Exercising This Summer? Drink This

November 3, 2011

A client of mine was thrilled when, after a recent run outside, he lost several pounds. He figured, as he put it, “losing any weight is good!” I hated to burst his bubble, but had to inform him, under no uncertain terms, that losing weight during exercise is caused by water loss and is not only unhealthy and hurts performance, but can kill.

I work with many athletes to improve their tennis game or their running, for instance, in preparation for an important match or a marathon, and find that avoiding water losses — among other things — effects a huge improvement in their performance, and increases their energy levels and recovery time.

Ignoring your hydration and nutrition needs as an athlete is a huge mistake. There have been many reported cases of teenage and adult football players who have died from heat stroke, which is excessive water loss caused by exercising without proper rehydration or cooling off. Football players are particularly vulnerable because of the heavy equipment and clothing they wear while playing outside in the heat. Sadly, simple measures can prevent these tragic deaths.

I witnessed these techniques firsthand last year when I was assisting in the emergency medical tent at the Marine Corps Marathon. A couple of women staggered into the tent, their temperatures were taken and it was determined they were experiencing heat stroke. Their body temperatures were about 105 degrees; they were so disoriented, they didn’t know their own names or birthdates. Emergency measures had to be taken there and then. Luckily, the tent was equipped with absolutely everything needed, including some of the most compassionate, experienced and dedicated doctors I’ve ever encountered. The heat stroke victims were immediately dunked into one of the many ice water tanks in the tent and given IV fluids until their body temperature came down to the point when they could be rushed to the hospital emergency room. It took some time and a lot of hair-raising screaming. But it saved their lives.

It’s important that all athletes have access to cooling areas, plenty of fluids and ice water tanks. These measures save lives, and they’re so simple.

How you can avoid danger:

Nutrients don’t only come in the form of food; water is the most important, and often most forgotten, nutrient. You can last a long time without food, but only days without water. Your lean body mass contains about 70-75 percent water, with fat containing much less, or about 10-40 percent water. Because of increased muscle mass, men’s and athletes’ bodies contain more water than women, overweight or older persons, because of their proportionately lower muscle and higher fat content.

Water is:

• The solvent for important biochemical reactions, supplying nutrients and removing waste

• Essential for maintaining blood circulation throughout your body

• The maintainer of body temperature. As you exercise, your metabolism and your internal body temperature increase. Water carries the heat away from your internal organs, where it can do serious damage (leading to heat stroke and even death), through your bloodstream to your skin, causing you to sweat. As you sweat and the sweat evaporates, this allows you to cool off and maintain a healthy body temperature, optimal functioning and overall health.

Daily water intake must be balanced with losses to maintain total body water. Losing body water can adversely affect your functioning and health. Once you are thirsty, you’ve probably lost about 1 percent of your body water and are dehydrated. With a 2 percent water loss, you could experience serious fatigue and cardiovascular impairments. It’s important to note that individual fluid needs differ depending on your sweat rate, the temperature, clothing, humidity and other factors.

It is important that you:

• Drink enough water to prevent thirst.

• Monitor fluid loss by checking the color of your urine. It should be pale yellow and not dark yellow, too smelly, or cloudy

• Begin exercise well hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids the day before and within the hour before, during, and after your exercise session

• Supplement water with a sports drink that contains electrolytes and 6-8 percent carbohydrates any time you exercise in extreme heat or for more than one hour.

• Avoid alcohol the day before or the day of a long exercise bout, and avoid exercising with a hangover

• Consider all fluids, including tea, coffee, juices, milk and soups, as acceptable sources of hydration (excluding alcohol, which is extremely dehydrating). The amount of caffeine in tea and coffee does not discount the fluid in them, even if they have a slight diuretic effect, according to the most recent report by the National Academy of Science’s Food and Nutrition Board

• Eat at least five cups of fruits and vegetables per day, which all contain various levels of water.

• For those who experience high sodium losses during exercise, eat salty foods in a pre-exercise meal or add salt to sports drinks consumed during exercise

• Rehydrate following exercise by drinking enough fluid (water or sports drinks) to replace fluid lost during exercise. Replace fluid and sodium losses with watery foods that contain salt (soup, vegetable juices). Replace fluid and potassium losses by consuming fruits and vegetables.

• Determine your individualized need for fluid replacement using the following method:

During heavy exercise, weight yourself before and after exercise. If you lose weight, you’ve lost valuable water. Add 3 cups of fluid for every pound lost; use this figure to determine the amount of water you’ll need to prevent pound loss during exercise in the future. Drink that water before exercise and sip throughout the exercise until you find the best formula for determining your personal water needs.

Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D. specializes in customized, easy and enjoyable athletic, weight loss and medical nutrition therapy programs for individuals and companies. She is the author of “Diet Simple: 192 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations,” and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Visit www.katherinetallmadge.com or call 202-833-0353. Mention this column and receive a special 20 percent discount on your initial consultation!

Murphy’s Love

November 2, 2011

Dear Stacy,

I am writing about something that happened several months ago, but it’s not getting any better, so I thought I could use some outside perspective. Things were not going well for me. My job was stressful thanks to a jerk boss. My wife was pregnant with our first child and was having a very difficult pregnancy (uncomfortable most of the nine months, then on bed rest for the last five weeks). Our finances were stretched after we took a loss on selling our condo and moved into the bigger house that she wanted before the baby came. I was anxious all the time, had insomnia, was on the verge of panic attacks nearly every single day. I want to set the scene because I know I will look like a jerk after you hear what happened next. Basically, I was miserable and not myself at all.

Then I had an affair with a coworker’s wife. It began as a flirtation, and moved into intense online chatting and texting. When my wife went on bed rest, I began a physical affair with the woman. Long story short, my wife found out after our daughter was a month old. I ended the affair immediately and have been trying to get us into couples therapy ever since, but she won’t go. We sleep in separate rooms and only talk about our daughter’s care at this point. My wife is back to work and our daughter is home with a nanny, but nothing else is back to normal. I know that if we could only go to couples counseling, everything would be alright, but she refuses to even talk about it. I feel the distance between us growing and am worried about the holidays coming up because it will be hard to hide our problems when spend time with our extended families.


Dear Sorry,

You admit you screwed up, but the rest of your letter suggests you might really want to share the blame for the more recent outcome. It was subtle, and likely unconscious, but it sounds like you have shifted responsibility for the distance in your marriage to Wife. She won’t go to couples counseling. She refuses to discuss it. She needed a bigger house. She is only focused on Baby’s well-being.

Let me add one more to your list: She is in post-traumatic shock.

