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?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

At the BBQ

Reflecting (Self-Portrait) by Ken Danby

Two of my husband's cousins have summer BBQs. We often miss the August one since we're usually away on vacation at that time, but this year we went to both (our only vacation having been those few quiet days on Christian Island).

My husband has a fairly large contingent of cousins here. He was brought up in another province and in a very different environment. The local family is made up of good, decent people, but neither hubby nor I have much in common with them. We do go to at least one BBQ a year, though.

So there we were yesterday at summer BBQ number 2. There was lots of beer, wine and Pepsi. I'm the designated driver and not a big drinker to begin with so I had a small half-glass of wine and a lot of water. I admit that if there had been any diet pop there, I would have had one. I didn't feel like wasting my time on a regular Pepsi.

I was shocked to see that no raw veggies were served, just chips and a mix of pretzels and Cheezies. I ate too many. The BBQ consisted of store-bought burgers and hot dogs, fresh corn, a pasta salad with 2-3 little pieces of broccoli and a cauliflower salad, drenched in some kind of nameless dressing. There were some lovely home-made butter tarts, white cupcakes with chocolate icing and fresh fruit for dessert. Hubby and I were the ones who brought the fruit. Are you surprised?

One of the cousins, a quiet but sweet fellow in his 30s who was doing BBQ duty, shyly asked me if I was doing a low-carb or gluten-free diet since I had passed on the burger bun. I answered no, that I just felt I didn't need the bun after all those munchies. He then (again rather shyly) volunteered that he had started feeling bloated after eating bread and was wondering about cutting back on gluten products. I encouraged him to do so if it made him feel better.

One of the other people at the BBQ was a young man in his 20s whom I hadn't seen since he was about 10 years old. He had been quite an overweight child and he is now very, very obese. Of course, I couldn't help watching what he was eating. Actually, he didn't seem to be stuffing himself at all, though I'm not sure how many beers he downed. He was also smoking. It made me really sad. And I was all the more saddened when I realized what a talented artist he is. My husband's relatives--bless their souls--are just as intelligent as anyone else, but not a very intellectual or artistic lot. And here was this one cousin (actually the stepson of an older cousin) who is actually bursting with talent. He showed me some of his drawings, which reminded me of the work of the internationally renowned artist, Ken Danby. I gave him my e-mail and told him that I really want to get an invitation to his next show.

The BBQ was a bit of an eye-opener both from a culinary and a "knowing the family" point of view.

If we go back for the next August BBQ, I'll be sure to bring a plate of raw veggies and I hope to see the artistic cousin again. There's something going on in that young man's life that's helping to make him so big. Unfortunately, I really don't know him well enough to ask any personal questions (although I am aware of certain serious problems in his childhood). I can only hope that he will be able to blossom through his art and perhaps be able to shed a bit of the protective shell he seems to be hiding in.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

No Excuses, Just Some Enlightening Information: READ THIS!!

I just came across an article in the Huffington Post that finally, finally explains it all in simple, straightforward language, answering the question: is it true that we are not created equal when it comes to weight loss and weight maintenance/management even though the laws of physics (calories in vs. calories out) apply to everyone without exception?

First of all, the answer, sadly, is YES. I was not imagining it, as I travelled across Europe with my friend, M., eating the same foods, walking the same (long) distances, engaging in the same activities, and gaining weight while she lost weight. We are not created equal.

In a recent post, I talked about how we have internalized hatred of the overweight, how cruel and hateful we can be towards ourselves for the slightest transgression from the one true path of calories in and calories out.

Not so fast, honey.

Yes, there are people--many people, many weight loss bloggers, in fact--who are serious overeaters. These are the people who stuff their faces silly to tamp down feelings, pain, horrible recollections. These are the binge eaters, the emotional eaters, the ones who trade horrible psychological pain for the pain/pleasure of a belly stuffed so full they cannot move.

It seems pretty obvious that all these people have to do is cut down their food intake and all will be well.

But let's look again.

Once in a while, we hear about Hollywood stars who have to gain a large amount of weight--who have, for all intents and purposes, had to "stuff their faces"--for a particular role. Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones comes to mind. According to this article, gaining weight was "just a job" for her. In fact, she worked with a nutritionist to gain the weight. Although I have no doubt that she also worked assiduously to regain her figure afterwards, how often do we hear about Zellweger's battle with excess weight since having lost the weight? I can't recall any articles about such a problem, just articles about how (sigh) she has to gain the weight back yet again for a sequel. Compare Zellweger to Jessica Simpson, who worked like a dog to achieve slimness for the Dukes of Hazzard movie but is now often featured in the tabloids for her weight "problems". Poor child, she just can't stay stick thin.

