Saturday, March 27, 2010

Here Comes the Sun

As you read this, barring a disaster, I will be either winging my way to the Dominican Republic or already arrived there.

Yes, my (sometimes) frustrating job is taking me south for a few days. Hubby and kids will be staying home, but they have nothing to complain about. Hubby just came back from a business trip to New York, where he also got to do some serious museum hopping; older son just came back from a 10-day school trip to Spain; and younger son might be going to Holland and France this summer with his best friend.

Sometimes my existential wailings sound a bit hollow, I admit.

I know the hotel where I'll be staying has the Internet, so I might get to blog a bit. Should be interesting. I've never been to the DR, although really, I won't see much aside from the very fancy hotel where I'll be staying. I'm planning to swim. That should be great. Oh yes, and I will be working too. No free lunch.

Friday, March 26, 2010

My Ideal World

In my ideal world, people would be of varying sizes, because that's how Mother Nature made us. Some of us would be painfully thin, some would be medium weight and some would (gasp!) even have BMIs over 25.

However, in my ideal world, there would probably be much less obesity and morbid obesity. Many fewer eating disorders too: less anorexia, bulimia and obsessive overeating.

Here's why:

Parents would respect their children's need to eat or to stop eating. There would be no "clean your plate, kids are starving in Africa!" Nor would there be policing of the child's food intake (see this horrific report).

Parents would not use food for punishment or to show love.

Everyone would take phys ed at school right up until high school graduation. However, in regular phys ed classes, the accent would be on participation and movement. Gone would be the days of choosing teams according to talent. No one would always be chosen last. Gifted athletes would have "enriched" phys ed classes but ALL students would be encouraged to enjoy physical activity, no matter what their level of athleticism. This is a real bugaboo for me. I was not athletic, felt belittled (pardon the pun) and shunned in gym class and thus stopped taking gym the minute it became possible. I wouldn't force kids to take music all through school unless they really loved it, but phys ed--that's learning to live a healthy life. Everyone deserves phys ed all through school. People would make exercise an integral part of their lives throughout their lives.

Everyone would learn the basics of nutrition at school. Schools would serve healthy food, instead of garbage.

Foods would not be doctored. Low-calorie versions of real food would be ignored to death. Artificial sweeteners would have the same fate.

Inasmuch as possible, we would eat locally grown food. Local, small-scale farming operations using fewer/no pesticides would be encouraged. Animals would never be fed antibiotics to fatten them up.

There would be massive investments in public transit. Taking public transit automatically means walking more. Just to give you an example, on Wednesday I exceeded 10,000 steps. I would have been at around 4,000 if I hadn't taken the subway to work. I know it's not always possible to use, but we need MORE public transit, not less.

Everyone would learn to meditate. I'm not advocating we all become Buddhists. Meditation is a valid, non-denominational, no-cost tool to help ease stress, lower high blood pressure and just feel happier. It works.

People would lose their fear of food as they learned to give it its proper place: not something evil nor something that solves all of life's problems.

And thanks to everything I've mentioned above, diets would become unnecessary.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


A few months ago, Friend of the Bear gave me the Superior Scribbler Award. Thank you, Bearfriend!

The two kittehs also gave me an award awhile ago. Many thanks to them too.

I may have received another award at some point during the last few months that I've forgotten. If this is the case, thanks to whoever sent it. If not, then I probably have a slightly inflated view of myself. LOL

It does feel nice to get an award, but these Internet awards remind me a bit too much of chain letters. I always refuse to pass chain letters on...except once...and two of the people I passed the letter on to e-mailed me to complain that I had sent it!

I really am very grateful to everyone who reads my blog. Since I have given the URL to perhaps only 1-2 people in my circle of friends (if that), I feel honoured to have the readership that I have today--especially since I am not a fan of dieting!

So if you read this, you too deserve an award!

Congratulations to you all!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Last Supper Through the Ages

Da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper

Has anyone seen the article on how artists' depictions of the Last Supper have changed through the ages?

This Reuters report explains how portion sizes have grown over the past 1,000 years based on a study of 52 depictions of the biblical Last Supper.

Apparently, both plate sizes and portion sizes have risen:
The study found that, over the past 1,000 years, the size of the main meal has progressively grown 69 percent; plate size has increased 66 percent and bread size by about 23 percent.
Food for thought...

Coming Soon...My Ideal World

I've started a post on what my ideal world would look like. I'm adding points every day, but hopefully it will be finished fairly soon.

Stay tuned...

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Slimcado: An Abomination

On Saturday evening, we had some friends over for supper. My husband made his totally amazing chili, which is absolutely chock-full of green, red and yellow peppers, plus celery, onions and garlic. Instead of beef, he made it with turkey--another good health choice. As chili recipes goes, we know that's is very unorthodox, but it is both extremely tasty and healthy. What's not to like? On the side, we served a mixed green salad with my famous dressing and some nice baguette. It was a great main course.

