What determines healthy weight?


This is a good tool to assess healthy weight.

Most often people use the number on the scale to assess their weight, and have a number in mind for their healthy weight. But there is more than just weight that helps assess and figure a healthy weight.

Gone are the ancient “life insurance tables” from the 50’s, and while it is still tempting to use the “100 lbs for 5 feet plus 5 pound per inch thereafter” (meaning a 5’5” woman would be at a desired weight of 125 pounds), we in the profession use several other factors to assess healthy weight.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

While this isn’t the gold standard by any means, this ratio of height to weight is a good place to start. Using your real height and weight plug those numbers into the tool here. Desired BMI is 18.5- 24.9; 25.0 – 29.9 is considered overweight; and >30.0 is considered obese.

There are some drawbacks to this measure: it does not take into account body fat percentage. So, you could be muscular and be overweight or obese using BMI. An example of someone who is “obese” by this standard is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He is clearly not obese, but his BMI classifies him that way. However, most people who have a high BMI of overweight or obese are usually not high muscle low body fat percentage. To know for sure, measure your body fat percentage.

Body Composition aka Body Fat Percentage

I refer to this as body composition, but people say “you’re measuring how much fat I have.” This is technically true, but we are also measuring fat-free mass that includes muscle, organs, bone and other non-fat tissue.

There are several ways to assess body fat percentage: skinfold (pinch test), hydrostatic, DXA, BodPod and BIA. Some are more accurate than others; some you can conduct on yourself.

Skinfold is what many clients refer to as the one “where you pinch my fat.” Yes it is. It measures the fat under your skin. While you can buy skinfold calipers and do it on yourself, I don’t recommend this. It takes skill and experience to do it correctly, and it is better to have high quality calipers, usually about $200. Let an experienced person do this on you.

Hydrostatic, aka underwater weighing takes several steps to complete and again is not a do-it-yourself method. Hydrostatic testing is considered the gold standard, but requires patience. You have to get your residual lung volume measured the first time. This is the amount of air that is always in your lungs, after you exhale completely. Remember that, since you need to exhale completely when you are underwater. After measuring your lungs, you are weighed while you are completely underwater and have exhaled completely. This method tends to have limited access for many people.

DXA is a method of measuring your entire body, and is mostly used to assess bone density. This is a very accurate method, but expensive and with limited access.

BodPod is a method of measuring body fat using air displacement, like the hydrostatic weighing, but with air instead of water. Claustrophobics should avoid this one, since it requires the person to sit in an enclosed, egg-shaped capsule for several minutes.

BIA, aka bio-electrical impedance measures how fast electricity goes through your body. Since electricity flows faster through water than fat, and muscle is nearly 70% water, it is able to calculate how much body fat you have. There are several types of BIA: the best will measure from your ankle to your wrist with electrodes attached to each. However, most people don’t have access to this. Scales that measure body fat use this method, as does the Omron Body Logic, which is a hand-held device.

The Omron is portable, and something you can have in your home for about $50 or less. You enter your information (height, weight, age, gender and “normal”) and it a few seconds it gives your body fat percentage as well as your BMI.

This is the method I recommend for people if they want to monitor their body fat percentage on their own. Since it is affordable, easy and does not need skill.

There are many standards for body fat percentage. It varies based on age and gender mostly, but there are different standards for a limited amount of ethnicities and athletes depending on the sport. I tell people to pay attention more to how personal number changes rather than the standards. For example, if you are a 40-year-old woman with a 42% body fat, I recommend you work on getting that to 40% then 35%, and so forth and not focusing on whether you are average or obese.

So stop depending on the scale so much and use some of these other methods to assess your healthy body weight.

No affiliation with Omron; I just like their high quality products.



Lords a Leaping Bone Health


Healthy bone compared to osteoporotic bone.

I wonder how healthy the bones of the ten Lords are. Depending on how often they leap, as well as other risk factors, the Lords are likely to have dense bones, and a decreased risk of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bone in which the bone density is low, or the bones are porous. Approximately 20% of those who suffer from osteoporosis are men. So, while women make up the majority of osteoporosis cases, men get it too.

The risk for osteoporosis goes up as we get older, but what we can do to cut those risks is to take care of ourselves early and throughout life. About 85% of our adult bone mass is acquired when we are teenagers (age 18 for girls, 20 for boys).

Most people can cut their risk of osteoporosis by following a healthy lifestyle throughout life.


  • Get adequate calcium throughout life through diet and supplements (if necessary). Most people need about 1000 mg of calcium per day.
  • Get your vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin helps with calcium absorption and healthy bones. Many calcium supplements come with vitamin D in the same supplement.
  • Do not drink excessive alcohol. Too much alcohol tends to harm bones. The belief is that those who consume too much alcohol follow less healthy diets.


  • Sedentary people are at higher risk for bone health issues. Get up and move.
  • Engage in weight-bearing activities. To help the bones be stronger and denser, weight-bearing exercise is vital. Weight bearing means the foot/body comes off the ground and lands again. Examples include walking, running, aerobics, dancing, and stair mills (the machine that looks like an escalator). Jumping rope or “leaping” is also beneficial. Biking, elliptical machines, and swimming are not weight-bearing activities even though they are good for you for other reasons.