My point is that a naturally slim person like Zellweger who has consciously made an effort to gain weight (who has stuffed her face like a binge eater), will lose the weight and keep it off once that effort is removed. Someone with more of a tendency to gain weight (like Simpson) will have to work hard to lose the weight and will continue to have to make serious efforts to keep it off once the desired weight has been reached.

And this why you MUST read this article: "Understanding the Physics of Weight Loss", by Dr. David Katz.

In the article, Dr. Katz explains that while we are all the same in terms Newton's laws of physics (i.e. calories in vs. calories out), we are not all the same when it comes to two other important factors: heat generation (thermogenesis) and resting energy expenditure (or the basal metabolic rate). While we do have control over the number of calories we ingest and the amount of exercise we do, we have no control over how much heat we generate from the calories nor how many calories we use up to simply continue living.
You can choose how much exercise to do. But you don't get to choose how thermogenic you tend to be, and that can matter quite a lot. Like exercise, thermogenesis accounts for roughly 15 percent of total energy expenditure on average, but there is lots of variation on the theme of average. People who generate more heat from calories have fewer available with which to make fat. They tend to be people who can eat a bit more, and stay thin anyway.

But that's a drop in the bucket compared to resting energy expenditure. Roughly 65 percent of calories are burned to support the fundamental workings of cells and organs that keep us alive. The number of calories burned at rest, and the actual percentage of total calories burned this way, also vary substantially around the average. People with a high resting energy expenditure are, in our modern world of epidemic obesity, the fortunate few most people love to hate: the folks who cannot seem to get enough to eat, and can't put weight on when they try.
Dr. Katz goes on to cite the case of the Pima Indians, who naturally have a very low resting energy expenditure rate. Living in an unforgiving, harsh desert climate, their bodies evolved into energy conservation machines. Surviving in their environment required expending a lot of energy, and conserving as much energy as possible became a physical survival mechanism. Like camels, who are physically equipped to carry water in their bodies to make up for the many miles they walk through the arid desert, the Pimas' bodies hold onto calories, that precious commodity that enables them to survive in an environment where most of us would die. However, the world has changed and survival is a lot easier now. Unfortunately for the Pimas, their bodies have not evolved to catch up with these changes and they are amongst those who have the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the world.

Although I am not a scientist, I would also apply Dr. Katz's explanation of the differences in weight gain/loss/maintenance between individuals to the differences between men and women. I have said before--and I truly believe that the numbers back me up--that women have a much harder time losing and keeping the weight off than men due to hormonal differences. A woman's weight is an important factor in her fertility. While it is true that obesity can be an impediment to fertility, I suspect severe underweight is an even more important factor. When a woman loses her period due to excessive caloric restriction (often coupled with obsessive exercising), getting pregnant becomes next to impossible. So Mother Nature, in her wisdom, has made it even harder for women to lose weight than men. The world needs babies and Mother Nature is going to make sure that we make them.

In the final analysis, I am not saying that we should all give up. Not in the least. If your diet is mainly composed of Big Macs, Cheezies and Coke, you're likely to be both overweight and malnourished. If you'd rather take the car than walk less than 3 minutes, you're probably in terrible shape. (True story: recently, we went out to supper with a friend at a restaurant about 3 minutes walk from our home. He arrived by car at our house and I motioned for him to park in our driveway. Instead of parking, he rolled down the window and offered us a lift to the restaurant. I was shocked but not surprised: he's in terrible shape. We walked, he took the car and parked in the underground parking lot below the restaurant. Interestingly enough, we got there first.)

So let's stop castigating ourselves and others. Let's make a conscious effort to feel compassion rather than disdain for the severely overweight amongst us. Personal choice is just one piece in the much more complicated puzzle of weight management.

Hard as it may be, let's make MORE of an effort to eat well and exercise responsibly while recognizing that we have much LESS control over the scale than we'd like to think.

Yes, Virginia, to a certain extent it IS your metabolism.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How Terribly Strange!


You all know how I natter on about intuitive eating. I'm sure you've remarked to yourself on occasion that if it was so powerful, how come she hasn't reached her goal weight yet. And if you're a regular reader, you'll know that I have some good reasons.


Intuitive eating only works if you actually do it...just like WW points or Sean's calorie counting coupled with his "steel curtain zone".

Well, after spending a considerable amount of emotional and physical time and energy to come to the conclusion that exercising more intensely is in of itself an exercise in futility, I just realized that I did something simple and amazing today.

I really did put off the gratification and truly ate intuitively. I had a small lunch of left-over tuna salad (that's a real salad with lots of veg, a little tuna and my own dressing rather than the traditional tuna loaded with mayo and nothing else) and a lovely piece of pumpernickel bread with butter and was about to return to the fridge for some cherries when suddenly I actually listened to my stomach, which was telling me firmly but politely that I had eaten enough and was full. Whereupon I took my fifth glass of water of the day and headed upstairs to my office.

