Friday, July 30, 2010

Health in the News Roundup

A few newspaper articles caught my eye this week that I thought might interest you.

Remember Vitamin D, the wonder vitamin? Well, it's back in the spotlight and the news is better than ever. According to this New York Times article:

Every tissue in the body, including the brain, heart, muscles and immune system, has receptors for vitamin D, meaning that this nutrient is needed at proper levels for these tissues to function well.

Studies indicate that the effects of a vitamin D deficiency include an elevated risk of developing (and dying from) cancers of the colon, breast and prostate; high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease; osteoarthritis; and immune-system abnormalities that can result in infections and autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Unfortunately, for many, especially those of us living in the northern U.S. and Canada as well as much of Europe, it is difficult to get sufficient exposure to the sun and thus for our bodies to make sufficient quantities of Vitamin D.

There is still no definitive word on how much Vit. D we should take per day in the form of supplements. I know that 3,000 I.U. gets me to a normal level (yes, I was tested, was found deficient, started taking supplements and am no longer deficient). Something to think about.

And now, let's move on to something we too often forget in our quest to reduce calories: SODIUM.

Today's Globe and Mail has sodium on the front page. The article is entitled The Spoonful-a-Day Challenge. Canadians' daily intake of sodium is 3,400 mg. The maximum recommended daily intake is 1 teaspoonful or 2,300 mg.

According to the article, "nearly 80 per cent of the sodium most Canadians consume is added to food items by manufacturers."

The Toronto Star has an amusing and informative regular feature called "The Dish". The reporter checks out popular fast foods to see exactly what kind of nutritional bang people are getting for their buck. Today's Dish featured Jamaican beef patties. The reporter was pleasantly surprised to find out that beef patties served at Randy's Take-Out contained "only" 432 mg of sodium as compared to...hold on to your slice of Pizza Pizza pepperoni pizza, which gives you a whopping 1,632 mg of sodium, or...keep your hand on that hat...Taco Bell's 420-calorie beef burrito supreme, which will add 1,260 mg of sodium to your daily consumption. It should be noted that the Dish puts a reasonable daily allowance of sodium at 1,500 to 2,400. Put me down for the lower amount, please.

This is serious stuff for all of us, but I would say that those watching their weight should be particularly careful. Why? Because much of that delightful, processed, packaged diet food may be low in calories, but is often shockingly high in sodium. I found this article, written by someone who loves Weight Watchers, that alerts people to the high sodium content of some of WW's frozen meals. I'm sure that WW is not the only purveyor of packaged foods that tends to overload on the sodium. In fact, according to the article, WW is looking at how to lower sodium in their products. However, my message here is simple: be aware that while you're desperately trying to lose weight and protect your heart, you could be doing quite the opposite if you over-rely on packaged diet foods.

I believe in moderation. If you want to eat a Taco Bell burrito from time to time or a frozen "diet" meal on occasion, you're not going to drop dead of a heart attack. Just keep in mind that reducing calories is only part of the equation when it comes to improving your health.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Back from a Mini-Vacation

I "slipped out the back door" for a few days and just got home this evening.

My husband, older son and I (younger son is at sleepover camp) got the key to a friend's cottage on Christian Island in Georgian Bay and managed to get in a few days of serious R&R. The photo is a view from the deck just off the kitchen.

Christian Island is owned by the Beausoleil First Nations Band so the island is home to a combination of year-round First Nations native people and summer cottagers. Everyone seems to get along just fine.

We arrived on Thursday and of course, the rain started pouring down in the evening. I did manage, however, to get in a 50-minute walk along a beautiful, white-sand beach. Let me tell you, walking in the sand is good exercise in of itself. On Friday, the weather was overcast but there wasn't any rain. Hubby, son and I did a 4K walk. On Sunday, we walked to another beach. Again, the beach walking, though it didn't add up to a huge number of steps, was quite the workout.

Of course today, the day we were leaving, was just gorgeous. I did some yoga on the back porch, overlooking the bay. It was a magnificent setting.

There are several things I loved about this cottage experience:
  • no Internet!
  • no cable TV--in fact, no TV reception at all! We did bring our DVDs of the wonderful TV series, Six Feet Under, and watched the last four episodes of Season 4. Number one son asked to watch a Bruce Lee movie that was lying around the cottage. I'm happy to say that it was my first Bruce Lee movie and probably my last.
  • lots of reading: I got through 2 1/2 novels in three days.
All in all, it was a short but sweet little vacation.

