1. Pride in Your Fellow Fitness Fanatics
You...yeah you on the treadmill set on the Mt. Everest incline. You. Rock.
2. Disgust in Your Fellow Fitness Fanatics
Seriously? You did not just leave your empty power bar wrapper on the weight rack, let out a wild hack to clear your phlegm-filled throat AND sniff your pits in the process. Ewww.
3. Reaction to the Overeager Exerciser
They're using that poor elliptical like they just downed 30 cans of soda and an entire pizza ... and the world's ending tomorrow. Seriously, what's going on with those moves?
4. Oh Yes You Did
When you can't help but giggle inwardly after you um, emit an embarrassing sound doing leg lifts ... all because you just HAD to have all that broccoli before hitting the gym.
5. Sorry About That
When you look over and realize that someone is not pleased AT ALL that you accidentally changed all of their weight and seat settings. Well, how were you supposed to know they left for the water fountain and planned to come back?
What are some of your funny, inspiring or strange gym moments?
It’s no secret that eating processed foods is a health “don’t,” whether it’s about achieving weight loss goals or maintaining optimal physical and mental health. Now, in the latest research published in BMJ Open, experts are also warning against “ultra-processed foods.” Such foods go beyond the usual amounts of excessive and harmful kinds of sugars, salts, oils, and fats that comprise a junk food diet to also include additional substances that aren’t really, well, real food.
Just the word “substances” to describe what we're eating sounds scary, yet it's exactly what people are eating regularly despite the fact that it’s basically void of nutritional value and does nothing to improve health.
According to the published study, “Ultra-processed foods were defined as industrial formulations which, besides salt, sugar, oils and fats, include substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular additives used to imitate sensorial qualities of minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations.” Flavorings and emulsifiers were also included as part of this description; in other words, all of that chemically-laden gunk that holds food together, preserves taste (and grocery store shelf life), and provides consumers with an appealing color is going into people’s bodies – and it’s not doing them any health favors.
Unfortunately, the study also found that these “ultra-processed” foods make up more than half of all calories consumed in the average American diet while also contributing to about 90 percent of all added sugar intake.
Couple this with the known fact that processed foods, in all of their high added-sugar and chemical glory, contribute to a range of health issues from weight gain and diabetes to heart complications and a foggy memory.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that after losing 70 pounds several years ago and trying to do my best to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I do indulge in the occasional couple of slices of pizza, deli meat (nitrates, I know…), and sink my teeth into brownies. However, eating such foods is a rarity for me, as I think it should be for other health-conscious people. Sure, no one should deprive themselves of having some cookies or chocolate lava cake on occasion, but that’s the key phrase – on occasion.
However, if you take a look around, more often than not, there’s a long line of cars at the fast food restaurant drive-through and plenty of folks walking the streets with one hand buried deep in their bag of chips, which reinforces the study’s findings. All in all, American’s are eating much more added sugar and calories than they should be.
The point here is that there’s a difference between having such foods very infrequently and eating them on a daily basis as if they’re going out of style.
While it’s a hard habit to break, it’s essential to try to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables (yup, mom was right about eating our broccoli!) in your life.
Trust me, I know it’s not an easy task; I used to polish off entire sleeves of cookies at a time, followed by a cheese Danish and chocolate milk – and that was after already having dinner. Getting my health back on track took many years -- with some body image issues and odd eating behaviors thrown in the mix -- and it’s still an ongoing learning process. But today, I absolutely love eating roasted broccoli with hemp seeds, huge salads with almond slices and blueberries, and making homemade peach and tomato salsa.
While I don’t advocate extremely strict dieting (I mean really, it’s rare -- and difficult -- for anyone to only eat the likes of spinach and avocado smoothies for the rest of their life without ever letting a candy bar cross their lips again), it’s important to stick to what’s been proven to lead to weight loss (and maintenance) and improve all around health. That means enjoying more lentils, roasted asparagus, oats (I’m a fan of steel cut oats or making overnight oats), nuts and seeds and less of the stuff that comes in a can, tube or plastic bag near the supermarket bakery or check-out aisle.
