Archive for June, 2009


Success Policies

June 29, 2009

Last week I received a really touching email from a fellow blogger about how the notion of “just this once” (which we discussed when brainstorming about overeating) made a big difference in her life. I can’t express just how glad I am that it helped at least one person! I feel that there are so many more places that we can go with “just this once” as the starting point, and I’d like to open up the discussion now.

For that motivation to keep going, to make changes, to succeed in the journey to achieving our ambitions, I’ve found that there’s one other thing which has been just as useful to me as the “just this once” philosophy:

Roll with it: accept and move on

I talk about this one a lot, but I feel that it’s important to discuss within the context of struggles, particularly with health issues of overeating or slacking off on exercising and such, so bear with me!

We can’t control absolutely everything. Regardless of how many control issues we might have, life has a way of throwing obstacles at us in a way that sometimes feels as though it’s just to screw with our heads. But just because it appears as though we do not have a choice, or we do not have control of a situation, doesn’t mean that we have to give up or surrender instantly. Instead, accepting that something unexpected came up, and moving on past it, is what will ultimately bring that control back into our own hands.

Saturday, for example, was a rainy, miserable day. I would have liked to have gone for a run in the morning, but the weather made me want to roll over and go back to bed rather than tie up my shoes and freeze in the cold rain. So instead, I flipped on the 30 Day Shred and had a quick twenty minute workout without needing to leave the comfort of my warm and dry home. Exercise dilemma solved. I tend to shy away from the workout dvd’s in the summer months, and hadn’t done the 30 Day Shred (or, admittedly, much strength training at all) in a very long time, so changing my routine was very helpful. I changed up my usual routine by popping in the dvd, telling myself that “just this once” I would do the dvd instead of lounging about.

If “just this once” falls through, and you don’t quite manage it, do not despair! What’s done is done, and it won’t help any to worry about it. Looking back regretfully is a waste of time that could be far better spent looking forward, hatching ideas and putting them into action.

So for me, the “just this once” policy is closely related to my “roll with it” policy. The combination of these two can get you past your struggles and set you up for success. It’s inevitable that things aren’t always going to go exactly the way we plan and hope for- but that’s part of the fun, right? You never know what’s going to happen, and every obstacle in our path is a new opportunity to be creative in figuring out the best way to get to where we want to be, or to discover that there is somewhere else we’d rather be than where we originally thought.

Just this once. Change your routine. Roll with it. What policies do you try to abide by? Which ones help you through it all? What has helped you out in improving the way you deal with life? And is there something that just plain does not work for you? Share in the comments!


Recipe: The Almost-Vegetarian Yummy Jumble of Nutrients from Random Ingredients in the Pantry

June 26, 2009

I’m guest blogging at Small Steps to Health! Head over to learn more about living healthy Goldilocks-style by eating a balanced amount of nutrients.

Having a balanced diet is really important. That’s why I usually like to eat from all sources of real food, both plant and animal. Recently, however, and quite unintentionally, I have become what I will refer to as an almost-vegetarian. I normally call myself a flexitarian, which is basically the exact same thing as an almost-vegetarian: a person who primarily eats plant-based foods but will occasionally eat some meat. There are some excellent definitions for a flexitarian at Urban Dictionary, my favorite of which is:

A silly word to categorize people whose eating habits don’t already fit into a category but desperately want to belong to a label.
Me? I’m flexitarian. It’s like a vegetarian, but I eat meat too.

Labeling oneself as a flexitarian is, as the above definition points out, a little ridiculous because there are no clear “rules” as to how little meat you have to eat to be considered a “flexitarian”. There’s so much room for interpretation (and anyone who loves rhetoric has got to be amused by that)! My own vague interpretation of a flexitarian is someone who eats meat semi-regularly. And that’s how we arrive at almost-vegetarianism.

I ate a lot of meat while I was in Cambodia- at least once a day. But now that I’m back in Canada, and I have to cook for myself and the meat is expensive, I’ve found myself eating considerably less meat. In fact, I’ve only eaten meat on three occasions in the past four weeks: one bite of a chicken roti, one salmon burger, and one fillet of salmon. Other than that, it’s been plant-based or eggs and dairy. Because quite frankly, I don’t relish the idea of handling raw meat very much, and it’s rather pricey.

The biggest reason for my “almost-vegetarianism” (I’m using this term because the name implies that I’m basically a vegetarian who has slight omnivoric relapses at random) is quite simply because I haven’t been wanting meat. For years I’ve been the carnivore in the family. I was always the one gnawing on a gigantic turkey leg the size of my head at Christmas. But recently, even when I’ve had the option of eating meat (such as the wedding reception I attended a couple weeks ago), I’ve chosen vegetarian instead. For some reason I don’t really care much or miss eating meat regularly or even semi-regularly. Even seafood, which I completely adore, hasn’t been listed very high in my cravings lately.

