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Lean Plate Club Holiday Challenge

Nutrition and Health

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, December 21, 2004; 1:00 PM

Welcome to The Lean Plate Club, hosted by Washington Post health and nutrition writer Sally Squires. This week, Sally talks about the holiday challenge -- ways to maintain your diet during the course of the holidays. Share your tips on healthy recipes, meal plans, sugar alternatives and resisting overeating with other readers.

On Tuesdays at 1 p.m. ET, Sally, who has a master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University, leads a lively discussion for readers looking for new ways to eat smarter and move around more throughout the day. The Lean Plate Club is dedicated to healthy living whether you're trying to whittle your waistline or simply maintain it.

Washington Post columnist Sally Squires

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To Lose Well, Think Positive (The Washington Post, Mar 22, 2005)
The Lean Plate Club

We want to hear your tips, strategies, meal plans, successes, setbacks and more. Of course Sally is happy to answer questions and turn others over to the Club. None of this, however, is a substitute for medical advice.

Squires is a veteran health reporter for The Washington Post. She is co-author of "The Stoplight Diet for Children" and author of the upcoming "Secrets of the Lean Plate Club" (St. Martin's Press; 2005) Sign up for the free Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter. The Lean Plate Club column appears weekly in the Washington Post Health section and is nationally syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club. This marks week six of the Lean Plate Club Holiday challenge. Here's where the rubber meets the road. So how's your challenge going? And if you're new to the Holiday Challenge, it's never too late to start. Just work to flatline your weight from now until New Year's day.

The Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletters have been sent so look for them in your electronic in-boxes. If you'd like to subscribe, there's a very simple way to sign up for this free weekly service at www.washingtonpost.com/leanplateclub.

On Friday, there was a brief special edition Lean Plate Club audio chat. I got to speak live to a several LPCers as well as to answer written questions on the chat. If you'd like to hear a transcript, you also find a link to it at www.washingtonpost.com/leanplateclub.

The freebies today are:

Fill Up to Slim Down by Edward Diethrich, MD and Jyl Steinback (Penguin; 2005)

Eat Yourself Slim Cookbook by Michel Montignac (Erica House)

The Thin Commandments Diet by Stephen Gullo, Phd (Rodale)

The 24-Hour Turnaround by Jay Williams, PhD. (ReganBooks)

Here's the deal:
Tell us how you're doing on the Holiday Challenge. What's worked for you? What's been tough? How are you going to get through the next two, action packed weeks? Did you slip and then get back on track? Tell us about that too. Or share a food find, a health recipe, a great way to workout.

Do that and one of these volumes could be yours. Winners are announced at the end of each chat. And in making this offering we are not endorsing any volume. It's simply a way for you to know the wide range of information available as you work to instill healthy habits.

Now on to the chat!

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Washington, D.C.: Would you please suggest some good nutrition books to read?

Sally Squires: Hi DC: Some of the volumes that I find useful include:

Total Nutrition by Victor Herbert, MD, et al.

American Dietetics Association's Food and Nutrition Guide by Roberta Larson Duyff, MS, RD (Chronomed)

Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook (Human Kinetics)

Nutrition for Dummies by Carol Ann Rinzler

The Nutrition Desk Reference by Robert Garrison Jr. and Elizabeth Somer (Keats)

Eat Drink and Be Healthy by Walter Willett

If you want to get more technical, you can read the National Academy of Sciences Dietary Reference Intakes reports on-line and free at www.nap.org

And the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Committee Report is filled with lots of useful information, but is also more technical (though not unreadable by any means).

There's a long link that will mess up the formatting of our web chat if I put it in this answer. So we'll provide a separate link in the chat for it.

And if you want information specifically on vitamins and minerals, check out:

Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/

Or the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/

Those should keep you busy!

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washingtonpost.com: 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee ReportSally Squires: And here's the link to the Dietary Guidelines Committee Report. Updated guidelines are due in early 2005.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Is there a tasty substitute for soy sauce? Turns out tha I am allergic to soy, but my favorite thing in the world is to eat sushi - with soy sauce. Is there any hope for me?

Sally Squires: Hi Gaithersburg: Sorry to hear about your newly discovered soy allergy. I've got a link for you to the soy allergy section of the Food Allergy Network (www.foodallergy.org), a nonprofit group that offers some tips for all types of allergies.

I also called San-J International, makers of soy and tamari sauce to see if they offer anything for people with soy allergies. Sadly, the answer is no. And by the way, also avoid tamari sauce which actually has MORE soy than regular soy sauce.

