Letter to myself about recent weight-loss

Dear Larry,

Congratulations. You (I) successfully lost 20 pounds over the past five months and are no longer overweight. You did it by thoughtful eating and daily exercise.

That’s great, but you’ve done this before, many times.  Now comes the hard part of keeping your weight stable.

The key is being mindful even during periods of stress, illness, travel or holidays. You know your history. You loose weight and keep it off for awhile and then some type of disruption occurs like a cold, an injury or a series of overseas trips as happens every year. It’s not as if having a cold for a few days or being on the road for a week or two necessarily causes you to put on weight, but if you stop thinking about your eating and exercise, it will eventually lead to that. And even if you do have a set-back, that’s no excuse for not getting back on the wagon. Much better to gain a pound or two and then take it off or even stabilize than to continue on a course of gradual weight gain.

How you feel

It’s also important to take stock in how you feel now compared to how you felt before you took control of your eating and exercise.  A few months ago you felt bloated and lethargic. Now you feel lean and energetic. You also feel the strength in your legs and arms from the exercise routine. It’s a good feeling that’s a lot more pleasurable than whatever pleasure you get from eating more than you should or sitting down rather than moving around.

And also take note of your “vitals.” After losing the weight, your blood pressure, blood sugar and lipids are in the healthy range. This matters.

To your health!



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Eating well on a low-carb diet

by Patti Regehr

There is a popular misconception that all you can eat on a low-carb diet is beef, fish and chicken.

But there are actually lots of great foods you can enjoy without packing on the carbs.

To begin with, there are vegetables galore. Alfalfa sprouts, arugula, bok choy, celery, chicory greens, fennel, peppers, jicama are all examples of vegetables that are very low in carbohydrates. And don’t forget all the herbs  you can include that add nothing to your carb count.

download (3)Cheeses are also extremely low in carbs, so sprinkle some feta or crumble blue cheese on your salad. Mozzarella is particularly delicious, especially if you serve it Italian style with freshly sliced tomatoes and a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Fruits generally have natural sugar but even they can be reasonably low in carbs, especially compared to bread or sugary snacks. Fresh blueberries, cantaloupe, raspberries and strawberries are excellent choices.

Of course sweets are generally high in carbs but if you keep your portions small, you can eat just about anything. An ounce of dark chocolate contains 17 grams of carbohydrates and 152 calories, but you don’t have to eat a whole ounce. For example a single Ghiradelli dark chocolate square has only 53 calories and 6.5 grams of carbs. And, yes, it is possible to eat just one.

And then there are special treats like brussle sprout chips that are low in carbs and calories.



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Get your dairy, but lose the lactose

by Patti Regehr

There is some debate about the role of dairy in the diet and, indeed, there are a growing number of  people who avoid it completely for both health and humanitarian reasons. Still dairy plays in important role in many people’s diets and there is evidence that –when used moderately — it can help in weight control and provide vital nutrients.

One common problem with dairy is the presence of lactose, which is a sugar that is found in most milk products.  As it turns out, most mammals become lactose intolerant after weaning (humans are the only animal that drinks dairy other than “mother’s milk”) and many humans also have some inabilities to fully digest lactose.

According to the National Institutes of Health National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse,  most people with lactose intolerance “can tolerate some amount of lactose in their diet,” but as we age, we often find ourselves having problems handling lactose. Some populations are more susceptible, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, and Asian Americans.  Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal pain, bloating, gas diarrhea and nausea.

Green Valley Organics lactose free kefi

The good news is that there are now plenty of lactose free dairy products, including an excellent line of yogurt, kefir and sour creme from  Green Valley Organics. All of the products sold under this brand are said to be lactose free. The company sent me some samples of its yogurts and kefirs which my husband and I put on our breakfast cereal nearly every morning.  Their lactose free kefir — which is delicious — is also gluten free and Kosher certified. The company’s yogurt (also Kosher and gluten free) is probiotic with “10 live and active cultures,” according to the company.

Green Value Organics is from Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery that also makes a line of goat cheeses, yogurt and kefir. The owner is Jennifer Lynn Bice who’s family has been in the goat dairy business since 1968. The company, which is based in Sebastopol, California  employs 45 people and is committed to being both socially and enviornmentally responsible.  Its milking parlor is run with solar powered hot water, its manure and hay terms are composted and used for vegetable gardens and, where possible, its reclaimed water is used for cleaning.

No Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

The company does “not support the concept of GMOs in food,” and pledges to “never knowingly use ingredients that contain GMOs.”

And, if you’re curious about how to milk a goat, check out this video from Redwood Hill Farm.

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Fancy Food Show Highlights

by Patti Regehr

Quinoa was everywhere at this year's Fancy Food Show

Quinoa was everywhere at this year’s Fancy Food Show

Normally, I spend all three days at  the Fancy Food Show and wish there was even more time to check out all the products but this year it just didn’t seem all that compelling.

I skipped last year so I was really looking forward to seeing and tasting new foods.  I especially was looking for foods that were healthy, economical and good for the environment and local stores.

On the first day, Katherine Magid and I searched and really didn’t find foods that interested us much.  It seemed like Quinoa was in everything:  chocolate, drinks, crackers, etc.  Okay, I know that it is healthy but does it have to be in my chocolate?  No one seemed to be really excited about their products.

But there were some highlights:

numis-161106Numi Tea had sent me some samples of their “new teas” prior to coming to the show.  These “teas” are called Savory Teas-one that I especially like is Fennel Spice with almost all organic ingredients: fennel, celery root, orange peel, onion dill, decaf green tea, honeybush, and black pepper.

Brussel Sprout Chips

Turmeric Tea

Cheeses served on dried apples and oranges instead of crackers

Seeing a film about the harvesting of Turkish Hazel Nuts


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10 Rules for Restaurants

by Larry Magid

I wonder if Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander have similar pet peeves? (Photo by zoonabar posted on flickr with Creative Commons license)

I love restaurants, but not all are as user-friendly as they should be.  After years of eating in them — including during the time I had young children — I’ve come up with a few pet peeves or “rules” on how waiters and restaurant operators can make life better for customers.

But courtesy is a two-way street which is why I added “Rules for customers” at the bottom of the article.

1. Feed kids immediately

every parent knows, when a child’s blood sugar level gets too low, they become irritable. It happens to adults too but children can be particularly susceptible and can’t always articulate how they are feeling.  The solution is simple. Give them something — almost anything– to eat right away.  When a family has to wait for a table, a quick simple snack — even cracker or a piece of bread — can make all the difference and when the family sits at the table, always ask the parent (not the child) if they would like you to bring something right way.

2. Don’t clear dishes until the customer is really finished with them

My biggest irritation at restaurants is when the waiter whisks away my dish or glass when it isn’t 100% empty. And even if it is, I think it would be courteous for them to ask before they remove it.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a waiter take away a plate when there was still food on it. It’s almost like the waiter saying that they think you’ve had too much to eat already.  Even an “empty” plate may still have some value. My wife and I, for example, sometimes like to sop up extra sauce on a plate with our bread.  The other day, I put my knife and fork down for a few minutes while engaged in a conversation and when I wanted another bite — they were gone.  It’s my table, let me control what happens there.

If you’re going to clear a plate from the table, ask the customer “Do you mind if I take this plate.” If they don’t say yes. Leave it there.

3. Bring water as soon as the customer asks

If a customer asks for water it’s probably because they are thirsty.  Don’t make them wait a long time for it.  Bring it right away. And don’t bring the beer or soft drinks ahead of the water just because they’re sold rather than given way. I’ve had this happen many times when I’ve asked for water and someone else orders a drink and they get theirs ahead of mine. Also, don’t assume the customer doesn’t want tap water. Unless you’re in an area where the tap water isn’t safe to drink, always give them a choice. If there really is something dangerous about the local water, then you should tell them, but in may cities tap water is actually safer than bottled water.

4. Be attentive but not annoying

Waiters and other servers are there to serve customers, not annoy them.  I don’t know what’s worse — needing service and not finding anyone nearby to help you or trying to have a conversation with a dining mate and being constantly interrupted by the waiter.

I know this is a tough balance and you’re never going to get it completely right, but interrupting people engaged in an intense conversation to ask if everyone is OK can be extremely annoying and cause them to lose their train of thought.  On the other hand, it’s also annoying to need something from a waiter and not be able to get their attention. Have staff that are an appropriate distance from the table but always scanning to see if customers need anything and, if they do, attend to them as soon as possible.

