Is your scale the boss of you? Really, are you allowing this unforgiving, inanimate demon to constantly determine your moods? I ask this of many clients almost daily, and believe it or not, I get a defensive nod, and a “yes, of course!” Why people? Jokes aside, I do understand why, since I too have known to be a slave to a scale. Oh yes, and shamefully, I too allow that scaly, dumb thing determine my self worth. But I am done… I am ready to give you all a break. I am offering a plea bargain here – trade the scale in!! Open your mind, soul and mood-swings to more up-to-date, smarter devices, such as yourself,  mirrors, and clothes. Hey, I am not turning in my food police badge here, and neither is this a journal entry from my deepest, darkest soul search. This here is my curtsey to ol’ faithful science and Ilanalogic (an emerging scientifically evidenced phenomenon). Are you ready for the mind boggle?


To be fair, before I totally dis the scaly dumby, I will offer some credit, where credit is due. It is good for one thing, and that one thing is the determinant of scientific concept called gravity. Gravity, yes, the force that pulls objects towards earth.  In other words, if you were to weigh yourself on the moon which has no gravitational forces, you will weigh approximately only 20% of your current earthly weight. Moving to the moon seems to be a good weight loss option then, right?  Wrong! You will take yourself with you. If you have diabetes, you will still have diabetes. If you have high cholesterol, you will still have high cholesterol, Your body fat, will be your body fat. Ahhhh, but your weight will be less…mmm… would you still want to live on the moon with the same body fat?  (Darn, I guess I am not moving to the moon after all). So does that put the scale in its place yet? Do you now realize that when you lose 10 lbs in a week, or gain 3 lbs in a day, what you are losing or gaining is not fat, but simple a gravitational pull to the earth? It is in my nature to further define this gravitational pull to the earth, so that we can finally send all our scales to the moon (rather than ourselves).


Definition of weight can be “Ilanalogically” broken down into 3 distinct matters: Undigested matter, body water, and muscle mass. I dare you to study these each individually to get on my bandwagon. Firstly UNDIGESTED MATTER, known to the layman as poop  (I am not shy, dietitians speak of this daily, it is what we do.)  Undigested matter is created from the food we eat, so if we eat less on a day here and there, we will weigh less on a day here and there, since less poop will be created. Yes, all those unanswered questions can be finally put to rest, you know the ones: “is it possible to lose 2 or 3 lbs  by tomorrow?” Sure it is, just eat less today than you usually do, and matter of factly, you will lose a gravitational pull of poop to the earth. It may even be 2 to 3 pounds less if you eat that much less. Your metabolism has not risen suddenly, your body composition is mmm status quo, and your health has not magically improved over night.

 I hear you… many of you are itching to point out that I do not typically eat that much to begin with, so cutting back by 2 or  3 lbs of digestive matter in one day is not quite possible, huh? Well this brings me to my second component, and that is WATER. Did you know that 60 – 70% of your whole being is water? When you eat, the absorptive matter is attached to water which is transferred in the body. Do not forget, everything has weight, and every particle of weight is a component of gravity, and our scales measure gravity, in this case water.  Did you know the word carbohydrate means “glycogen” (storage of carbs) plus “hydrate” (the 3 – 4 molecules of water attached to the carbs). Quite mind boggling, huh?  So eat less carbs, and the initial response by your body is weight loss, because there is an absence of water that would normally be in those carbs.  Now eat hardly any food, in other words a low calorie diet, or a diet that does not equate in calories to your needed calories to survive (your basal metabolic rate), and what do you think will happen? Your body will begin to use up the glycogen stores to the point of depletion, and once again you will lose weight !! Let me be clear – this is not fat loss! You have not magically raised your metabolism, you have not drastically improved your health, and your body fat is once again, status quo.


