Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Change


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

Monday, September 27, 2010

No Title (aka Intuitive Eating), Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 24, 2010

No Title, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 3, coming up soon...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No Title, Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned for Part 2...

Friday, September 17, 2010

My Wake-up Call


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

1) not enough sleep

2) eating out too often

3) overindulgence on the weekend

4) food portions too large

5) drinking extra calories

6) not reading food labels correctly.

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

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

Ooh that pesky cortisol. There it is again.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Congratulations to Sean

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Profiles in Blogging: As the Dust Settles

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

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

I haven't changed a bit.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Eat a Peach

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

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

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

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

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

And they taste divine.

For that matter, so do pears...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Profiles in Blogging

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

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

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

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

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

It's an interesting world we live in.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Message to Screaming Fat Girl

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

Thursday, September 9, 2010

L'Shana tova!


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

L'shana tova to all!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Real NewMe


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 6, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both exhibits were excellent.

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

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

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tara and Bella

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

Peace, friends.