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Weight Loss Without a Gimmick?

Losing weight is no joke. Infomercials for new diet plans and exercise videos make it look so easy. Everyone gushes about how fast they shed the pounds. Reality shows that even 10 solid pounds is a mountain to conquer. Most people who are obese (body mass index greater than 30) who walk into my nutrition clinic say they want to lose 50 pounds if not more. Only a handful ever reach that number. Most lose somewhere between 10-20 pounds over one year. Keeping it off is another chapter, and I don't call it success unless the weight lost stays off. Those who have permanently lost a lot of weight never say it's easy. They realize it's a complete lifestyle change that targets your home and work environment, your ingrained eating habits, and your friends' and family's support (or lack of). If you can get that under control, you still have to deal with constant visual stimulation from media food porn, unexpected stressful events that may throw you off, and societal pressure to look a certain way or weigh an exact number on the scale.

April grew up overweight in an environment where exercise and fresh home cooked meals didn't exist

So if I meet someone who has lost and kept off a lot of weight, I'm seriously impressed. If they've lost the weight without pills or a silly diet that omits entire food groups, I'm floored. I met that person this year in Zumba class, April Lamrock. When I first saw her, my instant impression was a very pretty girl who looked strong and confident. I'd never guess that a year ago she had weighed more than 300 pounds. 

April grew up overweight, not physically active and not eating healthfully. Her parents never cooked meals at home and ordered take out or fast food. She became a picky eater.

When she reached her peak weight at 309 in January 2013, she joined the Tanger Be Well Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She attributes the staff leaders in the program in helping her to lose weight slowly but steadily in the next several months with a no-frills plan of exercising and eating a sensible diet. She was intimidated by the fitness aspect as she had never exercised before but they were encouraging and helped her ease into it. She started exercising three days a week with 20 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of strength training. After a few months she had worked up to six days a week of 30 minutes each of cardio and strength training. April recalls what helped the most was when the staff would check in with her if she had skipped a day or two. She needed accountability.

Regarding eating, April says that she already knew what to do. But because she was a picky eater, certain foods like whole grains, fresh fruit and fish weren't an option. Chicken and broccoli became her staples. Her main challenge was and still is to expand the variety in her diet. 

Because of her discipline and determination with a consistent exercise regimen of one hour 5-6 days a week, cutting out fast food, and eating more lean protein and vegetables, she lost weight to 193 pounds by the end of November 2013.

April before and after, having lost 116 pounds in 11 months, without diet pills or a fad diet (wow!)

April admits that this year old habits have crept back, along with the weight. She has less drive. "Now that I've lost the weight and feel I can look good in clothes, there isn’t as much motivation to keep eating right. I have since gone to see a nutritionist and she gave me a few tips." She's considering joining a weight management support group and has resumed logging into MyFitnessPal, which helped before. "Hopefully having the cold hard facts right there will make me stop eating badly."

April working a pose; she had regained about 17 pounds here

Ready to shake it in Zumba















I only know April through Zumba class, so right now she only sees me as her Zumba instructor. But as a nutritionist I'm dying to tell her that healthy eating is not only chicken and broccoli and salads. I'd encourage her to try one new food a week, and I'd show her easy recipes that taste amazing. I'd tell her that negative reinforcement ("bad foods" mentality) rarely pushes people in the right direction for long, because they end up forever craving those forbidden foods. I've already told her that even though she's discouraged with her weight regain, even right now she has the curvy fit body that most Zumba instructors wish for and that she needs to let her body find its way, rather than beating it up to reach a personal low or meet a body mass index number. Weight loss without a gimmick or magic bullet can be a long tedious journey with highs and lows. But real permanent change takes time because it's not just about losing weight; it's about making peace with your body, learning to treat it with respect by responding to its physiological and emotional needs, and discovering who you are beyond your size whether you're a skinny minny or have 10 pounds to go. Easier said than done I know, so I'll just end with a favorite quote: 

