April 30, 2008

From Flab to Fab

Filed under: By Ellen Bittner — Administrator @ 11:05 am

   Ellen Bittner

Chapter 1 – Nature vs. Nurture

The lyrics in the opening scene of the Broadway show Wicked (by Cristy Candler) pose the question – “Are people born wicked or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?”

This “nature versus nurture” debate concerning the relative importance of an individual’s genetics & innate qualities (“nature”) versus environment and personal experiences (“nurture”) in determining a person’s physical and behavioral traits has been going on for years. 

For me, the conflict between “nature” and “nurture” has to do with my physical health & life expectancy.  Although some of their ailments were the result of life style choices, both of my parents suffered from heart disease and had experienced multiple strokes and heart attacks.  My father, who also had glaucoma & emphysema, passed away when he was 73.  My mother, who died at the age of 77, also had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, & lung cancer.  Based on this family history and my genetic make-up, my quality of life and life expectancy would most likely be limited.  

Since I had reason to be concerned that I may have inherited a predisposition to some of my parents’ life threatening diseases (I also had several aunts and uncles who passed away in their 70s or early 80s), I decided to adopt what I considered to be a healthy life style.  I wasn’t a smoker and I followed a diet that was low in calories, and was salt and fat free.  I also followed an exercise routine that included walking & swimming.

Wanting to know more about the way “nurture” can affect life expectancy, I attended a lecture given by Dr. Nir Barzilai.  Dr. Barzilai is the Director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  His lecture focused on how behavior & environmental factors affect (“nurture”) longevity.  Some of the aspects he discussed related to spirituality, physical activity, interest & involvement in the arts, and participating in social situations.

At the conclusion of the lecture, one of Dr. Barzilai’s colleagues asked me if I would be interested in being a part of his research.  Since I was curious and wanted to learn more about these studies I said, “Yes.”  I later learned that I would be a part of the study’s “Control Group” because of my parents’ relatively short life spans.My real wake-up call occurred a few weeks later.  After I completed a survey, which included questions dealing with life style activities and choices, I was given a medical screening.  This screening included blood tests, height & weight measurements, and physical response tests. 

Despite what I had considered my “healthy” lifestyle, these tests showed that the hereditary factors were winning, and at 56 years of age I was at “high risk” in a number of categories.

After receiving these results, I became even more determined to shift the balance by “nurturing” myself more effectively and beat the odds dealt me by my genetic make-up (“nature”). 

To be continued…



April 10, 2008


Filed under: By Paul Jason — Administrator @ 10:42 pm

  Paul Jason

Chapter 10:  Help!!!  I’m Drowning and No One Can Hear Me

I was in the operating room for six and a half hours.  It was in the CCU, about nine hours after I was wheeled out of the operating room, that I learned that I had survived the operation and remained a mortal being on Planet Earth.  However, I didn’t know that immediately.  My first recollection of a conscious moment occurred  when I opened my eyes and realized that I was laying in what felt like a horizontal position, perhaps a little elevated, and everything around me appeared to be white.  I couldn’t see too much because I couldn’t really turn my head to the left or the right.
 ”My head must be propped in place”, I thought to myself.  “And I don’t seem to be able to move my arms or my legs.  It feels like there’s some kind of tube inside my throat, and I can’t swallow.  That must be the tube I heard about that assists your breathing during surgery.  But, I thought they take it out when the surgery is over. God, I don’t even know how I’m breathing. I can’t talk … I can’t even call out.  Help, someone.”

It’s not dark in here, but I feel paralyzed, and everything is white.  Oh, my God, maybe I’m dead and I don’t know it.  I can’t hear anything.  But wait, there is one thing I can see that isn’t all white – - – right on the wall directly opposite me.  It’s a clock – - – and I can see it, even without my eyeglasses on. I can read the numbers, and I can see the hands.  It says 3:30. 3:30!!  Is that a.m. or p.m.? What day is this? The surgeon told me the operation would take between six and seven hours.  They wheeled me into the operating room at about 11:30 a.m. on April 4th.  That would mean that I left the operating room around 6:30 p.m . on that day.  Is it now past midnight and into the wee hours of April 5th??  I can’t tell in here – - – wherever I am  – - – there doesn’t seem to be any natural light.”
Wait a minute.  This is crazy.  I don’t even know if I’m dead or alive and I’m worrying about the time. Maybe this is a delusion.  I can’t move any of my limbs; I can’t talk: I don’t hear anything. How do I know I’m alive?  Maybe I’m in a suspended state of being, floating somewhere in the netherworld, somewhere between Heaven and Hell.  The clock.  Maybe it’s not real; maybe it is symbolic.  Maybe the time that I see on its face is illusory.  Maybe it’s there just to force me to come to grips with the fact that my time on Earth was but a  fleeting moment in the eternity of the Universe.”

