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The Lean Plate Club
With Sally Squires
Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2002; 1 p.m. EST

Welcome to The Lean Plate Club, hosted by Washington Post health and nutrition writer Sally Squires. On Tuesdays at 1 p.m. ET, Sally leads a discussion for people who want to eat healthier, move around more and otherwise get better but not bigger. We're not about fad diets or crash weight-loss plans; we're about eating wisely and living healthy for the long haul.

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

Sally Squires has covered health and nutrition for The Post since 1984. She holds masters' degrees in nutrition and journalism (both from Columbia University), is co-author of "The Stoplight Diet for Children" and covers heart disease, cancer, psychology and many other health topics in addition to nutrition. She usually eats a salad for lunch, sits unluckily close to the Health section's legendary cookie depository and (for this phase of her ongoing battle of the bulge) swears by "The Firm" series of exercise tapes.

Health section editor Craig Stoltz will join Sally sometimes. Stoltz has none of Sally's impressive credentials but labors under a decade-long medical directive to control his weight and eat wisely, takes a statin to lower his blood cholesterol and keeps track of everything he eats on a Palm handheld computer, a fact most of his acquaintances no longer find interesting.

A transcript follows.

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.



Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club and the launch of the Everyday Challenge. We dare you not to do anything so draconian as diet, but rather to become healthier in the next weight weeks by adding two healthy habits to your daily routine--one for exercise; one for eating.

The goal? Maintain the status quo weightwise. And if like many of those who took the holiday challenge, you also happen to shed a few pounds along the way, so be it.

Okay, now we challenge you: Can you really eat five servings a day of fruit and vegetables and enjoy it? Is there anyone out there eating even more? For the most innovative tip on adding fruit and vegetables, we're offering a few copy of The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, PhD. (Please note that by making this offer, we are in now way endorsing any book or diet/exercise regimen.) And for those who can come up with a ground-breaking way to fit in daily exercise--that's seven days a week, remember-- we're offering The Firefighter's Workout Book by Michael Stefano.

On to the questions and comments:


Alexandria, Va.: I lost 30 pounds last year on Weight Watchers. I am keeping the weight off, but I am consuming prodigious amounts of diet colas to fight off the hunger. Probably an average of two liters a day.

Am I damaging my health? I am eating reasonable amounts of good food, but I am washing it all down with cola all day long.

Sally Squires: Congratulations on the impressive 30 pound weight loss, Alexandria. But slow down on that diet cola. Two liters a day is an awful lot. Unless you're drinking caffeine free cola, you're getting a lot of caffeine and a lot of artificial sweetener.

How about weaning yourself slowly to more healthful drinks? Don't make it drastic, since it sounds like it's been helpful in keeping off those pounds. But why not slowly switch to more water, decaf tea or coffee or make your own carbonated fruit juices (because straight, they can be pretty high in calories.)

What's everybody drinking out there? Other suggestions to help this person alter course?


Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally --

I was greatly inspired by the article today and plan to participate with your new LPC challenge. It will be great to have an "online" support group to motivate us all. Thanks!

Sally Squires: Thanks for your endorsement. We were pleasantly surprised with the success of the holiday challenge. Good luck and let us know how you do.


Bethesda, Md.: Your holiday challenge was extremely helpful (after some ups and downs, I ended up down one pound). I'm looking forward to following your new challenge. Would it be possible to provide the new tracking chart in PDF format (like the holiday chart)?

washingtonpost.com: We should have the charts online soon. Keep checking Sally's column for the links.

Sally Squires: Hey Bethesda: As you'll see below the charts will be on the web shortly. Also, look for new charts weekly in the Health section for the next eight weeks. By the end of the challenge, provided that you make all the changes, should be exercising 30 minutes a day and eating mostly according to the Dietary Guidelines.


Falls Church, Va.: Hi Sally,

Happy New Year to all the Lean Platers! This type of weather has me craving soup and chili. Just wanted to offer a very quick chili recipe for nights when you don't have much time but want something nutritious. I combine a can of black beans, a can of kidney beans, some corn, and any other veggies I have handy. Cook this gently for twenty or so minutes and voila! I serve with chopped onions, non-fat sour cream, non-fat cheese- it's wonderful. Also, I drain the beans to lower sodium content and use low sodium corn. Yummy!

Sally Squires: Thanks Falls Church. Sounds great. And this recipe has at least a couple of servings of veggies.


