45 is the New 25

Last year I wrote about Diana Nyad, a 61 YO female swimmer who was attempting to swim 103 miles (expected to take 60+ hours) from Cuba to Key West (see “Going for Greatness at Any Age“).  Nyad, unfortunately, was unsuccessful in her attempt (see “60 is the New 40“), but the fact that at 61 she was even attempting such a feat was amazing and inspiring.  While I am “creeping up there” in age, but I hardly consider myself old ~ I think I have a lot of good years left in me.  Certainly I believe that treating your body well with good nutrition and exercise (of both the body and the mind) is critical to not only living a long life, but also one worth extending (I have no interest in sitting in some care facility at age 80 unable to actually do anything).  So I love following stories of people who are pushing the boundaries, who are not letting age tell them what they can and cannot do.

Enter Dara Torres.  I mentioned her in my “Going for Greatness at Any Age” post ~ Dara has competed in 5 Olympic Games, beginning with the 1984 games at the age of 17 where she won her first medal (a gold) as a member of the 4 x 100 relay.  At age 21 she added a bronze and silver medal.  At age 25, she again won gold for the 4 x 100 relay.  At that Olympics in Barcelona her teammates referred to her as “grandma.”  Eight years later, at the age of 33 (must have been a “great-grandma” by then) she earned five…yes, five medals, two gold medals for relays and three individual bronze medals.  At age 33 Dara was not only the oldest member of the Olympic swim team but also the winningest member.  And if that wasn’t accomplishment enough, she did it again…in 2008 at the age of 41 Torres qualified for the Olympic swim team heading to Beijing.  She came home with two silver medals, one in a relay and one in the 50 meter freestyle (she missed the gold by .01 seconds).  Now, for those of you unfamiliar with swimming, the 50 meter freestyle is a ridiculously difficult event.  Yes, it is only one length of an Olympic-sized pool, but it is an all-out sprint.  It is like the 100 meter dash in track.  The 50 meter freestyle requires a perfect start and all-out effort.  There is no room to make up for any error, even a very small one.  In nabbing the silver medal Torres also managed to set a new American record for the 50 meter freestyle.  BAM!

Is she done?  Apparently not.  I was reading the Washington Post yesterday and ran across a great article about Dara, who just so happens to be training for her sixth Olympics, London 2012.  At the age of 45.  Unbelievable.  The US Olympic swimming trials will be held June 25-July 2 in Omaha, Nebraska, at which time Torres will attempt once again to make the Olympic team.  At this point she is training for only one event, the 50 meter freestyle (in 2008 she also trained for the 100 meter freestyle although she opted not to compete in it).  And she has a legitimate shot at making the team.  At a meet in March she posted the second fastest time for the 50 meter freestyle.  Is Torres a freak of nature?  Probably.  Let’s be honest here, not everyone is meant to do this, nor is everyone even capable of doing this.  To be an Olympic athlete takes tremendous dedication, in addition to talent.  To do it at age 45 is just absurd.  So while we can’t all jump in the pool, swim for two hours a day, add two hours of weight training and expect to qualify for the Olympics, we can all be inspired by Dara to try a little harder, to put a little more effort towards taking care of our bodies.

In the article, “2012 Olympics: Dara Torres Pursues Speed For the Ages,” Torres is referred to as an “animal.”

Actually, she’s a middle-aged woman who bought her first pair of reading glasses last year, dyes her hair blonde to cover the gray and can’t believe she was foolish enough to install a magnifying mirror in her bathroom, given the alarming amount of information it reveals.

So in some ways at least, she’s like the rest of us.

Torres admits that this time it’s harder.  At age 45 she is finding the recovery process from her training sessions more difficult.  Her body doesn’t produce the same amount of hormones that help promote muscle recovery and strength gains.

“This has definitely mentally and physically been the most challenging Olympics I’ve ever trained for by far,” Torres said. “It’s only been four years since the last one. I don’t know why I’m suddenly feeling the effects of age now, but I am.”

Certainly Torres is doing everything she can to give herself an advantage, short of using performance-enhancing drugs (like everyone else, Torres has been drug-tested many, many times and has never failed).  In addition to her swim coach, she employs two people who stretch and massage her muscles, a personal trainer, a rehabilitation specialist (Torres had surgery in 2009) and a chiropractic neurologist.  She breathes pure oxygen while on a stationary bike three times a week, subjects herself to electric shock therapy three times a week, sleeps with a magnetic device under her mattress and takes supplements such as black licorice, rhodiola, ginseng and amino acids.  Says Jeff Drobot, medical director for the Calgary Centre for Naturopathic Medicine,

“We’re trying to make her better in spite of her age.”

