Women's Health Hot Line


Who ya' gonna' call? Fatbusters!

Practice fat banking during the holidays. If you find you can't resist the treats, enjoy some, but make up for it by limiting fat intake either a few days before or after. Never starve yourself before going to a holiday party. Take the edge off your appetite with a little cottage cheese, fruit, or even a few low-fat cookies before you leave.

Watch out for alcohol. A glass of wine or beer contains calories, but that's not the only problem. Alcohol robs you of your resolve, so you'll find yourself eating more than you realize!

Heading to a party? Volunteer to bring a treat, such as a tray of fresh veggies with a low-fat dip, or a pretty fruit platter. Can't resist eggnog? Limit yourself to a glass on Christmas Eve or day. Those pretty cookie trays are irresistible, too, but try to enjoy the gingerbread men, which are lower in fat than the frosted butter cookies.

Indulge wisely, and you'll be healthier as you head into the new year!

Just a sweet nothing?

Alas, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Those new low-fat goodies lining the shelves do represent a healthier way to indulge your sweet tooth, but they pose a hidden danger you don't always see on the Nutrition Facts label.

Go one step further and check the ingredients -- many of these products are loaded with sugar. Ingredients are listed according to their percentage of the product -- in other words, if there are six ingredients and sugar is one of the first two, the snack has a lot of sugar!

Unless you use these goodies carefully, you may find yourself adding weight, not losing it.

The real skinny on pasta

Not too long ago, the dieter's world was shaken by an earthquake when a few experts pronounced that pasta might indeed make you fat!

This was news of seismic proportions because, for the past few years, pasta has been the cornerstone of the popular low-fat, high carbohydrate eating plans espoused by everyone from the neighborhood expert to such bastions as the American Heart Association.

So what's going on here? Actually, nothing really new. The focus on carbohydrates stems from studies which track the way our bodies use carbohydrates and the crucial role that insulin plays.

Carbohydrates are units of sugar. No matter what types of carbohydrates we eat, they are ultimately broken down into glucose. When glucose enters the blood, it triggers our pancreas to release insulin.

However, some individuals (such as Type II diabetics) are said to be "insulin resistant". This means their bodies do not respond to the insulin they produce efficiently. So for them, eating carbohydrates may result in the production of too much insulin, which can then lead not only to hunger pangs but weight gain too.

What does this mean for women in general? Most experts contend that a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet is still the healthy way to go. However, they caution, the truly insulin resistant might want to explore other types of diets if, indeed, they find carbohydrates only make them hungrier.

Does pasta make you fat? Of course it does if you eat lots of it. So do most other foods. But the brouhaha over pasta only serves to point out the fallacy that one diet fits all, and shows once again that eating everything in moderation is the healthiest option.

To wine -- or not to wine!

When I give talks on women's health, the question asked most often is, "What about wine?"

For the past several years, studies have shown that people who drink beverage alcohol have a lower risk of developing heart disease. While some research gives the edge to red wine, others find that the benefits accrued, whether or not it was wine, beer, or liquor that was studied. For those who enjoy a drink now and then, this is delightful news. But women should keep some other facts in mind.

Although some studies have shown that drinking can decrease the risk of heart disease, it can increase the risk of other diseases, including breast cancer. Also, drinking in excess can cause heart disease and high blood pressure, and women who drink are also vulnerable to alcoholism, depression and suicide.

It's also important to recognize that for men, moderate drinking is defined as two drinks a day (the standard drink being 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits). However, because of our lesser body weight, one drink a day is considered moderate for women.

If you enjoy an occasional drink and have no medical problems which are made worse by alcohol, go ahead and enjoy. But if you are thinking of taking up drinking as a health measure, think again. There are far better risk-free ways to help your heart.

Celebrate "International No Diet Day"

Turning in the bathroom scale for recycling, holding an "All Sizes" fashion show, and handing out chocolates to women leaving weight-loss centers are some of the activities planned around the world to celebrate "International No Diet Day" (INDD) in May.

