Friday, December 30, 2011

A New Approach to Weight Management: Eating for Stomach Hunger

We made it through the holidays without any problems. A couple of people in the “10 Years Younger in 60 Days” program lost weight during the Week #4 weigh-in, some of us stayed level, and one of us gained just a couple of ounces while enjoying some of the tempting foods and desserts we associate with the holidays. Congratulations to everyone for keeping focused on your goals!

Our guest this week was registered dietician Virginia (Ginny) Flanders, RD, the Director of Nutrition and Food Services at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury and a certified diabetes educator.

Ginny gave a great presentation on mindful eating, a new approach to healthy eating and weight management that eliminates the need to count calories or eliminate carbs. Mindful eating is all about being aware of the food you are eating. Not only do we need to choose nutritious and healthy foods to eat, but we also need to pay attention to our bodies, which tell us hour to hour how hungry we are.

All foods fall into one of three categories: proteins, fats or carbs. A fourth source of calories is alcohol. For the best nutrition and to give our bodies the energy they need to function optimally, we need a balanced diet – a variety of healthy foods, rather than eating only meats or eliminating all carbs.

Ginny led us through several exercises to help us determine why we eat like we do and to help us become aware of the triggers that lead us to eat even when our stomachs aren’t hungry. The Hunger and Fullness Scale lets you rate your hunger from 1 – Ravenous to 10 – sick. Right in the middle is 5 – Satisfied, which is the goal we should be aiming for. Buddhists say that we should eat until we are three-quarters full. Another way to look at it is to stop five bites before the end of your meal. Ginny explained that it takes about 20 minutes for us to feel full and satisfied. If you consume your food in less time, then your brain doesn’t recognize fullness.

We were all a little freaked out when Ginny passed out three tiny raisins to each of us. The objective of this exercise was to look into our bodies to decide how hungry we were on a scale from 1-10, and to assess where this hunger originated. We pretended we had landed on a planet and had to investigate what was edible with the only tools we have -- our senses of sight, smell, taste and touch. First she had us hold one raisin and look at it, then smell it, then place it in our mouths and roll it around. Only then could we take one bite. After chewing, tasting and swallowing it we had to rate our stomach hunger. Did it fill us up? Did we want more of the same food? After that we ate another raisin and had to rate our mind hunger – just what does our mind say about this food? Do our hearts say anything about it? Is it soothing or comforting? Would our hearts like to have more of this food?

Responses to this exercise ranged from “weird” to “it’s amazing how a raisin stinks” to “it makes you think about what you put in your mouth.” According to Ginny, if we slow down when we eat, we’ll become aware of each bite and eat less. “When you go to eat something where is the hunger coming from?” Ginny asked. “We need to eat for stomach hunger, rather than eye or nose or head or heart hunger. It’s a whole different way of approaching food and eating.”

Ginny also suggested that we should eat our meals without the distraction of television, computer or cell phone. Mindful eating is pleasurable eating, she said, and food can’t be enjoyed to its fullest when we are engaged in doing something else, like watching television.

Ginny recommended a couple of books we might find helpful if we choose to practice mindful eating:

- Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays
- Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan
- Savor. Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh

We especially enjoyed some of the approaches to eating in Michael Pollan’s simple book of food rules:
  • Don’t buy your food at the same place you buy your gas
  • Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  • Avoid foods containing more than five ingredients.
  • Eat only animals that have eaten well.
  • Eat colorful foods.
  • Eat foods that have been pre-digested, like kimchee, a fermented cabbage.
  • Eat oily fishes.
  • The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead.
  • Eat all the junk food you want, as long as you cook it yourself.

Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital will begin a 12-week weight management pilot program in mid-January that is based on the mindful approach that Ginny shared with us. It includes mindful eating, exercise and stress management. Anyone interested in learning more can contact Ginny at

Healthy Snack:

This week’s healthy snack, a wonderful sweet potato soup, was prepared by Tinah, based on a recipe from Bob Greene’s “The Best Life Diet.” The soup was savory, with the taste and texture of ground chicken, even though there was no chicken in it, just chicken broth. Most of our group seemed to enjoy it, even the person who doesn’t care for yogurt, which is one of the soup’s ingredients, so this week’s snack gets a thumbs up!

Sweet Potato Soup
2 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. cumin
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper
1-1/2 cups plain nonfat yogurt

Heat oil. Saute onion and cumin for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sweet potatoes and broth. Cook until potatoes are soft, 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes. Puree soup (if using a blender, work in batches and do not fill the blender more than half way). Return soup to heat. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the yogurt and serve. Delicious!

Next Week:

The beginning of a new year, and the countdown begins to the final four weeks of the “10 Years Younger in 60 Days” program. We are staying on track, working toward our individual goals and excited that we have already completed a month’s worth of healthier eating and more exercise. We’ll try to have some weight loss figures ready to share, as well as some comments from individuals in the group about their successes and challenges to date.

Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Heavenly Massage!

Stress relief is what we were looking for in the third week of “10 Years Younger in 60 Days, which also happens to be the week before Christmas, a time of stress for so many of us. Innkeeper Ilja had arranged for massage therapist Tamar Smookler, owner of Inner Truth Massage & The Healing Arts Studio in Littleton, and her associate, Gina Formeister, also a certified massage therapist, to introduce us to the benefits of massage.
Massage feels wonderful, and it also has health benefits, say Tamar and Gina. It’s good for the detox process that some of us are experiencing as we change our diets because it brings blood to the body’s muscles and tissues, and helps get rid of toxins. Drinking a lot of water after a massage helps to flush out your system as well.

Massage helps your body recover if you are sore from exercising, it can help improve your spirits, is good for joint health, and aids in digestion. Getting a massage can also reduce anxiety and help lower your stress levels.

Getting a massage, says Tamar, stimulates our “happy hormones,” the feel good ones that produce a natural high. “It feels good and you don’t have to do anything!”

Gina and Tamar also demonstrated some simple self-care techniques we could use on a daily basis to help relieve neck and shoulder stress, one of the most common complaints of those who spend a lot of time in front of a computer or do any kind of repetitive job. Stretching to open your chest can relieve tension in the back and neck, as can gentle necks rolls or squeezing the back of your neck with your palms. Massaging your scalp and temples feels good and also helps release mental stress.

The massage therapists hold complimentary chair massages every Wednesday at 11:30 at the Littleton studio, followed by a meditation time. The complimentary sessions are open to the public. Learn more about the benefits of massage or book an appointment at the Inner Truth website at

Following their introductory talk, we got to the fun part of the evening with Tamar and Gina – enjoying a chair massage. Each of us had a short session in the chair, with one of the therapists massaging our scalp, neck, shoulders, back and hands. Those who had never experienced massage were pleasantly surprised with how wonderful and relaxed they felt after just 10 minutes. And those who had had massage before really looked forward to their session. One person said she felt like her entire upper body had opened up and was lighter feeling.  

We were also excited to learn that massage can affect your blood pressure. A couple of people took their blood pressure before and after their massage and noted a marked decline in their numbers following their massage. A very positive ending to our introductory massage experience!

Week No. 3 Weigh In:

We’re starting to notice small weight losses when we step on the scale. A pound or two doesn’t sound like much, but it is if you’ve had trouble losing weight before. If we keep this up we’ll see 10-20 pound weight losses by the end of the eight-week program. And, it’s rewarding to get a high five from our “10 Years Younger in 60 Days” buddies for our accomplishments.

One person noted how eating the wrong foods can affect us. She had eaten a lot of chocolate-covered popcorn and said that it made her feel bad. Another person had made chocolate candies, but resisted eating any, deciding to make good food choices that day. Someone else has stopped eating chocolate all together (notice a theme here!), and has cut out late night snacks, leading to her modest weight loss. Chef Orlo reminded us that dark chocolate is good for us, but only in moderation!

