Sunday, January 31, 2010

that song has lyrics, and those lyrics suck.

On a whirlwind of a road trip yesterday, in the Central Interior, on a road covered in snow and ice, in a truck with 4wd, at night, I couldn't change the CD without risking life & limb. It was the last hour of the trip, so I opted to listen to the radio. Normally, the radio I listen to is monumentally amazing; brilliant artists, sweet musicality, original and genuine and lovely. Not so on a dark night mid-Province.

FM: Talk radio, crappy pop music, french station, talk radio, music from the 40's. AM: did you know that, up North, there's an AM station on almost every numbered dial? Ya, and they are all talk radio. Back to FM: settled (reluctantly) on the A-T-40 with Mr Ryan Seacrest. It was the beginning of the show, which means that I was fortunate enough to listen to the songs at the bottom of the list...

You must understand that at the best of times I can usually only tolerate the songs at the top of the list. So it was an interesting experience, having to listen to the ones at the end.

Song 40, I tune in here: " Elvis. Why am I wearing your class ring? Don't call your mother...." At this point, my face is involuntarily doing one of these:

Reason number one: this particular artist makes me want to give up on popular music altogether. She's the proof in the "All you need to do is abandon your morals" pudding that our current Pop/Top 40 industry has concocted. She also fits nicely into the "Biproduct" category (alternate category name: "I really, really, really want to be popular....I can sing that.").

Reason number two: ...I should interject here, shouldn't I, that I'm a bit of a lyrical snob. If the lyrics to a song aren't good, the musical quality of the song had better be damn good. Otherwise, I am losing interest in you  pretty darn quickly. Obvious lyrics* are bad enough, but obvious lyrics paired with cheesy 'made-to-be-catchy-to-14-year-olds' melodies bother me even more. *An example of an obvious lyric: "I looked away, and then I looked back again." ...really Avril? You don't say. Obvious (and therefore annoying) Lyrics can also include Lyrics that are there for the sake of filling up space. Perfect example is Fergie singing about a childhood blanket. Think of something else, that line sucks.

Song 40 happened to have both qualities (stupid lyrics, kitchy musicality). Thankfully, songs like this have endings.

Song 39:  We weren't born to Follow, by Sir Bon Jovi. The biggest dropper on the charts that week ("...down 17!"), and it wasn't very hard to hear why. Bon Jovi, one small request: please don't write songs just for the sake of writing songs. Maybe read over that little poem on the napkin, or better yet have someone else read your poem. Someone who will be able to tell you: BJ, this song doesn't make any sense and sounds like a horrible remake of all your other songs. Don't even bother.

Song 38: Thankfully, after this song was over (and the preceeding non important interview with a non important celeb), I had arrived at my destination and could therefore, turn the keys in the ignition to the "off" position. Song 38 reminded me of one of these:

Miley, here's a tip: Putting "like yeah" into your song does not make your lyrics (or the song itself) "cool". You sound like a brainless teenybopper. Nor does it sound good to yell JayZ's name three times in a row ...The rest of the song is just as rediculous, but those are the parts that had me giggling in horror most prominently.

It makes me sad, really. I think one of the only reasons I'm inspired to procreate one day is so that I can teach my kids to be musically critical; thereby giving hope to future generations. Specifically, I will teach them how to listen to lyrics. Yes, to the lyrics.

LYRICS: This may suprise you, but lyrics make up a pretty important part of many songs. And whether or not you realize it, you're listening to the lyrics and your brain is absorbing that information. Okay, so mindnumbingly stupid lyrics (such as examples 40, 39, and 38 above) aren't the worst offenders. Even nonsensical lyrics (such as "I bought a one way ticket to hell...and back!" from a few years ago) aren't necessarily the worst (although they are quite awful and make me die inside just a little bit). The worst examples can all be found on public airwaves. You go ahead, you turn on pop radio, and you start listening critically to what these people are actually saying.

I'm trying to find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful....Damn, what a sexy b*.

Catchy song, I admit. But...wait a minute David. You're trying to be respectful? Really?? Hm. I've never been respected like that before.  And if I have, I mostly likely practiced and succeeded with my "unavailable vibe."

I won't pretend every song I listen to comes straight from Biblical inspiration, but lets be honest: how many of us actually know what our favorite songs are saying? Do we know that lyrics actually matter? That essentially, each song has an overall message, and that message is being communicated? Sure, some of us are wise enough to know that respect doesn't look like being sidled up to in a club. But my worry is that eventually, less and less of us will get that message, because we won't be hearing it all too often.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Flash Mob for Haiti!

(photo by Elise Lowes)
a group of over 150 people perform FLASH MOB FOR HAITI at Metrotown on Jan 23, 2010

Wise & poetic Sharelle said it best: “I didn't even realize it was on my "bucket-list" until I was doing it.”

...doing what, you ask? Flash mob, people : FLASH MOB!!!! More specifically? Flash mob for Haiti.

Geoff Stewart had been planning a flash mob for awhile; I still remember the day I was sitting in Sandy’s office, admin-ing my way through the hour, when Geoff came bounding in and proudly announced his fabulous idea. Obviously, I was on board immediately! The instant the dates for practice and go-time were set in stone, they were in my calendar. I labeled the days bright blue for Don’t Forget! and typed FLASH MOB!!!!  in all caps – my font and punctuation were anticipating the event nearly as much as I was (nearly).

We had our first practice and were set to go for our second (and then to perform) – and on the Tuesday of that week, Haiti was devastated by an earthquake. Geoff realized that we had a sweet opportunity to do something more. So, what started out as Flash Mob turned into Flash Mob for Haiti.

At 1:53pm a couple weeks ago, the earthquake shook Haiti. At 1:53pm this past Saturday, we danced. The red flags we carry in the video (thrown at end) represent the Haitian flag.

1) Watch the video! Lots!!! We are looking for corporate sponsors to step up and donate per view, with all proceeds going to Haiti.
2) Become a corporate sponsor! Email for more info!

Without further ado, here is the video link. - enjoy! (and remember, we are not professional dancers, lol)

update: here's a news article about the flashmob!  from the Peace Arch News!
also, be sure to check out for more info on what we did & why, and how you can get involved!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

why what you eat matters, pt 6 - servings & portions & contents...oh my!

