Dec 27
George Carlin was never bleeped for using the four-letter word, “diet," but maybe everyone else who uses it on TV should be--like television networks and magazines. They seem to love the word because they know it will grab the attention of people looking for a quick fix. They sure grabbed me for years.
I wish there was a quick fix for weight loss. Lord knows! I wasted a ton of money and time on products and plans that claimed they were the answer to my weight problem.
All that excess weight didn’t jump onto my body. It took time for all those extra calories to amass themselves into 340 pounds. The pounds didn’t go on overnight. And deep down, I knew they weren’t coming off overnight, either.
Damn them.
Webster’s Dictionary defines dieting as “a means to eat or cause to eat or drink less or according to a prescribed rule.” Whose rule? And why do so many think they have the answer to a problem so many are trying to solve?
I didn’t want one of those plans that delivered food to my door. I knew I needed to teach myself how to make good choices at the grocery store, bring it home and then learn how to prepare it in a healthy way. I needed to teach myself how to consume correct proportions and then how to work-off the calories I had just eaten.
I knew what needed to be done and knew I probably needed some advice to come up with a game plan. So, I read many books and found a lot of good ideas. I would follow one diet plan until I reached a plateau and then I’d go in search of another diet guru and then add their sage advice on top of the advice I had already put into practice.
Bit-by-bit I began to formulate a new way of approaching food and learning how to peacefully coexist with my former demons. My bookshelves are filled with dozens of different points of view, all of which helped me reach my goal weight.
Here are a few books you might want to check out to get started:
Joy Bauer – Joy’s LIFE Diet: Four Steps to Thin Forever – It is filled with wonderful recipes. Her approach to eating healthy really paid off for me by teaching me the right portions and sensible foods I should be eating. This book offers great fitness and exercise regimens to go along with a new attitude toward food.
Suzanne Somers — Eat, Cheat, and Melt the Fat Away — I lost my first 100 pounds using her plan as a guide to eating and exercising when I was trying to get a handle of what I needed to do to create a brand new lifestyle. Somers also focuses on achieving hormonal balance while trying to eat healthier.
Bob Greene — Bob Greene’s Total Body Makeover — He clearly specifies how losing weight has just as much to do with your mind as it does with your body. Greene’s 12-week plan includes exercising and eating habits that can become a lifestyle, not just a short-lived diet.
Jorge Cruise — The 3-Hour Diet — This plan made me realize food is fuel for your body and that you need to fashion your eating plan so that your body runs efficiently. Cruise emphasizes that your body should be fed in three-hour intervals throughout the day to control your blood sugar and therefore, your appetite.
Lisa Griffis is a regular columnist for ShareWiK.com. Visit her web site at lisagriffis.com

Jan 09

My friends and family call me "amped up." I'm the restless type—always going, doing and moving. I have a hard time sitting still, taking it easy and relaxing. So it's no real surprise that since high school I've dealt with sleep issues.

For me, and probably a lot of people like me, laying down in bed for the night is my mind's first time to stop. And that's when we start recounting our day, thinking of the things we forgot to do, things we have to remember tomorrow, and conduct an internal debriefing session. 

My inability to wind-down quickly made me nervous about sleep in general. "Will I sleep tonight?" "I hope I feel rested for my big day tomorrow!" "Is there something WRONG with me?" were questions that nervously bounced about in my head.

It wasn't until recently that I started to get a handle on my sleep issues. I realized that sleep is a very complex thing, and that instinctually, many things have to be perfectly in place for a refreshing night of sleep. In the wild, sleep makes us vulnerable and risks death, so it's no surprise that stress would cause our instincts to prevent sleep.

I had taken Ambien on occasion, before those "big days" when sleep was critical. It worked well, but I didn't like the idea of taking medicine for my sleep problem nightly. It felt like treating the symptom, but not the problem.

A good friend recommended a naturopathic doctor, and a natural approach to my sleep habits. I figured a natural approach couldn't hurt—the worst that could happen is it wouldn't work. I'm not into new-agey, herbally, witch doctory stuff at all. But, what I heard from my friend is that this doctor LISTENED, and approached your problems holistically and attempted to get to the core of the problem.

I was surprised when my first assignment, before any tests or bloodwork, was an analysis of my diet. My naturopath stopped dead in her tracks when she saw "Pop Tart" listed two days for breakfast. 

"You MUST eat protein for breakfast. And NO sugar!" I was surprised! Everything that's quick and easy for breakfast is either sugary or made with processed flour. What she explained is that the first order of business in correcting my sleep problem was starting the day with protein, and breaking the sugar cycle.

My test results later confirmed what she had suspected. Around midday, my sugar came to a crash. And so did my energy, my good neurotransmitters, and my ability to focus. She was right in hypothesizing that my energy plummet caused me to re-amp with caffeine, sugar and other unsavory things.

I noticed immediate improvements when I began my mornings with eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt. I had so much more energy in the morning, and became more tired in the evening. And while I was probably consuming more fat in the morning, I found I was more regular, became more trim and more focused.

It is still a challenge to find quick, high-protein morning meals, I'll be honest. But after a few months of being fairly rigid, I broke my routine and had pancakes for breakfast, and actually felt woozy by about 11:00. She was really on to something!

Bottom line? If you want to sleep better, you have to start with breakfast!

Feb 15
Just in time for official start to “Diet Season,” NBC launched its ninth season of the “Biggest Loser” by bringing in a contestant that weighted 526 pounds--its heaviest contestant to date.  
I confess the show is an inspiration to me.  I regularly follow the contestants, wishing I could spend three months on a ranch with all the tools that are made available to the show’s contestants: Great trainers and endless time to spend in a well-equipped gym that doesn’t resemble rush hour for jocks.  Wow, that would be a real joy!  Just once, I would love to see a double-digit weight loss in my own life after an intense week of working out.  But in the real world that doesn’t happen.
What the program does show us is that season after season, the age-old theory of calories in and calories out works.
Which is why I was disappointed to learn Jillian Michael, the relentless trainer on the show, has joined the diet pill pushers with a new line of her own. I thought she was one of the good guys who believed that hard work and calorie counting was the way to lose weight.  But I guess just espousing that ideology wasn’t making her enough money.
Along with all the newest gadgets and plans that surface are the reports touting the latest findings on this or that.
Here are two that caught my eye:
•   A published study in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association revealed that food at popular chain restaurants and in the frozen food aisles have as much as 20% more calories than advertised. The report was featured in a “Today Show” segment and their experts revealed this skewed calorie count could lead to a 30 to 40 pound weight gain.   
•   At the University of Southern California lab, scientists are developing wearable wireless sensors to monitor the workouts and eating habits of overweight people.  The Associated Press reported the experimental devices are designed to keep track of how many minutes they worked out and how much food they consumed.  It even sensed if they were eating at a fast-food joint.  The goal, according to the scientists, is to cut down on self-reported answers that often cover up or lie about what's really happening.
I know I should tune out the hip but the truth is, knowledge is power. The fact that diet meals aren’t really diet meals is a good thing to know. The knowledge that they are developing a GPS tracking system for fat people is interesting, though also a bit disconcerting.
It’s so hard to separate fact from fiction about what to do to lose weight.  We all want to believe it’s as easy as the popping the newest diet pill.  Deep down we know—or we should know—it’s all a matter of math: calories in and calories out.  I just wish researchers and trained professionals would put the time and energy into more sensible ways of teaching people that you are what you eat and getting regular exercise is the way to a longer and healthier life.
But I guess that’s too simple of a concept to put into a headline during diet season and not a good enough moneymaker.

 Lisa Griffis has lost over 185 pounds through diet, exercise and sheer determination.  She is a member of the TODAY show's “Joy Fit Club” and a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. Visit her website at lisagriffis.com.

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©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010
Mar 14

Once upon a time, I dreamed of going to a place where the blue sea united with the blue sky—both so grand the two blended into each other in blissful harmony.


Long ago, I saw a place like that in a photograph of the Greek Isles. From that moment on, that picture became the image of my youthful fantasy to see the world.


But I allowed life to put obstacles in my way. My weight blossomed to 340 pounds and hindered me from living my life to the fullest. The person who dreamed of the place where the sea kissed the sky was too heavy to take the journey of her dreams.


Determination turned my cumbersome existence around. I took one step at a time, first dramatically changing my diet, then moving my butt, exercising. When I first began, I couldn't even walk a mile. Even still, I believed I had the power within me to turn my life around to start making my dream to travel to the Greek Isles come true.


