Wednesday, December 29, 2010

She's Going on a Diet

Source: BBC News

What's a self-respecting mother of the bride to do? Besides (perhaps) helping to choose the dress and hold her daughter's hand through the stress of wedding preparations, every good MOTB absolutely must go on a diet.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you've no doubt recognized the lovely Kate Middleton in the photo above, who is set to marry England's Prince William in April 2011. Kate is seen in this photo with her mother, Carol Middleton, the very picture of extreme obesity.

Yes, already looking quite glamorous and svelte is definitely not enough for the soon to be royal Kate's mum. Word has it that she has decided to go on the "Dukan diet" to lose those unsightly pounds (read: you can't see any excess weight but it must be there) before the big day.

I googled the Dukan diet and without putting too fine a point on it, it's Atkins to the nth degree. During the initial phase of the diet, you are severely restricted in your food choices, allowed to eat lean protein ONLY to produce rapid weight loss...and vitamin deficiency, constipation, bad breath, etc. Yes, you do then start re-introducing various foods, but the extreme nature of the diet makes it unhealthy, both from a nutritional and a psychological point of view.

I think this article from WebMD sums up the madness quite well. I suggest reading the whole article, but here's a little excerpt:
There is no question this very restrictive diet will lead to weight loss, if you can actually follow it. But the elimination of healthy food groups, and the unpleasant side effects, makes The Dukan Diet an unlikely choice for the long haul.

My husband just peeked over my shoulder to see what I was writing and made an, as usual, intelligent comment: "Anyone going on TV in front of a billion people might consider going on a diet too." Yes, he's right. But Middleton's mother is also a role model for billions of people by virtue of the fact that she's the mother of the future Queen of England. And in my books, she's setting a bad example.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Musings on Metabolism

I recently came across this short article in the New York Times, entitled "Nigeria: Those Born During Biafra Famine Are Susceptible to Obesity, Study Finds", which describes how the children of those who were born to women starving during a country-wide famine have grown up to be more likely to suffer from obesity than those born of women who had enough to eat during their pregnancies. This article got me thinking: did the mother's starvation trigger a metabolic change in the foetus, in other words, was the foetus's metabolism slowing down in order to conserve as much fat (an energy source) as possible in order to survive? I'm not a scientist, but I think this is about as good as hypothesis as any, especially in view of the masses of anecdotal evidence showing how dieting messes with your metabolism and sets you up for a lifetime of starvation in a quest to maintain a lower body weight.

When the body is radically undersupplied with the number of calories it needs to maintain a steady weight, it does not perceive this as simply a "diet". The mind may think it is acting reasonably by controlling calories ingested and burning additional calories through exercise (dieting) while the perfectly designed body--working only on the instinct to survive--fails to distinguish between starvation pure and simple and this "diet".

Since the body only recognizes a state of starvation or a state of non-starvation, what does it do when it notices that it is starving? Simple: it goes into energy conservation mode. It seeks to protect what is most precious to its survival--fat--while using up the "less important" muscle stores. The human body is a master at adapting. Fewer calories in? Let's burn fewer calories since we're under attack and in danger of dying of starvation. That's the metabolism story. I suspect that's also the story of the obese Biafran adults of today.

A perfect example of how metabolism adapts (read: slows down) can be found below in Andrea's story (quoted with permission from Andrea in a response to a post on Debra's Just Maintaining):

It’s decidedly unfun to have regained 25 lbs. (of a 49 lb. weight loss) over the past two years while eating “moderately,” “intuitively,” and “healthfully,” and while exercising 5-6 days a week doing a combination of step aerobics, hi/lo aerobics, and pretty intense strength training, all done to the DVD workouts of the most advanced instructors in the industry (cardio done on all exercise days, strength sessions 3x/week -total exercise time per week 5-6 hours).

I swear I have read AND implemented all the recommendations and I just cannot maintain the weight loss without RESTRICTING my food intake and UNDEREATING. But, if I do that for too long, the “EAT” impulses get very strong and I eventually succumb. I would actually get “EAT NOW” impulses in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back to sleep until I ate something, which was usually a piece of grilled chicken leftover from dinner or some reduced fat cheese or sliced turkey breast. It was crazy! Trust me, standing in front of an open refrigerator jamming Pollyo part-skim mozarella sticks into your mouth at 3am is really pretty cuckoo. Thankfully those episodes have stopped since I’ve gained weight.

Lest anyone think I had dieted myself to underweight, that wasn’t the case. I’m 5’6″, lost down to 147 lbs. and I’m now at 172 lbs. I don’t eat processed foods of any kind, I don’t eat out in restaurants, I cook all my meals from scratch, I eat a Meditteranean style diet, I eat tons of fresh vegetables and fruits (produce bill is outta control!), I don’t stuff myself, I don’t eat sweets AND I exercise vigorously. It drives me crazy that it’s assumed that I somehow didn’t make the necessary “lifestyle changes” because if I did I wouldn’t have regained.

The biggest myth we are fed (pardon the pun) is that once we have reached the magic number and have made those "lifestyle changes", we will be able to eat "normally". By normally, I mean eating the number of calories that your height, (new, reduced) weight and exercise expenditure should allow you to eat without regaining. Time and time again, people find that this just isn't true. Like Andrea (and Debra and countless others), they must continue to "undereat", stingily meting out a low-calorie diet to their mildly starving bodies for the rest of their lives to maintain the hard-won weight loss. And I'm referring here to people who did not revert (or perhaps never even indulged in) the fast-food lifestyle. Once again, I refer you to Andrea's comments: fresh, unprocessed food, eaten in moderation, coupled with regular, vigorous exercise...leading to weight re-gain unless caloric intake is consciously and constantly restricted.

I have a number of questions: Are some of us innately more prone to easy gain weight, no matter what our eating profile? If you are, shall we say, naturally on the heavy side, will a "clean" eating regimen only somewhat mitigate your overweight state or just slow down your return to being overweight? Is this propensity exacerbated by a lifetime of dieting, in other words, training our bodies to only maintain the new, lower weight in a semi-starved environment? What is dieting doing to our metabolism?

I am always distressed to read about bloggers who have thought they had graduated to "normal" eating, only to find that they were packing on the pounds as soon as they departed from significant caloric restriction. I'm not talking about people who have gone from perfect dieting to out of control binging. Just people like Andrea.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Big Knee News!

On Friday, I saw the surgeon who specializes in wonky knees of the feminine persuasion (I thought of saying "wonky women's knees" but then there might be some confusion: is it the women who are wonky or is it their knees? You would have to decide, and possibly not in my favour!). He was fantastic.

Dr. C. spent quite a lot of time with me (and my husband, who came as an extra set of eyes and ears), explaining what was going on with my knee (and my hip and my pelvis--I'm a walking orthopedic disaster). It was quite technical, but it was refreshing to have a specialist speak to me like an intelligent human being. He also explained that he's been doing this work for many years, how he came to this specialization and then--sounding like a young and eager student--he told us how excited he was to recently meet five other surgeons at a conference in Holland who are working in the same field. Apparently, not many surgeons know how to treat these nasty knees.

He covered my left knee with all kinds of lines showing where my kneecap is, where it should be, the direction of the tibia and an X whose meaning I have forgotten. His comment upon viewing my x-rays was "interesting". Then he launched into a very technical discussion with a fellow surgeon for a minute or so before coming back to me (I heard it through the curtain).

He explained that there were two ways to deal with the problem. One was a lot more complicated, required no weight bearing for four weeks (that means no walking on the operated leg) and fortunately not suited to my particular situation. The solution for me is a total knee replacement (TKR), but done in a way that will re-align my leg, in addition to replacing the deteriorated knee joint. He explained that a regular TKR would not solve the problem because my femur and my tibia are out of alignment...something which I realized myself a long time ago, and which has made traditional exercise like stationary biking not only painful but totally useless.

The one thing he did not ask me was how much pain I have. I found this non-question refreshing too. Part of my knee joint is "bone on bone", meaning there is no cartilage, the natural cushion between bones that enables joints to move without pain. He acknowledged the state of my knee and didn't ask me to justify why I was consulting him by begging for pain relief. The knee's a mess and he knows it. End of story.

