Do You Know (How to) Squat?

My readers and friends know that I take great care of my hips. My hips have been sensitive since the Aughts, when I worked for corporations in the cube. Ergo consults…a footrest, nothing helped.

Now, I still sit to work at home, but I use an ergonomically designed knee chair and I stand as much as possible. (I am standing with my laptop on the counter as I write.)  I swear by hip exercises as well, but the one movement that helps my hips most is the squat. The squat stretches the five hip adductors going from the pelvis to the thigh bone and from the pelvis to the knee. It helps the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes too. I squat on my knee chair and on the floor.

Westerners Don’t Know Squat

I believe westerners are neglecting a basic self-care activity by failing to routinely squat. In the Far East, India, Middle East, and Africa, squatting takes the place of sitting. Asians squat with their heels on the ground and knees aligned with the direction of their toes, but most Americans can’t place their feet on flat ground because their Achilles tendons have been shortened by wearing shoes and sitting in chairs. Their quads are weak, their hips don’t extend, and they fall over backwards when they squat.

How to Do the “Asian Squat”

To squat like an Asian, it’s important to first build up your Achilles tendons with foot and ankle exercises. And then, start by squatting with your back against a wall to prevent falling backwards. Keep your feet wide apart, align your knees over your feet, lower yourself slowly, rest your arms on your knees, and don’t sit down on the dirty ground! Next, practice squatting away from the wall with your back hunched over your knees. Now practice again and again until squatting is perfunctory.

Daniel Hsia, young filmmaker extraordinaire and bro of my pal, Sue Hsia Lew, made this video, “How to do the Asian Squat,” back in 2002. In my mind, Daniel’s spoof is a great public health intervention. Enjoy!

Your thoughts: Can you do the Asian Squat?

Also about hip exercises:
30 Days on the Rebound(er): Jumping on the Mini-trampoline

Jumping on the Mini-trampoline, 30 Days Later


Serves 3 Over Ice – NICE!

There are some things we would rather forget and I’ll bet Coke would like to forget this.This picture was taken from a poster at the New World of Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta. Judging by the outfit and decor, it is nearly 60 years old. It was included in a recent presentation by the New York City Department of Health in support of Mayor Bloomberg’s “Maximum Size for Sugary Drinks: Proposed Amendment of Article 81.”

Mike Bloomberg wants to ban the sale at restaurants, food carts, movie theaters, and concession stands at sports arenas of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 ounces. Bloomberg says the proposed ban is a way to fight obesity in New York City, but opponents say that soda is unfairly singled-out as the cause of a multidimensional problem. In fact, the premise that soda causes obesity is unproven. The most that can be said comes from the CDC: “Sugar drinks have been linked to poor diet quality, weight gain, obesity, and, in adults, type 2 diabetes. U.S. dietary guidelines issued in 2010 recommend limiting the consumption of foods and beverages with added sugars.” Save them for a special occasion.

Many people dislike Mayor Bloomberg’s healthier-than-thou arrogance, but I like his attention-getting style. But whether you are for or against the mayor’s proposal, the poster shows that even Coke agreed a “big” 16-ounce soda is enough for three people. His proposal is simply a handy reminder that today’s food portions are out of control. Presently in NYC, you can’t even buy a soda that is smaller than 16 ounces — not even on the kid’s menu; 16 ounces is usually the “small” size, while 32 to 64 ounces is the “large.” Studies show that when people are given larger portions, they simply eat more without realizing it. It is especially true when it comes to beverages. This quote from Michelle Obama’s address to the National Restaurant Association Meeting in 2012 is a good one. She said, “…no matter what you do, it’s important, truly important, to keep portion sizes in check, because we all know that the size of a meal is just as important as the ingredients it’s made of.” And so, next time you see a 16-ounce soda, remember that it “serves 3 over ice – nice!” Coca-Cola said so in writing. Ouch.

Your thoughts: Where do you stand on the 16-ounce sweetened drink limit?

Blackberries Are Here!

Here up north, the Farmer’s Markets are filled with blackberries this week. I sing their praises because, for thousands of years, humans have used blackberries for medicine and food.

Stills: Say, can I have some of your purple berries?
Crosby: Yes, I’ve been eating them for six or seven weeks now, haven’t got sick once.
Stills: Probably keep us both alive.

A Blackberry Tale*

During the Civil War more deaths were caused by disease than by wounds, and of disease deaths, about half were caused by intestinal disorders, mainly diarrhea, dysentery and  typhoid fever. In fact, 995 of 1,000 Union soldiers contracted dysentery. The cure for dysentery was blackberry tea because blackberries are a powerful astringent that limits bodily secretions, and more than one cease fire was called for the purpose of picking blackberries. Confederate and Union soldiers stopped to pick blackberries together, often from the same bush at the same time, only to start fighting again when the dysentery was cured.

