The Business of Thin

The Business of Thin is everywhere.  Its strategy is to keep us fearful and confused.   The “Queen” of commercialized thin is Weight Watchers, the “mother” of all weight loss services.  If we succumb to her siren call, we will buy and eat highly processed food that makes us fat, and scramble for weight loss services to make us –only temporarily- thin.  Processed foods, limited exercise, and mindless eating keeps us enslaved.

Is there something better in life than losing and gaining the same forty pounds twenty times?  There is!  Lifelong weight maintenance is possible through adopting a personal practice of weekly weighing, gentle calorie counting, and a whole foods based diet with self-monitoring guided by mindfulness.

Locations moving to supermarkets

Weight Watchers – Now OPRAH owns 10% of the company, so you can lighten your wallet and make her richer!!

The “collateral damage” related to the business of thin has resulted in food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders, discrimination and poor health.  Few of us are at peace with our bodies.  We’re no closer to solving the obesity crisis in this country since it has multi-factorial causes and conditions.  If we focus on “going on a diet”, we shortcut the dialog needed to permanently change our disordered eating culture.

Learning the truth about food marketing helps us understand that Weight Watchers – formerly a food company subsidiary of HJ Heinz – is only interested in our money, not our well-being.  Weight Watchers knows that few Americans can resist the seduction of fat, salt, and sugar –the key ingredients in their food products.  Food marketers can only survive by getting us to eat more food; how can a commercial weight loss organization that acts like a food company help us?  Here’s the truth about the business of thin:

Food and Nutrition Gifts 2016

Happy Holidays!  If you’re like me, finding great food and nutrition tools is something special. Food and nutrition gifts are great for friends, family members, and for yourself!  Here are FIVE ideas to help make your healthy gift giving effortless! (disclaimer:  I receive no compensation from any of these products or services).

  1. A Great Cookbook.  Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair is my favorite cookbook!  I make dishes for myself, my family, even as gifts for clients.  Recently redone, it is full of great recipes, gorgeous pictures, and useful information to support your healthy eating goals.  You can purchase a copy on Amazon.
  2. A Great Meditation App. Mindfulness practices help with weight loss, and promote weight management.  This is because stress releases glucose into our bloodstream, making cravings for sugar and “comfort” foods irresistible. That is why all of my clients have a stress management plan along with a food plan.  My favorite app: Headspace. They call it “a gym membership for your mind.”  Oh, yes, it is! Again, I use it myself, recommend it to my clients, and share it with my students at Arizona State University. http://headspace.com.  Want some free guided practices?  Here you go – password is mindful.  Have fun!
  3. A Great Yoga Training Opportunity. Yes, it’s out of town (for Arizonans) and yes, it’s winter, but I can’t think of a better treat than a workshop in Seattle at my home yoga studio, Taj Yoga. Under the direction of the amazing Theresa Elliott, who trained teachers (including myself) for over fifteen years, before it became cool to be a yoga teacher.  Theresa is offering a special four day workshop for yoga teachers and serious students on how to access the Parasympathetic nervous system through “slow motion vinyasa, wide-brain stationary balance poses, and seated kinetic meditation.” So cool!  I’ll be there, and I’m gifting the workshop to my son, Melvin.  Come join us – late January in Seattle? Not to be missed! Check out this video of a Yoga Dance performance, under Theresa’s direction which I promise will knock your socks off! You’re welcome!!
  4. A Great Kitchen Gadget. So all my clients love Zoodles – those zucchini noodles that you can eat a pile of and not consume more than 20 calories.  I’m not convinced, since I’d rather have no pasta than substitute pasta.  But hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!  This spiralizer kit is on my list for Santa.  I think you’ll like it, too!
  5. A Great Small, Safe, Yoga Class.  For the bendy and not so bendy alike, I offer a small, safe, therapeutic yoga class on Saturday mornings from 9AM-10:15AM.  We work with the nervous system in ways that promote relaxation and ease.  Perfect for those with no or limited yoga experience, injuries, or trauma histories.  Do you know that yoga is medically indicated for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, as well as 100 other medical conditions? Join us!

Need a great dietitian?  Contact me for a complimentary consultation.  With nearly 30 years experience helping people of all ages lose weight, improve medical conditions, and reduce stress, I’m looking forward to working with you.  It matters to me that you feel better.  And, Happy New Year 2017!!