I have some papers to fill out and mail back to his office and then I wait. It will be about 11 months before the surgery. I know that my American friends might find this shocking, but I'm perfectly fine with the timeline. As long as I don't do anything crazy like try to use my exercise bike or the elliptical trainer, my pain level is mostly quite low and I can still walk fairly long distances, as long as I don't try to speed walk. So, waiting a few months is definitely not a big deal. And remember, not one cent of this surgery, which will be done by an expert in the field, is coming out of my pocket. Well, yes it is, in the form of taxes, but I don't have to cut a cheque for X thousand dollars to be treated. This is a big plus in my books.

I admit to being scared of the surgery. My hip surgery was a nightmare, though I think it was worth it in the final analysis. But this surgery will be with a different doctor, and it's altogether a different situation. I'm not a great believer in the power of positive thinking. When things go well, they go well. When things go wrong, positive affirmations do nothing to turn things around. Believe me, I am living proof of this. What's important is to have a good surgical outcome and then put in the work to make the best recovery possible. After my hip surgery was successfully re-done, I invested a huge amount of time and energy in re-learning to walk and to the untrained eye, I walk like a normal person. It's all a question of the surgeon's skill, damn luck and hard post-op work on my part.

All this being said, I certainly won't refuse all your good wishes, though. Especially on the day of my surgery!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Change of Direction or...Overwhelmed by the Weight of It All

Those of you who are still dropping by my blog have no doubt noticed that I am blogging less and less often. There are basically two reasons for my lengthy absences: life and the fact that I am edging closer and closer to a complete change of direction.

You may have also noticed the complete revamp of my blogroll. Gone are the overtly dieting blogs. I'm sorry to have removed these blogs from my blogroll. If I chose them in the first place, it's because I really liked the writers behind the blogs and in fact, I continue to feel the sincerest good wishes towards these bloggers. And yes, I do still read them from time to time.

You'll notice that most of my blogroll is now made up of IE (intuitve eating), HAES (health at every size) and FA (fat acceptance) blogs. Every person on the face of the earth has a unique point of view. I am no exception. I therefore don't necessarily agree with every single word in the blogs I suggest, but they are much closer to my way of seeing things than the dieting blogs.

Yes, the good ship NewMe is slowly taking a new direction. After spending almost two years in the diet blogging universe, I realized that it's really not for me. There are many reasons for this change of heart.

I think I really started to feel uncomfortable with the diet blog world a few months ago when I ran across a blog that lots of fellow bloggers/readers were raving about. I started reading it every day, in fact several times a day, and I read all the comments too. I became addicted to this blog...and really not in a good way. It was filled with hate and disdain for anyone who was not following the extreme path towards weight loss that this blogger had chosen. It was filled with profanity (and believe me, I have been known to let fly with a few choice words from time to time) that I found unnecessary, demeaning and debasing. But what disturbed me by far the most was how the readership (filled with pleasant, serious bloggers I also read) followed the writer's lead with nary a peep. It was as if they actually couldn't see all the hateful blather before their eyes and instead concentrated solely on the writer's stellar weight loss achievements. And indeed, these achievements are amazing (and I imagine still are, though I have avoided reading the blog for awhile now), though I believe that they are totally unsustainable.

I realized that we are all looking for a miracle and that miracles don't exist. Make no mistake about it: I include myself in this group and it doesn't make me glad at all.

As I went cold turkey from the hate blog, I discovered Debra's Just Maintaining, a blog that in my opinion, really tells it like it is. Although Debra is one of the favoured few who has lost a substantial amount of weight and kept it off, she has no illusions about how hard both losing and maintaining are, and she is well aware of the fact that the vast, vast majority of people just can't keep the weight off.

What has particularly impressed me about Debra's blog is the amount of research she puts into her posts. Her meticulousness on the research front has actually practically stopped my own blogging dead in its tracks. I just don't feel that I can make any statements without backing them up with copious research, as is the case for Debra. So Debra, I owe you a debt of thanks for your amazing blog, but sometimes I feel you've set the bar so high that I can't imagine jumping over it myself!

And finally, my own personal experiences with weight loss since I started blogging, coupled with the research and reading that I have done, have increasingly led me to see the whole issue as so vastly complicated--both on a physiological and a psychological level--as to be virtually impossible to tackle.

The plain truths, like "calories in-calories out" are not so plain and certainly not so truthful; the role that gender plays in weight loss is truly frightening (the female body, which is naturally less muscled than the male body, is by definition at a disadvantage in the weight loss sweepstakes); the extent to which we in North America are surrounded and tempted by terrible food; the extent to which we learn to both crave and fear all foods (both good and bad) in this upside down world; the amount of hatred and self-hatred when it comes to being overweight....

...the weight of it all is overwhelming.

Like one of my favourite bloggers (you know who you are), I too "think too much". It is both a blessing and a curse.

I continue to stumble along, fighting my own weight demons and sometimes even fighting the demons I see around me. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ft. Lauderdale


I'm in Ft. Lauderdale at a conference for a few days. This is a view from across the street from the hotel. The weather here is amazing. While it's probably just same 'ole same 'ole for Floridians, it's always amazing to leave your home where it's -1C and get off a plane in a place where it's about 25C. For my American friends, that's about 30F at home and 75-80F down south.

Although it's a lot less exciting travelling than it used to be, I really can't complain. Today is a short day and I've got the afternoon off. I'm waiting for a friend to pick me up so we can go out for lunch. The sky is gorgeously blue and I've already taken a nice walk along the beach.

I'm starving. Time for lunch!

Gratitude statement: Need I say more?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Expanding My Blog Reading...and Happy Thanksgiving (US)

This "no-weight loss blogs" diet is not easy. Yes friends, I was addicted. I am still somewhat addicted but fighting hard.

There are still a few blogs that I consider "officially" part of the weight-loss universe that I am still visiting, but many fewer and much less often. As usual, I want you to remember that I wish you well, no matter what you're doing or not doing. Just treat yourself with love and respect--no matter how hard that may sometimes seem.

Now, every good diet deserves something enjoyable in return and so I offer you this blog: Weightless, a blog about loving oneself, one's body, one's life. I am also putting it on my blogroll. Go and visit and tell me whether you like it or it pushes your buttons. I'd like to know!

Oh, and happy US Thanksgiving! Enjoy being with your family and friends. Enjoy the food you eat. If you don't like it, don't eat it; if you do like it, take your time and savour every bite.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An Odd Gift


I just checked my e-mail and found a coupon for a hamburger, fries and pop from a small Canadian fastfood chain. It was sent to me by someone I've known for years. She termed it a small, early Hannukah gift (the Jewish festival of lights that takes place around Christmas time but has no relation whatsoever to Christmas, BTW).

This woman is a really kind person, but she has serious psychological issues and suffers from a clear case of paranoia (they enter her house and move things around; they poisoned her dog; they make trouble for her at work; they are trying to control her life...). Since we don't live in the same city, I don't have to interact with her a lot.

I'm not implying that her psychological problems are the reason she sent me this coupon, it's just that that kind of coupon is the last thing in the world I would either want to give or receive as a gift.

I suppose she doesn't know me that well, though we've known each other for 37 years (good grief!).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just Cleaning the Blood Splatter

Oh, hi! Nice to see you. Careful when you come in though: as you can see there's a lot of blood splatter on the wall and a bit on the floor. I wouldn't want you to track it out when you leave. I'm cleaning as fast as I can.

"Why all the blood?" you ask.

Let me explain with a story.

As you probably know, I have an artificial hip. The outcome of my first hip replacement was terrible and I started seeking out help on the Internet. I found two "hip boards"--self-help sites that provided me with lots of support and information. Some of the information was worthwhile, but some was not.

A number of people on the sites warned fellow hippies off doing yoga. The objective of yoga, in a very general sense, is to create "space" so the joints can move more freely. This is a great idea if you have normal, natural joints that are moving correctly and held in place by healthy muscles and ligaments. A healthy joint does not dislocate, unless an accident occurs.

On the other hand, dislocation can be a distinct possibility with an artificial joint. It's not all that common, but much more common than if you have a natural joint. And when there's too much space, well that just screams "come dislocate me"!

So I studiously avoided yoga, though I had greatly enjoyed doing it at several points earlier in my life.