My husband also makes guacamole so good words cannot describe it. Many of you may fear the avocado, guacomole's main ingredient, because it contains a relatively high amount of fat. However, it has wonderful nutritional value and should not be dismissed out of hand as a "bad" food. Au contraire.

Here's the Wikipedia's succinct take on the avocado's health benefits:

High avocado intake has been shown to have an effect on blood serum cholesterol levels. Specifically, after a seven-day diet rich in avocados, hypercholesterolemia patients showed a 17% decrease in total serum cholesterol levels. These subjects also showed a 22% decrease in both LDL (harmful cholesterol) and triglyceride levels and 11% increase in HDL (helpful cholesterol) levels.[20] Additionally a Japanese team synthesised the four chiral components and identified (2R, 4R)-16-heptadecene-1, 2, 4-triol as the natural antibacterial component.[21]

Avocado is also known to promote healthy skin and hair. Although many people use it as a facial mask, it is most beneficial when eaten.

And here is the nutritional value of the avocado:

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 670 kJ (160 kcal)
Carbohydrates 8.53 g
Sugars 0.66 g
Dietary fiber 6.7 g
Fat 14.66 g
saturated 2.13 g
monounsaturated 9.80 g
polyunsaturated 1.82 g
Protein 2 g
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.067 mg (5%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.130 mg (9%)
Niacin (Vit. B3) 1.738 mg (12%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 1.389 mg (28%)
Vitamin B6 0.257 mg (20%)
Folate (Vit. B9) 81 μg (20%)
Vitamin C 10 mg (17%)
Calcium 12 mg (1%)
Iron 0.55 mg (4%)
Magnesium 29 mg (8%)
Phosphorus 52 mg (7%)
Potassium 485 mg (10%)
Zinc 0.64 mg (6%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database

It seems to to me that the avocado can play a valuable part in a healthy diet.

Since avocados are shipped up to Canada long before they ripen, we bought five avocados on Monday, in preparation for the Saturday dinner party and put them in paper bags to help them ripen.

Saturday arrived and hubby got out the avocados to start preparing his guacamole. "Hm!" said he. "These are slimcados. I wonder what they are?"

Sadly, my husband had made a simple, but unfortunate mistake. In my humble opinion (and my husband's too), the slimcado--which is touted for having 30% fewer calories than a regular avocado--tastes like an avocado that's been soaked in water for several hours. Insipid. Our guests were polite about it but I was upset that they had missed out on a real treat.

According to my quick Internet search, the slimcado is not genetically modified, thank goodness. It's just waterlogged to lower the caloric value.

To my mind, the slimcado is a symbol of all that's wrong with a calorie-obsessed world, a world in which a healthy, naturally good tasting food has to be modified to fit someone's twisted idea of what low-cal should be.

The slimcado is a bad idea. I do not recommend you try it. If avocados scare you, stay away from them. If you like them, eat them and enjoy them in moderation. And thank Mother Nature for having created such a wonderful fruit.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Killing Yourself on the Internet

A few years ago, I remember reading about an anorexic woman who "live blogged" until about 20 minutes before her death, which was, needless to say, brought on by her anorexic behaviour.

I just came across this newspaper article (* about another woman who is also killing herself on the Internet...from overeating. If you read the article, here's how to do the math: one "stone" equals 14 pounds.

She obviously has a deep-seated attachment to food that has nothing to do with nourishing her body. But the worst part is how she feeds her habit by getting men to pay for the privilege of watching her eat.

It's a sick world out there.

*For some reason, I can't put in links. Must speak to hubby, aka computer man, about this.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Totally Off Weight

As you have no doubt noticed, I've really been stressed out with work and seriously wondering about my professional future. My latest assignment, which I did on Thursday and Friday--and which I stressed out about for weeks and weeks beforehand--went quite well. Some of what I expected did come to pass, but it went by without my going over the edge emotionally.

This weekend, I felt so light, as if the proverbial huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. My sister-in-law and her family made an impromptu visit. They arrived on Friday night and left early on Sunday afternoon. We went to the King Tut exhibit at the Art Gallery--interesting, although the crowds made it hard to take the time needed to really look at things.

My niece continues to worry me. SIL and BIL adopted her when she was four (along with her little brother). They were told very little about her background and don't know why she and her brother were taken away from their parents (her little brother is a darling, BTW). I think it was unethical of child protective services to give her adoptive parents so little information. If they knew more, it would perhaps go a long way to explaining her cold, narcissistic, grasping behaviour. It's obviously none of my business, but I always find it scary being around her. She's only 11. Who knows what she'll be like when she's older.

