A Reading List for Yo-Yo Dieters and Emotional Eaters

I am happy to report that my online nutrition counseling practice is taking off. And the best part is that I get to work with my favorite patients/clients/customers: yo-yo dieters and emotional eaters. They are the folks that don’t feel good about their weight and the way they eat. A history of traditional diets knocked them off their natural course and, for many, childhood trauma had a role. Their weights cycle up and down because, unfortunately, diets make you fat. My job is to help them get off the wobbly track and back into the groove. It doesn’t matter if they have a medical condition; everyone has a personal best. When they stop dieting and their weight no longer cycles, better health always returns.

My Favorite “How To” Books for Intuitive Eating

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, two registered dietitians, wrote the 1995 classic, Intuitive Eating, that gave a useful name to the “non-diet” approach. The approach uses physical and emotional feelings (and knowledge) to guide intake and rebuild pleasure in eating. The mindset can be learned, especially with the help of a skillful teacher, and so to understand the ins-and-outs of intuitive eating, I always ask my yo-yo dieters to read at least one of these excellent books:

When I asked the LinkedIn Group of Intuitive Eating Professionals to recommend their favorite books, they also suggested books that address self-acceptance, self-care and spirituality, essential issues of breaking free. Here are some of the books for emotional eaters that they recommend:

Your thoughts: Which books help you to a healthy life and eat with joy?

Cock-a-Leekie Soup and Free Yogurt

Yesterday, I got a yen for some Cock-a-Leekie Soup, and so I had to buy parsnips and leeks. Cock-a-Leekie Soup is a Scottish peasant dish that goes back 500 years. It always contains chicken, leeks, and prunes. I’ve used this recipe from a Cooking Light magazine for many years. It seems to have passed through Colonial India.

I planned to head over to the Union Square Greenmarket first thing in the morning, but when I got up, it was raining hard. Not to worry! Time for my cute rain boots and sturdy umbrella. The greenmarket was empty. Soup is good on a rainy day.

Free Yogurt

At the greenmarket, only one farmer had leeks for $4 per pound! But I had to have leeks and his were in great shape. While I was bemoaning the price, the farmer pointed to a man who was giving away free yogurt and so, together we walked over to the truck. I said the magic words, “food blogger” and I walked away with a case. The yogurt, Olympus Authentic Greek Strained Yogurt, is seriously good. It is extra creamy, but very light and clean, slightly tangy with a hint of sweetness, and it is low in fat. It really does taste like the yogurt in Greece. My leeks came with a bonus. Only in New York City.

Carrots, Beets, and Apples

Besides parsnips and leeks, I bought carrots, beets and apples. I’m making another old favorite from Cooking Light, Date-Nut-Carrot Bread, and I’m also making a new recipe, ABC Salad – shredded apples, carrots and beets. Joan Dye Gussow recommends it. It is a natural “detox” for the body, if you think that way. This recipe has lots variations too. For instance, I added the apple to the Carrot and Beet Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Your thoughts: What healthy recipes are you making this weekend?

Summer, Fall, Winter, Death, and Diet

When I go home to Rhode Island, I always read the obituaries. This time, I was saddened by the death of a girl I lived with briefly in college. Five of us girls and assorted (and sordid) friends lived in a historic, somewhat rundown, Victorian house in Narragansett Pier. It was a summer so long ago that Elton John was actually young. We were not even into our  mid-twenties.

The girl was, truly, the sweetest of gentle souls. She had a delicate face, a soothing voice and a lilting giggle. Everybody loved her, but she was ill-matched to that house.

We were vegetarians eating rice salad and stuffed eggplants, and she was eating McDonald’s and other really junky foods. She’d take her bag of food and soda to the front porch and tell us, “Don’t say anything!” And who would after that obvious admission of guilt?  But I never saw her eat a vegetable or other healthy thing.

We did not keep in touch after that summer. The death notice described her full life and mentioned hospice, which usually means cancer. Back in those days, it was common to puff on cigarettes and bake in the sun. The weird part about cancer is that it takes years to develop: 20, 30, 40 or more.

No one knew that the years would fly by and our habits would be our undoing. Lifestyle habits are odd anyway. There’s no real proof for a particular individual, and cause and effect are inferred at best. And sometimes, summer is over, and we miss out on fall and winter.

