Monday, December 31, 2012

When you think of healthy eating, what comes to mind?

What about unhealthy eating?

When you think about healthy eating, what do you see? Apples? Salads? Grilled chicken breast? Tofu? Broccoli?

Do you think of bland, flavourless food? Or delicious, fresh food?

And what about unhealthy eating? Do you picture poutine and potato chips? Chocolate and cookies? Lasagna and KD? Chocolate bars and Twinkies?

Do you think of sweet and/or salty foods? High fat foods? Packaged foods?

These are all important questions to ask yourself. In fact, there's even more to these questions. For example, the question wasn't "which foods or types of food are healthy?" The title question is asking about healthy eating. There's much more to it than simply the foods being eaten (as I'm sure you've come to consider since reading the previous posts in this series). We also have to think about the why, when, where, and how much ( not just the what).

But what I really want you to think about is your attitude towards healthy eating and so-called "unhealthy" eating. When you think of healthy eating, do you think of deprivation and boredom? Or do you feel energetic and inspired? And more importantly, how does your body feel when you're eating healthfully versus those times when you aren't? And do you associate uplifting, happy thoughts with healthy eating? (I ask this because many people associate "down" thoughts and feelings with "unhealthy" eating more often than they associate these feelings with healthy eating.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How does the distribution of your food intake compare?

... To your energy output?

This one is simple, but it's where most North Americans trip up, and I mean REALLY trip up.

Here's a simple, but popular example:

Often when I see a client for weight management support, they'll come in stating that they've tried every diet in the book. And I believe them. It makes sense that you would try to problem-solve on your own using books, online tools, etc. before physically entering an office and discussing your nutrition habits with a professional. Heck - I'd do the same thing! After all, nutrition is personal stuff!

So after I've heard about all the losses and gains over the years, I ask: "What was it about those diets that was so different from the way you normally eat?".

And the two most popular responses ?

1. I paid close attention to what I was eating (of course! You were eating differently than usual. That requires attention!)

2. I ate throughout the day, and didn't eat late at night.

It's the second response I want to focus on here. I think deep down, we all know that we eat to fuel ourselves. We eat so that we have energy to walk around, to think, to be physical. When do we do these things the most? During our waking hours (unless you sleep walk A LOT!). So doesn't it make sense that most of our calories/energy/food (however you want to describe it) should be eaten earlier on and throughout our period of wakefulness (daytime for many of us)? As opposed to an hour before bed, on the couch, watching overpriced cable or satellite TV?

I realize there's something comforting about sitting down with chips or ice cream and sharing some "quality" screen time with your spouse (or alone) late in the evening, but what good is it doing you?

Isn't it funny that we'll stay up a little too late at night doing this (and gaining really no benefit. Let's face it - we think it's down time, but it's not really), but come morning we barely have time to choke down a piece of toast and suck back some caffeine before "taking on the world"? Seems a little backwards when you stop and think about it.

So here's my advice: Take a look at when you're eating most of your calories/energy/food in the day. When are the "heavy" times (no pun intended), and where are the gaps? Does the food distribution make sense? Especially when you compare it to your periods of activity?

(Please note: This is not to suggest you should refrain from eating before bed altogether. If you're hungry, you're hungry. Just make your snack/meal match your hunger/energy needs appropriately.)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What is Your Food Routine?

This is a very important detail that many people miss when examining their food and nutrition. It's one of those concepts that is so all-encompassing that it gets lost when we zoom in too closely on what we're eating.

Your food routine is the who, what, where, when and why of your nutrition.

Who do you eat with at the various times you eat? Is there ever a break in that routine?

What do you eat throughout the day? Which meals/snacks/grabs (grab = impulsive unplanned snack) do you eat day in and day out? What types of foods do you eat together? (ie. Is your lunch a single food like a slice of pizza? Or do you place a few items together?)

Where are you eating the various meals/snacks/grabs? At the table at home? In front if the TV? In the car? At your work desk? At the kitchen sink? (You get the point.)

When do you eat? When is the first time in the day that you eat (ie. actually CHEW something - not drink something). When do you eat throughout the day? (ie. are there big gaps between meals/snacks/grabs? Are they close together?) When is the last time you eat something in the day?

Why do you eat when you do, and why do you choose what you choose? (We've already touched on this one a bit.)

Answer these questions and see where that takes you. We'll talk again soon :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What Are Your Comfort Foods?

