Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fashion Magazines Make You Feel Fat

Talking to a friend on the weekend, a friend who has had serious body dissatisfaction issues as long as I've known her (yet you'd be hard-pressed to really find any excess anything on her), it hit me that I know a few women with serious body dissatisfaction--serious body image problems, be it physical shape, appearance of the face or a combination thereof--and they all have something in common:

They love reading fashion magazines and do so regularly.

Is it just a coincidence? I asked myself. I decided to do some research. And what I've found online matches my observation: those who read fashion magazines more often are more likely to have a higher level of body dissatisfaction.

Some links I've found:
This last link has a part that says:
Some simple strategies to improve body image include:
Putting down the magazine. 
Make a choice not to subject yourself to ideals and images that will make you feel worse about yourself.

This is sound advice if you are struggling with body dissatisfaction and have a habit of looking at fashion magazines. Not everybody who reads fashion magazines regularly is going to be negatively affected, but there is a relationship between the two. The more you read, the more likely it is to affect how you view yourself physically. The more you subject your brain to the images of thin, photoshopped models, the more likely you are going to start believing on some level that you would be better if you looked like that (and wore clothes like that!)

If you are constantly dissatisfied with your body, feel like you have to hide this or that (under clothes or even under makeup), and you regularly read fashion magazines, do yourself a favour and stop! Start looking at all the real women around you!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Omega-6 and Omega-3 in Vegan Diets

I have been ridiculously busy this past week which is why I haven't posted (or made) a menu plan, Free Recipe Friday and more. But, I was reading this about Omega-6 and Omega-3 in vegan diets and thought I would pass it along:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Did You Know...?

Did you know that if you use a special tooth whitening tooth paste, it will make your teeth beautiful enough for your soul mate to come talk to you?

Because, you know, your soul mate is going to care more about your teeth than your soul.

Ah, the messages we get from media!

Monday, February 18, 2013

What Messages Are You Getting?

Janae over at Bring Joy wrote an excellent piece on her struggles with body image and accepting her curves that have come back. And more importantly, her vocal stance on the messages society gives about women's bodies. It's really an excellent read.

Someone in the comments shared an amazing site:, there is a quote that I can't find now about how women, on average, receive 600 messages a day about beauty and body image. Every single time you see a picture of a woman on a cover of a magazine, or in a magazine ad or on a television commercial or even in a TV show, you're getting at least one message, but likely more: they've photoshopped the wrinkles, so there's the message that wrinkles are bad. They've photoshopped the woman smaller in most cases, so there's the message that skinnier is better. They've picked an actress partially based on her physical appearance and/or they've had her workout to have a certain look. And so on and so forth.

One of the most appalling cases I read on the Beauty Redefined site was the cover photo of Self (the "Total Body Confidence" issue, ironically enough) with Kelly Clarkson. There is a picture right next to it of Kelly from around the same time and it is very clear that Self changed her size drastically. When challenged on it, at one point the editor wrote, "Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best..." 

*Jaw dropped to floor.* 

What is the message? That Kelly's natural shape isn't her "best." That an unnatural shape on her makes her look better. That her personal, natural shape wasn't good enough for Self's magazine cover. That's the message. And the overriding message to all other women:

You're not good enough if you don't look like this.
How much damage is this kind of message doing? Especially when it's over and over and over, everywhere you look? A teen or woman interested in fashion can't look through a fashion magazine without getting the almost subliminal message that she would be better if she looked like the ridiculously thin women who've had an inch of make up put on AND had all blemishes and imperfections (on their face or in their body shape) photoshopped out. Heck, even just looking at the covers of magazines at the grocery store checkout will give you gads of messages. Whether it's intended or not, the result is a form of brainwashing.

