Friday, June 29, 2007
Fit Buddies finale!
Stacia Deshishku, Director of coverage, CNN/US:

Wow. It's been 12 weeks since we embarked on this journey. At the outset I was hoping for significant weight loss - though I've lost only 10 pounds - but look at these AMAZING stats:

- My body fat has been reduced by 10 percent

- My chest is down 4.25 inches - my hips down 5.75 inches!

- My thigh is down a whopping 6 inches - multiply that by two legs and we are talking a foot smaller!

- My waist is 4.5 inches smaller (I'm still aiming for that 35-25-36 I had in high school! - it's good to have "stretch goals")

- My resting heart rate has gone from 84 beats per minute to 60. My heart rate while working out has dropped dramatically from 140 bpm to 90!

- I started out only able to do 10 push-ups. This time I completed 50! (In fact, I doubled that. My trainer said I did only 40 - I swore I had done 50. So the only way to solve it was to do the 50 again - which I did!!!)

- The wins just go on and on

I'm so proud of myself. I simply feel better - physically and psychologically. I've come to understand that I really can do this. I can balance my eating habits with my exercise routine without changing my life so much that I no longer recognize me or set myself up to attempt to maintain unrealistic goals. This is soooo livable and reasonable!

Robert asked me this afternoon whether I now love working out. Truthfully, the answer is no. But I do like the way it makes me feel. Sure, I like the way my clothes are literally hanging off of me. But I really like that I know I can run a mile - the idea of a half-marathon isn't so out of the realm of possibility these days. In fact, who knows what I can do. The sky is the limit. Thank you, Sanjay. Thank you, Fit Nation. Thank you, Robert. Most importantly, thank you to my Fit Buddies - Eddie and Matt - for giving me such unflagging support and motivation throughout this journey.

Ed Lavandera. CNN Correspondent:

When we started this Fit Nation adventure back in April, I said my goal was to learn new habits and some techniques that would get me on the right weight-loss track. Not only have I reached those goals but I've also lost 30 pounds along the way.

Some new eating habits I try to stick to each day:

-- A good dose of protein in the morning sticks with me longer and helps me eat more sensible meals later in the day.

-- I look to eat my carbs for breakfast or lunch and try to avoid them at dinner.

-- All this has helped me cut down on snacking too much between meals.

New workout habits I think about each day:

-- Mix up the exercise as much as possible. I ride my bike; I use weights now; I'm on the elliptical machine.

-- Get outside and surround yourself with other people who want to exercise.

-- Break a sweat every day.

The formula to losing weight is simple: Eat Less, Move More = Weight Loss. Unfortunately, there is no simple formula for developing good habits and staying motivated. That's the struggle, but I've never felt better about overcoming this challenge.

Matt Sloane, CNN Medical producer:

Its been a turbulent ride! The first few weeks, I was very comitted. Then, I suffered a bit.

Missed several workouts, some because of work, some because of a cold, but each missed workout and bite of bad food in the past would have derailed me.

Robert said in an earlier blog that I was not a superstar in either the gym or with my eating but that I was following a moderate plan I could adopt for the long term. I truly believe that to be the case, and I've never been this thrilled to be mediocre.

The truth is, if I had adopted an extreme exercise regimen with Robert, and then stopped being able to go, I would have quit completely without his encouragement. If I had adopted a strict eating regimen and then had a string or barbecues or special events, I would have derailed.

Instead, I eat pretty well but allow myself things I want when I REALLY want them. Turns out I don't REALLY want them that often. I may not workout as much as Eddie, but I do enjoy going to the gym now. I know my way around, I learned some exercises I can do at home, and now I even own some small at-home fitness tools.

Either way, I've lost about 15 pounds, and gained two really great friends! Fit Buddies might be over, but my weight-loss journey has just begun.

Stay tuned to the blog... The four of us might just surprise you with updates now and then. I wish you success in your Fit Nation.

Robert Dothard, trainer:

The health and fitness industry is full of promises, from pills and shakes that promise weight loss with little or no effort, to drugs that cause horrific side effects and can put your health at risk. I can proudly state that it is also an industry with a passionate group of professionals all over the world who stand ready to help you, at whatever level of health and fitness you find yourself. That's even if you don't have a Stacia-like "bring it on" attitude, or if you are not the "McGyver" of fitness, like Ed, who can be in a town covered in floodwaters, yet still find a way somehow to get his workout on, or even if you are not like Matt, with every reason to train, like the start of a brand new life with his fiancee, not to mention, at his young age, there is almost nothing he cannot accomplish, if he is truly committed!

The Fit Buddies' stories are not unique. It can be YOUR story as well, if you are truly committed to the process. If you have been following as part of Fit Nation, congratulations. You have taken the first step, getting information, from an established and trusted source.

Now YOU have to take ACTION!

I would encourage you to keep trusting CNN Medical News. If taking action stops you, contact the nationally certified trainer in your area.

Good luck, and good health
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Examining Sicko
The latest film from director Michael Moore opens across the country this weekend. "Sicko" is Moore's examination of the health-care system in the United States and how it compares with health care in other countries.

CNN Medical started hearing about "Sicko" more than a year ago. About a month ago we started receiving messages of support for Moore and the film from various organizations - and an equal number criticizing "Sicko." I am still not sure how many of these groups had seen the film before sending out their "reviews"... but considering that the film's nationwide opening is still a day away, I have my doubts.

