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Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, April 22, 2008; 1:00 PM

Confused about nutrition? Wondering how to fit in more physical activity? Welcome to the Lean Plate Club. Ask Sally Squires, nationally syndicated Lean Plate Club columnist for the Washington Post, about eating smart and moving more every Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. Sally draws upon her master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University to preside over the lively Lean Plate Club web chat. Whether you're trying to reach a healthier weight or simply maintain it, you'll find plenty of tips and strategies.

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Share your own food finds, creative workouts and secrets for healthy, great tasting meals. We'll cheer your successes and help with your setbacks. (None of this, of course, is a substitute for medical advice.) E-mail Sally, author of the newly published Secrets of the Lean Plate Club (St. Martin's Press) at leanplateclub@washpost.com.

Or just sign up for the free Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter. The Lean Plate Club column appears Tuesdays in the Washington Post Health section and is nationally syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. www.leanplateclub.com/group.

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Sally Squires's Recent Columns

Discussion Transcripts

A transcript follows.

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Sally Squires: Happy Earth Day! And welcome to the Lean Plate Club. The e-mail newsletter should be in your electronic in-box now. In it, find links to get hooked up with Community Supported Farms, plus an update on the National Presidents Challenge. (Yes, Lean Plate Club members and Misfits continue to hang in there and are doing well.)

Also, recipes today include:

Spanish Chicken and Rice, Vegetable Chili, Asian Chicken Sautee, Broiled Haddock with Mango Lime Salsa, and the 10 Best Foods that you may not be eating. To register for this free service, just go to our home page at www.leanplateclub.com and click on the newsletter. You'll be signed up (and you will have joined nearly 300,000 other Lean Plate Club members who also subscribe to this free weekly service.)

Prizes today are

5 cloth grocery bags from the me and the Lean Plate Club--a way of saying Happy Earth Day.

As always, here's the deal. Assist another member on this chat. Share a great food find, a healthy recipe (give credit where credit is due) or tell us about a terrific way that you've found to burn more calories. And one of these bags could be yours today. Winners are announced at the end of each chat.

Now on to it!

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Washington, D.C.: Re: Alcohol and breast cancer. I had read an article in the New York Post last fall that stated that it has been demonstrated scientifically that taking B-vitamin folic acid (about twice the usual recommended dose) wipes out whatever small risk of breast cancer alcohol consumption might pose. The article goes on to say that the protective effect of folic acid is well known in medical literature.

I have not seen this referred to elsewhere. Are you aware of this and do you have advice on taking B-vitamin folic acid for women who do consume alcohol?

Sally Squires: In today's column, I included a study published in March by JoAnn Manson of Harvard. It also showed some protection from getting enough folate or folic acid. But Manson was quick to note--as were the other experts that I interviewed for this column--that there's no real way to "wipe out" the increased breast cancer risk. It's all a matter of balance. And you can't drink and then take multivitamins to wipe out the alcohol effect. Or at least there's no evidence at this time that's possible. Hope that helps.

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Chicago: I'm an athlete training for an endurance event -- and also someone who observes Passover quite strictly. I'm already feeling funky from the sudden decrease in complex carbs -- veggies and fruit just aren't cutting it! Any suggestions for kosher-for-Passover high carb meals?

Sally Squires: My knowledge of Kosher food is more limited. So I don't want to lead you astray. But I'll be happy to throw out some possibilities. And you might also check out Nancy Clark's excellent Sports Nutrition Handbook for additional help.

Dried beans are Kosher and they will give you plenty of carbs and fiber. Bean chili would be a good option. I throw beans into soups and salads in place of rice or crackers (on the side).

Is wild rice Kosher? If so, that might be another option.

You might also check out Hip Kosher, a new book that may have more of what you need.

More to come with some links

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Washington, D.C.: What am I doing for Earth Day and every day? I live near a school and on a street with quite a bit of foot traffic. When I walk our dog, I take two extra bags -- one to fill with glass and plastic(No. 1 and No. 2) that can be rinsed, and paper trash that can all be recycled, and another bag for picking up cigarette butts, sandwich wrappers or other items that are garbage.

Sally Squires: Way to go, DC! We try to do much of the same when we walk our canine companion. Now my question for you: what kind of plastic bags do you use to pick up the poop? Now that some grocery stores are no longer offering plastic bags, we find them to be in somewhat short supply. And yes, I know we can buy them. We've done that too...I also use the plastic from the morning newspaper...

