Holiday Drinking

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The holidays are here! This means family, friends, festivities… and drinking. A glass of punch here, a champagne toast there, and some wine with holiday dinner can be fun; they can also create the perfect storm of sugar and calories, leaving you dehydrated, heavy and bloated. So how do you partake in the holiday spirit (pun intended) while still taking good care of your body?

For years, I sat out as the one guy not drinking; this felt unsocial to me.  As with food, alcohol is about choices in quantity and quality.  I now savor martinis; I love a classic Grey Goose with 3 olives and recently found an even healthier alternative. Voli is a new low calorie vodka that contains only 80 calories for every 1.5 fluid ounce — that’s 25% fewer calories than other vodkas.

A pomegranate martini?  Not a good choice if you’re looking to control liquor calories. Mixed drinks involving sugary fruit juices and sodas pump even more sugar into your bloodstream. A better choice, if you cannot handle a straight up martini, would be a peach martini made with peach puree (no added sugar) or any other martini where fresh fruit is used.

Between drinks? Water. Before ordering your second glass, chase the first with a tall glass of water. The main cause of a hangover is tissue dehydration. While this does not diminish calories or increase metabolism, it may make the next day more enjoyable.

Egg nog, though a traditional holiday favorite, is a big no-no. This drink is jam packed with calories. I strongly discourage anything but a “tasting sip.”

People always ask me if it is better to drink wine vs. liquor with respect to calories and weight gain. The answer? It doesn’t matter. If the number of calories delivered in one glass of wine equals the number of calories in a martini, they have the exact same effect on your body and fat.  What you want to consider her is quantity.  People usually drink many more glasses of wine since the alcohol content is lower.  So, at the end of the night, 4 glasses of wine may equal the alcohol content of 2 martinis.  But, the wine calorie content will be much higher (4:2) and contribute to fat increase.

Liquid calories have a direct effect on fat production.  Calories delivered in food must be metabolized in the body before they are either deposited for storage (fat) or excreted.  I have heard people say, “liquid calories (liquor) go straight to your hips.”  Liquid calories are not necessarily digested prior to absorption in the stomach.  This explains the high one experiences after one glass of champagne.  The digested alcohol (sugars) are rapidly absorbed, produce a dramatic insulin spike, and the body shunts the sugars into storage (fat) to keep blood sugar even.

Have you ever noticed that the shape of people who drink a lot of alcohol is typical?  Think of young men after freshman year in college and their hard, protuberant bellies, or women who drink heavily who have obesity in the trunk and not in the extremities.  The culprit? Yellow fat. The fat that is formed is deposited around the intestines, inside the abdomen and not typically in the fat below the skin of the abdomen.  I call this look the “man-belly.”  When I was at conference in Vegas two months ago, I saw so many young men looking 6 months pregnant, usually standing at the bar or walking around with a beer.  All the exercise in the world isn’t going to make these bellies flat.  This shape is all about calories, diet and yellow fat and the power of alcohol in destroying a flat tummy.

My advice? Enjoy your holiday, and approach indulgence with moderation, moderation, moderation.

McDonald’s, Government, or Parents?

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I have spent 30 years studying the habits that allow people to over eat, become fat, stay fat, and falter at repeated diets.  The present issue of the government controlling the McDonald’s happy meals is ridiculous at several levels.  First,  why should the government get involved in this?  We have a free enterprise system and last I noticed Americans were still allowed to make their own decisions as to what they want to eat.   So, politically, I see legal control of human behavior  as a very dangerous step…. a slippery slope that  feels “socialistic.”   The responsibility of teaching children about nutrition is NOT that of McDonald”s nor the government but of the parent(s).  Children cannot drive to McDonald’s.  They do not have the money to pay for a meal.  The parents do!   The subliminal messages they absorb from watching their parents’ behavior is much stronger than that of an occasional commercial on TV.

I agree that these meals and most fast food is unhealthy (from a “fat” perspective) and may be a major contributor to the obesity problem in America.  However, if parents took the time to have healthy choices available,  to teach good nutrition habits by their own behavior, this would be a non-issue.  The operative word here is time.   Time to plan, shop and prepare food.  Since the key to a healthy body is good nutrition, it is definitely worth it to invest this time. BTW an occasional treat of a Happy Meal in a child who knows good nutrition with a toy is perfectly OK!    In my books, THE BROWN FAT REVOLUTION and LOSE THE FAT LOSE THE YEARS, I recommend an occasional “cheat” meal so that a sense of deprivation is avoided.

The government cannot dictate what our choices are.  It is the parental responsibility to teach “body respect”  and the importance of nutrition.   Ironically, like alcohol and drugs, creating a forbidden McDonald’s Happy Meal might make it more inviting…. what a paradox!  Michelle Obama has declared “Childhood Obesity”as the centerpiece of her First Lady platform.  I wonder how /if this dictum to control McD’s little meal is connected.   It appears to me that the PR buzz of laws to control the little box is more enticing to a publicist than a McDonald’s Happy Meal is to a child!

