Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The World's Best Holiday Weight Advice

3 words.

Don't. Get. Hungry.

Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Muharram or any religious holiday) isn't preventable.

Hunger is.

Life includes Christmas.

Worst thing you could do to help control portions/foods/calories on Christmas? Save them up for the day because you know you have a big night. If you do that you'll hit your festive meal hungry and way over do it.

Best thing you could do? The day of - eat every 2-3 hours, include protein with every meal and snack, have at least 350 calories per meal and 150 calories per snack and then indulge because it's Christmas and not because you're hungry on Christmas.

Merry everything and Happy New Year!

(On Blog-cation until January 5th!)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Disney Creates World's Vilest Burger?


Served with pride in Disneyland Paris' Buzz Lightyear Pizza Planet is a burger with pizza for a bun.

Only €6.45.

Thanks Disney for providing yet another healthy option for the children.

[Hat tip to loyal blog reader Stefan, via A Hamburger Today and Flickr's Ms Noir for the photo]

Monday, December 22, 2008

Shocker! Restaurant Food has More Calories!

Sure, common sense already told you so, but now here's proof.

In last weeks issue of Review of Agricultural Economics James Binkley looked at, "Calorie and Gram Differences between Meals at Fast Food and Table Service Restaurants".

His non-shocking conclusions?

  • Calories and portions in restaurant meals are larger than at home ones and restaurants are as bad if not worse calorically than fast food.
  • Breakfasts at table service restaurants typically had 261 more calories than home cooked and fast food 206 more.
  • Lunches at table services restaurants typically had 183 more calories than home cooked and fast food 227 more.
  • Dinners at table service restaurants typically had 219 more calories than home cooked and fast food 120 more.

    Couple those conclusions with the facts that food dollars spent outside the home have increased from 33% in the early 70s to 54% today and that obesity rates have risen dramatically since the early 70s (doubling in adults and trebling in children) and you've got one clear cut puzzle piece.

    My simple eating out rules?

    Keep celebratory meals out. Keep some social meals out (but look for other socializing options). Keep necessary business meals out. Lose all the convenience ones, the because it's easier than cooking ones.

    Quite simply eat out the smallest amount you need to be happy.

    [Via Parke Wilde's US Food Policy blog - because what other blogger are you aware of that reads Review of Agricultural Economics?]
  • Friday, December 19, 2008

    Toilet Humour - Literally

    I really am a simple man.

    Enjoy Funny Friday and have a great weekend!

    [Hat tip to Rob, BMI's fitness director]

    Thursday, December 18, 2008

    Surprise! Booze has Calories!

    Surprisingly to me, many patients are shocked when I tell them how many pounds worth of calories they're drinking in booze.

    Perhaps one of the reasons they're shocked is that they truly have no idea and the reason they have no idea is because for reasons that I cannot explain, alcohol is exempt from carrying a Nutrition Facts Panel.

    Well now, thanks to a lovely website from the BBC entitled "Alcohol Experiment" you can plug in your nights' drinks and see how many calories you drank.

    Be forewarned - if you like drinking, you won't like the answer.

    (And for any across the pond readers, can you please leave a comment as to just what the heck is a "jaffa cake" or an "onion bhajji"?)

    [Via the Consumerist]

    Thanks to friend and colleague Sara and blog reader Cathy who have informed me that jaffa cakes are, "cake-like (i.e.spongy) cookies with a thin layer of an orange jelly and then a layer of chocolate" and that onion bhajjis are, "onions coated in a spicy batter and deep fried". Apparently both are delicious.

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    Burger King - the Cologne?!

    Who doesn't love the smell of flame-broiled meat?

    They really are great marketers those Burger King folks.

    $3.99 - It's called Flame.

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    My Wife Channels Jamie Oliver

    A ways back I blogged about Jamie Oliver's latest show, Ministry of Food, in which he tries to teach a British town of 250,000 how to cook by teaching his recipes to a few folks, asking them to teach them to a few folks and so on, and so on.

    My wife, inspired by Jamie's social experiment, decided to host one of her own whereby she's organized a group of her friends to share their families' favourite recipes.

    Here's the email she sent out to her friends,
    "So Yoni and I just finished watching Ministry of Food with Jamie Oliver.

