Monday, December 31, 2012

No time like the present

Tomorrow is just another day... in a way. January 1, 2013. Just one of 365 days in the year. But every year, thousands of people mark this day as a special one of resolutions. A time for new beginnings.

And the #1 New Year's resolution? Weight loss. It's no wonder: We've just come through our annual orgy of eating and drinking, and we all feel a little guilty about the excess and its unwanted effects.

To give you hope that you can accomplish this goal, I want to share with you one story from my book How We Did It: Weight Loss Choices That Will Work for You.

It's the story of Lori Kimble, a woman who lost 105 pounds on a variety of weight loss programs, including Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers and the Zone Diet. No matter what plan she was using, one thing was constant: she counted calories and added exercise to her day.

I'll let Lori tell you her story in her own words. It's contained in Chapter 4 of How We Did It. She's just one of about 30 people in the bookwho succeeded at weight loss using many of the popular plans, as well as plans of their own making. I wish for you the very same success!

Lori's story:

Remember the Looney Tunes character Wile E. Coyote? He was always rigging up a contraption to drop an anvil on the lightning-fast Road Runner. That cartoon image is embedded in Lori Kimble’s mind.

“At my heaviest, I weighed 250 pounds,” says Lori. “I saw that number on the scale and I had this image in my mind of one of Wile E. Coyote’s anvils marked ‘250 lbs.’ It dawned on me then—250 pounds is halfway to 500 pounds and I could see myself weighing that much if I kept going the way I was.”

But having that realization and acting on it was two different things for Lori.

“I was frustrated because I thought, ‘I’m going to weigh 500 pounds because I don’t know what to do about it,’” she says.

Lori recalls always being heavy—or at least chubby. She has no memories of ever being a healthy weight. From an early age, she was drawn to comfort foods like mac ‘n cheese, pasta, white rice, bagels and spaghetti. Hamburger Helper was a dinner staple at her house. The only vegetables she liked were broccoli and corn. She and her sister snacked at home, and they liked their sweets.

Like many people frustrated with their weight, Lori was always trying one diet or another, but she failed every time. “I had in my head that I only had to put up with this diet for awhile, and then I could go back to eating the way I always had,” she says. “It was an all-or-nothing attitude that just wasn’t working for me.”

In 2003, Lori read The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program by Kathleen DesMaisons. The book made her realize that her previous weight loss attempts may have failed because she was simply replacing high-fat foods with seemingly healthy low-fat foods that were instead loaded with sugar. By weaning off of processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugars and what she calls “white things” and replacing them with proteins and whole grains like brown rice, she lost 20 pounds in one year.

This success spurred Lori on to address other problems with her diet, like portion control. She joined Weight Watchers and lost another 60 pounds but then hit a frustrating plateau.

“I was eating very little point-wise, exercising hard and seeing no progress,” she says. “I cried every week weighing in. This went on for six months.”

At the time, living in temporary housing without a kitchen, Lori and her husband began picking up food from a Mexican takeout place, and her weight started coming back on.

“I tried eating right again, and I tried going back on Weight Watchers and several other things, like eDiets and the low-glycemic plan GI Impact,” she says.

But by this time, Lori was exhausted. “I was tired of thinking about food all the time. I just wanted someone to tell me what to eat,” she says.

Lori found relief by joining NutriSystem and ordering their packaged meals for a few months. She found it to be helpful in once again training her to recognize an appropriate portion size. She liked the balance of fats, proteins and carbs—the meals included more protein than she was used to having, and that helped her stay full longer.

When she felt ready, Lori transitioned from NutriSystem to cooking her own meals. She combined some elements of NutriSystem and The Zone Diet to come up with meals that combined nutrients in a way that kept her from feeling hungry.

Exercise also figured into Lori’s success. She and her husband John Vaughn are avid bike riders. They generally take one long bike ride each weekend—at least when the weather in upstate New York cooperates—usually about 40 miles. She is training for a 100-mile bike ride and has participated in her first triathlon.

Gradually, Lori began to see success again. “It was a slow process, but that just made my weight loss feel more permanent to me,” she says. Within a few years, Lori’s total weight loss came to 105 pounds. At 5-feet, 2-inches, she wears a size 8 today, where once she wore a size 24.

