Monday, November 29, 2010

I Think I May be a Korean Supermarket

I've never felt more connected to a grocery store than when walking around in H-Mart this past weekend, a Korean market with locations across the United States.  If you haven't been to H-Mart, I highly recommend it.  Here are the highlights:

Eggplants...lots and lots of them
Fuzzy squash...I don't like hairs on/in my food, I'm just sayin'

This is fresh ginseng...a purported aphrodisiac

There were roughly 20 different types of tofu...a serious amount of bean curd

Those are giant aloe vera leaves (which I would turn into tequilla)

If only I were braver, I would have bought these giant roots to eat...based on the shape, I bet these are considered aphrodisiacs too 

Fishies in a bag...I wouldn't eat these, but I love that someone does

I'm always amazed at things people will eat...these don't even look edible to me

Manhood tea...hilarious

Ah, Female Joy...makes you happy to have a uterus

Horny goat the gardening world, this is called epimedium.  It's a lovely shade-tolerant plant.  There are about 60 different varieties out there.  As the legend goes, a Chinese farmer noticed that his male goats became particular  interested in the female goats after grazing on a patch of epimedium.  Next thing you know, horny goat weed was part of Chinese traditional medicine for stimulating "manhood".  

It has been shown to produce Viagra-like effects in animals (although it's funny to think about how this is tested).  I'm not sure if it's been tested clinically in humans yet and no, I'm not volunteering to run a such a study.  :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

According to Scientists, You Will Probably Gain 1 Pound Between Now and New Year's Day

In the last 3 days, I've seen about 10 different "lists" with suggestions about making healthy eating choices on Thanksgiving.  Some of the points I agree with (e.g., use a small plate, choose more vegetables, go for a walk before dessert) and others I just can't get on board with (e.g., avoid alcoholic beverages).

All these lists got me thinking about holiday weight gain.  Do most people gain weight between now and New Year's Day?

Some 'healthy living' websites indicate that people gain 5 lbs during the holidays.  But the scientific research does not support that number.  Most studies show an average weight gain of 1 pound between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.  This number is higher for those that are already overweight or obese.  But even then, it is less than 5 lbs for most people.  Of course, these are averages, which means that an individual may be higher or lower than the 1 pound average. 

This is much less than I thought it would be.  I almost always gain weight over the holidays (unless I luck out and catch the latest norovirus)...and it feels like more than 1 pound.  But since I don't know how to use my bathroom scale, I'm not entirely sure how much weight I really again.  [I also "don't know how" to use power tools, take out the garbage, put up Christmas lights, or cut the dog's nails.]   

But what is most concerning is that most people do not lose this weight after the holidays.  Which means that what you gain between now and New Years stays with you.  Weight gain during the holidays may be the primary reason why adults gain 1-2 pounds a year and migrate from normal body weight to overweight to obese over a lifetime.  It's almost like the rings on the trunk of a tree...with each year, there's another layer that makes the trunk thicker and thicker over time. 

And so with with that happy thought in mind, enjoy your Thanksgiving!  :)   

P.S.  Just a few "tips" that most of these lists seem to be missing:
  1. Weight gain does not happen overnight, so eating light on Wednesday and Friday will allow for more flexibility on Thursday.
  2. Champagne has fewer calories than most other alcoholic beverages...and is oh so yummy.  The "loaded/unloaded" drink rotation (alcoholic drink/water) is always a good idea. 
  3. Soup (the brothy kind) is low in calories, but studies also show that it makes you feel fuller than most other foods.  A big bowl of chicken or bean soup for breakfast or before Thanksgiving supper might be the best appetite suppressant out there. 
  4. Take the dessert to go and have it for breakfast on Friday.  It'll be something to look forward to (a naughty treat to eat dessert in the morning) and will spread the calories out over the next day.  
  5. Chew gum.  If you're (politely) chewing gum during social occasions, you're much less likely to keep grabbing for another appetizer or small taste of something. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

What Grilled Cheese Sandwich Burns More Calories??

TwinkiesRegrettably, a professor at Kansas State University received quite a bit of media attention after losing weight on an 1800-calorie/day junk food diet.  I don't know why this is news.  It's a fact that if you consume less calories than you burn, you will lose weight.  It doesn't matter where those calories come from.  It's a math equation.  If you only eat 1 stick of butter every day, I guarantee you will lose weight (1 stick butter = ~800 calories).  The only major exceptions would be people on certain medications or with extreme hormonal conditions.  

