Archive for September, 2010

By Lucy Danziger, the Editor-in-Chief of SELF magazine

Some people are lucky: They seem to be born with a naturally high metabolism and slender physique that requires little exercise and calorie counting to maintain. My mother, God bless her, is one such person. I am not! So it’s a good thing I love to run, bike and swim. But when SELF asked experts about the habits that slow metabolism, I was surprised by some of their answers—and guilty of a few no-no’s myself (see number 1…and 2…and…). Fortunately, these habits are also totally fixable. Start paying attention to them today, and you’ll become one of the lucky ones—or at least look like one—in no time!

1. Scrimping on shut-eye

Catching zzz’s may help you stay slim, reveals research presented at the annual American Thoracic Society meeting in San Diego. In the study of more than 68,000 women, those who slept seven hours weighed 5.5 pounds less than women who slept five hours or less. Pulling frequent all-nighters may slow your metabolism, impairing your body’s ability to utilize food and nutrients as energy so they get stored as fat instead, scientists say.

2. Stressing out

When you’re on edge, you’re likely to sleep less and eat more, which can affect your thyroid, a gland that produces hormones which regulate metabolism, body temperature, heart rate and more. If your thyroid’s not producing enough of those hormones, it can slow your metabolism and other body functions, leading to weight gain, depression and fatigue. Take time for yourself daily to keep both your thyroid and metabolism humming at optimal levels.

3. Skipping breakfast

People often tell me they hate breakfast foods; I tell them, find something you can eat within an hour of waking up! Missing a morning meal is the worst thing you can do. It slows metabolism and depletes your body of the fuel it needs to function optimally, explains celebrity nutritionist Joy Bauer, R.D. But what you eat matters as much as the fact that you eat something. Simple, unrefined carbohydrates—as in a breakfast muffin or pastry—signal the brain to release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that brings on calm when you most want to be up and at ’em. Also, your body digests simple carbs quickly, sending blood sugar soaring and then plummeting, resulting in an energy crash. Try to start each day with a breakfast that contains at least 5 grams of protein, which activates the production of norepinephrine, a neurochemical that increase heart rate and alertness. The nutrient also digests slowly, so blood sugar and energy levels stay stable. Try an omelet made with 4 egg whites, 1/2 cup chopped broccoli, 1/4 cup chopped onion and 1 oz lowfat shredded cheese; it delivers an impressive 22 g protein per serving.

4. Staying seated

Get out of that chair! Staying on your feet revs metabolism and doubles your calorie burn during workdays, a study in Diabetes reports. Sitting for a few hours switches off enzymes that capture fat in the bloodstream, but standing up and getting active reignites them. Surrender your seat when possible (e.g., during phone calls) to start reaping benefits.

5. Eating junk food

I love a French cruller as much as the next gal, but it turns out doughnuts can be double diet trouble. Not only do sugary, fatty treats add calories and fat to your daily tally (a Dunkin’ Donuts cruller packs 250 calories and 20 g fat), but they can also encourage your body to store more fat. Junk food might stimulate a gene that encourages your body to store excess fat, causing you to gain weight over time, a study in The FASEB Journal reveals. (In the study, mice without the troublemaking gene had 45 percent lower body fat after eating a high-fat and high-sugar diet for 16 weeks compared to critters with the gene who ate the same diet.) Quell a sweet craving with berries or an orange: They’re high in vitamin C, a nutrient that can help you sizzle up to 30 percent more fat during exercise, suggests research from Arizona State University at Mesa.

6. Falling into a workout rut

I hear it all the time: “I’ve almost reached my goal weight, but those last 5 (stubborn!) pounds just won’t come off.” Sound familiar? Weight loss can stall along the way partly because you get smaller. As you shrink, there is less of you to provide energy for, so you actually start to need fewer calories. These plateaus can last weeks, so rather than get frustrated, try new workouts or ways to eat healthy to keep your metabolism going strong and your body burning even more calories than before.