It took me five years, but I lost 185 pounds. I know I am not where I need to be yet, but the road ahead of is much less than the one behind me.


My determined steps led me to being much healthier and far more agile. A celebration was in order for the “normal-sized” me, a chance to acknowledge my escape from my life-long burden of being obese.


Turning 50 was my most recent crossroad. To mark this milestone birthday, I headed to the place of my childhood dreams to see the blue sea kiss the blue sky.


Mesmerized by its beauty, I spent hours gazing at the serenity I had always longed to experience. I was overwhelmed with the realization that wishes can come true if you believe in yourself and dare to make your desires become a reality.


For me, Santorini, Greece is the most beautiful spot on earth--a place where the blue sea kisses the blue sky and dreams come true.


Lisa Griffis lost 185 pounds through diet, exercise and sheer determination.  To find out more about Lisa, visit her blog at www.lisagriffis.com.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com contributor.  

More Lisa Griffis articles, click here.

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May 09

I was tired of looking the way I did. I was carrying 340 pounds on my 5’2” frame. 


According to the body mass index, I would have to grow three-feet to justify all the extra weight I was hauling around.


I wanted to be “normal-sized” for the first time in my life. 


One of the first things I learned is that the average person faced over 200 food choices a day. That wasn’t a surprise to me. My obesity was a tribute to the fact I had made millions of crappy food decisions over the years.


If you were trying to lose weight, it would be a simple choice to make. But for me, who was trying to find comfort from my stressful day, it wasn’t simple. 


So, I began putting healthy things in my lunch box like spinach salads with grilled chicken or hummus with cherry tomatoes, or a container of my wickedly hot turkey chili. 


I started to really love the way the good food made me feel, less sluggish and ready to take on what the world had in store for me.


After several months, the simple steps of eating better and walking were making a small dent in my mountain of extra weight. I had lost around 25 pounds in the first three months. Gone were the four fat-laden food groups from my childhood like butter, chips, ice cream and chocolate. I was becoming more aware of a balanced-food world. Hello! Baked chicken in the correct portion size with a small salad and dressing on the side. I began to take to heart what the books were telling me about proper portion size. 


I even bought a food scale and began to use it on a daily basis. I would measure the chicken to make sure that I learned what a proper portion should be. 



The Land-Of-Plenty had skewed my vision to what was a normal portion. Super-sizing was a way of life for me but had to change along with what I was putting on my plate. I took a week and ate nothing but Lean Cuisines to teach myself what a 300-calorie meal meant. I learned to drink water to fill the void of being hungry and to chew sugarless gum to take my mind off of my growling stomach. 


A TV news story about how shopping the perimeters of the grocery store—where the fresh food and produce are normally sold—was a good way to fight the temptation to buy unhealthy food. That seemed like a good game plan to me. 


“The middle aisles are just bad for your mid-section,” became my new motto. The only problem with this theory was a store’s bakery is normally located on the outer rim. To fight the temptation of the “Cookie Monster,” I learned to employ the bakery dash: every time I would smell bread baking I would speed up my pace and look away from what was in the display cases. I reasoned if it doesn’t go into my cart it wouldn’t end up on my hips. 


By reading food labels, I learned where I had been making some of my worst food decisions, like products with too much salt and hidden fats, all foods that could sabotage my diet. 


I grew up watching the television program, “The Beverly Hillbillies.” I learned from Jethro, the oldest son of the Clampett’s that I should use the largest bowl in the kitchen to eat my cereal every morning. One box would last me only a few days. After I started reading labels, I learned that cereal boxes contained more than two weeks worth of full breakfast bowls in one box. Who knew? 


I then began to realize that if I couldn’t eat the right portion of a certain food, it was time to rid my pantry of that item. 


Eliminating some food choices was a good thing for me. Out went jars of peanut butter, Life breakfast cereal, Cheetos and mint-chip ice cream—all things I could never seem to eat the correct portions of to maintain my proper calorie intake. 


Instead, I began setting time aside each week to chop, cook and portion out my vegetable rich meals with small portions of protein. I had to make food that was convenient for my busy weeks. 


Still there were moments when I was stressed out or just plain hungry that I would raid the refrigerator or pantry for a treat. I had learned what a proper portion was but when these moments of weakness hit, a box of cookies disappeared in one sitting. 


So I added another rule: if it’s not in the house, you aren’t going to be tempted. So I cleaned out my food pantry and refrigerator, eliminating every item—not just some—I knew were not part of my healthy eating program. 


No more kidding myself I had the self-control to resist.


Tips to follow for the new you: 


Tip 1: Make a grocery list and stick to it. Plan out your meals and snacks. 


Tip 2: Read food labels. Take the time to realize what is in the food you are eating and make wise choices at the market. 


Tip 3: Buy organic produce and products. 


Tip 4: Prepare foods yourself. You can control what goes into everything you make. No hidden ingredients or fats.


Tip 5: Learn to taste and enjoy your food. You are eating less but that doesn’t mean you have to diminish the pleasure. 


Tip 6: Pack your lunch; it is less tempting to go off your plan. 


Tip 7: Find a few low calorie treats that you enjoy, like sugar-free gum and Jell-O. They have fewer calories and can help you overcome the feeling that you need to eat something sweet. 


Tip 8: Introduce a new vegetable or fruit into your repertory. Since most of your diet should consist of these items, mix it up to make it more interesting. 


Tip 9: Learn portion control. Vegetables should be about half of your meal with protein and starches equally filling in the rest of your plate. 


Tip 10: We all need our treats. But start to purchase them one at a time. Buy the single candy bar or buy a single cookie and then savor it. Eat it slowly, enjoying each bite. 


Tip 11: Pinpoint your weaknesses and start to overcome them, be it time of day, stress triggers or love of chocolate and ask yourself if it is really worth the extra calories. 


Tip 12: Catch yourself when you are overeating. Acknowledge it and learn from it and then put the fork down.


Lisa Griffis lost 185 pounds through diet, exercise and sheer determination.  To find out more about Lisa, visit her blog at www.lisagriffis.com.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com contributor.  

More Lisa Griffis articles, click here.

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© ShareWiK Media Group, LLC 2009

Feeling bloated? Cranky? Experiencing sleeplessness? It could be pre-menstrual syndrome, or PMS. You can thank the monthly drop in estrogen and progesterone that precedes our periods for all these fun symptoms that often disrupt our lives. These declines create a domino effect that results in a yet another temporary drop in levels of the “feel-good” hormone serotonin as well as endorphins. In addition to feeling irritable, depressed, and tired, you can also feel bloated, dizzy or experience breast tenderness.  These bothersome symptoms can last anywhere from three to 14 days. While that may sound unpleasant, there are actually many things women can do to lessen – or even alleviate – PMS symptoms.
Some herbal and nutritional supplements can help lessen PMS symptoms. Chaste tree berry, calcium, vitamin B6, vitamin E and magnesium have all been shown to minimize symptoms. Be sure to check with your physician before adding any supplements to your diet.
Simply avoiding certain foods such as sugar, salt and caffeine can help with bloating, irritability, anxiety and depression associated with PMS. And really good news: Chocolate can help! Chocolate has natural mood-boosting endorphins. Dark chocolate offers the most health benefits since it also contains magnesium, mood-boosting omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and contains less sugar, and no milk. Look for chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao to experience the maximum benefits.
And, of course, moderate exercise (like walking 30 minutes a day) and stress management have all been shown to be effective tools in reducing the symptoms of PMS.  Both can help decrease feelings of anxiety and depression while increasing mood-boosting endorphins. You will also feel more centered and experience a positive sense of well-being. And, if you don’t, eat some dark chocolate!

Dr. Elizabeth Ricanati is the mother of three children and founding Medical Director of The Cleveland Clinic's LifeStyle 180 program.  She is a regular columnist for ShareWIK.com
More Dr. Elizabeth Ricanati articles, click here.

 ©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

I have never shied away from a challenge. Well, that is not exactly true. I did turn down participating in the Iditarod. Even though I keep better in the cold, frostbitten is not my color. I cited religious reasons for not going out with a man who had a third nipple and I stopped eating a whole pizza with extra cheese and pepperoni at one sitting when I realized that going to work in one’s bathrobe was not acceptable business attire. But neither were trousers that you could not zip up.

