Eliminating foods you love is much harder than enjoying them in the right amount

Why Elimination Diets Don’t Work

VARIETY REALLY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE!

Given all the restrictive food fads that have come and gone over the years – no fat, no wheat, raw food, only liquids – it’s time to acknowledge that they do not work long term. More importantly, they don’t help people adopt better eating habits. When I meet with a client who has tried to avoid eating a particular food or beverage as a way to lose weight or improve their health, they often confess their abstinence didn’t last very long. They then tell me that once they ate the “forbidden” food again they felt so guilty about their “failure” they lost hope of ever improving their diet, and ended up eating more carelessly. It’s a story that gets repeated over and over.

Unfortunately, many people believe weight management is about having the willpower to give up certain foods, but research has shown deprivation does not yield results. The calories in everything we eat and drink count, so learning to balance them all is what matters most. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states, “In studies that have held total calorie intake constant, there is little evidence that any individual food groups or beverages have a unique impact on body weight.”

WILL POWER vs WON’T POWER

Dietary change and compliance are easier when we keep the familiar and favorite foods and beverages on the table. It is also a misconception that food elimination is necessary for good health. Unless someone has a medical reason to omit a specific food or ingredient, such as a diagnosis of celiac disease requiring the avoidance of gluten, every other food and beverage imaginable can be included in a balanced diet. The goal is to establish healthy and sustainable eating habits, and that requires adjustments in the amounts and types of foods you eat and how often you eat them, not removal of any specific food. These modifications are the key to having an eating plan you can live with for life.

Planning your meals in this more inclusive way has many advantages. The most important of all is that it accommodates the many generational and cultural food traditions that are part of our diverse population. I can’t imagine asking a family of Mexican heritage to stop making flan because it contains too much sugar or telling a woman of Indian descent that the Masala Chia she serves with pride is too sweet. And for my clients who enjoy a soda now and then because it’s what they grew up drinking, it means they don’t have to give it up altogether.

WE DON’T ALL LIKE THE SAME THINGS

It’s important to balance all of our food and beverage choices to best meet our nutritional needs. This may mean decreasing certain foods and increasing others, but eliminating all sugar, red meat or cheese does not solve anyone’s weight maintenance challenges. The Dietary Guidelines also state “a healthy eating pattern is not a rigid prescription, but an array of options that can accommodate cultural, ethnic, traditional, and personal preferences and food cost and availability. Americans have flexibility in making choices to create a healthy eating pattern that meets nutrient needs and stays within calorie limits.”

In the end it helps to ask yourself what makes more sense: never having that piece of cake (can of soda, order of fries, whatever) again for the rest of your life, or enjoying it once in a while as part of a balanced diet. I choose the cake!

Weight management is about moderation, not elimination

THE REDEMPTION DIET

This post was written as a guest blog for TheSkinnyOnLowCal.org on May 23, 2014. You can read the original post here.

The last thing we need in this world is another fad diet, but I must confess I did coin “The Redemption Diet.” To be perfectly clear, I did not invent this diet, I just named it after seeing it practiced by so many people and not knowing what else to call it.

What is The Redemption Diet?

A person wants to lose weight or improve their health, but isn’t ready to make all of the changes needed to establish better eating habits. Instead, they decide to eliminate a single food, beverage or ingredient from their diet as a sign of their commitment to self-improvement. To be worthy of redemption, they must first decide that something they now eat is evil or bad for them – maybe chocolate, French fries or diet soda. By avoiding the temptation of that food, they rationalize they will be “saved.” That’s the basic premise behind The Redemption Diet.

If this sounds familiar, then you know how the story ends.

Giving up something you love is hard to do, so most people don’t last very long on The Redemption Diet. More importantly, if that something is a food or drink that is perfectly safe, readily available, and highly enjoyable, why bother? This is especially true for diet soda, which has no calories, making it even harder to imagine why anyone would think giving it up will help them lose weight.

I have seen numerous accounts of people who have waged a personal battle with diet soda in the belief they would be a better person if they stopped drinking it. They tweet and blog about their struggle living without their favorite diet drink and count the number of days they’ve been “abstinent” with misplaced pride.

I am always left thinking they were looking for a way to punish themselves by taking away something they really enjoy in life. If I’m right, then The Redemption Diet is a sign of another problem. I also can’t help but wonder how much they were drinking in the first place, because if they felt they were drinking too much, that is more easily dealt with by moving toward moderation, not elimination. In fact, if you want to know how much low calorie sweetener is in your diet soda and how much is right for you, just can check here.

