I love air too, but not for lunch

Image description: a colour image of smooth stones--white, grey, brown, rose-coloured. The largest one in the centre is grey with white specks and has "Just breathe" etched into it.

Image description: a colour image of smooth stones–white, grey, brown, rose-coloured. The largest one in the centre is grey with white specks and has “Just breathe” etched into it.

I’ve been blogging recently about food alarmism, that annoying tendency some people have to demonize certain foods by talking about how they’ll kill you.

But the most out-there food fad that’s ever come to my attention has got to be “breatharianism.” Sam sent me a link to “‘Breatharian’ couple survives on ‘the universe’s energy’ instead of food.”

This couple–Akahi Ricardo and Camila Castello–claims that humans don’t need food and water, that they can survive on the ‘energy of the universe’ alone. Apparently, since 2008 “they have survived on a piece of fruit or vegetable broth just three times a week.” Castello claims to have eaten nothing during the entire nine months of her pregnancy with her first child. Since she wasn’t used to feeling the sensation of hunger, she says, she “lived fully on light and ate nothing.” Considering pregnant women are meant to eat more not fewer calories to support the growing fetus, it doesn’t sound like the best approach to pregnancy.

She said living on air in the breatharian lifestyle also cured her PMS. Ricardo made the astute observation that “breatharianism” is a great way to slash the cost of your food bills.  Now that they have two children, they eat from time to time so they can share that experience with the kids. Castello says:

“Now, Akahi and I eat very sporadically — perhaps three or four times per week at the most. I might have a few vegetables, a juice or a bite of an apple with my children. Sometimes we have a glass of water too.”

“Whenever I eat now, it’s not because I’m hungry — I just don’t remember that sensation.”

Okay. I consider myself a fairly open-minded person who believes in reserving judgment and letting people live their lives as they wish, with the rough qualification that they not harm others. This pair claims not to impose their breatharian lifestyle on their children.

But when they say they don’t eat and instead exist only on the ‘universe’s energy,’ my first thought is that they have to be lying. I’m no scientist (or mystic), but I think we can say with a fair bit of confidence that you can’t live on ‘universal energy’ alone. My second thought is that okay, so they might eat something (a piece of fruit here, veggie broth there, the occasional glass of water every few days), but it’s not enough.  In reading about their approach, it’s not exactly that they demonize food.  They just consider it unnecessary. Food is not unnecessary. Granted, the air we breathe is also necessary. But surely it’s not sufficient to sustain a person? Don’t we have all sorts of science to back this up? This approach to eating, where the end result is to lose the sensation of hunger and eat very little (if not nothing) sounds alarmingly like an eating disorder.

It seems that I’m not the first person to question the veracity and sense of their claims. After the first article (quoted above), they released a clarificatory statement explaining that they actually do eat a bit more than they originally said:

“We do eat, just not with the same frequency or intensity as the average person,” the couple said in a statement to The Post Wednesday. “When we went through the ‘Breatharian’ transition 21-day process, our intention wasn’t to stop eating, but rather to heal on a genetic level, information that gets passed through the generations and manifests in each person in different ways (like ‘hereditary’ information). The not-eating was like a side effect that we freely explored when we were a young couple, without children, and also through Camila’s pregnancy.”

There might be more to it than what I’ve talked about here. They say it involves “conscious breathing” techniques as well. And guess what? They offer courses on that which range in price from $200 to $1700.

The upshot here is this: it’s a variation on a food fad. You can dress it up with “universal energy” and “conscious breathing,” but in the end it’s just another way of depriving yourself of food. I’m the last person to tell people what they should eat. But please, please, eat something. And eat enough.

If you’ve heard of any other equally outrageous food fads, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

 

 

 

Whoever said “eating fried potatoes is linked to higher risk of death” can f**k right off

Image description: Steel pail lined with newspaper and filled with a heaping portion of fresh cut fries. Beside it is a three-part condiment dish holding ketchup and two other kinds of dipping sauces for the fries.

Image description: Steel pail lined with newspaper and filled with a heaping portion of fresh cut fries. Beside it is a three-part condiment dish holding ketchup and two other kinds of dipping sauces for the fries.

I read this article that other day with an outrageous headline: ‘”Eating fried potatoes linked to higher risk of death,” study says.’