Take every step possible to reduce added sugars and calories; even cutting out one fast food meal a week or putting less sugar in your coffee every day can help make a difference. Before you know it, you’ll crave fries and nuggets less and heart healthy, figure-friendly options more.
What steps are you taking towards better health? I’d love to hear what you’re eating that’s put you on a path to weight loss and improved health! Leave a comment or send me an email in the contact section of this site.
Today is Fat Tuesday, which is basically a day in which everyone heads to IHOP and eats more pancakes in one sitting than they would during the entire year. Colorful pastries and decadent foods cross people’s lips, and with Mardi Gras celebrations in full swing, it’s also not uncommon for folks to step out wearing elaborate outfits, adorning themselves with metallic beads and feathered masks while they continue going about their day-before-Lent food fest.
It’s also a day that makes me somewhat uncomfortable.
Although I’m not nearly as strict about my eating habits as I was when I lost 70 pounds many years ago, food-focused days like this bring about some uneasy feelings.
On one hand, I’m reminded of the me who enjoyed Fat Tuesday every day of the week, causing my weight to soar and my mood to sink. Therefore, my first inclination today was to set out writing about why people trying to lose weight (or maintain the healthy one they have) should abandon Fat Tuesday with a passion.
While the rest of the world makes like bears readying themselves for hibernation on Fat Tuesday, I was prepared to offer healthier eating suggestions and advice. No pancakes or pizza for you! I was ready to write about the importance of staying on track with figure-friendly recipes and hitting the elliptical. I’d ultimately conclude that you’d be on top of your game if you did so. You’d be smiling inwardly, pleased with the knowledge that you’d be helping your health while everyone else falls into a food-induced coma, their shiny beads raking across heaps of ranch dip as they reach across the table for more potato chips.
The other part of me says, “Jen, calm down about all of this!”
Now, while I don’t advocate all-out, gluttonous calorie fests on Fat Tuesday (or any day), and I truly enjoy having big salads with a plate of roasted butternut squash and carrots for dinner, this doesn’t mean I have to come down so hard on others who choose to eat otherwise. After all, I was there once too; I know all too well that it’s not as easy as waking up one day and bidding raspberry cheese Danish rings adieu. And I don’t want to lose sight of that.
Furthermore, I can’t forget that even after my weight loss, I was far from the picture of health; while I spoke about making better food choices and the benefits of exercise, I also got wrapped up in eating-disordered tendencies and body image struggles, eventually eating nothing but a pork chop, apple and yogurt – all day. Thankfully, I’m back on track, and have even intentionally gained back some needed weight.
So yeah, the idea of a day dedicated to devouring pancakes and pizza like it’s going out of style makes me think more deeply. It not only reminds me that for about two years, I never ate even a single pancake and boy oh boy – now knowing what I know – I sure wish I did. I shunned balance in the name of eating healthy, all the while telling the world I was balanced (truth is, I was terrified of going back to the significantly heavier me and actually convinced I was engaging in healthy behaviors).
What I know now is that the world won’t end if I have a garlic knot or enjoy some penne. I don’t have to face foods with such an all-or-nothing approach; balance really is key. So, I suppose Fat Tuesday reminds me of what I missed out on: the syrupy pancakes, cupcakes and cookies and fun that I denied myself – for way too long.
I can comfortably say this about today: It’s Fat Tuesday. I don’t plan on eating pancakes, but I sure won’t beat myself up if I do.
It's that time of year where you've probably noticed an increase in gym attendance (must work off that eggnog!) right along with infomercials about how to get all buff and svelte before, if not immediately after, the new year.
However, maintaining good health involves more than hitting the gym and pondering an infomercial purchase. Though the 8+ years I've kept my weight off, I've learned a great deal about nutrition, portion control, the psychology of eating, and of course, body image.
To that end, I do my best to read and learn as much as possible about health-related topics. I often want to delve deeper and know more about what makes certain foods do what they do in my body and why. From vitamin deficiencies and the potential harms of processed foods to human anatomy and learning new fitness routines, I enjoy just about every aspect of health.