One hopeful tidbit:the Food Allergy Network reports that many people who are allergic to soy can still eat soybean oil, which is found in many, many products. But, of course, check with your doctor first.

Anybody else out there with a soy allergy who can offer some suggestions for a soy sauce substitute?

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washingtonpost.com: Common Food Allergies (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network web site) Sally Squires: Here's the additional link.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Hi, Sally,

I knew that after a full day of running around getting ready for the holidays on Sunday that I'd be very tempted to call for a pizza (or hit fast food) when dinner time came. To head it off, I pulled out the slow cooker and made the world's simplest soup:

1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
1 can of diced tomato with juice
1 package of Bocca crumbles
1 box of vegetable broth
A few shakes of Italian seasoning

I just dumped it all in and set it on low.

It was almost as easy as opening a can of soup, the end result was much tastier, and I have lunch for a couple days this week, too (again keeping me out of McDonald's.)

Sally Squires: This sounds great Gaithersburg. And it reminds me of two things. First, in today's Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter you'll find a couple of links to some quick soups by Chef Jacques Pepin. (He even shows you how to make them right on your computer screen and they look great!)

Also, a number of weeks ago I mentioned a Cooking Light Slow Cooker Cookbook and promised to provide more info. It's more a glorified magazine. It was published on Nov. 9, 2004, costs $9.95 and is available from Cooking Light, 1-800-336-0125.

Thanks!

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Washington, D.C.: I have stopped exercising and been eating like a cow for the last two months. My clothes are tighter on me, but I got on the scale today and it says that I have not gained any weight. What is going on?

Sally Squires: Hey DC: Maybe you haven't been eating as much as you think. Maybe you got more lifestyle activities (you know walking during the day, etc.) than you thought. Maybe you simply relaxed a little and weren't as beholden to the scale. Question is--what are you going to do now about this nice gift? Let us know...Thanks!

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Onneonta, N.Y.: Courage!
Focus on not gaining. I am 80 years old and in excellent health. It has taken about twenty years to lose twenty-five pounds while concentrating on eating fruits, whole grains and vegetables. I realize that this is the long view but its theme is patience.

Sally Squires: I'd say you are 80 years young! Patience is absolutely key--as well as keeping your eyes on the ball. Sounds like you have done that and more. Thanks very much for the inspiration.

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San Diego, Calif.: I wanted to thank you for the Holiday Challenge -- I feel like a success because my weight is staying the same despite all the lunches out and potluck parties. If I were still trying to lose weight right now I would be frustrated with my lack of progress! Here's a trick I'm using to help: Last summer during the Tour de France I bought one of those yellow plastic bracelets that support Lance Armstrong's cancer foundation. I've started wearing it again during the holidays as a reminder to keep my portions under control and to remember to exercise. The wording on it -- "Live Strong" -- is a fitting message. And it doesn't hurt that it is on my right wrist, in my line of sight when my hand hovers over the refreshment tray!

Sally Squires: What a wonderful way to help you and help the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Sounds like a great plan, San Diego. And it's hard to miss that yellow reminder, which could also be viewed as 'caution' as well as celebration. Thanks much! Continued success on the challenge. Let us know how it goes. Thanks!

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally. I'll be at a hopefully healthy holiday lunch at Jaleo during your chat, so I hope you can take this question.

I will be going to a resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico next week for Christmas, which I'm very excited about. However, I signed up for a holiday weight maintenance challenge at my office (yeah, bad plan). I'm a part of a team, and the weigh in is scheduled for 2 days after I return. I tried to lose some to get a head start before the trip, but with all of the parties at work and the lack of time to exercise, I've only been able to maintain. I'll try to eat well and exercise while I'm there, but I'm concerned about the water weight I inevitably gain with travel. I always gain 2-5 pounds and then lose it again within a week after returning.

This time, however I only have 2 days before the weigh-in. I really don't want to let my team down. I'm wondering if there are any quick and safe ways to get rid of the water weight. Drink lots of water? Are there diuretics available over the counter? Any other advice from you or the chatters?

Thanks!

Sally Squires: Hope you are enjoying your lunch right now at Jaleo, DC. It is a really wonderful restaurant where you certainly can find some very healthy things to eat.

As for those diuretics: they're not a good idea unless your doctor has prescribed them for health reasons. So what can you do? Keep drinking plenty of water and cut back on use of salt or sodium rich food. Keep eating plenty of fruit and vegetables which are rich in potassium and can help you balance the various electrolytes in your body. Hope you have a great trip to Mexico. Safe travels.