Well I took a bit of a break from this wee series (at least a week...golly, internet time goes so much faster than real time). As a friendly reminder, I am not a nutritionist, I'm just pulling from the information I've found in my research! So, in no way should these posts be considered good as gold, but rather, catalysts to furthering our knowledge base.

In the last post, I took some time to look at the Canada Food Guide in more depth, and how really: following the suggested servings on the CFG not only provides ample amounts of food for the appetite, but ensures that overeating is a thing of the past. However, and rightly so, a few questions came out of this post regarding serving sizes and portions. Truthfully, this is a topic that has a bit of grey in it for me, so I'll do my best - but again, make sure that any questions you have are answered by someone who actually has the answers. In fact, I'll tell you right now about dial-a-dietician. I believe the phone numbers (listed on website) are only available to BC residents, but the website does have some helpful information on it, and this is obviously available to all.

The questions that were raised out of the last post had to do with food labelling. Do standard food labels comply with the Canada Food Guide's suggested servings? If I eat what they suggest on the box, is this the appropriate amount? Oddly enough, no it isn't. I've pulled the following from the Canada Food Guide website FAQ's about food labelling:

Why are the serving sizes listed in Nutrition Facts not the same as those in Canada's Food Guide?

The serving size listed in the Nutrition Facts table is there as a reference. It identifies a specific amount of food for the purpose of declaring the calorie and nutrient content within the stated quantity. It can be compared to the amount eaten or the amount listed on other similar products. The serving size listed in Nutrition Facts is an amount that is often consumed at one sitting.

Consumers should compare the amount they eat to the amount of food listed in the Nutrition Facts table.

Canada's Food Guide recommends a specific number of Food Guide Servings per day for various age and gender groups. Consumers should also follow the recommendations in Canada's Food Guide to choose the amount and type of food needed for their age and gender.

An example:
A person consumes 375 mL of juice.
The Nutrition Facts information is for a 250 mL serving of juice.
A Food Guide Serving of juice is 125 mL, therefore this person consumes three Food Guide Servings of Vegetables and Fruit.

So you see, following appropriate portion sizes for your age/gender still require you to cross reference with the Canada Food Guide. For the first while, maybe keep a copy of the CFG on your fridge. After awhile, I promise it becomes habit, and guesstimating what a serving size would be becomes easier than recognizing the back of your own hand.
I suppose it might be easier if the serving size on the can matched up with exactly how much I was supposed to eat. And while this can make things a bit more tricky, it does have it's benefit. Here's what the people at the CFG have to say: 
How do I use the nutrition information on food labels in a healthy eating context?

Linking the label information to Canada's Food Guide messages can help focus attention on healthy eating, as a whole. The nutrition information on food labels helps consumers compare products more easily, determine the nutritional value of foods and better manage special diets. Nutrition labelling is a practical tool that helps Canadians make informed food choices.

 I would encourage you to get away from pencil-and-papering your eating habits (rules, rigidity, etc), and I also wouldn't suggest that you pull out your measuring cups each time you sit down to eat from now until forevermore. However, if this is new to you, and you recognize you're a bit off in your eating habits, do take the time to learn (and if measuring cups are required, use them as a tool and not a rule!)

Maybe you've looked at the Canada Food Guide's suggested servings and said "Hah! That is rediculous! I eat way more than that! What are they trying to do, starve me!?" - if this is you, you may need to take a step back and re-evaluate your eating habits (just as you should re-evaluate if the suggested servings are way above your normal daily intake). Try starting your meal with the suggested serving sizes. Eat all of it, and if you are still hungry in an hour, eat something else. The portion size suggestions aren't meant to starve (certainly not!) or force food down someone's throat, but rather, they are a guideline. Learn to listen to your body - it pays to know!
Like anything else, eating well requires knowledge, learning, and the ability to form good habits. Being aware about what we are putting in our mouths (and how much) is just as important as being aware of what your body is asking of you at meal time (and throughout the day). Are you hungry? How hungry are you? Taking that second to pause before you eat, and before you reach for seconds, can make all the difference when it comes to eating the appropriate amount of food. Do I mean "don't eat seconds, ever!" - nope.
Awhile ago, last year I think, I was watching TLC and on came a commercial about a new show called "I can Make you Thin". The man hosting the show was Paul McKenna. Now, I won't speak to his credibility as a hypnotist (which is, I believe, a large part of how he runs his practice), and I won't even speak to the title of the show (I would prefer it if he said "I can make you healthy"...I can't win them all can I?). But I will say that his "4 Golden Rules" of eating are, in my opinion, golden. Here they are:
1. When You Are Hungry, Eat
2. Eat What You Want, Not What You Think You Should
3. Eat Consciously And Enjoy Every Mouthful
4. When You Think You Are Full, Stop Eating

To me, and likely to many of you, these will seem like common sense. Of course! What I like about this list is that it is based entirely on common sense. In fact, I actually laughed out loud when I first heard someone tell me this man's "golden rules". Well, I could have told you that! I said. It took awhile for sensitivity to kick in, but once it did I realized: not everyone thinks this way. And certainly, not everybody knows that eating when you're hungry is the healthy thing to do. Not everybody knows their body well enough to even recognize when they are hungry.

If you think about these 4 things, and then compare each one (or the list as a whole) to most of the diets out there, you'll see that it contradicts what they often teach you. In fact, if "diets" could talk, they'd likely make a list that looked like this:

1. Eat when you're hungry? No, ignore your hunger, eat when it's time to eat. Hunger is a sign that it's working!
2. Eat what you want!? Are you kidding me? No! You eat what I tell you it's okay to eat! You eat what I tell you that you should!
3. Enjoy your food? Hah. That's what got you here in the first place. Beauty is pain, my friend. Enjoy your lemonade.
4. If you're full, you've eaten too much.

(...Okay, how can you tell diets annoy me?) I'll move on from this and get back to the point: awareness is a vital part of healthy eating. Awareness of the food you're eating, most certainly. And tools like the labels on the box and the CFG (or dial-a-dietician!) are there to help us out in this area! But being aware of our own bodies is also important. You know, I actually know a girl who can tell when she hasn't eaten enough sugar (from fruit or carbs) in a day. Or protien. Or veggies. She actually craves specific foods like avocado or pickles or McDonald's (which has it's place, IMO) when she hasn't been eating a balanced diet (and is obviously lacking the nutrients). I am more than convinced it is because she knows her body well.