There are many reasons why it's not a great idea to go on a Twinkie diet for weight loss.  Besides the obvious ones (not very satiating, low in vitamins and mineral and other "good stuff" found in real foods, high in sugar, etc), I wanted to highlight a study that was published this summer that on processed food.

The purpose of the study was to measure how many calories were burned after eating a cheese sandwich made with white bread and processed cheese versus one made with whole grain bread with real cheddar cheese.  Both sandwiches provided the same number of calories and the carbohydrate, protein, and fat content were the same.  

Not surprising, you burn a lot more calories after eating the sandwich made on whole grain bread with real cheddar cheese!  

Burning calories after you eat is called "diet induced thermogenesis".  It takes a lot of energy for your body to digest and process food.  In general, it takes more calories to digest and process protein and much less after eating fat.  But up until this summer, no one ever tested how many calories are burned eating a processed sandwich versus a more wholesome one.

So this professor did lose weight on his Twinkie diet, about 27 pounds in two months (which would probably never happen to a SHE...we're not that lucky with weight loss...but we do live longer so in the end, we WIN!)  But just imagine how much more weight he would have lost if he were on a whole food diet!  

I don't know about you, but I will choose the whole foods that burn more calories than the Twinkie diet.  This strategy would also help prevent weight gain and might explain why people who eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are leaner than those that eat more processed foods.  Sure, Twinkies have their place in the food supply but I wouldn't base a weight loss diet on them.  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chronicles of NYC

This is not a blog about  my life.  If it were, it would be called something like or  My goal with this blog is to educate and inspire.  But several of you have asked me about my recent trip to NYC so I thought I would just take one post to highlight a few parts of the trip.  

The trip was a gift to my oldest daughter for her birthday.  We met a friend of the family there for a long weekend.  If I could summarize the trip in one word, it would be "connections".  Here are the highlights:

Unlike me, our family friend has other friends in high places.  We stayed in her friend's penthouse in mid-town east with this view from the balcony.  [Note to self...find some well-connected friends]

We saw the tree go up in Rockefeller Center (see that tiny, tiny man on the platform?  That is one big tree!)

If you look carefully, you will see a chihuahua on that van.  I just thought that was funny.  I've seen those little dogs in lots of places (purses, fanny packs, strollers, cleavage), but never on top of a utility van. 

Someone told me this was culturally significant in some way???  Something about sisters and Bruce Jenner???  OK fine, I watch it!  I admit that I watch the E! channel.   And I like it.  And if you're looking for stretch pants with holes in the knees that cost $295, you can get them here.  And you're welcome.

Again, because my friend has "connections", we got to go back stage after The Lion King and see all the cool costumes and scenery.  This is James Brown Orleans, the lead hyena.  He was gracious, passionate, and informative.  I love this guy!

Here's "my biggest" on the stage...thinking this is all normal to be walking around the stage of a Broadway show.  I'm thinking, "It's all downhill from here, honey" and "I'm the coolest mom ever".  

Here are the guitars that we played in James' dressing room til' 1 am.  What's that you're thinking?  Did I allow my 11-yr old to play guitars in the dressing room of a Broadway hyena until 1 am?  Yes.  Again, I should be blogging over at  

Look at all the people in Times Square at 1 am!   

I ate a chicken gyro sandwich made by a man in a truck while sitting across the street from the new construction at Ground Zero.  It was sad and inspiring all at the same time.  Still hard to believe that happened.  

And then the finale of my trip, a drag queen wedding.  It was depressing that this man looked better in a dress than I ever have/will.  Best wishes for a happy life together Frostie Flake and Honey!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That Eggplant Looks Fabulous With Your Dress

I'm just off of a weekend in NYC.  I came home, pulled my stack of mail, and lookie lookie what I got in the mail:

I've never actually purchased anything from Barneys, so am confused as to why I received this particular issue of the catalog.  But I am happy to have it!  This "Foodie Holiday" issue is a tribute to Barney's "passion" for the "foodie culture" and highlights their efforts to keep everyone "well-fed".  This means that they gave $$ to the Food Bank for New York City.  

Look at these beautiful, and often comical, photos from the catalog (sorry for the shi++y photos that I took with my own camera):

That's a $1985 trench coat.  Yikes!

This dress is ONLY $1550.  Bargain!  NOT

These are called scapes, I just recently learned

How do I get one of those gigantic whisks?