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Rockville, Md.: Sally,

I have a simple question: Does it matter if you eat right before going to bed or is weight control only a matter of calories and not when they are taken in.

Sally Squires: Hey Rockville, weight control comes down to the numbers. Calories in versus calories out. I think when people suggested not eating after a certain time, it was mostly suggested to stop continuous eating. But there are plenty of cultures--Spain immediately comes to mind--where it is common to eat dinner quite late. Now if you find that eating late means you have trouble sleeping, that's another matter. Thanks!

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Washington, D.C.: I want to take a good workout video with me over the holidays. (Will be staying with family and won't have access to a gym) Any suggestions for a good one that would provide a fairly vigorous cardio workout?

Sally Squires: There are so many to choose from DC. I happen to really love the Firm tapes. But there are plenty of others. You can check out clips of various tapes at www.collegevideo.com. And in last week's web chat, an LPCer suggested signing up for Netflix, which lets you order various tapes. Also Blockbusters and other video stores have plenty. Leslie Sansone is one that is often mentioned on this chat. Also Kathy Smith. You might double check how much space you'll have and if you'll have access to any equipment...a step for instance or some free weights...Happy travels.

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Not a weight issue: I just received lab results that shows my cholesterol at 289, the LDL being 190. It totally shocked me, I think I eat fairly healthy, and I'm at 135 lbs. and 5'4", and I try to get in some physical activity on a regular basis. My doctor said that if I can't get it down with diet in six months, he wants to put me on medication.
I REALLY don't want to be on medication.

Sally Squires: Sorry to hear that. And you're right to be concerned. I understand your reluctance to take medication, but you also don't want to develop early heart disease. Check out both the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (www.nhlbi.nih.gov) for some really good info and the American Heart Association. www.americanheart.org.

If you e-mail me your snail mail address, I'll send you a book that NHLBI just sent me.

Fruit and vegetables, whole grains (oatmeal and soy especially) are likely to be good choices for you. And definitely limit saturated fat and trans fat.

Good luck and let us know how you do.

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Anonymous: soy allergic: I've seen bottles of "amino acid" liquid in my local natural food store (MOM) -- and I know people who use it in place of soy sauce, though I don't know what it's made of. Might be worth a look.

Sally Squires: Thanks very much!

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Alexandria, Va.: Two healthy recipies for the holidays to share:

Instead of salad dressing, put equal parts olive oil and lemon juice on your lettuce and add in some salt, pepper and fresh chopped garlic - it can stand on its own that way and has been a diet saver for me already this season!

Quick healthy dip - mix low-fat cream cheese with salsa and use that as a bottom layer in an 8x8 dish. Make top layers of fresh veggies (green peppers, green onions, tomatoes, lettuce) and top with a little shredded, light cheese. Instead of chips, serve with sliced cucumbers for dipping - lots of veggies, low fat, low-carb and filling/satisfying!

Sally Squires: Yum, Alexandria. Both sound great. Thanks!

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Arlington, Va.: For the Mexico traveler: leisure travel can often bring lots of extra activity that helps keep weight under control and even promote weight loss. When I come back from a European vacation with lots of great food and also lots of hiking and other excercise, my doctor always says that he should prescribe a month of travel for all of his patients. So, be mindful of what goes in and keep moving!!!

Sally Squires: Great advice, Arlington.Let's hope that the LPCer traveling to Mexico finds the same results. Thanks!

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Tampa, Fla.: Hello, I just wanted to say that you have inspired me to get up and start walking. Down here in Tampa it is perfect walking weather, with temps in the 60s to 70s. I find I really enjoy walking around the neighborhood and have tackled 30-45 minutes a day. I miss it when I don't fit a walk in! My question: can you recommend some good walking shoes?

Sally Squires: I used to live across Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg where I worked at the St. Pete Times, so I know how beautiful it is in your neck of woods right now, Tampa. It's a great time of year to walk. There are so many wonderful walking shoes and they range from less than $20 for a pair that I snagged last week for my husband at the Price Club to a couple hundred dollars. The important thing is to get a good fit and to find something that really feels good to your feet. Also, walking and running shoes should be replaced every six months or so unless you're rotating with other shoes. And no, I don't own stock in any shoe companies. Hope that helps!