First of all, everyone one of us is at risk of death because, guess what? We’re mortal! But the article says:

People who eat fried potatoes two or more times a week double their risk of an early death compared to those who avoid them, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found.

 

But then it also says:

The study is observational, meaning the researchers simply tracked the behavior of a group of people and found an association between one behavior — eating fried potatoes — and another factor — early death. Because it is an observational study, Veronese [the principal investigator of the study] and his co-authors note it cannot be said that eating fried potatoes directly causes an early mortality — it would require more research to draw such a firm conclusion.

But he thinks the preparation of fried potatoes leads to all sorts of unhealthiness. Of course, there are “other factors” that could lead to the result besides the fact of eating fried potatoes.

The CEO of the National Potato Council (who knew this vegetable had its own council?) wasn’t about to take these findings at face value (whatever the face value is):

National Potato Council CEO John Keeling said the “study isn’t relevant to the general population” since the data was collected for an osteoarthritis study and includes only patients with arthritis. “Potatoes are inherently a very healthy vegetable,” said Keeling in an email. He said a medium-sized potato is 110 calories, has no fat, no sodium, no cholesterol, and provides nearly a third of the daily vitamin C requirement with more potassium than a banana.”How the potato is prepared will impact the calorie, fat and sodium content,” said Keeling, however the basic nutrients remain “no matter how it is prepared.”
Based on the data in the study, Keeling said, “it is very much a stretch to brand fried potatoes, or any other form of potato, as unhealthy.”

And another researcher, Susanna Larsson, was quick to note that there’s nothing inherently wrong with eating potatoes. And in any case:

“Fried potato consumption may be an indicator of a less healthy (Western) dietary pattern which is associated with increased mortality,” said Larsson, who also conducted a studyof potato consumption. Her study did not find an increased risk of cardiovascular disease linked to eating potatoes.

The article goes on to mention acrylamide:

Acrylamide is “a chemical produced when starchy foods such as potatoes are fried, roasted or baked at a high temperature,” explained Schiff in an email. The browning process is actually a reaction that produces this chemical one shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals and considered toxic to humans, said Schiff. Acrylamide is also a potential cause of cancer, she said.

“You can reduce your intake of acrylamide by boiling or steaming starchy foods, rather than frying them,” said Schiff. “If you do fry foods, do it quickly.”

So the plot thickens. It’s not potatoes per se, or even fried potatoes. It’s starchy foods fried too quickly.

I like fried potatoes. In fact, on Friday I had a craving for fresh cut french fries that for various reasons went unmet for 24 hours. On Saturday I was visiting my parents in Haliburton, Ontario at the same time as two other family members of french fry eating age (I mention that because there was also a baby). They have a great place in town called Baked and Battered, and it serves incredible chips (it’s a fish and chip place and bakery).

I could have bought just enough to satisfy my craving. But I know people. And what I know about people is: most of them (maybe not my mother) LOVE fries as much as I do. So if I had bought just enough to satisfy my craving, my craving would not have been sufficiently dealt with because I would have had to share and, upon sharing, would have ended up with less. So I bought the large.

The large wasn’t just big. It was huge (for a box of fries). I would call it “family size.” It turns out I made a good call because when I brought these fries home to have with our lunch, everyone, including my mother, devoured them (I had the most, being the one with the craving who bought the fries). They were lip-smackingly fantastic. And we had a family bonding experience over them.

And that was awesome. And not a single one of us thought about increasing our risk of mortality. You know what I call that headline about fried potatoes and increased risk of mortality? Food alarmism.

When Sam and I talked about it the other day I said something like: don’t eat french fries right before you go sky diving or you’re screwed.

Here’s the thing. Fries aren’t going to kill you. Like with most things we eat, it’s good to diversify. You don’t want your entire diet to be made up of fries. But you don’t want your entire diet to made up of any one thing, even lettuce or kale or blueberries.

Food alarmism is in itself damaging because it encourages us to be fearful of one of life’s great pleasures. I like potatoes in all sorts of forms and preparations, including fried potatoes. And I know loads of other people who feel the same way. And to them I say: enjoy! And while you’re at it, enjoy some other foods too!

What’s the most annoying “food alarmism” you’ve encountered lately, either in the headlines or in your day to day interactions with people you know?