Washington, D.C.: Tip for fitting in daily exercise: Don't do big grocery shopping runs. Each day, decide what few things you need at the grocery store and walk to the nearest one (mine was 1.5 miles away). Walk back with just a couple of light bags of groceries (dinner for that night, perhaps). I don't recommend this method when you need to buy a gallon of milk and a box of kitty litter, though!

Sally Squires: Great idea, Washington. Thanks.


Bethesda, Md.: Hello, this is Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, director of NCI’s 5 A Day Program chiming in. Thanks to Sally for challenging us all to live healthier and congrats to all the Clubbers who are taking steps towards healthy eating and daily exercise. Eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day is a great start. You can find a wealth of delicious and healthy recipes at www.5aday.gov including a dozen new soup recipes to get you through the winter, as well as practical tips and resources. Three things right now to get you started:

1. Adult women should eat at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables and men should eat at least nine.

2. As Sally points out, a serving is probably smaller than you realize. Keep track of what you eat on one day and you may see that you are eating more servings than you think.

3. Fresh, canned, dried, frozen, and juiced fruits and vegetables all count towards 5 A Day. So stock up your fridge, freezer, and pantry and feel good about all the nutrients you are getting!

You can contact the 5 A Day program with questions or comments through www.5aday.gov or by calling 1-800-4CANCER. Good luck to all!

Sally Squires: Thanks Dr. DiSogra. We also published the Web site in the Health section today. Appreciate your input.


Vienna, Va.: One of my favorite ways to sneak in veggies it to use half a scooped-out green or red pepper instead of bread for a tuna salad sandwich. Another is to keep an interesting, healthy veggie salad in the fridge that I can dip into for snacks or as a quick side to a meal -- e.g. julienne some carrots, red peppers and blanched (10 seconds!) snow peas. Mix in a bowl with a few tablespoons of seasoned rice vinegar, a teaspoon of soy sauce, and a few drops of sesame oil. Shake or stir well. Yum! Anyone have any other such dishes that keep well for a few days?

Sally Squires: Sounds really good. I also find that I can chop cabbage (red and green) and carrots in the food processor, and put them in individual containers in the refrigerator where they keep for the week. Then they can be used for stir fry or salads or whatever.


Vienna, Va.: I was heating up some tomato soup for lunch when I noticed that the can claims that a serving of tomato soup = a full serving of veggies due to the vitamins and lycopene. Is that true? Do things like tomato soup and tomato sauce count? (I remember that ketchup counted as a veggie in my school district).

Sally Squires: Hey Vienna: Absolutely, soup and tomato sauce counts. As for that ketchup, I think it would depend on how much you eat.


Post-grad school weight stuff: I put on about 10-15 pounds as a part-time grad student/full-time worker over the last 18 months (Doritos are much more fun to snack on while typing a paper at 11 p.m. than carrots!) and now I'm beginning a plan to work it off. Here's the issue: While cutting down on fat and carbs and increasing veggies seems to be the general eating outline, I have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) that makes consuming large amounts of fruits/veggies almost intolerable. Breads, however, seem to always be okay for me, but that can negate my efforts. Do you know of cookbooks/plans/Web sites that offer up nutrition/diet plans for folks with "tender tummies" such as myself? The exercising isn't the issue, it's the meal-planning that I'm stuck on. Please hurry, my waistband is almost strangling me!

Sally Squires: Here's what the National Institutes of Health offers on IBS:

For many people, eating a proper diet lessens IBS symptoms. Before changing your diet, it is a good idea to keep a journal noting which foods seem to cause distress. Discuss your findings with your doctor. You also may want to consult a registered dietitian, who can help you make changes in your diet.

For instance, if dairy products cause your symptoms to flare up, you can try eating less of those foods. Yogurt might be tolerated better because it contains organisms that supply lactose, the enzyme needed to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk products. Because dairy products are an important source of calcium and other nutrients that your body needs, be sure to get adequate nutrients in the foods that you substitute.
Dietary fiber may lessen IBS symptoms in many cases. Whole grain breads and cereals, beans, fruits, and vegetables are good sources of fiber. Consult your doctor before using an over-the-counter fiber supplement. High-fiber diets keep the colon mildly distended, which may help to prevent spasms from developing. Some forms of fiber also keep water in the stools, thereby preventing hard stools that are difficult to pass. Doctors usually recommend that you eat just enough fiber so that you have soft, easily passed, and painless bowel movements. High-fiber diets may cause gas and bloating, but within a few weeks, these symptoms often go away as your body adjusts to the diet.