CNN is covering "Sicko." Moore will be the guest on "Larry King Live" Friday night. Following Larry King, CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, will offer his analysis of "Sicko" on "Anderson Cooper 360." Dr. Gupta has fact-checked the film, and his findings might surprise you. He also will introduce you to a 9/11 rescue worker who is featured in Moore's film. She joined Moore on a trip to Cuba in search of high-quality, affordable care for health issues stemming from her work around ground zero.

Do you plan on seeing "Sicko"? What changes would you make to the U.S. health-care system?
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Childhood obesity: Where the road leads
My 10-year old cousin is a ticking time bomb. He's more than a little chunky -- actually, a lot more -- he's fat. His mealtime staples include french fries, processed chicken nuggets and of course, soda. Lots of soda. I stand by as my relatives feed him this toxic menu and I know he has friends who eat the same way.

The obesity epidemic in the United States is particularly glaring among our young people. Add asthma and mental illness and you've got the top three chronic illnesses setting millions of children on a perilous path. What you may find shocking is that many of these kids could die or be severely handicapped by their 30s or 40s, and some in their 20s. In fact, today we know that the number of children whose parents report that they are disabled by their illness -- that means staying home from school because they can't breathe, or have hypertension at age 10 -- has quadrupled since the 1960s.

Dr. James Perrin, a director at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston, says that unless we stem this trend, there will be millions of people in their 20s and 30s who will be living on public welfare, unable to find a job. And that doesn't even take into account the strain they will put on the health care system.

The reasons for the obesity problem among our youth are definitely complex, but television seems to be at the core. Kids are simply watching too much, and it is happening at the expense of exercise.

Even if you don't have children, this is the type of story that can make you wonder what's happening to kids today. The idea of an entire generation incapacitated, unable to work, or dying too soon is very scary... and very real.

Of course there are ways we can reverse the trend.

Parents can become more aware of what's going on with their kids - get them moving, not watching more TV. In fact, studies show that when families exercise together, the weight loss is more substantial than if children are left to their own devices.

There are other ways to curb the trend of childhood illness -- community centers, school exercise programs, and eating better are all examples.

But the real impact begins at home. What do you think?
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Practicing what we preach
Today is Fit Nation day at CNN, but you won't see it on TV. Today, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN Medical News are encouraging CNN employees to get and stay fit. We are sponsoring a field day of sorts at CNN Center in Atlanta as a way to encourage people to exercise during their lunch break. We are also asking our CNN colleagues to sign up for the Fit Nation Challenge.

The Fit Nation Challenge is really simple - just pledge to exercise a specific number of hours each week. We already have more than 800,000 hours pledged. You can sign up for the Fit Nation Challenge here. The idea is to get moving -- and by making a commitment to exercise -- get fit.

This weekend, Dr. Gupta and CNN Medical News will be in Chicago, Illinois, on the Fit Nation tour. We will be encouraging people to exercise and eat right. Some of us will be running in a 5K race that will wind its way through parts of the city on Sunday. All of us will be handing out exercise information and items including pedometers to encourage fitness. Chicago is the last stop on the Fit Nation tour this year. We already are making plans for the 2008 tour.

Fitness is extremely important to Dr. Gupta -- you could say it is a passion of his. What health issues do you feel passionate about? What are you doing about them?

Want more info on Fit Nation? Check out or click here to sign up for Fit Nation alerts and tips from Dr. Gupta.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Is America really at war? Tammy Duckworth is.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta with veteran Tammy Duckworth
A woman from Lillyville, Illinois, once told my grandmother, "It's the rich man's war, and the poor man's fight." My grandmother believed that saying to be true. She herself worked as a "Rosie the Riveter" at American Can Co. during World War II, making containers for ammunition. She fought her own war at home, while my grandfather served in the South Pacific. It made me wonder why the same isn't true today. While so many troops serve overseas, what are Americans doing at home other than their daily routine? Are we really a nation at war?

Then I met Tammy Duckworth, a double amputee from the Iraq war who continues the fight at home. In November 2004, she lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade. Thirteen months later, Tammy ran for Congress, losing by less than 3 percent of the vote. The narrow loss only motivated her more. Tammy now fights for veterans' health care as director of Illinois' Deptartment of Veterans Affairs.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta and I were with Tammy when she received her prosthetic legs this spring. At the same time, the war in Iraq was getting very personal once again for Tammy. She had to say goodbye to her husband, Maj. Bryan Bowlsbey, who is deploying to Iraq with the Illinois National Guard. I asked Bryan whether the thought of staying home for Tammy had crossed his mind. The soldier in him spoke first saying, "That's not what we do." Then the tears came, a soldier torn between caring for his wife at home and serving his country overseas.

Tammy and Bryan weren't the only ones crying in Delavan, Illinois. About 60 families were saying goodbye to their loved ones. I had felt so far removed from the Iraq war until that day. Witnessing the pain of sending a husband, a brother, a mother off to war, made the war all the more real. And for these brave military families, every day is a day at war.

For more on Tammy and Bryan, watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta's report on "Anderson Cooper 360" tonight at 10 ET

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
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