Four Steps to Weight Loss

Do you crave pizza when you are stressed? It's likely a learned behavior.

Do you crave pizza when you are stressed? It’s likely a learned behavior.

My holiday gift to you is support for your weight loss goals. Here are four steps to weight loss: Awareness, Rules, Structure, and Peacefulness.

Eating, and liking certain foods are learned behaviors.  As omnivores, we eat different foods based on our learning.  This means that our preferences for certain kinds of foods developed over time and become habits.  Some of us think we are “addicted” to different foods like sugar, or even fatty foods.  Research tells us that we may have preferences for sugary foods (and who doesn’t??) but these preferences are actually learned behaviors.  Since they are learned behaviors, we actually can end overeating in four steps.  

Healthy Holiday Swaps

Have a healthy holiday season this year! The holiday season is all about family and food – and Photo-2-centerall too often, adding a few extra pounds to our waistlines. Try these healthy holiday swaps for your favorite meals.

Stay active! Increase your physical activity during the holiday season by going for a walk after each meal or gathering. Shooting hoops, jumping rope or playing catch are also good family/group activities.

Baking Swaps

  • Instead of butter, substitute equal parts cinnamon-flavored, no-sugar-added applesauce.
  • Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.
  • Instead of whole or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or skim milk.  You can also swap for any plant based milk (no cholesterol or saturated fat).
  • Instead of using only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.
  • Instead of adding chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.
  • Use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor instead of sugar or butter.

Cooking Swaps

  • Use vegetable oils such as olive oil instead of butter.
  • Use herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to flavor dishes instead of butter and salt.
  • Use whole-grain breads and pastas instead of white.
  • Bake, grill or steam vegetables instead of frying.
  • Instead of whole milk or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or fat-free/skim milk or any plant based (soy, almond, rice, hemp) milk.


  • Instead of alcohol in mixed drinks, use club soda.
  • Instead of adding sugar to mixed drinks, mix 100-percent juice with water or use freshly squeezed juice, like lime.
  • Instead of using heavy cream or whole milk in dairy-based drinks, use low-fat or skim milk.
  • Instead of using sugar to sweeten cider, use spices and fruit, like cinnamon, cloves and cranberries.

Healthy and Mindful Holiday Baking

The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family and friends. Unfortunately, for many it also

Use fresh fruit to "healthify" your holiday baked goods

Use fresh fruit to “healthify” your holiday baked goods

becomes a time for over-eating and weight gain. According to the National Institutes of Health, holiday eating can result in an extra pound or two every year, which can really add up over a lifetime. The holidays don’t have to be equated with weight gain if we focus on a healthy balance of food, activity, and fun to stay healthy through the holiday season.

Traditions that define most family celebrations include food, drink, and sweets. If keeping your waistline in check has become a goal, indulging your sweet tooth without drowning in calories is possible. By using seasonal and fresh ingredients, minimizing butter, reducing sugar, upgrading recipes with fiber-rich whole grain flour, and using nuts creatively for added crunch and healthy fat, you can cook like a pro and please even the most discriminating family member or guest.

Here are some tips for making favorite recipes healthier:

Your Healthy Microbiome

Anti Inflammatory Foods

Choose these foods to keep healthy and encourage the development of a robust microbiome

Have you heard about your microbiome? The trillions of microorganisms living in our bodies are called the microbiome. These helpful bugs are key to our overall health.  They help us digest our food, and provide critical nutrients , train our immune systems, turn genes on and off, keep our gut tissue healthy, help protect us from diabetes, and even cancer.  Other studies show that they play a role in obesity, atherosclerosis, autimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver disease.

Sugar Is The New Smoking

Sugar is an amazing substance.

Sugar Like Smoking?

Sugar Like Smoking?

It is pure sensation, pleasure in a crystalline form.  We share as humans a desire for its innate sweetness, which begins at mother’s breast.  This taste of milk sugars is the fuel that energizes all of life – white gold – pure carbohydrate energy that moves our bodies.  The calories in a cup of breast milk are nearly 40% from sugar in the form of lactose. The deep and primal appeal of sugar is one of the reasons that sugar and sugar-filled foods are now among the most popular and commonly chosen edibles.  In the past, sugar was expensive and rare, and consumption was limited to the wealthy and was reserved for the end of a meal.  Now sugar is cheap and abundant, with manufactured sugars infused in nearly every packaged product sold in supermarkets.

