Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Convergence of Opposites!

posted originally on

In this installment of Face Off: Dr. Abby Vs. “Dr. South Beach” (Dr. Agaston) we discuss my philosophy of weight management. Initially I thought my “health at every size, naturally” philosophy was diametrically opposed to Dr. Agaston's views. However, as can be seen from the following interview, we are very much in agreement!

Dr. Abby: My next book, Dr. Abby’s Diet Revolution!, advocates fitness rather than weight loss. This means responding to bodily signals of hunger and satiety, eating nutrient dense foods, and incorporating moderate physical activity. I talk a lot about psychological coping strategies, and offer acceptance for “imperfect” bodies by celebrating function over appearance. I abandon BMI, and look towards measures of blood pressure, HDL, triglycerides, and blood sugar (to determine overall health). What do you think of this approach?

Dr. Agatston: We’re in complete agreement! I agree that’s what we have to move towards… I think you’re right on! …Science is coming to agreement on these issues, but there is a delay in getting the word out. I think communities and workplaces have to be built around this approach, so it’s easy. From the beginning of the first South Beach Diet book, we realized the people we called “foodies,” the people who can shop all day, spend time at the gym, and enjoy cooking do well. But we have to affect everybody else also, and there’s only a percentage of people who are going to take that time and effort.

As a national health problem, we really have to change communities and schools to make it easier, and it is getting easier and easier, with places like Whole Foods. Not that I agree with everything they do, but they are advertising whole grain foods they didn’t used to advertise. The word is getting out there, and it’s easier for schools to find healthy foods; not like when we started, it was very difficult.

Dr. Abby: We need to increase the demand for healthy foods so the price comes down. A big concern of mine is the price break, and there is a class difference. I know I’m getting away from the question… We can advocate nutritious foods, but if it’s beyond the reach of a lot of people, we need to work toward awareness and availability.

Dr. Agatston: I agree. With the demand, the price does come down.

Dr. Abby: That’s my hope. So if we’re both demanding it, maybe we will make a difference!

Commentary: It was very comforting to hear Dr. Agatston agree that we must redefine health to advocate fitness, rather than weight loss, and emphasize hunger and satiety, nutrient dense foods, moderate physical activity, and healthy coping skills. When he suggested that science supports using measures of blood pressure, HDL, triglycerides, and blood sugar to determine overall health instead of BMI, I practically did a happy dance! Dr. Agatston, you made my day!


Dr. Abby Aronowitz is a psychologist, speaker and coach, who completed work at Columbia University. She holds two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. Previously a consultant to Weight Watchers International, Dr. Abby has been featured on WebMD.com and AOL Diet and Fitness. She is a member of the American Psychological Association and Mensa, and President of DAA, Inc.


Michael Pollan’s Favorite Food Rules

October 7, 2009, 12:04 pm

Michael Pollan’s Favorite Food Rules
By Tara Parker-Pope

In March, the best-selling author Michael Pollan asked readers of the Well blog for rules people have about eating; folklore, wisdom and common sense. In this article he posted his favorites, and asked for more. Here’s mine:

253. October 8, 2009 12:58 am
- Eat when hungry, stop when full, as much as possible
- Eat mostly natural foods.
- Cope effectively, rather than turning to food for comfort.
- Get some exercise.

Incorporate delectable “healthy junk foods” into meals, so calories are accounted for, and not added in addition to meals. For instance, enjoy a whole grain toaster waffle with a scoop of natural ice cream for breakfast; less than 300 calories of protein, fiber, calcium, some sugar to kill the appetite and fat to keep it away.

Accept the body that results from living a relatively healthy lifestyle, without putting it down or discussing it with others.

Abby Aronowitz, Ph.D., Author of “Your Final Diet”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Obesity Crisis? Dr. Abby Says We're Actually Living Longer

Article originally posted on diettogo.com

Can you believe the CDC recently reported that the life expectancy in the U.S. is up?

So much for an obesity crisis! What about data suggesting that we will be the first generation to outlive our kids? Or facts proclaiming that childhood diabetes is approaching epidemic proportions?

It’s all B.S. according to the CDC, which is actually based on research -- instead of hysteria and discrimination against people of size.

U.S. life expectancy has risen to a new high: 80.4 years for females and 75.3 years for males!

Fewer deaths were reported from almost all leading causes of death, and for every race and ethnicity. This report was based on approximately 90% of the death certificates collected in 2007, and compared to 2006 data.

We are now living an average of 0.2 years longer than the previous year... and way longer than former generations.

Here’s the piece de resistance: Deaths from diabetes fell about 4%, while death from heart disease dropped 5%. Weren’t these levels approaching epidemic proportions, given mass consumption of nutritionally void, sugar laden, hydrogenated fat-loaded foods?

So, who’s hyping an obesity crisis... and why?

