June 2008

One of the Keys to Staying Thin After 30: Sleep More!


 One of the best things I ever did for myself after having my third baby, was to finally seek the advice of a trainer. Not to work with them weekly, I can’t afford that, but to give me a program so that I could at least get the best benefit for the time I did manage to put in exercising. After all, who has time when you have kids, to exercise? You might as well get the most bang for your buck, I say, vis a vis effort and effect! 

I could go on and on about how fabulous Kim Williams is, and how she transformed my body through a period of time, into one I actually feel good about, (what woman ever feels that way, right?! I certainly never did in my 20′s and 30′s, it took until my 40′s when I started to follow Kim’s advice.All of this to say, that basically, following what she has recommended I do vis a vis exercise in the last few years, has worked. It is all her. (She also works out the actors to get ready for bathing suit and negligee scenes here in NYC. Need I say more about how much I trust what she says?)

This is all the long way around so that you guys out there pay attention to something she has always emphasized: Sleep, sleep and sleep! Aside from the fact that it is massively difficult to get enough sleep usually when you have kids, particularly babies, we have always had some kind of an idea that doing more, will probably burn calories. It feels counter intuitive to imagine that resting more will actually help you burn more calories, if you have the choice between going to the gym and a nap! But look carefully at what Kim says:

“Many of my clients ask whether it is better to go to the gym or to sleep. I’m sure you will be quite surprised to hear that the answer is:  SLEEP! 

According to the Tufts University Letter, dated February, 2007, there is mounting evidence from a number of studies demonstrating that a lack of sleep equates to greater risk of disease and added pounds! According to a study following more than 68, 000 American women for a period of 16 years, those who managed to get adequate sleep (about 7-8 hours), gained less weight during middle age. 

It seems, in a study of women who got only 5 hours of sleep nightly, that they were 1/3 more likely to have weight gain than those who slept 7 hours.  Activity levels didn’t seem to play a role and weight gain by an amount as small as 10 lbs. has been shown to double a person’s risk of diabetes. 

Inadequate sleep results in higher circulating blood glucose levels due to increased glucose production by the liver.  Impaired sleep also affects your body’s ability to use the glucose it makes! April 26, 2005 —

Sleep duration of six hours or less or nine hours or more is associated with increased prevalence of diabetes mellitus (DM) and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), according to the results of a cross-sectional study published in the April 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. These findings were presented at the 2006 American Thoracic Society International Conference in San Diego and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology and demonstrate that a lack of sleep equals weight gain. 

The possible cuprits could be that a lack of sleep alters hormones involved in appetite control and metabolism (namely leptin and ghrelin).  Grehlin is produced in the GI tract and increases appetite when levels rise and leptin  levels decrease (produced in fat cells and signals the brain when you are full) in response to a lack of sleep.  Due to these hormones, as well as other factors, women who slept less in the study also ate less.

Contrary to popular belief that sleeping less means that you ‘do more’ and burn more calories (ie.  lose more weight), subjects in the study  who got only 5 hours of sleep did not lose weight!

In conclusion, you might think that more sleep will aid weight loss.  Wrong!  Research has found that subjects who have slept 9 or more have higher body weights and body fat than their 7-8 hour sleeping counterparts.

So, in conclusion, SLEEP!  Target 7-8 hours of sleep and keep your bed and waking time consistent so that getting enough sleep for good health becomes a habit.”

Now I know this is a tough one to manage with kids, but aiming for something close to this helps!

For more information, you can contact Kim at: kimwilliamsfitness@verizon.net

How to Get Your Kids to Love and Appreciate Your Efforts to Feed Them

I laughed tonight, when I heard the thank you’s from my three girls as we gathered around the dinner table, and they went: “Thanks so much Mom, for the meal tonight.” I said to them: “I am so glad you appreciate my microwave-heating-up technique; this is really pathetic.”
And they said: “We appreciate that YOU did the heating up”.