Bottom line on The Redemption Diet?

Fad diets and food elimination don’t work as a weight management strategy. Learning to balance the calories in all of your food and beverage choices with enough physical activity do.

Registered dietitian and nutrition expert Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN has more than 30 years of experience counseling patients and teaching at the university level. She is also the author of two books on nutrition. Follow her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her other posts here.

sugar substitutes replace unwanted calories from added sugar

Low Calorie Sweeteners and Weight Loss: There Are No Magic Bullets

This post was written as a guest blog for Splenda Living and published on April 1, 2014. You can read the original blog here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

In my 30+ years as a registered dietitian I can no longer recall the number of times I’ve had to remind a client, “I am a dietitian, not a magician.” That was my way of steering them away from magical thinking about weight loss and helping them focus on the lifestyle changes they needed to make to get the results they wanted, and to maintain them.

The continued popularity of fad diet foods and programs is evidence that this magical thinking about weight loss is still going strong. This concerns me because there are unintended consequences every time another quick fix scheme fails to deliver what it promises. Instead of becoming discouraged, people tend to blame the product or plan that let them down while holding out hope that the next one to come along will do the trick.

Consequently, many healthy foods and ingredients are left on the battlefield in this quest to find an easy way to lose weight. For example, back in the 1990s there was a notion that fat made us fat. Soon everyone believed they could eat whatever they wanted as long as their diet didn’t contain fat. Anyone who knows anything about calories knows that didn’t work, yet fat remains a villain in the minds of many.

We’ve also seen our share of weight loss super foods come and go. Remember the Grapefruit Diet and the Cabbage Soup Diet? It saddens me to think there are people who no longer enjoy eating a sectioned grapefruit because it didn’t melt their fat away when they were eating it by the pound.

In 2013, we saw gluten, low-calorie sweeteners, and raspberry ketones come under the weight loss spotlight. Are there some lessons to be learned here? I think so.

Making Every Calorie Count

Losing weight and keeping it off is not about only eating certain foods and never eating others. It’s about eating foods that you like and can readily get that will provide you with all of the nutrients your body needs while not supplying more calories than you can use. That’s not necessarily an easy order to fill, but there are endless possibilities on how to do it.

The linchpin to the whole concept is our daily caloric allowance. Once we know that number, we have the freedom to choose foods and beverages to meet our nutritional requirements as long as we stay within our caloric allowance. That’s where low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA® Sweetener Products can help.

Every time you use a packet of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener in your oatmeal in place of 2 teaspoons of sugar, you save 28 calories. You can also add SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener to a cup of plain yogurt instead of getting a presweetened one and save even more calories. Want an iced tea with lunch but need to sweeten it a bit? Using a low-calorie sweetener lets you have the sweet taste you prefer, but without all the calories. Each of these options leaves us with more calories in our calorie “budget” for the other foods we’ll be eating to meet our nutritional goals for the day, and that’s a win-win combination.

It helps to know that several major health and medical groups support the use of low-calorie sweeteners as substitutes for sugar when used properly. For example, the American Heart Association has stated that foods and beverages containing low-calorie sweeteners can be included in a healthy diet as long as the calories they save are not replaced by adding more foods to the diet that will take you over your daily limit.

This reinforces something I’ve said many times in my practice: “Low-calorie sweeteners are not a magic bullet.” That means using them in place of sugar will not magically lead to weight loss. You’ve got to make the right food choices and get enough exercise to see results. But the good news is, that works, and low-cal sweeteners can be part of your success.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating again.

For more information, please visit:

International Food Information Council, “Low-Calorie Sweeteners: Their Role in Healthful Eating”
American Heart Association, “Non-Nutritive Sweeteners (Artificial Sweeteners)”

 

woman weighting herself on balance beam scale

Do Low-Calorie Sweeteners like SPLENDA® Cause Weight Gain?

This post was written as a guest blog for Splenda Living. You can read the original post here.

THE POWER OF MYTHS AND OUR UNDERSTANDING OF WEIGHT CONTROL

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA®Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

At one time or another we’ve all experienced the jaw-dropping discovery that something we believed to be true, isn’t. I still can recall the unsettling moments in my childhood when I found out the truth about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy!

If you’ve had similar situations where something that you thought was a fact suddenly became fiction, then you understand the power of myths.

