcoming change. While I have seen fruit plates and vegetable trays alongside the hotdogs and cookies on occasion, I can only imagine the response if I suggested whole-wheat noodles for the spaghetti feed or a fruit reception after the choir concert.

Eating well at a faith community event, company potluck, or a family reunion requires strategic planning if you want to participate and stay on track with your health goals. More often than not, we pack our own food for church events — and we bring healthful dishes to share at potlucks. That way we can join in the fun without eating in ways that we later regret.

I hope this study stimulates discussion, reflection, and healthful change. Practicing kindness and compassion are common to most faiths. And many believe that keeping the body healthy is a form of stewardship. With so many members living with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, overweight, and obesity, does it make sense to keep doing things the way we’ve always done them? Is serving only less-healthful food at every event the compassionate thing to do? Does it promote good stewardship? Does it truly reflect our beliefs and core values as a congregation? Are there small changes we could implement to honor tradition while encouraging good nutrition and physical activity?

Think of it —your church, synagogue, or mosque could become a place that feeds the soul and nourishes the body.

Do I hear an “amen?”

Rapid Weight Loss Spells Disaster: Why The Biggest Loser Sets Us Up to Fail

March 16, 2011 8:23 PM by sandik

Sandi Kaplan, MS, RD, Associate Director, Clinical Development & Support:


Mind & Body® Program participants often ask our coaches about the Biggest Loser television show. Their questions center around comparisons: “Why aren’t I losing weight as quickly as the contestants are?” or “Why are you recommending that I don’t try to lose 80 pounds all at once? They do that on the Biggest Loser.”

Our Coaches do a wonderful job of educating participants about why the Biggest Loser, and other shows like it, has so many flaws when applied to the real world.

But imagine my excitement when I met a researcher at the recent American Society of Nutrition conference who has actually studied a cohort of Biggest Loser participants. At the famous Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Dr Eric Ravussin and his team study the effect of caloric restriction on physiological processes. One of his postdoctoral students recommended that he study a group of Biggest Loser participants and he did.The results verified everything that we know about rapid weight loss which can be summed up in one short sentence: Rapid weight loss is very likely to lead to weight regain.

Dr. Ravussin put these participants through lots of physiological testing – from blood tests to time spent in metabolic chambers. And the results, although expected, are still startling.

Let’s say that Jenny used to weigh 250 pounds and, in a short period of time on the television show, lost 100 pounds; she now weighs 150 pounds. Kate, on the other hand, has never lost or gained much weight and weighs 150 pounds. Jenny and Kate eat exactly the same diet and move their bodies the same amount too. Yet extensive metabolic testing shows that Jenny burns about 510 fewer calories per day than Kate. That means that on the same amount of calories, Jenny will gain weight and Kate will maintain her weight. Not fair, is it?

Rapid weight loss produces metabolic adaptations. People who lose a lot of weight quickly burn fewer calories and are hungrier (because of the drop in their leptin levels produced by the rapid weight loss). So, in summary, they have to eat less, exercise more and endure more hunger on an ongoing basis. Sounds very challenging to me!

Rapid weight loss is a recipe for disaster. In the Mind & Body Program, we recommend a  5-10% weight loss over a 3 to 6 month period. And then we recommend maintaining that weight loss for 3-6 months before you start losing weight again. This gives your body a better chance of sustaining the weight loss for the long term so you are able to get off that awful dieting rollercoaster.

The calorie restriction and over exercising that happens on the Biggest Loser is far from our evidence-based recommendations. It’s best, instead, to focus on small changes which are sustainable long term. Losing weight that you are not going to keep off is useless. It does not benefit the health of your body at all. And yo-yo dieting is certainly not helpful for your self esteem and morale, either.

So pick a small change that you can start making today. Will you eat more vegetables at dinner? Will you go for a 15 minute walk at lunch time? Will you practice a stress management technique for 10 minutes? Think long term and before you know it, those small changes will add up to significant benefits.

National Nutrition Month: Color Guide and Tips to Eat Right with Color

March 14, 2011 5:04 PM by janec

Jane Connell, MS, RD, Nutrition Coach:


Each March, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) celebrates National Nutrition Month®, and this year's theme, "Eat Right with Color," encourages parents to take time to make sure their children are getting all of the nutrients they need to feel well and be well - emotionally, mentally, and physically. One of the biggest challenges for us as parents is to meet their (and our) nutritional needs by preparing tasty, healthy, real food for our families in the small amounts of time we have available to us each day.  We need a get-real game plan.  The good news is that shopping, cooking and eating healthfully have just gotten easier with assistance from, a new website from ADA and its Foundation.  Here are a few tips to help us with a get-real game plan to “eat right with color”. 

