Archive for » May 25th, 2012«

Ziplist Makes Meal Planning a Snap

Life would be simpler if we had more money and could lose a few pounds, right? If so, it just got easier. On May 22, Ziplist, the popular digital shopping list and recipe box resource, launched its free meal planner, which aims to help users get on track physically and financially.

The idea that meal planning will allow for healthy and balanced eating is widely accepted. If all meals and snacks are planned for, spontaneous drive-thru eating or impulse grocery shopping need not occur. Meal planning can ward off over eating and help one lose weight and stay on track. These same tactics keep one from over-spending and going over budget. So, why isn’t the whole world planning their meals? Often times the task seems too daunting. The new meal planning function at Ziplist claims they have the simplest way for planning a week’s or even a month’s worth of meals.

Ziplist’s meal planner has users create a meal queue, similar to Netflix is how they describe it. Users add meals to the queue that they want to make in the future, assigning dates to particular meals, so even on a busy night, a healthy five-minute meal can be planned for. Once the dates are assigned, the ingredients for the chosen meals are added to the digital shopping list. Ziplist also alerts users to recipes they may enjoy based on their preferences and informs them about money-saving coupons for particular ingredients. The steps seem simple and definitely worth a try.

The free meal planner is available through Ziplist’s website and through the free Android and iPhone apps. As the company says, “as long as you have your phone, your meal plan and shopping list are always with you.”

The app is free, is simple, and planning has been proven to aid in diets and budgets. There seem to be no good excuses left not to try this meal planner, well unless the weight loss fairy shows up tonight and I wake up to a budding money tree! In other words, I’m convinced.

May 25th, 2012

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Lose Weight, Gain Body Confidence? Not Necessarily, Says Purdue Researcher …

It ain’t necessarily so what so many dieters say — that when they lose weight, they’ll gain body confidence. So concludes a new study about the lingering stigma of obesity in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. While overweight black girls did feel better about themselves when they lost weight over the course of the study, overweight white girls did not.

After analyzing 10 years of data on more than 2,000 black and white girls from the National Growth and Health Study, Purdue sociology researcher Sarah Mustillo can’t say exactly why the effects of obesity-related stigma lingered for the white girls, but not the black. That’s a subject for future study.

What the good sociologist can say: The black girls’ self-esteem bounced back when they lost weight in early adolescence. However, when the white adolescent girls lost weight, their self-esteem remained flat. What’s more, despite their lower body mass index, both groups continued to have negative body perceptions. In other words, the body image of both the black and white study subjects got stuck in time

“Despite changes in their relative body mass,” Mustillo said, “we found that obese black and white teen girls who transitioned out of obesity continued to see themselves as fat.”


I filed these intriguing findings for future reference, but I couldn’t stop wondering: What is it about our culture that makes it so darned hard for girls to have good body image? Why, in fact, does bad body image plague America’s great, multi-generational sorority?

To answer these and other questions, I decided to do what I usually do — pick the brain of this compassionate mind for illuminating insights. I am also going to make my phone interview with this body image researcher the first in a new blog series on changing bad body image for good. What follows are questions and answers from my recent long-distance chat with Mustillo.

Q. Everyone talks about body image, but what is it exactly? What’s your best working definition?

A. There are a lot of different definitions of body image. The working definition I use is an individual’s perceptions, thoughts and feelings about her body, and how they’re shaped through interactions with others and within a larger societal context.

Q. What moved you to explore body image in teen girls?

A. If the current national movement to end childhood obesity is successful, we can anticipate many young people moving from obese into the normal weight range, which will result in better physical health. I wanted to know if the same thing would happen for psychological health.

Q. What’s the story behind the study? Did you struggle with bad body image as a kid?

A. The truth is I was a skinny girl. I didn’t struggle with weight, nor did I really realize that some people wanted what I had. At the time, being thin and curvy was the ideal. I was too busy focusing on the fact that I wasn’t curvy to be happy about being thin.

Q. Your conclusion is surprising, especially for dieters who believe that if they could just lose weight, they’d gain body confidence. What surprised you most about your findings?

A. People who lose weight may gain body confidence, it just may take longer than what one might think. We only followed these girls for a short period of time. Maybe if we would have followed them for another year or two or three, we might have seen an increase. My fear is if it [gaining body confidence] doesn’t happen soon enough, people might lose the motivation to stick with it [losing weight]. What surprised me most was definitely the body-image finding — that these girls continued to see themselves as heavy. Even as their bodies were changing, their perceptions of their bodies were not changing. To me, it speaks to the fact that the ideal is truly unobtainable. Even if they were getting closer, they still saw it as out of reach.

