Monthly Archives: February 2010

Diet Friday

Another week, another 0.5 lbs gone!

This week, I tried something new.  Most of my meals over the weekend were restaurant meals, and I basically ate whatever I wanted, with the exception of desserts.  Friday night’s dinner was a hangar steak served over polenta, Sunday brunch was a delicious chicken and spinach crepe, and it was all topped off on Sunday night with a delicious fried calamari.  Yum!  On Monday through Thursday, I ate 200 calorie meals every 2 hours.  That’s right, every 2 waking hours, for a total of 1600 calories per day!  I really expected to gain a bit.  As you know if you’ve been following this blog, I have failed to lose weight on 1200 calories per day.  So I was fairly certain that 1600 per day would send me over the edge.  I didn’t really put any restrictions on what I ate as long as it was 200 calories, although I tried to stay nutritionally balanced.  I ate lots of whole grains and very little processed sugar, although I did not count the sugar grams in regular foods.  At least one meal a day was a cup of plain yogurt sweetened with stevia and maybe a little fruit.  I did not count carbs at all.  My exercise level was the usual moderate; a few walks and a few sessions on the elliptical trainer.  I did set the elliptical trainer on the “total body workout” setting, which is a little more interval training.

It really is all in your head

I have been reading The Younger (Thinner) You Diet: How Understanding Your Brain Chemistry Can Help You Lose Weight, Reverse Aging, and Fight Disease by Eric R. Braverman .  According to Dr. Braverman,  when we have difficulty losing weight it is because our brain chemistry is imbalanced. He explains how different chemicals in the brain affect aging, weight gain and energy levels while outlining how different foods, spices and teas can help to bring these chemicals back into their proper balance.  Braverman discusses the brain chemicals dopamine, serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and acetylcholine and explains how imbalances can affect personality, weight management, food addiction and aging.

The book starts with a series of quizes designed to help the reader identify which brain chemicals they may be deficient in.  Dr. Braverman also has a modified version of theses quizes on his website to help you get started.  The diet itself is sensible and well-balanced, emphasizing lots of vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices.  I’ve been following some of the suggestions to boost up the nutritional value of my meals.  Braverman’s work on brain chemistry is interesting, and it extends way beyond dieting into overall health, well-being and aging.  It’s a good read even if you’re not dieting;  can’t we all use a little more balance in our brain chemistry?



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Study: High-fat diets raise stroke risk in women – Yahoo! News

Study: High-fat diets raise stroke risk in women – Yahoo! News.

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Interval training exercises could give people results in less time –

Interval training exercises could give people results in less time –

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The Amazing Power of Cheese

Some turn to prayer. Others turn to state-of-the-art medicine. Lindsey Vonn turned to the power of fromage.

The Olympic favorite has been wrapping her injured shin in an Austrian cheese — topfen — to reduce inflammation.

One former Olympic trainer wasn’t surprised.

“It’s not bizarre at all,” said Ralph Reiff, certified athletic trainer and director of Sports Medicine and Sports Performance for St. Vincent Hospital of Indianapolis, Indiana. “It’s just what athletes at that level do.”

Skier spreads cheese on leg to heal injury –

If that’s not enough of a reason to love cheese . . . here’s an even better one.  A recent study revealed that women who ate an ounce of full-fat cheese daily gained less weight over time than their peers who did not eat the cheese.  This aligns nicely with that whole “French paradox” theory, n’est-ce pas?  Here is a take on the study from Self magazine:

The big wheel

Who knew? Indulging in a little of this dairy dynamo can keep you slim. Here’s your guide to becoming a cheese whiz.

From the

December 2009 Issue

Holy cow! Women who ate an ounce of full-fat cheese daily gained fewer pounds over time than their less-cheesy peers, a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows. Whole dairy contains conjugated linoleic acid, which may stoke your metabolism. To get more waist-whittling power from your wedge, savor a single-ounce portion (about the size of your thumb) of one of these top picks daily.

Goat cheese

One ounce of this creamy choice contains 76 calories and 6 grams of fat (4 g saturated) and boasts 5 g of filling protein. It’s also a good source of copper, which keeps your immune system humming. Swap out mayo and smear goat cheese on a wrap or mix with chopped nuts and dried fruit for a filling toast topper.


At 111 calories per serving, it seems like a splurge, but Parmesan comes with loads of needed nutrients: A single ounce contains nearly as much bone-building calcium as a glass of milk and 10 g protein—more per ounce than chicken breast. Grate and sprinkle over a bowl of salad greens for a punch of flavor.