7. Dodging the weight room

Although cardio sessions turn up the heat and burn big-time calories (which is why I run, bike or swim most mornings and still enjoy dessert!), lifting weights helps you build calorie-burning lean muscle, says Jeffrey Garber, M.D., author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to Overcoming Thyroid Problems (McGraw-Hill). And with more lean muscle, you extend the burn to when you’re just sitting at your desk or in the car. Add weight-bearing exercises like planks, lunges, squats and tricep dips to your workouts three times a week, and you’ll see toning results like you’ve never experienced before!

Good luck, healthy girl!

Read Full Post »

By Karen Asp, Prevention Magazine

If you want toned abs in less time (who doesn’t!), add a ball, disc, or roller to your workout. Their wobbly surfaces will challenge your core twice as much as traditional crunches, says a recent Auburn University study. That means you can get away with doing only 2 moves and still see fabulous results. The ball routine is the easiest because the large surface area provides more stability. As the props become smaller, there’s less contact with your body and the floor, increasing the challenge.

Do your chosen ab workout 3 times a week on nonconsecutive days, completing 2 or 3 sets of each exercise.

Include 30 to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio 3 to 5 times a week to burn off the fat that’s hiding your abs.

Kristin McGee, a yoga, Pilates, and fitness instructor in New York City and creator of the DVD Pilates for Beginners, designed this workout.

41 Everyday ways to shrink your belly. EASY

Ball Routine
To make the ball easier to control, release a bit of air from it; to increase the difficulty, pump it up. Bonus: You can sit on the ball during strength-training to add a balance challenge.

Leg Extension

Targets rectus (front abs), transverse (deep abs), quads, inner thighs

Sit up straight on top of ball with knees bent, insides of legs touching, and arms extended to sides, palms down. Press knees and inner thighs together while lifting right foot and straightening leg. Lower foot and repeat with left leg for 1 rep. Do 8 to 10 reps.


Place hands on ball by hips.

Ball Circle

Targets transverse obliques (side abs), back, shoulders

Kneel on floor with forearms on top of ball, keeping body in one long line (A). Circle forearms to roll ball clockwise 8 times and then counterclockwise 8 times (B). Keep rest of body still.

Instead of circling, roll ball forward about 4 inches, then back.

Target your deep ab fat with these flat belly moves.


Disc Routine

Keep your feet off the floor with these moves to activate more muscles. Bonus: Stand on the disc barefoot while talking on the phone or doing the dishes to work your core at the same time.

Toe Dip

Targets rectus (front abs), transverse (deep abs)

Lie faceup on floor with disc under hips and lower back, shoulders and head on floor, and arms at sides, palms down. Start with legs together in a tabletop position, knees over hips, shins parallel to floor (A). Keeping legs together, lower feet as close to floor as possible without arching back (B). Return to start. Do 8 to 10 reps.

Lower and lift one leg at a time.

Ab Balance

Targets rectus, transverse, lower back, thighs

Sit on disc with hands on floor behind you. Lean back slightly and bend legs so shins are almost parallel to floor. Keeping chest lifted, extend legs straight out. Return to start. Do 12 to 15 reps.

Lean back farther and place forearms on floor behind you.


Roller Routine
When you lie vertically on the roller (as in these exercises), make sure your tailbone, spine, and head are supported. Bonus: This prop can ease muscle soreness. Click here to get moves.

Frog Crunch

Targets rectus (front abs), transverse (deep abs), obliques (side abs), quads

Lie faceup on roller with forearms pressing floor for balance. From a tabletop position, open knees 6 to 8 inches; keep heels together. (A). Extend legs at a 45-degree angle to floor, squeezing legs together (B). Don’t arch lower back. Bend knees back in. Do 15 to 18 reps.


Extend legs higher.


Targets rectus, transverse, obliques

Lie on roller, arms extended toward ceiling, knees bent, and feet shoulder-width apart. Lift head and neck, reaching arms toward knees as shown. Then roll up until you’re sitting upright with arms parallel to floor. Slowly roll down. Do 6 to 8 reps.


Hold on to backs of thighs.

Good luck, healthy girl!

Read Full Post »


Many people equate a vegan diet with deprivation, thinking that recipes prepared without eggs, butter, meat or other animal products are certain to be tasteless and boring.

