Booster Shots

Oddities, musings and news from the health world

Category: eating disorders

Book Review: 'Gold Medal Fitness' by Dara Torres

June 19, 2010 |  3:31 pm

GoldMedalFitnessFINAL JACKET

Dara Torres was 41 when she won three silver medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, beating women years her junior and becoming the oldest swimming medalist in the history of the Games. Her wins were a victory for older athletes everywhere. 

In "Gold Medal Fitness," written with Billie Fitzpatrick, Torres answers the question many have asked her since: How did she do it?

Her new book -- a follow-up to her memoir, "Age Is Just a Number"  -- outlines the fitness program that she says remade her body and helped her win races long past the age at which most competitive swimmers hang up their goggles.

"Gold Medal Fitness" shows readers how to replicate her type of workouts and perhaps experience greater success in their own athletic endeavors. It describes the swimmer's approaches to goal-setting, diet and exercise; offers 35 days of simple menu plans; features pictures and descriptions of the kinds of exercises and stretches that are a mainstay of her workout; and gives tips on cardio and recovery.

Torres says she has become stronger, leaner and more efficient through a type of strength training she learned from Andy O'Brien that works on three planes of movement to strengthen core muscles. She says most exercise equipment is designed to strengthen one or two muscle groups at a time on a singular plane, whereas most life activities and sports work on multiple planes: up and down, forward and back, side to side and rotating top and bottom.

Though she says the "deceptively simple" exercises shown in her book can be done by people at any level of fitness, they do require equipment and a commitment to learning the proper form. Access to a gym -- as well as a workout partner or trainer -- is probably a given, since exercises call for a BOSU trainer, a Swiss ball, a medicine ball, dumbbells, a cable machine and an incline bench. 

Torres has attained her flexibility, she says, from a resistance stretching program called Ki-Hara that she learned from Steve Sierra and Anne Tierney. Ki-Hara incorporates eccentric training, which contracts and lengthens muscles at the same time. Torres says this type of training builds more muscle power, helps create fast-twitch muscles and speeds recovery. She says Ki-Hara has "literally changed" her body so that she's become faster in the pool and more in balance. These exercises don't require equipment, though a yoga mat, towel and Swiss ball can be used.

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Book Review: 'Diet Myths That Keep Us Fat' by Nancy L. Snyderman

June 12, 2010 |  8:15 am


The Information Age has not been kind to the dieter. The sheer volume of nutritional data available today can be overwhelming. And dietary advice seems to change with the season -- eat more carbs, don't eat carbs, count calories, don't count calories, cut back on fats, eat all the fats you want. Who can keep up?

NBC News chief medical editor, physician and author Dr. Nancy L. Snyderman attempts to bring some sanity to the table with her book "Diet Myths That Keep Us Fat," now out in paperback.

In it, she examines the many diet and nutrition beliefs floating around today -- some that she says are true and others that are anything but. She looks at popular weight-loss strategies and describes their origins, how they work, whether they're effective and how they stack up medically and nutritionally. 

Snyderman's perspective is both personal and professional. She writes about gaining the typical "freshman 15" when she started college -- and how she kept gaining until she eventually tipped the scales at 200 pounds. She experimented with fad diets to lose weight and spent years going up and down in weight. She writes, "I've starved myself, and I've pigged out; I've binged, dieted, skipped meals, and lived to tell about it."

She eventually saw a therapist and gained insight into her overeating. "Although I still consider myself a work in progress, I learned to lay the foundation for a healthier life, in much the same way I was laying a foundation for my medical career," she writes. Today she looks at food as fuel, eating foods she likes in moderation and letting herself indulge in treats now and then. She exercises regularly with activities that are convenient for her and that she enjoys. For her, this is an effective and healthy way to keep off the extra pounds.

It's this relaxed approach to eating and exercise that she brings to "Diet Myths." Written in a conversational style, the book is engaging even as it's discussing the glycemic index, the pros and cons of diet drugs and surgeries and how hormones can influence your hunger and weight.