Over and over, girls and women are presented with unhealthy and unreal representations of women, shown in such a way to subtly affect how they see themselves. The problem is those individual, subtle messages are everywhere. And there are a lot of them:
  • How your hair should look.
  • How long it should be.
  • The colour it should be (cuz, you know, your natural colour is NEVER good enough! I saw an ad at the movie theatre last night with a blind woman who had coloured her hair. *Jaw dropped to floor again.* Even blind women are falling for the idea they need to look a certain way??? This is beyond sad.)
  • The thickness it should be.
  • Frizziness is never good.
  • How your eyebrows should be.
  • What colour your skin should be. 
  • How long and thick your eyelashes should be.
  • Blemishes aren't okay. Hide them under makeup and photoshop out all signs of them in pictures.
  • Teeth need to be a certain whiteness (there's one ad that drives me crazy--the woman's teeth are already a fake level of white and she thinks they aren't white enough, so whitens them even more with whatever amazing (sic) product they are selling).
  • How much you should weigh.
  • How big your butt and breasts should be. And what shape your butt should be.
  • How small your waist should be.
  • How thin and toned your legs and arms should be.
  • How tall you should be.
  • You should show a lot of skin.
  • You should be sexy (which really means you should have random men looking at you and find you sexually appealing, ie they should lust after you).
  • How smooth your face should be, or how big your cheeks and lips should be.
I'm sure I could go on. The problem with all of this is that it's all nonsense. Why these particular messages are being put out there, I'm not sure other than, for whatever reason, it sells. If it sells, then they'll keep doing it.

I have a challenge for you: Get some new messages. Get some true messages. Look at the women you come in contact with as you work or visit stores. Look at the women you walk by Are they all 5'10", skinny, physically fit, perfect shape, perfect skin and hair, wearing designer clothes? These are the real messages. These are real women who are valuable and lovable not because of how well they match up with some false, made-up ideal to try to get you to buy things (really, that's what the Self cover was about, wasn't it? fear that fewer people would buy the magazine if Kelly was looking too chunky or something?), but are valuable and lovable simply because they are. Value them, respect them, love them because of who they are, not because of what they look like. And then turn around and do the same for yourself.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lent and Fasting

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I have always had an issue with the whole fasting part of Ash Wednesday, and the fasting recommendations for Lent, and probably have never really "properly" fasted. I tend to lean toward hypoglycemia, so perhaps I don't even really qualify for the typical Lenten fast. I didn't do too badly today, just said no to food when I really wanted to eat something, but did give into a snack when I started feeling myself get shaky (not supposed to have any snacks yesterday!) or like yesterday evening, I could feel the drop in my blood sugar, so I ate half of a banana.

But it got me thinking: There are other kinds of fasts I could try during Lent. They may not be calorie-restrictive, but they are having me fast from all kinds of other foods! Juice fasts and raw food fasts are the first two to come to mind. Even if I just pick a single day here and there or something. Challenge myself a bit. The priest at Mass yesterday was great and said that fasting--be it from food or TV time or computer games--does pinch a bit, does cause discomfort. "But that's the point!" he said on more than one occasion. That pinch, that discomfort, it's all about our comfort zones. We attain real freedom when we just deal with the discomfort and push through the walls that would keep us from leaving. We grow from it.

In the spirit of encouraging myself to try a raw food or other fast, I've done some research and found the following that I thought I would share!

Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor's Program for Conquering Disease
I actually saw this book at the library once and didn't pay any attention to it. Now, this would be more for people looking to fast for health issues, but I do have (minor) health issues (allergies, water retention...), so it could be a good book for me and others.

Laura London's 7-Day Goddess Juice Feast
A day-7 program she says you can do once a month. While she does talk about the weight loss benefits, there is also information about various health benefits people have experienced.

Juice Fasting and Detoxification: Use the Healing Power of Fresh Juice to Feel Young and Look Great
This looks to be a serious fasting book! Gives the why and the how-to and recipes you can use.