Large meals can cause cramping and diarrhea in people with IBS. Symptoms may be eased if you eat smaller meals more often or just eat smaller portions. This should help, especially if your meals are low in fat and high in carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables.

Also, check out these sites for more info. on IBS nutrition:

http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/digest/pubs/irrbowel/irrbowel.htm#gooddiet

http://www.dhn-online.org/

National Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition, 1-800-337-3346 (301-222-4002) which publishes a magazine with recipes.

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disease (888-964-2001)
www.niddk.nih.gov/ (click on Digestive Diseases Clearinghouse)


Re: Diet Cola substitute:
Hey Sally,

It sounds like the Diet cola person is not a big fan of drinking water so is using cola for a substitute. But to also limit the caffeine and cola, you could "flavor" your water by making juices. For example, Crystal Light has many different flavors, and drinking that would be a lot better for you. And they are tasty and make it all go down easier!

Sally Squires: Yes, that's a good idea. But Crystal Light is also artificially sweetened. I still worry about two liters of artificially sweetened drinks per day. That's a lot of aspartame (or other artificial sweetened.)


Dulles, Va.: I've heard eating slow, taking small bites, and drinking lots of water during a meal helps you eat less and feel fuller. Is this true? Thanks for your time.

Sally Squires: Yes, Dulles. This comes from classic behavioral training. One of the things that overweight people may do is eat too fast. Since we live in an environment where we're bombarded by food, it's easy to eat mindlessly. This approach helps condition you to slow down and taste what you're eating and allow your mind and stomach to communicate. As for the water, it's merely filling you up. There's good evidence to suggest that water-rich foods help promote satiety. In a sense that's what you're doing when you drink water with a meal.


Rockville, Md.: With Weight Watchers I lost 80 pounds and it took me two years. That's great but here's my problem: I have not lost a thing in a year and a half and I still have weight to lose. It's the plateau that never ends. I have seen doctors, had tests done and have seen specialists. No medical explanation.

I continue to go to WW and follow the plan and I have greatly increased my exercise to try to lose more weight. The only result was a an overall weight gain of 7 pounds over the course of this past year. (I have remained the same size though.) My endocrinologist (sp?) says I should just be happy with my accomplishments and that I am at a healthy weight. But at my size and height, I am still 30 pounds overweight. I am happy that I have gone from a size 24 to a 12 but just can't accept that I am at the size my body "should" be, according to my doctor. I have been obese since the age of 12. I am 33 now. Is this my destiny? Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Sally Squires: This is quite an accomplishment Rockville. Eighty pounds is--well, let's face it, it's almost a whole person--so many kudos.

As for that plateau. You're right to consult your physician. You say that you're 30 pounds overweight, but by whose count? Is this your ideal or what is really healthy. You can figure that out by checking out

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/bmi_tbl.htm

Another approach is body sculpting with weights. We all lose muscle mass as we age. Lifting weights can help stem this tide. Muscle also burns more calories than fat. So you can boost metabolism a little too. You may not see huge changes in the scale, but you could see changes in toning, dress size, etc. Just a thought.


Five (and more) a Day!: Sally,

Yes, yes, yes! It is more than possible to get five and more a day! Once you do, you'll feel like something is missing if you don't have enough fruits and veggies. (I always get a dehydrated feeling). I make a smoothies in the morning -- with at least 4 or 5 different frozen fruits -- plus a banana. I have an apple or orange (or both) a day. I snack on raisins, dried nectarines, and dried plums. I drink V8 with seltzer for a snack. I also snack on things like snap peas, baby carrots, and celery. I always feel great starting off with a fruit shake because I almost always get my five immediately. Give it a whirl! It's easier than you think.

Sally Squires: Great ideas. I agree. And if you look at what a serving size is, it's really not hard at all. And get used to the five a day, because there are rumblings in the scientific community that the recommendation could go higher.


Diet cola substitute: Sparkling water with a lemon or lime wedge is a nice substitute. You still get the fizz of soda without the scary sweeteners.

You don't have to buy expensive brands like Perrier, either. Just get the grocery store brand of club soda. A liter is well under a dollar.

Sally Squires: Thanks. Good suggestion. And don't forget that fruit and vegetables also have a lot of water. (I just finished an interview before the chat with a physiologist who underscored they hydrating effects of fruits and vegetables.)


Alexandria, Va.: I have a habit of eating food when I need to relax. Any thoughts, suggestions or substitutions are welcomed

Sally Squires: Well, you've taken what psychologists say is one of the most important steps: you're aware of your behavior. That's key. And you're not alone in eating to relax.