That's why I wanted to share the scoop on these online courses, which seem like a great way to start your new year. They're (mostly) free, allow you to work on your own time and best of all, walk away with all kinds of knowledge and a certificate from an established educational institution.
4 Health-Related Courses to Start Your 2016 Off Right
1. Child Nutrition and Cooking
Self-paced course (you can enroll at any time)
Led by Maya Adam, MD
“This course examines contemporary child nutrition and the impact of the individual decisions made by each family. The health risks associated with obesity in childhood are also discussed. Participants will learn what constitutes a healthy diet for children and adults and how to prepare simple, delicious foods aimed at inspiring a lifelong celebration of easy home-cooked meals.” Topics include Why Home Cooking Matters and From Supermarket to Dinner Table to School.
Expect approximately 5 hours of videos and quizzes during this 5-week course.
2. Epidemics - the Dynamics of Infectious Diseases, $49
Pennsylvania State University
Self-paced course (you can enroll at any time)
Led by a variety of university experts, who primarily specialize in biology and entomology.
“After we’ve covered the basics, we'll be looking at the dynamics of the flu, and why we're worried about flu pandemics. We'll be looking at the dynamics of childhood diseases such as measles and whooping cough, which were once considered almost eradicated, but are now making a comeback. We'll explore Malaria, and use it as a case study of the evolution of drug resistance. We'll even be looking at social networks - how diseases can spread from you to your friends to your friends' friends, and so on. And of course we’ll be talking about vaccination too. We’ll also be talking about how mobile phones, social media and crowdsourcing are revolutionizing disease surveillance, giving rise to a new field of digital epidemiology.”
Plan on about 20 hours of videos and quizzes from this 8-week course.
3. Stanford Introduction to Food and Health
Course begins January 11, 2016
Led by Maya Adam, MD
“In this course, learners will be given the information and practical skills they need to begin optimizing the way they eat. This course will shift the focus away from reductionist discussions about nutrients and move, instead, towards practical discussions about real food and the environment in which we consume it. By the end of this course, learners should have the tools they need to distinguish between foods that will support their health and those that threaten it.”
4. The New Nordic Diet - from Gastronomy to Health
University of Copenhagen
Course begins March 1, 2016
Led by Dr Arne Astrup, MD, DMSc.
“This course will give the participants the opportunity to experience a healthy and palatable new food and eating concept diet 'The New Nordic Diet' and an understanding of how food and diets can affect mental and physical health and ensure the foundation for a healthier life style for future generations with a regional based diet and food culture.”
Plan to spend upwards of five hours weekly with this course. Check the site as March 2016 approaches to see if there are any changes or more details.
So there you have it. These courses can help you stay on top of your health; learn as much as possible about your body, food culture, disease and cooking with your children -- what a great way to start the new year!
Have a happy and very healthy 2016! What are your health goals?
While cinnamon and nutmeg are common spices that add zip to your smoothies, there are other spices that can add a huge “wow” factor to these healthy weight loss and weight maintenance drinks—and they’re likely ones you might not ever consider.
Here’s a closer look at some nontraditional spices I’ve put in my smoothies. They’re not only healthy for you, but they step the flavor factor up several notches.
About: Very aromatic and carries a robust flavor.
Health benefits: Known to keep blood pressure in check, act as a cancer-fighter, ease stomach issues and boost weight loss. Learn more about why cardamom is good for you here.
Ideal smoothie match: I often add cardamom to one of my favorite smoothies: 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, mango or peach slices, a handful of spinach (although sometimes I omit it), a bit of water and hemp seeds. Then I sprinkle in some cardamom, blend and enjoy.
Memories of my mom’s ham dinners first came to mind when I heard about this, making it hard for me to envision adding them to smoothies of all things. I couldn’t stop my imagination from thinking my tasty banana smoothie (see below) would have a smoky ham flavor to it, but I just chalked that up to my silly thoughts getting the best of me.
Smoothies with cloves are very flavorful; many people compare its rich and warm flavor to cinnamon, likely because it pairs well with that spice. However, it adds an extra kick that gives smoothies a unique taste.
Health benefits: Cloves are linked to fighting inflammation and are considered a powerful antioxidant.