So what am I eating and craving? Eggs (and cartons of egg whites) and almond butter, as well as cheese and milk, are part of nearly every meal (or snack, rather, seeing as I don’t ever seem to eat “meals”). When it occurred to me, with the aid of my trusty food journal, that I have become an almost-vegetarian, I figured I should probably act to make sure that I’m still getting a good balance of nutrients. And that includes a variety of sources, not only the above mentioned eggs, nut butters, and dairy products. Enter edemame and lentils!

There have been lentils at the back of my pantry for as long as I can remember but I’ve never cooked them because I didn’t really know what I should do with them. The only time I’ve ever eaten edemame has been at sushi restaurants, but I decided it was about time I try my hand at cooking them so I picked up a bag of them from the freezer aisle. Then, inspired by my jumble of a quinoa dish, I got cooking. This is what I’ve come up with:

The Almost-Vegetarian Yummy Jumble of Nutrients from Random Ingredients in the Pantry


– 1/2 cup dried lentils

– 1/2 cup whole grain rice

– 1 cup edemame

– 1/2 cup canned chickpeas

– 1/2 cup canned corn

– 2 cups frozen vegetables (my bag has broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower)

– Small handful of raisins


1. Cook the lentils according to the package: bring them to a bowl and let them bubble away for about an hour. While you’re doing that, cook the whole grain rice in another pot on the stove.

2. The rice should be done twice as fast as the lentils, so empty out the rice into a big container and boil the edemame (about five minutes).

3. De-pod the edemame and add the beans to the rice; then, use the pot to boil the frozen vegetables. When they’re boiled, chop them up into smaller pieces and add them to the rice mixture as well.

3. Add the cooked lentils (you’ll know they’re cooked when they’re tender) to the rice. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and corn and toss them in, along with the raisins.

…and it’s just that easy! I didn’t realize we had quinoa in the pantry or I would have used that instead of the rice, so it would be a nice (and extra healthy) substitute. The combination of flavors and textures in this dish makes it delicious; it’s really tasty without any spices but I’m sure that if you wanted to experiment with different spices it would work really well with them, too. You could also steam rather than boil, which I would have done except my steamer has sadly gone missing.


This batch lasts me for three meals, although it could easily last you four or five depending on how much you eat. It’s also rather colorful and pretty to look at. This is brimming with a variety of nutrients, and it’s all real, all-natural food. Check the ingredients lists on the frozen bags and the cans to ensure that there isn’t any salt, sugar, or other additives; if you can’t find cans of just plain chickpeas or corn, then be sure to rinse them off really well.

What are your favourite ingredients for ensuring that your eating is balanced?

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for Zhena’s Gypsy Tea!


Product Review and Giveaway: Zhena’s Gypsy Tea

June 24, 2009

The people behind Zhena’s Gypsy Tea were kind enough to send me some samples of their tea for me to enjoy- and you might be lucky enough to receive a package from them to enjoy, too, just by entering this giveaway!

I first became interested in Zhena’s Gypsy Tea because they are 100% organic, 100% fair trade, and 100% natural (also, they have a really cool logo and very pretty canisters, but that’s beside the point). I am a big tea drinker; I like to drink white or green tea every day and I generally can go through nearly a whole pot on my own. Now that I have tried these particular teas, I am happy to say that they certainly lived up to expectations! All of the teas that I tried were delicious and I have been drinking no other tea except for them since they arrived. Plain white or green tea doesn’t really compare when you’ve got fancy teas to choose from.

My intentions were to make this review a video post, but unfortunately the video that I took which featured a couple friends did not turn out very well- the lighting and sound was truly awful, so a video post will have to wait for my next review!

The three tins of tea that came in the mail for me were Papaya Mango, Berry Bellini, and Sense of Peace. They all smell amazing, particularly the Papaya Mango and Berry Bellini. I almost forgot about tasting them because they smelled so good that I could just drink them in through their fragrance! The Sense of Peace tea does not have quite such an intoxicating scent as it doesn’t have the intense flavors of fruit, but it does have a lovely hint of mint, which is very refreshing.

Papaya Mango is part of their Seasonal Sips line, and is a caffeine-free rooibos. I drank this one with a couple of friends in the evening, and the fruity flavors were perfect for curling up in an armchair and engaging in cozy conversation. The friends that I recruited to help me review this tea both agreed that they would absolutely buy it and would definitely recommend it to others.

