Interview: Omega 3 and Omega 6, What You Need to Know

  • posted by Marci Anderson
  • Saturday, October 13, 2012

I was recently asked to give an interview on essential fatty acids. I was actually thrilled to talk about this because getting enough essential fatty acids (omega-3) in your diet is essential to brain health, mental health, and satiety! Through the 90's dietary fat got a very bad rap. But slowly people seem to be coming around to the idea that fats are crucial to eating well. 

In fact, did you know that inadequate dietary fat is association with increased levels of anxiety and depression! Seriously.

If you are interested in learning more, check out my interview. You can read the transcript here or listen to the audio version here.

So what's your biggest obstacle to getting more omega-3s into your diet?

Orthorexia: Can healthy eating be a disease?!

  • posted by Marci Anderson
  • Thursday, July 01, 2010

Yesterday, I received several emails with a link to this article on a condition called "Orthorexia."  Most people read the article and wondered if it was serious, wondered if it wasn't some sort of exaggeration or joke.  

And while I admit, reading about it online may seem strange or even ridiculous, it is a true disorder that affects both the physical and emotional health of a lot of people.  Just read my recent client spotlight. What began as "healthy eating" and exercising for her, quickly became orthorexia, which then became a much more severe eating disorder that required residential treatment and intensive outpatient care.  

Now of course I believe in healthy eating and exercise- my life is committed to supporting it in myself and others!  BUT, the distinction between healthy living and orthorexia are two important words: unhealthy obsession.  You can read more on the Orthorexia home page, written by Dr. Steven Bratman who coined the term and wrote the book "Health Food Junkies." 

<Ironically, I just loaned my copy to a client who has suffered mental, emotional, and physical distress FOR YEARS due to an unhealthy obsession with "healthy" eating and exercise.> My clients who suffer from orthorexia share a single characteristic- the obsession diminishes rather than enhances their quality of life.  Relationships suffer, social isolation ensues, they have often feel paralyzed, depression/anxiety is worse, sleep patterns are affected, etc.  

My philosophy is that moderation with food, exercise, and in life- is the key!  And I also believe that we are meant to find enjoyment, satisfaction, and fulfillment from the food we eat.  Anything taken to an extreme is unhealthy.  If you have always been interested in "healthy" living and are curious as to whether or not you are taking a bit too far, the assessment below may be helpful to you.  This is taken from Dr. Bratman's book.

Dr. Bratman suggests that you may be orthorexic, or on your way there, if you:
o Spend more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food.
o Plan your day’s menu more than 24 hour ahead of time.
o Take more pleasure from the “virtuous” aspect of your food than from actually eating it.
o Find your quality of life decreasing as the “quality” of your food increases.
o Are increasingly rigid and self-critical about your eating.
o Base your self-esteem on eating “healthy” foods, and have a lower opinion of people who do not.
o Eat “correct” foods to the avoidance of all those that you’ve always enjoyed.
o So limit what you can eat that you can dine “correctly” only at home, spending less and less time with friends and family.
o Feel guilt or self-loathing when you eat “incorrect” foods.
o Derive a sense of self-control from eating “properly.”

Bratman suggests that if more than four of these descriptions applies to you, it may be time to take a step back and reassess your attitude toward what you eat. If they all apply, you’re in the grip of an obsession.

This seems to be a controversial topic.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Striving to live a balanced life in hectic Harvard Square,

February is American Heart Month

  • posted by Marci Anderson
  • Saturday, February 06, 2010
Most of us associate February with Valentine's Day.  And we all know what that means- chocolate.  But February isn't just for celebrating love and candy.  The American Heart Association has deemed the month of February American Heart Month.

Heart disease is the #1 killer in the United States yet it is one of the most preventable chronic diseases. The American Heart Association has a fun interactive quiz that will help you identify your risk for developing heart disease along with personalized recommendations to help you improve your heart health. 

One of the important components of a healthy heart is a healthy cholesterol profile.  The numbers below are for an ideal cholesterol profile:
*Total cholesterol <200
*LDL cholesterol (this is the bad stuff) <100
*HDL cholesterol  (this is the good stuff) > 60 

Aside from genetics, one of the only effective ways to increase your HDL or good cholesterol is through exercise.  And you can decrease your LDL or bad cholesterol quite dramatically through diet.

1.) Increase the amount of fruits and veggies you eat.
2.) Increase the amount of whole grains, beans, and legumes in your diet.
3.) Decrease the amount of animal products you consume especially high fat meats and dairy
4.) Avoid tobacco and keep alcohol intake to a single serving a day

Oats are a super-stellar food for helping to reduce unhealthy cholesterol.  It's high in soluble fiber, the gummy stuff that helps bind cholesterol circulating in your blood stream.  As a nutrition therapist in Cambridge, all of my clients are on the go and have a hard time fitting in a balanced breakfast.  Cooking up a batch of oatmeal and topping it with dried fruit and nuts it's a great way to start your day.  So, here's a simple way to add a tasty breakfast to your week that is both heart and budget friendly.

