Monday, January 31, 2011

U.S. Gov't to Unveil New Dietary Guidelines Today

Healthy eating is hard. It should be easy, but with so many confusing messages and cheap, easily accessible unhealthy options, it's no surprise that people struggle with their diets. So, in an effort to make things a little bit more clear cut and help battle the obesity epidemic in their nation, the U.S. Government is unveiling new dietary guidelines today in a press conference at 10am.

The dietary guidelines have been re-vamped every five years since the 80s, and there have certainly been meaningful and helpful tweaks along the way based on the latest evidence regarding maintaining good health. But what can Americans expect to see that is different today? According to Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University, former member of the scientific committee that produces the guidelines and a huge advocate of healthy, sustainable eating, "The committee made a really big point about how it was impossible for individuals to make healthy food choices, even if they wanted to, in the current food environment,". That environment includes giant portion sizes, and too many visits to restaurants or other unhealthy 'convenient' food options. This is the first time that the food guide might reflect the social environment of the nation, rather than simply focusing on individuals.

In addition to social pressures, another barrier to healthy eating is that the messages in the food guide can often be quite confusing. According to Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the food guide often focuses on nutrients rather than foods themselves, which is hard for most people to wrap their heads around. "They focus on food when the message is positive, but they focus on nutrients when the message is negative," Wootan said. "So they will say, 'eat less sodium, sugars and fats' instead of saying, 'eat less pizza, hamburgers, cookies and soda.' "

Despite this, Nestle, along with other prominent researchers and nutrition professionals, isn't expecting to see too many changes to the current guide. For example, Glenn Gaesser, director of Arizona State University's Healthy Lifestyles Research Center believes that, since science supports the adoption of a plant-based diet, the food guide should eventually start to reflect this fact. "But no," He said, "we'll never see that [in the Dietary Guidelines]. Not in our lifetime. The lobbies are too strong." So, while everyone is waiting eagerly to see what changes will be included in the new food guide, nobody is holding their breath or expecting miracles.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Katy Perry Says Strict Diets Suck

Katy Perry is by no means out of shape. I think that point is pretty well clear; but in order to amp up her stamina and get toned for her upcoming world tour, this California Gurl is doing what most Californians do, and that's going on a diet. Don't forget the bit about working out, too - Californians always seem to be doing that as well and Katy is no exception.

Katy is going on a diet because she wants to be in the best shape of her life, but healthy eating does so much more than that; it's a great way to prevent illness and disease, especially under tons of stress and a crazy busy schedule which is just a tiny snapshot of Katy's life.

After a healthy breakfast, a current day in the life of Katy Perry includes working out, going to a vocal lesson, running through a full set of rehearsals, then dance rehearsals until 10:00pm, followed by going home to sort through e-mails concerning the production. Of this, she has said "I feel like I'm training for the Olympics!". Yup, that's a lot of work!

The trouble is, it would seem, that Katy is more a fan of In-N-Out Burger (though you wouldn't know it) than sticking to strict diets. She must know how to balance healthy eating with a little indulgence here and there because she manages to stay in wonderful shape regardless. In a recent interview, the sexy singer told Rolling Stone Magazine that she's "on a meal plan, which absolutely sucks --" which she followed with "but on Sundays I get to have a cheat day where I go buck wild and eat In-N-Out Burger,". It's also pretty ironic that her tour is all about sugar, cupcakes and candy, but she's not allowed to have any on her meal plan!

Katy has made it clear that she would rather work out than deprive herself of the good things in life in order to balance her caloric intake and output. As long as she doesn't blow all her hard work away on her cheat days, her efforts should pay off in no time. But again - it's not like she needs to lose weight; just stay healthy, Katy!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Junk Food Consumption is Associated with Depression

Which came first, feeling down in the dumps or eating all that ice cream? It could, in reality, be either situation, but new research suggests that poor eating habits may contribute to increasing one's risk of depression.

Spanish researchers followed the eating habits and incidence of depression in over 12,000 Spanish University graduates, at the beginning of the study, were not depressed. After 6 years in the study, 600 people were diagnosed with depression. The researchers reported that the participants who ate the most trans fats had a 48% increased risk of developing depression. Moreover, people who tended to have the worst eating habits also engaged in other unhealthy activities such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. In addition to being overweight, these activities are associated with inflammation within the body, which is associated with depression.