One day, and despite my fear, I started doing yoga again because my back was falling apart and I really needed help. Not just any kind of yoga, though. I found a very skilled yoga therapist who specialized in working with people who had all kinds of physical problems. Over the past four years, she has found creative, unconventional ways to keep me as healthy as possible. She has been a godsend. I honestly don't think that my fragile orthopedic state would be as "good" as it is without her invaluable help.

Moral of the story: I didn't listen to the naysayers on the hip boards, and went out and found someone to help me who knew what she was doing.

So let's get back to all this blood on the wall.

I've been banging my head. Big time. And it hurts and no, I'm not going to do it anymore after this post is over.

Yesterday, while visiting one of the many weight blogs I read, I came upon yet another person who stated that all intuitive eating had done for her was make her gain weight. Ergo, it's a bad idea.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Ouch.

OK, friends. If you think eating mindfully means gorging, go right ahead. Keep listening to the ignorant and frightened people amongst us. Just don't call it intuitive eating, cause it's not. And it's certainly not mindful. If you think mindful/intuitive eating is eating until you're sick to your stomach, you've got a serious problem listening to your body's signals...which is--surprise, surprise--just what mindful eating is all about.

Geez, this wall is bloody.

Recently, I sent an e-mail to a blogging buddy of mine (you know who you are!) asking her to help me keep a promise to myself to go cold turkey and stop reading a blog that was making my blood boil, my BP rise and the walls of my house rather bloody. I have kept that promise, and don't even read the comments that blogger sometimes posts on other blogs.

Now, I have to go even further though and eliminate many more blogs from my daily bloggy diet. While I will continue to eat dark chocolate in small, "medicinal" doses and allow myself to sample all the wonders the world of real food has to offer (that means never letting an Eggbeater cross my doorstep), I am hereby eliminating diet blogs from my diet.

Go ahead and say "good riddance" if you want. That's fine. I won't be reading your blog to see you say it.

And with that, good luck to you all. Do whatever works for you, although I have serious doubts about how many of you will ever "succeed" (yes, there are always exceptions to the rule--I didn't say there weren't).

I'll continue to blog, albeit sporadically. Anyone who wants to drop by is welcome.

The walls and the floor are clean now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

That "Other Medical Issue"...

Just got a call from my doctor's office. That "other medical issue" that I mentioned in my last post seems to be totally unimportant. I'll be dropping off a urine sample some time this week, but it's probably of no consequence at all.


Gratitude statement: I'm grateful for my wonderful GP (and her great Chicago accent)!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Was Right

I don't like to talk very much about my own life here on this blog, probably because medical problems make it hard for me to change very much about my physical condition. But I'm going to make an exception today and get a few things off my chest.

I have always said that I was born with "poor architecture". That's the term I've always used. When you build a structure and one part is "off" the whole structure becomes unstable and that, sadly, is my story: shallow hip sockets, knees that are far from straight, a spine that's been failing since I was in my twenties. I walk as much as I can and do a highly modified version of yoga but when the architecture's off, you just can't make much progress. For the past 25 years or so, I've just been staving off disaster. For me, success is getting up in the morning without being in terrible pain, just minor pain that lasts all day. Usually, I'm successful, but when things go off the rails--and they have on several memorable and horrible occasions--the experience is totally frightening.

Last week, I had an appointment with an "advanced practice physiotherapist" who basically screens patients before they are allowed to meet with the surgeon I want to consult about my knee. She was totally amazing. I spent about two hours at the hospital being questioned, put through my paces and x-rayed. Her conclusion: bad architecture. That was the term she used. Apparently, just as I thought, my kneecap is literally out in left field, rather than sitting straight as it should. This means that the more I do exercise involving my knee (bicycle or elliptical), the faster I will totally destroy what's left of my kneecap...Exercise is the worst thing I can do.

A few minutes into the examination, the physio said that she thought I was a "Dr. C. special". Apparently, there's a doctor here in my city who's devoted his life's work to studying wonky kneecaps like mine. It's a more common problem amongst women than men (lucky me), although I could have it much worse. At least my kneecap isn't disclocating, as often happens to certain women. She felt that I should see Dr. C., rather than the surgeon I had originally wanted to see (who'd come highly recommended by a health care professional I trust).

The physio also said up front that if I have the surgery done, the recovery is long and painful. I wouldn't be able to walk on the operated leg at all for two months although I would have to do a lot of non-weight bearing physiotherapy during that period, plus even more once I was given the OK to start walking again. I'm not afraid of the work involved in recovery, but I'm terrified of something going wrong during the surgery, as happened to me with my hip.

So as things stand right now, I have an appointment with the surgeon on Dec. 17. I'm thinking of getting my husband to go with me, as a second set of ears. We'll see what the surgeon has to say. He might not even think that I'm a good candidate for the surgery, but at least I'll find out.

I may have another medical issue cropping up too, but it's way too early to speculate. I'm waiting to hear from my GP on the results of a test. "Never a dull moment," as my husband says.

Gratitude statement: I'm grateful for good, universal health care in my country.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fat and Muscle

Though there is clearly a relationship between "calories in and calories out", this equation is a vast oversimplification of the weight gain or loss conundrum and the source of much grief.

Wayne Westcott, PhD. in this article says the following:

The most popular and straightforward way to produce a negative calorie balance is to diet. Eating 500 fewer calories per day results in a pound of fat loss per week. Still, even though dieting works reasonably well as a weight loss strategy, it has serious drawbacks.

Here’s one of them. When we reduce our calorie consumption most of the additional energy comes from stored fat, however, some of the additional energy comes from protein stores which results in muscle loss. Very low calorie diets (600-900 calories per day) may produce almost as much muscle loss as fat loss, which generates an additional problem. The reduction in muscle mass causes a corresponding decrease in metabolic rate, making further fat loss even more difficult.

Good grief! News flash!!! Calorie reduction makes you lose...muscle, not just fat. But should this worry us at all? After all, the number on the scale is still lower. And as we all know, the scale has the final word. Or not, as this article points out:
This brings us to the scale's sneakiest attribute. It doesn't just weigh fat. It weighs muscle, bone, water, internal organs and all. When you lose "weight," that doesn't necessarily mean that you've lost fat. In fact, the scale has no way of telling you what you've lost (or gained). Losing muscle is nothing to celebrate. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue. The more muscle you have the more calories your body burns, even when you're just sitting around. That's one reason why a fit, active person is able to eat considerably more food than the dieter who is unwittingly destroying muscle tissue.

Robin Landis, author of "Body Fueling," compares fat and muscles to feathers and gold. One pound of fat is like a big fluffy, lumpy bunch of feathers, and one pound of muscle is small and valuable like a piece of gold. Obviously, you want to lose the dumpy, bulky feathers and keep the sleek beautiful gold. The problem with the scale is that it doesn't differentiate between the two. It can't tell you how much of your total body weight is lean tissue and how much is fat. There are several other measuring techniques that can accomplish this, although they vary in convenience, accuracy, and cost [...] The best measurement tool of all turns out to be your very own eyes. How do you look? How do you feel? How do your clothes fit? Are your rings looser? Do your muscles feel firmer? These are the true measurements of success. If you are exercising and eating right, don't be discouraged by a small gain on the scale.
Reminds me of the fat slim girl I once knew. It was me. My thyroid went out of whack a few months after the birth of my first child. I was losing weight steadily and of course very happy about that. I wasn't eating any more or less than usual, but I was breastfeeding and assumed that that was why my weight loss seemed so unusually effortless. Despite weight loss, heart palpitations, and easy bowel movements (you can feed me on a steady diet of prunes and I can still be constipated), it wasn't until the day when I noticed how my hand was shaking as I wrote out a deposit slip at the bank (yes, children, there was a time when you had to do strange things like that) that I realized that something was seriously wrong.

I immediately went to the doctor, tests were done and Grave's disease was diagnosed. My thyroid was hyperactive. The endrocrinologist explained that my weight loss was actually muscle loss. With a simple test, he showed me how physically weak I had become. My thrilling weight loss was a mirage. As soon as I went on medication, my body started rebuilding muscle and the weight went back up.

Let's go back to the above quote and concentrate on the following statement: Losing muscle is nothing to celebrate. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue. The more muscle you have the more calories your body burns, even when you're just sitting around.