Labels and the food guide are excellent tools - and for those of us at a loss as to what it means to eat healthy, I would even say they are vital starting points to get onto the right track. Remember that all those little numbers are important, but they should serve more as a guide than as a hard and fast rule - learn your body, and you'll be suprised to see that "following the numbers" becomes as second nature as breathing - all without the use of pencil & paper, or rules & rigidity.

Still confused about what a suggested serving is? Click here to get your own copy of the Canada Food Guide.

ps - Lavonne! Still haven't found the answer to your question, but I'm lookin'  - probably gonna phone Dial a Dietician when I get a chance! If you beat me to it, let me know what they say! Thanks Love.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

my shoes fit.

I am proud to say that I have gotten more than one friend into her first pair of heels; and I am not ashamed to admit that I felt mass amounts of pride after each accomplishment. Seeing the shoe on the girl is not the part that thrills me (I'll leave that to you, boys), but rather, seeing the girl that shows up in front of the mirror when that "oh my gosh these are so adorable", delicate pair of shoes are planted underneath her feet. Watching how she stands up straighter, eyes herself with more grace, and grows less bambi-like with each attempt around the store is like a mini self-improvement project, that has absolutely nothing to do with me.

My first pair of heels were likely atrocious (in fact, I know they were) - I wasn't exactly a style guru at age 12 and I certainly wasn't comfortable enough in my own skin to pull them off well. But as a girl in a house full of girls (I have a patient dad), I quickly became accustomed to walking around on semi-tip toe, to the point where -in grade 8- I remember quite distinctly that I preferred to walk in heels. To this day I still prefer it, and although I find myself wearing them less and less, I am usually looking for an excuse to throw them on. To walk well in heels, you have to stand up straighter. You have to walk with confidence. You have to pay attention to where your feet are landing; it's a much longer drop for your ankle if you don't. Sure, it takes practice, but once you get there - walking in heels is just as easy as walking in bare feet. Only far more glamorous.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the transition into adulthood, and realizing that really: there isn't one. There is no one moment that makes us adults, or "all growed up." In actuality, there are about three thousand transitions a year (give or take a few thousand); from the time we are first walking to the day we step our last. As we age, we mature (well, most of us) and the sense that we're supposed to 'arrive somewhere, eventually' presses further and further onto our consciences. But I have a secret for you: to live is to experience transition. We are never, ever done.

Some of these transitions in life tap you on your nose oh-so-gently, like a brightly colored lady bug with a funny story to tell. There are others that change the set time of your alarm clock and increase the frequency with which you brush your teeth or visit the dentist. And there are still others that shake you by the shoulders with force; demanding attention. Some transitions are tiny and seemingly insignificant to others: your very first Trivial Pursuit game played alone and won; your first solo road trip; your first dinner party as host(ess). Other transitions suggest a certain status: a large purchase, a significant relationship, a career choice. And once we've transitioned, we are asked again to change our minds or our clocks and, essentially, to transition once more.

There is no one thing that changes us from adolescent caterpillar to feather-wing-ed butterfly and leaves us in a permanent state of flight. Growing up means learning to fly, most definitely; but it also means learning to fall, too. It means we expect that we're going to moult on occasion; be it an outward layer or a deeply rooted belief. We begin to not only respect but to invite the process; we grow familiar with discomfort, but less and less afraid of it.

Regardless of the fact that I have worn and known how to walk in heels for the better part of my life, a new pair always hurts. There is always a moment during a night out in a new pair of heels where I think to myself  "ohmygoshthisisnot#&$*%&worthit"...but as my feet grow more and more accustomed to the new edges and angles, the more I am able to focus on the things I love about my shoes, and what drew me to them in the first place.

Adulthood is like the heels I love so much - uncomfortable at first, and at times outrageously painful (how much farther are we walking!?). But you know, after a few practice runs and a few glances in the mirror, I realize I really like these shoes, and maybe -just maybe- the temporary pain is worth it.

And this is the thought I had today: I feel a bit like Bambi on this new road God is carving; akward, knock-kneed, slighlty agitated about having to put one foot in front of the other. But despite my discomfort, I wouldn't change a day - past, or to come. These delicate and impracticle shoes of my latest venture fit me; and I know that once the pain is gone, I'm going to love them.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

just so you know

 (ps: new food post coming soon!)

what, really?

...How could this happen? It seems I can't go one week without hearing, "Oh ya, her? She wrote a blog and was so cool and well liked that she's famous now and lives off the income of her witty little thoughts." Well... maybe "one week" was a slight exaggeration. But even once a year seems excessive.

My latest find:

And the worst part is, she's hilarious. Witty. Engaging. Talented. With a killer camera, to boot. As much as I would love to hate her, I can't. I somehow feel we are kindred spirits, like she knows me...or knows exactly what to say to make me jealous (is that really something a 'kindred' would do? or is that just downright mean?).

I have wasted at least 28 minutes of my work day on her blog so far, and expect that in the days to come, I will continue to collect my drool in a cup as I imagine that I could be that good.

I leave you with this. It's a throwback to 2001, but it's one of my favorite discoveries so far. Enjoy :)

I aspire to giggle more

As I was contemplating life at the end of '09 and writing my 2010 to-do list, I realized something: I need more fun in my life. Not that I never have fun...but rather, I think I just need more of it. What does one do when one finds oneself in this situation? (stop using "one" like that in a sentence, perhaps?)

This year is gonna be a doozy on many levels (levels which I'll keep to myself, for now). But thankfully God's been providing noticeable moments of reprieve in my days, be it hilarious friends or inside jokes with my family or suprise Caramel Macchiatos on my desk in the morning. I have been overwhelmed as of late with the people I have in my life, and how good you all are at loving me well. So here's to you, family, friends & readers alike. Your role is an important one.

Isn't it funny how we skip about our days and notice only months into something how valuble it is? My part time job is one of those areas - I've mentioned them before: Photobooth Vancouver. When I started working for them last year, I really had to convince myself I was cool enough to work alongside these fine folks (and truthfully, I'm still not convinced). Eventually that shock settled and changed to excitement and wonder. But after my latest shifts there I've really started to realize how truly grateful I am for the moments I've had there; both behind & outside the curtain. I think we all need a place to drop our pretenses and just be silly for a moment...or, perhaps, four moments.