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Washington, D.C.: Happy holidays Sally! I know you've discussed this before, but I wanted to share that thinking about whether you are truly hungry before you eat really helps in curbing eating. Whenever I'm tempted to eat, I do a gut check and think "am I really hungry?" If the answer is no, then I wait. I do it for everything, even when contemplating lunch and dinner. It's really helping me curb my chocolate cravings! Also, as recommended, I try to spend at least 20 minutes eating meals and 5 minutes eating snacks to make sure I'm not over-eating. It's hard to do, but worth the effort, I think.

Sally Squires: It certainly is worth the effort, DC. Thanks for the reminder, which is particularly appropriate this time of year. Let me add that another oft repeated tip worth repeating yet again. Brush your teeth after eating. It can really help to curb mindless noshing...Thanks!

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Arlington, Va.: Just a word of thanks for the Lean Plate Club and the Holiday challenge. I've lost 15 pounds over the past two months and in trying to "maintain" over the holidays, I've continued to lose!! I know this is because of the awareness of what goes in that comes from following the webchat, column, live radio chat, etc. Thanks for all that you do to encourage each of us to take some responsibility for ourselves and our families.

Sally Squires: Way to go Arlington. That's fantastic. Thanks for letting us know.

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Alexandria, Va.: A few weeks ago I submitted a question about resources for eating out. I've since found a book I think is really helpful - "Eat Out, Eat Smart" by Martha Schueneman. It has nutrition info for both specific fast food and chain restaurants, as well as guidelines for all types of food (Asian, Middle Eastern, cooking of the Americas) all in a very easy to read format. A good book for anyone who eats out as much as I do, but a little sad to read about some of the things you -thought- were healthy...

Sally Squires: Great addition to the list of good books for our shelves. Thanks, Alexandria.

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Arlington, Va.: RE: stopped exercising but losing weight
Sally, that poster probably has just lost muscle and gained fat. Muscle weighs much more than fat, which would account for the tighter clothes but the lack of change on the scale!

Sally Squires: Could be, Arlington. But truth is most of us desk jockeys build at most about four pounds of muscle--if we're lucky. So while that could play a role, it may not be the only reason. More importantly, it will be good to hear what that LPCers plans to do to get back on track, don't you think?

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New Carrollton, Md.: First of all, my thanks to whoever submitted the tip last week suggesting that those of us who give baked goodies for Christmas package them up as soon as they've cooled sufficiently. That's what I did with a massive holiday baking I prepared this weekend, and I gave away eight dozen cookies, while only eating, over four days, three oatmeal raisin, one chocolate chip, one sugar cookie and one raspberry shortbread. Holiday blessings to my unknown benefactor!

Here's a quick-and-easy recipe for fellow seafood lovers: Take a can or two of diced tomatoes, a potato, cut in chunks, and a cup of peeled baby carrots, along with garlic, oregano, basil and a pinch of salt. Microwave till carrots are tender. Add 1/4 cup each of scallops and peeled shrimp -the smaller the better, but whatever you've got]. Microwave until shrimp is pink. Serve with whole grain bread. My husband was asking for more...

Sally Squires: Move over Jacques Pepin! Sounds great, New Carrollton. Thanks! And I'll bet you (and a lot of others out there are going to be inspired by the "Fast Food My Way," by Pepin included in this week's Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter.

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McPherson Square, Washington, D.C.: Dear Sally, I'm glad I was allowed into my building in time for your chat today. Using the weight maintenance graph regularly has really kept me honest. I had to face the fact that I was 2 lbs. over my regular weight when I started. I'm now 2 pounds under, as portion control is much easier when I think of where that little dot will go! In fact, I reprinted the graph and changed the dates to keep going through my January vacation and other January activities. Thanks so much

Sally Squires: I'm glad you could get back in your building too. I'm doing the chat remotely because streets were blocked off for quite a bit of this morning due to a gunman at the Rite Aide across from the Post. I've heard things are now settled down. Great going on the weight chart, McPherson. Sounds like you're already ahead of the game for January. Thanks!

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New Haven, Conn.: I've been maintaining nicely.

I haven't been able to add much exercise, but I've added a number of the "little tricks." Parking further away, taking the stairs to the employee lunch room three floors up.

I've been trying to have lighter dinners to compensate for the occasional chocolates and cookies at work.

My dinner last night, for two. Sautee 1/2 large onion, chopped, in 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp olive oil. Add one can crab meat, drained. Add 3/4 cup frozen peas, 1/2 cup chopped yellow and orange bell peppers and 1/4 cup chopped mixed mushrooms. Black pepper, Old Bay seasoning, and a few tablespoons reduced fat evaporated milk. Throw lid on for 5 minutes on medium low. Serve on 1/2 cup brown rice per person.

