Kick Start, part 2


One of the toughest parts of losing weight is holding onto the loss. It is oh, so easy to slip back into your normal eating pattern and see the pounds creep back on. So this post is dedicated to holding the line on weight gain, in other words, maintaining your loss.

It is frequently said that the 80/20 rule applies to most diets: adhere to the program 80% of the time and allow yourself to go wild 20% of the time. This diet is so specific that I would probably apply a 90/10 rule to book

But I have found it amazingly easy to maintain this eating plan with some diligence. The app for The Fast Metabolism Diet is very helpful. It’ll set you back $2.99 but well worth the cost when you are at the grocery trying to remember what to eat on Phase 1,2 or 3, or at a restaurant where temptation lies everywhere. You can utilize it for menu planning, food lists, water imbibing reminders and more.

The author, Haylie Pomroy offers several suggestions for how to maintain your loss after reaching your goal without blowing the whole enterprise.

  • You can repeat the 28 day diet once a quarter.
  • You can repeat the diet once or twice a year as needed.
  • You can utilize the diet on the first week of every month.
  • You can do Phase 1 on Monday, Phase 2 on Tuesday and Phase 3 the rest of the week. The idea is to keep your metabolism fired up for life!
  • Continue to drink water, ½ your weight in ounces per day.
  • Continue to eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. Keep appropriate snacks in baggies so you can throw them into your handbag or car.
  • Eat seasonal food.
  • Always eat within 30 minutes of waking to stoke your furnace.
  • Eat fruit before a workout and protein after.
  • Avoid fake food and read labels. “Sugar free” usually means it contains corn syrup or sugar substitute other than Stevia, the only one recommended.
  • Keep avoiding caffeine, gluten, corn, soy, sugar, alcohol and processed food. I know, alcohol is the tough one!
  • Do enjoy holidays but use the plan as a guideline for eating. Thanksgiving can still include turkey, green vegetable, sweet potato and pumpkin pie if you do it right.
  • Choose organic wine or top-shelf (clear) liquors and drink 8 oz. water for every drink.
  • Balance alcohol with animal protein.
  • Continue to exercise at least 3 times a week, rotating fat burning (cardio), muscle building (weight training) and relaxing/healing (yoga, meditation or massage). The more muscle you build, the more fat you will burn, that’s why men lose weight easier than we do. So pump up, even if it’s light food

I admit, I have been charting my own course for meals. But now that I have the hang of it, I plan to try some of the recipes Pomroy includes in her book.

Eating out is, admittedly, a mine field so prepare yourself mentally before you go. Scope the menu on line and make your choices ahead of time to fit the phase you are in.  In an effort to stay on the straight and narrow, I have even surreptitiously snuck a piece of sprouted bread into a restaurant and once a tiny container of quinoa that I slipped onto my plate with my protein. I have no shame!

When everyone is having drinks, have a seltzer with fresh lime along side that glass of cabernet. Finish dinner with a cup of green tea or decaf coffee to make sure you feel satiated while others are eating dessert (but do allow yourself one taste!)

Be strategic before a big party or event. Eat protein every two hours all day and include veggies as on Phase 2. This helps to stabilize your blood sugar so the potential onslaught of alcohol and sugars won’t sabotage you. It will also assure that you won’t arrive hungry and binge as well as induce fat burning to offset your intake. This is not punishment. You should enjoy yourself.

Finally, I have stopped thinking of The Fast Metabolism Diet as a “diet” and adopted the principles as an eating plan I can live with. My reward is in the mirror as well as on the scale.

If you have been fighting your dwindling metabolism like I have, give it a try and if you do, share your experience. I would love to know if this is the key to your weight loss success.

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Kick Start Your Metabolism

kick startIt’s over.

The Christmas cookies, the candy and cake, the rich meals, the freely flowing booze, the confetti, the sheer indulgence of the holidays. Now it’s January, our annual diet month when the tighter the jeans, the stronger our motivation. Gym membership soars and we are all looking for the magic bullet, the antidote to holiday excess.Diet

I got a jump on the holiday weight gain syndrome in early December when the director of my gym, a blog follower, tipped me off about a new diet, perfect for women over 50: The Fast Metabolism Diet. Created by Haylie Pomroy, a registered wellness consultant, it is a system of meal placement and timing that creates a workout for the metabolism. Rather than waiting til after the holidays, I started right away and am glad it did.

No big surprise, but our metabolism slows significantly as we age, 5% each decade after 30, and more rapidly after 50.  At the same time, we are losing muscle mass by 10% per decade. It’s a double whammy that causes us to stop burning and start storing fat as we age. Like we need another problem! So increasing the metabolism is the most effective method to control weight gain and cause weight loss. This diet is focused totally on effecting this change through eating, (as opposed to most diets which are all about NOT eating) with exercise on the back burner. Scale

“This is not a book for first time dieters. This is a book for last time dieters.” Or so says Haylie, and she has hit on something that worked for me like nothing else has: a steady loss of ½ lb. per day when I adhered religiously to the eating plan.