Discovering infidelity is like detonating a bomb. Baby was one month old when this explosion took place? So Wife was already living under siege, with a newborn destroying both sleep patterns and general life expectations (newborns are notoriously dictator-ish). She then learns that you have been escaping the warzone by having sex with someone else. My assumption is that Wife immediately went into survival mode and hasn’t come out yet. This is what we do when we experience trauma – we don’t come out until it’s safe, and your house (not to mention the great unknown of “couples therapy”) is not safe.

Barbara Steffens, a sex addiction expert and co-author of “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse,” likens traditional couples therapy with a sex addict and spouse to being assaulted and then being asked to sit in support of the attacker. PTSD makes us hyper-vigilant, suspicious and deeply depressed because we replay images and feelings of the assault again and again in our minds. Wife was assaulted by the reality of your infidelity; your entreaties about couples counseling are likely retraumatizing.

Instead, she needs her own opportunity to heal, within her own, separate support network. I know your instinct is to do as much as you can to fix this for her, but you cannot be her support network this time. She needs her own people: a friend, a clergyperson, a counselor. But she’s not going to pursue any of those things until she feels safe enough to let her guard down and let herself be truly aware of what has been happening in your household. There is a lot you can do to help with this part. First, you must take responsibility for your actions yourself.

Get to a certified sexual addictions counselor (they have the best info on infidelity, regardless of whether you think you’re a sex addict). Get to a 12-step meeting. Read all the Patrick Carnes books. Put parental controls on the internet at home. Give her your email passwords. Be transparent and repentant – this won’t have to last forever, but you need to make an outward and obvious demonstration of your intentions to heal yourself and then your marriage. Make this about you each being healthy first. Later, perhaps in several months to a year, you can begin the process of making your marriage healthy again.

Dear Stacy,

I’m in a sticky situation and am not sure how to proceed. I am a teacher at a private school. A student’s father recently emailed me, inviting me out for “drinks or more.” I’m happily married and wear a wedding ring. I’m not sure, but I assume the father is divorced or separated. The student is not in my class, but I have a vague memory of meeting the father at a fundraiser last year. He only recently sent me this message, making it sound like he’d been thinking about this for a while. I am both sad for him (he sounds really lonely) and creeped out. I have absolutely no interest in pursuing anything – my husband thinks the situation is hysterical, by the way – but I also don’t want to do anything that would put my reputation or job at risk in anyway. Keeping parents happy is an unwritten rule at our school, and I’ve only been working here for a few years.

-Embarrassed/Harassed in Northwest

Dear Northwest,

I am with you on the “creeped out” part. Although you didn’t provide the entire message, it’s hard to read “drinks or more” in any other way than that Mr. Inappropriate is propositioning you.
I wonder if you might have a school handbook or something from orientation that might give us a hint as to how the higher powers might look at something like this. If you feel comfortable with your direct supervisor, I’d suggest starting with that person before you craft a response to Mr. I. I understand your concern about your reputation and position, but I guarantee that your school’s “unwritten rule” about keeping parents happy does not demand that you date any dad who asks.

Meanwhile, Mr. I’s method of pursuit (faceless email) may suggest one of two things: A) he is embarrassed and hiding behind the web, waiting to see what you might do with the ball he just forced into your court, or B) he has done this before, and perhaps has asked the same thing of other teachers who may or may not have come forward yet. In either event, providing too much sympathy could be read as a sign that he should continue the chase. After talking with a higher up about school policy, I’d recommend a brief reply that shuts down the entire conversation without any name-calling (e.g., don’t address it “Dear Mr. Inappropriate”). Make the message clear: you are not interested and this was unacceptable.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. Her website is TherapyGeorgetown.com. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. We really do want your questions! Send them confidentially to stacy@georgetowner.com.

In Between the Sheets: Dating is Like Job Hunting

September 13, 2011

Living in D.C. is a lot like living under a rock and living in the public eye, all at once. It is eight square miles surrounded by reality and brimming with some of the most talented people in the world. And while many of the people in D.C. are definitely boyfriend/girlfriend material, finding the one that’s right for you is possible but not necessarily easy.

The catch is that most of the people in this city are so focused, so business-minded, and so dedicated to their jobs that they rarely have opportunities to get out and socialize. Not to mention the fact that, because of the nature of some of the occupations in this city, some people can’t/don’t drink in order to not get sloshed and spill national security secrets. In some cases just being seen out in social bar-type environments can be detrimental to one’s public image (we won’t even discuss the risk of being caught tweeting pictures or cruising Craigslist!).

Now, not everyone in D.C. has a public image. I’d imagine that half of the staffers and interns on the hill can be found on U St. or H St. or prancing around Dupont Circle in the late hours, and you’d never know who they were or what they did. But generally speaking, at least 80 percent of the people in this city are quality people, even though they may be hard to find at times.

Like a strong company looking to hire the perfect employee, there is someone out there looking for someone like you. The downside is the same for both dating and job hunting: competition is fierce and you may have to go through a lot of interviews before you land that dream job…I mean boyfriend/girlfriend.

The keys to finding the perfect partner are the same you would use to find the perfect job: dress for success, get your name out there, and call in favors from friends. Also, do what you love to do and you’ll meet people with similar interests. If you like to bike then join a bike group, if you enjoy museums then visit museums, etc.

Start by meeting new people, even if just for fun. There are TONS of online resources for groups to join and things to do in this fabulous city. Ask your friends and coworkers for suggestions on social events, happy hours, and networking opportunities. And don’t be afraid to start a conversation with someone at the grocery store or on the Metro. Your two-second interaction could lead to dinner and a bottle of wine!

Dr. Dorree Lynn is a psychologist and life coach committed to helping people have better relationships & fulfilling sex lives. Dr. Lynn is a contributing author for The Georgetowner, AARP’s “Sexpert” and has appeared on “Good Morning America,” MSNBC, CNN, PBS, & other national programming. Her book, “Sex for Grownups” is available on Amazon. Follow Dr. Dorree Lynn online: www.DrDorreeLynn.com or www.Facebook.com/DrDorreeLynn.

Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships

August 24, 2011

Dear Stacy:
First the good news: we got engaged! Now the bad news: both sets of parents are already starting their own campaigns to control the wedding ceremony.

We’re a mixed faith couple and both sides have certain things they absolutely will and will not allow in the service. My parents are being very passive aggressive about the whole thing. Phone calls include many “suggestions” and not-so-subtle remarks about her parents’ wishes. Her side, on the other hand, is holding us hostage about the venue – it’s their way or nothing at all. It’s only been a few weeks and I’m already fantasizing about ambushing my fiancée after work and just eloping.

It’s a complicated situation because my future wife’s still a grad student, so we are definitely relying on our parents to help fund the event. How do you keep everyone happy when so many different interests are involved?

