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Avoid Weight Gain By Using Brain Tricks To Master Portion Control

When I was growing up, my parents had a simple rule when it came to food: “Finish everything on your plate.” We had to sit at the table until we did.

They meant well. They wanted us to understand that food should not go to waste. The problem with this advice — and I’m sure I’m not the only American who grew up with it — is that we learned early on to eat everything put in front of us when we sat down to meals. Then the size of the plates grew — and so did the amount of food we consumed.

Portion inflationIt’s called portion inflation. Take a look at the illustration at left. It’s based on an analysis published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association which found that typical restaurant portion sizes today are two to eight times as large as those in 1955. Back then, people who consumed a typical American meal (a hamburger, French fries, and a soda) had only one portion size to pick from. Today we can choose from multiple portion sizes: reasonable, big, bigger, and ridiculous (as I’ve come to think of the sizes listed in that last column).

Portion size matters. The bigger the portion, the more calories you can consume. An example using a table of calorie information available online in the nutrition section at McDonald’s: By choosing the largest size in each category, you’ll end up consuming nearly triple the number of calories in a meal as you would if you chose the smallest portions.

Food Smallest size/calories Largest size/calories
Hamburger 3.5 oz/250 calories 11.1 oz/750 calories
French fries 2.5 oz/230 calories 5.4 oz/500 calories
Coca Cola 12 oz/110 calories 32 oz/310 calories
Total calories 590 calories 1,560 calories

Partly as a result of portion inflation, we’re eating more. Dietary surveys indicate that, on a per capita basis, Americans consumed 200 calories more per day in the 1990s than they did in the 1970s. That may not sound like a lot, but over time extra calories translate into extra pounds. Some experts calculate that people who add 150 calories a day to their diets, without increasing physical activity to burn those calories off, will gain as many as 15 pounds in a year. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

When Grief Turns Into Rage

Twice in the last few months I have encountered grief as rage. Both were in the setting of the cardiac arrest of individuals who were already very ill. One was aged, with severe, end-stage heart disease. One was of middle age, but with metastatic cancer and on hospice.

In one instance, family members became angry because we did not leave the body in the ER for eight hours so that everyone could come and pay their respects. (Which I always thought was the purpose of a funeral home.) 

In another, a family was angry because we did not allow everyone back into the room during the resuscitation of their cancer-stricken loved one — a resuscitation the family insisted upon, and which required rescinding hospice status. From observing their demeanor, their presence would have caused total chaos. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Sexual Addiction: Is It Real?

Tiger Woods, Jessie James, Michael Douglas, and Wilt Chamberlain (remember him?) are just a few of the celebs who admit to being plagued with “sexual addiction.” With rehab centers springing up all over, it would appear this condition is on the rise. But is there really a disorder called “sexual addiction,” or is it just bad behavior that finally gets caught? Is sexual addiction equivalent to alcohol dependency?

Experts who treat sexual addiction say it is a compulsive need to seek out and follow a certain type of sexual behavior. Acting out sexually is something the person does to avoid dealing with something else — a coping mechanism that is out of control. It is not really about sex — it is driven by shame.

OK, stop right there. Is it really an addiction? Does the person experience physical withdrawal symptoms if he isn’t watching porn or bedding new women? I can understand that some may have an unhealthy obsession with sex, but I’m getting sick of the “medicalization” of it all. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

How Are Dieters Like Congress?

I am mad at congress.

I don’t care if they are Democrats or Republicans, I am sick of healthcare being treated as a political football.  How much more of a crisis do we need before we actually start working on a solution?  Why does each party have to sit on its side of the aisle shooting spitballs at the other?  Each side has its pet issues that are tied to contributors, supporters, and lobbyists.  Each side will work to see the other side fail even if the other side is right.  Each side seems unable to do anything unless there is political value in it.  Power is more important than service, and power is a short-term project. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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