It was found that diets higher in fats, especially trans fats, had the strongest association with the development of depression in the participants, which may be of major significance in the North American population. According to a 2009 report by Health Canada, Canadians consume, an average of about 3.4 grams of trans fat per day, which roughly translates to 1.4% their daily calories. According to the World Health Organization, trans fats should ideally be kept to under 1% of an individual's daily energy intake.

In the study, as it turned out, the most common sources of trans fats were actually cheese and milk, not twinkies, doughnuts or pizza pops. On the flip side of the coin, it was found that participants who followed diets higher in healthy fats like olive oil, with the addition of fish, fruit and vegetables ended up with the lowest risk and incidence of depression. So once again we find that healthy eating is not just good for our physical health, it plays a key role in maintaining our mental health as well.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

To the Rescue: Wal Mart Tries to Reform America's Eating Habits

As a business, they put many others to shame. It seems that no matter what they endeavor to accomplish, the people behind Walmart are successful. This is not always great news in many areas, but Walmart now has a plan to reform the way Americans eat, providing them with healthier food and making their food healthier. With such undisputed influence, could this be just what Americans need to help them reform their eating habits?

When they first moved into the food sector, they came with a bang and quickly took over to dominate grocery sales. Now, Walmart has just unveiled a strategy to improve consumers' accessibility to healthy foods by providing more healthy options coupled with far more reasonable and affordable prices. The First Lady Michelle Obama was on hand to support the announcement.

The plan, which is set to be fully in place by 2015, includes reformulating the existing products in their private 'Great Value' brand by decreasing sodium levels by 25 percent, cutting added sugars by 10 percent, and by removing all remaining trans fats. They also plan to improve the labelling on their packages to make healthy eating easier for consumers by making ingredients and nutrition facts more transparent. In order to save consumers a whopping $1 billion per year on fresh produce, the strategy is all encompassing, touching upon transportation costs to materials to sourcing and many other logistic aspects.

Putting it beautifully, Bill Simon, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. said “No family should have to choose between food that is healthier for them and food they can afford...With more than 140 million customer visits each week, Walmart is uniquely positioned to make a difference by making food healthier and more affordable to everyone. We are committed to working with suppliers, government and non-governmental organizations to provide solutions that help Americans eat healthier and live a better life.”

Wow, is Walmart really spearheading a food revolution? It seems they're in the right position to do this, but the bottom line is simply that someone is doing something. And it's something pretty major!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Feds Get Set to Adjust 'Functional Food' Regulations

It's difficult to walk through the aisles of most grocery stores today without finding all kinds of new foods and products that promise to boost your health. As a society, we're becoming increasingly obsessed with being as healthy as possible, taking matters into our own hands to prevent disease at all costs and seeking new, innovative products along the way to help us achieve these goals. There's nothing wrong with wanting to remain healthy and disease-free, but how extreme do we need to go? Thanks to the potential of new, looser 'functional food' rules, we may soon have more options than ever before when it comes to modified foods and nutritional supplements. But is this a good thing?

A functional food or neutraceutical can be defined as a food or product that goes "beyond the basic nutritional benefits" with "potential disease prevention and health enhancing compounds". A great example of this is BioBest's new yogurt with plant sterols. Yogurt already contains probiotics, calcium and magnesium, just to name a few benefits, but consuming this yogurt can also (possibly) help you fight against heart disease and lower 'bad' cholesterol levels. That's a lot of punch to pack in a little container. But according to Agriculture Canada, we're actually quite behind the times when it comes to the selection of innovative products available on our shelves. Compared to Australia and the U.S., we could be offering a lot more products and encouraging innovation in the food industry at the same time.

However, while some groups applaud this new action plan, others are far more critical. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff from the Bariatric Medical Institute has stated that “The only purpose of adding vitamins and minerals to food is to sell more food,” adding, “The goal is not to protect your health but to sell products." The Canadian Public Health Association and Dietitians of Canada agree with Freedhoff's sentiments that “All we're doing is putting lipstick on bad food,” like margarine and cookies.

This is not to say that there is no value in having a wider range of products that could improve our health, but as with any policy change, there will be consequences for consumers, both positive and negative.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Muscular Men and Thin Women Earn Fatter Paycheques: Study

Yikes, this isn't good. As if people need more reasons to conform to society's unrealistically high standards of attractiveness, a new study suggests that in the workplace, men and women who fit the 'right' physical standards earn more over all.