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn  —Harriet Beecher Stowe


Sautéed Purple Swiss Chard with Sweet Potatoes and Dried Fruit

Introducing Alexa, my new recipe contributor!I can't say how thrilled I am that my niece Alexa is cooking up a storm. She already contributed a simple delicious recipe last year Chocolate Banana Ice Cream that I have made endless times and been encouraging all of my patients to make! I had to share this new one that she said she'd whipped up for lunch one day. Is it normal to drool over vegetables?? I've been doing that a lot lately and this recipe is no exception. I signed up for a CSA this summer and received my first batch yesterday with a bunch of beautiful purple Swiss chard. Swiss chard is a nutrition superstar, ranking 3rd in a recent study of "41 powerhouse fruits and vegetables" featured in The Washington Post. Can't wait to put these greens to good use with Alexa's recipe! Feel free to substitute other greens and your favorite dried fruits...they'll all work wonderfully here. You can also add nuts or seeds to boost the protein and nutrient content.

Sautéed Purple Swiss Chard with Baked Sweet Potatoes and Raisins


2 bunches Swiss chard, washed thoroughly, dried, and chopped (4-5 heaping cups after chopped)

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 cup raisins

1 T olive oil

2 medium sized sweet potatoes


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake sweet potatoes for 45 min to 1 hour, depending on size, until tender (or use a knife to create a few slits in potatoes and microwave for 6-7 minutes on high). Cool potatoes, remove the skin, and chop into small chunks.
  2. In a pan on medium heat, add oil. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent.
  3. Add raisins and chopped Swiss chard to the onions. Saute one minute and then turn heat to low as the leaves will wilt very quickly.
  4. Toss in sweet potatoes and serve! 


Two Stacys Equals a Great Juicebar

Some things are just meant to be. Like when two women meet, one a successful entrepreuner making almost $60 million on an innovative spin on baked pita chips, and the other, a world renowned respected nutritionist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the featured nutritionist in the award winning documentary Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. It just works out that they're both named Stacy. Stacy Kennedy and Stacy Madison opened Stacy's Juicebar on March 1 this year in Needham, MA, with a concept that has perfect timing. Cleanse diets and "clean" eating are trendy right now, and juicing has become more accessible thanks to NutriBullet and Ninja infomercials, along with a resurgence of the Cadillac of blenders, Blendtec and Vitamix. More Americans are drinking juice but not just freshly squeezed orange juice. We're talking about 5-10 different ingredients that may include whole fruits, vegetables, seeds and herbs pulverized into one 12-16 ounce serving. Nutritionists and health experts preach to people to eat 5-11 servings of fruits and veggies daily, and this is one way to reach that intimidating number.

Kennedy (left) and Madison (right)I worked with Stacy Kennedy when I was at Dana-Farber and have always respected her vast knowledge but that didn't mean I wasn't skeptical of a new eatery offering a healthy menu. I just haven't found a healthful menu that I've been super impressed with. It seems that restaurants want to cater to the demand for something healthier, so they use the right ingredients but don't know how to fuse them into something tasty. Example: Many of the take-out vegan/vegetarian entrees at Whole Foods are bland unless they're loaded with nuts and oils, and a vegetarian restaurant I reviewed last fall left me wanting.

I love Needham though, where many of my favorite small businesses are located, so I asked Stacy K. for an interview. A recent Boston Globe article hinted that the juicebar was Stacy M.'s brainchild with Stacy K. coming aboard later. Stacy K. said that it was more of a simultaneous effort as she and her husband Dr. Russell Kennedy, a wellness psychologist, had already been developing a juicebar concept. Stacy M.'s business savvy and Stacy K.'s nutrition and fitness expertise combined with their intense work ethic birthed a mutually beneficial partnership.

I think I said "wow" at least three times after stepping into Stacy's Juicebar. My first wow was seeing the decorbright and hip with a lot of energy. The baristas were bustling, serving customers and constantly cleaning and stocking items. There was a take-home case with a variety of quinoa blends, garden salads, wraps, panini, soups and their special raw veggie lasagna. If you can't find your favorite variety in the case, they'll make it fresh on the spot for you.

