dieting

Q/A with LBT Author Lauren Slayton

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LBT Hope you’re having a wonderful new-moon week. Now that we’re in the final days of January, do you feel like you’ve had a chance to settle in to your 2014 routine? Maybe you’ve started to get an idea of what’s working and not working with your resolutions, be they health-related or something else entirely.

Those of you who’ve been reading this blog a while will not be surprised when I tell you that one of my pet peeves is when someone tells me, “I decided I need to lose weight, so I bought this book…” Basically, I just want to hit that person over the head with said book because nine times out of ten, said book is written by someone without any actual health credentials.

Once in a while, though, an exception graces the shelves. Enter the Little Book of Thin (aka LBT) by Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, founder of the NYC nutrition practice, Foodtrainers. Not only is this slim volume packed with practical advice on how to “plan it to lose it,” it’s a fun read, showcasing the sharp wit and no-drama approach to healthful eating that’s made me a longtime fan of the Foodtrainers blog.  You’ll also love the LBT cheat sheets and No-Roll-Odex of healthy products!

Lauren was kind enough to engage in a little Q&A about the book and share some of her favorite NYC restaurant eats.

Jess: Thanks for being game to do a little Q/A, Lauren. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind LBT?

Lauren Slayton: I opened my practice Foodtrainers in 2001. While my sessions are 1 on 1, there is so much when it comes to situations (socializing, traveling, work life, family life) that’s universal. I wanted to distill what I’ve learned into one little book. It was very important to me that I wrote the book myself and that it was a good read.

J: I love your section on being “choosy” with your foods when it comes to dating—what are some of the most common mistakes you see your single clients making?

LS: Whether it’s dating or simply socializing there’s a lot of posing when it comes to our food (an Elle magazine article where even women who diet are embarrassed to admit it comes to mind). Either women or men eat in the way they feel they are expected to eat OR they come on too strongly as the “diet chick.” Healthy isn’t shameful, right?

J: You talk a lot about planning ahead in LBT—your Food First Aid Kit for travel is brilliant. For a slightly shorter trip (say, a marathon day of jetting about town between appointments), what are a few of your favorite purse-friendly foods?

LS: I am a bit of a tea freak- currently toting pukka tea bags everywhere (cleanse is a favorite). I fill my Foodtrainers Nutcase daily with a different nut or seed. Hail Merry rosemary pecans, KOPALI superfood mix with cacao and mulberries are great. Bars work well too.

J: Which weight-loss myths annoy you the most?

LS: Either “everything in moderation” which often leaves us feeling only moderately well OR calories in versus calories out which ignores the quality of the calories and the timing of our food both subtleties that can affect our health and size.

 J: You talk a bit about healthy restaurant options in LBT—what’s one of your favorite restaurant meals lately?

LS: Ooh if I’m being honest I’ve been on planet book and haven’t been out a ton but I adore Green Square Tavern—chef John Marsh made chia shrimp for my book signing, and I am hounding him for that recipe. The scallop crudo at ABC kitchen and the warm Brussels sprout salad (and polenta fries, yes) at Candle 79 make me happy. How great is it that restaurant eating is no longer synonymous with unhealthy?

J:What surprised you most about the process of writing/publishing a book? Any advice for aspiring writers out there? 

LS: Yes, talk to anyone you know who has written a book because there’s so much that’s untold. Mark Ellwood (Bargain Fever) Rachel Hofstetter (Cooking up a Business) and Aidan Donnelley Rowley (Life After Yes) each pulled me aside and said “make sure you do this”. In turn, I’d be happy to do the same for anyone in the writing process.

You can get your copy of LBT here.

What are some of your pet peeves when it comes to weight loss and diet myths? What are your favorite busy-day snacks? Do you eat differently on dates? What are some of your favorite restaurant meals of late? 

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FDA Gives HCG Weight Loss Agents the Heave-Ho

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In this week’s “About Damn Time” news, the FDA and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said Wednesday that over-the-counter weight loss agents containing human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) are fraudulent and illegal.

You would think that subsisting on a very limited calorie diet (we’re talking 500 calories—a venti drink from Starbucks can have more than that) supplemented with a hormone approved only as an injectable drug for certain forms of female infertility would be kind of unappealing, but this stuff has been very popular over the past few years.

