Sunday, July 30, 2006

Cardio: Pull Over Spinners ... New Machines With Class!

The popularity in stationary spinning bicycle classes has taken the health clubs by storm. Fitness enthusiasts are always looking for new and fun ways to get a great work out with a little spunk. Workout classes featuring cardio machines, blaring music, and of course, funky names are spreading like wildfire!

The popularity in stationary spinning bicycle classes has taken the health clubs by storm. Fitness enthusiasts are always looking for new and fun ways to get a great work out with a little spunk. Workout classes featuring cardio machines, blaring music, and of course, funky names are spreading like wildfire!

While you're likely to work up a sweat and feel the burn no matter which you take, not all are created equal. Here are some new classes to look out for in your health clubs.

  • Spinning: With a souped-up exercise bike, cyclists get in gear with a mix of slow-and high-paced intervals. Even if you've never been a big fan of stationary bikes, this class is something completely out of the norm. It is a great motivator and gives you a fantastic workout. Beginners shouldn't expect themselves to complete the class the first go around. It is a tough one and you should work your way up to it. Even the fittest bodies out there will be challenged and fatigued!

  • Trekking: On a treadmill you run, walk or sidestep up a grade or on level ground. This is a great workout for anyone. You have more control of your speed, grade and overall routine vs. the spin class. Be sure to bring a towel and see just how creative we've gotten with the treadmill. You'll also take with you some new tricks that you can use to spice up your solo treading!

  • Precor Fit: Using an elliptical trainer ,you pedal in an oval motion while your arms get a workout, too! This class is a little on the trendy side. The lasting power of this class is questionable. It might be harder to find this class in the smaller gyms. It is primarily being tested in large markets in big cities.

  • Boathouse: Ouch! This class is done with a rowing machine (you know those machines you hardly ever see anyone on because they are so much work). This class mixes up the effort and the emphasis on your arms, legs and back. No doubt about it … this class gives you the best full-body workout. However, the variety the class offers is pretty limited. This is not for beginners; it is for the exercise maniacs!

  • Stomp: On a stair climber, get in step one leg at a time or jump on the pedals with both feet. Stomp this class right off your list. I hate stairs to begin with and even with all the great energizing music I still felt I was climbing the stairway to hell! From the looks on the other participants' faces, I wasn't alone!

Encourage Your Kids to Get Active

Do you love to exercise or would you rather do anything else than work out? No matter what your attitude toward fitness is, it's important to make sure that you're encouraging your kids to exercise and play. Here are eight strategies for helping your children get fit.

*Key in to Your Kids' Interests

Consider what type of physical activity your child would like. Is she always bouncing on the bed and climbing over the couch? Then maybe gymnastics would fit the bill. Does he like to pretend he's a ninja or Power Ranger? Then perhaps he'd enjoy karate. Don't assume that they'll like the same activities you do. Ask them what they'd like to try!

*Be Supportive of Your Kids, No Matter What Their Abilities Are

Maybe your children will never be superstar athletes. That's OK. The important thing is that they enjoy the activity so they establish a lifelong exercise habit, not that they are the best athletes in the town. Reward them for participating in sports or activities, not just winning.

*Help Kids With Basic Sports Skills

Do your children know how to catch, throw and kick a ball? Make sure you help both boys and girls develop fundamentals. That way they'll be less likely to feel intimidated playing sports.

*Share Your Fitness Interests With Kids

Children often like to imitate their parents. If you love dancing, teach your sons and daughters to dance. If running is your passion, bring your kids along to 5ks or 10ks with you. See if they'd like to run a children's race.

*Invent Fitness Games With Your Kids

For a fun change of pace or if your kids don't like standard fitness activities or sports, why not create your own games? You can have each child contribute a rule or two to the games. For example, maybe you'd create a game called "Halloween Run" in which you run or walk around the backyard until someone calls "Halloween." Then you pretend to be your favorite monsters for 30 seconds. Then you return to running or walking.

*Plan Active Birthday Parties

Instead of throwing a party that focuses solely on cake and ice cream, design one with several active games that involve ALL the kids. Or, build a party around an activity such as soccer, inline skating or baseball. Another idea is to see if your gym conducts active fitness parties for kids.

*Set Aside Time for Family Fitness

Don't expect that kids will automatically exercise on their own. Block time after work or on the weekends. Commit to get fit!

*Be a Good Fitness Role Model

It's not enough to just TELL kids they need to exercise. You need to work out, too. Even if you don't enjoy exercising, it's important for you to be a good exercise role model to show that exercise is a fun, worthwhile habit to adopt.

High Protein Diets: Healthy or Hazardous?

The newest craze in weight loss today appears to be a high protein diet. This means that you almost entirely eliminate carbohydrates from the diet!

Not only can it be a health hazard, but it also can cause generalized dehydration. People who follow these types of diets are habitual fad dieters. It is a must to consult your physician before starting any new type of "fad" diet.

A diabetic following this diet is putting them at great health risks. With diabetes, it is expected that they do not excrete large amounts of protein, causing harm to the kidneys. This throws the body into a condition known as ketosis, and it is not a normal or natural state of being for the body, excreting an abnormally high amount of Ketones that are by products of fat metabolism.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis means that there is an overabundance of Ketones in the bloodstream. This is seen in a severe metabolic derangement. Armed with this information you must decide whether a high protein diet is a safe and effective form of weight loss for you. This type of diet is loaded with saturated fats, a risk factor for heart disease. It also eliminates or drastically restricts rice, bread products, fruits, cereal and pasta. Some of the basic side effects are lethargy (tiredness), irritability, bad breath (caused from burning of fats) and constipation.

On the positive outlook, if you have no health conditions, you will notice a drastic weight reduction the first week or two. Anywhere from a six to ten pound weight loss is usual. Those who are able to continue with these diets will lose weight and say they feel wonderful. This usually happens due to the weight loss itself and the self-esteem that comes with weight loss, … clothes are looser and weight is lower -- you feel like a success.

According the ADA, the most effective form of weight loss is a decrease in caloric intake and following the food pyramid of recommended daily allowances of all food groups. Exercising on a regular basis, drinking eight glasses of water a day or more depending on activity level.

Attitude makes a great deal of difference, most people that look at changing lifestyle eating patterns or saying the word "diet" means you are limited to what you can eat. This type of thinking often leads people not being able to stick to an eating plan or cheating. This is what led to "fad" diets, people who cannot stay on one program. Do not call it a diet, but you are 'eating healthy', making a change in your life. Taking time out to meditate daily helps to keep the mind just as healthy as the body thus promoting health and wellness.

Most foods you buy today have the food pyramid on the side of the box or container. The following is an example of a 1500 cal. diet, which for most adults are a healthy way of eating and losing weight with a moderate amount of exercise.

Example of a 1500-calorie diet

  • 7 bread/cereal exchanges
  • 5 fruit exchanges
  • 3 vegetable exchanges
  • 2 milk/dairy exchanges
  • 5 meat/protein exchanges
  • 5 exchanges from misc. list

Remember before starting any lifestyle changes in nutrition, or exercise please consult with your physician and make sure you are doing so sensibly.