This brings me to the third component of weight, MUSCLE. Unfortunately, the greatest component of weight loss, particularly on too-low calorie diets, is muscle mass.  Too low calories causes deprivation of nutrients, carbs, protein and also vitamins and minerals necessary for an effective metabolism. I say unfortunate, because loss of muscle also means loss of your most metabolic active tissue. Loss of metabolic active tissue translates into training the body to store more fat.  You may very well ask why do you not burn more fat in a state of deprivation. Although this seems like the a logical step, fat cannot burn unless there are carbs present. The by-product of carbohydrate metabolism is the oxygen in which fat burns.  Depriving yourself of the right amount of carbs will shift the body into finding the most available energy source for survival, and that is muscle.  Once again, you are losing something that has a gravitational pull to the earth – weight !!  And again, you have not lost any fat, you have not improved either your metabolism or your health… in actual fact, you have trained your body to store fat, and are going further and further away from the original goal of health and fat loss.  Literally, it would be to a point of no return, since muscle mass, although the easiest tissue to lose, is the most difficult tissue to rebuild.


So now back to the original question of what is the value of the scale (unless you have already thrown it away, in which case, good for you!!) No longer are you going to scream with joy and accomplishment when your weight goes down in one day (sorry I took that illusion away), but neither are you going to tantrum in defeat, failure  and wonder “why why why!!

I hope I have somewhat eliminated the awe of a 2 – 4 lb weight shift from day to day.  Ilanasology should have explained the normalcy of this, and it has nothing to do with fat loss.  If you are still not convinced that the 4 lbs you gained overnight is not fat, then get out your calculator:  One pound of fat is 3500 calories. This means that to gain 4 lbs, you would have to eat 14 000 calories, and although some of you may snicker, I doubt that you ate that for dinner.  Similarly, if you are convinced that the 4lbs you lost within a day or two is because you have been a perfect angel on your eating plan, then again, get out your calculator.  Realistically it is viable to lose 1 – 2 lbs a week but a 10 lb fat loss in one week would equate to a 35 000 calorie reduction over the week. Not really rational, is it?

 So now that the technical stuff  has bogged you down, there is one simple take home focus, and that is that you can realistically lose 1 – 2 lbs of fat a week. With that said, if you are not willing to give up your dysfunctional relationship with the scale, at least consider “dating” the scale. And by that I mean, set up a date or two with the scale, play hard to get, keep your distance, and do not let that dumby become a mood swinger. Keep the scale at bay, and date night should be at max once a week. Well, maybe not date night, since the dumby is more effective in the morning. Weigh in at the same time and under same conditions on each date, meaning no clothes.  Always put yourself first! No really – YOU are your best critic for your success and continuous motivation. Look in the mirror,  pinch your firmer muscles for a reality check. Do you feel good. Are you feeling fit and healthy.  Get in touch with your feelings, since they are the real proof in the pudding (and no, not mmmm pudding). Are your rings slipping, is your skin feeling tighter, are your muscles shapely, and do your clothes feel loser.  You know when you are eating well, sleeping optimally, de-stressing. So never let your scale tell you any differently!






The month of February triggers ideas of Valentine’s Day, love, and hearts. So in honor of your heart, feed your body heart healthy foods for a stronger and longer life.

Heart healthy diets include a large variety of fruits and vegetables, extra fiber, omega-3 fats, low amounts of saturated and trans fat, and limited cholesterol.

Read up for tips, facts, and fun!


Sweetness without the Guilt!

  Not all chocolate bars are created equal. 

To get the most benefit, consider those with 65% or more cocoa.

Indulgent and Delicious…

Dark chocolate has many surprising health benefits:

©       May lower overall blood pressure

©       Can lower cholesterol

©       Contains serotonin which boosts mood

©       High in antioxidants

©       Flavanols found in chocolate may have other cardiovascular benefits such as improving circulation

©       The scent of chocolate can induce relaxation

In general, research does not appear to indicate that more is better- so enjoy chocolate in moderation.

Approximately 3g/day of dark chocolate has shown to have potential health benefits. Now you can celebrate Valentine’s Day guilt-free with a few pieces of decadent dark chocolate. 


Recipe of the Month: Vanilla or Chocolate Coconut Mousse

 Want some chocolate with your fruit?

