Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fighting the Good Fight

It's amazing what can make you happy. Take now, for instance: I'm ecstatic to be sweating. I just finished a 16-minute workout on my elliptical trainer, having repeatedly upped the speed and resistance for a few seconds at a time throughout the workout. I was wearing my new knee brace and it felt pretty good. Of course now comes the real test: will my knee and hip complain? I know I have to be careful and increase my time on the machine by very small increments if I don't want to hurt my various arthritic and/or bionic joints, but I'm still going to let myself bask in the moment. At least a little bit!

I have a Tunturi elliptical trainer and I highly recommend this brand, especially if you're on the small side. A few weeks ago, I was at a hotel out of town and decided to try out the elliptical trainer in the gym. It was a Precor--a monster with all the bells and whistles--but literally so big that one stride on it sent my operated hip into paroxysms of fear. I switched to the treadmill. So, if you are looking for a nice little elliptical trainer that does the job, doesn't take up too much space and isn't too massive for those of us who are on the petite side, try a Tunturi. They also make awesome little stationary bikes. And BTW, I am neither a paid nor an unpaid Tunturi spokesperson--just a fan.

Yes, friends. As you can see, I'm trying to fight the good fight, getting myself into better shape than I've been in years while shedding a few pounds.

Here's one of the reasons why my attitude took a change for the better this year:

I think I've mentioned before that I have had zip luck with traditional hypnosis. A few years ago, I invested in hypnosis to help me lose weight. All I got was pissed off because of a) the poor grammar on the tapes and b) having a male hypnotist who kept saying how easy he found it to lose weight. Well duh, for men it's way easier and faster to lose weight than for women.

However, I am quite sure that the CD that came with Paul McKenna's book, "I Can Make You Thin", actually did insidiously work its way into my subconscious, at least in terms of exercise. I listened to the CD pretty much every day for a couple of months and the one message that I really latched onto was doing more exercise. McKenna doesn't bully or tell you how much to eat or to exercise. He just plants the idea of doing just that bit more...and enjoying it.

So here I am: not a poster girl for exercise or diet, just a bit more positive about my ability to work towards a happier, healthier me. Excuse me while I bask in the thrill of it all for a few minutes. Then I have to take a shower to get all the sweat off!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

That Big Eater Colleague of Mine...and Fine Dining

I just wanted to add a little note about the colleague I was working with out of town a few days ago.

Two posts back, I mentioned what a big eater he was and that he didn't have to lose any weight. I take that back. He's starting to get a paunch. That's his business not mine.

And BTW, we didn't go out for a steak. We ate at a lovely restaurant near the smelly hotel where we had to stay. I had a scrumptious plate of mussels and half a glass of wine. My colleague did NOT have desert. I was surprised. Maybe even he felt that after all the food he'd eaten that day, there really was no room for dessert. I admit to being shocked, though.

After supper, I went for a beautiful walk and discovered a charming residential district, tucked in behind the strip malls, fast-food joints and (gotta say it again) smelly hotels.

Tomorrow night, I'll once again be at a hotel, but this time a Sheraton, right at Toronto International Airport. We're working late and starting early the next day, so the client is picking up the tab for a hotel room. It will be strange staying at a hotel with my family just a 40 minute drive away. But I need to be well rested for an early start the next day! Hopefully, the Sheraton serves oatmeal.

My Blog Roll!!

No, not my fat roll, or my egg roll...my blog roll!

I've been meaning to do this for awhile, but finally remembered to set it up when my resident computer expert (aka my hubby) was around and not too busy with other things. I just needed a push in the right direction (simple, just go to layout and follow the instructions) and voilĂ !, I now have a blog roll.

A blog roll makes you think about who you are. Why is A there, but not B? Why have I listed C when I really don't agree with a lot they have to say? How can I list A, B and C when D, E and F hold completely opposite points of view?

The answer is simple: I'm complicated and I'm contradictory, like most people.

Take a look at the list. You'll find blogs written by serious dieters, some just starting out (some starting out again), some well on their way to success, some struggling mightily. Then there are blogs by anti-dieters in the fatosphere, proponents of HAES (healthy at any size), people who have turned their backs on dieting and started living. Which way do I turn? It just depends on my mood, although as I learn to practise intuitive eating, it becomes harder and harder to overeat. Then again, overeating at my size is one extra bite (slap on hand, stop complaining!). Ha!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ya Just Gotta Laugh!


Last night I drove to a medium-sized town in southern Ontario for a conference taking place today and tomorrow. I always check my route on Google maps and usually I find my way with little to no problem. Not yesterday.