The May event, sponsored by a worldwide consortium of anti-diet and feminist organizations, is designed to show women they do not have to slavishly conform to society's standard "one-size-fits-all" philosophy to find happiness. The INDD one-day moratorium on dieting and weight obsession celebrates everyone's right to pursue health, fitness and emotional well-being, without regard to size.

I believe that obesity carries with it health risks so I advocate healthy eating. But I also believe it is impossible to live a healthy lifestyle without feeling good about ourselves.

Our national obsession with slimness eats away at our self-esteem. So in May, I, for one, intend to splurge a little, in honor of INDD's efforts to remind us that, indeed, one size does not fit all.

Healthy cooking in the summer is easy...

During the summer, it's time to fire up the grill and enjoy cooking healthy favorites. This is the season when food is low in fat, salt and sugar -- and tastes more delicious. Here are tips for taking advantage of the seasonal goodies available now.

  • Rather than trying to omit salt, sugar and fat from existing recipes, use recipes which naturally use less of these ingredients.

  • To reduce the fat and oil you cook with, saute or grill foods instead. If sauteeing, use a non-stick frying pan and a small amount of vegetable oil, such as olive oil.

  • Learn the delights of cooking outside. Using an outdoor grill instead of an oven broiler offers browner, more flavorful results with little added seasoning. When grilling, experiment with different types of wood chips, such as apple or hickory, which add a delectable bacon-like flavor to chicken, even when it's skinless.

  • Use top quality foods, such as fresh, native produce, which is more flavorful and can stand on its own without high-fat additives. Sprinkle fresh chopped basil on tomatoes for a true summertime treat.

  • Acid flavors add interest to dishes and help compensate for a lack of salt. Freshly squeezed lemon juice is a good all-around seasoning. Balsamic and herb vinegars are also tasty. If you like sweet and tangy flavors, balsamic vinegar makes a terrific salad dressing.

  • Fresh garlic, ginger, black pepper or chili pepper enliven dishes while keeping them low-salt.

Kick the diet habit

Shortly after her baby was born, Clare's weight melted away. She lost the pounds gained while pregnant, even more. She was thrilled, her family admiring, her friends envious. Even her obstetrician's nurse beamed.

It wasn't until she nearly collapsed that Clare learned the truth: she had diabetes. Yet no one had questioned that weight loss; Clare assumed, like most of us, that losing weight is good, no matter why.

Is weight loss good or bad?

Clare's story speaks volumes about our obsession with weight loss. But what's wrong with that? It isn't healthy to be fat, is it? Until recently, experts agreed that being overweight led to many serious health problems. But now that belief is being called into question by other experts who contend that if you're fit, it doesn't matter if you're fat.

But there's another issue — the harm done by our national obsession with dieting. Few would quarrel with dieting if it worked. After all, I'd love to be a size eight again. But, as the National Institutes of Health concluded a few years ago, dieting simply doesn't work.

The vast majority of dieters, no matter how sincere, regain their weight. Dieting is also the major cause of eating disorders in this country. Ironically, studies have found that compulsive eating usually begins after a young woman embarks on her first successful diet. That diet, marked by deprivation, leads to a lifetime of food obsession.

You don't diet? You'll be lonely

But giving up the dieting habit can be lonely. The authors of When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies note that giving up dieting also means separating yourself from other women. If you doubt that, listen to other women — and yourself — when topics such as food, clothes or diets come up. You may be surprised at the self-deprecating talk you'll hear.

But there is hope, says Miriam Berg, coordinator of the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination. Berg, who gave up dieting 20 years ago, acknowledges with dismay that dieting remains ever popular. That’s not surprising, considering "the $33-billion diet industry is completely invested in making women feel terrible about their bodies." Still, she says, inroads are being made and "women are coming together to say 'no' to the dieting mentality."

Worth Your Weight, the newly published book by anti-diet activist Barbara Altman Bruno, Ph.D., "is designed to combat 'the demonization of fatness'."

Dr. Bruno gave up dieting because, she says, "I thought I was a failure." Now she runs workshops to "end people's suffering about weight."

Are you ready to kick the dieting habit?