Nelson, Miriam E.
NELSON, Miriam E.
PERSONAL: Married; children: three. Education: Tufts University, Ph.D.
CAREER: Nutritionist and wellness professional. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston, MA, associate professor and director of Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition.
AWARDS, HONORS: Grants from National Institutes of Health and private foundations; Brookdale national fellow, 1994; Bunting fellowship, Radcliffe College, 1997-98; Lifetime Achievement Award, Massachusetts Governor's Committee on Physical Fitness and Sports, 1998; fellow of American College of Sports Medicine; Books for a Better Life Award for best wellness book of 2000, Multiple Sclerosis Society, for Strong Women, Strong Bones: Everything You Need to Know to Prevent, Treat, and Beat Osteoporosis.
(With Sarah Wernick) Strong Women Stay Young, illustrated by Wendy Wray, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1997, revised edition, 2000.
(With Sarah Wernick) Strong Women Stay Slim, menus and recipes by Steven Raichlen, illustrated by Wendy Wray, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1998.
(With Sarah Wernick) Strong Women, Strong Bones: Everything You Need to Know to Prevent, Treat, and Beat Osteoporosis, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Judy Knipe) Strong Women Eat Well: Nutritional Strategies for a Healthy Body and Mind, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2001.
(With Kristin R. Baker and Ronenn Roubenoff) Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis: The Scientifically Proven Program That Allows People with Arthritis to Take Charge of Their Disease, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to medical journals, including Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Applied Physiology, and Journal of Rheumatology. Producer of Public Broadcasting Service special Strong Women Live Well.
SIDELIGHTS: Miriam E. Nelson has written a number of books that focus on her specialities of nutrition, women's health, aging, exercise, and general wellness. Strong Women Stay Young resulted from her research and published findings in 1994 that showed that after a year of twice-a-week strength training with small weights, women's bodies became more fit and youthful. Weight training increased muscle and decreased fat, and bone loss was further prevented, and in some cases even reversed. The women who used the weight program, all of whom were over the age of thirty-five, also increased their flexibility and balance. A writer for Body Trends online noted that "no other program, whether diet, medication, or aerobic exercise, has ever achieved comparable results."
Nelson and coauthor Sarah Wernick write that although aerobic exercise is beneficial, it does not increase bone density in the way weight training does. A Health Facts contributor noted that "earlier research at Tufts, for example, showed that walking will increase bone density of the spine but not of the hip. Strength training helps both." The authors provide guidelines for a home workout with hand and ankle weights that includes a variety of exercises. The book also discusses the correct use of machines used in gyms. A good diet is advocated, but Nelson and Wernick show how a combination of diet and exercise decreases fat as well as weight, while dieting only can result in muscle loss. Library Journal's Susan Hagloch called the volume "well done and easy to follow."
Nelson and health writer Wernick also wrote Strong Women Stay Slim, which includes recipes by Steven Raichlen, author of cookbooks featuring low-fat meals. The twelve chapters fall into four sections. In the first, the authors inspire, motivate, and list the benefits to be gained from proper eating and exercise. In the second section they discuss body fat and mass and prepare the reader who is about to embark on a program. "They reassure sedentary women that weight lifting won't lead to a bodybuilder's physique, but will, since muscle takes up less room than fat, produce a slimmer shape," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. A questionnaire is included that asks specific questions as a screening mechanism to reveal possible problems. The weight training, aerobic exercises, and eating plan are described in the third section, as well as a ten-week program to improve cardiovascular fitness. Nelson focuses on portion size rather than calories when discussing diet.
The authors emphasize the importance of fluids and note that people who exercise tend to sleep better and longer than those who don't. They also advise that fatigue can be mistaken for hunger and explain that if dieting is not accompanied by strength training, calories will come from muscle rather than fat. As a woman loses that muscle, she needs fewer calories. The unfortunate consequence is that dieting becomes too difficult as she cuts back further and further on food and finally gives up and gains the weight back.
A contributor to the online Professional Center felt that "two features of the book make it easy to use and fun to read. Throughout the book, boxes highlight important information in capsule form. These summaries allow for quick reference as well as reinforcement for major points. Testimonials throughout the book keep the readers interested and receptive to ideas." Hagloch said Strong Women Stay Slim "has multiple benefits and is easy to follow." A contributor to Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter said of the book, "We were happily surprised to find that it has so much new advice to offer, and in such a motivational way, that it's a worthwhile choice for anyone who wants to make a conscious effort at weight control yet still hasn't found something that has worked." Edwin W. Brown reviewed the book on behalf of Medical Update, saying that "we highly recommend" it.
With Strong Women, Strong Bones: Everything You Need to Know to Prevent, Treat, and Beat Osteoporosis, Nelson and Wernick concentrate on a single subject. They explain how new bone is formed and how the process is interrupted and osteoporosis occurs. They note that osteoporosis is not just a disease of aging but can begin to occur in young people in their twenties. Nelson and Wernick discuss the risks and the symptoms and the benefits of weight bearing to build bone, including how simply jumping up and down for two minutes a day significantly improves bone density. The authors provide information about calcium supplements, and hormone replacement therapy medications, and help readers construct their own plan for improvement. Included is a "One-Hour Self-Assessment Checklist," which they recommend be used once a year.