Q. How do you understand why black girls felt better about themselves after losing weight, but not white girls? What’s the cultural difference?

A. There is evidence that black girls may be more accepting of different body sizes than white girls. At the same time, self-esteem still appeared to be tied to weight for the black girls. Because when they transitioned out of the obese range, their self-esteem improved, but their body image didn’t change very much. To me, that says there’s less of a link between body image and self-esteem among black girls than white girls. But that’s something that requires a whole lot more research to understand.

Q. You’re a sociologist. What is it about our culture that makes it so hard for women of all ages to have good body image?

A. Body image is so tied up with our overall sense of self. So when we look in the mirror and feel deficient, or look at another woman and feel “less than,” it isn’t just about body. It’s about a deeper sense of unworthiness, and that just gets expressed in the body. You know, if I look at another woman and think her hair is so much nicer than mine or whatever, pick a body part, it’s likely that she’s got nicer hair. But it’s also likely that I think that woman is better than me in other ways — nicer than me, smarter than me, a better mother than me. It’s not really about the body. It’s about a deeper sense of feeling less than, or in competition with, other people. That goes hand-in-hand with our culture emphasizing individuality, independence, and that life is a popularity contest. We’re in constant competition with each other, which encourages us to be critical of others and to be critical of ourselves.

Q. If weight loss doesn’t improve body image, what does?

A. On a fundamental level, compassion for ourselves and others, and connectedness with others, might improve body image. I try to see myself the way I see my children — beautiful, precious, incredible beings. To me, that’s self-compassion. In terms of connectedness with others, it’s helpful to remember that underneath all our physical differences, we’re all emotional beings with needs and insecurities. If we can see other people with that same sense of compassion, then that could reduce the [sense that] life is a popularity contest. But that’s hard enough for grown women to achieve, much less for teenage girls. On a more practical level for teenage girls, deemphasizing physical appearance and emphasizing other aspects of who they are helps. For example, there are studies that show girls who have a strong sense of identity in a role, like musician or athlete, have better body image because they locate more of their sense of self in that role than in what they look like.

Q. Do you think it’s really possible to significantly alter body image?

A. I do. I just don’t think it’s as simple as doing some self-help exercises and being done with it. It’s such a bigger societal issue. It needs to be addressed on several levels.

Q. What else needs to be done?

A. In a nutshell, I would like to see more work on racial differences and the cultural context of what defines ideals, how those ideals get transmitted to girls, and how that affects self-esteem. People always point to the media [as the source of white girls' body ideals], but what about black girls? Are they getting it from the media as well, or are there other sources? Also, I’d love to see more research done on ways to combat stigma in this area — obesity — and others.

Q. What’s next for you and your research team? Are you already hard at work on a new study?

A. Of course! We are finishing a follow-up study on the same group of girls that examines parents’ and friends’ fat-labeling on mental health. In other words, the long-term effects of being told “You’re fat!” by your parents or your friends, and how that affects mental health.

Q. A recent Canadian study on body image, self-compassion and self-esteem showed what my clients have shown me — that more than self-esteem, greater self-compassion is associated with better body image. Any interest in studying the effects of self-compassion-enhancing techniques on body image?

A. I think that would be a fascinating study! I would guess that greater self-compassion is associated with better body image, and that better body image is associated with better self-esteem. I would bet that you’re right — that it starts with self-compassion and ends with feeling better about yourself.

Photo credit: Purdue University photo/Mark Simons

Jean Fain is a Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychotherapist specializing in eating issues, and the author of “The Self-Compassion Diet.” For more information, see If you know anyone who has changed bad body image for good, tell me about them in the Comments section. This blogger is in search of future profile subjects as well as effective body-image programs.

For more by Jean Fain, L.I.C.S.W., M.S.W., click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here


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The Self-Compassion Diet: Guided Practices to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness

The Self-Compassion Diet: A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness

Extreme weight loss may lead to `diet brain` and mood swings

Extreme weight loss may lead to `diet brain` and mood swings London: Women who resort to extreme weight loss methods experience ‘diet brain’, leaving them depressed, agitated and forgetful, experts have warned.

As a result of this condition, four out of ten women surveyed admitted their marriage or relationship had suffered, while a quarter said their performance at work had also been blighted.

One in three women admitted ‘diet brain’ had made them obsessed with losing weight, while 55 per cent said their desperation to be slimmer had left them feeling low, according to the survey of 2,000 British women.

And the condition – which is brought on by extreme dieting – can prevent many from reaching their target weight.

