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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Goals

Here's to trying to stay awake until midnight on New Year's Eve...
So, what are your plans for tonight?  Going out?  Partying hard?

We are lucky if we go out at all, but tonight we are.  Nothing wild and crazy though, we're heading to our friends' house and bringing the girls (kids are welcome), so we'll likely be leaving by 9:30pm.  This is as much for Adam and I as it is for them, however, because we have our big New Year's Day party tomorrow and neither of us want to be tired and hung over for it.

Do you have any goals or resolutions for 2015?
Funny new years resolution via someecards.com
 

I have only come up with one so far: get better at standing up for myself.

I am a pretty outspoken person and if there is something going on that I feel is unjust on someone else's behalf...watch out!  My problem is standing up for my own rights.  I have never been good at this and it means I often end up being a doormat.  This is, in general, more often a problem for women, who are socialized to look after the needs of others.  It's always bitten me in the butt and it still does.  Especially in the professional sphere, I easily get taken advantage of. 

I was discussing this with a friend and colleague, and she urged me to take this on as something to work on in 2015.  So I am!

Of course, just stating you are going to do something is unlikely to be successful, you need a plan to be able to achieve your goals.  So I am going to start by doing some research about HOW exactly to become more assertive and then then develop an action plan.

Have a wonderful New Year celebration tonight...and don't drink too much!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Club Med Sandpiper Resort - Florida

It already seems like our trip to Florida was a lifetime away! Its hard to believe just 2 weeks ago we were soaking up the sun there.

If you are looking for a place that will give everyone in the family a true holiday, Club Med Sandpiper is the way to go!

We all had such an amazing time.  The food is great, the facilities are amazing, and there are activities for children of all ages as well as adults from morning to night.

First, we got a suite with 2 bedrooms, which was awesome, because sharing beds or rooms with our kids never turns out well.  The girls even had their own half bathroom.  The rooms are definitely not luxurious, but there are some nice touches like chocolates on your bed every night, bathrobes and slippers for the adults and decent toiletries.  There is also a mini fridge stocked with pop, a coffee maker and a selection of coffee and tea.

The food can accommodate even the pickiest of eaters with everything ranging from pizza, French fries, hot dogs, chicken nuggets and ice cream, to steak, duck confit, curries, stir-fries, pastas, a bazillion salads and veggie dishes, fresh breads and fancy pastries.  The food is served buffet style and is all you can eat, and there is a bar to serve all your beverage needs that opens at 10am.

There are 3 pools, one salt water that is not heated (was too cold for us!), one where you can do laps, aquafit, or just horse around, and one for adults only that also has a hot tub.  There is also a splash pad for the little ones.  In addition, there are paddle boards and sailboats, a golf course, tennis courts, volleyball, basketball, trapeze and circus!!

Below is the adult only pool.


There are camps from 9-5 for kids, which the girls loved, which kept them busy doing circus, trapeze, swimming and arts and crafts.  There is even babysitting for babies and activities specifically for teens 11-17.

Below is Big A, with a new friend, performing at a kids evening talent show.  She had such a great time!

 
 

This one is of my niece and Little A on the beach.

 
Adam and I are not usually impressed by fitness facilities, but the gym at Sandpiper is pretty awesome!  I was able to keep up my weight lifting most days we were there.

 

 
There are also fitness classes such as muscle conditioning, Zumba, Pilates and yoga every day.  I did the Pilates a few times and didn't think the instructor was very good, but it was fun. If you have big bucks, you can hire a personal trainer to work with you while you are there.

Also, for additional cost there are spa treatments available at the spa, from massages to facials.

I can't stress enough how much I recommend this place for a visit, we all thought it was the holiday of a lifetime.

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Brain...On Holiday

 
Hello!  How have your holidays been?

We had a truly fabulous time in Florida! It was really amazing.

One thing that made it so great was I was far more disconnected than usual. As it turned out, the resort had spotty Wifi and I could not get any Internet on my Ipad, except if I went and sat in the reception area.  Because of this, I ended up checking my email every other day, only because I'd left a voice mail telling clients I would be reachable by email, and checked Facebook once a day on Adam's computer.  Aside from that I was totally offline and out of touch with the whole world.  I barely watched television, and didn't read a newspaper once (I usually read 2-3 a day).  It was the most stress-free I think I've been in years.  It felt awesome.

This photo was taken by Little A, with me wearing a dress of Big A's and my hair, in its naturally curly state, pulled back...and I am sandy, smelling of chlorine from the pool, and utterly relaxed.  Bliss!

 
 
Unfortunately, its now back to reality and one cannot hide away forever.  But it was a good reminder how important it is to periodically get away from it all and completely disengage.
 
Here is Big A and I on our last day in Florida.  Don't I look relaxed???

 
Stay tuned for a full review of the resort and all the details of our amazing week!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hiatus


Ah, don't you just love Grumpy Cat?  Not sure why he's so grumpy though, apparently he's made millions!

I am going on a little blogging break.  We've got family stuff, a trip, and I have a lot of business stuff to work on over the next few weeks, so I will be back December 29th.