Berry Bellini, a green tea also from the Seasonal Sips line, is the only one that I have tried iced so far. All of these teas have brewing instructions for icing them, and I was very intrigued by this with summer having finally arrived. I only used two teabags for my batch (my pitcher holds about two pots), so it didn’t have quite as much flavor as it could have. I think that next time I would add another teabag or two. Over ice, this makes a lovely light drink and is incredibly refreshing. Add a considerably generous amount few splashes of red wine, a couple drops of lemon juice, and some fresh or frozen fruit and you’ve got your own spin on sangria! I really enjoyed it like that.

Sense of Peace is a white tea adorned with touches of rose and mint. I’ve been drinking it at work and it keeps me serene and pleasant when the day becomes stressful (or rather, I’m sure that it would, if my job ever became really stressful 😉 ). I like the freshness of the minty hints.

All of these teas are light and they are definitely not your everyday kind of tea. If you find tea to be bland or boring, I would suggest that you try one of these to see just how good tea can taste. As one of my friends observed about the papaya mango tea, the burst of flavor that accompanies each cup means that you don’t even have to add anything to sweeten it if that’s what you normally prefer.

Want to win some tea for yourself? Leave me a comment telling me about your experiences with tea! Tell me what you like about it, what you don’t like about it, your favorite way to drink it, or the kind of tea that you like best. Giveaway is open for one week and will close on Tuesday, June 30th. Winner will be announced on Wednesday, July 1st.

Also, as a follow up from Monday’s post regarding motivation, I have written a piece which is related over at Living Rhetorically in the Real World. Be sure to check it out!


Life Lessons: The motivation to run begins with a smile

June 22, 2009

How is the Run A Race This Summer Challenge going for all of you challengers out there? Yesterday was the Manitoba Marathon. Many people that I know were running in the half marathon, the same race that I was planning on running with my father dear a year ago. He is now in Cambodia and I am now training for a little 5km race, so the times they do certainly change!

Right now I’m going out for runs a couple times a week. I can now run for just over 3 miles straight (about 5km), which takes me a little bit over half an hour. The route that I take is a very pretty one and I think that I will start working on improving my speed now that I can go that distance. I still haven’t decided which race I will run this summer or when I will run it, so I’d better start looking into that in the near future. Just remember- when you’re out there running, make sure you stay hydrated!

Something that running has taught me is how supportive everyone within the running community is. This is perhaps one of the biggest differences between running and walking. People walking down the street don’t often share the same sense of having a connection. I walk down the same streets every day on my way to work, and some of the people that I pass on a daily basis do not smile or make any sign of recognition. Their eyes just move right pass, not wanting to make eye contact with another person. In this way, I rather like the privacy of walking, but at the same time it’s too bad that most walkers don’t seem at all inclined to greet others.

The running community is much different. When crossing paths with other runners, we’ll smile and greet each other, sometimes even make a comment on the weather within that incredibly short time period. On days when I plan to go running in the morning, and I wake up and I’m not much in the mood to go out for a run, when I think about the people that I know I’ll be seeing I’m encouraged to get out there. My motivation to run right now isn’t because I want to conquer my old demon of running, and it isn’t because I want to do really well in a race, and it’s not even because I want to get a lot stronger. It’s for the smiles and the connection that is made with others when I’m out on the road running that I want to get out there.

Starting my day with smiling at strangers and having them smile at me perks up my mood for the entire day. They aren’t even strangers: for the briefest of moments when we pass each other on the street, we’re friends. I like to see them there and to know that I’m not running alone. There’s a silent, underlying mutual acknowledgment made between all runners: “Oh, hello! You’re out here too? It’s good to see you having fun and doing something good for your body! I’m sure I’ll see you again, and if I don’t- the next person you pass? That’s me, too.”

What do you like about running? What keeps you motivated to run? If you’re having difficulties with the motivational aspect, Fitness Magazine recently emailed me requesting that I let you know about their Love Your Summer Workout: 10 Motivation Tips, so check it out for extra ideas.

Edited to add that at Living Rhetorically in the Real World, I have a motivational post about how you can turn your life around with just one small change. Be sure to check it out!


Struggling with overeating: Brainstorming session!

June 19, 2009

And the winner of The End of Overeating is… Mary of A Merry Life! I was planning on doing the random number generator. But after Mary (who writes a fantastic blog which you should all check out) sent me the following email, I knew that the winner was picked for me:

When I saw that phrase “you feel as though you’ve been beating your head against a wall with your struggle with overeating and have yet to find a solution” on your blog I knew I had to e-mail you.  That is me!!  My head hurts from trying to figure it out and constantly failing.