Although Lori’s success came from several different programs, one thing remained constant—calorie counting. Throughout her weight loss journey, Lori logged the caloric value of her foods. She either used the system provided by the plan, like Weight Watchers Points plan or NutriSystem’s calorie counter, and when she was on her own, she sought help from an online calorie counting program, LiveStrong’s DailyPlate.

Determining her ideal daily caloric intake was a process of trial and error, Lori says. She eventually settled on about 1,500-1,600 calories a day for weight loss. “Anything lower than 1,400 and I get cranky,” she says. When she is in a maintenance mode, and on days when exercise has her body crying out for sustenance, she might up the calorie count to 2,000 a day.  

Logging calories and exercise choices isn’t a chore for Lori. “I’m a bit dorky that way,” she says. “I like seeing the numbers.”

Another motivator for Lori has been tracking her progress on her blog Finding Radiance. Her blog is filled with photo after photo of her colorful and appetizing meals.

“Once I began arranging meals on a plate to take photos, my food looked more appealing to me, and I began to get excited about food again,” she says. “I’m not afraid of food anymore. Cupcakes aren’t evil. If I really want something, I can make room for it and really, really enjoy it.”

Today, Lori continues to track her calories, food choices and exercise. For her, it’s the key to success. “Now, I have the complete puzzle put together! I feel like I can live this way for the rest of my life,” Lori says.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"We are not very nice"

In this article for the Huffington Post, writer Kelly Dorfman says "we are not very nice to the overweight."

Isn't that a fact! In writing How We Did It, I talked with many people who had achieved weight loss who had been subject to cruel remarks and thoughtless actions from other people. Kelly Dorfman calls us on our attitudes.

"The conversation I would like to have about obesity is about acceptance and being kind to each other," she says. "Gaining weight is a part of our modern life. All sorts of things happen that turn thin people into chubby people. That fat person you view with disdain today could be you tomorrow."

Hear! Hear! I'm all for acceptance and kindness. We all need to battle our nasty inner voices that spew condemnation all over the place -- directed to others as well as to ourselves.

I know from talking with hundreds of people about weight loss that for many, dropping excess weight is as much about what's going on in their head as what's going in their mouth. Overeating can be a vicious cycle in which you feel so bad about yourself -- often because of comments or actions by others -- that you run to what comforts you the most: food. Then, of course, you feel bad again after the feelings of relief wear off. 

But I fear that Ms. Dorfman's statement that "gaining weight is a part of our modern life" lets us all off too easily. Yes, there are medical conditions and medicines that make weight loss difficult and even impossible. I get that. Aging and a slowing metabolism are a contributing factor -- that I know for sure! But most of us do not put on extra weight for these reasons. For the vast majority of us, excess weight is a combination of too much food and too little movement.

I know that no one wants to hear that same old, same old, blah, blah, blah. But in my mind, there's no simpler way to put it. We know this in our hearts, yet we can't put it to work for us unless we embrace the facts and act on them.

And here's where I question Ms. Dorfman. Cruel as people may be, I found that many people in How We Did It were shocked into action by thoughtless comments. Certainly no one wants to be the target of cruelty, but would these people have begun their weight loss journey without the jolt of reality that these comments provided? Most often, the comments weren't personal attacks, but statements of reality: "She weighs more than I do," one doctor said outside an exam room. "Mr. M. is fat," some students said about a substitute teacher.

I wish there were another way, but I'm not sure what the alternative is. Well, I do know of one. Several people I talked with were moved to action when a spouse or friend lovingly told them that they were becoming concerned for their health. Putting the focus on health and not weight and body image may be the way to go. A few others saw or heard the words "morbid obesity" applied to them and became fearful enough of disability or early death to take action.

Still, I'm not certain these softer messages -- or even the cruelest comments -- are strong enough to move most people to action. Even when thoughtless comments stung, people often needed something more in order to help themselves. Many credit seeing unflattering photos or a glimpse in a mirror with providing the final piece of the puzzle. For some, it was the inability to do the simplest daily task or having to ask for the seat belt extender on a plane.