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washingtonpost.com: Kashrut: Jewish Dietary Laws

Sally Squires: Here's some more info on Jewish Dietary Laws

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Ashburn, Va.: The President's Challenge has really kept me motivated. I keep up my fitness level so I can get that red star each week! Can it be continued throughout the year?

Sally Squires: It certainly can! What a great idea, Ashburn. Thanks much.

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Santa Fe, N.M.: We're retired and live in the country, so we have limited the number of days we go to town for errands to two, and we make it the days we have rehearsals or social dates. We drive slower than we used to, and we've noticed that we get much better mileage.

We hang up our clothes on the line.

We reuse ziplock bags by washing them thoroughly with hot soapy water and drying inside out.

We open the doors of our sunroom for solar gain, eliminating the need for heat in the back part of the house.

We eat meat in small amounts in stews and stir fries.

We turn off our computers when we're not using them.

We raise a garden and have fruit trees, and we distribute the extra fruit and vegetables to neighbors and friends.

We never leave the water running, and use the same hot soapy water for all the pots, rinsing with clean water.

We've stopped buying bottled water, and we use an RO water maker instead.

We get manure from a neighbors horses instead of buying bags trucked in from far away.

There are a million ways to stop using up so much of our planet, and we try to be alert to them...

Sally Squires: What a great example of the many simple things that can be done to improve our planet. In today's Lean Plate Club Discussion Group--that's a social network or miniblog that you can also participate in (link coming in a minute), I cited the actor and activist Ed Begley, Jr. who rides a stationary bike that is hooked up to a generator for his toaster. It takes him 15 minutes of riding to toast two slices of bread. Pretty cook, don't you think? But I do wonder if this kind of thing is practical for the rest of us. Thoughts?

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washingtonpost.com: Lean Plate Club Discussion Group

Sally Squires: Here's the Lean Plate Club Discussion Group where we can stay in touch throughout the week. I'd like to also make it a forum to swap exercise videos and more. And if you happen to be taking the President's Challenge with us, there's a forum there to also report on how you're doing. Tell me what you'd like this LPC DG to become. The cool thing is that we can shape it any way we want. You can also reach me by phone at 1-800-627-1150, ext 45018. And e-mail is leanplateclub@washpost.com.

Thanks!

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carbs for passover: A lot of people don't eat legumes and most grains during Passover. But that still leaves quinoa (it's a seed) and starchy vegetables like beets, sweet potatoes, and squash. Also, many matzah manufacturers have started to sell whole wheat matzah.

Sally Squires: I often buy that whole wheat matzoh which is quite good. We had a discussion about this topic in the office last week just before Passover. And as I recall, we were advised that the whole wheat matzoh could not be used for the Passover Seder, but is okay for Passover. Do I understand that correctly?

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Silver Spring, Md.: Beans and rice are not eaten by Ashkenazic (eastern European) Jews at Passover. They are not forbidden exactly but it is customary not to eat them.

Sally Squires: Very helpful. Thank you for that information.

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Kosher for Passover: Alas, beans and rice, while kosher for most of the year, are not kosher for passover (legumes are not considered kosher for passover).

Sally Squires: Okay, it's unanimous. Guess we all better look at Hip Kosher for more ideas.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally,

RE: 10 Healthy foods you're probably not eating: Beets. Oh, my gosh. How do you eat them? They seem so bitter, and I was sure my mother was trying to kill me with them when I was growing up.

Love the idea of deep-sixing the plastic bags (I even bring my cloth Whole Foods bags into Giant/Safeway as well). Only problem -- dog waste clean up will get harder without plastic grocery bags, but I suppose in the long run it's a good thing -- those like me who need plastic bags can specifically buy them, whereas mindless consumption of them for carting groceries can stop.

Thanks!

Sally Squires: I understand the concern about the plastic grocery bags. But when I shopped last night at Whole Foods, they double-bagged my groceries with paper bags. The bags are made from recycled paper, but I'd like to see the numbers on whether double-bagging even with re-cycled paper is such a savings for the environment.

And I also noticed all the other plastic bags that are still used throughout the store--including in the produce department, at the fish counter (where my paper wrapped fish was then wrapped in a plastic bag--and I applaud that!) to the prepared breads that are wrapped in cellophane and then in plastic for freshness.

So I wonder how much we are really shifting to being greener. Or does this just lessen our guilt? What do you think?

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Chevy Chase, Md. : Hi Sally,

I appreciate you addressing the topic of breast cancer and alcohol. Aside from this latest research finding, what is your personal/professional opinion on moderate alcohol consumption (1 glass of wine/day) if a woman is otherwise very healthy (eats super healthy foods and exercises moderately)? what about the benefits of the antioxidants/polyphenols in wine?

