Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pat Yourself on the Back...and Look Forward

This post is a follow-up on the resolutions post and an attempt to turn resolutions on their head!

So here's my question:

What did you do in 2009 that you were PROUD of? If it's big and splashy (some of you have lost scads of weight) that's great. And if it's little but important to you, that's great too. I'd like to know. Just one rule: be nice to yourself. Compliment yourself and leave the "but I should have done even better"s out.

And now, like it or not, here are my answers:

One of my big quests in 2009 was to eat more mindfully. This included seriously slowing down how fast I eat. I don't eat particularly slowly, but the mindfulness is much higher than it was before. Last year at this time, I felt guilty about eating and would consequently stuff the food in quickly, even when I was trying to limit quantities. This year, for instance, I cut the toast in half, which meant that I automatically had to slow down a bit . I put the food or the fork down between bites. I sometimes even watched the clock to make sure I wasn't wolfing my food down. It's amazing how long five minutes can be!

I started drinking water. Before this year, I would barely drink a glass of water a day, if that!

I respected all my efforts and didn't pooh pooh even the little ones. I rejected perfection and celebrated just doing better. I embraced the saying: "the perfect is the enemy of the good".

I realized that there are no bad foods and that eating the occasional sweet or piece of pie is not a sin. I worked on introducing a balance of good, healthy and tasty foods into my life.

I banned banning foods.

I started blogging and met all kinds of warm, kind and caring people...YOU!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

No resolutions? Impossible!

As the end of 2009 draws near, who can resist making resolutions?

I have a lot of resolutions in my head, just like everyone else, but honestly, if I reach any of them, it will be through slow, almost imperceptible changes. I am not aiming for anything earth shattering. This is not to say that I would turn away earth shattering positive changes in my life. Of course I would embrace them with open arms. I'm just not an earth shattering changes kind of person. Perhaps it's because I must physically move with great care.

I would give a lot to be able to jump on my elliptical trainer every day or my stationary bike. I wouldn't even have to make resolutions to do it because I would have already begun years ago.

But I do have one resolution, if I can call it that: to breath every day. No, not the breathing that keeps me alive. Fortunately, I don't have to think about that and neither do you. My resolution--which I've already begun putting into action is to do 5 minutes of complete yoga breathing a day. Five minutes. Sounds like nothing. Maybe it is for you, but not for me.

So breath I will. Let's see where that takes me.

And for good measure, I'm adding one (no, two) more things: 1 minute of stationary biking a day, followed by 15 minutes of ice. My yoga teacher has forbade me from doing more than 1 minute for at least a month. Will I be up to 12 minutes by the end of the year? I don't know. As I sit typing this, my knee hurts already from yesterday's minute. But I'll try again.

So my recipe for 2010 is to start now and start very, very........ small.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Incredibly Happy to Be Home!

Well, it's been a few days and a few hundred kilometres and close to 10 hours of round-trip train time since I've last posted and boy am I happy to be home!

First things first: I did have a pleasant visit with my sister-in-law and her family. She and her husband are good people, in some ways quite saintly, in fact. They have not chosen an easy path in life.

About six or seven years ago, they finally gave up trying to have children and opted to adopt a brother and sister, who were 3 and 4 at the time. The children had been taken from their birth family and when SIL and BIL met them, had already been living in foster care for some time. Obviously something had been very wrong with the birth family but the foster family was not great either. No doubt, both children suffered, but the little girl much more so than the boy since the foster family had only taken her so they could take care of the boy. She was not given any sense of love and caring, just tolerated.

My niece also suffers from extreme ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), with a frightening emphasis on the hyperactivity. The ADHD, combined with a lack of love during her early years has made her into an extreme narcissist. It seems like she never smiles openly, just forces a tight smile out once in awhile because she knows that that's what people expect. She stiffly accepts hugs and kisses and constantly demands things. When given what she wants, you can only expect a perfunctory thank you--again because she has been socialized just enough to know that that is what is expected.