Ideal smoothie match: I’ve made smoothies with ground cloves as follows: 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1 frozen banana, 1 teaspoon of coconut oil, 1 teaspoon of sunflower butter, ground cloves (to taste) and some cinnamon. Mmm mmm.
3. Cayenne pepper
If you’re a fan of sweet and sour blends, this one’s for you. Cayenne pepper is hot and spicy, no doubt about it. But add it to naturally sweet fruits in your blender and you end up with a heat that’s tempered nicely by, say, mangos.
Health benefits: Cayenne pepper has been touted as a metabolism booster with anti-fungal properties that aids in better digestion, relieves pain and fights headaches.
Ideal smoothie match: I honestly don’t have just one go-to smoothie that I use with cayenne pepper since I tend to toss some in with several kinds I make. I’m a fan of adding fresh or frozen pineapple, peaches or mangoes to my smoothies along with my usual 1 cup of almond milk and some water. I often add chia or hemp seeds, a dash of Himalayan sea salt and a bit of cayenne pepper for some serious zing.
What have you got to lose by throwing some of these more adventurous spices in your smoothies? It’s a good idea to treat yourself to different tastes so you don’t become bored (and gravitate towards unhealthy options), plus these spices are extremely healthy for you anyway.
Go for it!
While I love to hit the gym (I always enjoy my favorite, the elliptical), there are times when I prefer to exercise outdoors. In the open air, I’m free of adrenaline-infused grunts and the occasional splash of sweat from a particularly energized jogger on the treadmill next to me. There aren’t any machines to wipe clean or dozens of television shows cluttering my mind. It’s just me and the pavement before me, whether I’m walking around my own street, trails, or around a school track.
However, along with the fun of exercising outdoors come certain dangers.
Tips to stay safe while exercising outdoors alone
1. Vary your route
Let’s face it, the world can be a scary place sometimes. It’s not a fun topic, but the random acts of violence—even in our own safe and familiar environments—are becoming more commonplace. It can’t hurt to play it safe by varying your walking or biking route. From commuters and store patrons to neighborhood residents and even other outdoor exercisers, there are a lot of people who are in tune to your routine. How many of us have observed someone while driving home from work and thought, “there’s that guy with the bright blue sneakers whose always running at 7:00”? You don’t want to become paranoid, but what’s the harm in altering your usual route on occasion to better protect yourself from possible threatening situations? Plus, it’ll be a nice change of pace to take in some different scenery!
2. Stay hydrated
While it may be a bit of a pain to walk with a water bottle or tend to the pouch of water in your fitness clothing, it’s very important to stay hydrated. I’ve had my share of dizziness, fainting spells and fingers that have swelled and wrinkled at the tips from lack of hydration. So, I make sipping water a priority. Always be sure to keep some on you while you’re exercising outdoors.
3. Don’t do it in the dark
Although you may have a schedule that allows you to get that run in only in the dark (early morning or evening), it may be worth trying to rearrange plans so you exercise in daylight. Despite streetlights and other light sources, your visibility is still limited and accidents can happen. For example, that rock that blends in with the asphalt may be enough to twist an ankle and cause a fall.
Plus, it’s not just you—driver’s also experienced reduced visibility; according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatalities on the road happen three times more at night compared to during the day. Furthermore, even though only a quarter of all driving is at night, over half of all driving deaths occur then. This is mainly because a person’s ability to adequately see color changes at night, as does depth perception and peripheral vision. It’s not a fun thought, but the chance of getting hit by a vehicle—while possible any time—are more likely in the dark. If possible, consider exercising outdoors only in the daylight.
4. Carry your cell phone
No, this isn’t about browsing the latest Facebook scoop while you walk, but about your safety. In the unfortunate event you find yourself in a situation where you need help and are unable to walk (or run, or bike) to safety, a call to an emergency contact or first aid personnel from your cell phone—barring lack of reception, of course—can do the trick. It’s also not unusual for people to get out of emergency situations by posting a message on social media; do what you need to get the message out in the event a problem arises. Carrying your phone with you can help get you out of trouble when you’re out by yourself.