-Imagining Eloping in Georgetown

Dear Imagining:
First the quick answer to how you keep everyone happy: You can’t (come on, you already knew that, right?).

Now the longer answer: I agree, this is complicated. A wedding is “supposed” to be a wonderful, family-focused celebration of two people coming together. It’s “supposed” to be about asking your community to support that union. But most of all, it’s “supposed” to be about you and Future Wife, not about one side shoving its traditions down the aisle. Unfortunately, when it comes to religious faith (and the U.S. Congress), compromise can be a dirty word. That’s when you and Future Wife must get honest about what you really want.

You make no mention of your own hopes for what a mixed faith ceremony (and marriage) might look like for the two of you. Let’s figure that out before trying to get the parents on board. Once you’re clear, sit down with both sets and be honest about what you have already decided. See how I did that? “What you have already decided,” because it’s your wedding. Minimize the lectures on how petty they’re all being, but if you must, let them know that your wedding (and marriage, because that’s where this is heading) is not the place for either faith’s charismatic tent revival.

If they don’t buy it, then don’t let them buy your silence by funding the wedding of their tone-deaf dreams. While elopement is a fine choice, you can always have a small civil ceremony for yourselves and plan a nonreligious reception with both families involved.

Dear Stacy:
Should I get therapy?

-Frustrated and Anxious

Dear Frustrated and Anxious:
While that’s not a lot to go on, I actually do get this question all the time. And your signature does give us some clues.

I usually describe frustration as a surface emotion, most often covering up deeper feelings of fear, loneliness, helplessness, etc. In small doses, anxiety actually is a motivator that helps identify what is most important to us and helps us focus. When it overtakes our thoughts – keeping us up late at night, resulting in physical symptoms – then anxiety stops being functional and can serve as the body’s alarm system, alerting us that there is something unresolved that needs our attention. If any of this resonates with your situation, then I’d agree that therapy could be a good place to get clear about your emotions and learn some relief strategies.

Now please indulge me with the chance to make up a story about your decision to ask such a succinct-yet-loaded question. I wonder if you might want to hand over the authority on your situation to someone else? Maybe you’re so exhausted by the events that got you “Frustrated and Anxious” in the first place, that you’d like to put someone else in charge for a while? That makes total sense, but before you make an appointment, here are a few ideas about what you should not expect from therapy.

Please don’t go to therapy if:
…you expect the therapist to read your mind.
…you expect the therapist to tell you what to do.
…you expect your treatment to take a certain amount of time and have a specific outcome.
…you expect the therapist to make you feel better.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the best therapists help us understand the deeper motivations in our own behavior; they don’t impose their own agendas on our lives because, frankly, that never works. Think about it, did it work when you were a teenager? When you came across your first tyrannical coworker? When your spouse tried it? No. And paying someone by the hour to put you back in that situation is a recipe for resentment, anger, and feeling even more misunderstood.

Good therapy is about helping someone put words to the cognitions that may have never been named aloud. It is about describing our thought processes, holding those up against our goals, and then deciding if one matches the other. This is an internal restructuring that takes some heavy lifting on the part of the client. Yes, the therapist is there to walk you through it, but not to pass judgment on where you’ve been and decree what you should do next. If you are curious about how your past informs your present, and want to feel better in the end, then therapy can be one way to get there.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. Her website is www.therapygeorgetown.com. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. We really do want your questions! Send them confidentially to stacy@georgetowner.com.

Eat More Fiber? That Depends!

July 26, 2011

The Harvard study found that, “dietary fiber may reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases,” published in February 14?s Archives of Internal Medicine.

But, this may not mean what you think it means.

Should you be looking for foods in your supermarket that exclaim “High Fibers” in bold, bright letters? Probably not.

The term “High Fiber Diet,” when describing an eating pattern that benefits your health, is more accurately described as: “A diet high in foods which are naturally fiber-rich.”

Those who eat a diet high in foods that are naturally fiber-rich are the ones who receive the health benefits from a high fiber diet.

That is because naturally fiber-rich foods are also naturally jam-packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other plant compounds (called “phytonutrients”), which have known health-enhancing benefits. It is the combination of nutrients, including fiber, that make people healthy—not the fiber by itself.

The National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) Food and Nutrition Board, the group which issues periodic dietary recommendations for Americans, recommends Americans get 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. But most Americans eat half of what is recommended, eating a highly refined diet instead. There are plenty of great reasons to increase your intake of fiber-rich foods.

Easier Weight Loss:?Not eating enough fiber may be one reason why people are getting fatter.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women with the highest fiber intake had a 49 percent lower risk of major weight gain compared with women eating less fiber.

High fiber diets are usually lower in calories. Though fiber is mainly carbohydrate, very little of it, if any, is actually digested. So, with foods high in fiber, you’re actually eating food that only partially counts as calories.

High fiber foods require more chewing and take longer to eat, which leads to more physical and psychological satisfaction with your meals.

Improved Intestinal Function:?Digestive disorders are on the rise, and a main reason may be the dearth of fiber in our diets. For most digestive disorders, such as reflux disease, constipation, diarrhea, hemmorhoids, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome, a higher fiber diet relieves symptoms and can even prevent the disorder in the first place.

Imagine fiber as a dry sponge in your intestinal tract. Fiber pulls water into the system, keeping everything larger, softer and moving more quickly and easily.

Improved Immune Function: Harvard study found a reduced risk of infectious and respiratory diseases associated with a high fiber diet. This may be because many of the foods containing nutrients instrumental in a healthy immune system happen to be high in fiber.

Lower Diabetes Risk:?Numerous studies have shown that high fiber diets improve diabetes control and may even prevent diabetes.

There are several theories explaining why this may be true. First, high fiber foods tend to have a lower glycemic index. This means that after eating, blood sugar levels rise less (diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar). And studies confirm that people eating high fiber diets usually have lower fasting insulin levels, an indicator of overall lower blood sugar levels.

Also, high fiber foods contain many nutrients which may improve diabetes. For one, magnesium, a nutrient found in whole grains, legumes, tofu and some vegetables, improves insulin resistance, a cause of Diabetes Type 2, the most prevalent type of diabetes. Vitamin E, found in whole grains and nuts, may also improve insulin resistance.

Prevent Heart Disease:?Fiber helps prevent heart disease in a variety of ways. Lower circulating insulin caused by a high fiber diet reduces heart disease risk and heart attacks. Also, research shows viscous fiber found in legumes, oats, rye, barley and some fruits and vegetables, reduces LDL cholesterol (the bad kind which correlates with heart attack). In fact, it has been estimated by the National Academy of Sciences’ expert panel that for every gram of soluble fiber you eat, you’ll reduce heart disease risk by 2.4 percent.