It is clear that K. only tolerates her mother, my sister-in-law. Occasionally, she in unable to rein in her disdain and insults her openly, commenting on how fat she is or saying things like "get out of the way, old woman" (SIL is in her 40s). She is on medication, goes to a special needs class and I believe is followed by a social worker but to be honest, I'm not seeing great progress.

Little nephew, on the other hand, is a sweet, quiet little guy who is totally overshadowed by his loud, demanding sister. He is generous with his hugs and smiles and a joy to be around. I feel he is getting lost in the tornado his sister constantly has going on around her.

To make the situation even worse, K. practically has to be tied down to eat anything except sugar. I did a little sleuthing on the Internet and found that, despite lots of anecdotal evidence to the contrary, there is STILL NO PROVEN, SCIENTIFIC LINK BETWEEN ADHD AND SUGAR CONSUMPTION. I myself tend to be very sceptical of those who swear that sugar/gluten/etc. etc. immediately produce an extreme, negative effect on their bodies and/or minds. I think that the placebo effect is very strong in this area. For instance, a study found that the mothers of ADHD children who believe in the deleterious effects of sugar on their children's behaviour immediately saw behavioural problems in their children after having been told their children had consumed sugar. In fact, the children had not been given any sugar. But the mothers expected a bad result and therefore "saw" it occur. As an aside, a similar experiment was done with MSG and Chinese food. A group of people who self-identified as being sensitive to MSG were given a meal of Chinese food and then asked how they felt (I'm skipping over the details of the study, so don't start criticizing the results). Although no MSG had been put in the food, many reported the typical MSG symptoms like headaches, etc. Like I said, the placebo effect can be very strong.

But I digress...

Now, after saying that I am sceptical about a lot of what people consider food allergies, I am very concerned about my niece's diet. I know her parents are doing the best they can, but the fact remains that she eats no vegetables and few fruits (she did eat a half a banana during the three and a bit days we were there). She does eat small amounts of cheese. The only food I saw her eat with gusto was apple pie. Thank goodness the apple filling was homemade. Her parents have to supplement her diet with products like Boost. She is very tiny. Apparently, her growth curve is moving normally though I truly would not be surprised if she is at the 1st percentile in terms of growth.

All in all, I fear for my niece and for her parents and there is nothing I can do or say.

My husband is ferociously protective of his sister. He thinks that she and her husband are doing a stellar job and that, with time and love, their daughter will grow into a well-balanced, happy person. I hope he is right, though I don't see this happening. On the one occasion when I was able to have a long, private discussion with my brother-in-law's sister, she too expressed the same deep concerns that I have.

Basically, my husband has made it clear that I am just being a nay-sayer. He gets angry when I express my worries, so I am trying to not say anything...hence this long post to get things off my chest.

Although my boys are very discreet, they can only take a few days with their cousin and are always happy to come home.

So that was my Christmas vacation...and I haven't even mentioned the severe lack of vegetables I endured while away. Maybe I'll make that the subject of another post. Believe it or not, we still managed to have a good time and to spend some happy time with family, so although the sub-text is pretty scary and the future might be grim (I really, truly hope that I'm wrong), I'm glad we had this visit...

...and I'm really glad to be home!

P.S. Thanks for listening!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Best Holiday Tips I've Seen

OK. After saying that I won't be around for a few days, I just have to send you all over to this great post:

I just love holiday eating tips that don't tell what to eat...or NOT eat.

Have a Merry One!

What with the holidays and all, I will probably not be blogging for a few days.

I just want to wish you all a very happy holiday season (Channukah is over and I apologize for not having mentioned it but Christmas is just around the corner; best wishes for Kwanzaa too).

I'll be back soon with more contrarian commentary to wrap up 2009 and start 2010!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why Do You Exercise?