Here’s how it works: You eat a systemic rotation of targeted food on specific days at strategic times. You eat in 3 different ways each week, changing every two days, fueling the metabolism. You repeat the cycle or phases, each week for four weeks. The fact is, starvation and stress =slower metabolism. Calories don’t count here—burn rate does. So we eat to increase the burn, with different food lists for each phase. You may even eat more than usual on this diet, but since the eating is strategic, you still lose weight.

This is not a diet for the casual. I had to really pay attention to the time I ate and the food lists specific to each phase. All fruits are not created equal on this diet, nor all proteins or grains. This is for a person with self control and focus.

The Specifics

Three meals and two snacks daily at approximate 3 hour intervals.

Phase 1- Monday and Tuesday

Breakfast: High glycemic fruit, grain, and low fat protein

Snacks: Fruit

Lunch: Grain, protein, vegetable and fruit

Dinner: Grain, vegetable, protein

Note: Grain consists of sprouted wheat or spelt bread, oatmeal, quinoa, brown or wild rice, brown rice pasta. Nothing white, nothing wheat.

Exercise: Do cardio exercise one day of Phase 1.


Phase II: Wednesday and Thursday

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner: High protein and vegetables

Snacks: Protein

Note: This is the toughest phase for me. I miss my fruit and sprouted wheat bread! But hang in there, the weekend is the most liberal.

Exercise:  Do strength training one day of Phase II. Heavy weights and low reps. Major fat burning is happening.


Phase III: Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Breakfast: Grain, healthy fat, protein, low glycemic fruit and vegetable

Snacks: Protein/ fat (nuts, seeds, hummus, almond butter, avocado)and vegetable

Lunch: Same as breakfast

Dinner: Grain, protein/fat and vegetable

Note: This is the phase that doesn’t feel like a diet (except for the lack of alcohol). “Ironically, eating fat after NOT eating it for a few days makes you start burning fat like crazy.” (HP)

Exercise: One day of stress reducing activity like yoga or massage. I can handle this!


1.Do eat 5 times a day at 3 hour intervals.

  1. Eat within 30 minutes of waking.
  2. Stay on plan for 28 days.
  3. Stick to the foods allowed in your phase.
  4. Do phases in order.
  5. Drink half your body’s weight in ounces of water daily.
  6. Eat organic whenever possible.
  7. Measure hips, waist at belly button, thighs and upper arms and compare after one week.


  1. No wheat except in sprouted form.
  2. No corn, dairy, soy, refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dried fruit or fruit juice.
  3. No artificial sweetener except Stevia.
  4. No fat free food.Heart

I kept a daily food diary and weight record while on this plan and continue to follow the precepts with modifications (allowing myself a glass of wine on the weekends, for example, or a bit of cheese). I found that though I wasn’t quite as strict during holiday soirees, I kept the weight off and survived the holidays without my usual “porking up.” Once I reached my goal, I found it so easy that I continued and consequently am at my lowest weight in many years. Next week I will continue my report on The fast Metabolism Diet as we move on to  maintenance and working this plan into your life.

*For full details and food lists, I recommend acquiring the book or visit your local library for a copy.


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That Was the Year That Was

Menorah and treeI always get reflective as the year draws to a close, reminiscing about the good, the bad and the ugly as I pass another 365 days of a life that has entered it last act. There was enjoyment and productivity but also loss and pain. I may feel young in many ways but the truth is, my life is two thirds over. I want to savor each experience as it passes all too quickly. A day in the life swiftly becomes a year in the life.
2014 started off with a bang and a first time experience: a major sailing trip. We coasted through the British Virgin Islands with our friends and had a wonderful time. I took writing classes and mustered the nerve to start my blog which has brought me a great deal of gratification. Forcing myself to write again, on a weekly basis has also given me needed structure. I want to exercise my mind and polish my writing skills. Basically, I gave myself an unpaid job and it is one I approach weekly with relish, much more than I did the one that paid handsomely.
In February we vacationed in California visiting family and friends. Sadly, my ageless and adored 96 year old Mother began to fail. The next few months were focused on caregivers, dialysis, doctors and finally her decision to die with dignity rather than live without quality of life. It was a brave decision and one that was wrenching for all who loved her. Her loss was profound for me, and now with both my parents gone, I experience the solitary feeling of being an orphan. Never have I been more grateful for my husband and children. We over 50 all must experience this passage of life, if we haven’t already. It is deeply sobering to witness the end of an era and realize WE now assume the mantle of the older generation.
The summer passed with me barely noticing, being consumed with grief and mired in the settling of her estate, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Finally as Fall came, I had the great joy to see my older son, have his life take a 180, becoming engaged and landing a new job simultaneously. Now I have almost a whole year to enjoy the anticipation of an event long waited for.
As the year waned, great change appeared on the horizon, with my husband deciding to retire from the dental practice he built 44 years ago. With that came the choice to relocate and have a new start as a couple. Having lived in “her house”, then “his house”, we will now have “our house” and a quieter life in New England. I love that the year ends on a high note and with the promise of new adventures and greater travel together.