Now, I have to catch up on my blog reading!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sean and Kenz's Water Challenge

Well, I've been doing the PEWC (positive effect water challenge) that Sean and Kenz launched at the beginning of this week and I might as well announce my results so far: a perfect 8-glass a day or more record.

I have to admit, it isn't hard but it has gotten me "over the top" consistently since I started. Honestly, I was mostly a 6-glass a day kind of girl and just couldn't find the motivation to glug down those two little extra glasses.

Do I feel so much better with all this water? To be honest, not really. But you have to remember that I've been at 6 glasses a day for about 1 1/2 years. I joined the challenge because sometimes you don't see the positive effects, even though you know they're there. I have no doubt that drinking a decent amount of water is good for me and I've made it into a strong habit.

So thanks Sean and Kenz for the extra motivation you've given me.

Today, I'll be going on a long drive (about 2 1/2 hours) and this may make things a bit trickier. I'll have to drink less before I leave and make up for it when I get to my destination. That will be a real challenge since I really prefer drinking all my water loooong before bed. Otherwise...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An "LT" Recipe

Like many of you, I'm always on the lookout for recipes that are both healthy and flavourful. If the recipe is vegetarian, I consider it an added bonus. Though we are far from vegetarian, in the past few years, our family has been opting for more vegetarian meals, both for health reasons and because raising meat is such a strain on the environment.

Enter my gift to you: a truly wonderful, "LT" recipe for sweet potato curry with spinach and chickpeas. Dontcha just love the Internet?

This great, one-pot recipe has quite a kick, due to the liberal amounts of curry and cumin. Make sure these spices are well and evenly mixed in with the onion or you may just get some flavour bursts when you least expect them. You'll notice that the calorie and nutrient values are listed with the recipe. I really don't know where they got such a high sodium content. I bought extremely low-sodium tomatoes and rinsed the chickpeas well before adding them to the mix. And there is no added salt in the recipe. According to the information provided, the recipe makes six servings. Not so--I would say at least eight--and I live with two teenage boys and a husband with a hearty appetite. Serving the stew over brown rice (another "LT" food, unless you don't eat carbs) makes it last longer and adds to the nutritional value.

Now I know you're all wondering about the meaning of LT. No, it's not another Internet abbreviation like LOL (which is not "lots of love", as some old fogies think).

LT is a family joke.

My late mother-in-law's first language was French. Although she spoke English extremely well and actually lived much of her life primarily in English, she did have a slight accent and tended to drop the letter H at the beginning of words that did have one, while adding phantom H's where they didn't belong. She also had trouble pronouncing the English sound "th". This is very French-Canadian. Thus, her pronunciation of the word "healthy" actually sounded a lot like saying the letters L and T together.

So when my husband and I want to light-heartedly comment on the great nutritional value of something, we always say that it's LT.

I really hope you enjoy this LT recipe!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Versatile Blogger Award

I'm a few days late, but I'd just like to thank bunpoh for awarding me the Versatile Blogger Award last week. I am always touched and pleased when someone enjoys my blog. Thanks so much, bunpoh!

I have to admit, I'm really not into the award process, aside from acknowledging and thanking the person who nominated my blog. You'll have to excuse me for not following the rules.

I really don't have 15 new blogs I'd like to nominate, but I do suggest my readers look at my blogroll. I've made some interesting discoveries recently like Angry Fat Woman and Screaming Fat Girl. Strange, there seems to be a bit of a trend in the names! And then there's Fifty Fat and Grumpy.

Yes, you can definitely see where my mind's at by the names of some of the blogs I read. I don't necessarily think I look at the world from a negative perspective. However, I'm no longer "young", though I hope to have a number of good years still before me. I no longer believe that I can just will things better. A good attitude is great, but I have been to places in my life where a positive attitude and $1.75 (plus tax) got me a pretty decent cup of coffee. In other words, it's the buck seventy-five that does it, not the attitude.

Mostly, I've moved to a place of not giving up and continuing the fight (no matter what that fight may be--and it's a lot bigger than losing weight) while acknowledging that we are not all dealt the same hand and sometimes our cards just won't allow us to "win" the game. All we can do is fight another day.