Genetics, Sports and Fitness

Now that the human genome has been mapped, some people are wondering if this will lead to the creation of super athletes in the future. An interesting thought, but for now it's more useful to consider how the genes you already have influence your potential for sports performance and the degree of fitness you can attain.

Most people can make good progress with common fitness exercises, such as weight training, stretching and various aerobic activities. A mix of activities may be best for general fitness. You may do better, and enjoy yourself more, if you choose activities for which you're better suited, but it's more important to choose exercises you like to do. You're probably not going to achieve the cardiovascular fitness level of a Tour de France cyclist in any case.

Genetics is a significant factor in sports performance. Just about anyone can swim, run or play tennis for fun. But if you're looking for a sport you can excel in, start by considering your genetics.

The most obvious factor is height. Tall people have an advantage in volleyball, rowing and basketball. There are exceptions. Mugsy Bogues, at 5-3, has played several seasons in the NBA on the court with guys almost two feet taller than he is. There are several women professional basketball players who are 5-6 or less. So if you love basketball and have the other necessary attributes, it is possible you could excel even if you're not tall. You may have to play guard, though!

On the other hand, short people have the advantage in gymnastics and diving, because a smaller body can move through the air quicker when somersaults are involved. One sport that does not have exceptions is thoroughbred racing. Many a promising young jockey has outgrown his profession.

Weight training is a worthwhile pursuit for everyone, and if you want to compete in power lifting or weightlifting, you will be competing against others in your weight category. Within that, the individual of smaller stature and with shorter arms and legs has a slight advantage in that the weight doesn't have to be lifted so far.

Next you can look at your body type. Ectomorphs are naturally slim, mesomorphs are muscular, and endomorphs tend to have a more rounded physique. True, most anyone can take off some fat and gain muscle, but your best sports may be those that are compatible with your natural body type. High jumpers are tall and slim, but shot putters are tall and heavy.

Other factors include reaction time, eyesight, coordination and muscle fiber type (whether you're more suited to endurance or power sports). Examine your favorite sports and see what body type and other genetic attributes you think are most important.

How good can you get? Sports performance is generally about 40 percent genetics and 60 percent training. People like Tiger Woods in golf or the Williams sisters in tennis surely have tremendous natural ability, but if they hadn't put in the hard work they wouldn't be the household names they are now. The 40 percent genetics number also applies to general fitness. How much can you improve your aerobic capacity? How much can you build your muscles? You have genetic benefits and genetic constraints, but the right training can give you excellent results whatever your genetic makeup.

Genetics is a significant influence on how good a player you are, how fit you can get and how much you can develop your physique. But genetics is not destiny. Pick sports and exercise activities you enjoy, decide how hard you're willing to work and have fun with it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Do You Need to Take a Multivitamin/Mineral Supplement?

"When choosing a supplement, look for one that is both a multi vitamin and mineral formula."

Eating a healthy diet is definitely the best way to ensure you receive all the essential nutrients your body needs for optimal health. However, even people that have the best intentions sometimes fall short of their nutritional needs.

People that may benefit from taking a supplement include people with hectic lifestyles that keep them from eating the recommended number of food group servings, people who are on low-calorie diets for weight loss, the elderly who don't eat as much as they should, strict vegetarians, people who can't drink milk or eat dairy products, and women of child bearing age who don't get enough folate from fruits, vegetables, beans and grains.

Do You:

  • Eat 6 to 11 servings of grains (bread, cereal, rice, pasta and other grain foods) each day?
    For example, one serving equals approximately one slice of bread, ½ cup pasta, ½ cup cereal, ½ bagel or 1/3-cup rice.
  • Eat at least 3 servings of vegetables each day?
    One serving equals approximately ½ cup cooked vegetable, 1 cup raw vegetable or ¾ cup vegetable juice.
  • Eat at least 2 servings of fruit each day?
    One serving equals approximately 1 piece of fruit; ½ cup canned or chopped fruit or ½ cup fruit juice.
  • Eat 2 or more servings of low-fat dairy foods such as milk, yogurt or cheese each day?
    One serving equals approximately 1 cup of milk or yogurt or 2 ounces of cheese.
  • Eat 2 to 3 servings of lean meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs or nuts each day?
    One serving equals approximately 1to 2 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish; one egg or ¼ cup egg substitute; ½ cup cooked beans; 2 tablespoons peanut butter; 1 cup soy milk or ¼ cup cottage cheese.

If you answered NO to any of these questions, you may benefit from taking a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement. Supplements are NOT meant to take the place of any food group but are meant to supplement what you may not get everyday. Your number one goal should be to get your essential nutrients from food everyday. Focus on one food group at a time and try to gradually improve your daily eating pattern. Aim to at least eat the minimum number of servings each day.

When choosing a supplement, look for one that is both a multi vitaminand mineralformula. Choose a supplement that is somewhere around 100 percent of the daily value for each nutrient. More is not necessarily always better! Look specifically for one that is at least 100 percent of ten important vitamins plus some vitamin K including vitamin A (mostly as beta carotene), vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, C, D, E, folic acid and niacin. Consider taking a calcium supplement separately. Most multivitamin/mineral supplements don't contain enough calcium. If your multi has iron in it, take it separately from your calcium supplement. Calcium can impair the body's ability to absorb iron. It is recommended to take supplements with meals because some nutrients are better absorbed with food.

It is most important to always remember that food should come before pills. Make food choices with variety, balance and moderation in mind. Use supplements as supplements and not as substitutions for foods or food groups.

Backpacking – Is it for you?

"Of all the articles of clothing worn, equipment to take, supplies to procure and precautions to understand, none is more important than what you wear on your feet."

Day Hikes

These can be a couple of hours or an entire day's duration. Usually they are made within a park's boundaries and on well-marked and maintained trails. Nature trails would fall into this category since they are circuit hikes, i.e., they start and end at about the same place. They are normally easy hikes drawing families and older people. Hikes that observe some natural occurrences such as waterfalls are another type of day hike.

A day hike can be circuitous or out and back on the same trail. The time for either one of these kinds of hikes could be as little as 20 minutes to several hours. Time and weather conditions are the guiding factors in determining the kind of equipment needed (if any) for a hike of that nature.

Water should be seriously considered for anyhike of an hour's duration or longer, but especially in hot, dry conditions. If there is more than one person involved, then take enough water for everyone in the group. If hiking alone for several hours, a small first-aid kit might come in handy as well. Since day-hikes are completed within that time frame, then nothing more need be considered from a safety standpoint, but only from a comfort standpoint. For example, food for a snack or gear to keep from getting sunburned might be a consideration for longer hikes. Also, bug repellant could be deemed a necessity in areas where bugs and insects might be a nuisance. Or, what if it rains? Will you want some kind of rain-gear along as well?

Any of the aforementioned items can be easily carried in a fanny-pack or day backpack and have become very popular with the school crowd over the last few years. Make sure the straps are adjusted comfortably for the length of trip you are considering, or you might wind up with a backache the next day.