But the reputation of vegan eating got a much-needed public-relations lift this summer from an unlikely place — the Food Network’s popular new show “Cupcake Wars.”

The program, which each week features four of the country’s top bakers facing off in three elimination challenges, recently pitted a 22-year-old vegan chef, Chloe Coscarelli, against three bakers of traditional high-end cupcakes.

The judges were skeptical at first. “I was surprised at the bravery and boldness to parade four different flavors of vegan cupcakes in front of the judges when everyone else was clearly going to be working with butter and eggs,” said one judge, Candace Nelson, the owner of Sprinkles Cupcakes in Beverly Hills, Calif. “I thought it was possibly working at a disadvantage.”

Ms. Coscarelli not only survived the first round, but did so to rave reviews. In the second round, her cupcakes — chocolate strawberry shortcake, raspberry tiramisù and crème-filled chocolate orange — captivated the judges. And then she took the final round — a presentation involving 1,000 cupcakes. The victory won her a $10,000 prize and the chance to supply the cupcakes for an OK! magazine celebrity event.

“Of all the shows we’ve done, the thing I hear the most is, ‘Were those vegan cupcakes really that good?’ ” Ms. Nelson said. “People are in sort of disbelief that this vegan chef beat out the rest of the competition. My answer is yes, they were delicious. It was everything we were looking for in a cupcake.”

Raspberry Tiramisu Cupcake Raspberry Tiramisu Cupcake

Vegan eating has had a growth spurt in recent years. The book “Skinny Bitch,” by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin (Running Press, 2005), with its sassy arguments for vegan eating, has been a best seller for years. “The China Study,” by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II (BenBella Books, 2006), which takes a scientific look at the benefits of plant-based eating, has sold more than a half-million copies. And celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and the “Glee” star Lea Michele have embraced vegan eating.

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake

But what was different abut Ms. Coscarelli’s Food Network triumph was that it didn’t rely on health or dietary benefits, or sympathy for animals, to promote the virtues of vegan food. Instead, the vegan cupcakes just tasted better.

Chocolate Orange Cupcake Chocolate Orange Cupcake

“I think the waves it created and the coverage it got showing that vegan food can stand up to traditional baking is enormous,” said Colleen Holland, the co-founder and associate publisher of VegNews Magazine, to which Ms. Coscarelli is a contributor. “It was a pretty big moment for getting vegan food out there and showing there’s no deprivation, and that it’s the same level of food that’s made with eggs, butter and milk.”

Ms. Coscarelli, of Los Angeles, a recent graduate of University of California, Berkeley, and the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City, said she tried out for the show hoping to change the image of vegan baking. Still, she worried that the network and the judges might reject the notion of vegan cupcakes out of hand.

“It was a huge risk,” she said. “I think right now veganism is portrayed as that horrible stereotype of hippie food that doesn’t taste good and that’s bland. I wanted to break through with a different image, that vegan food can taste exciting.”

Since the episode was shown in June and repeated in August, Ms. Coscarelli said, she has been swamped with e-mail and inquiries to her Web site, ChefChloe.com. She’s heard from several parents of children with egg or dairy allergies who were excited by the opportunity to finally bake cupcakes for their children.

“People are really inspired,” she said. “They realize it’s not weird if they’re choosing to eat a different way or have to eliminate certain ingredients. This shows it can still be done well.”

The biggest challenge of vegan baking is to create moist, light and rich-tasting cake without eggs and butter, the traditional binding ingredients for pastry dough. “I use a combination of baking soda and vinegar — it may sound gross, but it works chemically to bind the cupcakes,” Ms. Coscarelli said. “If the flavor is there, it doesn’t matter what kinds of ingredients you’re using to hold it all together.”

For frosting, traditional bakers use butter or shortening, whipping it with powdered sugar and other ingredients. Ms. Coscarelli substitutes organic refined coconut oil or nonhydrogenated margarines to achieve the same creamy texture. Other winning ingredients, like fresh raspberries and pure dark chocolate, are vegan to begin with.

