Woman on table having abdomen examined by physician

Crash Diets and Gallstone Attacks

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.

STONES IN THE BILE DUCT CAN CAUSE GALLBLADDER ATTACKS IN PEOPLE ON VERY LOW CALORIE DIETS

If you want to reduce your weight, lowering your caloric intake is an option. If you want to reduce your risk of gallbladder attacks while losing weight, don’t lower your caloric level too far.

Crash diets have been proven to increase gallstone attacks.

Crash Diets and Gallstones

A new study from researchers in Sweden followed 6,640 people for one year who were losing weight on diets with different caloric levels. The “crash diet” included liquid meals providing 500 calories a day for six to 10 weeks. After that phase, those dieters gradually resumed eating solid food and followed a maintenance diet for nine months with an exercise regimen.

The other dieters followed a “low calorie diet” with between 1200 and 1500 calories a day for the first three months. It also included two liquid meals a day, then transitioned to a weight maintenance diet of all solid food for the next nine months.

As reported in the International Journal of Obesity, 48 people on the crash diet developed gallstones requiring hospital treatment while only 16 people in the low calorie group did.

One reason offered for this difference in gallstone attacks is that the people on the crash diet lost more weight. They had an average loss of 30 pounds at three months compared to 17 pounds for the low calorie group and an average loss of 24.5 pounds at the end of one year compared to 18 pounds for the others.

Even though obesity is a risk factor for gallstones, losing weight too quickly just makes the problem worse.

What Causes Gallbladder Attacks?

The gallbladder’s function is to hold bile, a liquid made in the liver, and release it during digestion when needed to help breakdown fats. Bile contains water, bile salts, protein, bilirubin (a waste product), cholesterol and fat.

The most common type of gallstones is made from cholesterol. When there is too much cholesterol in the bile it can harden into small pebble-like substances – or stones.

During rapid weight loss the liver secrets extra cholesterol into the bile, and that can increase the risk of gallstone formation. It is also believed gallstones are formed when the gallbladder does not empty completely or often enough, which is the case when eating a very low fat diet.

Bile travels through ducts, or tubes, to get from the liver to the gallbladder to the intestines. If there are stones in a bile duct that block the flow of bile it can cause inflammation. That can lead to the fever, jaundice and the pain commonly associated with a gallstone attack.

Who Gets Gallstones?

In addition to being overweight and losing weight too quickly, simply having gallstones is a risk factor for developing more. Other contributing factors identified by the National Digestive Disease Information Clearing House include:

Female – Women are twice as like as men to develop gallstones

Family History – There is a possible genetic link to gallstone problems

Diet – The more cholesterol and fat in your diet, the greater your chances of making gallstones

Ethnicity – American Indians have a genetic predisposition for gallstones and Mexican-Americans men and women also have higher rates

Cholesterol-lowering drugs – Drugs that lower blood cholesterol levels may increase the amount of cholesterol in the bile

Gallstone attacks typically occur after eating a meal and can mimic signs of a heart attack, so getting a proper evaluation is critical.

If your pain is in your lower back, see my post about kidney stones to see if they are a problem for you.

Woman with kidney stones standing with hands on her back

Does Calcium Cause Kidney Stones?

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.

RESEARCH SHOWS CONNECTION BETWEEN DIETARY CALCIUM AND KIDNEY STONES IS BENEFICIAL, DOES NOT CAUSE KIDNEY STONES

The one thing everyone agrees with when discussing kidney stones is how painful they are. Having had them twice in my life I can confirm all reports about how excruciating they are. Childbirth was easier.

What is not so clear is the connection between calcium and kidney stones.

Some new research provides much needed insight into the causes of kidney stones and what we can do to prevent the pain that goes with them.

What Are Kidney Stones?

The most common types of kidney stones are composed of either calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate. Calcium, oxalate and phosphate are all minerals that are part of a healthy diet and are normally dissolved in the urine. Under certain conditions, however, they can precipitate out of solution and form small insoluble stones that are passed through the urinary tract unnoticed.

The biggest contributor to the formation of these stones is not drinking enough fluids. The more fluids we drink the more urine we produce, and the more urine we produce the more diluted the minerals will become in our urine.