Overnight Hikes

When hiking longer trail systems, either a well-planned day hike that will bring you back to a predetermined destination before dark, or an overnight stay will be needed. Many who hike National trails systems do it over a two or three day period and often longer. Since staying outside in a natural setting overnight is so foreign to most people, certain precautions need to be considered beforehand. First, the well-planned aspect should be addressed at the outset. Know where you are going and when and where you plan to return. Give someone that information before you leave. Some systems, such as the Grand Canyon, require Park Headquarter's notification of any overnight hike as to number of people, where and when you are going, etc.

Next, make a list of all the equipment and supplies you will need. Again, the type and amount of these things will depend on season, weather, length of stay and number in your party. Unless you are a seasoned hiker, don't venture out in the wilderness alone, even experienced hikers can get in trouble. Carrying a 40 to 60 pound pack on your back for several hours up and down hills can become tiring and make the hike anything but enjoyable. Consider your stamina and physical condition when picking a route. Some trails are fairly flat, others traverse mountains. Their difficulty is usually indicated in hiking guides.

You need to look carefully at the area into which you are hiking. If it is in a well-marked and maintained trail system in a State or National Park, then one set of considerations need attention. But if it is into a wilderness area an entirely different set of rules apply. These areas are for experienced and physically fit people, not for the novice. Did I mention there are wild animals in most areas where you'll be hiking? Now the cute doe might be fun to watch while she manages her fawn, but an angry grizzly bear takes on a whole different viewpoint. Knowing what an animal is capable of and what to expect from one, might not only help you enjoy watching it, it could also save your life. Realize that we are trespassing and invading the private lives of those animals. 'Nature' is their home and we are but visitors to it. It is not likely that you will encounter any adverse reactions to your presence, but being aware of actions to take in case you'd come upon a mother mountain lion with her cubs or other such occasions can be beneficial.

Aspects to consider regarding equipment is its weight, ruggedness, water-resistance and in cooler weather -- its warmth. The backpack, for example, should be light and ride on your hips, not your back. Therefore, a 'hip-belt' is important. The pack, tent and boots you'll wear need to be waterproof or you may spend a miserable night during or after a downpour. Also, keeping your body warm is paramount in cold weather; therefore the sleeping bag needs to accommodate the temperature range in which you are sleeping.

Since you can only comfortably carry one canteen of water, you'll have to find some along the way. This is another aspect of the planning done before you leave. Take tablets along to sterilize creek water, or be sure to boil it for at least ten minutes before drinking. This means that a stove of some sort is another piece of equipment to take along. They make some pretty small and lightweight butane and propane stoves these days, so finding a suitable one shouldn't be a problem. A nylon tent is usually the tent of choice for backpacking because it's lightweight and durable. Other materials are available, which serve as well but might cost more, so shopping for the right tent might take some time.

Finding the right footwear is almost a science in itself, many articles are available about that selective process. Of all the articles of clothing worn, equipment to take, supplies to procure and precautions to understand, none is more important than what you wear on your feet. Your body moves along a path by using your feet and nothing else. Therefore, it is important to make sure they receive the best possible care. Foot powder and a double-layer of socks are important components of the footwear-backpacking recipe. The inner sock needs to wick up moisture from your foot. Wool works well, along with a sprinkle of foot powder. The outer layer should be thick to absorb shock and act as a shell for the inner layer. Putting foot powder in the bottom of the boot will aid in keeping the foot dry as the day moves on while hiking.

If you think checking your Christmas list twice is important, then know that checking the one you create for the journey you are contemplating is significant. While a tent, pack, stove, sleeping bag, food, water, first-aid kit, footwear and clothes are basic and obvious, there are many items needed that are not so obvious. A change of clothes, extra socks, matches, lantern, flashlight, raingear, headgear, rope, string, compass, maps, plastic bags, a shovel, toilet paper, baby wipes and emergency items such as a flare should also be on that list. Consider every possible situation that could occur while you are out there enjoying nature, and prepare for its occurrence.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Stages and Phases of Weight Loss

It was at that moment, as I looked down I to my daughter’s eyes, that I knew I had to change. Being overweight was not only hard for me, both emotionally and physically, but it was starting to affect my daughter as well.

There is no reason to give up on a weight-loss battle. One woman writes about her inspiration, how she stayed motivated and how she achieved success.

"Mommy, run with me." My three-year-old daughter begged me as I sat on a park bench watching her play.

"Mommy can't run. Mommy is too tired," I told her gently, not wanting to explain to her that it was hard for me to walk at 245 pounds, let alone run.

"Please Mommy, I'll hold your hand. I'll help you," she said putting her tiny little hand into mine giving me a little tug.

It was at that moment, as I looked down I to my daughter's eyes, that I knew I had to change. Being overweight was not only hard for me, both emotionally and physically, but it was starting to affect my daughter as well. That very day I started a weight loss journey that led me through many different phases and stages. Some phases were easier than others. Some I visited more than once. But all were vital steps in the journey towards a healthier me.

The first stage for me was the "realization stage." Most overweight people can pinpoint a time in their lives when they realized that they were in need of a change. For some people, an event like a high school reunion may trigger the realization that they have put on a few pounds since high school and need to do something about it. For others, getting weighed at the doctor's office can trigger the change. For me, it was seeing the sadness in my daughter's eyes after I told her I was too tired to play with her. I knew my weight was out of control and I had to do something about it. When I asked my physician for advise, I was shocked when he told me to aim to lose at least 80 pounds. I knew I had to lose weight, but 80 pounds? My shock soon dissolved into a feeling of urgency. I had to lose the weight, fast.

I entered the next stage of weight loss, "the panic stage." During this time, I was horrified by my weight and the fact that I had let myself get so out of control. I felt like I had to do something, anything, fast! I had to get the weight off no matter what it took. During the panic phase, most people aren't thinking clearly. They are so focused on the sole goal of losing weight, they fail to understand what the ultimate should be, a healthier lifestyle. During the panic phase, I fell victim to this way of thinking. All I could focus on was the fact that I had to get the extra 80 plus pounds I was carrying around off of me. The attempt to achieve fast weight loss resulted in my attempting many "fad diets." First, I tried replacing food with diet shakes. When I didn't get the results I wanted from that, I went on to the grapefruit diet. This consisted of eating only grapefruits and hardboiled eggs at every meal. Like I said, most people aren't thinking clearly during the panic stage. I lost a few pounds but spent most days feeling hungry, grumpy, and deprived. Unfortunately, some people never leave this stage. They spend years, trying one different fad diet after another, only to lose weight and then have it return again. Luckily for me, it wasn't too long before I came to my senses.

Eventually I wised up and figured out that a person could not survive on grapefruits and hardboiled eggs alone. I knew I wanted to lose the weight, but more so, I realized I wanted to do it in a way that wasn't going to make me totally miserable.

I entered what I call the "back to reality stage." I decided that if I were going to lose the weight and keep it off, I would have to do it the right way. I began to read fitness magazines and nutrition books to educate myself on the right way to lose the excess pounds. I set myself to work on changing all of my bad habits to good ones. Slowly, I replaced fatty foods with healthier ones, and began an exercise program.