On her videos and in her recipes, Ms. Coscarelli is venturing beyond cupcakes. Recently on her blog, she offered black-bean sliders with spicy mango sauce and guacamole, accompanied by Cajun yam fries. In January, her mango masala panini (made with spiced chickpeas, roasted-cauliflower curry and mango chutney) won a sandwich competition in Brentwood, Calif., beating out panini made with animal products like spiced pork loin, ham and Gruyère cheese.

With her porcelain skin and shiny, chestnut-colored hair, Ms. Coscarelli certainly appears to be a testament to the health benefits of the vegan lifestyle. But she says her goal is not to convert people to veganism, but instead to promote balanced eating and delicious recipes made from fresh, whole ingredients that just happen to be vegan.

“I like the challenges of cooking vegan because there’s more ways to impress people by showing them that it’s delicious, and it’s vegan, and it’s healthy,” she said. “I also like if you’re making cookie dough and there are no eggs in it, you can eat the batter. That’s one of the benefits of vegan baking — you always can lick the spoon.”

Read Full Post »


You may think you know why Americans continue to get fatter and develop obesity-related diseases. But the explanation may start long before people have an opportunity to eat too much of the wrong foods and exercise too little.

Increasing evidence indicates that the trouble often starts in the womb, when women gain more weight than is needed to produce a healthy, full-size baby. Excessive weight gain in pregnancy, recent findings show, can result in bigger-than-average babies who are prenatally programmed to become overweight children — who, in turn, are more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease and cancer later in life.

The Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, reported last year that more than a third of normal-weight women and more than half of overweight and obese women gain more weight than is recommended during pregnancy. Over all, “fewer than 40 percent of pregnant women gain only the recommended amount of weight during their pregnancy,” Dr. Sylvia R. Karasu and Dr. T. Byram Karasu report in their new book “The Gravity of Weight.”

Not ‘In the Genes’

While genes play a role in weight issues for some people, recent studies indicate that genetics is not the main reason babies are born too fat. Rather, the new evidence suggests that in addition to gaining significantly more weight than is recommended during pregnancy, more women now start out fatter before they become pregnant.

The latest study controlled for the effects of genetics by studying consecutive pregnancies among more than half a million women. The analysis, by Janet Currie, a health economist at Columbia University, and Dr. David S. Ludwig of Children’s Hospital Boston, found a consistent association between the amount of weight a woman gained during pregnancy and the birth weight of her babies.

Women who gained more than 53 pounds during a full-term pregnancy with one baby were more than twice as likely to have babies who weighed 9 or more pounds at birth than were women who gained only 18 to 22 pounds. For each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of weight gained by the pregnant mother, the baby’s birth weight increased by 7.35 grams (one-fourth of an ounce).

Because birth weight tends to predict body mass index later in life, “these findings suggest that excessive weight gain during pregnancy could raise the long-term risk of obesity-related disease in offspring,” the authors concluded in their report, published online in The Lancet on Aug. 5.

The analysis sought to rule out the effects of genetics on birth weight by comparing each married woman’s pregnancy weight gain and birth weight of her babies in successive pregnancies that occurred within a few years of each other (and thus were most likely to involve the same father). Although the authors did not know how much the women weighed before becoming pregnant each time, other studies have found that many women fail to lose all their pregnancy weight before they become pregnant again. Thus, they are likely to start out fatter and gain more during the next pregnancy.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Neal Halfon and Dr. Michael C. Lu of the Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities at the University of California, Los Angeles, cited still another study, this one based on data gathered from parents and children in Britain. It found that at age 9, the children of women who had gained more weight than recommended by the Institute of Medicine were fatter than other children, more likely to become overweight, and had several risk factors for heart disease — including higher blood pressure and lower levels of protective HDL cholesterol — as well as poorer immune function.

This study, published in Circulation in June, found that a woman’s weight before pregnancy was even more important than excessive weight gain during pregnancy in predicting a number of risks for the baby: birth complications, excessive baby fat and “metabolic abnormalities associated with poor health outcomes, including childhood obesity,” as the editorial put it.

Dr. Halfon, a pediatrician, said in an interview, “The little changes in children’s metabolism tend to be compounded over time and become big changes in adults.”

The Recommendations

The latest recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, revised last year, suggest these pregnancy weight gains, as determined by a woman’s prepregnancy weight:

28 to 40 pounds for thin women, with a B.M.I. of 18.5 or lower.