Serves 4

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder (optional for chocolate mousse)
  • ½ spoon pure vanilla extract
  • Sweetener to taste


  1. Place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Remove from refrigerator in the morning, open can, and scrape the top solid layer into a mixing bowl. Do not place the thin liquid at the bottom of the can into the mixing bowl- instead consider using it for a smoothie or other recipe.
  3. Whip the coconut cream (*you can purchase premade coconut cream in many store and skip the above steps) with an electric mixer until it appears to have the consistency of of whipped cream.
  4. Gently mix cocoa powder, vanilla extract, sweetener, or anything else you might enjoy, such as cinnamon, into the bowl until uniform during the mixing process. Do not over mix.
  5. Pour over your favorite berries. For the data below, consider using 2 cups raw, halved strawberries:

Per serving:  

Calories 128
Protein 2g
Total Fat 13g
Carbs 69g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 8mg
Fiber 1g


Interesting Tidbit:

February is Florida Strawberry Month.    Enjoy some of those strawberries in this recipe!


 February is American Heart Awareness Month and includes the National Go Red for Women Day.

 The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes/week of moderate exercise or at least 75 minutes/week of vigorous exercise.

They suggest 30 minutes a day, consecutively or split into smaller sessions, 5 days a week.

How will you fit in 30 minutes of exercise into your day?


If you walked or exercised just 30 minutes – 1 hour a day  you would:

©       Improve knee arthritis pain and ability to move

©       Reduce progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

©       Reduce the ris of and/or Manage diabetes

©       Reduce the number of hip fractures among post-menopausal women

©       Decrease anxiety

©       Reduce depression

©       Lower overall risk of premature death

©       Fight fatigue

In summary:  Improves overall quality of life !!

SO – Here is a great youtube link to get you inspired:


Another Heart Healthy  Delicious Recipe

Salmon with Cilantro Pesto

•4 Salmon Filets, rinsed and patted dry
•¼ cup sliced almonds
•1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
•3 tablespoons fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
•2 tablespoons sliced almonds
•2 tablespoons shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
•1 teaspoon salt-free garlic-herb seasoning blend
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or lightly spray with cooking spray.
In a food processor or blender, process the pesto ingredients for 15 to 20 seconds, or until slightly chunky. Place the fillets about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Spread the pesto evenly over the top of the fillets. Sprinkle almonds on top.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
Nutritional Content Per Serving:
206 Calories, 9.5 gm Fat, 28 gm Protein, 66 mg Cholesterol, 129 mg Sodium

Body Temperature: a Metabolic Thermostat

Ilana Katz MS, RD, CSSD


It seems the climate in most areas is a topic of conversation these days. It’s not that we are making small talk with weather conditions, but the unusual climates are setting in. Freezing way before winter starts, or a few hot days emerging in the midst of a cold spell, and vice versa for Summer. So how does a cyclist (or endurance athlete) know how to dress, or even eat accordingly, when they could experience four seasons in a matter of hours. In this article I intend to address how temperature changes ones metabolism, and if you as an athlete can use varying nutrition to take the most advantage of what Mother Nature has to offer.

As body temperature increases, so does metabolism. Thus temperature and metabolism become directly related and metabolism itself is directly affected  by all daily living components, that is eating, sleeping, exercise and physical exertion.

Body Temperature and Metabolism

Working muscles cause the internal body temperature to increase. The physiology of blood transporting oxygen as needed  and removing the byproduct requires the metabolism of calories, or as we know it, food energy. This further translates into the more activity, the higher the body temperature, and the ultimate requirement an increase in the metabolism of more calories. So the question becomes what happens in cold weather. A cold body temperature decreases the chance of burning more calories. So one would think that  if you have not dressed warmly enough for a long ride in winter, you may jeopardize your chances of burning calories. Actually, the opposite is true, and here is a good time to introduce the difference between internal and external body temperature. Internal body temperature will rise when a body is active, this is a given. When externally the temperature is extremely cold, physiology takes over to ensure the internal temperature is safe and warm, hence the effect of shivering. Simply put, movement of bones and muscles become involuntary to generate heat. So how does food choices on a long ride effect this, actually very little. The important thing is the cyclist is giving the body enough food to provide the fuel the metabolism is demanding.