I hope my friend had a life full of love and a peaceful death.

 Your thoughts: A penny for yours…

Why Paula Deen’s Diabetes is Your Problem Too

Did y’all see Paula Deen’s interview with Al Roker today on Today? The deep-fat fried food queen talked about having type 2 diabetes for the past three years. She delayed telling us until she could “bring something to the table.” That something is a big fat contract with Novo Nordisk, where Paula and her sons will front a program to help people with diabetes manage the condition. When Al asked Paula if she had changed her diet, she said, “I’ve always eaten in moderation.” Gag me with a spoon.


Y’all oughta know that you are paying for Paula Deen’s diabetes. Since she qualifies for Medicare when she turns 65 day after tomorrow, we taxpayers are footing her bill. And what a bill it is!  A person with diagnosed diabetes incurs average yearly medical expenses of $11,744. That’s about 2.3 times more than what is spent by a person without diabetes.  In 2007, the cost of diagnosed diabetes was $174 billion, but when you add the cost of undiagnosed diabetes, prediabetes and gestational diabetes, the bill reaches $218 billion a year.* It comes from doctor visits, diagnostic tests, blood work, medications, devices, therapies, hospitalizations, and days lost from work. To get a sense of $218,000,000,000,000, start counting one number per second without stopping for 373 years. Whoops! It’s a new year – time to start counting again.

Back Up

The good news is that this waste of money can be prevented. Have you heard that genetics loads the gun but environment pulls the trigger?  Well, a good diet and exercise alone can prevent diabetes in genetically susceptible people, but a good diet and exercise can also reverse prediabetes and new type 2 diabetes (without Novo Nordisk’s drugs.)  Read my article for Diets in Review, Diabetes is Not a Life Sentence, to understand how it works. If you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, call me, do not call Paula Deen.

Your thoughts: What should Americans do about lifestyle-based medical bills?

* Data from the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, American Diabetes Association

Talking About “What Not to Do” on the BQE

What not to do on the BQE, Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Interstate 278, is drive on it if you can help it. It is an ancient highway, constantly under construction, with crazy route number changes, tolls, and traffic. That’s why, to pass the time while driving back to Brooklyn from Rhode Island with my lifelong dietitian friend, Barbara, and her adult daughter, Emily, I asked for help with an assignment for Diets in Review. My task was to write about “Everything That’s Wrong with Your Diet” and the article should “serve as an opportunity to educate readers without coming across as accusatory.”  In January, I might add, the word “diet” means losing weight; it is not about the food that a person habitually eats.

Making a List

Over the years, Barbara and I have seen it all and Emily has too. Our daughters have grown up knowing what and how to eat, taking it in by osmosis. For instance, as a young nanny, Emily told a toddler’s mother, “He’s not getting enough protein from that rice milk,” and I’ve already shown you the contents of my daughter’s cupboard. Suffice it to say, we had no trouble coming up with a list of 20 things people fail to do: not drinking enough water, drinking too much juice, not bothering to cook, eating in restaurants way too often, eating fast food, not expanding their vegetable repertoire, yada yada. You’ve heard them all. (The list is now in the landfill.)

The Finished Product

To fit the word limit, I whittled the list down to five things I commonly see people do – with the best intentions – but not doing themselves any favors. To my surprise, the article resonated with readers and other dietitians too. Perhaps you will like it. Anyway, here it is: 5 Things That are Wrong With Your Diet. Please share!

Your thoughts: What would you tell the public if asked, “What’s wrong with your diet?”

30 Days on the Rebound(er): Jumping on the Mini-trampoline

I sort of decided to try something new for 30 days related to exercise.  I say “sort of” because, like all ENFPs, I am easily bored with daily routines, but then since discipline itself is novel to me, this new task holds my attention – for now. (Take the Myers Briggs-type personality test here.)

My chosen exercise is jumping on the mini-trampoline, called a rebounder.  I chose it for several reasons, foremost of which is, because I’m a health blogger, I got a Fitness Trampoline™ by JumpSport® for free.  My mini-trampoline is about 3-feet wide and 1-foot tall, and in my postage stamp of a Brooklyn apartment, it serves as a coffee table, ottoman and airy bed for visiting dogs. And since it’s here to stay, I decided to use it to get more fit.