Juicing, Fasting, and Detoxing for Life: Unleash the Healing Power of Fresh Juices and Cleansing Diets
This one's not actually just juicing: there are recipes for smoothies and vegetable soups, as well. This is really focused on using fruits and vegetables in those ways for optimal health. (Oh dear, one of the books shown on the page was  The Wrinkle Cleanse which looks very interesting, especially since I'm getting closer and closer to 40! Not specifically on fasting, but on the use of raw foods and juicing.)

Fasting for Weight Loss and Detoxification - This isn't a book. It's actually a membership program where they send you things each week for 9 months to guide you. They encourage just one day a week of fasting. He does have books you can buy, too.

Of course, a raw food fast wouldn't need a book. Just grab any  raw food book and spend a day or week or whatever the time is. (Yes, I'm telling myself this, yet have I actually done it yet? Hm... I will, at least one day during Lent, I will do a full raw food day!)

I found so much more I could post, but it might be silly to post it all! I'll stop here. :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Tuesday Mishmash

Make-a-Meal Monday--completely forgot about it. The way this week is, I can't even remember what we had last night. (lol). We will be having pancakes tomorrow evening (yes, that's right, Ash Wednesday instead of Shrove Tuesday--a tradition in my husband's French Canadian family) and Thursday, we might have Chinese take-out or something for Valentine's (yes, the whole family; my husband and I have never done something special for Valentine's Day just the two of us!) and Friday... Well, who knows. lol


I've failed my family--Yes, somewhat melodramatic, which is funny given I'm probably the least melodramatic person you'll come across, but I feel I've failed in everyone's nutrition education and like I need to really take charge of our nutrition around here and not only get some much needed education in, but really make sure that I eat properly, which will make it all the easier to make sure they eat properly. A certain someone, who shall remain nameless but let's just say I am not homeschooling this person as s/he's much too old for that, said last night, when I pulled out the cut up raw veggies, that s/he had had a bag of veggies at lunch so didn't need to have anymore. Like you can have too many veggies.

I did some searching this morning: If one of the baggies constitutes 2-3 (Canadian) servings of veggies, this particular person is supposed to be having 8-10 servings (possibly more, given this person's high metabolism) of fruits and vegetables a day according to the Canadian guidelines. Now, from everything I've read, a higher percentage of fruit and veggie intake and fewer than the recommended grains would be better, but I digress: This person, who may have had something like 3-4 servings of juice at lunch, which I refuse to count as 3-4 servings of fruit since it's not like it's fresh juice, and possibly had a banana at breakfast--but not guaranteed, had therefore had at best 8 servings of fruits and vegetables during the day, but probably more like 5-6. But what to say since I know I'm not getting lately anywhere near what I ought to be?

There is a part of me that is hoping that as I work on nutrition and perhaps figure out charts or something that can be on display that this particular someone that I love dearly will learn a little something? This person was somewhat reluctant to accept that white sugar wasn't what was meant by people needing to consume sugar (glucose). I'm not actually sure I've convinced him/her. But at least I can tackle the kids--and my own--food consumption!


Might have overdone the stairs--I decided to do 5 sets straight of my stairs today. I'm not feeling the type of discomfort I had yesterday, but actual moments of pain. Too much too quickly once again. I will do some good stretching/yoga this evening and cut back to 4 sets tomorrow. On the flip side, the kids and I went to the mall today and we never just stand on the escalator--what a waste of muscle use and time!--so we walked up as we usually do. I could tell that it was much easier than in the past. I can't believe how much difference just a few days has made. Makes me feel optimistic for the parent duty day next week!

That's it for now!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Unexpected Knee Pain Help

One of my long-standing issues is knee pain. Specifically, knee pain associated with iliotibial band syndrome, AKA IT band syndrome, and possibly Runner's knee combined. At its worst, I could not go up and down stairs without heavily relying on the banister. At its best, I don't feel discomfort, but I'm still careful about how I use the stairs to avoid certain movements that cause pain.