Get real.  First and foremost, get your color from real foods, not artificially colored foods. If you’re feeling powerless to control what you eat, there’s good reason according to David Kessler, MD, author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.  “When food is highly processed and loaded and layered with sugar, salt, and fat, it becomes so stimulating that it hijacks the brain – and our behavior.”

Get variety. At the produce store/section, experiment by adding one fruit or vegetable that’s different than your usual pick.  Not sure what to do with it? provides tips on how to select, store, and prepare fruits & veggies, including recipes and tips for stretching your food budget.

Get cooking.  It’s easier to find recipes for your ingredients than the other way around.  If you go to the store, and the recipe ingredients on your shopping list are not available, don’t look good, or are over-priced, at that point you’re in a pickle.  On the other hand, if you go to the market and buy whatever fresh ingredients look best at a decent price, then figure out how to cook them, you’re actually going to end up with less stress-  and a much better meal.  Mark Bittman, cookbook author and New York Times columnist sometimes jokes that there are only nine recipes in the world, but he says there’s a lot of truth to that.  “The same patterns crop up over and over again.  If you cook a piece of chicken with ginger, garlic, and scallions, you get a Chinese flavor.  Use lime and cilantro, you have Mexican.  Parmesan and oregano?  Italian.  You can apply these flavor patterns to almost everything – fish, broccoli, tofu, whatever.  Healthy cooking is often just a matter of riffing on well-worn little flavor combos.  It’s like multiplication: not hard at all once you learn it.”

Get color.  Challenge your child (or yourself) to put one item of each color in the cart: white cauliflower, blue blueberries, orange carrots, green spinach, etc.  Go to and use the interactive map to see what's in season in your area, plus find ingredient descriptions, shopping guides, recipes, and tips.  Brighten up your plate with the quick color guide below.


Color Guide

Green produce indicates antioxidant potential and may help promote healthy vision and reduce cancer risks.

Fruits: avocado, apples, grapes, honeydew, kiwi and lime
Vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, green peppers and leafy greens such as spinach

Orange and deep yellow fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that promote healthy vision and immunity, and reduce the risk of some cancers.

Fruits: apricot, cantaloupe, grapefruit, mango, papaya, peach and pineapple
Vegetables: carrots, yellow pepper, yellow corn and sweet potatoes

Purple and blue options may have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits and may help with memory, urinary tract health and reduced cancer risks.

Fruits: blackberries, blueberries, plums, raisins
Vegetables: eggplant, purple cabbage, purple-fleshed potato

Red indicates produce that may help maintain a healthy heart, vision, immunity and may reduce cancer risks.

Fruits: cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, red/pink grape fruit, red grapes and watermelon
Vegetables: beets, red onions, red peppers, red potatoes, rhubarb and tomatoes

White, tan and brown foods sometimes contain nutrients that may promote heart health and reduce cancer risks.

Fruits: banana, brown pear, dates and white peaches
Vegetables: cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, turnips, white-fleshed potato and white corn

For more information on how to "Eat Right with Color," visit ADA's National Nutrition Month website for a variety of helpful tips, fun games, promotional tools and nutrition education resources.

Say No to New Year's Resolutions

January 04, 2011 9:15 AM by sandik

Sandi Kaplan, MS, RD, Associate Director, Clinical Development & Support:


Let me start with a simple fact about me: I’m opposed to New Year’s resolutions. Any time I mention this, people stare at me in amazement and ask me why. The answer is simple – I spent over a decade of my adult life setting New Year’s Resolutions only to give up on them by January 15th. In fact, I think my personal record is an unimpressive January 23… Like most humans, I enjoy continuing behaviors that I am good at and New Year’s resolutions don’t fit into that category – if they did, they wouldn’t need to be resolutions in the first place.

Just because I dislike New Year’s resolutions doesn’t mean I live an unexamined life. I do pay attention to what’s working and not and I do work hard on making changes in the right direction. However, I do it in a way that helps me to be successful, rather than annually hitting my head against that New Year’s resolution brick wall.

So here are a few of my strategies for making sustainable changes that don’t require a special holiday to start:

Strategy #1: Remember, New Year’s Eve is not a magical time for starting new behaviors.
It’s more important to take into account your personal circumstances when you’re considering behavior changes. If, for example, a family member is in the hospital, or you are about to move, you may want to consider delaying the process or starting with a really small change.

