Monday, January 15, 2018

SPFX Kids Summer Camp

Summer. Oh summer. While it might be the time of year kids can't wait for, its often a parent's nightmare. If your kids are of school age, then they will have, or soon will, get bored of daycare and you will have to look for other options for your little ones. We still have to work, after all!

In Toronto, getting your kids into their desired camps has become a blood sport. You have to show up early and on a mission. Otherwise, everything will fill up before you have a chance to fill out a registration form. Even if you have the whole sign up thing aced, if your kid is picky, you can end up struggling to find a camp he/she will enjoy.

Well now there is a new, unique option for kids in Toronto, SPFX Kids Camp! It teaches kids aged 9-13 all about special effects makeup, something I think most kids would totally dig (my kids will tell me dig is a lame term no one uses any more, but I don't care!).

SPFX Kids has been created by Misty Fox, a model, single mom, and celebrity make-up artist, who I just happen to know. Big A and her daughter danced together for a few years. Before ever talking to her, I referred to her in my head as, "The mom who looks like a model", which I found out later she was 😝. I remember for the girls' dress rehearsal, she was kind enough to help me with Big A's stage makeup and hair (since the dance school has strict guidelines around this).

Anyways, when I found out she was running this camp, I thought it was a brilliant idea. But I don't want to tell my children about it, because we have already registered them for camps for next summer (I wasn't kidding when I said you gotta be early!), and I think the girls might both be interested in it.

Its held at the esteemed Artscapes Youngplace building, which happens to be just a few blocks south of our neighbourhood.

5 day weekly sessions cost $400+tax, and includes a T-shirt, framed picture, kit and materials which children get to keep. Definitely toward the higher side compared to other camps, but not likely a camp you would put your kid into for the entire summer.

As most parents know, the trouble with a lot of summer camps is they end before the typical workday. SPFX Kids ends at 4pm, but has optional extended attendance until 6pm for an additional fee.

Visit the website to enroll your kids now!

Monday, January 8, 2018

One (Bar) Wins, the Other Loses

One of the 'processed' foods I do have in my diet are protein bars. I love them. I am not perfect. I can live with that.

For years I've eaten Quest bars, but lately have been sticking to the protein bars from Costco, because the ingredients and macros are similar, and they are WAY CHEAPER!

I have always wanted to try One bars, but they are equally as expensive as Quest bars, so I didn't think there was any use getting hooked on them. While we were in Florida over Christmas, however, I purchased a few just so I could see what all the fuss is about. I got one in Birthday Cake flavour, which I have heard tons of raving about, and one in Maple Glazed Donut.

The One bars are similar in size and macros to Quest, but overall, the One bars, at least these 2 flavours, are softer and sweeter than the Quest bars I have tried.

I tried the Maple Glazed Donut flavour first and was surprised by how much I love it. Unlike most people, I don't like bars that are too soft, but I really enjoyed this one, and because I love maple flavour so much, I thought it was delicious.

The Birthday Cake one, however, was very disappointing. It was equally soft and pretty sweet, but I found the flavour lacking. It is just kind of bland. Also, the neon sprinkle things on top fell off and made a huge mess while I ate it (okay, perhaps I shouldn't have been eating it at my desk, but seriously, have you ever tried to get sprinkles out of a keyboard before??).

So will I be buying them again? No. Too expensive. But if money wasn't an issue, I would for sure stock up on a few boxes of the donut kind!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


Happy New Year and Welcome to 2018!

If I had to sum up what 2017 was like for me, I would say pretty great on a personal level but horrendous on a global level. Though there is obviously overlap. The political is personal.

This is a health blog, but I could totally write a daily blog blathering about politics and existential issues. In fact, I would be lying if I didn't admit this is what is on my mind most of the time these days.

Unfortunately, it feels like there were so many horrendous events over 2017 that I've lost count. The one that put me over the edge though, was Charlottesville. I felt a deep anxiety beginning after that, that just seemed to get more overwhelming as time went on.