I have a parent duty day on the 21st. This might seem completely unrelated to my knees, but bear with me. The parent duty day time is from 9 am to 4 pm in a three-story church building. And we're not allowed to use the elevator.

Some moms a couple of weeks ago were saying how having to help out on different levels and all the stairs was killing them. One mom who is there every week said she calls Thursdays her workout day. My thoughts went straight to my knees: What was I going to do? How would I manage a parent duty day without being in absolute pain during--and after? I can often do activities and it's not until later that the IT band flares up and the knee pain sets in.

Picture borrowed from this article on IT band syndrome

An answer came: Do stairs. "What? You're kidding, right?" I said to myself. I didn't start right then, even though I knew it was going to be a good idea. Start slow and build up, it would help. It hit me last Thursday that I only had two weeks before my duty day. "Two weeks of training is enough, right?" Not sure. But two weeks is better than none at all.

On Friday, I started. I live in a four-level split with three short sets of stairs totalling 20 steps. The church has a set of stairs, a mid-way landing, another set to the second level landing, another set to the mid-way landing and the final set to the top level. I'm guessing it's between 40-60 stairs. And they're steeper than mine.

I opened up my basement door, my lowest level, and started going up the stairs. Did them all and went back down. For my first day, I did 3 sets of this. It was tough! Second day, I repeated and my atrophying muscles, who were now woken up, kind of complained. Knees and IT band all tingly, but no increase in pain. The third day, yesterday, I went for 4 sets. I was even kind of worried I was doing too much too quickly (that's what caused this all in the first place). But I felt absolutely fine this morning, so I did 4.5 today. This is not to say that I don't use the stairs at other times during the day, but I don't ever do all the sets in a row like that.

The side of my knees are feeling a little tingly right now and I can actually feel my IT band on both sides (that is, feel it without touching! kind of a tingle), but all in all, so far, so good. Actually, really good. As my weak muscles are getting stronger, even though it's only been a few days, my general stair climbing feels better. Fewer sharp pains suddenly showing up in my knees and just feeling more stable.

I've done in the past all kinds of different exercises to help strengthen the glutes and stretch the IT band and all that. The yoga for the IT band has been the greatest help, until now. While I still love my yoga for the IT band and will keep doing it fairly regularly, the stair climbing, the thing that's been the hardest to do for ages, is what's actually helping the most.

Go figure.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What to Make of Dara-Lynn Weiss?

This has nothing to do with my -free life, but it is health and food-related, so I'm going to post it here.

You may or may not have heard of Dara-Lynn Weiss. I only just heard about her yesterday. She wrote an article for Vogue about the diet she put her overweight 7-year old daughter on and was subsequently offered a book deal, which she called "The Heavy."

There are parents who have said it's great that someone's finally doing something and not letting their overweight/obese child get worse. Many, after reading just the article, have bashed her, claiming she embarrassed and shamed her child, some calling her neurotic, and so much more.

Which is it?

I have yet to read the book (waiting for it from the library), but just from what I've read and watched so far, I have to say the whole thing is very confusing.Very inconsistent. She wrote in the Vogue article (which I can't actually find online, only quotes and references) about her bad public behaviour on occasions (whether she recognizes it as bad or not) but doesn't seem to think she ever actually embarrassed her daughter, Bea. She says her daughter is a very happy kid now, but has previously written that her daughter was traumatized by it all. Anybody else sharing my confusion?

Her calm demeanour in interviews is contradicted by the examples she provides of her own bad behaviour. Weiss's approach to her daughter's weight loss included her flying off the handle and not letting Bea have supper one night because she had eaten what Weiss decided was 800 calories of food during something at school, and her storming out of a Starbucks, having dumped a child's hot chocolate into the garbage, because the person at the counter didn't know if it was 120 or 210 calories. She admits to getting into "heated discussions" about stopping Bea from eating more than agreed upon at parties, but in one interview I watched, she made it seem like it was not a big deal, just her giving her daughter a reminder about what she could and could not eat. The confusion grows.

