Movie Popcorn’s Dark Secret

Category : HEALTH & BEAUTY

Sitting in a dark movie theater with your friends and a tub of buttery popcorn sounds like a perfect way to spend a Saturday night – and it could be, if you are willing to share your popcorn with the entire row of moviegoers around you.

A review of the nutritional contents of movie-theater popcorn reveals an alarming amount of fat, salt and calories in even the smallest sizes. The study, from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, looked at popcorn from three movie theater chains and detailed the contents of all portions offered.

A large tub of popcorn at Regal Cinemas, for example, holds 20 cups of popcorn and has 1,200 calories, 980 milligrams of sodium and 60 grams of saturated fat. Adding just a tablespoon of butter adds 130 calories. And do not forget that it comes with free refills.

Not so hungry? The medium size popcorn, which comes in a bag, contains the same amount as the large. And even the small, at 11 cups, delivers 670 calories, 550 milligrams of sodium and 24 grams of saturated fat.

The findings may surprise those who choose popcorn at the concession stand because they believe it is a relatively healthy snack. In fact, plain air-popped popcorn is low in calories and free of saturated fat. Movie theater popcorn, however, is popped in oil — often coconut oil, which is 90 percent saturated fat. Add salt to the enormous portions, and your once-healthy snack turns into a health offender.

“The issue here is quantity,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University. “One of those large tubs is three-fourths of a day’s calories.”

Even the “healthiest” sample of popcorn tested, a small size from AMC containing 6 cups of popcorn, had 370 calories, enough to justify sharing with a friend and eating one kernel at a time to make it last the length of a movie.

“If you were eating just a cup or two, it wouldn’t matter nearly as much,” Dr. Nestle said.

The third movie theater chain tested, Cinemark, fares slightly better than its competitors because it pops its popcorn in nonhydrogenated canola oil instead of coconut oil. Cinemark’s large tub contains 17 cups of popcorn with 910 calories and 4 grams of saturated fat, as well as a whopping 1,500 milligrams of sodium — nearly enough for the entire day.

One way to make your popcorn healthier? Ask the theater to pop a portion without salt. Two of the movie theaters that had their popcorn tested said they would oblige such a request.

The best way to make your movie snack healthier, however, would be to skip the popcorn — and the concession stand — altogether.

“You could share a tub of popcorn with 10 friends,” Dr. Nestle said. “Or, what a concept, watch the movie without eating anything.”


Freelancer Interview: The Medical Writer (6-figure Earning Potential)

Category : CAREER

So often when people think of writing, they picture novelists or journalists. But have you considered medical writing?

There is a great deal of opportunity to thrive as a medical writer, and build a career in this arena, for those that take the necessary steps, such as getting to know the field, attending conferences, and networking in this niche.

Cyndy Kryder, a medical writer hailing from the Philadelphia region, got into the field as a way to leverage her health industry experience into a flexible career. Along the way, she’s helped others get into this booming industry. Meet the “accidental medical writer” herself….

Tell us a little bit about how you got into medical writing.

My favorite word to describe how I became a medical writer is “serendipity.” I’m a former speech-language pathologist who worked in pediatric and adult rehabilitation for a number of years, progressing up the ladder until I became director of a transitional living program for adults who had sustained traumatic brain injuries. As a clinician, I had written a lot of patient-education materials for my patients and their families. I had authored a couple of chapters in educational textbooks, and helped with a few journal articles. I also contributed to marketing pieces for the programs I directed. I enjoyed writing, but never saw it as a career.

After my second child was born, I realized I didn’t want to maintain the hectic pace needed to be a health care administrator. I wanted a career that would give me the flexibility I needed to be a parent and a professional. As luck would have it, my neighbor was a medical writer. One day I asked her how I could write and get paid for it. She put me in touch with a woman who needed freelance writers who could write about new and emerging medical technologies, and, as they say, the rest is history. That was 19 years ago, and I’ve never regretted my decision to become a freelance medical writer. By the way, that first company is thriving today and I’m now doing some consulting work for them.

Medical writing can be very lucrative. What kind of prerequisites do you need–is knowing AMA style enough? Is it best to take a course?

Well, most everyone defines lucrative differently, wouldn’t you agree? It’s quite possible, though, to earn a six-figure income as a medical writer, whether you work as a freelancer or you work full-time for a company.

In terms of the prerequisites, knowing how to write according to the AMA Style Guide is not enough. It’s also important to understand the phases of drug development, from preclinical through post-marketing, and the FDA approval process for devices. Having a basic understanding of medical terminology, as well as statistics and research terminology is also important. If you’re planning to freelance, you’ll need some understanding of marketing and promotion, too. If you’re going to be doing any writing related to the promotion of a drug or device, then you need to be familiar with all the FDA regulations regarding drug marketing and promotion. In the United States, there are very specific things pharmaceutical companies can and cannot do when promoting their products. You need to know what they are.

Some people feel most comfortable learning on their own; others need to participate in a structured program. I’m not convinced people need to have a Bachelor’s degree in medical writing, but I do recommend taking some of the courses AMWA offers in medical writing.

Speaking of those courses, how can people break into the medical writing field?

