7 deadly FOF sins




1Imitating a 25 year old by wearing your hair too long, your skirts too short and your shirts too revealing.

Even if you’ve had a facelift, and wear a size 2, you’ll never look 25 again, so change the clothes and hair.

2Speaking of size 2, the French say “10 extra pounds on your body equals 10 years off your age.”

You may think it’s cute that you’re 5’8” and a size 2, but it isn’t; it really isn’t.


Disrespecting your daughter-in-law.

She could be a monster, but it’s a no-win for you if your son loves her. So suck it up and be civil.


Gossiping about your girlfriends.

We left high school decades ago.


5Making sure that your clothes, shoes and accessories are gorgeous, but not doing anything about your thinning hair.

If your scalp is showing, they won’t look at the clothes. And forget all the advice about wearing your hair short. Short thinning hair doesn’t look better than long thinning hair.


Hair by LeMetric.

Being unable to walk in the stilettos you’re wearing.

The shoes may be stunning but your gait is anything but.


Shamelessly and publicly bragging about your children–in front of them–after they’ve turned 10.

Just don’t do it.


{Giveaway} Hot Girls Pearls


FOF Connie Sherman is giving away a “cooling” Hot Girls Pearl Necklace and travel purse. Enter to win by answering in the comments below: Do you own a set of pearls?

When FOF Connie Sherman turned 47, her doctor found “questionable cells” in her breast tissue and put her on Tamoxifen. The medication came with an unpleasant side effect–frequent, agonizing hot flashes. “I’d literally come home and stick my head in the freezer,” says FOF Connie Sherman, now in her sixties.

Two years ago, still heated about her hot flashes–Connie began to think about out-of-the-box solutions. A former creative director in NYC for Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Bloomingales, fashion was always on Connie’s mind. “I wanted something I could wear, that would actually do something about the heat,” says Connie. “And I’m not talking about a bandana.” She got to work on a prototype for Hot Girls Pearls, jewelry made from beads filled with the same non-toxic icy gel that’s in medical ice packs.

Last June, when she was satisfied with her prototype, Connie rolled out her Hot Girls Pearls necklace in three sizes (16”, 18” and 19.5”) and a bracelet. More recently, she has added two new colors to her line: gunmetal and dusty pink. Her pearls start at $30.

Connie’s cool jewelry has proven a hot commodity–they’ve been featured on ABC’s The View, The Today Show and in Oprah’s O Magazine. Connie estimates she’s sold 5,000 Hot Girls Pearls in less than a year. “There’s not one woman who doesn’t sigh in relief when they put them on,” says Connie.

Enter to win a Hot Girls Pearl Necklace and travel purse invented by FOF Connie Sherman by answering in the comments below: Do you own a set of pearls?

One FOF will win. See all our past winners, here.) (See official rules, here.) Contest closes May 3, 2012 at midnight E.S.T.

Thank you for entering. This contest is now closed.

Considering cosmetic surgery? You have to read this.

A screenshot from “Anyone can wear a white coat,” an alarming PSA about plastic surgery, courtesy of the ASPS. Click here to see the complete video.

“In many ways, plastic surgery is still the Wild West in this country. Any physician can legally call him or herself a plastic surgeon. Your family doctor can decide, ‘I think I’ll do facelifts today.’ It’s vital to do your homework to get the best doctor, best procedure and best outcome.”
–Dr. Malcolm Roth,plastic surgeon and President of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Everyday we get questions from FOFs about plastic and cosmetic surgery. Everything from, What is the least invasive face lift procedure? to Is it safe to have plastic surgery in Mexico?”

This year, we’re partnering with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), a not-for-profit authority on plastic surgery and plastic surgeons–and an organization we trust–to bring you the very best information on this topic.

This week, we interviewed Dr. Malcolm Roth, Chief of Plastic Surgery at Albany Medical Center, and the president of ASPS, who explains exactly how to find the right doctor, and why it can be confusing. “It’s vital for every FOF to do her homework before she chooses a doctor or a procedure,” says Dr. Roth. Our advice: If you’re considering any cosmetic procedure (including injections, lasers or even hair removal) read this first.

FOF: Why is it so confusing when it comes to choosing a qualified plastic or cosmetic surgeon?
Dr. Roth: In this country, any physician can legally call himself a plastic surgeon, even though he may not be board certified in plastic surgery. In most states, he can even advertise that he’s board certified and a cosmetic or plastic surgeon (though he may not be board certified in plastic surgery). So your gynecologist or family doctor can decide, “I think I’ll do facelifts today,” or “I think I’ll do liposuction.” As long as you have an office where you can perform the procedure, you can do what you want to do. There are some exceptions to this rule in a handful of states, but generally speaking, all you need is a facility and a medical license to perform surgery.