As you know, some days I am fine.  I will eat a healthy amount and come in under my daily calorie allowance.  The temptation to keep eating is always there in the back of my mind though.  On other days I feel like I am not able to control myself and say no to extra food.  I will think about food so much that it almost feels like I have to eat something, I have to eat more.  I can easily consume double my daily calories if I am not paying attention.

The worst part is that even while I am overeating I am well aware of what I am doing.  For instance I will see a cake left in the kitchen.  I see the cake, I smell the cake, I know it is there and I can eat some of it.  I may resist for a while but I always end up standing over the cake eating a slice or two.  While I am eating the cake I am thinking to myself “I don’t need this.  I’m not even hungry right now.  I am going to be so disappointed when I weigh in this week.  I shouldn’t be doing this.  But it tastes good!  What is one little bit more?  Screw the restrictions and diets.  Cake is good.  This will soothe whatever hurt you are feeling right now.  You might think it’s the wrong decision, but NO – it is the right choice.  Eat the cake.”  And I do.  And I always eat more than I should.

I also eat more than I should at most meals.  Even staying under for my calories for the day I overeat.  I eat until I feel uncomfortable full.  I always eat until I hit that sick, stuffed feeling even though in my mind I know I don’t need to.  I am aware of my hunger and when I’ve reach that stopping point but I usually go way past it.  Just like the internal battle over consuming sweets I have a similar dialogue running through my head during meals encouraging me to stop and also keep going until I’ve hit that overly full feeling.

Even though I know how to eat healthy, and what to eat, I still end up eating the wrong things but worse overeating.  If I could eat things in moderation I wouldn’t feel bad about eating cake or other treats occasionally.  But I can’t.  I have no idea how to stop overeating and practice moderation.  I’ve tried different things, heard a bunch of well-intentioned tips that haven’t helped… it feels like I will never conquer this problem.  I know I need to beat it but I don’t know how.

Maybe you have answers/solutions/suggestions?  I’m open to anything.

When I first read this, I felt as though I’d written it myself. During the holiday season I became so used to having a cookie or two (or three or four…) for dessert that it took me months to control the incessant and overpowering need for something sweet after I’d eaten a meal. Our body adapts to habits pretty quick, and once it has adapted it is hard to undo what we have created.

Thinking about what has worked for me in the past, and what I still hold on to on the days when the going gets rough, my advice boils down to two concepts:

Do one thing different: just this once

The cake is there, I know. And it’s impossible to avoid. And every time it comes around you just know that you’re going to give in and have a slice, which turns into multiple slices. Rather than telling yourself not to have the cake, tell yourself that just this once you’ll go without it. Just this once, you’ll go to bed without an after-dinner snack. Just this once, you will dust the living room rather than moseying on over to the fridge.

The idea with the “just this once” notion is that once you’ve made the change the one time, it feels really fantastic. Waking up a little bit early and going for a walk isn’t so bad when you’ve done it once. You realize that you do have control, you can beat the problems, and you will do it again, even if it’s just once more.

When I’m in a rut of, for example, eating dessert every night, if I can stop doing it one night then I know that I’m capable of doing it again. The next night, yes, I might have dessert. I might even have dessert every night for a week after that. But at least I know that I did go without dessert once and I can do it again and, lo and behold, that “just this once” really does turn into multiple occasions!

Change your routine

Unless there’s someone else around, I don’t trust myself to make popcorn. When I’m alone, I will make a big batch (half a cup of kernels), eat that, and then make another batch and eat all of that too. When someone else is around, I’m less inclined to have quite so much because, frankly, it’s embarrassing (and completely unnecessary). These days I try to make a point of not making popcorn when I’m by myself. Otherwise I know that I’m likely to spin out of control and reach that point of being uncomfortably over-stuffed.

I also have a total infatuation with banana bread. In fact, only a few short hours after I had written the review for Kessler’s book, one of our clients came in with half a loaf of freshly baked banana bread for my mother dear and I to share (and I mean really freshly baked- it was still warm and everything!). I promptly cut it in half to save half of it for the mother dear, and then ate my entire portion within the hour. It really was that delicious (thank you Ivy!!). A few days later, when the cravings hit and I made my own loaf of banana bread, this time I was a little bit smarter: I made plans with friends immediately after making the bread so that I only had time to eat one piece before I had to head out the door. If you can’t control yourself, do what you can to get away from the temptation!

The same applies if you tend to eat a snack immediately after coming home from work. Don’t give yourself time to start mindlessly munching: get out of the house, run some errands, go for a walk. Since starting up my rhetoric blog and gathering ideas for it, I find that I’m so preoccupied with writing that it serves as an excellent distraction from my lunch/dinner waiting for me in the fridge.