One day, you will not long quite so much to fit into those cool, skinny jeans. You will be happy about having improved your eating (more whole foods, less junk food) and increased your physical activity but you will also find it easier to accept who you are, including your lumps and bumps.

And maybe, just maybe, you will exercise because you know it makes you feel good and it's good for your overall health, not just because you've burned x calories in x minutes...Because, honestly, success is not just measured in calories burned and good health is not just measured in pounds lost.

I'm off to breathe now.

Friday, December 18, 2009

How to Make Someone Give Up

Before going out to yoga yesterday, I took a few minutes to do some exercises with ankle weights to help strengthen my glutes and protect my very sore knee. This is not exciting stuff, so I turned on the TV to keep me awake.

I caught the last five minutes of a Canadian show called "X Weighted". It's a slightly less nasty variation on the "Biggest Loser", but what I saw yesterday made my blood boil.

I caught the last five minutes of a show about a young woman who wanted to become a professional hip-hop dancer. Her goal was to audition for the dancers attached to the Toronto Raptors basketball team.

When I tuned in at the end of the show, she was still quite a curvy young woman, but what a dancer! She looked like she was in fabulous shape. Over the six months of work with the X Weighted team, she had turned her eating habits around and really stepped up the exercise. Apparently, she'd had a less than stellar start, but during the last three months she'd given it her all.

The program showed her during her first audition for the hip-hop dancers and then being asked to come back for a final audition. What a victory, right? Wrong!

In six months, she had lost about 25 pounds and almost 14" from her bust, waist and hips. She also cut her time doing the fitness circuit down by 30 seconds (she did the circuit at the beginning of the show and then at the end, six months later). The trainer was blown away. What a victory, right? Wrong!

Her parents and her boyfriend were there for the final weigh-in. She was happy with the inches lost, but disappointed with her weight loss. Then the trainer asked her mother what she thought. "She could have done better," said mom curtly. A tear rolled down the girl's face.

I was livid.

This young woman had worked hard. She was in fantastic shape. She was a great dancer, but she still didn't look like Kate Moss.

My first thought was that she'd probably built up a lot of muscle over the six months of training and damn it, muscle weighs more than fat. She'd lost a ton of inches--which is the real mark of improving the shape you're in. The trainer, of course, did not say this to her. Her let her cry.

Great TV. Really gripping.

I wonder where she'll be in another six months. With family and a trainer like that, who needs enemies?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Perils of Tightrope Walking

Source: The Kenyon Review

A blogger is MIA--you know, one of the purist, cleanest eaters, the one who exercises religiously, who tracks every bite she eats.

She's been MIA for a few days.

Maybe she just doesn't feel like blogging, maybe she's busy buying Christmas presents, maybe she's come down with the flu. Any one of these options is better than how much she could be hurting if she's fallen off the dieting tightrope.

I have never even thought about becoming a tightrope walker. I always say that I can do just about anything except dance ballet, but I should add tightrope walking to the list. It must be really tough--the embodiment of the "straight and narrow". On a tightrope, there's no room for any mistakes at all. Once you've fallen off the tightrope, it seems like the show's over.

Sorry friends, but I do believe there's a very dark side to "eating clean", or eating "perfectly" or whatever you want to call it. For every yin, there's a yang and to eat "clean" there has to be an "eat dirty", for every "good" food, there has to be a "bad" food. If how you eat has become a dichotomy, make sure you've got a hospital nearby, because you're going to have lots of broken bones once you fall off the tightrope. And make no mistake about it, YOU WILL. Why? Because you're human. Only computers always follow the straight and narrow...until they crash.

Get off the tightrope and walk on the road. It's not as exciting by half. For the most part, people won't notice you. The changes might be minimal or hard to see. You might simply feel more content. And you won't fall off the face of the earth.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fat Talk

OK, we're all reading these blogs because we're interested in weight loss, or simply in eating better (and we all have a different definition of what that means), or because we have some sort of eating disorder (binging, anorexia, bulimia, etc.). So we're all talking about weight and that's OK.