What’s Not to Like?

Today is day five out of seven. (I can’t do it while my downstairs neighbor is home on the weekends.) I do 20 minutes of cardio, soon to be 30, and that’s enough because I do Pilates and walk everywhere, not owning a car. I use JumpSport’s video tape staring Kathy Jo Burgett, a trainer of a certain age (hooray!)  We bounce, jog in place, twist, and do jumping jacks and side-to-side things; it raises my heart rate, but not excessively, without hurting my joints. Unlike running or stair climbing, the soft trampoline does not have traumatic impact on my muscles, tissues and joints, but it does maintain my bone density by working against gravity. The action also improves my spatial awareness, coordination and balance, which makes it perfect for a potentially fall-prone boomer like me. My pesky IT band problem seems to be better too – no proof of cause-and-effect – but at least it’s not worse.

Lymph Notes

All over the Internet, articles say that the mini-trampoline is great for the lymphatic system, but I could not find supporting research – which doesn’t make it untrue. Lymph is a fluid, collected from the tissues, that contains lots of white blood cells that destroy bacteria and, as they say, “toxins, wastes and cancer cells.” (Roll out the skull and crossbones.) I think the mini-trampoline helps the lymph system as much as any exercise that involves gravity and muscle contraction. Still, it’s fun to say the word “lymph” and to think about its mysteries.


Because any trampoline presents a hazard for serious injury, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement about trampolines. Use a trampoline at your own risk.

Your thoughts: Is trampoline jumping for you? 

See Jumping on the Mini-trampoline, 30 Days Later

The Case for Fermented Foods

I am convinced that we should be eating more fermented food. I mean, how could humankind eat fermented food for 10,000+ years and then stop in one generation? And now probiotic pills and food additives are supposed to fill the gap?  Gimme a break! Eat fermented food.

Fermentation is an ancient method of preserving food that predates recorded time. Fermentation introduces essential microorganisms into food and then into the GI tract. During food fermentation, bacteria or yeasts break down carbohydrates into easy-to-digest carbon dioxide, alcohols and organic acids. When the living bacteria enter our bodies and reproduce, they become our intestinal flora. (I call it my internal compose pile.) In the gut, the bacteria digest food to make it more absorbable. For example, fermentation changes indigestible lactose into digestible lactic acid, and in grains, fermentation destroys phytic acid, a substance that blocks the absorption of calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. The bacteria in the gut actually produce nutrients as the food is digested; B-vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids are synthesized during the fermentation process. And in addition to their digestive benefits, the bacteria confer primary immunity all throughout the body.

Any Food Can Be Fermented

Familiar fermented foods include brined vegetables, like sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers, beets, onions and garlic, kimchi, capers, and olives, and pickled meats, fish and eggs; dairy ferments, such as yogurt, cheese, kefir, sour cream, and buttermilk; the bean ferments, miso and tempeh; fermented grain products, including beer and porridge; fruit juices fermented to wine, cider and vinegar; honey mead and the fermented tea kombucha – plus, all sorts of foods that we’ve never heard of from faraway places. To get the benefits, fermented foods should not be pasteurized.

Fermented Foods ARE Prebiotics

Read this powerful 2007 statement from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in their Report of the FAO Technical Meeting on PREBIOTICS:

“…Modern day humans do not ingest sufficient quantities of lactic acid bacteria or their growth stimulants including non-digestible carbohydrates. In addition, there is a growing recognition that events taking place in the intestine and influenced by microbes, have major consequences for human health.”

What About Sodium?

But Mary, you might say, “What about the salt in fermented food?” Well, fresh food has very little salt, and about 75 percent or more of the sodium in the American diet is added by the food manufacturer. There is sodium benzoate, sodium propionate, sodium nitrate, and 50 other sodium-based additives, not counting sodium chloride, table salt, in processed food. If we didn’t eat processed food, then we’d have room for the sodium in fermented food.

Your thoughts: Do you eat fermented foods?  Do you plan to start?

How Diets Make You Fat

I’m going to let you in on a secret about losing weight: eat the number of calories you need to maintain your ideal weight. What am I saying? Restrictive diets are the reason why people don’t lose weight. Dieting causes binging. It’s as simple as that.