The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, the more fat you lose. So going on a severely calorie-restricted diet, in particular if it doesn't have a significant exercise component, is a self-defeating proposition. I'll get back to the exercise in a minute, because this too is much more complicated than it may seem at first glance. But first, let's go on to further bad news: women have a naturally higher fat to muscle ratio than men. See this article. Fat is normal and necessary to a woman's fertility. Indeed, many elite women athletes as well as fashion models, who both carry very little fat on their bodies, often lose their periods and have fertility problems. Yes, there are also fertility problems associated with obesity, but often overweight and fertility issues come together as partner symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (another story completely).

So from the starting gate, women are disadvantaged in the weight loss sweepstakes as compared to men in that they naturally carry more fat than their Y-chromosomed friends. And then, to add insult to injury, women seem to be prone to going on crazy diets based on severe caloric limitation, lose even more muscle and have even more trouble losing weight and what is even more important, maintaining weight loss.

So what's a woman to do?

As I see it, there truly is no simple answer although the first thing is probably to stop extreme dieting. It just doesn't work in the long run and in fact works against the possibility of sustainable weight loss, due to muscle loss and a slow-down of one's metabolism.

This article, published in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition starts by citing two studies that show that "Weight loss through dieting alone has been shown to result in a dramatic and sustained reduction in resting metabolism." The first article cited reports a drop of 22% in RMR [resting metabolic rate]. The second article's conclusion is chilling:

Maintenance of a reduced or elevated body weight is associated with compensatory changes in energy expenditure, which oppose the maintenance of a body weight that is different from the usual weight. These compensatory changes may account for the poor long-term efficacy of treatments for obesity.

Coming back to the initial article, it concludes that:
In summary, the addition of high volume aggressive resistance training to a VLCD was associated with a significant weight loss while preserving LBW and RMR. The preservation of LBW and RMR during the consumption of a VLCD did not occur with a standard treatment control aerobic training program. These results indicate that high volume resistance training may be beneficial for patients who use a VLCD to lose large amounts of weight at least for periods up to 12 weeks. Future clinical studies need to determine its efficacy in long term weight loss programs and the maintenance of this weight loss for extended periods of time.
In other words, a person must engage in more than aerobic exercise to preserve LBW (lean body weight) and stop the RMR (resting metabolic rate) from dropping. The study showed that "high volume, aggressive resistance training was necessary, especially for people on a very low calorie diets (VLCD) in order to maintain FFM (fat free mass) and keep their metabolism from falling.

I would say that one of the most important things I've learned since starting to reflect on food, nutrition, and weight loss/gain/maintenance is the central role of exercise--and more specifically weight training. I would encourage everyone to find exercise that works for them and certainly do not want to discourage anyone from aerobic exercise. But I think the jury is definitely in when it comes to weight loss and exercise: weight training should definitely take centre stage IF and ONLY IF you can take your eyes off the scale and concentrate on building more muscle. Yes, dress/pants size counts...perhaps a lot more than we want to accept.

Gratitude statement: I am grateful to have met Fayrohz; very, very grateful.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Research is Killing Me

Well, I continue to be very busy with work and work-related activities (like calculating quarterly sales tax, yech) but I've got my next post roiling around in my brain.

I've been visiting a lot of sites--mostly medical--and doing a lot reading and bookmarking. I think I'm going to have to break my post up into at least two posts. Things are awfully complicated.

Please bear with me. I'll write something worth sinking your teeth into as soon as I can.

In the meantime:

Gratitude statement: I'm glad I got a good walk in today.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Hard Truth, Told by a Winner

I have a lot of work coming up and am trying to find the time to write a post for this blog that requires a fair bit of research. Please bear with me. I might be somewhat MIA for awhile.

In the meantime, I really recommend you become a regular reader of this blog: Debra's Just Maintaining. It's a relatively new blog, so reading all her archives won't take long at all.

This is a hard blog to read. Debra has done what so many are striving for: she's lost a large amount of weight and kept it off for about 7 years. But Debra does not wear rose-coloured glasses. She has worked extremely hard to keep this weight off. She likens maintenance to a sometimes full-time, always part-time job. She recognizes that long-term maintenance is something that only a small percentage of people succeed in doing.

It's not easy reading, no matter where you are on your personal weight-related journey. But I highly recommend you read her. Then, get on with your life, because it's yours to live.

Gratitude statement: No matter how hard life is (and today it's feeling hard), I still have the strength to soldier on.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Perhaps "Mindful" is the Better Word

I continue to read thoughtful bloggers who are convinced that intuitive eating is simply a license to gorge oneself. I won't repeat the three posts I recently devoted to this topic here, here and here. They speak for themselves.

I will, however, make a modest proposal: I will no longer call it intuitive eating, but rather "mindful" eating, a term that I feel better conveys the awareness and carefulness that are central to this approach.

My gratefulness statement for today: I am grateful that I can walk.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I'm a big bookmarker. When I find a blog I like, I bookmark the page. I find it easier than following.

Tonight, looking through my bookmarks, I came upon a site called "Nourishing the Soul" and saw this post, which really speaks to me.

Gratitude--OK, it's Thanksgiving here in Canada and it's sort of appropriate to think about gratitude, but making a statement of gratitude every that's something I think I can do.

Today, I'm really grateful for many things, big and small:

-having the money to get my fridge repaired: being without a fridge for 24 hours was pretty horrible;
-making the best turkey I've ever made in my life;
-having a beautiful family;
-going for a little walk.

Let's see if I can put at least one gratitude statement at the end of each blog post from now on. Feel free to call me out if I forget!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

The turkey's in the oven, the Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes will be going in soon.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends...and to all my readers. We have much to be thankful for!

Friday, October 8, 2010


I have had a leakage problem with my 3 year old Whirlpool washing machine for over two months. Long, long story not worth telling here.

I expressed my displeasure with the company on a website called "" and...after a bit of "to-and-froing", I will be receiving a new washing machine and having the old one taken away for the cost of a new warranty: $150. I had a legitimate complaint and the company responded correctly.

Moral of the story: complain, someone is listening.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Once a Year

Once a year, for the past four years or so, I come to Quebec City (which is certainly one of the most magical places in North America--yes, this is an advertising plug!) to interpret at a 2 hour meeting.

Once a year, for the past four years, I have felt utterly terrified. It's a high-level meeting and tends to be technical and we receive no information on the exact topic. Every year, there are vocabulary surprises. For the past three years, I have hired a very competent colleague here in Quebec City as my team mate.

This year, for the first time, I didn't feel absolutely out of control scared. Yes, we did get lobbed a few terminological bombs but we worked together as a team, helping each other out of some rather tight spots.

This is the first year that I haven't sat at the airport feeling like a total failure. I feel calm and good and boy, does it feel nice.

Last year, I posted after the same meeting, sitting here in the airport. I quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, and she's worth quoting again today:

"Do one thing every day that scares you."

Do you?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How Do You Feel About This?

A message from the U.S. Surgeon General:

Monday, October 4, 2010

An Interesting Blog

While there is much to be said for personally blogging one's weight loss/weight maintenance/weight issues, I am also interested in a less personal and more scientific approach.

Enter Obesity Panacea, where the big issues are discussed. I for one, intend to read it regularly. Check it out.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Does the Middle Way Exist? Yet More Heresy from NM

You've spent a few years eating poorly: lots of junk food, very little in the way of unprocessed, healthy foods. Perhaps this is the way you learned to eat as a child and you never knew there was any other way to do things, so you've developed a lifelong habit of overeating "garbage".

To makes things worse, ever since you were old enough to get your license, "moving you body" has meant getting in the car to get from point A to point B. Your idea of exercise was taking out the garbage or looking for the TV remote control.

And then, one day (or over a period of time), you realized that something was wrong with the picture. Maybe it was constant acid reflux, high blood pressure or just simply not liking what you saw in the mirror.

And you resolved to make a change...a RADICAL change: no more junk food, lots more fresh food; no more driving when you could easily walk; maybe the decision to buy a bike for exercise, or join a gym.

And you really went for it, heart and soul. You made the changes; you felt better, lighter, pleased as punch with yourself.

Suddenly, life threw you a curve ball (or two or 27) and all these recent good habits seemed just too hard to keep up. And you went back to the bad old days.

Here's what I'm wondering. And here's where the heresy comes in.