Wow. Why would a doctor who is not trained in plastic surgery decide to do it?
It’s difficult surviving in the world today as a physician. Insurance companies are decreasing their payments for procedures and making it more difficult to get paid. It’s easier to say, ‘Why not just do plastic surgery? My patients will pay me cash up front, and it looks easy.’ A cosmetic procedure can sound simple, but, even something like liposuction, in the wrong hands, is very dangerous. We’re hearing more and more about serious problems, and all ASPS members are seeing unhappy patients who need reconstruction, or are even beyond the point of reconstruction, due to surgery performed by unqualified physicians.

What is ASPS and how are its doctors qualified?
We are the largest plastic surgery specialty organization in the world. Our 7,000 cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeons are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. That means they have completed 6 years of surgical training with at least three of those years specifically devoted to plastic surgery. To qualify for ASPS, you must operate only in accredited medical facilities, adhere to a strict code of ethics and fulfill continuing medical education requirements to stay up to date, especially on patient safety. We are a non-profit, and our mission is to advance quality and, most importantly, safety, in plastic surgery.

Why is this important to FOFs?
You know the old expression, if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail? Our surgeons have all the tools in the tool chest. If you’re a family doctor who has taken a weekend course in injectables, you’re going to recommend injectables to your patients, even if there are better options. Our members understand all the options, appropriate facial aesthetics, and most importantly, safety. They know what to do when something goes wrong.

For our society and our members, this isn’t a turf war. This is about trying to make sure patients understand that they have a choice and a responsibility to do their homework.

Okay, so how does an FOF do her “homework?”  How do you choose a doctor who is skilled, safe and has the maximum amount of training?

Here are the key questions every woman should ask a plastic surgeon she is considering:

  • Are you board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery? Are you a member of ASPS? What is your training in the field of plastic surgery? A certificate on the wall that says a doctor completed a weekend course to learn how to do lipo is not sufficient training.
  • .

  • Do you have hospital privileges? That means that a hospital has granted that doctor the right to do a specific surgery in its facility. The hospital credentialing committees look at the doctor’s training, and, if they don’t feel that person meets the standard held by that institution, they won’t allow him to do surgery there. If the doctor says yes, ask, which hospitals? And check with the hospital to make sure.
  • .

  • Is your surgery facility accredited by a national or state accrediting agency? Or is it state licensed? If the doctor performs surgery in his or her office, you want to make sure that facility has all the bells and whistles for the rare occasion when something does go wrong. For example, don’t you want to know that there’s a crash cart with all the medication, and all the monitoring devices that can anticipate and prevent something going awry?
  • .

  • How many of these procedures have you performed?
  • .

  • Am I good candidate for this procedure? What other options are there? Your doctor should be able to help you make a decision based on your budget, your comfort with doing something invasive versus noninvasive, and your anatomical needs. A qualified plastic surgeon has the training to talk to you and perform ALL of those things.
  • .

  • What happens if I have complications?  How long a recovery period can I expect and how will you help me through that?  Who covers your practice if you’re not around?
  • .

  • What happens if I’m not satisfied with the outcome of my surgery? Will I have to pay for it?
  • .

  • Do you have before-and-after pictures that I can look through? I suggest this question with the following caution: Today, doctors can use Photoshop and other tools to make their before and after pictures look very different. And I can tell you of instances where I’ve been made aware of people putting images on their website that were not even their own. So don’t let it be your sole determining factor.
  • .

  • Can I talk to another one of your patients who has experienced this procedure?

For facelifts, lipo and other surgical procedures, it makes sense to use a plastic surgeon. But what about injectables? Is it okay to go to a dermatologist for that?
Fillers and neurotoxins and other minimally invasive procedures are within the scope of dermatologist training, and it’s certainly reasonable to go to a dermatologist for those things. However, remember that dermatologists are not trained to do the surgical procedures that our members are trained to do. So if your dermatologist offers you filler, that’s probably fine. If, on the other hand, they suggest, “Well, how about I do a facelift?” that’s not in the scope of their training and a better option would be for you to consider an ASPS member surgeon.

Also, a plastic surgeon is going to know every nook and cranny of the face–where the nerves are, and what the ramifications are if you injure a nerve you’re not supposed to. An ASPS member will know how to minimize the risk of injury to vital structures. Injectables aren’t just a “skin procedure,” and it’s valuable to have somebody who has full understanding of the underlying anatomy.

What is the ultimate “red flag” that should send you running from a doctor’s office?
If they’re not trained in plastic surgery, you’ve got to be crazy. Run away. And if they are trained, but you don’t feel like you and the surgeon are connecting…that’s not a good sign.  Find someone else. There’s no rush–this is your life you’re talking about.

Visit plasticsurgery.org to start your search for a qualified plastic surgeon in your area.

{Health} Six reasons to NEVER drink another diet soda.

Is this the one vice every FOF needs to give up . . . now?


When Dr. Vincent Pedre, MD, one of New York City’s most sought after internists, meets a new patient, he always asks her: “How much soda do you drink? How much diet soda do you drink?”

