Thursday, 28 February 2013

Thursday's Random Thought (A Positive Attitude)

Between shovelling out from under all the snow that's fallen (I console myself by telling myself it's excellent cardio), getting everything done at work for the end of tax season and family obligations (which usually involves food so I tell myself I should be grateful for the shovelling cardio) its been difficult to find the time to post a blog.  The funny thing is that I miss doing it.  It really does help keep me focused.

Nothing much to say today, but I did come across this picture and it tickled me, so I thought I'd share.

Hopefully I will have more to say come Monday.

It's always a good think to keep 

Friday, 22 February 2013

Food Friday - "Cloud Bread"

My daughter pinned this No Flour Bread recipe to her “Yummy” board on Pinterest.  I don’t know if she has tried it or not.  I went to to get the recipe and checked out the comments.  There was a 50/50 split on positive vs. negative reaction.

Some of the comments were …

“This is NOT bread … and won’t pass for it in a blind taste test!!  But as a “holder for all sorts of fixings, this works great.”

“Light, airy, fluffy, mild tasting – not eggy at all.”

“It has sort of a tangy flavor – maybe like a very mild sourdough.”

If you are interested in giving it a try
the recipe follows.


3 eggs, separated
3 ounces reduced-fat/fat-free cream cheese OR
3 tablespoons sour cream or ricotta cheese
or cottage cheese or thick yogurt
½ teaspoon Splenda granular
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt


Preheat over to 300 degrees.
Spray a large baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray and set aside

In a large bowl, with very clean beaters, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar for 3 to 4 minutes or until very stiff peaks form and they are almost turning dry.  Set aside.

With the same beaters, in a large bowl beat the cold cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in the egg yolks, Splenda, and salt for 2 minutes until light yellow.

Gently fold one-third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten.  Fold in the remaining whites until all fluffs disappear, but be careful not to deflate them.

Mound into desired sizes on the prepared baking sheet (or in a pizza pan, muffin tins, mini loaf pan … whatever shape and size you want).  Bake for 30 minutes – depending on the size.  They should be a deep golden brown and crispy to the touch.

Immediately loosen with a pancake turner and allow to cool for a few minute on the pan.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container or plastic bag.

TOTAL RECIPE:  (divide by how many you made or are eating for you per serving stats)  474 calories, 26 g. Protein, 336 g. Tot Fat, 7 g. carbs, 0 g. Fiber, 1 g. Sugar and, 533 mg. Sodium.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Newest (to me, anyway) Ancient Grain

I’ll start this particular blog with my usual disclaimer.  I am not in any way promoting any products or methods for weight loss.  This is just about sharing my personal opinions, experience, hits and misses as well as any information I come across in all different forums.

I have never been a fan of “quick fix diets”, diet pills, shakes or any other products promoting “easy” weight loss.  There’s no such thing as an easy way to lose weight.  It’s always a matter of calories in being less than calories out.  It’s planning, good healthy choices, portion control, self control, information, movement and hard work.  Lots of hard work.  Lots of really hard work!

But what happens when your stomach feels empty?  I don’t mean a little peckish or suffering a craving, I mean really, stomach growling, caving in on itself empty.  And let’s face it, it happens.  Often it happens to me when I know I’ve had enough to eat but my stomach disagrees.  Tips I’ve read to combat those empty stomach, hunger-like pangs are: chew gum, brush your teeth, go for a walk or, drink some water.  Well, I’m here to tell you that when MY stomach is growling so loud that the neighbours worry about a bear roaming the neighbourhood … none of those things work.

So when I was flipping through a back issue of Chatelaine magazine (December 2012) and I came across a few little lines in the corner of a page title “Curb Cravings with Chia Seeds” you can be darn sure it caught my attention.  Chia seeds?  All I could think of were the fuzzy little green growing “pets” from back in the 70’s and 80’s.  And yes, these are the same seeds that you smeared on the pottery to grow your Chia Pets.  The article went on to say, “These little seeds, which come from a flowering plant in the mint family, may help you avoid over indulging.  When exposed to water, the tiny omga-3-rich seeds increase in size and weight without adding calories.  Add a handful to a glass of water before hitting your next holiday potluck, and your body will fell full before you go back for that second (or third) helping”.  Hmmmm?  I read that little blurb two or three times and was tempted to stop at the health food store on my way to work to pick up a package of these little miracle seeds.  I would have too, except the store isn’t open before I need to be at work.  Drat!  The fact that I have to be at work at 8:30 a.m. did give me a chance to look into it a little more before parting with my hard earned money.  I’ll share what I found here, but also tell you now that I did go and pick some up on my way home.  More on that later.