Blackberry Nutrition

Of all the berries, blackberries are the most nutritious. They contain the most ellagic acid, a phenolic compound with anti-carcinogen, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. They are loaded with gallic acid, rutin, and anthocyanins (blue pigments) as well, all powerful antioxidants that help to protect human cells against oxidative damage. Besides fighting cancer cells, they control circulatory disorders, enhance night vision, and have too many additional therapeutic roles to mention. Blackberries are loaded with fiber, vitamin C, manganese, copper, and omega-3 fatty acid-like molecules. And all of that for only 60 calories per cup, a true high “nutrient density” food.

Here are some ways to enjoy blackberries:
Blackberry Spinach Salad (All Recipes.)
Blackberry Mint Iced Tea (Driscoll’s)
Old Bachelor’s Jam and  Old Bachelor’s Jam and Blackberry Tart (Martha Stewart)

Your thoughts: Do you have a blackberry recipe to share with my readers? Thanks!

*Flora and Fauna of the Civil War: An Environmental Reference Guide by Kelby Ouchley

Cleansing Up on Wall Street

As if I didn’t mistrust investment bankers enough, now I trust them even less. I refer to this story in the New York Times, Companies Try to Build Team Spirit Through Group Juice Cleansing. “Group cleanses, generally one-to-five-day, all-liquid diets with anywhere from a half-dozen to as many as 150 employees taking part, are emerging as one of the latest ways to solidify corporate bonds, on both Seventh Avenue and Wall Street,” they write. “Six-juice-a-day-dieters include employees at Merrill Lynch and the Carlyle Group and, in May, Citigroup began offering (a cleanse) in some of its Manhattan cafeterias.” How is that for good judgment? (Seventh Avenue, the fashion industry, gets a pass because they’re not expected to make sense.)

Why “Cleanse”?

Why do a corporate cleanse? “It was something we could do where we thought, ‘We’re all in this together,’ ” explained a young city business man. My explanation is that movie stars do it; it’s delivered by FedEx in a box with a bow; it’s in the same vein as vile-tasting energy drinks they use; and it gives everybody an excuse to “eat” as a group. (Why not hire a chef and eat food at the table, Italian-style?) But wait! Their insides need cleaning. Gwyneth Paltrow said so.

Make Sense

The voice of reason in the story comes from Joan Salge Blake, PhD, RD, a Boston University associate professor of nutrition. “Your liver and kidneys can handle toxins just fine,” she says. “There’s no science to back up cleansing.” (Can this stuff clean up the soul?) As a diversion, a short-term cleanse might be fun. It certainly is an event. It’s not harmful and it may serve as a tangible symbol of change. But “cleanses” lasting longer than a day or two can lead to muscle breakdown, headaches, irritability and fatigue. (Should anyone handle money in that state?) And cleanse fans note: never “cleanse” with colonic irrigation because it can perforate the bowel and cause a deadly infection.

Your thoughts: Would you take part in  a corporate cleanse?

@MaryHartleyRD in the Word Cloud

Check out the word cloud of my recent Tweets generated by MyTweetCloud. Riveting content, right? That’s why you might want to follow me on Twitter (and Facebook too) at MaryHartleyRD.

Up in the Cloud

Algae appetizers AskMaryRD baby back pain beer bicycles BL14 bloat body image boomers breakfast brew Brooklyn calories cereal facts chocolate city living Congress craft beer Denmark detox diet dietitian diets doctor donteatit draconian duh eating disorders eco evoo exercise faceit family farmers market farming fermentation Fitbloggin fitness FNCE food foodie fuel gardeners gut HAES health healthy food heart health heatwave homebrew hydrate icecream intuitive eating itscomplicated japan july4 junk food justsayin keepitreal kidney kids kidshealth lift lorcaserin madeitup MassHealth MeatlessMonday microbes mindfulness mommy MyFitnessPal MyPlate nodiet nutrients nutrition NYC ObamaCare opportunity organic OWS patient pizza poison ivy pool poster preschool RDchat recipe recipes respect restaurants RI road trip savings sleep snack snacks sugar summer tea TheBiggestLoser thoughtsbecomethings toddler toomuchsitting truthiness vacation walking weekend weight loss

You thoughts: What else should I Tweet about?

My Favorite Icy, Fruity Treats

My daughter, a Brooklyn foodie, turned me on to my new favorite cooling sweet treat for the summer.