About three weeks ago, I foolishly posted on Facebook that I could probably go vegan for a week. When the pressure from others commenting on my declaration became too great, I convinced a blogging friend to go vegan with me for a week. I doubted I could go into the world of veganism by myself. So veggie burgers and beans here we come. 

Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry. Vegans take it a notch higher. Not only don’t they eat meat, fish or poultry, they do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products.

Okay, I am already in trouble. I can do all of that (I might be wearing plastic bags as sandals) but the elimination of my cosmetics might scare an organic bunch of carrots to death. I think I am going “lean into veganism” with a little eye shadow and lip gloss. But I will investigate cosmetics and soaps that are not derived from our four legged friends.  I think I already use some items that would make a vegan proud.

One thing that did surprise me is that going vegan does not mean you have to fill up on sprouts and seaweed. You could, but you can add peanut butter, pasta, fruit, good old beans, popcorn and a lot more. And the dishes don’t look like all brown and nasty. Spices can go a long way to make it look, smell and taste great – repeat after me.

Tofu takes on the taste of anything you cook with it, so I am going to try chocolate tofu with broccoli and cashews.  First I have to find some vegan chocolate. And I will be searching high and low for vegan-friendly wine that compliments seitan, quinoa, or tempeh.

On a serious note, I have been reading up on the subject of veganism and, although I have heard about the horrors the animals go through just to make it to our dinner tables, reading it again with a slightly different mindset just breaks my heart. I look at my animals (six rescued cats and a yellow lab) and think if anyone ever hurt them they would have deal with me before I would call the authorities. So how can I care so deeply for my little furry family and keep this form of animal torture and killing going?

I don’t think I can.

Now, will I change completely in a week? Doubt it, but I am going to try my best to end the slaughter and torture of animals that would have ended up in my grocery cart.

And I just found out that there is vegan Nutella!

For more information, check out Kathy Freston’s book “Veganist.” She provides an uncomplicated read and enough info to help you take some steps towards giving up meat and eating food in a more compassionate way. Here is her site: Kathy Freston And oddly enough, she is really quite striking, but I don’t hate her for that.  

Elizabeth Cassidy is a creativity coach for artists and writers and is a faculty member of the Art League of Long Island. Elizabeth showers her clients with support, motivation and dark chocolate when needed.  Her two websites are My Views from the Edge and Coaching for the Creative Soul. She is a national blogger for Skirt! and GalTime and interviews artists and writers for the Glen Cove Patch. She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 To read other columns by Elizabeth Cassidy, click here.

 ©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


A sudden phone call about the death of a loved one or other upsetting news can be shocking enough to one’s system, but for an individual with Crohn’s disease, it can be debilitating.


Crohn’s disease is a chronic illness that results from an inflammation of the end of the small intestine known as the ileum, and the beginning of the large intestine, known as the colon. Those with a higher risk for the disease tend to range in age from 15-35, with a family history, predominantly whites, Jews of Ashkenazic descent, cigarette smokers, and those living urban areas and northern climates. 


The symptoms, which are extremely uncomfortable and painful, may vary widely but can include gas, bloating, abdominal cramps, persistent diarrhea, fever, and in some cases, rectal bleeding. Since the symptoms mimic other intestinal and digestive conditions, it often can take time to diagnose it correctly.


To further complicate matters, the symptoms can severely limit your activities and even when you’re in a period of remission, you may worry considerably about a flare-up.  Such worrying can cause you to experience a whole range of emotions from anxiety and self-consciousness to fear and depression.


Another factor to be considered is diet.  Certain foods and beverages can aggravate your symptoms and can reactivate your disease.  When the disease is active, the absorption of nutrients may be compromised.  That is why it’s important to develop good eating habits especially in times of remission, so that the lost nutrients can be recovered.


While much research has been done, there is no definitive answer regarding the cause or the cure for this disease. Therefore, it is essential to educate yourself about all the aspects of it so you can most effectively manage it.


Utilizing a mind-body approach is crucial in order to successfully take charge of your disease.



Take the case of my client, Donna, who had come into treatment to cope with her Crohn’s disease.  A 32-year-old married mother of a three-year-old son, Donna was a sales representative for a medical supplies company.  With a genetic predisposition to Crohn’s disease, (her father and paternal grandfather have it), Donna had been dealing with her medical condition since her early twenties. 


Since beginning treatment she had only two flare ups that lasted four or five days.  She reported having severe diarrhea, abdominal cramps and could eat very little.  She constantly worried about traveling for work and pleasure, always needing to be cognizant of where the bathrooms were whenever she ventured out in public. 


The idea of a recurrence both terrified her and made her extremely anxious.  Knowing that it could happen at any time, she needed to prepare herself as much as possible, even traveling with extra clothing just in case.


We had done a lot of work on examining her diet.  I had her keep a food journal in order to create a list of foods that triggered her disease.  She began to experiment with different foods once she had a period of remission. For example, she discovered that while she couldn’t eat raw fruits and vegetables, she was able to tolerate them by boiling or steaming them.  She realized that she needed to be cautious about her protein sources and ate mostly chicken and fish.  While she ate few dairy products, she found that using Lactaid tablets before helped her digestion. 


Things were going well as we began working on different relaxation techniques to help quell her fears and anxieties.  Practicing these techniques, Donna reported feeling calmer and less worried about a recurrence of her disease.  She began to think more positively about the future and became more active.


Then came the call that would test our work…


Donna was religiously punctual for her Wednesday 3 p.m. therapy appointments, so it concerned me that not only did she miss her appointment, but she also didn’t call or respond to any of my messages.  Three days later she phoned from her hospital bed apologizing and explaining that a call that her brother had been killed suddenly in a tragic car accident led to a bad flair up of her Crohn’s disease. 


She was consumed by fear and anxiety once again.  While in the hospital I suggested that she ask her husband to bring her iPod so she could listen to her relaxation techniques. I thought it which would remind her of how much they helped during her times of remission and would also provide her with a tool that she knew worked during this healing process.


A week later we resumed our work.  Donna was distraught over her brother’s untimely death.  In addition, she felt anxious and depressed feeling as though all the progress we had made was pointless and that she was back at Square One.  Her diet was now very limited and many foods she was able to eat before, she now had trouble tolerating. She worried about how she would do her job, be a good mother and wife, not to mention, grieve over her brother’s death.


Encouraging her to adopt a more positive, proactive, “one day at a time” approach, I reminded her that she had to take charge of things she could control.  She agreed that the relaxation techniques helped in the hospital and she was continuing to practice them.  We worked on ways of reframing all the negative messages she was giving herself into positive ones by having her focus on the things she was able to do and foods she could eat instead of dwelling on her limitations. 


I had her write affirmations about healing on post-its and put them around her home and at her desk at work.  The goal was to reaffirm daily that she was in a healing process and would get better as she had in the past.  Of course, the anti-inflammatory medications and other drugs were another crucial part of the healing.


Although Donna had many friends and a husband in whom she could confide, I recommended she join a grief support group to further cope with her brother’s loss.  We needed to keep our focus on getting her disease under control as well as working through the grief.


Over the next several months, Donna was back to her “normal baseline,” eating a wider variety of foods, back to exercise, and more convinced than ever that she could successfully manage her disease best by using a comprehensive mind-body approach. 


She also realized the benefit of support groups thanks to the grief group she attended.  As a result, she decided to build up her support network around her Crohn’s disease.  She discovered that the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America had an Atlanta chapter and she began meeting other people who provided her with emotional support, valuable information, and most of all, hope.


Finally, her tool kit was full. She finally felt confident that she could cope with and take charge of whatever her Crohn’s disease dealt her. 


Allyn St. Lifer has been a therapist in private practice for over 30 years and specializes in teaching clients mindful eating to determine physical hunger and the point of satisfaction.  She is the founder and director of Slimworks, a mind/body, non-diet approach for managing weight and transforming one’s relationship with food, body and self.  To find out more about Allyn, please visit her website: www.slimworks.com.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 


Read other Allyn St. Lifer columns here


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC





Glamour Magazine recently published a column: “Jess Weiner’s Weight Struggle: ‘Loving My Body Almost Killed Me.’” Jessica Weiner is DOVE’s Self-Esteem Ambassador, and an impressive speaker, author and “actionist” on issues of self-acceptance. As a large woman who recovered from anorexia and promotes self-love, Jess has been a role model for the size acceptance movement, as well as a lightening rod.  

