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:



And that’s about the time I started dieting.

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

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”

5 surprising myths about excess weight

May 1932 - Modern Mechanix
May 1932 – Modern Mechanix

by Carolyn Thomas @HeartSisters

We know that carrying excess body weight is bad for our health.  Or is it?  Recent studies have looked at overall health outcomes of overweight subjects and found these surprising results that may make us look twice at some older myths about being overweight:

MYTH No. 1:  A high BMI number means you need to lose weight.

FACT: Body Mass Index (BMI) has been considered the best indicator of obesity, but it doesn’t differentiate between weight gained by pumping iron or weight gained by eating too many Tim Horton maple dips.  Having a BMI number over 25 is considered overweight, and a BMI over 30 is considered obese.  But Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, had a BMI of 33 at the peak of his body-building career.   Continue reading “5 surprising myths about excess weight”

Body fat: brown, white, visceral, belly, butt

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

There’s fat. And then there’s fat.  Who knew that fat comes in different colours and characteristics depending on where it lives in our bodies? Here are your fat basics:

  • Brown fat – When stimulated, brown fat can actually burn calories. Children and very lean people have more brown fat than the rest of us, and it’s what helps them keep warm. Brown fat stores decline in all adults, but are more active in winter months so still help with body warmth. Brown fat is now thought to be more like muscle than like white fat. When activated, brown fat burns white fat.
  • White fat – This type of body fat is much more plentiful than brown. Its job is to store energy and produce hormones that are then secreted into the bloodstream. When we lose weight by reducing calorie intake, we lose white fat, evenly all over. read more about other types of fat