It’s easy to warm up to this classic queso: It gets perfectly gooey—not greasy—when heated and has 6 percent more calcium than American cheese. An extra sharp cheddar adds zing to favorite foods like tacos and veggie burgers.

Monterey Jack

Nosh on Monterey Jack and a piece of fruit for a salty-sweet balance of carbs, fiber, protein and fat that can tide you over until your next meal. In the mood for something spicy? Choose pepper Jack cheese, a twist on Monterey Jack that includes hot peppers such as jalepeños. Eat 1 ounce of either to secure about 20 percent of your daily requirement of calcium and 6 g protein for 110 calories.


Good news, lasagna lovers! Even full-fat ricotta is a low-cal wonder: It weighs in at a scant 49 calories and 4 g fat (2 g saturated) per ounce and has the lowest amount of sodium of any cheese out there. For a decadent-tasting dish, toss ricotta with pasta and fresh herbs or stir into jarred tomato sauce for an easy upgrade.


This mellow, firm cheese is versatile enough to go with most deli meats. One slice offers 21 percent of your daily requirement for calcium, along with other bone-building minerals phosphorus and selenium. Layer it on top of lean meat for 100 calories and 7 g fat (5 g saturated).


Net 22 percent of your daily calcium with one serving of this luscious pick. Mozzarella contains 85 calories and 6 g fat (4 g saturated) per ounce. It’s an ideal fit for omelets because it won’t overwhelm the mild flavor of eggs and meshes well with most vegetables. Cheese for breakfast? Yes, please!

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The Health Care Blog: No Country For Young Nurses

Do you think being a newly graduated nurse is the ticket to a new job?  Think again.  New grad nurses are having a hard time finding jobs in hospitals.  New grads generally need to start in hospitals to get their clinical “legs” in a supervised setting before they can work in more independent environments like Home Health or Case Management.  It seems the downturn in the economy eased up (at least temporarily) the talk about a nursing shortage in hospitals, as experienced nurses return to the hospital setting to offset the loss of a spouse’s income or to make up for the hit in the 401K.

The Health Care Blog: No Country For Young Nurses.

No Country For Young Nurses


Olgaheadshot1 The nursing profession takes a certain dedication to love. After all, most office jobs don’t involve standing for 12 hours at a time, scarfing a bite of lunch between “clients” or handling gallons of bodily fluids on a daily basis. But for years, nursing schools lured students with the promise that they would be snapped up by prestigious hospitals upon graduation, remunerated for their hard work with good pay and enviable job security.  

And they were right – until now, that is.

It’s a paradox straight out of “Freakonomics:”  Even though California still faces a shortage of nurses, up to 40 percent of nursing school graduates will be unable to find jobs, according to the California Institute for Nursing and Health Care.

The recession set off a domino effect that has caused California hospitals to virtually stop hiring newly-minted nurses. The Institute estimates only half as many nurses will be hired this year as in 2008.

It’s all thanks to Botox, healthcare reform and other people’s husbands.

Back from retirement

Nine years ago, a severe nursing shortage was giving policy-makers night sweats. In 2001, national vacancies in nursing reached 13 percent, and over 120,000 nursing positions went unfilled, according to a report by the American Hospital Association. The numbers were especially dire in California, and in 2005 the state began funding and aggressively promoting nurse education.

“With this new initiative we are going to improve the quality of health care everywhere in our state. We are going to provide more classes, more teachers and more resources to expand the ranks of nurses in California,” Governor Schwarzenegger said in a press release at the time.

It worked. California nursing schools saw enrollment rise by 70 percent over four years as the profession became increasingly touted as “recession-proof.”

But the recession found a way.

A funny thing happened when the economy began to crumble. Peter Buerhaus, a nursing expert at Vanderbilt University, found that an astounding number of experienced nurses left their non-hospital jobs to work in hospitals.

Though only about 60 percent of nursing jobs are in hospitals, recent nursing graduates often rely on resource-rich hospitals to provide them with the extensive training they need to be considered ready to work with patients. In addition to having the best training opportunities, hospitals also happen to have the best pay, the best benefits and the best shifts.

“In two years, hospital employment grew by 243,000. That’s a world record. That’s astounding,” he said. “People were coming in from all over. I mean, we’ve got nurses coming down from Uranus, from Pluto, waiting to get clearance to come down.”