Myths often begin as a way to explain things we don’t understand. Based on my 30+ years as a consulting dietitian I know that over time myths can become “common knowledge” as more and more people accept and repeat them. Soon, there’s no one left to question whether that information is true or not, and the myth becomes part of our reality.

That is why it can be is so hard to accept some of the scientific reports we hear these days. When they challenge our long held beliefs, our initial reaction is to reject them, even if we have no evidence to support our version of the truth.

Too Much Myth-Information around Weight Gain

The subject of weight loss is one where myths and misinformation often collide. I like to call the result myth-information. Here are just a few examples of widely reported myths I’ve bet you’ve heard before:

  • Eating late at night makes you gain weight
  • Starchy foods increase belly fat
  • Sugar substitutes (even SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener, heaven forbid!) can cause obesity

None of those statements is true based on the best scientific evidence available, but many people still believe them. They have a hard time accepting the research that shows it is the total number of calories we consume each day that contributes to weight gain, not the time of day we eat them. Similarly, some people have doubts about the studies that demonstrate starchy foods, or foods high in carbohydrates, are no more likely to produce belly fat than any other source of calories.

Letting go of the myth about sugar substitutes and weight gain is particularly difficult for some people, despite the evidence to the contrary.

Research on the biggest users of sugar substitutes has found they are most often people who are trying to control their weight and improve the quality of their diets. In fact, a study of participants enrolled in the Weight Control Registry showed regular use of foods and beverages sweetened with low calorie sweeteners, including SPLENDA®, is a common strategy employed by those who have had long-term success maintaining a significant weight loss. (Note: SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener is a brand name for sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in all SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, and has been enjoyed by millions of consumers for over 20 years.)

Using a low cal sweetener such as SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener in place of sugar, is probably not enough to make you reach your weight loss goal, but can certainly help, and is one of many small changes you can make in your diet and physical activity to get there. Just like using smaller plates to control portion sizes and taking the stairs instead of the elevator, small changes can add up to big results when they become part of a healthy lifestyle.

If you find it hard letting go of a myth, it may help to remember that it probably began to explain something we once didn’t understand. But after we have the facts to explain it, we don’t need the myth any more.

You can look forward to more truth telling in my upcoming blogs on SPLENDA LIVING™, which I promise will be based on science and well-documented facts, not myth-information.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

For more information, please visit:

  • Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ et al. Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009;360(9):859-873
  • Anderson GH, Foreyt J, Sigman-Grant M, Allison DB. The Use of Low-Calorie Sweeteners by Adults: Impact on Weight Management. J Nutr. 2012;142(6):S1163-S1169
  • Sigman-Grant MJ, Hsieh G. Reported Use of Reduced-sugar Foods and Beverages Reflect High-quality Diets. J Food Sci. 2005;70(1):S42-S46
  • Phelan S, Lang W, Jordan D, Wing RR. Use of artificial sweeteners and fat-modified foods in weight loss maintainers and always-normal weight individuals. Int J Obes.2009;33(10):1183-1190
Differing research results may be due to different research methodologies

Is SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (Sucralose) Safe? Authorities We Can Trust

This blog was written as a guest post for SPLENDA LIVING™ site. You can access the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

One of the fascinating things about scientific research – at least to me – is that the more studies there are that attempt to answer a particular question, the more likely there will be conflicting results.

The reason for the different outcomes is that every study that sets out to answer a particular question isn’t conducted in exactly the same way. Some studies use human subjects while others use animals. Some have only a few subjects, while some have hundreds. Some research is conducted for a week or two; other research goes on for decades.

There are also different methods used to answer scientific questions. One method is to design a study to prove whether “X” causes “Y.” This type of study is regarded as the gold standard in scientific research because it leaves no room for doubt – the same results should occur every time the study is done.

Another method is to look for common traits among a group of subjects and what outcomes are associated with those traits, such as the correlation found between gardening and longevity. This type of study is useful in identifying links between certain traits and conditions, but it does not provide evidence that the traits cause the conditions. In the case of gardening and longevity, further research would be needed to prove whether the act of gardening adds years to your life or something else, such as people who keep gardens eat more vegetables.

Understanding these differences in the way research is done is the key to understanding why new studies occasionally come along that contradict the old. Unfortunately, nothing improves newspaper sales, TV ratings or website hits like a good headline, so these offbeat studies are often blown out of proportion by the media covering them.