Quick, fairly cheap, filling, and tasted great.

Sally Squires: Great going, New Haven! Thanks for the recipe.

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Missouri: For the young person with high cholesterol--I had the same thing happen to me! I'm in my 20s and my cholesterol is over 300. Chances are, it's genetic. Do your parents or any close family members have high cholesterol?

I would recommend, if possible, finding a dietician in your area and scheduling a meeting. Some health plans do cover it, but you have to research. My dietician has really helped me plan out what foods to avoid and answer all my questions. Once I spoke to her, I realized I didn't need to change my eating habits too radically. Cutting out burgers and adding fish helps a lot.

You didn't say whether you got your lipids tested and you were told your good and bad cholesterol levels. I would recommend doing so, because it helps you see what areas to focus on. For example, my good cholesterol was pretty high, so I knew I was doing pretty well with the exercising, and needed to focus more energy on my diet.

Good luck! You can do this!

Sally Squires: Absolutely, this could be genetic, Missouri. Sorry to hear that you've been confronting the same condition. But as you know, you have a lot of company. And yes, a trip to a registered dietitian is also a good idea. You can always find one in your area at www.eatright.org, run by the American Dietetics Association. Continued success in your efforts! Thanks.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hey Sally,
I have been trying to lose weight for the past 6 years (since the birth of my son). I recently realized that I am very disciplined when it comes to eating real food, but, when it comes to junk, i have no control. What can you recommend i do to crave my sugar cravings?

Sally Squires: Hey Silver Spring: That sugar craving could be due to several things. First, are you getting enough calories at meals? A sweet tooth that surfaces a few hours after lunch could indicate that you're cutting caloric corners. Second, a lot of people crave sweets when they're stressed. You're the best judge of whether this is happening to you. If it is, you want to reach for low calorie items that will soothe your sweet tooth. In last week's Lean Plate Club column, we covered this very thing. You can read the column (or any others) at www.washingtonpost.com/leanplateclub.

In the meantime, you might try--

1. A very sweet fruit, such as pineapple, cherries, or dried fruit (sans sugar if you can. I found some dried mango at Trader Joe's that is great.)
2. A cup of tea with a dollop of honey
3. Graham crackers, ginger snaps or meringues which are sweet but relatively low in calories and fat
4. A cup of hot chocolate. Make it with unsweetened cocoa and skim milk. Add about 1 tablespoon of sugar and a few marshmallows. (Or make with Splenda or another sugar substitute.)
5. Hard, sweetened candy. Peppermint would be one choice. You might also try gum.

Other suggestions out there?

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Another curbing tip: In addition to asking, "Am I really hungry?" I also find it helpful to ask, "Will I feel deprived if I don't eat this?" Often (but not always!;) the answer is "No."

Sally Squires: Yes, another great question. And the flip side is will I feel better if I get some physical activity or if I skip it. As someone said a couple of weeks ago on the web chat, they have never regretted a workout, but have regretted not getting one. Thanks!

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For High Cholesterol: There's a lot of evidence that this is greatly genetic. Your comment hit home - my dad had a quad bypass despite being thin and a competitive tennis player all his life. It's not your fault, it's your genes. High cholesterol is often seen as a moral failing - like you eat too much junk and exercise too little. It's not, it's medical, and sometimes drugs are needed.

Sally Squires: Well said. Hope your father--and you--are doing fine now. Thanks!

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Washington, D.C.: For the LPCer with the high cholesterol: You could try going vegetarian, or, at least, as close to vegetarian as you can stand. Only foods from animal sources actually contain cholesterol (although it is true that some non-animal foods have the potential to raise our cholesterol levels, too). A vegetarian diet is not for everyone, but it can have dramatic results. (I'm not a strict vegetarian myself, but I find that the less meat and dairy I eat, the better I look and feel.)

Sally Squires: Another good suggestion--provided that one keeps saturated fat low too. French fries and coke are vegetarian, but not necessarily healthful...Thanks!