Another contributor is a high salt diet. When we have excess sodium in our bodies the kidneys must use all available fluids to dilute the sodium so it can be excreted in the urine. That increases the risk that other minerals will precipitate and form stones.

If stones do form and they become too big to pass easily, they can cause the notorious back pain. This, along with the other tell-tale signs of a kidney problem blood such as blood in the urine and pain while urinating, should send you straight to the doctor.

Does Calcium Cause Kidney Stones?

Even though too little fluid and too much sodium are the leading causes of kidney stones, it was widely believed that calcium was the problem since most kidney stones contain calcium. But studies have shown calcium is not the culprit.

People who have the most calcium in their diets are much less likely to suffer from kidney stones than those who eat very few calcium-rich foods. Here’s why.

We need calcium to remove oxalate, the other half of what makes up most kidney stones. Oxalate is found in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and soy products, plus cocoa and black tea. There’s really no avoiding it and maintaining a healthy diet. But the more calcium we have in our digestive tracts, the more it can bind with oxalate and remove it from the body before it can settle in the kidneys.

If we cut back too much on calcium, oxalate can accumulate in the kidneys and create stones with the available calcium.

The key here is that it is dietary calcium that helps, such as that found in dairy products and other calcium-rich foods. Calcium supplements are not as effective and may contribute to stone formation if taken in large quantities.

What Else Can Cause Kidney Stones?

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) has an Information Clearinghouse that answers all of the questions you may have about kidney stones, and more. The key takeaways for anyone wondering what their risk might be are these:

  • Family history of hypercalciuria, a condition of high calcium levels in the urine
  • Personal history of kidney stones
  • Personal history of gout or high uric acid levels in blood or urine
  • Regular use of diuretics (medications to help the kidneys remove fluids from the body)
  • Regular use of calcium-based antacids
  • High dose calcium supplements in people who don’t have osteoporosis (more than 2000 mg/day)
  • High dose vitamin D supplements in people who are not deficient (more than 2000 I.U/day)

Check back here for my next blog about another stony issue, gall stones.

X-ray of cardiac pacemaker

Benefits of Coenzyme Q10 for Chronic Heart Failure

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.

NEW RESEARCH SUPPORTS USE OF COENZYME Q10 FOR CHRONIC HEART FAILURE AND CONGESTIVE HEART DISEASE

Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 or ubiquinone or ubiquinol – whatever you call it – came up in a conversation with my 85 year old father this week. He had been out to dinner with friends and they asked him if he was taking it. He told them he wasn’t. Then they asked him why not since he has chronic heart failure and a history of congestive heart disease, two problems it’s supposed to help.

He promised them he would call me to get the scoop.

Having done so, I did some research and am going to share it with all of you so you don’t have to call and ask me too.

What is Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10?

It’s a vitamin-like substance found in every cell in the body. The reason it is not classified as a vitamin is because our bodies can manufacture it. It is also found in a variety of foods we eat, including fish, meats and whole grains, with smaller amounts in fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

What Does CoQ10 Do?

The energy-producing apparatus inside each cell are called the mitochondria. Think of them like a furnace generating heat for your home. Their job is to convert fat and other substances into a usable form of energy to fuel all of our activities and support the growth and repair of our body parts. Coenzyme Q10 is needed for this conversion process.

It also functions as an antioxidant that protects the body from the damaging effects of oxygen, similar to the antioxidant properties in vitamin C and the mineral zinc. Since a number of heart conditions are the result of oxygen damage to that organ, Co Q10 has been used protect the heart muscle.

What are Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol?

They are two naturally occurring forms of CoQ10, depending on whether it is oxidized (ubiquinone) or reduced (ubiquinol). When energy is being created in the mitochondria, the oxidized form of CoQ10 (ubiquinone) can accept an electron from another molecule in a process called electron transfer. Once it does, it becomes the reduced form of CoQ10 (ubiquinol). The reduced form can then donate an electron and become oxidized again. This conversion goes on continuously inside the mitochondria during energy production, so both forms of CoQ10 are equally important.

What Are the Benefits of Coenzyme Q10 for Heart Patients?

Ever since Coenzyme Q10 was first identified in 1957 it has been promoted as a healing drug and used for everything from muscular dystrophy to male infertility. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support most of those claims according to the National Institutes of Health.

The ability of CoQ10 to improve survival rates in people with heart failure, however, has been gaining strength.