My mind continued to race with thoughts of mortality, and then, without warning, all conscious thought ended. . . . .

Wait !! – - – I’m conscious again.  Was I gone for a moment, an hour, a day, a week, a year?  I still can’t turn my head; my arms and legs still feel like they have heavy weights on them.  That damn tube is still stuck down my throat.  And the clock is still there on the wall – - – and it says 4:05.  I can hear voices in the background, but I cannot comprehend what they’re saying and I can’t yell out to them.  Oh God, am I dead or alive? Help, someone.”
And then, from out of nowhere, a thought occurred to me – - – if I am floating in the netherworld,  then this is all an illusion.  If that’s true, I shouldn’t be able to feel anything tangible.  But, there is one portion of me that I can move – - – and that’s my fingers.


So, I scratched at the whiteness around me and felt my fingernails rake the starched crispness of the bed linens.

God, I must be alive.  I can feel the nub of the sheets and hear the frantic sound of my  fingernails digging into them.  I must be alive.  This is no illusion!!  This is tangible, and every fiber of my brain is telling me that I’m alive.”

And then, just as quickly as I made this discovery, I slipped back again into unconsciousness. . . . .

Wait.  I’m conscious again.  And that clock on the wall says 4:35.  Why doesn’t anyone walk over to look at me?  I can still hear their voices out there.”

Wait a second. Something’s wrong.  I think I’m alive, but I still can’t move anything but my fingers – - – and I can’t call out to anyone because I have a damn obstruction shoved down my throat.  And something is happening to that tube . . . that hose.  It feels like there’s something dripping down that hose. Drip, drip, dripping – - – with no let-up.  Oh, no. That post-nasal drip I inherited from my mother – - – the drip that comes and goes at its own whim – - – the one that never gives me serious trouble – - – but just enough trouble that I feel impelled to clear my throat, or cough, or blow my nose, to alleviate it . . . even take over-the-counter medication sometimes to dry it up real fast . That same nasal drip has just decided, at the most inopportune time in my life, to start acting up.  And its discharging mucous right onto that hose – - – and I can’t clear my throat (for God’s sake,
I can’t even swallow with that hose stuck down my throat); I can’t blow my nose; and there’s no way that I can communicate to anyone that I’m in distress.  What am I going to do?  How come no one warned me about this possibility? I feel like I’m going to choke.”

Wait a minute: I’m not going to choke – - – I’m going to drown!!!  I’m going to drown right here in this damn hospital  – - – right here in this damn Cardiac Care Unit. I’m drowning and no one can hear me . . . and nobody’s going to know about it until I really am dead.”

Don’t panic.  For God’s sake, don’t panic!!”

Unconsciousness. . . .

I’m awake again.  The clock says 5:10.  Well, at least time isn’t standing still.  It must be 5:10 a.m. on April 5th.  But I can still feel that mucous dripping. . . dripping . . . down the hose in my throat. God, how big is that hose anyway?  It feels like a garden hose.  It must be  an inch in diameter. I really feel like I’m going to drown.”
Damn, I’m sure the nurses are checking on me periodically.  Why is none of them ever standing by my bed when I’m conscious?  Even if one of them were standing right there, I don’t know if I could communicate my anguish.  Oh God, is this the final retribution – - – allowing me to survive that horrendous surgery (itself a testament to the intelligence and creativity of man), only to allow me to ironically succumb to the lowliest of man’s ills? . . .  Unconsciousness.

Consciousness.  “The clock says 5:50.  I’m still alive. I didn’t drown while I was out, but I can still feel the mucous drip, drip, dripping down that hose. Voices.  Female voices.  Sounds like two nurses standing right outside my room.”  I hear one of them say: “John will be here soon.  As soon as he gets settled in, he will remove the tracheal tube from this patient.”

Soon.  How soon?  Every moment feels like an eternity and that damn dripping isn’t stopping.   I hope I haven’t drowned by the time John gets here.  Wait.  Here comes a nurse. She’s coming right here to the bed.  She’s looking right at me.  She sees that my eyes are open.”  She says: “Take it easy, Mr. Jason.  Someone will be here in a little while to remove that tube from your throat.  You’ll feel better then.”

