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WENDY ELLIOTT: Be mindful of food and drink

Wendy Elliott. File
Wendy Elliott. File - SaltWire Network
WOLFVILLE, N.S. —

Woman’s Day magazine is only too happy to offer its readers a whopping ‘85 Weight Loss Tips That'll Help You Slim Down.’ No question we tend to pudge as we turn into grown ups.

But far worse than that, in May, a story in the Globe and Mail indicated that excess weight is due to become the second leading cause of cancer in Canada in about two decades, right behind tobacco.

The finding, derived from a study funded by the Canadian Cancer Society, speaks to that being the future unless a series of targeted actions are taken to reduce rates of obesity.

Researchers looked at the cancer incidence going back to 2015 and were able to predict the number of cancer cases caused by excess weight will triple by 2042. Their findings were published in the journal Preventive Medicine and are backed up by Statistics Canada, which says more than 60 per cent of Canadian adults are overweight or obese.

Not surprisingly, Christine Friedenreich, co-principal investigator of the study, called the issue complicated. She said greater awareness is needed and also pointed to past successes in reducing smoking rates, for example, for inspiration.

So, I was interested when Wolfville native Lillian Salmon sent me a copy of her new book ‘Living Slim: A Canadian Woman’s Way.’ For her, one great means to maintaining a healthy weight is apples.

“Growing up in Wolfville, a small university town in the Valley, I absorbed this apple culture. I became fixated with the idea that biting into a crisp, beautiful apple was a perfect delight…”

Lillian’s book is, in part, a homage to her Newfoundland-born mother and her upbringing. “In my mother’s house what accompanied those apples was the belief that fresh food is good food, that real tastes are the best tastes, and that gifts of the earth are to be cherished, savoured and treated with care.”

That did not include junk food.

Wolfville native Lillian Salmon's new book is ‘Living Slim: A Canadian Woman’s Way.’
Wolfville native Lillian Salmon's new book is ‘Living Slim: A Canadian Woman’s Way.’

She says her mother does sound like the perfect model of restraint, but for her generation restraint was expected, necessary, and normal.

“She ruled her food. To my knowledge, food never ruled her.”

Looking back to her youth, Lillian thinks that advertising prompted a generation to “eat something that is cheaply made with large quantities of fat, sugar, starch and salt.”

As a result, she has her thoughts on soft drinks.

“Pop is sugar water and chemical, period. Juices may have a modicum of value, but it’s just a modicum.”

The first lesson Lillian learned was the instinct of moderation. She absorbed that from the example of her mother and those friends who inspired her to find the goal of weight management.

She doesn’t call for zero treats. In fact, Lillian’s pretty clear sugar and fat and salt can’t be disposed of, however, she notes, “it can be achingly difficult: we must not only bring discipline but also intelligence to bear.”

I liked the chapter where she described attending a Japanese tea ceremony in Toronto, speaking to the “ritualized quieting of the sense, an attention to detail, an acute experience of the particular that enabled a connection to the whole.”

Lillian is taken back to her childhood and her mother setting down the teapot.

“Her cup of tea meant a moment of relaxation, in her own home — her world would stop, temporarily, as she allowed herself to savour the flavour, as well as the mild lift it gave her.”

All too often today she points out we “gulp tea or coffee, texting, talking or rushing to work.” Hence all the red and white cups all over our roadways, but more important, that haste shows the loss of mindfulness around our food and drink.

When Lillian, who worked in journalism and communications, began to be concerned about carrying 20 extra pounds, she saw a headline stating, “older people need fewer calories and more nutrients.” A light went on in her mind.

Determined to eat a reduced, but nutritious diet she stayed off her scales for six months and then was delighted by the results. Snacking on dates, apricots or raisins was one beneficial practice she learned.

Flat out exercise, admittedly, was never Lillian’s style, but she looks at the benefits of walking regularly. In everything weight and health wise, mindfulness is key to her.

She jokingly refers to her book as the Canadian equivalent of French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure that was published by Mireille Guiliano in 2007. Hers was the definitive non-diet book. I prefer Lillian Salmon’s.

Former Advertiser and Register reporter Wendy Elliott lives in Wolfville.

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