The Chia (pronounced chee-ya) plant is a member of the mint family and originated in southern Mexico and Guatemala.  There are two seed colors, white and black.  In pre-Columbian times Chia was one of the four basic foods of Central American civilizations.  It was less important that corn and beans, but more important than amaranth.  Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, received between 5,000 and 15,000 tons of Chia as an annual tribute from conquered nations.  Chia Seed was not just a food but was also used for medical purposes and as an offering to the Aztec gods.  The Spanish conquistadors tried to eliminate Chia, along with corn and beans, because of their use in religious ceremonies, trying to replace them with species brought from the old world.  Because Chia was unable to adapt to production under European climatic conditions, it was pushed into obscurity for five hundred years.  Chia survived only in very small cultivated patches in scattered mountain areas of southern Mexico and Guatemala until a research and development program began in 1991.  The idea behind the project was not only to provide growers with alternative crops, but also to improve human health by reintroducing Chia to western diets as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fibre.  Chia contains no cholesterol.

Chia is a sustainable and environmentally friendly product.  The high oil content of its leaves acts as an extremely potent insect repellent and eliminates the need for pesticides.  Solvent extraction and artificial preservatives are not needed when Chia is used in human or animal diets.

Chia Seeds contain no gluten.  This makes it ideal for anyone with gluten sensitivities or anyone wanting to find a replacement for gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley, rye and oats.

Chia is an excellent source of complete proteins, minerals and vitamin B, is simple to use in food preparation, and safe for both humans and animals.

Black is the original color of Chia Seeds.  The myth stating that the white Chia is nutritionally superior over the black is completely false.  Some companies promote this opinion only to trick consumers into paying a higher price.  Black Chia costs less because it is more common than the white.  The higher price of white Chia is not indicative of nutritional superiority.  The only real difference between the two is the color, which may be a deciding factor for those who find either more appealing in food preparations.

A 12-page report on a scientific study conducted on Chia can be read at by following the link:

Whew!  That’s the history and the science.  Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty here … how does this aid in weight loss and health?

Lose weight without starving.  The tiny, healthy seeds can be made to taste like whatever you want, and their unique gelling action keeps you feeling full for hours.  Hunger is a main enemy of real weight loss, and you don’t want to fight it with jitter causing expensive pills.  When a Chia Seed is exposed to water, it forms a coating of gel, increasing in size and weight by nine to twelve times.  Since the gel is made of water, it has no calories.  It’s also difficult to remove from the seed, meaning that it helps your body think it is full, without adding calories.

Cut cravings for food.  Being deficient in minerals or vitamins can create a craving for food.  For example, if you are low in calcium, you may feel compelled to eat lots of cheese or ice cream.  This happens because your body knows that cheese is a source of calcium, and it hasn’t been getting enough.  But what if dairy and whole milk are a “diet don’t”?   You can always add calcium to your body by drinking Chia.  By weight Chia has more calcium than whole milk.  It also has magnesium and boron, essential trace minerals in the absorption of calcium and other vitamins.  By balancing your vitamins and minerals with Chia, you may curb cravings that might tempt you.

Balance blood sugar.  Blood sugar may spike after meals, especially if you eat high-starchy foods or sweets.  This can lead to slumps in your day where you feel tired and out of energy.  By balancing your blood sugar, you not only lower your risk for type-2 diabetes, but also ensure steady, constant energy throughout your day.  Chia Seed helps with this through the gelling action of the seed, and its unique combination of soluble and insoluble fibre to slow down your body’s conservation of starches into sugars.  If you eat Chia with a meal, it will help you turn your food into constant, steady energy rather than a series of ups and downs that wear you out.

High source of fibre.  With the abundance of processed foods and white flour on the market today, rich sources of fibre are hard to come by.  To help ensure regularity, you need plenty of soluble and insoluble fibre in your diet.  If you do not want to eat celery and whole-grain everything … or piles of bran flakes, the Chia helps.  Each seed is coated with soluble fibres which aid in its gelling action.  The insoluble fibre is unable to be digested so instead, it helps keep food moving smoothly through the digestive process.

Add healthy omega-3 oil to your diet.  Omega-3 oil is usually thought of as “that healthy stuff in fish”.  But, what if you don’t want to eat fish every day?  What if you’re a vegetarian?  Chia is the richest plant-source of this healthy oil.  By weight, Chia contains more omega-3 than salmon.

Feel more energized all day long.  Don’t want to feel like you need an afternoon nap?  Your energy levels have a lot to do with what you eat.  Chia is one of nature’s highest plant-based sources of complete protein.  The combination of compete protein, vitamins, minerals and blood-sugar balancing gel all work together to make sure you have steady, never jittery energy.

