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Being Underweight WORSE Than Being Obese

Study after study tells us that being overweight or obese leads to countless health risks including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Now a recent study from the University of California Davis School of Medicine says its MORE  (I repeat more) dangerous to your health to be underweight than obese.

In the six-year study following almost 51,000 Americans of all ages, researchers discovered that those with an extremely low BMI (under 18.5) had a risk of death that was twice as high as those with a normal BMI (18.5 to 24.9). Oddly enough, participants with BMIs that classified them as severely obese (30 or higher) were only 1.26 times as likely to die as those with normal BMIs, which means being obese is considered better than being underweight.

This doesn’t mean you should go out and eat everything in sight, but it is a reminder that you should be aiming for a healthy BMI.


What if a machine dictated your menu?

What if you walked up to your fridge and it didn’t open because it knew you wanted ice cream? Instead it recommends that you grab an apple.

As part of its LiVe public service program, Intermountain Healthcare has installed a fake, talking vending machine at Rose Park Elementary School in Salt Lake City. The machine is filled with faux snacks and doesn’t take money. But when students press its buttons, looking for gooey, crispy or chewy goodies, they instead get playful nuggets of wisdom.

“I’m a vending machine and can’t move without someone’s help,” a cartoon-like voice says when a student chooses a Lava Cake. “Keep buying food like this and we’ll have that in common.”

The idea is to make kids think twice about their junk food choices. It reminds me of those posters NYC had around noting the pounds sugary drinks can add. They were really gross and even though my Cherry Coke Zero habit was minimal, I put a serious stop to it. Looking at those posters just made me squeamish.

Do you think just hearing what the junk food can do to your body will curb habits? Or do they need more visual reminders?

The Salt Debate Still Wages

We just can’t agree whether we need to cut back on salt or not. We’ve already discussed some of the reasons we need salt in our diet (To Pass the Salt or Not). A Journal of the American Medical Association study published this last month surprisingly concluded that too much salt might not raise the risk of cardiovascular disease complications.
Adding to the confusion, death rates appeared to be higher in those with lower sodium levels.
Harvard’s School of Public Health calls into question the size of the study, the methodology and the fact that there is some data missing.
The key takeaway here is this: If you make an effort to reduce salt without paying attention to other factors, such as body fat and physical activity, it’s not going to have much effect.
Where do you fall in the great salt debate?

Glee Gets Message Right…Eventually

On first blush, Glee really upset me during “Born This Way.” The message was great, be comfortable with who you are, love yourself warts and all. Then however, Lauren found out that Quinn was in the not so distant past overweight, pimply and unhappy.

Lauren tried to use it to her advantage and confronted Quinn. Here is the thing though, Quinn didn’t take the easy way out AT ALL. She WORKED for her new life. She took up ballet and other fitness activities to lose weight. So she got a nose job…big deal (maybe that’s the Jew in me, thanks for pointing that out Glee).

The kicker and I was all ready to write a scathing post about Glee is that (oops) Lauren’s plan backfired and the masses saw Quinn as the inspiration that she was. Ok, maybe she could be a little more forgiving and nicer to those less fortunate than her now, but isn’t she the nicest of the popular girls?

I really hope those kids who are sad and unhappy with their weight take a page from Quinn’s book and take an opportunity to reinvent themselves. It is totally 100% acceptable to do so; that is one of the best parts about being young.

It will not be easy and you will certainly want to quit. But, no one will look down on you for doing it.

Breaking My Sugar Addiction

Hello, my name is Laney and I am a sugar addict. I can avoid M&Ms, I can stay away from gummy bears, but if you put Girl Scout cookies or ice cream or most of all a red velvet cupcake in front of me I just can’t say no.

My sweet tooth kicks in before I even finish dinner. I can literally eat my last bite and turn to J to see if I can convince him to go to Baskin Robbins.  Anything can trigger it really and it doesn’t always have to be ice cream. An apple or a pink grapefruit will do the trick too (although let’s be honest).

The sick part about all this is that, I am relatively healthy in every other way. I eat salads and fish and hardly ever find myself eating fried food. I exercise at least five times a week, sometimes more.  I don’t have a weight problem, but I do get tired a lot—suspect that has to with my blood sugar.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that Americans eat an average of 21 teaspoons of added sugar a day (meaning sugar that’s not naturally occurring, as in fruit or milk). The American Heart Association recommends a max of just six teaspoons (or 24 grams) a day for women.  From heart disease to diabetes and cavities sugar has its consequences.

So for the next month, I’m going to avoid sugary desserts, snacks and drinks and try to remove as much added sugar as I can in the rest of the food I eat.  This is going to be hard, mostly because even my healthy food like Trader Joe’s Greek Style Yogurt has 6 grams of sugar.