This truth was shown back in the 1940s in Ancel Keys’ Minnesota Starvation Experiment.  The esteemed Dr. Keys conducted a thorough scientific study of calorie restriction to gain insight into the physical and psychological effects of starving war victims and how to best refeed them after the war. The results were published in the Biology of Human Starvation (University of Minneapolis, 1950).

For the study, well-adjusted conscientious objectors to World War II volunteered to be placed on a diet with about 1,600 calories a day for 3 months. The men lost 25 percent of their natural body weight at a rate of about 2.5 pounds a week. As they lost weight, they experienced depression, irritability, impatience, and apathy. Food became an obsession: the men talked, read and dreamed about food. During the refeeding phase, they hoarded food and stuffed themselves until they became sick.

Dieting is Crazymaking

The body cannot tell the difference between intentional calorie restriction (dieting) and true starvation. That 1600 calorie diet is no different from what people do every day.  And who hasn’t met a cranky dieter who constantly talks about food and then goes on to binge?  Binging causes weight gain and the cycle starts all over again. The process makes me cringe.

And so everyone, regardless of weight, should simply eat the amount of food they need to maintain ideal weight. Overweight folks should use Body Mass Index (BMI) 24 as a reference point. This calorie calculator from the American Cancer Society shows how many calories you need and, to plan a healthy diet, read this article I wrote for Calorie Count  – or make an appointment with me!

Your thoughts:  Has dieting ever led you astray?

The Sleazy World of Diet Products

From time-to-time, I am asked by a manufacturer, public relations firm, or editor of a nutrition website to review a new diet product.  I usually follow Mom’s advice, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In other words, I let the reader know if the product is harmful or unproven to work but, otherwise, I focus on the positive and keep it lite. To see what I mean, check out my article, Vaportrim Claims Smell can Trick Your Brain Into Being Full, for Diets in Review.

But I just have to share what I found out in doing a little background check on Vaportrim.  As it turns out, in my humble opinion, the product is a small part of an immoral force. The patent for Vaportrim is held by a man who owns the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network, a pay-per-minute porno site that services about 2,000 people a day at $11.95 a pop. He also owns the Real Touch virtual sex device to go along for the ride.

Internet porn is a serious new problem. It is highly addictive and it creates an inability for users to be turned on by real partners. Read about how Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction Is a Growing Problem in Psychology Today.

And so, the next time you see an ad for a silly diet product, consider that it may be tied to a nefarious operation.

Your thoughts: Are you surprised by what I’ve said?

The Nutrition Home Visit That Changed My Life

I got a sneak peek at a magazine article featuring Yours Truly making a nutrition home visit with a family in Connecticut. Because the first week of January is the most important time of the diet year, I am sharing this now even though the magazine is not slated for display until March 26th.

The home visit was arranged the public relations agency that contracted with my former employer. The writer needed a nutrition expert to observe a family and suggest ways for them to improve their eating style.

The visit was scheduled for the evening of July 22, 2011, a day of record-breaking heat and humidity. It took several hours to get from Grand Central Station to Stamford, Connecticut because the heat caused the wires above the tracks to sag and get tangled in an arm that connects the trains to electricity. We finally arrived at 8 PM, but not to worry! Anytime is a great time for a nutrition intervention.

The family was so kind and good; I felt such affection for them. The mom commuted four hours into the city on weekdays and the dad was busy with his job, the baby and the preschooler. So much about their eating habits was a mess and they didn’t know where to begin. I have to say we zeroed in on the changes that delivered the biggest bang for the buck, and by the end of the appointment, they were upbeat and raring to go, much to the dad’s pleasant surprise.

You can read the article, From Hectic to Wholesome, to see exactly what transpired. In the final copy, the writer said that a nutritional intervention led by Mary Hartley, RD, MPH is “every overworked American family’s dream.”  Bless her heart.

That home visit made me remember how much I love working with patients.  Before that, I had been working with computer programmers to get nutrition messages out to the masses. I like consulting with programmers and the media work I do, but I love working with patients on their nutrition problems, and now that I’m doing it again, it’s a happy New Year for me.

Your thoughts:  How could you benefit from a nutrition visit in the home or online?