Bake with less fat.  Chia gel can substitute half the butter, oil or eggs in most recipes.  The food will bake the same and taste the same.  All you need to do is divide the amount of butter or oil in half, and then use the same amount of Chia gel to fill in.  The anti-oxidants in Chia can even help keep the food tasting fresh longer. 

Chia Gel Recipe

2 cups of water
1/3 cup Chia Seeds

Mix the Chia Seeds and water is a small, sealable jar.  Shake for 15 seconds and let rest for 1 minute.  Shake another 15 seconds and refrigerate until gelatinous.  Chia gel can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Add age-defying anti-oxidants.  Anti-oxidants have been in the news lately due to their super healthy benefits.  You know that blueberries and other fruits are not always in season.  At room temperature Chia will stay fresh and ready to eat for over two years.  That’s without a single chemical additive or preservative.

There are no known allergies to this seed.

Back at the start of this post I mentioned that after doing the research, I did buy some Chia Seeds.  I purchased the black Chia Seeds at Bulk Barn (because they were substantially less expensive bulk than packaged at the health food store … I made a few phone calls to discover that tidbit).

The first thing I tried was adding them as a topping to my oatmeal.  They did not alter the taste of the oatmeal in any way, but did add a certain crunch element.  Some recipe ideas I read stated that Chia seeds had a slightly nutty taste.  I did not find this to be the case at all.  I found them truly without a distinctive taste of their own.  The closest comparison I could make is that they are similar in texture to poppy seeds.  I also added approximately a tablespoonful to a glass of water to check out the gel-coating property.  Again, it was not unpleasant to drink the water with the Seeds floating in it.  The comparison that comes to mind is Bubble Tea.  My next test was adding them to a smoothie.  There was no change in the taste of the smoothie.  It may have made it a little more filling because it added more volume to the smoothie, but if I wanted the health benefits of the Chia I think I would invest in the ground version since it did make the smoothie just that much thicker as to make it a little difficult to drink through a straw.  Either that or invest in some milk-shake size straws.

Did they make any difference in appetite?  Hard to say when sprinkled on the oatmeal since that is a filling breakfast on its own.  In the glass of water, about an hour before dinner I would have to say yes I did feel more satisfied with my smaller portion.  The biggest difference was that I ate more slowly because that feeling of intense hunger I usually feel between dinner prep and actual eating seemed abated a little bit.

The only thing I am going to say about the high fibre claim is that it definitely aided in regularity.  Like any increase in the fibre in your diet … it takes your body by storm until you reach the equilibrium point.  Yes, it helps in the digestion and elimination, but not to the point of being uncomfortable.  Good  poops … ‘nuff said!

I am going to continue using it because aside from any weight loss side benefits, it really does seem to be a truly “good for you”, inexpensive, easy to use addition to a healthy eating regime.  Please do not think Chia Seeds are a meal substitution plan.  They are definitely not that.  But if they help curb the hunger pangs, then that is something to cheers about.

There are other foods on the market that work in pretty much the same way.  Rice cakes and anything made from puffed grain work on the same principle … make your stomach feel full on as few calories as possible.  The problem with the puffed grains is that they are empty calories.  At least the Chia Seeds have a high nutritional value.  I consider this a plus.

The only down-side that I came across was a warning stating that if you are consuming the seeds “dry” to drink lots of water with them.  Apparently they absorb so much water that they could cause you to become dehydrated.  Personally I feel that you would have to consume a very large amount of seeds to affect your body water levels to the point of dehydration.  But why take the chance?  If you are on a weight loss program you should be drinking eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water daily anyway.

As with any “new” product it’s often difficult to decide how to use it.  Apparently the nutritional value of the seeds is not diminished by heat, so they can be used in cooking and baking, in drinks as well as raw.  Some recipes I found intriguing and there is no shortage of others on line.

Apparently a favorite drink in Southern California and Mexico is called a Chia Fresca. (I had never heard of it before)  Because the original recipe for the Chia Fresca includes a high amount of sugar, I am posting this variation which sounded interesting but has less sugar.

Refreshing Chia Fresca

Half a cup of lemon or lime juice
Half a cup of pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon chia seeds
9 cups of water

Pour lemon juice and pomegranate juice into the water.
Add chia seeds and stir or shake vigorously until the seeds are evenly dispersed.
Shake or stir again after a few minutes to prevent the seeds clumping together.
Shake or stir again before serving.
Serve over ice
Cranberry Juice can be substituted for pomegranate juice

I’m going to have to try the next recipe when my daughter comes home for a weekend.  It sounds a lot like “bubble tea” which she loves, but her body does not react well to the tapioca usually found in the tea.  This could be the answer.  So, if like me, you live in a colder climate you might be interested in the following recipe as a warm and energizing pick-me-up:

Chia Fruity Green Tea 

2/3 Tablespoons of fruit juice. (blueberry juice, orange juice or lemon juice,
but any fruit juice or mixture of juices is fine.
1 teaspoon of chia seeds
1 teabag of good quality green tea

In a mug, soak the chia seeds in the fruit juice for 10 minutes to allow the seeds to soften and swell.
Add the teabag to the mug and pour in boiling water. Stir thoroughly to disperse the seeds. Let stand for a few moments until it is the strength you like. Sip slowly, and occasionally stir the mixture as the seeds will have a tendency to settle on the bottom of the mug.