That’s in my own little bubble of life. Outside, it is dark and filled with turmoil. I can’t remember a year filled with more acts of terror, hatred and bigoted behavior. I have to ration my viewing of the nightly news as each 24 hour cycle brings more outrageous acts. It is a major effort not to be dispirited by the state of the affairs. I am increasingly less comfortable in the world.

Love peach hope
But we continue to hope for the white hats and peace to prevail. Especially at holiday time, we think of and contribute toward those less fortunate. We try to face the last third of our lives with hope and enthusiasm for what we have. And hold our loved ones very,very close.

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Double Duty

Just like I tend to do more than one thing at a time (multi -tasker or ADD??), I expect my products to do the same.

I already have my favorites, which I will share with you, but decided to take a foray to my local Sephora and see what they, with their vast experience, think are the best multi-taskers. For this expedition, I invited my friend Clare, who is fascinated by the transformative powers of skincare and cosmetics, but is that rare creature, a Sephora Virgin. I sweetened the invitation with a promotional discount card, one for each of us, for 20% off anything.I Love sephora

I observed Clare as we entered the holy grail of cosmetics and saw the visible affect it had on her. She smiled in wonder and delight, her eyes sparkled with amazement and her breath caught in anticipation. That was the last I saw of Clare for an hour as she quickly formed a bond with an experienced saleswoman and they found common skin and makeup issues. When we met up again at check out, she had a shopping basket full of bounty.

I sampled various products at the suggestion of my sales person and pumped her for recommended multi- taskers as well as what was new and hot.

Hands down, the best selling cosmetic is BB Cream. It acts as moisturizer, primer, makeup and sun screen.  Sephora carries so many, but my favorite is only available at a Kiehl’s counter or stand alone, Kiehl’s Skin Tone Correcting and Beautifying BB cream. Besides hydrating, concealing and correcting skin tone with lightweight coverage, it is loaded with Vitamin C, and packs a walloping 50 SPF. This takes the place of my sunscreen, moisturizer, Vitamin C serum and makeup, saving me both time and money. I consider it a bargain at $37.

Susie Sales Person’s fave was a treatment product, Dr. Brandt’s Pores No More Anti Aging Mattifying Lotion, $60. This delivers both anti aging and pore minimizing benefits while mattifying oily, shiny skin for a velvety finish.

No FoundationSampling is my favorite part of shopping for cosmetics and Sephora lets you roam freely with testers for all skin care and makeup brands. Next we tried Perricone’s No Bronzer Bronzer, $35, a glow getter with SPF 30 and Perricone No Foundation Foundation Serum, $55 which treats, covers and protects with Vitamin C and SPF 30. SO many lines now inject their cosmetic and skin care with SPF that plain old sunscreen is practically obsolete for the face and neck. If it’s a no makeup day for me, I am good to go with Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer with SPF 30, $21.99 or SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense, $34  a weightless, radiance boosting fluid that protects with SPF 50 while helping me look slightly better than bare. Never, ever leave the house unprotected. Sunscreen is the best anti- ager out there.

Luminizers and tinted moisturizer

Luminizers and tinted moisturizer

My old standby is Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20,  $43 which predates the BB revolution and is still a winner with sun protection and light makeup coverage in one tube. It comes in 15 shades to cover every ethnicity. I’ve used it for years.

On a previous trip to Cosmetic Paradise, I was tipped off to Givenchy Le Prisme, $47 and it quickly became indispensable. This elegant compact holds 4 luscious matte shades. I use individual shades as eye shadow, the darker ones as contour, lighter shades as blush, or swirl my brush around all four as a subtle bronzer.  It comes with its own little sable brush. Genius!

Protection, shadow, blush and bronzer

Protection, shadow, blush and bronzer

Friend Wendy turned me on to NuSkin ageLOC Gentle Cleanse and Tone. As the name makes plain, it’s a one-two cleansing punch, no need for separate toner after washing, and infused with their ageLOC technology which targets the sources of aging. I love the slight citrus scent of this foaming cleanser, available through NuSkin Reps for $45.

And lastly, when I need to get my glow on, I reach for a luminizer, used right from the bottle to highlight cheek bones, under the brows, mid forehead and the center of the chin or mixed with foundation to make my own illuminating makeup base. L’oreal’s Magic Lumi, $12.95 ,  a light infusing primer adds a pearly sheen suited to winter while Josie Maran’s Argan Illiminizer $28, gives a bronze luster, perfect with a summer tan.