But I'd like to challenge you all to limit "fat talk".

What is "fat talk"? Here are some examples:

"OMG, I stuffed myself. I feel so bloated and ashamed."

"I'm really working hard on sticking to the programme. I need to lose X. I'm at my heaviest."

"Oh, I really can't eat X. I have to stay away from it or else I gain weight."

And so on and so forth.

Actually, I often find that the worst "fat talkers" are slim, young women who feel it is their duty to proclaim their (totally imagined) fatness, because you know, you can never be too thin or too rich. I have sat silent listening to this kind of garbage spewing from the mouths of people who wouldn't know a weight problem if it bit them in the behind. I am ashamed for not saying anything.

But I think we of the currently, formerly or "in the middle of being fat" persuasion also shoot ourselves down by criticizing our own appearances (fat slob, thunder thighs, paunch...). And yes, I have been just as guilty of this as anyone else.

I say "down with insulting, debasing and otherwise hating ourselves"! Treat yourself with as much love as you treat others. When was the last time you told your mother/husband/best friend how crappy they look since they gained weight? I'm sure that even if you wanted to say that, you toned down the words so that they wouldn't go away hating themselves or you. Please be just as kind to yourself.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I was first introduced to the concept of mindfulness at a time in my life when I was desperately searching for a way to address my physical problems (failed surgery) without going stark, raving mad. I kept thinking about how badly things had gone--not just my operation, but so many things in my life. And when I wasn't obsessing about the past, the future made me crazy with fear. What if they couldn't fix my hip? What if I had to live like this forever? What if I never got to travel again? What if I could never go for a simple walk again? I was living either in the past or in the future. The present didn't exist. I suspect this is a common problem for many people. I have a strong tendency to obsess over things that are done and gone, things that I can't take back or that I should have done better or not done at all. I also imagine all kinds of horrible things that could happen. I won't even give you a sample of my crazy worrying.

Mindfulness is the polar opposite of everything I just described. In a nutshell, it means living in the present. Here is a slightly more elaborate definition that I found in Wikipedia:

Psychological "mindfulness" is broadly conceptualized, say Bishop et al.(2004:232), as "a kind of nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is". They propose a two-component operational definition of "mindfulness".

The first component involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is
characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance. (2004:232) The former mindfulness component of self-regulated attention involves conscious awareness ofone's current thoughts, feelings, and surroundings, which can result in metacognitive skills for controlling concentration. The latter mindfulness component of orientation to experience involves accepting one's mindstream, maintaining open and curious attitudes, and thinking in alternative categories [...]

OK, that was a quite a bit more elaborate, but well worth reading.

What does this have to do with a weight loss/health/personal journey? A lot, in my opinion.

While planning and goal setting are laudable activities, without mindfulnesss, you can't fully benefit from the moment that you are actually doing all these wonderful things that you dreamed about or planned for so long.

The same applies when you're living in the past and rehashing all the horrible (though often minor) mistakes you made, turning them around in your mind. How can anyone move on when they can't stop themselves from living in the past?

Tomorrow and yesterday. I know what has already happened and yes, to a certain extent it helps me to forecast the future. But remember that famous line you find in every financial prospectus: "past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results". BTW, there are over 6 million hits for this phrase.

I think that if I have one new year's resolution, it is not to exercise more or lose more weight. My resolution is to live more in the moment: to be aware of how I feel, both mentally and physically and honour those feelings; to stop and smell the roses; to respect my hunger and my fullness now, not in some hypothetical future.

So I think this means that resolutions are out the window: my resolution is to be here now.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cleaning Out Stuff

It feels like spring in the NewMe home. We just had a wall of built-ins installed in our basement, plus a small extra bookcase installed on the wall in my office and I'm just raring to slash and burn my way through the boxes that have been piling up over the last year and a half, plus the stuff that we never unpacked from our move, nine (NINE!!) years ago.