If you want to get a jump start on your health resolutions for 2015, there are still 44 days to be first to try konjac powder and experience all its health benefits.  If you contribute to my campaign, you get to try some at a discount and, for those in the GTA, you get to try some goodies too!!

Until then, I hope you have a safe, happy, wonderful holiday!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Smokey Southern Bean and Bacon Stew (Vegan Option)


This is a super yummy, comforting hot meal, perfect for chilly winter days.  Of course, besides being delicious, it is also packed with nutrition, guaranteed to fuel you for your busy life.

Smokey Southern Bean and Bacon Stew (Vegan Option)

1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
A few drops liquid smoke or 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp real maple extract or 2 tbls real maple syrup
2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 cauliflower, cut into florets
1 onion, sliced
2 slices turkey bacon, tempeh bacon or 1/2 cup coconut bacon
1 lb okra, trimmed and sliced
1 can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked)
1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked)
2 tbls creole seasoning, or chili powder
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 can tomato paste
Cayenne pepper or hot sauce, to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Toss sprouts, cauliflower, onion and bacon with oil, garlic smoke and maple.  Spread on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast at 350F for about 40 minutes.  Simmer okra, beans spice and vinegar in a large pot or deep skillet.  Add roasted veggies and bacon and stir in tomato paste.  Cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Season to taste.  Eat alone, in a wrap, or on top of brown rice, quinoa or other grain.  Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 4 days or freeze.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Inner Strength: How and Why to Keep Your Bones Strong

  The way I easily learned the humerus bone (in anatomy, for massage therapy) was by recalling how NOT humorous it was back when I broke my right humerus.

If you are under age 50, you probably aren't terribly concerned about your bones.  But you should be!  The latest issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter summarizes the latest research findings.
 Your bones generally reach peak mass in your 30s and by your 50s most folks start to lose a significant proportion of their bone mass (men too, although women lose bone more rapidly).

A million and a half Canadians have osteoporosis and many more have low bone mass and don't even know it.  Not only does this put you at risk for fractures, it also costs our health system millions of dollars.  Among frail, elderly, a fracture can also mean death.  Osteoporosis is referred to as the silent disease because often people don't know they have it until they experience a serious break.

Genes play a role in your risk of osteoporosis, but lifestyle also has a significant impact on risk and is the one thing you can control.  Uncontrollable risk factors include being over 50, being female, having a small/thin body type, and a family history of weak bones or fractures.  So how can you minimize your risk of osteoporosis and associated bone fractures?

1. Strength training - Keeps both bones and muscles strong and reduces the risk of falls.
2. Consume sufficient calcium, mostly from food sources rather than supplements.
3. Take a Vitamin D supplement.
4. Don't smoke and limit alcohol consumption.
5. Avoid medications that are linked to bone loss, if possible.

Another thing to watch is the amount of acid you get through your diet.  This does not mean avoid acidic foods like citrus, etc., it refers to foods that have a high potential renal acid load when they break down in your body.  The ones with the highest load are proteins, particularly animal proteins, as well as grains.  Those that have a high negative potential renal acid load (i.e. are good for bones) are veggies and fruits.  That being said, it is important for older adults to get sufficient protein to avoid muscle loss so older adults most at risk should consider limiting their consumption of cereals and grains instead.

Even if you are young and don't think osteoporosis will ever effect you, following all the tips for minimizing your risk make good sense anyways.  Exercise, eat a healthy, plant-based diet, don't smoke and limit alcohol. Capiche?



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Festive Kale and Quinoa Salad With Cranberry Orange Dressing


Ironically, while this yummy salad is festive with the colours of Christmas (okay maybe more pink and green than red and green, but close!), I took it to our family Hanukkah party...hey it's pretty hard to come up with a blue and white salad...blueberries and cottage cheese maybe?

Anyways, this is great for a pot-luck because it is served at room temperature and balances out some of the super 'healthy' ingredients with a bit of sweetness.

Salad

1 cup quinoa

1 lb organic baby kale
1/2 cup juice-sweetened cranberries/cherries and goji berries
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), or sub sunflower seeds

Dressing

1 cup cranberries
2 tbls orange rind
Juice of 2 oranges
2 tbls maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

Cook quinoa according to package instructions and let cool.  Toss with kale, berries and seeds.

For the dressing, place cranberries, rind, juice and sweetener in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Turn heat down to low and simmer until cranberries begin to burst.  Let cool.  Pour into a food processor or blender and add vinegar, oil and salt.  Puree until desired consistency (personally, I like it with small pieces of cranberry still intact).  Pour desired amount of dressing over salad and mix well.  Refrigerate leftover dressing for up to 2 weeks.

This recipe was submitted to Vegetarian  Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Lisa's Kitchen No Croutons Required.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Things I'm Lovin': December 2014 Edition

Its Monday!  No doubt about that.  Little A was in Monday morning mode which is always delightful...not!  The girls just wanted to stay home and do all the crafts they got at the Hanukkah party yesterday.  I tried to put things in perspective for them and explained that they are damn lucky they get to go to school because in some countries only boys get to go and girls have to stay home, aren't allowed to learn to read and have to do nothing but have babies and scrub toilets their whole life.  Surprisingly, it actually worked and they were so flabbergasted by my preaching that they forgot all about complaining.  Ha!