In the study, it was found that men and women who fit particular stereotypes associated with success, leadership, strength, discipline and good health were more likely to be paid more than their average counterparts. In this case, thin women and more muscular men were found to earn more per year, whereas obese individuals were identified in the study as "undisciplined, dishonest and less likely to do productive work."earned less. Ouch.

It's nothing new that society favours physically attractive people. The thing that changes is what exactly those standards of beauty and perfection are. Unfortunately, these days, skinny women are favoured over their more fuller-figured counterparts and bigger, stronger men are favoured over 'average' ones. From an evolutionary standpoint, we are hard-wired to 'prefer' physically attractive people and project positive characteristics upon them. They must be nice, and fun and hard-working, right?

It should be noted that stereotypes aren't always bad; simply put, they are the result of our brains trying to make life easier for us. With so much information coming at us at any given time, we are forced to group concepts together in order to facilitate decision making and understanding. However, as you can see, this can be helpful at times, while at other times it is most definitely harmful. So, how you interpret the findings of this latest study is entirely based on what context you're considering.

If you consider the monetary aspect within the findings of the study - earning more money- then sure, 'looking the part' might do that for you. However, from a social aspect and even with regards to health (both mental and physical), suggesting that women need to be thin and men need to be husky and strong to get ahead can have some serious negative effects. The same goes with identifying non-conformers as being lazy or poorly suited for their jobs.

These inaccurate stereotypes continue to be perpetuated whether we realize it or not. The only thing we can do is consciously try to re-wire our associations with people's physical features and pay closer attention to what's on the inside in order to make our judgments of them. In the workplace, hard work, skills and contributions should be rewarded, not physical appearance.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Skinny Posh Plumps Up For Motherhood

The cat's out of the bag. Yes, Victoria Beckham aka Posh Spice is pregnant with her fourth child and both her and her hubby David Beckham are hoping that this time, it'll be a girl. But in an effort to give her 3 sons a little sister to play with, Posh was advised to ditch her usual restrictive diet and up the variety (and quantity) of foods she's consuming. Should we call her Nosh Spice now?

For so many years, Vicky's usual no-carb diet consisted of steamed fish and veggies which allowed her to keep up her famous rail thin figure. Fats were also not allowed, nor were sweets or enough calories to maintain her health in general! Now, in order to plump up a little to ensure the health of her baby and up the odds of it being a girl, Posh is re-introducing those 'banned' foods, including lots of cheese, yogurt, milk and whole grains.

Hopefully Posh was still including tons of fruits and veg in her diet when she implemented these changes, as recent research suggests that diets high in those nutritional powerhouses might play a role in tipping the odds towards conceiving a baby girl! Dutch researchers suggest that diets high in fruit and veg, especially dark leafy greens, might work because they contain high amounts of calcium and magnesium, but Posh won't have a problem getting those nutrients with all the dairy she's reportedly consuming. In any case, nothing can be done at this point to change the sex of her baby, but her dietary changes will likely ensure the health of her baby, which is the most important thing.

Unfortunately for Posh, the odds of having a girl are not in her favour, but I guess her fans will be anxiously waiting to find out if her dietary modifications paid off! If they do, who knows - maybe she'll market her diet or write a book on it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What is Healthy Food? Provinces Call On Ottawa to Clarify

Good question, right? It's probably not something you overtly ask yourself from day to day, but you most certainly do have an opinion on what healthy food means to you. The trouble is, your definition may not be the same as someone else's definition which is probably not the same as the opinions of the people who manufacture the foods you eat. So now, while our definitions of health are being shifted and remodeled, nearly all of the provinces are making a plea to Ottawa to clarify what qualifies as 'healthy food'. Good luck, Ottawa!

According to a report from Health Canada, Canadian consumers are regularly being tricked into buying unhealthy foods that are marketed as being healthy, because there are no clear rules in place to prevent this from happening. For example, according to one of the authors of this report, "while a reduced salt snack is better than a fully salted snack . . . it may still remain a salty product and may be not be the healthiest snack choice,". So, just as we have standardized health and nutrient content claims, all of the provinces except Quebec are lobbying for a standardized definition of what a "healthy" food is, so it can be slapped on the front of the packages of foods that qualify.

This quest for a 'standardized' definition of a "healthy food" is likely going to be quite the challenge, as it will obviously have to stem from the word 'health', which in itself has a whack of definitions. The Advisory Group for the Canadian Medical Association puts it best, saying that "Health is a state of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. It is characterized in part by an absence of illness (a subjective experience) and disease (a pathological abnormality) that enables one to pursue major life goals and to function in personal, social and work contexts." While it's a mouthful, it really hits all the main points and highlights the fact that health is not as straight forward as simply 'the absence of disease'.

