Sunday, January 31, 2010

Buffet Update

Ah, the best laid plans...

On Friday, birthday boy called at 3:15, just as I was about to leave for yoga, to tell me that he'd forgotten a previously planned outing with his philosophy club that evening (the kid's a major intellectual and, I admit, a total, though adorable, nerd). Then his friends treated him to supper.

So the buffet went by the wayside. Hubby still wanted Chinese, so my other son and I got some take-out. A much better idea, money-wise and food-wise. For less than half the price, we got enough food to feed all of us practically twice over.

Last night (Sat.), I roasted a beautiful, organic chicken with some olive oil, garlic, curry and rosemary, accompanied by roasted, locally grown root veggies. The house still smells wonderful. And I think there's STILL more leftover Chinese in the fridge.

Happy Sunday to all.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Off to the Buffet

This is where I'm off to tonight. It's my older son's birthday and he chooses the restaurant. I wish it weren't a buffet--not because I'll lose it and heap my plate higher than any plate should be heaped. No, not for that reason.

I'm not thrilled to be going to the buffet because it's such a waste of money. Friday nights, our family usually eats out. The long week is over and we just want to relax and I don't want to have to worry about getting a meal on the table. Last week, we went to a much fancier restaurant than we usually frequent. It's one of my favourite restaurants, but my husband and I usually reserve it for one of those romantic, though infrequent suppers à deux--just us, no kids. But last week it was the four of us. The food was wonderful, but I couldn't finish my divine liver and onions. So I got a doggy bag and took it home and enjoyed it immensely the next day for lunch. Of course, there are no doggy bags at buffets. You're "supposed" to stuff yourself silly and make sure you've eaten enough to get your money's worth. The restaurant tonight is going to make a real killing off me because I'll just eat what I want and not eat to the gills.

I'm also not thrilled about the buffet because I fear my husband will overeat. I guess in a sense, that's not my business, but I really hate to see him overeat. My sons will eat with gusto--they're teenagers, after all--but they don't like stuffing themselves. I'm not worried about them.

My last reason for disliking buffets is the amount of salt they use. I've got a salt post on the back burner, so you'll just have to wait a bit longer to read my salt rant.

One little note on the continuing saga of my son: Thanks for your encouragement. It is really is appreciated. And blogging has led me to better understand what's going on. His slow heart rate and low blood pressure are part of the reason he's often tired and can't get his schoolwork done. I admit to having often felt that he was a bit of a wimp. He's the kind of kid who physically falls apart when he has too much work. He could never pull an "all-nighter" to get his projects in. Now, finally, I understand why and it's indirectly thanks to my blogging. By doing a bit of research and putting things on paper "virtually", I've been able to connect some dots that I didn't originally see.

So thanks to all of you, and wish my family luck at the buffet. I'll have to button it and not complain about how everyone's stuffing themselves with sodium-laden food. Shhh.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Son Update


I'm just not feeling like talking about food, health, weight, stuff like that. So I guess this blog will temporarily switch to a more personal note.

My son is turning 17 tomorrow. Pardon the cliché, but time really does fly.

This morning, I got a call from the pediatrician's office with the date of our appointment with the specialist: Feb. 11. This is great. My son is in absolutely no danger, but we need to see the specialist to find out if he can resume taking a medication for a completely different problem. If we didn't need the green light for the medication, there would be no reason to worry about the slight abnormality that's been detected in his heart. He really does need the medication, which would greatly improve his quality of life, but if he can't take it, we'll have to find another solution.

Anyway, the process is moving forward, and that's the important thing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


We're dealing with some health issues affecting our older son right now, plus the regular work and family things.

I do have a post in the pipeline, but I don't want to rush it and I don't have the mental and physical time to do it properly right now.

I looking forward to resuming my blogging soon.

Be well, my friends.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Who Are the Fat People?

(I orginally posted Bene's photo (which I found on Facebook) at the beginning of this post, but have removed it since I don't have her specific consent to do so. I do think she's a lovely--not to mention extremely intelligent--young woman.)

