Archive for April, 2016

Feel the Buzz…

April 29th, 2016 No Comments Tags: , , , ,

I was pondering that feeling of achievement when you reach a goal, hmmmm. This crossed my mind while hiking up a mountain. You know that feeling; that special buzz you get when you set a goal and reach it. Ahhh yes, nothing can be finer! You can’t find it in a store. It can’t be bottled and bestowed. It’s something you and only you earn and ultimately reap the benefits from.

I have a few favourite trails to hike in Kelowna, BC. A more challenging one for me is an elusive slog up Knox Mountain. This walk isn’t really that much out of the ordinary as I sit here writing, all relaxed and comfy with my feet up. The mountain is situated a mile away from my hideaway – up the street, around the corner, by the park beside the lake to its base. It looks more like a hill, from the bottom. Then begins a gradual incline for a steady 40 minutes or so. It always seems so easy standing at the bottom when I spy the apex, “ a piece of cake” I scoff, until the climb begins…

The road up twists, turns and teases at points where you can almost catch your breath as you amble. I try to stay in the moment, diverting my mind from muscle pain, trying to sense any breeze Mother Nature blows my way, listening for birds sounds while soldiering on. This day I hear a wood pecker make that electric drill sound that resonates through the forest. How I love that sound. My tummy grumbles and I think of potatoes. I am merely walking this trek after all, but as the top beckons I feel my body heat rise, my legs ache, sweating, panting, my mouth parched, wondering what on earth possessed me to do this. Then I reach it. Ahhhh, I’m there, at the top, heart pounding out of my chest, gasping for air, thinking how I’d very much enjoy a ride down the other side…. as if. The ascent was 266 meters. It’s difficulty is a far cry from towering Mount Cook or the Swiss Alps, after all. I catch my breath….

I make haste to begin the trek back. This time down a pebbly walking trail. It always seems like a faster route. “Who am I kidding?” pops in my head half way down, every time I make this decision. This steep, dry, rocky, dusty, walking trail snakes and curves, sometimes gradual and other times steep where at various points I get that “off the edge of the earth feel” where one slip will send me tumbling down the side, AHHH! Not a good feeling when you’re quietly afraid of heights. “What on earth were you thinking?” crosses my mind, again as I try to get my footing on solid ground, my arms flailing, looking like a surfer of sorts, more awkward like a penguin. May I remind you, that although I do exercise regularly and am a self proclaimed “move maven” I am not the least bit athletic. Like a holistic health care person saying they’re a nutritionist because they eat…. So while others around me seem to own the trail and look the part, I slip and slide and cuss until I descend the eventual 266 meters back to the base. Those muscles I used on the way up got a break while I tax another set on the way down.

Ahhh, I’m on flat ground, catch my breath, feel that pinging in my legs reminding me that they have not been used like this since my last mountain trek. They give me a scolding. The lake breeze cools me down as I fill up with that feeling of satisfaction of achieving yet another goal – a mountain walk – YES! I head back by the lake, past the park, down the street, then around the bend, to my hideaway. I press the “stop” button on my Apple Watch, recording the trek’s metrics. Then a “bing” sounds; an award pops up – a gold star: “You earned this award for the most calories burned on a walk, 427″. I smile, an extra bonus, double good! I think about my hike as I rehydrate before hitting the shower.

I scroll through the metrics:
Walk Time: 2:05:42
Distance: 10.09 km
Ascent: 266 meters
Calories: 427
Steps 16,204
Walking Workout Record – “You earned this award for the most calories burned on a walk, 427”

I’ll be returning to my hideaway in a few months. Hmmm, I think confidently, “surely I’ll walk this twice the next visit”. Why wouldn’t I? Until then……

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Unchain the Nutrition Facts, Chain Restaurants!

April 15th, 2016 No Comments Tags: , , , , , ,

I woke up this morning reading about “….why health advocates want calorie counts on your menu and in your face” on the CBC website. Ahhh yes, my favourite subject “menu labelling” on a sunny Friday. Who needs an espresso to wake up with when there’s a headline like that – thank you world!

Fact: Ontario chain restaurants must post calorie counts on menus by 2017. In my opinion this move is ‘good from far, but FAR from good’. Hear me out will you??

