How Carrie Fisher Lost 50 Pounds

It is not easy to be the actress indelibly associated with a tiny, gold bikini.  The bikini that barely fit back in the '70s is now an awkward reminder of how everyone changes over time.   In the 30-some years since her Princess Leia role in Star Wars, Carrie Fisher went from 105 pounds to 180 pounds. That was a pretty dramatic change, given her 5 foot 1 inch frame.  Now she is 50 pounds lighter and the new spokesperson for Jenny Craig.  How did she do it?

Carrie Fisher credits her sense of embarrassment about her figure for sparking her interest in dieting. That meant giving up her favorite snacks of Coca-Cola and peanut butter bars in favor of Jenny Craig prepared foods.   Starting her diet in November, she initially hoped to lose 30 pounds. Nine months later, she has lost 50 pounds.

In addition to living on Jenny Craig meals, she exercises 45-60 minutes a day during the week.  Her favorite exercise equipment? Her elliptical machine.  Her least favorite?  The treadmill.   She credits her personal trainer for much of her success, but says that she has "given up" on getting her arms and chest back to their former shape.  Another success factor: her mother and her daughter joined her in the Jenny Craig program.  With diet buddies like that, she had a lot of encouragement and support.  Plus, her public lifestyle created a photo montage of her weight loss, commemorating her milestones and continuous improvement in her appearance.

Now, the slimmer Carrie Fisher is touring with her one-woman play called Wishful Drinking and preparing for the release of her sixth book. In her typical comedic manner, she has a chapter in the book titled, "Wishful Shrinking."

Are you ready to try on Princess Leia's gold bikini?  Get yourself a diet buddy at and get back your bikini body!

High Blood Pressure and Diet

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a leading health risk for many Americans.  Your diet and make a huge impact on your blood pressure.  Some people are able to eliminate medication entirely after they reset their diet and exercise habits. Here are some things to consider if you are dealing with high blood pressure.

High blood pressure and excessive body weight go hand in hand. Most people who are diagnosed with high blood pressure are immediately told to lose weight by their doctor.  Weight loss, while never easy, is especially important when you are dealing with high blood pressure.  High blood pressure places an extreme burden on your body, especially your heart, and increases your chances of stroke.

When your doctor tells you to lose weight to reduce your high blood pressure, chances are you will be encouraged to reduce your intake of salt, fat and alcohol. You may also be encouraged to increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables and lean meats that are high in potassium and magnesium.  These minerals can help to control your blood pressure.  That means that you should target nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, spinach, zucchini, cantaloupe, bananas, watermelon and oranges. Note that some high blood pressure medications are sensitive to your potassium levels, so check in with your doctor on interactions.

Sodium, which is a building block of table salt (do you remember NaCl from chemistry class?) is essential to life.  However, most people consume far beyond the recommended daily allowance of sodium.  That transforms sodium from a friend to a foe.  In an attempt to help us out, the U.S. FDA has created some definitions that help us to evaluate the sodium content of prepared foods:
  • Reduced sodium means that this food has a quarter less sodium than the typical version of this product
  • Light in sodium means that this food has half of the sodium compared to the typical version
  • Low sodium means that this food has less than 140 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving
  • Very low sodium means that this food has less than 35 mg of sodium per serving
As always, check the packaging to see what the manufacturer considers a serving.  Many times our impression of a serving is a bit higher than the manufacturer's.  That can lead to inadvertent consumption of too much sodium.

Alcohol raises blood pressure. That is sad, but true. For people with high blood pressure, alcohol can also damage the walls of your blood vessels, a double whammy.  These effects far outweigh the slightly positive impact of moderate alcohol consumption on heart heath. A sad truth, but this may also be a good motivator for sticking with your diet.  Once your weight is down and your blood pressure is back into line, you can enjoy that glass of wine with dinner again!

The third leg of the blood pressure diet is reducing your fat intake.  Saturated fats (especially trans-fats) are hard on your heart and blood vessels.  With high blood pressure, these negative impacts are amplified.  Eating a low fat diet and substituting unsaturated fats can really make a positive difference.