Anyways, on Mondays its particularly important to appreciate the little things.  Here are the little things bringing me joy right now.

First, my new winter jacket I got on Black Friday for 50% off.


It is the lightest, warmest and most flattering winter coat I have ever owned.  LOVE IT! By the way, that is not me in the picture ;)

For some reason I am craving hot drinks, but I am suddenly not into drip coffee or tea.  Its weird actually...but what I'm guzzling these days are homemade mochas made from espresso powder, NuNaturals cocoa syrup and a bit of milk.  Sometimes I will even add a chai tea bag to spice things up a bit. Guilt-free mochas that warm the soul! 

 
Tricking my kids into eating secretly healthy foods while they believe they are decadent treats...like these frosted chocolate cupcakes (they ALL got devoured in one evening, no joke!).  Unfortunately, I can't share the recipe, although it may go on my new business website ;)
 
 
Winter Squash and sweet potatoes.  For some odd reason I was turned off squash and sweet potatoes during my pregnancies and even for a few years after my distaste lingered.  But gradually my love for them has returned and now I'm kind of obsessed. 
 
 
Unfortunately, no sooner had I decided that delicate squash is my absolute favorite, it suddenly disappeared from all the store shelves.  Sigh!
 
Body Shop Shea Body Butter.
 
Click for enlarged view
This is the only stuff I use in the winter.  I love it, I love the smell and it keeps my skin feeling moisturized all day!
 
What are the little things making you happy these days?


Friday, December 5, 2014

Working at Home


You may think it odd that as a therapist, I do a lot of work from home?  Well naturally I do all my paperwork and report writing at home, but I also do a lot of my counselling.  No, I don't have clients come over to my house...while it would be awesome to have a home office, we don't really have an appropriate space nor are we close enough to subway stop to make it realistic.  Actually, I do a whole heck of a lot of counselling by phone. In person is best, of course, but sometimes it just isn't possible.

You see, there are few infertility counsellors in small towns outside of the Greater Toronto Area, so I get many clients from north and west of the city...and a few from east - I've even had clients from my hometown of Kingston!  Also, sometimes clients that start out seeing me in-person, switch to phone counselling.  Why?  Because if they don't live downtown, it can be a nightmare to get in and out of the city core.  Its getting really difficult to get around this city!

I feel very fortunate.  It certainly saves me a whole lot of time going to and from the office, and I can wear sweatpants and drink tea all day.  Today, I was somehow fortunate enough to book 4 consecutive phone sessions, which means, yep, sweatpants and tea!  There is nothing better on a cold winter day.  Tomorrow, unfortunately, I have to go to the office, but I am looking forward to our pre-Hannukah party at my mother-in-law's on Sunday (because everyone is away over Hannukah).  Its our annual tradition of all the cousins getting together and is crazy chaos. 

Have a healthy, happy weekend!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sugar-Free Teriyaki Sauce

 

This is a photo of a yummy teriyaki chicken and cabbage stir-fry I made for Adam and I using home-made teriyaki sauce.

I am very careful about what sauces and condiments I purchase because most of them are pretty much pure sugar and other crap.  If you think its too much work to make your own, you're wrong.  Most are very easy to make yourself, just like this teriyaki sauce which is sugar-free and corn-starch free and can be gluten-free if you want.

Sugar-Free Teriyaki Sauce

1/2 cup, packed dates
Boiling water
Chunk of ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup soy sauce or coconut aminos
1/4 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
Optional: 1 tsp konjac powder

Place dates in measuring cup.  Cover with boiling water up to 1 cup line.  Meanwhile, place remaining ingredients in blender.  Add dates and water and blend until smooth.  Keep in fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Doorframe Pull-Up Bar Workouts: Book Review

Doorframe Pull-Up Bar Workouts

Back when I was a gym-rat, I really didn't think it was possible to get fit without going to a gym.  Working out at home just gave me images of someone lying on the ground doing side leg lifts with Jane Fonda or jogging on the spot for a few minutes. 

But when life no longer allowed me to get to a gym regularly (i.e. I had kids), I had no choice but to keep active by working out at home.  I now much prefer doing it that way.  No having to look presentable.  No waiting for equipment.  No wasted time getting to and from somewhere else.  I love it!!  And I've realized you don't even need much equipment or space to become a lean mean fighting machine right in your own space.

One of my must-have home gym items is a doorframe pull-up bar.  I use ours 2x week when I do my back/shoulder/chest strength workouts.  There is really nothing better for building upper body strength!  So I was more than happy to review a copy of Doorframe Pull-Up Bar Workouts by Ryan George, a U.S. based personal trainer.

George starts with an introduction to this apparatus and the benefits of doing home workouts. He provides a guide of the major muscles you utilize and different types of movement (i.e. Concentric vs eccentric vs isometric muscle contractions).  He lists the components of a healthy lifestyle and addresses common fitness and training misconceptions.  George also gives some general nutrition tips and addresses myths related to food and diet.