Ang & Domi, the company you've created rocks on so many levels. You provide something that's missing for a lot of people: pure, sweet sillyness. As was quoted at last week's show you are "the rockstars" of Photobooth! Not only that, but you are incredibly refreshing to be around as individuals. Quite simply, you are lovely. Thanks for letting me giggle along with you. :)

(be jealous. or, just invite them to your next party so you don't have to be jealous anymore)

related afterthoughts: a SHOUT OUT to Photobooth Vancouver

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


In the great big grand scheme of things; near things and far
my problems are smaller than I think they are.

a tuesday rant

I find it odd, and entirely disheartening, that our generation has lost the ability to keep healthy boundaries. I’m not talking about sexual boundaries; although those have certainly lost their footing, they’ve been discussed so much it’s become cliché to even mention them. What I am talking about, however, are the natural boundaries that form in social settings, relationships, friendships and interpersonal interactivity. We have lost the ability to keep any mystery about ourselves; gone are the days of time-built-trusts, rampant are the rules of fast vulnerability. This is due, in large part, to the internet. (*disclaimer* although I hate generalizing commentaries on “the internet”, “our generation”, and “society”, I am about to write one. Hypocrisy: one, Ashley: zero)

Ironic, I suppose, that a girl such as myself would be writing (or ranting) in opposition to this grown trend. From the outside: I have a public persona, in a sense. I have a blog that I update regularly, I have a twitter account, I have facebook, I have a myspace (although it’s entirely inactive and archaic) – truth be told, I’ve been plugged in at some point to almost every social media site available to humans (almost). So what am I saying? Isn’t it hypocritical of me to harp on the readiness of our world to be viewed in the public eye? Perhaps. But I like to think there’s a difference – and this is what I’m getting at. I’ll use my blog as an example. You are here, and you are reading what I’m writing. This is your choice, for certain – and it is my choice to post here in the first place – but the confusion comes when those readers I don’t know assume they know me well because they read my blog. Fact: I have a deep seated love and appreciation for every reader – each visit on my tracker sends a little chill of affirmation up my spine and makes me giddy with appreciation for you – but at the same time, there are some of you that I don’t know very well, and likely won’t know soon, either. Let me assure you – whatever I post here is 100% genuine, I don’t lie. But I do edit. I keep myself in check here, because I remember who I’m writing to: whoever wants to read it.

This admission seems rude, doesn’t it? Sure, we all do it…but admitting it out loud feels like something else entirely, which is why I am currently having so much trouble with the way our society seems to be running. My next example, and the root of my current inner turmoil is (can you guess it?) – facebook.

Oh, facebook.

On the one hand, I love it. As a former student, I have friends so near and dear to my heart that now live literally all over the world. Facebook provides a space we wouldn’t otherwise have – a space to share photos, daily activities, and the general goings-on that make life feel a bit more normal (as if they weren’t across an ocean). As the only daughter to move away from my home city, Facebook provides that space again: a way to stay connected to my family on a daily, visual basis; a way to feel included, even when I’m not there. Finally, as a friend to friends in my vicinity, facebook has proven to be an incredibly useful tool for communication; staying up to date on current social events and activities, and making fast arrangements over the internet.

So what’s my issue? My issue, I suppose (and this is where I start to sound heartless), is when it comes to people that I don’t know well: Facebook makes me draw a line. Because really, is there a spot to keep my mom in the loop and my new acquaintance? My mom is certainly privy to far more detailed information than someone I’ve just met, and rightly so. My sisters have a far greater entitlement to know what’s going on in my head than that guy I met at a birthday party last April. My best friends mean more to my heart than a one time visitor to my blog. And what about someone I don’t know that is in my friend circle? They’re in my friend suggestion box, but I still don't want to add them.

The problem with all of these sentences is that they are too cut and dry. But as it stands, these distinctions are now a matter of force and forefront – I can’t not think about which “category” to place a person in. Full profile? …Limited profile?…blocked? Instead of the natural growth that was once a part of friendships, it suddenly becomes a matter of definition and rule. Over the past year (and I’ve advertised it, so you likely know this) I have seriously debated giving up Facebook altogether. Mainly because I feel like I’m alone in this: I have boundaries. I do not enjoy the fact that it’s now customary to say, “Hi, nice to meet you, let me in to your life entirely” - a summary of what happens when you hang out with someone three times and they request your “friendship” on fb. I also do not enjoy the amount of times I’ve insulted people by saying, “actually, no, I don’t want you on my facebook.” People. It’s facebook. Hardly insult worthy. You know what I say when people I don’t know well don’t add me or delete me? I say “Oh, okay.” Because I recognize that (shocker) I probably don’t mean as much to them as their best friends and their sisters. Granted, I like these people. As I like the people that I don’t add. These people are all nice and lovely and fascinating and I’m sure as I get to know them better, I will like them even more.

But this is what I mean when I say I am alone with my boundaries: it actually insults people to ask them to give me time to let them in. And I’m left feeling like the bad guy, the heartless snob, the cold decision maker. But you know what? I’m none of those things. I’m actually very nice, and I love people. How is this communicated to a generation (boo…generalization…) that does not understand what it means to know someone in real life and not on the internet? It’s impossible. To meet someone is to add them to facebook, apparently.

It used to be natural. It used to be normal, even. But now, to want space and safety means to draw harsh lines and make people feel on the outside. This is the part of social media that makes me want to “spit nails” as I so sweetly wrote to a friend earlier today…I am at a loss.

Related afterthoughts: anonymous is the new black.

Monday, January 18, 2010

wwyem, pt 5 - no, I'm not crazy: a guide to the Food Guide

If you’re anything like me you’ve ignored the Canada Food Guide for most of your life. I am going to guess that your reasons for ignoring it are similar to mine: it’s a big page filled with pictures of food, telling me I need to eat 7 pieces of bread a day. In short, it’s confusing (visually, at least). So for this next step in the series, I wanted to get a bit more detailed and take a closer look at the Canada Food Guide, and why actually, it does make sense. Also, I’ll offer up an alternative source to help make things a bit easier.