Healthy Snack:

Brad’s Carrot-Pineapple Smoothie received a thumbs-up this week. While we could smell the banana in it, we had difficulty identifying the ingredients of the icy, not too sweet, pale orange fruit and vegetable drink. One of us thought it tasted of strawberries, but – surprise! – no strawberries.

3/4 cup fresh pineapple
1/2 cup ice
1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup carrots
1/2 banana

Blend until smooth and frothy.

“That is the recipe,” says Brad, “but of course a true chef puts his touches on any recipe and unfortunately I am no different. I just increased the quantities. More of everything -- carrots, pineapple, and orange juice. I didn’t put more banana in it so as to NOT upset my wonderful bride (aka Innkeeper Ilja) as she hates bananas!”

We decided this one’s a keeper, but be sure to watch portion sizes if you increase the quantities. You’ll defeat the purpose of the healthy snack if you guzzle it all down at once.

Next Week:

This is crunch week for us – making the right food choices over Christmas, when there are so many tempting foods to choose from. Our goal this week is to stay steady, and not gain weight. The scales will reveal whether we’ve been naughty or nice next Tuesday evening.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Nothing Tastes As Good As Thin Looks!

So says Weight Watchers lifetime member Joe Palazzolo of Bethlehem, who gave a very inspiring talk to our “10 Years Younger in 60 Days” group on Tuesday evening. Joe lost 75 pounds in a year’s time and overcame severe health problems by following the Weight Watchers eating plan.

“Weight Watchers saved my life,” Joe told us. “I embraced the program, and it embraced me. It’s not a diet, it’s a way of life.”

In January 2007, Joe had already had a triple bypass and suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes, high triglycerides and high cholesterol. By December, he had dropped 75 pounds (and his wife lost 60) by following the Weight Watchers food plan and beginning an exercise program.

Because we are all trying to eat more healthily during our eight-week program, we wanted to know how the Weight Watchers program works, and more significantly, could it help us eat better and lose weight. Joe says “Yes!” provided we do the work.

Weight Watchers is based on portion size and has a point system. All fruits are free, as are most vegetables, but other foods are assigned a point value. Each person who joins Weight Watchers receives a specific number of points they can use each day, based on their age, weight and gender. They also receive an additional 49 points they can use throughout the week.

When Joe and his wife joined Weight Watchers they weighed or measured all of the food they ate and counted points and they still do. “You have to change your mindset,” he says, “and it becomes a habit. We teach you how to eat, and you have to track what you eat every day.”

He recommends the Simply the Best cookbook for anyone interested in following the Weight Watchers eating plan or for healthy eating in general. A member of our group who had lost 15 pounds through Weight Watchers several years ago, also gave the cookbook a thumbs up.

We were impressed with the healthy choices that Joe and his wife have made. Anyone can join and change their eating habits – and their life – according to Joe. Meetings are held locally in Littleton, Lancaster, Woodsville and St. Johnsbury; check Weight Watchers online for details and times.

“Every meal you make the best choice you can make,” Joe told us in conclusion.

Week No. 2 Weigh In:The scale was waiting for us as we descended the stairs to Adair’s Granite Room, reminding us immediately of why we were here. With the results in, we learned that some of us lost a pound or two during the first week, and some of us gained. Resisting cookies and other goodies this time of year is difficult!

More Goals:Two more Adair employees joined the group on Tuesday evening. Both want to lower their cholesterol. One wants to drop 25 pounds, the other wants to stay healthy and run a race in the spring and then take on a marathon at a later date. When she’s in her 80s she wants to feel like she’s still in her 30s, she says. What a goal!

