Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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How pregnancy has made me confront my own weight bias

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Two months to go! Photo credit: Randall Andrews

I have a confession to make and I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not to write about it because I’m not proud of this. However, I’m taking a deep breath and going for it because I think that it’s important to acknowledge these things.

During the first trimester as I started to gain weight but wasn’t yet obviously pregnant I found myself struggling with the thought that people might think I was *gasp* fat. As someone who has always had a small body I have lived a life rich in thin privilege. Despite my support of HAES and firm belief that people should not be judged by their weight I realized that I wasn’t comfortable extending this mindset to my own body. My body is small, my body has always been small, and therefore, my body should remain small. It’s great for other people to accept their own larger bodies but I, I am ashamed to admit, am not willing to accept that my own body could be anything other than small.

When I would go running at the local indoor track, as my clothes became a little tighter around my belly, I imagined people thinking “good for her, trying to lose weight”. I also imagined people who knew me thinking “looks like she’s not running as much these days”. or passing other judgements on my physique. I was pissed at these people for judging my body. I wanted to wear a sign to tell the world that my imperceptible weight gain was due to the fetus growing inside of me, not because I’m incapable of taming my unruly body. And then I was ashamed and disappointed in myself for not extending the courtesy of body acceptance to my own body as it changed. I was also ashamed because this was how I envisioned others thinking about strangers bodies. Do people really pass these judgements on each other? On themselves? Why did I care what people were (or weren’t) thinking about my body? How have I allowed so much of my identity to be tied to my size? And how self-absorbed of me to presume that others are spending any time judging my body – given the number of people who expressed surprise upon learning I was pregnant when I thought it was pretty obvious people are not nearly as attuned to my body as I imagined. 

As my belly grew and it became more obvious that it contained a tiny human and not just one too many cheeseburgers I became physically less comfortable but mentally more comfortable. People started to compliment me on my “adorable bump”. It feels good to have an acceptable larger body but I’m still carrying that extra guilt around too. It’s not right that women in larger bodies should be shamed while I’m praised for my belly. I truly have no more control over the shape and size of my “bump” as this fetus grows inside me than I have over my height or the size of my feet. 

I truly believe that we do people, particularly women, a disservice by not talking more about how our bodies change over time. It’s as though we all expect to reach a certain size and then remain there permanently. This is not realistic. Our sizes and shapes changes over time for myriad reasons. This is part of being a human in possession of a body. Some people may remain a similar size and shape for decades while others will evolve by the season (winterspeck anyone?). This is all natural.

As I previously wrote, women don’t need to “get their bodies back” after pregnancy. Our bodies have not gone anywhere, they have simply adapted to meet current demands. My new philosophy (during pregnancy and postpartum): my body is going to be the size it wants and needs to be right now.


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Where did her body go?

I was standing in line at the grocery store on the weekend and I noticed a magazine with a photo of Britney Spears in a bikini with the headline “How Britney Got Her Body Back!”. I didn’t take a photo of the magazine because I felt like that would be weird. Instead, I promptly googled it when I got to the car. I couldn’t find the current issue but I did discover that this wasn’t the first time Brit got her body back.

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It would also seem that she’s not the first celeb to have lost and found her body.

Apparently, over the years, myriad celebrities have been losing their bodies and then having them returned. Someone should really get Scully and Mulder on this.

Seriously though, why do we tend to believe that we are less ourselves when there is more of ourselves? What a weird species/society we are. What a shame that we can’t celebrate and respect bodies of all shapes and sizes. What a pity that when a woman gains weight during pregnancy it’s as though she’s been invaded by body snatchers and not providing a nurturing environment to her child.

I know that it’s a difficult frame of mind to escape. It’s hard to “feel like yourself” when your body is different from the way it’s always been. But let’s start trying. Ladies (and gents) your body is always your own. Try to treat it with love and respect no matter what your weight may be.


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Is sugar making you go bald?

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My google alerts, alerted me to this clip from The Doctors that says sugar is the surprising food behind your hair loss. While absolutely being sensationalist I do have to give them a little credit for not going full Dr Oz. They made sure to state that sugar, in and of itself, is not inherently evil and that it’s fine to consume it in small quantities. According to them, sugar is leading to expanding waistlines and thinning hairlines. Sweet.