Good in Moderation?

Like many dietitians and nutrition experts, I used to recommend that sugar be eaten in moderation.  Now, I’ve changed my tune.  Due to the ever present presence of sugar in our lives, and because of the insidious way Big Sugar (The National Sugar Association, a sugar lobbying organization) conspired to manipulate scientific studies about sugar’s harmful effects, I now say avoid added sugars.  PERIOD.

Sugar is in everything

Added to nearly every packaged product and deliberately concealed by food manufacturers through its 56 different names, one cannot avoid eating added sugars.  We have a long love affair with sugar, which is one reason why it is so hard to resist.  The other reason is because it is hidden.  In food as well as through deliberate concealment.  More than 75% of the added sugar we eat is in food products, meaning that packaged food is by far and above the problem with our excessive sugar intake.

The National Sugar Association and Deliberate Concealment

Beginning in the 1960’s, the National Sugar Association made sure that consumers wouldn’t learn about the harm that excess sugar caused.  They paid off prominent scientific researchers from Harvard University to turn attention away from sugar causing health problems, pointing the finger in many instances towards fat.  You can read the scientific study here.  For a brilliant editorial from one of my heroes, Marion Nestle, you can read her post from Food Politics. Dr. Nestle is an expert on the politics that affect some of the more unhealthy foods like soda, and how our own health interests are routinely thwarted by Big Food.  I share her conclusion:  “we would all be better eating less sugary foods and fatty meats.”  Simple nutrition, expert advice.

Here is the Truth About Sugar

A recent study in a prominent scientific journal concluded that a high intake of added sugars increases the risk of weight gain, excess body weight and obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus; higher serum triglycerides and high blood cholesterol; higher blood pressure and hypertension; stroke; coronary heart disease; cancer; and dental caries. Foods higher in added sugars are often a source of empty calories with minimum essential nutrients or dietary fiber which displaces more healthful foods and lead, in turn, to simultaneously overfed and undernourished individuals.  Meaning, we are fatter and less healthy.

The Worst Offenders With Added Sugar

We all know that sugar is in soda, fizzy drinks, and cakes and cookies.  But do you know about the worst offenders?

  • Salad Dressings
  • Soups and Sauces
  • Breakfast Smoothies
  • Breakfast Bars and Yogurt
  • Bread
  • Alcohol

If you want to avoid diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other considerable health risks, stop blaming your genetics, and take charge of your eating.  Once you know the truth about sugar, you can make a choice to change.  It truly is up to each one of us to act as our own health advocate.  Remember, Big Sugar is not your friend.  In fact, the food industry acts just like Big Tobacco, and they market to us in just the same way.  I think we all know how this story will end – in perhaps 10 or 20 years, following innumerable suffering and death, added sugars will be banned, or at least revealed for the health problem they are – and sugar will be considered as unhealthy as smoking.

Should We Put Obese Kids On A Diet?

Help your kids feel great in their bodies by encouraging healthful exercise!

Help your kids feel great in their bodies by encouraging healthful exercise!  (Source: UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.)

I get calls from parents all the time interested in hiring me to help put their obese kids on a diet.  My approach has always been and continues to be encouraging family education and health changes.  Overweight and obese kids raise alarm bells.  It is as if we cannot notice our own problems so we over focus on our kids. Some parents are not interested in this “family first” approach even when they are overweight.  Rather, the child becomes the “identified patient” in the family where parental issues with food, eating and body weight roll onto the child.  What do other experts in the field recommend?

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a Canadian obesity researcher and physician writes the amazing Weighty Matters blog.  He wrote in 2010 about treating children for obesity and his concerns include damaging the child’s self-esteem and body image.  Imagine what it feels like for a child who needs an entire team of adult experts. Doctors and dietitians who are by their actions sending this message: “kid, you’re so fat you need a village to help you.”

My own observation working with kids under age 10 and shared by Dr. Freedhoff is they lack the sufficient emotional and cognitive developmental tool set to understand treatment and make independent changes.  Writes Dr. Freedhoff: “the cause of obese kids are parents who have enabled the behaviors that led their kids to need help in the first place.  The second big issue is the all-encompassing food environment in which we all live.”