These dietary changes for treating high blood pressure are considered so important that the National Institutes of Health commissioned the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.  This DASH diet has all the detailed instructions that you need to revise your eating habits, control your weight and get your blood pressure back in line so that you can live life to the fullest!

The Esselstyn Diet

Heart attacks can scare anyone into making drastic life changes.  Former President Bill Clinton had just such a life-changing event in 2004.  Following a heart attack, quadruple bypass surgery and the implantation of two stents, he changed his diet in the most profound way.  The president who became famous for his fondness for fast food burgers became a follower of the Esselstyn Diet.  That meant no meat, no fish, no dairy, and no oils of any kind.  Can this make anyone "heart attack proof" as the doctor claims?

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. believes that his diet can make anyone heart attack proof.  Based on the diets of rural Chinese, central Africans and the Papua New Guinea highlanders, his diet treats heart disease like a food borne illness.  By avoiding the "carriers" of the illness, we can avoid the illness of heart attacks altogether.

Dr. Esselstyn, of the Cleveland Clinic, says that eating a single forkful of fat causes cellular changes in the lining of the arteries.  The white blood cells attack the cholesterol from the fat and leave behind fatty deposits on the artery walls.  Over time, this can lead to a heart attack.  So no fat equals no arterial buildup and, therefore, no heart attack.  Simple enough, right?

This is not a diet for anyone who is not absolutely committed.  The doctor says that complete adherence to the diet is essential.  There can be no "splurges" or "weekends off" from the diet, you must go completely vegan and oil free and stay that way for this heart attack immunization to work.  There are testimonials from people who have been diagnosed with narrowing of the heart arteries that claim complete reversal of their diagnosis several years after adopting the Esselstyn diet, but there are no clinical trials that provide objective scientific proof.

So is this a fair trade?  Give up meat, fish, dairy and oils for a life free from the risk of heart attack?  Can you embrace the vegan lifestyle, without any backsliding?  If so, the Esselstyn diet may be for you!

Do you need a diet buddy?  Check out to find a local diet buddy to help you stay committed and on track.

The Kettlebell Workout

How would you like to burn 300 calories in 20 minutes, without a huge investment in equipment, training or gym memberships? That is the basis for the explosion of exercises that use kettlebells.  Unlike dumbbells, kettlebells are not symmetric.  This forces your body to expend additional effort when moving kettlebells to maintain stability and alignment.  See how a quick routine with the lowly "cannon ball with a handle" can tone you up and slim you down.

There is no "standard" kettlebell.  Typically, these cast iron spheres with a solid, looping handle range in weight from 4 pounds to over 150.  Some kettlebells have plastic or ceramic coverings, or are filled with sand, water or pellets. The off-center weight distribution and solid gripping handle make it ideal for range-of-motion exercises and workouts that combine cardio and strength moves.

Kettlebell exercises are gaining popularity for a number of reasons.  The equipment is inexpensive and easy to understand.  Most garage sale Saturdays will have numerous kettlebells for sale for less than 410.  The kettlebell workouts are quick and intense, so you don't have to dedicate your entire morning to exercise, yet you will see an improvement in your body within a very short time.  You don't need a gym or special clothes, so a half hour in your home before or after work is all you need to get a great workout.

A typical kettlebell exercise regimen consists of some warm-up stretching followed by 3-5 sets of intense exercises with 2 minute recovery periods.  Each exercise targets a group of muscles: shoulders, back, arms or core.  Here are some basic moves to get you started:

  • The front swing
    Stand with your feet slightly wider apart than your shoulders. Grip the kettlebell with both hands, with the weight between your knees.  In a controlled manner, swing the kettlebell forward and up, until it is at shoulder level, then back down until it is again between your knees.  Keep your arms and knees straight and concentrate on performing a controlled swing.  This is great for your shoulders and arms, builds your grip strength, and is a good introduction to kettlebell exercises.  Do 10 swings before resting.
  • The snatch
    Stand with your feet slightly wider apart than your shoulders. Grip the kettlebell with your arm fully extended downward, with the kettlebell between your knees.  In a fluid motion, swing the kettlebell out and up until the kettlebell is over your head.  Keep your arm straight throughout the swing, with just a bit of a push to get the weight directly over your shoulder. Do 5-7 repetitions before resting.
  • Around the world
    Stand with your feet below your shoulders, knees slightly bent. Grasp the kettlebell with one hand, holding it at waist level. Swing the weight out and around your body, toward your back.  When the kettlebell is behind you, switch to your other hand and continue the motion to the front of your body.  When the kettlebell is directly in front of you, switch back to the other hand.  Keep your body erect and as motionless as possible. Try to do 10 circuits in each direction.
  • The squat lift
    Start with your feet spread wide, knees bent, with the kettlebell held with both hands in front of you with your arms relaxed.  Keeping your back straight and head over your feet, bend your knees until the kettlebell is on the ground, and then straighten back up.  Do 10 squats at a time.
  • The kettle curl
    Stand comfortably, with the kettlebell grasped in one hand, arm straight down at your side.  In a smooth motion, raise the weight to your shoulder for one second, then lower it back down in a controlled descent.  Fight the temptation to jerk it up and drop it back down.  Slow, smooth motion will deliver the best workout and avoid impact damage to your shoulder, elbow and wrist.  Try 15 repetitions for each arm.

With the kettlebell, exercising can be quick, easy and advance as you gain strength and expertise.  Working out with a buddy is even more fun, so find a friend and kettlebell together.  If you don't have a friend who's interested right now, check out and find a local workout buddy.  Have fun and stay fit!

The Raw Food Diet

Ever since the discovery of fire, we have cooked much of what we eat. None the less, there is a growing movement that advocates eating uncooked food exclusively. This is not intended as a weight loss program, although that typically happens as a side-effect, but rather as a path to better health.  Here is a quick overview.

The raw food diet, sometimes called rawism, is based on eating foods in their natural state.  That means uncooked and unprocessed, just as it was when harvested.  Some practitioners allow warming food, as long as the temperature is kept low enough that the food is not cooked; usually below 110 degrees.  Many foods must be dried, pickled or salted to remain edible, but this is allowed in the world of rawism.

The raw food diet is primarily vegan, with seaweed, beans, nuts, whole grains, sprouts and fruits (fresh, juiced or dried) providing most of the nutrition.  Some raw food followers also consume unprocessed cheese and unpasteurized milk.  There's no need for a stove or oven, but you will spend a lot of time with your blender and probably end up with a dehydrator, too.

People who follow the raw food diet report increased energy, fewer illnesses, less acne, lowered cholesterol and reduced body fat. Cooking can reduce the nutrient content in some foods, although it also unlocks some nutrients that are otherwise not digested when raw.  Raw foods are high in anti-oxidants that may contribute to reduction in the incidence of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.  Many people believe that pasteurizing milk destroys beneficial bacteria, enzymes and proteins which has led to a surge in demand for unpasteurized milk.

Doctors typically recommend a multivitamin to backstop the nutrition that may be lacking from cooked foods, especially vitamins B12 and D.

Eating raw requires attention to food storage and preparation. Particular care must be taken to avoid food contamination, since cooking is the primary defense again harmful bacteria.

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The Cookie Diet

Losing weight and eating cookies do not appear in the same sentence very often.  That could be part of the appeal of the Cookie Diet.  Actually, there are several cookie diets (the Siegal Cookie Diet, the Hollywood Cookie Diet, and the Cookie-a-Day Diet), and they all depend on (wait for it) EATING COOKIES! So how does a person lose weight while eating cookies, you might ask?  Well, here is the scoop!

Back in the '90s, Dr. Sanford Siegal was studying the relationship between hunger and natural foods. Over time, he developed a formula of amino acids that he put into cookie dough to create a cookie that actually suppressed the hunger pangs suffered by his weight loss patients.  A diet craze quickly ensued.  By eating Dr. Siegal's cookies every time hunger hit, remarkable weight loss was reported.  Dr. Siegal was really on to something.