As Nurse Rita says, it’s vitally important to take your information from a reputable source. When it comes to nutrition, the information should come from a medically reputable source (registered dieticians/nutritionists, doctors, etc). This is one reason why the Canada Food Guide and its American Pyramid counterpart are two of the best sources for advice on healthy eating.

Taking a look at the Canada Food Guide can, as mentioned, overwhelm the senses. For example, what the heck does this part mean?

At a glance, the numbers are high. In the adult female section, for example, the number under Grain Products reads 6-7 per day. But what should be noted and clarified is that these numbers represent the numer of servings, and not necessarily the number of items…and for the most part, our perceptions of “one serving” are off the mark. For example, one serving of pasta is ½ a cup of cooked pasta, which is roughly the size of a light bulb (or just over half your fist). That’s a lot smaller than you thought, isn’t it? The amount of pasta I normally eat in one sitting certainly isn’t the size of a light bulb (...maybe a box of light bulbs).

Here’s a better example of how skewed we are in our culture when it comes to serving sizes. Let’s say you go to the Olive Garden for dinner. At the beginning of the meal you start with your complimentary salad and breadsticks. Let’s say you eat two breadsticks. Then when it comes time to order, you order a yummy bowl of pasta. Yum. When your meal arrives you dive in (obviously, because it’s so good) and by the time you’re finished chatting and are ready to pay your bill, you’ve downed the entire bowl.

Math time. You’ve just consumed roughly ten servings of grain products (2 breadsticks @ 1 serving each, 1 bowl of pasta @ roughly 8 servings = 10 servings). Referring back to the food guide, you’ve overshot your servings for the day by at least 2. In one meal. (and ps: I am being quite lenient in my numbers: most restaurants shoot this even further off the chart, even the OG themselves).

I have nothing against the Olive Garden (who could? Delish!), and naming the restaurant wasn’t my point. The point is that it is incredibly easy to blow our required daily food intake right out of the water, all without realizing it. For example, if you had ordered pasta with meat on it, consider this: one serving of meat (fish, poultry, lean meat) is 2.5oz or ½ cup. A half a cup is one serving, and there are at least two in one bowl of restaurant pasta. Two servings of meat & alternatives a day (3 for guys) is all that’s required. Once again, you’ve met (and possibly exceeded) your daily quotient in one meal.

This is why I’ve started to love and refer often to the food guide. Thinking back to what we learned about the six basic principles of healthy eating, and that numbers 1, 2, and 3 were Balance, Variety, and Moderation, we can see how key the Food Guide is in keeping us on track.

That’s great Ashley, but it’s still hard to look at.

I know, I agree with you. This is where I bring in our friends from down South. The American version of the Canada Food Guide is called the American Pyramid, and it looks like this:

Same basic principles…so why do I bring it up? It’s because their website has a fantastic tool available for meal planning. I will say that while the Canada Food Guide website has some excellent tools as well, the American Pyramid’s Menu Planning tool is quite lovely. Easy to use, easy to understand, and visually accessible.

American Pyramid – Menu Planning tool – a review

Actually, I’m quite impressed with this. Head to the main page for the American Pyramid, scroll down and click on the link for the menu planner:

You enter all of your info and click ‘submit’:

You’re then taken to a page that looks like the picture below.

How to use it: enter a food in the search box on the left and specify which meal it's for, and what quantity you are eating. Click “add”, and the menu tracker adds this to your “daily goals” graph on the right, as well as to the meal tracker on the bottom. This is a simple, easy visual to make sure that you are eating appropriate quantities and variety of foods: indications in percentages (graph), calories (below graph), meals (meal chart, bottom).

Obviously, I’m only part way through planning a day (which is why lunch and dinner are empty and my graph isn’t full). But so far I’d have to say I’m a fan of this system; it is user friendly and visually interesting, and pretty easy to understand.

Like anything else, it would take diligence to do this every day (or plan out a week in advance according to the chart). However, even for the sake of curiosity I found it interesting to enter what I have been eating and see how I measure up that way.

As an example, I just learned I don’t eat enough veggies or fruit…at all. I had guessed that already, but getting that clear visual on a colored graph really helps nail it into my head. Time to go grocery shopping…

Thoughts to ponder until next time: how aware am I of proper portion sizes? How close am I to the recommended daily servings? What would be the benefit of paying attention to not only what I’m eating, but how much I am eating? Are there any cons?

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Hey all - obviously we've all heard about the earthquake in Haiti, and by now you've also surely heard that the death toll is only rising, with the devastation obviously at crazy high levels. I am taking a break from posting about food for this post - to provide you all with ways that you can help. We are unquestionably blessed as individuals, and I'm hoping that each of us takes a bit of time out of our day today (or tomorrow, or whenever you get the chance!) to send a donation to the relief efforts.

But, I don't have very much time on my hands.
Totally understandable. Do you have a cell phone and 60 seconds?

CANADIANS "Donors can text the world “HAITI” to 45678 from any Rogers Wireless or Bell Mobility phone to contribute $5.00 to The Salvation Army. As of January 13th, 2010 all text donations will go directly to The Salvation Army Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief". – see for more details
AMERICANS can donate through text to the Red Cross by sending 'Haiti' to 90999 and $10 will go to the relief efforts in Haiti.

There are plenty of other agencies accepting donations (if you don't have a Canadian cell phone from Bell or Rogers, for example), but this one is so fast that I thought you all should know about it.

Also as an FYI (got this in my email from head office just now) - "the Government of Canada will be matching the contributions made by individual Canadians between January 12 and February 12, to eligible Canadian charitable organizations in support of humanitarian and recovery efforts in response to the earthquake in Haiti. Donations will be matched by the government to a maximum of $50 million."

 ps - there are literally a ton of agencies sending aid/people/finances/etc over to Haiti - if you've got one you want to highlight - please feel free to leave info in the comments area. I'd love to hear more about what you're involved in/what's going on, and help spread word about where people can send donations.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

wwyem, pt4b: ah, conversation

Ha, I love it. Here we go, a message for all from Nurse Rita.
Hopefully we aren't confusing you, but rather: giving you something to think about.