New York: Soft Serve Fruit

Soft Serve Fruit is THAT good. It is nothing but pureed fruit mixed with filtered water and cane sugar. Soft Serve Fruit is one appropriate way to enjoy fruit puree: watered down and eaten with a spoon. Soft Serve Fruit it is real fruit with vitamin C and a fair amount of fiber. It comes in four seasonal flavors and it is so low in calories that they almost don’t count.  Soft Fruit Food Company stores are found only in Manhattan and the Hamptons. I go to the Union Square location at 17th Street and Broadway, around the corner from where I discovered Olympus Authentic Greek Yogurt, my other favorite food. Fresh food wise, Union Square is the place to be.

At Home

You can make soft serve fruit in a food processor at home. Here is one recipe.There are others all over the Internet.

Rhode Island: Del’s Lemonade

At home in Rhode Island, my favorite icy treat is Del’s Lemonade, fruit ice made from fresh lemon juice, plenty of zest included. Del’s Lemonade is Great Grandfather DeLucia’s recipe from Naples back in 1840.  (A bit of food history: The first Italian ices, granitas and sorbets were made with lumps of snow from Mount Etna. How romantic!) Lemon ices are so thirst-quenching and delicious, but watch out for brain freeze! Del’s doesn’t list the Nutrition Facts 🙂 Suffice it to say, Del’s is full of sugar.

Your thoughts: Do you love fruit ices?  Please share your favorites!

Which Silhouette Are You?

Now that summer is here and the clothes have come off, I like to use my favorite nutrition assessment tool. It is the Stunkard Scale, a series of images of progressively heavier body types labeled 1 through 9, with 9 being the heaviest. It is mainly used in research to measure body image perception. Subjects are usually asked to choose the silhouette that most closely resembles how they look and how they would want to look.
Silhouette 4 corresponds to Body Mass Index (BMI) 23, the upper half of the healthy weight range. Women are most satisfied with Silhouette 3, whereas men prefer to be heavier. Silhouette 1 is too skinny to be healthy, and for some, Silhouette 2 is as well. Silhouette 5 rests on the border of the healthy to overweight range. Silhouettes 6 – 9 are too heavy and, as such, increase the risk for disease.

A Matter of Perception

People who live in societies that put a premium on thinness often see themselves as fat when they are thin. For instance, my beautiful, healthy daughter saw herself as a bit heavy while living as a nanny in the skinny minny Hamptons. On the other hand, according to a study from Quebec, children with heavy parents and peers are more likely to underestimate their weight than those with healthy-weight parents and friends.  Underestimation of body size is more common among African-Americans, Hispanics, and heavy people who are active, although research shows that people with education and higher incomes are not more likely to perceive their weight more accurately than less educated people who make less money. People who lose weight commonly continue to see themselves as larger. Presently, I am Silhouette 3 or 4; however, I felt scrawny while visiting one of America’s fatter states.

Your thoughts: Which silhouette are you?

Fruit Pouches and Foie Gras

I knew they were Trouble with a capital T when I first saw them at a trade show. Have you seen the plastic pouches of squeezable fruit being marketed to kids? It is literally puréed fruit (well, a bit of vegetable, grain, or milk may walk through) in a plastic disposable pouch for preschoolers to eat on the run. This New York Times article, Putting the Squeeze on a Family Ritual, made me sick.
Puréed Fruit is Fabulous Food

Puréed fruit is delicious on yogurt and ice cream and it is perfect for shakes, cocktails, vinegars, shrubs, fruit soups, muffins and cakes and as a sauce for meat, fish, eggs and cheese. It is indispensable in French jellies pastes, mousse cakes and mascarpone creams, but to pour it down a toddler’s throat? Non, non and non!

Missed Opportunities

Realize this: Children NEED to chew. The formation of the jaw and the muscles of the face depends on chewing. And children NEED to sit-down to eat meals and snacks to learn what and how to eat and how to socialize at the family table. If an over-pouched child were to present for a behavioral feeding  assessment, the parents would lose points for (1) substituting easy “stand-in food” for structured meals and snacks; (2) making use of developmentally inappropriate food textures; and (3) adding too much simple sugar to the diet.  Sucking sugar also destroys the teeth.

Q: How is a toddler strapped in a stroller sucking on fruit pouch like a “foie gras” goose?”
A: Both are force fed simple carbohydrates while being denied exercise. 

“Foie gras” is French for “fat liver.” Geese and ducks are fed carbohydrates until their livers expand full of fat that tastes like yummy butter. A goose can be gorged with gavage feeding or left to gorge naturally on fruit. The Romans fed their geese dried figs to make foie gras. And so, if you see a fruit sucking preschooler develop fatty liver in a few years, remember you heard it from me first. But, please, don’t let it happen!