“I don’t wait for her to volunteer the information,” says Pedre. “Soda consumption is an important part of the overall health history.” The fact is, millions of us drink diet soda because we’re (a) trying to lose weight; (b) like it more than water; and (c) compared to soda, it’s the lesser of two evils . . .right?  Wrong, says Dr. Pedre, who insists that diet soda is just as bad if not worse for your body…and for your waistline.  Here, he offers seven reasons to stop drinking it right now.

1. It actually makes you fatter.
Scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio followed 474 people for 10 years and found that the more diet soda the subjects drank, the fatter they got. Diet soft drink users experienced 70 percent greater increases in waist circumference compared with non-users. Those who drank two or more diet sodas a day saw their waists grow 500% bigger than non-users, even when controlling for things like age and exercise. Wait . . . what? How could America’s favorite diet drink be making us fat? “We still don’t know for sure, why,” says Dr. Pedre. “One theory is that when you eat something sweet, it triggers insulin and the cascade of hormones that make you feel full. Diet soda triggers the sweet receptors on your tongue, but not the insulin, so you never feel full. It actually causes you to crave–and probably eat–more high-carb, processed foods.”

2.  It increases risk of stroke, heart attack and cardiovascular disease.
A recent study of 2,564 adults over 40 living in Manhattan (published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine) concluded that daily consumption of diet soda was independently associated with an increased risk for stroke, heart attack and death. Shockingly, consumption of regular soda was not associated with an increased risk. “Again, this doesn’t tell us why,” says Dr. Pedre, “but we know that people who drink diet soda seem to gain weight and have a greater chance of developing metabolic syndrome,” an increasingly common syndrome associated with abdominal weight gain, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, insulin resistance, an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.

3. It gives you a super-powered sweet tooth.
“The level of sweetness in these diet drinks–the strength with which they stimulate your sweet receptors–is so strong, that you can lose the ability to taste the natural sweetness in foods like fruits and vegetables,” says Dr. Pedre. “You end up wanting to eat things that are going to stimulate those receptors, such as processed foods and other sweets. When you put someone on a detox, and take these things out of their diet for a while, their taste receptors come back. Suddenly they’re able to eat a blueberry, which maybe tasted bland before, and appreciate how delicious it is.”

4. It leaches calcium from your bones.
Diets high in phosphoric acid are associated with lower bone density, hip fractures and osteoporosis. Guess what contains phosphorous? That’s right, cola. Phosphoric acid gives your diet Coke that tangy, acidic taste that’s so fun to drink, plus it prevents mold and bacteria from forming in the can. Yum? “The addition of caffeine also causes reduced calcium absorption,” points out Dr. Pedre. “If you’re drinking a diet cola or two a day, you’re really setting yourself up for osteoporosis in the long run.”

5. Some experts insist that artificial sweetener is a neurotoxin.
The debate has long raged as to whether artificial sweeteners cause cancer. “It’s fine!” says your friend as she swirls five Equals into her coffee. “That answer is still up in the air,” admits Dr. Pedre, “But, aspartame is a neurotoxin, which means it causes irritation and over-stimulation of the nerves.” This is also a highly controversial statement. The FDA has assured consumers that aspartame is safe, however the debate has raged on, and in recent years many European brands have been slowly removing aspartame from their products. In addition, a minority of very vocal doctors, including Dr. Joseph Mercola, a Huffington Post blogger, and Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board certified neurosurgeon, have led crusades against the additive, insisting that it causes longterm nerve and neurological damage, with common symptoms being headaches and migraines. According to a widely quoted article by Dr. Mercola, “100 percent of the industry funded studies supported aspartame’s safety, while 92 percent of the independently funded studies identified at least one potential health concern.”

6. The caramel color is a carcinogen.
Coca Cola and Pepsi both use a chemical called 4-methylimidazole (4-MI) to give their drinks that signature brown, caramel color. Looks yummy, but 4MI is a known carcinogen that, in high doses, has been linked to cancer in mice and rats. As part of California’s new Proposition 65, a company must inform consumers if its products contain any substance “known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.” Reluctant to put a “toxic” warning on millions of cans, Coca Cola released a statement this week saying: “We have asked our caramel manufacturers to modify their production process to reduce the amount of 4-MI in the caramel.” Is the additive gone? No. Is this language sort of hazy? Yes. “The FDA has let this slide because they say the quantity of 4MI in the sodas isn’t enough to be harmful,” explains Dr. Pedre, “But these toxins are stored in fat, so if you’re overweight or carry weight in your mid-section, I can tell you that you’re likely not flushing this toxin out of your body. Each time you drink a soda, more toxins are going in than are coming out. That cumulative effect is very hard to account for.”

Ready to crack open an ice cold cola? Yeah . . . we aren’t either.  So what should we drink? “Water,” says Dr. Pedre. “I can also get on board with sparkling water and a touch of organic berry juice or lemon. Bottom line: If you drink water, herbal tea and eat lots of plants, you just don’t have to worry about this stuff.” How . . . refreshing.