While Torres admits that the physical part is harder and puts her at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to her younger counterparts, she feels that mentally she is at an advantage.  She has trained for so many years, has been to the Olympics so many times, and has the maturity to deal with all of it, something which she feels the younger swimmers struggle with more.

To me, Torres is an inspiration.  Can I be like her?  Never.  But can I push myself a bit harder, can I not use the “I’m tired” excuse or the “I’m getting to old to do this” excuse because I know what Dara is doing at the age of 45?  I love the ending of the Post article:

Torres said she is still amazed by the impact she’s had. Her daughter’s elementary school recently organized a career day, and it never occurred to Torres to volunteer. One of her daughter’s teachers asked if she would come in and speak to the children about being an Olympic athlete, and Torres felt silly for not having thought of it herself.

“Is this really like a career?” she said. “I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to do when I grow up.”

Me too.  Read the Post article and make sure to watch the accompanying video clip.  You will be inspired.  And if you need further inspiration, here is a 17 minute talk by Diana Nyad about her recent attempt to swim from Cuba to Key West (she hasn’t given up her quest).  She ends it by paraphrasing the poet Mary Oliver…

“so what is it, what is it you’re doing with this one wild and precious life of yours?”

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Five (More) Food Myths

I love the Huffington Post’s Healthy Living section.  Yes, the Huffington Post is a liberal publication politically.  But whether you are conservative, liberal or somewhere in between, the Healthy Living section has some great articles.  I tend to check it out numerous times a week.  Today I want to share an article by Susan Dopart titled “5 Myths  About Everyday Foods.” I have referenced Susan Dopart before in an article about fat.  She writes good stuff.  In her most recent piece she highlights 5 foods that either get a bad rap (when they shouldn’t) or are considered healthy when they really aren’t.  I even learned something in reading this piece.

The first food she discusses is cheese.  This falls into the category of “bad food,” when the reality is that it depends.  Yes, cheese made from milk produced by cows treated with growth hormones and that are fed copious amounts of antibiotics, grains, soy, etc. is not particularly healthy (I also just recently learned that shredded cheese contains cellulose, a.k.a. wood pulp as an anti-caking agent…even my organic shredded cheddar from Whole Foods does…shred your own).  But cheese made from milk produced by grass-fed cows can actually contain many good things, in addition to the protein and calcium it is noted for.  Grass-fed cows produce milk that is high in omega-3 fatty acids (which we need more of ~ also see here).  Kerrygold cheeses can often be found in the imported cheese section of supermarkets, and from what I have read, it is produced from grass-fed cows (even though that is not stated on the label ~ they also make butter from grass-fed animals).  Take a few minutes to read some labels and try to upgrade the cheese you are buying.

The next item highlighted in Susan’s article is eggs, which many people still believe cause your cholesterol to go up and is are tied to heart disease (every time I hear someone talking about having an egg white omelet I try to educate them about the value of the yolk).  Susan points out that studies have shown no relationship between eggs and heart disease.  For more information about eggs, read my pieces here and here.

Next up is a “villain” in the form of juice.  Interestingly I was just discussing this with some friends over the weekend.  I would say that most people think juice is “healthy” and a great way to get your fruit.  Instead, think of it as no better than soda.  Yes, it has some nutritional value unlike soda, but it is so loaded with sugar (even the natural sugar in fruit is still sugar) that it takes much of the benefit away.  I am not going to say never drink juice, but truthfully, I would be very careful with this one.  Susan brings the point home with this:

Think of all the oranges or apples you would have to squeeze to obtain a cup of juice. You are drinking all the sugar from the juice, minus the fiber that helps stabilize your blood sugar when eating the fruit.

Fourth item discussed is the avocado.  Many people avoid these because they have “too much fat.”  I love avocados…I know not everyone does (for example, my mother).  I love to mash up an avocado and mix it with some ground beef with seasonings, top a piece of grilled chicken with it or add some diced avocado to a salad.  When I use avocado I will use half an avocado at a time.  The fat in an avocado is the monosaturated kind, which is a healthy fat.  I would caution those trying to lose weight against eating too many avocados, because certainly calories do matter ~ but for those already at a healthy weight, eat away!