A few months afterwards, my friend gave me the novel, The German Girl, to read. It is historical fiction set around the St. Louis tragedy. The St. Louis was a boat full of almost 1000 Jewish Germans seeking refuge from Hitler in 1939. Cuba initially promised they could come, but when the ship arrived, Cuba refused all but a few. The ship sailed around the world looking for a country to take the refugees, but they were refused by all (including the U.S. and Canada) except for about 200 that settled in England. The rest were forced to return to Germany where they were all sent to concentration camps and murdered.

This story was not new to me, I wrote a paper on the St. Louis for a history class in 2nd year university, but for some reason, because of the current political climate, it really struck a chord. Every time I picked up the book to read, I started having a panic attack. But I had to keep reading (yes, apparently I am a masochist!).

Finally, in a meeting with some of my fellow therapists one day, I asked if I could bring something up that was weighing heavily on me. I started trying to describe the events around the St. Louis and became so emotional that I broke down sobbing. It took a long time for me to get the story out because I was so overwrought. My colleagues listened with empathy and concern as they saw my distress. At the end I explained that I had a growing terror of what was in store for us given the terrifying events emerging around the world, ones suggesting a normalization of hate, fear mongering, racism, anti-semitism and bigotry. They all got it and handing me tissues until I had gotten my emotions under control. At the end of this episode I was quite shocked and a bit embarrassed by it. Until that moment I hadn't realized quite how upset I was.

I guess the good news is, that I walked out of that meeting feeling much lighter and more optimistic. Why? I don't know, but obviously I needed to get that off my chest.

A few weeks later I attended a viewing of the documentary Germans and Jews that was held by our synagogue. This was also helpful for helping to rebuild some optimism for me, as it focuses on the reparations that have gone on in Germany following the Second World War. Seeing how a Jewish community is now flourishing in what was Ground Zero for the Holocaust was comforting.

I don't make new year resolutions but one of the goals I have for 2018 is to help fight this awful growth of hatred and intolerance that has emerged, and also to help with the #metoo cause and put an end to sexual violence against women. I encourage you too to ditch the juice cleanse and commit to something far more important. I promise the outcome will be far better for all of us!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Break Time

I don't know about you, but I really need a break!

Fortunately, we are on holiday as of tomorrow. My priority is going to be SLEEP and resting, mentally and physically. About a week ago, I started to feel super physically and mentally burned out. I love my job as a psychotherapist, but mental burnout is a big risk, so a week or so off is a good thing right about now. I've also been pushing myself physically the last couple months, because, well, I could. I've been feeling great and really strong and energized, so on top of amping up my workouts, I was also riding my bike to and from work as often as possible (until the snow hit). I was planning some workouts for while we are on break, but now I will just have to see how I feel. As I said, rest is the priority.

No matter what holidays you are observing, I hope you have a safe and happy time and I will be back in 2018.

Monday, December 18, 2017

All You Need is a Sock...or a Kid!

Aside from not smoking and limiting your alcohol intake, the best thing you can do for your health (and I am talking every freakin' aspect of your health, physically and mentally!) is exercise regularly.

While I am sure you've heard this message before (like duh?), its not penetrating with North Americans. Only a minority get even close to the minimum recommended amount of physical activity. I know its challenging. For most of us, getting it in requires being completely purposeful about it because we have a designed a world that encourages us to be sedentary at every turn. Robots that vacuum for us, cars and public transport to get us places, and desk jobs that have us sitting on our butts for 6+ hour per day.

Getting regular activity is something I encourage all my clients to do, not just the ones coming in for weight loss support. Self-care is something I question everybody about because our sleep habits, physical activity, and diet all play an important role in our mental health. Exercise can be even more effective for management of depression and anxiety than prescription medication.

The reasons people give me for not exercising are pretty consistent. Number one is time (or lack thereof), number two is interest (WTF, the body is designed to exercise...saying it doesn't interest you is like saying you are not interested in brushing your teeth, um, kind of a necessity for good health!). Number three is money (or lack thereof) and number four is a lack of motivation.

