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April 2009

Avoiding diabetes

I'll admit it -- I'm a big fan of Days of Our Lives. I used to watch it in high school and college and didn't watch for years and years. But it comes on after Martha Stewart's show and slowly but surely it pulled me back in. This week it's introducing a diabetes storyline. Evil patriarch Stefano DiMera thought he was being poisoned by his archenemy Victor Kiriakis, so Stefano checked himself into the hospital. After he had bloodwork drawn (by his daughter the doctor, of course), he discovered that his sick feeling was a different kind of poison -- type 2 diabetes. It'll be interesting to see how they work the disease into his storyline. So far, he's dismissing the diagnosis.

Diabetes is a huge fear for me. I don’t have it, but I get my bloodwork checked at every yearly physical because my brother developed an aggressive case of the disease a few years ago. It never ran in my family until he got it, probably from living the modern lifestyle of fast food and not exercising.

Beachbody introduced a comprehensive diet and fitness program with Kathy Smith, called Project You: Type 2, which I have written about at And now Nutrisystem has introduced a program for diabetics and pre-diabetics called Nutrisystem-D. Pre-diabetics are people at risk for the disease, and if you're overweight or obese, you pretty much count yourself in that group.

In a clinical study at Temple University School of Medicine, people with type 2 diabetes on the Nutrisystem-D plan lost as much as 16 times more weight while lowering their A1C test scores (a 90-day measure of blood sugar control) by 0.9 greater than those following a hospital-directed diet regimen. There were also significant reductions in triglycerides, cholesterol and waist circumference.

Blackbeansrice I had the opportunity to look over the program, and it's a great way for someone newly diagnosed with the disease to ease into a proper eating plan. The foods are all formulated to be low on the glycemic index, which means they won't spike blood sugar levels. Everything is planned out for the week, so that takes a lot of pressure off having to scrupulously count carbs (but there is a food journal where you can keep track of diet, water consumption weight and exercise). The difference between the Nutrisystem diabetic plan and the regular plan is that the diabetic plan foods have increased fiber for a lower glycemic load. At right is their black beans and rice entree.

There is also a pocket meal planner with serving sizes of various foods that you add into the Nutrisystem plan, as well as a dining-out guide. And there's a 40-minute workout DVD led by Leslie Sansone.

I don't have diabetes and I'm doing everything in my power not to get it. But I can imagine how overwhelming a diagnosis might be. A program like Nutrisystem would be a good way for someone newly diagnosed to get their bearings and get their blood sugar and health on track.

Funky Friday: Tony Toni Tone has done it again!

BLworkoutmix Instead of sitting on my butt last night at Little League practice, I laced up the sneaks and power-walked the track for an hour. I didn't think I'd workout that hard or that long but my iPod kept me propelled. I recently downloaded the new Biggest Loser Workout Mix of three CDs onto the iPod. You can get it at iTunes but I found it on sale at Costco for around $15. That's 36 songs for $15!

The music is from Power Music, which means these aren't the original artist. It's the kind of "sound-alike" stuff you hear in aerobic class. But hey, it's close enough, and the music is timed to thump along from 125-130 BPM and to seamlessly flow from one song to another. The three-pack has two volumes of current top-40 hits, such as Just Dance, American Boy and Stronger; the third disc is '80s hits with songs such as Electric Avenue and Don't You Want Me.

I switched from the Biggest Loser mix to my own music and what really got me cranking around the track was a New Jack Swing classic, Feels Good by Tony Toni Tone.

So to kick off the new Funky Friday fixture, here's something for your workout mix:

Doing my part for Earth Day

Bummershirt I've been celebrating Earth Day since the very first one, in 1970. My elementary school had an Earth Day march around the neighborhood and I carried a sign (taped to a snow shovel) protesting noise pollution. We lived below an O'Hare airport flight pattern that shook the house, so it was a pet cause of mine.

Today, I brought my water to Jazzercise in my new Nalgene Filter for Good BPA-free bottle (the one they use on Biggest Loser) and I wore my supercool Bummer T-shirt from Green Label Organics, which I got at Whole Foods. (You also can order them online.)

I love the shirt because I live in Hummer-heavy South Florida, which strangely seem to be driven by tiny women who workout at my gym. At first glance it looks like a Hummer fan shirt but look again! It's also made from organic cotton and really soaks up the exersweat.

And this week I'm making it a priority to reduce my carbon footprint by fitting in more meatless meals.

A recipe for Earth Day: Mollie Katzen's lentil chili

Stilllife I have been making the Lentil Chili from Mollie Katzen's book Still Life With Menu for years. Not only is it delicious but it's dirt cheap to make. And since overweight people have a larger carbon footprint (eating more food and using more gasoline to drive instead of walk or bike), I thought this would be a good Earth Day recipe, since eating fewer meat-based meals also cuts down on energy consumption.

Mollie Katzen's Lentil Chili
4 cups dried lentils
6 to 7 cups water (tomato juice can be substituted for about 2 cups water)
One 1-pound can tomatoes, or 3 to 4 large ripe fresh tomatoes (peeling optional), chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or about 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Crushed red pepper to taste

Optional Toppings:

* Thin slices of sharp cheddar
* Sour cream
* Salsa
* A handful of toasted cashews
* Minced fresh parsley and/or cilantro

Place lentils and 6 cups of water in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, partially cover, and lower the heat to a simmer. Leave it this way for about 30 minutes, checking it every now and then to be sure it isn't cooking any faster than a gentle simmer. (You can chop the vegetables during this time.)

Add tomatoes, cumin, paprika, thyme, garlic, and onions. Stir, mostly cover again, and let it cook for another 30 minutes or so. Check the water level as it cooks, and add water or tomato juice in 1/4-cup increments as needed, to prevent dryness. Stir from the bottom every several minutes during the cooking.