By the mid 2000's, Dr. Siegal had cookie, shake and soup mixes for sale that all contained his proprietary formula for quelling hunger pangs.  He had also opened dozens of franchised weight loss centers that leveraged his cookies and his now-famous name. Sadly, as quickly as fame came to Dr Siegal, it also left.  By the end of the decade, his network of weight loss centers were bankrupt and his name recognition plummeted.

The doctor's cookies remain, however, along with the diet guidelines. The cookies are intended to help you keep to an 800 calorie a day diet.  That means eating cookies morning and noon, and reserving your non-cookie calories for a satisfying dinner every day.  Your dinner menu is made up of lean meats and one cup of vegetables a day.  Cookies are wonderful, but they lack nutrients typically ingested through vegetables and fruits.  With the cookie diet, you only eat one "real" meal a day, so your intake of healthy foods is naturally restricted.

This is a diet without a maintenance mode.  Dr. Siegal never intended for the Cookie Diet to become a lifestyle, but rather a quick way to shed pounds while you learn better eating habits at the same time.  The real trick is to avoid regaining weight after you have reached your goal weight and stop the diet.

Is this the right diet for you?  With the 800 calories per day restriction, you will probably lose weight, but this is below the generally accepted minimum intake for a healthy diet.  Even with a multivitamin and nutritional supplements, you will probably be robbing your body of important nutrients.  But then again, you WILL be eating a lot of cookies and that's worth something.

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Pilates – Strengthen Your Core

Pilates exercises are enjoyed by more than five million people in the U.S. today.  Based on the work of Joseph Pilates in the '20s, Pilates concentrates on strengthening the body's core muscles through a series of carefully scripted movements and intense mental concentration.  Here is a brief review of the key concepts that made Pilates popular.

The German physical trainer Joseph Pilates experimented with the popular exercises of his day in search of the ideal way to blend mind and body into a healthy whole.   His studies resulted in two books that described a series of exercises (he called it "contrology")  intending to improve health and well begin.  Most of his exercises required only a cushion or mat, with a few requiring equipment to provide additional resistance to movement.  Over time, the equipment list has grown, along with some pretty creative names, such as the Cadillac, the trapeze table, the wunda chair, the ladder barrel, the guillotine tower and the foot corrector.

Modern Pilates studios typically offer hand weights, foam rollers and inflated exercise balls.  The exercise mat still plays a central role, though.  For this reason, may people enjoy Pilates at home, accompanied by a DVD or game system for instruction and pacing.

Joseph Pilates thought that the mental component of exercise was just as important as the physical.  He formulated six central principles:

  • Centering, bringing one's attention and focus to the core of the body.  The body's core is considered the source of all energy.
  • Concentration, eliminating distractions and attending entirely to the exercise at hand.
  • Control, which refers to making completely controlled movements without extraneous movement.
  • Precision, the exact alignment of body parts through the entire exercise.
  • Breath, a central tenet requiring full breathing control through the exercise sequence.  Joseph Pilates compared our lungs to the bellows in a blacksmith's shop.
  • Flow, which refers to the graceful and unbroken transition from one exercise to the next.

Pilates exercise has many positive features.  The "flow" component means that the exercises are gentle and low impact to the body.  The exercises build flexibility, strength and coordination without building substantial muscle mass.  The poses and transitions from exercise to exercise improves your balance.  The attention to the mental aspect of exercise promotes stress reductions and improves your mood.  With many of the exercises requiring only a soft floor covering, people can explore Pilates without making a substantial investment in equipment or attire.

Does Pilates sound like the right exercise program for you?  It takes very little investment to check it out.  Once you give it a try, click on the Comment button and let us know what you think!

The Kind Diet

It seems that every celebrity eventually writes a diet book.  Alicia Silverstone is no exception.  Her book, The Kind Diet, explains her approach to healthy living and weight control.  Judging by the success of her book (it is a New York Times best seller), Alicia may be on to something!

