Our experts answer reader questions about dropping the last 10 pounds—or more.
Question: I've heard that lifting weights helps the body burn calories even when you're not active. True or false? — Reiko
Answer: That's true. A lot of women prioritize cardio because they want to lose fat, but that burns calories only while you're exercising; as soon as you stop, you're no longer burning as much. Instead, lifting weights revs up your metabolism, so you'll continue burning calories for a few hours after your workout. And don't worry about bulking up; women don't have enough testosterone for that. But you will get leaner!
— Trudie German, certified personal trainer and owner of bodyenvy.ca, Toronto
Question: Is it possible I'm meant to be this big? I've been about the same size all my adult life, give or take a dress size. My mom and my sister are both size 14, and so were my grandmas. Maybe it's genetics? — Anne
Answer: Your genes do play a role, but it's more important to remember that size isn't really a good measure of health. If you're active, feeling good and sleeping and eating well, you probably don't have to worry. According to the World Health Organization, obesity is defined as "abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health." Of course, as you get heavier, there's a greater likelihood your health could be negatively impacted. But it's impossible for me to tell just by having you step on a scale; I have to do all sorts of tests to see if your weight really is affecting your health.
— Dr. Arya Sharma, founder of the Canadian Obesity Network and professor at the University of Alberta
Question: I'm injured and I can't work out. Is it still possible to lose weight? (Even if I'm eating my feelings about not being able to exercise?) — Katie
Answer: It's certainly possible! In fact, what you eat has more of an impact on your weight than exercise. You won't be able to work off extra calories, so be particularly mindful of other factors that influence weight, too, by getting enough sleep, finding ways to manage stress and choosing healthy whole foods in appropriate portions. And try these tricks: Serve vegetables family-style so they're within easy reach, but keep richer foods on the stovetop; use a smaller plate; and focus on your food—you're more likely to overindulge if you're distracted, so try not to eat in front of the TV, in the car or at your desk at work. Lastly, don't deny your hunger; eventually, it will backfire and you'll find yourself overeating or grabbing a convenient but unhealthy snack. People often think they have to cut back on food if they're going to lose weight, but I counsel my clients to eat more during the day. The idea isn't to willpower your way to weight loss; it's to make sustainable changes.
— Casey Berglund, registered dietitian and owner of worthyandwell.com, Calgary
Heart disease and stroke are one of the leading causes of death for Canadian women—and risk factors, symptoms and even treatment might vary by age. Here's what you need to know.
It was Dec. 13, 2014. I was getting ready to go out for dinner when suddenly everything went wrong. I lost coordination, almost like I was drunk. I went numb, as if the local anesthetic that dentists use had been applied to half of my body. My arm went limp, I could barely walk and, out of the blue, I got a raging migraine. At 31 years old, I was in the midst of a transient ischemic attack, often called a ministroke, but I had no idea.
It wasn't until the next day, when I was feeling only slightly better, that I realized something was really wrong. I didn't want to wait for an appointment with my family doctor, so I called Telehealth Ontario, the provincial service that connects callers to a registered nurse via telephone. In the very back of my mind, I wondered if I'd had a stroke—but I was too young, or so I thought. But when I described my symptoms, it became clear that I wasn't too young. In fact, the nurse who took my call was worried enough to send paramedics to my house. Soon, I was in the back of an ambulance, rushing through Toronto's busy streets on the way to the hospital.
Luckily, my stroke was mild, and, in July 2015, I underwent surgery to have a patent foramen ovale closure device inserted to close the hole in my heart. But, to this day, I'm still shocked at how little I knew about the risks associated with stroke and heart disease, or just how common they are. As I soon learned, about 1.6 million Canadians—557,000 of them women over the age of 24—report having cardiovascular disease. And, according to a study looking at factors and behaviours affecting cardiovascular health published in 2013 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, fewer than one in 10 adult Canadians were in ideal cardiovascular health from 2003 to 2011, which means 90 percent of us are making choices that are increasing our risk for a cardiovascular event. In fact, heart disease and stroke is one of the leading causes of death for Canadian women, and most of us have at least one risk factor.