Food Package Labelling – Canadians and Americans have been exposed to and are used to having the accessible array of nutritional information on food package labels for over a decade. Industry’s argument that giving more information than only calories will cause confusion is a foot dragging tactic that makes no sense whatsoever. This information is NOT new. As a consumer and health expert, I’m left scratching my head wondering why the food package sector needs to disclose all of this information and the fast food sector does not. There are people who want this information, need it and use it.

Why is the Fast Food Sector exempt? Because of this lack of convenient disclosure of nutritional information, the fast food sector is like the wild west. If you have read any of my posts on this topic one thing will jump out at you in spades: the numbers are absurdly astronomical. Check these posts out: Mulling Over Menus; Blizzard to Cool You; Summertime ScoopAwareness is Bliss. When this array of information is eventually disclosed in an open and user-friendly fashion, this sector will be motivated to reformulate their offerings. So mandating disclosure of this information is good for consumers who seek it and good for everyone else because in time I’d wager many of the offerings’ nutritional info will improve and be easier to swallow…. on many levels.

Multiple Health Epidemics – You have been living under a rock if you didn’t know our world is facing multiple health epidemics. Knowing how many calories is in your food is a start, but we need full disclosure of chain restaurant offerings, the same as what’s on the food labels – why should we expect any less as consumers? The industry will argue about how difficult it is to make this info available. Please! Yes it’s true a menu cannot post nutrition facts tables with their menu board. Given human ingenuity however, I’d wager we can come up with a solution that is doable.

Consumers’ Changing Habits – Convenience and Fast Food – We know that consumers’ habits have changed dramatically being time starved and seeking convenience. We also know that people are eating out more and more where it has become routine and not just a treat. Because of this people really need to know what’s in their food if they want it. As I have often said – awareness is bliss. Anyone who has driven by a fast food restaurant at dawn or dusk has seen the drive thru line snake out of the parking lot. I don’t think the cars are empty, do you?

So folks, we need to keep banging the gong on this one. We deserve to know what’s in our food, the same information that is available on food package labels. Don’t settle for anything less.

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Posted in Eating Vortex, Foodie Fundamentals, Francy Rants, Miss Behavin', Policy for the People, Who's Zoomin' Who?? | No Comments »

Does the Food Guide make my butt get fat?

April 8th, 2016 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I have heard the debate about Canada’s Food Guide and whether it’s causing obesity. My initial thought about this (or any guide for that matter) is to remind myself that this tool is a guide. It is not a diet plan. It is not a prescription. It is not a meal plan. It’s a guide. A guide needs to be used like a guide, you know for guidance. The Apple dictionary’s definition of “guide” is “a thing that helps someone to form an opinion or make a decision or calculation”. If you want it customized for you, then make an appointment with a dietitian to make sense of it.

If you have ever created a nutrition-related handout for a subset of the population, it inevitably morphs into a more daunting task with the many permutations and combinations of considerations even if it’s intended for the most homogenous group of people. I like to remind myself that Canada’s Food Guide was created for over 30 million Canadians from the age of 2 years old and up, while the Food Pyramid in the US was created for over 300 million Americans. How different is its application in one household, let alone on one city block, yet this guide was designed for most of us from coast to coast to coast.

Put that nutritional nugget in your noodle folks. One food guide created for different ages and stages: growing children from toddlers to teens, adults aging, an array of cultures with varying beliefs and practices, likes and dislikes, living in urban or rural areas with different food availability, activity levels and more. I sometimes wonder why governments even go to such great lengths to create such guides. They are perfect fodder for the media, that I’m sure we can all agree on because inevitably there’ll be a nuance (or 10) someone doesn’t agree with….

I was surprised by the seemingly collective buy-in of Brazil’s Food Guide. For simplicity sake “The Brazilian” is broken down into 10 steps, as follows:

  1. Prepare meals using fresh and staple foods
  2. Use oils, fats, sugar and salt in moderation
  3. Limit consumption of ready-to-eat food and drink products
  4. Eat at regular mealtimes and pay attention to your food instead of multitasking
  5. Eat with others whenever possible
  6. Buy food in shops and markets that offer a variety of fresh foods
  7. Develop, practise, share and enjoy your skills in food prep and cooking
  8. Decide as a family to share cooking responsibilities and dedicate enough time for healthy meals
  9. When you eat out, choose restaurants that serve freshly made dishes. Avoid fast food chains.
  10. Be critical of food-industry advertising.