Whatever the motivator, what's certain is that a person needs to own their present situation and resolve to do what it takes to improve it. What do you think? Have you been the target of unkind remarks? If you could change something about the way people react to you, what would it be? If you've lost weight, what finally moved you to action?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Diane's incredible weight loss story

One of the weight loss blogs I've followed over the years is Diane Carbonell's Fit to the Finish. Diane once weighed over 300 pounds, but she went on to lose half her size on a three-pronged program of her own making. No one had to bully her into it, or jolly her into it -- Diane just set her mind to it and within a year had reached her goal.

Diane has blogged about her weight loss on Dr. Oz's blog and television show, and been interviewed on the 700 Club. Now Diane has come out with her own book about her weight loss, 150 Pounds Gone Forever: How I Lost Half My Size and You Can Too.

I appreciate Diane's approach to weight loss. She's not a cheerleader or a bully. Instead, she is a knowledgeable and inspiring guide. Her approach is one of quiet confidence: "I did it, and so can you." Hers is the perfect approach to weight loss, as it builds an inner desire to succeed, rather than relying on external motivators that will eventually fail.

In her book, Diane tells stories of her years as an obese young wife and mother, the agonies of day-to-day interactions with others as well as the self-condemning inner dialog that kept her running to food for comfort, trapping herself in her burgeoning body. It takes a brave person to reveal so many embarrassing moments (not to mention before photos!).

Along with her personal story, Diane includes useful information about nutrition, exercise and weight loss strategies, like how to grocery shop, read labels, and estimate caloric needs. She includes sections on the importance of planning and forethought when on a mission to lose weight. She even includes her favorite family recipes.

But I think one of the features of the book that I most appreciated is one that characterizes Diane's blog -- Diane asks great questions that will get you thinking about your own weight issues. "What did you have for dinner last night?" "Does fear of failure stop you from trying to get healthy?" "Do you ever eat in the car?" These seem like simple questions, but they can get at the core of your personal dilemmas. (I don't eat in my car, so the question made me think, "Where do I mindlessly eat?")

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a sensible, surefire way to attack a weight problem. Long after "The Biggest Loser" lands in the junk heap of discarded television shows, this kind of book will live on as an inspiring guide from someone who knows that you can indeed do it, because she did.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Livin La Vida Low Carb Podcast

One of the weight loss successes I profile in How We Did It is Jimmy Moore, a man who lost 180 pounds on the Atkins diet. Jimmy was so inspired by his achievement that he has become a full-time advocate and enthusiastic blogger for weight loss success.

What I really appreciate about Jimmy's approach to weight loss is that while he succeeded on Atkins, he realizes that it's not the only plan with which you can find success. He fully supports people who choose another plan. He's all about success! He provided me with the quote that ends my book: "Dance with the one that brung ya!" In other words, if it words for you--whatever it is--stick with it.

Jimmy has endless amounts of information on his website Livin La Vida Low Carb. As part of his blog, he posts podcasts with people involved in weight loss--including me! Click on this link to listen to our interview, which Jimmy ran earlier this week. It's the longest interview I've done for my book--36 minutes!--so I really had the chance to go into depth about the book and the inspiring people in it. I hope you enjoy listening in!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bye bye to back pain!

At one time, I suffered lower back pain that was bad enough to land me in physical therapy... not once but twice. I finally got the message and did two things: started swimming laps and in doing so, lost weight.

Losing 30 pounds and continuing my regular lap swimming (2-3x/week) has kept the ache away. I'd recommend swimming to anyone who suffers from lower back pain. It doesn't take much to whack that pain. I swim for just a half an hour and, if I have the time, I sit in the hot tub for a minute or two afterward.

In the new Chicken Soup book, Say Goodbye to Back Pain, I write about my hassle with back pain and my solution. It's a funny story about how I got to the point of not being able to pick up my child because of the pain, and what I had to do one day when I had to get him, kicking and squalling, to the car when he didn't want to leave the park. There are some great stories, and great solutions, in this book. Maybe one will help you, too.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mindless eating... it's how we eat!

One of the books I relied on for good -- and fascinating -- information for How We Did It was Dr. Brian Wansink's Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think.

Dr. Wansink is called a "food psychologist." From his lab at Cornell University, he conducts experiments into the factors that lead us to eat what we eat. And you'd think that we eat what we eat because it tastes good, right? Wrong!

