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!