Mind, Body, Spirit


(page 3 of 5)

Illustration by Paula Romani


Is writing about food for a living an inherently unhealthy line of work? We turned to our own food writers, Judith Hausman and Julia Sexton, to share insights from their personal experiences.

“Practically all careers have inherent dangers,” Sexton notes. “Artists are prone to respiratory illnesses from the chemicals they use, truck drivers have a high incidence of kidney injuries, air-traffic controllers have stress–related illnesses like hypertension and heart disease.”

And food writers? “In my experience, it’s the writing aspect of my work that’s unhealthy,” Sexton says. “When I was cooking for a living, I ate more richly, plus drank like a fish, yet my weight and general health were fine.  I was moving constantly and running up and down a double flight of stairs back and forth to the prep kitchen. It was only when I started to spend my days staring at a laptop, interspersed with bouts of indulgent eating, that I began to gain weight. My writing-makes-you-fat theory was proven last year when I spent two weeks in Emilia-Romagna, essentially touring all day and eating Italy’s richest food at every meal. I lost weight because I wasn’t spending my days in front of a computer.”

“While there are fat people in the food world, I always think it’s more surprising how many thin people there are,” adds fellow food writer Hausman, who blames age more than occupation. For her, the weight issue is universal. “No magic secrets: calories in, calories out, and a lucky metabolism, which I don’t have, but William Grimes and Ruth Reichl at least do. I did always wonder, though, if I could deduct a spa week as a business expense.” Sexton’s cholesterol has remained in check thanks to good genes, “but I have gained weight since becoming a writer. I’m not, however, in the four-hundred-pound Drew Nieporent/Jack Perlow/old Frank Bruni league…yet. Reichl made it a rule to walk to every restaurant she visited. My philosophy is to exercise and to have two different eating styles — ‘working’ and ‘non-working.’ This means that I eat simple, low-calorie breakfasts of cereal and fruit, and equally modest lunches and dinners—unless I’m tasting something or visiting a restaurant for work.”

Both Sexton and Hausman refute the assertion that most people are in their profession simply as an excuse to overindulge. “You have to eat bad food, too, that you had to drive far to eat,” explains Hausman.

water glasses8 Glasses a Day?

Just water under the bridge

“Drink eight glasses of water a day,” or so we’ve been told for decades. But do we really need to?

“No,” says Dr. Karen Reznik Dolins, a registered dietician and nutritionist who is also a professor of nutrition at Columbia University. “A few years ago, a researcher decided to read the literature and see where this advice came from. And there’s nothing that supports the recommendation.” A December 2007 study published in the British Medical Journal reviewed the literature on drinking water and came to the same conclusion: there’s no scientific basis to the famous “8 x 8” (eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day) rule.

So, how much should we drink? There is no set answer. If you’re healthy—your kidneys, heart, and thirst mechanisms function well—trust your instincts, experts say, and drink when thirsty. There is no scientific evidence that drinking lots of water helps skin tone, wards off headaches, helps your organs work better, or makes you eat less. It will make you run to the bathroom more (so perhaps you’ll expend more calories that way). Plus, we get our fluids in many, many other ways—not just H2O.

“We used to say that if you’re drinking something with caffeine in it, you’ll urinate more and lose fluid,” Dr. Reznik Dolins says. “But it was found that in the short term you may urinate more, but at the end of the day it will balance out. So, caffeinated beverages contribute to your daily water intake.”

If you are very active, however, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends you weigh yourself before and after exercise to measure water loss. One pound is equal to two glasses of water, so if you’ve lost two pounds while exercising, you’ll need to drink four glasses of water to replace what you’ve lost and keep yourself hydrated.

When it comes to drinking water, the best advice Dr. Reznik Dolins offers is: “Drink enough so you’re urinating regularly—every two to four hours—and so that your urine looks clear.”



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