Plastic Surgery Then and Now

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I have been in practice for 28 years and have seen a 180 degree change in the specialty of Plastic Surgery.    In 2010,  the term “Plastic Surgery” clearly misrepresents the specialty.   A better umbrella to cover all of the techniques now available to rejuvenate the face and body would be “cosmetic medicine.”    Not “cosmetic surgery”  but  “cosmetic medicine”  I  prefer the use of the term medicine. It underscores the multilayered approach that a good plastic surgeon takes to a patients chief complaint.  My first consideration after good general health is the nutritional investment each patient has in themselves.  Proactive involvement in the process of looking better/younger is mandatory! Are they overweight?  Have they made a commitment to their body by  eating what is natural and healthy.   Do they exercise regularly?  Are they psychologically stable?  Are the expectations appropriate for the selected procedure?  Can they  really afford the procedure without undue financial stress?   Only after considering all of these issues, should the “cosmetic medical” plan be “prescribed.”  It might be Botox in one patient, laser lipo in another  and a facelift in another, but at the end of the day, each case is customized.

The Brain and Body Image

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You might find this hard to believe but after 28 years of morphing my patients bodies with plastic surgical procedures and 20 years of an avid interest in body building, I continue to be perplexed on how people perceive their physical appearance, their body image.  I continue to study neurobiology since it is clear to me that the answer to most issues that seem so illogical is found in the uncontrollable and unpredictable chemical reactions in the brain.    The study of Neurobiology has  clearly improved my understanding of body image more than all of my experience in dealing with patients and friends who are devoted to “controlling” their images/bodies.  Basically, our brains are  hard-wired to see  shapes and contours.  These are stored in our brains.   Once registered , it is difficult to change  neural “impressions” or brain memory  despite a change in appearance that is clearly seen with the eyes.  Basically, the objective reality of the body is only processed by the eyes, and delivered to the brain for perception.  This is a pivotal mechanism in understanding the lack of positive feedback in some people who have lost significant weight,  or had extensive plastic surgery, or  dramatically changed their bodies with exercise/diet regimens.  I  now understand the genesis of the problem.  Modifying the brain is another issue!


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It may seem evident to most that losing weight and looking younger are complimentary.  This is not usually the case in folks who lose weight with non-nutritional restrictive diets.  In The Brown Fat Revolution and Lose the Fat/Lose the Years, I make the case for eating well AND losing weight so that all tissues are rejuvenated.   Once  nutritional discipline sets in, why not seize the opportunity to not only achieve optimal weight but to restore your skin, muscles, bones and fat to look, feel and act younger?  All it takes is  attention to the  “natural” quality of what you eat.  So simple, yet so rewarding!  Your body needs fat  “on it” to look young.  It is the fat that creates the “volumes” of youth that we see in a young woman’s body and face.  But it must be high quality, well nourished fat that hugs the underlying bones and supports the overlying skin creating the three dimensional contours of youth.  Just as you can change your skin to look younger with stress control, diet, exercise and topical care….you can modify the quality of your fat with nutrition and exercise and look younger!

Today’s shopping list is geared toward those of you in Hormone Category 1: women in their 30’s and 40’s. It is also geared toward the morning workout set (your meal plan will change slightly if you are an afternoon or evening exerciser). The food breakdown for the week will look like this:

Monday: Protein Day
Tuesday: Carb Day
Wednesday: Protein Day
Thursday: Carb Day
Friday: Protein Day
Saturday: Carb Day
Sunday: Choice Day

Now that you have filled your kitchen with the non-perishable basics we discussed in the last post, all you need to do is buy your fruits, veggies, fish and meat — I recommend doing this on a weekly basis so that these items are absolutely FRESH. Easy recipe directions are on pp. 94-103 of The Brown Fat Revolution book, but for the purposes of your grocery store visit, here’s a simple list:

fruit = blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, granny smith apples (a few will do), peach, 1 or 2 bananas, and (if you want) some seasonal fruits like a papaya, a mango, a pineapple OR a tangerine

vegetable = asparagus, yellow (summer) squash, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, onion, tomato, dark leafy lettuce, green beans, cauliflower, sweet potato, edamame

meat = ground turkey (for turkey burger), lean ground beef (for one hamburger patty), pork chops (1 serving), non-fatty steak (1 serving) and also 1 filet mignon cut, chicken cutlet(s)

fish = salmon

dairy = eggs, skim or low-fat milk, Greek yogurt, low-fat or part skim mozzarella

other = kidney beans, whole grain bagel(s), whole grain hamburger bun, multi-grain sliced bread, semi sweet chocolate chips, red wine

This will take you through an entire week of 6 small meals a day (again, refer to the recipes in the book for more details). If your grocery store doesn’t carry some of these things, or if you hate strawberries and would rather just eat blueberries, that is fine too! Feel free to sub out fruits, veggies and other variables — just make sure to stick to the basic framework of the eating plan. Happy eating!

Shopping List: Basics

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Many of you have been asking for shopping lists. And rightly so! My eating plan is, of course, outlined in the book, including recipes, portion sizes and when to eat throughout the day — but how can you utilize this information when you find yourself pushing an empty cart down the grocery aisle? Good question! In the coming weeks, I’ll be composing Shopping Lists that will help make your visits to the market quick and easy. Let’s start with the basics! For many of my recipes, you will need fresh meat, fish and produce. It is best to purchase those items on a weekly basis. Certain other items, though, you can keep for long periods of time. I recommend stocking your kitchen with these non-perishable basics so that you have them at your fingertips whenever you are whipping up your daily meals.