The motivation piece is the trickiest. People generally dislike exercise because it feels uncomfortable for them and they lack energy. But the reason it is uncomfortable and why they lack energy is because they are out of shape! It is also difficult to muster motivation if you are depressed or have low self-esteem. These are the types of issues that need to be addressed in counselling.

As for the time and money, these reasons don't hold water. While I am blessed to have a home gym full of a lot of equipment, this is entirely unnecessary in order to get super fit at home without spending any money and investing minimal time.

Want cardio? Move your damn body! Sit down, stand up. Jump up and down. Do burpees, jumping jacks, knee lifts, plank jacks, mountain climbers, jog on the spot, go up and down the stairs, the possibilities are endless and you can get it all in in a very small amount of space and a short period of time, if you work intensely enough.

Want to get strong? Lift food cans, pets, children, or your partner (photo is of me doing 'airplane from my shins - we also did up on my feet with straight legs - with Little A...I use our home gym, but a kid can do the trick too!). Squat and lunge your body weight. Do push ups, planks and sit ups.

Since we got the new rubber flooring installed in our basement, the one thing I haven't been able to do is use my sliding disks. This has been frustrating because they can be a great tool for core and leg strength as well as cardio. The floor is a bit textured so neither the disks designed for carpet or wood floors work. I even tried paper and plastic plates, and towels, none of which worked at all. I was thinking about the former fitness trend from the 90s, the Slide, and the booties required, and suddenly it struck me: Put a pair of socks OVER my shoes! I grabbed an old pair of athletic socks I no longer wear and gave it a try. Guess what? Works like a charm! I didn't have to spend a dime!

I recommend making some form of movement part of your DAILY morning routine at home. Then there are few excuses to get in the way. If you are the resolution type, I recommend you make it about getting active. Start with a modest goal (2-3 days/week) and build it up from there. If you don't know what to do, find an app or book to help guide you, there are tons of resources out there!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Low Calorie Granola Clusters (Sugar-free and fat-free)

My apologies for the late post this week...its been BUSY. I guess people want to get in some counselling/therapy before the holidays? 😀😀 I'm not complaining though, I love my work. I am never happier than when I am busy with my work...except for maybe when my kids behave and get along (but that rarely happens).

Today I have a healthy recipe for you: GRANOLA!

Who doesn't love granola? Come on, sweet, crunchy, amazing with yogurt and fruit...I bet Donald Trump doesn't eat granola. He must eat lots of Cheetos, because otherwise, how did he get that colour??

Anyways, the problem with granola is it is usually very high in calories, with the calories being from sugar and oil. A 'serving' usually isn't enough for a mouse. The tricky part though, is to get the crispy, crunchiness without the sugar and fat.

Well you are all welcome folks, because I figured out how to do it! Yep, since this granola has no added fat or sugar, it is much lower in calories than typical granolas, but is full of the big, crunchy clusters we all love! It is also gluten-free and vegan for those with restricted diets.

I made this orange ginger flavour, but you can easily swap out the orange and ginger for other fruits and spices. Once it's baked, you can throw in whatever dried fruits, nuts and seeds you want, if desired.

Vitafiber is a healthy, high fiber, lower calorie sweetener, which you can buy online. This is what helps get the granola crunchy, so I wouldn't substitute anything else here.

Low Calorie Granola Clusters (Sugar-free and fat-free)

6 cups oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
2 cups millet seed
1/2 cup Vitafiber syrup
1 seedless navel orange (or 1 cup apple sauce, pear sauce, or other pureed fruit), organic if preferred
1/2 cup water
1 tsp pure stevia powder (or other form of stevia or sweetener, to taste)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt

Place Vitafiber syrup in saucepan over medium heat until starts to bubble. Cut the navel orange into quarters (keep skin on) and place in blender with 1/2 cup water. Puree until smooth. Pour into saucepan. Continue to heat for a few minutes over low/medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in spices, stevia and salt. Place grains into large bowl and pour contents of saucepan over top. Stir until grains are completely coated.