Some possibilities: deep breathing and progressive relaxation where you gradually tense and then relax each muscle or area of your body.

A quick walk.

Another substitution for the oral gratification that you're finding from eating. A sip of a special tea with honey and lemon; a quick conversation with someone who is special to you. (One psychologist suggested this technique for dealing with holiday parties where eating is so tempting. His advice: have a buddy that you have already arranged to call or contact when you are feeling hungry. Could be a spouse, a friend, a colleague. Be there to help each other out.)

Other suggestions?


Vienna, Va.: A healthy breakfast that I enjoy in winter sometimes is a baked (well, nuked) sweet potato. I pop one into the microwave oven while I fix the kids' breakfast, and then it's ready. Good smooshed up with a little reduced-fat margarine, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, salt & pepper. Sounds weird for breakfast, but really, it's warm, spicy and comforting.

Sally Squires: Actually it sounds kind of interesting. Thanks.


Washington, D.C.: For the soda person, yes she can be harming her health. The phosphoric acid in soda has been accused of leaching calcium out of women's bones, putting them at increased risk of osteoporosis.

I like to drink flavored (but not sweetened) seltzer during the day.

Sally Squires: There is some suggestion that too much phosphoric acid is not healthy for bones. Caffeine is not always so good either, especially at two liters a day. But the most important point, I think, is moderation in all things. Even diet soda.


Washington, D.C.: What exactly are veggies? Do onions and mushrooms count? Are there other foods that we think of veggies that aren't? Are there veggies that people overlook?

Thanks.

Sally Squires: Yes, onions and mushrooms count. So does pumpkin and summer squash and dandelion greens and cilantro and tomatoes and corn and spinach and broccoli and grapes and grapefruit and oranges and clementines and on and on. I'm making myself hungry.


Virginia: This isn't very innovative, but I have found that a good way to make healthier food choices is to keep the food pyramid in mind. I make sure to eat a grain (or two), milk, and fruit for breakfast, two veg/fruits with lunch, eat a healthy afternoon snack (often yogurt with wheat germ), and for dinner, determine what more I needed to have a healthy diet for the day (another grain, more fruit/vegs, whatever). Not "what do I want for dinner?" "what do I NEED for dinner?"

For exercise -- I use a portable stairstepper. I have taken it as carry-on luggage while traveling by plane so that I can work out while waiting for my connecting flight.

While I have belonged to gyms in the past, I have had to have some way to exercise at home in order to do it daily. I try to exercise in the morning, but found it hard to get up. Finally I tried sleeping in my exercise gear. That way I could just get up and begin warming up! I have everything else ready at night -- water bottle, stepper is ready, etc.

Sally Squires: I've heard about laying out exercise clothes ahead of time, but sleeping in them is quite innovative! I think you're in the running for one of those prizes.

You're also right on about looking at what you need for dinner. But I'd take it a step further and say what can I add to my dinner that will be really healthy.


McLean, Va.: I learned to drink water when I lived in Arizona and still manage 64-72 ounces a day. To add variety I often stir in some lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit juice. A friend stirs in a little cider vinegar. Changes the flavor.

Sally Squires: I've never tried cider vinegar. Sounds intriguing.


Morgantown, W.V.: This is for the diet soda addict. I've been one too--drinking about the same as this person. If this helps her to think about cutting down--I developed acid reflux because of it. I try to drink water in a big gulp like cup with a straw to mimic the soda fix. There isn't much research out there about diet soda's effect on dieting is there? I've been looking.

Sally Squires: Thanks, Morgantown.

As for diet soda's effect on dieting, there are some programs that encourage diet soda drinking (in moderation of course.) But I've also seen questions about whether artificial sweeteners, at least in gum, might be linked to enhanced appetite. It would be interesting to do another literature search and report back next week.


Alexandria, Va.: My first thought this morning when I read the new challenge was, "good grief, how in the world am I going to eat all those veggies!" I'll admit it, I often go days without eating a single fruit or fruit juice. Veggies I'm a bit better about.

I am generally healthy and do exercise 5 days a week (running and recreational soccer leagues). As a busy working mom, though, much of my food is on the run, and it has to be -cheap-. One of my biggest challenges is being able to afford fruits and veggies. Too often I'll splurge at the market, only to find them wilted and withered in my crisper weeks later.

Any thoughts for inexpensive ways to get all those fruits and veggies in?