Does this mean that potato chips can be 'healthy' if they promote mental and emotional well being by making you happy and not making you sick? The lines suddenly become blurred when you really start picking things apart. Nonetheless, the report goes on to say that "The overarching theme from government and non-profit stakeholders is that Health Canada needs to show leadership and develop a standardized definition of healthy foods.". I personally think this is great for consumers in order to keep them better informed, but I'm not certain it's going to impact the choices they make as much as the government might think (or hope). I guess it's just a waiting game now until we find out. What do you think?

You can read the report commissioned in 2009 here if you are interested.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nutrition Labels Won't Change Your Food Choices

Sorry to burst your bubble. Yes, as much as our society is health-obsessed and we would like to believe that 'knowing' that foods are bad for us will help us avoid them, unfortunately, our brains don't work that way and there's plenty of research to back it up.

Food has so many meanings, and it's more than just about eating. Our social circles, cultures and upbringings in addition to our physiological needs shape our preferences and attitudes toward food and eating. We can definitely change what we eat, but unless we make a conscious effort to do so, a fact sheet won't do it for us. Keeping all this in mind, it's not surprising to find that if we are used to eating a certain food or we have grown to love it, we're not going to suddenly stop having it just because someone slapped a lovely info-packed label on top of it. You can't resist cake, even though it contains heaps of butter and sugar, because it means something, it reminds you of a time and place and gives you a distinct feeling like no other.

You might argue that we eat things because they taste good, but I'll tell you that taste is, in fact, all in your head. Before you start throwing things at your screen, keep this in mind: Things taste good because you eat them, and not the other way around. In order for you to experience the physiological sensation of 'taste', you have to first deliver the food into your mouth. The thing in the way of getting food from the outside world into your body is actually your brain. Your preconceptions of what the food will or will not taste like will then shape the way it plays on your tongue and the signals that get sent to your brain.

So, if you grew up eating Big Macs or really love those fresh, never frozen buffalo chicken strips from your local pub, knowing how much sodium or fat they contain won't stop you from eating them, and it definitely won't stop you from enjoying every last morsel.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Is Your Breakfast Sabotaging Your Weight Loss?

Most nutrition professionals agree that breakfast is essential for good health as it kick starts your metabolism at the start of a new day and gives you lots of energy to get through the morning. But as with most good things, there's a catch. As you may have guessed, not all breakfasts are created equal, and some may actually be causing you to gain weight rather than help you keep it off and maintain good health.

Have you ever heard the saying "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper?" This can indeed be a useful strategy to help balance your energy levels throughout the day, but the trouble is, this strategy is often tough to follow. According to German researchers, it was found that people who had larger breakfasts and promised to eat lighter throughout the day weren't able to follow through with their intentions and tended to go for regular-sized meals and the overall effect is the consumption of an excess of calories.

When some people think 'eat breakfast like a king', they seem to in fact be channeling the Burger King, serving up bacon, sausage links, eggs, hash browns and toast with butter. Others opt for jumbo muffins, waffles with syrup or French toast with powdered sugar on top. Better yet, some people jump straight ahead to dessert for breakfast in the form of sugary cereal. A healthy breakfast should actually be packed with fibre-containing fruit and whole grains, healthy fats, lean protein and maybe some low-fat dairy in the mix. Breakfast doesn't have to be boring to be healthy, or bad for you to taste good. There are so many possibilities for a healthy breakfast that boasts amazing health benefits while tasting sinfully delicious, so you never feel like you're missing out.

Choosing a healthy breakfast that is packed with good nutrition is a great way to reach your weight loss goals and have lots of energy throughout the morning. You can absolutely have bacon and eggs if you have one whole egg with two whites and some lean peameal back bacon, turkey bacon or extra lean ham. Pair that with a slice of whole grain toast spread with avocado or light margarine and you're good to go. Or how about buckwheat pancakes with light jam? Throw in a piece of fruit and you're golden. Breakfast is the best time to get in lots of fibre, as whole grains are a great source, and many high fibre cereals are absolutely delicious. Breakfast is also a great time to have those berries, or a banana, pear, apple or kiwi to start off your fruit and veggie quota for the day.