Sally Squires: There are plenty of reasons to drink wine, but those antioxidants and polyphenols can be found in plenty of other foods including fruit and vegetables. Wine (in moderation) and other alcohol (in moderation) has some heart benefits for men and postmenopausal women. Plus, the flavor of wine is hard to beat.

If you stick with one glass per day (and that's five ounces by the way, not the 8-9 that many restaurants serve), and you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, then you're living in moderation. I drink wine. But don't drink it every night and use a very small one ounce appertif glass to slow consumption and get flavor without a lot of alcohol--or calories! Often, one of these glasses is all I need. Other nights, I can have four or five.

Again, moderation in all things...

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Pittsburgh: Just a comment on CSAs... This will be my second year participating, and I can't wait for it to start! Participating in a CSA is a fantastic, easy, affordable way to bring so much more variety into my meals, and to really broaden my horizons and experience wonderful, fresh, quality food. If the benefits to the environment, your local economy, and your health aren't enough to convince you, consider that vegetables and fruits that reach your table within days (or hours!) of being picked stay fresh and beautiful 3-4 times longer than those from the grocery store! I never thought I could keep salad greens in the fridge for over a week and see them stay crisp and fresh, but that's exactly what happens with everything I get from my CSA! I love it!

Sally Squires: Hear, hear. I have participated in them too and found it really enjoyable. But better get signed up fast. Some of the CSA's in the DC region are already full. So check out that Web site in today's Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter.

Thanks Pittsburgh.

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West Hartford, Conn.: I love Thai food and would like to try making some curries. Is coconut milk unhealthy? My cholesterol is borderline high so I don't want to cook with something that I shouldn't be eating. Thanks for your advice.

Sally Squires: Thai food can be wonderful, can't it? But yes, that coconut milk is a source of unhealthy saturated fat. If you have high blood cholesterol levels, you need to pay special attention to both saturated fat and trans fat. So when you make your curry, try to use light coconut milk, which is much lower in saturated fat. And balance those curry dishes with plenty of vegetables and some brown rice. That will help you get the flavor without too much saturated fat.

By the way, in January at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Calif. I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Chair Siriuarn, an award winning chef in San Francisco. His cookbook: Thai Cuisine Beyond Curry may be another one for you to try. The recipes he made us were delicious.

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Cincinnati: I and others braved the last (hopefully) cold day here. Many were buying the bags to use when going to grocery and other stores. I bought 2 one for me and one for a friend of mine. She and her husband live on a dairy farm and have organic milk which they sell to the retailers for pasteurizing.

I know she'll appreciate it. They sell smaller beefs which are also organically grown.

Sally Squires: And I must say that I love how creative some of these new re-useable bags are. Can't you imagine a whole new industry springing up? And some very fun art possibilities. Although I do still smile a little, when I hand the cashier a bag to re-use and it's not from that grocery store. Ah well...so it goes...:-)

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Arlington, Va.: When I'm craving carbs during passover, depending on time of day, it's either Passover rolls or matzo meal pancakes. Not that either of them are particularly diet-friendly, but you can still make better choices with them, like having the pancakes with fruit.

Sally Squires: And Passover doesn't last forever. So everything in moderation also applies. Thanks!

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Sun Prairie, Wisc.: This is how I am honoring Earth Day. I picked up a portable Energy Reader from my local library at noon. When I get home I plan to find the energy "leeches" in my house and start unplugging electric appliances. Many appliances use energy even while turned off or in stand-by mode. Such a waste of precious energy!

Sally Squires: What a great idea! And what a very progressive library to provide this service. Sounds like you live in a very interesting place. Thanks!

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whole wheat matzah: As far as I know, whole wheat matzah fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah at the seder. It's egg matzah that doesn't "count" for the seder. It even carries a warning that it's only for infants and invalids!

Sally Squires: Interesting. A few Jewish colleagues and I thought we had checked this during last week's chat. Sounds like I need a consult with a Rabbi that I know here in DC. I'll let you know what he says.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What do I do to try to be Green?

I rarely use plastic bags anymore. Almost any leftover gets put into a reusable plastic container. I also save all the containers I get from the store and reuse them.

I only run the dishwasher when full and let the dishes air dry.

I use a programmable thermostat. If I am cold I get a throw for my legs. I have a floor fan so I can keep the A/C higher - I have found that just having the air moving makes me feel cooler.