The Wave!There’s the wave you do at football games, and then there’s the Wave that Lynn brought along to show us. This piece of exercise equipment is somewhat like a half circle. Placed on its flat ends it’s stable and you can step off and on easily – perfect for step aerobics and other stationary exercises.

Place it on its curvy side and you can rock back and forth and get a different type of workout. It comes with a CD, and Lynn says it’s the best piece of exercise equipment she’s every purchased. Several of us tried it and thought it was a blast. Thanks, Lynn!

Healthy SnackThis week’s snack was yummy – apple and cheddar cheese slices provided by Lynn. Unfortunately, we learned that to keep it healthy, we could have just two slices of cheese. Plenty of apples, though.

Next Week:
Innkeeper Ilja will have another motivational speaker to inspire and educate us about an aspect of healthy living. We’ll be striving to make better food choices throughout the week, and find the time to exercise, so that when we hit the scales, we’ll see the numbers creeping downward.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Full Moon Snowshoe evening builds memories

By Eileen Alexander

BETHLEHEM — Tromping through snowy woods on a bright winter’s evening was exactly like a scene straight out of an old-fashioned postcard — or a Robert Frost poem, with a few tweaks to account for 21st century tastes. Crisp air, towering pines, the clack and creak of our snowshoes on the snowy trail, brightly colored ski clothes, deer tracks in the snow, nervous laughter when someone stumbles over the unfamiliar terrain, a little huffing and puffing on the uphills, and oohs and aahs when the clouds part to reveal a full moon.

I’m on a moonlight snowshoe hike with about a half-dozen other guests at the Adair Country Inn & Restaurant. I’ve been on snowshoes before, and I’m the only one in our group with any experience – not counting our guide, of course -- although experience is stretching the truth some. Years ago I’d done some snowshoeing using the old-fashioned wood and gut snowshoes, but this year I have a brand new pair of lightweight aluminum ones and I’m eager to try them out. The day before the hike I strap on my snowshoes and hike the field next to my house just to be sure that I can a) put on the snowshoes without falling on my face and looking like an idiot, and b) can make it around the field without keeling over from exhaustion. I manage to accomplish both without any difficulty so I figure I’m all set for my outing.

We’re a nice group of women, some of us young and some of us older. Everyone is keen to give snowshoeing a try under the guidance of Nigel Manley, the manager of the nearby Rocks Estate, a 1,400-acre conservation property that is managed by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. So, not only are we going to have fun on our snowshoe adventure, we’re going to learn a little bit about conservation, forest management, and the creatures that roam the woods and whose tracks we can identify in the snow. While we don’t see any moose, bears or turkeys on the trails we follow around the 200-acre Adair property, there are plenty of deer tracks to marvel over, as well as lots of fox prints – they always travel in a straight line, Manley tells us – as well as some teeny, tiny mouse prints that seem to evaporate into thin air. Not so, Manley says; the mice have burrowed into the snow at the places where the tracks end.

Adair is managed for multiple uses including recreation (hiking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling) and conservation (it’s a tree farm), to best enhance and preserve its fields, forests, soils, water and wildlife for future generations. During our hike we traverse some of this landscape – forested land along the trail opens into a small meadow; in other open areas downed trees have been left to provide food and shelter for birds and small mammals; we tramp along a snowmobile trail that crosses one edge of the estate; and stone walls are evidence of long-ago farming activity.

Innkeeper Ilja Chapman has filled us in on some of the property’s history. Adair, a beautiful, three-story Georgian-style building, was built in 1927 as a wedding gift for Dorothy Adair Guider, the only daughter of Frank Hogan, a famous Washington, DC trial attorney. Mrs. Guider lived in the house until her death in 1991, where she hosted everyone from presidential hopefuls and Supreme Court justices to actors (Helen Hayes was a lifelong friend) and sports figures. It became a nine-room inn in 1992, and is now owned by Nick and Betsy Young and managed by Ilja and her husband Brad Chapman.