Case in point:  ME.

As a young single mother of an overweight child, I had my own issues with food, eating and nourishment.  In particular, I loved to eat sweets, cool and creamy foods when under stress.  Oh, and I was under stress all the time! It was the 90’s and we were all obsessed with fat.  So, thinking I was a good mom worried about my kid’s weight, I overfed my son highly processed “fat free” foods that were loaded with sugar, artificial ingredients like dyes and “natural” flavors.  Things like Fruit Rollups, Juice Boxes, Snackwell’s Cookies.  From birth, my son was 99th percentile for weight and 25th percentile for height, which I now know might be due to my own poor eating habits while pregnant.  When my son was 5, I remarried an amazing man who had a history of healthy eating. Living in the San Francisco Bay area, we chose an alternative practitioner to help us (and my son) with his severe behavioral issues diagnosed as ADHD.  Her cornerstone of treatment were dietary changes:  more protein in the morning for breakfast versus a bowl of cereal and fat-free milk and juice, the elimination of all cow’s milk dairy products, artificial ingredients and dyes, and the wider reliance on whole, fresh foods.  Lots of plants.  Lots of real food. No cake or candy at school, no soda, no juice boxes.  And guess what?  I had to change too.  The family got on the plan together, we began building healthy breakfast, lunches and dinners and learning more about food and nourishment.  The interdisciplinary approach became a family team approach, and we worked on environmental issues (school birthday parties, time with friends) together.  While other little boys were going on Ritalin, our son was drinking homemade dairy free vegetarian protein smoothies.  His behavior transformed in front of our eyes and his excess weight melted away.  Here is what he is up to today.

Let’s face it – our experience is not usual.  Most adults have trouble with nutritional compliance and struggle with the change process required to lose weight.  It is hard work!

If you are worried about your kid’s weight, address your own weight first – or as a family together.  Here are some ideas for how to celebrate Childhood Obesity Awareness Month:

  • Talk with your child’s school about introducing or enhancing nutritional education. Focus on “energy balance” (calories in) and encourage them to spread this approach throughout the curriculum.
  • Demand that your schools post calories on menus.
  • Get rid of the highly processed garbage that schools make available, or worse yet, sell to raise money inside your child’s school.
  • Encourage mandatory cooking courses for kids which parents can attend.
  • Advocate for your children’s health by encouraging elected officials to ban all advertising targeting children.
  • Require and insist that restaurants post calories for all menu items, especially restaurants that claim to be healthy (are you listening, Flower Child??).
  • Encourage healthy activity, focusing on joy, not competition.
  • If your young adult child is in college, have them take my course, Sustainable Living and Mindful Eating (SWU 351).  Offered on the ground and online through Arizona State University, students are experiencing transformational growth in their relationship with food, eating, stress management and sustainability.  Or, buy the book and read it together as a family!

Let me know if I can help.  Your health, and your children’s future depend upon this investment of time.  Aren’t they worth it?  Aren’t you?

Dog Training and Weight Loss

Five things that dog training taught me about weight loss…

Dog Training and Weight Loss

Dog Training and Weight Loss

  1.  Dog training is not about the dog.  It is about the human.  Dogs don’t need to be trained, we humans do!  As we worked with our great dog trainer, we practiced, practiced, practiced.  We bought special supplies, made sure we had the right equipment on hand, and did our assigned homework.  Every day.  It was the most important thing in our life, since we were interested in supporting our dog’s change process.  Dogs learn well – so do humans.  We can absolutely lose weight if we make sure we have the right equipment on hand, do our homework assigned by our human weight loss “trainer” (contact me for a quote), buy special supplies of food, and practice, practice practice. Losing weight is learned behavior.  We absolutely can be trained!
  2. Dog training works best if you don’t use food as a reward.  Dogs can learn things in the short term with treats; long term we create food motivated monsters!  Never use food as a reward.  For us, that is obvious.  Think of all the times we say, “I had a hard day, I deserve a treat.”  Hmmmm. Sounds like we are creating a monster?  Anyone know this one?