Google maps totally screwed me up once I got into the town itself. After driving a fair distance in the wrong direction, I turned around and went back, past the turn-off and kept driving. Couldn't find the street, so I just stopped at someone's house and asked for directions. Yes, I was on the right road, so I kept going. Found the street I was looking for, turned in the correct direction and checked the street numbers. Yes, I was going in the right direction. Drove and drove until I saw a hotel I recognized from previous trips and pulled in there to again get directions. The nice lady at the counter confirmed that I'd gone too far. Turned around and went back. Drove and drove and still couldn't find the @$ hotel, though I knew I was on the right street. Turned around AGAIN and drove back. Still couldn't see the hotel, though I was driving slowly and it was fortunately still light out. Finally, stopped at a red light, I got the attention of the car beside me and asked the man if he knew where the hotel was. "Right behind you," says he. "Can't you see it?"

No, I couldn't see the hotel but I turned around and drove very, very slowly until I saw the hotel sign, VERY VERY high off the ground. There was actually nothing on the building itself to indicate that it was a hotel. The only sign on the building was the name of a restaurant, the Golden Griddle.

The entrance to the hotel said "Motel". Not even hotel, much less the name of the hotel.

OK.

So I checked in and drove around the back to be closer to my room, especially since I lug around yoga equipment if I go away for more than one day. BTW, I do what is fondly known as "furniture yoga"--technically Iyengar. I highly recommend it, especially for people with special needs such as myself. With Iyengar, you use lots of props if your body is unable to do certain poses to the full extent. See the photo above. I carry around two blocks, a yoga mat, a large bolster and one or two straps. Sounds vaguely kinky. LOL.

So I lug my suitcase full of blocks, straps and clothing plus my mat and bolster to the nearest entrance and...my key doesn't work. So then I lug everything to the next door and thank goodness, the key card works.

The hallway smells like sweat.

Fortunately, my room is decent. And I've got free internet.

This morning, I go the Golden Griddle for breakfast. I order one egg, toast and peameal bacon (in the States, you call it Canadian bacon). I am charged for two eggs, even though I only had one and refused the hash browns. Minimum charge is two eggs.

The meeting goes well and we're finished at lunch time. We drive downtown for lunch. Without going into detail, the waiters were charmingly incompetent. Service glitches abounded.

Food digression: PORTION SIZES! Unreal! This morning I left the hotel restaurant with a peameal bacon sandwich made of leftovers from my breakfast. I had to throw it out since I don't have a fridge at the hotel. Same for lunch. A small bowl of soup and half a grilled veggie wrap are more than enough for me. Now the other half of my wrap is sitting here in my room on the table and I'm not sure I should eat it for supper since it sat in the hot car for awhile after lunch. Half the weight problems in our society have to do with the unreal portion sizes they serve at restaurants!! People are set up to get fat!!

The colleague I'm working with today doesn't need to lose a pound. He probably should do some exercise to tone up a bit, but he has no weight problem. This morning he polished off three eggs, bacon, toast and a piece of tomato. At lunch he had a large bowl of pasta-laden soup and a huge dish of Thai stir-fry. In an hour, at 6 p.m., he'll call my room to ask if I want to go to a steak house for supper. If I do go, it will only be for a salad. He'll have his steak meal and order dessert. I know. We work together out of town frequently. Life just ain't fair. Sigh.

So that's been my day, here in southern Ontario.

Ya just gotta laugh!

P.S. When I left the restaurant with my 1/2 a wrap, there was a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk with his hand out for money. I don't give to everyone, but whenever I see someone like that the mom in me sees the little baby he/she once was and my heart is heavy. Anyway, I politely asked him if he'd like my wrap. It was fresh and very tasty. He politely refused. He wanted money--to buy some pop because it was a really hot day. Maybe he was telling the truth, maybe he was lying. I did give him 50 cents though. Too bad he didn't take the wrap though. He missed out on something yummy and healthy too.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fear

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

-a quote from FDR's first inaugural address
I'm sure many of you have read this before, but after my mini-fear fest yesterday and Jack Sh*t's gentle response, the above quote suddenly came to mind this morning.

I got on the @$# scale this morning and found that I had neither gained nor lost over the last few weeks. Yes, the last time I weighed myself (3 weeks ago?), I had gained about a 1/2 kilo or so but since then, nothing's changed. It was the right thing to weigh myself, rather than obsess about the unknown.

I still think that there are many more worthwhile things for me to be concerned with and to talk about, but sometimes you just have to get a load (or a kilo) off your chest.