Sometimes, it takes a million tries before we have the breakthrough. To prevent myself from overeating every day, I find that setting aside half an hour each night to decide what I will eat for breakfast and lunch tomorrow is incredibly helpful. I write it all down, but you don’t even have to go to that length- just prepping the food so it’s all ready to go in the morning can be enough. This also gives you some extra time in the morning to go for a walk or do a few crunches if you’re feeling it! When the decision is already made, and the food is already prepared, it makes it a little easier to stay on track with healthy options. Overeating is a really big problem, but I believe that if we can make healthier choices, it’s a good start. If you can make the move from Kessler’s fat on sugar on salt on fat on fat on salt on sugar on fat to the wholesome nutrients of eating real food, that’s a lot of progress- the overeating problem, and issue of moderation, can be dealt with on a whole other level when your eats are nutritious ones.

What do you all think? How do you deal with these problems? Let’s get some ideas out on the table! Share your tips, tricks, and woes. I know that Mary and I are not the only ones who often feel this way. It’s one thing to have an understanding of health and what we should or should not do, but it’s a whole other thing to put it into practice and resist the temptation of overeating. What do you do?


A New Addition to the Family

June 17, 2009

As some of you may know, my major at university is in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications. Writing and language are equally as important to me as health is, and it is for this reason that I have decided to begin a rhetoric blog alongside Living Healthy in the Real World. Consider this the launch party for my new blog: Living Rhetorically in the Real World!

Living Rhetorically in the Real World will be mostly kept separate from this blog except when I am writing about issues over there that are relevant to issues that we discuss here (ie. health).

Although it may (and likely will) evolve as the blog progresses, I am currently planning on posting twice weekly at Living Rhetorically in the Real World, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Because I post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays here at Living Healthy, I figured it would be best to write on alternate days for each blog.

Rhetoric, as the study of how we communicate, convey meaning, and identify with shared symbols, is as vastly inclusive as the diverse topic that the vague term “health” is. It’s for that reason that I’ll be covering a very wide range of subjects and information and Living Rhetorically. The material that we’ll be discussing at Living Rhetorically in the Real World will fall under the following categories:

– Lifestyle Editing: a play on Life Lessons, this category will be a similar examination of how editing, the academic, and rhetoric can apply to real-world situations and scenarios, drawing upon experience for examples.

– The Practical Guide: straight-to-the-point, practical explanations and advice for how to use grammar, sentence structure, and other writing devices and editorial techniques. I’ll go into detail regarding the uses of these devices and how they can be effectively applied to different kinds of documents.

– In the Media: this blog would not be complete without reference to where you can find more information about writing and communication! I’ll share articles I’ve found, let you know if there’s anything new and exciting going on with current editorial affairs, and review relevant books (such as dictionaries and style guides).

– Analyzing Everyday Rhetoric: much like the Interpretations of Marketing Strategies articles that are posted here, these pieces will examine rhetoric that we encounter on a daily basis and how, for example, the techniques that we discuss are employed by the producers of our society, as well as the effect that it has upon us, the consumer.

I have so much to learn about rhetoric and editing so I hope that you (at least occasionally) join me on my journey at Living Rhetorically in the Real World! And not to worry, it won’t have any impact on my writing here at Living Healthy in the Real World- I’m still posting three times weekly on all the usual topics.

If you have any advice, questions, or ideas for what issues you would like me to address (on either blog), don’t hesitate to drop me a comment or send me an email. I’m open to suggestions and would love to get your feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

Still don’t really “get” what rhetoric is? I explain it all on my What is Rhetoric? page.


Guest Post: Avoid Eye Diseases by Eating Right

June 15, 2009

This article was written by David Hurcombe, O.D. He achieved his doctorate at the University of Houston, College of Optometry.

Glaucoma, Cataracts, Macula Degeneration and Retinal Edema are vision impairments that anybody can get. Although diseases and conditions of the eye have many causes, the risk of developing one can be reduced by a change in diet. In fact, research from the University of Liverpool (UK) has suggested it can do so by as much as 20%. No surgeries or medication, just a daily diet of healthy foods can help avoid future eye problems.

Whenever you get hungry, it is a sign that the body needs food. What most people do not know, or perhaps choose to ignore, is that the food we eat is extremely important for the wellbeing of the body. It is not just a matter of simply suppressing the hunger feeling, but also to give the body what it needs to stay healthy. Below is a number of nutritional supplements that are necessary for the eye to function properly. Deficiency in such vitamins and nutrients may become contributing factors to the eye conditions mentioned above.

Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in fish, cabbage, walnuts and broccoli, and effectively decreases the risk of Glaucoma. This eye disease creates an intraocular pressure that ultimately can cause significant damage on the optical nerve. Glaucoma can lead to partial or complete blindness and include symptoms like blurry vision, blind spots and poor peripheral vision.