Said Elizabeth Miller,  acting director of the FDA’s fraud unit for OTC products, “There is no substantial evidence HCG increases weight loss beyond that resulting from the recommended caloric restriction.”

Miller also cited malnutrition risk, electrolyte imbalance, cardiac arrhythmias, and gallstone formation as concerns about such a low-calorie diet.

Companies sent warning letters by the FDA have 15 days to get it together and inform the agency what they’ve done to address the new ruling. You can read more about it here or visit the FDA online.

Paleo Diet? Please…

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This meal is not Paleo diet-friendly

Trendy diets annoy me. To my mind, they highlight just how far people are willing to go to avoid the “hard work” of eating a sane, balanced diet. Why is it so hard to understand that diets don’t work for most people? Omitting a few foods groups here and there for a few months every time you regain the weight you lost is likely to do more harm than good in the long run.

In a Chicago Tribune article yesterday, several health experts weighed in on the ridiculousness of the Paleo Diet, which forbids grains, legumes, and dairy. Eating like our cavemen ancestors by filling up on large quantities of lean meats, fish, and seafood along with fruits and vegetables may sound great to some people seeking to lose weight and feel healthier, but it can be expensive and risky.

To start with, whole grains, legumes (peas, beans, lentils), and low-fat dairy are rich, inexpensive sources of key nutrients we need to keep our bodies in working order. It’s also worth noting that the  Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes grains, along with fruits, vegetables, fish, lean dairy and limited amounts of meat, has been shown to decrease the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.

Dr. Keith Ayoob, a pediatric nutritionist at New York’s Albert EinsteinCollege of Medicine, pointed out that non-fat and low-fat dairy are rich sources of calcium and vitamin D, which promote bone health. Grains are an important source of fiber and B-vitamins, especially of folic acid, which helps prevent against neural tube defects. Legumes are a cheap, reliable source of protein that are also rich in fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and may help people lose weight by prolonging satiety after eating. Who wouldn’t want all that?

But hey, if sketchy regimens keep making people rich off of book and product sales, I guess they will always be around. Dietitians will also continue to be in demand to debunk these diet myths, so perhaps I should chill out and enjoy the show. Still, with the majority of the American population overweight, these plans designed to help people reach their health goals seem to do just the opposite. It almost seems unethical to me after a while. The Food Pyramid doesn’t seem to have been much help either.

However, the more health care providers can to do empower people to take care of themselves through proper diet, exercise and mental health care, the better. Sometimes I wonder what kind of nutrition therapy I am going to end up specializing in. While I’m curious to see what rotations like renal and oncology will be like, I have a feeling I’ll want to do something more comprehensive once I I’m an RD. I love when you can see someone start to realize what the big picture of their health looks like and how the little pieces of their decisions fit together.

I suppose I’ll have to add the Paleo diet to my little list of diets to understand so I can explain why they’re ridiculous/not sustainable/etc. I should add, though, that if a client has their heart set on following a particular diet, finding out what appeals to them about that plan and figuring out together how to incorporate those elements into their diet plan may help you come up with a customized program that allows them to meet their needs and avoid deficiencies.

Professor Loses 27 Pounds on “Convenience Store Diet”

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Photo courtesy of CNN

Several months ago, nutrition professor Mark Haub of Kansas State University embarked on a project in which he would consume around 1800 calories worth of food each day in an effort to show that when it comes to weight loss, calorie counting is the main thing that matters.

The catch? This diet would consist mostly of junk food—Twinkies, Little Debbie snacks, Doritos, and sugary cereal.

In the 10 weeks Haub followed the diet, he lost 27 pounds. When I posted about this back when his story was first circling the web, I expected to see some negative effects on his health despite weight loss. Interestingly, his LDL (“bad”) cholesterol went down 20 percent and his HDL (“good”) cholesterol went up 20 percent. He also reduced his triglyceride level by 39 percent. His total body went from 33.4 to 24.9 percent.