Photographer: Hey model, wear this octopus on your head
Model: Sure. What's an octopus?

Sadly, most food banks are not getting these "foodie" foods.  If you have ever been to a food bank, and I suggest that you do at some point in your life, most foods are your basics.  There is no kale, romanesco, eggplant, octopus, etc.  There are cans of vegetables, bread, milk, eggs, baby formula, etc.

Some might think this is unfortunate.  But I've got to tell you, I've had some experience working with families that frequent food banks.  Most of these families are looking for familiar foods...they are's not about the flair of food, but about satiation.  They are not trying to impress their friends or family with their cuisine.  They just want to eat.

As a graduate student, I was involved in the university outreach program that went to the homes of families in need.  I still think about these experiences.  One family asked me what part of the cow the portabellas come from.  [They were referring to portabello mushrooms that were included in a box of food.]  Another young teenage girl told us she was pregnant, even though she was receiving free birth control pills.  She swore she never missed a pill and so was confused as to how she got pregnant.  After a long conversation, she finally revealed that she was using them vaginally.  

I applaud Barneys New York for trying to help feed those in need.  If anything, this catalog reminded me of several things:

  1. I am very lucky to have the knowledge to eat healthy foods and the ability to be able to do so. 
  2. There are many, many folks in need of food for themselves and their families.
  3. I will never have a trench coat that costs almost two-thousand dollars.  
  4. Sometimes models have to do strange stuff. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Poor, Poor, Spinach...Has to Resort to Label Claims

I'm rarely shocked by food, which makes the following two things kind of a big deal.  

First off, let me say that almost ALL processed foods take advantage of the FDA labeling laws and highlight certain nutritional aspects of their food.  Almost any food can do this, as evidenced by this:

Here is something that is more or less junk food, touting the fact that it has a few redeeming qualities...7 vitamins and minerals.  Big whoop.  The only reason those vitamins and minerals are there is because the base of a Poptart is enriched flour, which has added nutrients lost in the processing of whole wheat.  [For the record, I did not buy these Poptarts.  They were a gift.]

I'm used to seeing stuff like this.  Food companies are trying to make us feel good about crappy food.  I get it.  

Here is what I'm not used to seeing:

How sad is it that the De Jong Brothers have to do this???  Have we come to a point where people don't know that spinach is fat free and good for you?  Egads, I hope not!

On another note, here's something that shocked me.  Check out this vegetable that showed up in my organic produce delivery box this past Friday:

This is called romanesco.  It's kind of a mix between broccoli and cauliflower.  It was AWESOME!  I want more of these!  I want to grow these and eat them all the time!  Has anyone had this before?  Did you love it as much as me?  Isn't it sort of weird looking?  

I'm off to NYC tomorrow with my biggest...hoping to do a whole bunch of stuff that I've never done before!  

Monday, November 8, 2010

On Running, Hot Chocolate, and Why I May Exercise Outside this Winter

On Saturday, I joined thousands of other Chi-Town runners in a 9.3 mile jaunt along Lake Michigan.  Here is where we hung out before the race:
Here is me right before the start wearing a Hefty garbage bag to try to keep warm (it was 27 degrees...brrrrrr):

And here are some dudes heating up chocolate over these giant grills for the post-race fondue:

I ran almost the same course for a race in May, except it was 45 degrees warmer.  So this got me thinking about exercising in the cold.  And even though I find the cold extremely unpleasant, I may have convinced myself to suck it up and run outside all winter.  Here's what I learned from digging into the scientific literature:

  1. Most people burn more calories when performing the same exercise outside in the cold versus inside or at a more comfortable temperature.  This is for a few reasons....first off, your body has to generate more heat to warm you up and it does that by burning calories.  Second...just shivering burns calories.  Third, exercising with more gear (layers of clothes, boots, hats, etc.) is more of a physical burden, which can burn more calories. 
  2. How many more calories are burned in the cold is hard to find in the scientific literature.  I found one study that suggested that daily energy expenditure increased by 2% in women exercising in the cold.  That means an extra 40 calories for an average woman that burns 2,000 calories a day...that's just 2 tootsie roll midgets a day.  That hardly seems worth it!  But if you run outside 4 days a week, that's 160 calories a week and that starts to seem a bit more significant.  If you start thinking about it on a monthly basis, it gets even more attractive.
  3. In general, women get colder than men and faster.  This is scientific fact, so if my HE could kindly get off my back about being cold all the time, I'd greatly appreciate it!  Women have a larger surface area for a given body weight and that makes for SHE-sicles. 
  4. Women feel colder on days 14-28 of their menstrual cycle.  So if your significant other calls you "frigid" while you're PMS-ing, they are probably right!   
  5. Supposedly, one can acclimatize to the cold after 10 days.  I find this hard to  believe since I still haven't acclimatized to Chicago weather after 10 years.  I think they should repeat that study in women and define "acclimation" as the "absence of violent feelings toward inanimate winter objects such as icicles, slush, and salt trucks".  Then lets see how many days/months/years/decades it takes to acclimatize to the cold!   
Now I just have to upgrade my garbage bag...and wait for the cold weather again...because today in Chicago, it was 68 degrees.    

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What Did You Eat Yesterday?

In today's issue, the Chicago Tribune highlighted a new book titled, "What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets".  The book, written by a husband-and-wife team (photographer and former TV producer), documents the daily meals of 80 people in 30 countries.  In addition, they estimate the calories of the day's food and drink and comment on the costs of the food, body weight of the folks, their jobs, etc.  What I found most interesting about the article was the camel broker in Egypt who had potato chips for breakast...with a side of boiled water.   

I just ordered the book, so cannot comment on whether it's a good read or not.  I'm just fascinated by the concept of this question, "What did you eat yesterday"? 

Here's what I ate yesterday:

  • Zone nutrition bar
  • Non-fat grande latte
  • Panera You-Pick Two with black bean soup, Greek salad, and an apple
  • Diet Coke
  • 5 vanilla tootsie rolls (damn you Halloween candy!)
  • 1 long, skinny tootsie roll (I hate you Halloween candy)
  • Green lettuce with blue cheese dressing (need to grocery shop for salad fixin's)
  • Leftover creamed spinach and shallots from last week...or the week before, not sure, still alive today so perhaps last week
  • 5 slices of pepperoni (and yes, I consider myself a vegetarian)
  • Small sliver of the Stromboli I made with the pepperoni
  • Pizza bone from 1 slice of my HEs Lou Malnati's pizza
  • More slivers of the Stromboli (lost count)
  • Water

So what did YOU eat yesterday?  Anyone start the day with some boiled water?  Potato chips?  Tootsie rolls for breakfast? 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Important Nutritional Information....For Chameleons

Part of being a Dr. Dork is to maintain a high level of dorkiness by perusing the spectrum of scientific journals that are published each month.  In the field of nutrition, there are 5-10 key journals where probably 90% of the research is makes for a lot of reading each month.    

Sometimes these journals publish studies that have the potential to help a significant number of people.  For example, here is a study that was just published this month in Journal of Nutrition:  "Lifestyle Counseling and Supplementation with Flaxseed or Walnuts Influence the Management of Metabolic Syndrome".  This study showed that people with metabolic syndrome (a deadly cluster of conditions such as high cholesterol, obesity, high blood sugar) reduced many of their symptoms after an intense lifestyle counseling program with either flaxseed or walnuts incorporated into their diets.  This has the potential to save lives....pretty important stuff.   

Other studies may not be as important to public health, but they are interesting nonetheless.  For example: "Longer Breastfeeding Is Associated with Increased Lower Body Explosive Strength during Adolescence"  This study showed that teenagers who were breast fed as infants could jump farther in the standing long jump than teenagers who were not breast fed.  Interesting and important, especially if you would like to see your offspring excel one day in the standing long jump.  

And then there are some articles that a head scratchers, at least at first.  Case in point: "Nutritional Metabolic Bone Disease in Juvenile Veiled Chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus) and Its Prevention".  As it turns out, chameleons in captivity get this bone disease because the crickets they are fed do not have enough calcium, vitamin D or vitamin A.  Plus, the chameleons don't do enough tanning under UVB light.  In this study, the Dr. Dorks looked at how dusting the chameleon food with these nutrients could prevent this bone disease.  Now the little lizards can live healthier, longer lives in a glass tank next to the beds of small boys everywhere.  This type of research study might not seem important at first, but it really is for the following reasons:  

  1. Not sure
  2. I don't know

In the spirit of full disclosure, let it be known that I do not have a juvenile veiled chameleon. 

Now does anyone know of a good standing long jump coach in the Chicago area?