There, that feels better!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Feeling a Wee, Tiny Bit Bad About Myself

The ever hysterical Jack Sh*t is challenging us to a half-pound duel. His challenge went out yesterday: lose a whopping half-pound in one week! The audacity of it!

I love reading Jack's blog because he puts a really funny spin on weight loss. He's not Mr. Yeah Hooray today and Mr. Doom and Gloom tomorrow, depending on what the scale says. I like that man.

But Jack's got me feeling a little, wee tiny bit bad about myself.

When first I started this blog, I wrote about myself and my personal struggles. Then, I started moving into more philosophical terrain--food and society, attitudes toward health, food, goodness, badness. I like the idea of discussing the big questions rather than beating myself up about what I ate, or even celebrating that hard-lost pound, yet here I am, talking about Jack's challenge and how it's sort of shaken me up.

I am not taking the challenge, at least not this week. I am quite sure that I have gained at least a kilo over the last few weeks but I have made a pact with myself not to get on the scale for at least another week.

For the past 2 years or so, I have been using a bio-identical progesterone cream, under a doctor's supervision. However, recently, I started questioning the results of the twice yearly blood tests, especially since a saliva test (suggested by my naturopath) to measure my hormones came up with some numbers that were the exact opposite of what the doctor was telling me. I just wasn't feeling good about this doctor anymore and in the meantime, my periods started going crazy--I was having one every two weeks!

So I trundled off to my GP, who recommended that I get off the cream and let my body go back to its natural hormone levels. I feel much relieved to be doing this. There is much to be said for bio-identical creams, but if you don't feel right about the doctor, it's not going to work out. Unfortunately, I believe that the doctor I was seeing is the only one in town who prescribes such creams. Hopefully, I'll be able to find another one eventually whom I really feel I can trust.

It's now been 27 days since my last period, so something might happen in the next few days. For now, I just don't know. If I am going to get my period, this is definitely not the time to be weighing myself. God knows how much water I could be retaining.

A little voice inside me is saying that all this breast-beating might just be the hormones talking...

So Jack, forgive me if I don't take up the challenge and everyone, thanks for listening.

How the Foodmakers Captured Our Brains

I've been reading Mark Bittman's book, "Food Matters", for the last few days. I bought it for my husband, so technically it's his and I shouldn't be highlighting passages and putting exclamation marks in the margins--however, that's really what I want to do. I've got to start sticking post-its beside all the important passages, though I fear that the book will be one giant post-it when I'm done.

I'm not ready to write my review yet, but I promise it's coming soon.

In the meantime, here's an article from the New York Times that's a must-read. I know I've mentioned the topic before, but some things are just worth repeating. Here's a rather long excerpt from the NYT article:

In “The End of Overeating,” Dr. Kessler finds some similarities in the food industry, which has combined and created foods in a way that taps into our brain circuitry and stimulates our desire for more.

When it comes to stimulating our brains, Dr. Kessler noted, individual ingredients aren’t particularly potent. But by combining fats, sugar and salt in innumerable ways, food makers have essentially tapped into the brain’s reward system, creating a feedback loop that stimulates our desire to eat and leaves us wanting more and more even when we’re full.

Dr. Kessler isn’t convinced that food makers fully understand the neuroscience of the forces they have unleashed, but food companies certainly understand human behavior, taste preferences and desire. In fact, he offers descriptions of how restaurants and food makers manipulate ingredients to reach the aptly named “bliss point.” Foods that contain too little or too much sugar, fat or salt are either bland or overwhelming. But food scientists work hard to reach the precise point at which we derive the greatest pleasure from fat, sugar and salt.

The result is that chain restaurants like Chili’s cook up “hyper-palatable food that requires little chewing and goes down easily,” he notes. And Dr. Kessler reports that the Snickers bar, for instance, is “extraordinarily well engineered.” As we chew it, the sugar dissolves, the fat melts and the caramel traps the peanuts so the entire combination of flavors is blissfully experienced in the mouth at the same time.

More and more, I'm coming to view the "fat epidemic", or whatever you want to call it, as a societal issue. Yes, it does come to down to what you choose to eat, when you choose to eat it, how much of it you choose to eat. But the frontier mentality--I can do it on my own and I don't need (or deserve) any help--keeps us in a world that condones such things as advertising that encourages us to stuff ourselves on fake food. Has anyone noticed the Dairy Queen ad where the kids run a clip about some incredible, sweet and cold concoction that DQ is now featuring just as their mom (who's more than moderately overweight) walks in the room? Suddenly Mom is suggesting a trip to DQ. Then the boys talk about the cheeseburger clip they've prepared for when dad's around. It disgusts me. We, as a society, have to put our foot down and stop falling for the lies and disinformation.