High fiber diets reduce triglycerides, or blood fat, another heart disease risk factor. New evidence shows fiber intake is linked to lower C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation, which is an emerging heart disease risk factor.

Whole grains and some legumes contain many beneficial healthful substances, including phytoestrogens, which affect circulating hormone levels and may impact heart disease positively. Diets high in fruits and vegetables, containing high levels of the nutrient potassium, also significantly lower blood pressure and stroke.

High fiber foods such as dark green vegetables, legumes and fortified cereals contain the nutrient, folate (or folic acid). Researchers have found that low blood levels of folate are linked to heart disease.

Reduce Cancer Risk:?In populations eating low dietary fiber, doubling fiber intake from foods could reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by forty percent, according to findings in the EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition), an on-going study of 500,000 people in 10 European countries.

In fact, the majority of studies suggest that dietary fiber is protective against colon cancer, according to the NAS expert panel’s report on fiber.

Several mechanisms have been proposed for this beneficial effect. First, because it pulls water into the intestinal tract, fiber dilutes carcinogens and other tumor-promoters, and causes a more rapid transit, thus causing less exposure of your body to potentially damaging substances. Fiber also causes other beneficial chemical reactions, such as lowering the ph of the colon. And lower insulin levels caused by high fiber diets are correlated with lower colon cancer risk. The EPIC researchers stressed that foods supplying fiber also contribute many other nutrients and phytonutrients (beneficial plant chemicals) that have been linked to cancer protection, according to a study in The Lancet.

But a few important studies have not found a link. Reasons given for some disappointing results connecting fiber to cancer prevention are:

1. The benefits of dietary fiber may not occur until fiber intake is sufficiently high. Americans eat very low levels compared with Europeans, so it’s hard for scientists to measure a positive effect in American diets.

2. Some studies tested fiber supplements as opposed to fiber in food, and researchers say that’s a completely different animal.

Human studies specifically looking at fiber supplements or fiber added to processed foods—such as a high fiber bran cereal—have not shown good results and did not find a lower incidence of colon polyps, a precursor to colon cancer.

Scientists believe that added fiber in processed foods or supplements will probably not produce most of the health benefits found with high fiber foods, except for improved gastrointestinal function and slightly lower LDL, if the supplement is made from viscous fibers such as guar gum or psyllium. But fiber supplements’ role in chronic disease prevention remains unproven. It is best to get fiber from whole foods in your diet.

Looking for a delicious way of eating your fiber? My book, “Diet Simple,” contains tons of recipes, tips and strategies. And try my Cranberry, Orange, Toasted Walnut Whole Grain Muffins…

Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D. custom-designs nutrition, weight loss and wellness programs, is author of “Diet Simple.” For more information on the content of fiber in foods, go to KatherineTallmadge.com

Cranberry – Orange – Toasted Walnut Whole-Grain Muffin

12 Muffins
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour or King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats (put through the food processor, depending on texture preference)
1/4 cup buttermilk powder or nonfat dry milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries chopped (I used fresh)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I toasted them)
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk (I used buttermilk)
1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons sugar, or 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For a sweeter muffin, substitute 1 cup sweetened dried cranberries.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease the wells of a muffin tin, or line with papers, and grease the inside of the papers.

Muffins: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, then stir in the cranberries and nuts. Whisk together the orange zest, eggs, milk, and oil or melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until blended; don’t beat, or your muffins will be tough! Fill the muffin cups or liners about 3/4 full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove them from the oven, leave them in the pan for 5 minutes, then take out of the pan and transfer them to a rack to finish cooling.

Glaze: In a small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, stir together the glaze ingredients. Bring just to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Dip the tops of the warm muffins into the glaze.

Spring Cleaning: Sprucing Up Your Heart, Mind and Soul

Spring is the time of year I make an assessment of my life, my achievements, my mistakes, and how my life is going overall. Spring sends my spirit soaring, sharpens my senses, and forces an evaluation of my life and my health. And while there is so much to be grateful for, improvements need to be made as well.

I know, tradition says you make those evaluations at the new year. But I really don’t feel that sense of urgency for change until I can open my windows, hear the birds chirping, see daffodils sprouting (and perhaps, notice my belly has been expanding during the winter months… OOPS! We’ll talk about that later).

For the spiritual or religious among us, springtime means Lent: a time for reflection and change. “Lent is spiritual calisthenics; forty days to exercise self-discipline. This hard work transforms us toward a deeper respect for God, love for our brothers and sisters, and reverence for all creation for the entirety of the year,” says Rev. Dr. Albert Scariato, Rector, St. John’s Episcopal Georgetown Parish.

For the non-religious, spring can be an important time for reflection as well. We live in a society where a multitude of distractions keep us from serious personal work, self-reflection and improvement, close relationships, physical activity and healthy food. In order to thrive in this crazy, multi-tasking, often violent and unhealthy world, the first step is “mindfulness.”

“There are many health benefits to being more mindful,” says Jack Killen, MD, Deputy Director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The following are excerpts from a recent interview:

Katherine: What is mindfulness?

Dr. Killen: Mindfulness is the ability to be present, more focused and clear; for concentration to be more sustained, and for attention to be on what’s happening, instead of on thoughts, memories, and associations.

Katherine: Why is it important to be mindful? What are some scientifically proven benefits?

Dr. Killen: There is neurobiological research demonstrating that mindfulness engages pathways in the brain associated with emotion and impulse control, attention, and focusing. It allows your brain to be focused on what is here and now so you are better able to respond to situations appropriately. People who are more mindful are better able to handle emotional situations in more appropriate ways, are more able to think through a problem, are less likely to be distracted by issues that won’t help…There is evidence that you improve at mental tests, that emotion regulation is better and more appropriate, blood pressure is lower and stress hormones are lower, thereby reducing stress.

Katherine: How can one become more mindful? I understand prayer or meditation may be helpful?

Dr. Killen: There is a lot of evidence accumulating that meditation in all of its forms has beneficial physiological effects. Meditation is a way of exercising neurological pathways in the brain, which help us become more mindful. But it is a bit like going to the gym and working out your muscles, it takes time and practice for the beneficial brain pathways to become established, similar to building muscular strength and flexibility.

Katherine: What are some examples of meditation that may have these kinds of emotional and behavioral benefits?
Dr. Killen: There are many ways you can train your mind to be more mindful. The jury is still out as to whether one is better than another. More likely, certain types of meditation will work well for certain people, and other kinds for other people. We are still working on how to measure and study meditation.

There are several types of meditation. “Mantra” meditation is repeating a phrase, or something with deep meaning over and over, or focusing on a candle, for instance. “Mindfulness” meditation is focusing on what is happening now instead of on thoughts, memories, and associations.