Something's been bugging me. Something's been bugging me big time. It's the message that we are fat because we:

-eat junk food
-eat huge amounts of food, most of which is junky
-are lazy bums who can't do anything but sit in front of the TV, eating huge amounts of mostly junky food.

...and that if we finally stop eating huge amounts of junky, sugary, fat-laden food and exercise religiously, we will turn into healthy, beautiful, sylph-like creatures and that all will be well with the world...

...and that this goal--being healthy, beautiful, sylph-like, loved, admired, etc., etc.--is all within our reach. It is ALL up to us and that if we do not succeed it is only because we haven't been "good" enough in following the rules. The rules will set us free.

Sorry, it just isn't that simple.

Don't get me wrong. I have genuine respect for the many hard-working weight loss bloggers out there. However, I don't think very many will reach their goal and even fewer will maintain that goal. OK, I can give you examples of people who HAVE succeeded. You know them, some of you ARE them. I'm not saying weight loss is no more feasible than developing naturally blue skin. I just think that weight loss as a main goal is neither feasible nor actually laudable for most people, most of the time.

Why am I suddenly so hot and bothered about this? Here's the reason. You have to watch this video at We Are the Real Deal. Bene is the face of overweight that we don't want to admit exists. She is the face of a perfectly healthy young woman, who eats reasonable amounts of healthy food (certainly better than some of her skinny friends) and is still overweight.

Bene is the face of many people and I consider myself to be one of them. How many overweight people out there are NOT binge eaters, did NOT eat themselves into a several hundred pound hole of fat, enjoy moderate daily exercise, eat healthy foods and are STILL overweight?

If we accept the existence of Bene, of me and of others, then we have to accept that there are many types and sizes of healthy people and that our weights do not always depend on our attitude. Perhaps it's the nature of weight loss blogging. People who don't have a binge eating problem or aren't addicted to McDonald's or Burger King or Dairy Queen aren't sexy and aren't compelling bloggers. It's harder to point a finger at them and say "it's your own darn fault". Because it isn't.

Genetics aren't sexy. You can't beat your genes. You might have a paunch even when you lose all the weight you want--especially if you've had children and especially if you've had children in your late thirties instead of starting at 21. I watched a fascinating show on twins recently on TLC where they talk about how genetics trumps environment so often. Twins separated at birth often end up weighing within about 10 pounds of each other, for instance. We are dealt a hand at birth and that's the hand we have to play with and respect throughout our lives.

Am I telling you all to give up? No. What I'm saying is that I've come to the conclusion that we have to stress "health at any size". And if this means that you end up losing weight because you've stopped gorging yourself on junk food and started going to the gym, good for you. But it might just mean that you continue to be a person with a slightly "elevated" BMI who is perfectly healthy.

Personally, I'm not going to forget Bene and how society is turning her into a freak because even if she doesn't drink Coke and eat cake for lunch and does eat salad 'til the cows come home, she's not going to be slim. And there are lots of her out there.

Thursday, January 21, 2010



A few years ago, the aliens kidnapped my husband and replaced him with a perfect replica--except for one thing: he now loves to cook, cooks really well and has an insatiable appetite (lol) for finding new and interesting dishes. Don't worry, I haven't lost my mind. THIS IS A JOKE. The fact remains: though I do most of the weekday cooking, my husband is the one who finds yummy and interesting food to regale us with on the weekends. And the year that he was on sabbatical, I don't think I cooked once. In fact, at one point, my husband was writing a cooking blog. Unfortunately, his job (gotta make a living, after all) and two other blogs keep him terribly busy, so he hasn't added anything in a few years. Shame.

So why this lengthy introduction and what the heck does it have to do with kale? Well, for various reasons, I have started branching out, food-wise. I'm a pretty decent cook, but most of the time I'm too pressed for time to explore new (or re-discovered) foods. Since I've had a bit of extra time on my hands recently (this is the worst January from a work point of view that I've had in a long time), I figured it might be fun and healthy to start incorporating new foods into our culinary repertoire. Enter kale, thanks in great part to Lyn at Escape from Obesity who mentions kale frequently.