5. Seat parties as people arrive

I realize there may have to be exceptions to this but, as a general rule, don’t insist on the entire party arriving before seating people. If someone gets there a little early or someone is a bit late, it’s nice to be able to sit at the table and wait or maybe even have a drink or an appetizer while waiting. If the restaurant is very crowded, it might make more sense to have the person wait, but don’t make them unless it’s really necessary.

6. Don’t make people wait forever for their check, credit card or change

I can think of times when I was tempted to walk out of a restaurant without paying because it took me forever to get my check. While you don’t want to rush your customers by shoving a check in front of them too soon, you don’t want them to have to get up from the table and demand the check as I’ve had to do when I’m in a hurry. Again, it’s a matter of being attentive and looking for signals. And when you bring the check, either wait a moment (from a little distance) for them to get out their card or cash, or come back right away. When they do put down the credit card or cash, come back as soon as possible with the card and the receipt or the change.  If they do pay with cash, make sure they have proper change for a suitable tip.

7. The bill should be legible

I’ve had many a restaurant bill that I simply couldn’t decipher.  If possible, use technology that prints out a clear bill that itemizes every order. If not, make sure it’s clearly written so the person paying can understand the bill. Mistakes happen, but if there is a mistake, correct it right away with an apology.

8. Always disclose or ask before adding condiments, sauces or cheeses

When someone orders a hamburger, they’re not necessarily in the mood to have it smothered with mayonaise or other sauces and when someone asks for a salad they might not want cheese on it. Same for butter on bread or syrup on pancakes. By default, dishes should be simple and plain with as many options as the customer might want. Obviously, the menu should make it clear if there are sauces or cheese on an item but even if it’s disclosed on the menu, you should still ask if the customer wants them on their meal.

9. Sugar-free means sugar-free

If someone orders a sugar free drink like a Diet Coke, be 100% certain that they’re not getting one with sugar and don’t put a maraschino cherry in a sugar free drink. The person could be diabetic or have an aversion to any sugar.

10. Don’t make comments

If I eat my meal quickly or eat everything on the plate, don’t make a comment like “Oh you ate so quickly” or “You sure like to eat.” Those can be off-putting and bring up issues. I do eat too fast (and sometimes too much) and while I appreciate my wife reminding me to slow down once in awhile, I don’t appreciate a waiter making a comment when I’m finished.

Rules for customers

Of course, there are plenty of “rules” for customers too, beginning with treating the staff respectfully and tipping appropriately at least in the U.S. and other countries where servers rely on tips. If there is a problem, say something politely and remember that the waiter probably isn’t the one who sets policy, manages the restaurant or cooks the food.  Also be courteous to people around you by not gabbing on your cell phone while dining. Finally, support policies that encourage or require adequate compensation and health insurance for all workers, including those who work in restaurants. 

More from around the web

Ted’s Rules for Restaurants

NY Times 100 Restaurant Rules Reconsidered

NY Times ‘Readers Offer Their Own Restaurant Rules

Top 10 Unspoken Rules of Restaurant Service Etiquette

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San Francisco Fancy Food Show Brings Delights

by Patti Regehr

Going to the Fancy Food Show for Nobelly Prize.com is like a pilgrimage for our staff. We get our gear all ready, good walking shoes, research done to check out where we should all go, and a discussion of what we think the new products will be.

We each have our focus.  Katherine Magid likes checking out the olive oils and tasting new crops and old favorites.  She really likes Lucero Olive oils, but this year she also really liked the flavor Nudo olive oil. She likes the Food Channel, so for her it is also fun to meet  “stars” from the shows.

My favorite this year is Souley Vegan. I liked their greens, black eyed peas, and the sweet potatoes, and fried “chicken.”  The first day their Mac and Cheese was really salty.  So I said something to them and I talked with the chef/founder  the next  day..and it was perfection.  I had a batch that had been sitting around too long.

Greens and black-eyed peas (Credit: Souley Vegan)

Souley Vegan is marketing to grocery stores  to carry their frozen packaged meals.  They also have a restaurant in Oakland California.  Which Katherine Magid ( NobellyPrize.com contributing editor) has eaten at many times.  I look forward to going to the restaurant and reporting back.