In some of his crazy experiments, Dr. Wansink has uncovered the many misguided reasons we eat. Among them are these:

  • The size and shape of a bowl can almost double the amount of food you eat.
  • Restaurants can get you to eat more by describing their menu items with adjectives.
  • You will eat more candy if you throw away the wrappers as you go along than if you let the wrappers pile up.
  • If you have bread served with dipping oil rather than with butter, you'll consume less bread but more calories.
  • Grocery store signs that read 3-for-$3 rather than $1/each can more than double our purchases.

These are just a few of the fascinating facts Dr. Wansink has confirmed with his research. How can you apply this information to your food consumption? "By encouraging healthy, mindful eating, we can decrease obesity," Wansink says. "A keen awareness of all these hidden persuaders is an important step in controlling the amount and quality of food you eat."

For me, "mindful eating" means this:
I will not eat straight from a package. If I want some crackers, I'll put some on a plate.
I will not eat something just because it's there. Most chocolate made in the U.S. tastes like wax. I've stopped eating my son's leftover Halloween candy. If I want chocolate, I'll eat just a little bit of really good chocolate.
I absolutely do not shop when I'm hungry. The temptations are just too overwhelming. I'll have a small, healthy snack before I go, even if I'm in a hurry.
If I eat while watching TV, I choose the snack beforehand and set it out on the coffee table. No trips to the kitchen during a show!

How about you? What does "mindful eating" mean for you?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fast food = slow progress

It's a beautiful day here in the Northeast, more like May than March. I'm going to strap on my sneakers and go walk around town in a minute.

Walking is a great activity for weight maintenance. But its benefit also can be deceiving. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking, "Oh, I just walked for a half hour. Now I can go get that hamburger I've been craving."

Most people overestimate the benefit of exercise and underestimate the damage that fat and sugar-laden food can do. For example, say you eat a Big Mac meal with medium fries. (Let’s assume a diet drink, just to be virtuous.)

According to McDonald’s nutritional information, a Big Mac has 540 calories, while the medium order of fries has 380 calories, so your meal totals 1,480 calories.
How long to you think you’d have to exercise to burn off those calories? An hour? Two hours? Guess again.
According to the most recent government data, a 154-pound person would need to walk briskly for more than three hours to account for this meal! A more sedate pace would require more than five hours of hoofing.
And consider this: Most people who have a plan for losing weight do it by trying to limit their daily calorie intake. That same 154-pound person might have set a limit of 1,500 calories a day. Wow! They'll have a whole 20 calories to play with that day!
And when we're talking fast food, we can't neglect to talk about fat content. Again, consider the medium Big Mac meal. Of the Big Mac's 540 calories, 260 of them come from fat. It contains 29 grams of fat -- fully 45 percent of the recommended daily value. And the fries? Of the 380 calories, 170 come from fat. Their 19 grams of fat are 29 percent of the recommended daily value. So together, the two items account for 74 percent of your daily allotment.
Is that meal really worth it?
Most people who talked with me about their weight loss for How We Did It pinned their weight dilemma on overindulgence in fast food. McDonalds, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Five Guys, Cinnabon, Pizza Hut--the list of fast food outlets is almost literally endless.
So, the next time you want to reward yourself after a workout, banish the thought of junk food. I'm usually starving after I swim my laps and need something with a little protein, so I put together some cheese and crackers and apple slices. What do you do?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

We've hit the airwaves!

I was interviewed recently about How We Did It by Andy Farmer of KNEO radio. KNEO is a Missouri radio station that also reaches parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas.

Andy asked some great questions about the book: How DID people do it? Is weight loss a one-size-fits-all proposition? What are some of your favorite success stories in the book? (To which I replied: All of them!) What can we do about the childhood obesity rate in this country?

To listen to the interview, click on this link to go to KNEO's website. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Goodreads Author Q&A

For the next month, I'm hosting an Author Q&A on goodreads for How We Did It. To join the discussion, click on over to this goodreads link. I've started four discussion threads, but feel free to start another if you have something else on your mind. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Physician, step on the scale!

Time magazine recently offered up an interesting fact: Doctors who are a healthy weight are more likely to talk to you about your weight than doctors who are overweight.

In a Mayo Clinic study about how doctors cared for their overweight patients, 30 percent of doctors who were a healthy weight brought up the subject, but only 18 percent of overweight or obese doctors addressed the topic. And who can blame them? If I were the patient, I know what I'd be thinking: Hypocrite!