One article about her and the book stated that the book was toned-down, which made it "better" to read than the Vogue article. Given the extremes Dara-Lynn Weiss has presented, I have to wonder how authentic the toned-down book is. Did she tone it down after the backlash of the article and omit the extent of her sometimes questionable behaviour?

Weiss has stated that the book is more about the attitude in today's society that it's bad to for a child to be overweight but it's also bad for parents to step in and do something about their overweight child. From what I've seen so far, I think people are objecting more to her methods than her goal. I'm eager to read the book, even though I am now a little wary of just how honest it will be.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Nasty "Natural Flavours"

I never really knew what was meant by "natural flavours" when shown on a packaged food item. "Surely it means that the strawberry or other flavour is from a natural source, like a strawberry?"

Yeah, um, no, not so much.

Thanks to a post from Tanya Alekseeva at Better Raw on Facebook, I found out some pretty disgusting news about certain "natural flavours".

Yes, they are natural. Natural from a beaver. (Not all, but at least some.)

See, they take the castoreum, the excretion that makes the scent when the beavers mark their territory, and use it to make vanilla, strawberry and raspberry "natural flavours".

Of course, it's not listed as such on packages. When your package says, "natural flavours", it could really mean anything. Only way to know for sure would be to contact the company and find out just what is in their natural flavours--but they're not required to tell you. And if you're vegan, it's clear that some of these "natural flavours" will be problematic.

Since this kind of thing is in processed foods, avoiding such "food" in the first place is probably the best thing you could do!


While you're at it, you might consider having a look at fragrance products you use. Chanel Cuir de Russie, for example, is but one perfume that uses castoreum!

Friday, February 1, 2013

-Free Recipe Friday + Go Dairy-Free!

Inspired by Dreena Burton posting in Facebook about her blog post Reasons to Stop Eating Dairy, I decided I would write very briefly about going dairy-free.

I have been dairy-free for 3.5 years. It took years of illness and finally getting violently ill for me to finally go, "Okay, I get it, I stop." What held me from really stopping was, in part, the idea that it was just too hard.

After 3.5 years of being dairy-free, I can (now) attest to it being a fairly easy lifestyle--once you're used to it. It's hard to let go of certain habits and comforts, but just because something is hard doesn't mean we shouldn't -- or can't -- do it! I do get tempted now and then with something cheesy. Mmmm, the lasagne I used to make does sound delicious. But I know what it will do to me, so I don't give in, no matter how tempting.

If you have some favourite baking recipes that require milk, in many, many cases, you can simply substitute a dairy-free milk and it will work just fine! Case in point: I made these muffins this morning. And I used rice milk instead of cow's milk. (My personal preference would have been to use almond milk; I find it works better in baking than rice milk. But rice milk is the only thing I have on hand, so there we go!) Whenever we make pancakes, we use non-dairy milk and they are absolutely fine. Even extended family couldn't tell the difference. (Which just makes me wonder--why don't they all go dairy-free? ;) At least for pancakes and baked goods?)

Frozen Blueberry Muffins

modified from this
Originally published as Frozen Blueberry Muffins in Quick Cooking May/June 1998, p.18
dairy-free (could use egg substitute to make vegan)

  • Prep: 15 min. Bake: 25 min. + cooling
  • Yield: 24 Servings
15 25 40


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups frozen unsweetened blueberries

TOPPING (I didn't use it)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs, milk and vanilla; mix well. Stir in dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in frozen blueberries.
  • Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Combine sugar and nutmeg; sprinkle over muffins. Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Yield: about 2 dozen.
Editor's Note: If using frozen blueberries, use without thawing to avoid discoloring the batter.
Nutritional Facts (don't apply to dairy-free version)1 muffin equals 238 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 57 mg cholesterol, 209 mg sodium, 36 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 4 g protein.