Types of Metabolism and Body Temperature

Most of the calories burned on a daily basis actually takes place during resting periods, also known as basal metabolism. Basal metabolism includes all of the body’s natural functions required to sustain life. The basal metabolism varies from individual to individual, typically affected by health conditions, body composition and body temperatures.

Through your cycling efforts, more calories become metabolized due to the increase in the body’s temperature through working muscle tissue. Calories required for this and other physical activity account for some of the calories needed for basal metabolism, but not as many as most people think. In other words, if you catch yourself allowing a feast fit for a king because you rode a couple of hours, you may be missing the point, especially if you are trying to get leaner. For an optimal burn in fat, not every calorie needs to be replenished post work out, and furthermore, the body has a lot more potential to store calories (stored calories = fat) as it becomes more of an efficient machine. Aerobic endurance (which cycling certainly is) has the potential to teach your body to become efficient, which also means, you would require less fuel to get through the same ride today, as you did a year ago.

The amount of calories metabolized through exercise and muscle exertion does however increases the body’s basal metabolism over time, and certainly temporarily after a long ride. But remember basal metabolism, is different to the fuel needed for during a long ride.

There are many calorie calculators (apps and online) that can give you an average caloric burn per hour. But be warned, these calculators are all basing the calculations on the middle of a bell shaped curve (average) of what you enter in to them.  For example the amount of caloric burn for an average size male (170 lbs)  riding at about 16 – 18 mph is about 800 calories. My point is, there is no way the calculator can know where this individuals basal metabolic rate lies, what his muscle mass versus fat mass is, if he has a history of long consistent endurance training or is a newbie – all these factors, and more, affect this calculation.

There is a silver lining even as we become metabolically efficient, and that is that merely just eating and digesting food,  the body metabolizes some extra. This natural process, often referred to as the thermic effect, increases through the process of eating healthy foods and remaining active. Dehydration and excessively decreasing body temperature reduces the body’s ability to digest food properly.

Muscle Demands

Both muscle strengthening (resistance exercises) and aerobic or cardiovascular activities such as cycling, increase body temperature and break down muscle tissue. In order for muscles to grow and repair broken down fibers, the muscle tissue requires calorie metabolism in order to carry out the functions. This is a continual process which has further demands on the metabolism to work hard consistently, even at rest. In other words, during sleep, muscle groups continue to repair. This is a great physiological explanation of why breaking down and repairing muscle with the correct recovery nutrition increases ones metabolism. In other words, that same 170 lb male in the example above, may actually burn 1000 calories versus 800 per hour cycling, if he has more lean muscle and less fat.

In Summary

The human body regulates internal temperature in order to maintain a steady rate in which normal functions occur. As mentioned above, during the winter or in a very cold room, a human will normally shiver. This natural process represents the body fighting in order to keep muscles warm and the body temperature stable. The direct opposite of this situation, when external temperatures become extremely hot or even warm, the body sweats in order to keep the body cool. This process does not increase metabolism and neither does shivering, simply because neither of the two raise or lower body temperature, but rather fight to maintain a stable rate. Therefore it is irrelevant as to what the temperature of the food you are eating on the bike, in hot or cold extremes, as long as the food is fuel to compensate the metabolic burn rate.

How to Keep a Food Journal

The number one complaint about keeping a food journal is that it is too much work for your busy schedule or that it makes you think more about food. Both of these are probably true. In the beginning, however, driving a car was a lot of effort. Eventually it became second nature and now you can probably drive while eating. By using either of these tools you can also update your food journal while in your car. (not while driving of course )

Keeping a food journal will help you improve your eating habits. No doubt about it. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. It is an old management adage that is just as meaningful to your weight control. Unless you measure something you don’t know if it is getting better or worse. If we are going to be able to help you with your weight management, we need to be able to see what you are eating and when you are eating it. SO.. we are going to do this thing, let’s make it as easy and fun as possible.