Strategy #2: Tap into your inner motivation
Studies show that people who are internally motivated are more likely to be successful making a behavior change than those operating on external motivations. Internal motivation just means doing something for yourself, rather than doing it for others. Examples of internal motivation are health, personal values, principles that matter to you, and even curiosity. Examples of external motivators would be doctor’s orders or your spouse nagging you to do something differently. For many of us, including me, changing a behavior is motivated by a mixture of internal and external factors. There is nothing wrong with having your initial motivation for change be kicked-off by an external motivator, such as advice from your doctor. But it can help increase the chances of making a change permanent if you get in touch with the things that really matter to you.

I’ll share a personal example. I used to be a late night snacker – eating chips while checking email. My initial push to decrease evening snacks happened because I couldn’t stand to see the scale go up a few pounds (this was my external motivator). But I tapped into my inner motivation to make healthier choices (putting down the chips) when I focused my personal value of having energy in the morning. I like to jump out of bed and greet my family with a positive attitude. And that’s hard to do when I’m sluggish from too many chips the night before.

Strategy #3: Find a friend.
Social support is really important too.I have a 5:30am workout buddy and our workouts three times a week would be far less consistent if I was not picking her up on the way to the gym. Receiving support from others and spending time with others who share the same goals as you can be very beneficial. Research indicates our behavior is affected by what those around us are doing. If you’re going out for dinners with people who drink a lot of wine and order desserts, chances are you will too. In these situations, it can be helpful to share your health goals with others and ask for the support you need.

Strategy #4: Get real
I think my biggest problem when I was setting New Year’s Resolutions is that they were far too ambitious. Absolute goals like “I will never overeat again” or overly aggressive goals like “I will lose 30 pounds by the end of January” are just a recipe for failure – they’re not realistic or achievable. So, instead, think about your plans to change as baby steps that you can sustain in the long term. Each small positive change you make will improve your health if you can keep going with the behavior.

Final word:
This year, shred those New Year’s resolutions and start with a couple of changes that you feel excited about making. Before you know it, you’ll be building on your successes and will be well on your way to a healthier lifestyle.

Happy 2011!

Junk Food Wars: A Mom’s Battle for Mindfulness

January 03, 2011 12:38 PM by lauraj

Laura Johnson, Lead Health Educator, Weight Management:


Is it possible for parents to feed children optimum nutrition a majority of the time? What happens if parents are not on the same page nutrition-wise? If one parent is encouraging the child to snack on lowfat cheese and whole grain crackers while the other is showcasing a bag of chips with its bright and glossy packaging, which item is the child most likely to choose? I found myself in this situation last winter when my husband and I took our two kids, ages 4 and 7, to Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, WA to enjoy some fresh fallen snow. The trip was a grand success, until we landed at a gas station in Wenatchee on our drive home.

We had eaten a late breakfast that morning, but three hours had passed and our kids were hungry again. I had apples and oranges in the car, in addition to some dry roasted nuts, left over from the beginning of the trip. I assumed we could all just snack on these items until we got home and then have an early dinner. My husband, however, had a different idea.

The kids were lured into the convenience store at the gas station with my husband’s promises of “treats.” I could only imagine what they might purchase. I went along inside hoping to coax my kids into picking out something at least somewhat healthy: pretzels, some dried fruit, maybe a mozzarella cheese stick from the dairy case, or carton of chocolate milk, which would offer nutrition while satisfying the desire for a "treat." Again, my husband had other plans. My kids wandered towards the chip and candy aisle, and then towards the cracker display. Once again, I thought I could take the reins on the “snack quest” and steer my kids into making some healthier choices. No such luck. Before I could take on any authority my husband was saying OK to the Doritos, Cheetos, and Nutter Butter cookies! My husband chose some beef jerky and dry roasted peanuts; items with some redeeming qualities. I was horrified at the thought of letting my kids eat the items they had self-selected. At the very least, I decided I had to put some limits on how much they would be allowed to eat.

With smiles on their faces my kids gladly tore into the chips and cookies. After about 5-8 minutes of munching, I deemed it time to close up the bags to save some for later. To my good fortune my husband stayed quiet while I ruled over food quantity.

Most of the time, my husband and I agree on what our children should be eating. For example, we both agree that veggies should be plentiful at dinnertime. Backing each other up in this way sends a clear message to our children about our expectations for them. However, when we are at odds with what we think may be best, rather than having an argument about it on the spot, I have found peace knowing that I can be successful in helping them to limit their portions and teaching them to be mindful about what they are eating and how much is appropriate.