Two years ago, a woman in Jess’s audience asked how Jess could love her body since she was “obese!” Jess replied, “My body is none of your business!”  But the confrontation apparently broke through Jessica’s denial about her health and resulted in huge changes in the way she was living. Today she discusses those changes  as she always has, with courage and in a public forum.  


In the article, Weiner admits that she, like many overweight women, had avoided the doctor for years. Sparked by new concern, she saw a physician and discovered her cholesterol and blood sugar levels needed improvement.  As a result, she changed her approach to eating and began moving more and lost 30 pounds over 18 months.  Her blood sugar and cholesterol improved, and she reported feeling better. In the article she also told of her desire to lose about 30 more pounds. 

This has brought a firestorm reaction from people in the recovery movement who worry that Jessica’s focus on weight loss indicates a relapse of anorexia rather than a new-found healthy orientation. Some in the “Health at Every Size” movement even feel betrayed by her focus on the scale.

Jess, I am thrilled that you are eating healthier, exercising and feeling better in your body.  You have always been an inspiration to those who need to give up abusive self-talk. Now, in the next stage of recovery you will be an inspiration to women who have been similarly neglecting their health.

And, in fact I think you will reach more people than ever. It can be confusing for people to hear an overweight person say, “I’ve recovered from my eating disorder” if it appears they don’t have a healthy relationship with food or their body. Now you’ll speak from a place of greater “integration” – where mind, heart and body are in synch! 

A different way to conceptualize “loving your body”:

When I work with folks who are binge eaters and loathe their bodies, I explain that they need to start from a place of self love. Like the woman in Jess’s audience, they ask:“How can I love my body when it is obese?”

I explain that loving your body does not mean simply giving it everything and anything that it wants.  Loving your body means accepting your body as it is, but it also requires giving your body what it needs to thrive.

One of the easiest ways to think of this is to love your body like you imagine an ideal parent might love a child.  If you’ve got kids, this new mindset is easy to understand. A child needs a complete breakfast to face the day. That child might ask for Coke and donuts for breakfast.  Because she loves her child, an ideal parent would comfortably say “no” and offer a healthier choice.

If you’ve been feeding yourself a diet you wouldn’t imagine feeding a child you love, then therapy can help you unravel the origins of this self-neglect (masquerading as self-indulgence). You may be treating yourself the way you were treated growing up.

·      Did your parents feed you unhealthy food, with no structure or limits?

·      Did you witness a parent struggling with chronic dieting or binge eating? 

·      Were your parents restrictive or over-controlling about food (“Your sister’s skinny so she can have ice cream, but you don’t need that…”). 

Any of these scenarios can lead to an adulthood that turns into one long rebellion-fueled, free-for-all.  “No one’s going to tell me what to eat!”

So the task is to learn to feed yourself the way you wish your parents had fed you.   

Sometimes “No” is the most loving thing you can say

My client Jennifer is a compulsive shopper, smoker, Mountain Dew addict, binge eater, and purger.  Planning her wedding, she’d like to eliminate these addictions before she becomes a wife and mother.  “But I’m afraid I can’t handle my awful feelings if I don’t engage in my addictions!”

Later in that conversation, we were talking about saying, “No” to her future kids. “What if we’re in a store,” she asked, “and my kid wants something I don’t want her to have and she throws a tantrum?”  “Well, you lovingly stick with your NO and leave the store!”  Her fear of dealing with an unhappy child was identical to her fear about facing her own negative feelings. Because she doesn’t believe she can survive the tantrum, she indulges her inner kid with more clothes, a cigarette, a binge.  

The way to raise an emotionally healthy kid is to provide “Love and Limits.” So if you feel yucky (but you’re not hungry) and your inner kid says, “I want ice cream!” just say, “Well, your tummy isn’t hungry, so let’s see if there’s something else you might be feeling.” 

In the Glamour article, Jess admits that she “started seeing a therapist to work on the emotional baggage I carry and how it plays a part in the way I turn to food for solace, not nutrition.”  This is the hidden gem in the article. The primary task of parenting (just like therapy) is not to make your kid (or yourself) feel good all the time. It’s to develop Emotional Intelligence: the ability to identify feelings and the capacity to cope with, manage and express them in healthy ways.  

Jess, your Emotional Intelligence came shining through in yesterday’s Facebook post: “Wow - what a brutal and brilliant week. I feel like I've grown leaps and bounds…XO.”  To share your struggles in the public eye, to endure the critics and to find the gift in the negativity shows tremendous resilience. By bravely and openly exploring and sharing this new phase of your health journey, your heart, your body (and your fans) will thank you! 

Dina Zeckhausen is a nationally-known clinical psychologist and author who specializes in treating eating disorders and body image in both adults and adolescents. She is a weekly columnist for ShareWiK.com. You can visit her on the web at dinazeckhausen.com and MyEdin.org.


More Dina Zeckhausen articles, click here.


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



Nov 28

Unfortunately, many people who suffer from Crohn’s disease also have to cope with some form of diabetes.  The long-term use of oral corticosteroids, like prednisone, as a treatment for Crohn’s disease has been linked with both steroid- induced and Type 2 diabetes.  For this reason, among many others, most physicians counsel against the long-term use of steroids for the treatment of Crohn’s. 

Realistically, however, steroids are often an unavoidable necessary evil in the medical arsenal of a Crohn’s patient.  My own mother has had to use varying doses of prednisone to manage her battle with Crohn’s for over 30 years now.  Similarly, my late maternal grandmother was on prednisone for over 20 years and developed Type 2 diabetes late in her life.  Remembering her struggle with Crohn’s and diabetes, I know how challenging it is to live with multiple chronic illnesses. 

As an initial matter, and depending on whether your diabetes is steroid-induced and your type of Crohn’s disease, you may want to consult your physician about whether you can take budesonide as an alternative to prednisone.  Budesonide oral, i.e., brand name Entocort, is a non-systemic steroid that does not usually cause the laundry list of side effects associated with prednisone. 

I took Entocort for approximately one year, and it did not cause my face to get that swollen, puffy look that I get when I’m on high doses of prednisone.  Nor did it disrupt my sleep like prednisone does.  Budesonide is prescribed for Crohn’s disease of the ileum, or the final section of the small intestine, and the ascending colon. 

If your Crohn’s disease does not occur in the lower small intestine and/or the first part of the large intestine, then budesonide will not work for you.  However, if your disease is active in these areas, and you’re taking prednisone and struggling with diabetic issues, then Entocort may be a viable alternative to prednisone for you. 


Regardless of your type of diabetes, planning a diet to manage both Crohn’s and diabetes can be a real conundrum.  On the Crohn’s front, high fiber foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain breads can be a digestive nightmare.  Moreover, Crohn’s patients often suffer from various nutritional deficiencies due to the malabsorption of food.  On the diabetic side, a proper diet helps a patient to maintain stable glucose levels.  The same complex carbohydrates, i.e., fresh fruits and vegetables, that are problematic for Crohn’s patients are recommended for diabetics.  

So how do you split the baby?

·      Eat smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day.  I call them my “mini meals.”  This is both easier for digestion and maintaining stable blood glucose levels.  I try to incorporate protein into each meal and keep my carbohydrate levels consistent throughout the day.  Boil a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week for readily accessible snacks.

·      Avoid alcohol.  In keeping with my earlier column, “One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila, FLARE,” consuming alcoholic beverages may trigger Crohn’s symptoms and cause your blood sugar to rise.  Skip the vodka tonic and sip sparkling water with lime instead.

·      Avoid foods high in saturated fat.  Like alcohol, foods high in saturated fat are difficult to digest and may trigger Crohn’s symptoms.  Moreover, patients with diabetes have a higher risk of developing heart disease, so lowering the intake of certain fatty foods will help your gut and your heart.

·      Cook your vegetables and peel your fruit.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are a staple in a healthy diet, but they are often not well tolerated by Crohn’s patients.  In my own experience, I can still eat cooked vegetables, like spinach, or peeled fruit, like bananas, when I’m experiencing a flare-up, but I steer clear of broccoli or fruits with small seeds like strawberries.

·      Try a high performance blender like a Vitamix.  While I do not own a Vitamix, I have a friend with Crohn’s who swears by hers.  She has been on a liquid diet for an extended period of time, and she makes nutritionally dense smoothies with fresh fruits and vegetables.  The recipe for a kale and apple smoothie is surprisingly delicious.