Don’t smoke:

  • Smoking increases risk of low bone mass. This is yet another reason to quit or never start.

As you age, your risk for osteoporosis increases, so ask you primary care provider about testing for osteoporosis after age 50.

For more information about osteoporosis, check the National Osteoporosis Foundation. I am a board member of the Oteoporosis Foundation of New Mexico.


Maids-a-Milking; but what kind of milk?

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There are many types of milk available in the market today.

The “maids a milking gift” is pretty sweet. I’m pretty sure I would pass that chore off to someone else if that was my job.

So what about milk? Most of us think of cow’s milk, but these days there are dozens of kinds of milk: goat’s milk, soymilk, almond milk, rice milk, buttermilk and other variations on cow’s milk, such as evaporated, condensed, powdered and more. Is one better than the other?

Milk (aka cow’s milk)

Cow’s milk is one of the best food sources of calcium, as well as vitamin D. Milk is also a good source of protein at 8-9 grams per cup. All cow’s milk vitamin A and vitamin D fortified. Some people refer to whole milk as “vitamin D” milk, but all are fortified with vitamin D, even the fat-free. Whole milk is 3.3% fat, then there is 2%, 1% and fat-free. Here is a quick profile of milk:

  • Whole milk is 150 calories per cup and 8 grams of fat.
  • 2% milk (aka reduced fat) is 125 calories per cup and 5 grams of fat.
  • 1% milk (aka low-fat) is 105 calories per cup and 2.5 grams of fat.
  • Skim/fat-free milk is 90 calories per cup and 0 grams of fat.

The protein and calcium are slightly higher as the fat content goes down. The other nutrients, such as carbohydrates, sodium and vitamins, are almost the same.


Originally, buttermilk was the liquid that formed when making butter from cream. It is not milk that has butter. Most buttermilk today, often used in baking, comes from introducing an acid into milk. I usually do it by adding vinegar or lemon juice instead of buying an entire container of buttermilk. Buttermilk comes in reduced fat or low-fat.

Goat’s milk

I remember goat’s milk from when I was growing up because my aunt was allergic to cow’s milk and used goat’s milk as an alternative. (Soymilk had yet to become widely available.) You can find it in cans or refrigerated. To most people there is a unique/different taste to goat’s milk, and it may take some getting used to. Like cow’s milk, it comes in whole and low-fat versions, but in direct comparison, goat’s milk has more calories and fat per cup: whole goats milk = 170 calories and 10 grams of fat in one cup.


Dozens of types of soymilk are available. This milk is often used by people who can’t, don’t or won’t drink milk for various reasons. Since it is a plant food, vegans often choose this liquid as their milk substitute. People who can’t tolerate lactose (naturally occurring milk sugar) may also choose soymilk instead. If is difficult to list the calorie and fat content of soymilk since the companies have various types (regular and light) and many flavors from plain, vanilla and chocolate. There is even soynog from Silk. Another advantage: no cholesterol and potential heart health benefits from soy.

Almond Milk

Almond milk has been around for many years, but has recently received more attention when Silk offered it as a flavored beverage in vanilla, chocolate and plain. It does contain fat, since it comes from a nut. It also has calcium, but little protein, and no lactose.

Rice Milk

Seen as another milk alternative, rice milk often comes from brown rice. Plain rice milk has about 120 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, and about 1 gram of protein.

Other cow’s milk

Sweetened condensed milk has a lot of added sugar. Usually used in baking, or Vietnamese Coffee. It comes on whole, low-fat and fat-free versions, so the calories and fat vary. It is very high in calories.

Evaporated milk is milk with half the water removed. Often used in baking, it substitutes for “regular” milk if needed. Just add an equal amount of water. Evaporate milk also comes in whole, low-fat and free-free versions now too, so it can lighten a recipe.

Non-fat dry milk is powdered milk. You add water to the powder to get fat-free liquid milk. I often suggest the powder be used to increase calories in the diets of people who would like to gain weight since it has protein, calories and no fat. Add it to soups, cereal, and beverages to boost health calories.

Here is a way to get three milks in one: Tres Leches Cake or Three Milk Cake, believed to originate from Latin America, many New Mexican’s love this dessert. This is a lightened version from Cooking Light, but it isn’t a low-calorie dessert. Enjoy!

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Can Asparagus Cure Cancer?

Is this the cure for cancer?

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from someone asking to confirm details before she decided to “forward it to everyone you love.” The email touted the cancer curing benefits of asparagus. I’m talking of some pretty remarkable cases of cancer curing a 16 year bladder cancer patient cured, “hopeless” Hodgkin’s disease cured, lung cancer and skin cancer – cured! Of course, the “establishment” prevents all the other cases from being revealed. Of course.

I was asked my opinion about the email. When I am asked to give my opinion, I am known for not mincing words, so I gave my opinion, as a health professional.

