Tag: Health and wellness (page 1 of 18)

Slip! Slop! Slap! in time for summer

Dear Karen,

I got a call yesterday from Summer, letting me know it was on its way and would be on my doorstep within the week.

This kind of call is one I take quite seriously, given I’ve got fair skin and a have a tendency to go straight from “pasty” to “scorch”, speed-walking past “tan” and sprinting past “burn” in my rush to get there.

For years, I’ve approached sun care using the Australians’ mnemonic of “slip! slop! slap!”:

SLIP! on a shirt,
SLOP! on sunscreen, and
SLAP! on a hat

So far it’s worked quite well, even bundled- and greased-up on 35 degree, 97% humidity Hong Kong summer days. Not my best look, but at least I didn’t get a burn.

When I heard the siren call of Summer yesterday, I knew action had to be taken and this time, I plan on looking vaguely fashionable and (fakely) golden.

Armed with my copy of yesterday’s Sunday Times2014 Style Beauty Awards‘, I stocked up on a few essentials.

Made in the shades

First up? New sunglasses.

I am not a spy. Repeat. NOT a spy.

I am not a spy. Repeat. NOT a spy.

Ray Bans this year. Before you think I buy a new pair every year, I don’t. I find that the more brutal I am with my glasses, the longer they survive, and I’ve had my Celine sunnies for at least 7 years. I like them, but they’re pretty battered. It’s time to freshen the look and abuse a new pair.

You know what I like about them, best of all? The bloody case they come in isn’t the size of a small badger. I can’t stand over-sized sunglass cases. They take up way too much room.

Who’s up for some sun-kissed radiance?

Next on my list: Guerlain’s Terracotta Joli Teint. The blurb in the beauty column seduced me but when I went in to Selfridges to see it for myself, I was convinced.

This is a three-pronged beauty treatment, equal parts “foundation, skincare and sun-kissed radiance”.

alt="IMAGE-guerlain-terracotta-joli-teint"Who am I to turn down sun-kissed radiance? This product promises to make me look like I’ve had a weekend in the sun, a thrilling prospect for someone who tends more toward boiled lobster than golden apricot. It’s got SPF as well, so all bases are well and truly covered here.

I also stocked up on their bronzing powder, called Terracotta 4 Seasons.

This is a compact powder that is divided into 4 sections, enabling you to match your tan to the changing seasons. Clever, right?

It takes into consideration that most people are pale at the beginning of the year and darker towards the end. We’re encouraged to customize the powder to suit the colour on our faces, which the clever clogs at Guerlain realize changes as the year goes by. Oh, they’re so smart.

Everyone needs a slap now and then

After getting my fill at the beauty counter, off I went in search of a hat to see me through the summer.

So far, I can slip and slop, but I couldn’t slap and oh, how I need a slap.

To find the perfect hat, I went to Fenwick’s, a store known to cater to women in search of the perfect look for Ascot and other royal events of the summer season. I took a quick look in the women’s section and realized two things:

1. A frou-frou hat will not help keep the sun off my delicate brow.
2. No-name brand hats are either teensy-weensy and won’t sit on my largish head, or they’re so lacking in style and substance, I may as well perch a crocheted tea cosy on my head and call it a day.

Feeling incredibly clever and subversive, I sought out the men’s department. I found some hats sitting on a shelf, minding their own business. A saleswoman came up to me and after I confessed to my embarrassing head size, she nodded sagely and informed me that I wasn’t the first woman down there today. Whew!

She and I had a great time trying on men’s hats—what a pleasure to find some that actually fit. I was so thrilled, I ended up buying two; one for strutting down the street on a Sunday, the other for lounging on my rooftop with my kittens.

And did I mention slop?

alt="IMAGE-sunscreen-nivea-50-spf-30-spf"By this time, I wanted to go home but there was one final stop to complete the slip! slop! slap! trifecta: Boots, the Chemist. I needed to buy what 25,000 people voted the best sun cream ever.

I bought the 30 for Lars, while my delicate, sensitive, allergic skin shall stick to the 50.

So, there you have it.