Spread mixture evenly onto large parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes (check to make sure it isn't burning at the edges). It should be golden and firm (like you've just baked a huge rectangle oatmeal cookie!). Turn off oven and leave inside for 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Break into clusters and keep stored in airtight container in cool place for up to 3 months.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Become a Cathelete!

Its so ironic that me, quite possibly the biggest gym-rat ever, who would happily spend all day every day in a gym, working out, teaching classes and personal training, now can't stand gyms. Yep, you heard me.

I much prefer to workout in solitude now in my own home. I don't have to care about my appearance (hello no makeup, ratty spandex, and bed head!), and I don't have to worry about anyone getting in my way (I don't have any time or patience for that!), and I get have everything the way I like it (tv, music, temperature, etc.). I also don't need to waste time getting to and from some destination. I just stumble downstairs (it's 5am after all!) and shake of the sleepies with a good sweat.

Almost all my workouts start with a video of some kind. Most of my favorites are from Cathe. I've reviewed a bunch of them before and I've continued to add to my collection. Here are a few of the latest (and I may have ordered a few more recently, that haven't yet arrived!). Unlike the others I've gotten from her before, a few of these are adaptable to beginners.

Low Impact HiiT

This is definitely the most appropriate one for beginners, of all the Cathe DVDs I've tried. Its got 2 workouts under a half hour that are all low impact. It will still be hard for those with a low level of fitness, but the moves are simple and there is no STEP.

Cardio Supersets

This isn't a bad one if you are at a moderate fitness level. Its all low impact and the STEP component is optional.

Warm Up - 5:30
Cardio - 30:59
Stretch - 5:01
Total - 41:30
21:17 bonus step aerobic routine

I like this one when I want a solid but not too intense workout.


This one has 5 25-30 minute high intensity workouts. You can do 1 for a short workout, or combine them in one of the 12 premixes.

26:51 X10 Step
25:35 X10 Low Impact
26:38 X10 Hi/Lo
25:18 X10 Cardio Blast
29:32 X10 Fat Burning Circuit
Each workout includes;
Warm up - 7:55
Stretch - 5:18

Most of the workouts have some resistance exercises so its often about half high intensity cardio, and half resistance. I like that you can do so many different workout combinations with this DVD. Its too advanced for absolute beginners but definitely not as intense as some of her super duper tough ones.


This one definitely isn't for beginners. Its a high intensity (duh!) workout that has a bunch of premixes of various lengths:

  1. Maximum Intensity - 70:21
  2. Step Only - 36:30
  3. Step + HiiT (High) + Boot Camp - 59:09
  4. Step + HiiT (Low) + Boot Camp - 60:23
  5. Timesaver - Step + HiiT (High) - 46:26
  6. Timesaver - Step + HiiT (Low) - 47:40
  7. Timesaver - Step + Boot Camp - 49:13
  8. Timesaver - Double HiiT and Boot Camp - 45:44
  9. Timesaver - HiiT (Low) + Boot Camp - 35:49
When I have the time to the whole kit and kaboodle (70 mins) and I am looking for a hard core workout, I love this one.

My only complaint about these videos is that for the STEP work, Cathe will go right into multi-part routines instead of introducing each new move, one at a time. So if you are not good with STEP, or get frustrated easily, this will piss you off.

Honestly, I love my morning workouts. I feel so lucky to have the time, health, fitness and space to do them. They make me so happy. But you don't need to turn your basement into a gym to be able to get kick ass workouts at home. Honestly, if you have space to throw down a yoga mat (you don't even need the actual mat), then you have space to workout hard. Not even any equipment needed!

If these types of workouts aren't your thing, there are about a bazillion other workout DVDs and steaming services and apps out there.
If you struggle to get to the gym regularly, than quit! Get moving at home, because one of the keys to fitness is consistency. No workout or piece of equipment is effective if you don't do/use it!