The first step? Create space. Clear your kitchen of anything that is not on the Brown Fat Revolution eating plan. This includes (but is not limited to):
-white carbs (Wonder bread, white pasta)
-potato chips
-packaged cakes
-salty peanuts (or mixed nuts), candied nuts
-high-sugar cereals and fatty granola
-sugary yogurts (or frozen yogurt)
-ice cream
-sugary alcohols, beer and margarita mix, etc.
-pre-made dinners (like the Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice in your freezer aisle)
-honey, maple syrup
-heavy cream
-bars (Balance bars, Nutri Grain bars, granola bars, candy bars)
-canned fruit, dried fruit, pre-packaged trail mix

If it is in the cabinet or the fridge, it is a temptation! We can’t expect ourselves to resist that sort of temptation. If you share your home with others (kids, significant others), feel free to separate food items. Let them keep their food in a separate space, and procure your own space — a place where you will keep ONLY HEALTHY FOODS. Your willpower will get an automatic boost — this is half the battle!

NOW that you have space, fill it with all things GOOD. “The Basics” include:
-all-fruit, sugar-free jam
-almond butter or natural, unsweetened peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
-apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and red wine vinegar
-brown rice
-chunky, unsweetened applesauce
-coffee and/or tea
-Dijon mustard
-extra virgin olive oil, flax seed oil, and sunflower oil
-grated parmesan
-low-fat, sugar-free granola
-nuts: raw almonds (I also love the 50% salted almonds at Trader Joe’s), raw pistachios, raw pecans, raw walnuts, slivered almonds for garnish
-oat bran, unsweetened multigrain cereal, original Cream of Wheat, unsweetened oatmeal
-soy milk or almond milk (unsweetened varieties)
-sugar-free tomato sauce, and sugar-free marinara sauce
-supplements (only if you want): Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Biotin, Chromium, L-glutamine, Fish oil
-stewed tomatoes
-tuna (canned, in water)
-whole wheat crackers
-whole wheat, high fiber tortillas
-whole wheat pasta

You are now ready to stock your new and improved kitchen! Once you have these basics in place, adding the elements to make the recipes will be easy.

The Brown Fat Diet Shopping List

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The most difficult part about getting started on The Brown Fat Diet or any diet for that matter, is getting the food in your house! We have decided to help you and supply a weekly shopping list. This list will reflect not only good choices for healthy fat management, but choices that are interesting and seasonal. Eating is a sensual experience and should be enjoyed and looked forward to. Start with this list and you will find that very shortly, you will intuitively know what to select for the week.

Summer Grilling

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Yesterday was “Grill Cleaning Day” An annual ritual that has for me since it is filled with anticipation of Summer foods and recipes, good times, friends, family and wondrous weather. Most people think of summer as a difficult time to control weight due to popular grill selections: hamburgers, hot dogs and their accoutrement: relish, french fries, potato salad, macaroni salad…the classic American “cook out.” The grill actually opens up your food repertoire and is the best place to cook fresh fish (no smell in the house for days!) and summer vegetables: squash, asparagus, peppers. Delicious and loaded with anti-oxidants. Grill you chicken, throw it over some grilled vegetables or a mixed green salad. Get out all of those Summer condiments and let the flavors run high. You will notice that it is actually easier to maintain and lose weight in the Summer if you focus on natural foods and clean preparation: grilling.

Images Speak Louder than Words

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Images Speak Louder than Words

As the author of The Brown Fat Revolution, a Diet and Exercise program to lose weight and  the sloppy yellow fat, I must say that I take great pride in what I have personally accomplished by living according to my own principles for the last 20years.  The results of  consistent training and healthy eating can be so gradual that the individual who lost the weight and gained lean muscle does not see a dramatic difference in the mirror.   As a plastic surgeon , I am well aware of the disconnect between what is real and what people see in their mirrors!

I have found that the way that I look makes people react to me in a very interesting way.   There is a clear subliminal message that one projects when they look fit.   I know that obese individuals  tell unfortunate stories on how their physical appearance defines the way the world treats them.

In my case,  strangers come up to me and ask me what I eat or how I train.   Commonly, both women and men (none of whom know that I wrote and diet and exercise book) approach me in the gym to ask training questions.   More subtle and interesting  is the way I am treated in restaurants.  When I  order a meal that comes with fries, the waiter will always say, “you do not want the fries, right”  I recently had occasion to order a bagel at a coffee shop and the server said, “you want the “whole wheat” right?”….or…. “Of course, you do not want to see the dessert menu.”

We live an intensely visual world and  appearance definitely affects the way people react to us.   This is a fact!  Beyond the self-gratification and healthiness of being in control of the way you look,  the opportunity to say that you are in control without words is extremely empowering….one of the many benefits of respecting yourself by paying attention to the condition of your body.   It’s all good!