In 1985 researchers first demonstrated a connection between low CoQ10 levels and the severity of heart failure. One reason why CoQ10 levels were so low in people with heart disease is that the natural synthesis of it in the body is inhibited by the statin drugs heart patients commonly take. Their blood levels of CoQ10 can be reduced by as much as 40% when taking statins.

This bit of news was enough to fuel the widespread use of CoQ10 supplements by people with congestive heart disease, chest pain, high blood pressure and other heart problems.

Some new research presented at the Heart Failure 2013 meeting in Lisbon, Portugal in May provided much needed proof that it works.

Researchers in Denmark followed 420 heart failure patients recruited from 17 treatment centers in Australia, Malaysia, India, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Sweden and Denmark for 24 months. Participants were randomly assigned to take either 100 mg of CoQ10 three times a day or a placebo.

The study’s primary endpoint was to see how long it took for subjects to have a major adverse cardiovascular event (MACE). Those in the CoQ10 group reduced the risk of MACE by 50%. Only 14% of them reached the primary endpoint during the study compared to 25% in the placebo group.

Should My Dad Take CoQ10?

If you, like my dad, take a stain drug, your CoQ10 levels are probably low. They cannot be raised sufficiently through diet alone to obtain the benefits shown in this study. Instead, CoQ10 can be purchased as an over-the-counter supplement.

It has few side effects when used as recommended, but there are risks. Coenzyme Q10 can lower blood pressure and interfere with blood pressure medications (which my dad takes). It can also interfere with blood thinning drugs (which he takes) and increase the risk of dangerous blot clots.

Knowing that, I advised him not to take it until we meet with his cardiologist to review how it will affect his other medications. That’s the same advice I would give to you.

A Simple Guide: Making Sense of Soy Foods:

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

USE THIS GUIDE TO UNDERSTAND ALL OF THE SOY FOODS AND PRODUCTS AVAILABLE TODAY TO GET MORE SOY IN YOUR DIET

If you didn’t grow up eating soy foods, then you’re probably a bit overwhelmed by the many soy products now available in stores and on restaurant menus. Getting more soy in the diet has health benefits, especially when soy products replace animal products, so it’s worth learning how soybeans can be converted into milk, butter, cheese and meat substitutes, plus so much more. Use this Simple Guide to add more soy to your diet and check the Soyfoods Association of North America for more information.

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Soybeans – Available as tan or black dry beans sold in bags, bulk, canned or frozen. Provides protein similar to meat sources plus bio-active compounds associated with relieving menopausal symptoms and lowering the risk of certain cancers.

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Edamame – Immature green soybeans in the pod and frequently served boiled or steamed. They are sold in and out of the pod fresh and frozen and shelled as canned green soybeans. The flavor is more mild than mature soybeans with a higher sugar content.

 

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Roasted Soy Nuts – Available oil roasted or dry roasted and plain, salted or flavored. Enjoyed as a convenient snack and used to make soy nut butter. Same nutritional value as whole soybeans depending on how they are processed and seasoned.

 

Non-Peanut Butters

Soy Nut Butter – Made by grinding whole roasted soybeans, the result resembles peanut butter in taste, texture and nutritional value. It’s a popular alternative for those with peanut allergies.

 

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Tofu – Also known as soybean curd, tofu has a soft cheese-like consistency and many uses as a substitute for meat or cheese. Made by soaking and grinding soybeans in water, then mixing the slurry with a coagulant and heating it to make curds, which are then pressed to form blocks. The firmness of the tofu depends on how much water is removed. Contains high quality protein and iron and depending on the coagulant used, may be a good source of calcium.

 

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Miso – This paste is made by fermenting soybeans (plus rice or barley) with salt and a fungus to flavor soups, marinades, dressings and more. The color ranges from golden to dark brown. It’s high in phytonutrients and beneficial bacteria and enzymes.

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Tempeh – A “cake” made from cooked soybeans with a texture that ranges from firm to chewy to tender and a flavor that can be mushroomy or yeasty. It can be prepared by any dry or moist heat cooking method after slicing or cubing into the desired size and shape. It’s an excellent source of fiber and protein, plus a good source of folic acid, potassium and iron.