Haub himself was surprised at these results, suggesting that perhaps portion size and calorie intake—and not simply eating healthy foods—is the key to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Additionally, when you consider that he lost around 13 percent of his body weight and went from having a BMI of 28.8 to 24.9, it’s not surprising that getting to a healthier weight improved other aspects of his health.

It’s also worth noting that two-thirds of his total intake came from junk food and that he also took a multivitamin pill and drank a protein shake daily. For vegetables, he usually reached for a can of green beans or three to four celery stalks, the kinds of foods people living in food deserts, without access to fresh fruits and vegetables, might choose.

When asked whether he would recommend the diet to someone else, Haub said, “I’m not geared to say this is a good thing to do. I’m stuck in the middle. I guess that’s the frustrating part. I can’t give a concrete answer. There’s not enough information to do that.”

A Scary Diet Staging a Comeback

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Have you ever heard of the HCG Protocol Diet? I first learned about it several months ago when someone sent me a link to a site about “this crazy diet” someone they knew was on. They wanted to know what I thought…about this:

  • People on the HCG diet eat 500 calories a day (1200 is considered the bottom line for dieters) and take drops of HCG—Human Chorionic Gonadotropin—a hormone made in pregnancy. This may be prescription HCG or a homeopathic “look-alike” version. It’s used to decrease appetite and promote fat loss, specifically around the hips, thighs, buttocks and stomach.
  • People on the diet lose about 1 to 2 pounds per day, what doctors and dietitians recommend as safe weight loss for one week.
  • The maintenance plan for six weeks post-HCG use includes 1,500 calories a day of basically fruit, vegetables, fish, and chicken. Processed foods, starches, and sugars are forbidden.
  • Beyond those six weeks, there’s not much in terms of a maintenance plan.

Um, can anyone say ketosis? When your body does not receive adequate carbohydrates and protein, it starts to burn fat for energy. Sounds great, but it can lead to serious problems, including kidney stones, gallstone, bad breath, and changes in blood pH, which can make the blood acidic and corrosive to internal organs. Also, when we don’t have enough glucose, a critical fuel, we may notice we feel sluggish, cranky, and even depressed.

The HCG itself is not without side effect. Men may experience prostate problems, and side effects noted in women include ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Either sex may experience headache, acne, and excessive hair growth.

From a nutritional standpoint, though, this is a prime example of a quick-fix regimen that does absolutely nothing to education the patient about healthy eating—or health, in general. What does someone learn about a longterm nutritious eating plan by dropping hormones onto their tongue and eating cucumbers for lunch?

I’ll bet my opinion is pretty clear—this is scary stuff that is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, if you know someone on this diet or anyone considering going on this diet, give ’em a little talking-to for me, will you? To read a well-written article about the HCG diet as well as to view a sample menu, visit the Seattle Times online.

Demi Moore & Ashton Kutcher:Master Cleansing on Twitter

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With all the access celebrities have to the best doctors and dietitians out there, it just blows my mind how many go on ridiculous diets and cleanses. My most recent “WTF” moment came courtesy of Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, who are spending the next week or so on the Master Cleanse diet (which I ranted a little about yesterday) and tweeting about it. Oh dear…

It really ticks me off to see people who can afford to eat really well downing maple-cayenne lemonade and popping laxatives. I’ve been told there are people who give a sh*t (no pun intended) what these folks do, and I worry about them following the saga in 140-character installments and thinking it’s safe to follow suit.

Prepared

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Even if I could afford to go out for lunch every day, I’m not sure I would. There’s something so calming about sitting in the sunshine eating a homemade meal. It definitely made all the difference today, turning a stressful into a calmly productive afternoon.

I had a salad of spinach with cucumber, tomato, soy chicken (Boca) and Chris-made hummus for dressing and dipping. I also threw in a Dr. Kracker flatbread and an apple.

During the morning, I was reminded of a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time on how much I hate the Master Cleanse and wish people would stop doing it. Whenever I see someone with the tell-tale bottle of cayenne-maple lemonade, I want to launch into “Crazy Diets Are BAD For You!!!!” mode.

If you want to detox, cut back on the crap, eat some fibrous real food, drink plenty of water, and ignore text messages from your toxic friends.

But that’s just my two cents…