It's a club that I didn't particularly want to be a part of, but having joined, I began wondering what other women's experiences had been like.
Unlike me, when Victoria resident Carolyn Thomas started having a range of symptoms— crushing chest pain, nausea, weakness, sweating and a persistent ache down her left arm—on her 58th birthday, she immediately thought it could be a heart attack and went straight to the ER. But when she got there and told the doctor on duty about her symptoms, he said it was just acid reflux. "I remember exactly what he said," she recalls. " 'You're in the right demographic for acid reflux. Go home and call your family doctor for a prescription for antacids.' " Embarrassed and apologetic, she did just that. But her symptoms persisted for two more weeks. She eventually went back to the hospital, and this time, she was told she was suffering from what was actually one of the most serious types of heart attacks—a complete blockage of her left anterior descending artery, which is often referred to as the widow-maker.
Since then, she has recovered, but it's far from full—she had to retire early and continues to see a specialist at her regional pain clinic.
Irmine MacKenzie also went to the hospital immediately. It's been 35 years since the New Waterford, N.S., resident lost the use of her left arm and leg after suffering a stroke caused by carotid artery stenosis, narrowing of the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the brain. She was 61 years old and, having just finished eating breakfast with her husband, John, she headed to the kitchen to tackle the dishes. Suddenly, plates started dropping from her hands, shattering as they hit the floor.
After a six-week hospital stay and a three-month stint in a rehabilitation program in Halifax, she eventually learned to walk again. Her ability to manage quite well over the past three decades is clearly a testament to her grit— and maybe some kind words from a stranger. "I won't ever forget the ambulance driver who took me to the rehabilitation centre," she says. "He told me, 'We're taking you by stretcher now, but you'll be walking out of there with a cane.' " Sure enough, that's exactly what she did.
A better understanding
It has now been two years since I suffered my transient ischemic attack, and I feel like I'm still learning about heart health. I now understand the importance of cardiac rehabilitation, for one thing. When I had my stroke, I didn't know this kind of program existed—my cardiologist didn't refer me to one, but having access to dedicated professionals in a safe, encouraging environment could have helped me navigate the health-care system and guided me toward healthier choices.
One thing I found myself, Carolyn and Irmine echoing is how, as women, we must advocate for ourselves in the health-care system, ensuring that our voices are heard and our health is looked after. We need to put ourselves first, without shame or guilt. As Dr. Paula Harvey, director of the cardiovascular research program at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, says, "It comes back to education and partnership with your health provider. Don't be afraid to ask questions and be informed."
Heart health by the decade
Nearly two-thirds of all heart attacks and strokes occur in Canadians 65 or older, but younger Canadians are increasingly at risk. Here's what you need to know at every age.
In your 20s and 30s: Young people with heart-health issues are part of a growing minority. A study published in 2012 out of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine found that, over a period of 12 years, strokes among people aged 20 to 54 made up an increasingly greater proportion of strokes across all age groups, growing from about 13 percent in 1993–94 to 19 percent in 2005.
Closer to home, the Heart and Stroke Foundation says several studies predict that the rate of strokes among younger adults will double in the next 15 years. The main reason? According to Dr. Tara Sedlak, a cardiologist at Vancouver General Hospital and clinical assistant professor at The University of British Columbia, it comes down to lifestyle—high stress levels, poor eating habits, lack of exercise and smoking. Research bears this out: The University of Cincinnati study suggested that a rise in lifestyle-related risk factors (such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol) may contribute to a higher incidence of stroke.
But there is a way to turn the tide: As with other age groups, simple changes such as exercising regularly, quitting smoking and eating healthily could see the rates of cardiovascular disease—and, more specifically, stroke—decrease, says Dr. Paula Harvey, director of the cardiovascular research program at Women's College Hospital in Toronto.