Oh boy, you got a doosey… she is wrong in that fat is your 2nd line for energy – it is your 3rd line… I need to get my medical books to have the proper terms – but I know that diet companies thrive on the idea that fat is used for ‘energy’ as soon as you pee ketones… That is correct but it is BAD energy and they really do NOT want people to know about the muscle loss – it would be bad for business… I will get back to you with a proper ‘medical’ reference when I have a little time – so… Don’t be discouraged – YOU were actually correct and kept it in simple easy to understand terminology… This other person (whoever they are) has not even stated their ‘source’ hmmmmm that says something…

A quick reminder: any debate on this blog (whether directed at me or at you) needs to be spoken not out of defense (emotion) and also does need to be gentle. There are a lot of different beliefs (all with "proof") out in the world of nutrition (for example: the lemonade diet? tons of "proof" that it's good for you). Like I keep saying, this is a personal conversation even when it isn't a personal conversation, and I ask that all of us (including all Anonymous contributors) keep that in mind! Your comments here are appreciated and I respect you for sharing them, please don't think otherwise :)

wwyem, pt4: I stand corrected

Well, seeing as 2010 is the year of learning about humility, it seems only right that I would make mistakes in a post, sigh. I'm learning as I go just like the rest of you! Thankfully that's okay...right?

So pt2 had some incorrect information in it regarding where the body goes for energy after it takes the energy from food. I haven't led you entirely astray (phew!) but thanks to a comment left on pt2, we can all be set straight. I said in pt 2 that the body goes for energy from food, then muscle, then fat - that order isn't entirely correct. Here's the relevent pieces of the comment (that points out my error & fixes it) - I encourage you to read it so we're all on the same page:

"As someone trained in this field as well though I have to point out some errors in this post...When glucose is exhausted, the body doesn't first go to the breakdown of muscle, it goes for fat. The energy also obtained from fat is not poor energy, its turned into a glucose product (acetyl CoA)which is prime, it just takes too long to break down fat for it to be used as a sole energy source in anything but a lethargic tired person. Fats don't make ketones, ketones are formed from the breakdown of amino acids (protein, muscles) but are "bad" energy as you said. Fat is the second in line for energy, not muscle/protein, but because fat alone can't provide enough energy for a normal active person, protein is degraded to compliment, or when fat stores are getting low.

Your body will store fat over making muscle, if that muscle isn't required regularly. That is where the extra fat instead of muscle comes in when you start eating excessively again post-diet.

...Glycogen is simply stored glucose. So the body first uses available glucose from our food, then goes to the stored glucose (glycogen). Then for fat. Then muscle/protein. "

Unfortunately, this commenter didn't leave a name (for those of you that follow this blog/my life, you'll know my hesitations about visits from Anony), but I do appreciate that they stopped by! This is what I was hoping for, essentially: to start a conversation and get people talking - for people that know stuff to say the stuff they know, and for the rest of us that don't know stuff to learn more about it. Yay :)

I'm realizing more and more just how much information could be doled out/discussed in a series like this. So know that if I haven't covered the topic/area you're thinking of just yet, it's probably on it's way.


*Comment rules (yup): please do your best to remember that for many people this is a personal discussion, even when it’s not a personal discussion. Be gentle!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

wwyem pt 3: normal eating? what's that?

At the company where I work, we have an Occupation Health nurse on staff named Rita. Rita spent the past 8 years before this last one (when she finally arrived at our office!) working as the campus nurse at Trinity Western University. In fact, if you went to Trinity, you likely know her! If you do know her, you know what a ray of sunshine she is, and how delightfully easy it is to pass an hour in the chair by her desk. Rita lets me invade her office whenever I have the urge to talk about food & nutrition, or health in general…which just happens to be a lot of the time. It was actually a conversation with her that inspired the thought about doing a blog series on the very things we were talking about (so these blogs are a compilation of what I know personally, obviously, but they are also written as influenced by an actual health practitioner. …that was my buffer. I’m done now).

Food and money are a lot alike in this: what we do with it has to do, mainly, with perception. How we spend (or save) our money is based on what we think money is for. The same goes for eating: how we eat is based on our perception of WHY we eat (as discussed in the last entry), but it is also based on our perception of the answer to the question, “what is healthy eating?” Stop and think about that for a moment, and come up with an answer. What are your eating habits like? Do you consider them to be healthy? What do you consider “healthy” eating?

Part of our answer to that final question will be influenced in large part by what we consider to be normal eating. Stop and think again (I know, so much work!) about the answer to that question: what is normal eating?

The information that follows is taken from a presentation given by Shalene Wray, B.Sc.,RD.

As shown on the slide above, normal and healthy eating is based on those 6 basic principles. Here’s a brief rundown of what she’s getting at:

‘Balance’ - means you are getting the right amount of carbs, proteins, fats and fluids into your system.

‘Variety’ is more specific: what types of food are we eating? Our bodies need 52 essential nutrients every day in order to run properly. Eating a variety of foods (from all the food groups) gets us closer to reaching that goal.

– “eat in moderation” – We’ve all heard this, but what does it mean? All foods contain nutrients of some kind, and as Shalene says (on a later slide): “Rigidity and rules are not a part of normal eating.” But eating in moderation doesn’t have to mean rules or rigidity: it allows us to keep that variety we need, and enjoy our food, all without going overboard.

‘Regular Meals’ - Going without breakfast, lunch, or dinner is incredibly unhealthy on many levels. Why? As mentioned, our bodies need the energy that comes from food in order to function properly. But when you hear that the ‘body’ needs the energy you get from food, keep in mind that it doesn’t just mean the parts of your body that you see: your brain also needs that food to stay cognitive and alert; your blood needs that food to stay at a healthy and regulated blood sugar level; your organs and your bones also need food for different reasons. Literally, your entire body is depending on you to eat (and to eat well).

‘Adequate Energy’ – Shalene says it best (again, in a later slide): “Approximately 60% of daily calories our bodies need go to just keeping us alive!” If you’re not eating well, you’re starving something in your body. The easiest way to notice if you’re lacking somewhere is to take a look at your energy levels (sans caffeine).

‘Enjoyment and Satisfaction’ – This one is often skipped in a lot of diets that I have heard about. It is completely, totally, utterly and entirely normal (and healthy!) to enjoy what you’re eating. If you don’t like it, why are you putting it in your mouth? If you feel guilty when you eat, consider where this comes from. Healthy eating includes a healthy appetite and a healthy level of enjoyment.