Nutritionist Linda O’Byrne, who helped collate information from the survey said those who suffer from ‘diet brain’ are not slimming correctly.

“If you find yourself suffering from ‘diet brain’ then the reality is that you are not slimming down correctly and you need to take action to alter the situation,” the Daily Mail quoted O’Byrne as saying.

“It is very worrying to discover that dieting has affected large numbers of women’s relationships and even their jobs, this is not how it should be.

“A weight loss program should form part of a healthy living regime and should never be extreme,” she suggested.

A quarter of women polled said they felt hungry all the time when on a diet and one in six said slimming made them miserable.

Only 15 per cent said they felt more positive due to dieting.


Want to Lose Weight? Skip These Diets

With Memorial Day weekend kicking off the unofficial start to the summer season, it’s once again time to break out the bathing suit and hit the beach. It also means that it’s probably too late to drop the extra pounds you packed on during the winter if you haven’t already.

Although it’s never a bad time to adopt a healthy lifestyle with a well-balanced nutrition plan and an exercise program under the supervision of a trained medical professional, anyone who wanted to lose a significant amount of weight in a healthy way should have started months ago. That won’t stop many from going on potentially dangerous crash diets in a desperate bid to shed pounds.

If you believe that your diet scheme is somehow different, guess again. For decades, self-appointed diet experts have come up with all sorts of methods for slimming down. Many of them are simply ridiculous gimmicks that give false hope to the naive or misinformed. Some are just plain stupid. Others, however, can be downright dangerous, and those are the ones that dieters really need to watch out for.

weight gain
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The Tapeworm Diet: Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of coming into contact with a tapeworm will tell you that these parasites are just gross. So it may come as a surprise that, in the name of losing weight, some less-than-health-conscious dieters have tried the so-called tapeworm diet to lose weight.

The concept is pretty simple, albeit entirely flawed. The dieter ingests a tapeworm, which will then turn that person’s insides into a cozy home, growing larger everyday on the food that person ingests. By nurturing this parasite, you’re not digesting the calories that would otherwise go straight to your thighs — at least that’s the idea.

Yes, the diet will undoubtedly cause weight loss. It can also lead to nutritional deficiency and result in cysts on the brain, eyes, liver and spinal cord. Selling tapeworms is illegal in the United States, but the parasites can still be acquired in Mexico.

Fen Phen: If you lived in the United States during the mid-1990s and happened to turn on a television or radio during that time, chances are at one point or another you heard an advertisement for fen-phen. Fen-phen was probably the most notorious catastrophe of the diet pill craze in the 1990s.

Widely prescribed and easily available, fen-phen was among the most popular anti-obesity drugs of its time. It was also one of the most dangerous, causing potentially fatal heart valve problems. This spawned a torrent of lawsuits, and the drug was taken off the market in 1997.

The “Sleeping Beauty” diet: If Elvis, the king of Rock and Roll, followed this diet, then you know it must be good since he stayed pretty trim (though that was probably long before he even considered weight control).

What could be easier than sleeping away the pounds? The body does burn fat while you sleep, and of course you’re not eating while unconscious. The Sleeping Beauty Diet sounds almost too good to be true — and it is.

BLOG: 25 Best and Worst Cities for Sleeping

Using sedatives to induce long periods of unneeded rest can not only mess with your circadian rhythm; it can also become addictive, which carries with it the risk of accidental overdose. Even used correctly, side effects can range to headache to cognitive impairment to hallucinations and worse.

The Last Chance Diet/The Prolinn Diet: When it comes to the “Last Chance Diet,” you have to give the creators credit. For some users, it really was the last diet they ever needed since it proved to be so fatal.

The Last Chance Diet prescribes a program of fasting coupled with a blended protein drink. If you bother to look into what’s in the drink mix, you’ll find it consists if animal byproducts that simply aren’t fit for consumption, including tendons, horns and hooves.

The diet led users to experience side effects including abnormal heart rhythms, possibly due to weakening of the muscle and nutritional deficiencies. Around 60 people actually died while on this diet.

The Nicotine Diet: A method famously allegedly used by skinny fashion models, the nicotine diet espouses smoking cigarettes to suppress food cravings. No doctor in his/her right mind would ever recommend this diet to anyone serious about keeping their weight down in a healthy way.

BLOG: Smoking is Good For You!*

Can nicotine actually suppress food cravings? Studies have actually shown that it can. But replacing food with cigarettes in order to lose weight is like warming up your home with burning garbage instead of turning on the heat to save money on electricity.