More insider tips:

Susie S.P. says the best selling brands for anti- aging are Perricine, Algenist and Derm Dr.  She said Derm Dr. contains more hyaluronic acid than any other brand but it was sold out so I missed a sampling opportunity. Obviously a coveted product for thirsty skin with nary a bottle in sight. She also recommends Kate Somerville Mega C Dual Radiance Serum, $90 with Vit. C, Omega, 3,6,7,and 9 for radiance, hydration, firming and elasticity. I’ve targeted it as my next “gotta have” skin care purchase. And here’s one for your kisser, St. Laurent Kiss and Blush,  $40 a velvet finish blush that doubles as lip stain, matte but not drying. A makeup bag must for the perpetually pale and wan.


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When You’re Hot, You’re Hot!

Rare, and lucky, is the woman who cruises through perimenopause and The BIG M without a hot flash, that annoying, humiliating, sleep disturbing phenomenon. I was not one of them.still hot

I went through menopause at the age of 52 and will never forget the embarrassment of sitting in a sales meeting in a sleeveless top, feeling wet and combustible, fanning myself while my colleagues looked on with amusement. SO not funny, that feeling of heat that starts around waist level and rises til your face is flushed and you are bathed in sweat, hair stuck damply to your head and makeup running. Some women also experience heart palpitations, anxiety, irritability and even panic. (And why wouldn’t they??) Dad always said “Don’t sweat the small stuff” but this is seriously BIG stuff.

Red wine gets me every time!

Red wine gets me every time!

For most women, this side affect of menopause abates after a year or two. But some continue to experience the annoyance of hot flashes for 5 years or more. I’m now 66. A quick math computation puts me at  14 years past menopause yet, if I allow myself even one glass of red wine or some spicy salsa I wake up in the middle of the night, my hair, face and chest damp with perspiration. You’d think my few remaining hormones would be waving the white flag by now but evidently not. Smoking and stress as well as alcohol consumption and spicy food can exacerbate the sweats. At least mine are normally confined to the middle of the night. But when they started, it was round the clock. My home had a wine cellar that was temperature controlled to 55 degrees. I practically lived in

Hormone therapy was not an option for me as my Mom’s breast cancer at age 80 gave me the dreaded “family history.” Hormone treatment is supposed to be short term, to get you through the worst of the process but for some unknown reason, Mom was allowed to be on Premarin for 30 years. When she presented with cancer, they took her off it post haste and so she and I, 30 years younger, had hot flashes together. It was sort of a bonding experience.

Most doctors recommend the lowest possible dose of hormones to control the flashes and phase them out after a few years. For those who can’t, or choose not, to take hormone therapy which comes with serious risks, there are herbal remedies, most with black cohosh. Certain blood pressure medicines and anti-depressants can also be prescribed to help. I found relief with Effexor, a twofer that calmed the hot flashes AND made me a lot happier!

Over the counter options are plentiful, compounded with vitamin and herbal blends. Some of those I researched are Estroven, Availyn, and Amberen.  Estroven is loaded  with vitamins like E, B6 and 12, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Calcium and Niacin as well as phytoestrogens that mimic the effects of estrogen. Black Cohosh and soy are the major ingredients with green tea and chocolate compound also in the mix. Their “proprietary herbal blend” is date seed and magnolia bark.

Amberen makes greater claims than just helping support hormonal balance. It professes to boost low libido, and aid irritability, sleep issues and night sweats. But MSG and vitamins were the only ingredients I recognized and MSG is a deal breaker for me.

Another blend weighted heavily toward Black Cohosh is Availyn with other commonly known herbal aids for symptoms such as Dong Quai, soy, wild yam and chasteberry. I have to stress that just because something is “herbal”and “natural” doesn’t mean that it is “safe.” I once had a major reaction to Dong Quai. So please, if you are considering trying any of these herbal supplements readily available online, in health food or Whole Foods stores, please consult your doctor about the ingredients in the capsules before you start popping them.

New hope may be found in the first FDA approved non-hormonal drug specifically meant for hot flashes. Brisdelle (paroxetine) is available by prescription and shows real promise for sweaty sufferers but comes with possible side effects: headache, tiredness, nausea and vomiting. I am always amused by the prescription drug commercials on television extolling the virtues of the drug before giving you the FCC required, rapid fire, softly spoken listing of the 10 or more possible side effects, most of them worse than the condition the drug is supposed to treat! But you don’t know til you try, so have a heart to heart with your OB-GYN or primary physician and choose the best option to get some relief.

Don’t settle for sweating it out.

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Navigating the Shoals of Thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving! My favorite holiday. No religious overtones, no gift giving, just being with family and/or friends surrounded by comfort food. The launch of the decadent holiday season. And a horror show for dieters. With a little planning and forethought, you can avoid some of the pitfalls while still enjoying yourself to the max.