Shortly after making these changes, I began to notice that my clothes were fitting looser and I felt more energetic. A quick check of the scale confirmed that I had lost weight. The weight loss kept me excited and motivated enough to continue with my new, healthy habits for the time being. But as most dieters know, there will eventually come a time when boredom hits. I began to grow tired of eating the same foods everyday and doing the same exercises. I became less and less enthusiastic about my new way of life, and found myself slipping back into my old habits.

I found myself in what I call the "backsliding stage." Boredom got the best of me and I reverted back to my bad eating habits and quit my exercise program. I soon gained back the weight that I had lost. I spent the next month feeling fatigued, depressed, and angry with myself for giving up. Luckily, I had a wonderful husband and very supportive friends who encouraged me to give my weight loss plan another chance. My husband reminded me that even if I never lost another pound, exercising and eating right would give me the energy I needed to take care of our children. I decided to give healthy living another try.

I soon entered the "determination stage" of weight loss. I focused myself on getting back on track with healthy eating and exercise. I bought cookbooks with healthy recipes to help me avoid the diet trap of eating the same foods everyday. I bought new fitness videos, a weight bench, and a punching bag to add some variety to my workouts. I changed and varied my eating and exercise patterns to avoid burnout and boredom. I rededicated myself to becoming as healthy as I possibly could. All of this paid off. Over the course of the next year and a half, I lost 90 pounds.

I am getting ready to enter the final stage of weight loss, maintenance. My focus has recently shifted from weight loss to fitness. The fact that I would like to lose a few more pounds is much less important than the fact that I want to be fit and healthy. Exercise is now a welcomed part of my daily life, not a chore. I am currently training for a marathon, which is something I never thought I could do! Healthy eating is also part of my everyday life now. Sure, I still have my days where I sit on the couch with a bag of potato chips, but those days are few and far between. My desire to do what is best for my health usually out weighs my desire for junk food.

Now, when my daughter and I go to the park, she doesn't have to beg me to run with her. In fact, she has to beg me to slow down. There were stages in my weight loss when I thought I would never get to where I am today. There were times that I felt like giving up, and times that I actually did give up. My weight loss journey has been a very emotional thing. But after all is said and done, I am so glad that I changed my life the way I did. I will never again have to worry about not having the energy top keep up with my kids, and that is an even greater reward than the weight loss itself.

Weightloss Surgery: Personal Story

"Since I couldn't eat much meat of any kind (it and pasta were the most likely foods to cause blockage) I started boosting my protein/iron intake with protein shakes … and my weight began to inch up."

Overweight? Tired of one failed diet after another? Looking for the "magic bullet" of permanent weight loss? So was I. I tried them all.

The diets I did not try (the more radical ones, such as liquid protein and wiring the mouth shut as a "forced" means of sticking to a liquid diet) I witnessed when even more desperate friends than I were driven to try anything to shed unwanted, sometimes life-threatening pounds. The bottom line and the common denominator for virtually all of us: even those that did work could not withstand the test of time nor the metabolisms that seem to plague overweight people.

Frightened and frustrated after a 40-pound weight gain in just one year (bringing my 5'4" body to a whopping 218 pounds), I came to the desperate decision in the summer of 1995 to consider gastric bypass surgery. This surgical procedure, commonly referred to as the "stomach staple," has recently made the news again: a number of movie stars and personalities known for fighting the diet wars, (including Carnie Wilson of the 80's girl-group Wilson-Phillips) have undergone procedures of this type.

Contemplating such a radical measure in 1995, before all the celebrity interest, did not come easily. Determining factors for me included my age (45) and the 100 units of insulin required to maintain even reasonably healthy blood-sugar levels, along with persistent lower back problems. I felt I had come to the end of my options.

If the myriad of health problems staring back from my mirror were not enough to convince me, then the success of my friend, who had undergone the procedure in 1993 and had lost over 100 pounds by that time, did. Weighing over 300 pounds before her surgery, the physical, as well as the emotional transformation was astonishing and enviable. Still, the radical nature of the procedure frightened me as much as the idea of such dramatic and seemingly lasting weight loss called to me.

Because of my fears, I spent considerable time quizzing my friend. I asked just about every conceivable question: where had her surgery been performed?

(A then-popular diet clinic based on this obesity de jour procedure.) How long was the recovery from surgery? (About six weeks.) Did she know others who had undergone this major surgery? (Yes, she knew several who were part of the post-surgical counseling/support group that was a feature of the Program.) Were they also successful? (Yes, though some more than others.)

The results of my inquiries were by and large positive in nature. Being careful to eat slowly and to chew your food very well were the major warnings, since virtually all of them had experienced food blockage on at least one occasion. In a couple of cases, emergency intervention became necessary to clear the blockage. The scar was another issue: since the surgery is major, your incision runs from the sternum to just shy of the naval. Other than these warnings, the people I talked to were very pleased with the results. Benefits virtually all of them mentioned included never feeling hungry while experiencing rapid weight loss.

As my weight continued to climb, this weight loss option began to seem more and more appealing. Finally, after three months of haggling with my insurance companies, who required doctors' notes attesting to all the other diets I had previously tried, personal affidavits, and sessions with a psychologist, I received the okay to proceed with the surgery in mid-September of 1995.

I resolved myself to the six-week post-operative recovery and began eagerly anticipating major weight loss. It was exciting to think that within a year I would once again know what it felt like to be thin. After twenty years of feeling every emotion from inadequacy to embarrassment about my obesity, I was looking forward to discarding the "barrier" to success my extra pounds had erected.

What can I say? Nothing is ever as easy as it sounds. I will never forget sitting in a fine Southwestern restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico, about one month after surgery. Near the end of a mandatory, post-op six-week liquid diet, I made the mistake of taking just one bite of the vegetables floating in my soup broth. Twelve hours later I finally stopped vomiting.

You see, this surgery doesn't just "staple" closed all but a small portion of your stomach. The process includes a reduction in the food passage. This reduction is major (to the approximate diameter of a woman's small finger), and is held taut by a small plastic ring. Eat anything larger than the diameter of your pinky and you are in trouble. I was lucky, though. My first experience was horrible; but whatever was stuck finally dislodged or digested without medical intervention. It certainly wasn't the last time I experienced hours of distress because of food blockage. Now, nearly four years later, it still happens: without warning, with a large variety of foods, occasionally with the first bite I take.

Not such a bad trade off for a nice, slender body, though?

Well … about the weight loss. My goal was to lose 100 pounds in one year and then to maintain the loss. The good news? I lost 46 pounds within the first five months and then … stopped losing. Ah, some exercise was in order. That would do the trick!

Not really. I did as much exercise as my bad back would allow (aerobic dancing three to four days a week, walking for half an hour another day or two), but my weight refused to budge from 172 pounds. I ate less, watched what I ate … and became severely anemic.

Since I couldn't eat much meat of any kind (it and pasta were the most likely foods to cause blockage) I started boosting my protein/iron intake with protein shakes … and my weight began to inch up. I decided it was time to get an update on how my friend was doing with her weight.

"Great!" she said, "I would do it again in a heartbeat."

So, what was wrong with me, I wondered? Was I the only one failing at this? How were the others doing?

Not as well, it turned out. Though all had lost more weight than I had by the one-year mark, most were experiencing weight gains within two years following surgery. Some had regained all or most of the weight they had lost post-procedure.