As of now, nothing cures cancer, not even chemo (chemo kills cells, both cancer and healthy cells). Cancer is an overarching name for over 100 diseases and they are treated differently depending on what kind and type you have. Generally, you are treated for the cancer you have. Research repeatedly shows that if people ate a high fruit and vegetable diet, including asparagus, throughout life, before they are diagnosed with cancer, then their risk of cancer greatly reduced. This includes lung and skin cancer. Unfortunately, I meet many people who are willing to start doing the fruit and vegetables after the diagnosis.

If this whole “asparagus cures cancer” was true then I would do the following:

  1. I wouldn’t bother wearing icky, sticky sunscreen every time I went on long bike rides.
  2. I would probably still complain about smokers, but not have much of a leg to stand on…
  3. I might not exercise as much.
  4. I would probably eat less broccoli. A lot less.
  5. I would likely eat more red meat . I love a good steak.
  6. I would probably skip the mammogram (ouch).
  7. I would maybe skip the pap-tests. No, not maybe. I would skip it.
  8. Never have a colonoscopy.
  9. I wouldn’t bother contributing my money and walking the Relay for Life every year. We could just have a cookout at my house.
  10. I wouldn’t bother with the Making Strides against Breast Cancer every year. I’ll sleep in and skip the traffic!

Obviously, this is ridiculous – I do these things: wear sunscreen, get my preventive screenings, eat a healthy diet, exercise and give to cancer related initiatives. I also educate others on how to eat healthy and follow a healthy lifestyle to REDUCE their RISK of getting cancer. Everyone should wear sunscreen, get their preventive screenings, and eat broccoli (even George H.W. Bush).

Nothing I can say or recommend will guarantee that you will never get cancer. While I have not been diagnosed with cancer, I have a high risk for it (2 parents, 3 grandparents) and I live to fight that. Don’t be misled into believing that anything as “simple” as eating asparagus will cure your cancer.

Disclaimer: I am not making light of cancer (yet, at the same time I am – you still need humor in your life). I take this very seriously, and am disturbed when I receive emails that simplify the treatments for cancer. If you read the post in its entirety, you see that I am neither a cancer patient nor a survivor, yet. I have many family and friends who have been affected by cancer and fight to not be one of those affected.

Happy Father’s Day: Make sure you have many more

Staying active helps reduce risk of chronic disease

On the day we celebrate fathers, I address one of the few things my husband and I disagree on: my husband refuses to go to the doctor for a physical and preventive screenings.

My 40-something-year-old husband is apparently healthy, based on the following:

  • Very active (cycling an average of 150 miles/week and is a competitive cyclists)
  • Eats healthy – registered dietitian for a wife
  • BMI = 24.8 with a healthy body fat percentage (I test is regularly)
  • At his last cholesterol check, his LDL was well below 100 mg/dL
  • Family history of chronic disease is non-existent. Two-grandparents died in their 90’s of natural causes and a third is still alive in her 90’s. The fourth died at an early age from an accident. His parents are mostly healthy in their late 60’s.


I guess I should find comfort in that my husband’s attitude is normal in the sense that he does not go to the doctor unless he is sick. But he doesn’t get sick. His only “illness” in the last 20 years has been orthopedic injuries, dog bite, and road rash. His cholesterol and glucose was checked when we got our life insurance upgraded seven years ago, and he got his tetanus booster after the dog bite in 1998. Earlier this year he got a VO2 Max testwhich he feels is as close to a physical as he needs. I check his blood pressure on occasion, and it is fine. Finally, as required by law for his job, he gets a DOT physical every 2 years, which should not even be called a physical considering no blood work is done and they don’t make him turn his head and cough.

Because men like my husband are the majority in the U.S., the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently launched the Healthy Men campaign for getting men to get the screenings and tests that they need to cut their risk of chronic disease.

Here are the screenings they want men to get:

  1. BMI – body mass index: this ratio of height to weight is a tool to determin if you are a healthy weight, overweight, or obese. You need to know your current height (please not stretching the truth) and weight to assess your BMI. Go here to find out your BMI. http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/
  2. Cholesterol: not just your total cholesterol, but the entire profile including LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Once men reach the age of 45 they are at higher risk for heart disease. If your father, grandfather, or a brother has already been diagnosed with heart disease, you smoke, or you are overweight or obese (based on your BMI), you are at greater risk for heart disease.
  3. Blood pressure: nearly one-third of Americans have high blood pressure and a third of them don’t know they have it. Check your blood pressure regularly and keep it in check. Excess weight, smoking and stress may increase your blood pressure.

There are several other screenings men need, including fasting blood glucose to check for diabetes, colorectal cancer (starting at age 50), prostate cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, STI’s, and many others. For more information for you or the man in your life check out the website for Healthy Men at http://www.ahrq.gov/healthymen/index.html, click on the “Get Preventive Medical Tests” to see what other tests to ask for. It also provides information on what questions to ask when going to the doctor. Unfortunately, men are less likely to ask questions once they get to the doctor.

So, Happy Father’s Day to my husband, my father (a 15 year cancer survivor thanks to my mother insisting he go to the doctor), and my father-in-law who are alive and apparently healthy. Here is hoping they are still alive and apparently healthy for next Father’s Day and many more.