We did a fairly major renovation about 1 1/2 years ago and ended up with more living space and less storage space. Go figure. It's not a big house--something I'm actually proud of since it means we've got a smaller carbon footprint--but we've got too much stuff.

Stuff. It's like empty calories, leftovers at the back of the fridge. Ready-to-serve, boxed meals you just never got around to putting in a pot with water and heating up. Salt-inundated munchies.

Stuff. It's horrible.

I just put two adds on Craigslist, one is for skates and the other for a complete boy's taekwon do outfit. It was bought for my son when he was 6 years old and we were still living in Montreal. He did not continue with the sport once we moved to Toronto. He's now almost 17 and that darned outfit with pads, helmet, etc. has been sitting in a bag, piled on a box of who knows what for the past nine years.

Stuff. I feel like getting rid of some of this stuff will be like shedding ten pounds. It's a weight I really want to lose!

Update! The taekwon do outfit is sold to a cute little guy named Christian. Long live Craigslist!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Say No to Size Zero Campaign

I can't post the picture at this site because it's under copyright, but I encourage you all to take a look.

This is a FAT woman--a woman who was fired from her job as a WonderBra model because she was much too fat.

Don't you all wish you were that fat? And for my gentlemen readers, don't you all wish that you had such a fat lady friend/wife?

Monday, December 7, 2009


I've been feeling very ambivalent about my blogging recently. Perhaps it's just that I'm a bit ambivalent about my life right now: too much stress on many levels and the realization that I need to find a way to deal with it.

Food is not much of an issue compared to stress. It's been almost a year since I started changing my attitude towards food and how I eat. Although I don't think I was ever a particularly emotional eater, now food is even less of an issue. My stress comes out in other ways. My challenge is to deal with bad, stress-induced habits that have nothing to do with food, but that must be dealt with nevertheless.

I'm also feeling ambivalent towards blogging because I know the food message I advocate here is quite unorthodox. No plans, no planning, no calorie counting (of either food eaten or calories burned), no bad foods, no good foods--just lots of "soft skill" development: listening to and answering the hunger signal, listening to and respecting the fullness signal, legalizing all foods (thanks for the term, Francesca!), moving your body, loving yourself just as you are now rather than beating up on yourself for falling off the wagon, not looking perfect not getting results fast enough...

It would be great if I could say to everyone, "Look at me! It really works! I've lost all the weight I wanted to and kept it off!!", but that's not the case. The wall I've hit is totally related to my handicap and how it prevents me from doing the exercise I want and need to do. It's frustrating to realize that now that I have finally found what is right for me, I can't put it to work entirely. So the results, while good, are not all that they would have otherwise been.

People want to see results. I can't blame them. Weight-loss blog readers like numbers--preferably if they're going down. No numbers...yawn. No tangible change...yawn.

I think I do have a success story to tell. But it's not exciting and the real success lies in the long term. What if I manage to maintain the weight that I have lost (about half of my ideal goal) for two years, five years, forever, but never manage to lose the other half? In the "Biggest Loser" universe, I am a dud. In the weight-loss universe, I'm not very exciting.

I intend to just keep plodding along.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Help Fight Breast Cancer!

This video is GREAT!!! Pass it on! The more hits it gets, the more money
that will be donated!!!!

A lady recently created, directed and choreographed this in Portland last week for her Medline glove division as a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. This was all her idea to help promote their new pink gloves. I don't know how she got so many employees, doctors and patients to participate, but it started to really catch on and they all had a lot of fun doing it.
When the video gets 1 million hits, Medline will be making a huge contribution to the hospital, as well as offering free mammograms for the community. Please check it out.