Headlines touted its simplicity with marvel and applause. It felt like a good start to me but I experienced that “good from far, but far from good” feeling, niggling in my gut. In fact, I had one of those “Emperors New Clothes” moments. Over the years I have helped people make sense of many kinds of diets and guidelines. I feel that if I was counseling someone using The Brazilian guide I’d face some push back because inevitably the overwhelmed client will look me straight in the eye and say “That’s all well and good, but what am I supposed to eat?” Consumers, especially the shoppers in the family, demand details!

I have written about and strongly believe that we should do all that the Brazilian guide outlines. I have articulated many times that HOW you eat is as important as WHAT you eat. But at some point a Food Guide needs to map out what and how much food to eat so the user isn’t groping in the dark. One of the things this guide is lacking is well, guidance on that. It reads more like a proclamation than a guide and could be considered the “Brazilian Food Commandments” of sorts! Consumers need specifics about food choice and serving sizes to ensure nutritional balance is achieved. If it doesn’t I’ll wager there’ll be another food-related epidemic looming right around the corner.

Perhaps we need to step back and figure out who is actually using this tool and how they interpret it. We certainly do live in different times. Alas, undertaking the redevelopment of this may be passé given current issues that have leached through our culture.

Back to the original question: does the food guide make my butt get fat? I have heard Dr. Diane Finegood make this exclamation many times about obesity “It isn’t rocket science. It’s more complex!” There are plenty of potential causative factors, such as:

• highly processed, cheap food being available everywhere you look
• the emergence of mindless eating
• eating patterns that have morphed with the insurgence of snacking
• eating out and using convenience foods have become routine
• serving sizes, food packages and dinner ware have burgeoned
• the proliferation of calorie laden beverages lining miles of aisles at the grocery store
• product reformulation to tantalize consumers bliss point making some highly processed, low nutrient dense food addictive
• cooking skills have done a disappearing act in people’s repertoire while traditional family recipe use is fading
• the rise of celebrity endorsed unscientific diets, products, fads, cleanses and supplements have infiltrated people’s lives like a bad boyfriend you can’t dump
• consumers adopting freakish foodie foible eccentricities and proclaiming them like a cult
• the built environment with the expansion of suburbia
• insidious marketing strategies that have permeated our lives
• featuring the “food demon du jour” by media adding to consumer fear and confusion
• society’s inception of the “busy contest” often resulting in a heightened degree of stress with negative metabolic consequences for some
• the multitude of everyday energy saving conveniences
• then there’s that other global epidemic, sitting disease.

Big sigh. Somehow it would seem the movie Wal-ii is coming true in technicolour…. good grief.

After considering this laundry of issues, somehow the aged and rusty Food Guide seems like it’s the least of consumers’ worries in the obesity department. Perhaps future iterations need to come with a consultation with an RD Life Coach and a side order of The Brazilian. Food for thought…

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Say You Want an Evolution…. Not a Revolution!

April 1st, 2016 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , ,

Did you take part in a 100 meal journey in March by making a small nourishing change? You probably heard that we eat about 100 meals in a month, so making one small lasting change that you stick with is a bigger deal than you think. It is certainly a fabulous start to a healthier you! It wasn’t painful whatsoever choosing one small change to stick with, was it? I chose trying a new recipe each week, how about you?

If you sailed through your 100 meal journey, consider making another new small change for April. Get inspired by another idea from my past 5 blog posts. Spring has sprung! Many of us wake up post winter hibernation and feel the need to start a diet revolution to right all of the couch-potato wrongs from last season. Nay nay I say, look forward, don’t look back!

Instead of starting a revolution, continue your 100 meal journey which is a lifestyle evolution. Make a small change and work on making it stick each month. If you continue this non-painstaking journey for an entire year you will have made 12 changes that contribute to your health and wellbeing. That’s pretty significant stuff when you stack them all up! If you want to take on a bit more than 1 change a month consider trying my 3 x 3 and you will take it a manageable notch up to keep the momentum going. Making any more changes at the same time than that can be overwhelming and difficult to stick with over time.

Don’t be like Che Guavera and start a revolution! Make it an evolution! Send in the reinforcements and read Skinny on Slim.

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