Overnight Chia Breakfast

1 cup almond milk
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp grated orange zest
a pinch of ginger (to taste)
1 tsp almond extract (optional, but I seriously love this stuff)
dried cherries (to taste)
2 tsp unsweetened coconut
Pistachios (as many as you’d like)
A drizzle of honey for sweetness (optional, but I think it really adds to it)… can use any other sweetener you’d like

All you have to do is combine one cup of almond milk and 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in a container.  Cover and set in the fridge.  If you do decide to do this without waiting overnight, let the seeds set at least 20 to 30 minutes before carrying on.

Finally, all you have to do is assemble.

Something sweet?  Vegan Chia Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 C. Flour 1/3 C. Virgin Coconut Oil
1/2 C. Brown Sugar
1/4 C. Turbinado or Granulated Sugar
1/4 Tsp. Baking Soda
1/3 C. Water
2 Tbsp. Chia Seeds
1 Tsp. Vanilla (Be sure to check the label to make sure it doesn't contain glycerin!)
1 C. Vegan Chocolate Chips (if you can't find vegan chips, check for dark chocolate chips. Often times they won't contain any dairy)
Pinch of Salt

Preheat the oven to 375. Grind up the chia seeds in a coffee grinder, or in a Magic Bullet. Mix the chia seeds with the water and let stand for at least 5 minutes. When the chia seeds are combined with water they create an amazing gel that works great as an egg substitute. With a mixer, beat together the virgin coconut oil, sugars, and baking soda until well combined. Add in the chia gel and vanilla and mix again until combined. Add in the chocolate chips, pinch of salt, and flour and mix together on low until combined. Pinch off about 2 tbsp. of dough and roll into a ball. The cookies don't really spread out, so flatten the ball until it is about 1/2 " thick and place it on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat until the cookie sheet is filled. Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 8-10 minutes. Try really hard not to burn your mouth when you bite into that right outta the oven, scorchin' hot, cookie.

Something savoury?   Sauteed Zucchini with Toasted Chia Seeds

1 large zucchini, cut into half moons
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp olive oil

In a dry skillet heated to medium high heat, add the chia seeds; shaking the skillet frequently. DO NOT walk away from the skillet. When they start to darken in color, remove from the skillet and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and add the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper; and cook for 3 minutes, stirring consistently, so it doesn’t burn.
Add the zucchini and increase the temperature to medium high heat, cook stirring occasionally for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the zucchini begins to color.
Remove from heat and stir in chia seeds. Serve hot.

And I’ll close this with some interesting Odds and Ends

Chia seeds absorb seven times their weight in water. It is best to moisten them before eating, or they can absorb water from the body, leading to dryness and constipation. When well moistened, they provide wonderful lubrication for the body. They are an excellent food for body builders, athletes and those wanting to lose weight as they enable one to feel full on smaller amounts of food than the body is accustomed to.

Soak one quarter cup chia seeds in 2 cups pure water overnight and stir well to prevent the seeds from clumping. Allow to stand overnight on the counter or refrigerator. Add more water if needed. The seeds do not need to be ground up in order to be digested, but if one suffers from diverticulitis, grind the amount you would consume in one day for even easier digestion. In the morning, add chopped apples, a handful of raisins, blueberries, chopped nuts, honey, as you wish, for a simple breakfast. Even adding chocolate, banana and nuts for a delicious sugar and dairy free pudding.

Any moistened seeds not consumed can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Even take chia seeds and mix with leftovers such as tomato sauce, basil pesto and spread the mixture thin onto a dehydrator.  Dehydrate till crisp to make gluten free crackers. Chia has also been used successfully as a superfood for cats, dogs and chickens.

Chia seeds have a long shelf life and are slow to oxidize. Chia seeds have been used topically as a poultice, once moistened with water to draw out infection, and even to treat gunshot wounds in the Wild Southwest. Chia seed oil had been used in cosmetics and as a wood preservative.

If you find the concept interesting you’ll have to try Chia Seeds and make up your own mind.  If you do … let me know how you added it to your eating plan and what your thoughts are.