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Tips for Coping with Holiday Stress

December 13, 2010 8:46 AM by janicem

Janice Milliman, Quit Coach, Service Delivery:


The holidays are a fun time, but can also be a time of great stress and overindulgence. At Free & Clear we're in the business of helping people make healthy choices around many issues like stress and food. Our ability to coach someone about healthy choices comes from a strong foundation of people who "practice what they preach."

I find it challenging at times to manage stress, especially during the holidays. My healthy coping skills (yoga or reading) can be easily forgotten as I slip into a pattern of unhealthy ones (such as foregoing adequate sleep to watch TV). Poorly managed stress can cause physiologic effects such as cardiovascular disease or a lowered immune system. The American Psychological Association (APA) found truth in the old saying that "stress ages a person." In the study, women who for many years cared for an ill or disabled family member were no longer able to fully regenerate blood cells, thus found to be physically a decade older than their chronological age. That alone is enough for me to be motivated to manage stress and avoid speeding up the aging process.

I'm also a recovering carb-aholic. The holidays always make me think of Grandma's homemade shortbread, or my favorite commercially made holiday cookies: shortbread stars with red sugar sprinkles. My mouth waters just thinking about them. Like many people, I can't have just one. When I go for the shortbread, I go all in.

According to The American Dietetic Association (ADA), "On average, Americans gain approximately one to two pounds during the holiday season. While this weight gain isn't dramatic, research shows it tends to stick and accumulate over the years." After five holiday seasons, that could add up to an extra 5-10 pounds. Fortunately, the ADA also says, "...those pounds can be avoided through mindful eating in moderation…" A few of the ADA's suggestions are: don't skip meals throughout the day which may result in overeating later, use a smaller plate to better manage portion control, eat slowly and wait ten minutes before returning for a second helping.

I'm fortunate to be surrounded by colleagues who have great coping skills. Having a few extra coping skills in your back pocket could really make a positive difference this holiday season. So, I asked my colleagues across various departments how they minimize stress and overindulgence (see the questions and responses below). Now I won't forget my coping skills, and don't have any excuse for not "practicing what I preach." How do you plan to cope this holiday season?

If you saw a plate of your favorite holiday cookies, how would you manage to have just one, or none at all?

• I try to be very thoughtful about what I eat and if I really wanted a cookie, I would have just one and try to enjoy it while eating it.... paying attention to how it tastes. I've noticed that sometimes things don't taste as good as I think they will.
• Drink a favorite low calorie beverage and be too full to eat cookies...or walk away.
Instead of depriving myself I'll have just one. I sample my favorites so I don't feel like I'm missing out. My motto: Sample a little, rather than gorge out of temptation.
• Grab a plate full of veggies or fruit and go socialize AWAY from the cookie table.
• I chew gum. Cookies and gum do not mix.
• I tell myself, or if someone is offering, "Not now, I'll come back later." Then I find something else to distract myself. If I eat one, I'm done for!
• I would probably allow myself one, and make a "pact" with someone else who wants to make healthier choices too.
Holidays are fun, but also can be stressful. How do you cope with the stress of holiday time?

• I spend more time with friends and family and try to see the holidays through the eyes of my children. They don't get stressed, they just get excited!
• Volunteer or help someone else less fortunate. Helping others takes the focus off of our own stressors and reminds us of the important things in life.
• I keep a mandatory date night with my spouse or a friend on Sundays, and I take 20 minutes a day to do something I love.
• I carve out 'me' time before bed for a bubble bath.
• I maintain my workout schedule throughout the week, make sure to get enough sleep, and plan to try some yoga.
• Avoid over scheduling. There are always more things than one person can possibly do.
• Remind myself the holidays are about LOVE, not material things. I feel more present and HAPPY that I am here to enjoy my family and animals.

U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales - Will You Push Back?

November 22, 2010 12:00 PM by sandik

Sandi Kaplan, MS, RD, Associate Director, Clinical Development & Support:


I was waiting in line to buy lunch at the soup and baked potato bar downstairs from my office today. They have delicious, healthy soups, and I especially like the lentil option. I ordered soup and a baked potato and the server asked: “Would you like cheese on your soup?” No thanks. “Would you like cheese on your baked potato?” A little, please. She measured out a cup of grated cheese and was about to pour it on the potato when I stopped her. One cup of grated cheddar cheese is 440 calories and 36 grams of fat, 20 grams of which are saturated fat. That’s more saturated fat than is recommended for most people for three or four days! No wonder that about 80% of saturated fat in the American diet comes from cheese products.