Add salt and tomato paste. Stir and continue to simmer slowly, partially covered, until the tomato paste is all blended in... about 10 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar, black pepper, and crushed red pepper, adjusting the seasonings to taste. Serve hot, with some or all of the optional toppings.

From Still Life With Menu, Ten Speed Press, paperback, 1994

More protein, fewer calories and fuller!

I printed out yesterday's food journal from SparkPeople because I had experienced a phenomenon: I only ate 1,300 calories, yet I wasn't hungry all day.

So what did I do differently? I made a deliberate attempt to eat more protein. And I'm not talking a huge change -- my diet broke down to 23 percent protein, 21 percent fat and 55 percent carbs.

One thing that I do regularly is to use hummus as a sandwich spread instead of mayo. It helps up the protein and it tastes yummy. And I don't usually use bread. I'm a big fan of Flatout wraps, which pack in a lot of protein and fiber for its 100 calories. To that I added 3 ounces of turkey breast.

Wwcookiesbar I made a Costco run yesterday and bought a big box of Weight Watchers Cookies and Cream ice cream bars (c'mon, I have a 10-year-old!). I really wanted one at snack time, so I had one. But then I balanced it out with 1/4 cup of Egg Beaters and 2 tablespoons of reduced-fat cheddar. Yes, my snack was an ice cream bar and an omelet. Weird.

Purplesmoothie I was inspired by fellow weight-loss blogger Roni at Roni's Weigh, so dinner was a smoothie. She has a hilarious video of her and her son on her other site, making a mango-banana smoothie. Mine was a cup of Cascadian Farms mixed berries, a cup of vanilla almond milk and a scoop of vanilla whey protein.

 After the kid's baseball practice, I was a bit peckish. Instead of the usual carb-heavy handful of cereal or something else carbalicious, I had 1/2 cup of cottage cheese ... with barbecue sauce (Don't judge, people. I love me some condiments.)

I'm working on getting the calorie ratio to more of a Zone-like 40-30-30. But that'll take more cottage cheese.

Rachels cottage cheeseSpeaking of cottage cheese, I'm loving Rachel's cottage cheese cups. They're the size of a yogurt and around the same calories as Rachel's yogurt, but it has twice the protein. There are 6 flavors -- 3 sweet and 3 savory. So far I've tried the Pear-Mangosteen and Lemon Verbena-Berry. They're not as sugary sweet as yogurt yet still very good.

Last night's Biggest Loser: The makeover show!

BLLauramakeover Over at, I posted a recap of last night's Biggest Loser. It's full of photos, quotes and videos so check it out. Some highlights:

The challenge was truly terrifying. Dangling 110 over a canyon is not my idea of fun, but like usual, Tara won again.

The makeovers were spectacular -- best I've seen yet. They'd been overdone in the past but this year the hair and makeup was subtle and elegant. The guys cleaned up well, too!

The scene with Mikey and his younger brother was really emotional. To hear Max look around and say "now I'm the biggest one" tugged at my heart. How often do we look around a room, a gym, a Weight Watchers meeting and see whether we're the biggest ones in the room?

Check out my recap at HERE.

NBC photo

What I Cannot Change -- lyrics that matter

Academy Of Country Music Awards Artist Of The Decade - Show

On my way back from Jazzercise this morning I had the Today show on the radio (you can do that with Channel 6 anywhere in the country). LeAnn Rimes was on singing her very personal song What I Cannot Change. The chorus really hit home with me and probably for anyone who is working to change anything:

I will learn to let go what I cannot change

I will learn to forgive what I cannot change

I will learn to love what I cannot change

But I will change, I will change

Whatever I, whenever I can

My pre-workout breakfast energizer: Banana and Emergen-C

Banana and emergenc I used to workout on an empty stomach but found my energy flagging, so I've been looking for the perfect little pre-workout boost.

I've come up with great combo that provides a dose of carbs and energy -- a small banana and a glass of Emergen-C.

The banana provides carbs and minerals, which are lost with a lot of sweating. The Emergen-C idea came about when I had been drinking it and not working out. I found that the Emergen-C left me a bit jittery, so I decided to use that surplus of energy for good by gulping down an 8-ounce glass of water with a packet of Emergen-C (but not the Lite variety, which is vile).

Then after my workout I come back for the bowl of cereal and nonfat milk or oatmeal mixed with a half-serving of vanilla whey protein powder.

Steak 'n' Shake chili mac aftermath

Oh, man. You wanna see something scary? I had ordered a Steak 'n' Shake Chili Mac after a hockey game last weekend. In case you were wondering, a Chili Mac has 827 calories. What was I thinking -- a cheeseburger would have been safer.
Chili grease
Anyway, this disgusting oil slick was left on my plate. Apparently, the spaghetti noodles created a drainage filter and the chili grease was left behind, so I probably saved some fat calories that way.

And that is what we called twisted logic.

Setting myself free

Be free

About three quarters of the way through Saturday's Jazzercise class, while I grapevined across the gym, sweat flying, I started singing along with the thumping song:

"Free, free, free. Set me free, free, free. Wanna be free, free, free. Set me free."

And I had an epiphany -- that's why I was working out so hard. I wanna be free from having to think about my weight. About planning the next meal, the next snack. About worrying whether the scale went down. About whether I can zip my jeans.

I just want to be.

The process of losing weight can be mentally taxing. Why didn't I lose weight this week? Too much this? Not enough that? Did I journal enough, exercise enough, drink enough water?

I want to dance and sweat my ass off for the sheer fun of it, not because I'm burning off 300-something calories.

The song is Be Free by Jason Antone. I doubt he ever thought it would become some sort of anthem for overweight Jazzercisers.