Now of course, I feel pathetic about the fact that easily, two to three nights out of the week, I give them money for pizza to get from downstairs, (one of the benefits of being in NYC), or they are responsible for foraging on their own.

I would love to envision myself as that ‘all round Mom’ who, despite working a fair amount, still manages to do all of those great motherly things. My own mother was an amazing gourmet cook, who spent large amounts of time creating amazing meals that we savored.
I shake my head in complete wonderment at those Moms who show up at afterschool pickup with the perfect snacks, and beverages, while my kid is going: “What do you have, Mom?” (Nothing, usually, who remembers? Or has time?! This is where my multi-tasking efforts fail me. Too often.)

I am so not that Mom with the tupperware containers in the playground. Nor even the Mom with at least something for their kid to snack on. Okay, sometimes I do remember, I confess. But truthfully, I am terrible with food. I hate preparing food, I hate shopping for food, and I hate figuring out what to feed my family. I am better at other things. This is not my forte, I gotta say.

I do however, love to eat. Love, love, love, to eat food. The wacky part of all of this, aside from the fact that alot of my professional life is spent talking about food, is that my kids, probably because of this, love to cook. They love to eat well. They want to eat healthily, and have gotten me to buy organic, help them to eat less junk food, less sugar, and look at ingredients.

I think this must skip a generation. Or it is reverse psychology without trying. But sometimes, our kids really do take in things we want to give them while we feel like we are failing. The joke in our house, when my husband had more time, since he does love to prepare and cook, (he is much more patient person than me), was always: “Girls can cook too!”

So there you go. Without trying, they do it. They will turn into beautiful chefs. Then their kids can be like me.

Happy eating!

“Mom, Do I Look Fat?”

Anyone out there deal with this one yet?

Just as you finally stop asking that question out loud as you realize that you want your daughters to feel great about their bodies, and you don’t want to reveal your own feelings or insecurities about your own, they pop this one out.

My ‘first time’ went kind of like this: My oldest daughter, now 14, hits about age 10, and starts to look at herself in the mirror. As I watch her putting on her pants, she mimics in the best way possible, turning one way and then the other: “Mom, do I look fat in these pants?”

I just about fell over. Partly because I have been so fastidious about never, ever, ever saying that out loud, (I stopped torturing my husband with that one years ago; it never did much for either one of us) and having three daughters, I wanted to model a positive body image/feeling, self esteem blah blah blah, yah da yah da yah da. (Not to minimize how great it is to have great self esteem now, of course.)

Okay, I just on some level knew I didn’t want my daughters to learn that old stuff.

So here I have this 10 year old kid, who is highly self conscious, highly self aware, has somewhat perfectionistic standards for herself, is not at all fat either, uttering that pet phrase of women all over. I thought for a moment she was parodying the girl/woman, ‘Do I look fat?’ thing; she does tend to have a pretty high level of irony.

Of course I was thrown and didn’t know what to say beyond the old “Of course you don’t look fat, you are perfect”, thing. Yeah, that really sunk in. I crack up now, because it is never really the issue. The reassurance we seek, the idea that a few words will assuage any anxiety or help us deal with whatever we feel is not so great about ourselves.

I certainly didn’t’ in the moment do what I suggest to other moms. Easy to be the therapist and give advice and then out of office hours, of course, do the ‘wrong’ thing.

What I realize of course, after all of this, is that she doesn’t really need an answer from me anyway. That her own anxiety, and struggle with this, is her own to navigate and I will continue to be the Mom there, “Oh, you just say that because you have to, you are my Mom” she says back when I tell her how beautiful she is.

Whenever she says those words at any given time, I try different things, from: “Please don’t insult my daughter.” or “Keep that as your inside voice”, to: “It sucks to feel that way; it is a feeling, not a fact.”