I believe anyone thinking about medical writing first needs to understand the scope of medical writing and then decide what type of medical writing to pursue, and whether to be an employee or a freelancer. In my opinion, medical writing can be divided into 3 broad categories: Regulatory, promotional and educational.

Regulatory writing is highly scientific and involves creating documents that are often submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Promotional writing is any writing created for the purpose of selling or promoting a drug, intervention or medical device. Educational writing includes any materials created for the purpose of educating health care professionals or the general public.

Once you decide what type of medical writing you want to do and how you want to work, the next step is to figure out which companies employ writers or purchase that type of writing. They include pharmaceutical companies, CROs (contract research organizations), medical education companies, medical communications companies, and medical advertising agencies. Of course, you could also decide you want to write for a medical journal or a hospital, or even start a health column in your local newspaper. There are lots of avenues to explore.

What websites provide great information on this arena besides yours? Where can people find jobs?

Thanks for the comment about our website. We do think we offer great content about medical writing.

American Medical Writers Association and my local chapter,, offer online toolkits for new medical writers that are filled with resources. AMWA national also maintains a list of medical writing jobs, but this is a value-added service only for AMWA members. I’ve noticed medical writing jobs on some of the larger online job boards, such as You can also do a search for companies that hire medical writers and contact them directly to see what they have to offer. Just type in “medical communication company” or “medical education company” and you’ll get a long list of possibilities. Also, you’ll find a directory of medical communication firms here: Be aware, though, this list isn’t updated regularly, so some of the companies may no longer be in business.

The weekly newsletter, Biotech Ink Insider, is a listing of medical writing jobs, mostly regulatory. To subscribe send an email to

You mentioned the AMWA. How instrumental has that been in helping to advance your career? Do you advise people to join an industry association?

I always advise novice medical writers to join the AMWA. I know when you’re just starting out, annual dues to a professional organization might not be in your budget. But the value you’ll get from an AMWA membership will outweigh its cost. Membership in AMWA is an investment in your future success you don’t want to pass up.

AMWA and its regional chapters sponsor workshops where you can learn different aspects of medical writing. These workshops, and the annual national conference, aren’t just for newbies, though. You’d be surprised by what even an experienced writer or editor can learn in a basic AMWA workshop! Plus, when you attend regional AMWA meetings, you’ll meet other medical writers as well as prospective clients. This face-to-face networking will go a long way in getting freelance work. And you’ll get a feel for the writing needs and the competition in your geographic area.

I firmly believe that membership in AMWA was instrumental in my success. The contacts I’ve made and the skills I’ve learned through this organization are invaluable.

What is your biggest challenge as a freelance writer?

In my opinion the biggest challenge for freelance writers, no matter what area we work in, is getting the next job. We need to be constantly promoting ourselves and our work while we are meeting deadlines for our clients. And most writers aren’t really that good at self-promotion. At one of the workshops I presented at last year’s Freelance Workshop (sponsored by AMWA-DVC), I asked for a show of hands of how many people hated marketing. Nearly everyone in the audience raised their hand. What does that tell you?

What was your worst professional experience? How did you learn from it?

I have been very, very lucky because I’ve had very few bad professional experiences. One that sticks in my mind has to do with juggling family and work. When my kids were toddlers, they both came down with chicken pox at the same time. So I had two itchy, feverish little girls on my hands and a 40-page monograph with a deadline that same week. It was a nightmare!

Instead of pulling out my hair, I called my client, told her about my situation, and asked her if an extension was possible. She was very sympathetic and extended the deadline for me. Fortunately, my husband had some unused vacation days, so he was able to take care of the kids while I worked. I met the original deadline, which made the client very happy. What I learned from that was the importance of communicating and being upfront with my clients. If you don’t think you’ll meet a deadline, tell your client well in advance so they can plan accordingly.

Tell us about how you landed your book work.

Full disclosure here. All of the books, paperback and electronic, that are part of The Accidental Medical Writer Series, are self-published. Nude Mice, the second book in the series, was picked up last year by a Japanese publisher and translated into Japanese. That was a big thrill, even though we can’t read a word of it!

We wrote the books because we saw a need for information for novice medical writers. Since we didn’t want to endure the long lag between writing and publication, we decided to publish the books ourselves. We have several other books in the works. Our biggest problem is finding the time to write the books while doing our other work. Another juggling dilemma I’m sure you’re familiar with, right?

Sure am! So what advice do you have for writers (that are working) to get into the medical writing field?

Figure out the type of medical writing you want to do, then begin a targeted promotional campaign to reach prospective clients (if you want to freelance ) or employers (if you want to be an employee). Join an online social network for professionals, such as LinkedIn or Biznik, and become part of the conversation so that potential clients/employers can get to know you. Create a profile, seek out contacts, and join groups in your industry. Once you’ve become a group member, start discussions and respond to discussions that are already ongoing. Prove to group members that you have valuable information to contribute.

I can’t stress enough the importance of social networking. I stumbled across some interesting research while writing an article for the AMWA Journal. In a 2010 recruiting survey, 83% of companies said they use, or plan to use, social networks to find employees. LinkedIn (78%), Facebook (55%) and Twitter (45%) were the most popular recruiting platforms More importantly, among those companies that were actively hiring, 92% used or planned to use social media. That tells me social media is not a gimmick, but rather a real shift in the way we are doing business today—and will do business in the future