Editor’s note: We’re curious . . . do you drink diet soda?

{Health} Is your statin safe?

The FDA is adding new warnings to this popular drug. Here’s what you need to know now.


If you’re over fifty in America, there’s a good chance you’re taking a statin. Nearly 22 percent of adults 45 or older take one of these cholesterol-lowering drugs, making them the most commonly prescribed medications in the world.

Last week, the FDA added new safety alerts to statin labels, including reported side effects of memory loss, confusion, and a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes. Not surprisingly, many people panicked. Medical message boards were flooded with questions like, “Will Zocor give me dementia?” and “Is Lipitor making me sick?” A cursory google search brings up dozens of sites claiming statins are dangerous, unnecessary, over-prescribed—even a corporate conspiracy. Still, the FDA insists that this new information should not “scare people off statins. The value of statins in preventing heart disease has been clearly established. Their benefit is indisputable.”

So what’s the real story? For answers, we turned to a source we truly trust, Dr. Steve Nissen, Cleveland Clinic Chairman of Cardiovascular Medicine. Named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, Dr. Nissen is not only a leading cardiologist and researcher, he’s also a leading patient advocate. He has has led inquiries as to the scientific integrity of many big-name medications currently on the market. In other words, he’s not afraid to question the status quo. Here, he answers all our questions.

FOF: If you are currently taking a statin medication, should you consider stopping as a result of this report?
Dr. Nissen: No patient should stop a medication because she hears a news report. These decisions should always be made through a discussion with your doctor. Most authorities do not believe that these new warnings represent a major change in thinking about statin drugs. We’ve known for several years, for example, that statins do very slightly push up blood sugar. That means, if you’re just under the threshold for diabetes, you’ll cross over and be labeled as having diabetes. But, in those patients for whom the blood sugar did go up a little bit, the benefits of the drug remained the same. The diseases that statins prevent–like heart attack stroke–are still reduced equally well.

Still, it’s alarming how many people are on statins. Do you think these pills are over prescribed?
I do. Doctors need to stick with the guidelines, which are very carefully worded so that patients at high cardiovascular risk are recommended for receiving statins, and patients who are at low risk are not. There are a certain number of people–I’ll call them the ‘worried well’–who are treated with statins by their doctors but who don’t really meet the current criteria. Those people are better off using diet, exercise and other means to control their cholesterol elevation. But, there are equally large numbers of patients who meet all the criteria for receiving a statin and who aren’t on them.  The key is to make sure the right patients get these drugs.

How do you know if you should be taking a statin or if you’re one of the “worried well”?
There is a risk calculator available online called the Framinghan Risk Score. If you put in your numbers (age, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc) it will give you your 10-year risk of having a heart attack. If you come out well under 10% risk for 10 years, your risk is low, and you likely don’t need to be on a statin. If you’ve had a heart attack, you should be on a statin–period. If your LDL cholesterol reaches a certain level–above 160-190–we will treat you with a statin even if they have minimal other risk factors.

If your doctor says you need to be on a statin, but you are still concerned, what do you need to say to your doctor to make sure you’re getting the right treatment?
Ask exactly what calculations he or she using to determine your treatment. Did he or she use the Framingham or another similar tool? If you still have doubts, it is never a bad idea to get a second opinion.

What if you’re on a statin and you’re experiencing some of these side effects. Should you be worried?
Every drug has a degree of tolerability that differs from patient to patient. Good medicine is about customization. The goal is to find the drug in the dosage that works for you with the least side effects possible.

There are many sites on the web with experts who claim that these drugs are way over prescribed, and that there are “natural” alternatives to lower your bad cholesterol without jumping on a statin.
I have a very simple answer for those sites: nonsense. There are no “natural” alternatives to statins. The dietary supplement industry is unregulated, so they make these claims but there’s no science to back them up. Don’t be fooled by these promotions of dietary supplements—they simply don’t lower cholesterol.

So maybe there isn’t a supplement. But what about changing your diet and exercise? Can behavioral changes be a good alternative to statins?
A statin should always be coupled with behavioral changes. Good and prudent doctors always couple lifestyle changes with drug therapy. Using these behavioral changes as an alternative to a statin depends on your level of risk–every patient is a little bit different.

If you’re on the borderline of taking a statin, should these side effects be a motivation to make changes to your lifestyle so you don’t have to go one one?
It’s not that easy, and here’s why. Lifestyle changes typically don’t reduce cholesterol by more the 10-15 percent. Statins reduce cholesterol levels by 30-60 percent.If your numbers are high enough that you need a statin, the odds are good that you’re not going to get them down with diet alone, unless you’re willing to take on an extreme diet…and most people can’t sustain that.

Why would you be in a situation where your cholesterol levels are so high that there’s nothing you can do but take a statin?
It’s really about genes. Only 20 percent of cholesterol level comes from your environment…80% comes from your genes. That’s one reasons that diet can only lower cholesterol so much.