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Soy Milk – This product is often used by people seeking a lactose-free alternative to cow’s milk. It’s made by soaking and cooking whole ground soybeans then filtering the liquid or by hydrating full-fat soy flour or soy protein solids. Sweeteners and flavors may be added to the base along with nutrient fortification to replicate cow’s milk.

 

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Soy Flour – It’s made from ground soybeans and available in high and low fat content suited for different uses. Soy flour is the base used to make some soy milks and textured vegetable protein products. It’s a good source of high quality protein and isoflavones.

 

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Textured Vegetable Protein or Textured Soy Protein – Also referred to as TVP or TSP, it’s made from soy flour, soy concentrate or soy protein isolate. It can be formulated to have the shape, flavor and texture of meat products and is used to make most of the meat-free patties, burgers and crumbles on the market today. TSP is 50% protein and very low in sodium when unflavored, with no cholesterol.

http://www.soyfoods.org/soy-products/soyfoods-in-the-supermarket

Smiling older man receives box delivered to his door

Daily Meals Delivered At Home

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.

HOME DELIVERED MEAL SERVICES ARE VALUABLE OPTION FOR ANYONE WHO CAN’T SHOP AND COOK

Everyone reading this has probably relied on take-out services at one time or another to get a meal that is quick and convenient. Once purchased, you can eat take-out in the car, at your desk, on a park bench or at your own dining room table. No cooking or clean up required.

Many of us have also relied on the prepared food options available to us in any grocery store for a meal in a hurry. If you’ve ever purchased a rotisserie chicken then you know what I’m talking about.

Now there is a way to get all of your daily meals without ever having to leave the house: Home delivered meals.

Meals delivered at home provide a solution for anyone who can’t shop and cook. They cater to everyone from new mothers to widowed senior citizens. Nearly all of them offer weight loss plans, while some feature meals for diabetics, Kosher food or vegetarian diets. Some can even provide meals that combine all three!

All you have to do is place your order and pay for it online or by telephone and the meals start showing up at your front door.

I visited several of the company websites to see how they worked and received samples of their meals. Here are the highlights from my investigation.

Review of Daily Meal Services Delivered to Your Home

Healthy Chef Creations 866-575-2433 Organic gourmet meals delivered fresh daily.

Features: Based on Mediterranean Diet Plan using 96% certified organic ingredients, free-range meats and wild-caught fish.

Meal Plans: Weight Loss, Healthy Mommy, Healthy Senior

Customization: Can order 1, 2 or 3 meals/day for 5 or 7 days/week. Menu changes weekly and meals come in small, regular or large sizes. Can accommodate food allergies and intolerances.

Chef’s Diet 800-946-1047 Provides 3 meals and 2 snacks a day delivered fresh daily.

Features: Meals are based on a 40/30/30 distribution of protein, carbohydrate and fat

Meal Plans: Kosher, Vegiquarian, Heart Healthy, Diabetic/Sugar Free, Kids

Customization: Unable to guarantee restrictions for food allergies and food preferences.

Magic Kitchen 877-516-2442 Frozen prepared meals delivered weekly, biweekly or monthly

Features: Provides entrees, side dishes and desserts for one to four people.

Meal Plans: Senior, Portion Controlled, Low Sodium, Diabetic-friendly, Renal Dialysis, Dialysis-friendly

Customization: Can order Meal Bundles, Family Size, Complete Meals for One, or just main course, side dishes, soups, desserts.

BistroMD 866-401-3438 Healthy meals for weight loss delivered frozen weekly.

Features: Plan was created by physician, registered dietitian and chef using locally sourced ingredients.

Meal Plans: Men’s and Women’s plans provide 1100-1400 calories/day and can be ordered for 5 or 7 days/week.

Customization: Over 200 unique entrees with seasonal menu changes; can accommodate personal ingredient preferences.

Other Aspects of Home Delivered Meals

  • Meals arrive in an insulated cooler or a box packed with dry ice.
  • Food must be put in the refrigerator or freezer immediately to maintain quality.
  • If receiving a week or more of frozen meals at one time you must be able to pick up the full box and store all the food in your freezer.
  • Instructions for reheating in a microwave oven are provided.
  • Fresh fruit and salads are not offered on all plans so can be added by consumer.
  • Delivery is not available everywhere.
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.