OK, now wasn't that an interesting riff on winning an award?

I award the Versatile Blogger Award to you all. Everyone deserves it for putting themselves out there and being brave! Here's bunpoh's post with the rules. Enjoy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Calorie/Point Counting


Anything you do to reach/maintain a healthy body weight is fine by me.

(Obviously, someone who manages his/her weight through anorexia or bulimia is not doing themselves any good in my book. If you are anorexic or bulimic, please get professional help. You are killing yourself.)

If you are a calorie/point counter and it works for you, more power to you. This post contains my own personal reflexions on what calorie (or point) counting says about food, nutrition and the world we choose to live in.

I have hesitated greatly in posting this because I really do not want to insult any of my favourite bloggers who are staunch calorie counters and extremely successful weight-loss warriors (you know who you are!). I do not have the same "message of hope" that successful weight-loss bloggers communicate. So who am I to ask questions when I don't have a successful strategy to counter with? However, I think that self-censorship is a slippery and dangerous slope. This blog, like all others, was created as a forum for my own personal reflexions and to share with other people on similar journeys.

I am very curious about the number of calories I burn in a day. I suspect that even on a 10,000 step day, I don't burn that much because I can't engage in strenuous exercise (aside from the pool). I just visited the Bodybugg site and saw that their system works by measuring (hopefully relatively accurately) the number of calories expended, and requiring that you count the number of calories ingested. This got me thinking yet again about calorie counting.

Some of these foods I ate this week came in packages with the calorie content listed. For anything eaten in a local, non-chain restaurant, the calorie content was unknown. I would have had to have brought my food scale and visited the kitchen to see exactly how the food was cooked. Some homemade dishes contained a number of ingredients, so it would have taken some time and energy to do the research and establish the caloric value.

The easiest way to eat when you calorie count appears to me to use pre-packaged foods or basic foodstuffs without any adornment or to eat in chain restaurants. For instance, my fairly healthy spaghetti sauce becomes a calorie-counting nightmare due to the variety of foods used in its preparation. I would have to count the calories in each ingredient, then weigh the whole pot and divide it into let's say 1/2 cup servings in order to establish an approximate caloric value per serving. Wouldn't it just be easier to go to the store, buy a simple bottle of sauce and forgo the fresh vegetables and the splash of olive oil, despite the clear nutritional value they offer?

And am I better off eating at a chain restaurant where the quality of the food is clearly lower than at my local restaurant just because chain restaurants tell you how many calories are in the mass-produced dishes that they serve?

And what about the extraordinary lamb ossobucco that I learnt to make at a cooking class recently? No calorie count there, just fresh ingredients, lovingly crafted into a dish to die for. Definitely off the list because I can't tell you how many calories a serving contains.

What disturbs me is that calorie and point counting require you to limit your food to products that are either pre-packaged or easily quantifiable. It discourages adventure and curiosity and tends to limit one's food choices to that which is safely and easily identifiable. And maybe that's a positive thing for many people. But not for me.

I just have to wonder: Does calorie counting mean you restrict yourself to what's "countable"? Does calorie counting better suit those who don't have an adventurous palate? Do you find yourself saying no to foods that you can't find on the WW's list or from a calorie counter? Just curious.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Via Willy or Won't He, here's a fantastic clip to get your Friday funny bone up and dancing.

Don't worry about the minute or so of useless chatter in French that precedes the act. Just enjoy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Too Fat for 15

I came across a reference to the BBC documentary, "Too Fat for 15", on a fat acceptance site. The impression that I got reading about it was that there was something wrong about encouraging the young girl in question to lose weight. So, I felt it was worthwhile taking a look for myself.

You can find the whole documentary on Youtube, chopped up into 5 10-minute segments. The format is a bit annoying, but I found the documentary itself to be very moving and not at all exploitative.

While many people are mildly overweight in our society, due in great part to a sedentary lifestyle and a lack of basic nutritional knowledge, the morbidly obese often have a "back story" of emotional pain and suffering that explains their seriously dysfunctional relationship with food. This is the case for Georgia Davis, who at 15 weighs a touch above 460 pounds. Still grieving her father's death nine years earlier, she is the sole caregiver for her mother who is herself severely overweight, suffers from arthritis and has had two heart attacks.

The documentary follows Georgia through a year at a boarding school for overweight teens in the States. (She was there on a full scholarship.)