How could this be? Wasn't this the diet treatment to end all diets? With such a small stomach, how in the world could a person regain all that weight?

It's simple, really. Some of the most fattening foods melt. Chocolate, ice cream, pudding, cream pie, creamed soups, cheese … need I go on? Plus, the stomach has the ability to stretch; eating just a little more means stretching your "new" stomach to a larger capacity.

For those of you who have suffered a long time with obesity (especially if you were an overweight child) the comic strip cat, Garfield perhaps said it best, "The first word in 'diet' is DIE."

Dieting is deprivation. In many ways, gastric stapling is simply forced deprivation. Just as a thirsty man will drink, a "hungry" one will eat.

Oh … where is my weight today? Well, with the help of Xenical, I now weigh 191 pounds. Not too bad when you consider my friend has regained over 50 of the original 125 pounds she lost.

7 Best and Worst Frozen Entrees

If you are shivering in the aisles of the supermarket trying to decide what to buy for lunch or dinner we can help you make the right choices. If you are juggling family time and overtime chances are you are occasionally reaching for a frozen entrée. There are many choices in the market, but how do you select? Obviously taste is an important consideration for, but convenience, freshness, and availability of ethnic flavors are also factors. You probably do not realize that a recent poll conducted by Tupperware Corp. revealed that on an average trip to the supermarket, 94 percent of shoppers purchase frozen food, sometimes, with 30 percent always buying frozen food. That is reflected in the fact that the average American eats a frozen meal about six times each month. In another survey Americans listed frozen food products among the top three items, which they would least want to live without.WE recommend the following frozen entrées because they have less total fat, saturated fat, sodium and calories than the conventional frozen entrée.

7 Heavenly Choices from the Freezer Aisle
Recommendations based on entrées containing less than: 350 calories, 6 grams of fat and 800 mgs sodium

Frozen Entrée Calories Sat Fat (g) Fat (g) Sodium (mg)
Lean Cuisine Caf‚ Classic Chicken a la Orange 230 1 2 300
Weight Watchers Smart Ones Lemon Herb Chicken Picatta 210 1 2 550
Ethnic Gourmet Rice Bowl, Vegetarian Teriyaki 350 1 3 210
Weight Watchers Smart Ones Creamy Rigatoni w/Broccoli and Chicken 240 1 4 780
Healthy Choice Bowl, Southwestern Chicken and Pasta 320 2 4 350
Healthy Choice Bowl, Garlic Lemon Chicken w/Rice 300 2 4 400
Budget Gourmet Low Fat Angel Hair Pasta with Chunky Tomatoes in Meat Sauce 240 2 5 450

Freeze Out These entrées WE have selected the following as the worst entr‚e product lines because they are higher in total fat, saturated fat, sodium and calories than the healthier frozen entrée. You may pay a nutritional price for convenience but your waistline will thank you. Although we don?t recommend depriving yourself of an entrée you love. Instead of eating one of the higher fat meals alone, share it with a friend or loved one and add a nice big salad or bowl of vegetable soup.

7 Least Nutritious Choices in the Freezer Aisle Recommendations based on entrées containing more than: 750 calories, 35 grams of fat and 650 mgs sodium

Frozen Entrée Calories Sat Fat (g) Fat (g) Sodium (mg)
Stouffer?s French Bread Pizza with Sausage and Pepperoni 895 14 45 1720
Banquet Salisbury Steak, Extra Helping 890 N/A 58 685
Marie Callender?s Fettuccini Entr‚e, Alfredo with Bread 800 19 47 1270
Marie Callender?s Penne Pasta and Pepperoni 800 17 43 1780
Hungry Man Chicken Entr‚e, Fried 800 11 39 2380
Totino?s Pizza with Sausage and Pepperoni 769 9 41 2082
Stouffer?s Lasagna with Meat 767 13 30 2035

Balancing Act It is possible to eat well without cooking. If you don't want to work in the kitchen use our frozen food recommendations and pair them with a salad or steamed vegetables, serve fresh fruit for dessert.Unfortunately most frozen entrées, like fast food fare, are low in the vitamins and minerals naturally found in fresh fruits and vegetables. If you exist solely on convenience and fast foods you may shortchange your health.

Healthy eating with a frozen entrée can be achieved by adding one or more of the following to your meal: A salad with rich in color like dark-green and red lettuce varieties. Use bagged grated cabbage and broccoli for a quick coleslaw tossed with a light vinaigrette. Add color and nutrition to any meal by stocking your freezer with fresh and frozen vegetables, such as California, Italian Medley and Asian medleys or a Winter vegetable mix. Dress up a frozen entrée with seasonal fresh fruit, such as blueberries, strawberries, carrots, broccoli, spinach, and kiwi. Consider frozen or juice packed canned fruits, such as peaches and pears, when fresh fruit is limited.

Good health and good eating!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hearty and heart-freindly cooking is just a recipe away.

Chef With a Mission

What do you get when you mix the art of cooking with science? Answer: Tasty food that helps prevent heart disease.

Tasting some of Chef Jean-Marc Fullsack's food is like dining at a four-star restaurant-but leaving with your health still intact. "Creating food that tastes good, that makes people healthier at the same time, especially those with heart disease," says Jean-Marc, "is rewarding for me."

Jean-Marc is the executive chef for Dean Ornish, M.D., known for his studies in "reversing" heart disease through the lifestyle changes of a low-fat, whole food diet, stress management, exercise, and group support rather than conventional surgery and drugs. Before meeting Dr. Ornish, Jean-Marc apprenticed in the French countryside of Alsace, then honed his skills working in several prestigious restaurants across the U.S. "When I met Dr. Ornish, I was teaching low-fat cooking techniques at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and cooking low-fat, low-cholesterol meals at Cyril's, the Academy's health-conscious restaurant. Dr. Ornish said, 'Here is the diet we use in our lifestyle (change) research project.' Then he asked me to prepare his lunch based on the guidelines."

Shortly afterward, Jean-Marc began working full-time as the executive chef on Dr. Ornish's research project. Meeting with the research participants two times each week, Jean-Marc cooked and prepared "no-fat-added, whole food meals" for them. "To make it easy to follow the program, I made their lunches and dinners in boxes, with their names on the back," he explains. "I also worked closely with our nutritionist, modifying recipes when necessary to ensure the meals fit the nutritional guidelines (10% daily calories or less, from fat) of our research project."

Since then, he has also created "no-fat-added whole food" for thousands of heart patients who have attended Ornish retreats. In addition to creating and preparing healthful food, Jean-Marc has trained hospital chefs and food service managers from major medical centers who are offering Dr. Ornish's reversal program-he has even trained chefs from the White House.

Accompanied by top chefs Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys in San Francisco and Michael Delmonico of Club 21 in New York City, Jean-Marc and Dr. Ornish visited White House chefs on their own turf in Washington, D.C. to present low-fat cookery and meals to chefs and staff who serve the President. "Through our presentation, we demonstrated that it is possible to make low-fat food that is tasty, delicious and interesting," says Jean-Marc. "Later the President and his family ate the food we had presented earlier."