See, you really can have the best of both worlds while maintaining good health and sticking to your healthy weight goals!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Taking Regular Breaks at Work is Key For Weight Loss

You may not know it, but numerous studies have linked prolonged periods of sitting with an increased risk of death from a variety of causes. You do the math: sitting + not moving around + not burning calories + not getting your heart rate up = piling on the pounds and upping your risk of suffering from chronic diseases. So it should not be a huge surprise to hear that taking small breaks at work or picking your bum off the sofa for a brief walk of even one minute is beneficial to your health and may hold the key to helping you lose weight!

Moving around, even if you're not breaking into a sweat, gives your mind a break from your current task, helps with circulation, facilitates the drawing of glucose into your cells so that it can be used as energy (the same thing insulin does) and decreases levels of the inflammatory mediator c-reactive protein which can damage your heart and lead to heart disease. Additionally, if you had been munching away at your desk, taking a break to walk to the water cooler for a refreshment or chat with a co-worker may give your hands and mouth something else to do other than eating.

According to Dr. Genevieve Healy from the University of Queensland, who led the study, "the potential adverse health impact of prolonged sitting (which is something that we do on average for more than half of our day), is only just being realised". She went on to say that the findings of this current research, which showed that even making small changes can be beneficial to your health and can assist with weight loss, "are likely to have implications for settings where prolonged sitting is widespread, such as in offices." Her advice? "Stand up, move more, more often". Hey - Isn't it break time right about now?

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Beer a Day Keeps The Doctor Away

Quick! Stop what you're doing - go tell your friends that you're all going for a pint tonight. Perhaps you think I'm crazy to be promoting beer drinking, but really, it can be just as good for you as wine! Drinking wine in moderation is an important part of the Mediterranean diet and has many touted health benefits including reducing diabetes and heart disease risks and even weight loss. So go ahead, now you mentally group beer in that category as well.

Please don't assume I'm telling you it's OK to go binge drinking. Yes, alcohol is a tricky thing - studies have proven time and time again that in healthy individuals (i.e. free of illness), having a little alcohol has many benefits to heart health and disease prevention as compared with not having any drinks or too many drinks. Having 1 drink of 5 oz wine, 1 oz spirits or 355 mL beer for a woman and 2 for a man each day is actually protective in healthy people. You wouldn't know it, but beer actually contains folic acid, vitamins, iron and calcium.

Think of it as a U-shaped curve on a graph - your risk of heart disease is higher on the left hand side with no drinks, lower in the middle at 1-2 drinks, and then pops back up and goes up, up and away beyond 2 drinks. Beer gets a bad rap because it's associated with beer bellies and belching, which is part in parcel to alcohol's ability to make us want to nosh - most obviously on fatty foods like chips and take out. In other words, drinking heavily is bad for your health, but sip on that brew and you'll outlive a sea turtle (don't hold me to that).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Don't Let Sore Muscles Hinder Your Goals

Right about now - mid January - is when all those new devout gym-goers who resolved to get fit in 2011 start backing away from the elliptical machine. Sore muscles tend to be the culprits that kill the honeymoon phase of regular gym attendance, but don't let them stop you from reaching your health and weight loss goals.

While it's true that you should take things a bit easier when your muscles are sore, you also have to give them time to heal or else you may not set foot back at the gym for a little while. Not to mention the discomfort you'll be feeling from day to day.

Muscle soreness is the result of the formation of tiny tears in your muscles that get filled in with amino acids - the building blocks of proteins - in order to patch up the gaps and grow your muscles. You should try to leave a day in between each workout so that those tears can heal properly and help you avoid damaging your tissues and being even more sore. Healthy eating is especially important on days that you work out - be sure to have at least 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight, or about 0.4g per pound. So if you weigh 120lbs, you should have at least 44g protein per day, which is only about an ounce and a half, or the size of half a deck of playing cards! If you, like the average person, bump that up to 3oz of lean protein per day you and include lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, you should be well on your way to seeing the body shaping results you're looking for.

If your muscles are especially sore, try taking a hot shower, gently massaging your muscles, and gently stretching them out once they have been warmed up. Stretching your muscles cold is like trying to stretch a cold elastic band - much more likely to snap and result in injury which is never ever a good thing.

So folks, stick with it, don't give up, and show those skeptics who's still going to be at the gym come next month (and the next and the next...).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sleep Well and Exercise to Boost Energy and Lose More Weight

Just as suddenly as the holidays came, with an onslaught of indulgence and bad habits, they've virtually vanished into thin air, even if your Christmas tree is still standing. They may feel like they ended ages ago, but try telling that to your body; I mean, it is only early January. In the event you ate a few too many slices of cheesecake or gingerbread cookies, sipped on a few too many cocktails and stayed up til all hours of the night catching up with friends and family, your body is still likely feeling the backlash and dealing with the consequences.