    Basically the show tries to teach people in a small town to cook by “passing it on”, whereby each person who learns a recipe passes it on to two more people and so on. Between that and seeing all these advertisements for places like Super Works in Orleans, I had an idea: What if we create our own “pass it on”? We could choose one night a month where we get together at someone’s home (on a rotation) and the hostess chooses the meal that we are going to be making together. This would give us an opportunity to:

    a) hang out (more),
    b) learn a new recipe that comes with high recommendations,
    c) have a nutritious meal ready to serve to our families the next day

    We would each be responsible for providing a list of ingredients needed for the recipe ahead of time and would bring it along, or the hostess could pick it all up and then divide the cost of the groceries amongst participants.

    Let me know if you’re interested! (Can you tell I’m getting bored with our usual repertoire of meals?)
    Well today I'm pleased to report that the idea was a big hit whereby she and 6 of her friends met at our house and made a chicken curry dish that has proven to be surprisingly child and picky-eater friendly (Recipe Below). They've also already set a date for their next culinary adventure.

    Maybe it's time for you and your friends to "Pass it On"?

    Slow-Cooker Chicken Curry
    • 1.5lbs chicken breast half without skin, cut in 1" cubes
    • 1.5lbs chicken thighs without skin, cut in 1" cubes
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 medium Onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
    • 1 teaspoon turmeric
    • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
    • 2 teaspoons paprika
    • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
    • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets, stems discarded
    • 1 cup peas, frozen, thawed
    1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions to the pan and cook until softened.
    2. Add the garlic, chiles, coriander, turmeric, cumin, ginger, paprika, red pepper flakes, and mustard seeds and cook gently for 2 min, stirring constantly.
    3. Add the tomatoes and lemon juice and mix well.
    4. Puree half of the tomato-onion mixture in a blender or food processor or in the pan with a handheld immersion blender.
    5. Coat the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.
    6. In layers add to the slow cooker one-third of the Chicken (dark meat first) and one quarter of the sauce, and sprinkle with one-third of the cauliflower. Repeat the layers two more times and finish with the remainder of the sauce.
    7. Cover and cook on High for 1 hour.
    8. Turn the cooker to Low and cook for 4-4.5 hours.
    9. During the last 30 minutes, toss in the peas, season with salt, cover and cook until tender.
    10. Serve over whole-grain couscous.
    Serves 10.

    Per Serving (excluding couscous): 198 Calories; 7g Fat; 23g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 194mg Sodium.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Thank you!

    Thanks to everyone who voted, Weighty Matters was voted Best Health Blog in the 2008 Canadian Blog Awards.

    Close second place to my friend and colleague Dr. Arya Sharma for his Obesity Notes blog. I'm predicting a first place finish for him next year.

    Thanks again,

    An Amazing $15.99 Nutritional Stocking Stuffer!

    It's called Mastercook and it's a recipe manager program.

    Like many such programs it'll compile and store all of your family's recipes, it has a shopping list generator and thousands of built in recipes. However there are two things that really set this one apart for me.

    Firstly it's got this great feature that allows you to cut and paste a recipe from virtually any recipe website directly into your cookbooks.

    Secondly it's got a nutritional database built in and with the click of a button you can immediately get a nutritional breakdown of your recipe (calories, vitamins, carbs, protein, sugar, fibre, etc.) and best of all, it's scalable (meaning enter all of your ingredients and then enter how many servings you served and it'll scale the nutritional information down for you).

    I love the program and for $15.99 CAD from it's tough to go wrong (for some reason charges more - $18.99 USD).

    If you're interested, links to both and are below.

    Friday, December 12, 2008

    Holiday Eating - Canine Edition

    As I've blogged about before, unlike in people the cause, and more importantly the treatment of canine obesity is not too difficult to ascertain.

    To illustrate the point is today's Funny Friday!

    Have a great weekend!

    [Hat tip to my friend and sensei - Claudio, from]

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Why Your Child's Food isn't "Bone Stiffening"

    I love this story.

    So in 2006 the European Food Safety Authority tightened up the requirements for health claims on packaging. They (gasp) required a more rigorous proof be made by corporate applicants that the front-of-package claim was actually scientifically defensible.

    So what's happening?

    Apparently Big Food is up in arms because sales are suffering as claims like the one put forth by the Beneo-Orafti corporation that was slotted to appear on kids' foods suggesting that the food was "bone stiffening" are not making the cut.

    For icing on this blog post, check out this quote from Shane Starling, editor of Big Food newsletter (and source for many of my blog posts) Nutraingredients,
    "If one of the aims of the health claims process is to build consumer confidence in healthy food messaging, a mass rejection of those claims by an apparently rational and independent body can only do the opposite."
    Yup Shane, it's those crazy rational independent bodies demanding an evidence-based approach to health claims that are going to crush consumer confidence, not asinine and scientifically unsubstantiable claims like, "bone stiffening".