Selling weight loss products that don’t work, and creating a need for more gimmicks is big business. Many people are naturally turned off by fat, so it offers a convenient, acceptable outlet for discrimination. Blaming rising health costs on them offers justification for marginalizing people of size, when research shows that proper nourishment, exercise, and healthy coping skills produce healthier people, regardless of size.

Shall we take torches to those who are lazing about in front of a screen, and offer a surcharge for insurance, regardless of their weight? What about those who don’t eat fruits and veggies, or drive without seat belts, or drink and smoke -- are they a bigger collective problem?

Perhaps we are amidst an obesity blessing. Maybe weight gain has been misinterpreted as bad, and actually signals that people are getting more nourishment and health care than in the past. Very obese people are surely getting heavier, as they are biologically programmed to store fat. Might this ensure survival of the species in case of food shortages? Perhaps we should be thanking them instead of admonishing them, evolutionarily speaking.

In truth, we must be accepting of others and ourselves, live without judgment, and do our personal best most of the time.

Diversity is a beautiful thing. And focusing on the process of living a relatively healthy lifestyle -- rather than an outcome of weight loss -- can help us to make peace with food and body image issues.

For a free copy of Dr. Abby's e-book Your Final Diet click here.

Dr. Abby graduated from Columbia University, and holds 2 masters degrees and a Ph.D. She is a member of the American Psychological Association and Mensa. As a psychologist in private practice for 16 years she helped people with a wide variety of concerns, and has spoken on many topics related to weight loss, mental health, parenting and relationships. Dr. Abby is also president of DAA, Inc.

For information regarding coaching, speaking, or therapeutic products, please visit her website at www.DearDrAbby.com.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Celebrity Eating Disorders: How Media Feeding Frenzy Affects Us

Article posted originally on diettogo.com

Thin celebrities. They look soooo good, but are so sick. We not only admire and critique them, but often seek to emulate their thin appearance.

How many of us have ever said, “OMG – did you see how much weight she gained?” Women are judged harsher than men on screen and in real life, and by comparison, the great majority of us come up short… and fat.

Never mind the team of decorators who correct celebrity flaws through computer imaging, air-brushing, flashy clothes, knockout makeup, and other seductive manipulations. We want to be thinner, like them. We want to bathe in the rewards, real and imagined, of looking and feeling thin.

You say you’re not affected by celebrity weight? Conscious or not, I believe most of us are influenced by media bombardment of the unrealistically thin ideal. Let’s face it ladies, if we lived in a cave, would we really endure serial dieting and high heels?

Paula Abdul (right), Victoria Beckham, Jane Fonda and Michael Jackson. Elton John, Alanis Morisette, Mary-Kate Olsen and Joan Rivers.

This handful of self-proclaimed eating disorder sufferers can join Ally Sheedy, Calista Flockhart, Meredith Viera, Kate Winslet, Ashlee Simpson, and scores of other famous people who have publicly admitted struggling with food, weight and body image disorders, according to the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center.

Although anorexia and bulimia are extreme forms of disordered eating, I would also lump yo-yo dieters into same dysfunctional dump. Tabloids scream about celebrities being too fat or too thin, which perpetuates the problem and feeds the frenzy.

The death of Michael Jackson ignited speculation that an eating disorder contributed to his death. Since then, some interesting facts have come to light. Phentermine was discovered during a raid of Mr. Jackson’s doctor’s premises. Phentermine is half of the infamous phen-fen weight loss plan, which was removed from the market due to heart-valve abnormalities. 

Michael Jackson has previously disclosed bouts of bulimia, and I wondered if his doctor had been complicit in feeding his eating disorder. In a Larry King interview, Mr. Jackson’s manager said the doctor would be traveling to England, to make sure Michael ate properly and received enough fluids, during strenuous routines.

It was comforting to hear of medical monitoring, but questions abound regarding this doctor’s ethics and judgment, especially regarding improper use of sleep anesthetic. Mr. Jackson’s painfully thin frame suggests an ongoing struggle to maintain a healthy weight.

My concern was that intense exercise, not properly managed with fluids and electrolytes, could easily cause heart problems – the plausible cause of death. This is often what kills eating disorder victims, along with emaciation caused by malnutrition.

Too many celebrities and other victims look great – lying in their coffins, as the world and loved ones mourn their death.

Check this link for more information about celebrities and eating disorders:

Dr. Abby graduated from Columbia University, and holds 2 masters degrees and a Ph.D. She is a member of the American Psychological Association and Mensa. As a psychologist in private practice for 16 years she helped people with a wide variety of concerns, and has spoken on many topics related to weight loss, mental health, parenting and relationships. Dr. Abby is also president of DAA, Inc.

For information regarding coaching, speaking, or therapeutic products, please visit her website at www.DearDrAbby.com.