"Men also get osteoporosis," noted Samantha J. Gust in Library Journal, "and the authors briefly explain how they can adapt the nutrition and exercise advice to meet their needs." A Kirkus Reviews critic called the guide "clear, sound help for those at particular risk." Linda Tapsell wrote in the Australian Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics that "the text addresses the consumer, encouraging self-care in a comprehensive, motivational fashion—here are the scientific facts, these are the tests you need, this is what the results mean, these are the options, this is what you should discuss with your doctor, and here are some diet and activity guides for you to follow. . . . The sequence of chapters builds knowledge in a traditional sense."
Nelson and Judy Knipe wrote Strong Women Eat Well: Nutritional Strategies for a Healthy Body and Mind. The book, which also applies to men, provides complete explanations of the various food groups. Nelson lists the ways in which vegetables and fruits not only protect against heart disease and cancer, but also help other parts of the body, such as the bones and eyes, and she suggests ways of adding more portions of these foods, and also grains, to the diet. The sample menus allow for diets of varying caloric content, and Nelson names the kitchen tools that are useful in creating the healthy diet.
Nelson emphasizes the importance of water, defines the various labeling that includes the word "organic," and provides a chart that shows the fiber content of various foods, as well as vitamin and mineral levels. She also discusses genetically modified foods, and her message is that the jury is still out on the benefits and risks. Both protein deficiency and protein overload are considered. A reviewer for the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter pointed out that the book includes some "neat trivia," including the story of how Henry Ford once threw a dinner party which consisted of sixteen courses, each including a form of soy. "We do take scientific issue with Dr. Nelson's points here and there," wrote the reviewer, who disputed Nelson's advice to use butter rather than margarine, and who continued that "in an otherwise excellent chapter on grains, Dr. Nelson gets bogged down a bit with the glycemic index. . . . but those lapses by no means detract from the overall value of the book, one of our favorite aspects of which is that Dr. Nelson shares here—more than in her other works—how she goes about living healthfully." Library Journal's Mary J. Jarvis called Strong Women Eat Well "a very readable book," which she "highly recommended."
In Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis: The Scientifically Proven Program That Allows People with Arthritis to Take Charge of Their Disease, Nelson and her coauthors discuss both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and recommend changes in diet and exercise that will help decrease pain and increase function. They base their findings on a controlled study at Tufts University wherein forty-six adults who suffered from osteoarthritis of the knee were put on a strength training program, which significantly reduced their pain and improved strength and function. Instructions for the program are included, and also discussed are medications, complementary therapies, and joint replacement. "Written in a positive and motivating tone, the book is well organized and easy to read," said Library Journal's Lisa L. McCormick. A Publishers Weekly contributor called Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis a "clearly written self-care manual. . . . While the exercise and nutritional program requires a serious commitment, even casual readers should find useful information here."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Australian Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics, March, 2001, Linda Tapsell, review of Strong Women, Strong Bones: Everything You Need to Know to Prevent, Treat, and Beat Osteoporosis, p. 68.
Christian Science Monitor, February 6, 1997, Lisa Leigh Parney, review of Strong Women Stay Young, p. 14.
Health Facts, June, 1997, review of Strong Women Stay Young, p. 4.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2000, review of Strong Women, Strong Bones, p. 371.
Library Journal, January, 1997, Susan Hagloch, review of Strong Women Stay Young, p. 136; April 15, 1998, Susan Hagloch, review of Strong Women Stay Slim, p. 108; April 1, 2000, Samantha J. Gust, review of Strong Women, Strong Bones, p. 123; August, 2001, Mary J. Jarvis, review of Strong Women Eat Well: Nutritional Strategies for a Healthy Body and Mind, p. 147; March 15, 2002, Lisa L. McCormick, review of Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis: The Scientifically Proven Program That Allows People with Arthritis to Take Charge of Their Disease, p. 102.
Medical Update, February, 1999, Edwin W. Brown, review of Strong Women Stay Slim, p. 4.
Publishers Weekly, December 2, 1996, review of Strong Women Stay Young, p. 58; March 16, 1998, review of Strong Women Stay Slim, p. 60; March 20, 2000, review of Strong Women, Strong Bones, p. 87; February 4, 2002, review of Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis, p. 74.
Time, June 26, 2000, Andrea Sachs, review of Strong Women, Strong Bones, p. G5.
Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter, May, 1998, review of Strong Women Stay Slim, p. 8; August, 2001, review of Strong Women Eat Well, p. 6.
Weight Watchers, April, 1999, "Give Yourself a Lift," p. 12.
http://Body Trends.com,http://www.bodytrends.com/ (June 6, 2002), review of Strong Women Stay Young.
Shapeup Professional Center,http://www.shapeup.org/profcenter/ (June 6, 2002), review of Strong Women Stay Slim.*