One of Snyderman's major points is that calories do count. (High-protein, low-carb diets, she says, work primarily by restricting calories.) She offers easy ways to think about calories and keep track of them without feeling as if you're doing so. She does the same thing with carbs -- and emphasizes that because our bodies need them to function properly they shouldn't be eliminated from our diets.

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Gaining weight may also bulk up brain volume for anorexic women

May 27, 2010 | 12:52 pm

Anorexia nervosa takes a tremendous toll on the body. That includes brain volume, which may be reduced because of the disorder. But those deleterious effects could be reversed when anorexics gain weight, according a new study.

A study published online this month in the International Journal of Eating Disorders compared changes in brain volume among 32 adult women with anorexia nervosa and a control group made up of 21 healthy women. During the course of the study, the anorexic participants gradually gained weight. Brain volume was measured via MRI.

At the beginning of the study, the women with anorexia had less gray matter volume than the healthy controls. Gray matter is made up of densely packed neuron cell bodies. Those who had been ill the longest also had the lowest gray matter volume when they were underweight. Body mass index was not linked to gray matter volume.

When the anorexic women did gain weight, gray matter volume improved after several weeks, although it didn't fully return to normal. Although researchers did not find substantial differences between the groups in the volume of white matter (parts of the brain and spinal cord that allow communication between gray matter neurons), white matter volume also improved as the anorexic women gained weight.

"There is still plenty of research to be done," Christina Roberto of the Yale University department of psychology said in a news release. Roberto, lead author of the study, added, "We do not yet have a good sense of the clinical implications of these reductions in brain volume. It is unclear how brain volume deficits impact functioning, which specific regions of the brain are most affected or if these deficits are linked to how patients respond to treatment."

-- Jeannine Stein

Book Review: 'The Stress-Eating Cure' by Rachael F. Heller and Richard F. Heller

May 15, 2010 |  1:57 pm


Many dieters will see themselves in the portraits of overeaters presented in “The Stress-Eating Cure,” by Rachael F. Heller and Richard F. Heller, authors of the popular “Carbohydrate Addict” books. 

The Hellers write in their new book about the anxiety-induced stress eater, the task-avoiding stress eater, the person who eats on the sly. They describe people whose overeating is triggered by social situations, those who eat to reward themselves for self-sacrifice and others who eat on the run, barely tasting their food.

The 11 types of stress eaters they identify have something in common, they say: Their overeating, cravings and weight gain are caused not by a lack of discipline and willpower but by a hormonal imbalance.

Unlike those whose bodies produce the right amount of hormones in the face of unpleasant circumstances, stress eaters -- who often are more sensitive to their environments -- respond to stress with “trigger-quick” hormonal reactions, the Hellers say. The hormones at play are ghrelin, serotonin, oxytocin and leptin as well as insulin, cortisol and adrenaline. 

Each type of stress eater is prone to surges and deficiencies in these hormones in different combinations, the authors say. The Hellers offer a diet they say will help bring these hormones back into balance and relieve stress, plus behavioral modification programs that are tailored to each type.

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Diagnostic criteria for eating disorders is too narrow, researchers say

April 12, 2010 |  8:33 am
Anorexia Anorexia affects about 1% of preteen and teenage girls and bulimia about 2% to 5%, according to estimates. But those numbers may minimize the true prevalence of the illnesses, researchers from Stanford University reported Monday. In a study examining the accuracy of the diagnostic criteria for eating disorders, they found the definitions may be too strict and rule out people who need treatment.
The researchers examined 1,310 females ages 8 to 19 with diagnoses of anorexia, bulimia or a catch-all term "eating disorder not otherwise specified." This latter category has been criticized as misleading because it could be construed by doctors, patients and family members as not as serious as the other diagnoses. In the study population, about two-thirds of the patients had been given the diagnosis of "eating disorders NOS." Still 60% of those women met medical criteria for hospitalization. This group was also sicker, on average, than patients who received the diagnosis of bulimia.
For example, some of the patients diagnosed as "eating disorders NOS" had been overweight but had lost a lot of weight quickly. They were still at a normal weight, which may escape the concern of family members and health professionals, the researchers said. However, some of these women had serious malnutrition.
The study concludes that the diagnostic criteria for eating disorders should be reevaluated. Doctors "erroneously treat these criteria in a very black-and-white way," the lead author of the study, Dr. Rebecka Peebles, said in a news release.
The study was published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
-- Shari Roan
Photo credit: Edward Ruiz / For The Times