Katherine: Are yoga, tai chi, and other forms of exercise considered good ways to achieve mindfulness?

Dr. Killen: While mind/body interventions are difficult to research, there is some encouraging data. Yoga and meditation are intertwined in many ways. Studies suggest yoga is useful in increasing lung capacity, improving mood, wellbeing, posture, and there are similar benefits with Tai Chi. But there is a larger body of research on meditation and its benefits.

Katherine: Is there scientific evidence that these mind/body interventions such as meditation or yoga will promote healthier lifestyles?

Dr. Killen: This is what we are studying at the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Getting definitive answers to those questions through rigorous scientific research could make these kinds of health interventions more widely available. Important work going on right now is defining research methods. We need to understand, for instance, which yoga postures benefit your health and in what specific ways. If we want to make health interventions more widely available and accepted, we need to be able to describe their effects better, thus magnifying their benefits. We are currently studying if these mind-body interventions are a means to help people with metabolic syndrome, if they’d be useful in weight-control programs, helping people eat less, or more healthfully.

In “Mindfulness in Eating and Living Part II,” I will further investigate mindfulness, clarify methods for achieving mindfulness, and how you can use it to improve your health and your life. In the meantime, read “How to Beat Emotional Eating,” in Diet Simple. Stay tuned!

Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D., is passionate about helping people transform their health and their lives. Her book, Diet Simple, called the “Un-Diet” by The Washington Post, and “The only good nutritionally balanced and easy-to-follow diet book” by Good Housekeeping Magazine, is about losing weight without dieting. KatherineTallmadge.com

Fall’s Delicious Bounty


-The coming of fall is symbolized for each of us by different events and moments: the first turning of leaves, a bracing snap of cool air, rediscovering a favorite sweater, children returning to school, the palpable shortening of September and October days.

For me, one of the harbingers of autumn is the huge array of beautiful vegetables, such as winter squashes at my local farmer’s market. Squash, technically a fruit, comes in a dazzling array of sizes, shapes and flavors. Butternut is one of the most popular, flavorful and nutritious.

Winter squashes, particularly butternut, are far richer than the summer squashes and zucchini in terms of taste and nutrition because of their deeper color and higher carbohydrate and nutrient content. The most potent squashes are the more deeply colored varieties, especially pumpkin and butternut. Their color is provided by one of the most powerful nutrients: beta-carotene.

Characterized by a chubby bowling pin shape, a buff, beige color on the outside, and a deep orange on the inside, the butternut is an exceptional source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant which converts to vitamin A in your body. Beta-carotene is critical for your immune system, skin, vision, bones, reproductive systems and more. Studies show that people who eat foods high in beta-carotene and people with high blood levels of beta-carotene have a lower incidence of certain cancers. But you will not get the same results with a beta-carotene supplement. Study after study has shown disappointing
results with the supplements. So only the food will do! But that’s a good thing for us squash lovers.

Each squash is a bustling little factory of nutrients and phytochemicals the plant compounds
into potent, potentially healing properties. When acting synergistically in a food, these nutrients pack a more powerful health punch than the individual nutrients alone. Some of the most important nutrients in squash are antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and vitamin C, which are substances believed to reduce inflammation, improve immune function, and help prevent heart disease and certain cancers.

But there are other good reasons to eat butternut squash and other similar winter squashes. They are a great source of fiber (good for your gastrointestinal system), potassium (important for your heart and lowers blood pressure), magnesium (important for improving muscle function, the heart and bones, while preventing blood clots and diabetes), manganese (important for metabolism and bone formation), and calcium (important for your heart and bones). Another big plus — they are low in calories, with only 82 calories per cup of baked squash cubes.

Speaking of low in calories: broccoli is especially delicious this time of year and can be found in abundance at farmers markets. Broccoli belongs to the family of food called “brassica,” which has extremely high nutritional values and contains high levels of antioxidants and nutrients such as vitamin C, selenium, calcium, potassium, folic acid, and choline, as well as soluble fiber, which reduces cholesterol and helps level blood sugar. Brassica, a huge category of foods including cabbages, mustard seeds and greens, also contains potent anti-cancer compounds which help detoxify carcinogens in the liver before they continue to circulate in your bloodstream. These compounds also aid your immune response with antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Broccoli Soup with Carrots, Potatoes and Thyme

Makes 6 – 8 servings
2 Tbsp Canola Oil
1 Cup Chopped Sweet Onion (about 1 medium)
1 Clove Garlic, crushed
½ tsp dried Thyme or 1-1/2 tsp fresh Thyme (or more)
5 Cups Chicken Broth (or Vegetable Broth)
6 Cups Fresh Broccoli, Chopped (about 1 medium head)
2 Cups Wax Potatoes, Sliced (about 2 medium)
1 Cup Carrots, Sliced (about 2 medium)
Salt (1/8 to ¼ tsp) and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
Optional Garnish:
Top each bowl with a 1 Tbsp dollop of fat free, plain yogurt, salt, and pepper

Heat oil in large iron skillet or dutch oven (soup pot) on fairly high heat. Add onion, garlic, and thyme. Saute until golden. Add 4 cups broth and the rest of the vegetables. Cover, lower the temperature, and let simmer about thirty minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Let the mixture cool down a bit, add the rest of the broth (2 cups) – or milk – then puree in a blender or food processor.

NOTE: Instead of using the 2 cups of broth for the puree, you could use 1% milk or buttermilk for a “creamier” soup (this only adds 200 calories to the whole pot of soup, but adds protein and nine essential nutrients!).

The entire pot of soup makes about 8 cups and is about 650 calories (850 with the milk).

Butternut Squash Soup with Curry and Ginger

About 6 servings
1 Butternut Squash
4 Cups Water
2 Tbsp Canola Oil
1 Cup Chopped Sweet Onion (about 1 medium)
1 Clove Garlic, crushed (2 cloves, if you like it spicy)
1 tsp Curry Powder (2 tsp, if you like it spicy)
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger, about 2 inches, grated (2 Tbsp, if you like it spicy)
1 Cup Chicken or Vegetable Stock
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste

Cut Butternut Squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Place squash face down in baking pan with 4 cups water. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until soft when pierced by a fork.

While the squash is baking, prepare the aromatic vegetables and spices: Place the oil in a large iron skillet or soup pot on medium-high. Add onions and garlic, and fry until golden. Stir in curry powder, ginger, and a pinch of salt, and simmer on low for a few minutes.