It's an easy and great way to donate to a wonderful cause, and who hasn't been touched by breast cancer?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Too Much TV--Yet Another Review

Photo from

This past Sunday night, I snuggled up in my big comfy bed at the Delta Hotel after an exhausting and difficult day of work. I would have liked to do a bit of time on the hotel's treadmill, but I'm still being rather careful about how much I walk, due to my recent hip scare. I did actually take a brisk walk around the floor I was on a few times, but it wasn't much.

Anyhoo, after going over the documents for the next day's meeting (a real snorefest), I got into my PJs and settled in for some serious TV viewing.

I ended up watching three programmes on TLC, all dealing with the trials and tribulations of the morbidly obese.

The first programme followed a teenager who had been hospitalized so that he could start losing weight, with a view towards eventually getting bariatric surgery. It was really depressing, as his weight problem was directly linked to some very, very dysfunctional family dynamics. There was also a parallel story about another teenager who had had the surgery and was going nowhere with the weight loss. Again, a terrible family dynamic seemed to be at the root of his weight problem.

But the two programmes that I watched a lot more carefully dealt with the so-called "650 pound virgin". How's that for an attention-getting moniker? Reel 'em in with that title and then create a pretty superficial programme that doesn't get at the root of anything. Both of the programmes were depressing. Again, the reason for his excessive eating and morbid obesity was basically psychological. The programme did look at the psychological aspects somewhat, but of course, the main theme of the programme was how this now good-looking young man was finally going to find a girl friend (and judging by the title of the show, finally get laid). His attempts at speed dating and meeting with various life/dating "coaches" didn't seem to get him anywhere. There was even a scene where he just couldn't get the words "give me your phone number" out. I felt really uncomfortable.

Virgin show number two showed our hapless friend still with his virginity intact, still room mates with his personal trainer (a more buff guy you couldn't imagine), and with 30 pounds back on. He still seemed massively uncomfortable with himself and the show continued on its superficial way. One scene showed him "counselling" his obese sister, who was talking about the heartbreak of splitting up with her boyfriend two years previous and her signifcant weight gain. Believe me, I can understand that heartbreak (been there, done that, still remember every moment of it), I can understand trying to quell the pain with food, but there was something so voyeuristic and yet completely superficial about their talk. It was all for the camera and there was no substance.

Yes, he finally lost his virginity. But it wasn't at all as he had hoped. Another superficial experience, from what he said on camera...

As I watched the two shows, I felt like I had been watching a car crash. I felt like this poor man had emotionally stripped himself naked for the camera and for what? In addition to eating healthily and working with a personal trainer, what this poor guy needed was some serious psychotherapy. But psychotherapy does not make for good television and anyway, it's covered by privacy laws so even if you could make good television out of it, you wouldn't be allowed to.

I wondered why there was no discussion of his recent weight gain. Granted, when you've lost over 400 pounds, 30 pounds is not huge, but it does indicate that something might be going on. That's what I wanted to know about although no information was forthcoming.

Maybe I'm asking for too much from my TV shows. I just don't want to hear anymore about what he ate and how he exercised and what the dating coach said. I wanted to know what was going on in his heart and soul. That's where it's really at and that's probably too personal to ever find out about.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Not to Wear

I rarely watch "What Not to Wear" with Stacy London and Clinton Kelly on TLC. I often don't particularly like the clothing they choose for their fashion-backward subjects. But I really enjoyed the episode about Bailey, a radio show host in Denver who had lost 60 pounds but was still walking around in super baggy pants and oversized t-shirts. It's season 7, episode 9.

The new Bailey was no skinny minny but she was a lovely woman with some great curves in all the right places, plus curly hair to die for and gorgeous blue eyes. I was really moved by how sad she was, despite the great work she'd done on herself. In her head, she was still in the big body she had left behind.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the transformation of Bailey, especially because even with the great weight loss, she was nowhere near "catwalk skinny"--you know, how we're all "supposed" to look. The new Bailey looked like a real woman and she looked fabulous, dahling. Here's a link to the Bailey episode with a great picture of her.

Kudos to "What Not to Wear"!