The final food mentioned is Susan’s article is agave, which is advertised as a “natural” sweetener (and therefore “healthier”).  This item was interesting to me because I will often see “healthy” recipes that call for agave nectar, but I’ve never used it.  Susan discusses the fact that agave is 85-90% fructose and 10-15% glucose, which is problematic because

When you consume a large percentage of this type of fructose, it gets processed directly by your liver, which not only increases your triglyceride levels, but causes fatty liver, increased hunger levels and a plethora of other health issues you would rather avoid.

Susan also points out that while agave comes from a plant (a type of cactus) and would seem to be a natural product it actually

…goes through heavy processing in order to concentrate it into a sweet syrup. Rather than being natural, as we’ve been led to believe, it is actually a processed food, often with few quality controls.

Just another reminder that “natural” means nothing (see also here).  Educate yourself & make the best food choices possible (most of the time…you don’t have to be “good” 100% of the time).

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Is There a “Set Point?”

I hope some of you got the chance to watch the HBO special titled “The Weight of the Nation,” which aired on Monday and Tuesday nights.  If you didn’t get a chance to see it, all four parts are available online here.  I watched on TV on Monday night, but then reverted to watching online because then I could start and stop the video and take notes ~ total nerd, I know.  But the series is packed with good information, and I am learning a lot from it ~ I hope to share some of it with you next week after I am done with the series and have some time to devote to a decent write-up.  I am currently watching part 3 on childhood obesity…very sobering I must say.

Today I want to talk about another magazine article that I read while on the plane to China in March.  This one came from Elle magazine, and I thought it was actually quite good.  I like it when I find a good, well-researched article in a mainstream beauty & fashion magazine ~ truthfully it is rare (see my post here).  This article is titled “Sexy and I Know it.”  Quite frankly, the title has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the article, but I guess if it didn’t have a catchy title then no one would read it.  The article is actually about the concept of a set point in weight loss and whether it is something that is working against you in your battle to lose weight.  I can’t find the article online, otherwise I would give you the link in case you were interested in reading the entire article.  Today you will have to be satisfied with my synopsis of the relevant points.

Most of you have probably heard the term “set point” but may or may not really know what it refers to or what it is all about.  Here is a quick definition, which I took from a one page document from MIT Medical about set point:

  • According to the set-point theory, there is a control system built into every person dictating how much fat he or she should carry – a kind of thermostat for body fat. Some individuals have a high setting, others have a low one. According to this theory, body fat percentage and body weight are matters of internal controls that are set differently in different people. 
  • This theory is still not totally understood, nor has the research definitively proven that such a concept exists.  However, the theory is that your body has a certain weight, called your “set point” which it will basically defend…i.e. it won’t let you lose weight below that point, or if you do, it will quickly work back to that point after you cease dieting.   While I think the research needs to catch up with this idea, there might be something to it.  Which is not to say trying to lose weight is hopeless.  Some of the current research is looking at whether losing weight in smaller increments, staying at that weight for a period of time (minimum of 6 months) and then working at losing additional weight (and again stabilizing, etc) is a way to work around the set point.  A study conducted at the University of Melbourne (Australia) found that participants who lost more than 10% of their body weight (which really isn’t such a big number for those trying to lose significant weight) had changes in their appetite-suppressing hormones, in particular leptin.  Low levels of leptin signals to your body that you need to build your fat stores (which translates to your brain telling you “I’m hungry”) ~ and in this study, weight loss greater than 10% resulted in reductions in leptin levels.  Your body is likely responding to the reduced caloric intake and trying to help “preserve” you.  But in reality, it is working against you by making that weight loss even harder to achieve.
  • Also coming out of the study was that for those participants who lost at least 10% of their bodyweight, their bodies were burning 300 fewer calories a day on average.  This is really a result of two factors.  One, whenever you lose weight your body will need fewer calories to deal with normal expenditure levels (think about the fact that the more you weigh the more effort it is to simply move your body).  The second factor is that once again, when you reduce calories, your body starts to go into preservation mode.  Your body has no idea that you have plenty of calories (i.e. energy to your body) available to you and that you are not a Paleo man/woman who is facing starvation.  So what does it do to “help you out?”  It slows your metabolism.  You burn calories at a slower rate, making weight loss slow down to often frustrating levels (all of this goes to show that losing weight is far more complicated than having calories expended exceed calories taken in).
  • Success levels for maintaining weight loss vary, but the maximum figure reported is a lowly 20% (with some studies showing a measly 2% success rate).While a lot is not yet know about the set point and what methods might be successful in helping to circumvent it, some “experts” recommend not losing weight too quickly and after losing no more than 10% of your body weight going into maintenance mode for 6+ months before attempting to lose additional weight.  Other’s advocate changing your diet to include more fruits and veggies and losing weight very, very slowly ~ in essence, not really “dieting” per say.  Others advocate stress reduction or looking at food sensitivities (such as gluten or dairy, the most common).  But the one trick that seems to have the most science behind it is…EXERCISE!  Yep, despite the fact that losing weight is all about food (first and foremost you must change your diet if you want to lose weight), exercise is a big factor in maintaining weight loss.  The Elle article even recommends the right kind of exercise ~ weight training and interval training.  Wow, a real breath of fresh air!  Regular exercise is key.  Data from the National Weight Control Registry shows that of women who have lost 70 lbs on average and kept it off for up to six years (a significant period of time), physical activity, to the tune of 2700 calories burned a week, was key (never believe the calorie counts on the cardio machines, they are generally far too high…sorry).All of this just goes to show that eating sensibly, not cutting calories too dramatically and getting regular exercise are the keys to successful, long-term weight loss.  Patience and persistence, can go a long way.  :-)
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The Obesity Problem…Whose Fault Is It?