Is there middle ground between the "bad old days" and perfection in all that you eat and do all the time?

If you can't take the heat (i.e. always being on plan), is the only alternative to get out of the fire (and binge to your heart's content)?

Do you have to chose between the way of the warrior or the way of the slug?

Is it all or nothing?

Is it the fast lane or the no lane?

Or can you find a "middle way"--slow, with fits and starts, but your way and your speed?

Even if you drop off the diet bandwagon for awhile, does it mean that your only alternative is to go back to the bad habits? Can't you keeping applying those new, better eating habits, even if you're not formally on a diet? Can't you keep up that evening walk, even if you let your gym membership slip?...

And in so doing, keep building the new habits until, slowly, they become second nature?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Change


I feel a change in the blogging air. It's not just that winter's coming (at least in the northern hemisphere). Firm gentleness is out, angry single-mindedness is in. Is anyone else feeling this? There certainly seems to be an appetite for it (pardon the pun).

Monday, September 27, 2010

No Title (aka Intuitive Eating), Part 3

"What about healthy eating," you ask? Can you actually listen to your body and eat healthily?
Parents may think that allowing their children to eat whenever and whatever they want is a recipe for obese children who follow a candy and snack food-based kids’ diet. Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D. and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A. in their book Intuitive Eating (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2003) cite the landmark study by Leann Birch, Ph.D. who discovered that preschoolers have an “innate ability to regulate their eating according to what their bodies need for growth."

Although an examination of individual meals consumed by the study’s preschoolers seemed less than ideal, over time the children took in adequate nutrition. “Birch notes that ‘parents’ attempts to control their child’s eating were reported more often by obese adults than by adults of normal weight.’”

Read more at Suite101: Can Obese Children Give Up Compulsive Eating for a Healthy Diet?
Although the above quote concerns children, I think it applies to us too. Many people have developed such a fear of food, such a disconnect, that they can no longer allow themselves to eat any amount of anything outside a prescribed list of allowed foods. I know that that's the way it works for many of you and I'm not here to convince you otherwise. However, even a calorie counter like the wonderful and successful Sean Anderson, realized at the very beginning of his weight loss odyssey that limiting his food intake to "good" foods was not going to be long-term winning strategy for him. The interesting thing is how Sean's food preferences have changed over the past two years, becoming more and more balanced and--dare I say--"healthy". Though not a classic intuitive eater, Sean has clearly integrated some of the principles that I am outlining here into what is unquestionably a winning strategy for himself and others.

Geneen Roth's new book, "Women, Food and God", has been making the rounds recently in the intuitive eating universe. I have not read it, nor do I intend to. Personally, I have no interest in linking eating and weight management to spirituality. That's just me. I have, however, read Paul McKenna's book, "I Can Make You Thin", which is, oddly enough, a skinny little book that you can read in a few hours. It also comes with a visualization CD.

What I like about McKenna is that he doesn't get particularly "Psychology Today", touchy-feeling about his approach. Follow the simple rules, that's it. No, not every one has stellar results, but lots do. Here's a link to the site where readers give their impression of the book and its results.

One of the things that McKenna stresses that is very much in line with virtually every other weight loss approach is that "moving more" is a good thing. This has nothing to do with intuitive eating, but it's a great adjunct. Listening to the McKenna CD really changed my attitude towards exercise. Unfortunately, in my personal case, my desire to move is equally matched by my inability to do so. But you know that already (laughing through the tears)! I think I might be going the surgery route sooner rather than later...

Now, let's take a deep breath: In conclusion...

I seriously doubt many readers will get on the IE bandwagon and guess what?: that was not my intention with these posts. I simply wanted to counterbalance the misinformation that I have been reading recently. That's all.

Now, I'm off the drink a couple of glasses of water--a habit that I initially adopted thanks to Paul McKenna.

Friday, September 24, 2010

No Title, Part 2

Sylvia was really hungry by the time she got to the restaurant. She had been worried about overeating so she had eaten very little that day in preparation. When the waiter put the bread basket down on the table, she quickly ate two delicious hunks smothered in butter. No, actually she "inhaled" those pieces of bread before she even had any idea of what she was doing. She was ravenous. The bread certainly calmed down her empty stomach, as did the glass of wine that arrived soon thereafter. Then the Caesar salad was put before her and once again, she attacked it with gusto. About half-way through the salad, though, the taste started to change. It just wasn't all that appealing anymore. But it was Caesar salad, and a good one at that. She ate it all. The the fettuccine arrived and Sylvie groaned inwardly. She actually didn't feel like eating it. But all around her, her friends were digging into their main courses, the wine was flowing and the conversation was good. Before she knew it, her plate was clean. The meal was not over, though. Having ordered the special, she was also served dessert. Remember? The tiramisu, her absolute favourite and impossible to pass up. She ate it even though somehow it just didn't taste as good as she was expecting. She couldn't understand why, since the waiter had mentioned that it had just been freshly prepared and this restaurant was known for the quality of its food. By the time she got home from the dinner, she felt stuffed and sluggish and very, very sheepish about having eaten way more than she needed.

Martin stopped to have lunch around noon. He enjoyed his egg, toast and veggies and felt pleasantly full, but he was bored. The assignment he was working on was not particularly interesting, but it had to be done by the end of the day. The walnuts, followed by the grapes and topped off by the chocolate somehow made going back to his desk a little less onerous. He did feel a bit overly full after all these "extras", and the chocolate actually ended up tasting a bit bitter, but it was dark chocolate after all, and that's the aftertaste dark chocolate often leaves behind.

Fred and Ann just love cake. Neither of them consider that feeling full after a good meal is any reason to refuse a piece of cake. So they ate it. They both slept poorly and the next morning Ann felt a bit nauseous.

So many people think intuitive eating just means eating what you want, as much as you want and whenever you want. Well, yes it does and no, it really doesn't mean that at all!

Like cars, tractors and subway trains, we all need energy. A car won't run when it's out of gas. A human being won't function very well when he or she is hungry and ultimately, without eating anything over a long period of time, will die.

And just like a car, which has a dial or a needle or whatever to tell us that the tank is almost empty, we too have a signal called hunger to tell us that it's time to eat. When the car's gas tank is full, the gas we continue pumping in will start to overflow. There's no room and it just gets wasted on the ground. Humans don't have quite the same overflow mechanism, but we do have physical feelings of being too full. Ask any baby about overeating. They just don't. They'll turn their heads away in disgust. Once a baby is full, that's it. I considered posting a photo of a farmer force feeding a duck, but it's really too cruel and disgusting. Enough said.

Let's get back to the "I'm full" signal. You're not a baby anymore. Perhaps you were brought up to clean your plate at every meal. Perhaps you feel guilty about wasting food. Perhaps, for one reason or another, certain foods have come to represent comfort, reassurance, happiness. Perhaps you just love the taste of many foods. As long as you live and breath, you still have a "full signal", but it has been dampened by guilt, a need for comfort or any number of different feelings, or simply your love of cheese (or chocolate or pizza...). You practically need a hearing aid to sense the fullness signal. And even if you do feel it, even if your clothing is stretched to the max after a huge meal, even if your heartburn has you doubled over, you just don't listen.

And you go on eating...because you're unhappy or bored or just because, hey, it tastes good. You deserve that great taste after a hard day's work, a night with a screaming baby, to calm yourself after reading something disturbing in the newspaper or after hearing that your sister got beaten up by her boyfriend for the nth time but refuses to leave him.

Intuitive eating asks you to start listening to your body rather than to your emotions, your whims or that little voice that's always saying "ah, come doesn't matter and it tastes sooo good." It doesn't ask you to banish anything to the bad food pile. It asks you to take the time to "hear" what your body is telling you about the food you're eating by slowing down your eating, by savouring each mouthful of food, be it pizza or caviar or a grilled cheese sandwich.

In a way, intuitive eating is the opposite of a binge. It's the opposite of inhaling your food so fast that the bag of chips is gone before you know it. When you make a conscious effort to slow down your eating, to put the fork down between mouthfuls, to tear your eyes away from the TV screen or the book, you start feeling the satiety signal, telling you that your body has had enough to eat. It's surprising how little that can often be.