After an explanation of how to use this book, George gives guidance on how to design a workout program, set goals and get baseline measures for yourself.  Next, he provides different workouts based on specific goals, for beginner to advanced ability levels.

Part III of the book describes each exercise and provides photos of each, as well as an explanation of the muscles you are trying to target.  Most are pretty straightforward, but he does show one (sideways facing, one hand in front of the other) that I'd never thought of before, and have been doing ever since I caught it.  Similarly, he suggests using yoga straps on it to function like a TRX suspension system...I hadn't thought of that either! 

One thing I will warn is this, if you don't already have some upper body strength, you may not be able to do even 1 pull up.  When I train people I otherwise consider super fit (i.e. people who work out regularly and have been doing so for a long time), I am often surprised by their lack of upper body strength and they are usually unable to do a single pull up.  This is especially true of women, unfortunately.  But don't be discouraged, you have to start somewhere!  He does show modifications (using a chair and resistance bands) that may make it easier for folks not ready to do a full pull-up.

The type of pull-up bar you have will affect how many of these you can do, as will the width of your door.  The door in our rec room I use for our bar is quite narrow, so I can't do any of the super wide grips, nor can I do some of the others because of the design of our bar, which sits relatively flush to the doorframe, so I would just bonk my head if I tried them.  You actually might want to buy the book first to determine which bar to buy.

What might surprise you is just how many body parts you can work with this baby.  Not just back and shoulders, but core, chest, legs, biceps and triceps too!  George also includes some exercises not using the pull-up bar, and some cardio moves so you can get a total-body workout with his programs, or for those you put together yourself.

If you have nothing but a doorframe in your home and a wee bit of space, you can still get ripped.  Seriously if you are consistent and work on your pull-ups its almost impossible not to see results.  So no excuses! If you want a great workout you can do anytime, consider getting a pull-up bar and this book as your guide.

Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher but all the opinions on this blog are my own.




Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Persimmon Five Spice Granola


I am always looking for new flavours, particularly when it comes to granola.  Just when I thought I'd exhausted all the possibilities my puny brain could think up, I was inspired by the juicy, orange persimmons at the market, which are now in season.  Being an Asian fruit, they team up perfectly with Chinese Five Spice.  If you aren't a fan, just omit and stick with the cinnamon.  Either way, this granola is sweet and fragrant, and, of course, healthy and delicious!

Persimmon Five Spice Granola

3 ripe persimmons, chopped
1 tbls lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Chinese Five Spice powder (optional)
1/2 tsp pure, uncut stevia powder (or other sweetener, to taste)
1 cup water
3 tbls coconut oil

4 cups large flake oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
6 cups puffed millet
1 cup uncooked millet

1 cup raisins  (and/or almonds, cashews, dried apricots, etc.)

Place persimmons, juice, spices and water in pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Turn heat down to low, add coconut oil, and simmer until fruit is soft and oil has melted.  Remove from heat and let cool.   Transfer to blender or food processor and process until smooth.  If it is really thick, add another 1/4 cup water. 

Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and pour fruit puree over top.  Mix well.  Spread out onto 2 large baking sheets and bake at 350F for 40 minutes, stirring granola and rotating position of pans every 10 minutes.  Let cool and add in dried fruit and/or nuts.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

This recipe has been added to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Making Waves

funny swimming picture - pool lanes

Hi and welcome to the start of a new week!

This weekend Big A officially passed Swim Kids 10!  In case you are not familiar with these levels, this means she is now ready to start Bronze Star level...even though at age 8, she isn't eligible to pass Bronze Star for another 3 years, until she is 11.  I am so proud of her, she is such an amazing swimmer.  Something I can never say about myself.  So far, she has no interest in joining a swim team, and I can't blame her, I was never interested in competing either.

I did love swimming as a young kid, but then there was a point where I stopped enjoying it.  I actually remember the moment.  The swim instructor threw weights into the deepest part of the pool and asked us to retrieve them.  I dove down and remember if felt like miles just to get to the bottom.  I struggled and ended up having to come up for breath before I got the weight.  In the end I got it, but something about the whole experience freaked me out.  And that was it.

Then, of course, add all the appearance-related insecurities of puberty to the mix and getting into a bathing suit because something I had no interest in doing.  Even now, I hate getting into a bathing suit, though pulling on tight spandex workout clothes to teach a fitness class is no problem for me.  But seriously, spandex pants and tank are one thing...a bathing suit is like wearing nothing but underwear and a bra!

I do get the benefits of swimming though and I actually love aquafit.  I did mom and baby aquafit with Little A for months when she was an infant and was really surprised how challenging it can be.  But its also very therapeutic to be in the water. If my muscles are really sore from a workout, soaking in a pool for a bit always makes me feel better.

The kids both adore swimming, but I still don't.  Aside from having to wear a bathing suit, I also find most pools too cold (which is weird because I am usually always too warm), and get grossed out by dirty pool decks and change rooms.  Blech!  Oh, and I absolutely hate the smell of chlorine.  Like it makes me gag.  Luckily for the girls, they have an awesome dad who will pretty much take them swimming whenever they want.