In your 40s and 50s: Cardiovascular disease is less common among younger women, in part because of their higher estrogen levels; the hormone offers some protection to the arteries. But as women approach menopause and their estrogen levels drop, the incidence of stroke and heart attack increases.
Unfortunately, broad knowledge of their increased risk may not protect perimenopausal women from misdiagnosis. According to research by the Canadian Medical Protective Association, which provides advice, legal assistance and risk-management education to 95,000 Canadian physicians, doctors are missing the signs of stroke in patients nearly 10 percent of the time, largely because symptoms are often nonspecific—patients often complained of headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
And women, who have historically been less inclined to advocate for themselves, are particularly at risk. Research out of the University of Leeds in England showed that, between April 2004 and March 2013, 198,534 heart attack patients at National Health Service hospitals in England and Wales were initially misdiagnosed—and most of them were women. During that time, women suffering a heart attack were 50 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed compared to men.
It might be difficult to challenge doctors who tell you nothing's wrong, but Dr. Sedlak encourages women to listen to their bodies and to be firm with health-care providers about what they're experiencing. "If you feel there is a real problem, be persistent," she says.
In your 60s and beyond: Women over 65 have the most strokes of all age groups, but they still have fewer strokes than men the same age. However, a Danish study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2015 found that, after 60, women tend to have more serious strokes than men—and they're more likely to survive, which can have serious repercussions on quality of life.
John Sawdon, the public education and special projects director of the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada, explains that cardiac rehabilitation programs, which are free with a referral from your doctor, are the perfect next step for recovering cardiac patients of all ages, but they're particularly important for older Canadians, who tend to live more sedentary lives. These programs are supervised by a cardiologist and, after an assessment, are tailored by your cardiac rehab team, which usually includes nurses, physical therapists, kinesiologists and social workers. They can provide exercise training, education on heart-healthy living and stress counselling—all of which can contribute to the health and well-being of people who have heart problems. And they're effective, too: "Research has shown that those completing cardiac rehab live seven years longer than control groups," says Sawdon. It also "reduces incidence of another heart attack by 50 percent."
What's your risk?
Ninety percent of adult Canadians have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But while factors such as obesity, hypertension, alcohol abuse, family history and ethnicity increase everyone's risk, regardless of gender, the following three are particularly relevant to women.
Smoking: While we all know that smoking is seriously unhealthy, it can be especially damaging to women's cardiovascular health. Smoking when taking the oral contraceptive pill can drastically increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. But quitting can cut your risk within a year.
Diabetes: According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, people with diabetes are at a very high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, "they may develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than individuals without diabetes."
Mental illness and stress: "Women have a higher frequency of stress-induced heart disease, and women's hearts are affected by stress and depression more than men's," says Dr. David Fitchett, a cardiologist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.
Heart health dictionary
Atherosclerosis: When arteries narrow and harden due to plaque buildup.
Cardiomyopathhy: Diseases of the heart muscle, which cause it to become enlarged, thick or rigid.
Cardiovascular disease: A broad term for problems with the heart and blood vessels, often due to atherosclerosis. These conditions can lead to heart attack, angina or stroke.
Heart attack: Also known as a myocardial infarction, these attacks happen when the flow of blood to a section of the heart is blocked, preventing the muscle from getting oxygen.
High blood pressure: Also called hypertension, this is when the long-term force of blood against artery walls is elevated, requiring the heart to work harder, which may eventually lead to heart disease.
Microvascular angina: A disease of the small coronary artery blood vessels. Many angiograms do not view the small blood vessels, so this can be difficult to diagnose.
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection: A tear in the coronary artery wall. Physical or emotional stress appears to play a role. Most cases (around 70 percent) occur in women under 50—and a third of those are pregnant or postpartum women.