Binge eaters can gain control relatively cheaply, studies find

April 1, 2010 | 11:50 am

Lotsafries Binge eating frequently confounds sufferers and therapists alike -- but that doesn't have to be the case.

A self-help program using cognitive behavioral techniques (change your thinking, change your behavior) has shown promise in significantly reducing episodes of binge eating. In a new study, participants who went through a 12-week, eight-session program based on these principles were much more likely to gain control of their eating than those participants who simply received the various types of treatment they'd normally get in a managed-care setting.

The researchers reported that after 12 weeks, 28.3% of the treatment-as-usual group and 63.5% of the cognitive-behavioral-therapy group had managed to stop binging. After a year, those numbers were 44.6% and 64.2%, respectively.

The study was published Thursday in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, by researchers at Wesleyan, Rutgers and Stanford universities, and Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research.

A related and extremely relevant study, published in the same issue, found that the therapy was cost-effective and maybe, just maybe, should eventually be adopted on a wider basis.

Want a glimpse of the therapy? That's easy enough. It was based on the  book "Overcoming Binge Eating" by Dr. Christopher Fairburn. The book offers not just a basic primer on binge eating -- what it is, what causes it, who does it, the physical problems associated with it -- but a detailed self-help program. In short, the latter teaches bingers how to develop their own moderate eating pattern and how to stick with it.

Here's a recent package of stories from the L.A. Times exploring the psychiatric gray area of binge eating.

The main story, Is binge eating a psychiatric disorder?, begins:

"Rina Silverman's refrigerator is almost always empty. She keeps it that way to avert episodes of frantic food consumption, often at night after a full meal, in which she tastes nothing and feels nothing but can polish off a party-sized bag of chips or a container of ice cream, maybe a whole box of cereal. The food she's eating at these moments hardly matters.

In short order, the nothing that Silverman feels and tastes will give way to nauseating fullness, and a bitter backwash of guilt, shame and self-reproach.

The fullness, in time, passes. But the corrosive shame and self-reproach are always there.

Silverman, a 43-year-old executive assistant from Sherman Oaks, is one of the 145 million Americans who are overweight or obese. But the frenzies of consumption put her in a far smaller category of Americans, not all of whom are even overweight."

Related stories:

Trying to define binge eating disorder

Binge eating: Is it a form of addiction?

Holidays feed binge eaters' problems

If you see yourself in these stories... well, a quick perusal of the book couldn't hurt.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Some people, perhaps more than you think, would have trouble stopping with a serving or four.

Credit: Richard Derk / Los Angeles Times

Book Review: 'Eat Your Way to Happiness' by Elizabeth Somer

February 27, 2010 | 10:14 am

Battling the blues? Put down that Prozac prescription and head for the pantry, says Elizabeth Somer, author of the new book "Eat Your Way to Happiness." It's time for a diet makeover.

Changing what and how you eat can dramatically improve your life, without the negative side effects of antidepressants, writes the registered dietitian and frequent morning TV show guest.

Somer says people who followed diet advice she gave in her 1995 book, "Food & Mood," have told her they've seen their energy increase, their memories improve, their PMS symptoms vanish, their extra weight drop off and even their depressions lift. (She emphasizes that people should always seek medical help for depression that lasts more than a month or is accompanied by other symptoms.)

In her new book, she shares some of their stories and offers updated nutritional information.

Included in "Happiness" is advice we hear from many quarters today: Eat a good breakfast; cut back on sugar, white flour and saturated fats; choose real food over processed food most of the time; exercise daily. But she also goes further, quantifying what we should aim for and including research to back up her claims.