25 to 35 pounds for normal-weight women, with a body mass index of 18.6 to 24.9.

15 to 25 pounds for overweight women, with a body mass index of 25 to 29.9.

11 to 20 pounds for obese women, with a body mass index of 30 or higher.

Dr. Lu, an obstetrician, said prepregnancy weights in nine states revealed significant increases in overweight and obesity between the periods 1993-94 and 2002-3. Even normal-weight women are now more likely to gain excessive amounts during pregnancy than were women who became pregnant in the 1990s, according to data from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, since 1990 proportionately more women have gained more than 40 pounds in a singleton pregnancy.

Higher Birth Weights

The new findings suggest that Americans are now caught in a vicious cycle of increasing fatness, with prospective mothers starting out fatter, gaining more weight during pregnancy and giving birth to babies who are destined to become overweight adults.

“There are a lot more high-birth-weight babies being born,” Dr. Currie said in an interview, “and this may have something to do with the increase in overweight we’re now seeing in the population over all.”

When I was pregnant 40-odd years ago, a normal-weight woman was expected to keep her pregnancy weight gain to within 24 pounds. But, Dr. Currie said, about 20 years ago the concern about too many babies with low birth weights may have prompted many doctors to be less restrictive about how much weight women gained while pregnant.

“We still see a lot of low-birth-weight babies, but the number of high-birth-weight babies has increased quite dramatically,” Dr. Currie said. “There’s no reason for a woman to gain more than 40 pounds with a single baby. We used to think babies in the womb were well protected, but we now know they are influenced by lots of things that will affect them later in life.”

She added, “The next frontier has to be the prepregnancy period. If we really want to improve the health of children, we have to get to mothers before they get pregnant.”

As Dr. Halfon said, “You can’t turn around in the nine months of pregnancy what’s been going on for many years of life. The preconception period is critical to placing pregnancy on a healthier trajectory.”

Read Full Post »

Recently I visited The Counter in Palo Alto and had a taste of what was quite possibly the most delicious, awful-for-you, dairy-filled treat:  the banana split milkshake.  It’s basically 12oz of chocolate, banana, strawberry, and milky ice cream yumminess. Oh, and 600 calories.

As a vegan (and very lactose intolerant), I was bummed that such a treat would have destroyed my digestive system, because honestly it was heaven in my mouth.  So I decided to create a healthier version of The Counter’s incredible creation.

This makes slightly more than a 24oz smoothie (twice the size of The Counter), so you can separate it over two servings or share it with a friend.

What you’ll need:


-Soy Milk Unsweetened (or regular fat free milk if you’d prefer non-vegan)

-Frozen strawberries (organic preferred)

-1 Banana (ripe)

-Chocolate protein (soy, hemp, rice, or whey) that is low in sugar and carbs (under 15g of carbs, 5g of sugar)


Step 1: Fill blender with 16oz of cold water

Step 2: Add 8 oz of cold soy milk

Step 3: Add banana

Step 4:  Add 1 cup frozen strawberries

Step 5: Add two 35g scoops of chocolate protein – this will give the drink about 45g of protein (the daily recommended value!)

Step 6:  Blend

Step 7:  Sip through a straw and enjoy!!  Great for breakfast, after a workout, or an afternoon snack.

Calories in 12oz Counter banana split milkshake: 600

Calories in 12oz HLHG banana split slimshake: 240

Good luck, healthy girl!

Read Full Post »

Kaeng Raeng on VitalJuice.com

From VitalJuice.com September Deal

This vegan, gluten-free and caffeine-free cleanse peels off pounds.

The Master Cleanse? Been there, done that.

The purple food diet? You lasted all of one day on it.

Now you can cleanse without going crazy with Kaeng Raeng. We spotted the delish detox earlier this year and crowned it “The Next It Cleanse.” Just mix a packet of powder with water, milk or yogurt at mealtime and nosh on as many raw fruits and veggies as you want. It’s vegan, gluten-free, caffeine-free and loaded with fruit and probiotics to jump-start weight loss, boost energy and banish belly bloat.