In this slide presentation, there is also a group of information that’s been contributed by Shelagh Bouttell, RD. (RD stands for Registered Dietician, btw). I liked these slides so much I’m putting them all on here. Oh by the way, these are a photocopy of a printout of the slideshow...which is why they're crooked :) This explains in more detail what was discussed in pt2 of this series.

Well class, that was a lot of information for the day. As per usual in your comments, be gentle!*

*Comment rules (yup): please do your best to remember that for many people this is a personal discussion, even when it’s not a personal discussion.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

why what you eat matters, pt 2: DIET is a four letter word.

A couple of years ago, I was blessed with a sweet landlord. And when I say sweet, I really do mean sweet: she was (and is) completely adorable. She was 83 (now 85 I think), petit in stature, with fabulous wrinkles and bright blue eyes. Her name was Ingrid. Ingrid would often stop by the house to tend to her garden (tomatoes, carrots, and an apple tree) and would often leave us tenants little gifts of food outside our doors: a package of organic goat cheese, for example, or perhaps some Japanese tea. And if you went to visit Ingrid (which you did every month to pay rent), then you were most undoubtedly going to be fed. Beet soup. Potato and onion casserole. Hazelnut cookies.

I would often ask Ingrid about her eating habits, and we’d spend the few hours I was there discussing the benefits of organic vs. non-organic, vegetarian vs. non-vegetarian (among other, non-food related things). I don’t tell you this story to try to convince you to eat only organic or become a vegetarian (even I don’t do these). But rather, I want to pass on a piece of a conversation we had on one of those evenings, sitting at her table, discussing food. We were nearing the end of the conversation when Ingrid paused and said something so matter of factly, yet so simple and thought provoking, that I giggled in awe and memorized it for later use. This is what she said:

“I eat to keep body and soul together, I don’t live to eat.”

I love Ingrid. She managed to sum up in one sentence what I had been trying to define my entire life.

…Why do we eat? For some, this question will seem obnoxiously simple, while for others the answer won’t come quite so quickly. What is the point of having a breakfast, a lunch, a dinner? What is a square meal, anyway? As I’ve thought about this series on nutrition, and tried to nail down exactly what should be brought forward and what should stay inside my head, I’ve concluded that what we eat and why we eat it all have to do with what we know about food. It all comes down to Education. So this is where I’m starting: at the very, very, very beginning. I’m starting with why we eat.

At the very base of our reasoning for why we eat, we find the word ENERGY. We eat because our bodies need the energy, and our bodies get different types of energy from what we eat. Energy = calories (to burn), Energy = nutrients (essentials for survival), Energy = proper function (organs, muscles, brain). In other words, we eat to keep body and soul together.

Many people think of the human body like they think of a car: food is like fuel, we put it in and we use it up, we put it in and we use it up. But actually, the body is unique from vehicles in that it will still continue to run even when it is deprived of its fuel; and don’t we all know it. Think about it: if your car runs out of gas, it stops; you can’t make it go unless you put more gas in. But if you haven’t eaten since breakfast you are still alive at bedtime; your stomach may be churning and your head may be light, but you are still alive. Your body doesn’t stop they way a vehicle does. So what does this mean? This means we can “get away with” skipping a meal, or eating less than we should, or eating nothing but empty calories (think: fast food). This means our body will still ‘go’, even when we deprive it of its fuel source.

Why can we do this? Why does the body still function? Your body still functions, sans food, because your body is forced to take energy from another source, and it does. What source? Your body. More specifically: your muscles. When your body is deprived of a good fuel source (food), the first place it goes to get that fuel is from your muscles (another word: muscle tone). The energy that your body takes from your muscles is “good” energy – it feels good. The second place your body goes for energy, once it realizes that ‘hey, we’re still not getting enough food/nutrients, we must be in a famine’, is your fat stores. So dieting does take away some of your fat. But the energy that you get from your fat stores (ketones) is “poor” energy – the point in your diet that you feel tired is the point when your body has made the switch. But Ashley, if it takes away my fat, what’s wrong with a diet? Read on.

This is the pattern: you notice a few extra pounds and you decide “I need to diet”. You then diet (or cleanse, or cut back, etc) and you lose 10lbs. But what you’ve lost, essentially, is your body’s ability to create muscle over fat (because you’ve already taken away muscle; you did that first). Once you’re at the desired weight and you start to eat again, you will gain the weight back. But you will gain fat first, because your metabolism is at a slowed rate. Your muscles now have a lower capacity to tone themselves and your fat stores have increased. In other words, if you were 140lbs before your diet and you lost 10lbs, and after the diet you gain the 10lbs back, you are still 140lbs - but now your % of body fat has increased and your muscles have deteriorated (as has your muscle’s ability to rebuild). So the pattern, in a nutshell, is: Cut back, lose muscle tone, gain fat. Cut back, lose muscle tone, gain fat…you get the point.

Truthfully, this is something that is not immediately visible. It may take years for you to notice, but dieting actually changes the composition of your body. Starving your body of the energy that it needs to function means that over time, you are completely deteriorating your muscle (muscle tone) and replacing that muscle tone with fat. Look at the shape of someone you know, late 40’s, who has eaten healthy/maintained a healthy lifestyle. Not bad eh? But look at someone you know who’s been dieting their whole life who’s the same age and you will see that their body shape is…less shapely. It is because this person has destroyed their muscle tone by constantly taking energy from it.

The last thing I want to do is make this series on nutrition all about weight. The way I see it, what people weigh is irrelevant. But what I do want to address is that for many people, weight is their first concern when it shouldn’t be. I want to point out that healthy eating habits (complete with a healthy lifestyle) are far more important than any numbered scale will ever be. In the next few posts (how many will there be? I have no idea!) I will address some diets directly (and why they are unhealthy), but I will also address the good habits, too. My goal in this is to re-educate or remind all of us what means to be healthy. Also, there is a comment function* on this blog, and I’d be happy for you to contribute at any time – do you agree with what I’m saying? Why not?

Finally, and most importantly, I want to reiterate (did I mention it already?) that one of the main reasons I am so passionately blogging about nutrition is because I am saddened that for many people, the only thing they ever see about themselves is how much they weigh. Self worth is not defined by a scale. NO IT ISN’T.

Diet is a four-letter word. And if it's not, it should be. Next time you get that urge, re-train your brain instead to say "I need to eat healthy." BIG difference.