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Baltimore, Md.: HI Sally, My cholestrol has dipped down to 111 after a 12hours fast. I am told it is not good to have it too low, (my HDL is 74) which I think is good. I have reduced my intake of fiber, but I am not sure what else would help raising it. I do not eat meat, eggs or dairy products, but i eat fish. I always hear you have to lower your cholestrol, but how low can you go without causing any harm to your body? thank you

Sally Squires: There's always a flip side to every condition including cholesterol, isn't there? I've been trying to noodle around on the National Heart, Lung and Blood site to give you more info. But am not finding what I need while on this chat. There are sometimes health conditions which are linked with very low cholesterol. But this is best discussed with your doctor. Feel free to e-mail me after the chat and I'll see what other resources I can point you to.

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Arlington, Va.: Wanted to get this in -- just found something fantastic at CVS, mint chocolate soy crisps! I can't think of anything better to keep me from eating 'real' chocolate.

Sally Squires: That's a great food find, Arlington. I found some packets of baby carrots with Ranch dressing, which provided a wonderful snack on my way to a high school basketball game. Other discoveries: some holiday teas from Celestial Seasonings, including a candy cane green tea (decaffeinated) and a Gingerbread Spice tea. Thanks!

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New Carrollton, Md.: Lean Cuisine has just introduced a new sub-line called "Spa Cuisine" - really interesting, tasty and healthy entrees like Lemongrass Chicken, Basil Salmon, and Pecan Chicken served with brown rice, corn-based pasta, etc. Savory sauces, lots of veggies... yummy. And no more expensive than the regular Lean Cuisines.

Sally Squires: Thanks! And I've noticed that some of the prepared frozen foods are on special now--just the time to stock up for the next two holiday weeks. Remember that you can wash and re-use the "plates" for portion control.

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Austin, Tex.: I have been overweight since I was EIGHT years old (for the past 20 years). I have never known a day since where I have NOT been obese. At my highest weight in July 2003, I was 323.5 pounds. In the past year, I have lost almost 70 pounds (almost 40 of which have been over the past 5-6 months). I had never even lost 5, 10, or 15 pounds in my life prior to this weight loss. I completely changed my entire life. I went from absolutely zero exercise to exercising 2 hours a day, 6 days a week. I went from drinking absolutely zero water to drinking a gallon a day. I went from eating one meal a day to eating balanced meals and snacks. Everyone tells me my body has changed. I went to visit my old church and relatives last weekend after not having seen them in almost 3 months and they were shocked --shocked-- at what they claimed was a complete change in my body. About 40 people commented on my weight loss (39 women and 1 man, LOL)!! None of them had any idea that I had been exercising and eating right. They all asked me what I had been doing, how much weight had I lost, etc. Yet I see no difference. I stood in front of my mirror last night in just my undergarments and felt repulsed. I wanted to die at the sight of all the flab. At 250+ pounds, not one part of me is flab-less. Although I never glanced in the mirror prior to the weight loss, glancing at it now sure doesn't make me feel better. All I think is, I was bigger than THIS? I've cried through this entire journey. I only lose a few pounds a month and cannot do it through diet alone...I must exercise 12-15 hours a week to lose the weight. I'm okay with that, but I am still overwhelmed at how, after all this hard work, I am STILL fat. I STILL cannot find clothes to wear. I STILL feel self-conscious walking around. I STILL feel as miserable as ever. Just so you know that it's not a problem on the inside...I would like to think that on the inside, I am a decent person. I have morals, manners, kindness, etc. I've been working on my insides my whole life since I could never count on my body. I have balance in my spiritual life and my intellectual life...it's about time my body caught up. I am a professional with 2 degrees, an excellent job, a great family, wonderful friends, and a bright future ahead. This has been the only troublesome area of my life and I am finally dealing with it, but it has been a long journey. I hate that I don't see a difference. HOWEVER, I no that turning back to my old habits is NOT the way to finally persevere. Giving up will NEVER bring me success. I have accepted the Lean Plate Club Challenge because I know that failure is not an option anymore. I have turned my entire life around and know that it will only be through a daily committment to better health that my goals will be attained. LPCers, giving up is not an option. I have fallen off the course many times, including over the past month, but I got up yesterday morning with a re-commitment to my health and well-being. Keep it up, everyone!!

Sally Squires: You're an inspiration Austin! What a journey you have been through and you illustrate so well what so many people these days struggle with. You might take a look at a book called Body Traps, by Judith Rodin. It's likely out of print, but it addresses some of the very things you have written about. I suspect that you'll enjoy reading it. Thanks very much for your posting.

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Bridgeport, Conn.: Holiday Greetings from snowy Bridgeport, Ct.

My subject is once again about Tea...you said that 12 cups or so a day is not bad for me; I did reduce that by a cup or two.