This question seems like a simple ice-breaking question, but there's so much more to it than that. But before we get into that, which foods ARE your comfort foods, and more importantly, when do you eat them?

The popular media often portrays decadent ice cream as a comfort food that is eaten after a bad break up. Though not really a food, alcohol is frequently turned to when people are feeling down after the loss of a job, loved one, or simply after a difficult day. Obviously, many people are drawn to their comfort foods when they are feeling emotional. They're not feeling physically hungry, but EMOTIONALLY hungry.

Others, like my husband (poor guy - here I go picking on him), turn to their comfort foods when they truly are physically hungry, but just don't know what else to eat. (For those who are wondering, his is breakfast cereal.)

So what are your comfort foods? Are they so-called empty calories (foods you wouldn't consider healthy choices)? Are they reasonably healthy foods?

And most importantly, WHEN and WHY do you eat them? Out of emotion? Habit? ACTUAL hunger?

And finally, how do you feel about your responses to these questions? Are you content with them? Or have they uncovered something that you'd like to work on?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How would you describe your relationship with food?

A strange, but very telling question. The typical answer? "What do you mean?" Haha.

This is what I mean:

When you think about food, how do you feel? Happy? Guilty? Conflicted?

Do you eat because you're hungry? Because of an emotion? Out of boredom?

Truthfully, most of us eat for different reasons at different times and in different situations. However, if you want to improve your eating habits, often a good place to start is to think about why you're eating each time you eat.

In doing so, you'll likely accomplish one or both of the following:
1. Learn, or at least increase your awareness of why you eat.
2. Eat less because by stopping to think about why you're eating, you'll also increase your awareness of what you're eating, allowing yourself time to decide IF you want to eat at that time.

Once you've completed this exercise, go back and try to answer that first question again.

In one word, how would you describe your relationship with food?

And if you're so bold, ask yourself if you're proud of that relationship, or whether it's one that could use some work.

Make time for ALL the important things

How many times have you heard "breakfast is the most important meal of the day," "you are what you eat," and other food-/nutrition-related cliches?

Well, try this advice:


Just like any important relationship, to make it a good relationship, you're best bet is to put some effort into it. At first it may seem strange and even chore-like, but as you become accustomed to dedicating some time to it, it becomes easier, and the benefits more notable.

So what do I mean? Well, there is more than one approach, so do what feels right, and "follow your gut" (punny, eh?). This should get you started though:

When you have a few minutes to yourself, consider these questions:

1. In one word, how would you describe your relationship with food?

2. Which foods would you call your "comfort" foods? Why? And when and why do you eat them?

3. What is your food routine?

4. How does the distribution of your food intake compare to that of your energy output (ie. physical and daily activities)?

5. When you think of healthy eating. What comes to mind? What about unhealthy eating?

6. What is the difference between healthy eating and eating healthy?

Over the next while, I'll post a bit about each of these questions. Stay tuned and please feel free to comment.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mini Quiche!

Mmmmmm ... quiche! Who doesn't like quiche?

Growing up, it wasn't something we had very often, probably because of the inconvenience of making the pastry for the crust. However, in our home, quiche is a fairly regular dish, showing up roughly once a month or so. I usually make an oil pastry that is super easy and quick to whip up as well as heart healthy. (To prepare it, just mix 1 cup of all purpose flour - I use whole wheat - with 1/4 cup mild vegetable oil - such as canola - that has had 2.5 tbsp of cold water added to it. Use a fork to mix them and then roll out the pastry with a rolling pin between two sheets of waxed paper.) My quiche is very simple, consisting of five beaten eggs with some milk added to them, as well as peppers, green onion, ham, shredded cheddar and parmesan cheeses. Then just bake at 350 F for 35 mins or so.

However, recently, I thought it might be fun to try make mini quiches, especially for Bean! I had envisioned using phyllo pastry; however, I couldn't find any at the grocery store that day, so I picked up wontons. The wontons made for some very crunchy little crusts, but they were still tasty.

Here's what I did:
1) Place two wontons, staggered (ie. not perfectly aligned) in each cup of a mini muffin tin, gently pushing them in to create a bowl shape. Fill a 12-cup mini muffin tin this way.
2) Beat two eggs and add a tablespoon or so of milk (you can use water, but it makes for a tougher quiche). Combine these.
3) Chop up peppers, green onion, ham, or any other fillings you're hoping to use into very small pieces and put a few of each in each tiny wonton cup. Ladle the egg mixture on top of the these in the wonton cups.
4) Shred cheddar and parmesan cheeses over the wonton quiche cups, then bake in 350 F oven for 12 minutes or until quiche is set.
5) Let cool enough to handle, remove from muffin tin and ENJOY!!