What about people who say that these drugs are being over-prescribed because of all the marketing being done by big pharmaceutical companies?
There’s a marketing element here absolutely. Having said that, we have probably saved more lives by lowering choesterol levels with statins than with any other drugs in the history of the medical profession. The only thing that comes close probably is penicillin.

If there is one single change you could be making to lower your bad cholestorol–apart from a statin–what would it be?
Reduce your intake of saturated fat in your diet–butter and meat.

{Health} Are Your Aging Eyes Causing All Your Troubles?

A new report says yes, but another expert says . . .


“For decades, scientists have looked for explanations as to why certain conditions occur with age, among them memory loss, slower reaction time, insomnia and even depression. . . . Now, a fascinating body of research supports a largely unrecognized culprit: the aging of the eye.”  —The New York Times, February 20, 2012


FOFs are buzzing (and panicking) about last week’s article in The New York Times that examines a body of research from Dr. Martin Mainster and Dr. Patricia Turner, two ophthalmologists from the University of Kansas School of Medicine. Mainster and Turner claim that the gradual yellowing of the lens and narrowing of the pupil that occur with age prevent sunlight from getting through to key cells in the eye. They claim that this disturbs our circadian rhythms–the body’s natural clock–and leaves us at greater risk for a number of ailments, including insomnia, heart disease, cancer and depression. Their evidence is compelling:  Based on their research, Mainster and Turner estimate that by age 45, the average adult receives just 50 percent of the light needed to fully stimulate the circadian system. By age 55, it dips to 37 percent and by age 75, to a mere 17 percent. “We believe the effect is huge,” says Dr. Turner.

The two doctors claim there is much research left to do, however they recommend that as we age we should make an effort to expose ourselves to bright sunlight or bright indoor lighting. They are also wary of cataract surgery that involves the implantation of “blue-blocking” lenses, as these may further limit the critical light that reaches the eye. Mainster and Turner have installed skylights and extra fluorescent lights in their own offices to help offset the effects.

So is it time to panic? Should you install windows in the ceiling or move your office to the front lawn?  Not so fast says Dr. Russell Fumuso, MD, an ophthalmologist, surgeon and Founding Partner of Ophthalmic Consultants of Long Island (OCLI), one of the largest ophthalmology practices in the country. “The article sounds very dire,” Dr. Fumoso admits. “If you read it, you might think that as you age, you’re inevitably not going to be able to sleep; you’re going to get depressed….you’re going to become some sort of a zombie. In reality, that’s just not true. Everyone in the world gets cataracts as they age–not everyone experiences these other ailments.”
Fumuso goes on to point out that there are other reasons one begins to see sleep disturbances, heart disease and depression in patients in their 50s…namely, menopause. “The body systems are all interconnected, so looking at the eye as the root of all these problems is . . . problematic. It would be nice if it were the answer to everything, but it doesn’t work that way.”

When it comes to the “blue-blocking” lens implants that Mainster and Turner oppose, Dr. Fumuso says, “That’s the Alcon lens. It’s be implanted in over 26 million people in the last 10 years–that’s a pretty good track record. If you’re concerned, talk to your doctor–there are other options.”

So what can we do to preserve eye health and function as long as possible–if not skylight installation? “Stop smoking!” says Dr. Fumuso. “And eat a healthy diet. Your eyes are a lifetime in the making.”

{Health} The REAL Reason French Women Don’t Get Fat?

Read about this French “secret,” and then comment below to enter to win it! 6 FOFs will win.

Americans are obsessed with the way French women eat. They appear to subsist on butter, cheese, pastries, red meat–not to mention cigarettes and red wine–yet they manage to stay trim and youthful from their berets to their Louboutins. Plus, they have a lower incidence of heart disease and diabetes than American women.

Books such as French Women Don’t Get Fat credit France’s smaller portions, active lifestyle and emphasis on fresh, organic food. These certainly play a role.  But a recent study at Harvard suggests that one finicky little chemical compound–resveratrol–may also deserve credit.

“Resveratrol is found on the skin and vines of red-wine grapes,” says Dr. Heather Hausenblas, PhD., an exercise and diet expert at the University of Florida, and the science advisor to ResVitale, a company that makes resveratrol supplements. “It’s a potent antioxidant that protects the plants against extreme weather, bugs and other environmental stresses.”

In 2006, investigators at Harvard Medical School and the National Institute of Aging found that mice treated with resveratrol lived longer, more active, healthier lives–despite being fed a high-fat, high-calorie diet. They tested three groups of mice: One was fed a standard diet (SD), one was fed a high-calorie, high-fat diet (HC) and one was fed a high-calorie, high-fat diet with resveratrol (HCR). “After six months, resveratrol essentially prevented most of the negative side effects of the high calorie diet in mice,” said Rafael de Cabo, Ph.D., the study’s co-senior investigator. It protected the mice against heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses typically associated with a diet high in red meat, cheese and pastries.