I bet the number one item on people's list of new year's resolutions is weight loss or 'getting healthy', most likely through changes in their diets, but that just may not be enough, nor is it entirely the answer. Experts agree that the missing link to help get you back on track and better than ever is a combination of healthy eating, sleeping enough and keeping active. Even if you didn't necessarily get a chance to travel or go abroad, your body might still be feeling the effects of a sort of 'holiday jet lag', struggling to catch up to a normal schedule and routine. So, not surprisingly, the same sort of strategies that you would use in getting over real jet lag can be applied in this situation.

First and foremost, you've got to get back to a regular sleep schedule, making sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Studies have shown time and time again that a lack of sleep works to pack on the pounds and makes weight loss more difficult. And speaking of schedules, be sure to start scheduling your meals in regular intervals, and for Pete's sake, please don't skip any! Yes, you've got to cut back on the fat, but you actually have to eat to lose weight, albeit smaller meals focusing on nutrient-rich foods, spaced out more evenly throughout the day.

Next, be sure to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day. This will work to boost your energy levels and help you sleep better at night. No, you don't have to squeeze into those yoga pants just yet (of course, unless you want to!) - there are so many ways to make up 30 minutes of butt-moving each day, especially since that time can be made up of shorter intervals. Take a ten minute break to grab a coffee, 10 minutes to run some errands and maybe just go for a plain old walk on your lunch break - indoors is fine if you like!

Give it a try for the next week or so and your energy levels should definitely be boosted compared to how you may be feeling today. Go on!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Natalie Portman: "I thought I was going to Die"

This story just keeps on getting more and more intense. Yes, we already knew that the stunning Star Wars actress had to drop down to a very unhealthy weight for her role as a ballerina in Black Swan. While being ballerina thin is the norm for some, Natalie differs in that she is publicly speaking out about the overall experience of going down to such a low weight - weight that she barely had on her body to lose in the first place! Natalie is candidly speaking about the struggles, challenges and dangers she faced while living with anorexia, which is really inspirational and a wonderful cautionary message to women everywhere to take note of...especially when the topic of death is involved!

“There were some nights that I thought I literally was going to die. It was the first time I understood how you could get so wrapped up in a role that it could sort of take you down," said the star in a recent interview. In order to achieve the look and technique of a ballerina who had been training for many years, Portman trained for 16 hours a day and barely ate. Real ballerinas often skip breakfast, have a small salad for lunch, a few nuts here and there and fruit for dinner. That can't be more than 300-500 calories a day. Subtract the calories burned from dancing all day and you've got anorexia! In addition, many ballerinas smoke, drink tons of coffee and do yoga to calm their minds. How can a person live like that? Compared to real dancers, Portman had to expedite the process for filming, which took a toll not only on her body but also on her mind. Her role consumed her life. Even though she achieved a body that a lot of young girls and some women would die for - Portman didn't want it because it was literally killing her.

Now that filming has wrapped, Portman has bounced back to a healthy weight - and then some. The petite star is now a mommy-to-be! Promising to never put her body through such torture again, at least she can say that the hard work more than paid off - Natalie has been nominated for a Golden Globe award, a SAG award and there is a ton of Oscar buzz surrounding Black Swan.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sound Diet Advice: Choose Your Diet Like a Partner

Just as you wouldn't date someone solely based on the fact that they are compatible with your friend or co-worker, you shouldn't necessarily follow the same diet that they do on the basis that it works for them! Finding a diet that works uniquely for you, like finding a good partner, can be challenging and often takes lousy dates before you find one that want to stick with.

Before you start on any weight loss plan, take a step back and really look at your lifestyle, your likes and dislikes. Are you constantly on the go? Do you want to be able to eat the same stuff as always? What cooking methods are available to you, and which ones do you regularly use? Do you prefer going to the gym or are long walks more up your alley? You really have to lay out your lifestyle almost like you were setting up an e-harmony account in order to be able to match a diet to your unique lifestyle and traits.