Swimming is the only activity we insist the girls do, so its good they love it.  Adam and I believe it is an important life skill to have.  I am really hoping Big A will go on to do her life guarding training because that is such a great job for a kid.  Here in Toronto, there are tons of pools and splash pads that offer youth summer jobs that pay relatively well.  But I know if she isn't interested in that, I will have to not push it.

I fully intend on bringing my bathing suit to Florida and this year the intention is to even get in the pool and swim with the kids at least once.  That's the intention, anyways!

I am so glad both girls enjoy being active, and I hope that Adam and I are setting a good example for them.  My parents had little interest in physical activity as adults, so in some ways its surprising that my brother and I are both so active (he's more into sports as opposed to fitness though).  That being said, its important not to push kids too hard and turn them off, so aside from swimming, we let the girls choose what they want to do, if anything.  Big A loves extracurriculars and is doing dance (tap/jazz) and gymnastics along with swimming, while Little A also does gymnastics.  I think Big A would do more if we let her, but frankly its too challenging to fit all these activities in, especially now that getting around Toronto is such a complete nightmare.

Have a great Monday.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday 2014

black friday humor

Because we here in Canada celebrate Thanksgiving in October, one can only conclude that we've appropriated Black Friday solely for commercial reasons.  As if there was ever any other reason for it?  While it may make no sense to me, I won't complain that we have it now too as I am all about a good deal.

Fortunately, we don't get as loonie here as folks do in the U.S....you don't usually see shopping-related violence here.  I've had enough chaos for a while anyways.  Last night was the girls' daycare's annual fundraiser and it is always, crazy and exhausting.  I am (by choice!) no longer on the fundraising subcommittee (I am now the communications person for the daycare), but last night was still nuts.  I helped with the basket raffle we have.

The entertainment this year was a big hit: DJ Trevor, who the kids absolutely adore.

Tonight I have a Christmas party for one of the fertility clinics I work with, which should be fun.  I work tomorrow and the girls have their usual weekend activities.  Sunday I have clients too, and both girls have a playdate, so its a busy one.  I also can't believe its the last weekend in November!  I guess the countdown to the holidays really begins!!  Have a happy, healthy one and be careful at the malls!!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Are You Protein, or Against It?


So what's the deal with protein, you may be wondering?  It seems to be added to everything from granola bars to breakfast cereal to orange juice these days.

And I am guessing that either you or someone you know has at least once attempted a high protein, lower carb diet at some point, right?

I can't say the same for myself though...I already know that I couldn't restrict my carbs too much.  No one takes away my daily oatmeal I say!

But every day it seems their is another headline contradicting the next in terms of how much we need and whether or not eating lots of it (and little to no carbs) will make us all look like Greek Gods.

So, what's the deal with protein?

North Americans have been obsessed with it since the resurgence of the Atkins and other low-carb diet trends in the late 1990s.  After failing to improve our health and lose weight on the popular low-fat diet (primarily because we gorged on high sugar, low nutrition carbs), the pendulum swung back to high fat, high protein diets. 

Many people were able to lose weight on these diets since protein is very satiating, and it was exciting to be allowed large quantities of bacon and other high fat foods, but most people - and this is backed by plenty of studies - have a difficult time staying on these restrictive diets long-term, and usually are not able to keep off the weight they initially lose.  As I have said many times, making changes to your lifestyle to improve your health that you cannot maintain long-term are kind of pointless.

Nevertheless, even my thinking about nutrition has changed a whole lot since back then. I was never into the whole low-carb thing (take away my oatmeal and you risk your life!) but I also have come to realize that carbs, even the good ones, should not be eaten with abandon.  I can easily gorge on a massive plate of brown rice or whole grain pasta but doing so isn't all that great an idea.  Even healthy, whole grains, should be eaten in moderation.  Fortunately for me, I have found that the more I've shifted my workouts away from endurance cardio and more towards HIIT and strength training, the more I crave protein instead.  I actually think I've managed to overcome my carb addiction!  Except for my morning oatmeal!

Anyways, protein is clearly still hot and trendy as most of the popular diets these days like Dukan and Paleo are pretty high in protein.  So how much do you really need to be healthy?  Well believe it or not, you may actually need more as you age.

After the age of 30, we start to experience sarcopenia, or age-related loss of muscle.  Whether you are concerned about maintaining independence and mobility when you are elderly or just want to avoid gaining fat, you should be concerned about this.  When you lose muscle mass, your metabolism decreases, which means you will lose strength, balance, mobility and coordination.  You will also likely experience an increase in subcutaneous fat, which increases your risk of Type II diabetes, heart disease and cancer, without even seeing the scale change that much. 

In order to counter sarcopenia, adults over age 60 should get  about 0.54 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

But guess what trumps the effects of protein intake on fighting sarcopenia?  Strength training, of course, and its never to late to start.

So what else do we know about protein?

The kind you eat matters.  Red meat is linked with cancer and cardiovascular disease, so stick with poultry, eggs, fish and plant proteins.

High protein intake is not associated with osteopenia (weak bones) or kidney disease.

And what about protein and weight-loss?