As you know, I believe in a bit of sugar, now and then, a good French baguette, a beautiful, runny Brie cheese. I believe in real, beautiful food and pretty much everything (except cocaine LOL) in moderation. But being bombarded with crap masquerading as food--to that I say NO!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Slightly Scary

I started this blog in January of this year. Not so long ago. Often, when I make one post, I end up making one or two more in the same day. Is this binge blogging? LOL. Then, I don't blog for a few days. And then, I kick myself in the butt and get busy on my keyboard. Why do I blog? For the discipline; the communication; the opportunity to play with words; the high that I get knowing that even just a few other people are interested in what I have to say; the outlet that blogging gives me to express my concerns and interests (blogging as the 21st century soapbox!); the really cool people that I "meet" through the comments section; etc.

The corollary of blogging is the unsettled feeling I get when bloggers that I really enjoy reading suddenly drop off the virtual map. One day I'm reading a fantastic, insightful post and the next month I realize that there's been zip, nada from the blogger for weeks and weeks, if not many months.

Yup, it's slightly scary.

Artificial Sweetners and Giving Sugar a Break

Today's Globe and Mail had a short but thought-provoking article on aspartame, a popular artificial sweetener. The article dealt with conflicting views concerning the safety of the product. Two recent studies indicate that there is no link between the sweetener and either neurological disorders or cancer. Interestingly enough, both leads in these studies have links to the industry.

The US FDA has set the acceptable limit on aspartame consumption at 50 milligrams per kilo of body weight. The European Food Safety Authority prefers 40 milligrams, indicating that the jury's still out on the absolute safety or danger of the product.

I wanted to link to this article, but it doesn't appear to have been posted yet on the Internet. However, I did find an article about artificial sweeteners that I think is perhaps even more important. Leslie Beck wrote the following in a Globe and Mail article on April 3:

In a study published this summer, researchers from the University of Alberta found young animals that became used to diet foods tended to overeat during meals of regular-calorie food.

The scientists suspect that diet foods disrupted the animals' ability to learn how various flavours correlate with calories. In other words, if you learn to associate sweet tastes with few calories, even a high-calorie dessert may fail to fill you up.


Mother Nature has given almost everyone a serious taste for sugar. I believe it dates back to pre-history when humans desperately needed difficult-to-find sources of energy. We had to in effect gorge ourselves on what little honey we found! Of course, in today's world, we need sugar like a hole in the head and it is so ubiquitous we find ourselves having to flee it rather than seek it out.

However, being the hedonists that we are--and I am just as hedonistic as the next person...and proud of it!--we have turned to science to have our cake and eat it too. Literally. So we stuff ourselves full of artificial sweeteners, ingesting products that were never meant to be eaten and deregulating our natural mechanisms for food self-regulation.

Let's stop fighting nature.

We have to let sugar (real sugar) return to its natural role in our lives. Just a bit, once in awhile, as a treat. When I see parents shielding their children against the slightest taste of sugar, I see in my mind's eye how that child will one day pig out on sugar, given half the chance. It also reminds me of how I reacted when a naturopath insisted that I totally eliminate refined sugar from my diet. I did follow the rules for several months...and gained weight. I felt so deprived, that I overate on "good" food!

Currently, my favourite sweet is dried apricots. Yes, it wouldn't be a good idea to eat a bag of them, but I do enjoy a few a day. My natural desire for refined sugar is somewhat thwarted by my "mantra": you can have it later if you're really hungry. On Sunday evening, after the garage sale, we all went out for gelato (Italian ice cream) at our local gelatiere (have I mentioned just how many wonderful places there are to eat within walking distance of my home?). Having just finished supper, I knew that my body really didn't want a whole, albeit small, ice cream, so I demurred. My older son, who seems to have the whole intuitive eating thing down to a science, decided about 2/3 of the way through his ice cream that he had had enough. Yes, I finished it--and it was enough for me.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Topic Search and...Sunburn

Well, real summer weather has arrived very suddenly in southern Ontario. So far, we have had some lovely, sunny weather interspersed with rain, but yesterday was the real thing. And I--dummy that I am--got caught with the proverbial sunscreen down. We had a garage sale and so we were sitting out in front of the house pretty much from 8:30 to 3 p.m. Guess who got a burn? I know, I know, chances of skin cancer, blah, blah, blah. What's done is done. My arms feel slightly tender, but aside from the redness, it's not too bad.