If you think you can just pick up any old diet without thinking it through, you might indeed lose a few pounds initially, but you may actually gain some weight in the end as well. It's funny how that works, but sometimes, choosing the wrong diet can backfire and cause you to bounce back to your old habits very quickly and more intensely than before. Some great examples of how that can happen are when you follow diets that deprive you and then you snap, throw in the towel and gorge, or you get a gym membership and go regularly, then realize it's not for you, but you don't adjust your food intake to make up for the lack of exercise.

First and foremost, when devising a plan to help you reach your health and weight loss goals, think long-term - sustainability is key. Find something that you can really stick with and be proud of, and the results will show before you know it.

Time for Links! Ginnifer Goodwin's Diet, What Keeps French Women Slim and the Power of the Mediterranean Diet

Shocking! People are still reeling about Ginnifer Goodwin's diet confessions. Healthy eating is totally fine at any age, so long as it's not restrictive. (via Sky Entertainment)

Aha! The real reason French men are so supportive of their ladies' diets, saying "C'est mauvais pour ton régime, chérie!" (via the Telegraph)

There just isn't enough anyone can say about the amazing health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet - it's the healthiest way you can eat as well as the basis for so many other diets! (via the Toronto Sun)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Year's Weight Loss Tips From 'The Last 10 Pounds Bootcamp'

How much do you love watching people toil and torment to struggle to fit into their 'goal outfits' while you sit back on your couch eating popcorn? Yeah, it's a guilty pleasure many of us have, but there is a lot we can all learn from watching 'The Last 10 Pounds Bootcamp", not to mention the much needed motivation it provides (for some of us). And as we enter a brand new year with brand new resolutions (or the same ones from last year), it's the perfect time to collect some useful tips from one of the shows' personal trainers and nutritionists, Nadeen Boman.

Despite not returning to the show this season, Boman offered some excellent pointers for those needing a few weight loss hints that are especially helpful as we kick off 2011.
Firstly, according to Boman, "Everybody knows we don't live up to New Year's resolutions--the term is almost jinxed," -- so what do we do about this? Set realistic goals. If you set unrealistic goals and don't reach them, you'll probably give up. Set smaller short-term goals that you expect to reach in the next 2 weeks, month, 3 months and so on, as well as long-term ones. We tend to set huge goals that we expect to reach ASAP, whereas those goals are more realistically attainable in a year or maybe two.

Her next tip is to be consistent. Treat this your workout schedule like your work schedule - be accountable, set and keep appointments. Plan ahead, schedule your workouts and actually do them.

Her third tip is to write it down. Make your goals and progress visible. Connect your thoughts and actions. One handy tip is to get a calendar, make checkboxes for workouts and fill them in or tick them off when you do them. Think of it like the stickers you used to get back in elementary school as a reward for doing well. Also, be sure to track and journal your struggles, progress and weight loss. Do you feel stronger? Are workouts easier? What was your weight?

Finally, call in back up, and not just in desperate times. Any way you can get motivation is great - whether it's a friend, your playlist, your family or your 'goal outfit' - have a reason to do what you're doing and it won't seem so hard!

All in all, if you're realistic about your goals and the process of achieving them, you're more likely to stick to the plan and reap the rewards. All you need to start with is a pen and paper!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Facebook is Helping Users Get Healthy

With our hectic lives and crazy schedules, it's understandably hard for Canadians to make time for appointments. We tend to visit the doctor or other health professionals only when things reach their breaking points because for many, quite frankly, health is not high on their to-do lists. Health is not something we can see, and we don't always know when things are broken until it's too late. So if we barely have time to see the doctor, and "no time" to go to the gym, how is one expected to keep in touch with their Nutritionist to help stay on track with their health and weight loss goals? Enter Facebook!

You don't actually have to be all that tech-savvy to have a Facebook account. As daunting as it may seem, it's only as complicated as Hotmail until you start adding the bells and whistles. This is why many health professionals are turning to social media to stay in touch with their clients with, for example, regular weigh-ins and the opportunity to have their questions answered. Asking an expert sure beats some Google results that might scare you into thinking you've got who-knows-what.

Research strongly supports the fact that having a solid support system keeping in touch with you and keeping tabs on your goals and accomplishments significantly increases your odds of success. It's not enough to simply go at it alone, as most of our willpower instantly melts away with one whiff of a freshly-baked-anything. Honestly.