Let's go back to Sylvia. Actually, Sylvia's wonderful meal didn't taste all that good for the most part. She was really hungry by the time she got to the restaurant but instead of having a small snack to calm her legitimate, real hunger pangs, she arrived at the restaurant ravenous. The corollary of listening to the "full" signal is also listening to the "hunger" signal. Don't let yourself get so hungry that you get out of control. This is what happened to Sylvia. She "inhaled" two slices of bread. But two slices of bread do not a meal make. So she proceeded to eat the salad. Remember I mentioned how the taste of the salad changed as she was eating it? When something stops tasting absolutely divine, your body (via your taste buds) is telling you that you're getting full.

So we've established that Sylvia was actually full when she was barely half-way through her salad. What should she have done? If you live outside North America, the answer is perhaps trickier than it is here. But if you live in Canada or the States, remember these two words: doggy bag. Let's say that Sylvia had asked for a doggy bag rather than munching her way through a lot of food that actually didn't taste all that good (and we know that eating when you're not hungry is not a pleasant activity). She would have arrived home with (possibly) half a Caesar salad, a whole plateful of fettuccine Alfredo and the tiramisu. Listening to her body, that was still sending out a full signal, she would have put it all in the fridge. Maybe a little while later, she might have had a few bites of tiramisu. No big deal. And then you know what might have happened (and this is the story of my life)? Her teenage son, Nick, would have opened the fridge at midnight--long after Sylvia had gone to bed--and polished off the fettuccine and maybe the salad and the rest of the tiramisu.

Here's another thing that might have happened if the doggy bag went into the fridge: The next day, having eaten a very rich Caesar salad the night before, Sylvia's body may have craved something simpler, like steamed salmon, for supper. And the fettuccine, the rest of the salad and the tiramisu? Maybe someone else in the family ate the food...maybe the dog got the scraps...maybe she took it to work for lunch the day after...maybe it went in the garbage.

Part 3, coming up soon...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No Title, Part One

The following people are total inventions of my imagination!! No Blogger #1 or #2 or even #27. If you see yourself in the following post, rest assured, it's not you.

Sylvia goes out for supper with some colleagues from work to celebrate Amy's promotion. She looks at the menu. The menu features her favourites: fettuccine Alfredo and Caesar salad, no doubt drenched in dressing with big, fat croutons and real bacon bits (they don't skimp at this restaurant). The special also includes dessert: tiramisu, that delicious Italian specialty. Of course, there's a big basket of crusty bread on the table and nice soft butter to spread on it. The food is divine, she really feels like eating this food and she eats every single bite with great relish.

Martin works from home and it's lunch time. He has a poached egg, a piece of whole grain toast and some carrots and radishes. Then he has a handful of walnuts, followed by some grapes and then, why not, because he just loves the stuff, a couple of squares of chocolate.

Fred and Ann have a great supper. An hour later, even though they're still quite full, they both eat a slice of cake, left over from their son's birthday party the day before. It tastes fantastic.

Sylvia, Martin, Fred and Ann all ate exactly what they felt like eating and exactly as much as they felt like eating. I guess that makes them intuitive eaters, right? Guess again.

Of all the weight loss approaches in today's world, intuitive eating is getting the worst rap. In fact, I entitled this post "No Title"because of how dismissive people are of IE. Often, people simply giggle at the idea and at very worst they savagely rip it apart. But do they really know what it's about?

Stay tuned for Part 2...

Friday, September 17, 2010

My Wake-up Call


On my break at work yesterday, I came across "Six Reasons Why You're Overweight". It's basic common sense:

1) not enough sleep

2) eating out too often

3) overindulgence on the weekend

4) food portions too large

5) drinking extra calories

6) not reading food labels correctly.

Some of these reasons may be more or less applicable to your particular situation. You know what applies to you.

I have to say that the one that struck me most forcefully is "not enough sleep".
Not only do we crave unhealthy comfort foods when we’re tired, but our sleep levels are linked to our hormone levels, says Joey Shulman, the Thornhill, Ont.-based author of The Last 15—A Weight Loss Breakthrough. “People who are sleep-deprived tend to have more secretions of the hormone cortisol, so they’re more stressed out. And that’s going to trigger fat storage as well,” she says. Lack of sleep also causes fluctuations in the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin, which indicate whether you’re full or hungry.

Ooh that pesky cortisol. There it is again.

As a firm believer in giving it your best shot by doing what you can, rather than setting unattainable goals and inevitably failing, lack of sleep really hit home with me. I know that I tend to sleep poorly, wake up frequently (and not necessarily for a bathroom break--it might also be my hip complaining) and get too little sleep. I also know that I can do something about my sleep, at least in terms of how much sleep I get.

In the past few years, I have been dealing on and off with moderately elevated blood pressure (hypertension). My feeling is that it has a lot to do with stress, but saying lots of "oms" is not necessarily the answer for me. Trying to relax just makes me more stressed out (I bet a lot of you out there feel the same way). And guess what? Some studies show that there is a relationship between not only stress and hypertension, but also lack of sleep and hypertension.

Pardon the pun, but I think this my wake-up call: lights out by 11. No ifs, ands or buts.

Is sleep an issue for you? What about the other things on the "gain weight" list?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Congratulations to Sean

I have been reading Sean Anderson's blog, the Daily Diary of a Winning Loser, for about a year now. Today, he is celebrating two years of blogging and phenomenal weight loss.

Like all his readers, I am amazed by his unbreakable resolve, coupled with a remarkably low-key, relaxed approach to food. I know that he is a great inspiration to many people--he probably doesn't even realize how many people he is helping.

But I want to congratulate him for something else that we probably all appreciate about him without realizing it: Sean is a true gentleman. He unfailingly expresses his point of view with good humour, humility and a genuine sense of caring for others. Whether you are losing weight, maintaining or gaining; whether you are counting calories or carbs; doing portion control or eating intuitively--you know that Sean is your friend.

So congratulations to you, Sean, from the bottom of my heart!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Profiles in Blogging: As the Dust Settles

When I was about 10 years old (when dinosaurs walked the face of the earth, as I like to say), we watched a movie at school about South Africa. In it, they showed how the black farm workers had to "sign out" whenever they left the farm. I don't remember the details, but something struck me as really wrong. These people were adults, but it looked like they were being treated like property. I was upset by what I'd seen.

Naturally, being me, I couldn't keep my mouth shut. After the movie was over and the teacher had turned the classroom lights back on, I raised my hand and asked why the black people had to live that way. I can't remember what the teacher said, but I do remember that my classmates started ragging on me. "Why are you asking questions like that? Shut up. Who cares!" and other comments of a similar nature. I'm still glad I spoke up.

I haven't changed a bit.

I am concerned about others, about the state of the world, about who's going to win in the upcoming municipal election (don't get me started...), about myself and my family.

Although I don't use profanity in my blog (real life is another thing completely, lol), I do sometimes make pointed comments. I try to be diplomatic and even to button it entirely, but not always...

I realize some people saw themselves in "Profiles in Blogging" and were not necessarily thrilled with the picture I painted. Fair enough and perfectly understandable. It's nigh on impossible to portray ourselves in all our wonder and splendour to those we know in "real life", let alone to our readers on the Internet. The picture we present to others in our blogs is but a small slice of who we really are. "Profiles in Blogging" focused on that small slice. There is so much I don't know about my fellow bloggers.

So please remember this: I care a lot about the bloggers that I read. And though I may seriously disagree with certain things, I wish everyone what I wish for myself and my family and the entire world: all the best. You all deserve it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Eat a Peach

Summer is almost over but the markets are still full of lovely, fresh fruits and vegetables. Recently, we have done a couple of BBQs just for the four of us. In addition to his excellent homemade turkey or chicken burgers, my husband, the awesome chef, now also BBQs dessert: peaches, to be exact.

In his poem, The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot wrote,

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

Do you dare eat a peach? I don't think there are many reasons not to. Peaches are low-cal and full of fibre and Vitamin A, with a smidgen of calcium and iron to boot.

Hubby buys hard, unripened peaches, cuts them in half and brushes them with a whisper of olive oil so they don't stick to the grill. That's it. No sugar, nothing but peaches.

And they taste divine.