Last week in the news the CDC released the results of a study that showed that

 …by 2030, 42 percent of American adults will be obese, compared to 34 percent now, and 11 percent will be severely obese, compared to the current 6 percent.

Another one-third of American adults are overweight, and one-third of children aged 2 to 19 are overweight or obese. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index – a measure of height to weight – of 30 or greater. Overweight means a BMI of 25 to 29.9.

Talk about depressing.  America leads the world in the percentage of adults that are considered obese and we seem to be running away with the lead.  In related news last week the Institute of Medicine released a (478 page!) report that has met with some controversy as it stated that obesity is not a result of lack of willpower, but rather is a result of our “obesogenic” environment, which promotes increased food intake, unhealthy food and lack of physical activity.  The report was released at a 3 day conference titled “The Weight of the Nation” and was hosted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  According to one committee member, Shiriki Kumanyika of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine,

The average person cannot maintain a healthy weight in this obesity-promoting environment.

The report is meeting with resistance from the food industry and lawmakers as it advocates policy changes, such as taxing sugary beverages.

I don’t know how I feel about this.  We absolutely have a problem, and it has grown significantly since 1980(when the percent of obese Americans was 15%).  While I agree that there is more at work here than shear willpower, a report such as this, which seems to remove any blame from individuals and which sees the solution to the obesity problem rooted in taxes and policy changes, I think misses the mark.  Interestingly, as I sit in Starbucks composing this blog a large (yes, obese) woman walked by me with one of those Frappuccino drinks loaded with whipped cream on top.  Is she not responsible for making this choice?  I truly doubt she isn’t aware that what she is drinking is loaded with calories (between 500 and 650, depending on the flavor she has).  Is a tax on that drink, which is already around $4 going to influence her to make a different choice?  I doubt it.

The IOM report called for a change in farm policy which provides incentives to farmers to grown certain crops such as wheat and cotton, taking away farm land which could be used to grow more fruits and vegetables.  While I agree farm policy needs to be changed (which encourages farmers to grow way more corn and soy than we need…which is what leads to these products showing up in absolutely everything), the IOM states that this lack of land devoted to growing fruits and vegetables has resulted in a situation where

…U.S. farms do not produce enough fresh produce for all Americans to eat the recommended amounts.

WHAT?  There isn’t enough produce for Americans to get their 3-5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables?  Are you f’ing kidding me?  When was the last time you walked into a supermarket and the produce section was empty?  Have you ever walked in to find the store out of apples?  Out of broccoli?  Out of anything in the produce category?

It gets worse.

…the IOM panel argues that people cannot truly exercise “personal choice” because their options are severely limited, and “biased toward the unhealthy end of the continuum.”

