Fall 2009   

"Support for Your Healthy Lifestyle"

Susan Fekety, RN, MSN, CNM

In this issue:
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Warm and Soggy Greetings to You, Dear Friends!

BRRR! Every year I'm surprised how cold "cold" actually feels. Hope your home is snugged up tight and you have a nice pot of soup on, candles on the mantel, maybe some furry creatures snoozing beside you as you read, maybe some crystal sunshine pouring through the window . . .

This is the season of changes and letting go -- and naturally, that means making room for something new to come after the dark time. This high-energy, scarlet-orangey autumn has me cleaning out the closets AND the cellar, and restoring order in lots of places. I'm hearing this theme a lot lately, so I know it's not just me. Some loss: both Spirit Living and the Maine Switch have ceased publication -- so I'm sad to say I won't be writing for them for the foreseeable future. Archived articles are on my Web site, though. They're quick and easy reads covering a wide variety of topics, and worth checking out if you're curious about something. I've loved those assignments, so when I manifest a NEW writing venue you can be sure I'll let you know!

To your best health --
(Note: True North patients please use: sfekety@truenorthhealthcenter.org. Thanks!)

P.S. I'm on Facebook and Twitter . . . FINALLY! A big Thank You to Evelyn Rysdyk, shaman buddy of mine and total queen of social media, who painstakingly walked me through the "getting set up" process of both these nifty toys! In both places you can find and follow me just by searching for "susanfekety" -- how cool is that?

"FREE Monthly Open House Events start November 12"

Interest in True North's premiere nutrition and lifestyle tune-up program called FirstLine Therapy® has been pretty amazing lately -- so much so I want to throw a party to celebrate that so many new people are becoming inspired to take good care of themselves this way!

Seriously -- people are telling their friends and co-workers and family members about this uniquely powerful approach and I'm getting lots of inquiries about "So, what's different about this from every OTHER diet I've been on for twenty years?" and "How do I get started anyway?" and "What is this weird test you do on me?"

In response, starting on November 12, and continuing on the first Thursday of every month, I'll be hosting informational Open Houses in the True North living room from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. I'll bend your ear a bit about why this program is worth your attention, and we'll schmooze and eat some treats reflecting the Truly Yummy and Perfectly Reasonable principles of the food plan. (Yup, I might cook!)

If you've been thinking about FirstLine Therapy®, or just know it's time to take better care of yourself but aren't sure where to begin, or you just have questions like the ones above, grab a friend and let's make it a date! I will continue to offer free 15-minute informational visits in the office to address these questions, but if daytimes are not convenient for you, let's try this!

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NEW Program Reduces Lab Test Prices

If you've been putting off doing some of the advanced Functional Medicine tests I may have recommended over the years (most commonly hormone panels, adrenal stress tests, and comprehensive stool analysis) you'll be happy (I hope!) to learn that True North recently entered into a nifty agreement with Genova Diagnostics, which I think is the hands-down best Functional Medicine laboratory in the country, to reduce your out-of pocket costs significantly for a whole menu of tests. (Like, I mean SIGNIFICANTLY.)

I'm really excited about this, because these tests can give us really good information -- but they've historically been cost-prohibitive for many people. So consider this a heads-up; if you have questions feel free to contact me for more information and we'll get you set up. (We have a new blood-drawing person, too, so be sure to introduce yourself to Debbie. She's awesome!) 

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UPCOMING WORKSHOP Sunday November 8, 1:00 to 4:30 pm

I Know What I'm Supposed to Do But I'm Not Doing It!: Further on the Road from Frustrated to Fabulous

  • If you've tried repeatedly to eat well for weight control or overall health but you can't seem to stick with it . . .

  • If you keep getting derailed by the demands of work, relatives, cravings, or fatigue . . .

  • If you keep finding yourself at the bottom of your priority list . . .

  • If you're ready to give up because there must be something wrong with you . . .

. . . this class was designed with you in mind!

I'll be co-teaching this class at True North with Karen Fagan, Master Certified Life Coach. She and I are experts in supporting people to nourish themselves on all levels -- optimally, simply, mindfully, and without judgment. Our introductory class last spring was so well-received we're expanding it into a half-day event.

We'll explore some common challenge areas around food, eating patterns, and overall self-care -- with an emphasis on supporting YOU to move forward with taking good care of yourself and your body. We hope to see you there! Bring a friend and you'll both get a reduced admission price.

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THUNDER THIGHS -- Longevity Advantage?

Did you happen to catch one of the recent news pieces reporting on a new Danish study which showed that people who had thigh circumferences of 60 cm (just under two feet!) or smaller had more deaths from cardiovascular disease than people with bigger thighs?

Where I live, this triggered lots of snickering and rude comments, and some disbelief too, because it counteracts the old saw about how you can never be too thin or too rich, and that across the board, the thinner you are the longer you'll live. You know how people laugh and poke fun at things that confuse them -- that's what happened when this study got reported. You can just imagine the silly jokes.