Then?  When is “then”?  Can’t you see the terror in my eyes? . . . .   I guess not.  You’re walking away.” 

I doze off again.

I hear voices again.  This time it’s a man and a woman.  The same nurse who told me that someone would be coming in a little while.  I can see that it’s 6:20.  My God, it must be morning, and the morning shift is coming on.  That hose must be in my throat at least since I left the operating room almost twelve hours ago.”

John and the nurse are exchanging some pleasantries, and he’s telling her about his social activities of the prior night.  “Oh God, don’t they understand that I”m about to drown.”  The seconds feel like hours. “I hope John is wide awake this morning and ready to go.”

Then, suddenly, John is at my bedside, doing just what he is trained to do.  Before I know it, the hose is removed and I really begin to feel alive.

Alive . . . Alive!!!

To be continued…

April 7, 2008

Meal Replacement Bars

Filed under: By Tamra Rosenfeld — Administrator @ 2:59 pm

  Tamra Rosenfeld

Meal replacement bars are geared towards athletes who need quick energy or people on the go who do not have time to have a meal. 

Pros to meal replacement bars: They are better than stopping at McDonalds or Burger King.  It is also better to have a meal replacement bar than to skip a meal.  Skipping meals can slow metabolism. 

Cons to meal replacement bars: They can be high in calories, sugars, and fats (including saturated fat).  Many people use them as snacks which can be detrimental to weight loss and weight maintenance.  These bars may contain anywhere between 150 and 350 calories.  A serving of fruit is 60 calories; Dannon Light N Fit yogurt only contains 60 calories.  Combine a fruit and a light yogurt and you still have fewer calories than a meal replacement bar.  Meal replacement bars also do not contain all of the nutrients a well balanced meal would provide.

Other comments: Meal replacement bars are usually high in protein.  The average person in America consumes more protein than they need from their diet.  If being used for a meal replacement the high protein content can be beneficial, but if used as a snack it is probably not needed.  Many meal replacement bars are fortified with 100% of the RDA for some vitamins and minerals.  With a well balanced diet this fortification is not necessary.  In addition if you have 2 meal replacement bars a day and a bowl of fortified cereal in the morning you may be getting 3 times what is recommended for some vitamins and minerals. 

How should you chose a meal replacement bar?  If you are going to have a meal replacement bar here are the things to look for:

  1. Read the labels and look at the calorie content.
  2. Check the amount of fat and saturated fat on the label.  Look for under 30% of the bar coming from fat.  Look for 1 gram of saturated fat or less.
  3. Look for added sugar. 
  4. Look for stimulant such as caffeine that you may not want.
  5. Check the fiber content – the higher the fiber, the better.

Meal replacement bar examples: 

Below are examples of some protein bars that are very high in calories, fat, or sugar.


High calorie bars (over 300 calories per bar) –

American Body Building Extreme Body Peanut Crunch Bar,

Detour Caramel Peanut,

Meso-Tech Caramel Nut Crunch,

Myoplex Storm Chocolate Peanut Caramel,

Tri-O-Plex Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip.


High fat bars (10 grams of fat or more):

Atkins Advantage Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar,

Carb Solutions High Protein Bar Creamy Chocolate Peanut Butter,

Detour Caramel Peanut,

Myoplex Storm Chocolate Peanut Caramel,

Tri-O-Plex Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip.


High sugar bars (25 grams of sugar or more):

Advant Edge Complete Nutrition Energy Bar Peanut Butter Caramel,

American Body Building Steel Bar Crunchy Peanut Butter,

GeniSoy Southern Style Chunky Peanut Butter Fudge,

Promax Chocolate Peanut Crunch.


Here are some better options:


If you are looking for a lower calorie (under 200), lower fat (5 grams or less), and lower sugar (15 grams or less) option:

Doctor’s CarbRite Diet Chocolate Peanut Butter,

Kashi Go Lean Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Bliss,

Luna Nutz Over Chocolate,

Pria from Power Bar Chocolate Peanut Crunch,

Rapid Results Diet System Soy Protein Bar Chocolate Almond,

Slim Fast Succeed Chocolate Peanut,


If you are an athlete looking for quick energy these are high in calories and carbohydrates but low in saturated fat which can raise cholesterol levels:

Biochem Ultimate Low Carb Bar – Creamy Peanut Butter

Cliff Bar Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch

Power Bar Chocolate Peanut Butter

Revival – Peanut Butter Chocolate Pal

Tri-O-Plex Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip



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