As an example the panel noted the lack of sidewalks makes it impossible for people to walk places.  They called for tax incentives for developers to build sidewalks and trails.  Call me naive, but I really don’t think building more sidewalks is going to solve the obesity problem.  And while I’m not saying that I have the answer, it makes me angry that we are trying to move away from making individuals actually responsible for their health.  While I understand there are things about obesity that we do not yet fully understand, I think more education about what constitutes healthy food choices and more physical activity is what is needed.  I think our government is partly to blame for pushing their food pyramid, which in my opinion, pushes carbs and dairy and not enough protein and healthy fats.  I think people are responsible for their health, and for educating themselves, although I realize that there is so much poor information about nutrition that it’s no wonder people are confused.  Do I think the food industry deserves some blame?  Yes, because they continue to produce and market total crap…but if we didn’t buy it, they would stop making it.  So ultimately I still think we are all free to make our own choices, and you can’t really lay the blame on the food industry.

I apologize if this blog is a bit rough around the edges, but I wanted to get it posted today because HBO is airing a documentary titled “The Weight of the Nation” tonight (Monday, May 14) at 8 PM (parts 1 & 2) and Tuesday, May 15th (parts 3 & 4).  For more information, see here.  I have heard that it is open for anyone to see, whether you subscribe to HBO or not, although I don’t know if that is true or not.  I plan to check it out.

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I have to say that I am very often skeptical of celebrities who try to be an authority on food/nutrition, exercise, or life in general.  Too often they know nothing about which they are speaking, and more often than not they are really trying to sell something.  So when I read about Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop.com site, I was fully expecting to see some celebrity flaunting their celebrity and trying to make a buck.  How refreshing to be wrong.

According to the website, goop is

a weekly lifestyle journal delivered straight to your inbox that gives you access to recipes, travel guides, fashion, wellness tips, cultural notes and more, curated by Gwyneth Paltrow.

I don’t like getting more email…I get enough already.  So I didn’t really want to give them my email address, even my “junk” one, only to be inundated with daily emails.  But you don’t need to sign up for the newsletter ~ the site itself is loaded with content (that presumably has been in previous newsletters).  So I started looking around.  The site contains six categories: Make, Go, Get, Do, Be & See.  I haven’t looked at all of them in detail, other than the “make” category as this has to do with food.  The first link I clicked on was “A Better Breakfast.”  While I do not think you need to eat breakfast (see here and here), if you are a breakfast eater I actually thought the breakfast ideas were quite good (and you don’t even need to eat them in the morning ~ these are good ideas for any time).  Gwyneth has Dr. Frank Lipman involved in this one, and I like his intro ~ he is not a fan of soy (yeah!) and is concerned about GMOs. My only caution with the recipes is that substituting gluten-free breads for regular breads might not be the healthy trade-off we are lead to believe.  While there are many reasons why our wheat products are basically crap and not healthy in any way, shape or form, gluten-free products often rely on things such as rice flour or rice starch which can cause as much of a glucose spike as white bread…so use in moderation.

Next I looked at “Healthy Recipes.”  Not only was I impressed with the general healthfulness of the recipes, there are a number of them I am excited to try.  The first recipe listed, “My Ivy Chopped Salad Reinterpreted,” which serves two, calls for one whole avocado (yes!), 12 oz of chicken or salmon (not shying away from decent protein portions) and 3 T of olive oil (used to brush the chicken/salmon and the zucchini before grilling) in addition to more olive oil in the dressing.  Emphasis is on vegetables, healthy fats and protein.  Very, very refreshing.  I now know what I’m doing with my first batch of beats from my CSA farm share this year (hint: Clean Beet Carpaccio with Marinated Bean Salad).

What else am I making?  Lee’s Rocking Fish Tacos!  I found this under “My Father’s Daughter,” which is the name of Gwyneth’s cookbook.  I love fish tacos and am in search of the perfect recipe…this one looks like a contender.  The sauce for the fish consists of olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, onion, garlic, jalapeño, garlic powder, cumin, paprika and salt….is your mouth watering?

I think I really fell in love with the site when I saw a topic called “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.”  Here is Gwyneth’s intro:

Sigh. Jamie Oliver. I love Jamie Oliver. I love his food, I love his books, I love his app, I love the mission he is on. Jamie Oliver is trying to change the way we eat, and by doing so, he plans to deal a massive blow to the likes of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. He is trying to encourage us to get back into the kitchen and cook for ourselves and our families, thereby cutting out the fast and overly processed foods that are making us sick. And fat. And depressed.