There are various apps on-line that regulate your fitness and food journal. They typically let you track what you eat with a few clicks – almost no data entry and record your workouts in minutes. Some examples are FitBit, MyNetDiary, Livestrong, MyFitnessPal, etc.

TweetWhatYouEat  is another on-line food journal – stripped down to the bare necessities.  If you use Twitter, this is incredibly easy to use.  You sign up with the service and then, using your Twitter account, send a direct message every time  you eat something.   Like this:

DM TWYE 2 eggs, spinach, olive oil

That’s it.  When you go to your TWYE diary, you will see a list of everything you entered.  The calorie counts are “crowdsourced”,  meaning that other users have given “2 eggs” a calorie count and TWYE uses that in your calculation.  If you don’t like the calorie count they used you can edit it.   TweetWhatYouEat gives you a total for the day.

You can use either of these services to send  food logs to your nutrition clinicians, or merely just for self accountability.

If you use Twitter, feel free to follow me on Twitter for our latest tips @ilanakatz.  I try to post neat stuff to share with  Twitter friends frequently.  Or of course Facebook too “Optimal Nutrition for Life – by Ilana”.

Culinary herbs and spices : Can they interact with your medicine?

Ilana Katz MS, RD, CSSD


One of the major responsibilities a dietitian/nutritionist may have is to analyze an individual’s intake and ensure most appropriate and healthy solutions to goals and needs.

For people who regularly take medications, even over the counter products, this can become quite challenging.  So then, can some ingredients in various dishes have a pharmalogical interaction?

Specific examples best defines what a pharmalogical interaction is:  Combining a statin drug (most likely prescribed to lower cholesterol) and  a daily dose of grapefruit juice may likely cause too much of the statin to stay in the metabolic system, increasing the risk of liver or kidney failure.  Another example is that certain nutrients in grapefruit juice (and some other juices too) may decrease the effectiveness of some medications, the most well-known in this category is for allergy symptoms.

What then should we be concerned of in multiple ingredient recipes? A tablespoon of this, a teaspoon of that, a dash, a dollop or a pinch…

As a supplement for example, Ginger is thought to remedy nausea or upset stomach and  garlic is reported to reduce risk of heart disease and cancer. But did you know that both ginger and garlic may also slow blood clotting when interacted with an anticoagulant drug such as warfarin or Coumadin. The practioner prescribing the anticoagulant should warn the patient against eating garlic or ginger, and this should also be reinforced by the pharmacist dispensing the anticoagulant drug. But what about these ingredients used in small quantities in many recipes?

It is likely a different story when one compares cooking and baking to supplementation. The amounts in a recipe are typically significantly smaller compared to their use as a supplement. Interactions may lurk in the background but would typically not be clinically significant. Unfortunately there is very little published research on the potential for drug interactions with herbs and spices that are typically used for culinary purposes versus supplements. The research that is available usually focuses on specific compounds in the herb or spice and will usually use concentrated preparations which logistically do not match the culinary amounts.  An example to demonstrate this is an alkaloid called piperine, found in black pepper: piperine has been proven to increase the bioavailability of several drugs yet no interactions have been found with the use of pepper as an ingredient in a recipe. Other examples where research has discovered a drug interaction, yet no significant reaction as a culinary spice are anise, cayenne pepper, fennel, and several curry spices. It thus seems that research in food and medication reactions is complicated with many variables besides the amount used that need consideration.

The variety of the herb/spice, the potency, how much may be taken in throughout a day and over a time period, even specific genetics of the individual in question may determine the metabolic effects of their medications and thus the potential interaction between the herb or spice and their medications.

Mixing a sprinkle of all spice or a teaspoon of cinnamon into a recipe for a dozen muffins or blending chopped garlic into lasagna is not usually a concern for a drug interaction.

Unfortunately there is very little published research on the potential for drug interactions with herbs and spices that are typically used for culinary purposes versus supplements.

However, before taking any supplements, speaking to a physician, pharmacologist or dietitian about potential interactions is recommended.

“It may be a case of the dose makes the poison”  (Paracelsus – a 16th century physician)