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Why Oprah Regained her Weight


    All the money in the world (and I believe Oprah literally has all the money in the world) won't change the fact that at the end of the day the way you live is a choice and not a purchase.

    In Oprah's case, she admits to stopping her exercise sessions, her meditations and going back to eating higher calorie foods.

    Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not knocking Oprah. Frankly I can't imagine what her life must actually be like. The hours she works, her stress levels, her responsibilities - not to mention the incredible amount of meals out that her job likely requires of her.

    Oprah had succeeded in losing weight before because she succeeded in changing her lifestyle. That said, unless you enjoy the way you're living while you're losing, ultimately you're going to gain it back.

    Life's complicated and lifestyle for weight management is a treatment, not a cure. Stop treatment - regain weight. So really, you'd better pick a treatment you actually enjoy.

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008

    Cultural Arrogance or Brilliant Marketing?

    It's been out for one day and already there is a lot of uproar over Burger King's new "Whopper Virgin" campaign.

    The premise is simple. Take Whoppers to people who've never had them (farmers in Transylvania, the Inuit in Greenland, the Hmong tribe of Southeast Asia) and see how they like them.

    The uproar generally has to do with how dare Burger King take these weapons of mass consumption and unleash them on unsuspecting locals, or how culturally arrogant Burger King is for making a commercial with an overarching theme that the poor indigenous folks don't know what they're missing or even questioning Burger King's journalistic integrity by pointing out that it's not really a documentary.


    Frankly I've never cared about Big Food's existence or their marketing (so long as it doesn't exploit children) as we live in a free-market society, and really I'm not worried that the Hmong tribe is suddenly going to start planting Burger King franchises, or that they were culturally offended by the cinematographers who after sharing Whoppers with them also shared their traditional meals, nor do I care that at the end of the day it's a commercial and not a documentary. I wasn't even offended by the clearly staged ceremonial dress which I imagine was meant to convey that we're dealing with modern day savages because my bet is that the locals were paid well to wear cloths that they themselves are likely culturally proud of and really it's our own issues of perception that are being exploited and at the end of the day isn't that what commercials are designed to do


    Even with my flea-like attention span I managed to watch the whole thing - and enjoy it.

    And for the record, I prefer Big Macs.

    Monday, December 08, 2008

    Learn to Count with Doughnuts?

    Came across these stupendous games while speaking at the Family Medicine Forum in Toronto last weekend.

    They're made by a company called Learning Resources from a line of games quobesigenically entitled, "Smart Snacks".

    The box reads,
    "Imaginative Play that Teaches"
    Do you think maybe, just maybe, letting your toddlers play with models of cookies and doughnuts might make them more likely to want to eat more cookies and doughnuts?

    Now I'm not one to forbid my kids or anyone else's kids treats - they're part of life, but do you really think that going out of your way to keep doughnuts and cookies in the foreground of your toddler's consciousness is the best plan?

    (If only they made these in ice-cream sandwich versions that St. Andrew Catholic School could use in local preschool feeder schools - might do wonders for their Grade 1 class' weekly ice-cream sandwich fundraising!)

    Saturday, December 06, 2008

    Last Chance to Vote!

    A rare weekend post just to let you know that this weekend is your last chance to vote for the Best Canadian Health Blog!

    The other health blogs making it through to the finals are:
    Please have a peek at all the blogs and here's my brief pump of my friend and colleague Arya's Obesity Notes Blog and of the interesting and personal perspective of the blogger behind Salted Lithium who details his life with manic depression.

    When you're ready to vote just click here!

    To see all the other categories feel free to take a trip over here!

    Friday, December 05, 2008

    World's Most Wanted Wiener

    [BEST HEALTH BLOG FINALIST: The final round of voting is on and today's the last weekday to vote! Please vote for your favourite Canadian health blog by clicking here.]

    Wieners are on on the menu for today's Funny Friday.

    Have a great weekend!

    [Hat tip to Rob, BMI's fitness director]

    Thursday, December 04, 2008

    My 4 Year Old Donates her Hair to Kids on Chemo

    [BEST HEALTH BLOG FINALIST: The final round of voting is on - please vote for your favourite Canadian health blog by clicking here.]

    My wife too (and yes, that is my daughter having a small lollipop - we're not nutritional ogres and there was a cookie jar full of them at the hair salon).