Stroke: When the blood supply to a portion of the brain is interrupted. This can happen when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain either bursts or is blocked.
We may be approaching the end of award season, but Hollywood’s biggest night is still to come. It’s time to get ready for the Academy Awards (or whatever other big event you have planned).
Touted as the biggest night in Hollywood, stars will spend months primping and perfecting their appearance in anticipation of the Oscars. Even if you’ll be spending Oscar Sunday nestled on the couch instead of stepping out on the red carpet, you can probably appreciate the effort that goes in to looking good for a big event. Whether it’s walking down the aisle, a milestone birthday or even just an event with lots of photograph opportunities, there are occasions in our lives that we want to look our best—and pull out all the stops. The last thing you want is to be stressed out about your appearance instead of enjoying the big day.
We spoke to Victoria Radford, a makeup artist and esthetician whose handiwork you’ll be able to spot on the Oscar red carpet. Her advice? “You always look the most beautiful when you look like yourself—just enhanced. It’s important to start the process early, rather than making major changes the week before.” The the best move you can make is to give yourself plenty of time to amplify your appearance and account for some time-off. Just don’t forget to enjoy the process; remember, getting ready is half the fun.
6 months before: Consult an esthetician and hairstylist
Ideally, you want to be almost ready by the time you sit down in the makeup chair. What does this mean? Radford compares it to going to the gym: if you decide you want a 6-pack, you’re going to need to plan ahead. The same goes for skincare and hair — envision how you want to look and develop a personalized plan going forward.
Talk to your stylist about what you’d like to achieve. If this means growing your hair out long remember remember to be realistic and make note of your lifestyle. If your beauty routine is pretty low maintenance, don’t opt for hair extensions or a bob that requires heat styling every day. If you have curly or frizzy hair, Radford recommends an in salon Keratin treatments. Keratin combats frizz by bonding together all of the frizzy particles. It also prevents the hair from breaking, which is great for growing your hair out.
As for you complexion, a good morning and evening skin care routine is a great starting off point. Your skin cells renew themselves every 28 days, so to get your skin to reaching J.Lo glow levels consider going for a monthly facial in addition to having a rock solid skin care regimen. If you are looking to add volume or minimize wrinkles using injectables like Botox or Restylane, Radford insists that you do tiny tweaks over time, think of it as a sprinkle, instead of everything all at once. If this is your first time, leaving six months before the big day will ensure that any adverse reactions (either allergic or personal due to not liking the result) won’t ruin your look.
Photography by Marie Rainville
3 months before: Think about your brows
If you’re a chronic over-plucker and looking to grow out your brows, discuss with a brow technician what your ideal brow shape is. We spoke to Lexi Miles, the founder of WAXON Waxbar, who insists that your entire face changes when you have a great brow. Three months gives you three appointments to restructure your brows.
One month before: Test out beauty looks
Now is a good time to try out makeup and hairstyle looks that you think you’ll want to embrace on the day of the event. Try other beauty treatments like lash and brow tinting or eyelash extensions at this point. You’ll be able to make sure that it’s the effect you want and that there’s no allergic reaction, which sometimes can be caused by the dye or the glue.
Image provided by Vita Liberata
Two weeks before: Decide if you want a tan or a wax
If you’re after a more bronzed appearance, never get from the harmful UV rays, instead pay a visit to a professional for spray tan, or try to do-it-yourself at-home. Just make sure to pick the right tone for your skin: Light is for the fair skin, medium works for more golden skin, and dark is best for deeper and olive skin tones. Bonus: A faux-glow can also blur stretch marks and cellulite.
Miles recommends waxing before you get your sunless tan. “Waxing is a natural exfoliant,” she says. “Your tan will adhere to your skin a lot deeper and will last a lot longer. We would recommend at least 24 hours before you get a spray tan.” Just make sure to go to a wax specialist—they will help reduce pain and give you a better quality experience. How you care for your skin pre and post tan is key in determining how long your bronze lasts; Waxon's On the rocks is a 2-in-1 product that will both exfoliate and hydrate skin to ensure there's no patchiness.