So any ideas and encouraging words are welcome.  Here we go.


What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You

Overweight? Even doctors may be side stepping that topic. I’ve written a lot about Americans not knowing or admitting that they are overweight (see here and here).

Now new data shows doctors aren’t even telling them that they are overweight, which isn’t helping the situation.  Getting an honest assessment from a physician appeared to be a key factor in whether or not study participants considered themselves overweight. Almost 37% of people whose body mass index (BMI) indicated they were overweight and 19% of obese participants but didn’t report hearing that news from a physician didn’t think they had a weight problem.

By contrast, only 6% of overweight and 3% of obese participants reporting a weight-focused conversation with a physician thought they weren’t overweight.

While this is troubling, it makes sense. Consumer Reports found that diet and nutrition are among the weakest areas of most doctors’ education in medical school, and few pursue further training on their own.

So if you are oblivious to your weight and your physician doesn’t say anything, how are you supposed to know?


To Pass the Salt or Not…That is the Question

The typical American diet is full of salt. Even if you don’t add salt to your dishes, hidden sodium lurks everywhere—in restaurant meals and packaged foods—can lead to heart disease, diabetes and weight gain. So should you completely cut it out?

If you’re a healthy, active woman, you may not have to limit your sodium intake—despite all the government warnings.

Here is a surprising fact sodium is critical to maintaining every cell in the body. It helps control your heart rate, aids digestion and keeps you hydrated during exercise, among other things.

The sodium in your bloodstream helps keep your muscles functioning optimally when you exercise. You lose the mineral when you sweat, though; the average person may perspire away about 500 milligrams of sodium during an hour-long workout.

Still too much salt can potentially reduce your calcium. Researchers have found that increasing your intake of potassium, calcium and magnesium helps to counteract the negative effects of sodium and balance your mineral levels.

Sitting Too Much?

An increasingly long work week and technological advancements have all but removed the environment demanding constant physical activity.

Consider this: We’ve become so sedentary that 30 minutes a day at the gym may not do enough to counteract the detrimental effects of eight, nine, or 10 hours of sitting. That’s one big reason so many women still struggle with weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol woes despite keeping consistent workout routines.

In a recent study, researchers found that regardless of how much moderate to vigorous exercise participants did, those who took more breaks from sitting throughout the day had slimmer waists, lower BMIs (body mass indexes), and healthier blood fat and blood sugar levels than those who sat the most. In an extensive study of 17,000 people, Canadian researchers made it clearer: The longer you spend sitting each day, the more likely you are to die an early death—no matter how fit you are.

Increasing your daily non-exercise activity thermogenesis—or NEAT can make a huge difference. That’s the energy (i.e., calories) you burn doing everything but exercise. So instead of shopping online, go shop at a mall (147 calories); cook at home rather than order in (128 more calories burned there); pace while talking on the phone (147 calories).

Shake things up throughout the day by interrupting your sedentary stints as often as possible. Stand up every half hour. If you have to sit for longer than that, take more extended and active breaks and move around for a few minutes before sitting back down.

New Dietary Guidelines

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services released Monday the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It was the first update in five years in compliance with federal law.

The guidelines made 23 recommendations for the general population and six for specific groups such as pregnant women.

Some quick thoughts on the new dietary guidelines:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables/Choose a variety of vegetables — studies have shown that Americans don’t eat their vegetables. In fact, only 23% of meals include a vegetable and the number of dinners prepared at home that included a salad was 17%.  Their request is futile!
  • Reduce daily sodiumwith the CDC, NY gov and others behind the goal to reduce sodium, Americans will be doing it without even knowing.
  • Cut calorie intake — even I have a hard time cutting calories and I track them…
  • Switch to low fat milk— I shutter every time I see someone drink whole milk.

New Rules Call for Healthier Lunches

The school lunch overhaul proposed today by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is a giant leap in the right direction for tackling obesity in America.

The proposed rules would gradually reduce sodium, limit starchy vegetables, ban most trans fats, require fat-free or lowfat milk, increase whole grains, add more fruits and vegetables, and, for the first time, limit the number of calories children consume daily.

In a national telephone news briefing, Vilsack says children get about a third of their calories in school and that the number needs to be reduced to head off “serious consequences” relating to their health and also national security.

The new guidelines apply to breakfasts and lunches served at the school, but not what’s sold in the vending machines. (Apparently this will be addressed later)

This is the first time in 15 years that real changes will be made to school lunches. Today’s proposal comes a few weeks after President Barack Obama signed the child-nutrition bill into law. Vilsack says that law will provide up to $380 million annually in federal funds to help schools meet the new nutritional guidelines. He adds that the standards are a proposal, and it will likely be several years before schools have to make changes.