I'm not feeling particularly bullish about my weight. Eating consciously is not an easy thing. I'm not stuffing myself and eating healthily, but my weight is bouncing around (don't talk about the cookies--if you can't eat a chocolate chip cookie every once in a while, it's a pretty sad life!). Exercise continues to be the sticking point. I've got an appointment in May with a rheumatologist to discuss visco-supplementation, aka Synvisc, which they would inject into my knee. If it helps me to be able to exercise, it will be a godsend. Otherwise, I basically can't do any cardio-vascular exercise. At this point, I'm not feeling too bullish. In a few years, I'll probably have a knee replacement. I'm not looking forward to it since my track record with joint replacements is not the best. We'll just have to see. Message to all: cherish your health!

Today, I actually refused some work next week. I've got things to do and I really didn't need the stress of piling two more work days onto my busy schedule. It was actually a really good thing that I refused: I hadn't written into my agenda that my son is coming back from Spain on Monday and I have to be at the airport at 4 p.m. to pick him up. Bad, bad mom.

We had some beautiful, spring-like weather today and I'm feeling happy and rested. What a change!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

A few weeks ago, my older son made chocolate chip cookies for a chemistry project. Yes, chemistry. All the ingredients were listed by their chemical names and the quantities were in things called "moles" (don't ask) and the like. He had to convert everything into everyday English and everyday measurements like teaspoons and grams. It was a hoot and he got an honourable mention from his classmates on the quality of his cookies. One of the kids put in a quarter cup of salt instead of a quarter of a teaspoon. He won for absolute worst cookie.

The cookies were fabulous. I had two.

On Tuesday night, younger son made the same recipe for his Spanish class. It's almost March break and they were having a party to which everyone had to contribute a treat. We got out the crazy recipe and got to work. My son did a good part of the preparation himself although he was impressed with my ability to dollop spoonfuls of cookie dough onto the sheet at lightening speed. It's strange that I can do this quite competently since I didn't learn any of this as a child. I lived in a (mostly) cookie-free zone and when we did have cookies they were bought, not home-made. My mom was just not a baker.

This time, I had a couple of "finger shmooshes" of cookie dough plus half a cookie. Incredibly yummy...and it was enough.

Welcome to the moderation zone.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Suddenly Gone

My friend's brother died on Tuesday. He had a stroke while driving and crashed his car. His partner survived; fortunately, no one else got injured. Small mercies.

He was one of those "larger than life" people. He reminded me (and no doubt many others) of John Belushi in the movie, The Blues Brothers: a portly fellow with a porkpie hat who played the blues harmonica. He was at all of his sister's parties, leading the band made up of his nephews and other young musicians. He smoked, he probably drank and ate to excess and stayed up late at night.

He was in his mid-fifties and full of life.

And now, suddenly, he is gone.

His death makes me want to stress less, go for long walks, eat and drink with both enjoyment and moderation, kiss my husband and kids and celebrate the fact that I'm still here on this beautiful earth.

NewMe's Haiku

I started off my day writing a post that made me more and more agitated. Sometimes, I just have to NOT try to understand so much. The post is still in draft form.

On the bus, I began looking at people and making up haikus in my mind. If you don't know about "haiku", it's a Japanese poem made up of 17 syllables, in a three-line, 5-7-5 syllable form.

It's now my pleasure to present to you my new blog: NewMe's Haiku at

I'm also thinking of taking pottery lessons.

Maybe I really am becoming a NewMe.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Letting Go of the Numbers


I was at a conference a few weeks ago on personal finance. One of the speakers--who was excellent, by the way--said something in the course of her long, detailed speech that had nothing to do with personal finance and everything to do with personal health.

This woman was quite the stunner: in her mid-fifties with a figure to die for and energy radiating out of her entire being. She mentioned that she has been a runner for a long time, but decided to work with a personal trainer who really pulled her out of her comfort zone. Her trainer started her on weights and she freaked out. Why? Because she gained weight. Why did I put "gained" in bold italics? Simple. Because while she gained weight, she actually lost inches.

And herein lies the moral of the story.

Weight loss warriors are so obsessed, obsessed and (dare I say) obsessed with the numbers on the scale that they will sacrifice healthy habits just to see a smaller number on the scale. This woman had actually done something good for her health by gaining muscle mass and her first reaction was "oh, no!". Fortunately, she realized the error of her ways, but maybe that's because she's already gorgeous and famous (lol). Who knows.

It's this numbers obsession that has people forgetting the basics: eat healthy foods in reasonable portions and move your body. And take time to smell the roses and eat a piece of chocolate, if that what rings your bell. That's what it's all about.