What about you?  Do you have any insights on how to simultaneously manage Crohn’s disease and diabetes?  I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. 


A former Duke-educated attorney, Jena Reger shares her roller coaster ride with Crohn's disease.  She hangs on with irreverence, compassion, and a lot of hope. She is a regular columnist for  ShareWiK.com.  You can visit her on the Web at www.jenareger.com.


 Read other Jen Reger columns here


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC
Jan 06

I am not fat.  I am not horribly overweight.  But I could use to lose 10 pounds.  Again.  I lost it the first time when I went off to college.  Ten pounds seemed to just melt off.  I was emptying my student checking account at the local boutiques so I did not have enough money for food…but I looked good.

I lost that 10 pounds again during the divorce years.  I was too stressed out to eat.  Food sat in the refrigerator so long it turned bad. 

Now I have to face the ugly truth.  I need to modify my diet and my exercise schedule to melt off that 10 pounds again.  I call my plan…

 Sus’s Ten Commandments of Dieting:

1.   I will not eat starchy carbs.

I will not eat rice, potatoes, pasta or bread during the week.  Once on the weekend I will eat one starchy carb, just to treat myself.

2.   I will not eat foods that have no-- or almost no-- nutritional value.

The list of nonfoods includes donuts, candy bars, sodas, cupcakes, etc.

 3.   I will not eat red meat or meat products.

Off my list are beef, pork and lamb…are too dense to eat on my diet.  Also off the list are hot dogs, sausages and mystery meat fillings.

4.   I will not eat large portions.

It is tough to limit my intake of certain favorite foods.  I love barbeque potato chips but I really can’t eat just one…or 10.

5.   I will not eat after 7 p.m.

It’s tough to stop eating in the evening, but it makes a difference.

6.   I will get at least three walks or sessions on the treadmill each week.

Aerobics are essential to getting that weight off.

7.   I will work out my upper body two to three times a week.

It is important to work your upper torso as well as the lower one.

8.   I will not buy larger size clothes.

There is no way I am going to give in to this.

9.  I am not going to stop dieting after I lose the first five pounds.

I am guilty of this.  Five pounds lost does not equate to 10 pounds lost.

10.  I am not going to depend on packaged or canned food.

I will not stop eating fresh food just because packaged or canned food is easier.  My food needs to be brightly colored…reds, yellows, greens, blues and oranges.

In my dieting history, I flunked a diet program or two.  I figure that I have lost these 10 pounds about 10 times in my life, so I have actually lost 100 pounds so far in my lifetime.   

Any diet plan can work if you are dedicated to your success and willing to stay with it as a lifelong plan.  For me, that means fewer caramel apples, less movie popcorn and smaller portions of cheese pizza.  I just have to start.

My diet start date is January 2.  I invite willing losers to join me. 

Susanne Katz is a divorce coach with Mt Vernon Counseling, coauthor of A Woman's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce, an arts and living columnist for Atlanta Jewish News.com.  She is also a regular on ShareWIK.com.

More Susanne Katz articles, click here.

2012 ©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jan 14

Addictions to substances – alcohol, drugs, nicotine  –  are life-threatening and damnable in their ability to destroy people, families, careers, businesses, anything and everything caught in their wake. 

Addictive behaviors involving actions we must take to survive – eating, spending, interacting with others, etc. – are also heartbreaking and damnable in their ability to destroy people, families, careers, businesses, anything and everything caught in their wake.

As a person who has been challenged by both types of addictions – substances and behaviors – I will confess that for me, the behaviors are the far greater challenge. I can live without alcohol. I cannot live without eating, and it is truly hard to live without spending money or interacting with people.

So this is my experience, strength, and hope regarding food addiction, weight loss and control, and recognizing triggers that make sober eating so difficult for millions of Americans, myself included. 

I have found great comfort in food through the years, usually in the sweet things that helped compensate for whatever sweetness I thought I was missing in my life, or whatever sweetness I had in my life that I was not recognizing and appreciating.

As a 20-year-old who’d been reed-thin most of my life (except for a quick hormonally based ballooning at 13 that was quickly deflated by horrifically painful braces), I stunned my mother and friends when I returned home one semester weighing about 30 pounds more than I had when I left just months earlier.

I had discovered Hagen Daas coffee ice cream and had used it to soothe loneliness and despair night after night. It took the pain of hearing my loved ones freak out about my weight gain, and the break in addictive behavior of transferring to another college (where I was happier and started swimming again), to knock the weight equivalent of 30 pints of ice cream off my hips and thighs.

There have been other romances with specific foods that resulted in rapid weight gain arrested by major life changes.  An addiction to cocoa-laden nut-based brownies at a raw food restaurant resulted in a quick build-up that melted in a few days when I had pneumonia seven years ago.  By the time I got well enough to drive six weeks later, the restaurant had closed. I think it was because I wasn’t there to support them.

An obsession with a combination of Trader Joe’s marvels: French toast topped with melted dark chocolate, frozen mangoes, and Greek yogurt, was thwarted by a diagnosis of pre-diabetes, complete with having to do thrice-daily blood-sugar testing finger-stabs. Six months on the South Beach Diet saw my A1c levels drop from 6.4 to 5.8, and led to my discovering the joys of plain Greek yogurt mixed with organic peanut butter with flax seeds, plain organic cocoa, cinnamon, and vanilla-flavored stevia, a far healthier food craving that put protein and healthy fats ahead of natural sugars, and resulted in the good report on my blood sugar and a 12-pound. weight loss.

As a person who’s watched a loved one die of alcoholism and diabetes, you might think I’d be “smart enough” to avoid those pitfalls. But emotional eating – finding comfort in food when you’re triggered by grief, shame, blame, guilt, loss, joy, fear, anger, or whatever other thoughts our feelings and reactions gin up into a pain that can only be satisfied by carbohydrates – is a blessing and a curse. 

It’s a blessing because it probably keeps me from doing something worse, but it is a habit that is self-destructive. And one that must be taken more seriously with the pre-diabetes issue and the reality that aging makes weight loss more difficult. The older I get, the more staying power the calories have.

This year I’m going to support myself and my loved ones in our efforts to lose weight and get healthier by cooking without the substances that trigger cravings: white flour, sugar, excessive salt, unhealthy fats.

I’m shopping smarter by filling the grocery cart with more vegetables than anything else.

And I’m walking the walk, literally and figuratively, by walking more (this makes the dogs happy) and not bringing into the house foods that would trigger my loved ones or me: again, the white flour, sugar, foods with excess salt, unhealthy fats. I'm also taking more deep breaths and working on the emotional self care that empowers me to respond to challenging situations with greater maturity, instead of reacting in ways that only create more emotion and angst. This means asking more for what I truly need and want, instead of fulfilling unmet needs with unhealthy foods, thoughts, actions. This requires greater courage and greater acceptance. And, lest I mislead anyone into thinking that I believe I have all of this figured out, it also means I am grateful to be living in a time when there is "healthy chocolate."

With all the news in recent years that dark chocolate is good for us, I am thrilled by the high-cocoa-content chocolate bars in the health food section of our grocery store. It is good that some of them have almost as much protein and fiber per serving as they do sugar (5 grams). That makes those almost-black blocks of chocolate safer – in my mind.  It also makes them unappealing to almost every other human in my house. (Dogs love chocolate but it is deadly for them; I am careful not to leave any within their reach.)

As I say, the older the woman, the darker the chocolate. So I will yield to that temptation, as a little bit of pitch-black chocolate goes a long way.

And to my knowledge, nobody gets pulled over for driving under the influence of dark chocolate.

Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available atAmazon.com http://www.amazon.com/TurnAround-Mom-Addiction-Survivor-Family--/dp/0757305962/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1317756315&sr=8-1

Read more articles by Carey Sipp here..

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

     At age 17, the only thing more important than being liked was being skinny. If I were skinny, I’d be beautiful, and if I were beautiful, I’d be liked. Right?

     This may come as a surprise to my mother, but I teetered through the latter years of high school on the verge of an eating disorder. I suspect it’s an all-too-common situation among teenage girls.

     Obsession with being skinny was an ever-present companion in my life. I wanted it enough to – well – starve for it.

     Now, in those days, Bo Derrick set the standard in the media, and “baby got back” was not part of the public lexicon. There were no J.Lo nor Catherine Zeta-Jones-shaped movie stars to model ourselves after, and we were left with the clear message that skinny trumped almost everything – except maybe if you had hair like Farrah Fawcett!