I probably will have those cherries today and some fine tasting cherries they will be, but I'll have them when I'm hungry.

Monday, August 9, 2010


The other day, in the course of skimming a number of weight loss blogs, I came across the sentence: "I failed." How many times have you said that to yourself with respect to your weight? And in what context have you said this simple sentence (or words to that effect)?

Did you say it when the scale didn't move for a week?

Did you say it when you had one lick of your child's ice cream cone?

Did you say it when you only exercised three times during the week rather than six or seven?

Did you say it if your goal is to limit carbs as much as possible and you ate one cracker?

Doesn't anyone see this as self-hate? Doesn't anyone think this might be self-defeating or harmful to one's legitimate sense of self-worth?

Isn't there already enough hatred towards the overweight in this world? Do you feel that you have to add to it by ensuring that if nobody else hates you, you'll castigate yourself, just to make sure you feel the hatred too?

BTW, if you're curious, go and check out pro-anorexia sites. The goals may be different, but the similarities in terms of self-recrimination are striking.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Folding My Cards

A few weeks ago, I announced with great happiness that I had started swimming again. I went out and bought a pair of fins to give my legs a better workout. The fins were not right for me and I went to the other end of the city to buy a better pair. But after having gone to the pool 4-5 times, I realized that I could not continue to do so without doing myself serious harm.

I am held together with old Scotch tape like the picture above. You remember the stuff. It would get yellow and lose its stickiness and fall off, leaving ugly yellow marks behind. That's me. Whenever I try to introduce more movement into my life, the tape comes loose and the pain sets in. Thankfully, I have yoga, though even then, it's often one step forward followed by 1-2 steps back. At 54, I am holding the fort against total decrepitude. If I were a house, I wouldn't be worth salvaging, aside for a few components.

In addition to everything I've mentioned here on umpteen occasions, I also have recurring pain in my mid-back (right between my shoulder blades) and in my neck. When I move my neck, it crackles. I've had the mid-back pain on and off since my mid-twenties. Acupuncture used to help a lot. Now, not so much. Due to my hip, the only swim stroke I can do is the crawl and this has really exacerbated the back pain. Oh, and my hip gets unstable from the kicking, even without the fins. So, good-bye pool.

I've got to go to the doctor and get an x-ray of my upper back, but I'm pretty sure it's arthritis. I've got a whack of yoga exercises to do for this, but it's exhausting doing all these exercises for my neck, my back, my hip, my...whatever. And the kicker is that it's not to improve my health, cardiovascular or otherwise-- it's all just to keep the old scotch tape from completely falling off.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Back to IE

I started this blog in January 2009 with a sense of excitement that I had rarely felt before. For the first time, I was NOT going on a new diet.

I remember back around 1992, I went on "Fit for Life", the diet that forbids mixing carbs and proteins. What that meant was that I could eat a hearty meal of spaghetti topped with as much vegetarian sauce as I wanted. Conversely, I could have a huge steak, accompanied again by as many veggies as I wanted, but with nary a bite of baguette or potato. In the morning, you were only allowed to eat fruit . ONLY fruit. The FFL gurus stated that science showed that mixing carbs and proteins was bad for your body. Hey, it was science and I followed it and you know what? It worked. But it worked because I actually ate less. You see, you had to wait a set number of hours before switching from ingesting carbs to ingesting proteins (or vice-versa). In the interim, you stayed hungry. Nuts, BTW, were in some sort of nether world: OK, but be careful. I don't exactly remember where they fit. Fruit was fine, but only on its own and with a time buffer zone before and after eating anything else.

Even though it's been a good 18 years since I gave up on FFL, a little bit of it remains eerily and ghoulishly imprinted in my mind. Every time I eat a piece of cheese with a cracker or bite into a tuna sandwich, a little voice screams, "Carbs and proteins! You have sinned!" Honestly. That's what I hear.

When my younger son was around 2 or 3 (he just turned 15), I went on one of those "shake" diets, where you drink two meals a day and eat one meal of real food, plus taking copious numbers of vitamin pills. I can't even remember the name of the diet, though I do remember that the founder--a man whose mother had died when she was only in her 40s, supposedly as a result of excessive fad dieting--dropped dead around the same age as his mom had. He looked great--slim and trim--but he was dead as a doorknob.

Again, I did lose some weight, but as soon as I dropped the shakes, the pounds came piling back on.

Then, at the beginning of 2009, I read Paul McKenna's book, "I Can Make You Thin" and I had a lightbulb moment.

The parameters (oh, I like that word so much better than "rules"!) were simple:
1. Eat when you're hungry.
2. Eat whatever you want.
3. Eat consciously.
4. Stop when you're full.