Today, Jean-Marc couldn't be more satisfied with his work. It's challenging and creative and ultimately helps people feel better. What makes him feel especially good about the food he creates? With a smile in his eyes, he says, "Probably cooking for the research participants for five years. If they still like you, that's a great compliment."

"No-Fat-Added" Ornish Diet

Dr. Ornish's "reversal" program includes a diet that is 10% (or less) calories from fat, stress management, exercise and group support. To follow the Ornish diet, eat lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans and peas, with not more than 1 to 2 cups nonfat dairy products daily. Optional: egg whites, tofu (not more than 11/2 cups/week-due to tofu's fat content), and nonfat hard cheese. Don't use any added fat or oil, and avoid caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee, tea, and colas. Alcohol, though not recommended, is limited to 2 ounces daily.

A word about's virtually impossible to consume a "no-fat diet." Eating a balanced, whole food-based diet means you'll obtain 10 percent or less of your daily fat calories from the naturally occurring fat in these foods. The key concept: The Ornish diet is a no-added-fat diet. To follow it successfully: Eat fresh whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes) in their natural state as often as possible. Don't prepare or eat foods with any additional fat (such as butter, margarine or lard) or liquid oils (such as canola, olive, or safflower).

Fat-Cutting Tips

To help you avoid added fat, here are some of Jean Marc's techniques for cooking the no-fat-added way.

1. Start Simply. Start preparing simple foods first, such as plain pasta with tomato sauce. Or try some easy salads or beans and lentils.

2. Modify Recipes. You can take any cookbook, use any recipe, as long as you keep the ingredients limited to vegetables, whole grains, beans and peas, and fruits with limited amounts of nonfat dairy products and egg whites. Use any recipe you like, as long as only these foods are included.

3. Keep Food Moist. The key is to keep food moist without adding fat. There's never really one fat substitute or one solution. Try a good vegetable stock, or nonfat sour cream. Or, try using fruit puree (such as applesauce) in your baking to keep food moist. What's important is the way you cook the food. Cook at a low heat, with a non-stick pan. Avoid reheating food in a high-heated oven. It'll make the moisture evaporate and dry out the food. And be sure not to overcook food.

4. Use Substitutes. Replace oil in dressing with vegetable stock, juice, or nonfat dairy products such as yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream or mayonnaise. Or flavor salads simply with sweet-tasting balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, or low-sodium soy sauce. Another tip: Try using these flavor enhancers as a marinade for roasted or grilled vegetables.

5. Buy Smart. The most important point is to start with the right ingredients. If you begin cooking with a poor quality product, you end up with a bad product no matter what. For instance, vegetables should be at their prime. Buy eggplant that is shiny; this shows they're fresh. Carrots, potatoes, or turnips have to be firm.

Rewards of a Research Participant

Reaping the rewards of Jean-Marc's culinary expertise is Hank Ginsberg, age 69, a participant in the Ornish research project. In 1983, at age 58, Hank had six-way bypass surgery. He also had high blood pressure, angina (chest) pains, adult-onset diabetes that required three shots of insulin daily, and he was overweight. "My body seemed like a (broken) cuckoo clock," he recalls. "All of a sudden the springs and everything went." Hank remembers his doctor's advice. "He told me to get away from the stress and lose weight." At the time of the bypass surgery, "he also told me to go home and take care of my insurance."

Like 40 million other Americans, Hank had followed a familiar path to cardiovascular disease. As a successful international investment banker, working long hours was typical, so was his high stress, exercise-free, high fat lifestyle. "I was time-urgent, always on the phone," recalls Ginsberg. With no time to exercise, "I ate what I thought was a normal diet: bacon and eggs for breakfast, perhaps a hamburger with dessert for lunch, and steak, chicken or lobster for dinner."

When Hank learned that Dr. Ornish was recruiting participants for his research program, he contacted him, and luckily, was placed in the treatment group. "I had had six-way bypass surgery, but within 31/2 years the arteries closed up again," he recalls. "My physician recommended another bypass, but instead, I chose to change my lifestyle and take control of my disease."

While in the research program, Hank complied completely with the new lifestyle. He ate the food prepared by chef Jean-Marc; avoided caffeine-containing beverages and alcohol; followed a stress management program that included yoga, meditation and breathing exercises; exercised by walking a minimum of an hour at least three times weekly; and he attended support meetings with the other research participants (and the project's health care professionals) every Tuesday and Thursday night.

Was it easy to change his lifestyle so completely? "During my time in the program, I complied 100 percent," he says. "I knew that following it was important not just for me, but for others. But afterward, when I started feeling better, I began to slip," he admits. "Then the angina came back. It didn't take long."

In the long-run, Hank realizes that maintaining his new lifestyle has been well worth the effort. Today Hank is diabetes- and insulin-free, his angina pains have stopped, some of his coronary blockages (plaque) have "reversed," his high blood pressure is normal (with the help of some medication), and he has lost weight-effortlessly. All this without additional bypass surgery.

Eating Out

Today Hank still enjoys good-tasting food, "but now I choose lots of whole foods and nonfat dairy products with absolutely no added fat," says Hank. And instead of drinking nine cups a day of caffeine-laden coffee, he chooses herbal tea or grain-based beverages, which are dark and full-flavored but caffeine-free. "I don't feel I've given up anything. That's important," he says. "I've learned to enjoy lots of different foods-Indian, Italian, Chinese."

Over time, he has learned a few tricks about eating healthfully in restaurants. "I go to restaurants that I like and begin by talking with the chef or cook," he explains. (Hank and his wife of 44 years, Phyllis, avoid doing this during peak dining hours when cooks are often too busy to talk or modify recipes.) "I have to be assertive sometimes and send the food back if I find fat in it," he says. "But often the cooks are able to make sauces and create meals with absolutely no added fat or oil." Mission accomplished.

Chef Jean-Marc's Pizza Primavera

Pizza Dough:
4 cups organic, unbleached flour
1 pkg. or 1 Tbs. active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Dilute yeast with 4 tsp. flour, honey and 11/2 cups warm water. Cover and let activate and foam for 30 minutes in a warm place.

2. Combine remaining ingredients and mix well for about 10 minutes until dough is homogenous; if dough is sticky, sprinkle a little more flour. Let rise, covered in a warm place until dough doubles in volume. Punch down and roll out to fit a 12 x 16" pizza pan.

Pizza Sauce; combine the following:
1 cup onion, oven-roasted and sliced
1 cup tomato puree
Salt (optional), sugar (pinch)
1 tsp. dried thyme, fresh basil, oregano, chopped garlic, black pepper (one of each)

1 zucchini, sliced 1/8" and blanched
1 yellow zucchini, sliced 1/8" and blanched
1 eggplant, sliced 1/8" and blanched
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/8"
1 tsp. fresh basil

1. Spread pizza sauce over uncooked pizza dough. Place layers of sliced vegetables and bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes until dough is golden brown.




Serves 4-6.