I use the water from my dehumidifier to water the plants outside.

Sally Squires: Great ideas! And one of them are terribly hard to do. I recall during the 1970s, Norman Cousins visited a few college campuses where the then environmental movement was taking hold. And he was surprised to find how many students who wanted to help the environment had left the lights on and the stereos on in their rooms when they were out doing other things. Sometimes, it is the small things that can add up to big rewards.Thanks.

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Houston: My A/C is turned up to 78 during the day. I shop ONLY with my reusable canvas bag (thank you, Yahoo!Answers & Big Texas Sun Club).

I also only run the dishwasher and washer/dryer after sunset.

Sally Squires: And keeping those bags in the bag of the car--or parked at the door for those who are able to walk to the grocery--are great ways to be ready for shopping. Thanks Houston.

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Santa Fe, N.M.: How do I like my CSA?

It's been a wonderful experience. I'm presented with a box of produce every other week and then have the delight/challenge of figuring out what to do with it. It's made me a better and much more adventurous cook and I think that I spend less money because I use what's in the box and then supplement at the store and I end up buying less -- and throwing out less, too.

Sally Squires: There's another vote for signing up for CSA's this year. Plus, you often get to try some produce that you might not have chosen for yourself. It's a great way to experiment and branch out a little, don't you find?

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Victoria, B.C. Canada: Absolutely the nutritional information should be provided. It is on everything else that we consume - why not alcoholic beverages?

Sally Squires: For those how have not yet read today's Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter, I included a link to a brief report on a push to get alcoholic beverages labeled with facts similar to nutrition facts. What do you think? Is this needed? And what would you liked to see included on these labels if they are implemented?

Thanks for weighing in Vancouver.

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New York: Dear Sally,

I am wondering if I have binge eating disorder. About once a week at night, I eat a lot of food. Usually on a Friday, when I get home from work and am quite hungry, I start eating and feel like I can't stop. I eat things that I normally don't because I tend to try and eat healthy. I'll eat cookies, ice cream, cheese, lots of bread and cereal, candy. It's like I can't stop until I feel extremely sick and full.

I wonder if maybe I am not eating enough during the week (or too healthy, as I usually just don't want desserts etc. until the weekend/Friday night rolls around). I feel like it's completely ruining my efforts at losing weight (need to lose 10-15 pounds) and all of the good habits I'm trying to build.

It's become such a habit that it seems like no matter what I do, I can't stop it. Has anyone else had this problem? How did they overcome it? Is it binge eating disorder?

Thanks for your help Sally!

Sally Squires: You're not alone in this. And while you may have a binge eating disorder, you may also have an emotional eating disorder. Psychologist Kelly Brownell, head of the Rudd Center at Yale, gave me permission to use his questionnaire on emotional eating in Secrets of the Lean Plate Club. So at the risk of plugging the book, you could at least check it out in a bookstore and see if it seems to fit you. (And remember, this is just one factor of binge eating.)

So, what can you do to help thwart this habit. You might try incorporating some of these foods into your week in a small way.

You could also set these foods aside BEFORE you leave for work on Friday morning. Grant yourself permission to eat a set portion when you get home.

Third option: Have a snack--maybe even some of these trigger foods--before you leave the office or if possible on the way home.

Fourth option: For a few weeks, plan something that you can do with others at this very vulnerable time. That may help you break the habit.

Fourth: Record what you eat while you're going through this overeating jag. Make yourself measure and write everything. You may find that in the course of slowing things down, you won't want as much. It's also a good time to record how you're feeling as you eat. Happy, angry, tired, frustrated. At what point do you feel full? At what point are you just eating out of repetition and no longer out of hunger?

And finally, if this persists, consider seeing a professional for help. If it is the beginning of a true binge eating disorder, it's important to nip in the bud earlier rather than later.

Hope this helps. And I hope you will let us know how it goes.

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Dallas: I've started using tote bags that I've collected over the years in lieu of plastic grocery bags. I find that they're much sturdier for things like milk and cashiers have gotten used to me providing my own bags now. The company I work for just gave out reusable grocery bags in celebration of Earth Day, so another one to add to the bunch! I also walk to my gym that's a few blocks away -- saves a little gas, gets me ready for my workout, and saves pollutants. It's the little things. Thanks!