Most experts agree that getting enough protein is important when you are attempting to lose weight because:

1. It is satiating (along with fibre...its a myth that fat is satiating);
2. It helps preserve lean mass (muscle), which is important because when people cut calories, they often lose lean mass, which means their metabolism drops.

As for all the crap foods they are now adding protein to (i.e. Special K Protein products, protein bread, etc.)?  Skip it and eat real, whole food instead!

Source: Nutrition Action Healthletter

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

PeaNOT Butter Protein Cookies


Why did the cookie go to see the doctor?

Because he was feeling crumby!

That's currently Little A's favorite joke.

If you are feeling crumby and only a cookie will do, but you want something satisfying and nutritious that won't leave you with a sugar-crash, then these fit the bill perfectly.  They are sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan and high in protein.  Oh, and super delicious as confirmed by the family, including the picky little ones.

I used pea butter so they could go in the girls' lunch boxes, but you can use peanut butter if you want, or any other nut or seed butter for that matter.

If you want them a wee bit more decadent, feel free to add chocolate chips.

PeaNOT Butter Protein Cookies

1 cup nut/seed/pea butter
1/4 cup ground flax
1/4 cup vegan, stevia sweetened vanilla or chocolate protein powder
1/2 cup granulated stevia
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

Stir together all the ingredients and then let sit a few minutes until dough thickens.  Scoop spoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes.  Let cool and eat.  Keep in air tight container for a few weeks. Makes 20 cookies.


This recipe has been submitted to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Time to Get UFC Fit!


I have an admission...I am cheating on my beloved Tapout XT fitness program!

Although I still think Tapout XT is super awesome, I had grown bored of it...something that happens to me frequently.  There is a second edition, but it is not yet available in Canada.  So when I was at the mall a few weeks ago with the girls and spied the UFC Fit program, I decided to take a risk and check it out.

Oh man!  I have fallen in love all over again!  Honestly, I think this program is even harder!!  I also like how its organized.  Each workout has a set number of rounds and exercises in each round.  You do each exercise twice, for 30 seconds at a time.  Its essentially HIIT training, with a mix of strength, cardio and MMA exercises.  So much fun!

I will warn you that there is a ton of level change exercises (BJJ get ups, burpees, sprawls, etc.) including going right from lying on your back to standing quickly, so if you have back or neck problems, this probably isn't the program for you. 

While Tapout XT has more of a focus on upper body (punches and strikes), there is far more kicking in this series.  The one drawback is that it utilizes weights instead of bands so it isn't as good for travelling.  Due to all the rolling stuff, you also don't want to be doing it on a hard floor, which is why they sell a rubber mat you can buy.  Truthfully, however, you can probably get a similar thing for cheaper through Amazon, or at a local fitness equipment store.

Its a good value with 12 DVDs, and has a program and nutrition guide too, if you are interested in that (I'm not). 

The workouts are led by Mike Dolce, a UFC trainer.  He's got a weird, robot-like way of talking, but because I love the workouts so much, it doesn't bother me.  His participants are all 'industry' folks.  Not necessarily the champion fighters he name-drops, but others from the MMA world, as well as dancers, stunt doubles and other entertainment people who are ridiculously fit and beautiful.  These super men and women will either inspire you, or piss you off because they set the bar so high.  In Tapout XT, by contrast, MMA fighters are mixed in with ordinary folks like you and I.

One thing I'll warn is that the titles of the DVDs can be a bit misleading.  For example, Power Punch focuses a lot on core, Grapple Strength is all weight training, and no fight moves, and Fat Fighter, Plyo Shred and Cardio Cross Training contain the most MMA-inspired moves.

I don't recommend this program if you are completely unconditioned, or, as I said, if you have some sort of musculoskeletal injury, but if you are already fairly fit and looking for something challenging and fun, you totally want to check this out.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Surprise, I'm Starting a Business!


For a few years now this has been in the works, but its taken a very long time for everything to come together.  I am starting a business called Konjac for Life selling konjac powder (Some of my recipes on this site use it but I've been hoarding a ton more) and building an online community where you can not only purchase it, but learn everything you need to know about its health benefits and how to cook and bake with it. I am excited to finally have a product to bring to market that is perfectly aligned with my interests in healthy cooking and baking, and nutrition.

Konjac Root has been harvested and consumed in Asia for centuries and is only now being discovered by North Americans.  Shirataki noodles, now widely available, are made from konjac, but the flour from this amazing plant has many other culinary applications and I have spent the past 4 years building up a repertoire of recipes using konjac powder.  It can be used to replace a variety of less healthy ingredients in your favorite dishes.

Konjac is a prebiotic, and highly concentrated soluble fibre that is largely calorie- and carbohydrate-free.  It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries and has been proven to:
  •  Lower cholesterol, control blood sugar,
  • Regulate bowel function and treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease, 
  • Act as a powerful appetite suppressant and weight-loss aid,
  • Be a versatile cooking ingredient. Due to its unique chemical properties, konjac has many varied culinary uses and can be used to create a wide array of mouth-watering, healthy foods.