If you’ve heard or read conflicting reports about the safety of low calorie sweeteners, such as SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (sucralose), then you know what I’m talking about. But it’s important to keep in mind that there’s more to the story (and to the study) than you can fit in a twitter feed!

The truth is, some of the people writing the news often have not even read the study; they rely on a press release for their “scoop.” By reading the complete study it is possible to see how the research was conducted – and how it differed from other research on the topic – and what conclusions were drawn at the end. What I have learned is they often do not match the claims being made in those newsreels.

But who has the time or ability to read every new study that gets published? I know I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be in the know. My rule of thumb is to simply wait six months for the dust to settle after the release of any contradictory report. Then, after all of the experts have had a chance to critique it, I wait for their conclusions to see if the contradictory study had any merit. Most often, it didn’t, which is why I continue to enjoy SPLENDA® Sweetener Products as part of my diet.

 

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating again.

 

Mature woman holding hot water bottle over her stomach

The FODMAP Diet and IBS

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.

CAN A LOW FODMAP DIET HELP CONTROL IRRITABLE SYNDROME?

When I first saw the word FODMAP a few years ago I thought it was a misspelling of the word foodmap. Even with that misinterpretation, I had no idea what foodmap meant, either. Then I started to see a lot more mentions of FODMAP and realized it wasn’t a typo. There was a food story here and I was prepared to follow its trail to see where it took me, map or no map.

If you like culinary excursions, this is a journey worth knowing about.

What is FODMAP?

This string of letters is an acronym for the words Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols. They represent specific types of sugars and carbohydrates commonly found in foods.

Why are FODMAPs getting attention?

Some people have difficulty digesting or absorbing these substances, which can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) problems when they pass into the large intestines and are fermented by the bacteria normally found there. This fermentation can cause gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal distress.

Which sugars and carbohydrates are FODMAPs?

The oligosaccharides include carbohydrates classified as fructans and galactans. Fructans are found in a variety of vegetables, cereal grains including wheat and rye, and the soluble fiber called inulin. Galactans can be found in canned beans such as baked beans and kidney beans, plus dried beans, peas and lentils. The main disaccharide on the list is lactose. It is found primarily in milk products from cows, goats and sheep and is used as an additive in other foods.

Fructose is the main monosaccharide identified in FODMAPs. It is naturally found in honey and most fruits, especially dried and canned fruits and fruit juices where it is concentrated. It is also in the sweetener high fructose corn syrup.

Polyols are naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables and are found in sugar substitutes such as sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol and isomalt.

Who might be a candidate for a low FODMAP diet?

People who have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease are often recommended to use this diet to relieve their symptoms, along with anyone who has unresolved GI problems and suspects they may be sensitive to one or more FODMAPs. The first step is an elimination diet trial to see if your symptoms are triggered by FODMAPs, and if so, which ones. This involves removing all sources of FODMAP foods for one to two weeks to see if the symptoms disappear. If they do, the FODMAPs are gradually reintroduced, one category at a time, to see which ones are tolerated and which ones cause problems for you.

How strict must you be on a FODMAP diet?

After the elimination diet trial, you know which foods you don’t digest well. You may find you can tolerate certain ones in small quantities, but not several different ones in the same day. The goal is to have as varied a diet as possible without suffering from the side effects.

Where can you get help with a FODMAP diet?

It is very important to work with a FODMAPs trained registered dietitian who can develop a personalized food plan that insures all of your nutritional needs are being met once the offending foods are removed. This diet should not be attempted without professional advice since there is no simple list of foods high in FODMAPs, so you may continue to eat products containing them and have symptoms without realizing why.

For more news on digestive disorders be sure to read:

  • Prebiotics Feed Bacteria in the Gut
  • Constipation: How to Cure It
  • Is Diarrhea a Sign of a Food Allergy?
  • Which Foods and Fibers Can Prevent Constipation?
  • Latest Crash Diets: Going Gluten and Wheat Free
overweight woman measuring waistline with tape measure

Prejudice Against Overweight and Obesity

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

STUDIES SHOW GROWING ANTI-FAT BIASES FOR OVERWEIGHT CHILDREN AND ADULTS

Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. We reached the point where the majority of us were exceeding our healthy weight in the 1990s. We also have very high rates of fat prejudice in this country. So the question that begs to be answered is, if the majority of Americans have been bigger than average for the past 20 years or so, who is perpetuating the anti-fat bias?