My comment is : during the Holidays, are not the scents of cinammon, clove and other spices in the air? But the prices of spiced teas can be up to $5 for one small box. I buy a big box of Regular Tea, such as Lipton, and then I buy a samll box of "Spiced Tea", such as (Bigelow's) Cinnamon Tea. Then, when I brew my pot of Tea, I use 2-3 (two-three)regular Tea bags for every 1 (one) of the expensive spiced Tea bags. The Teas are actually better this way. Always use boiling hot water when making any Tea, this is key. "Tea-Nice". Bpt. CT. Anne.

Sally Squires: Thanks for the suggestions, Bridgeport. That's a great way to stretch your food dollars. And just for the record, I'm not sure that I said 12 cups of tea a day is good for you. What I likely said is that there's no evidence to suggest that it will hurt you--provided that you are not affected by the caffeine. And it certainly does provide plenty of fluid and anti-oxidants. So that makes it a good thing. Also, the National Academy of Sciences has said that tea, coffee, soup and other beverages can count towards total hydration for the day.

Thanks!

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Somewhere Europe: Hi Sally,
greetings and best wishes for the season!; I have a question which i think you may have answered for another LPC-er before, but i cannot recall. But, if you have any advice i would be grateful. I am a young woman, mid thirties and only about 5 pounds overweight. I look slim and i eat exceptionally well (in my opinion!;) My diet is packed with low-fat dairy, vegetables and fruits and protein like fish (5-6 times a week) and chicken maybe the rest of the time. I am lucky enough to actually genuinely dislike sweets and snacks. I drink about 9-10 glasses of wine a week. I exercise for 45 minutes a day- but it is only walking. My problem- i have a HUGE stomach. i am really apple-shaped, and carry most of my weight between my breasts and waist. everything else looks fine, yet this enormous stomach!; (sometimes, after a meal i am bloated enough to look pregnant). I know that carrying weight here is dangerous for the health, but i am confused as to what i can do to whittle my waist. i eat well, i exercise and everything is basically fine. i am at a loss as to why i have this problem!; Sally, is there antyhing you can advise? I would be so grateful!;
Thanks Sally, LOVE the chats!;

Sally Squires: Hey Europe: You're right, increased abdominal fat can be linked to some health problems, including an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. And yes, while you may be able to do a little toning of that area (especially your core muscles), what really counts is how much fat is there. George Washington University's weight loss physician Arthur Frank likes to say if you want to lose weight from a particular body area pull the tape measure tighter! If you are experiencing painful bloating after eating, however, it might be worth a discussion with your doctor. Let us know how it goes...

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Philadelphia, Pa.: I hope you can answer a nutrition question. I've been following LPC and reading about nutrition, and have overhauled my eating habits in the past six weeks, with much success (choosing healthy food is easier than I thought, and I've dropped 2 BMI points, woo hoo!). However, despite drinking a whole lot of water (48-96 oz./day) and ensuring that I eat a variety of wholesome foods, my skin looks sallow and gray, a change since I started this. Am I perhaps not getting enough fat or oils?

Any food or supplement suggestions to address this are very welcome. Thanks!

Sally Squires: Hey Philly: I'm not sure what could be causing this, although let's point out that it is winter and we all look a little pale these days. It's also prime time for dry skin. (I swear I am swimming in moisturizer and still feel dry.) You might check with your doctor and consider taking a simple daily multivitamin--something that a number of experts recommend for nutritional insurance. If you do go this route, don't take a multivitamin that has more than 100 percent of the daily value for any ingredient. And yes, it's still best to get your vitamins and minerals from food first. Hope that helps. Let us know how it goes...Thanks!

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New York: Hi Sally,

In the interest of maximizing the little calorie-burning time I DO have during this season, I have come upon a mystifying question. I find jogging much more difficult than riding the recumbent bike. However, I sweat much more riding the bike. This is in the same room, same temperature, same workout length. Is it possible that riding the bike is burning more calories than jogging on the treadmill? Is amount of sweat a good indicator of calories burned? It seems very suspicious to me, because the bike feels much less challenging. What's going on here?

Sally Squires: Hey New York: If you're jogging outside these days, you're probably not sweating as much because it's so cold and dry outdoors. Is the gym (or home) where you ride the bike hot and somewhat humid? That will play a role in how much you perspire. Track your heart rate. That's really the best measure of how hard you're working cardiovascularly. Thanks!