For example, Somer writes that sugar today makes up 25% of calories in most American diets -- much of it coming from processed foods. But a diet in which even 9% of calories are from added sugar is a red flag for weight and health problems, she says, and too much sugar offers a temporary "high" that can end in fatigue and depression. The good news is that cutting back can bring immediate weight loss, mood improvements and increased energy. She says we should aim for no more than 6% of our calories from added sugar -- 30 grams, or 7 1/2 teaspoons, a day on a 2,000-calorie diet. (This doesn't include the sugar found in naturally sweet foods such as fruit.)

Somer lists a dozen "super mood foods" to include in our diets whenever possible. Nuts are in the No. 1 spot, and she recommends an ounce a day to raise metabolism, take the edge off hunger and help regulate blood sugar. Other must-eat foods include soy (a memory booster, she says), milk and yogurt, dark leafy greens and dark orange vegetables, broth soups (which help dieters feel satisfied on fewer calories, a secret to permanent weight loss), legumes, citrus and tart cherries (they contain melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep).

She spells out potential brain- and mood-boosting benefits of eating omega-3 fats, especially DHA, found in fatty fish ("Prozac from the sea"). She also goes into the downside of eating fatty fishes -- the mercury they may contain -- and gives DHA-fortified alternatives.

Somer offers tips for how to eat to sleep better (one is to eat a light dinner no less than three hours before bedtime) and work with, rather than fight, cravings. She discusses supplements, beverages and the right vices in which to indulge (good news for dark chocolate lovers). She outlines an ideal diet -- think fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, milk and soy, lean protein. Her book also includes recipes and a two-week kick-start diet plan.

-- Anne Colby

Photo: "Eat Your Way to Happiness," Elizabeth Somer, Harlequin, $16.95


Book Review: 'You: On a Diet'

Book Review: 'The 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough'

Book Review: 'The Big Breakfast Diet'

Book Review: 'The Mayo Clinic Diet

Book Review: 'Denise's Daily Dozen'

Book review: 'The Mayo Clinic Diet'

January 30, 2010 |  9:00 am

MayoClinicDiet Some dieters want to drop a few pounds to look better in a bathing suit. Others are trying to undo years of bad eating and exercise habits and are in need of education. Still others seek weight loss on a doctor’s orders to avoid serious illness, such as heart disease or diabetes.
All of these people may find things to like about “The Mayo Clinic Diet,” a new book from the respected medical institution. But those in the last two groups could find its program –- the first diet developed by Mayo Clinic -- especially helpful.
There are no claims to magic fat-burning ingredients in this book, no nutritional supplements to buy. “The Mayo Clinic Diet” offers sound, health-focused information on how to eat better, move more and change ingrained habits that contribute to overweight and obesity.

The book leads off with "Lose It," a quick-start plan to help dieters drop 6 to 10 pounds in two weeks. In this phase they add five habits (such as eating a healthy breakfast), break five habits (eating in front of the TV) and adopt five bonus habits (keeping food and activity records). The second phase, "Live It," is a lifetime plan designed for weight loss of a pound or 2 a week until the desired weight is reached and can be maintained.
The book offers the usual good dieting and exercise advice, but it goes further. 

Mayo Clinic proposes its own healthy weight pyramid, making fruits and vegetables the foundation and putting exercise at the center. (Studies show that people who lose more than 30 pounds and keep it off for five years exercise an hour each day, mostly by walking, according to the book.) 

One chapter gives strategies for getting through weight-loss plateaus and relapses. Another is devoted to sticking to the diet when eating out and includes suggestions on how to eat at ethnic restaurants (avoid the fatty spareribs at Chinese restaurants; go for the hot and sour soup). A photo spread on portion control shows common foods eaten at breakfast, with pictures illustrating typical serving sizes compared with Mayo Clinic-suggested servings (8 ounces of orange juice versus 4).