    You know I've known my wife for 8 wonderful years and during that time we've had 3 houses, 5 jobs, 2 beautiful children, and in my wife's case - 4 haircuts.

    Why only 4 haircuts?

    Because for as long as I've known her my wife has been growing her hair long enough to donate to "Locks of Love", a charity that uses donated hair to make wigs for children who for various reasons (including chemo) don't have any.

    This year my ridiculously kind-hearted, 4 year old daughter (clearly she takes after her mother), decided that she wanted to donate her hair too and sure enough yesterday both of them had 10 inches removed.

    If you've got hair to donate and you live in Ottawa this year's "Mitzvah Day" (translates from Hebrew to Good Deeds Day) which takes place this Sunday is including a Locks of Love station. If you've got 10 spare inches of hair, professional stylists are donating their time to cut the ponytails and style your hair for free.

    Despite its location at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre and its Hebrew name, Mitzvah Day is a non-denominational event with monetary proceeds this year going to Ottawa's Snowsuit Fund.

    It's a great event, a great cause and if you want to come there are many activities for all ages including making hygiene kits for parents of patients at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, birthday celebration kits for children in shelters, cheer kits for seniors and welcome kits for new immigrants.

    There will also be entertainment for the kids in the form of Dr. Kaboom!

    When: Sunday December 7th from 8am through 1pm (free breakfast)
    Where: Soloway Jewish Community Centre, 21 Nadolny Sachs Private, Ottawa

    If you're there feel free to come and say hi!

    Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    Is This the Future of Childhood Obesity Treatment?

    [BEST HEALTH BLOG FINALIST: The final round of voting is on - please vote for your favourite Canadian health blog by clicking here.]

    Lord I hope not.

    Last week I attended a talk at the Family Medicine Forum in Toronto (the largest Canadian family medicine conference of the year). The talk was entitled,
    "Childhood obesity in 2008: A growing challenge for family physicians"
    and according to the conference program the learning objectives for this talk included,
    "1. to increase awareness of the importance of childhood obesity,
    2. to improve participants’ clinical skills towards children and adolescents,
    3. to introduce a multimodal, integrative treatment strategy including practical instruction on exercise, nutrition, family
    recruitment, medications, and more invasive options, and
    4. to work to improve advocacy and prevention strategies at the patient as well as community levels
    To help frame their talk the speakers used a hypothetical case of a 16 year old, obese, socially withdrawn, depressed female and then highlighted what they thought treatment should include.

    Want to know their proposed treatment plan?

  • One hour of exercise daily.
  • No TV.
  • No Internet.
  • No going out to eat.
  • No junk food.
  • Plate regular portions and then take away 10% weekly

    What was not included? Any strategy to reduce hunger (ie. eating every 2-3 hours, including protein with every meal and snack, having sufficient numbers of calories per meal and snack, improving the quality of her carbohydrates by switching to whole grain versions, fueling properly for her hour of exercise etc), any discussion regarding calories and tracking food with a food diary (despite the recent study showing those who keep them lose twice as much as those who don't), any discussion regarding her depression (important given that an active depression is a contraindication to initiating an effort of intentional weight loss).

    Basically they took this socially withdrawn, depressed obese teen and told her that all the things she actually enjoys doing in her life she can't do, that she's got to go from not enjoying exercise to plodding through an hour of it a day (without ascertaining whether or not she's got time), that she's simply going to have to learn to eat less calories than before without any adjustments to how she uses food to minimize hunger and that she's now no longer able to access the only social venue she's got where she doesn't have to be the obese girl (the anonymous internet). There was also no mention of family counselling to determine family habits and lifestyles, no mention of exploring her social history to look for things like physical or sexual abuse, no mention of teaching her how to read a nutrition facts panel, etc.

    This girl needs guidance, not guilt. There was no mention of treating her like a living, breathing, complicated human being and instead the message being given to her was the classic and useless - eat less and exercise more.

    Perhaps the only thing worse than the messages these physicians were providing was the room full of family doctors nodding their heads in agreement.

    If this is the future of childhood obesity treatment in Canada we're all in big trouble.
  • Tuesday, December 02, 2008

    School Superintendent Defends Pushing Ice-Cream on 6 Year Olds for Fundraising!

    [BEST HEALTH BLOG FINALIST: The final round of voting is on - please vote for your favourite Canadian health blog by clicking here.]