We get to experience some of Adair’s legendary hospitality during the buffet that precedes our snowshoe hike. A hearty and appetizing buffet has been set out for us in the Granite Room, so called because of its stout, granite-clad walls. Dozens of photographs and newspaper clippings recall the career of Frank Hogan, but there are also plenty of comfortable couches and chairs, games, books and a pool table that could easily beckon guests to relax and linger in front of the fireplace on a rainy afternoon or after a day on the slopes. Tonight, though, we enjoy the food but are eager to head out to the main event. Guests are welcome to bring their own snowshoes or borrow the Adair’s. There are plenty to go around and not too many difficulties getting us all strapped in and set to go. The temperature is around 20 degrees, cold enough to be stimulating, but not so cold anyone wished they’d stayed home.

We set off with Nigel Manley, our interpretive guide, for an hour’s hike along easy to moderate terrain. I’ve brought my ski poles to help me balance (a good idea for the over 50 crowd!) and I lend one to another older woman who’s not too steady on her feet. There is a lot of laughter and camaraderie on the trail, we each find a pace that works for us, and many of us remark on the unfamiliar feeling of being outdoors under a full moon. We’re too used to going from the warmth of our cars to the warmth of our homes, and few of us spend any time outdoors at night.

The evening concludes back at the inn with s’mores and hot spiced cider around the flickering fire pit. Cameras come out and we snap photos of each other as the fire crackles and sparks add some interesting effects to our pictures. It’s the end of a memorable evening, and we’re all feeling cozy and a bit tired, but wanting the night to last just a little bit longer to savor all of the good sights, smells, tastes and new friendships.
“Committing to an activity in the cold was a challenge,” says fellow snowshoer Colleen Moritz, who was there with her sister. “However, we were pleasantly rewarded with a great fun evening. We can't wait to go again.”
One woman, who was there with her daughter as an early holiday present, noted that the evening was a reminder that the best thing to invest in are memories and that is why they had come.

Her feelings were echoed by Aliza Anvari, another guest. “My friend Ruth and I had a blast for first time snowshoers and visitors to Adair Inn. We vow to come back with more friends and family to create more lovely memories!” I couldn’t have said it better.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our First Weigh-In "10 Years Younger in 60 days"

Amidst grumbles and sighs, eight of us stepped on the scales for the first time Tuesday evening to begin charting our progress for the eight-week “10 Years Younger in 60 Days” program. Not one of us was happy with what the scales showed -- pounds plus our BMI score -- but we dutifully recorded the results in our brand new notebooks, determined that the numbers we record during Week 8 will show some significant changes.

And along with finding out that our weight and body fat weren’t quite where we wanted them to be, we also had to face the measuring tape and record various body measurements, including chest, stomach, belly, butt, upper arm and upper leg. By eating better and stepping up our exercise regimen we hope to firm and tone these areas, lose inches or add muscle, and reduce our BMI number into the acceptable range.

Each person involved in the program has set some personal goals they hope to achieve over the next two months, with losing pounds, eating healthy foods and getting more exercise topping most everyone’s list.

Other goals shared among the group include:
 gain muscle, but keep my weight at 145 or under
 be able to run a mile in under six minutes
 strengthen knees to avoid surgery
 get fitter to be able to bike into town and back again
 keep in shape without hurting
 have more energy
 look good for my son’s wedding in February
 eat regular healthy meals
 take time for exercise and to de-stress
 undergo a fruit flush to rid the body of toxins
 strengthen back
 manage stress
 learn about healthy eating
 eat more fruits and vegetables
 exercise on a daily basis
 reduce stress to sleep better
 make juicing a daily habit
 participate in a half-marathon in Washington, DC in March
 climb Mt. Washington next year
 do more hiking and skiing

We also donned a blood pressure cuff and recorded that reading as well. Tracking all of these markers each week in our notebooks and sharing our challenges and successes provides an incentive to stick with the program, develop healthy habits and meet our exercise and nutritional goals.