Anyone who has ever circulated a fat joke via email or liked one on Facebook can raise a hand.

Two studies published this month made me think it’s time to turn the mirror on ourselves.

It Takes A Village

Long before children have the math skills to calculate their body mass index (weight/height2 x 703) they show an aversion towards overweight children as playmates. (Body mass index, or BMI, is a measurement used to determine one’s weight classification. A BMI below 20 is considered underweight, between 20-25 normal weight, 26-29 overweight and above 30 is obese.)

Researchers at the University of Leeds in England found children aged 4 and 7 would select a normal weight child or one in a wheelchair before choosing an overweight child as a friend. The scientists discovered this through the use of illustrated storybooks. They created three versions of a story, each with a central character named Alfie. He was either normal weight, overweight or in a wheelchair in the different versions. After hearing and seeing the stories the children in each group were asked if they would befriend Alfie. They were far more likely to choose normal weight or disabled Alfie, with just one out of 43 children saying they would like overweight Alfie as their friend.

The same experiment was done with a female character named Alfina and produced similar results. In both cases older children expressed more negative views towards the overweight child, including seeing him or her as less likely to win a race, do good school work or get invited to parties.

These findings suggest children pick up on the social stigma against overweight people from adults and the media at a very young age as. The authors of the study concluded, “We have a real habit of equating fatness with bad and children are reflecting that back to us.”

Physicians Against Fatness

The second study on fat prejudice that came across my desk this week was done on medical students. It didn’t involve story books.

Researchers at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina had over 300 third year medical students complete the Weight Implicit Association Test (IAT). This test is a validated measure of implicit preferences for “fat” or “thin” individuals.

The value in measuring implicit biases is that they occur at an unconscious level. They reflect our first reaction or initial emotional response to someone before our conscious thought emerge.

The students also completed another test to identify their explicit preferences, which are the ones we are consciously aware of.

The results showed that the majority of students had implicit weight-related biases, with more than twice as many showing anti-fat bias compared to anti-thin. The majority also reported they preferred thin people to fat people in the explicit test, with males twice as likely to report explicit anti-fat bias. Among students with a significant weight-related bias, only 23% were aware of it. More than two-thirds of them thought they were neutral.

The authors suggest these findings may be due, in part, to the fact medical students are learning about the dangers of obesity and may feel they should prefer thin people over fat. Or they may believe body weight is under an individual’s control so they may hold a negative view of someone who doesn’t do something about it.

Unfortunately, these results are very similar to those obtained when non-medical students take the tests, and they reflect the attitudes of the general public. Even those of kids in kindergarten.

Lead author Dr. David Miller said these biases can affect the doctor-patient relationship and must be overcome to improve care for the millions of Americans who are overweight or obese.

A good place to start may be by looking in the mirror.

Bride, bridesmaids and mothers in different gowns at a wedding reception

Perfect Wedding Dress Designs: No Dieting Required

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

THE BEST BRIDAL GOWN FOR ANY WOMAN IS THE ONE THAT FLATTERS HER FIGURE WITHOUT EXTREME WEIGHT LOSS

Wedding season is here, a dangerous time for any woman in a bridal party. All eyes used to be riveted on the bride, but our image-conscious culture now expects everyone in her entourage to look picture perfect. And there will be plenty of pictures, from scenic location poses to live action videos to the endless candid shots taken by anyone with a cell phone.

As a result, every woman related to the bride or groom, from great-grandmothers to step-cousins, will want to look thinner, firmer, and younger for the wedding. Fortunately, there’s a way to do that without having to starve, sweat, or undergo surgery!

The Non-Diet Way to Fit Into a Dress

When I wrote The Wedding Dress Diet it was in response to all of the calls I received as a consulting nutritionist from brides-to-be who wanted my help getting in shape for their wedding day, or more specifically, their perfect wedding dress. They were determined to whittle their waistlines, tone their triceps, and boost their butts and boobs in order to zip up the dress of their dreams.

My goal for the book was to help newly engaged women of all shapes and sizes buy the best bridal gowns for their figures, then guide them through a sensible eating and exercise plan that would allow her to easily slip it on before the final fitting.

I soon found out this was advice every woman could use before buying a party dress for a big event.

You Can’t Diet Yourself Taller

The first step is taking stock of the things you can’t change and what you can do in spite of them. Choosing the right wedding dress design can add curves where you want them or minimize them where you don’t, all without extreme diet and exercise regimens.