     So I dutifully drank my TAB, chose naked salads, skipped meals, or ate next to nothing. When I got hungry, I’d light a cigarette, or make other even less healthy choices I’d rather not discuss. I would trigger my body with chocolate and coffee, unaware that I was choosing other ways to purge besides a finger down the throat. And I would revel in the acknowledgements and celebrations of my peers, and their parents, telling me how great I looked – code for “you are looking mighty skinny today, my dear.”

     The good news is that I never completely crossed the line from eating challenges to disorder. Perhaps witnessing a friend’s serious bulimia was enough to keep me just this side of over-the-edge. I don’t really know, but I’m sure it helped. After all, high school is a constant opportunity to compare yourself to others’ successes and failures, to see how you measure up, and recalibrate accordingly.

     But the truth is, I suspect, I have my mom to thank for keeping me from taking the dive into full-fledged eating disorder. (Here’s where you get redeemed for not knowing, Mom!) Growing up, my mom never made a big deal about my weight. We had Charlie’s Chips and cookies delivered to the house, and Oreo’s and Pop Tarts were a regular part of my weekly fare. I can’t say they were a particularly healthy part of my diet, but there was never a sense that I shouldn’t eat it because of getting fat. Rather, I was discouraged from eating it because it might ruin my appetite for the healthy dinner we had every evening!

     At age 11, I wore “hefty” sizes – which I hated – but I never recall my mother making a big deal about it. When I complained, my mother assured me that I would “thin out” when I hit puberty. She was right, of course. I thinned out by 15. So by the time I started obsessing on the whole skinny thing, all of the messages I had running around in my head were coming from the media, my peers and myself. They did not come from the one voice that would stay in my head the longest: my mother. I made up that skinny equals pretty, and the media reinforced it. My mom stayed out of that conversation.

     Instead, the message in my head from my mom said, “Don’t worry, you’re normal, you’ll thin out.” The value of that acceptance and support cannot be underestimated.


     We all have scripts we run in our heads, and many of them date back to the messages we internalized when we were children. Many of my clients discover that the gremlin voices they battle as adults are actually thinly veiled versions of one of their parents. More often than not, when the message from a parent is less than encouraging – you’re fat, you’re not good enough, you don’t deserve it, what’s wrong with you, you could do better – its impact can last a lifetime. 

     Now, if you’re concerned that you’re sending your child the ‘wrong’ messages, don’t panic. It’s never too late to change. And if you’re getting all cocky on me, prideful that you would never do such a thing, remember the words of the great Dr. Ed Uzee who said, “it’s not whether you will screw up your kids, it’s just how.” Don’t worry, you’ll find your path!

     So I’m not offering this lesson as a sure-fire recipe for eternal bliss in parent-child relationships. There is nothing simple about those relationships. But I am offering a healthful reminder that the messages we send to our children matter – a lot! In fact, they last a lifetime. What’s more, the messages that speak the loudest, and last the longest, are often the ones we aren’t aware that we are sending.

     For example, I had friends whose mothers were constantly carping on their weight, whose houses never witnessed a selection of ice creams or a box of Krispy Kremes.  They may have been bean poles when they were kids, but the messages they got in childhood made it hard to keep that weight as they got older. Their mothers never realized that the message they were actually sending was, “You’ll never be thin enough.” Many of those friends have been struggling with weight issues their entire adult lives.

     As for me, the voice of my mother has always helped me to establish an increasingly healthier relationship with my size. “Don’t worry about it. Make healthy choices. You’ll thin out.” Even after excessive weight gain through multiple pregnancies, she was right. 

     Kids are going to struggle with life. They’re going to have their hard knocks, and we parents have to learn to let them skin their knees. We can’t always be there to help them get back up. But we can be there to assure, encourage, and motivate from the inside, for decades to come, simply by paying attention to the messages we send when they are young.

     So, thanks, Mom, for believing in me until I learned to believe in myself. I’m sending that message on to your grandchildren. Do you think they’ll get it? Some little voice inside my head tells me they will!

     Elaine Taylor-Klaus is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com, a virtual coaching community for parents of kids with ADHD. She is a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com and MySpecialNeedsNetwork.com, and writes for “Living Without” magazine. Elaine coaches women and parents from around the country, on the telephone, to live full and empowering lives. She works together with her husband, David Taylor-Klaus, in their company, Touchstone Coaching.

Read more articles by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here.

 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Apr 17

I am one of those lucky people who grew up on the skinny side and never had to worry about my weight. Okay, I was a tomboy until my teens and even ran the 50 yard dash and relay race in the Kansas Junior Olympics (and won red and blue ribbons, respectively). But even as a teenager, I had a flat stomach and little fat on my bones. I used to joke that I could eat several hot fudge sundaes a day and never gain weight. When I ran a marathon when I was in my 30s, a friend commented that she couldn’t understand how my skinny legs could carry me 26.2 miles.

Those were the days.

Then I hit my 50s and the word diet entered my vocabulary. Not a structured, strict, named diet, but I started watching the numbers on my scale rise into, for me, unimaginable figures. So I switched to diet sodas and became more mindful of what I ate. Eventually, I brought my weight down from its height. And lately, thanks to surgery, I have essentially reached my goal for my height and age.

But that doesn’t mean I can be casual about my food choices. Those days are over. 

I can’t blame all of this new food-mindfulness on aging and a slower metabolism. I want to blame the Internet, the media, Californians, the New Agers – all of those who tell me which fruit to eat for which organ, not to eat sugar or anything white, and what colors of vegetables should be on my plate. 

Who has time for all of this? Paying strict attention to our choice of diet is now a full-time job. According to these experts – and the advice changes nearly daily – we all have eating disorders!

I’m not trying to minimize the importance of diet on how we feel, our general healthiness and even our longevity. I’m not saying that the chemicals used to repel bugs from our fruits and vegetables are good for us, and hence we shouldn’t consider buying organic produce. And, I never would say that the diets most of us grew up with in America are balanced or healthy.

Yet, I believe there’s a limit to how obsessive we should be about our diets. For instance, I probably have been more casual about my food choices than my sisters. But my passions are outside the kitchen and dining room. I care more about politics or international affairs than they do. We just have different personalities and interests.

After I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I considered several special diets and tried to avoid all dairy, soy and, of course, sugar. I stopped cold turkey my addiction to Diet Coke. 

Most of these diets, however, just didn’t fit my personality. I didn’t want to spend so much time and energy focusing on my food intake. I eventually found a happy medium that I’m comfortable with. I have never been much of a red meat eater; my entrees oftentimes consist of fish. I do eat more whole grain breads and pastas. And I’ve always drunk many glasses of water a day.

In the last five years, I have increased my food supplements, however. But this fits my personality: popping a bunch of capsules that contain special properties of fruits and vegetables is quick. I don’t have to shop at special grocery stores or spend additional time in the kitchen.

After having said all this, I have a confession. Since my last operation, which undid a bunch of tangles in my intestines, I still suffer from some constipation. So I am conscious of eating apples or dried apricots. I think about the impact of the food I eat on my digestive system. And, because I am still me, I swallow stool-softeners, which I accept as an acknowledgement of my age.

But, in my mind, being forced to be constantly cognizant of what I eat is not natural. To me, it’s just a food disorder!

Jan Jaben-Eilon is a long-time journalist who has written for The New York Times, Business Week, the International Herald Tribune, the Jerusalem Report and Womenetics. She was a founding reporter for the Atlanta Business Chronicle and was international editor for Advertising Age before she fulfilled a lifelong dream of moving to Israel. Jan and her Jerusalem-born husband have an apartment in that city, but live in Atlanta.


In November 2006, Jan was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer and has kept a blog on her cancer journey since December of that year. Follow her story here. Read more of Jan's ShareWIK.com columns here

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

You know the old phrase “You are what you eat”?  Never has that been more important than when it comes to children and their brain development.  Numerous studies have been done that prove that nutrition directly affects the brain’s ability to develop, which of course then affects your child’s ability to learn.  If you are interested in reading the government’s information on study outcomes, check out its Food and Nutrition Information Center on the web.  