My new product winners are:

fomz.  This product is packaged and comes out like canned whipping cream but the ingredients are water, juices, cane sugar and other ingredients.    I have been using it for a topping on my version of banana split.  I cut a banana, put a berry or whatever fruit I have, spray a little of the lemon-lime fomz on it (4 calories of dairy free delight), and then put some nuts or dark chocolate bits on top.  I find it absolutely amazingly new and refreshing.  Some do not like it.  They find it weird and expect something sweet and it comes out more tart.

avitae caffeinated water

aviate: My other product winner is a 0 calorie and tasteless water that has caffeine in it.  You might want to know why I like it.  Not all people like coffee/tea…or the taste or calories of caffeine drinks.  The other reason I like it is because I go to listen to my son’s band  the Will Magid Trio and stay up late and drive home.  The water can stay in my car…for the drive home.  I get the water that I need and also the boost of the caffeine.  This is such a simple concept but it was a find at the show.  http://myavitae.com/  It also doesn’t stain if you spill it on your clothes or stain your teeth like coffee or tea.

It was also a joy to see so many GMO free products.  For some it was a moral decisions and for all it was a marketing decision.

I look forward to going to next year’s Fancy Food Show. Our next show will be the Natural Product Expo in Anaheim.  I really like this show because it is geared towards my lifestyle and eating habits with not only the food but its products.

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Losing weight is hard — keeping it off may be harder than we thought

Tara Parker-Pope’s New Year’s day New York Times Magazine article, The Fat Trap is both discouraging and encouraging at the same time. It’s discouraging in that it reveals research suggesting that there are extremely strong biological forces working against those of us who want to maintain weight loss. It’s encouraging in that it provides some incite as to how we might be able to beat that trend, hard as it might be.

It’s no secret that people who lose weight likely have to work even harder than naturally thin people to maintain their lower weight. I’ve always assumed that this was mostly a psychological challenge, but Parker-Pope quotes research that suggests that we literally need to consume fewer calories (or burn more) than people of our same weight and age who didn’t have to diet to get there.

“The research shows that the changes that occur after weight loss translate to a huge caloric disadvantage of about 250 to 400 calories,” wrote Parker-Pope.  She gave an example of a woman who lost 40 pounds (17% of her body weight) who — based on a metabolic study — needed 2,300 calories to maintain that lower weight. That’s fine, but a typical woman or her age and weight could consume 2,600 calories a day without gaining weight. In other words, in addition to all the other factors, it appears from this data that people who have lost weight need to consume even fewer calories than their naturally thin counterparts.

For instance, one woman who entered the Columbia studies at 230 pounds was eating about 3,000 calories to maintain that weight. Once she dropped to 190 pounds, losing 17 percent of her body weight, metabolic studies determined that she needed about 2,300 daily calories to maintain the new lower weight. That may sound like plenty, but the typical 30-year-old 190-pound woman can consume about 2,600 calories to maintain her weight — 300 more calories than the woman who dieted to get there.

My own struggles

I’m writing this on New Year’s Day after weighing in a 174 pounds.  A few weeks ago In October I weighed 165 pounds after losing 21 pounds since February of 2011. In other words — in about two months I put back nearly half the weight I lost during seven months of dieting.

Unfortunately, this is not new for me. When I was in high school I was obese and lost 50 pounds the summer between my junior and senior year to get my weight down to about 150.  By the time I graduated from college I weighed 230 but I lost 80 of those pounds when I was 24.  Over the ensuing years my weight fluctuated between 150 and 200. I’d reach that high weight, go on a diet and lose it and then put it back on again.  In 2001 I dropped 45 pounds from 200 to 155 and kept much of it off for about five years. It crept back and in February 2010, I hit 186. It wasn’t quite the 200 pounds I weight in 2001, but it was too close for comfort.

Larry in October 2011 after losing 21 pounds

Larry Dec 26, 2010 -- 2 months before losing 21 pounds

Larry Magid at age 22 weighing in a 230 pounds


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Adding Balance to Your Fitness Routine

Calorie Count has an excellent article about the Importance of Balance in Fitness that includes instructions for some simple exercises.