Additional sources for this blog were:

Monday was Family Day in my little corner of the world.  That's a stat holiday in my Province so there was no TOPS meeting and no weigh-in.  I'll have to wait until next week to see if these little seeds hindered or helped my progress.  Although I usually avoid weighing myself between the official
weigh-ins because 1. my scale is not calibrated correctly and, 2.  I am prone to jumping on and off the scale and that is a sure-fire way to make myself crazy, but I may have to sneak on this week.  

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Happiness is ...

Technology is a wonderful thing.  Honestly, I would be lost without my computer, and I do not say that lightly because I am part of the generation that did not grow up with computers.

I heard on Breakfast Television this morning that the remote control may soon be a thing of the past.  Several companies, including Apple of course, are working on a gesture-based television allowing the viewer to change channels by making hand gestures and wiggling fingers.  Growing up, I WAS the remote control.  My dad would send me to turn the dial, even expecting me to flip through ALL five channels to see what was playing.

There was one telephone in the house, with a rotary dial no less, the cord was about three feet long and it sat on it’s own little table.  A little table with a chair attached to it.  And yep, that little table was in the kitchen.  Tons of quiet, not to mention privacy, there!

When I needed to research something I went to the library to look it up in an encyclopedia (not to be confused with wikipedia) and if I had to look for a specific book I flipped through something called a “card catalogue”.  I had to take notes in a notebook and when I finally got home to write my report the sound of “clacka-clacka-clacka–ding-swoosh” reverberated through the house.  School rules dictated I was not allowed to bring a calculator to math or science class until the last year of high school (which was still called grade 13).

My college application was done through the mail, I used a newspaper to find my first apartment and I had to physically leave that apartment to meet people and socialize.

Oh my God I sound like a dinosaur.  Talk about “future shock”.  It really, really was not all that long ago.  I’m really, really not that ancient.  Does this sound as whiny as I think it does?

Deep breath … and … okay, I’m good now.

Back to the wonders of modern technology.  Now my lights at home turn on before I get there so I do not walk into a dark house.  The smoke detector blares if I forget something on the stove (or when the water boiling for my pasta starts to steam … grrrrrr).  My cell phone rings in my purse.  My computer beeps at me when I receive an email.  The alarm at work squeals if I enter the wrong code.  The dashboard of my car lights up when something is amiss.  The car will tell me that “my door is ajar” and it irritates the heck out of me because I always want to reply, “it’s not a jar … it’s a door” but that’s just the way my mind works sometimes.  My ABS takes over if the stupid contraption thinks I can’t handle stopping my own vehicle.  Some cars even park themselves.  Now that’s not a bad feature to have.  There seems to be a function, noise, beep, squeal or warning in almost every aspect of my life.

I’ve been enjoying the Nissan ad that is running on television lately.  The tag line is “wouldn’t it be nice if the rest of your life had the Nissan innovative tire alert?”

Always on the lookout for interesting topics for my TOPS group, lo and behold, I came across the HAPIfork.  Introduced at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show this is going to be the one utensil you did not know you needed – until right now! Billed as the “smart fork” it vibrates when you are eating too quickly.  From we learn that this fork:

 “Helps you monitor and track your eating habits.  It also alerts you with the help of indicator lights when you are eating too fast.

Every time you bring food from your plate to your mouth with your fork, this action is called a ‘fork serving’.  The HAPIfork also measures:

*How long it took to eat you meal
*The amount of ‘fork servings’ taken per minute
*Intervals between ‘fork servings’

This information is then uploaded via USB to your Online Dashboard to track your progress.  The HAPIfork also comes with the HAPILABS app plus a coaching program to help improve your eating behavior.

The science and thereby the premise behind the thought of this fork is sound because be it for weight loss or simply for developing healthier eating habits; eating more slowly is important for a number of reasons.

*Chewing food properly is the first step to proper breakdown of foods.  There are certain enzymes in your saliva that, along with mastication, reduce the size of food particles entering the digestive tract.
*Chewing food properly also signals those digestive enzymes and stomach acids to be produced for the next step of digestion.
*Food that is eaten too quickly is often poorly chewed making the work of the digestive tract more difficult
*The faster one eats, the more likely the possibility of gastric reflux
*Eating too quickly can be a contributing factor to weight gain and difficulty losing weight.  It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to send the “I’m full” signal to the brain.  Those twenty minutes can cause a lot of damage to a sensible eating plan.  The faster you eat the more you eat before your brain gets the message.  And of course,
*You enjoy and taste your food more if you eat slowly

Even my mother knew the truth in all that.  How many times was I (and probably you too) admonished to “Slow down and enjoy your food!” 

Well, hallelujah, now you have a fork that will help you do that without even having to think about it.