At first, I was somewhat put off by the "fat camp" feeling of the school, with the obsession on every single thing the student ate, the compulsive journaling and the blanket identification of certain foods as intrinsically "bad" under all circumstances and at all times. Although I sincerely believe in a healthy diet (and by that I mean the food we eat rather than a weight-loss plan), labelling certain foods as "bad" and untouchable sets us up for failure. (I could and already have talked at length about this and will no doubt explore the topic further in the future.)

But despite the discomfort I felt with certain aspects of the school's approach, I was profoundly touched by Georgia's journey--in particular, the psychological elements of her road away from compulsive eating and towards a more healthy relationship with food, her body, her mother and her life in general.

To date, Georgia has lost almost 170 pounds. It's a moving story and worth watching.

The only unfortunate thing is that now the Style Network will be launching the US version of TFF15. I fear it will have all the depth and intelligence of "The Biggest Loser". But that's just my opinion.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Size Variety

We are all different sizes. I wish society would just get over it!

One of my favourite bloggers, Screaming Fat Girl, often talks about the difficulty of living in a country (unnamed) where fat people are downright despised. One of her readers, emmabovary, recently commented on the pain she feels for her overweight teenage daughter, specifically because she lives in France--a country where women are constantly reminded that fat is intrinsically bad and thin is intrinsically good.

In fact, I remember being in Paris in my twenties, when I weighed significantly less than I do today, and being chastised about my weight by the woman whom I was paying to give me a facial. It's a cultural thing: in France, this is not considered an insult. It's the truth and you'd better just
face up to it and do something about it, you fat cow.

Well, I'm just sick of this. I'm not sick of doing the best I can to live in a healthy body and develop a healthy mindset towards life. I'm simply heartily sick of being told that there is only one kind of body type that is acceptable and healthy and that body is "fat free". Because it's not.

People are looking for easy solutions. It's easier to adopt the attitude that slim = healthy. It's harder to understand/accept that a slim person might be a smoker, drink to excess and subsist on Twinkies. We don't know what's going on inside her body. Or that a chunkier woman walks several kilometres to work every day, eats well, has fantastic lung capacity and lots of muscle.

Sometimes, seeing is not believing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Good Stuff About the Pool

Yes, I've gone back to the pool, with several more times planned for this week.

The fins I bought were way too long. I bought them at the third place I went to and by that time, I was giving up hope. At the pool yesterday, I spoke to an elderly gentleman who was wearing much smaller fins and he told me where to go to buy them. I had to travel to the far reaches of the city to get them--I'm hoping they work out better.

Here's what I like about the pool: people look real. So many people avoid going to the gym because they don't look like ads for Lululemon. You know what I mean: lean, mean biking/yoga/fitness machines without an ounce of untoward fat on them. Fortunately, these are not the people at the municipal pool. They're all ages, with a significant number of older people. I go around noon; most people with regular day jobs can't get to the pool at lunch so I'm not seeing the gym warriors. They're probably at their fitness clubs at 5:30 p.m. after work. More power to them, but I like the floppy, sometimes flabby, real people at the pool.

...cause I'm real too.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Not surprisingly, in the weight-loss blogging universe, writers tend to ascribe most, if not all their problems to excess weight. And who am I to say whether they are correct or not? I just know (or hope I know) what applies to me.

I do, however, caution against choosing one "bugaboo" and hanging all our unhappiness on that one "problem"--and I admit to doing just that.

I'm going to admit that my thing is arthritis. I feel like arthritis is stopping me from achieving my physical potential.

I'm not trying to become a marathoner, but I'd love to become a fast 5K walker. I never, ever had a flat stomach. That's just heredity. But smoothing down the roundness would be nice. I'd never aim to bike several hundred kilometres per week but I'd enjoy getting on the stationary bike and doing 1/2 hour while watching TV. All this and more are beyond my abilities due to my orthopedic issues.

I don't belong to the "just suck it up and stop complaining school" either. My complaints are legitimate. (So too, no doubt, are yours, dear reader.) But maybe, just maybe, it's time for me to put my bugaboo in its place. This is who I am: handicapped, but not horribly so; overweight, but it could be much worse; trying my best and most importantly, learning to do it one minute at a time and with as much love and acceptance for myself as possible.