The groaning Thanksgiving table

The groaning Thanksgiving table

Thanksgiving has always been a no brainer for me when I am the cook. I can practically do it on automatic pilot. There is no fooling around with the menu. My boys get persnickety if I vary from their traditional favorites. I tried a new stuffing recipe one year and was greeted with indignation. Last year I went out on a limb and ordered a Turducken as an exceptional treat (a chicken, stuffed into a duck, wedged into a turkey). It was supposed to be the Nirvana of Turkeydom, sumptuous to taste and gorgeous when sliced, revealing the meats separated by layers of cornbread stuffing. I could hardly wait to taste it and imagined the accolades of my diners.

Naturally it was an unmitigated disaster, falling apart when sliced (there goes the photo op) and met with scorn and distaste by all. To add insult to injury, it cost a small fortune. So I have learned my lesson well. No deviation in the menu! Tradition, tradition!

Load up on turkey

Load up on turkey

Now instead of searching the web for new recipes, I am looking for strategies to help you, and me, successfully navigate the dangerous shoals of Thanksgiving without having to loosen my belt or tip the scales the next morning.

WebMD had some good suggestions which I will adapt here with my own and a spot-on quote regarding that hallowed period between the fourth Thursday in November and December 31:

“Gaining weight during the holiday season is a national pastime.” And something we over 50 excel at with our sluggish metabolism, which decreases by the year.

So if you want to avoid the perils of holiday eating, read on.

  • Exercise more in the days prior to the holiday including cardio for fat burning and weight training for muscle building.
  • On the day of the gorge- fest, walk early in the day and after dinner OR between dinner and dessert.
  • Have a protein and fiber rich meal early in the day.
  • Cut the fat and sugar, oil and butter in holiday recipes. They are normally so rich with fat and sweetness that a small reduction won’t even be noticed. Except by your waistline.
  • Baste the turkey with chicken broth instead of fat. You will still get a gorgeous bird with crackling, golden skin.
  • Save yourself for the main event and steer clear of fattening hors d’oeuvres. Stick with the crudites.
  • Portion control is, as always, crucial. By all means, have some of everything you love. Take a small portion of the starchy and calorie laden dishes while being heavy handed with the turkey and veggies.
  • Save your splurges for those things you only have once a year.
  • Skip seconds. Eat slowly and give your stomach a chance to register FULL. Foods high in fiber satiate the best. You can always have the leftovers tomorrow.
  • Drink 8 oz. of water between alcoholic drinks. You will stay hydrated and ingest fewer empty calories.
  • Dessert is a minefield. But the pumpkin pie filling is your friend in the trenches. Eat the filling and leave the crust. Or if you are doing the baking, fill some custard cups with the pumpkin mixture and bake on a baking sheet. You’ll feel virtuous and satisfied.

    Pumpkin- the good for you dessert!

    Pumpkin- the good for you dessert!

  • Forget about LOSING weight. Focus on savoring the meal and the company and aim for MAINTAINING instead.

As for dealing with the emotional aspect of being surrounded by family, I can only offer: breathe deeply and count to 3 before you respond to any off putting remarks by relatives. Smile and say,”Lovely to see you too!” before walking away. This is not the time to air those pent up grievances (while fueled by alcohol) or rise to the bait. Instead, take the high road and be thankful that you have a family and friends in this little bubble of warmth, isolated from the unfriendly outside world.

And offer up a little silent prayer for peace.



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When They REALLY Leave the Nest


A fancier word for offspring, kids or children which my husband says doesn’t describe my two sons, 36 and 40, anymore.

Once you are over 50, if you have children, they are now grownups, and best case scenario, out in the world, hopefully independent, productive, responsible, in a relationship and no longer on your payroll. Fortunately, my two sons fit this description so I am free from supporting them and making decisions for them. But not worrying about them. I asked my mother once, “When do you stop worrying about your kids?” and she responded drily, but accurately, “When you die.”

The Spare and the Heir

The Spare and the Heir

So we worry about their health and wellbeing, their career path, their living conditions, their relationships. We feel their every hurt and rejection as deeply as we did when they skinned their knee or broke their arm. We are still there for unlimited doses of love and support, cooking tips, and good for an occasional pep talk. Such is the function of parenting which lasts a lifetime—yours.

There’s a wonderful quote attributed to Sandra Bullock about keeping happiness in perspective. But since Google can’t find it, I’ll have to paraphrase. The essence is, life is filled with challenges, disappointments, and sorrows but every once in awhile, it is punctuated with a stellar moment of happiness. These moments are so precious because they are so fleeting and should be treasured.

This notion came to me as I celebrated last night my son’s engagement. This experience of intense happiness followed a year that tested me mightily: the deterioration of my mother’s health, her slow and painful passing, and all that follows when you clean up the detritus and details of another’s long life. Followed by unfortunate physical challenges as insidiously spreading arthritis encroaches on my normally active life and messes with my image of myself as still young and vibrant.