Not only that, but you can pair this up with the HAPImoments Tracker, load it all up to your computer or your phone app and share your bad eating habits with the HAPILABS online community and all your Facebook friends.  Just what I always wanted to be able to do!  Oh wait … I’m not on Facebook.

When I read about the HAPIfork they were strongly promoting the product as the final answer to everyone’s dieting woes.  But, so many, many questions came to mind.

*How does the HAPIfork know what I’m eating?  I can eat chocolate cake really slowly.  I don’t, but I can!  The point is I’m still consuming calorie laden chocolate cake.
*How does the HAPIfork sense the size of my portions?  I could be eating a whole chicken very slowly.
*Does the HAPIfork differentiate good food choices from not so good choices?  I could be having deep fried, breaded asparagus instead of steamed asparagus with lemon.
*What if I’m eating oysters?  Not much chewing going on there at all, yet I still have to bring the HAPIfork from the plate to my mouth.

I’m sure the inventors of the HAPIfork have only the best of intentions for my health and well-being, but the bottom line is, for this to work, I still have to govern myself according to my choice of a healthy eating plan.

The selling feature of this fork is the fact that it vibrates.  The vibration is the warning that I am eating too quickly.  I can’t help but compare it to my cell phone.  When I put it on mute and slip it into my pocket, even if I am expecting a call, when that vibration starts it scares the crap out of me.  If I am lifting this fork to my mouth and the fork vibrates am I going to have to same reaction?  Imagine it … suddenly my hand jerks in surprise and food goes flying off the fork hitting the person beside or behind me.  I could unintentionally start a really ugly food fight.

Then I think about dining out.  The waitress takes my order and says, “I’ll be right back with your drinks and silverware”.  I quickly whip out my HAPIfork and reply, “No, no that’s okay.  I brought my own.”

I can only see a future of dining alone.

Going back to the website to check if I missed anything important I noticed an update stating that the HAPIspoon is going to be available soon.  Well I suppose the fork needs a mate on the table.  I can’t help but revisit the vibrate function in conjunction with a spoonful of soup.  The possibilities of misadventure are endless and it does not paint a pretty picture in my mind.

These utensils should be available online sometime within the next month or so.  Oh – the price point?  It looks like they are going to retail somewhere around the $99 mark. 

I’ve made light of this product here, but sincerely, if it helps even one person achieve their health goals, then I hope its launch is successful.  Personally I am going to stick to the tried and true of putting my eating utensils down between bites, chewing each morsel well and enjoying my meals … without any vibration involved. 

Technology is a wonderful thing, but life was simpler when HAPPIness was a warm puppy.

TOPS weigh in on Monday:  I was down 3/4 ... still going in the right direction!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Thursday's Random Thought - Before & After Simulator

I was looking around on the other day and came across an interesting “before and after” type picture.  Clicking on the image led me to a really good link at

There they have a Virtual Weight Loss Simulator and Motivational Tool.  You can pick an appropriate model, either male or female, choose a background and then anonymously input your height, weight and goal weight.  The simulator will generate pictures of how your body will change as you get to your goal weight.

Let’s face it, we all need a lot of motivation and for me, visual is often the best.  The model in the picture is pretty generic but you can pick hair color, facial shape, clothing and the like to make it look as close to yourself as possible for a computer generated image.

If you have a little time and are a little curious, head over and check it out.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Portion Distortion (The Fat Conspiracy)

One good thing about being the (reluctant) group leader at TOPS is that I can discuss things that I am struggling with myself and hopefully help myself and, by association, the others in the group get over a hurdle once in a while.  This week, in an effort to stick with my “Back to Basics” theme to start off the year, I decided we needed to revisit the topic of portion control in general.  Not the most stimulating topic of discussion but one that we need to constantly drill into our heads.  My research turned up a few things I found quite fascinating.

Everyone starts off weighing and measuring everything and then over time we start to “eyeball” it.  Yeah, that never works out well.  Half a cup soon becomes half a plate and that’s never good.  It is tough enough trying to shed pounds without sabotaging yourself by thinking you are making good choices when you are not.  WebMD is a great site for all kinds or resources that I often use when planning meetings.  At there is an excellent Portion Control Guide.

Basically it’s a no brainer; half your plate should be vegetables, a quarter of your plate protein and the other quarter starch.  Not too difficult, right?  That’s what I thought too! 

And that’s where some of my research started to get really interesting in terms of common practices these days.
Did you know that in the early 1990s, the standard size of a dinner plate increased by 2 inches, from 10 inches in diameter to 12 inches?

Neither did I.

Do you have any idea how much food I can fit on an extra two inches of plate?

