Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review: The Fertility Diet

The Fertility Diet is next up for review.  Many of my clients and blog readers are at the age where they are thinking of starting a family.  Problems with conception are common and can be very difficult to deal with.  It turns out that the lifestyle habits of the mother and father have much more to do with the ability to conceive than previously thought. The book is co-authored by Dr. Walter Willett and Dr Jorge Chavarro.  Dr Willett is the Department Chair at the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition.   Dr. Chavarro is a research fellow there as well.  Full disclosure:  I know both of the authors: Dr Willett was my Department Chair while at Harvard and Jorge and I were both getting our doctorate at the same time.  Trust me when I say that my familiarity with these two amazing researchers will not bias this review.  My high opinion of this book is based solely on the fact that the book is truly well done.

The Nurses’ Health Study has produced an impressive array of research on the subject of diet and fertility.  The Fertility Diet presents this research in an easy to understand format.  The basic premise of the book is that there are 10 diet and lifestyle strategies that will improve a couple’s chances of conception.  In the first chapter, all 10 strategies are briefly presented.  The remaining chapters of the book each cover one of these strategies in depth, and the supporting research to back up the claim is presented and analyzed.  The last part of the book features a 7 day meal plan that includes several recipes.  The book is extremely well written and converts a lot of complicated research into simple lay terms that are easy to understand to those unfamiliar with scientific research design.

5 Things I Liked About The Fertility Diet
1) It Is Research Based: Far too many nutrition books present opinion and not research based hypothesis, adding to the generalized confusion on how nutrition impacts health.  The Fertility Diet basis all recommendations on current, well designed research.  If the research isn’t definitive on a topic, the authors have the courage to say “we don’t know about this yet”.

2) It Is Comprehensive: The Fertility Diet is not just about nutrition, it covers all aspects of lifestyle that may impact the ability to conceive, including: weight, exercise, and stress.

3) Glycemic Index And Glycemic Load Are Very Well Explained:  There is a comprehensive discussion of glycemic index and glycemic load that is one of the best I have ever seen.

4) Interesting Section On Dairy:  The chapter on dairy is fascinating.  You’ll learn a lot about the difference between low fat and high fat dairy products and how they may impact the ability to conceive.  You’ll definitely be surprised by some of the research in this area.

5) Review Of Popular Diets:  In the chapter on maintaining a healthy weight, the authors present a really well done, research based review of popular weight loss diets.

Do I Recommend Reading The Fertility Diet?
Absolutely and strongly!  This book is great.  Research is becoming clear that the lifestyle habits of mother and father can not only influence the ability to conceive, but the long term health of the child.  I also think there is tremendous value in reading this book if you’re not trying to conceive.  Most of the recommendations that promote conception also promote general health as well.  In fact, the book spends a lot of time explaining how each strategy impacts health and risk of disease before getting into the impact on conception.  At times, the book had the feeling of being an updated version of Dr. Willett’s Eat Drink And Be Healthy, which, in my opinion, is one of the best nutrition books ever written.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Product Review: Fitbit Ultra

If you are interested in losing weight or improving your health, cardiovascular exercise is extremely important.  Most people are really busy, and I’ve found over the years that an inadequate level of cardio is one of the biggest obstacles to weight loss success.  Any tool that can help in this area is worth its weight in gold.  The Fitbit Ultra is one such tool.
The Fitbit is like a pedometer on steroids.  It’s a tiny gadget that you can put in your pocket or clip on your waist.  It contains a 3D motion sensor that allows you to record every aspect of your daily physical activity, including:

1) Step taken
2) Miles walked
3) Stairs climbed
4) Hours slept

You can cycle through all of these measurements on the Fitbit itself.  It also wirelessly loads them onto your computer, so you can graph and keep track of all of your activities. 

The Fitbit is a great tool to keep you aware of your physical activity and has a lot of great features. I picked one of these up a few months ago and have used it a ton. 

Fitbit Pro’s
1) Small and easy to wear, you don’t even notice it’s on you.

2) Great features: including measurement of steps, miles, stairs climbed, and sleep.

3) Free access to the Fitbit website where you can keep track of your activity, set up goals, and much more.  Many other lifestyle monitors charge you a monthly fee for access to such a site.

4) Helps you accurately gauge your level of physical activity.  I was amazed at how much my level of activity varied from day to day, depending on my schedule.

5) Provides accountability.

6) Motivates you to become more active.

1) The only con I can come up with is that compared to other pedometers it is a bit pricey at $99.  However, this is a one time outlay with no other fees to use the website.  You also get a bunch more features than you do with everyday pedometers.

Would I recommend the Fitbit Ultra?
Absolutely.  The Fitbit Ultra is a great tool to help you assess your activity levels.  You’ll actually become competitive with yourself.  If you set a goal of 10,000 steps and your looking short one day, you may find yourself looking for excuses to walk a bit more.  It is also great for when you travel and are not sure of your physical activity levels.

Monitoring your diet and exercise is a huge part of making lifestyle changes stick.  Fitbit allows you keep track of your physical activity in a simple and highly motivating way.  

The Fitbit retails for $99 and is shipped for free.  For more information or to pick one up, check out their website at