 

Gwyneth’s GOOP and the fallacy of the “appeal to celebrity”

three dimensional gold star The other day I saw an article entitled, “Dr. Christian Jessen: Clean eating websites like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop ‘indistinguishable from pro-anorexia websites.’” Dr. Christian Jessen is a British TV doctor, much like our Dr. Oz (I’m guessing). He presented a popular UK show called Embarrassing Bodies, which is apparently a show where people with “embarrassing bodies” (with ailments usually thought to be taboo) can get help:

Throughout its numerous series, Embarrassing Bodies has set out to aid people who have a variety of medical issues. These issues tend to be taboo or misunderstood. With the help of its patients and the diagnoses of its doctors, the show tries to make common medical issues, especially those that are “embarrassing” or sexual, understood and to debunk myths surrounding them. The programme’s method of tackling these issues has caused great success and has attracted large numbers of people to its website.

I can’t vouch for the show and I can think of a zillion ways in which it could go horribly wrong and involve all sorts of body shaming (just the name for example suggests an uncritical view of what counts as an “embarrassing” body). So don’t come away thinking I’m all for Dr. Jessen either.

But, I’m less concerned about Dr. Jessen or even about whether what he says about Goop is true, close to true, exaggerated, or false (I doubt it’s totally false since the site does promote “clean eating,” about which I have expressed a great deal of skepticism). What I’m mostly concerned about, actually, is “why does someone like Gwyneth Paltrow have so much influence when it comes to health and wellness?”

In a word: celebrity. Gwyneth Paltrow is a beautiful and even likeable celebrity. She’s a thin, glamorous, academy-award winning actor and style icon. This we know to be true. And for all that, she has gained a great deal of unearned credibility and influence over people’s health choices.

Jessen says of sites like Goop,

“When you look at the actual medical side, the health side, they so rarely are promoting anything that is even vaguely healthy.

“Look at Gwyneth: You know, the crap that she writes, it’s just overwhelmingly mind boggling for a doctor to see that – the number of people following it and going along (with it) is just terrifying.”

The “extreme diets” hailed by celebrities, which often exclude entire food groups such as wheat and gluten, are are being falsely presented as healthy, he added, and can become a guise for teenage addiction and eating disorders.

Jessen is critical, as am I, of “fitspiration” or “fitspo.” A lot of it is thinly-cloaked “thinspo,” which is itself thinly veiled pro-ana or pro-mia (pro anorexia and pro bulimia) in its messaging.

Okay, so let’s get back to the point about celebrity. In philosophy there is a fallacy called “the appeal to authority.” way back in the early days of the blog, I wrote about this in relation to Dr. Oz. You appeal to authority when you accept something as true because “so and so said it.” Now at least Oz and Jessen are doctors.

In Gwyneth’s case, her “authority” rests on even thinner ice, namely, her fame. So whatever the status of anything that appears on Gwyneth’s Goop, it doesn’t get a speck of actual credibility from the fact of Gwyneth saying it.

Now I understand that it’s a celebrity game. Oprah plays it well and has used it to her advantage as a major shareholder in Weight Watchers. Celebrity diets are big money. And they don’t work (see here for my thoughts on celebrity diets not working). And that’s why Sam wants to hug Oprah.

So appealing to authority is a fallacy. And appealing to celebrity? Well fallacies don’t really come in degrees, but if they did I would venture to say it’s even more of a fallacy.

I asked this before and I’ll ask it again: does a celebrity endorsement make you more or less likely to take a health claim seriously?

 

When ‘vegan’ becomes code for ‘disordered eating’

Image description: A coloured picture of an array of raw vegetables arranged in a wedge shaped display that includes peppers, apples, potatoes, peaches, garlic, onions, yams, and brussels sprouts.I know people think that going vegan means you’re going to lose weight. I mean, how could a person possibly gain weight when there’s hardly anything they can eat? Lately, I’ve read something even more alarming than the (false) assumption that going vegan will make you thin.

The more alarming thing is that there are “vegan” bloggers who recommend the vegan diet for minimizing or getting rid of menstruation. Why? Because they think there’s something not right or natural about menstruation. It’s a sign of a “toxic” diet they say.