This morning, my red-headed son went on a school trip to an amusement park. I had him slather on the sunscreen. Older son, who's close to blond in the summer, has just been warned to do the same before he goes out this afternoon.

I suppose if I hadn't been burned, I would have forgotten about getting the boys to slather up today. Ah, mothers.

Now, on to a more bloggy topic: I've got a book by Mark Bittman and one by Michael Pollan to read. Both deal with eating real food. I guess I have my cyber-friends to thank for forcing myself to read these books...and then reviewing them here for your reading pleasure!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Busy, busy!

I just wanted to mention that I have been super busy with work in recent days. This is my high season and recently I have been travelling a lot. Yesterday, I came back from a few beautiful days at a conference in Niagara on the Lake (staying at this hotel) and will be heading out for a half-day meeting in Kitchener tomorrow. Tonight's hotel will not be 1/10th as charming, alas, and the meeting promises to be extremely difficult. Ya win some, ya lose some. Just wish me a calm day tomorrow. Please.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Intuitive Eating--Take Power

Recently, I read a post written by a fellow blogger that really depressed me. I'm not going to give the link because I don't want to give the impression that I'm dissing a woman who has reached a goal that few manage to attain and even fewer manage to maintain: losing over 150 pounds and keeping it off.

What did she write and why did it make me so depressed?

Part of her post dealt with the meticulous meal planning she had to do in order to eat away from home for ONE SINGLE DAY. Everything was planned down to the slightest bite and she took food with her to avoid any possibility of deviating from plan. Her post dealt with the anxiety and anger she felt at having to plan to such an extent, but she came to the conclusion that such planning was absolutely vital to her continuing success and that the best she could do was take a more Zen attitude towards this unfortunate necessity.

My Zen response would be: if it works for you, my friend, then more power to you.

But my human response is: this is a prison without bars! And if this is the only way to lose weight, I'd rather live free and fat. But what disturbed me at least as much as the post was the tenor of the responses: essentially, "you are my idol", "you do what I aspire to", "would that I were as "good" as you".

What's the success rate for dieters? Five percent? What's the long-term success rate? Less?

I wonder why.

Thank goodness, I had to good fortune to drop by Smoke Yourself Thin where Julie was kind enough to reproduce the 10 principles of intuitive eating. The post is well worth reading. Nay, it is essential reading.

What are the 10 principles (intuitiveeating.com)?

1. Reject the diet mentality.
2. Honour your hunger.
3. Make peace with food.
4. Challenge the food police.
5. Respect your fullness.
6. Discover the satisfaction factor.
7. Honour your feelings without using food.
8. Respect your body.
9. Exercise--feel the difference.
10. Honour your health.

These principles are essentially the same as those espoused by Paul McKenna in his book "I Can Make You Thin". I'm not here to sell anyone's book. I think we can all do ourselves a world of good by just making these principles our guiding principles in life.

Now, I'll admit, I'm not a binge eater. I am able to say that I've had enough, although obviously, since I write a weight-loss blog, somewhere along the line I too have eaten too much. My weight gain--above and beyond my mildly overweight state for most of my life--has been fairly recent. If I lost 150 pounds, I'd be in negative weight territory.

However, I--like so many others--have a hefty amount of anxiety about food. In fact--oh the ultimate irony!!--this post is the result of a recent, (and on-going) bout of fear/anxiety, which the unnamed blogger was experiencing at the same time as I was. She had gained TWO POUNDS!! And I have gained ONE AND A HALF POUNDS!! And my anxiety is through the roof, as was hers.

Now, she talks about distancing herself from the fear and she's right. Where we part company is the way in which we view food. I'm struggling, but my struggle is not to limit what or how much I eat. It's a struggle to make peace with food. To love it and eat it and enjoy it, but to let it go when I've had enough, to not eat when I'm not hungry, to stop when I'm full.

I know that I've discussed this many times before, but it keeps coming back to the fore. Why? Because I truly believe that for the vast majority of people, including myself, dieting does not work. The super successful lady featured in this post is also interested in Buddhism (as am I). One aspect of Buddhism is the idea of past lives (reincarnation). The thought struck me that a person who could maintain such a high and consistent level of self-denial was probably some sort of holy person in a past life--a cloistered nun, a monk, a Buddhist priest? It's as plausible an answer as any other.

Yes, there are people in the world who are capable of constant self-denial, but I'm not one of them, nor are many of us out there. I do think, however, that making a sincere effort to re-establish a healthy relationship with food is not beyond the ability of an average person. I think this is easier said than done, but I encourage everyone to have a piece of pie for breakfast--if that's what you want--and then get on with life!