So the joy that comes with happiness fulfilled for my son in the form of an utterly wonderful young woman is like a brilliant shooting star in an otherwise inky sky, a moment, a feeling to be revel in. This event, while not culminating in marriage til well into next year, has turned my head around to life moving forward as opposed to drawing to a close. And the wondrous possibly of grandchildren (no pressure intended) while I am still around to experience them.

Adam and PJ

Adam and PJ

This point in my life, and theirs, bookmarks for me nicely the concept of my first son moving forward to create a new life and my perspective changes. He is no longer just my son, he is a wonderful, funny, complicated man who I relish and adore as himself, not just as my son. When my boys and their significant others sit at my table, when we toast with champagne, laugh and trade stories, I savor the moment. When they are already planning the next family dinner, I am beyond thrilled. Yes, count on me to make the latkes.

As I tearfully waved goodbye to Adam as he began college, watched him move to his first apartment (using the term loosely) in New York, so will I  give him a(no doubt)weepy send off at his wedding as the final launch from the ever expanding concept of nest. A big and wondrous moment for us both as he starts to build his own.


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Trolling the Infomercials

Unfortunately, a chronic back issue flared up into a full blown spasm this week and I found myself lying in bed early Sunday morning, heating pad under back, steroids and Valium at the ready and the TV on at 7:30 a.m. NOTHING is on at that ungodly hour except infomercials. I woke to see my husband engrossed in some product that was supposed to pummel food better than my blender for only 6 payments of $19.95 per month. Really? Do we need another appliance to clutter our counter?

I lost interest until the skincare commercials began. All of a sudden, Cindy Crawford’s gorgeous image filled my screen as she gushed about her collaborative skincare brand with Dr. Jean-Louis Sebagh. Loaded with Parisian je ne sais quoi, Dr. S. is, in fact, a cosmetic surgeon of some note and I have seen his line in cosmetic catalogs at astronomical prices.Clearly he and Cindy put their handsome heads together and figured out a way to spread his fame and products to the masses at affordable prices.

Pretty persuasive marketing!

Pretty persuasive marketing!

When shown side by side photos of Cindy at 28 and 45, she has clearly benefited from extraordinary genetics and skincare if not the best cosmetic surgery on the planet. Valerie Bertinelli and Deborah Messing backed her up too, extolling the virtues of the good doctor and his products. I have seen variations of this presentation before but never been moved to order.

But now, with my blog,(and under the influence of drugs) I feel the need, nay responsibility, to try them and report to my loyal readers if they are hogwash or truly effective. Thus, credit card in hand, I ordered what seemed like a treasure trove of products for only $39.95 plus shipping, enticing free gifts included.

Next up was Dr. Howard Murad, more widely known in US skincare circles. His products have been around for many years and are considered of high quality and efficacy. Yet, even he felt the need to tap Joan Lunden to pitch his three product regimen to viewers.

Scarcely had Joan and Dr. M finished their presentation when Dr. Nicholas Perricone, dapper as ever and such a celebrity in his own right, he didn’t even need a gorgeous actress/model to advocate for him. Instead, an attractive  but otherwise unknown woman who works with Perricone helped him stress the wonders of Cold Plasma Sub D for that “often neglected” body part, the neck. Like Nora Ephron so succinctly put it, I Hate My Neck and every woman over 50 took up the cry.Sub D Most high end skincare lines do stock a neck cream but Dr. Perricone has made it his mission to smooth every neck in American. Crepiness, vertical and horizontal lines (marking your age like rings on a tree trunk) are all addressed by Sub D. No one mentions that many of his products smell like fish, but open a jar and it will be self evident. As you may have read, he emphasizes eating salmon practically daily for glowing skin.( I’ve always wondered if he shills for the salmon lobby, but I digress.)

Having given their lives for beauty, no doubt!

Having given their lives for beauty, no doubt!

I had just spent considerable time and money at Sephora and been told that Perricone is one of the 3 best selling anti- aging lines at that venerable emporium of beauty. His products are pricey yet woman come back and repurchase again and again. Surely I owed it to myself and my readers to take advantage of his very reasonable offer: $49.95 for a month’s supply of Cold Plasma Sub D, Amine Lift, and two Blue Plasma products; one, a daily, non grainy peel for the face and the other for the orbital eye area. Since even one of his products costs more than the entire TV offer, I felt I had little to lose.

Caveat: there are always strings attached so read the fine print carefully. Once you have handed over your credit card, you will receive 30 to 90 day supplies (depending on company policies) automatically unless you call to cancel. Even though they mostly offer a 60 day money back guarantee, you could be tapping your foot for weeks waiting for it. Better to track when you receive it and if not thrilled with the results, call the customer service number well before you receive an unwanted shipment.

As I have been told, it takes 30 days to see benefits from new products. So I will give each of these regimens their monthly allotment and report to you honestly:

Bargain? Or Bullshit?