    Dog Training and Weight Loss

    Dog Training and Weight Loss

  3. Dog training is about practice, practice, practice.  Learning new skills requires repetition.  We are animals, just like dogs.   We require repetition in order to learn new skills.  Want to lose weight?  Give yourself every opportunity to practice your new skills.  For example, our dog trainer had us do two sessions every day, twenty minutes each, for each dog.  That was four twenty minute sessions every day for two months.  WHEW!  After two months, what did we get?  Perfect dogs!  Was it the trainer, the training, or the dog?  Or the combination?  It was amazing to get such great results.  Want to lose weight?  How about two sessions a day, 20 minutes every day of practice?  Making new, fresh, healthy food.  Shopping for food. Researching recipes.  Healthful restaurants.  Walking.  Practice, practice, practice!
  4. Dog training is about calm, assertive energy.  There is no room in dog training for fear, violence, or aggression.  This just produces fearful or aggressive dogs.  Calm and assertive energy creates respect and adoration.  After two months, our dogs (who were pretty good to begin with) ADORE US.  They listen, they are well behaved, and do great on leash (most of the time!)  Losing weight is also about calm, assertive energy.  Calmness and mindfulness inspire regulated blood sugar, and promote digestion and ease.  Assertion is necessary when confronted with those people, places and things that sabotage our progress.  Be a food whisperer!!
  5. Dog training is about forgiveness. 
    Dog Training - and Weight Loss - is about Forgiveness

    Dog Training – and Weight Loss – is about Forgiveness

    Forget about all the things that your dog did wrong.  It doesn’t matter, since every walk, every training activity, every day with your dog is a new one.  Does your dog chase bunnies? Forget it, forgive your dog, and move on.  Don’t flinch every time you see a bunny!  Just use your calm, assertive energy and move forward. Losing weight is about forgiveness, too.  Sustainable weight loss takes time, patience and practice.  We will succeed only if we can find the capacity to forgive ourselves for each slip, lapse of judgment, or any time we turn toward food and away from ourselves.  Be dog like.  Forgive, learn, and move on.

    Need a weight whisperer to help you on your journey?  Contact me.  With nearly 30 years experience helping people of all ages lose weight and improve health, I know what works.  I can’t wait to hear from you!

Sustainable Living and Mindful Eating

Sustainable Living and Mindful Eating is the name of the course I am teaching at Arizona State University.   I wrote the book and it is currently available from the publisher.

The book that is inspiring a movement!

The book that is Inspiring a movement!

Based on scientific nutrition information, students are learning about the industrialized food system, highly processed foods and their effect on our brains, moods, and appetites.  They hear from local and national experts generously speaking about how our food system works.  Last semester, they learned about CAFO’s and how animal protein is raised in this country.  Do YOU know that 98% of all animal protein consumed in this country comes from a CAFO, where animals live and die in misery?  My students didn’t know that either.  They learn how to put together three days of healthy meals on a budget.  Some students ate for $1.45 a meal!


Comments from students on Sustainable Living and Mindful Eating:

Life changing learning.  Judge for yourself.

“Research studies quoted by guest speakers are interesting, especially the connection between recovery time and a plant based diet.”

“I really want to inspire my dad to move towards plant based eating because of his disease.”

“I think that plant based eating program for diabetic patients is astounding.”

“It is very encouraging to hear from a Physician Assistant that a plant-based diet actually can heal your body.”

“I learned how changing your diet can help prevent diseases.”

In addition to learning about the benefits of a mostly plant based diet, they learned how their moods affect their eating.  They learned the practice of Mindful Eating, and how to establish a mindfulness practice.  Some comments:

“Whenever I have a busy day and don’t stop to take a break to eat, I overeat at night.  I get to a point of being too hungry that I indulge when I finally get the chance.”

“Sometimes I feel that I need to have something sweet to eat every day.”

“I need to pay attention to my mindful eating so I don’t feel that its ok because it can count as my carbs.  I choose to pay more attention to this habit.”

“Whenever I make pasta I make the entire box, so I can have leftovers.  Well, instead of spacing out my meals over the next few days I tend to eat the pasta:  breakfast, lunch and dinner until its gone.  I also don’t always add sides to the bowls of pasta, so it is straight pasta!  It is a really bad habit!!”

It is truly life changing to notice how habits affect your eating.  This can help you improve your health, and even lose weight!  You may not be able to take the course, but you can buy the book.  Contact me for more information.