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Central Virginia: Sally, please help! I'm already up FIVE pounds since the challenge started. A couple pounds of this is likely due to bloat, but I have no doubt that the rest is real. What do I do now, with Christmas just around the corner?! Is is worth trying to lose any of it? Or just maintain where I am now?

Sally Squires: First take a deep breath, Crystal City. You're staying on top of the situation even if the scale is not going the direction you'd like. And yes, this could easily be due to bloating and water retention. Go back to your healthy habits. Stick with them as much as possible. Get as much physical activity as possible and enough sleep as you can fit in. Make smart choices. Relax. And work to keep the scale steady from now until New Year's. Good luck. You can do this. Let us know how it goes.

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Arlington, Va.: Austin: You are an inspiration to us all. 10 pounds or 100. sometimes it seems impossible to us as well. Thanks for encouraging US! And best of luck to you in your journey.

Sally Squires: Well said. Thanks Arlington!

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Takoma Park, Md.: Not a question, but I just wanted to say thanks to the person last week who suggested renting exercise DVDs from Netflix. After slapping my forehead and going "Why didn't I think of that?!;?", I signed up and received my first batch of DVDs at the end of last week.

Now I have absolutely no excuse to say I'm bored with a particular DVD.

Thank you!;!;!;

Sally Squires: It really was a great suggestion, wasn't it? I enjoyed it too--just another example of how LPCers really help each other out. Thanks Takoma.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally,
Regarding the woman in the newsletter that was concerned that she hadn't lost any weight, although she'd gone down a dress size - she may not have lost weight according to the scale, but I can almost guarantee that's she's lost body fat while adding muscle. Her clothes are fitting differently - that's the perfect sign of the change in body composition that may not be reflected on the scale. Adding speed walking and upper body strength training are muscle builders. I just don't want her to get discouraged!

Sally Squires: Right on DC. I suspect that your posting will help encourage her very much. Thanks!

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Crystal City, Va.: Last January, I got myself motivated to loose weight, gain muscle and change my eating habits. I got down to almost my goal weight and I have stalled. I still work out but have had a really hard time "getting a grip" on my poor holiday time eating. How do I get my motivation back?

Sally Squires: You've done great things, Crystal City. Pat yourself on the back for all you've accomplished. Way to go. And yes, it's a common phenomenon that reaching your goal--or almost reaching it--can somehow take the oomph out of what you're doing. (That will sound odd to a lot of folks who look with admiration at what you've done, but it's very common.) So you need a jump start. And you may want to wait until New Year's to do it. (That will also give you time to look back in the LPC archives to a column on this very subject. It ran in late summer, early fall.)

So what to do? For now, just maintain what you've already done and use the holidays as a time for planning. Think again about what you're trying to accomplish. What activity have you never tried that you'd like to try? Maybe you want to browse some healthy cookbooks and get re-charged. Maybe some new workout gear would help--or just some new workout clothes. How about a session with a personal trainer--a great Christmas gift by the way.Or maybe you need an exercise buddy.

Take this time to take stock, see what you can do and get ready to rock and roll when the New Year begins. Good luck with your efforts. Tell us how it goes.

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Ocean Beach, N.Y.: "Less is More," is my motto as I have lost 65 pounds.
Less is More is definitely how I feel each day.
I eat high volume foods and seek ways of volumizing foods. For example, I love my daily hihgly foamed skimm milk cappacina.
Question-what are your high volume foods or ways of adding as much air as possible.

Sally Squires: Congratulations Ocean Beach. Those 65 pounds are quite an accomplishment. What are high volume foods? Soup and stews. Puffed cereal (preferrably unsweetened.) Popcorn. In short, anything with air, fiber or water. You can learn more about this concept from Volumetrics by Barbara Rolls, PhD., a Penn State researcher who has studied this very thing.

Thanks!

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Sally Squires: Thanks to all for the chat and for another great year with the Lean Plate Club. www.washingtonpost.com goes "dark" next week, so the next chat will be on Jan. 4. Ditto for the e-mail newsletter. Until then, have a wonderful holiday. Good luck to those who are taking the Holiday Challenge. I'll be thinking of you as I work to fit in more activity and side step some of the holiday treats that will be coming my way too.

Winners today--although you're all winners in my book!--are Austin, Ocean Beach, the LPCer who gave the suggestion from Mom's organic for the soy sauce alternative and Arlington for the mint chocolate soy crisps. Please e-mail me with your U.S. postal address and please put winner in the subject line.

Thanks to all. Have a wonderful holiday. Until 2005, eat smart and move more with the Lean Plate Club.

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