That's exactly what the players of a major league baseball team were thinking when their team doctor started opining about matters of health and fitness. In How We Did It, I talked with Dr. Ken Romeo, a sports doc, who recalls how a player stopped one of his lectures with a few well-chosen words.

"Why should we listen to you, doc? You're fat!" the player accused.

At 315 pounds and wearing a 4X shirt, the doctor clearly had a weight problem. But, like most of us, he had never really seen his weight for what it was. We focus on features or character traits we think compensate for -- even hide -- our extra pounds... a pretty face, say, or a flamboyant personality.

Dr. Romeo suspected he might be fooling himself in this way. So he decided on a dramatic test. He took a brown paper grocery bag, cut out two holes for his eyes and put the bag over his head. Then, he looked in the mirror. This time, the mirror didn't lie. "I am fat!" he concluded.

Fortunately, Dr. Romeo took charge of the situation. He went on to lose 115 pounds using first the Atkins diet and then the Pritikin diet. He stopped smoking, too!

I wonder what he and his patients are talking about these days.

But what gives with the 30 percent figure anyway? That means more than two-thirds of healthy weight doctors aren't talking about weight issues, which--forgive me if I'm wrong here--also happen to be health issues.

When I was 30 pounds overweight and climbing, my doctor (a healthy weight woman) gave me my annual physicals and never said a word about my weight. Until one year, as she was literally going out the door of the exam room, and had her back to me, she said, "Watch the fats!" It wasn't a very helpful "conversation," to say the least. Would I have appreciated a more frank confrontation? I don't know. Would you?

Monday, February 13, 2012

To substitute or not to substitute

One thing I discovered while writing How We Did It is that any aspect of weight loss you want to name has a dividing line, and people on either side of it.

Calorie counting--yes or no? Eating in moderation or total avoidance? Can anything you do ever really burn fat?

Now, I've discovered another one: Change your eating habits entirely, or modify your existing recipes to make them healthier?

I've always fallen on the side of changing your eating habits entirely. I'm far too in love with my recipes to mess with them. I'd rather just have the real thing once in a while, instead of a substitute all the time. I remember once years back trying to substitute carob chips for chocolate chips. Ugh. I only did that once!

But all my friends on the South Beach Diet have been talking up a recipe that I just couldn't resist trying: Chovacado Pudding. It's chocolate pudding made with... an avocado! Really.

Here's the recipe I used. I messed around with it because I didn't have the ingredients it called for.

Chovocado Pudding

1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup raw agave nectar (I used honey)
1/4 almond milk (I used regular 1% milk)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. very strong coffee sweetened with 1 tbsp. sugar (my addition)

Peel and quarter the avocado. Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.

The verdict? I tasted it after blending the first five ingredients. I thought it tasted flat, like decaf coffee tastes flat, so I added the sweetened coffee. Coffee and chocolate always go together in my book! The addition of sugar made it taste better, though my South Beach friends--and anyone who is avoiding sugar--wouldn't want to do that.

I topped the pudding with sugar-free Cool Whip. That's another substitution I generally avoid -- I like the real thing too much.

The verdict? I liked it okay; my husband thought it was odd. It was VERY rich. I couldn't finish my ramekin dish. I tried it the next day, and liked it less, though. Maybe something happens to the mix, but it was lumpy and tasted gritty, which isn't surprising since you don't dissolve the cocoa powder in anything hot.

I suppose I could solve these problems with some more tinkering with the recipe, but honestly, I don't see the point. I love avocados as they are, not buried. And I love chocolate, but am so-so about pudding. A worthy experiment, but nothing I'm going to try again. I definitely fall on the side of the dividing line with those who want the real thing now and again.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

But isn't bariatric surgery cheating?

How We Did It got a nice mention in my local newspaper yesterday, The Times of Trenton. It's an article about a local woman who underwent bariatric surgery and lost over 100 pounds.

"But isn't that cheating?" you ask.

That's what I thought before I started to talk to people about weight loss surgery.

One well-known bariatric surgeon, Dr. Scott Shikora, chief of general surgery and bariatric surgery at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, says that realistically speaking, fewer than 10 percent of morbidly obese people will ever achieve weight loss without surgery. Those are some pretty bad odds.