Once again, for a brief few weeks, the weight started coming off. McKenna wisely advised against weighing oneself every day. Every two weeks was suggested. I lost 4 pounds in the first two weeks, then 2 pounds in the second two weeks, then 1 pound during weeks 5-6. Over the following 5 months or so, I lost a few pounds. Mostly, I stayed the same weight.

Then, I went on summer vacation and gained 4 pounds back.

This may not sound like a disaster but you have to put yourself in my shoes: 4'10" and unable to engage in any strenuous exercise due to arthritis and back problems. During my vacation, I had not by any stretch of the imagination gone off the deep end. A few bites more and a lot less walking and bang, six months of good work for the most part went down the toilet.

It's been about a year since that vacation and I haven't managed to get back on track. I still weigh a few pounds less than I did in January 2009, but I feel like I'm hanging on my bloody, bruised fingertips. OK, it's not quite so horrible, just rather depressing.

And yet, I feel that my move into the intuitive eating (IE) world has been beneficial.

My "project" over the past few weeks has been to once again to go back to the intuitive eating basics, most notably, eating much more slowly and consciously. One thing that I think we all realize on our journeys is that everyone has to find the best way for him or herself. For me, eating consciously is unbearable if it means that I have to block out everything else and concentrate on the "wonder" of whatever it is I'm eating. I just can't put all my mind's energy on cottage cheese. Not even on chocolate mousse, incredible as it is.

Here is my own personal, "non-kosher" version of conscious eating:

I look at the clock or my watch. I set myself a minimum amount of time needed to eat whatever's on my plate. If it's my favourite breakfast, for instance, I might decide on 5 minutes. Five minutes doesn't seem like a very long time, but try eating one piece of toast (with peanut butter and banana slices) in 5 minutes or more. Personally, I find 30 seconds to be much more reasonable. LOL.

Here's what I no longer try to do while eating: nothing else. Let me be brutally honest. It's boring. Boring. Doing the crossword while eating or reading the newspaper while eating is a no-no in the McKenna world. And maybe he's absolutely correct. I just can't do it. So I do what I can, which is try to slow down the process of eating as much as I can.

I have made one other change to my eating environment: I never listen to the radio while eating, although my absolute favourite radio programme, As It Happens, is usually on just as we're sitting down for supper. The best thing to do while having a meal is to chat with your family, though in my house it's really hard to do with three taciturn men. So in this respect too, I have "slimmed down" my food environment.

Although it has not really helped me lose weight, intuitive eating is the right thing for me. It is basically a way for me to guard against gaining too much weight or ideally, just a way to keep my weight at the level it is now. You just have to know when to fold your cards...something I will discuss further tomorrow.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Chicago Blues in Leaside

I live in a solidly middle-class, mid-town neighbourhood. It's a mix of small semi-detached and detached homes built in the 1920s and (sadly) more and more of their successors: "monster homes", built on long, narrow lots previously inhabited by the small homes. Though not particularly "ethnic", my neighbourhood is home to an interesting mix of people: professionals, European immigrant families who arrived 30-40 years ago, young families, retired people. We have Greek neighbours to the west of us and French neighbours to the east. Not boring.

About a 10 minute walk down my street, you come to the neighbourhood's main shopping drag, a street called Bayview. It's full of restaurants, gourmet food stores, a couple of gelato joints, a smattering of antique stores--fairly upscale, but still with a nice neighbourhood feel.

On the other side of Bayview is a neighbourhood called Leaside, a more upscale area, with larger, mostly detached houses. Leaside is, dare I say, quite "white bread". Again, it's home to a variety of households, from young families to retired people, but its population is more homogeneous, old-stock Canadian and it is certainly not home to the culinarily adventurous.

Enter Highway 61 on Bayview, right on the border with Leaside.

Last week, our younger son came home from summer camp and since he celebrated his 15th birthday while at camp, we took him out to supper at Highway 61.

On many occasions, I've mentioned that my family has cut down its consumption of meat. I'm also acutely aware of how much sodium is in the food we eat, especially in restaurants. However, once in a blue moon, ya gotta go wild and Highway 61 is definitely the place to do it.

The restaurant specializes in southern BBQ. Now, what does a nice girl from Canada know from southern BBQ? Not much. But boy, whatever it is that they serve at Highway 61, I think it's pretty darn good...not every night of the week, probably just a few times a year, but it's darn good. And the great thing is, you don't have to go hog wild there either to really enjoy the food. The four of us (mom, dad and 2 teenage boys) ordered a platter for 2-3 people, plus three mini pulled pork sandwiches and three green salads which we shared and we were just fine. OK, maybe we should have gotten another salad! No desserts, just coffee. It was great and a wonderful experience in moderate eating.

Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the music!!! Live music, provided by a band from...Fredericton, New Brunswick. They were amazing: a smoking hot trio playing Buddy-Guy style blues with more than a passing tip of the hat to the great Delta blues tradition. All in all, it was a fabulous evening.