Sally Squires: I, too, have thrown out a lot of expensive produce. What helps? Wrap lettuce in slightly moistened paper towels and place in plastic bags. (Romaine seems to last at least a week that way, at least in my refrigerator.) I also have taken to chopping fruit for lunch salads on an individual serving basis rather than letting fruit salad sit mixed in the refrigerator. Frozen and canned veggies and fruit also count. They will last on the shelf a long time.

I've also started buying cartons of squash for soup. They're quite good.Other thoughts out there?


Virginia: I'm trying to eat healthier this New Year (and hopefully start losing some of my 30 extra pounds, too!) but I hear conflicting things about grains/pastas. They're at the base of the food pyramid, but many references I see suggest limiting grain intake because they're high in carbohydrates. Help! I don't know what to do! Is there a source you can recommended where I can read a balanced account of what is and isn't good about grains?

Sally Squires: We're going to address grains in more detail later. But until then, Rena Wing, an obesity research at Brown University (and one of the coordinators of the National Diet Registry) told me yesterday that some folks will gain weight if they eat 11 servings a day of grains. (The recommendation is 6 to 11.) So if you're overweight, you might want to aim for that lower end of that range. Also go for the whole grains--and you're going to have to read labels carefully to be sure. They are a little slower to digest and will provide more fiber. They also tend to raise glycemic index a little slower. But there's lots of debate about GI.


Washington, D.C.: How does one fit in five fruits/veggies, if you're allergic to a lot of fruit. I'm allergic to apples, cherries, peaches, etc (not strawberries, blueberries, and other fruits that aren't in season). Strange thing is, I'm not allergic to any fruit if it's been cooked/processed in some way, but I don't think apple pie counts! Any tips?

Sally Squires: No, apple pie doesn't count. But pumpkin pie does. And if you made an kind of apple cobbler (basically the apple pie filling) and baked them in little ramekins, you could have your apple (pie) and eat it too. Don't forget all the great toppings, such as apple butter, pumpkin butter, etc. that are either unsweetened or are sweetened with fruit juices.

Dried fruit also counts. And have you tried those jars of fruit now available in the refrigeratorerated section of most groceries. They may be processed minimally which might help you.


Carton of squash?:
I'm having a hard time visualizing this. Is it pureed? What section of the store is it in?

Sally Squires: Yes, it's pureed and makes for a great soup base. I've found it in Fresh Fields and in Trader Joe's.


Vienna, Va.: I wanted to comment on the topic of soda. I visit that friendly looking vending machine twice a day for the diet cola. This has been going on for over a year and I've tried to quit several times.

However, with each attempt, I actually experience withdrawal -- headaches, feeling lousy... Is there anything that can help?

Sally Squires: Vienna: You may be experiencing caffeine-withdrawal headaches, a very common phenomenon. Do you get them on the weekends?


Columbia, Md.: Hi Sally,

With all of my loved ones eating less-than-healthy food, I'm really grateful there's a chat like this out there!

Here's my question: I've got a cold, and have managed to scale down the intensity of my exercise routines so I can get through them. My problem is that I keep craving comfort food, usually in the form of bread or chocolate. I would like to substitute some of this with comfort food that has some fruit in it. I get more than the 5 servings a day required for vegetables, but am lucky if I get two servings of fruit daily. Do you have any ideas? Thanks for your time!

Sally Squires: Thanks Columbia! Hope your cold improves. As for those comfort foods: You could throw a banana and strawberries in the blender with a cup of nonfat yogurt for a smoothie. Applesauce is another traditional comfort food. There are also fruit based soups. You could top oatmeal with some chopped up dates and raisins, or snack on dried apricots. Also see the note above about fruit in ramekins--your own version of "pie."


RE: Diet Cola sub: Flavored seltzer! Fruity, still bubbly so it fills you up, no calories, caffeine or artificial sweeteners. Yum!

Sally Squires: I like this too. It seems to be quite popular with LPCer's.


Hydration Queen: You've mentioned this before, Sally, but please repeat it: often when we think we're hungry or tired, we're actually thirsty instead. If we all reached for water or juice-and-fizz first when we started feeling fuzzy, we'd probably find ourselves snacking a lot less!
Thanks.

Sally Squires: This is a good point. We're going to explore the water question in greater detail next week in the Health section.


Rockville, Md.: Hi guys! Have been loving you series -- but will gladly apologize for having lost weight since we all started!

Here's my question: I love vegetables of all kinds and easily eat five servings a day. I only like a small number of fruits, but don't eat many of even these ones because I find that they make me ravenously hungry within an hour or so of eating them.

