Flexible restraint: it’s what’s missing from all fad diets

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

My long ago high school years were spent at Mount Mary Immaculate Academy, a convent boarding school up on the mountain overlooking Hamilton, Ontario. (Keep in mind, of course, that I’m using the Ontario definition of the word “mountain”, and not the more scenic, snow-capped, high-altitude British Columbia definition of something that actually looks like a real mountain out here).

But I digress . . .  Our Mount Mary classmates included a significant number of “Spanish girls”. These were the exotic international boarders from Mexico or Guatemala or other Spanish-speaking nations whose wealthy parents had sent their daughters north to Canada for a year or two of boarding school to help perfect their English. Our Spanish girls needed to become fluently bilingual in time for their über-extravagant celebrations back home called the quinceañera, a girl’s traditional fifteenth birthday party to mark the important passage to womanhood.

Skinny or pudgy, every Spanish girl was obsessed about her weight. They talked non-stop about dieting as the year-long countdowns to their quinceañera parties began. And whenever our Spanish girls were even remotely upset with their Canadian dormitory mates for any reason at all, the worst possible insult they could spit out at us was the only Spanish word I knew back then:

“Gorda!”

Fat.

And that’s about the time I started dieting.

Continue reading “Flexible restraint: it’s what’s missing from all fad diets”

The under-appreciated joy of making a meat loaf

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

meatloafGripped in the throes of sweet nostalgia recently, I spent part of an enjoyable morning making a version of my mother’s homemade meat loaf recipe for our family. (If you’re creating your meat loaf masterpiece in the afternoon, I recommend having a nearby glass of heart-smart red wine on standby to keep you company).

It was a highly therapeutic kitchen experience that I’m afraid will soon become extinct. Meat loaf is an old-fashioned dinner that now makes hipsters sneer, nutritionists groan, and vegans turn even more pale than usual.  And like a lot of home cooking, it takes a bit of effort to whip up, so busy people doing Very Important Things believe they simply do not have time to make it. Goodbye, homemade meat loaf.  Continue reading “The under-appreciated joy of making a meat loaf”

One Grain More! Les Miz meets gluten-free

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From the brilliant (and allergic) Michael Bihovsky comes this musical parody of Les Misérables on the plight of finding allergen-free food-like substitutes.

Since its release in July 2012, “One Grain More” has been hailed as “The funniest nutrition video ever made” and “…a must, must, must watch!”

So you must, must, must watch this now. Then send it to all your gluten-free friends . . .

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Q: How have you managed this kind of allergic drama?

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Bereavement Eating: does grief cause carb cravings?

by Carolyn Thomas  (originally published here shortly after my mother’s death this week in 2012)

I’ve heard it said that some people experience a loss of appetite during stressful times like a death in the family.  These people are not my relatives. Indeed, in our Ukrainian family tradition, we eat when we’re happy, we eat when we’re upset, and we eat during all possible emotions in between.

Every family gathering surrounding my mother’s death was no exception.

For example, the delicious lunch following her funeral service was a true labour of love, prepared by the women of my mother’s church, just as the women of churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and neighbourhoods around the world have been doing for mourners since time began. Continue reading “Bereavement Eating: does grief cause carb cravings?”

Are you a mindful eater?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I’m glad that the movie theatre is dark while I’m eating my popcorn.  I say this because I once had a traumatic experience watching the man sitting in front of us gobble down his gigantic tub of popcorn before the house lights were dimmed for the film. He was shovelling in that corn like there was no tomorrow. It was mesmerizing to see. There was a certain hypnotic poetry in the fluid piston-like rise and fall of one arm as he swiftly filled and then emptied each fistful. His mouth never seemed to shut – even as he somehow managed to chew and swallow while escaping kernels flew about his head and shoulders. Now that’s mindless eating for you. And good Lord, is that what I look like, too?!

But psychologists who study such things tell us that mindful eating, on the other hand, can be a useful method for aiding behaviour change to help with healthier eating and weight loss. Even better, focused attentive eating habits are something that we can practice on our own. So says Dr. Andrew Schwartz, writing in Consumer Reports last month. Here’s what else Dr. Schwartz had to say:   Continue reading “Are you a mindful eater?”

Six steps to stop emotional eating

by Carolyn Thomas

Karen Trainoff knows a thing or two about emotional eating.  Years ago, this Heart and Stroke Foundation dietician was a newly divorced single mother. She gained a whopping  70 pounds after she discovered the nightly comfort of sitting down to a big bowl of creamy mashed potatoes after her son’s bedtime – night after night, week after week, month after month.

Hers was a good example of eating driven by emotions rather than hunger. It’s no secret that food can bring us comfort. But when we eat as a way to cope with problems such as depression, boredom, anxiety, anger, frustration or stress, the results can lead to poor self-esteem and unwanted weight gain, which can in turn increase our risk of heart disease and stroke. Continue reading “Six steps to stop emotional eating”