Mature woman getting hair shampooed and cut by male hair stylist

Best Beauty Advice for Women: Get a Good Haircut

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.

FINDING A HAIRSTYLE THAT FLATTERS YOUR FACE IS GOOD ADVICE FOR WOMEN SEEKING SAFE, PRACTICAL BEAUTY TIPS

No matter how well you disguise your body beneath your clothes, everyone can see your face. Even women who have reached their goal weight find they still have fat cheeks, a pointy chin or an angular jawline when they look in the mirror.

That’s when you realize the shape of your face is like your fingerprints. It stays with you for life.

Without even considering cosmetic surgery as an option, there are painless ways to redefine the shape and appearance of your face. In my previous post, I shared tips from my book The Wedding Dress Diet to help any woman select the perfect dress to flatter her figure without having to diet and exercise like a fiend to fit into the wrong dress. Now I’m ready to deliver Part II: Beauty advice for women that flatters your natural features.

Looking Younger From the Neck Up

The shape of your eyebrows, the contour of your blush and right shade of lipstick can all be used accentuate your natural beauty. If you don’t believe me, just ask a drag queen! The art of deception is their specialty, but those of us who dress as women everyday can learn a lot from their secret beauty tips.

Choosing the right hairstyle is one of the most effective ways to subtly change your appearance so your best features stand out while leaving the weaker ones ignored. Depending on the shape of your face, something as simple as wearing bangs can make you look 10 years younger without investing in costly injections or facial creams.

Wear Your Hair to Fit Your Face

Match your face to one of these shapes and see if a new hairstyle doesn’t help you put your best face forward.

Square face – If this description fits you, the width of your forehead, cheekbones and jaw are about equal, with a sharp angular jawline. To soften those corners, surround them with curls, layers or uneven ends. You can also get away with short, spiky cuts, but will draw attention to your jaw with a chin-length bob or wide straight bangs.

Round face – The difference between this face shape and a square one is that round faces don’t have sharp angles. The corners are round and soft. Long hair will help lengthen your face, so let it grow a few inches below your chin or longer. If you have a natural wave, scrunch your hair as it dries to let those soft waves surround your face, but avoid tight curls that will make your round cheeks look fuller.

Diamond face – This description means the width of your forehead and chin are the same while your cheekbones are wider. You can wear the same cuts as someone with a square face, especially long straight hair parted in the middle.

Long or Narrow face – Since your face is longer than it is wide, you need to create some width. You can do that with bangs, whether straight across or swept to the side. A straight, chin-length bob will also provide the illusion of a wider face, just don’t let it get too long or it will drag your face down. You can, however, wear your bob cut with soft curls to provide fullness around your face.

Heart-Shaped face – Since your face is shaped like and inverted triangle, widest at the forehead and pointy at the chin, you need a cut that draws the eyes away from your chin. Side-swept bangs and a strong part will help, and wearing it long or short, just not chin length.

Oval face – If the length of your face is 1 ½ times the width you’ve got the most versatile shape when it comes to hairstyles. You can wear your hair long or short, straight or curly, or go with an edgy uneven cut. To make your haircut really pay off, be sure it highlights your best facial feature – eyes, cheekbones, lips.

The most valuable beauty tip of all is one that has always been free and is universally recognized as a sign of attractiveness. Smile. With or without the cameras on you, a warm smile is your best asset.

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.

Smiling older woman hugging her black dog

Pets and Health: Benefits of Pet Ownership

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.

RESEARCH SHOWS PETS PROVIDE HEALTH BENEFITS TO PET AND OWNER

If you’ve tried meditation but had trouble getting into the zone, I feel your distraction. I can’t sit still, block all my random thoughts and focus on my breathing either. But put a purring cat in my lap while I stroke its fur and I’m in nirvana.

This is all the evidence I need that there is a connection between pets and health.

Don’t like cats? Allergic to fur? Sit in front of a fish tank and see if you don’t get mesmerized.

People and Pets, The Perfect Partnership

Human beings have cohabitated with animals for over 12,000 years. Our earliest motivation for domesticating wolves was to make them part of our hunting parties to help track other animals, but they ended up doing much more for us. Ancestors of today’s dogs were soon valued as a source of warmth, companionship and protection.

Pet ownership has been big business ever since.