Trying to lose weight is never easy.  It’s never just about the willpower; there are many factors to take into consideration such as age, gender, physical activity, stress, emotions and overall health.  All of those have validity in the success or failure of any weight loss program.  But the bottom line is all about the math.  Calories in have to be less than calories out!  To quote Jillian Michaels, “A calorie is a calorie is a calorie”.  One pound equals 3500 calories.  If you eat more than 3500 calories over your recommended intake, whether it is in the course of a day or a week, you gain a pound.  It doesn’t matter if you eat 3500 calories worth of Oreos or 3500 calories worth of vegetables.

Now lets go back to the issue of bigger plates.  Our perception of the correct amount of food on a larger plate is that we are being deprived.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, one is less likely to stick to a healthy eating plan when feeling deprived.  Despite the fact that they contain the same quantity of food, if you look at the picture on the left, which plate would you rather be served at dinner?

Larger “standard” plate sizes are not the only culprit in the portion distortion conspiracy.  Over the past few decades, portion sizes of all types of foods have grown.  Everything from the size of a muffin to the size of sandwiches has been “super sized”.  We have been “advertised” into a distorted view of what a typical meal is supposed to look like.

Twenty years ago a person would sit down at a coffee counter and order a coffee.  It was served in a standard 6 or 8 ounce cup, the size of typical small coffee at the drive through of your favorite coffee shop.  However, these days we feel we don’t get our money’s worth unless the cup is at least twelve ounces.  I believe the new Tim Horton’s XL coffee is somewhere around 32 ounces.  If you turn that coffee shop coffee into mocha, your morning coffee has just as many calories as your breakfast.

Not too long ago a read an excellent book called “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” by Chip and Dan Heath.  In one section of this book they described a random experiment carried out a movie theater in which patrons going in to see a movie were given free popcorn.  I am paraphrasing here but the results are the important point.  Some were given a medium (120g) others a large (240g) bag of popcorn, some fresh and some disgustingly stale.  After the movie the patrons were asked to return the bags and comment on the popcorn.  Divided into two groups based on whether they liked the taste of the popcorn, the results were that people with the large size ate more than those with the medium size, regardless of how participants rated the taste of the popcorn

The average size of a bag of popcorn twenty years ago was 5 cups, approximately 270 calories.  Today one of the options at the movie theatres is a Tub of Popcorn clocking in at about 630 calories. We do not have to consume those extra 360 calories, but that is easier said than done.  As the Heath brother’s study shows us, when given food in larger containers, people will consume it.

I would just like to add that “Switch” is not a book about weight loss or dieting, but many of the strategies they use for marketing can definitely be applied to all types of changes we would like to make.

 Increased portion sizes are not the only contributor to the current obesity epidemic but large quantities of inexpensive food have distorted the perception of what a typical meal is supposed to look like.  The following portion comparisons are adapted from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Portion Distortion Quiz.  They give an excellent visual representation of what sizes used to be compared to what they are today.
Thanks to super-sized portions in restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores, we've lost touch with what constitutes an appropriate portion size.   Eating super-sized portions of foods high in fat, sugar and calories can lead to weight gain. It's well established that when served a larger portion of food, people eat more than when given a smaller amount. We tend to think that the portion served, regardless of size, is the appropriate amount to eat.

A study comparing eating habits today with twenty years ago found that participants poured themselves about 20 percent more cornflakes and 30 percent more milk for their morning meal.

According to a 2007 report published in the Journal of Public Health Policy, portion sizes offered by fast food chains are two to five times larger than when first introduced.  When McDonalds first started in 1955, its only hamburger weighted around 1.6 ounces, now; the largest hamburger patty weighs 8 ounces, an increase of 500 percent.  And while a Big Mac used to be considered BIG, it’s on the smaller side of many burger options.  At Burger King, you can get the Triple Whopper; at Ruby Tuesday’s there’s the Colossal Burger, and Carl’s Junior has the Western Bacon Six Dollar Burger.

As seen in the illustration above, even the average size of soda has nearly tripled.

In the 1970’s around 47 percent of the North American population were overweight or obese.  Now 66 per cent of the population falls into the overweight/obese category.  If you take out the overweight column and look at only those considered obese the percentage has doubled from 15 to 30 percent.  This problem has become so severe that the Centre for Disease Control is looking at it as an epidemic. 

In our ongoing battle to make healthy lifestyle choices it's important to distinguish between portion size and serving size.

A "portion size" is just the amount of food someone eats at a sitting.

A "serving size" is a unit of measure that is based on nutrition needs.