My second wow was seeing both Stacys present on a weekday morning, bustling just as hard as the others, looking like Energizer Bunnies. They were both extremely hands-on, stocking items and conversing with the baristas, chefs and customers. Stacy K. said that she is at the juicebar for 8 hours 5 days a week, in addition to still working at Dana-Farber once a week. When I asked how she balances work life with her young family, she admitted, "It's definitely a challenge." She shares that her husband is very supportive with the children, who often make appearances at the juicebar (I actually did see the whole family in one corner on a second visit, which I thought was very cool!). 

The Stacys discussing the day's work under their menu board of freshly made juices and smoothies.

I ordered several items to take home: The Grasshopper Power Smoothie (one of Stacy's favorites; the other being the Sweet Beet Juice), Sweet Lime Quinoa, Roasted Veggie Wrap with Hummus, and the Sweetheart Cookie. I was impressed when Stacy said that all of the recipes were her own. Her younger son has food allergies, which encouraged her to create many of the recipes now on the menu. There are many vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free items but there is also chicken, turkey, salmon, eggs and cheese.

My third wow was after eating these items! I was seriously surprised by the Grasshopper Smoothie. I've had green juices and at best they're tolerable. This was a truly delicious thick and creamy shake (see the ingredients below), tasting really fresh with little chunks of sweet dates that got caught in my straw. I could taste every single ingredient (except maybe the aloe and spirulina because I have no idea how they're supposed to taste). The first bite of Lime Quinoa with veggies and honey avocado dressing was simply yummy. The quinoa was cooked perfectly and the dressing added just the right amount of flavor. I ate the Sweetheart Cookie to refuel after teaching a Zumba class and it was very moist and sweet with a satisfying richness from the nuts. The Roasted Veggie Wrap with Hummus was filled with lightly roasted chunky beets, onions, spinach, broccoli and sweet potatoes that were still crunchy. I noticed how filling all of these items were, probably because of the high fiber content. 

The prices were a bit scary with the juices and smoothies ranging from $7.45-9 for a 16-ounce cup but as I said they are high quality and filling, not something you will gulp down quickly. The salads and sandwiches range from $7-10 with the salmon dishes costing $13. I noticed a variety of customers, ranging from young male bodybuilder types to moms with kids to older men and women. Brandon Bass from the Boston Celtics walked in to purchase two P'nut Butter Cup smoothies. He said that he often makes smoothies at home but doesn't like the mess so he's become a regular customer.

Compare this to a Dunkin Donuts counter: Instead of fountain sodas there is vanilla and chocolate almond milk; instead of dozens of donuts there are dozens of fruits and veggies!

For me nutrition is key, and a big reason I'd come here over other health food joints is because Stacy is a top notch dietitian. She's not just using healthful ingredients but considering total nutrition. Complete nutrition info will eventually be available for every menu item, but she emphasized that it's not just calories that are promoted but the entire nutritional value. For example the Sweet Beet juice contains 70% of one's daily iron needs. When I asked Stacy how she felt when dietitians often spout out, "I prefer to eat my fruits than drink them," she replied that both are beneficial; one is not better than the other. "There are different options for increasing fruit and vegetable intake. Juicing concentrates a large volume into a small amount, and removing the insoluble fiber can actually improve digestion and absorption of nutrients in the produce. Both whole foods and juicing have benefits. You don't have to choose one or the other." She says that the pulp removed when juicing is put back into their soups and smoothies so the whole food is used. 

Stacy also provides private nutrition counseling and complimentary on-site workshops on juicing, weight loss, superfoods and sports nutrition. This place is a must-see! Visit them at 1257 Highland Avenue, Needham, MA. Open every day except Sundays and holidays. There's a good chance you'll catch me there sipping my Grasshopper Smoothie!

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