Friday, June 12, 2009

My Mantra

I've had a busy week work-wise, almost ending up in Kingston for two days. That would have been a 2 1/2 hour drive each way, traffic permitting. Thankfully, I did not have to go, but did do an unexpected day of work yesterday. Today, I finished off a translation, went to pick up my knee x-rays (geez, I hate that clinic) and will soon be off to yoga.

But before I go, I would like to tell you about my mantra and how helpful it is to me.

Here it is:

"Don't worry. You can have it later when you're hungry again."

It's long and lacking in elegance, but it's very meaningful to me. It means that I don't have to deny myself anything. I just have to find the right time to eat it and the right time is when I feel like eating it and have the room in my stomach to do so.

Practically speaking, this mantra means that I actually do eat less of the stuff that's "bad" for me, even though I detest that word. Why? Because I only crave sweets after my hunger's been satisfied. I don't crave sweets when I'm hungry. Full disclosure: sometimes I will have a bit of a sweet like a large spoonful of ice cream after my meal, but I soothe myself by saying that I can have more if I really want it...just later! And often, later gets forgotten.

Sometimes, it's not that easy, but who said life was easy?

Gotta run to yoga now!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dreams and Nightmares

I just came across this article on the dark side of modelling and wanted to share it with you:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/jun/07/sara-ziff-teen-modelling-fashion

Just goes to show, we're all obsessing about ourselves. Yes, all of us!

Fake Food

When I was a kid in the 1960s, my mother was a renegade. While all my friends ate PB&J on white bread and had bottles of Coke in the fridge, my handicapped mother still managed to only get brown (whole wheat) bread. When we had peanut butter, it was from the health food store, with no sugar or additives and full of nice crunchy bits. I don't remember having jam in the house. I do remember natural honey, again from the health food store.

We didn't even have mayonnaise in the house. Chopped egg sandwiches were moistened with a bit of milk! It didn't taste that good.

Once in a while, I did get a junk food treat: a Caramilk bar and an Orange Crush.

In the meantime, I lusted after all the junk my friends were allowed to eat and developed a major sweet tooth, which I have to this day.

I actually think it's almost equally dangerous to demonize junk food when you have kids: the more you try to insulate kids from what's around them, the more you make junk food into "forbidden fruit" and the more you risk them lusting after the worst the modern world has to offer in terms of food and ignoring all the wonderful foods Mother Nature provides us.

A case in point is Guy Fieri, the host of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, a Food Network show where Guy visits the best of the worst the US has to offer in food. Burgers the size of houses, dripping in fat, fried foods that would clog your arteries just looking at them, decadent desserts that make you gain five pounds while you watch the show--it's all totally yummy stuff. Guy Fieri was brought up in a strictly vegetarian, macrobiotic household. And boy, did he rebel!!

But my mother's insistence on healthy food did make an impression on me and I definitely do keep junk food to a minimum in my home and in my diet in general (OK, full disclosure: last night I did have some chips--sour cream and BBQ--at a kids party).

So why this post on "fake food"?

Recently, while surfing the diet blogs, I've come across a number of recipes or references to what I call fake food. For instance, instead of calling for a specific type of flour, the recipe calls for a specific brand of flour. I even found a recipe that calls for "PB2", which is apparently powdered peanut butter. The company that makes this product says that it contains no chemicals, but to my mind, the more you process a food, the less real it is. Another product that I would flee like the plague is liquid egg whites. What do they have to do to the poor eggs to get out that nasty yolk and make them shelf-stable for months (or whatever length of time they're meant to stay "fresh")?

Eating real, unprocessed (or as lightly processed as possible) food in moderation should be preferred to eating calorie-reduced dreck.

Substituting "calorie-reduced" or whatever-reduced products for the real thing is pretty scary to my mind. I'd much rather use a little less of my home-made salad dressing (which contains, amongst other things, olive oil, mayo, Dijon mustard, a touch of honey) than any of those vile, low-cal things that masquerade as dressings and that contain more additives than real ingredients. Read the label on the food you buy. Better yet, buy fewer prepared products and more fresh produce.

Even water has fallen prey to the fake syndrome.

I won't go into the debate on bottled water here, but I do want to talk about flavoured water. I'm not a huge fan of drinking water, however, since the beginning of the year, I have become much, much more diligent about my water consumption. Last year, I would only drink water when I was dying of thirst. Drinking water was something I did under duress. Now, I drink about a litre and a half (6 glasses) a day, and try to drink a bit more. And when I say water, I mean water, none of this coloured, artificially sweetened stuff. There are enough additives in the food we eat already, why add more?