Hank's Quick-Fix Filled Tortillas

1 cup corn niblets, frozen or canned
1/2 cup your favorite salsa, or to taste
2 cups canned nonfat refried beans
2 cups brown rice, cooked
8 corn tortillas

1. Prepare the sauce by mixing the corn and salsa in a blender. Heat the beans and rice in a saucepan. Add the sauce. Stir. Place the corn tortilla in a heated pan. Heat one side, then the other. Remove from pan. Spread some nonfat sour cream on the tortilla. Add the bean, rice and salsa mix. Roll up the tortilla. Serve warm.




Serves 4.


Reverses Heart Disease with Diet

During the last two decades, pioneering physician Dean Ornish caught the world's attention when his studies showed that heart disease could be reversed-without drugs or surgery-through the comprehensive lifestyle changes of no-fat added whole food diet, stress management, exercise, and group support. He described the story behind his innovative research in his New York Times bestseller, Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease (Ivy Books, 1996), while his perceptions about intimacy and its link to health and illness are discussed in his latest book, Love and Survival (Harper Collins, 1998).

Today, Dr. Ornish is Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and President and Director of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute. Advantage 10&trademark; is his heart-healthy new line of foods, and Love and Survival is the subject of his PBS series, which airs throughout 1998. Dr. Ornish was recognized by Life magazine as one of the fifty most influential members of his generation.

Veggie Life recently caught up with Dr. Ornish at his office in Sausalito, CA. In addition to an overview of-and rationale for-his heart-healthy diet, Dr. Ornish also addresses some current controversies and criticisms surrounding healthful, optimal levels of dietary fat, carbohydrates, and protein.


Veggie Life: What foods are included in the reversal diet?

Dean Ornish: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. And we allow some egg whites or nonfat dairy products for those who prefer these foods. If you're eating a good variety of food, it works out to be about 10 percent fat, around 70 percent carbohydrate-predominantly complex carbohydrates-and the remaining 20 percent is protein.

VL: Why did you include dairy products in your diet?

DO: Because it makes it easier for people to stay on the diet. It's an adherence issue, but also because dairy food is a source of protein and calcium. At the time we began the program, many dietitians were concerned about those issues. Today there is very little evidence that nonfat dairy contributes to coronary heart disease. At the same time, the animal protein, casein, may be a factor in contributing to some forms of cancer, which is why we exclude it in the prostate cancer study we're now conducting. But even today, we include nonfat dairy for those people who want it as part of the heart disease reversal program.

VL: And nuts and seeds are omitted because...?

DO: They're high in fat. And we also exclude those few plant-based foods that are high in fat, whether it's seeds, nuts, oils of any kind, avocados, and so on. We've found that this is what it takes if you're trying to reverse heart disease.

VL: What was your rationale for the diet when you first started the program?

DO: It was a combination of animal data, epidemiological data, and anecdotal case reports from humans, indicating that in countries where a predominantly low-fat vegetarian diet is consumed, there is a fraction of the heart disease that we have in this country. When you put all the data together, it seemed to me that it would be worth conducting experiments to see whether heart disease might not only be preventable, but perhaps reversible by making much bigger changes-not only in diet, but also in other lifestyle factors.

The Complex Carbohydrate Controversy

VL: Why did you include dairy products in your diet?

DO: Because it makes it easier for people to stay on the diet. It's an adherence issue, but also because dairy food is a source of protein and calcium. At the time we began the program, many dietitians were concerned about those issues. Today there is very little evidence that nonfat dairy contributes to coronary heart disease. At the same time, the animal protein, casein, may be a factor in contributing to some forms of cancer, which is why we exclude it in the prostate cancer study we're now conducting. But even today, we include nonfat dairy for those people who want it as part of the heart disease reversal program.

VL: You mentioned that the reversal diet is predominantly complex carbohydrates, yet there recently has been much debate about the role carbohydrates play in our health. Please comment.

DO: I want to distinguish between complex carbohydrates and simple ones, because a number of books are coming out telling us that carbohydrates are bad for you, because they cause your blood sugar to spike. And when your blood sugar spikes, your pancreas makes insulin to bring your blood sugar back down, accelerating the conversion of calories into fat. It will also promote atherosclerosis. And many books are saying that all carbohydrates do this, so you should eat (predominantly high protein, high fat) foods that won't do this, such as bacon and sausage and hamburgers, and so forth, because they won't provoke an insulin response. But complex carbohydrates don't provoke an insulin response.

VL: Define complex vs. simple carbohydrates.

DO: Complex carbohydrates are fruits and vegetables and grains and beans in their natural form. And the fiber and the grain and the bran and the hull all act to slow the absorption of food. So rather than getting this rapid rise in blood sugar and insulin response and the negative effects that go with that, you get a slow, constant rise in blood sugar that gives you a constant source of energy throughout the day.

Simple carbohydrates include sugar in all its forms, such as honey, fructose, and also alcohol, because your body converts alcohol to sugar very quickly. And also foods like white flour and white rice, where you've refined away the fiber and the bran and the hull, which otherwise would slow the absorption. With these, you get the same rapid rise in blood sugar and the insulin response.

VL: How do people prone to heart disease benefit from consuming complex carbohydrates?

DO: First, they benefit because cholesterol is only found in animal products, which also tend to be high in both total fat and saturated fat, which your body converts to cholesterol. Whereas a plant-based diet, a vegetarian diet, has no cholesterol, and with the exception of nuts and seeds, tends to be low in total fat and in saturated fat. As a contrast, meat is high in oxidants that oxidize cholesterol into a form that makes it more likely to wind up in your arteries. But a plant-based diet helps prevent this from happening, because it is low in oxidants and high in antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C, and so on.

Rather than being controversial, we are learning that there are literally thousands of compounds that have been identified in the last few years-phytochemicals, bio-flavonoids, carotenoids, retinols, and so on, that have anti-heart disease, anti-cancer, and perhaps even anti-aging properties. And with few exceptions, these healing compounds are found in a plant-based diet.

The Fat Fight

VL: To reverse heart disease, you recommend that no fat be added to the diet. In essence, you're saying that a well-balanced, no-fat-added, plant-based diet provides approximately 10 percent of calories from fat. Depending on caloric intake, this translates into about 1 to 2 tablespoons of naturally occurring fat daily. Given your research and recommendations, what is your response to an article published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggesting that men who consumed a higher fat diet, which included artery-clogging saturated fat, are less likely than men on lower-fat diets to suffer a stroke?

DO: I think it's an unfortunate retro trend. A headline saying that high fat diets protect against stroke makes headlines around the world, but the net effect is that it causes many people to throw up their hands and say, 'These doctors, they can't make up their minds. To hell with them, just bring out the bacon and eggs and don't worry about it.'

This article about the inverse association of dietary fat with the development of stroke, which was published in the December 24, 1997 issue of JAMA, is seriously flawed. It's based on a single 24-hour dietary recall, which is notoriously unreliable. Large-scale epidemiological studies, animal studies, and clinical trials in humans all show a strong direct association of fat intake with coronary heart disease death.

The fact that the authors of the study did not detect the relationship of dietary fat to coronary heart disease only indicates how poor their dietary recall data must be. This is further evident in one chart in particular, which reports similar body mass index (BMI), cholesterol levels, and exercise, for those who consumed almost twice as many calories. Clearly these data are highly suspect.