When the squash has cooled to the touch, pour the water in which the squash was cooked into the skillet and stir to scrape up the bits of aromatic vegetables and spices. When squash has cooled, scoop out the butternut squash meat, leaving the skin, and stir into the mixture in the skillet. When room temperature or cool, puree the vegetable and spice mixture in a blender or food processor with the broth.
NOTE: Adjust seasonings by adding more salt, pepper, or spices if desired. Adjust consistency by adding more water or broth. Also, any similar winter squash will work well if Butternut is not available.

The entire pot of soup makes about 6 cups and is about 500 calorie.

Nutritionist, Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D. Author, “Diet Simple: 192 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations” www.KatherineTallmadge.com

How to Choose a Therapist


-The decision to see a therapist can be a hard one to make, as I discussed in my last column, “It’s All In Your Head” (georgetowner.com/living). Once you’ve made that decision, the next challenge is finding the right therapist. How do you go about that?

Most people begin by soliciting referrals. You ask your friends, your doctor, you troll online, search directories such as Psychology Today or American Psychological Association, etc. Pretty
soon it becomes apparent that there is a wide range of varying choices. How do you select among them a therapist that’s right for you?

Here’s one way to think about it that might help simplify the process:

There are essentially three basic criteria to examine before you choose a therapist. Meeting the criteria won’t guarantee success, of course (if anyone EVER gives you a guarantee in this business, run, don’t walk, in the opposite direction!), but it does provide a solid basis from which to work. The three criteria to look for in a therapist are: competence, integrity, and “chemistry.””

Professional licensure is designed to assure a level of competence through qualifying exams and the requirement of continuing education, so make sure the person you’re considering for your therapist is licensed as a psychologist, social worker or psychiatrist. Checking out their schooling and number of years in practice might give you some more comfort on this dimension.

This is hard to ascertain in advance, but it is a vital component in allowing you to feel safe and secure in the therapeutic relationship.

You’re looking for a therapist who can help you. In other words, you’re trying to hire a therapist,
and all those names you’ve gathered are applicants for the job. But the “job” of a therapist is unique in some respects. While in most situations, job applicants can supply a potential employer with references, it’s not possible for the therapist you have under consideration to suggest that you contact a former patient to learn about her work. However, one thing you can do is call and ask for some time on the phone to talk with the therapist about what you’re looking for. If he or she won’t give you ten minutes on the phone to help you make this important decision, then move on. (They may not be free to talk the moment you call, of course, but the therapist with integrity will suggest another convenient time). That phone conversation is where “chemistry” comes in.

Talk to several therapists. See how the conversations go. Ask yourself: Do they ask good questions? Do you like their answers? How about their tone and attitude? Do you feel comfortable? Do you relate to their outlook on psychotherapy? Do you think they might be able to “get” you? Do you feel you can be honest with them? Do you think the two of you can work together? Your answers to these questions are all aspects of “chemistry.”

Psychotherapy is a cooperative project. You and your therapist are a team working on your behalf, engaged in a process that takes commitment and hard work, but can also be joyful and liberating. Once therapy has begun, it’s important to stop from time to time and evaluate—together—the progress you’re making. That way therapy can keep pace with your growth, and the team can continue to be effective.

Therapy is hard work, but when you’re working with the right partner, important, meaningful change can take place. Good luck!

Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist practicing short-term, solution-oriented psychotherapy in downtown D.C. She is affiliated with the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at The George Washington University. For more information, check out therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/69148 or www.sleep-dc.com.

Sweets Strategies: the Science Behind Cravings and What to do About Them

Halloween can trip up even the most conscientious dieter. Last year, this happened to a client who had lost and kept off 20 pounds successfully. The Halloween trap caught her by surprise. She bought several bags of Snickers, her favorite candy bar, and began a binge that didn’t end until the candy was gone – long before Trick or Treating even began! That brought her up a couple of pounds. The holidays came and before she knew it, she had gained almost ten pounds before winter was out.

With Halloween passed and holidays looming, it’s important to determine your strategy for dealing
with the temptation of sweets: what you eat, what you bring in your home, and what you serve others. My philosophy is that all foods can be enjoyed in moderation. But there are special challenges
posed with some foods, particularly sweets, which have been confirmed by solid science – it’s not just in our heads! Understanding the science behind sweet craving and overeating can help us eat in a more moderate and healthy way.

People have an inborn attraction to sweets. If you don’t believe it, simply watch an infant’s response to something sweet versus, say, a vegetable. There’s an automatic acceptance, even joy, after eating something sweet. On the other hand, vegetables are an acquired taste, which may take 10 to 20 tries before acceptance. This is partly explained by evolution. We’ve been eating naturally sweet foods such as breast milk and fruit for millions of years. They contain life-sustaining nutrients, and a love for those foods helped keep us alive. Also, during evolution, an attraction to scarce calorie-dense foods, such as sweets and fats, improved our chances for survival.

But there are other explanations. The research surrounding our attraction to sweets has stepped up in recent decades. Scientists are grappling with understanding the calorie imbalances causing the obesity epidemic, which is partly fueled by eating too many sweets.

Our brain chemistry holds an important clue. Research shows that sweets, like many antidepressants,
increase the brain chemical, serotonin, which helps regulate mood and appetite.

“Without carbohydrates, your brain stops regulating serotonin,” says Judith Wurtman, the director
of the women’s health research program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Clinical Research Center in Boston. “Eating carbohydrates profoundly improves mood; which is why a handful
of candy corn will make you feel better.”

When we are stressed, anxious or depressed, serotonin levels can drop, and one way people modify their moods is by eating carbohydrates. But Halloween and holiday sweet cravings may be uniquely influenced by seasonal changes, too. Studies show that as days get shorter and we are exposed to less sunshine, serotonin levels drop and this leads to increased carbohydrate cravings in susceptible people.

“It’s seasonal. If they sold Halloween and Holiday candy in July, people wouldn’t be as interested,”
says Wurtman.

Women are particularly vulnerable to sweet cravings because their brains have less serotonin than men, according to Wurtman.

There have been other explanations for women’s reported increased sweet craving and indulging. Some researchers attribute the difference to the female hormone, estrogen. It’s been reported that sweet cravings change according to where a woman is in her menstrual cycle—circumstantial evidence that estrogen may play a role. But the findings are inconsistent, as some report increased cravings during menstruation, while others report higher cravings as a premenstrual symptom, a time when serotonin levels may be low.

But the bottom line is clear: “Females overeat sweets compared to males,” says Lisa Eckel, assistant professor of psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Eckel completed a study on rats, published in the American Journal of Physiology, which found that female rats ate more rat chow when it was sweetened, compared with males.

“In animals, having high levels of estrogen is associated with eating more sweets,” says Eckel. Yet this theory has yet to be proven in humans.

Cravings and overeating are difficult to study because they can be so subjective and multifactorial.
Other researchers stipulate sweet cravings are mainly determined by culture, or by psychological and behavioral factors, rather than physiology.