Kale is a member of the cabbage family. A hardy plant, it is very nutritious and is even said to have anti-inflammatory properties--something that's important if you have arthritis, like me. It contains beta carotene, vitamins K and C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and is reasonably rich in calcium. I also read that it perhaps has cancer preventing characteristics. Wouldn't that be grand? Alas, if you are taking blood thinners like warfarin, it could be dangerous to eat kale. You should discuss kale consumption (or the consumption of any other food that is high in vitamin K) with your doctor if you do take this type of medication.

Kale is quite the international food. It is popular in the Netherlands, Ireland, Portugal, many African countries, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, just to name a few places where kale is a prized food. The World's Healthiest Foods website has an in-depth article on kale. Who knew there was so much to learn?

So those are all the "right" reasons to eat kale. However, there is one more: it tastes great!

There are many kale recipes on the Internet. I tried this one last night and it was a huge hit. OK, it has carbs and feta cheese. "Yikes", many of you might say. Well, I thought it was yummy and quite healthy. But that's just me talking.

Bottom line: try kale. It's a revelation.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Steel Cut Oats

Photo: Coach's Oats

After reading about steel cut oats on several blogs (mostly chez Sean), I decided that I had to try them out.

Steel cut oats are unrolled oats that are cut into 2-3 pieces. They are the least refined oats in the oat family and thus require much longer cooking time than the quick Quaker oats that many of us grew up on. Even after cooking for about 1/2 hour, the oats remained slightly crunchy, which I personally find extremely tasty. Some people describe them as having a nutty flavour--again, something I love. I cooked the oats with a handful of yellow raisins and found that sweetener was not at all necessary.

Nutritionist Leslie Beck has an excellent article on oats, including steel cut oats, here. She recommends a 1 to 4 ratio of oats to water, though I found that a 1 to 2.5 ratio worked just fine. I bought my oats at a bulk food store. They were in a plastic bag, so there was no brand name. I suppose if you buy them in a box, they'll come with cooking instructions for that particular brand. You'll also pay more, just for the name. I boiled the water first and then added it to the oats. You've got to stir fairly often, otherwise they will stick to the pot. If you're in a hurry in the morning, make your oats the night before and heat them up in the microwave. They'll be just as tasty.

Steel cut oats are a great source of dietary fibre and also have protein and calcium. They are low on the glycemic index too.

Here's the steel cut oats website. Amazing, there's a website for everything.


Monday, January 18, 2010


If there is truly one new thing in my life, it's water. I've been slowly (painfully--on all levels--slowly) changing some fundamental things in my life over the past year and one of the most significant changes is adding water to my life.

Up until the beginning of 2009, I rarely drank water, let alone a glass of water, daily. Yes, in the summer, if I was really hot and worn out, I would reach for water, but it was not at all a habit. A glass of water from time to, I find it shocking.

Although I don't consider myself anywhere near a poster child for "listening to my body", I'm trying. Fortunately, one message that has started to come through loud and clear is thirst. I can't say I actually enjoy drinking significant amounts of water every day, but I have learned to respect my thirst. When I feel thirsty, I drink. In fact, it's better to drink before you actually feel thirsty. You don't want your body to feel parched; you want to be sufficiently hydrated at all times.

You get a lot of water from foods you eat. We shouldn't discount the contribution of fruits, soups, veggies to our water consumption. Caffeinated coffee and tea are said to cause dehydration, but my own quickie search on the Internet, seems to suggest that the jury's still out on this. I adore a good coffee, but I don't count it in my water consumption though as far as drinking coffee goes, everything in moderation is my motto. I don't drink green tea regularly, though it is said to have some great health benefits. I like it, just not enough to make it part of my daily life. So it's rarely part of my water count either. The one thing that I personally usually avoid is diet drinks and flavoured water. For me, they represent a totally unnecessary consumption of chemical additives that I can certainly live without. I have inadvertently bought flavoured water a few times. Yech.