According to studies, Omega 3 reduces pressure in the eye by up to thirteen percent. By eating a healthy amount of the foods mentioned, you can thus effectively prevent ever developing Glaucoma during the later years of your life.

Vitamin A & C

These vitamins are essential for the body to function correctly. Vitamin A contains retinol, a chemical substance used in the retina of the eye for creating certain vision pigments that aid vision in lower light levels. Vitamin C has proven to be a great supplement against cataracts; an eye disease that usually requires surgery followed by strong vision correction spectacles or contacts. Vitamin A can be found in carrots, milk, egg, liver, butter and cheese. Vitamin C exists in many berries and fruits and is found in very high levels in Blackcurrant’s, Barbados Cherry, Guavas, Grapefruits, Kiwifruit and Orange.

Antioxidant Nutrients

By including fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, you will also get all the antioxidant nutrients you require. This is extremely important for your eyes, as research has shown people who eat these regularly greatly reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the most common eye diseases among the elderly. Spinach, Melon, Sweet Potato, Peaches, Prunes, and Brussels Sprouts in particular contain high levels of antioxidants, and we should try to eat at least 5 portions of these a week.

In conclusion, the foods listed above all have a positive effect on the eyes. They work pro-actively and reduce the risk of developing serious eye diseases.

For further instructions and tips on how to apply this information to your daily routines, we recommend you to schedule an appointment with your local eye doctor. The good thing about these supplements is that they are found in foods most of you already consume on a daily basis. You may thus already be enhancing your eye health.


Book Review and Giveaway: The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler, MD

June 12, 2009

I’ve been hitting the jackpot lately with the books that companies are sending to me- and this one is absolutely being added to my Healthy Recommendations page on the sidebar!

Ever since I began to eat healthier and get away from virtually all processed foods, I’ve found that my body really prefers the natural whole food goodness. My tastes have developed over time so that I no longer enjoy drinking Coke or eating fast food hamburgers. However, I haven’t been able to figure out why it is that even though I know those foods are bad for my body and I don’t even like them anymore, if someone has a Coke or is eating fast food I sometimes think that I want that food.

It wasn’t until I read this book that I really fully understood how it’s possible that we can not like a food but still want it: Kessler, once a commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, illustrates through his book how it is that we can simultaneously dislike and want an unhealthy food. The number of experts that he confers with on the subject is impressive, particularly when he goes on at detailed length about his conversations with insiders in the food industry.

Throughout his book, Kessler likens the combination of fat, sugar, and salt to that of an addictive drug. He refers to alcohol, tobacco, and other drug addictions frequently, pointing out the frightening similarities between these obsessions and the obsessions with food. Reading repeatedly that different kinds of foods are merely different combinations of fat, sugar, and salt created a rather disgusting yet effective image in my mind as I read: shrimp tempura at a Japanese restaurant is described as the shrimp being “rolled in mayonnaise, fried in a sweetened tempura batter, then rolled again in spicy mayonnaise. That’s fat on sugar on fat on fat” (84).  The cinnamon raisin French toast (stuffed with cream cheese and presented with a side of eggs, hash browns, and choice of meat) served at the International House of Pancakes is similarly depicted: “Breaking it down, the French toast is a load of fat on fat on fat and sugar that’s then layered with fat on sugar on sugar and served with fat, salt, and fat” (86). Yum? If that’s not enough to make you think twice about eating out at one of these kinds of restaurants, I don’t know what is.

Kessler refers to these foods as being hyperpalatable; the Western way of eating is to engage as many senses as possible for the maximum experience. Eating for fuel is a thing of the past, and we’re taking all kinds of traditional cuisine and turning it into something unhealthy by adding in unnecessary embellishments. These add-ins really do nothing more than to dull our taste buds and expand our waistlines. [As an aside, I once went to a sushi restaurant and there were approximately two kinds of sushi rolls that did not include mayonnaise or tempura. I was not impressed.]

What rang with me the most was the notion that “we learn to want a food we once liked. We may no longer like that food. But it’s the wanting, not the liking, that drives us to do the work necessary to obtain that food” (52). For myself, I don’t much enjoy milk chocolate anymore. It’s too sweet and I have gotten used to appreciating good quality dark chocolate. But if it’s in the house, or if I see a bar of milk chocolate in the store, my mouth starts watering. I know very well that I won’t enjoy the taste, but I want it nonetheless. And if I start to eat it, I’ll eat the whole darn thing, regardless of whether I’m enjoying it. The power of the sugar-fat-salt combination is terrifying.