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How Sweet It Is!

It has not escaped my attention that sugar and the many substitutes for it, has been under recent, if not constant, attack. In one week, I absorbed an article warning of the dangers of artificial sweeteners, a discussion of the merits (oxymoron) of sugar versus high-fructose corn syrup and news of skincare products to ward off glycation, the alarming “age accelerating” affects of sugar on the skin. This hasn’t exactly knocked Ebola off the front pages, but in terms of what comes through my mail and across my computer, it’s significant.bad sweeteners

Saccharin actually dates as far back as 1878 when it was discovered but became more widespread due to the sugar shortage of WWI. “Sugar substitute” was not yet synonymous with weight loss, but it would soon change eating habits dramatically.

I think I was one of the earliest adopters of artificial sweetener. The year was 1958. I was all of 10 but already worried about my weight. When RC’s Diet Rite Cola hit the shelves, my best friend, Sharon, and I were guzzling it, sure that we would lose weight. Never happened, but it didn’t stop there. Soon even my Dad was carrying a little bottle of saccharin pills to sweeten his coffee or tea. Artificial sweeteners crept into the public consciousness and then proliferated with speed. Soon little pink packets of Sweet ‘N Low were everywhere.

They were followed by a host of others rushing to cash in on the market for diet products which exploded in the ‘60s. Soon we had Cyclamates. Remember them? They surfaced in the early ‘60s and were banned by 1969, linked to liver damage, bladder cancer, birth defects and (what no doubt put it over the top with federal officials) testicular atrophy in mice!

Then along came Aspartame, still present in blue packets as Equal and included in a host of food products. Read your labels, you’ll see how prevalent it is. Although never banned, Aspartame  has 92 documented side effects on Wikipedia. I read the list with astonishment. Eye, ear, neurologic, psychiatric, gastro intestinal, skin, endocrine and metabolic conditions can result from ingestion. And, oh yes, brain damage, increased craving for sweets, depression, hyperactivity in kids and the big one, DEATH. It may also mimic or trigger a host of syndromes ranging from Alzheimers to Lupus, all things you don’t want. I personally experience headaches and dizziness from Aspartame and am careful not to consume it. I can’t recommend strongly enough that you do the same.

So now we come to the attack on my favorite sweetener, Splenda. According to the well researched article by Marc Ambinder  in THE WEEK, Splenda, as well as  all the other artificial sweeteners, chemically alter glucose intolerance (hyperglycemia), “the very syndrome that these fake sugars are marketed to prevent.” The testing (on three groups of mice) showed that those consuming saccharin at the same rate as those consuming sugar, or those drinking neither of these, exhibited glucose intolerance while their fellow vermin had no tolerance change at all! The scientist then did further fecal testing (TMI!) which showed “the processing of the artificial sugars in the intestines accounted for the entirety of the higher glucose intolerance.” In other words, they may be causing us to GAIN, rather than lose, weight, depending on our individual body response. Many experts also believe that a dose of artificial sweetness only whets our appetite for more sugary foods, a real diet buster.

A host of sweeteners in my pantry

A host of sweeteners in my pantry

Where does this leave us, we who cannot consume our latte or green tea without some sweetening? Sugar has been shown to be EVIL! (re-read Sugar Busters  for reinforcement).Not only does it trigger weight gain, but it causes a sharp spike in insulin production, diabetes, and systemic and chronic inflammations like acne. Not to mention the resultant damage to skin: wrinkles, destruction of collagen and elastin and loss of elasticity. Being married to a dentist, I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that simple sugars are the source of tooth decay for you and your grandkids. Never put one to bed with a bottle of juice, or milk, which has even MORE sugar and will destroy their adorable little teeth.

High Fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is just as bad. It’s ultra cheap so frequently included in countless processed food products. Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD author of Beat Sugar Addiction NOW! claims  “sugar and HFCS are equally poisonous because of the massive volumes that are added to our diet each year…It boils down to which poison you want to take, and the answer should be neither.” The Corn Refiners Assoc., feeling vilified, is trying desperately to rebrand HFCS as “corn sugar” to escape the negative reputation it so richly deserves. DON’T be misled. (As an Iowa girl, it pains me to be anti-corn, but I have to bite the bullet here.)

Honey, HFCS, sucrose and molasses are all the same in terms of added sugars to our diet according to Joan Salge Blake, MS,RD, LDN and spokesperson for Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  But Agave nectar has a slim edge, in the view of Dr. Jessica Wu, noted dermatologist and author, because it is raw food, vegan friendly and has a lower glycemic level than white sugar.

Stevia plant

Stevia plant

And so, my friends, we have come by process of elimination to Stevia,  the only sugar substitute all these experts seem to agree on. I tearfully boxed up my yellow packets (Bye bye, Splenda) and welcomed the white packets  into my home. In all honestly, nothing will ever replace the pure taste of sugar, but considering the downside of all those I have left behind in the sweetener graveyard*, I’m taking one in the name of healthiest alternative.