    Readers of my blog may remember a few weeks ago when I posted about a local elementary school that offered 6 year olds weekly ice cream sandwich and pizza days.

    Duly horrified, I wrote the Director of Education of the Ottawa Catholic School Board about my concerns about both the message being sent to children regarding school approval of junk food and about the contribution of such programs and messages to the problem of childhood obesity. My letter was then forwarded to Ms. Diane Jackson, the Superintendent of the School involved.

    She wrote me back and while you can feel free to read her letter in its entirety here are some salient parts.

    First paragraph reads,
    "It is evident that you are the Medical Director of the Bariatric Medical Institute. Based on the information I read on your website, my understanding is that your business serves the public, for a fee, in the treatment of obesity and its associated conditions"
    Now maybe I'm reading into this paragraph but the inclusion of the words, "for a fee" strike me as a tad odd. Is Ms. Jackson suggesting that 6 months of unlimited one-on-one access to dietitians and trainers along with the use of onsite fitness facilities should be offered for free? Does the fact that my single income from OHIP is unable to pay the salaries of my 9 non-physician co-workers and 4,000 square feet of rent somehow discredit me in her eyes? While it would certainly be nice to be able to offer my office's services for free, clearly that's not possible and I certainly would never feel it important to describe her job as, serving the public, for a fee, in her role as school superintendent.

    Ok, maybe I'm being sensitive and really how she views me isn't the point. Let's get to the issue at hand,
    "Your letter expresses concerns over childhood obesity. Apart from expressing your displeasure with one of our schools, I am not clear as to the purpose of your letter"
    Now I sure don't recall expressing displeasure at a school but rather at what I felt to be an obscene school program. Regarding my "purpose", I thought it was pretty clear but let me spell it out as bluntly as possible.
    Using 6 year olds (or any students for that matter) and their love of ice-cream to raise money for your school is not only nutritionally and medically unsound, I would argue that it's also morally questionable given the global awareness of the risks of our growing epidemic of childhood obesity and consequently I am suggesting it is a practice that should end.
    But who am I? Maybe I'm simply a for-a-fee, crazy, capitalistic nutritional zealot - right?

    Probably not given that every official Canadian Food and Nutrition Policy statement expressly forbids the practice of fundraising with unhealthy food including those of the Provinces of Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick, as well as those produced by the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association and the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health.

    As for why I chose to write my original letter...aside from my obvious and well-founded concern that serving ice-cream to children to fundraise for the school is just plain wrong, I think my friend Bill Jeffery from the Centre for Science in the Public Interest sums up what inspired me to write when he proclaimed in his school nutrition paper, School Nutrition Policies Across Canada: Are Schools Making the Grade?,
    "All Canadians have a stake in the health of the next generation of children. Let’s keep out the junk food, subsidize healthy food offerings like vegetables and fruits and monitor the schools’ success in doing both. Improving (and enforcing) decent nutrition standards for school foods and better subsidizing nutritious school fare would help children improve their diets and establish healthier dietary practices that persist into adulthood."
    In that spirit, I'd like to call upon you, my blog readers, to take two minutes of your time to let Diane Jackson know what you think about the practice of a school that fundraises using weekly ice-cream and pizza days to 6 year olds by clicking here to send her an email . Included in your email will be Mr. Jamie McCracken the Director of Education for Ottawa Catholic Schools, Mr. Brian Kelly the Principal of St. Andrew Catholic School and Ms. Joanne MacEwan the Chairperson of the Catholic School Parents Association (CSPA).

    To avoid confusion, please don't forget to very clearly explain to Diane the purpose of expressing to her your concerns.


    Monday, December 01, 2008

    Final Round of Voting Has Begun!

    Thanks to everyone who voted, Weighty Matters has made it through to the final round of voting for the Best Canadian Health Blog!

    The other health blogs making it through to the finals are:
    It's an honour to have made it this far and knowing first hand how much time and energy it takes to keep a daily blog I truly hope you take the time to poke around the other 4 nominee's sites.

    When you're ready to vote just click here!

    To see all the other categories feel free to take a trip over here!

    Starbuck's Latest Frankenfood!

    Hat tip right off the top to the Centre for Science in the Public Interest's Nutrition Action magazine who highlight Starbuck's new Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate in their Food Porn section.

    So what makes this a Frankenfood?

    How about (for a large with whole milk and whipped cream) 20% more calories and double the saturated fat of a Big Mac and for good measure 20% of the recommended maximal sodium intake of the National Sodium Policy Statement?