Freelee the Bananagirl is a vlogger on YouTube who follows a 100% raw vegan diet and touts as one of its benefits that she lost her period within one month of starting it. If a painful or heavy period is the sign of a toxic diet, then raw vegan is…you guessed it…clean! Raw vegan blogger Miliany claims that women and girls have been “brainwashed” to believe that losing their periods is a bad thing when, she says, a “non-menstruating body indicates the body is clean.” I’ve already blogged at length about why the whole idea of “clean” eating is a crock.

If you couple clean eating with this idea that menstruation, one of the most natural things in the life of many women, is somehow bad for you, then you can get some idea of how removed from reality the proponents of this type of veganism for this type of reason really are.

Loss of periods, also known as amenorrhea, is a symptom commonly used to diagnose the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. It’s just not medically sound to claim that periods are a sign of ill health.

Dr Jackie Maybin, a clinical lecturer in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Edinburgh, warns against changing your diet in an attempt to alter your menstrual cycle.

“It’s difficult to recommend a strict vegan diet without investigating hormone levels and endometrial health in these women,” she says of bloggers like Freelee and Milliany. “It’s likely that the complete absence of periods—amenorrhea—indicates that ovulation is not occurring and could have a significant negative impact on reproductive health.”

According to this post, Freelees post about using raw vegan eating to eliminate your period is extremely popular even though it was posted over 8 years ago. A more recent clip she posted about heavy periods being bad for you has had over 250,000 views.

I’m vegan. I didn’t lose weight when I became vegan nor did I do it to lose weight. I stopped eating animal products for ethical considerations having to do with the unnecessary suffering and cruelty towards animals that is a systemic issue in industrial animal agriculture. I didn’t lose my period when I become vegan and that’s a good thing.

Vegan is not necessarily about “clean eating.” And clean eating is not necessarily a healthy approach to eating. Indeed, it can lead to orthorexia, which is an eating disorder characterized by an obsession with “healthy” foods.

Medical opinion is that it’s not a great strategy to try to control or lose your periods by eating an excessively restricted diet.

Maybin warns that a very restrictive diet or excessive exercise can also lead to a condition called hypothalamic hypogonadism. “In menstruating women, the brain sends signals to the ovaries to produce hormones to regulate the endometrium. This results in ovulation and, if pregnancy does not occur, menstruation.

“In hypothalamic hypogonadism, the body assumes a state of stress and shuts off the signal from the brain to the ovaries. This reverts the body to a pre-pubescent like state, where pregnancy is not possible as the ovaries temporarily shut down and menstruation does not occur.

“If this state is maintained long term, women can have problems due to low estrogen levels, e.g. risk of loss of bone mineral density and osteoporosis.”

While she says that not enough research has been done to know exactly what effects diet can have on menstruation, it makes sense that a “healthy balanced diet”—i.e. one that does not excessively restrict certain food groups—is good for all women and their periods.

So while I’m not one to recommend against going vegan, I do recommend against adopting fanatical restrictions for the purposes of ceasing menstruation if you’re a menstruating woman.

Have you, like me, noticed an increasing tendency to co-opt the label “vegan” and use it as code for disordered eating?

 

More progress on the body image front: weight loss is *not* an “upside” of food poisoning

Grey cartoon figure standing and holding stomach in first image, then kneeling in front of the toilet vomiting in the second. Sweat emanates (indicated as blue drops) from brow in both frames.
Grey cartoon figure standing and holding stomach in first image, then kneeling in front of the toilet vomiting in the second. Sweat emanates (indicated as blue drops) from brow in both frames.

Grey cartoon figure standing and holding stomach in first image, then kneeling in front of the toilet vomiting in the second. Sweat emanates (indicated as blue drops) from brow in both frames.

OMG I have been so incredibly ill for the past 36 hours, ever since I ate something that I had qualms about even as I ate it (the body knows these things). I had to leave work early yesterday, and by the evening I was throwing up (I hate throwing up). That continued into the early hours. And oh did I feel sick. Groan out loud sick. It’s food poisoning or the norovirus or some equally brutal thing that has moved into my system to take me down.

Needless to say, not only did I lose my lunch and even the water I’d sipped on, but I truly couldn’t even consider eating anything. When I did start to feel like an attempt at something might be in order around 24 hours after the last meal I’d eaten, I tried a banana, a few dry crackers, and some clear tea.