Going into great detail about the impact of the food industry’s drive to make more money by consistently designing more and more hyperpalatable foods, Kessler states the harsh facts: “The Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes label indicates that the cereal has 11 grams of sugar per serving. But nowhere does it tell consumers that more than one-third of the box contains added sugar” (103). It’s simply another way to look at a nutrition label, and one which I had not considered at all previously. How many kids (or adults!) eat a bowl of cereal each morning with this same amount of sugar in it? Why would we want to start our day with a meal that is one third sugar?

Another part of this book which I have suspected for a long time but never found any hard evidence supporting my beliefs is Kessler’s discussion on how our self-regulatory systems in our bodies are changing. There was a time when we knew when to start and stop eating, and if we ate too much one day then we would eat less the next without being consciously aware of it: this was especially true for children. However, the times are changing: research at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center has shown that small children’s self-regulatory systems have altered from compensating for 90% of extra calories in the 1980’s to compensating for only 45% of added calories in the 1990’s. Children are addicted to high fat/sugar/salt foods just the same as adults, and their learned behavior is going to be that much more difficult to deal with in the future.

I loved how Kessler concluded his book with cautioning against an obsession with food (orthorexia, anyone?). He notes that an awareness and understanding of what is going on, as well as a mental shift, is key to success. If we can alter our habits so that we eat healthy but we are still anxious about food constantly, then it’s questionable if we are successful in beating the food addiction. The mental change, as we often talk about on this blog, is just as crucial as the physical change.

Want to win a copy of this book for yourself? Leave me a comment on this post about your experiences with overeating; be they struggles or triumphs, share your woes and suggestions for how to regain control. Contest will close next Thursday, June 18th, and the winner will be announced on Friday June 19th (U.S. and Canada only, sorry!).

E-mail me if you feel as though you’ve been beating your head against a wall with your struggle with overeating and have yet to find a solution- I’ll post your story here next week and we can all brainstorm together to find ways to help you out!

For another chance to win this book, check out Rupal’s review of this book at 101 Exercises!

*Edited to add that you’re in luck- there’s another chance to win a copy of this book at Cranky Fitness!


Maintaining a Healthy and Realistic Attitude toward Body Image during the Summer Months

June 10, 2009

First, if you haven’t read Monday’s guest post please check it out. We’re all talking about the summer months and having a healthy body image these days, and it’s no wonder why: “bikini season” is screaming at us from every medium available.

A recent post written by Dara at You’d Be So Pretty If… really captures just how far we have lost sight of the meaning of summer and a swimsuit. As she points out, practically all of the information thrown at us about summer and having fun revolves around the presumption that every single one of us a) are insecure about our bodies and thus looking for a way to cover ourselves up as much as possible, b) have “flaws” that absolutely must be concealed lest someone else realize that we don’t in fact look like an airbrushed supermodel, or c) are in the ongoing process of trying to lose weight. Because why wouldn’t we want to lose weight? That’s what we’re supposed to spend our lives doing, right?

It’s despicable that a perfectly healthy person can feel fine about themselves and be proud of what they’ve got and not have any issues with wearing a bikini, and then open up a magazine or glance over at a billboard and begin to second guess themselves that maybe they ought to lose another five pounds. What is five pounds going to change when you’re a healthy person? I firmly believe that when you look good, you feel good, but I also believe that I’m probably the only one who is going to notice if I lose or gain a few pounds. It’s still going to leave me within the healthy range of the BMI, and I doubt it’s going to put a huge strain on the fit of my clothes (except for those skinny jeans. But that’s because they’re the lie-down-on-the-bed-to-wriggle-into-them type, and that’s first thing in the morning before I’ve got any food in my stomach).

When I was reading this article about changing your mindset to lose weight for health reasons, this line really jumped out at me when they discuss mantras to say to yourself: “I am happy RIGHT NOW and I am choosing to lose weight to improve my health”.

Let me repeat that: To improve my health.

That does not include vanity pounds.

When did this cycle begin? When did everyone I know begin to say “I’d really like to lose another five pounds”? Poor or distorted body image seems to plague all of us. LoveIN My Tummy wrote a beautiful post about this in which she writes:

Even though I’m fairly certain my body fat hovers around the 15% range, if not lower, and I was in the gym, busting out 45 min. each on the elliptical and in the weight room, working hard  to ‘tone up’… This got me thinking about all the different ways of eating I’ve tried in the last several years and how my body really hasn’t changed that much (well, aside from carting a few babies around in my uterus).  But why am I always searching for the NEXT BEST THING?  Why am I not good enough just how I am?

Ask yourself the following questions:

Is it your job to look like a supermodel?