*Caveat: Baking is my forte and like the Barefoot Contessa, I will NEVER replace sugar in a recipe with ANY artificial sweetener, although I may use less than called for. Use real ingredients in your baking and savor the results (on rare occasions) to the fullest!!

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Accentuate the Positive,Eliminate the Negative

Drooping lids, sagging cheeks, the suggestion of jowls. Welcome to the “mature” face! But all is not lost. As I found out, you can create the illusion of a more lifted and sculpted visage without going under the knife. It’s all done with highlighting and contouring.

Jola and Chiara of Chanel

Jola and Chiara of Chanel

I took a field trip to that rugged outpost of cosmetic culture, Neiman Marcus. It just so happens that my  friend, Susan, is assistant manager of cosmetics, so she set me up for a session with Jola, an expert on all things Chanel. Before getting into the makeup aspect, she gave me a tutorial on Chanel’s anti-aging line, Sublimage.

Little did I know that Chanel has a serious entry in the botanical skincare game. The exotic ingredients, like Vanilla Planifolia PFA and Golden Champa are all sourced from Madagascar and the Himalayas, and are patented, pure and cultivated from organic soil.  The collection includes cleanser, a serum, toner lotion, eye cream, masque and more with active ingredients formulated to firm, purify, and revitalize. Note: all this wonderfulness does not come cheaply. The Sublimage line ranges from $95 to $425, not for the faint of heart or light of wallet! I was grateful to be given a bag full of sample sizes which I covet and use judiciously.



Jola suggested giving  new products 4 weeks to produce any noticeable change. And taught me a new trick: when applying eye cream, use only your ring fingers and pat around the entire orbital bone 8 times, pausing and pressing at inner and outer corners of the eye.

Then it was on to makeup with artist Chiara. She started me off with Le Blanc, a sheer, illuminating primer for eyelids that controls redness (like veins), darkness and shadows that sometimes plague older women. This also helps keep shadow color true and can be used as  highlighter too. While that set, she patted serum all over my face, following with a light moisturizer (Sublimage Fine). Moisturizing pre- makeup is a must, she stressed, for a smooth and lasting finish. A bit of CC Cream followed as a primer and to minimize pores. She pressed it into my skin with a sponge, covering red areas so well, I barely needed foundation.

The makeup

The makeup

Dark areas recede and light brings a feature forward, so for most older women, that means a light color on the lid and a slightly darker one in the crease. The highlight goes directly under the outer half of the brow bone.  And a touch right in the middle of the lid makes the eyes sparkle. As always, the importance of blending was emphasized. I bought a blender brush to be reserved solely for this purpose, (MAC#217) and it is my new favorite tool. Everything should be blended in an upward and outward direction. Gravity does enough to drag our eyes down as it is!

Since dark does bring the eye down, allocate that black or espresso liner for the top lid only and instead of following the eye shape exactly, Chiara brought it up and out slightly at the outer corner.  She then went over this with a dark shadow and a tiny brush to soften the line, and tight lined the upper lid (lining under the lashes while holding the lid aloft) for a look that mimics thick lashes. She reserved  colored liner for the bottom lid, right in the lash line, using a Black Jade pencil to bring out the gold and green in my brown eyes. Black mascara was applied to top and bottom lashes.

Brows are critical to frame the eyes and she used pencil to fill and draw my sparse brows out towards the outer eye corners, then brushed gently through them with a spoolie for a natural look.

Knowing my aversion to heavy foundation, Chiara deftly applied Vitalumiere Acqua with a brilliant foundation/powder brush that stippled rather than brushed it to a flawless finish. For contour, she brushed Les Beiges #50 from my temples downward, angling beneath my cheekbones, toward my nose. Next came blush applied from center of cheek up and out, followed by gold highlighter, swept from the high point of the cheekbone to the temple.  All was well blended, no stripes allowed! Then, with the highlighter remaining on the blush brush, she started in the middle of my forehead and drew the brush down the center of my nose to the center of my chin. Voila! Illumination.

"After" selfie

“After” selfie

I like to use the same contouring powder along the jawline and just under the chin for  subtle definition and eliminating those creeping jowls, blending well. The finishing touch? Or Blanc eyeliner in the inner corners of the eyes and just above the cupid’s bow of the lips. A soft lip color was added and a dab of gloss in the center of the upper and lower lips. The idea is to capture light and draw it to the high lighted areas.

Before makeup-like you couldn't tell!

Before makeup-like you couldn’t tell!

Oh, that I had professional quality photography! But flip through any fashion magazine and you’ll see that each advertising image has been contoured and highlighted to the nth degree. Here’s an example of a L’oreal ad featuring Julianne Moore, my personal idol and choice to play me in the story of my life. If only!!

Julianne Moore for L'oreal

Julianne Moore for L’oreal



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