Shopping done. Skin safe for yet another season. Hopefully, by Autumn, I’ll be just as pale and pasty as I was this past winter.

By the way, none of this skin protection comes cheap.

But when you weigh it against the cost of having moles removed and pre-cancerous lesions frozen off by your friendly neighbourhood dermatologist, they’re cheap at twice the price.




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Weight loss after 50: “Fed Up” tells the story Big Food doesn’t want us to hear

Dear Wendy,

For ages now, I’ve been wittering on about how the mega-corporations that comprise the food industry—”Big Food” for short—are fueling the obesity crisis.

I know I’m not alone in realizing this: bloggers like Dr. Yoni Freedhoff at Weighty Matters and Dr. Arya Sharma at Dr. Sharma’s Obesity Notes have talked about the obesogenic environment created by a food industry that (among other things) laces about 80% of its products with sugar, salt, and/or fat.

Movies and books like Super-Size Me have addressed the fast food industry, one aspect of Big Food, but the bigger problem is this: when we eat food that we don’t cook ourselves, we are turning over our nutritional decisions to mega-corporations whose primary objective is to manufacture food that is cheap, convenient, and full of things that keep us coming back for more.

alt="IMAGE-fed-up-documentary-diabetes-food-industry"They couldn’t care less whether it happens to be healthy, and in the vast majority of cases, it isn’t.

Now, a documentary film has been released that addresses the role of Big Food in the obesity epidemic that has been sweeping the developed world.

Fed Up, a film from Katie Couric, Laurie David (Oscar-winning producer of An Inconvenient Truth) and director Stephanie Soechtig says, “Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong….Fed Up will change the way you eat forever.”

The film was released yesterday, and you can bet I’ll be heading out to watch it as soon as it hits Ottawa. Meanwhile, here’s the trailer:

If this doesn’t horrify and anger us—all of us—into action, I’m not sure what will.

Love, Karen


Weight loss after 50: What’s your Easter weakness?

Dear Wendy,

Well, it’s here again. Easter Sunday, which in this house used to mean hiding caches of foil-wrapped chocolate eggs around the back yard, then sending the kids out with their baskets on an egg-hunting free-for-all.


I’m ready to go. Just point me at the chocolate.

These days, we still celebrate the holiday with chocolate, though probably not as much of it; and our kids no longer leap out of bed at half-past-oh-God-what-time-is-it? to rush down to the dining room table in search of their giant chocolate bunnies in nests of shredded paper.

Still, there’s no denying it: ’tis the season for chocolate.

And even though those foil-wrapped eggs aren’t exactly Godiva quality, there’s something about the way they melt on the tongue…let’s just say that I find them hard to resist.

So I won’t even try.

Yes, you heard me. I know, I’m watching my weight, and chocolate isn’t exactly diet food, but I figure that if I can’t allow myself a bit of chocolate on Easter Sunday, I’m doing something very wrong.

After all, holidays happen, and food is an integral part of most holiday festivities. If I had to sit out the fun, pinching my lips together to keep myself from popping one of those delicious little morsels into my mouth, I know how I’d feel: isolated, left out, and pissed off.

Because really, denying myself the occasional treat would mean that I’d crossed the line from “watching my food intake” to “policing myself”…and is that really how I want to live the rest of my life?

I’ll answer that: Nope, it is not.

So. Chocolate it is, then. But here’s the deal I make with myself: I’ll eat the minimum amount I need to feel satisfied. And as I always do, I’ll write it down (okay, to be strictly honest, I’ll type it into my food tracking program on my phone).

By the end of Sunday, I expect I’ll have exceeded my usual calorie allotment by a few hundred calories…and that will be okay. Because on Monday, I’ll be back in the saddle again, my chocolate-noshing day behind me. At least until next Easter.

I know you’re a fan of jelly beans around this time of year. How will you be handling your holiday treat situation? Inquiring minds want to know!




Weight loss after 50: Don’t fear the trainer!

Dear Wendy,

I was going to write today about how women our age shouldn’t be afraid to push ourselves physically, yadda yadda yadda…and then I read a couple of pieces from our blogger friends on exactly the same topic.

