Thursday, November 29, 2007


12 ways to keep the weight off during the holidays

The holidays are upon us, which means fun, family, friends and food…lots of it.
Caloric temptations are everywhere, which can make it difficult to stick to healthy habits. In fact, it is estimated that we put on 5-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years.
This comes as no surprise when you consider all the opportunities to “overindulge” during the holidays–the large holiday meals with all the trimmings, the deliveries of goodies to your workplace from grateful customers/co-workers, the holiday parties, just to name a few.
So, trying to lose weight during the holidays may be an unrealistic goal. Instead, aim to maintain your weight during this time. Consider that it takes 3500 calories to gain one pound. This may seem like an awful lot of calories but over the course of a week, it really is not. If you consume 500 more calories per day than you expend, this can result in a 1-pound weight gain per week. So you might ask yourself – what does 500 calories look like? Here’s a glimpse:
 1 cup of egg nog and 1 Lindt chocolate truffle ball
 1 slice of pecan pie
 1 slice of fruit cake w/8 oz Irish coffee
 1 slice of pumpkin pie w/whipped cream
 6 oz roasted turkey (light and dark meat, skin-on), ½ cup stuffing
¾ cup candied sweet potatoes, 1 roll with butter
 1 slice apple pie, 1/4 cup vanilla ice cream
 1 cup of mashed potatoes w/1/2 cup turkey gravy
 1 (3.5 oz) serving of peanut brittle
 5 small shortbread cookies, 8 oz hot chocolate w/whipped cream
 ½ cup crème brulee, 4 oz champagne
 6 soda crackers, 3 Tbsps Wis-pride Port Wine Cheese Ball
Now that you have an idea of what 500 calories could equal in holiday foods, how can you try to avoid gaining weight during the holidays?
Try these tips:
1) Have a healthy snack before you go to a party. If you’re not starving when you arrive you will be less likely to overeat.
2) At buffets, survey what’s available before you start piling food on your plate. Knowing ahead of time what is available may prompt you to choose smaller portions or choose only your favorite foods.
3) Limit calorie-laden beverages like mixed drinks, punch and Eggnog; choose low calorie drinks the majority of the time (i.e., sparkling water w/lemon)
4) Limit gravies and cream sauces or foods prepared in a cream sauce and deep fried foods
5) Look for: skinless turkey or chicken breast, grilled fish, steamed vegetables, tossed salad or fresh fruit.
6) Eat whole grains when possible – if whole wheat pasta, bread or brown rice are available choose these over regular pasta or white rice. The fiber in them will help you to feel fuller longer.
7) Have a small portion of your favorite dessert or share it with a friend
8) Bring a healthy dish if you’re invited to a party.
9) Eat only foods you like. Just because cranberry sauce is traditionally served with turkey does not mean you must have some if you would rather not.
10) Once you have chosen your food-step away from the food table! Remove yourself from temptation-concentrate on mingling with friends or family instead.
11) Eat slowly and savor each bite.
12) Make physical activity a priority! Take a walk after a big meal, take your kids ice-skating or skiing, dance to your favorite music, do laps around a mall before you do your shopping-find excuses to move more and limit sedentary activities like television watching or sitting at the computer.
Happy Holidays!
Catherine Schneider is a Registered Dietitian in the Food and Nutrition Department at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Ms. Schneider and all of the Healthy Living columnists at


Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful

“We’re not exactly the Waltons,” said a friend commenting on Thanksgiving with her family. In truth none of us are. Yet giving thanks and true gratitude are not about having material wealth or achieving the perfect moment.
Feeling a sense of emotional wealth and gratitude comes from a deep abiding acknowledgement of being with life as it is; noticing what touches our hearts in the midst of each ordinary day with its small inconveniences and sometimes overwhelming difficulties. At times it takes a great deal of courage and a sense of surrender to what life is presenting to have a grateful heart.
Kelly and Pete were two of the 16 people whose lives were devastated last week by the fire that burned down their Washington Street apartment, taking along with it all of their possessions and beloved pets. Several days after the fire, with no home to go to and feeling physically weak, Kelly said, “When everything is taken away, your health and all your possessions, what’s left is your life and your friends so I’m just focusing on being grateful to be alive.”
Gratitude is not cheery optimism or the power of positive thinking. These can seem hollow in the midst of some of life’s experiences. Gratitude is a way of seeing and a way of feeling that affects our emotional as well as physical heart. It’s not surprising that research supports that cardiovascular health is improved and the immune system strengthened by feeling thankful.
Taking a minute or two each night to ask ourselves what touched us today and what we feel grateful for will likely reveal many small and unexpected things, like simple moments of connection with another or with nature, that we may have otherwise forgotten. Last night, I remembered the kindness of the person I stopped to ask for directions when I was lost. He happened to live in the town I was looking for and as I followed, he drove down the most beautiful country road that crossed over a river and was lined with sun-dappled foliage. It was breath-taking.
Gratitude is a simple yet radical act because it will profoundly transform how we see and experience the world, creating and magnifying a momentum of generosity. When we gratefully acknowledge what it feels like to have someone extend a kind and tender hand when we need it, we’ll want to extend our hand to someone else. When we are thankful for a moment in nature, we are more likely to treat the earth with care. Thanks and giving are inextricably woven into a grateful heart.
Author Anais Nin wrote: “we don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are”.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Amy Dunion, a registered nurse and licensed massage therapist, is Coordinator of The William W. Backus Hospital’s Center for Healthcare Integration. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Dunion and all of the Healthy Living columnists at