Sally Squires: Thank you! And I love the fact that Dallas Morning News is one of the subscribing newspapers to the Lean Plate Club column. If you'd like to read the Lean Plate Club in your local newspaper, please send me an e-mail to leanplateclub@washpost.com. Please include local newspaper in the subject line. Thanks

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Efland, N.C.: Comment:

Yes, much has been touted about the heart benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, but nothing is said about the risks. The most obvious is of course the number of brain damage due to cells that are killed by each drink of alcohol. There are many safer ways to insure heart health than alcohol consumption: getting weight down, reducing fat intake, medications, etc. The risk of brain damage from alcohol is far scarier than the benefits to the heart.

Sally Squires: Drinking in excess absolutely can damage brain cells. But I know of no evidence to suggest that moderate drinking causes brain damage. So we may have to agree to disagree on that point. And let me add, that no alcohol is best for women who are trying to conceive, are pregnant or are nursing. Thanks.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Help! All my usual motivations (feeling great, looking good, great lab results on cholesterol, etc) are failing to overcome stress and time constraints. Bad habits that I thought were a thing of the past (emotional eating) are creeping back into my life. It is so frustrating. I tell myself, "if hunger isn't the problem, then food isn't the answer" and "nothing feels as good as thin feels" - nanoseconds before gobbling down a cookie. My basic meals/snacks are still very healthy, but I've been adding on unhealthy stuff and not getting enough exercise. Is there a secret to fortifying the motivating forces against the "dark side?" Please share it!

Sally Squires: Chevy Chase: Many of us, including me, have all been there. So take it one step at a time. And you may want to eliminate the tempting trigger foods from your home and your office. At least that way, you may be able to limit your nutritional mischief.

I also like the cookie jar idea from Green Mountain Spa. Take a glass jar or a cookie jar, whatever you prefer. At a moment when you are feeling strong and not hungry, make a list of all the things that you could do instead of mindless eating. Put each one on a small slip of paper and put these into the jar.

When stress hits--and believe me with an economic downturn and many other problems, lots of people are feeling stress--reach into the jar when you get hungry. Pull out a slip of paper and do whatever is on the slip before you reach for something to eat.

Taking a walk--even if it's at a snail's pace and just around the block--can also help you to overcome a little stress and emotionally "right yourself" similar to the way a sailboat might get knocked down by the wind and then bounce back.

Also, you might make a pact with your partner, spouse, friend, relative or co-worker to just talk briefly with each other whenever one of you feels like you're going off track.

And sometimes, a cup of hot tea--which must be sipped slowly--can also help quiet a racing mind and an appetite that wants to be stoked. There are so many wonderful flavors, aromas and with a little lemon or a dab of honey, it can be quite a wonderful treat.

Keeping a journal may be another way to halt runaway stress. And sometimes, just doing something thoughtful for someone else when you feel most stressed--even if it's just a quick hello--can help too.

Hang in there. Please keep us apprised of how it goes. We're with you!

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Portland, Ore.: re: CSAs

I first joined one when I lived in northern California, and it was spectacular! Picking up our weekly box of veggies was a little like having a birthday every week, especially in the summer, when the box was crammed with tomatoes, zucchini, melons and such. So I was eager to find a CSA in the Portland area when we moved up here. We've subscribed to two different CSAs in the past three years, and have decided not to join again. My husband hates greens (except for salad greens and spinach) and we found ourselves awash in kale and chard for too many months in a row. I hate throwing food away, but we were forced to do that (or try to give it someone else) more often than we wanted. So this year, we'll be buying our veggies at one of the many farmers' markets in and around Portland, or at New Seasons Market, a locally-owned, righteous market that buys from and supports dozens of local farms. Oh, and we'll be planting our own tomatoes and zucchini as soon as the danger of frost is over!

Sally Squires: CSA's may not work for everyone. No one really knows until they try them. And each farm is different. But the best idea is growing your own! If I ever get my druthers, I'd love to have a Lean Plate Club farm. How cool would that be?

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Fairfax, Va.: Any suggestions on overcoming a plateau? I've lost, over the last several years, 55 pounds, slowly but surely. I'm now about 5 pounds from my goal, but I've been at this weight since November. I'll go up or down one or two pounds, but really am not moving. I follow Weight Watchers (core plan) and I exercise regularly. Someone at Weight Watchers suggested I get a doctor to state that I am at an acceptable weight and to make that my goal, but I think that's a cop out. I WANT to lose these 5 pounds, but don't know how!

Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat. Winners today are: New York, Ashburn, Sante Fe, carbs for passover, Dallas,West Hartford and DC Earth Day. Please send your name, address and put winner in the subject line.

Thanks to all

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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