Back in the day I, or one of the friends whom I complained to about my affliction, would have thought or said something like, “at least you’ll lose some weight.” Now, this is a ridiculous thing to say, I realize. But back then it was assumed that weight loss was an ever present goal in the life of every woman. I’m pleased to report that it didn’t even cross my mind. And that fact makes me very happy because losing weight, even if you do lose weight, is not an “upside” of food poisoning. It has no physical upside. None. It’s a horrible thing that is thoroughly bad in every single way.

The last time I scored a notable body image win that showed a major shift in attitude was a few years ago when I joined my first “learn to run” clinic. They were going around the room asking people why they joined. I said something about wanting to find some people to run with and get some tips about how to run smarter.

What only hit me later was how incredible it was that I didn’t even think of weight loss as a motivator. Back in the day, when I was obsessed with weight loss, I would not embark on any sort of program of activity unless I felt sure it would contribute to weight loss. In fact, as a graduate student almost 30 years ago I literally gave up swimming, an activity I adored and that made me feel amazing, because I read somewhere that it wasn’t an efficient way to lose fat (oh how many layers of unpacking are needed to get to the bottom of what’s wrong with that claim in the first place).

Well I felt the same when I realized I wasn’t seeing anything positive about this bout of food poisoning that had to do with weight loss. Score! So maybe that’s one positive – it has reminded me that I’ve come a long way in how I relate to my body. Maybe even one more – it’s forced me to rest, which is not something I easily do. My tendency is always to take on just a little more than I’ve got the time and energy to do.

So I’ve made progress but I know there are people out there who see weight loss as a silver lining in things like stomach flus and food poisoning. I’m glad I don’t think that way anymore. I would love to want to and to be able to eat more than I ate today. And that’s a good thing that tells me that weight loss is no longer integral to my body image.

Have you ever considered weight loss to be a positive side effect of otherwise negative temporary conditions like food poisoning or stomach bugs?

 

Meditation anyone?

When we asked people awhile back for some suggestions for topics they’d like to see covered on the blog, someone suggested meditation as a thing they’d like to hear us say more about.

joy within coverI first started to meditate back in 1991, when I was still a graduate student, and I’ve had a fairly consistent meditation practice since then (with various levels of dedication but it’s always a thing in my life regardless).  The book I learned with was called The Joy Within by Joan Goldstein and Manuela Soares.

It is an excellent starter book that helps you build from very short periods of meditation (under 2 minutes) to longer periods up to 30 minutes over a four week period. It takes you through different focusing techniques, some involving breathing, others involving sounds, still others taking attention to mental images. The authors suggest keeping a journal and jotting down your experience after each meditation. The journal helps the new practitioner to become aware of which of the techniques yield a better experience. By the time I finished the book I was meditating daily.

I keep a copy of the book on hand for old times sake, not that I’ve ever really picked it back up again since those early days. Between then and now I have journeyed into many different forms of meditation. I’ve sat in silence for hours at a time, in chairs, on cushions, on meditation benches. I’ve used the sound of the ocean to carry me into that space of meditation where thoughts fade into the background. From breath to mindfulness, from body scans to visualizing my thoughts disappearing like leaves floating down a river or papers burning in a fire, from walking meditation to following the sound of cars to imagining a white light glowing from the centre of my body — I’ve tried so many different forms of meditation and not exhausted the full possibilities yet.

I’ve enjoyed meditating alone and in groups. And sometimes, when it feels challenging, I Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 10.26.53 PMuse guided meditations.  And here’s where my favourite app, the Insight Timer, comes in. I swear this is the best free app you can find anywhere. This app includes a timer that has the sound of different meditation bells and bowls. It also enables you to be part of a global community of others who meditate. Whenever you use it, the app tells you how many other people were meditating at the same time. It shows you a map of where in the world those folks are. You can become their friend or just send them messages saying “thank you for meditating with me.” That’s all cool and good.

But the real value of this app is the thousands of guided meditations that it makes available to its users. The guided meditations are of varying quality, but users can and do write reviews of them, so you can see the ratings out of 5 stars and read user comments. The app also divides the guided meditations into playlists. So for example, back in the winter when I was having difficulty sleeping, I explored the “sleep” playlist and found Jennifer Piercy’s “Healing Darkness” and “Yoga Nidra for Sleep” guided meditations. There are literally over 5000 sleep meditations alone. You can bookmark your favourites and request that, for any playlist you like, you be sent a notification when new content comes along.