As always, be aware of your surroundings. Have fun, but be sure to take these tips into consideration so you're as safe as possible while engaging in outdoor fitness activities.
Sources for this article here.
All photos courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net
For years, I've enjoyed TED Talks. The presenter's ability to deliver succinct messages in a way that informs, entertains and inspires often creates lasting impressions. From topics such as "The Forgotten History of Autism" to "Why it's Time to Forget the Pecking Order at Work," experts leave you glued to your seat.
Of course there are plenty of people who have spoken about health, which always gets my attention. There's one I've watched numerous times, and I want to share it with you.
Making the Case for Ditching the Diet
"Why Dieting Doesn't Usually Work," starts with neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt telling the audience that her New Year's resolution one year was to give up dieting. She even said the decision was the best one of her life.
At a time when many people decide to go on a diet in the wake of indulging in champagne, pastries and potato chips, Aamodt said nope. Not gonna do it. Instead, the woman who says she began her first diet at the age of 13 says she has now learned eat mindfully and pay attention to her body's signals. She's positive that you too, can do the same (skip to 9:13 in the video to learn how).
For me, there were two "wow" moments.
Your Brain, Weight Obsession & Eating Disorders
Wow moment #1: "Your brain also has its own sense of whatever you should weigh," she says, "no matter what you consciously believe."
I can understand this now, having tried to control my weight through bizarre eating and mental habits several years ago; it's ludicrous to try to be 120 pounds if you're simply not meant to be 120 pounds. While I initially lost the weight in a healthy manner, it was my own fixation and excitement about my new figure and energy levels that propelled me into some scary, eating-disordered behaviors. I once brought the scale on vacation and eventually became satisfied eating nothing more than an apple, pork chop and some popcorn all day. Yikes.
For the record, I'm in a much better spot these days. I'm over my food fears and while I eat healthy foods like whole yogurts, salmon, beans and plenty of fruits and vegetables, I enjoy the occasional pizza slice or ice cream cone. A few years ago, you wouldn't have caught me eating anything if it wasn't zero- or low-fat or zero-calorie, let alone entertaining the notion of ordering pizza. It's great to feel and look strong and healthy, not to mention so much better to not be in that dark spot.
The Weight/Body Image Struggle is Very Real
However, there are moments I mentally slip back into those days; today's belly button challenge, for example, is a craze that triggered bothersome thoughts about my body, reminding me that perhaps I still have work to do. Maybe I always will. Cliche as it sounds, overcoming eating disordered behaviors and body image struggles is a journey.
As Aamodt explains, it's important not to fight the scale. Obviously, if you're very overweight that's one thing. But if you're within five pounds of a "goal" weight, don't obsess. You're brain's telling your body certain things for a reason.
Wow moment #2: Aamodt also mentions that in the United States, 80% of 10-year-old girls are on a diet. It's a statistic I've heard before, but it still gets me every time. Sadly, many girls who begin dieting at such a young age go on to develop eating disorders and other problems.
Throughout her talk, she hones in on the fact that dieting and weight obsession leads to eating disorders, adding that people who are teased by family members are often thrust deeper into such unhealthy patterns. Be an intuitive eater (again, back to "mindful" eating) rather than one who attempts to control what you eat through willpower. You'll be happier and healthier--and no, not obese either. In fact, she explains that her say-no-to-dieting outlook has allowed her to shed needed weight, minus the obsession and strict thoughts.
Her video is definitely worth watching. You'll learn about the types of eaters that exist (do you recognize yourself?), the brain's role in eating behaviors, what drives hunger and that not dieting--contrary to what many people think--is instrumental in creating a healthier you.
Want to learn more? Check out some of my related articles:
Why There's A Rise in Eating Disorders Among Older Generations
Why You Should Ditch Low-Fat, Zero-Calorie Foods
Why Dropping the Word, "Diet" from Your Vocabulary Helps You Lose Weight
I know, it sounds a bit over-the-top magical, a name that might better be suited for a Disney character/drink that turns dreary days into ones that are filled with amber sunrises and sparkling sunsets. It's not just milk, it's "golden" milk. With a name like this, it better be good, and good for us, right?