For that matter, so do pears...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Profiles in Blogging

Blogger #1 announces that they (I am refraining from using "he" or "she" in this blog post) are going to go for the gold after having lost a significant amount of weight in a month and then proceeding to gain twice the amount of weight back in the ensuing months. They are going to go all out again to lose that weight as fast as possible. Readers are enchanted and respond enthusiastically, sending in words of encouragement and essentially backing up the blogger's decision to crash diet yet again.

After many failed attempts, Bloggers #2 and #3 both finally set about losing weight. They both take a calm approach, based on calorie counting. They give themselves a reasonable number of calories per day and begin moderate exercise (essentially walking). One of them uses just calories as a guide--no foods are off limits. The other realizes that at least in the beginning, certain foods will automatically trigger self-defeating behaviours. Over time, this blogger begins to master the art of having an occasional treat without completely losing control. Both of these bloggers have been very successful in losing weight and increasing exercise. Visitors to these two blogs learn about the bloggers' trials and tribulations and their successes; their blogs are infused with compassion, care and concern for others. They both have large (pardon the pun), appreciative readerships who respond enthusiastically to all their posts.

Blogger #4 is losing weight very slowly, but losing nevertheless. This blogger is filled with self-loathing and believes that the only way to lose weight (at least in their personal case) is through constant self-flagellation. Readers respond enthusiastically and kindly oblige with additional flogging on occasion.

Blogger #5 posts long, thought-provoking, highly analytical reflexions on weight loss. This blogger has taken an extremely personal approach to weight loss that (and I am no doubt over-simplifying) blends calorie counting with elements of intuitive eating. It is the fruit of long reflexion and analysis. The result is a significant and on-going weight loss. Much weight remains to be lost but the scale is consistently going in the right direction. Readers respond enthusiastically, often with their own similarly long and analytical reflexions.

Blogger #6 is on a military mission to lose weight, using an extremely low-calorie, restrictive diet and a "boot camp" approach that includes the verbal bludgeoning of other bloggers. Readers are enchanted and respond enthusiastically.

It's an interesting world we live in.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Message to Screaming Fat Girl

SFG: Your blog is now by invitation only. It's one of my favourite blogs. Could I have an invitation please???

Thursday, September 9, 2010

L'Shana tova!


It's the first day of Jewish New Year celebrations today.

L'shana tova to all!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Real NewMe


Not long ago I said that I was hanging up my weight loss chops and settling for maintenance. And that's exactly what I've been doing. I didn't weigh myself for about 3 weeks until Friday morning. My weight was rock solid, neither up nor down. No, I am not where I want to be, weight wise, but I have succeeded in losing a tiny bit of weight and keeping it off. Could be a lot worse.

I know that with my extremely limited ability to exercise, I'm much better off keeping things on an even keel than trying to cut down my food intake to a point where I'd just get angry and fall off the wagon.

It's not perfect, but I do think I've gotten the hang of eating what I enjoy in reasonable portions. The vast majority of what I eat is "healthy" but I sincerely believe in the old saying "Man does not live by bread alone" or its modern version "Woman does not live by tofu alone". Like Sean Anderson, I don't ban anything. I know a fair bit about what's healthy and what isn't, and even how to cook things in the healthiest way possible. I also know that a piece of artisanal French bread or two squares of chocolate will not send me into a tailspin. So I'm holding my own, neither up nor down.

But the real NewMe does have her work cut out for her in other ways. I'm still very much learning how to deal with a world that is far from perfect. I have a lot of anger inside me (suffice to say that it is not directed towards family members, thank goodness) and it is no doubt having a negative effect on my health. I suspect my cortisol levels are through the roof. This is the hormone that is released when you are under stress. Two of its nasty side effects are weight gain (or trouble losing weight) and high blood pressure.

I have been seriously thinking of changing careers and going into something which is less stressful and more gratifying. There are a few people I need to get in touch with to get the ball rolling and I have just sent my first e-mail to someone who could potentially steer me in the right direction.

Although I do yoga several times a week, it has done nothing to lower my stress levels. To get that kind of result, I would probably have to constantly work with a teacher. Left to my own devices, yoga is a worthwhile series of physical movements but not a path to serenity.

A lot of my anger stems from feeling literally physically held back by my knee. Exercise is useless and in fact dangerous since my knee is misaligned and tracks improperly. The more I use it, the worse it tracks. I either have to accept things as they are or speak to a surgeon. After my unfortunate experience with hip surgery, the idea of going under the knife again fills me with dread. I may yet do it, though.

Being in my mid-fifties is an interesting experience. I really feel the difference between myself and many of the bloggers I read who are 15-20 years younger than I am. Their goals and their view of the world are so different from mine.

I am starting to realize that I am actually entering a time of renewal, a time where certain doors are closing and where others are opening up. The trick is to find those new doors.

Monday, September 6, 2010


No, that's not calories or a crazy temperature. It's steps taken in one day.

Yesterday, I went with my husband to the fair. Our local fair has been going strong for the past 132 years. It's called the Canadian National Exhibition (the CNE), or, as we locals call it, the Ex.

Since the boys are both teenagers now, they go to the Ex on their own. They no doubt go on lots of crazy rides and eat lots of junk. I am not there to police them, no would I. When they're at home we eat healthy foods. Despite their love of junk (especially the younger one), I think we have instilled in them a knowledge of what healthy food is and making healthy choices. I am sure that as they grow older, they will put this knowledge to good use.

But back to the Ex: Besides having two great Midways (for little kids and adults/teens), the Ex also has several huge exhibit halls where you can buy everything from tacos to tie-dyed T-shirts and everything in between. When we go, we spend all our time strolling around and visiting the exhibit halls.

Our favourite place is the crafts hall. It specializes in artisans of all kinds. I bought a beautiful jacket made by a local designer that I will start wearing to work this fall. It's quite close fitting and I think it looks great. So does my husband. We also bought summer sausage from a local farmer. It's high in sodium but the trick is to eat a little piece every now and then as a treat.

We went to the food pavillon for lunch and shared a plate of mediocre Thai food and a bottle of water. We drank more water later.

Here's what we didn't try: deep-fried butter (Yes, this is a new Ex treat that took five years to develop and perfect. Too bad they didn't give up four years ago. People are going crazy for it, since it's new and different.) ; mini-doughnuts, sold by the dozen (Buy three dozen, get the fourth free!!); corndogs (the Toronto Star published a nutritional breakdown of the corndogs at the Ex. Frightening.); ice-cream waffles; funnel cakes; cotton candy, candy apples (yech).

My husband had an ear of roasted corn later in the afternoon. I had a few bites of it and it was great.

We also visited two exhibits: The History of Rock and Roll and Love, Longing and Lust, which the Ex's website describes as follows:

In this fascinating exhibit the CNE Archives explores the role that the CNE has played in bringing couples together since its very early days in 1879. Ranging from the Tunnel of Love, to fashion shows and advice for brides to be, to flirting on the midway, to winning stuffed animals to impress a girl, to seamier shows such as Striporama, sex at the EX has been around as long as the fair has.

Both exhibits were excellent.

By the time we got home, around 7 p.m., my pedometer read over 17,5oo steps.

And the best news? My hip feels fine today and my knee is not complaining any more than usual.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tara and Bella

Thanks to the Mahablog for directing me to this wonderful video.

Peace, friends.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Probably MIA This Week

I'm heading out for Thunder Bay, Ontario today for a few days of work. I may be MIA for most of this week.

But then again, maybe not...We'll have to see how much time and internet access I have!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shh. Don't Mention It to Him...

Great news! My husband actually went for his first general check-up in...hold your hats...oh, well over twenty years.

Living in Canada, this is not a money/insurance issue. We have universal health care, for which I am eternally grateful. But that's another post entirely.

In my husband's case, though, I think not going to the doctor's is more a combination of having lots of other things to do, a bit of laziness and maybe...not wanting to hear any less than stellar news.

His check-up is in two parts. He went for his first visit with the GP last week. The doctor said that his many moles were nothing to worry about (I'm relieved) but that he has slightly high BP. On Wednesday, he had an ECG (I think that's what it was.) Not a complicated test (I've had the same one myself), but he had to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours afterwards (I didn't). He'll be going back for part two of the visit in October since he's extremely busy at work in September.

I'm so happy about these visits. We've actually already been able to start talking about how he eats and he seems much more receptive. As I've mentioned before, he's not a junk food eater. His food choices are excellent, but he eats big mouthfuls very quickly and I think that this is part of why he's gained quite a bit of weight since we met. I'm hopeful that his meetings with the doctor will help us to become more of a team when it comes to our health.