I am concerned about the additives that are put into so-called diet foods and I am equally concerned about how these foods contribute to our fear of food in general. I recognize that certain people have food allergies or intolerances but I'd just like to throw out a question to those of you who say that sugar drives your body around the bend: would the sugar reaction be just as violent after eating a slice of homemade banana bread (total sugar content for the entire loaf: 1/2 cup) as after eating a packaged snack cake (I'll avoid brand names) made with high-fructose corn syrup?

In our quest to reduce calories, we are moving further and further away from nutrient-rich food, food that truly nourishes our bodies (and dare I say, our souls) while creating an unnatural dependency on artificial additives and processed pseudo-foods.

So go out there and have some beautiful olive oil on your salad, throw in some walnuts and avocado pieces (oops, what about the hundred-mile diet?) and have a piece of the best quality chocolate you can find for dessert!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Going Up, Going Down

About a month ago, a weight loss blogger on another site asked her readers about the weight at which they felt "this cannot go on!". I knew exactly what weight that was for me. It was the weight that I was at the first time I started seriously dieting. I was about 15 and somebody said something seriously insulting to me about my weight. I began a once a week liquid-only fast and was really careful what I ate during the balance of the week. I lost the weight, but of course gained it back over time. However, that start weight remained my highest for many years.

Over the years, I gained and lost, but it was only when I moved here to Toronto that things went really wrong. Some of it was due to depression (not clinical, but I was unhappy about moving here, my mom died shortly after we arrived, etc.) and a lot was due to my worsening arthritis and botched hip replacement (subsequently corrected, thank goodness). That "highest" weight actually became a goal that seemed impossible to reach again.

Well, now I'm within about two pounds of getting DOWN to my symbolic highest weight, but I feel perfectly alright with that. Thanks to the yoga, I'm probably more toned than I was the last time I saw that weight on my scale. I walk a lot more and, brace willing, I'll be doing some biking and elliptical training too (the saga continues) in the near future.

And my attitude's different. That's probably the best part.

Yesterday, I wore a pair of my skinny pants. They're still a bit tight, but loosening up. Hooray.

In the evening, I put on my yoga tights and did my practice and then I got silly. I tried on all the "slimmer me" clothing that I shlepped all the way from Montreal to Toronto when we moved nine years ago. For the most part, this is clothing I haven't worn since my 13-year old was a baby, or even before my 16-year old was born. I tried on several pairs of pants, three dresses and a blouse. Some of the pants I can now wear (though they're snug). One pair is still too small (bought in Florida about--gasp!--18 years ago, but still looking nice). The dresses definitely haven't been worn since before Son #1. I can get into them more easily, but they don't look good so they're back in the closet. Ditto for the blouse.

It was a silly-fest, but fun. Where were the boys (bearded one and teen-aged ones), you ask? At a "Nine Inch Nails" concert. I wouldn't know their sound if they scratched those nails across a blackboard, old fogey that I am.

This morning, I took out the trusty tape measure. Slowly, slowly, the numbers are creeping down. Re-hooray.

I thought more about my fear of losing weight, since I associate weight loss with being ill (hyperthyroidism). I think if I lose more than a pound or two a month (or one kilo), I'll be able to be proud of myself but not scared. This means that I may not see my very reasonable target weight for another 1 1/2 to 2 years (arggh) but staying healthy and getting healthier must always remain equally important goals.

I guess I'll have to write a special post about hitting my "highest" weight...on the way down.

Oh and just a little aside, I tend to buy classic clothing so I don't think the dresses have gone out of style. They're simple, somewhat fitted sleeveless summer frocks. I would like to wear them again and I don't think anyone would think they'd been in the closet for over 16 years! Or then again, maybe I'm deluding myself about my sense of style...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Read This

I'm not a happy face kind of person. I believe that sometimes when you get handed lemons, you just can't make lemonade.

But I ran into this little nugget at a conference last week in a workshop on "green" communities and thought it was worth sharing. It's by Alex Steffen, author of "Worldchanging" and editor of worldchanging.com. I'm sure you'll agree that it applies to us as both individuals and as citizens of the world.

The bravest and most important thing any of us can do is to actively imagine a much better future...to imagine it as a reality, to try to see it whole, to lovingly dwell on its details and to see ourselves walking through it one day.