Your thoughts: Is this a New York thing or do kids everywhere have fruit pouches?

Watch Stephen Colbert blow the truthiness whistle on fruit pouches in “Thought for Food.”

The Fascinating History of Beer

Beer has a fundamental role in the history of civilization. I wrote about it for Calorie Count a few years ago after hearing the story from a friend, a technical kind of guy who remembers every detail and then relates it back. You’ve been there; still, it was captivating. I’ve already made The Case for Fermented Foods, the essence of decomposition and metamorphosis and so, all of life. Nowadays, my daughter’s boyfriend brews beer and mead in bubbling cauldrons in their Brooklyn apartment. Stay tuned for more about that. The definitive guide to beer history is A History of Beer and Brewing by Ian Hornsey. I’ve condensed it here to a one minute read.

The History of Beer, Condensed

  • Around the world, prehistoric man discovers fermentation by chance occurrence as decaying fruit mixes with yeast, molds and bacteria in the air to produce alcohol.
  • 12,000 BC: Nomadic hunters and gatherers settle down to farm grain (presumably to make beer because bread-baking is unknown)
  • 7,000 BC: Brewing (i.e. intentionally making beer from grain or bread) is practiced in Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Israel, China, and South America.
  • 500 BC – 500 CE: Wine takes over as the preferred drink in the Western world.  Beer is for peasants.

Continue reading about The Fascinating History of Beer….

You thoughts: Are you a beer fan?

How I Use Calories on the Menu

Yesterday, at a rest stop in New Jersey, standing in the combined line for Cinnabon, Popeyes and others, waiting to pay for the blueberry-granola-and (un)real yogurt that I always get, I spied a “MiniBon” roll and mentioned that, calorie-wise, it was better than the classic. (The Cinnabon Classic has 880 calories, while the Minibon has 350 calories per roll.)  My daughter and the woman standing ahead of me, both in their 20s and of slim/normal weight, admitted they had no idea of the number of calories they need. Neither one seemed the worse for the lack of information, but I gave them a tiny lesson on calories (and told them never to “diet.”)

Later that night, I read this on the Intuitive Eaters Professionals Group on Linked-In:
“The other day I went to a restaurant for lunch with friends and was surprised to see calorie counts next to each menu item. My friends, both fairly health conscious “normal” eaters, didn’t seem to mind, but did remark on the counts. I was bothered because I found that the counts drew me away from eating intuitively and back to my days, half a lifetime ago, of dieting. I had to force myself not to look at them and then was okay. My question is: Are menu item calorie counts helpful or not? Might they be useful for different populations, i.e., okay for “normal” eaters who want to eat more nutritiously but not so much for anyone who leans toward dis-regulated eating?”

Calories on the Menu

Expect to see calories on the menu in restaurants with 20 or more outlets as part of the Affordable Care Act upheld by the Supreme Court last week. Restaurants and movie theaters must post calorie information on menus, menu boards, and drive through displays, and provide written information about total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber, and protein upon request.

For people like my daughter and the woman in line, the information will be meaningless, but for others, it may be extremely informative or downright disconcerting. As a longtime registered dietitian, intuitive eating practitioner, and former dieter over thirty years ago, I think a “calorie information free menu” should be available to anyone upon request, no questions asked. (Heaven forbid the Affordable Care Act returns to the Supreme Court for alleged “actual harm” coming from calories on the menu!) Anyway, I live in New York City where calories have been on the menu since 2008. Real-world studies show that, as a public health intervention, it has only a modest reduction or no effect in the calories purchased by customers. In time, the issue could be a moot point.

For what it’s worth, this is what I told my daughter and the woman in line about how I approach calories on the menu:

  • Women need about 2,000 calories a day and men need around 2,400.*
  • When the calorie count is high – say greater than 20% of the daily total or 400 calories – look askance
  • Decide if the extra calories are from too much wholesome food or from “empty calories” full of added sugar and/or animal fats but with negligible nutrients.
  • For wholesome food, I split the serving with my companion or carry away half, and for empty calories, I decide if I love it enough and have to have it right then. (Luckily, I’m not impulsive.) If yes, then I have it; if no, then I skip it. But if I were to feel guilty or otherwise, awful, I’d ask why and think of it as a growth opportunity.

Righteous indignation seems to fuels me. You can’t get me to eat most of the crap sold in American chain restaurants. I don’t value filling my body with junkie food. I am attracted to fresh food well prepared, mostly by me. Usually, I’m sated at don’t care about dessert. If I really want dessert, then I eat it only a little at the meal.

Your thoughts: What do you think about calories on the menu?

*To find your calorie requirements, use this chart from the government or use a calculator fromany one of the online diet websites.