VL: Another recent study, also published in JAMA, concluded that a fat-restricted diet can bring cholesterol levels down to health-harming levels. Yet you're a strong advocate of low cholesterol levels (around 150). Comment, please.

DO: The authors of this article write that 'agressive fat restriction compared with moderate fat restriction offers no further benefits... Yet they did not look at heart disease, only at changes in lipids. For instance, they measured HDL ("good" cholesterol) and LDL ("bad" cholesterol) levels. And what they found was that HDL levels go down in people who eat a vegetarian diet, which they concluded was harmful.

In our study, HDL decreased as well; yet by every measure, our research participants got better. The implications: We need to move beyond simplistic concepts such as the idea that LDL is bad and HDL is good. The HDL is designed to get rid of excess cholesterol, which usually occurs if a person is consuming a lot of fat and cholesterol, as most Americans do. But if you're not eating much fat and cholesterol, like the people in our program, there isn't much excess to get rid of. It's almost as though your body realizes it doesn't need to make as much HDL to get rid of the excess cholesterol, because there isn't much excess.

The Fat Facts

VL: Why can some people eat a high fat, high cholesterol diet and not get heart disease?

DO:The reason is not a mystery. Some people are genetically lucky; they have lots of LDL receptors, a protein on cells that binds to and removes cholesterol from your blood. On the other end of the spectrum are people who have heart disease or high cholesterol levels; in general they tend to have fewer receptors. In effect, they're eating more fat than their bodies can get rid of. This means that if you're not efficient at getting rid of fat and cholesterol, lowering your fat intake to 30 percent of calories, or your cholesterol to 200 or 300 mg/day (as is recommended by the American Heart Association) might slow down the progression, but it's not enough to stop it or reverse it.

VL: Does this mean that olive oil isn't heart-healthy?

DO: The olive oil lobby has done a tremendously successful job of convincing the public that olive oil is good for them. It's not; it's less harmful for you. But there's a big difference between less harmful and being beneficial.

Olive oil is 100 percent fat and 14 percent saturated fat. So for those who pour olive oil on their food or dip their bread in it thinking it's going to be good for their heart, in reality they're getting a lot of excess calories in terms of grams of fat, and a lot of saturated fat.

VL: So for people with diagnosed heart disease, you would still recommend a no-fat-added, plant-based diet?

DO:Yes. Every study that we've done has only provided additional evidence that these patients on average are getting better. And they get even better after a year than after a month. And even better after four years than after one year. As a contrast, the people who make the more moderate changes in their fat intake (lowering fat intake to 30 or 20 percent)...the majority of them get worse.

VL: Do you recommend any added oil or fat?

DO:If you're going to put oil on your pasta, or oil on anything, I would use flax seed oil. I recommend it because the omega-3 fatty acids (the "good" fat) in it seem to be able to reduce sudden cardiac death by 50 percent, in some studies. Unlike olive oil, which has virtually no omega-3 fatty acids, flax oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. I would also recommend substituting nonfat or low-fat soy milk for cow's milk.

Protein Possibilities

VL: Please comment about the role of protein in terms of heart disease.

DO: Soy protein is beneficial not only for people with heart disease, but because animal-based protein (dairy, fish, poultry, meat), independent of cholesterol, is linked with heart disease. Casein, is also linked with many of the more common forms of cancer. When rats with tumors growing are put on a low animal-protein diet, the tumors often shrink; put them back on the high animal-based protein diet, they'll grow again.

VL: Do you have any practical suggestions for including soy-based foods in our diet?

DO: If you have a bowl of cereal in the morning, include a cup of soy milk instead of putting in a cup of skim milk. Then you're getting a double benefit: you're not getting the animal protein that may create problems, and you're getting the soy protein that may be protective against cancer-particularly against breast, prostate, and colon cancer.

Bevy of Benefits

VL: If people follow your program, how long might it take before they see some changes in their lipid profile? Or in angina episodes?

DO: One of the reasons why patients have been able to make these changes, and paradoxically, why it's easier to make big changes than to make small ones-why it's easier to go on a diet such as ours instead of a 30 percent fat diet-is because you feel so much better-whether or not you have heart disease.

If you have heart disease, we found in the first two studies that the frequency of chest pain or angina fell by over 90 percent within a few weeks. And that's a powerful motivator for people; it reframes the reason for changing from fear of dying to joy of living. As a matter of fact, many patients have said that even if they knew they wouldn't live a day longer, they would still do this because they feel so much better.

VL: What is the key concept about health that you want us to know?

DO:People often have a hard time believing that these simple choices, such as choosing to be a vegetarian-can make such a powerful difference in their health, well-being, and survival, but they really do. Choices that you make every day, what you eat, the way you respond to stress, how much exercise you get, whether or not you smoke, and the quality of your social relationships, play a much more powerful determinant in your health and well-being than anything that I or any doctor can provide you.


Your body needs energy (calories), vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals (natural plant substances), antioxidants, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and fiber to be healthy. The Ornish Reversal Diet meets all of these requirements, as long as you eat a variety of -and enough-food each day from the food groups of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans and peas), and nonfat dairy products.



FRESH FRUIT (1-3 servings*/day)
Include color-dense fruit-such as kiwi and oranges-for antioxidants and phytochemicals.

FRESH VEGETABLES (4+ servings/day)
Include dark leafy greens for calcium and other vitamins and minerals.

WHOLE GRAINS (6+ servings/day)
Include multiple grain or whole grain bread.
Include servings of whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa.

BEANS or PEAS (2+ servings/day)
Include varied beans and peas-from lentils to garbanzos (chickpeas).


NONFAT DAIRY PRODUCTS (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, etc.)


EGG WHITES (1/day)

CHEESE, nonfat (1-2 slices; 1 ounce/slice)
* As a general guideline, 1/2 cup equals one serving size.


While supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet, "I think the state of the evidence is such that I recommend that most patients take the following supplements," says Dr. Ornish. The optimal dose for each person is determined by a three-day nutritional analysis that reveals the patient's dietary intake of various nutrients.

Daily Supplement Dosage

Flax seed oil 2-3 grams/day OR Flax seed, ground 1 1/2 tablespoons

Vitamin C 1-3 grams

Vitamin E 200-400 I.U.

Beta carotene 25,000 I.U. (15 mg.)

Folic acid 1 mg.

Selenium 200 mcg.

A good multivitamin (to ensure adequate B12)

Dietary LIMITS:

10 percent or less of daily calorie intake No "added" oils or fat
No nuts and seeds
No avocados, olives, or coconut products
Not more than 1 1/2 cups of

5-8 mg/day, from nonfat dairy products ONLY

Egg whites, as desired AND/OR nonfat dairy products.

Less than or equal to 2 grams/day
for those with heart failure, renal disease, and high blood pressure.

Not recommended, but may be
used in moderation; avoid artificial sweeteners.

Unrestricted, unless one has
high serum triglycerides, or is
obese or diabetic.

Not recommended that you start drinking wine. If you choose to
drink, the daily limit is:
1.5 oz. liquor
OR 1/2 cup wine
OR 12 ounces beer
Nonalcoholic wine and beer are not recommended.

wine or beer, the daily limit is 1 serving.

Not recommended;
should be avoided