Vital Juice subscribers can slash 50% off any three- or six-day detox using the coupon code VJUICE50. But like summer, this deal won’t last forever: The offer expires on September 15.

Not sure which cleanse is right for you? Take this quiz.

Buy it here.

Going hungry is so 2009.

Read Full Post »


You know that exercise is good for your health. But how does exercise affect immunity?

For people who are sedentary or get very little exercise, moderate physical activity can enhance immune function. (1) Yet intense physical training, at any level of fitness, could actually decrease immunity. (2)

Although exercise has many benefits, the physical strain of strenuous exercise tends to depress the immune system, which can be a problem for people who exercise intensely, even professional athletes. (3)

Enhancing the benefits of exercise and diminishing the stress of exercise is a prolific area of scientific research. This includes finding dietary supplements that can help maintain immunity following strenuous workouts.

Some studies provide exciting results for how supplements can help restore immunity after strenuous exercise, while others are inconclusive. (4)

It should be noted that most of the research was done on athletes, and how intense physical activity and the use of supplements affects them.

And since drinking enough water is a key part of exercise, I included information from an interesting study on how water consumption can impact mental performance.

As an avid mountain biker and swimmer, I find the following research to be fascinating.

Amino Acids Boost Recovery

Recent research done at two universities in Japan looked at how intense physical exercise effects immunity, and the effects of taking amino acids supplements. These studies indicate that the amino acids cysteine and theanine could help boost immunity and prevent infections for people engaging in intense physical activity.

A study done at the prestigious University of Tokyo found that intense physical training reduced activity of natural killer (NK) cells, which are a vital part of immune function. When the scientists gave athletes the supplements cysteine (700 mg) and theanine (280 mg) once daily for two weeks, they found that this helped to restore activity of their natural killer (NK) cells. (5)

In another Japanese study of endurance athletes, the researchers found that ten days of distance running (about 7 to 8 miles a day) resulted in an increase in blood levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, and a decrease in the blood lymphocyte count, a marker of immunity. (6)

In a double blind, placebo-controlled trial, a group of athletes was given the same amounts of cysteine and theanine as in the study mentioned above.

For the athletes in this trial, the amino acids cysteine and theanine helped to:

  • prevent exercised-induced inflammation,
  • maintain immune function,
  • prevent infections,
  • and reduce symptoms of infections. (7)

Workout Recovery Supplement

Another amino acid, L-citrulline, known as citrulline, has been researched for its potential benefits as a workout recovery supplement and to help boost immunity after exercise.

Researchers at a university in Spain have found that citrulline can help preserve immune function after strenuous exercise. (8) This is important because the drop in immune function after exercise is associated with weakened function of white blood cells called PMN’s, which are the body’s first line of defense against infection.

The research team in Spain studied the effect of citrulline on white blood cell function in elite cyclists before and after a race. The cyclists who were given six grams of L-citrulline malate avoided the decline in PMN function caused by a 3-hour race, when compared to those taking a placebo. (9)

In research from France, citrulline was shown to help prevent post-exercise fatigue and muscle soreness in untrained athletes, when taken after exercise. (10) This study indicates the potential beneficial use of citrulline as a workout recovery supplement.

However, a study done at the Human Performance Laboratory at East Carolina University found that the use of citrulline before exercise may impair performance of untrained athletes. (11)

And don’t forget about water.

While we are on the topic of exercise, I wanted to share with you an interesting study I came across on the importance of staying well hydrated for your workouts.

Research from Tufts University looks at how mild dehydration can affect mood and mental performance. The results of this study pose an interesting question: what happens when you don’t get enough water in your day? It turns out that mood and performance could suffer as a result of dehydration.

The Tufts researchers focused on mental performance–how dehydration impacts the mood and cognition of young athletes. They took student athletes and formed two groups, the dehydrated group and the control group, and tested them after exercise. In examining mental performance they discovered that dehydration was associated with negative mood and impaired attention. (12)

According to the authors of the study, the mild dehydration witnessed by the student athletes could be similar to the mild dehydration experienced by people who don’t drink enough water.

Good luck, healthy girl!

Read Full Post »