Looking forward to trying this with phyllo pastry :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Another Babe is Born!! (In a much different way)

It's been almost 2 years now since Bean (JC) was born in our little second story apartment! When I think back to my pregnancy with her and her birth, everything seemed so uncomplicated and (sort of) easy. I had good energy during the pregnancy, was never sick, and she was born in the comfort of our very own home.

As much as I love our new little Pea, things worked out a little differently (and a little more complicated) with the pregnancy and his birth. Similar to Bean's gestation, I had decent energy for most of the pregnancy; however, at the 37-week mark, things got interesting (and not in a good way).

On Tuesday, August 7th, I woke up feeling not so great, feeling low on energy and kind of light-headed. I figured it was just fatigue, so went to work anyhow. I had a really poor appetite that morning, and by the afternoon, I had abdominal cramping and was having difficulty concentrating. My husband picked me up from work early and I went straight home to bed. That's when the cramping really got going! My husband suggested that perhaps it was early labour - after all, many labouring women experience poor appetite, nausea, and general ickiness! We started timing the cramping/contractions and called our midwife. With contractions occurring every 3 minutes and lasting a minute a piece, we started to think it was "go time." We arranged for childcare for Bean and prepared the bed, bathroom, etc. for a home birth.

When our midwife called back awhile later, she recommended I get in the tub to see if labour would slow or progress. However, after bathing for a bit, the nausea increased and I was sick. And then the contractions STOPPED! Our midwife showed up and checked my cervix, but I was only 1-2 cm dilated and 50% effaced ... so she went home.

That week my appetite never really returned and I continued to feel yucky, and had pale stools and darker than normal urine). Come Saturday night I suddenly begin to experience EXTREME itchiness on the palms of my hands and soles of my feet! I tried soaking my feet in cold water with little relief.

When I woke up the next morning, the itchiness was just as bad and I was starting to put things together. I googled the symptoms (itchiness, pale stools, dark urine, low appetite) and came up with ICP (intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy). This website was the most informative:

I called my midwife and shared my thoughts. She acknowledged my concerns and suggested trying Benadryl to rule out an allergic reaction. (I didn't bother because I was sure it wasn't the case.) We were visiting my parents a few hours north of here when the itching started, but we were planning to go home that day, so we got in the car and headed home.

On the drive home, I started reading through the womens' stories on the icpcare website. Most of the stories had happy endings when women were induced at 38 weeks. But then I read one more story, where the woman had planned a home birth and waited til the baby spontaneously arrived ... and the baby was stillborn. And that is when the waterworks started and the panic set in (yes, in the car, on the highway, with Bean sleeping peacefully in the backseat).

Shortly after we arrived home, our midwife called and said she'd like me to meet her at the hospital to get some blood work done to check for ICP (seems she was starting to worry, too)!! So I met her at the hospital, put on the fetal monitor, and had some blood drawn. Movement was good, and hours later we found out that my liver enzymes were elevated (an indication of ICP). Care was transferred to the OB present and plans were made to induce me that coming Wednesday.

Over the next couple of days, my appetite started to return and the itchiness resolved. On Tuesday morning, we went into the hospital and a prostaglandin gel was applied to my cervix to encourage it to ripen. Within a couple of hours, I had regular, increasingly intense contractions. We arranged for childcare for Bean (again!) and returned to the hospital. When they checked my cervix, nothing had changed. Oh, and suddenly the contractions became irregular and less intense .... GRRRRRR!!!! They sent us home and told us to return in the morning.

I slept reasonably well that night and gave Bean a good cuddle Wednesday morning. We arrived at the hospital and they started IV oxytocin and ruptured my membranes (broke my water) to encourage the contractions to become more regular and intense. And man, did it work! Within an hour and a half I was in active labour. Within 3 hours our little Pea arrived, healthy and weighing 6 lbs 8 oz, measuring 21 inches! The placenta, on the other hand, didn't look so hot, so it's a good thing we kicked Pea out when we did (at 38 weeks + 1 day). I can't even imagine how differently things could have turned out had I not found the icpcare website (what if I hadn't told my midwife about my symptoms??)!