Now the American Heart Association says pets, especially dogs, may be associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

The Scientific Statement published in the journal Circulation made it very clear that buying or adopting a dog would not undo the damage caused by smoking, eating poorly and not exercising. It might even add to your stress if you can’t take care of the animal properly. But if you make needed lifestyle changes to lower your risk for heart disease and have a pet, you could benefit more than someone who lives without fur balls under the bed.

A majority of Americans have apparently figured that out on their own. Even though pets require a lot of time, money and effort, they are found in 62% of U.S. households according to the 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey. Dogs are in more households than cats, but cats outnumber dogs since people tend to have more than one.

Pet and Owner, Healthy Together

While the research reported by the American Heart Association looked primarily at decreased risk for heart disease, there are other benefits of pet ownership. Here’s my informal list that is not necessarily supported by scientific studies, but has the endorsement of pets and owners alike.

Structure Your Day – If you are responsible for feeding a pet, providing water and cleaning up after it, you tend to get up on schedule, get home from work on time and go to bed at the same time each day.

Stay Physically Active – Even if you don’t have to walk a dog, you may have to scoop the poop from the yard, birdcage, or hamster habitat; vacuum fur, sweep kitty litter, and pick up toys from all corners of the house.

Source of Companionship – No matter the species, your pet is someone to “talk” to so you never feel alone.

Offer Emotional Support – Being needed by our pets increases our sense of self-worth and their loyalty improves our self-esteem.

Increase Socialization – People who don’t talk to strangers do talk to a stranger’s pet, whether in the veterinarian’s waiting room, pet supply store or walking through the park with a ferret on your shoulder.

Enhance Therapy – Dogs not only serve as eyes for the blind, they assist those with Alzheimer’s and autism and can be trained to detect a drop in blood sugar, some types of cancer and oncoming seizures.

Provide a Play Mate – If you’ve ever purchased a toy for a pet, you know it takes two to have fun! Teasing a cat with a feather on a string, tossing a Frisbee to the dog or trying to get the bird to ring bells in a certain order is entertainment for both of you.

Shiny red apple sitting on top of a book

Nutrition Education vs Healthy Eating Habits

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.

NUTRITION EDUCATION AND HEALTHY EATING GUIDELINES ARE ONLY USEFUL IF WE EAT WHAT WE LEARN

Americans have received a lot more nutrition education than is evident by looking at what we eat. Thanks to a number of successful campaigns by the food industry and government-issued healthy eating guidelines, we have had the chance to learn what’s in our food and why it’s good for us, even if we don’t always put it into practice.

Please take this little quiz to help make my point:

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know milk is rich in calcium and calcium is good for our bones?

  1. Can you name a food high in vitamin C?
  2. Where does most of the iron we eat end up in our bodies?
  3. Why do we need protein in our diets?
  4. What makes our blood pressure go up?

(You can find the correct answers below.) If you got them right, that’s proof the marketing about these food-nutrient-function connections stuck. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean you have healthy eating habits.

What’s Missing From Nutrition Education?

Associating individual nutrients with individual foods is an easy way to get a message across, but there are unintended consequences. The biggest one is that we tend to lose sight of the synergy of a mixed diet and the way nutrients work together to keep us healthy.

For example, teaching people which foods have the highest level of this nutrient or that overlooks the fact those nutrients are of little value to us until they are absorbed. As it turns out, one of the best ways to enhance absorption is to consume different types of food together, not single foods.

Then there is the danger of believing the only nutritional value of a food is the one nutrient you associate with it, such as the calcium in milk. This narrow view can result in your thinking something as complex as milk can be replaced by a single dietary supplement, such as calcium. If that happens, you’ll end up cheating yourself out of the 10 other vitamins, minerals and protein found in milk.

And finally, there is the problem of not knowing about the other foods-nutrients-functions that haven’t had their own advertising blitz yet. So until someone launches a “Get Your Potassium From Produce” promotion or “Go Nuts for Magnesium” movement, we’ve got to include as much variety in our diets as possible to cover all the bases.

Eat What You Know

At the end of the day, healthy eating habits aren’t measured by what we know about food and nutrition. They’re reflected in what we eat. I believe most people know enough, they just have to eat what they know.

(Answers: Orange juice, blood, build muscles, sodium)