Alicia has defined three levels of achievement for the Kind diet.  The "flirt" level is someone who is easing into eating organic and vegan.  Nowhere near full time or full tilt, but testing the waters a bit and already receiving some benefit from eating better.  The "vegan" level is for people who have cut themselves off completely from eating meat, but still use meat substitutes (like flavored tofu) to salve those cravings.  The "superhero" level describes those amazing converts who have fully embraced the diet and aren't looking back!

Besides promoting "eating green" her book has six fundamental concepts:

Eating kind is a beautiful thing.  This is all about reducing our impact on the world around us.  Eating meat and processed foods places a much higher burden on our environment, because the cattle, pigs or chickens are raised for our table, consuming resources and producing pollution.

Doing good also tastes good.  Here Alicia is reframing the menu as an addition to our previous experiences.  Rather than focusing on the take-away aspects of her organic, vegan diet, she celebrates the new flavors and textures that will result.

Rethink the word "diet."  There are no calorie counts in the Kind Diet.  No exchanges or portion controls, either.  Instead, the Kind Diet leads to weight loss because of the naturally lower calorie density of the foods.  You feel full and satisfied, but in reality you haven't eaten as many calories compared to a meat eater.

Small changes can be huge.  The Kind Diet can be approached incrementally.  Small steps leading to a completely vegan lifestyle can be easier to accomplish than going "cold turkey" from meat.  Oh, that’s right, not even cold turkey is permitted, so I guess that's "cold tofu."

Be kind to yourself.  Alicia stresses that everyone has days when you just need a hamburger.  Or a cup of coffee.  Instead of beating yourself up, give yourself grace and move on to the next day, stronger and more committed.  Expect small failures along the way and don't let them shame you into quiting.

Don't forget dessert.  OK, I will admit that this is my favorite concept of them all.  Alicia's book contains some great dessert ideas so that you never have to leave the table without something yummy to complete your meal.  Yes!

Could the Kind Diet work for you?  The conversion to a vegan lifestyle is not easy.  Especially at first, it is important to include a multivitamin to counter the loss of nutrients that you had previously received from processed foods and animal products.  Also consider the slight increase in cost associated with organic and vegan eating.  Not a huge cost increase, but forget about those evil dollar menus at the fast food. 

Have you tried the Kind Diet?  Click on the Comment button and let us know how it worked for you.

The Rice Diet

The Rice Diet is another "blast from the past" diet, since it is based on a 1939 diet program.  Back then, a residential weight loss boot camp in beautiful Durham, N.C. was a resource for people suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, obesity and diabetes.  The book Rice Diet Solution, by Kitty and Robert Rosati, captures the key themes used back in Durham and packages up a strict dietary regimen that promises that you will shed 20-30 pounds in the first month and continue to lose 2-4 pounds a week thereafter.

The rice diet focuses on eating very few calories and extremely little sodium.  The few permitted foods (there are only about 30) are low fat and low protein and primarily complex carbohydrates.  Think rice.  Lots of rice.  Followers of the diet will be limited to 800 calories and only 50 mg of sodium at first.   For some perspective, you should know that an order of McDonalds' small French fries has 140 mg of sodium.  In fact, a packet of McDonalds' catsup has 100 mg of sodium! This is truly a low sodium diet.  In addition, you are allowed 5 grams of fat and 20 grams of protein.

The meal plan is pretty straight-forward.  You eat whole-grain carbs, fruits, low-sodium beans, most veggies, non-fat and low-fat dairy and extremely lean protein (fish).  A lot of fiber and not a lot of much else.  For the first week, you eat two starches and two fruits at each meal.  And you limit your sodium intake to 50 mg/day.  Happily, in the following week you get to add another 400 calories and expand to three starches and three fruits/veggies  for each meal.  In the third week you slowly add calories (adding 200 calories each day) until you stop losing weight.

The Rice Diet followers are encouraged to take a multivitamin and optionally an iron supplement every day.  Many people, especially women, should consider adding calcium and vitamin D supplements. Meditation, yoga and other stress management activities are also considered part of the program.

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