In some cultures, people don’t crave sweets because they haven’t been exposed to them as regularly as Americans. A study of chocolate, for instance, found that American women crave chocolate significantly more than Spanish women. And while a large percentage of American women reported increased chocolate cravings surrounding their menstrual period, Spanish women did not.

Other studies confirm that exposure during childhood is the major determinant of what we crave and are susceptible to overeating.

I copied my mother’s love for sweets and baking; it was a fun activity we did together. In college, to combat loneliness—and just for fun—I over-indulged my love for sweets (as the pounds went up and up). I would regularly bake my favorite chocolate chip bars and caramel popcorn, both of which I made in childhood. Study after study shows the importance of parental modeling on a child’s preferences.

Availability and proximity are two of the most important factors science has found that influence what we crave and overeat, and they probably trump all of the other reasons combined. When tasty foods, such as sweets, are around, we simply eat more of them.

Chances are, a combination of factors is responsible for cravings and overeating sweets at Halloween and the holidays.

“Holiday sweets are novel, they only comes around once a year. It comes in small pieces so you fool yourself into thinking you’re not eating as much,” says Wurtman. “You put it in bowls around the house and eat it mindlessly!”

Wurtman says if you have a strong desire for sweets, it may be a sign that you’re depressed, anxious or stressed. But she insists you don’t have to indulge in sweets to raise your serotonin levels or to feel good. Exercising, stress management and spending time with loved ones are activities which will also help reduce depression, anxiety and stress (My client discovered a psychological basis for her binges, which she is successfully averting these days).

Using candy to feel better is not a great solution for your waist line. It is so high calorie, it doesn’t take much to overeat and forget your weight loss plans. For the same calories in a candy bar, you could eat four apples—or maybe you couldn’t. And that’s the point!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not urging you to be a Halloween Scrooge. I believe it’s possible to have fun with Halloween, and even eat Halloween candy, but still avoid some of the excesses that many of us have fallen victim to in the past. Here are a few suggestions.

• To reduce the possibility of seasonal cravings, make sure you’re getting 30 minutes to one hour of sunlight each day by taking a walk in the mornings or at lunch. You may be able to “catch up” on the weekend if you didn’t get enough rays during the week.

• Eat plenty of healthy carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, to keep serotonin at optimum levels and reduce cravings of less healthy carbohydrates, such as refined sugar.

• If you feel “driven” to eat sweets, it may be a signal that you’re depressed, anxious or stressed. Reduce tension and anxiety by exercising, meditating or talking with loved ones. It’s important
to understand the core of the problem, and for that you may need to seek help from a professional.

• If you want to lose weight, keep your candy – or other “extra” calories – to no more than 10% of your daily calories (that’s 200 calories for the average 2,000 calorie intake, or 150 for 1,500 calories). You may even get away with one big splurge on Halloween. But if you splurge for two or more days, it will probably effect your waist line negatively.

• If you can’t resist eating too much candy, wait to buy it on the day of the party or event (or, don’t buy it). This way, the candy won’t be sitting around as a constant temptation

• Buy only what you need for the event and buy your least favorite candy. Give away the remaining candy at the end of the evening so that there’s nothing left.

• Try fun and healthier alternatives to sweets to have around your home and serve to family and guests, such as popcorn, roasted pumpkin seeds, sliced apples and fruit with nice dips

• Most importantly, if you do find you overeat, lighten up, don’t dwell on the negative and get over it! Analyze objectively what you can do differently next time. With awareness and good planning, you can have your sweets and eat them, too!

Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D. custom-designs nutrition, diet and wellness programs. You see her interviewed regularly in the media, on CNN, CBS Evening News, Good Morning America, NPR, POLITICO, Newsweek and others. Katherine@KatherineTallmadge.com (202)833-0353

Holiday & Party Strategies


-The social butterflies among us are very fortunate in some ways. They’re often out and about, meeting new friends and entertaining old friends at home. Life is full. Life is grand!

But then there’s the little (or not so little) issue of weight. Festivities can put a dent in even the staunchest weight loss resolve. Just about every party, after all, revolves around food. Just thinking about all the calories can make me feel heavier!

Parties and holidays are a time for celebrating life and for bringing families and friends together. No one’s perfect, and it seems almost antisocial to obsess over your weight when everyone around you is having such a great time. Still, parties present a lot of opportunities for overindulging. Even if you’ve managed to master the daily routines of exercising, eating in moderation and so on, parties and holidays don’t come around that often. That means we don’t have as much practice reconciling social obligations with our desire to maintain the same waist size.

Parties are not only about food. They should not even be mainly about food. Not convinced? Well, take a minute to make an inventory of the things that matter to you— things that really touch your heart around special occasions and holidays. Here are some of the things that I and my clients have decided are important:

-Showing kindness to others and making sacrifices for those less fortunate
-Getting together with friends and family you rarely have time for
-Observing religious significance of holidays
-Attending holiday plays and concerts
-Free time for special exhibits, ice skating and skiing
-Volunteering at the local homeless shelter
-Looking your best and feeling confident and energetic

Even without knowing you personally, I can say with some confidence that your list of priorities is probably pretty similar. Do we think about food when we go to parties or celebrate the holidays? Of course, but there is so much more!

Tips for Celebrating

Prioritize what is most important to you about the holiday.

Remember, the “holidays” are only three days, NOT every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Plan your holiday eating carefully. Savor and enjoy each bite to the fullest.

-Prioritize your high calorie items. Choose three of your favorite holiday foods and allow yourself to enjoy them. Don’t waste calories by sampling everything.
-Prioritize your parties. Choose one or two of your favorite parties during the week and allow yourself to indulge at them. Eat before going to the other parties. If you indulge at, say, all five parties you’re invited to in one week, you may gain more weight than you would feel comfortable with.
-ALWAYS eat normally and on time the day of the party. Don’t starve yourself during the day so that you irrationally overeat everything in sight once you get there.
-Eat a snack just before arriving at your party.
-Once you’ve arrived at the party, grab some sparkling water and wait at least 30 minutes before making a food choice. This gives you time to relax, get comfortable in your surroundings and to scope out the food offerings rationally.
-Location! Location! Location! Position yourself away from the food table. Focus on conversation, not eating.
-ALWAYS follow the “Mindful Eating Techniques.” Before eating anything, take the food to a table, sit down, take three or four deep breaths, relax, and focus full attention on the food while you are eating. If you want to talk with someone, put the food down and talk. When you want to eat, put your full attention on the eating. Notice the point at which you feel comfortable not full. As soon as you are comfortable, stop eating. Enjoy and savor every bite. Don’t waste any calorie by not paying attention to what you are eating.
-When you are in control of the party, try new healthy recipes to serve your family or guests. You’ll be surprised how much this is appreciated.
-Anticipate situations and plan your strategy ahead of time.
-Before the event, visualize yourself using your planned strategies and leaving the party successful.
-Reward yourself for handling the situations as you planned.
-Leftovers are what put weight on. Splurge on the holiday, then get back to normal eating ASAP.