Well, never one to resist new recipes and foods -- whether it's the butter-in-coffee trend or eating a strange-looking fruit -- I jumped on the Golden Milk bandwagon. Truth is, I actually like the name and in the end, yes, it is good for us.
It's also super easy to make. Under 10 minutes, plus no need for turning on the stove or whipping out a juicer. All that's needed is a saucepan, almond milk and some key spices.
Golden Milk Recipe
To make one serving, simply put one cup of almond milk (I used unsweetened) in a small saucepan. Heat it on a low setting while adding these other ingredients to the milk:
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon local honey
Black pepper to taste (I just used a pinch)
Ginger to taste (I opted for ground, but fresh, grated ginger will work as well)
Optional: 1 tablespoon coconut oil (of course I added this; I love coconut oil!)
Bring everything to a light boil, pour, let cool to an ideal sipping temperature (much like you'd wait before drinking a cup of hot tea or coffee).
That's all there is to it!
What's does Golden Milk Taste Like?
Well, I'm not going to lie. It has some kick, but not in that "oh crap, I accidentally put too much wasabi on my sushi" way. Personally, I don't mind spicy foods. I used to frequent a hot sauce shop years ago and came to love (obsess over?) a fire-roasted garlic habanero flavor. Dee-licious. But not to worry. This golden milk isn't anything like that sauce. The turmeric, pepper and ginger certainly give it its kick, but any spiciness is tempered by the coconut oil and the sweetness of the cinnamon and honey.
Health Benefits of Golden Milk
What I love about this milk is its many health benefits. After losing 70 pounds years ago, I'm constantly on the lookout for recipes that help me maintain a healthy weight.
However, life for me is no longer about just keeping my weight in check and obsessing about calories, but eating foods that keep my body as healthy as possible. As such, I've become more focused on spinach-infused smoothies, baked yam "potato chips," steamed broccoli with hemp seeds and spiralized zucchini "noodles" over the years.
Here's what's healthy about golden milk:
Helps Regulate Weight
Studies have shown that spices like turmeric could help prevent fat tissues from re-growing. (Now, that sounds magical, doesn't it?). It's true; a Tufts University study showed this positive effect on subjects, noting that turmeric played a role in keeping weight gain at bay.
According to the California College of Ayurveda, "Turmeric has hundreds of molecular constituents, each with a variety of biological activities. There are at least 20 molecules that are anti-biotic, 14 that are known cancer preventatives, 12 that are anti-tumor, 12 are anti-inflammatory and there are at least 10 different anti-oxidants."
Studies have shown that turmeric neutralizes cancer-causing substances in the body, making it a go-to spice for many people.
Keeps Neurological Conditions at Bay
Experts from the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that the cinnamon -- specifically its compounds cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin -- were linked to preventing the proteins that contribute to memory-depleting diseases from developing in the brain. Alzheimer's disease in particular has been eyed in this regard; consuming more cinnamon may help delay its onset or help reverse the condition.
Drinking this milk has also been said to help purify the skin, blood and liver, improve the gastrointestinal tract and support lung health.
What's not to love about this tasty drink? I know I'll be making it often!
Opera singer Deborah Voigt may have charmed audiences with her beautiful voice, but those in charge of directing her performances felt that firing her was in everyone's best interest. Why would this successful American soprano with a voice described as having "penetrating power" and "gleaming richness" be dismissed?
Quite simply, she was fat.
At over 300 pounds, the size 26 professional was fired in 2003 by a director who felt that she didn't have the right body type for the costume he envisioned. The director imagined its star singing while wearing a tiny black dress, something he felt was necessary to convey a modern twist on "Ariadne auf Naxos." Her figure, it was determined, wasn't suitable for the costume. As such the songbird was let go in exhange for someone with a more acceptable body type.