As one of the perks, many hospitals give nurses the option of changing a standard full-time schedule to three 12-hour shifts per week, which allows some nurses to pick up a second job on their free days.

It’s a life-preserving strategy for when their spouses (70 percent of nurses have one) lose their jobs, as millions of Americans have since the recession hit.

Retired and part-time nurses all over the country have been returning to work full time when their spouses’ jobs were threatened, or eliminated. Faced with the option of hiring an experienced nurse or a novice who needs training, the choice for hospitals is clear.

Or as a Marina Del Rey hospital representative said, “We are not hiring new grads at all. With the employment market the way it is right now, we don’t have to.”

And nurses who were going to retire decided to stay put.

“The turnover is almost nil,” said UCLA nursing school Dean Suzette Cardin. “They’re just not leaving. Everyone’s afraid to leave.”

These older, returning nurses have crowded out novice nurses who need training. And they’ve done so in greater numbers in California, where the economy has tanked harder and where there tends to be more workers nearing retirement age.

“There may have been a bigger reservoir of older nurses that weren’t working in California,” Buerhaus said, “and you had a very strong reaction of nurses getting back in the labor market.”

Fewer implants, greater uncertainty

One of the first casualties of the recession was disposable income and all the luxury items – watches, cars, and errr…silicone – that it buys: Allergen saw sales of Botox and breast implants plummet in 2009.  

And as job loss led to health insurance loss, people were re-thinking not just nose jobs, but knee surgeries. 

The decline has led to less demand for nurse assistance during some procedures. “Elective surgeries are down, so patient days are down,” said Deloras Jones of the California Institute for Nursing and Healthcare.

On top of that, hospitals are reluctant to beef up their staffs while the healthcare debate rages on. Hire too many nurses now, and in a few months they might be stuck paying more in salaries while getting reimbursed less by insurance companies.

“Hospitals are uncertain about what their near-term future is,” Buerhaus said. “It’s taxes one day, payment reductions the next. Given that uncertainty, it’s slowing their employment decisions.”

Pumping a dry well

Taken together, these factors have shattered the popular narrative of nursing jobs that are easy to come by. Cedars-Sinai hospital cut their job openings for new grads from 250 last year to 100 this year. UCLA’s hospital typically has two new graduate intake sessions – one in the spring and one in the fall. This year, the spring session has been canceled.

“A lot of nurses have applied to the UCLA new grad program in August,” said Kathy Carder of the California Nurses Association. “But in the meantime, they’re wondering how they’re going to feed their families.”

It took Cedric Lara seven months and 40 applications to find a job after he graduated with an associate’s degree in nursing from Whittier’s Rio Hondo college in May 2009.

“When I was in school, I was looking at jobs and seeing the well dry up,” Lara said. “Even hospitals where I looked during clinical rotation – Kaiser, Downey Regional, Presbyterian – by the time I graduated, they had hiring freezes.”

In Northern California, the prospects are even worse. Jessica Martin graduated with a master’s degree in nursing from the University of San Francisco in December, and she said just six of the 25 people in her cohort have gotten jobs so far. Those who have relied mainly on personal connections.

“It was pretty misleading,” she said. “The people that graduated before me were getting jobs easily, and people were recruiting them. But then I graduated, and there’s nothing.”

Martin is hoping for an operating-room job, but so far the only hospitals admitting new grads are those like Stanford, where there are 600 applicants for three to six open positions.  

“I’m sending my resume out into the ether, and nothing is coming of it,” she said. “It’s fairly hopeless right now.”

For some, hope lies in less sought-after jobs outside of hospitals and doctors’ offices.  

“Before, a new grad had 20 offers, but this is forcing them to seek other opportunities than what they thought,” said Kathy Lopez of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses. “Some students may have to start in a convalescent home, or maybe doing flu clinics.”

Some, like Martin, are looking out of state. Her student loans are coming due, and the alternative is moving back in with her parents.

“I’m 28 years old and I might be financially dependent again,” she said. “I’m trying not be be bitter and angry about it, it just takes time.”

Ironically, California is still projected to have a nursing shortage in 2020, especially since the older nurses are likely to swiftly re-retire after the economy rebounds.  

Until that time comes, however, a pool of cash-strapped nursing school grads wait with increasing frustration. Healthcare experts hope they don’t give up before the recession does.

“We’ve been working hard to build our capacity, and we’re worried that if new grads can’t find jobs, we’ll lose the gains we’ve made,” Jones said. “Because if they leave California, they may not come back.”

