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?”

Mindless eating: 8 reasons women eat when we’re not even hungry

by Carolyn Thomas

Cornell University researcher and food psychologist Dr. Brian Wansink knows that there are other reasons to eat besides just being hungry.

Dr. Wansink, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, a book described by CBC television as the “Freakonomics of Food“, says:

“If we knew why we ate the way we do, we could eat a little less, eat a little healthier, and enjoy it a lot more.”

He is talking about that bag of corn chips your hand keeps dipping into while you watch TV, or that big 13-inch dinner plate you load up – whether you’re hungry or not.

He says that we make about 200 food decisions a day, like:

  • Should I have coffee?
  • Should I put milk in it?
  • Whole or skim?
  • Should I butter my toast before I spread the peanut butter on?
  • Do I pour my orange juice into a short, wide glass (you’ll drink more)
  • or a tall, narrow glass (you’ll drink less)?

He also cites these eight factors that can influence what goes into our mouths that have nothing at all to do with hunger. Do any of these sound familiar to you?   Continue reading “Mindless eating: 8 reasons women eat when we’re not even hungry”

Live long and prosper – by eating responsibly

Kentucky cardiologist Dr. Melissa Walton-Shirley is worried about what she calls our ‘obesity epidemic’, and she points to the unlikely inspiration of Star Trek to address this epidemic:  the very Vulcan-like philosophy that “logic must prevail”.

Dr. Walton-Shirley thinks that North Americans have a bizarre obsession with food instead of a healthy appreciation of it.

“Our obsession with overloaded plates of value-meal goodies has led to an epidemic of diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, stroke, heart disease and death – while the medical community as a whole has largely stood by and done nothing.”

Continue reading “Live long and prosper – by eating responsibly”

What overweight women may have in common with drug addicts

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

My daughter Larissa and I have sometimes marvelled at a very strange packaging concept: re-sealable bags of chocolate chips.   Are there actually people out there, we wondered, who open a bag of these chips, pour out only the 3/4 cup they need for their cookie recipe, and then put the re-sealed bag back into the cupboard?

The August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition will help to explain this odd phenomenon for us. Apparently, some women don’t scarf down the entire bag on the spot – just because it’s been opened! When researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo gave similarly sinful snacks to both overweight and healthy-weight women, the healthy-weight women wanted less of the treat over time, but the overweight women kept wanting more.

In an earlier study, the same research team found that ‘food reinforcement’ (the term used to describe our motivation to eat) decreased in healthy-weight women but increased in overweight women when both groups were asked to consume large amounts of snack foods like M&M candies, potato chips or cookies for days at a time. Women in the overweight group shared characteristics like obesity and diabetes – both serious heart disease risk factors. Continue reading “What overweight women may have in common with drug addicts”