But, don’t run for that bottle of merlot just yet. According to Dr. Hausenblas, the average bottle of red wine has 2-4 milligrams of resveratrol–but studies typically use doses of 250-1000mg. Also, not all wine is equally potent. “We source our resveratrol from organic grapes grown by traditional French methods,” Hausenblas explains. “If the grapes are chemically treated with pesticides and herbicides–as they are in most vineyards–they don’t produce as much resveratrol, because they don’t need to protect themselves.” Hausenblas recommends taking a supplement with 250-500mg of organic resveratrol a day, although studies have shown is that up to 1000 mg a day is “well tolerated in humans.”

In December, we sent a resveratrol supplement to a group of FOF beauty testers to try out for one month.  See their results for yourself, here.

Then, comment below to be one of 6 FOF women who will receive a month’s supply of ResVitale’s Resveratrol 250mg supplements to try for yourself.

(See all our past winners, here.) (See official rules, here.) Contest closes February 29, 2012 at midnight E.S.T.

{Health} The Greatest Diet You’ve Never Heard Of

[Read this article and then comment below to be entered to win one of 3 copies of FOF Marla Heller’s best-selling book, The Dash Diet Action Plan (Grand Central Publishing, 2011)]

This fall, US News and World Report released its annual “Best Diets” issue, ranking the top 25 consumer diets for overall health and weight loss–as rated by an independent panel of health experts. It included the usual suspects: Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, The Zone…even Slim Fast made the cut. The number one ranked diet was The Dash Diet . . .

. . . Wait. What?!

Yeah, we’d never heard of it either. What is this US-News-beloved formula, and why isn’t it advertised everywhere like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig?

For answers, we turned to FOF Marla Heller, 62, a registered dietitian and the author of The Dash Diet Action Plan, the New York Times best-seller about the diet.

Marla explained the diet originated from a government funded study in the 1990s: “The original study, titled Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), was intended to take the best components of a vegetarian diet–a diet known to lower blood pressure–and make it doable for most meat-eating Americans,” says Marla. To do this, researchers compared three diets: (1) the typical American diet, (2) the typical American diet with extra fruits and vegetables, and (3) the typical American diet with extra fruits and vegetables and extra low-fat dairy.

They found that the third option was the winner–it lowered blood pressure in as little as 14 days. Subsequent studies showed that the diet also supported weight loss as well as a reduced incidence of breast cancer, diabetes, colorectal cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

US News and World Report said it’s the best diet for a lot of reasons,” says Marla. “But I think the key is that the goal isn’t just weight loss; it’s health. When you get to your goal weight, you’re going to be healthier.” In fact, a look at the US News article confirms that the diet received average scores when it came to weight loss and long-term weight loss, but outstanding scores when it came to nutrition, safety and heart health.

What are the rules?
“The key to DASH is getting more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy,” says Marla. Sounds simple enough, but consider that the average American gets just three servings of fruits and vegetables each day, while the DASH diet calls for 4-5 servings of fruit and 4-5 servings of vegetables daily. “The focus of my book is meal plans that show you how to work multiple fruits and vegetables into every meal,” says Marla. “They’re bulky; they fill you up. Once you pair those with the recommended portions of lean proteins (5-7oz. a day), low fat dairy (3-5 servings a day), beans, nuts and seeds, you really don’t have room for much else.”

Marla insists that the focus is on adding foods, not eliminating. “Have a turkey sandwich,” she says. “But load it with as many vegetables as possible–cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts, peppers….” And in fact, a typical day’s DASH menu, at 2,000, calories looks like a decadent feast.


A typical day on the Dash Diet:



The tricky part is that this “typical day” is designed to lower your blood pressure and improve your overall health–not necessarily to help you lose weight. If your goal is weight loss, and you’re an FOF woman, you’ll likely need to opt for a more restricted calorie intake of 1200-1600 calories a day. Marla outlines DASH Diet meal plans at these calorie counts as well, and she insists that the premise remains the same: “We help you figure out what your calorie level should be and how many servings of the key foods you need to get into your day. By the time you’ve gotten all those servings in, you’ve used up your calories, and you’re full. You don’t have time or desire for the junk food.”

So, will I lose weight?
“Yes,” insists Christine Ambrose, 44, who has lost 90 pounds since starting the diet in 2010. At 5’4”, Christine was about 233 pounds when she started the diet at the suggestion of her physician. “My blood pressure was very high. He offered me two options–weight loss surgery or DASH.” Christine started out on a non-restrictive calorie plan and saw her blood pressure go down significantly, but it wasn’t until she cut down to 1500 calories/day that she began to see the weight drop off. She currently weighs 143. “It gave me structure,” Christine explains. “I knew how much I could eat–I focused on eating lots of fruits and vegetables and never going over my sodium limits.” [Note from Marla: “Sodium restriction is not a part of the standard DASH diet, but it is recommended by many doctors who are treating patients with high blood pressure.”] The best part, says Christine, is the improved health. “My skin and hair is better. I look younger. My resting heart rate is 45! That’s a good number for an athlete–a marathon runner!”