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Diet Friday

This week I had the most weight loss . . . 1 pound . . . of any in my 7-week dieting journey.  Here’s the kicker; this week I wasn’t dieting.

When friends invited us to their home for lunch after church on Sunday, I certainly wasn’t going to pass up homemade fried chicken, cornbread served fresh and hot from the cast iron skillet, potato salad, sugary baked beans and greens.  And what was the secret ingredient that made that cornbread so yummy?  Our hostess gave us her Grandma’s secret ingredient:  a cup of white sugar.

On Wednesday, I really wanted sugar and scrounged around the pantry until I found some leftover Halloween candy.  Five pieces of Laffy Taffy and three Twizzlers later, She Who Will Not Be Denied was happy.  Very happy.  (Laffy Taffy, by the way, IS my drug of choice.  Particularly the banana flavor).

My 6-week journey with the BFC is over.  Although it’s not the right plan for me, I will be taking away some valuable lessons:

  • I will be much more aware of my sugar intake.  While I may not be 100% sugar-free,  I will definitely be limiting my intake.  When I do have sugar, it will be an informed decision.
  • I will completely avoid high-fructose corn syrup
  • I will use artifical sweeteners sparingly
  • Avoiding insulin spikes and maintaining a stable blood sugar is important for appetite control

The other valuable take-away is that this experience has spurred me into exhaustive and confusing comprehensive and intriguing research into diets, weight loss and the $60 Billion-per-year weight loss industry.  In the past month,  I have read over 30 weight loss and diet books, re-visited some old theories, and lurked on internet sites to read about tales of real people who have lost lots of weight on various diets, only to gain it all back and more.   In future posts I will share with you some reviews of my readings.  I will start by sharing this study:

  • Medicare’s Search for Effective Obesity Treatments: Diets Are Not the Answer (PDF) by Traci Mann et al, published in the April 2007 issue of American Psychologist.
  • In the studies reviewed here, dieters were not able to

    maintain their weight losses in the long term, and there was

    not consistent evidence that the diets resulted in significant

    improvements in their health. In the few cases in which

    health benefits were shown, it could not be demonstrated

    that they resulted from dieting, rather than exercise, medication

    use, or other lifestyle changes. It appears that dieters

    who manage to sustain a weight loss are the rare exception,

    rather than the rule. Dieters who gain back more weight

    than they lost may very well be the norm, rather than an

    unlucky minority. If Medicare is to fund an obesity treatment,

    it must lead to sustained improvements in weight and

    health for the majority of individuals. It seems clear to us that dieting does not.

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    Diet Friday

    I’m going to just jump right in and get the hard part over with.  I did not lose any weight this week.  To answer your next question, no , I did not cheat or otherwise veer from the charted course.  I’m not sure what else to tell you.  Even if I had not been strictly on plan, I technically should have lost just on the virtue of the decreased calorie count.  So, I’ve been good and still haven’t lost weight.  Life isn’t fair.  Life can be rough . . . get a manicure and a good helmet and get over it.

    On the plus side, I have lost an inch off of my waist.  Yay!  And today, just when I was starting to get the teensiest bit discouraged, someone I hadn’t seen in a month asked me if I had lost weight.  (And she doesn’t follow my blog, so she didn’t know I was dieting!)

    This week, on his Facebook page, Jorge Cruise launched a new program for women over 40.   Many of the BFC women over 40 are complaining that they have been on this program faithfully for over a month and haven’t lost anything.  I give Jorge lots of credit for listening and responding.  He posted a “No Fail Menu” for women over 40 and asked women to follow the program EXACTLY for 7 days without exception.  I downloaded the menu and while I have no doubt that women WiLL lose weight on this program, it is VERY MUCH a DIET.  It is very restrictive and somewhat along the lines of South Beach.  Sorry, but this is Valentine’s Day weekend and I have no intention of taking Draconian measures this week, thank you very much.  But it is refreshing that he actually listened and took seriously the woes of the over-40 female dieter.  I’m just trying SO hard not to go on a serious diet.  If you’re interested you can download a copy of the 7-day plan on his website:

    In the meantime, I have been doing mega-research on hormonal balance, the endocrine system, insulin levels and weight.  My UPS man either loves me (for keeping UPS in business) or hates me (because he stops here daily) due to my frequent Amazon book purchases. 

    I’ll probably be tweaking my plan a bit soon.  I’ll keep you posted on what I have learned and what does and doesn’t work for me . . . the cliched over-40 female dieter!

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