The point is: There are much healthier ways to curb your appetite without resorting to a method that is guaranteed to create more problems long-term. In fact, one of the best ways to curb appetite is through exercise, a much more proven method of control weight than simply trying to smoke yourself thin.

But of course, even when it comes to exercise, dieters shouldn’t push themselves too hard. There’s no need to take the same risks as this guy just to get fit (via Reddit).

Photo credit: Corbis Images

Jackson shows off new curves in the French Rivera


Janet Jackson may have joined the ranks of diet plan celebrity spokeswomen Jennifer Hudson and Mariah Carey, but she insists there’s absolutely no competition among the slimmed-down singers.

The 46-year-old became a spokesperson for NutriSystem in December and credits the diet company for helping her lose weight, though she’s keeping quiet about the exact number she’s lost.

“You know I think it’s great that all the girls, or as many as possible, can stand up and try to help as many people as possible. That’s really what it’s about. It’s not about competing with each other, not for me,” said Jackson in a plunging neckline Pucci gown at amfAR’s Cinema Against AIDS gala Thursday in Cap D’Antibes, France.

“I took off all that extra stuff I really didn’t need and I feel really good,” she said.

Carrey became the spokesperson for Jenny Craig after dropping 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms) with their plan and a toned Hudson is seen singing the praises of Weightwatchers in the company’s commercials.

But it wasn’t all glitz and glam for Jackson, who traveled the south of France to co-share the annual amfAR charity event. The recent loss of industry legends Donna Summer and Robin Gibb still weighed heavily on her mind.

“They’ve brought so much joy to this world,” said Jackson on the red carpet. “I remember being 11-years-old, going to New York and I was visiting Mike (Jackson), he was working on `The Wiz’ and I was on hiatus from shooting the show `Good Times’ and we would always listen to `How Deep is your Love’, that was the song of my trip, he and I. So it was such incredible memories of them.”

Gibb, a founding member of the Bee Gees, died May 20 following a battle with cancer and intestinal surgery. Disco icon Summer died May 17 of lung cancer.

Right now Jackson is busy working on new music, which she says is still in the “beginning stages.”

“Everything I’ve done, it’s always been different here or there, from one album to the next, a mixture of stuff. So we’ll see,” she said.

Nicole Evatt covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter at

Understanding epilepsy "miracle" diet may lead to better treatments …


(CBS News) Children with epilepsy who don’t respond well to anti-seizure medications are sometimes treated with a strict “ketogenic diet” that’s high in fats and low in carbohydrates, including foods like bacon, hot dogs, butter and eggs.

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According to the Epilepsy Foundation, the diet is so effective for some kids that they can go off “keto” for a few years and remain seizure-free. In 2010, the New York Times profiled the diet as “Epilepsy’s Big Fat Miracle” and despite being prescribed at more than 100 hospitals around the country, researchers weren’t exactly sure how it worked – until now.

In a new study of mice, researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston have found that a child’s ability to stave off seizures is tied to a protein that affects metabolism in the brain. The protein, so-called BCL-2-associated Agonist of Cell Death, or BAD, also regulates metabolism of glucose.

The researchers discovered that by modifying this this, they switched metabolism in brain cells from glucose to ketone bodies, which are fat byproducts.

“It was then that we realized we had come upon a metabolic switch to do what the ketogenic diet does to the brain without any actual dietary therapy,” study author Dr. Alfredo Gimenez-Cassinam a research fellow at Dana-Farber, said in a news release.

The researchers used genetically modified mice to alter the BAD protein to increase ketone metabolism in the brain, and seizures in mice decreased. The findings suggest the BAD Protein could be a promising target for future epilepsy drugs. The study is published in the May 24th issue of the journal Neuron.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by repeated seizures, likened to electrical storms in the brain, that can appear as convulsions, loss of motor control, or loss of consciousness.

“I’ve met a lot of kids whose lives are completely changed by this diet,” study co-author Dr. Gary Yellen, professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, said in a university news release. Yellen was introduced to the ketogenic diet through his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Thiele, who directs the Pediatric Epilepsy Program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. “Diets in general are hard, and this diet is really hard,” said Yellen, “So finding a pharmacological substitute for this would make lots of people really happy.”

About two in 100 people will experience a seizure at some point in their lives, according to the Mayo Clinic, and at least two unprovoked seizures often are required to diagnose epilepsy. Anti-seizure medications such are often prescribed and brain surgery is a possibility for some people whose seizures originate in a small, well-defined area of the brain not involved with vital processes. Some children may even outgrow the condition with age.

The Mayo Clinic has more on epilepsy.