People with epilepsy can live normal lives

Epilepsy is among the most serious, life threatening illnesses neurologists must treat. Epileptic seizures are even described in the early writings of Hippocrates in 480 BC. He was the first to use the term aura (the Greek word for breeze) to describe the feeling that often precedes an epileptic seizure.
Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system in which seizures are the main symptom. Seizures can be epileptic or non-epileptic in origin. Some epileptic seizures are provoked by fever, sleep deprivation, or alcohol withdrawal. Others are the result of a physiological abnormality in the brain which causes an electrical “short-circuit” that can last from seconds to minutes. Partial seizures begin in a specific area of the brain before spreading. Generalized seizures begin diffusely without a focal origin.
Neurologists take a detailed history and perform a neurological examination when they suspect a patient has epilepsy. The examination is supplemented with an MRI or other imaging study of the brain and an electroencephalogram (EEG). An EEG evaluates normal and abnormal electrical discharges in the brain circuitry.
The most effective way of controlling epileptic seizures is with anticonvulsant medications. They work by suppressing abnormal electrical discharges. The earliest anticonvulsants were used in the late 19th century with side effects of sedation and slowed mentation giving the impression that people with epilepsy were mentally deficient. The advent of newer anticonvulsant drugs that did not produce sedation showed the world that those with epilepsy could lead normal, successful lives.
Violent movements, along with loud vocalizations, led many to believe these people were possessed by the devil. When someone does suffer a generalized seizure, it is frightening for the patient as well as for those who witness the event. Preventing harmful injury rather than uselessly attempting to abort the seizure is the principal rule. Some helpful first-aid tips to assist someone having a generalized tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure are:
1. Help the person into a prone position, cushioning the head and face
2. Remove eyeglasses
3. Clear area of harmful objects
4. Loosen tight clothing around the neck
5. Do not restrain the person
6. Do not force any object into the person’s mouth, especially a finger

Anthony G. Alessi, MD, is Chief of Neurology at The William W. Backus Hospital with a private practice at NeuroDiagnostics, LLC in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Alessi and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

Friday, November 09, 2007


Giving up meat doesn’t mean giving up taste

Pasta with butternut squash and shallots. Grilled portabella mushroom sandwiches. Black bean burritos. Barley and roasted vegetable soup. Lentil curry. Tofu kabobs.
Today’s markets, cookbooks and restaurant selections offer many vegetarian dishes created with flavorful food combinations. Whether you choose a vegetarian eating style or not, these dishes can add food variety and taste experiences to smart eating.
A plant-based diet is nothing new. The term vegetarian was not coined until with late 1800’s although the concept dates back at least to the sixth century B.C. when the Greek Philosopher, Pythagoras, encouraged meatless eating. Many centuries later in the Western world meatless eating was church-related. Harvey Kellogg, a vegetarian, not only developed breakfast cereals; he also invented nuttose, the first meat analog made from peanuts and flour; the first peanut butter.
Vegetarian eating styles differ, as do the reasons why people choose to become vegetarians. With today’s focus on fitness, many cite health reasons. Others express concerns about the environment, compassion for animals, or religious reasons. Others simply prefer the flavors and food mixtures of vegetarian dishes, and many recognize that a plant-based diet often costs less.
Studies show a positive link between vegetarian eating and health. In general, the evidence of some health related problems – heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer - tends to be lower among vegetarians.
In a broad definition, being vegetarian means avoiding foods from animal origin and replacing them with plant sources. If you are a vegetarian, you may describe yourself in one of these ways:
• Lacto-ovo vegetarian: choose an eating approach with eggs and dairy products but no meats, poultry and fish.
• Lacto vegetarian: avoid meat, poultry and fish and eggs but eat dairy products.
• Vegan: choose no meat, poultry, fish, eggs or dairy.
• Semi vegetarian: usually follow a vegetarian eating pattern but occasionally eats meat, poultry or fish.
Can vegetarian eating supply your body with sufficient nutrients? Yes. As with any eating style, you need to choose foods carefully and consume the right amount of overall calories to support a healthy weight.
Healthy eating guidelines still apply: go easy on the saturated fat, transaturated fat, cholesterol as well as total fat. Added sugars and added salt should be minimal along with aiming for whole grains, adequate fruits and vegetables. For vegetarians who eat dairy products and perhaps eggs, nutrition issues are not much different from those of non vegetarians: For vegans, the nutrition issues differ somewhat. Without any foods from animal origin, getting enough calories to maintain a healthy weight can be a challenge, especially for growing children and teens. Nutrients that may come up short need special attention: vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron and zinc. Nonetheless, planned wisely, a vegan diet can provide enough nutrients for overall good health.
Not up to giving up your animal products? A great place to start is to add a meatless meal to your weekly menu. It can be a simple switch from a pasta dish with meat sauce to a vegetable topping, tomato sauce with beans or with olives and capers. Or perhaps it can be as simple as cutting the animal protein in half in your chili or other Mexican-type recipes and replace with kidney, black or pink beans. Not only will these suggestions potentially cost less, they will be much healthier and they will be tasty as well.

Sarah Hospod is a registered dietitian in the Food and Nutrition Department at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Hospod and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

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