It’s a very short clip, and naturally, there aren’t any references. As far as I can tell, there hasn’t been any new research in this area. I found a few studies from about a decade ago looking at the connection between an alleged male form of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and premature balding and insulin resistance (1, 2). These studies did not explicitly examine a link between sugar consumption and hair loss.

Insulin resistance is an impaired ability of the body to properly use insulin. The causes of insulin resistance are not yet fully known; however, major contributing factors include diet and lifestyle. High levels of fat around the waist and a sedentary lifestyle may both contribute to insulin resistance. Excessive consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates may contribute to those high levels of abdominal adiposity. However, excessive consumption of calories in general, regardless of source, may cause accumulation of excessive abdominal fat.

There are many causes of hair loss, including hormonal disruptions. These may go hand-in-hand with insulin resistance and conditions such as PCOS and type 2 diabetes.

To summarize: The Doctors have taken the leap from excessive sugar consumption to hair loss. There are many other factors at play and sugar itself would not be the direct cause of hair loss, even if it is a contributing factor in the development of hormonal disruptions. Because there are many other causes of hair loss, before you go sugar-free, you should book an appointment with your primary health care provider to obtain an accurate diagnosis. That being said, if you watched that video and thought “I’m eating too much sugar” there’s absolutely no harm in cutting back. Too much of anything is bad for you.


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From mice and CGA to humans and coffee: I won’t be forsaking my Bodum just yet

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Now that everybody’s all in a tizzy about the latest evidence that coffee is bad for us maybe it’s time to actually look at the study. News reports are stating that “five cups of coffee or more per day linked to weight gain, increased diabetes risk”. Not exactly.

The study used mice as subjects. As discussed before, mice are not humans and results in mice may differ significantly from results in humans. In addition to this, the study didn’t actually look at coffee consumption. No, they looked at the effect of one component present in coffee. That’s like taking sugar out of an orange, giving it to mice, and then stating that oranges are making us obese. One of the greatest obstacles for the supplement industry is that individual nutrients and other substances contained in foods do not have the same effects when they’re consumed in isolation. That’s why us dietitians are always yammering on about it being best to get as many of your nutrients as you can from whole foods.

Yet another issue with the study is that they used three groups of mice: one fed a “normal diet”, a second fed a “high-fat diet”, and the third fed “a high-fat diet + CGA” (CGA is chlorogenic acid, the component in coffee that they were studying). They only looked at the effects of the CGA on mice consuming a high-fat diet. Thus, we don’t know what effects of CGA might have been on mice consuming other types of diets. Admittedly, the mice taking the CGA fared worse than the mice on the high-fat diet alone. However, as the headline pointed out, the negative consequences of CGA consumption were only seen in mice consuming the equivalent of CGA from five or more cups of coffee a day.

This study tells me that CGA in isolation, in relatively high quantities, in mice consuming high-fat diets, may contribute to weight gain and associated risks. A great deal more research is needed before we can draw any similar conclusions regarding human consumption of coffee. For now, take this dose of reality and wash it down with a good cup of coffee.


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Bananas about weight gain

Not so long ago I heard someone talking about wanting to gain weight. Definitely not a common sentiment, but the additional statement that eating bananas would cause weight gain is something that I’ve heard before.

I’m not sure why bananas have earned such a bad rap. One medium banana (about 18-20 cm long) has only 105 calories. It’s got 2.1 g of fibre, 32 mg magnesium, 422 mg potassium, and 10 mg of vitamin C. Sure, it’s also got 14 g of sugar but that’s the same amount of sugar as in a medium apple, only 2 g more than in a medium orange, and a few grams less than an equivalent serving of grapes. Bananas are also similar to other fruits in that they contain very little fat; about 0.4 grams each. There is nothing particularly offensive about bananas.

The truth is, bananas are not going to cause you to gain weight. Unless, of course, you’re consuming a large quantity of them every day on-top of all of the calories that you need just to maintain your current weight. If you are trying to gain weight your best bet is to go for calorie dense snacks that are also nutritious like nuts, peanut butter sandwiches, granola, dried fruit, or cheese. Bananas are not the ticket to weight gain. Consuming more calories than you expend, regardless of their source, is the ticket to gaining weight.