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.