I too wrote about Jamie Oliver here.  I too love Jamie Oliver.  I love the mission he is on. Unfortunately I am not a celebrity and I can’t get him to do an interview on my blog.  But Gwyneth can, and she did.  Here is one thing he said that is worth sharing:

…forty years ago we ate mostly fresh, local food, and we knew where that food was coming from. But then fast and heavily processed foods crept in and totally changed our palettes and food businesses. And ultimately, this food is killing us. Obesity and weight gain are the most obvious symptoms, but the problem I have in telling this story is that there are also loads of skinny people suffering because the garbage they are eating is affecting them in a different, but equally dramatic way.

The interview also includes some great Jamie Oliver recipes such as “Spicy Moroccan Stewed Fish with Couscous,””Asian Chicken Noodle Broth,” and “Jam Jar Dressings.” Check it out.

I have to admit, I am impressed, at least with the food information and recipes that I saw.   I plan to do some more exploring of the site and experimenting with some of the recipes. I encourage you to do so as well.  Let me know what you think and what you find that is worth sharing.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what “goop” means or stands for, here is what Gwyneth had to say in an interview:

“I wanted it to be a word that means nothing and could mean

Mystery solved…I think.

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The “Fat Whisperer” ~ Are You Kidding Me?!

So while I was sitting on a plane to China for 14 straight hours (in economy plus, no less…no chance of sleeping much) I had a chance to catch up on some reading.  I like to read a magazine when I first get on the plane, because I know there will be a lot of interruptions until we really get in the air…I find a magazine more conducive to stops and starts as the person in the window seat needs to get past you, the person in the seat next to you is determinedly pushing their too big carry-on into the overhead bin and the flight attendants tell you how to fasten your seat buckle (“insert the metal fitting into the buckle”).  As such, I found myself reading an article in Harper’s Bazaar called “The Fat Whisperer.”  I was hooked from the opening paragraph in an “oh, this is going to be absurd, I just know it” kind of way:

She doesn’t exactly whisper. But bodywork specialist Mary Ascension Saulnier is known in Hollywood as the Fat Whisperer, thanks to her near-mystical spot-reduction abilities….her techniques involve everything from hot pepper to rubber pants.

In the article the author signs up for six weeks of treatments with Saulnier, a former pilates teacher.  The treatments, which rotate weekly and cost from $40 to $750 (yes, 75 + a zero), are meant to “flush the fat and firm skin.”  In addition to the weekly treatments the author is instructed to follow a “killer 30-day detox diet” that eliminates caffeine, dairy, sugar and saturated fat.  Do we really need to go any further?  Already we have suspect “treatments” that are a) expensive and b) involve things such as hot pepper and rubber pants, an “expert” whose background is as a pilates instructor, a detox diet that involves significant restrictions and la-la land (aka Hollywood).  Any time a weight loss plan involves some kind of treatment, gimic, weird fitness routine, etc along with some kind of severely restricted diet, guess which one is going to be responsible for the weight loss and so-called “sculpting?”  I can tell you before reading any further that any “results” from Saulnier’s methods is going to be from the diet (few details are given of the diet, so it is hard to say how healthy or unhealthy it is, but anything called a “30-day detox diet” is suspect in my book).  But let’s just run with this, because if nothing else it is amusing and mind-boggling that celebrities and others with money to burn will pay for stuff like this.

The treatment in week one involves being smeared with some concoction made up of coffee, clay, seaweed, and “stimulating” herbs like cayenne.  The mess is smeared on the author’s skin in the areas where she want to reduce.  (Eye roll.)  She is then wrapped in Ace bandages, thermal underwear, a rubber suit and compression pants.  Guess what…she then sweats (after being placed on a 150 degree mat).  According to Saulnier “NASA uses similar technology; the heat speeds metabolism.”  No, actually it just makes you sweat buckets.  And sweat is just water, not fat.  And your body needs water.  When you sweat like this, any weight you lose you need to replace by drinking water.  I would love to know how much this treatment cost.

By week two the author has lost two pounds (which is the amount any person could lose just by following a sensible diet I might add).  She reports being starving.  Week two’s treatment involves ultrasonic waves and micro currents (i.e. mumbo-jumbo and hocus-pocus), body scrubs, goat milk body lotion and Saulnier’s anti-aging vitamins (remember, she was a Pilates instructor).