1.) Cook a batch of quick cooking oats according to package directions.  Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week but save time by cooking a bigger batch at once.
2.) If you want, use milk or orange juice to thin out your oatmeal and add a little flavor or creaminess.
3.) Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.
4.) Top with walnuts or almonds and dried fruit
5.) Enjoy

Exercise & Depression

  • posted by Marci Anderson
  • Wednesday, January 27, 2010
If you tend to feel a bit blue during the winter months, you are not alone. Rates of depression increase during the winter, including people who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). In fact, recent findings suggest that the severity of eating disorder symptoms for bulimia peak in the Fall & Winter months.

While clinically significant depressive disorders need to be treated by a competent medical professional, a little exercise can go a long way to boosting mood, reducing anxiety, and improving sleep patterns.  While you may not be as committed as these gentleman are to exercise, I thought you'd appreciate the laugh. :) How's that for a little mood booster?

Here are a few facts you might not know:

1.) As you exercise your body's feel good chemicals called endorphins are produced.  This helps to increase your energy levels which over time increases your stamina.  

2.) Exercise is a positive distraction that illicits a relaxation response in your body to help lower feelings of stress and anxiety.

3.) As you exercise, more serotonin is available to your brain.  As a result you feel happier, more relaxed, and more confident in your ability to manage your life's stressors. This may also help reduce carbohydrate cravings, a symptom of SAD.

It's tempting to want to hibernate for the winter. But a small does of exercise (30 minutes) is all you need to reap the disease-fighting and mood enhancing benefits.  And you don't necessarily need a gym either! 

Here is my Top 10 list of simple strategies to moving more.  

1. Keep it simple. The only cost is a good pair of walking shoes. Walking the neighborhood or even walking the mall is something that is affordable and easy.

2. Many schools open their gyms up to the community for walking programs so check a local school.

3. Turn up the music and dance. A friend lost 19# by doing this for 60 minutes a day with her kids.

4. Take family night to another level with a game like Wii Fit.

5. Use a pedometer and make your own records for as many steps in a single day.

6. Get outside in any season: In the summer, go for walks, hike a new trail, go for a bike ride, kayak, canoe, swim. In the fall, do your own color tour - bring your camera and walk through the beautiful colors. In the winter, ski - downhill can be expensive but if you already have the equipment night skiing is cheaper, cross-country skiing is a great work out, go ice skating, slide down a hill in a toboggan - climbing up the hill is great exercise, go snow shoeing, have a snowball fight, build a snowman. In the spring, take a walk to see all the flowers and trees budding and waking up from their winter slumber.

7. Take work breaks: 30 min at lunch, 15 min in the morning and afternoon. Other people get a smoke break, right?

8. Commercial Break Competitions: Do some routines with hand held weights (or improvised wts from filled water bottles). March, climb stairs, do jumping jacks, push ups, etc.

9. Play like your kids and with your kids. Get down on the ground with them, do somersaults, climb, run, skip, jump, play tag, toss and chase a ball. Have Fun!

10. Join a club or team.

Identify your barriers to moving more and create a game plan. Start simple and specific and let me know how it goes. And always check with your Dr. before starting an exercise program.

Your neighborhood nutritionist in Cambridge,

November is Diabetes Awarenenss Month

  • posted by Marci Anderson
  • Friday, November 06, 2009
This November, join the American Diabetes Association in a national movement to Stop Diabetes.
November is American Diabetes Month®—a time to shine a spotlight on a serious disease that leads to potentially life-threatening complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and amputation.

This year, we need to take a bolder, more audacious approach to American Diabetes Month. Consider that:
•24 million children and adults in the United States live with diabetes
•57 million Americans are at risk for type 2 diabetes
•1 out of every 3 children born today will face a future with diabetes if current trends continue
We ask you to join the American Diabetes Association in launching a national movement to Stop Diabetes – help us confront it, fight it, and most importantly, stop it.

Here's how you can become involved:
•Share. Inspire others to join the movement by sharing your personal story. Visit and join us on Facebook and Twitter to learn about all the exciting ways to be a part of the Stop Diabetes movement. Invite your family, friends, and co-workers to join this effort as well.
•Act. Whether you want to walk*, bike* or simply tell a friend, there will be many ways to help us build momentum for the Stop Diabetes movement.
•Learn. The American Diabetes Association has many resources throughout the country to help Stop Diabetes. If you, or a loved one, already have diabetes* or are at risk* for developing it, we can provide medical, lifestyle and motivational information to prevent this disease from taking control of your life and the lives of those around you.
•Give. Sign up with your local American Diabetes Association office to help raise money for diabetes research, federal and state advocacy and public education.

This month I'll be providing a few tips that you can use if you have diabetes or know someone who does.  Stay tuned!