I don't want to let arthritis consume me. I want my days to be mostly focused on small successes and not large impossibilities.

I wish the same for you!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I Swam Today!

Well, I finally got off my duff and went to the pool today.

We have been sweltering here in Ontario. It's been around 35 C every day for I don't know how long. With the humidity, we're talking over 40 C--that's 104 F. We definitely don't live in igloos up here.

It had been a very long time since I'd gone to the municipal pool. Six years in fact. As I came onto the pool deck, I clearly remembered the last time I'd gone to that pool. Six years ago, I was barely walking on crutches. The only place where I could walk unaided was in chest-high water. Pool walking was the only exercise that I was allowed to do and I took full advantage of it. Happily, those days are long gone.

I spent about 1/2 hour in the pool and swam pretty much non-stop. I did 28 lengths, but forgot to find out the distance of a length in that particular pool (it's definitely not Olympic sized). The pool was divided into three sections: slow, medium and fast. Being too slow for the mediums, I ended up with the slow pokes even though I was a Speedy Gonzalez compared to some of the people in that section. I might buy some fins to speed up a bit.

My first four laps were tough. My lungs really hurt, but I managed to get through them and felt better as I went on. I realized that my legs are quite weak, due to nerve damage, surgery and arthritis. I need to find out if fins will help to strengthen them. I felt most of the workout in my shoulders and arms.

I'm really pleased that I went. Now, the trick is to go back...again and again and again and again...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Challenge for the No Challenge Girl

Well, dear friends, I usually don't go for challenges. Call me chicken, call me realistic, but challenges are usually not my thing.

Except for this one. Because I KNOW I can do it and because I KNOW it's a good thing.

I invite you all to join me, Sean and Kenz on their Positive Effect Water Challenge. Just drink 64 oz. a day of water. That's 8 glasses, or 2 litres. It's not too much (you really can drink too much), it's doable and your body will thank you.

I guess I should add the same disclaimer that Sean has on his blog:

This message is for those of you interested in joining us for this challenge. Before we begin please be aware that there is such a thing as drinking too much water. Please understand that our personal goals are to drink 64 oz. per day which is widely accepted as a healthy amount of water consumption. Sean and Kenz are not medical or nutritional experts, they are just really cool weight loss bloggers. Please consult a qualified physician before starting any weight-loss regimen.

It's so darn hot out, I'm sure we won't have a hard time reaching this non-weight related goal. Drink up!

Thank you, Coramie!


I'm probably like most bloggers: I just love comments. Even if I don't specifically respond to your comment, you can be sure that I appreciate it.

And when I see a comment from someone I've never seen before, I often go over to his or her blog to see what's new and shaking in the blogosphere.

Today, I met Coramie through her response to my Ringo Starr birthday blog and here are some marvelous words of wisdom I found posted on her blog:

1. Throw out non essential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay them.

2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.

3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever.

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love, Whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9. Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county; to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Thanks, Coramie! These words are just what the doctor ordered!

P.S. The picture is from Ivry sur le Lac, a gorgeous village in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec where we often go for a few weeks in the summer. Unfortunately, we're not going this year, but since I love the place so much, I thought I'd share it with you all.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

And now, in other news...

Ringo Starr is turning 70.

I was slightly too young to be an original Beatles fan but man, do I still love those guys.

Have a good one, Ringo!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I Never Cease to Be Amazed...

...and saddened.

Why is it that women hold themselves to a standard of excellence far higher and far more self-defeating than men?

Why have our public images come to be so air-brushed that we no longer know what a real woman actually looks like?

Why are we either "on" or "off" plan every day, or even every minute?

Why does one mistake at work or one mouthful too many or one meal overeaten signify total failure?

Why do five pounds gained make a woman want to sink into the ground while a man can gain 50 pounds, look in the mirror and still see an Adonis staring back at him?

I've been looking for the answers to such questions for most of my adult life and I still don't know. All I know is that the search for perfection has coloured my life and mostly in a negative way.

I will never be someone who contents herself with mediocrity but I am sick to death of beating myself up for not being perfect. There is a big difference. The search for perfection is actually the quickest road to failure.

Click over to the latest blog I've added to my blogroll, Screaming Fat Girl, for one of the best posts I've read in a long time about the role perfection has played in her life. In fact, read her archives. She's amazing. SFG has now become one of my "must reads".