Do’s and Don’ts for Holiday Buffets

Been invited to a holiday buffet? Don’t panic! I’ve surveyed the trendiest holiday buffets to come up with a list of dos and don’ts so you don’t leave the party stuffed with 2,000 calories beneath your belt. Which reminds me: This is not time to be shy, so wear confining clothing. There’s nothing like a death grip around your waist to remind you it’s time to leave the Swedish meatballs behind and start mingling.

Read closely. You may be shocked to find that even if you stick with all the “dos” on my list, your calories will probably top anything you’d be eating at home with your standard 600 calorie dinner. So, be picky. Don’t waste calories when you can enjoy yourself flirting or caroling!

1. DO! Add sparkling water and a twist of lime to your two ounces of white wine. It’s only 40 calories!

2. DON’T! Get started with several glasses of wine at 100 calories each!

3. DO! Start with healthy crudités. Dip carrot and celery strips, or any other veggies, in salsa! (Each dipped finger-sized veggie stick is about 7 to 10 calories and no fat.)

4. DON’T! Start with chips and dip. Did you know that each dipped chip could set you back 25 calories and 2 grams of fat? (Was that about 10 that you just gulped down in 2 minutes flat?)

5. DO! Savor Smoked Salmon on a whole grain cracker (about 35 calories and 2 grams of fat for 1/2 ounce of salmon and one cracker).

6. DON’T! Dig into the crispy and creamy appetizers. Bet you didn’t know that tiny egg roll packs are 200 calories and 10 grams of fat! The cheese and crackers? You jest! Each tiny slab (1/2 ounce) of cheese with a Town House cracker is 65 calories and 6 grams of fat.

7. DO! Take the edge off your appetite with the filling yet spicy Minestrone or Vegetable Soup at 150 calories and 2 grams of fat per 8-ounce bowl.

8. DON’T! Fill your bowl with the Seafood Bisque. It’ll pack on 300 calories and 10 grams of fat per 8-ounce bowl.

9. DO! Start with a fresh salad. Heap your plate with fresh, young greens, sliced tomatoes and onions (25 calories at the most). Top with 1 Tbsp of vinaigrette (50 – 75 calories, 5 – 9 grams fat).

10. DON’T! Start with garlic bread (200 calories for two small slices).

11. DO! Pile on the Grilled Vegetables like red peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini. They’re only 25 calories per 1/2 cup serving.

12. DON’T! Get creamed with the Creamed Spinach. The cream and butter adds 150 calories to the measly 25 for the spinach.

13. DO! Spoon up sorbet. It’s cool. It’s refreshing. It’s only 100 calories and zero fat per 1/2 cup.

14. DON’T! Spoon up the Haagen Daz! It’s 250 calories and 20 grams of fat per 1/2 cup.

15. DO! Indulge in a sliver of pumpkin pie. It’s creamy deliciousness is relatively abstemious at 300 calories and 14 grams of fat for 1/8 of a 9” pie.

16. DON’T! Indulge in a sliver of pecan pie. It’ll set you back 500 calories and 27 grams of fat!

17. DO! Try a meringue cookie or ginger snap. They’re only about 30 calories a piece.

18. DON’T! Grab a chocolate chip cookie with nuts. Even a tiny one is 120 calories.

19. DO! Enjoy hot herbal tea as a night cap to help you sleep (zero calories, zero fat).

20. DON’T! Indulge in a brandy. It’s 160 calories for just a 1-1/2 ounce jigger, and that’s before the cream!

And to get you started, here are some lighter alternatives for holiday cookies:

Kjerstin’s Swedish Almond Cookies

This Swedish cookie recipe was handed down to me from my mother. Because they’re almost exclusively made with nuts, they’re heart healthy!

Makes 24 cookies

8 1/2 9oz almonds
1 1/2 Cup powdered sugar
2 egg whites
2-3 drops green food dye (if desired)

Blanch and grind almonds until very fine, like flour. Add sugar, stir in egg whites and mix well. Make 24 tablespoon-sized round balls and push a piece of slivered blanched almond in the middle. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 – 20 minutes.

You can buy blanched and slivered almonds in most stores. Some stores even sell almond flour. You may also use other nuts in place of almonds, i.e. hazel nuts.

Nutrition Information per cookie: 82 calories, 2.5 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 9.6 grams carbohydrates (0.4 grams saturated fat), 1 gram fiber

Lighter Chocolate Chip Cookies

The following recipe is adapted from The Low Fat Epicure by Sallie Twentyman, R.D. (It’s out of print, unfortunately.). It’s a recipe I’ve been giving my clients and have been using myself for years:

Makes 36 2″ Cookies

2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup White Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Tbsp Skim Milk
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup White Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
1 Package (12 oz) Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Chopped Walnuts, or more to taste (and for increased Omega-6 and Omega-3’s)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly coat two cookie sheets with vegetable oil spray.

Beat together eggs, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, and skim milk until thick and uniformly mixed (do not over-mix). Add whole-wheat flour, white flour, baking soda and salt, and beat again until well combined. Add more white flour a tablespoon at a time, if necessary, beating after each addition, until mixture is no longer wet-looking and is thick enough not to run off the beater when beater is lifted from bowl. Add chocolate chips and nuts and mix until chips and nuts are evenly distributed.

Drop dough onto cookie sheets by teaspoonfuls, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until only slightly browned and no longer wet when touched. Cookies will become hard if overbaked, so watch them carefully.

Cool 4 – 5 minutes on cookie sheets, and then transfer to rack.

I’ve mixed chocolate with butterscotch chips, added more nuts (for nut lovers), and even candied cherries. It’s a very versatile recipe…

Each cookie: 108 calories, 4.6 grams fat (1.6 grams saturated fatty Acid, 1.6 grams Omega-6 and Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids), 14 mg Cholesterol, 16 grams carbohydrates, 1.8 grams protein, 91 mg sodium

Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D., custom designs nutrition and weight loss programs and is the author of “Diet Simple,” full of delicious holiday and everyday recipes by great chefs such as Jacques Pepin, Roberto Donna, Nora Pouillon, Michel Richard, Carla Hall, Janis McLean. Order at any bookstore, online at amazon.com, or find copies at Griffin Market, 28th and P Street, in Georgetown. Katherine@KatherineTallmadge