Other playlists include: Relax, Stress, Chakras, First Time, Emotional Balance, Gratitude, Sond Healing, Movement, Inner Peace, Chanting and Mantras, Self-Love, Morning, Breathe, Music, Ambient Music, Acceptance, Recovery, even Mindful Eating meditations. The app also includes different languages, podcasts, and special sections for kids and for pregnancy and parenting. There’s a Mindfulness section and a 365 Days section where they post one new meditation each day. It’s a great way to try different methods and see what you like. Most of the daily meditations published on “365 Days” are under 15 minutes so it’s good for beginners.

I’m sure there must be other meditation apps out there but with all that the Insight Timer has to offer (and for free) I don’t see any reason to try anything else. The timer itself, the meditation community, and the rich selection of guided meditation offer more than enough to the beginner or the experienced practitioner.

When I meditate daily I feel more able to handle the stresses of life. Meditation helps me gain perspective, not just on my inner life (though it certainly does that) but somehow on everything. Taking the time to sit quietly no matter what is going on is, in my view, as much a way to honor and respect myself as taking the time to workout, go running, do some yoga, or swim a few laps.

What about you? Is meditation a part of your life? If so, what has your experience with it been? Is it something you’ve been wanting to try but haven’t yet found the time? If so, why not get The Joy Within or download the Insight Timer and give it a whirl?

 

Bloggers’ night out

This week Sam and I were in Toronto for Congress. That’s a big meeting every spring where many Canadian professional academic associations in the Humanities and Social Sciences, including the Canadian Philosophical Association. It was an extra special big deal this year for a couple of reasons. One, Sam became the President of the Canadian Philosophical Association (go, Sam!). Two, I finally got to meet blog regulars Cate and Susan.

Sam arranged for us to get together with them, Sarah, and Violetta on Monday night at Planta. Planta is a vegan dream like none I’ve ever experienced. It’s a high end restaurant that’s totally plant-based. That’s really unusual. I haven’t really had “fancy food” since I became vegan (except once when I went to Candle 79 in Manhattan). I used to love going out for fine dining but in my experience most restaurants of that caliber don’t do vegan well and few vegan restaurants have positioned themselves in that bracket.

So it’s a rare treat and I loved every minute of it. And it wasn’t just because of the food and the atmosphere. It was also because of the great company! It was super cool to meet people who I recognized right away (as I did Cate and Susan) and feel like I kind of know even though I’ve never met them in person before.

When the server first came to our table after we had all arrived she said,” How do you all know one another?” That’s a strange question that I’ve never been asked before. I said, “We blog together. Why?”

To the “why?” she gave the best answer ever, something like: Most times when groups of women come they all look sort of the same. But you all look so different from one another. I just had to ask how you met.

Maybe it was a bit different from that because at the time what she said sounded awesome but now that I write it it sounds less so. Maybe you had to be there.

Violetta is a long standing friend of mine and Sam’s and a dedicated reader of the blog who has participated in group posts (like last year’s Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon report). It was fun to hear her talk to Cate and Susan, whom she’d never met, about what they’ve written for the blog. “I love your Auntie posts!” she said to Cate.

As the server brought dish after dish of amazing food for us to taste and share, we chatted about past and upcoming events. Cate had just returned from Uganda and is doing a duathlon in Milton on the weekend. They’ve all been training for the Friends for Life bike rally again. Susan is gearing up for this year’s Niagara Women’s Half Marathon on Sunday. I just finished the MEC half with Anita last weekend.

The food just kept coming: pizza, “crab” cakes (made of hearts of palm), cauliflower tots, Thai noodle salad, battered and “chicken” fried mushrooms, queso dip, lettuce wraps, beet “tartare.” I was way too full. I’m usually good at stopping before I get there but everyone was just so good that I kept going.

Before we knew it we were eating dessert (something chocolate and delicious). Then paying our bills. Then calling it a night. I didn’t take any pics of the food (Cate?), but I do have this fantastic picture of the group, looking happy, fit, and feminist!

The group at Planta in Toronto. From left front around the table to the right front: Tracy, Violetta, Sarah, Sam, Cate, Susan.

The group at Planta in Toronto. From left front around the table to the right front: Tracy, Violetta, Sarah, Sam, Cate, Susan.