See for yourself, there are so many groups you can join and if you're on any type of a diet, your service is sure to have a Facebook account or else they're in the stone age (check ours out here). So don't be shy, if you have questions, fire away. You may just get healthier and lose weight that much faster, far more consistently and for the long term! You can't beat that.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Eating Healthy Foods is Not the Same as a Healthy Diet

This is a point, I've come to realize, that people get confused about time and time again. Yes, healthy foods are of course better than hamburgers and chocolate bars, but in order to be healthy and ward off disease, the bigger picture is what matters. Why am I droning on about this again? Because a new poll has found that 9 out of 10 Americans think their diet is "somewhat", "very" or "extremely" healthy, and yet over 65% of the population is overweight or obese, meaning they are not healthy! So what gives?

First off, delusion is not entirely to blame. People are told which foods are healthy, so they want to eat more of them to prevent diseases. The problem is that so many people lack the basic skills and foundations required to understand nutrition labels and the concept of calories, that those facts become secondary, and 'eating healthy food' becomes primary. Imagine someone who eats lots of salmon, almonds, walnuts, avocados, olive oil and dark chocolate on the regular, plus a little red wine here and there, without understanding how many calories they need, or how many calories those foods contain? You really only need a very small amount of each in order to be healthy, and once you go beyond your required fat and calorie intake, the benefits that those foods confer are negated by the negative health effects of overweight and obesity.

Diabetes doesn't care if you eat salmon. High blood pressure doesn't care if you eat walnuts - if you are overweight, you are at risk. A smarter idea? Eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and other fibre-rich yet low calorie foods, with a sprinkling of those other 'healthy' foods and limit alcohol to 1 standard drink a day. This way, even if you don't know exactly how many calories are in foods or how many you need, you'll feel full on fewer calories and will most likely lose weight if you need to. Bottom line - a healthy diet includes eating healthy foods but, equally importantly, eating the right number of calories!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Canada's Obesity Epidemic Showcased on New CBC Series

Certainly, you've seen the statistics - obesity is on the rise all over the world. Even though Americans get most of the flak, it's not just happening in the U.S.; Canadians are heavier than ever - more than a quarter of all Canadians are Obese, with even greater numbers at an unhealthy weight. The consequences of overweight and obesity are many, but Statistics Canada sums it up nicely: Obesity (defined as a Body Mass Index or BMI of >30 kg/m^2) is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, some cancers and gallbladder disease. As well, psychosocial problems, functional limitations and disabilities are associated with excess weight. That is all some pretty scary stuff. So in order to shed some light on the obesity epidemic and highlight what we can all do to help keep our weight in check, the CBC is airing a new mini-series showcasing the struggles and successes of the people of one Northern B.C village with a disproportionately high obesity rate.

B.C. is actually the healthiest province in Canada, with the lowest overall obesity rates. But things are a little different in the North. Roughly 60% of the population of the Northern town of Taylor, B.C. is overweight or obese which is the perfect backdrop for a weight loss TV series called Village on a Diet. In the 10 episodes that span over a 3-month time period, the town of Taylor intends to collectively lose 1 ton of weight among the population.

The town of 1,400 people is mining- and forestry-driven, where dietary staples include meat and potatoes Exercise is sparse in the harsh cold winter months. A team of professionals including a doctor, personal trainers, a registered dietitian, psychologist and chef will join forces to help get this town healthy. I'm sure they can do it, but it will be so interesting to see just how well they can do!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fruit and Vegetable Diet Ups the Odds of Having a Daughter

Well, it may not be the reason why you are choosing to nosh on fruits and veggies, but what the heck! According to Dutch researchers, women who chow down on a plant-based diet increase their odds of giving birth to a daughter rather than a son. The scientists believe that the reason for this phenomenon is due to the high amounts of calcium and magnesium found in plant foods, especially dark leafy greens.

It seems a little strange for an experiment, but women hoping to conceive daughters followed a diet plan created by the scientists, while the 'control' group just ate whatever they normally would. In the special diet group, 80% of women went on to have daughters.

Nine weeks before they were planning to conceive, the women in the special diet group started eating more fruits, vegetables and rice in order to up the amounts of calcium and magnesium in their blood. They also took supplements of these nutrients. The researchers aren't totally sure why or how this works, but they believe that the proof is in the pudding; in their trials, it has worked. The scientists also believe that diets higher in sodium and potassium, including more bananas, and potatoes, would be more likely to help the odds of having a son but this has not yet been tested.

"People now know that if they do everything we have suggested, their chances of having a girl will improve dramatically," said Annet Noorlander, a biologist with the group conducting the trials. It's so amazing how our diets can affect so many aspects of life, even down to the finest details.