I'm not of the "true believer" school. I actually consulted a doctor in January of 2009, who, besides wanting me to get rid of half the good things I eat, told me to drink 4 litres of water a day. For those of you who still think in ounces, that's 16 8-oz. glasses a day. Uh, sorry, it ain't going to happen. I'm a 53 year-old woman: I'd probably be in the bathroom twice every waking hour of the day. On a really good day, I'll drink 8 glasses. On an average day, it's around 6. Look at it this way: from 0/day to 6/day isn't half bad. When it comes to water, I see my glass as at least half full.

P.S. I actually took a break in the middle of writing this to get a glass of water. I knew my body needed it!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Don't Diet, All You Need is Money

Today's External Woman -
Paint & Illusion...Or Reality?

This photo was taken at a competition in June between 9 women who had to have a makeover (Had to have a makeover?? Puhleeze.) They had every possible beauty treatment available to them over a certain period of time. Look at the before and after pictures, top to bottom.

Conclusion: there are no homely women, just poor women. Wow, what money can buy! (Though obviously, we can't see what money can't buy!)


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Take a Break From Diet Talk

The earthquake in Haiti this week has killed at least a hundred thousand people. Contribute to the Red Cross.


When I was a kid, my mom used to take a squash, cut it in half, dig out the seeds and replace them with a bit of brown sugar. Then she baked the two halves in the oven until soft. It was great.

For some reason, squash disappeared from my life years ago, but thanks to my colleague and friend, Sandra, it's back and better than ever.

On Saturday night we had squash, baked in the oven but minus the brown sugar--just the squash, baked until soft with no sugar or butter. It was divine. I had the leftovers cold the next day at lunch. It was still divine.

For the calorie counters amongst you, squash has 18 calories per cup (113 grams). Pretty scary, huh? "Worse" yet, it is also a good source of: dietary fibre, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, phosporus, thiamin, vitamins A, B6, C and zinc.

So add some squash to your diet. You'll love the taste and your body will thank you!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Few Tips for Weathering the Winter

As you read this, I will be in one of the coldest cities in Canada: Winnipeg. It's right in the centre of the country, just north of Minnesota and N. Dakota for you Americans. And you all know how cold those states are!

These are just reminders. I've talked about these things before. But hey, reminders remind us.

Buy a neti pot and use it at the first sign (tickle) of a cold. It looks like a teapot but you insert the spout gently into one nostril and let warm, salty water wash through your sinuses and out the other nostril. Then you do the other side. It's easy and totally painless. Honest. My neti pot has helped me nip many a cold in the bud. And even when I do manage to get the sniffles, it helps me recover faster.

Take your Vitamin D. In northern climes we really don't get enough of the sunshine vitamin. OK, maybe it's the latest fad, but there seem to be a lot of serious studies pointing to the importance of this vitamin. Do a Google search, you'll be shocked.

For dry hands, try this: After washing your hands, but before drying them, put on some Vaseline (petroleum jelly). It locks in the moisture. Rub your hands together for a few seconds to let it penetrate and then wipe off the excess. This is a trick my GP gave me and it's really saved me from having constantly cracking finger tips during the winter months.

And one last tip, for any time of the year: for irregularity, drink 1/3 cup of aloe juice first thing in the morning when you get up and last thing before you go to bed. Works like a charm.

Snuggle up, everyone!

Monday, January 11, 2010

...and it was completely satisfying

This post, combined with something that Sean Anderson says frequently really gave me a sucker punch as I reflected on their collective meaning over lunch last Friday.

The post I'm referring to is entitled "I'm not hungry, so why am I still eating?". I bet that question speaks to many of you out there. In essence, the writer reflects on emotional eating, something which affects many people.

I have always thought I wasn't really an emotional eater. Like "MissLori", the writer of the post, I don't sit down and eat a pint of ice cream when I'm feeling down or gorge myself on candy, bread, whatever...