Given the many health risks associated with saturated fat, you would think that companies would be looking at ways to decrease the cheese content of their food products or restaurant items. But, in fact, completely the opposite is true.

A recent article in the New York Times called attention to an organization called Dairy Management, created by the United States Department of Agriculture, works with companies to help them incorporate more cheese in their products. Dairy Management worked with Dominos to create pizzas with 40% more cheese. Consumers love the cheesier pizzas and sales for Dominos have soared.

Americans now eat an average of 33 pounds of cheese a year, nearly triple the 1970 rate. The government’s anti-obesity campaign is recommending that Americans eat less cheese, yet the Dairy Management branch of the government is working hard to increase cheese consumption.

This contradiction is evident in so many ways. Dairy Management helped spearhead Pizza Huts campaign to put cheese in the crust of the pizza as well. Yet, USDA’s nutritional brochures recommend asking for half the cheese on a pizza when you eat out.

Dairy Management has also worked with large companies to increase the use of cheese in processed foods and home cooking. The Agriculture Department has reported a 5% to 16% increase in sales of cheese snacks in stores where Dairy Management has helped grocers reinvent their dairy aisles. They encourage displaying a variety of sliced, shredded and cubed cheese products, along with easy recipes for dishes that use more cheese.

Dairy Management documents show that they are targeting families who care more about eating cheese than about their concern for the health risks of large quantities of saturated fat. Dairy Management reports to congress how well they are doing based on millions of pounds of cheese served. They recently reported that they helped generate a “cheese sales growth of nearly 30 million pounds.”

Small amounts of low fat cheese are a delicious addition to a healthy diet. I enjoy an ounce of low fat cheddar on my salad. And a small amount of cheese goes a long way on pizza when you load it up with tomato sauce and veggies too.  But it can be difficult to keep the cheese in check when we are surrounded by cheese-laden food products. It’s helpful for me to remember that the Dairy Management does not have my health in mind. I was thinking about the Dairy Management when the gal with the cup of cheese was about to destroy the health benefits of my baked potato. Are you watching out for cheese overload?

New Study: Whole Grains and Belly Fat

October 22, 2010 8:57 AM by jenniferl

Jennifer Lovejoy, PhD, Vice President, Clinical Development & Support:


It is well-documented that eating whole grains has a host of health benefits. Eating more whole grains like brown rice, 100% whole wheat breads and cereals, oatmeal, and buckwheat has repeatedly been shown to lower risk for heart disease, Type 2 (adult) diabetes, stroke and obesity. Whole grains have also been found to reduce risk of asthma, improve the health of your blood vessels, lower blood pressure, and reduce risk for colorectal cancer.

What has been less clear, however, how important it is to eat exclusively whole grain products and to minimize or avoid intake of refined grains. In fact, the current U.S. Dietary Guidelines only recommend that “at least half” the daily grain servings should come from whole grains. I believe this is largely because, at the time the Dietary Guidelines were written in 2005, there was little research evidence documenting specific harm from refined grains (products like pasta and bread made from white flour, white rice, etc). Of course we knew in 2005 that refined grains cause a greater spike in blood sugar than do whole grains, and that the refining process caused loss of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial plant compounds. But most epidemiological, or population-based, studies of grains and health had not looked hard at the question of whether whole grains and refined grains have different health effects, or they had looked but not found any significant differences in outcomes.

In the November 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, however, researchers report for the first time that whole grain intake reduces belly fat (measured either as waist circumference or intra-abdominal, visceral fat by CT scan), while refined grain intake actually increases belly fat. The study included 2834 men and women aged 32-83 years from the Framingham Heart Study, a long-term study that looks at various factors that influence risk for heart disease. The results showed that people who eat 3 or more servings of whole grains per day have 10% less belly fat than those who eat less than one serving a day of whole grains. However, among people who ate 3 servings/day of whole grains but also ate 4 or more servings per day of refined grains, there was no benefit of the whole grains on belly fat. And, even after accounting for other lifestyle factors, higher refined grain intake was associated with bigger waist circumference.

This study is very noteworthy because it’s the first time research has demonstrated a specific effect of refined grains on increasing fatness, as well as reduction in the beneficial effect of whole grains when refined grains are consumed in the diet as well. The study’s authors conclude that “emphasis needs to be placed on the substitution of refined grains with whole grains rather than addition of whole grains to a diet already high in refined grains.” A good reminder to all of us on the importance of eating whole foods as nature intended!

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