However, it doesn’t take a formal study to see the effects of a proper diet on a child in the classroom. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is something all of us have heard since we were children, but have you ever stopped to evaluate why?  Look at the word itself – breakfast – which literally means ‘break the fast’.  Over the course of the eight hours or so that we have been asleep, our bodies have used up all of the energy provided from the food we last consumed.  In order to supply our brains, muscles, and vital organs with the proper fuel to begin fully functioning, we need to stimulate them food.

And not just any food!  While television commercials love to influence our food choices towards cereals with cute creatures toting how great they taste and how quickly available breakfast is just by popping a waffle in the toaster, these sugar-laden foods may be more trouble than they are worth.  Foods that score high on the glycemic index cause a sharp rise in blood sugar.  While the consumer may experience a quick burst of energy from that fuel, the effect is short and the drop in blood sugar is drastic.  

For example, I know how my own body reacts to poor breakfast choices.  I am a big cereal eater but have learned over the years that I have to eat a high fiber cereal with protein in order to avoid a massive mid-morning hypoglycemic attack.  Since I have switched to a higher quality cereal, I no longer experience that empty-pit feeling in my stomach, nor any of the other symptoms such as irritability, inability to focus or hostility.

Better choices for breakfast can be found in whole grains with lots of fiber and high protein foods such as eggs and nut butters that fall low on the glycemic index.  Like I have experienced, the whole grains and fiber will stay with your child longer and provide a more consistent source of energy, while maintaining more appropriate blood sugar levels.  Those steady blood sugar levels fueled by the appropriate foods will result in a happy student who is able to focus, retrieve information, and feel comfortable throughout the morning.

As children, we were taught to make food choices based on the Food Pyramid.  Remember learning that in school?  The base of the pyramid was for carbohydrates, the next level was for fruits and vegetables, followed by meats, proteins, and dairy, capped off by fats and sweets.  I don’t know about you, but I always focused on the top of the pyramid like it was the goal to achieve.

The USDA has adopted a new image called Choose My Plate, which makes a lot more sense than the pyramid.  The plate is color-coded for the types and portions of foods that should be on your plate when you eat.  This is an easy visual tool to share with your children that will help them learn the basics to proper nutrition.  

Good eating habits begin at home.  Schools and teachers are all ready to support the positive behaviors upon which you are trying to instill in your children.  Not only does breakfast start the day right for children’s growing bodies, it will help them get off to a great start on their school day.

Margaret Anderson is the mother of three teenagers and a middle school teacher somewhere in the Midwest.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

For more Margaret Anderson articles, click here.

 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Oct 17

The Greatest Generation was set up to have eating disorders, and to then have children and grandchildren with eating disorders.  That is my theory. This not grounded in science. It is grounded in what I’ve seen at home and out in the world. 

And this isn’t about judgment. God knows there is enough of that in the world. It is simply about observation with regard to my own family, the size of people, the size and nutritional facts of meals out, and the size of the problem we, as a nation, are facing if we don’t get a grip on eating disorders one person, one family, at a time.  


Children of the Great Depression I knew – my dad, mom, stepdad, an aunt and uncle, a few older friends from that era – grew up hungry and afraid there wouldn’t be enough. Their mothers were afraid of not having enough food for their hardworking husbands and children. My father’s mother scraped and saved a penny here, a nickel there; a bite of fatback here, a cup of flour for gravy there.


She would mix the white flour, lard, sugar, and home-grown fruits for pies and sugary preserves. Her family would feast on these foods that we now know have a high glycemic index, meaning that the carbohydrates in them would break down quickly, flooding the bloodstream with sugars and setting up a spike in blood sugar, a surge in insulin, and then a drop in blood sugar that creates a tremendous craving sensation for more and more food. 

It is was a vicious cycle then, but the good news was that then, back in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, people were required to be more physical. At least my family was. For my dad there were farm chores to do. Those chores, plus walking to school and other places, burned calories. That helped to balance the blood sugar and kept his weight low until he returned home from World War II. I don’t know what kind of shape he was in then, physically. Emotionally, though, I have heard he was devastated by what he had seen. And glad to be home in one piece. And glad to have his mother’s cooking. He had been missing the sweetness in life. Now it was back in front of him.


Her gallons of sweet tea, made with cup after cup of sugar that mounded at the bottom of a clear glass pitcher and turned into a glucose tolerance test when the hot tea was poured over it, must have tasted wonderful to him after two years of Navy food. He would love that tea for another three decades as again and again its plentiful sugar and caffeine fueled a surge of energy and another drop in blood sugar, another round of cravings, another round of overeating.


Even though the Depression and WWII were decades behind them, the cooking and eating habits from the ‘20s and ‘30s drove our family's need for a table full of the foods to which he was addicted: biscuits and gravy made with white flour, lard, milk, sausage drippings. It was hot and tasty and came from loving hands that wanted to make sure there was never any more hunger in that house.


On many, many levels, food represented love. The food brought on a kind of stupor – a food coma of sorts – that would require coffee and Coca-Cola in the afternoon. For my dad, the Coca-Cola often had several shots of bourbon along with it. The combination over the years led to his adult-onset diabetes. His body was so damaged by the wildly changing blood sugar levels that he required several injections of insulin a day. On top of that, his vision kept changing. An eyeglass prescription never lasted more than a few months before it would stop working. The damage to his vision due to high blood sugar started stealing his sight when he was in his early 40s.


Food and liquor were ultimate comforts; ultimate killers. In his mid-50s, he quit drinking for three months. The doctor told him that if he ever started back again it would kill him. He started back the day before Thanksgiving, 1981, and was dead within 24 hours. The change in his body chemistry was just too much; it was too toxic. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage just three weeks short of his 57th birthday.


Food was an addiction. Alcohol was an addiction. Irregular schedules, some unhealthy relationships, lots of worry and intensity around money; it all caught up with him and his brain – the seat of his soul, the home of his brilliant but troubled mind, the keeper of his painful secrets – could not process the additional poison.


That was 31 years ago next month. Since then, we’ve all learned so much more about nutrition, and what’s healthy. Why we need to eat to live instead of living to eat. And yet so many people I know are plagued by the destructive consequences of food as comfort instead of food as fuel.


That big business has a hand in keeping people addicted to food is another story, and one I will write about soon. What is sad to me is that most of us have access to healthy food and access to help in the form of Overeaters Anonymous or any one of a number of free support groups to help us understand what happens when food becomes a Higher Power. Yet most of us don't take advantage of that help. 

I don’t think the Greatest Generation fought so hard for us to be able to have freedom of choice, and then choose to kill ourselves with food.


Quick facts from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Obesity is common, serious and costly
  • More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese. [Read data brief  [PDF-528Kb]]
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. [Read guidelines]
  • In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. [Read summary]


  Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Follow her on Twitter @TurnAroundMom.

Read more articles by Carey Sipp here.

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



When we notice that some aspect of our life is truly out of control, we are likely to have one of three responses: we can take back the reins, we can stay the course (with some degree of denial), or we can surrender to the inevitable.

Most of us want to believe we’d take control. I suspect many of us fear – like me – that we’d surrender all too quickly. (One of my greatest fears, actually, is that I’m basically a chicken at heart.) In truth, the most common response is to stay the course, often with a healthy dose of denial.

I have seen true bravery in my life. I’ve watched my child withstand outrageous medical procedures with hardly a word or a tear (from her – I’ve cried plenty). I saw my spouse dive into a murky river to rescue a drunk stranger he saw disappear beneath the surface. And I’ve witnessed loved ones make the drastic decision to take back the reins of their lives and undergo gastric bypass surgery.

The thing about many people who struggle with obesity – whatever the cause, and there are many – is that their relationship with food, or depression, or something fiendish has gotten out of control. Smart, funny, creative souls find themselves hiding behind padded rooms of their own making, of their own flesh. 

The considerations surrounding gastric bypass surgery are incredibly complex. I see the final decision as incredibly brave. Think about it. Pulling yourself up and onto firm ground when you’ve already toppled over an edge can be a helluva lot harder than breaking before you go over the edge in the first place. 

Living with obesity can build boundaries that limit the opportunity for full expression of life. Choosing surgery is a bold move:  by doing so, people take the reins firmly in their grasp and reclaim the ability to steer their lives in a direction of their choosing.  

The risks of gastric bypass are extensive. While any surgery is dangerous, this one is particularly complex because it presents a sort of Catch 22. The long-term success of gastric bypass depends on behavioral changes. That would be hard enough in the best of circumstances, but when those behaviors have been part of the very challenge that created the problem in the first place, then the risks are compounded.