Catching Up

I've been rather busy in the past few days. I was away from home, working at a conference in Collingwood, a ski resort town that is rather charming (great restaurants!), but the resort complex is hard to find your way around and has an artificial, "charming little village that's all a farce" feel about it. Needless to say, all the female interpreters shopped til they dropped. I bought a nifty little grey corduroy jacket--good for wearing at relaxed conferences (not inter-governmental meetings where low-key office wear is best).

One evening, a few of us went for dinner at a great French restaurant (yes, another one!) where I had a salad with excellent house dressing and an amazing fish stew. The Pinot Grigio wine was crisp and light and I enjoyed it immensely even though I can't drink more than a small glass. Sadly (?), after the salad and a piece of bread, I really couldn't finish the fish stew. I still have to learn to let go of the food that I have no room for! Note to self: order less, give it to your friends or leave it--unfortunately, the leftovers will not get to Darfur (and I'm really not trying to be sarcastic, just realistic).

I'm still struggling with stopping when I'm full, though I'm not a binge eater. Just sometimes, I eat a "bit" too much. I still desperately crave a sweet at the end of a meal too. Yesterday, the Fudgee-ohs were calling (the kids sometimes have a cookie after supper) and it was a superhuman effort of will to tell myself that I could have one later, if I was feeling hungry. "Later" ended up being a bowl of unsweetened apple juice, a piece of Camembert and a few almonds. In the world of calories (which I try not to count), the Fudgee-oh would have been less, but the food I ate was real and nutrient-rich, so I consider that I did the right thing.

And guess what? I weighed myself this morning and found that I'd lost about 1/2 kilo since last week. Take that, evil diet demon! (On a completely different and silly note, my husband and I are addicted to watching the old TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which we bought on DVD. What a hoot.) My weighing schedule is totally off. Sometimes I weigh myself every day for a few days in a row, and then I make a heroic effort not weigh myself for a few weeks. I'm not a perfect Paul McKenna follower ("Weigh yourself every two weeks. No more, young lady!).

Which leads me to something that's been sloshing around in my brain recently: fear of losing weight. Wild, eh? I suffer from hyperthyroidism, which, for the most part does not rear its ugly head. I have had two episodes, once 15 years ago and then recently at the end of 2007. One of the disease's most unsettling symptoms is weight loss. Yes, twice in my life, I have been able to eat like a horse and lose weight. Sounds amazing until you realize that you also have to accept heart palpitations, shaking, feeling hot, diarrhea, not to mention all kinds of long-term things you really don't want to have. I was on medication for all of 2008 and was only allowed to go off it in January 2009, literally on the same day that I bought Paul McKenna's book and started changing my attitude towards food. Needless to say, my endocrinologist was a bit concerned when I saw her two months later and had lost 3 kilos or so. Fortunately, my blood work was normal, so she didn't freak out too much. I just saw her again last week and the scale only registered 0.4 kilos less, so she was happy. I'm now officially in remission again, hopefully for a long, long time to come. But that does explain my ambivalence towards seeing the numbers on the scale go down!

Another big concern of mine recently has continued to be my knee. After one week of brace-induced bliss that included lots of walking and three, pain-free sessions on the elliptical trainer, my knee is again starting to give me hell. Yesterday, I met with the technician who will fit me for a made-to-measure brace but he didn't want to make any decision on the type of brace necessary until the doctor sees my x-rays. Unfortunately, the x-ray clinic seems to be having some anger management issues with my doctor's office (I'll spare you the story) and I couldn't get the x-rays to the doctor before he left to go on a conference. So I won't be seeing the doc (with x-rays in hand) for another two weeks or so and then we'll start the brace process. In the meantime, this afternoon I'm seeing a physiotherapist (yes, I know you call them "physical therapists" in the States) and getting some knee strengthening exercises, to go with everything else I should be doing every day!!!

I was starting to feel really excited about exercising on the elliptical and working up a sweat. I've got to be more patient though. Fourteen minutes yesterday (wearing the brace) was still too much for my poor knee. To be continued...

And finally, there's my changing body (male readers, you may yawn, but that's life). I'm bleeding way too often and I have to speak to the doctor. I've got some doctor issues happening which I don't feel like going into here, but I should speak to a professional soon, just to make sure there's nothing really abnormal going on. Another to be continued...

I've got an interesting blog post a-simmering in my mind, but I've got to read a book before I can say anything intelligent. Stay tuned.

Please say a prayer for Dr. George Tiller and for goodness sake, do NOT listen to Fox News. Dr. Tiller was a good man. He was not a killer. He was assassinated.

Ciao for now.