Scientifically, this looks like a pretty good study. The project took place over 12 and a half years, and the subjects (around 3000 total) were disease-free men and women between 35 and 65 with an average age of 50. The project was an offshoot of a long-term disease trend-monitoring project conducted under the auspices of the World Health Organization. (So like, we are not talking about a cobbled-together, low-rent, poorly conceived knock-together deal.)

The researchers measured a whole lot of different data points about the people: height and weight, body fat percentage, cholesterol test results, amount of exercise, alcohol consumption, BMI, waist/hip/thigh circumference, blood pressure, smoking history, and probably a couple more things I'm forgetting now. Over the course of the study, a bunch of them died (as expected, and a lot more men than women) -- and when they drilled down to figure out which risk factors seemed to distinguish the folks who died from those who didn't, well, it turned out that smaller thigh circumference was a significant differentiator between who lived long and prospered and who died an untimely death. And what's worse -- over half of the people they looked at had these small thighs.

For some, this has turned out to be shocking news, but it's not surprising to me -- and I want to let you in on the secret about why not. (If you've been doing FirstLine Therapy®, I bet you know already!) As you walk through the world, who do you see with really skinny legs? People who don't move much, people who are "wasting away," or who are chronic dieters. They may be happy to have low body fat percentages (you can get that number with a set of those pinching calipers) but in order to have a longevity advantage, they need non-fat mass, also known as lean body mass or, in a form of useful and only minimally inaccurate shorthand, "muscle mass" -- which is different.

If you're missing muscle, you will likely have small thighs because bones and fat can only get you so big. You are likely to have problems with a whole long stream of metabolic processes, particularly problems with insulin and blood sugar and carbohydrate balance, Those are things that we know go along with cardiovascular disease. Exercise is not just about burning calories, ok? It's about building non-fat body mass and watching THAT change your metabolism for the good.

So this study did NOT make me giggle -- it got me excited! Because here's the thing -- we know how to measure your non-fat mass, and I do it in the office every day with the body composition machine. If you've never had this quick and painless test done, consider adding it to your "do along with my annual physical" list -- it's at least as important as your cholesterol test, and there are no needles involved!

We can check your muscle mass, or body composition, as part of a brief and inexpensive office visit (a la carte) -- or you can consider FirstLine Therapy®, the supreme body composition enrichment program which is all about increasing your nonfat mass and getting a whole pile of health-related risk factors turned around at once. Because it looks like you actually CAN be too thin! Thank goodness we know what to do to fix that. Amazing.

PS: For those of you who like to see things with your own eyes, here's a link to the original paper. (I love it when people put things on open source so we can all read them without going to the medical library.) Enjoy!

PPS: As an aside, I must say that I am troubled by the number of women I meet who tell me they really hate their thighs. Thighs, big or small, let you run and dance and have a lap -- please thank them! Perhaps you and YOUR thighs will enjoy this song by Saffire, one of my favorite groups of musical women. (Prudence dictates a heads-up that this song has rather bawdy lyrics, so grownups only, ok?).

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I taught a class at our local Whole Foods Market recently and they were kind enough to accessorize my presentation with a bunch of interesting and novel foods to try. I'm not big on goji berries (unless they're coated with dark chocolate), but an assortment of hemp products got my attention. I've been hearing that hemp has a good nutrition profile but had not had a chance to sample them or investigate -- till now.

But ok, I hear you saying -- hemp?! Isn't that, like, marijuana? How can they sell that? Why would you eat it? Can you drive afterwards? Let me assure you that eating hemp for food is perfectly safe, will not get you high, nor will it get you busted if your workplace is draconian enough to do drug testing.

Hemp plants of the food/fiber and rope/fuel variety are a different species in the same family as the stuff that will get you busted. (Think of it like like the difference between chihuahuas and St. Bernards: both dogs, but it stops there.) "Dope" hemp has a lot of the active ingredient tetra-hydro-cannibinol (THC) in it, whereas "rope" hemp has hardly any. The hemp growers have made a commitment to keeping the THC content super, super low so that their customers can stay out of jail and thereby continue buying products from them. (They're not stupid.)

Interestingly, it is legal almost everywhere but the United States to grow the food/fiber and rope/fuel kind of hemp, so the hemp products you may see will likely be imported from Canada. Hemp has a long and interesting political economic history, too much to go into here, but it would be great if it could be brought back for food and industrial purposes.

Hemp products have pros and cons nutrition-wise. They're a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids (we all need more of these) but also contain Omega 6s and 9s, which most people eating a varied diet do not need to get more of (even though they are considered essential.) Neither hemp nor flax, for instance, are as powerful as fish oil if you're after the stuff that's really good for your heart and your brain. The oils are very fragile and subject to turning rancid, so all hemp products need to be kept sealed up in the fridge, and you oughtn't bake or cook them into anything. Keep them cool to keep from damaging the fat molecules with heat.

I would recommend that if you want to explore hemp foods, start with the seeds. You use them like you might use flax seeds: sprinkled on cereal, yogurt, or salad. I put a tablespoonful into some Greek yogurt the other day and the combination was yum-o with a pleasantly nutty, soft crunchiness. I think they'd be good sprinkled on fruit salad, too. Hemp seeds have a LOT of protein in them, so that's nice, and it's a special form of protein that the human body can incorporate into tissues particularly easily. I expected them to be green in the bag but they're sort of an ivory-beige color. They don't have as much fiber as flax seeds, nor do they have the lignans of flax -- which many women find helpful as they surf the hormone fluctuations around menopause. You can also get them ground up into a green variant of peanut butter; hemp butter can be used the same way.