The problem is that when obese people modify their diet, their bodies fight the perceived starvation. They try to exercise, but their weight and overstressed joints prevent them from accomplishing meaningful movement. It's a classic catch-22.

When excess weight reaches the point of endangering a person's health, sometimes surgery is the only possible way to bring them back from the brink of death. So, a person who carries 100 pounds over their ideal weight and has diabetes or high blood pressure may become a good candidate for the surgery.

In many ways, undergoing weight loss surgery requires the same commitment to diet and exercise as the person who chooses a weight loss plan. Eating is strictly controlled and a specific eating plan must be followed in order to prevent complications and weight regain. Exercise is encouraged as part of the patient's new, healthy lifestyle.

But of course weight loss surgery carries significant risks. One of the people in How We Did It who lost 120 pounds after gastric bypass surgery suffered several complications that put her back in the hospital. Yet, today, she is able to maintain her loss and rarely has side effects. But anyone considering weight loss surgery will, of course, have indepth discussions with his or her doctor. Most will also attend mandatory group sessions to determine whether they have the level of commitment necessary to make the surgery and its risks worthwhile.

Although she considered it her last resort, the woman profiled in my local newspaper, Georgette Brown, believed her surgery to be absolutely necessary. She has lost more than 100 pounds and is wearing a size 8, where once she weighed 283 pounds. Congratulations, Georgette!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Goodreads giveaway

I've been on for a year and a half, but I only recently became clued in to their book giveaways. What's better than winning a free book?!? (Well, maybe some other things, like winning the lottery or a free vacation or a car or...)

Anyway, my publisher has donated 10 copies of How We Did It in a giveaway that starts today and runs through February 15. Click here to go to the giveaway page. If you haven't read it yet, here's your chance. Good luck! Hope you win.

Even if you don't win a copy of the book, you're a winner anyway. The first step to losing weight is to start thinking about losing weight. Todd Peterson, one of the guys in my book who lost 105 pounds after hiring a personal trainer, said he began to think about losing weight when he was on business trips and saw his boss and co-workers in the hotel fitness room running on the treadmill before breakfast. It made him think about his habits -- habits like sleeping late, skipping breakfast and pounding the all-you-can-eat buffet at lunch.

Todd knew those habits weren't working for him, but he didn't know what to do about it before personal trainer Derek Curtice of SimpleFit in Memphis, Tennessee, showed him the way to health and fitness. "Derek more than gave me my life back," Todd says. "He gave me a whole new life!"

Start thinking about your own habits. My biggest one was the need to start moving intentionally... in other words, exercise. Dreaded that word all my life! I still wish it weren't in my vocabulary, but I know without a doubt that my 30-pound loss comes down to the laps I swim three times a week. That's what worked for me!

What habits do you think you might have to change?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The fat kid no more

When I began How We Did It , I interviewed a New Jersey state senator, Bill Baroni, who lost 132 pounds at the Duke Diet & Fitness Center in Durham, North Carolina. Bill was 22 years old and weighed 320 pounds. He was working as a political aide for a candidate who was running for Congress. If the candidate won, they'd head for DC. But if he lost, Bill vowed he would go to Duke.

Well, the candidate lost, but it was Bill who won in the end. In less than a year, he trimmed down to 185 pounds and he's kept the weight off for 15 years now.

Before my book had a chance to go to press, I had to replace Bill because it turns out he started writing his own book. And here it is!
Fat Kid Got Fit: And So Can You. Our books were reviewed in the same issue of Library Journal. It's great to be in such good company!

Something Bill said to me about the perception people have of those who are overweight has always stuck with me. When he was almost 320 pounds, Bill said people would clap him on the back and say what a good "back office" kind of guy he was, a great campaign worker. But after he lost his weight, people changed their tune. "You should run for office," everyone told Bill. They perceived him as a different person when he weighed 185 pounds. Bill did run for office and succeeded. It's ironic that the "fat kid" chose the highly visible profession of politics. Today, Bill is the deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

People in How We Did It told me the same thing. One woman recalled how when she weighed over 350 pounds, she was loading groceries into the back of her car in a parking lot one day. A carload of kids drove past and jeered at "the fat lady." After she lost 165 pounds and was doing the same thing in the parking lot of Costco, a young man stopped his car, got out and asked if he could help her. Same person, different perception. I'm sure if you're trying to lose weight, you have a similar story to tell.