By week three the author has lost 4 lbs…again, this would be a normal weight loss following a sensible diet and no silly treatments.  The author is hating the diet and is constantly thinking of cheating.  My guess is the diet is ridiculously calorically-restricted.  I would love to know the total daily calories allowed.  This week’s treatment invokes “cupping” which is “meant to break up superficial fat and stimulate the lymphatic system.”  Are you laughing and shaking your head yet?  By the end of the week the author has broken the diet by stuffing herself with cake.

Week four and the author is now up two pounds (not clear if she is still down two at this point or if she has put all 4 lbs she lost back on and then two more…either way, not a good situation).  We have now entered the twilight zone as Saulnier

…gives me a wheatgrass shot, adds detoxifying charcoal to my wrap, and hooks an iPhone-size Alpha-Stim brain-wave machine to my ear lobes.

By week five the author claims she now loves the diet…huh?  What happened?  She reports that she has lost two inches off her waist, hips and thighs and she “looks slimmer.”  By week six she has lost 7 lbs. (again, this is no more than you could expect to lose on a healthy diet, maybe even less), although she admits she cheated on the diet a lot.  I find the complete reversal from weeks 3 & 4 (eating cake and gaining weight) to week 5 she has lost 2 inches a bit unbelievable.  But this isn’t Scientific American, but Harper’s Bazaar. I’m expecting too much that she should explain to us this complete reversal and belief in Saulnier’s methods.  Let’s just say I find it amazing (or maybe sad) that women are so desperate to look a certain way that they will participate in unhealthy, often unsafe diets, and pay thousands of dollars to a former Pilates instructor so said magician can use modern technology to wave her magic wand (or wrap you in cayenne pepper and attach an iPod to your earlobe) and “sculpt” your body.  Call me crazy, but eating sensibly and getting some exercise (I charge zero for that advice, by the way) can go a long way to making you feel better and look better.

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Random Thoughts From China

So as many of you know, I recently went to China for 3 weeks.  Apologies, first off for the lack of blog posts while I was away.  I busted my butt to write 6 extra posts, and set the date and time for them to publish over the period I was away (WordPress is a blocked site in China…yes, things like that still happen.  Facebook, youtube and twitter are also blocked.).  But as you probably already know, that didn’t happen. I still don’t know why.  I have been using those stockpiled posts since my return, which truthfully has been nice, as I was super busy getting caught back up with life at home upon my return, which included a 4 day trip south with my son to look at colleges.  Whew!  But I am back and my a stockpile of posts has been exhausted so this week I am back to writing, after much too much time away.  I really think it is easier to write if you do it on a regular basis.  So bear with me if things seem a bit rusty.

As I have said in the past, my blog post is not meant to be about me and what I do on a daily basis, but today I am taking exception to that and sharing a bit about my travels to China.  Along the way I will make some comments about nutrition and exercise, but that will not be the primary topic today.  I promise it will only be for today.

My trip was to visit my boyfriend, who is currently working in Shanghai.  Lucky for him (and for me) he studied Chinese in college, and while that was a long time ago, he has been taking lessons again and his Chinese is getting quite good.  Not that you can’t get by without it in Shanghai, a city of 23 million people.  Yep, it’s huge.  But I have to say when you’re there you can’t totally grasp how big it is.  To me, New York is big (8 million people) and London is big (also 8 million or so people) and Shanghai is just a city with more skyscrapers.  Obviously there are way, way more people, but according to Wikipedia, the population density is actually less than NYC or London…so there’s a lot more people, but it’s just a lot more area…so while you are there it doesn’t seem that much more crowded than some other large city.  Except there are a ton of bikes, scooters and motorcycles mixed in with a ton of cars…which makes it seem a lot nuttier than say London.  :-)

I arrived on a Thursday afternoon and lifted weights on Friday morning.  I was wide awake at 3:30 AM, so I figured by 6 when my boyfriend was heading to the gym I might as well go with him.  I was obviously still dealing from the effects of very little sleep and a 12 hour time difference, so while I felt “awake” I wouldn’t say my body really loved picking up heavy things.  This continued throughout the first week I was there.  I lifted, but I didn’t feel I lifted all that well.  Maybe some of it had to do with lifting in the early morning, which I never do at home.  Because I am a personal trainer, I am training clients at 6 and 7 AM, standing there with my cup of coffee putting people through a workout.  I actually lift in the afternoons during the week, and later in the morning on Sunday.  Everyone is different, but I feel my body needs some time to “wake up” before I exercise.  And if I’m being totally truthful, as I get older I feel my body needs some time to move for awhile before I am really ready to exercise.  Hats off to those of you who work our early, I found it tough!