If I eat a wide variety of vegetable -- carrots, green beans, peas, eggplant, squash, peppers, spinach, etc. Am I missing anything by skipping the fruits?

Sally Squires: Variety is the spice of life, Rockville. So the greater variety the better. But it sounds like you're doing that already. So I wouldn't sweat it, if you happen to prefer veggies over fruit. Congrats on the holiday challenge, by the way.


Chantilly, Va.: Like many metro D.C. residents my morning is spent in the car on my hour long commute so I rarely eat breakfast. I've been eating low-fat cottage cheese and a piece of fruit. It's a little boring. I need a few more choices to help me avoid the lure of the morning doughnut. I'm looking for good, heathy, fast breakfast ideas. Thanks

Sally Squires: Would you be willing to do a little baking on the weekends? How about making some low-fat muffins that you could eat all week long? How putting a variety of ready to eat cereal in baggies with some dried fruit and a few nuts for the ride? You could also expand your horizons and eat non-breakfast food for breakfast: a little low fat cheese and cut up fruit. How about minibagels (which are not so high in calories). And not to belabor the smoothies, but I sometimes mix them and bring a straw for the road.



Frederick, Md.: This is the first time I've posted here, but I've enjoyed reading the list for some time. I'm going to give the everyday challenge a shot, I need to improve my diet and lose weight (I've been overweight pretty much all my life and now I have high blood pressure and I'm in my mid-30s). I haven't been desperate, or foolish, enough to try bizarre fad diets but in the past I've taken calorie counting to extremes (900 calories per day in college) I know better than that now, and realize that I was doing more harm than good. My dilemma is this, I know that studies say that people who record what they eat tend to lose and keep weight off, but when I do it, it seems I'm always playing catch up in the evenings. I "save" my calories for my weakest time of day, but I often end up not being able to eat enough of the right foods to make up my calorie goal. Do the successful people count calories all the time or just jot down what they eat so it helps them to be aware of what they are putting in their mouths? Also, any suggestions for veggies for a person who doesn't like them? I LOVE fruit, and enjoy green salads, but I'm not a big fan a lot of other vegetables. Thanks.

Sally Squires: Welcome Frederick! Glad you're going to take the challenge. Let us know how you do.

I don't believe that the studies of recording food have been that specific. The point is to keep tabs on what you eat, however works best for you. Craig Stoltz, Health section editor, has reported here and in the paper that he likes an electronic hand-held device. You can also jot notes on your daily calendar, or do something more formal.

One suggestion: consider spacing out your calories a little more. Maybe you will find that helps eliminate your "weakest" moment. It could be that you're being too restrictive and then everything falls apart.

And finally, if you love fruit and salads, focus on those. If you really want to expand your horizons, vow to try one new vegetable a month. But go easy and let us know how you do.


At My Desk: I asked for (and got) a pedometer for Christmas. It is a simple one and you enter a stride length, clip it on, and it measures distance in fractions of a mile. However, the accuracy seems to depend a lot on where I put it. If I clip it to my skirt waist (a little higher up) it gets a different count than if I clip it to a pants pocket. Also, you recommend aiming for 10,000 steps. What is a good mileage to aim for? I guess just trying to beat my own 'best distance' is a start. Any pedometer guidelines for us out here?

Sally Squires: My pedometer lists 1,000 steps as about a third of a mile. But remember, these devices aren't perfect and there is variation. Point is to keep moving. E-mail me after the chat, because I have a question for you on your pedometer.


Washington, D.C.: Sally,

I think the new challenge is a great idea and I'm so excited you are doing this. The item today about how to measure a serving of fruit or veggies was really helpful to me.

But... I worry that you're setting the bar a little low in terms of exercise. I understand that 10 minutes per day is better than nothing, but barely. Why not suggest starting with at least 20 minutes of sustained cardio activity three times per week? There is not a person on the planet who can't fit that into their schedule. Even our president carves out time in his schedule for running. I work out three or four days a week, and I can tell you that if I only walked around for 10 minutes a day I would pile on the pounds. People need to make an EFFORT to get healthy and The Post Health section shouldn't suggest that 10 minutes of wandering up and down stairs is going to do it.

Sally Squires: We're not setting the bar too low. We're starting slowly. Remember, this challenge goes on for eight weeks. By the end of it, there will be different goals.


Sally Squires: Thanks everybody for participating. And the winners of the books are: the person who suggested walking to grocery store and the Vienna, Va. clubber who suggested ways to fit in veggies. Contact me at squiress@washpost.com and I'll send your books. Look for more challenges next week in the Health section and on line.


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