To commit to gastric bypass people must commit to doing what they’ve previously had trouble demonstrating a consistent ability to do: use extreme self-discipline in their relationship with food and eating, and in their relationship with themselves.

A dear cousin of mine elected to have this surgery. He was inspired, in part, by the birth of a grandchild. New life reminded him that he could actually determine his own life.  After decades of staying the course, he opted to initiate dramatic change.

It took some getting used to, actually, to see the features of his face after the surgery. I couldn’t get over how much he had grown to look like his father. Being with him after the surgery was an inspiration. His life had a renewed sense of purpose.

What strikes me is that he took back the reins of his life when he had a strong enough motivation to do so. He came to the recognition that, to be fully present for his loved ones, he had to do something to help himself. And it was not a little something (no pun intended). 

Classic lesson, isn’t it? Sure enough, you can’t help others if you don’t help yourself. But I think it’s actually a two-part lesson. To take care of yourself, to hold the reins tight, it helps to figure out what motivates you. What’s important enough to get you to slam on the breaks, or climb back over the edge, if the need arises? 

Wherever you are when facing a situation seemingly out of control – in charge of the reins, on auto-pilot or hands up in surrender – these two lessons are a guide on the path to recovery: 

• self-care is a gift to those you love, and 

• figuring out what motivates you is a powerful agent for change

It’s no coincidence, of course, that heeding these lessons can help prevent you from getting to the edge in the first place.

Elaine Taylor-Klaus coaches parents from around the country, on the telephone, to confidently help their families thrive. She is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com, a free resource for parents, and works together with her husband, David Taylor-Klaus, in their company, Touchstone Coaching. Elaine is a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com and ImpactADHD.com, and writes for “Living Without” and "Womenetics.com" magazines. Follow her on Twitter@TouchstoneCoach and @ImpactADHD.

Read more columns by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here

©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

When my doctor recently informed me that my cholesterol was a tad high (Okay, an estimated 51 million billion) I was surprised.  I do not binge eat. I do not smoke. I am not overweight, and I walk every day.  Immediately, I used my top-notch investigative skills: so a donut with breakfast might not be good for me? But it’s got an apple filling! Fruit! Yes, it was time to get healthier. I vowed to get better about diet and exercise.

I joined one of those places that have heavy-looking objects of which I am afraid. I tend to avoid heavy things I can’t lift. However, I am good at pressing a button that turns on a belt underneath my feet and activates a television in front of me as I walk or run.  I also enjoy listening to music or audio books as I use the treadmill.  This could be doable!

On my first visit, I was slightly taken aback by some perfectly-shaped people donning perfectly tiny outfits. Warning: do not let the beautiful gym people scare you. It is safe to wear t-shirts and sweats; be yourself.  I, for one, do not strut my stuff there. (I mean, if I had stuff to strut.)  I do not wear only a thong, sports bra and heels to the gym. The last “six pack” on me was some Coke I carried to the conveyor belt at the grocery store.

On another visit, I realized I do not know what three-quarters of the machines actually do, so I decided to glide past them on the way to the water fountain, remarking to myself, "So what if he can lift 200 pounds? Bet he’s never picked up a three-year-old in one arm and a baby in the other while pulling the two-year-old off the counter.  Now THAT takes skill."

Another day as I ran, the machine suddenly cut to “OFF.” Luckily, I wasn’t injured, but I was baffled. How could I break the machine? I didn’t do anything. Of course, I took this as a sign to finish up for the day.

I emailed the gym manager later, and confessed to breaking the treadmill. She sent an email later explaining that the red key had popped out; had I popped it back in, I would have been able to finish my workout.  I was as red as the key in hearing this news. How they must’ve gotten a good laugh over me at the gym when they played back the hidden security camera videos.  Glad to help.

I then began working with a wonderfully fit, positive woman as a trainer. She designed some exercises for me, which involved push-ups on a sphere-like ball. (Apparently, push-ups are not the latest in Victoria’s Secret). She also recommended a cookbook about “clean eating.” I frowned. There is a good chance this does not allow clean Krispy Kremes.

After working out the past three months, having the trainer set up exercises for me, and starving myself on a breakfast cereal that claims if I eat it for two weeks, I will lose five pounds (but I am famished an hour later and forage cupboards for cookies--but only ones with raisins in them!), I stepped on the scale.

Three and a half pounds heavier since my November physical.

My healthier friends inform me this has to be muscle. I see no muscles. I see no cholesterol change.

I say it’s time to try a new approach. Did you hear that a glass of red wine is good for you? 

Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in books, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit with her here, on Facebook, or on Twitter @writerandmom.

Read more columns by Kristine Meldrum Denholm here.

©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

A comedian once said that children are like the paparazzi – they’re always watching. It’s so true.

Children learn much more from our actions than our words. And yet, somehow we continue to convince ourselves, despite all evidence to the contrary, that what we say to our kids matters more than what we do.

Don’t get me wrong. Talking to our kids, and teaching them, and coaching them through their life experiences, has value. It is time extremely well spent. 

Equally as important is time spent modeling how to live a healthy, fulfilling life.

Are you ready for the best part? If you really want to teach someone else how to take good care of themselves and their health – whether it’s a child or another adult – the best way to do it is to take care of yourself!

That’s right. Paying attention to yourself and your health is a great way to teach your kids to do the same. A healthy balance of parent self-care, thrown into the typical mix of managing family life, is a sure-fire recipe for success -- for everyone. 

“But I don’t have the time!” I hear you cry. “I can’t take that time away from my kids.” Baloney. If your kids don’t see you making exercise a priority, or choosing to eat fresh food instead of constantly eating out of a box, then why should they do it themselves? 

A number of years ago, when my husband and I still had three small children (and we hadn’t seen the inside of a gym in nearly a decade), we were modeling excuses. Rather than teaching our children about the value of exercise, we were slugs ourselves. We took them to the playground so that they could run around while we sat and talked. We were way too sedentary for our own health.

We bemoaned our lack of time and energy. We complained that we were out of shape. And we just kept doing the same thing, as if somehow, magically, we would get different results.

It was time for a change. I’m not sure what inspired us, really. Maybe it was the creativity of a novel fundraiser happening at just the right time (a challenge event called the Ovarian Cycle). Maybe it was that our kids were finally old enough for us to get some sleep. Maybe it was that life was not going the way we wanted and we had to do something. I really can’t recall what sparked it, but my husband and I each committed to the challenge event. We did it to give us a structure to “get back in shape.”

That fundraiser marked an enormous change for our entire family. It was a pivotal player in our becoming healthier adults. It was a key development in raising healthy kids. And it started a course that changed our self-concepts from that of couch-potatoes to athletic people (or, if not athletic, at least physically active). 

Despite the years of T-ball, ballet, softball, soccer, karate, etc. that we enrolled our children in when they were young, their sense of themselves as athletes developed with ours. Everything changed – for the rest of our lives – when my husband and I said “yes” to getting healthy.

I tend to look at getting healthy as a lifetime change, not a temporary fix. I’m not one of those people who bounce from one diet to another. Having said that, I still remember the fundamental suggestions I learned with the one diet program I subscribed to in my mid-twenties. The program taught me how to eat healthily, and the lessons lasted a life-time:

  • Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store
  • Make dates for movement instead of socializing around food
  • Eat a citrus fruit every day
  • Pay attention to portion control
  • Drink plenty of water

 Seriously, it’s not rocket science. It’s basic healthy living. Our challenge is to get ourselves to do what we know we should be doing. The challenge, for most of us, is simply to eat less (or better), and move more.

As adults, it’s extremely difficult to get ourselves motivated. So if the message of getting healthy appeals to you, but you can’t find a way to do it for yourself, then do it for your kids! If they see you doing it – and benefitting from it -- they will begin to follow suit. What better gift can you offer them, after all, than the gift of learning HOW to live a healthy life?

Your kids watch you everyday. Guess it’s time to give them something worth watching!


Elaine Taylor-Klaus coaches parents from around the country, on the telephone, to confidently help their families thrive. She is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com, a free resource for parents, and works together with her husband, David Taylor-Klaus, in their company, Touchstone Coaching. Elaine is a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com and ImpactADHD.com, and writes for “Living Without” and "Womenetics.com" magazines. Follow her on Twitter@TouchstoneCoach and @ImpactADHD.


Read more columns by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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