I did a lot of walking while in China, which I think had something to do with losing weight while I was there, despite not doing as much gym time.  I read a piece awhile ago looking at why the Chinese are not overweight.  Instead of focusing on a particular food (e.g. soy, which they eat less of than people think, and it isn’t like our highly processed GMO soy products), or how the Chinese can get away with eating so much rice and noodles (um, portion size maybe?), the article talked about the Chinese way of life as a whole.  
This included much more daily physical activity (which does not mean going to the gym) and more fruits and especially vegetables than the typical Western diet.  I walked to the supermarket, the produce stand, the butcher, the wine store, etc.  Sure, you can take a cab (and quite cheaply actually) but it’s also just as easy to walk.  People do walk, but they also ride bikes.  Owning a car is much more of a luxury (although there are a lot of those in Shanghai too).

My boyfriend and I also had a chance to travel outside Shanghai into a more rural part of China, which was fascinating.  One thing China has is a ton of people (over a billion of them), so labor is very cheap (which is why so much stuff is made there).  You still see people manually working in fields and I saw groups of men working on building a highway to Shangri-la (yes, there is such a city, and the highway is going to ruin everything…but that’s progress I guess) using pick-axes.  While there is certainly a growing upper class in China, some of whom are very, very wealthy (I have never seen so many designer stores (Shanghai, not the rural areas) in my life), the majority of people in China are still quite poor and their lives still involve a lot of daily physical activity.

Food is also worth noting.  In Shanghai everywhere you go there are shops and stalls on the street with people selling everything you can think of (including all that cheap crap you think of when you think of “made in China”).  There is a lot of food being made on the street ~ I would call it the Chinese version of fast food, although generally it is healthier.  My favorite was what I refer to as a Chinese egg sandwich.  We watched a woman making these on a street corner.  She had a large round steel disk that was hot, onto which she poured a batter.  She spread it around really thin, then cracked an egg or two (your choice) on top and scrambled it.  To that she added some chopped scallion and cilantro, then some hot sauce if desired.  She loosened the edges of the thin pancake which had been cooking, folded it over, added a piece of fried something and voila, fresh egg sandwich.  Have to say it was very tasty, and only about 40 cents!

There are tons and tons of produce stalls in Shanghai, which is very nice.  I had no idea what some of the things were, but it was certainly fun to look.  If you wander into a more “Chinese” section of the city you will find markets that sell not only produce but also fish swimming around in little bathtubs of water, crabs, turtles, etc.  When we were traveling outside Shanghai we found a local market where we were the only Westerners wandering around.  We watched a woman grab a fish from the little tub of water, throw it into a plastic bag and set it on a scale attached to a stick she held in her hand.  She moved a weight at the other end to determine the size of the fish (and the price).  We saw another woman with a big basket on her back (she was also dressed in the traditional clothing of the area, which was pretty cool…of course neither of us had a camera at the time, but the picture included here is a woman dressed similarly).  Inside her basket were live chickens, presumably for dinner.  In general, a lot of very, very fresh food.  Although as a flip-side to that, good luck finding organic.  And certainly pesticide use is of a concern to me.  Nevertheless, I think the traditional Chinese diet is still made up of much more fresh, unprocessed food than the Western diet, contributing to their lack of an obesity problem.

Well, this post is starting to get long and a bit rambling.  Just wanted to share a few observations (and some of my photos).  This just touches on a very small piece of my trip.  China is an amazing place, and I only saw a tiny part of it.  I loved Shanghai, and loved traveling to Yunnan to see something beyond a big city.  Even had a celebrity citing on my last night there ~ Yao Ming sat about 6′ away from me at a restaurant.  He is HUGE.  That’s all I can say.  I didn’t take a photo (it was a very nice restaurant and I didn’t want to bother him, although my son was mad I didn’t have some “proof” of seeing him) ~ I will include a photo a friend took who lives there ~ he lives near her.

Definitely an amazing trip, China is like nothing I have seen before.  If you have an opportunity to visit I highly recommend it!

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