However, I have always seen myself as someone looking for just the right "taste": that magic "something" that will act as a period on the end of the sentence (aka the meal), the last food that will tell me that now, finally, I'm satisfied.

And that's where Sean Anderson's little phrase jumped into my mind. Often, when describing what he has eaten, Sean will say, "...and it was completely satisfying." Whether he's talking about one of his gigantic egg-white omelets, or a nice little piece of broiled chicken with a serving of green beans or a McDonald's ice cream, that's the way he describes it.

Honestly, he makes me green with envy.


Because although I find everything he describes pretty yummy--yes, even a nice little piece of broiled chicken with green beans--I rarely feel completely satisfied. The fact is, satisfaction is mostly in the mind. And here's what my mind likes:

-a lovely piece of broiled chicken, with green beans, maybe a salad on the side...all those wonderful healthy foods that satisfy my true hunger completely
AND THEN: a couple of cookies, or better yet a scrumptious piece of cheesecake, or how about an extraordinary slice of chocolate cake? No, not all together. I only want one, but what a "one" I want, though I know that my hunger was satisfied after eating the healthy stuff.

I know there are readers out there who will tell me that I only crave sweets because I eat sweets. I don't buy that. First, I don't eat a lot of sweets. Really. Those cookies, the cheesecake and the chocolate cake don't cross my path very often. No lie. And yes, I have tried eliminating all refined sugars from my diet. I did it for several months and gained weight. I felt so deprived that I just ate more of everything else. And yes, I've tried eliminating wheat but no, it never made me feel any better or eliminated any cravings.

I think deprivation is the fastest way to gain back the weight. A leopard can't change its spots: human beings are genetically programmed to like sweet foods because food was so scarce back in the hunter-gatherer days and sugar gives you a boost of energy. Digging into that honey comb was the right thing to do if you wanted to survive 10,000 years ago.

[Big digression: Yes, I know that some people have no sweet tooth at all, others are moderate in their love of sugar and yet others are like my late mother-in-law who lived to be 82 on a diet rich in the main "food" groups: sugar (4-5 teaspoons in her coffee every morning), fat (don't forget the cream in the coffee!), and nicotine (no better way to start your day then with a few cigarettes!)].

But as a race, our bodies really haven't evolved all that much. The desire is still there, though food is now plentiful (at least for us here in the western world) and we really don't need to jump on the first honey comb, or chocolate bar that passes by.

I refuse to jump head-first into deprivation. Been there, done that, gained the weight back. So how does one find satisfaction? How does one distinguish between real hunger and what I call taste-hunger, that perfect, perhaps elusive taste that wraps up a meal so well?

What does satisfaction mean to me? There are certainly many things that satisfy me that have nothing to do with jelly beans or a huge steak (I'm perfectly happy with a small one, thank you very much): having a good relationship, seeing my children grow up happy, doing a good day's work, wearing a killer outfit...But if I want to be perfectly honest, when I'm at the table, a nice, healthy meal that's just the right size always leaves my mind asking for more...

I doubt that I am alone in this.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I'm Turning a Page in Life

A few months ago, I answered the "ten things you never knew about me" quiz. I can't find the post right now, but one of the things was that I had studied to become an opera singer. I therefore have a ton of scores, sitting sadly on our already sagging shelves, waiting for a new singer to use and love them.

Enter a fellow weight-loss blogger. I won't mention her name; privacy issues seem more and more important in this day and age. But suffice to say that she sings and she knows a lot of singers. I made an inventory of all the music I have for sale, sent it to her and she passed it on to her musical buddies. The e-mails are flying in.

I must admit, it's sad to see this music go. It means that that I am finally turning a page in my life. For a number of years after I stopped seriously pursuing my musical career, I still saw myself as a singer who just happened to earn her living in another field. But as I see my music leave for new homes, I have to admit that I am no longer a singer.