There's an illustrated guide to reading nutrition labels and a checklist of warning signs for when to stop exercising (pain in an arm or the jaw, an irregular heartbeat). An endocrinology specialist, one of several Mayo Clinic professionals who contribute essays to the book, explains in easy-to-understand language some of the science behind nutrition and weight control. 

"The Mayo Clinic Diet" is written in a conversational, no-nonsense tone. It's colorful and graphically pleasing with lots of photos, sidebars and tips in bite-size chunks. Also available is "The Mayo Clinic Diet Journal," to use for tracking goals and progress.

-- Anne Colby

Photo: “The Mayo Clinic Diet,” Mayo Clinic, Good Books, $25.99 hardcover. Not pictured: “The Mayo Clinic Diet Journal," Mayo Clinic, Good Books, $14.99 plastic comb binding.


Book review: 'Denise's Daily Dozen' by Denise Austin

Book review: 'Denise's Daily Dozen' by Denise Austin

January 23, 2010 |  7:00 am


How's your New Year's diet coming along? If you find you're slipping back into bad habits and the pounds aren't coming off, Denise Austin's new book, "Denise's Daily Dozen," might be just the jump-start you need to get going again.

Austin's book promises big, saying that on her three-week diet and exercise program you can lose up to 12 pounds in just two weeks.

The secret? Consuming just 1,200 to 1,300 calories a day for women (1,500 to 1,600 for men) in the first two weeks of the diet, doing at least 12 minutes of exercises each day and walking (or running, biking or swimming) 12 miles a week.

It takes commitment to follow any weight-loss program, especially one with such a strict caloric intake, but the fitness guru uses her trademark upbeat approach to turn it into something that sounds almost fun. Each day's exercises are different (Monday is a "cardio fat blast," Sunday a yoga stretch workout) and are performed for only a minute apiece, so boredom is not an issue. Austin sells the pleasures of healthy eating and shares easy ways to get more active.

Her well-organized book divides up chapters by days of the week and offers nutritionist-devised menus (with simple recipes conveniently nearby); shopping lists; weight-loss testimonials; practical and inspirational tips; illustrated cardio, toning and flexibility workouts; and additional moves to tame tension, work abs and boost metabolism.

As the title suggests, things come by the dozen in this book: a dozen foods to eat daily (three servings each of vegetables, fruits and proteins, two of grains and one of a healthy fat); a dozen meals you can make in 12 minutes; a dozen ways to boost motivation, get better sleep, eat more fiber, get past cravings, soothe sore muscles, relax.

The idea is that the program will help you form healthier habits that you can then incorporate into your daily life. But will you? Austin gives you everything you need to do it. The rest, of course, is up to you.

-- Anne Colby

Photo: "Denise's Daily Dozen: The Easy, Every Day Program to Lose Up to 12 Pounds in 2 Weeks," Denise Austin, Center Street/Hachette Book Group, $16.99. Credit: Center Street/Hachette Book Group

Want to keep your bones healthy? Don’t get too skinny

January 5, 2010 |  4:08 pm

Anorexia Girls suffering through the insecurities of puberty are often likely to yearn for the rail-thin bodies of supermodels plastered across the typical supermarket glossy.

But, as new research shows, puberty is a crucial time for a woman to love those curves. In a study to be published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, scientists found that fat mass helps build bone mass, particularly in girls.

Add brittle bones to the long list of physical and psychological damage caused by an eating disorder — the research could have implications for "whether development of the female skeleton is preferentially affected by conditions such as anorexia nervosa associated with reduced fat mass," the study said.

Scientists aren't quite clear on why exactly a woman's fat content makes a difference. Some of that bone accrual is likely a response to the stress caused by the weight her skeleton is carrying; the study's authors also suggest a possible relationship with estrogen levels.

Whatever the underlying causes are, given the post-menopausal specter of osteoporosis, it's important to encourage a healthy body image. Not only is skin-and-bones an unflattering look, it's bad for your bones in the long run.

— Amina Khan

Photo credit: Edward Ruiz / For The Times


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