Why have so few people heard of it?
“It’s less sexy than a lot of diets out there,” Marla admits. There’s no clever marketing hook for DASH (No carbs! No wheat! Eat cookies and lose weight!) since it’s basically about eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats. In fact, there’s no real marketing at all. Once the DASH research was published in the late 90s, the NIH released some educational materials exclusively to physicians and dietitians, “but my patients couldn’t understand any of the information,” Marla explains. “My academic advisor was on the committee that studied the diet, so I understood how great it was. I thought, I have to find a way to explain this so people can actually use it.”

In 2000, Marla began work on her own book as a way to explain the diet to her private clients. She self-published in 2005, but it wasn’t until this past summer that she was approached by an agent and publisher interested in republishing the book. Since then, the diet appeared as number one in US News and Marla’s book hit the New York Times bestseller list.

Who would do best on this diet?

According to Marla, the DASH Diet “is  for everyone. It doesn’t restrict any one type of food, and we accommodate for sensitivities to dairy and gluten.” Still, when we searched for women over fifty who had tried and lost weight on the diet, we couldn’t find anyone–despite posting on the DASH Diet Facebook page.

So what do you think…Would you try this diet?  Have you tried it?  Tell us below and you’re automatically entered to win a copy of Marla’s best-selling book, The Dash Diet Action Plan. 3 women will win!

Three FOFs will win. (See all our past winners, here.) (See official rules, here.) Contest closes February 16, 2012 at midnight E.S.T.

{Health} Dropping Pounds

The internet is buzzing about a controversial weight-loss plan called The hCG Diet. Is this hormone-based protocol a wonder formula, or a dangerous health risk? FOF investigates.

Ask a few different medical professionals about the hCG diet and you’ll get… well, a few different answers. We know, because we asked, and that’s exactly what happened. We know that’s not what you want to hear–after all, your FOFriend just lost, like, a gazillion pounds in 3 weeks and looks great . . . But wait, wasn’t there something you heard about the FDA banning hCG? And why do all those websites that sell hCG drops look so scammy?

We spoke to two doctors who specialize in weight loss–Dr. Caroline Cederquist, MD, who is against the use of hCG for weight loss entirely, and Dr. Benjamin Gonzalez, MD, who uses hCG in his practice and swears by it. We also spoke to two FOFs about their own experiences with hCG. The good news is: there are a few universal truths about hCG–even if opinions differ. Before you buy those drops or get those shots, listen up!

What the heck is hCG anyway?

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) is a protein hormone that female bodies produce in high amounts during pregnancy allowing the fetus to survive. The idea of using hCG in combination with a 500-calorie-a-day diet for weight loss was introduced in a medical journal called The Lancet in the 1954 by Dr. Albert T.W. Simeons. The dieter injects or ingests hCG three times a day and eats a strict 500 to 550 calorie diet. “The idea is that hCG acts as an appetite suppressant and allows the body to tap into and utilize the stored fat as a source of energy and nutrition,” writes Dr. Gonzalez in his own position paper on hCG. Interest in the protocol surged in the 50s after Dr. Simeons’ article was published. In the 1970s, Dr. Simeons died and “the interest in the protocol kind of died off too,” according to Dr. Gonzalez. “However, recently there’s been a resurgence.”

Over-the-counter hCG is illegal.
An abundance of products marketed as hCG are sold over the counter including drops, pellets and shots. The manufacturers of these products claim that when combined with an extremely restrictive, low-calorie diet hCG can “reset your metabolism” or shave off “20-30 pounds in 30-40 days.” In December 2011, the FDA issued a warning to consumers stating “there is no substantial evidence hCG increases weight loss beyond that resulting from the recommended caloric restriction” and that the products “are potentially dangerous even if taken as directed.” Both the FTC and FDA issued a letter to 7 manufacturers of over-the-counter hCG warning the companies that “they are violating federal law by selling drugs that have not been approved, and by making unsupported claims for the substances,” according to a press release issued by the FDA. The 7 manufacturers the FDA chose to target weren’t the only ones in violation of the law. You still may see be able to find products marketed as hCG in stores and online, but according to the FDA there are “no HCG products sold online and in stores approved for weight loss.”

Illegal or not, some women swear by it.
“My whole life, I had never been unhappy with my weight,” says FOF Sherry Ittel from Plano, Texas. Then, recently, she hit menopause and accumulated just a bit of stubborn fat that she struggled to get rid of. A friend had success using over-the-counter hCG, so, a few months ago Sherry decided she would give it a try. She bought some drops on a site called hCGdiet.com for $80. After taking the drops three times daily, combined with a strict 500-550 calorie diet, she lost her goal weight of 10 pounds in about four weeks. “I remember e-mailing my friend and saying ‘celery is not a substitute for popcorn.’ I wanted popcorn so bad,” says Sherry. “I guess a couple times I was hungry, but it wasn’t that much of an issue.”