Clearly, this is a sign from the blogiverse: it’s telling me, “Take the day off, Karen.”

And who am I to ignore the wisdom of the spheres?

How to choose and work with a personal trainer

First up, I’d like to introduce you to this excellent post by Carol Cassara, who knows whereof she speaks when it comes to finding the right trainer. Including a hot, single one in our age bracket, just saying. But don’t just go for the eye candy: this post is full of great tips on what to look for, what to expect, and what a trainer can do for you.

New to strength training?

And if you’re coming to strength training as a fresh-faced newbie, fitness pro Tamara Grand has worked out an at-home beginner workout to get you started on the right track. It even includes a video, so you can check that you’re using proper form. And Tamara has a YouTube channel, as well, where you can work out with a virtual partner…by yourself, in the privacy of your home.

So there you go: this plus the spring weather that arrived this week should set your weekend off on the right note. Have a great Saturday!




Fitness: It’s not supposed to actually kill you. (Photo: CrossfitPaleoDietFitnessClasses via Flickr)



Weight loss after 50: Kick-ass breakfasts keep you on track all day

Dear Wendy,

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: when our health teachers insisted that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, they were not in any way kidding. A great high-protein breakfast not only gives you the energy you need, but it makes it much easier to sail through the dreaded late afternoon munchies.

A couple of years ago I was having real trouble getting through the afternoons, even though I was doing all the things I was supposed to: I was eating 3 meals of at least 350 calories apiece, and 2 or 3 snacks of at least 150 calories. I was making sure not to go too long without eating—3 hours at the very most.

But still, I found that about an hour after my afternoon snack, my stomach would start growling, and it was really tough to hang in until suppertime.


Nothing happens without this.

I went over my food diary with my nutritionist, and he spotted the problem immediately: my breakfasts were kind of wimpy in the protein department. He suggested I bump up the protein component to at least 20 grams. I was skeptical, as I couldn’t see how what I ate first thing in the morning could possibly affect how I felt by late afternoon.

But I did it anyway…and the results were almost instantaneous.

Building a healthy, high-protein breakfast turned out to be less of a challenge than I’d feared, so I thought I’d share a couple of my favourite recipes with you. Keep in mind that my brain doesn’t really kick into gear until after my first (or sometimes second) cup of coffee, so I prefer to keep my breakfasts simple to prepare.

Breakfast 1: High-protein oatmeal

This is my current favourite. I use either steel-cut oats (which takes longer to cook, but has a nice nutty flavour) or a blend of old-fashioned oats (not the instant kind), rye, barley, spelt, millet, flaxseed, and quinoa. But I think any whole-grain oat would do quite nicely.

  • 1/3 c. oatmeal
  • Water to cook, as per package directions
  • 1 scoop of whey protein powder
  • 3/4 cup of frozen raspberries (or fresh, if they’re in season)

I cook the oatmeal according to directions—4 minutes in the microwave for the oat/grain blend, 15 minutes for the steel-cut oats. Then I stir in the scoop of whey protein (the brand I use has 30 grams of protein and 1 gram of sugar). If the mixture is too sticky, I add a tablespoon or two of 1% milk. Then I stir in the raspberries.

I’m not adding a picture, because the mixture looks vile, and you’d immediately be convinced that a) I’ve lost my ever-lovin’ mind, and b) you would never eat that in a million gazillion years. But it actually tastes great…and best of all, it staves off the late-afternoon munchies.

Breakfast 2: High-protein cold cereal


Rachel calls this hamster food. I call it a great start to my day.


This one is even easier to prepare.

  • 1 cup high-protein cereal, like Kashi GoLean or GoLean Crunch
  • 1/3 cup 1% milk (because I think skim milk is gross)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat, no-sugar Greek-style yogurt (beware the flavoured ones, which often contain sugar)
  • 3/4 cup berries, or a sliced peach, or whatever takes my fancy that day

I’m not going to spell out the preparation here. I think we can figure it out, right?

I know some people who like to get their morning protein in the form of smoothies, and that’s fine too. Whatever works for you.

But my point is: eat protein, as much as you can, within an hour or so of waking up. You’ll thank yourself later in the day.





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