Voigt has something to say about the firing that, while true, sadly still affects many women. In a world where large-bodied men such as Luciano Pavarotti have been embraced, rather than fired, for their loveable roundness, Voigt is at a loss. "Why is it okay for the male opera stars to be big and not the women?" she writes in her book, "Call Me Debbie: True Confessions of a Down-to-Earth Diva." In her book, which is due out on January 27 (Harper Collins), she also says that "The double standard is alive and well in the opera world when it comes to men’s and women’s bodies."(1)
While never fired for being fat, I understand her feelings.
Dealing with Double Standards, Psychological Weight Loss Challenges
Losing 70 pounds, as I did several years ago, offers a real-life glimpse about the ways the very overweight and very slender are judged and treated. Those before and after images? They aren't just about pictures that reveal dramatic changes in the body. Trust me, there are deeper changes - highly psychological ones - that take place as one is thrust into an "after," post-fat girl world. There aren't any (that I'm aware of, anyway) "Life after Weight Loss 101" classes that talk about the psychological changes that may come with weight loss. Nothing prepares a person for the thoughts in their head that linger long after the thrill good workouts, a nice compliment or even 15 minutes of fame.
Mine are often steeped in thoughts that yes, a double standard exists every time we turn our heads. We see commercials with women donning angel wings, but there's a big "was it or wasn't it retouched" to-do when Justin Bieber puts on his Calvins, as he recently did.
Beiber aside, the bigger issue is that we're a society that seems to be obessed with thiness and beauty, even in ways that transcend weight. Seriously, would a woman with Andy Rooney's once wirey eyebrows last longer than a commercial break on a news show today? So it goes.
Yes, I know plenty of shows, stories and social media sites exist that are focused on men's "hotness" (the popular word I'm seeing in headlines these days is "thirsty," as in "These hollywood men with beards will make any woman thisty") but still, we're wearing blinders if we think that the double standards don't predominately hone in on females in our society.
First, Gastric Bypass Surgery . . . Next, Alcohol-Fueled Experiences
For Voigt, her world changed dramatically after getting fired. It wasn't that she moped, a fat-sized woman stereotypically crying in a pint of ice-cream either. Rather, she took the money from the failed "little black dress" role and had gastric bypass surgery. She lost 100 pounds, dropped to a size 14 and unfortunately, turned to alcohol to replace her desire for food. In her book, she expresses joy at the ability to be able to cross her once-heavier legs, yet speaks of alcohol-fueled affairs with men in between her performances.(1,2)
Ultimately, she ended up in rehab where she came to terms with her past and changed her ways for the better.
Indeed, weight loss is a joyous experience, but it's often not without deeply-rooted, confusing thoughts that have the potential to lead to depression and detrimental behaviors. While I didn't indulge in the bottle, my taste for thinness became extreme. My blog, "My not-so Glamorous Story of Dieting After the Diet was Over & How I Got Back on Track," talks about this, of teetering dangerously close to a diagnosable eating disorder, one that left me hungry, moody and eventually filled with a nutritionally-deprived foggy-brain (so much so that at times I was spewing forth babbling nonsense at random times and convinced by my own self-created nonsensical thoughts).
Yes, weight loss can change you, but as Voigt learned, it's not always for the better. Becoming thinner (whether by dietary changes or weight loss surgery, or both) may come with serious challenges.
Don't Lose Yourself During Weight Loss Journey
No matter where you are on your weight loss journey, always remember that you're doing this for your health and that you're still the same you, only physically different. I highly doubt that your political stance, sense of humor or work ethic has changed, right? Sure, you may have more energy and a renewed confidence, but at the core of it all, you're still you. I lost a lot of weight and still have a penchant for 80s music, kayaking, corny puns, animal kindness and photography -- just as I did when I was shopping in the plus-size departments.
In the end, it's never about trying to beat double standards or fitting in a certain-sized black dress, but rather, to improve physical health. It's up to us to take control about our mental health, not allowing ourselves to get caught up in expectations (self-imposed or otherwise) and to be remain the beautiful person we have been all along.
Several fast food chains have jumped on the "healthy" bandwagon, which to me, is akin to tobacco companies saying they've created healthier, safer cigarettes. Of course, neither of them have stumbled upon a healthier solution; we all know in our heart of French fry-craving heart of hearts (or nicotine-needing habits, if that's your thing) that what they've created is nothing other than a marketing strategy.