Another FOF, Barbara Langley, from Independence, Missouri, describes herself as “overweight.” She tried dozens of diets over her lifetime–but none of them gave her the results she wanted. Then, last March, she bought hCG drops off a website called myhcgsystem.com. The diet appealed to Barbara, because, although extreme, it only required a short time commitment. “I can do anything for 23 days,” she says. Barbara lost about 40 pounds in just over three weeks. In December, she got an e-mail from the manufacturer of her hCG drops. “It said something like, ‘if you want to go on this program, you better buy your drops because the FDA will not allow them to be sold after January 1st,’” says Barbara. “It really made me concerned, like ‘what’s in these things?’ But, they offered it for some ridiculous price so I bought two bottles.”

A sample day on the 500 calorie hCG diet for FOF Barbara Langley:

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FDA officials and many medical professionals specializing in weight loss such as Dr. Caroline Cederquist, MD, director of Cederquist Comprehensive Weight Control, say that what concerns them most about this diet is not the hCG itself, but the strict calorie limit it imposes. Manufacturers and supporters of hCG claim that the hormone helps you utilize the stored fat as a source of energy and nutrition, in effect making up for the calories your diet is lacking. Dr. Cederquist disagrees: “Anytime you lower your caloric intake, you are theoretically burning stored fat. But, if you don’t have enough protein in your diet, your body will not allow you to break down fat. It will start breaking down muscle tissue to meet your nutritional needs.” Dr Cederquist says that the muscle could be from your arms and legs, but even more worrisome, “it could be the protein in your heart.”  According to a press release issued by the FDA, “consumers on such restrictive diets are at increased risk for side effects that include gallstone formation, an imbalance of the electrolytes that keep the body’s muscles and nerves functioning properly, and an irregular heartbeat…A very low calorie diet should only be used under proper medical supervision.”

Doctor-administered hCG–is it safe?
Following a 500-calorie diet without guidance from a physician is almost universally frowned upon. But, the safety of using hCG under the supervision of a doctor has fueled the hottest debate yet–with everyone from Dr. Oz to Oprah forming and sharing opinions on the matter.

Dr. Benjamin Gonzalez, MD, says that five years ago, he believed hCG was “crap,” but now he prescribes it to select patients through his practice, Atlantis Medical Wellness Center in Silver Spring, MD. Dr. Gonzales says that after a family member asked him his advice on the diet, he ran trials on his office staff and “basically did a 180,” on his opinion of the drug. “It was eye-opening,” he says. “After treating hundreds of patients successfully, I’m a convert.”

Does Dr. Gonzalez worry about putting his patients on such a restrictive diet? “hCG is medication that helps your body change how it burns your own fat,” says Dr. Gonzales. “If you went on a 500- or 600-calorie-a-day diet without the hCG, it’s absolutely true [you’d be at risk for muscle breakdown], but what the hCG provides is protection from that along with an appetite suppressing type of feeling.” Sounds like a miracle! Could it be? Dr. Cederquist doesn’t think so. She references a study from the “70s or 80s” where one group of patients was restricted to 500 calories with hCG and other group of patients was restricted to 500 calories without it. “There was no significant difference between the two,” says Dr. Cedequist. Dr. Gonzalez agrees that studies on hCG have been published suggesting the effects of hCG are bogus, but calls them “small, not very good studies… No one is going to put a couple million dollars toward studies on something such as hCG that makes them pennies.”

Furthermore, Dr. Gonzalez is adamant about making a distinction between the hCG he prescribes in his office and that which is sold over the counter. “A lot of people will buy the hCG online and you don’t even know if it’s actually hCG or not, and it usually is not,” says Dr. Gonzalez. “I have patients come in here and say ‘I just want the hCG, can’t you just give me the hCG and I’ll do the rest?’ No way. It has to be done by a doctor or nurse who is experienced with the protocol.”  Dr. Gonzalez conducts careful screenings of his patients before prescribing them hCG and checks in with them frequently while they are using it. The whole protocol for 39 days including the initial screening, labs, the shots and weekly follow up appointments done under his supervision costs a patient approximately $900.

He prescribes the hCG “off-label” which means that it is not approved by the FDA for weight loss although it is approved for other uses, such as fertility issues. Prescribing drugs off-label is a fairly common medical practice (read more about off-label prescriptions), but controversial as well, depending on the drug and the problem it’s treating.

“We know it’s very safe since it has been studied for these other conditions,” says Dr. Gonzalez. “They haven’t approved hCG for weight loss but not one single death nor long term side effect has surfaced in the 50 years of use.”

The bottom line:
When it comes to doctor-administered hCG, buyer beware. Past studies on using the hCG hormone paired with a low-calorie diet for weight loss are too limited to be conclusive. There is a lot more research in this area that needs to be done. When it comes to over-the-counter hCG, stay away. These products have been deemed “potentially dangerous” and “illegal” by the FDA.