Too Tall – If you’re tall and want to visually knock off a few inches, choose a dropped waistline. Your height will also allow you to wear tiered dresses or those with contrasting patterns and colors that break up the visual canvas.

Very Short – If you’re short and want to look taller, consider a high waistline, such as an empire waist, with the seam just under the bust line to make your torso appear longer. Other elongating options include a column dress in a single shade or with a vertical pattern.

Broad Shoulders – You can make them appear narrower by choosing a draped, wide-collared dress or V-neck, but not a deeply scooped neckline. Also steer clear of shoulder pads, puffy sleeves and halter necks.

Boney Shoulders – Detract attention from them with a high neckline and a simple capped sleeve. Puffy sleeves will dwarf you and clingy fabrics will show every protruding bone.

Big Bust – You can minimize your endowment by drawing the eye away from the chest with an elongated bodice that drops to a V in the center of the front of the dress. Detailing on the hemline, such as lace, will also keep the eye going down. Avoid a dress that is pinched at your natural waistline, a plunging neckline, and any froufrou on the bodice.

If you want to accentuate your voluptuousness, go for a strapless or off-shoulder gown, a V-neck or a high-necked bodice with a keyhole or cut-outs at the throat.

Small Bust – A higher waistline in a dress will give the illusion of having more up top, as will a strapless sheath that has shirring, ruffles, beads or other embellishments over the bust. Avoid plunging necklines, low waistlines and unfitted gowns with no defined shape.

Thick Waist – Look for a slightly higher, banded waistline seam attached to an A-line below.

Tiny Waist – You can emphasize this asset with an A-line dress due to its fitted bodice and waist that flares gradually below the waist or a Princess design that is snug on top with a seamless waistline that flares slightly at the hemline.

Wide Hips – Reach for a halter neckline to pull the eyes away from your hips and any type of contrast or embellishment on the bodice that will keep the eye focused up rather than down. Wrap-around dresses do a nice job of cinching you in at the waist and gently flowing over what lies below the waist.

Narrow Hips – You must take advantage of a flared skirt to convince your admirers that there is more width underneath that fabric than is actually there. For the same reason, avoid straight shifts that have no defined waist, but if you must wear one, belt it.

See my next blog about how to accentuate your best features from the neck up with the right hair style, make up and accessories. You might be surprised to discover what is your best asset of all.

cave painting of prehistoric man chasing large animal with a club

Debunking Another Fad: Paleo Diets

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.

PALEO PLANS PROMOTE EATING LIKE A CAVEMAN, BUT EXPERTS SAY IT’S JUST ANOTHER FAD DIET

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few years, you’ve probably heard about the latest fad diet – eating like a caveman. Proponents say following a paleo plan is the answer to all that ails us about the typical Western diet: it can lower blood pressure, markers of inflammation that lead to cancer, and the risk for heart disease.

Even better, since all paleo diets are based on only eating foods you can hunt, gather or catch, you’ll never have to worry about obesity or diabetes, either!

Miracle or a Mirage?

The Paleolithic era is defined as a span of about 2.5 million years that ended with the development of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Knowing how to plant seeds and wait for them to yield food led to the establishment of permanent settlements with a secure food supply. Having enough food and free time

led to the rest of the advances of modern civilization.

The crops that provided the best yields to feed small tribes of people and their domesticated animals were grains. Yet grains are the curse of the paleo diet crowd. They believe we should go back to our pre-agriculture menu.

Imagine a diet made up of whatever wild animals, rodents, reptiles, fish, and birds you can catch with a rock or a stick. Now add to that whatever eggs, tree nuts, roots, leaves, fruits and berries you can gather.

Forget about eating anything that must be planted from seed and cultivated, such as rice, wheat and corn, or the many foods that can be made from these grains once ground into flour. There are no processed foods, like bread, in the caveman world.

There also is no milk or any products made from milk since that would require having a domesticated mammal that would stand still long enough for you to milk it. At this point in history, all animals are either predators or prey to you.

As a hunter-gatherer, you’d have to live without potatoes, beans and garden variety vegetables and the oils obtained by pressing olives and seeds. Who has time to squeeze olives anyway when you have to catch a fish with your bare hands?

If you were clever enough you could steal some honey from a bee hive. It’s just not clear what you would put it in since there’d be no coffee, iced tea or lemonade?