Sshh, don't mention I've said anything. LOL

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Yes, They Are Different

Remember model/ actress Elizabeth Hurley, Hugh Grant's former girlfriend?

Apparently, after giving birth, Liz holed up at Elton John's house eating nothing but oatcakes until she'd lost all the baby weight. At least, that's what this article says.

I'm sure Sir Elton (who's married to a Canadian, BTW!) has a lovely place and made Ms. Hurley feel right at home. I certainly wish I could take that kind of time off in such lovely surroundings, but hey, I'm a regular person.

On the other hand, eating nothing but oatcakes for an extended period of time might come back to bite the lovely Elizabeth on the derrière when she grows old and grey and finds she's suffering from osteoporosis.

But in the meantime, she's skinny again.

Monday, August 23, 2010


This is not a post about weight loss, weight maintenance or weight anything. Just letting you know.

Yesterday evening, I had about ten people over at my place for a little get-together. For the most part, we are well-educated, middle-class "professionals", some single, some married, some with children, some not. We all went to the same high school and represent a fairly good cross-section of the school's graduates.

We had a great evening and talked up a storm, all sitting around my dining room table. For most of the evening, I spoke almost entirely to the people sitting nearest me and also did a lot of jumping up and down to go to the kitchen since I was the hostess (BTW, I didn't mind that at all. I love having guests over.)

At the very end of the evening, I carried a large bowl out to the car of one of my guests since she was helping another guest who has a severe degenerative disease get into the car to take her home. And that's when I learnt that my disabled former classmate--one of those nice, settled, married, professional, middle-class people--had recently been knocked down by husband, and not for the first time. He has left the house and left her with a number of unpaid bills plus a mortgage (in both their names) coming due in a month.

My first impulse--which I immediately quashed--was to ask her what she was doing, staying with someone who has apparently been physically mistreating her for at least 8 years. You don't expect a woman who has a good education and an interesting career to be a punching bag behind closed doors. But it happens. And it happens more often than we could ever imagine.

She has a lawyer but says the lawyer is not answering her basic questions, i.e. will she still be able to stay in the house in a month's time? She's in shock and I don't think she's processing things very effectively. My friend who was driving her home said she would look into helping her find another lawyer. I gave her the phone number of the women's assault line.

Sometimes it's horrifying to find out what lies underneath the surface.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Food Labelling


Nowadays, at least in Canada and the US, virtually every food that you purchase in a package comes with a great deal of information. As has been the case for many, many years, the packaging gives the list of ingredients used in the making of the product. The list is composed in descending order, with the most important ingredient coming first and so on. In recent years, we are now also provided with information on calories, portion size and food value percentages (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, etc.). What a wealth of information!

I come by my label reading habit honestly. My mom always read labels to find out whether the food contained preservatives. She always wanted us to eat the least processed food possible. And she was right.

But now that we also have information on portions and food values, we can learn a lot more about the foods we eat.

Here are the main things I look for:

-Preservatives. As many have said before me, if you can't pronounce the word or if it's way too long to be a word that refers to a real foodstuff, try not to buy the product. I don't always succeed at this lofty goal, but I try.

-Sodium. It's amazing how much salt is put into the food we eat. It's also amazing the range of sodium levels you'll find for a given product. If your blood pressure is higher than normal, watch out for hidden sodium in processed foods.

-Trans fats. Many manufacturers have entirely eliminated trans fats from their food products. To quote Wikipedia:
Unlike other dietary fats, trans fats are not essential, and they do not promote good health.[1] The consumption of trans fats increases the risk of coronary heart disease[2] by raising levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and lowering levels of "good" HDL cholesterol.[3] Health authorities worldwide recommend that consumption of trans fat be reduced to trace amounts. Trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils are more harmful than naturally occurring oils.
I just say no to trans fats.

(And, believe it or not...) Calories. Yes, I'm curious to see what the caloric content of the food is. It's just that calories are not the only element I take into consideration. Unfortunately, many so-called diet foods are high in sodium and packed full of preservatives. I would rather eat a smaller amount of a less processed product even if it's higher in calories. On a positive note, I am sometimes able to find products that are both lower in calories and in preservatives, trans fats, sodium, etc. That makes me really happy!

It's also important to remember that the nutrition facts label is based on the "needs" of someone who eats either 2,000 or 2,500 calories per day. On 2,000 calories per day, I'd be gaining a lot of weight, so I have to re-interpret the information. You'll also notice that the label I used as a sample in this post says that we shouldn't exceed 2,400 mg of sodium per day. Many nutritionists believe that this number should be more like 1,400 mg. Big difference.

So here's my question for you: do you read labels and do labels influence your food purchasing decisions?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sushi Anyone?

Here's a neat little video on the benefits of sushi. It stars a Canadian nutritionist, Leslie Beck. I've often quoted her articles in the Globe and Mail.

I love sushi, but I didn't realize how good it is for you. Hmm. I'm thinking sushi with the family this weekend!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fat Tastebuds and Faulty Thermostats

A few weeks ago, the incredible Screaming Fat Girl linked to this film, A Matter of Fat, a 1970 National Film Board of Canada documentary on overweight and one man's last-ditch attempt to win his own personal war against the battle of the (very obese) bulge.

The movie lasts over 1 1/2 hours. It's worth the watch, but be prepared to set aside a good chunk of time to do so.

(Just as an aside, you may recognize the narrator's voice if you are of a certain age. It's Lorne Greene, or "Pa Cartwright" from Bonanza, as a generation of Canadians and Americans came to know him.)

There are a number of interesting themes to discuss in this movie and I highly recommend you watch it, but there's one interesting part that I'd like to discuss here: "fat" tastebuds, or, as the narrator described it in the film, "the faulty thermostat".

The documentary includes a description of several fascinating experiments. In the first, researchers observed that normal weight people reported that they were hungry when they had stomach contractions (as measured by a machine)--the body's signal to eat. They reported not being hungry when such contractions were absent. Not surprisingly, overweight people reported being hungry, even when there were no stomach contractions. But what is most interesting is that they sometimes reported not being hungry when they were having stomach contractions, the normal, physiological sign of hunger. Their ability to read their own physiological hunger signals was distorted.

In a second experiment, the subject was put in a room and asked to fill out a questionnaire that had nothing to do with weight or weight loss. He or she was also provided with a plateful of sandwiches. There was a clock in the room, which was rigged to go faster than normal. When the doctored clock showed 6 p.m. (it was actually around 5:20 p.m.), the time when many North Americans eat supper, the people of normal weight ate sparingly, since their bodies were (rightly) telling them that they weren't really all that hungry. The overweight subjects, on the other hand, saw the clock and started eating--and eating with gusto. An external signal was overriding (or outweighing, if you'll pardon the pun) the body's physiological signal. As the doctor describing the experiment said, obese people were "at the mercy of their environment." While individuals of normal weight listened to their "internal" (or physiological) cues, the overweight were influenced by "external" cues.

In a third experiment, subjects were asked to drink a bland liquid in place of eating actual food. They could drink as much of this liquid as they desired. When the experimenters measured the amount of liquid ingested, they observed that people of normal weight consumed the number of calories their bodies needed--no more and no less. The overweight subjects, on the other hand, markedly reduced their caloric intake--the food wasn't interesting so they ate less.

I find these three experiments to be fascinating and they go a long way towards describing my own relationship to food. As I have said before, I'm not an emotional eater. In fact, I find that more and more often, when I am emotionally distressed I am unable to eat, no matter what my stomach is telling me. I feel the hunger pangs but cannot, for emotional reasons, respond to them.

However, I love food. I recognize that I have to make a conscious effort to hold myself back from eating attractive foods just because they're there, even if I am not hungry. My eyes and my tastebuds scream "yes" while my stomach quietly (much too quietly) says "no". I find it hard to leave food on my plate. It's not the old "kids are starving in Africa" guilt kicking in. It's just that a lovely morsel beckons and I succumb to an external cue.

So "eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full"--the Paul McKenna mantra--really holds true. McKenna encourages us to eat like naturally thin people who eat when and what they like, but only when they're (GASP!!) hungry.

How's your thermostat doing?