Today I am launching an Indiegogo campaign to kickstart my business.  I would be most grateful if you would check it out and consider making a contribution.  There are many available perks!!  If you have no cash to spare, simply helping me get the word out through email and social media would be much appreciated.

Please visit my campaign site here to make a contribution: http://www.indiegogo.com/project/preview/274930ea


Thank you so much for your support!!

I have linked this post with WIAW on Peas and Crayons because...I eat konjac everyday!  I have also submitted it to Urban Naturale's Healthy Happy Green and Natural Party Blog Hop.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Don't Feed the Animals

Kids can always pick out the onions! #Parenting
We may be past the toddler stage in this house, but feeding the kids still remains a challenge.  Like most kids, they would prefer a steady diet of cake and candy, with the only savouries being pizza and hotdogs.  Sigh!

I guess I should feel lucky that I can whip up all sorts of whole grain, stevia-sweetened concoctions and they'll gobble them down whereas I hear a lot of kids clearly distinguish between true crap and healthier imitations and will only go for the former. My kids also don't notice all the fruits and veggies hidden in their food, and they will, sometimes willingly eat vegetables.

Its frustrating, because I feel like no matter what I do at home, they are still exposed to way too much junk from the outside world.  Probably a day does not go by...and I am seriously not exaggerating...when they get cookies, candy or other garbage either from school, daycare or other family members who tell me, there is no harm in the occasional treat.  The problem is, since they are getting it from all directions, it is absolutely NOT occasional.

Oh well, I feel like there is little I can do except try to set a good example and I think we do that pretty well.  I ate my fair share of crap as a kid but eventually gravitated to the healthy side.  My parents were never health nuts like me, but rather foodies, and, at the very least, foodies tend to appreciate good quality food, which eliminates most fast and processed foods.

What trips me up with the girls sometimes is taking things personally.  Like most kids they are incredibly unpredictable, one minute adoring something and the next minute hating it.  Because I love to cook, when they reject something, my feelings get hurt, especially if its something I made just for them.  Case in point, last week I made this homemade baked honey Dijon garlic chicken.  Super moist boneless chicken thighs in a yummy, flavourful sauce.  Or so I thought.


Served a tiny bit, cut up into tiny pieces, each girl was only willing to nibble a corner of a single piece.  Big A said little, but Little A told me it was disgusting and then complained that it smelled like throw up so could I get it off her plate immediately.  Oy vey!  Her response was so dramatic I thought perhaps there was something really wrong with the chicken that I missed, however, when Adam tasted it, he confirmed what I thought, which was, it was amazingly delicious!

Thank goodness I've learned to worry less about their nutrition.  Several years ago I was constantly stressing about what they were and were not eating and wondering how this would impact their health.  I've learned to let go of that a bit.  They may not eat like I want them to, but I guess they do okay, and the reality is, there is not much more I can do about it so I have to just suck it up.  All I can say is thank goodness they now make organic, whole grain Mac and Cheese in a box because it takes 5 minutes to make, and the kids love it.  Yes, I'll admit it, I feed that stuff to the girls possibly once a week. In fact, my mom is coming today to stay for the weekend and I am making a delicious dinner tonight of lemon pepper trout, roasted delicata squash and my edamame, cucumber, and shitaki mushroom salad.  I know the girls won't touch any of it, so I may just break open a box of their Mac and Cheese.  We'll all be happy and their will be no fights...although I admit I may encourage them to eat some vegetable matter along with it...

I no longer feel guilty about being imperfect.  I do my best and that just has to be good enough.

Feeding a family
Saturday I made sure not to book any clients so my mom and I can do something fun with the girls before their afternoon activities (gymnastics and swimming) and then my brother and his family are coming for dinner.  His kids are darn picky too so we're ordering in Mashu Mashu, which is a favorite around here and actually appeals to most kids.  Sunday I teach spin while the girls are at Hebrew School, then we'll take my mom to the train and the girls have a playdate in the afternoon. 

Have a happy, healthy weekend folks!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Holographic Acupressure Discs: Product Review

Relief Discs

What the heck are Holographic Acupressure Discs?

Well, apparently they are "All-natural, non-invasive pain relief discs used by world class and Olympic athletes now available to consumers." They are just one of the products sold by the Winning Factor wellness company.

I had just wrenched my shoulder when these arrived for me to try out.  I stuck one on the effected shoulder in the area indicated in the instructions for shoulder pain before bed.  Is my shoulder better?  It is actually.  Can I attribute it to the discs? Impossible to say, to be honest, because the day before I did an acupuncture session.  In any case, a sample of 1 does not make for scientific data. 

I couldn't find any data, actually, on any link between holographic acupressure discs and pain.  In fact, I found just one study on holographic anything in relationship to health...apparently holographic arm bands do not improve balance or stability.  But here's the thing, perhaps research is just behind in this area.  A few decades ago, we folks in North America would have scoffed at the idea that acupuncture can actually be effective for treating various ailments and now we know it is.  So whether there is scientific evidence out there for these or not, given that these are non-invasive and affordable ($20 for 35 discs), if you have pain that is resistant to other interventions, it certainly doesn't hurt to give these a try, no?  Next time I have an ache or pain, you can bet I'll be sticking one on!