Check out Bill's book if you have the chance. The way he lost weight is a simple, straightforward way that anyone can achieve -- he knocked off the fast food, stopped drinking soda and started going to the gym.
Congratulations on your weight loss, your career and on your book, Bill!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shocking ad campaign: helpful or hurtful?

A hospital in Georgia is currently running an anti-obesity ad campaign. The stark black-and-white images of obese children are shocking. Each of the ads shows an obese child along with a blunt message.

In one ad, a young girl who may be 200 pounds or more looks unsmiling, straight into the camera. The message below her reads: "WARNING. My fat may be funny to you but it's killing me."

Harmful or hurtful? Experts are lining up on both sides. I contributed a guest post to my publisher's blog about it this morning. You can read my post about this shocking obesity ad campaign here.

You can see all of the images from the ad campaign at Huffington Post here. What do you think? Is Georgia cruelly stigmatizing overweight children? Or is stark honesty about weight necessary for instigating change?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The joy of hummus

Sometimes, the old cookbooks are the best. I made hummus today from The Joy of Cooking. I have a 1975 edition.

It's so easy to make hummus that there's no need to buy it. I haven't found one yet that's edible, anyway. Have you?

I've adjusted the recipe to suit my taste. Make it in a blender if you have one. A food processor will work, but the consistency won't be as smooth.


In a blender combine:

1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 garlic cloves

Run the blender a bit, then while the blender is running add:

1/2 cup water

That makes the base for the hummus, called tahin. Add to the tahin and blend:

2 15-oz. cans chick peas, drained
juice from 1/2 to 1 lemon (to taste)
1 garlic clove (if you want more garlic)
1 tbsp. adobo seasoning (optional, just my touch)
1 tbsp. olive oil (optional, for consistency)
1-2 tbsp. water (optional, for consistency)
1/2 tsp. salt, if the adobo is sodium free

That's it! Hummus. Serve with pita points or raw veggies. Slather it on a sandwich instead of mayo. I might try drizzling roasted red pepper sauce over it and see how that tastes. It's fun to play with your food!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The ghrelin monster

A woman I interviewed for How We Did It said something striking to me. Deb Anderson had bariatric surgery -- a procedure called duodenal switch that reduces the size of stomach and creates a system in which the nutrients of food aren't entirely absorbed by the body, so the calories in it aren't either.

Deb went on to lose 140 pounds after the surgery. She went out one night to a Cracker Barrel and when it came time for dessert, she ordered a "buckeye." Now, for those of us in the Northeast, a buckeye is a chocolate-covered peanut butter nugget. Before the surgery, Deb admitted she could eat half a dozen of them easily. But on this night, she ordered one, cut it in fourths and ate only one quarter of the buckeye.

This wasn't a supreme act of will. Deb says she just didn't want the same foods in the same amount as she did before the surgery. She craved fruits and veggies, not fried foods and sweet desserts. Here's how she puts her surprising discovery of the change:

"I thought, Gee, did he do surgery on my brain or my stomach?"

It turns out, the surgeon just might have done surgery on both!

I was reading an article by Dan Hurley in Discovery magazine last night, The Hungry Brain. In the article he talks about a study showing that people who have had weight loss surgery have an easier time maintaining their loss than those who lost weight through diet and exercise.

That really surprised me! Turns out, surgery not only reduces the size of the stomach but it decimates the stomach's amount of an appetite inducing hormone called ghrelin. Those who lost weight through surgery saw their ghrelin levels plummet. The conventional weight losers saw their ghrelin levels skyrocket in direct proportion to how much weight they had lost -- the more lost weight, the higher the levels of ghrelin and the greater their appetite.

This explains a LOT. It explains why it's so hard to maintain a loss. It's not just a matter of willpower. Deb had lost and regained weight many times. "I'm smart," she said, "but I just couldn't outsmart it."

I have to be honest and say that most people who talked to me about regaining their weight in their past failed attempts to diet did so because they went back to their old habits. Environment -- the endless food cues and opportunities that bombard us every day -- plays a huge role in maintaining a weight loss. You have to remain vigilant and fight the daily urges that arise from your environment.

It's not as grim as it sounds. Like Deb, I found my desires changed over time. The food messages don't get through as often as they used to. But this new research into appetite hormones might just lead to something someday and give us all a better chance at maintaining a hard-won weight loss.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Cookie Diet?!?