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Good results from social media weight-loss diet

This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

by Larry Magid

For the past several months I’ve been on a “social media diet.” No, I haven’t been refraining from using Facebook, Twitter and other social media. I’ve been on an old-fashioned food diet with a 21st-century twist. I’ve been using social media and other technologies to help me lose weight.

The diet began on a Saturday morning in February — the day after I gorged at the Poor House Bistro, which bills itself as “San Jose’s New Orleans Joint.” There’s nothing wrong with moderate amounts of blackened chicken wings, Cajun popcorn or fried seafood, but in excess they can definitely add to your bloat. But the real problem wasn’t one meal — it was months of too much food and too little exercise.

So, I when I got on the scale and saw that I weighed 186 pounds, I vowed to take off at least 21 of them and, thanks in part to my use of technology, I accomplished that goal.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been on a diet. Ten years ago I dropped my weight from 200 to 155 pounds and many years before that — when I was in my early 20s — I dropped from 230 to 150 pounds. And there were a few other gain-and-loss spurts along the way, which makes me an expert when it comes to weight loss — I’ve lost hundreds of pounds during my lifetime.

Until this last diet, every successful weight-loss program I’ve been on has involved a human diet counselor. Either I would use the services of a company like the Diet Center or I’d work with a nutritionist. These weight-loss professionals would not only provide good advice but plenty of motivation.


At this stage, I don’t need a lot of advice. I’m well aware that if you consume 3,500 calories more than you burn, you gain a pound and if you burn 3,500 calories more than you consume, you lose one. I also know what foods are low in calories and have a pretty good idea of what is good for me. My problem has always been motivation. Without a counselor or nutritionist to “report to,” it’s too easy to abandon my diet. I have to admit that I need external validation.

But instead of hiring a counselor this time, I decided to rely on public exposure of my weight loss by using Twitter, Facebook and my fitness blog (NobellyPrize.com) to share my progress and setbacks. And to help me keep track of food intake, exercise and progress I used LoseIt.com, which is both a website and an iPhone app that allows you to set your goal, log your food and exercise and track your progress. The site gives you the option of sharing your progress with other LoseIt users and it has links to Twitter and Facebook, allowing you to automatically share the information with your friends and followers.

So as not to spam my Twitter followers (who care more about my tech postings than my fitness regime), I set up a special Twitter address at @NoBellyPrize. I posted to Facebook on a selective basis — occasionally but not every day.

I’m not suggesting that LoseIt.com is necessarily the best weight-loss site and app. There are plenty others out there, including SparkPeople, CalorieKing and of course WeightWatchers.com. But LoseIt, which is free, served me well. Its search engine makes it easy to locate foods by ingredient and brand name. It allows you to create your own foods, like my 275 calorie “Larry sandwich,” made of whole wheat bread, tomato, pickle, mustard and avocado. And in addition to its database of foods, it knows how many calories a person of any weight, gender and age burns per minute for most exercises.

For those of us who need a little help from our friends, the best thing about LoseIt is its “motivators” that allow you to automatically post your progress on Twitter and Facebook or email reports to others. My diet isn’t medically supervised but if it were, I’d probably send results to my doctor.

Another tool I’ve employed during this diet is the Withings Wi-Fi body scale ($159) which can be configured to automatically record your weight on a password-protected website and, if you want, can pass that information on to LoseIt.com, Twitter, Microsoft HealthVault or you can embed the information on any Web page. You can track my progress at NoBellyPrize.com but, truth be told, my data is incomplete and not necessarily up-to-date for a number of reasons, including my frequent travel.

In addition to its Wi-Fi scale, Withings also makes a blood pressure monitor ($129) that connects to an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to take your blood pressure and — at your discretion — share it with others. Even though my blood pressure is normal (and lower since my weight loss), I’ve decided not to share it. But for those who need close monitoring, it’s a great way to keep their health providers or loved ones up-to-date on how they’re doing.

Of course, the only way my “social media diet” will work is if I stay with it. Just as with human diet counselors, it’s easy to find excuses to disengage, which is one of the reasons I’ve had a lifelong battle with my weight.

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My weight today (or the last time I stepped on the Withings scale)

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