Coming Up Next Time: Who is Nurse Rita?

*Comment rules (yup): please do your best to remember that for many people this is a personal discussion, even when it’s not a personal discussion. Be gentle.

Monday, January 4, 2010

dying to be thin: why what you eat matters, pt 1: A History

In my other life, I’m a nutritionist. There are reasons for this I’m sure (as there are reasons why I haven’t taken it up as an actual profession just yet), but the main reason is that I am oddly and entirely passionate about Health, especially as it’s related to food (and therefore body image). I do want to clarify a few things first, for my own peace of mind.

Why my weight has everything to do with this passion:
Obviously, I am a thin individual. I have been referred to since the age of 6 as “that skinny girl” (you know Ashley? Long Hair, brown eyes, sits next to you in class? / /She's really skinny! /Oh! Her! no joke). People have opted out of being friends with me because of what I weigh (and yup, they’ve told me so). And I have been asked if I was anorexic/have an eating disorder/have a disease, on average, twice a month, every month of my life. Tie this in with my natural defiance and desire to prove people wrong/win the argument, and there you have it: a passion for nutrition. I’ve spent my life (literally, especially as an adult) researching nutrition, diets, food in general, and the effect these three things have on the human body. Originally, I did this to try and gain weight (so people would shut up). Once I realized people would not shut up, and that I was happy with they way God made me, I still researched. Because by now, I was neck deep in it: I love(d) to learn about nutrition.

Why my weight has nothing to do with this passion:
About as often as I’ve been pegged as a disease carrier, I’ve been confided in on deep personal levels about eating habits and diets and weight problems and personal struggles with food. This is normal for me as a counsellor personality (and I understand that as sad as it is, people who struggle with being “too big” will often see my weight and question their own, and therefore feel the urge to talk about it). But as often as I’ve heard the struggles, I’ve heard the excuses. As often as I’ve heard the questions, I’ve seen the apathy. This is reason #2 why I’ve researched as much as I have: it seems that in many cases, I’m the only one doing it. It makes me sad that people are so desperate to change their bodies that they end up ruining them instead (no judgements from me: I once ate McDonald’s 3 meals a day for 30 days to try and gain weight…it didn’t work. But still, unhealthy much?). And it makes me even more sad knowing that people go so far as to hate themselves because of a few extra pounds. Ptooey!

So instead of keeping my *wealth of knowledge (*warning: horn toot) to myself, I’ve decided to share it. What you eat actually matters. And what you don’t eat actually matters. No….really.

These posts are likely going to be controversial in some respect, because this is a personal topic for...well…everyone. So please keep in mind that if I spend 38 paragraphs dissecting and dismissing (or quite possibly: making fun of) the diet that you’re on, it’s because I love you, and not at all because I think anything bad about you personally. And honestly, I don’t expect to change everyones minds either. If you think that drinking lemonade (foreshadowing?) for breakfast lunch and dinner is the healthiest thing for you to do, well…I can’t do much about that, can I? If you think it’s best for you, that is your choice. To each their own, as I like to say. But this “each” is taking her “own” and telling you why these methods are madness… MADNESS I TELL YOU!!! I just can't sit by and watch anymore as people eat butter and not bread, juice and not fruit, fast food and not vegetables.

Back in awhile.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Perspective is everything. One year, two years, three years ago - where was I? Waffling on the fence of some decision, most likely. Being intensely and unnecessarily self analytical. Worrying about something silly. Praying fervently about things that in the end, weren't actually that important....small fries, if you will. But one year, two years, three years ago - these very things I speak of were the things I couldn't see past. They stopped me in my tracks and forced me to either pray or dissect or discuss.

"If only I'd known then what I know now...If only I'd known."

I've heard this a fair number of times throughout the span of my life - usually from someone older and wiser, or just wiser. And I have to admit, I may have muttered this phrase under my own breath a time or two. It's tempting, isn't it? To regret the way we used to see the world. If only I had known. ...but you didn't know, and that Unknown is precisely what it took to get you here: to where you are now.

Perspective is everything. It is with us every step of the way; it determines the weight of our problems and the size of our accomplishments. It controls the volume knob on Truth, and lies. It carries us to our jobs, it rallies for our friends, it questions the ones who've hurt us. It is Perspective that tells you what you see in the mirror and what those numbers on the scale are for. Perspective tells us why we should get up in the morning. Perspective controls your hunger, your need for Jesus, your latest vice-dependency. And it is Perspective that will change when our minds do, when our hearts are softened, when we listen to our God.

What matters? A new year (a new decade!) is upon us. By now you've surely reflected over the last year, and the last ten. To follow this, you've likely decided what should change this time around: the job, the heart, those numbers on the scale. Resolutions: what must go, what should definitely stay. But as you nail those resolutions to your wall, consider this: they are based entirely on Perspective. Your perspective. This doesn't make them wrong, or even right; this doesn't make them unnecessary and it might not even change their worth. But it should remind you that like everything else, they are fallible. They will likely change when your mind does, when your heart does, and maybe even when you listen to what God says about you.

Friday, January 1, 2010

for the old ones; for the new ones

Here's to all the habits - good for us, and poor
Here's another still for all the lies we should ignore
New years bring new days and nights;
new battlefields
new resting places
new perspectives.
Here's to knowing Where we Stand
regardless of our sight.


These chains that try to hold us;
our beds, our fears, our vices,
They die today.
...and tomorrow too,
if we let them.

Evil will not seek you out, if all you do is sit
naively unaware
He has no reason to seek or to kill or to destroy; he already has you where he wants you;
Lost, blind, disjointed.
But just as the Enemies satisfy themselves on your complacency of heart
your distracted interests
your shallow minded goals
So does the King refuse to satisfy himself on your waning countenance.

There are other Warriors
he says
Warriors that will fight for me.
Warriors that will win when I ask them to.
Warriors that will stand there,
front lines
heart open
vision heightened,
ears: unstopped.

Make no mistake: the battles will be battles.
They will require you to move,
to use your weakened limbs and trust that I will strengthen them:
when I ask to do things beyond your physical capacity.
You will be asked to stand when it seems the oddest thing to do,
to walk when all the world has chosen to lie down,
and to speak louder than the half-truths that permeate the air.
You will be opposed.
But know this:

 Any battle entered is a battle won.