How We Did It is unique because it pairs weight loss success stories -- as you might find in magazines -- with information about specific weight loss plans -- as you might find on each plan's website.

Now, the magazine U.S. News & World Report has picked up on the information angle of weight loss. In an article earlier this week, the magazine rated weight loss plans by nutritional merit. Included in the article is an assessment of 29 different weight loss plans, both the popular ones and ones you might not have heard about. The Cookie Diet?!? That's new to me! No surprise that it's not found in many weight loss books!

Most of the plans in the list overlap with those in How We Did It. But to be honest, although some of the plans are great plans, I just couldn't find anyone who had succeeded on them. And that's an important factor! For example, the Volumetrics diet has been rated by Consumer Reports as its top diet. I found and interviewed a woman who had lost 200 pounds using Volumetrics, but before the book released she had begun gaining her weight back. It was important to me to include people who could lose and maintain their weight loss.

Other weight loss plans on the list may be equally valid, but they just don't have the superpower public relations push that less valid diet plans do. U.S. News rated the government-endorsed TLC diet highly, but I'd never heard of it. But if you read through the plan's requirements, you see that it's very similar to the Ornish diet, which I do include in the book.

Anyway, here's U.S. News list of diet plans . Have a good browse!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Maybe not the best idea...

A book signing for a weight loss book at a restaurant? Why not! Here we are at the Brothers Moon in Hopewell, NJ, on Sunday. That's my good friend, Vicki, with me. She's the biggest supporter an author could hope for! Note that I did not take photos of the food... too incriminating!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Songs in the night

The book talk at the Train Station last night was outstanding, if I do say so! I talked a bit about the inspiring people in How We Did It and then I turned the floor over to one of them.

John Bellemer, an operatic tenor, shared his story of losing 70 pounds on Body for Life. By losing weight and building abdominal muscle through exercise, he says his singing became stronger and his career thrived. He ended his part of the talk by singing for us! Here he is singing "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön" from the Mozart opera, The Magic Flute. Thank you so much, John! We loved it!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How We Did It book talk

My local library hosts a wonderful series of talks called "Wednesday Night Out." On the first Wednesday of the month, they invite a local author or artist to talk about his or her work. I've gone to some of these wonderful events, and have heard many authors, including authors Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer of the popular Canal House cookbook series and David Kushner, whose nonfiction book Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon, and the Fight for Civil Rights in America's Legendary Suburb chronicles racial discrimination in the building of a nearby Levittown housing development.

I've been one of the library's featured authors myself. Last June, I talked about my book of stories told by military chaplains, Miracles and Moments of Grace. I must not have put absolutely everyone to sleep because tonight, they've asked me to return to talk about my new book, How We Did It: Weight Loss Choices that Will Work for You. Joining me is one of the people whose weight loss success story is in the book, opera singer John Bellemer. He has a fascinating story about how losing weight and improving his health made his voice stronger and gave his career a boost.

So, if you're anywhere in the central New Jersey area, come on over to the Train Station, 4 Railroad Place, in Hopewell Borough, at 7 p.m. (Wednesday, January 4). I'm hoping John will sing something for us, and I've experimented with some low-fat and low-sugar refreshments. I taste-tested, and they sure could fool me! It's going to be a fun and inspiring evening. I hope you can join us.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Is weight loss your goal this year? You've come to the right place. In How We Did It some of the most inspiring people you'll ever meet share their weight loss journeys on every plan from Atkins to The Zone. Some had 20 pounds to lose, some 220 pounds... they ALL succeeded.

You can, too!

What I found while writing this book was some really encouraging research demonstrating that you can lose weight on any plan, as long as you stay with the plan over time. A diet plan fails you only when it fails to engage you over the long term. That's why weight loss isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition.

In How We Did It, not only do people share their weight loss success stories, but I examine each plan they used to help you evaluate whether it might work for you, too.

South Beach, Weight Watchers, Thin Within, Curves -- you name it, it's in here! There's sure to be a plan that's just right for you.

Whatever plan you've used before, forget the past and look to the future! I'm here to tell you that you can do it! I lost 30 pounds myself. If I can do it, so can you. I hope you'll join me in a journey to health and fitness this year.