Sell the latest health craze, sell patriotism, sell people who have lost weight (Jared, anyone?), show us cute puppies and mighty horses, and we're suddenly supposed to be A-Okay eating, say, veggie sliders from White Castle.
Indeed, that's just what is happening. The fast food chain, known for their hamburger sliders, desserts on a stick and the movie, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, has recently announced the addition of veggie sliders to their menu.
Their web site attempts to lure the health-conscious, by asking the question, "Have you eaten your veggies today?" It's one part reminiscent of the first half of the 1990s McDonald's slogan, "Have you (had your break today?)," and one part causing childhood memories of my mother to surface, inquiring about my veggie intake with her one eyebrow raised, as if to imply no dessert will be had if those string beans remained on my plate. I'm already turned off. Still, it's only fair to dig deeper.
I clicked on the image and was taken to a larger picture, this time a close-up of the veggie slider. Phrases such as "grilled to perfection" and "chock full of..." rested next to the slider, along a call-out with the name, "Dr. Praeger's." Hmmmm. Just who is this Dr. Praeger and what's the relevancy to White Castle? More digging was in order.
Who was Dr. Praeger?
A bit more detective work led me to a PDF file (also on the White Castle site) that talked all about Dr. Praeger. There, it explained that "Dr. Praeger was a successful cardiothoracic surgeon in New Jersey who, with his medical partner Dr. Eric Somberg, made it their mission to introduce people to nutritious food that actually tasted great. They produce a wide range of products including veggie cakes, breaded fish items, Kid's Little, and now our tasty Veggie Slider!"(1)
More research led me to discover that Dr. Peter Praeger, who passed away from unknown causes in 2012 and had been undergoing prostate cancer treatment, was the co-chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. He was also president and chief executive of Dr. Praeger's Sensible Foods, a maker of frozen natural foods ("frozen" and "natural" just don't go together if you ask me), including veggie burgers and meatless chicken (ditto), sold in supermarkets and health-food stores in the United States and overseas. Ultimately, Dr. Praeger's Sensible Foods grew to become a multimillion dollar venture, providing the likes of Trader Joe's and Whole Foods with items such as sweet potato pancakes and Tex-Mex veggie burgers.(2)
Veggie slider has MORE calories than original plain slider
Interestingly, for those curious about calories, an original slider has 140 calories, while the veggie slider has MORE, coming in at 150 for a plain one and 270 if you add Ranch dressing. Additionally, an original plain burger slider has 13 total carbohydrates while a plain veggie slider comes in at 20 carbs. There are some positives, however. A plain veggie slider does have lower sodium levels and trans fat than the original burger.(3)
Still, I'm not convinced.
Trying to pull the wool over our eyes
On one hand, I applaud the effort, but on the other hand I realize that it's nothing more than a marketing strategy aimed to tug on the heartstrings of those trying to get healthier or stay that way. But there's no pulling the wool over my eyes. I've worked in the advertising and public relations industry for several years (no longer, by choice). I'm familiar with all the psychology that goes on about "creating the need," of linking popular names with new products to help the baby brand piggyback on the shoulders of the more famous one ("oh, so the product MUST be wonderful"), and of capitalizing on life goals as well as life fears. Sigh.
So you see, I'm not fooled by fast food chains that display nutrition facts from behind faux oak picture frames near the registers. Not fooled by Jared. Definitely not fooled by White Castle's veggie slider no matter how many veggie bits it contains.
Meal names that attempt to resonate with healthy lifestyles, nope, they're not going to perk up the ears of smoothie-making, fresh-food eating, elliptical-using folks like me. Besides, making my own recipes with fresh, whole foods is not only healthy, but allows me to be creative in the kitchen.
Tomato and peach salsa, anyone?
Jennifer Lea Reynolds
Jennifer Lea Reynolds is a weight loss success story who enjoys living a healthy lifestyle. A fan of the elliptical, roasted asparagus and remembering to put the lid on the blender, she’s appeared in many national and local print publications. She lives in New England where she writes professionally about health and life lessons, including The Huffington Post and Natural News.