Canada’s Food Guide is an excellent source for determining “serving size” based on your caloric intake needs for a day.
Here are some ways to help visualize what a Canada's Food Guide serving size looks like:
3 ounces meat, fish, chicken = 1 deck of cards
4 ounces tofu = baseball
2 tablespoons peanut butter = 1 golf ball
1.5 ounces cheese = 3 dominoes
1/2 cup pasta or rice = 1/2 baseball or a small fist
1 pancake or waffle = a 4-inch CD
1 small muffin = a large egg
1/2 cup cooked vegetables = baseball or a small fist
1 cup salad greens = 1 baseball
1 small baked potato = size of your computer mouse
1 medium sized fruit = 1 baseball
1 teaspoon butter, margarine = tip of your thumb

If that visualization is still too difficult to keep in mind when faced with a plate of food you know is too much.  Remember you have the handiest portion control tool with you at all times.

Many people have difficulty assessing their portion size of starchy foods like bagels, rice and pasta and tend to overeat them. Plus, we tend to cook more than we need at meals so it's tempting to go back for seconds.

There are a few tricks that can aid in keeping portion control in check:
I have a friend who brings Tupperware when she goes out for a meal, and as soon as her food is served she puts half of it in her container to take home for the next day’s lunch or dinner.

Use smaller serving dishes. In a study from Cornell University, people served themselves nearly 60 percent more ice cream - and were unaware they did so - when given a large spoon and big bowl compared to a smaller bowl and spoon. Instead of filling a dinner plate, serve your meal on a luncheon-sized plate (7 to 9 inches in diameter). Use small glasses for milk, juice and other caloric beverages and large glasses for water.

Plate your snacks. Don't snack directly from a large container. To see how much you're eating, measure or count out one serving and put it on a plate. Read the Nutrition Facts box to learn how many crackers, potato chips, cookies, and so on equal one serving.

Go for the real thing. Avoid buying low-fat or light versions of your favourite treats. Research has shown that people eat, on average, 28 to 50 per cent more calories when they eat low-fat snacks than regular ones. Low fat doesn't always mean fewer calories. Fat is often replaced with sugar, reducing calories somewhat but not as much you might think. Low-fat foods are also often perceived as "guilt free", causing people to overindulge. Satisfy your craving with the food you love, just in a small portion.

Avoid temptation. Foods that are visible and within reach encourage overeating. Keep unhealthy snacks hidden at the back of the cupboard or refrigerator. If possible, don't bring them into the house until you need to serve them.
Credit where credit is due:  While searching for images to use during my TOPS meeting (and thereby for this blog) most of them came from three sources;,, and Leslie Beck, Nutritionist.

Using a direct quote from Stephanie Zahlman,  “When you stop off at McDonald’s … get the kids meal!  It’s a serving! Or if you must get a Big Mac (and I say this, because sometimes I MUST), eat half … OMG!  Waste Food?  Its better to throw it away than put all of that extra food into your body.  Better in the trash than on your ass!

It’s unlikely that we’ll see a scaling down of food to appropriate serving sizes anytime soon, so perhaps we should all become familiar with another image:”

TOPS weigh report:
I didn't put the weigh in results in last week because I posted my blog before the weight in.  Last week I was down 1.5 pounds.  Unfortunately, I had a not great week this week, not managing to get any work outs done and it showed on the scale.  I was up .5 pound.  So that's one pound lost in two weeks.  Not good at all and I'm coming into birthday time in our household.  I'm really going to have to do some planning and definitely get some work outs in.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Food Friday - Black Pepper

A study has finally explained the long-known ability of black pepper, and the component known as piperine that gives it its characteristic taste, to block the formation of new fat cells, and help promote healthy weight.

I love it when they say long-known … long known by whom?  And if it’s so long known why did they just do a study?  But that’s just me … on with the article.

Previous studies had shown that piperine reduces fat levels in the bloodstream and has other beneficial health effects.  Black pepper and the black pepper plant have been used for centuries in traditional Eastern medicine to treat gastrointestinal distress, pain, inflammation and other disorders.  However, scientists have known little about how piperine works at the molecular level.  Oh - that's why they just did the study!  Ooops.

The scientists used lab studies and computer models to learn that piperine interferes with the activity of genes that control the formation of new fat cells.  In this was, piperine may also set off a metabolic chain reaction that helps keep fat in check in other ways.  This finding may lead to wider use of piperine or black-pepper extracts in fighting obesity and related diseases.

Kind of makes me wonder if black-pepper extract is going to be the next “wonder cure” for weight-loss, as was Hoodia years ago and the current craze of Green Coffee Extract.  Still think it’s a matter of calories in vs. calories out.  Even so, I thought the study was interesting enough to pass along.  When looking for a picture to post with this ad I found many, many recipes suggesting an “olive oil, black pepper, parmesan” topping for popcorn.  Could be a yummy 100-cal snack, but watch those portions.

Above from the June 2012 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
as published in Vitality Magazine – July/August 2012
(with my thoughts in blue)