We truly felt like a team when Innkeeper Ilja passed out “10 Years Younger in 60 Days” T-shirts, which we wore for our individual photos and a group pic. Ilja also encouraged everyone to check out Dr. Oz’s Transformation Nation website, which the Adair program is modeled on.

The evening check-in wasn’t without its humorous moments, with Ilja demonstrating various hand weights, including a floor roller, a lot of kidding about fat butts and assorted other body parts, and one Adair employee, who shall remain nameless, who had her body measurements taken over her underwear, rather than over her street clothes to knock off a few inches!

Healthy Snack:
This week’s snack, a platter of red grapes and orange wedges provided by Eileen, received thumbs up approval from the Adair gang, and was a step up (definite improvement!) from last week’s green spinach shake.

Next Week: We’ll talk about our individual Plans –Action, Exercise, Nutrition, and Health -- that will help us move purposefully toward meeting our “10 Years Younger in 60 Days” goals.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Climbing Wall is Kickoff to Success!

It’s official! Employees at Adair Country Inn & Restaurant are on their way to looking “10 Years Younger in 60 Days.”

Innkeeper Ilja arranged a terrific kick-off event on Tuesday evening at the indoor climbing wall at the White Mountain School , right here in Bethlehem. Student rock climbers Sawyer, JJ, and Ze’ev took us in hand and set us up for the evening, explaining everything from how to step into our harnesses to performing safety checks to learning the different commands each climber and belayer (the spotter on the ground who controls the rope that anchors the climber) needs to know.

“We wanted to do something fun and out of the ordinary to begin our two-month wellness program,” says Ilja. “The evening was such a success. Everyone participated and climbed the wall at least twice. Some, like Lynn and Brad went all the way to the top, inspiring the rest of us.”

Most of Adair’s employees had never climbed before, but were enthusiastic about learning, with “fun” being used most often to describe their experience. A couple of us liked it so much we plan to return to try it again. “It was fun,” says Chef Orlo. “It was a nice way to start off this adventure to better health.”
Our evening wouldn’t have been possible without our wonderful climbing guides from the White Mountain School. These young men were knowledgeable and extremely patient, making sure we were both safe and having a good time during our introduction to rock climbing. Thanks, guys!! The school’s climbing instructor Will Holets also let us know that, beginning on January 3, the climbing wall will be open to the public from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The first month is free, followed by reasonable rates. Give the school a call at (603) 444-0513 to learn more.

Participants in “10 Years Younger in 60 Days” have pledged to commit to a health & fitness plan to feel more energized, younger and better able to serve Adair’s guests in healthy ways. Now that we’ve kicked-off the program, we’ll meet each week for eight weeks for a weigh-in and blood pressure check, along with an inspirational program to help motivate us to give up our old habits in favor of healthy new ones, like exercising more, eating nutritious foods, and getting regular medical and dental check-ups.

Each week we’ll also share a healthy snack, and rate it here. On Tuesday evening, Innkeeper Ilja served trainer Drew Manning’s Spinach Shake, a recipe that was featured on the Dr. Oz Show. The Shake was a nice, bright green color, smelled like peanut butter and was refreshingly cold after an hour of climbing, but got mixed reviews, from the polite among us who made a face after tasting it, to the more outspoken, like one of our climbing guides who declared he’d rather stick with the sugary snacks he likes. Others in our group liked it a lot and wanted the recipe. For those who’d like to try it here it is (and just so you know, Innkeeper Ilja confessed that she made a mess in the kitchen putting it together!)

Spinach Shake
Makes 1-1/2 servings

3 cups spinach
2 cups ice
1/2 banana
2 tbsp of peanut butter
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
3/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk

Add all ingredients to blender and blend on high speed, until completely mixed.

Next Week: Our first weigh-in and setting our personal goals for the “10 Years Younger in 60 Days” program. Stay tuned!