I developed a pesky cough about five years ago, and have gone through every test under the sun to try and pinpoint the cause--everything from a broncoscopy to naturopathic tests and products--really, I've tried it all. My research has shown that mysterious coughing is more prevalent in women than men and also can tend to begin in pre-menopausal women. Another great thing about having two X chromosomes. So I really don't sing anymore. I'm still someone who appreciates a beautiful voice and I still know bits and pieces of lots of operas, but I am no longer a practitioner. Just a fan.

And that's OK.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Many Calories Did You REALLY Burn?

I hate counting calories. If it works for you, do it, but it just doesn't seem natural to me. I really don't want to get into any debates about calorie counting because I know that that's the route most of you take. But I decided to give you some information on how many calories you're actually burning when you exercise.

I have a stationary bike and an elliptical trainer at home, both made by Tunturi. If you're a short person, I highly recommend this brand. At 4'10", these machines fit me to a T. And like all exercise equipment, my bike and elliptical tell me how many calories I've burned. Or do they?

I can't remember where I read this, but the calorie read-out that you get from your exercise equipment is VERY, VERY approximate. The machine is calibrated to calculate how much an average man who weighs--I don't know--let's say 150 pounds or so would burn. When I read bloggers who say that the 30 minutes on the bike netted them x calories burned, I just have to wonder...because most (if not all of them) aren't 150-pound men.

If you MUST know how many calories you've burned during your work-out, try this site: and compare it to what the machine said. If you're using a super-duper machine that lets you input your weight, the calculation will probably be much more accurate. If not, the information that you get could just be a load of hooey.

Just as an example, according to the fitwatch tracker, a 130-pound person will burn 341 calories using the elliptical trainer at a moderate pace for 30 minutes, while a 200-pound person will burn 524 calories. Furthermore, muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells and men are more muscular than women--even fat men.

So exercise because you want to, because you feel better when you do and because you know it's good for you. Just don't believe the calorie counter.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Step Visualization

Visualization is nothing new. I have a book about it that someone gave me probably back in the 70s and I'm sure the idea has been kicking for many hundreds of years longer!

You all know about visualization. Roughly speaking, "if you think it, it will come". The idea is that if you visualize yourself healthy, thin, rich, successful, etc. etc. hard enough and often enough, you will reach this goal. It's part of the whole positive thinking movement. Think positive and positive things will happen.

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you've probably realized that I'm not that big on visualization or positive thinking. It's not that I think these techniques are totally useless. I'm certainly the first one to say that it's a lot more fun being around people who look to the future with hope rather than those who think life is a load of crap today and will be so tomorrow too.

My personal life experiences have taught me that you can't just get there on hope. When my operation went wrong in 2003, I visualized myself into a tizzy and the only thing it got me was frustrated. I needed surgery, and after that surgery was done, I got better. Simple as that. Well, perhaps not that simple. I worked my butt off and found the right kind of physical activity to help me reach the highest level of recovery that I was able to reach. Much as I'd love to, I will never ice skate again, for instance. I can hope and visualize myself blue in the face but it will not get me there and I have to accept it.

However, I came across something very interesting in the newspaper recently about visualization that I'd like to share with you. The article suggests that visualizing the end result is not the way to go about things. What's important is to visualize the steps that get you there.

Visualizing yourself x pounds thinner is not all that useful. But visualizing yourself eating more slowly, drinking more water, doing your favourite exercise, enjoying a brisk walk...can all be helpful pictures to paint in your mind.

This makes wonderful sense to me. Actually reaching a goal or a state of mind can't be done without going through certain steps. Going from 0 to 100 without anything in between just doesn't happen, unless you have been the recipient of a miracle. And miracles are few and very far between.

So if you're planning to ramp up your visualization this year, at least consider adding what I call "step visualization" to the mix.

And if you think it helps, please let me know!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

May you all have a healthy year of love and fulfillment.

Be gentle yet firm with yourself. Forget perfection but aspire to do the best you can. Love and respect yourself and others.

Don't forget to breathe deeply.