Getting Your Fill of Fad Diets

The paleo diet plans being touted in books today do not expect you to literally hunt for and gather all your food in the wild. But it may feel just as hard since they exclude so many commonly eaten foods. That’s the telltale sign of a fad diet. You’re expected to give up traditional, familiar and widely available foods. You may start out strong following the rules, but you are doomed to fail in the long run.

Human beings have evolved on the seven continents with different geographies, climates, and food supplies for thousands of years. Our diets have never been the same, yet people all over the world have very similar nutritional needs.

Learning to adapt to the menu is a survival skill. Once you figure that out you can have your cake and eat it, too.

A quick healthy meal made with pasta is penne with vegetables and fresh herbs

Quick Healthy Meals Begin with Pasta

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read it here.

THE BENEFITS OF PASTA INCLUDE THE QUICK HEALTHY MEALS YOU CAN MAKE BY ADDING VEGETABLES, LEAN PROTEIN AND FRESH HERBS

Remember the days when we were told fat was killing us, but we could eat all the carbohydrates we wanted? Of course, that backfired. You can never eat all you want of anything and remain healthy. But back then, pasta was considered a superfood as long as you didn’t put any olive oil on it.

Then the tides turned on food high in carbohydrate, and protein became top dog, along with whatever fat clung to it. Soon people who hadn’t sunk their teeth into a piece of prime rib in ages were hitting the carving station again.

We have now entered the era of the good fats. The marbled meats are gone, and the healthy fats found in the foods of the Mediterranean, like olive oil, almonds and sesame seeds, are in.

Since the Mediterranean Diet has been linked to better health, you might be wondering where pasta fits into the plan?

I’m here to deliver good news. There are many nutritional and culinary benefits of pasta, and we were wrong to abandon the quick healthy meals we can make with it.

The problem was never the pasta; it was how much we were eating. Let’s try to get it right this time around. With all the new shapes, sizes and types of pasta on the market, there are more ways than ever to enjoy it.

Pasta Does Not Make You Fat!

Neither pasta in particular, nor carbohydrates in general, can make us gain weight any faster or easier than any other food containing calories. All of the excess calories we consume contribute to weight gain if we don’t burn them off, no matter what the source.

If you love pasta, the key to keeping it in your diet without exceeding your daily caloric allowance is to portion it properly. Two ounces of dry pasta is considered one serving, and it has about 200 calories. There’s no law against cooking a 12 ounce box and eating half of it yourself at one meal, but you must be able to use those 600 calories, and any that were clinging to it, or they will be stored as fat.

If you have a hard time estimating what 2 ounces of penne, fettuccine, or any other pasta looks like after it has been cooked, Barilla Pasta has a great chart that tells you how to measure it both before and after cooking.

Health Benefits of Pasta

  • Source of enriched and whole grains – Dietary Guidelines recommend eating at least 6 servings of grains a day, with half of them whole grains and half enriched
  • Low in fat and sodium – You don’t have to salt the water to cook pasta; let your sauce provide the flavor.
  • No cholesterol or saturated fat – If you use only plant-sourced toppings, like vegetables and beans, your dish will remain cholesterol free.
  • Enriched with thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin, folic acid, and iron – Including enriched grains in the diet is an important way to meet requirements for essential nutrients.
  • A low Glycemic Index food – This means pasta makes us feel satisfied longer than other food high in carbohydrate and it doesn’t cause blood sugar to surge.
  • Available in nutritionally enhanced varieties – The list includes whole grain, vegetable, high fiber, high protein, ALA omega-3 fatty acids, and gluten free.

Culinary Benefits of Pasta

  • Partners well with every other food group – It’s the foundation for endless quick healthy meals when prepared with vegetables, fruits, lean meats, beans, nuts, or cheese.
  • Quick and easy to cook – Depending on size, it only takes 6-12 minutes to cook pasta to “al dente”, so follow the directions on the box.
  • Variety of shapes and sizes – The names on the boxes mean different things in Italian, but the shapes are basically long or short, ridged or smooth, thin or thick, hollow or solid, flat or filled.
  • Versatile serving options – One of the few foods you can enjoy hot or cold and reheated.
  • Inexpensive and widely available – Pasta provides a valuable way to stretch food dollars without compromising on value at meals.
  • Tastes great – A favorite of children, teens and adults alike, so everyone in the family can enjoy more meals together.