The other thing you might want to explore is hemp milk. A novel variant on soy, rice, or almond milk, hemp milk is a useful liquid to keep available for cooking and baking. Anyone who's got food allergies should give this a thumbs-up in their kitchen. Brand is important on this one, though -- of the two unsweetened hemp milks I tried recently, one was distinctly better in flavor than the other was. Manitoba Harvest unsweetened with "new improved taste" tasted like rope and was grayish. Hemp Bliss organic unsweetened was more visually appealing and tasted a LOT better.

Nutrition-wise, hemp milk is a pretty decent choice; 1 cup has 7grams of fat with 1.2 grams of Omega-3, only 1 gram carbohydrate, and 5 grams of protein. I wasn't brave enough to try this in coffee, but it would be great in chai tea, or over oatmeal, or to thin out a sauce, or in baking (but who does that anymore?)

Short version: Hemp foods are yummy and have a lot to offer. Kick up your heels and give them a try. Let me know if you find a product you really like!

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GREAT BOOKS: I Expected to Hate This Book

Master Your Metabolism: The 3 Diet Secrets to Naturally Balancing Your Hormones for a Hot and Healthy Body!
Jillian Michaels (2009)

OK, so -- you might know by now that I basically don't watch TV unless I'm on the treadmill, when I watch whatever happens to be on the Food Network and pray that it involves vegetables. While I've HEARD of the "Biggest Loser" show, I've never watched it (and don't really intend to -- I mean, who wants to be known as a "Loser"!? This is not funny!) But patients keep mentioning it, and you can't pass through a supermarket checkout line without seeing this or that Big Loser thing on magazine covers.

Anyway, Jillian Michaels is the trainer on the Biggest Loser, and she seems to have quite a following. (She certainly is inspiringly strong to look at, which is cool.) So because I like to keep current with trends I picked up her most recent book, figuring that maybe I could gather evidence about Just How Dreadful the Biggest Loser phenomenon is -- without having to actually watch it ever. What I've HEARD about the show made me sure I'd encounter the same-old same-old of feeling the burn and calorie restriction and teeth-grinding willpower to starve yourself to burn fat, which we all know does not work (and which in fact, frequently makes you sicker and fatter than when you started.) Truly, I expected to find all sorts of wrong and evil information that I could later quote and write nasty editorial comments about. (I like to keep you entertained.)

Oops. This book is actually pretty good! While there's a hefty dose of tough love around fitness, Michaels is refreshingly hip to the whole hormonal cascade that needs to be shifted to improve body composition -- thyroid, adrenals, appetite control mechanisms, insulin, estrogen/progesterone/testosterone -- and she describes it pretty well.

Not only does she address the proper way to feed and move your body, and how if you eat too little or too infrequently or too highly-processed you stress things up and thwart your goals -- but to my most enormous delight, she actually talks about the role of environmental chemicals (stuff like solvents, plasticizers, pesticides etc.) which, for many people especially those of the female persuasion, trigger hormone imbalances, damage metabolism, and break the body down in a million different and awful ways. (This in a mass-market book? I have hope!) I have no idea whether this philosophy is actually translated into the things they do on the show, though.

So -- this one is worth a look if you want an easy way to learn more about how complex and elegant your hormone system is. I particularly liked the practical tips for ways to minimize your hormone-destabilizer load. It's currently available only in hardback and Kindle editions . . . so be patient if you're a paperback fiend, but keep an eye out.

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Tofu Turkey

I know many of you are trying to eat lower on the food chain, and one way to do that is to bring more soy foods into your life. Soy is a complicated nutritional topic, but I am not afraid of tofu and I don't want you to be either (unless you're allergic to it!)

A couple of years ago, my recipe for tofu turkey got a full page spread in the holiday kick-off issue of Vegetarian Times Magazine -- what a thrill, let me tell you! (Don't tell them I stopped being a vegetarian in my forties, OK?)

Seriously, if you would be someone who'd go out and buy a frozen ToFurkey or something -- please don't! Tofu turkey is easy to make yourself and if you make it yourself, you can be sure of what goes into it. I sometimes make it even when it's NOT Thanksgiving!

Download and print this recipe.

For the record, I did NOT make this recipe up, but got it from my dear friend and colleague Valaree Hemighaus, a nurse-midwife who was a natural-foods caterer in a previous career.

Bon Appetit!

PS: In case you missed it, here's an article I wrote a while ago about the great tofu controversy.

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Be well and happy -- and stay in touch!

To your best health --

This Issue's Affirmation:   

"I easily release things and ideas which no longer suit me."

(Download and print an 8-1/2" x 11" PDF of this affirmation)
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© Copyright 2009 by Susan Fekety. All rights reserved.
202 US Route 1, Falmouth, Maine 04105 | (207) 781-4488
susan@susanfekety.com | www.susanfekety.com