Are your thighs airbrushable when you’re going about your daily life?

Are you at a healthy weight (which may or may not be within the Body Mass Index, depending on how much muscle you have and your body type)?

Do you eat fairly well and exercise regularly?

Are you capable of (without ailments preventing you from) playing in the sun?

If you answered “no” to the first two questions and “yes” to the last three questions, then ask yourself these ones:

Am I happy with how I look? If I’m not, why am I not?

Chances are, those “flaws” that society tells us to conceal because they are just so ghastly aren’t even noticeable by anyone else. Because, let’s face it, if we’re looking at all this magazine junk about bikini season, we’re probably doing it to improve ourselves, whatever that means, and really not caring much about how other people around us look.

When I was an au pair living in Spain, my house mother once noticed that my thighs had “unsightly” stretch marks on them and she asked me in a tone of fascination and disgust, “What are those?”. She then made a couple other derogatory statements regarding weight and stretch marks which I’d rather not repeat here, but suffice it to say that I lounged by the pool in my bikini the very next day in defiance.

These remarks came from not only a 40 year old woman, but also a mother of two. I find it very hard to believe that she, unlike the rest of the population, did not have stretch marks somewhere on her body. It’s a fact of life, people.

I don’t know about you, but I’m wearing a bikini this summer, just like I do every year. Life is too short to worry that we might not have perfectly toned legs or a sculpted washboard for a stomach. We’re all swimsuit ready! If you’re reasonably healthy and do not have medical concerns, then stop thinking that you need to lose the vanity pounds and start enjoying life.


What do you think? How’s your body image treating you these days? Is anything holding you back? Share in the comments and we’ll persuade the confidence to come shining through!


Guest Post: The Transformation to a Warped Body Image

June 8, 2009

This post was contributed by Nicole White, who writes about masters of health care degree. She welcomes your feedback at Nicole.White222 at  After graduating from college Nicole started freelancing and writing for online education sites.  She has a particular interest in living a healthy and happy lifestyle and loves to write about it and share with others.

Does anybody really know when the exact moment was that it suddenly became chic to look underweight?  Centuries ago, it was a sign of poverty to be seen as underweight and subsequently the rich went to great lengths to portray themselves as robust.  Even the beginning of the twentieth century observed pop culture icons like Marilyn Monroe exhibiting a healthy weight size for her body type.  So the real deliberation is when did this long-lasting fad of appearing “healthy” diminish in lieu of a new overarching trend which now threatens to kill so many young girls today?

Supermodels of the 1980s were entirely different from the related models of today; the “Big Six” of the late 1980s (Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Naomi Campbell) were still held to be positive role models for young girls.  While most of these supermodels were thinner than the average American woman, they still maintained a seemingly healthy BMI and appeared to enjoy the curves that most women have.  However, Kate Moss was the first exception to this otherwise healthy atmosphere and began ushering in a new “heroin chic” look which became the staple of the new fashion world.  The media began to question “how thin is too thin” and with this becoming a major topic in the fashion industry, this new breed of model was born.

There are different theories relating to the birth of the overtly thin model in the 1980s: some blame the advent of street drugs like heroin and crack which led to an emaciated body type while others blame the birth of the HIV virus which left many with the same sunken-eye look.  Because of these various influences of a new underground culture, a new look was born within the fashion industry and while it was based on seemingly negative connotations, it is a look which has lasted over two decades.  Since the beginning of this craze, young girls have been easily influenced by ultra-thin models, ushering in a plethora of eating disorders which have since reached epic proportions.  Girls view these models in magazines, on TV, and believe that this is the socially acceptable weight they should be at, regardless of any outside factors like height and bone structure.

The fashion world itself almost promoted this new influx of ultra-thin models and a new “anorexic” message by promoting their models to be smaller and smaller in order to compete on runways and for ad campaigns.  What they did not realize for years was that rather than gaining contracts, they were losing many models and followers around the world to the silent killer anorexia.  The international modeling industry has since taken drastic steps to curb this new obsession with weight by putting their models through various tests in order to determine if they have a BMI of at least 18.5.  Additionally, healthy snacks are now offered backstage at most runway shows and “plus-size” models have begun to make a come-back.  However, there are still a great many models and celebrities for that matter who promote this unhealthy look, appealing to girls all over the world.  How did it happen that girls in Western countries envy the starving people of third-world nations?  Aside from being incredibly selfish and inconsiderate of other peoples’ misery, this has become an international problem created by the fashion industry and an unstoppable force.  Many fashion icons contend that the new “thin” look will not be replaced by a more “voluptuous” size 6 look anytime soon, which leaves it in our hands to educate young girls of the dangers this warped body image sends out.