One week before: Touch-ups
Book a facial or go for a chemical peel; they’re a fantastic way to eradicate dead skin cells, comedones, blackheads and plump up skin with hydration which will lessen the appearance of fine lines. It also get's the blood flowing, helps with lymphatic drainage, leaving your pores looking more refined and your skin buoyant. Now is also a good time to do final colour touch-ups. Spend the week giving your tresses extra nourishment in the form of hair masks, and avoid heat styling it so your hair will be extra healthy.
The day before: Do the things you love, again
The day before, organize a day of pampering and spend time touching up your treatments from previous outings. Whatever results you loved—spray tanning, waxing, eyelash extensions, tinting—do it as close to the occasion as possible, so they’re freshly done and looking as close to perfect as possible.
Grab someone close to you, like a friend or your mother, and schedule an appointment for a mani and pedi. It's the perfect way to de-stress, have some girl time and bring you one step closer to looking primed and polished.
Kenneth Willard/Trunk Archive
Day of: Get ready to knock ‘em dead
At this point, you’re nearly finished and there shouldn’t be much left to do. Although it sounds like overkill, it you want that red carpet celeb glow schedule in one last facial; but for those who can't make it to the salon employ a bio cellulose sheet mask that will provide as much last-minute nourishment and hydration as possible. Our favourite, the 24K Gold Mask by Victoria Radford, is formulated with colloidal gold, which takes down inflammation and encourages cellular renewal by using the same material treated on burn victims.
Want to take the all-over-glow up a notch? From Gwyneth Paltrow to Rihanna, every red carpet regular uses Prtty Peashun; a skin-firming lotion with a tint of colour for that conceals imperfections and enhances muscle definition. After that, play some music, pop some bubbly and it’s time for hair and makeup.
As always, the most important part is to relax and have fun. Feeling beautiful and confident is the goal, so enjoy whatever blessings you’re celebrating! And remember that your friends and family love you no matter what you look like.
Photography by Michael Graydon
Sarah Gunn, our home and garden director, shares her picks for the hottest looks you'll want to try in your home in 2017.
1. Wonder wall
The new breed of adhesive wall art (think colourful abstract patterns, gorgeous watercolours and large-scale moody florals) is sophisticated, is super easy to apply and makes a serious design statement.
Blossoms large wall mural, $811, anewalldecor.etsy.com.
2. Shape up
We've seen geometric home accessories in gold and other metallics, but now this silhouette can be found in light fixtures, decor and even furniture in a matte ceramiclike finish. This approach hitches onto the still-hot handcrafted trend and elevates mere home accents to objet-d'art status.
Mine pendant lamp, $389, anthropologie.com.
3. Purple reign
With some major paint companies choosing purple as their paint chip of the year—Benjamin Moore has selected Shadow, a rich amethyst shade, while CIL calls out Antique Violet, a soft greyish lavender—the time has come for this underused hue to hit its stride. While pastels are still holding on, this daring palette reflects a move toward intense, striking paint colours. If purple walls are too dramatic a change, try adding a smaller hit to your home by painting a console table or a desk in this royal hue.
4. Green crush
Following fashion's lead in textile and colour (Pantone has placed two verdant hues, Greenery and Kale, on its Spring 2017 Fashion Color Report), home decor has brought back luxe bottle-green velvet in a big way. While this incarnation calls to mind a posh library or a private club, its sleek lines and brass accents give a modern effect. A jewel tone might feel like a bold choice for such a big piece of furniture, but in an otherwise neutral room, it's a more approachable way to add colour.
Avec apartment sofa with brass legs, $2,199, cb2.com.
5. Swan dive
Move over, owls, foxes and flamingos. We predict that swans will make a graceful appearance as the animal motif of the year. Look for them in everything from fabrics to artwork.