The rest is just a meaningless numbers game.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Ac-CENT on the Wrong Syl-LABLE?

Sadly, if we are to be really honest with ourselves, most women want to lose weight for esthetic reasons. It's been thousands of years since a truly fat woman was considered beautiful. The picture above is of the "Venus of Willendorf", a statue that was carved between 22,000-20,000 B.C. It represents what was the ideal female figure: voluptuous and fertile.

Speed ahead several tens of thousands of years, and here's what today's magazines tell us we should look like:
I don't find either image particularly attractive. What I do find worrisome is how the Venuses amongst us are now automatically seen as unhealthy while other women are seen as healthy, simply because they are slim (if not anorexic). This attitude opens the door to eating disorders, self-flagellation (I only lost a pound this week--I'm a failure), yo-yo dieting and ultimately severe damage to one's metabolism and health in general.

Let's be honest: what would you prefer? Being skinny and unhealthy or being 10 pounds overweight (and who decides that, anyway?) and in great shape? How much would you give up to "look good", wear a size 4, or proudly wear a bikini?

Why are you going to the gym? Honestly? What if you were guaranteed to never get rid of your batwings, or flabby stomach? Would you still go to the gym? What if you never lost that last ten pounds? Would you still go to the gym, would you still try to eat healthy foods?

Diane at Fit to the Finish recently asked if you can be obese and healthy. I think the answer is obvious: if you're eating junk food in front of the TV and can't be bothered or aren't even able to walk down to the mailbox, you're unhealthy. But what if you exercise moderately, but regularly and eat healthy, unprocessed foods? You could still be "overweight" (again I ask, by whose standards?), though I somehow doubt you'd be obese. By many other measures, you could be quite healthy (BP, cholesterol, etc.).

And that's where the ac-CENT on the wrong syl-LABLE comes in. It's time to take the accent off weight and pounds (kilos) lost and put it where it belongs: on eating healthy foods, on enjoying (and not fearing) a wide variety of foods and on exercising to the best of our ability on a regular, sustainable, life-long basis rather than going the "biggest loser" route (which can never last a lifetime unless you're Gillian Michaels, who's making a fortune off browbeating people into obedience).

But that's so boring.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Random Thoughts from a Busy Woman

Source: tonyhallgreenbizcheckblog

Has anyone seen the ad on TV by the producers of high-fructose corn syrup? Just what the gullible public needs.

Oh yeah, then there's the ad that presents dinners you pop into the microwave as a healthy choice for families on the go and a way to promote time together around the dinner table. What about all the preservatives and salt these "healthy" meals no doubt contain?

Another article that a must-read from my favourite American newspaper, the NY Times: Yes, dear, you really should eat more slowly.

I'm somewhat taken aback by how many bloggers constantly mention brand name foods. Does this mean people can't eat meals that they put together themselves because they can't calculate the calories contained in home-made anything? Just asking. And can't people just eat at a restaurant without downloading the calorie count of every menu item? Can't you just leave some food on your plate? (See: fear of food!).

I desperately want to answer two posts, one by Jack Sh*t on fear of food, and the other by Diane on fat acceptance, but right now, I need to take a relax break and then get to work on preparing a couple of conferences that are coming up way too fast.

I shall return...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sitting and Standing


I have been very busy recently with work and coming to terms with my future in a lucrative but frustrating profession. Not surprisingly, my back--which is the barometer of my inner life--decided to go wonky about two weeks ago. I was actually in a fair bit of physical pain (just to add to my emotional upset!) for a few days and was starting to get quite worried about what might happen. I have had three ruptured discs in my life. The first one ended with my having emergency spinal surgery while the other two left me with nerve damage. So it's easy to see why I get really scared when my back starts to hurt.

The good news is that my back seems to be getting back to normal (3 steps forward, 1 step back--pardon the pun) and I am once again picking up the pieces and moving on.

Here's the other good news: I have an interesting little article I'd like to recommend for your reading pleasure.

Stand Up While You Read This! appeared in the New York Times a few days ago. According to this article, the chair is your enemy:

It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.

I find this premise both depressing and fascinating. In today's world, how many of us have really active jobs? If you work in a daycare, or a hospital you can be easily run off your feet, but most of us work at extremely sedentary jobs. And even if you do move around a lot, like nurses, you can be out of shape, overweight and malnourished. How many nurses are so overworked that they eat junk food off the corner of their desks?

Although the article does tend to present a fairly gloomy point of view, there is perhaps some hope.

The message I'm getting is to mix it up. Inasmuch as possible, take a "move" break frequently. Get up from your desk. Go to the washroom. Get a glass of water...

Just take a few steps. Frequently. Then take a few more!