So how do we deal with the issue of body, beauty and self esteem with our daughters, when their reality is such (and our reality) that we live in a culture obsessed with the body. That the body beautiful for women is powerful, and a huge issue. No matter what angle you are coming at it from. We can’t escape the fact that our girls are having to navigate the images of beauty in any way they get it, and we can’t protect them from what they are exposed to. We can’t stick our head in the sand and pretend that this world doesn’t exist, even if we don’t want them to be obsessed with America’s Top Model

This is a big part of their body/ego/image as they grow. It is a reality. However they respond to it, is going to obviously dovetail with our own ideas, experiences and feelings based on our own experiences. We can’t change that. Best to not deny it by expecting them to realize that they are ‘Perfect and beautiful no matter what’

I am fascinated with how we struggle with this very real issue. An issue which is tucked away, at the ‘back of the closet’ of our mind. Not that it doesn’t occur to us, we just don’t seem to talk very openly about it.

I am not giving answers here, because I think the dialogue is what is key. I am also endlessly fascinated with the different issues. Moms are comfortable talking about this in the consultation room, but are embarrassed to say to a friend: “I am uncomfortable with how I don’t like my daughters’ body; I worry that she may get fat as she takes after my husband.”

So, let’s bring this topic out of the back of the closet. Please email me or make comments about any of your own experiences being a mother raising a daughter and the issue of Beauty and the Body. Theirs, yours.

Being able to process this I believe will and can be key to helping our daughters to do so. To process the very real feeling they have about their bodies. No, it isn’t easy. But it is there. They are dealing with this, even if they don’t talk about it. The feelings of competition, envy, and anxiety about their own, and their friends’ bodies. The comparisons as they are all growing. How this impacts on their developing self esteem.

Please write in your comments, or thoughts, either to this website, or directly to me at: donna@donnafish.com

I welcome your part of this dialogue


“Sorry, but We Really Are, Just Too Fat”

Today’s article in the New York Times, speaks of the dangers we are facing in terms of a national health crisis for our children, if we do not reverse, forget stabilize, the numbers of obese children.


Now you know, I am all for eating. You know, I am all for eating chocolate, cake, cookies, candy. We have always, and always will love these foods. But when are we going to finally figure out, that we simply need to eat less of it all.

When are we going to figure out, that the portions of a chocolate bar, are double what they were 20 years ago. That the portions in restaurants are double. That the big Gulp drinks, fill out the calorie equivalent of a day’s worth of eating for a kid. I am not sure what the mystery is. We really are a Fat Nation. I just got back from Berlin, and I have to tell you, I did not see one fat person. Of any age. They too, have McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, and other fast food franchises. I am a little sick of hearing the blame shifted to all these businesses.

I am not saying that I endorse eating McDonald’s every day, that is simply bad news. Who can’t figure that out? Do we really need a degree in nutrition to figure out that eating McDonald’s every day will make you put on weight? Or a movie? Give me a break. We really have lost our marbles when it comes to weight and food. We just eat too much.

So, along with decreasing our amounts of junk food intake, let’s teach our kids to in fact, not eat everything on their plate. Sure there are starving kids in other countries, but that ain’t happenning here. We are training too many kids to be Members of the Clean Plate Club. As picky, small eaters, they need to remain connected to their small appetites, not taught to eat more, because Mommy says so.

As teenagers, they may need to be taught to eat less. To cut back. To snack less. To perhaps even, feel hunger. So many kids eat out of boredom and habit, that they get habituated to larger amounts of food, signaling their brain that they are ‘done’.

So many parents are terrified that they will induce too much shame, if they use the word ‘fat’. It has become what I call, the new “F-word”. I think more parents are comfortable saying the swear word in front of their kids, than the word: ‘fat’. But I don’t care what you call it, overweight, ‘You are taking in more food than your body needs which is not healthy’. We need to be able to have a dialogue with our kids before they spend too many years eating too much and putting on too much weight, where they can learn to eat less.

There is too much at stake. Let’s take the fear out of the F-Word, and begin a dialogue.