Disclosure: I was provided with this product by the company but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chickpea Sweet Potato Roti


Whenever Adam expresses delight over a vegetarian recipe, I know its one I need to share.  Generally, its hard to get him excited about savoury dishes that have no meat in them.  This one's a sure winner though.  Hearty enough for even the biggest, carnivorous appetite!

Chickpea Sweet Potato Roti

1 tsp coconut or olive oil
1 onion, diced
Large chunk ginger, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls madras curry powder (hot or mild)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cabbage, sliced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)
1 can light coconut milk
1 large sweet potato, cooked, peeled and mashed
Caribbean hot sauce, to taste (optional)

Roti skins or whole grain tortillas

Heat oil in large skillet, pot or fry pan.  Add onion, garlic, ginger and spices.  Cook for several minutes over medium heat.  Add in vinegar, cabbage, chickpeas and coconut milk and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Stir in mashed sweet potato until most of the liquid has absorbed and sauce has thickened.  Adjust seasoning, to taste.  Add desired amount into wrap and insert into mouth.  Makes a lot.  Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 4 days or freeze.

This recipe was submitted to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Small Wonders

 

Good Morning! I hope you had a nice weekend.  We woke up to a winter wonderland this morning.  Good think the girls were cooperative, or actually, pretty excited, to get all dressed up in their winter gear.  Don't they look cute?

I can't help but brag a bit about my girls.  They got great report cards last week and we had lovely parent-teacher interviews.  I am so proud of them! 

Big A is a good student, but what makes me so incredibly proud of her is just what a good person she is.  It was noted on her report card and by her teacher in person, that she is very kind and helpful to all the other kids.  All.  She is not clique-y at all.  And she apparently is learning not to be as bossy as she used to be.  I would say that between her kindness and her assertiveness/confidence, she has the makings of a very effective leader (CEO, politician...), ha ha!!

Little A is miss smarty pants, blowing away her teachers with her clever questions.  She just still has to work on 'controlling her emotions' and not distracting the other kids by chattering with her best friend so much.  Nevertheless, the teachers are very pleased with her progress and academically she is doing great (she's going to be a Nobel Peace Prize winning scientist I think!).

Aside from the girls fighting, which, at the very least, is much less frequent these days, and some serious spoiled-brat-like behaviour (i.e. whining about having to walk 7 minutes to school, sulking because they can't have what they want whenever they want, etc.), I'd say we're in a pretty good place around here.  Big A is so grown up sometimes it amazes me.  She can still act like a 2-year-old though.  Little A is still prone to tantrums too, but she has them less often and I am loving the last vestiges of her 'babyness'.  She is still so cute and cuddly and silly and impish. 

Older people with grown children always warn me it all goes by too quickly and I get it.  I already can't wrap my mind around the fact that Big A is 8.5 years old.  It won't be long until I've been a mom for a whole decade!  And yet I still feel like a kid myself!!

I can't help but be relieved to be at this point where we no longer have preschoolers or babies and the girls have a degree of independence.  I sometimes forget that they are now capable of doing certain things themselves, which means that as a family we have more freedom and ability to do all sorts of things that weren't possible before.  But there is also part of me already mourning the loss of my little monkeys.  I am sure it won't be long before they want nothing to do with me and spend all their time with their peers and just roll their eyes when I address them.  Those days are coming for sure.  And in the blink of an eye they'll be leaving for university and Adam and I will be empty nesters.  Gasp!

Fortunately, since they are both going to be extremely successful and wealthy, they'll be able to fly back and visit their old parents regularly. HA!

Well, here's to family, and hoping I don't screw mine up too much!!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Delavier's Women's Strength Traning Anatomy Workouts

Click to hide.

I have made it no secret that I believe strength training is absolutely critical to health and fitness.  Unfortunately, I find even committed fitness fanatics, particularly female ones, resist embracing it.  I suspect this is due to many misunderstandings and myths about strength training, but its very frustrating to watch people failing to reach their fitness goals because they are missing out on this vital component in their exercise program.

Why is strength training so important?  This is why, it:

- Reverses sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle mass we experience with age
- Lowers risk of osteoporosis
- Lowers risk of dementia
- Strengthens tendons and ligaments, lowering risk of injury
- Improves overall strength and helps to maintain mobility as we age
- Builds lean mass which increases metabolism, making it easier to lose weight and maintain weight loss
- Improves sport performance
- Is empowering

Need I say more?

But since the world is primarily motivated with aesthetics, let me reiterate the point that it is just as important as, and quite possibly more so than, cardio for improving your body composition and HOW YOU LOOK!

Now a lot of women tell me they just don't know where to start, and weight rooms and machines seem intimidating.  They need not be!  Honestly, its like anything else, once its familiar, you realize there is nothing to be scared of.

Now, perhaps you can't afford a regular personal trainer to take you through several weekly workouts.  I get that!  Most people can't afford that.  Even 2-3 sessions with a trainer can get you started.  But if you want to figure it out on your own, than Delavier's Women's Strength Traning Anatomy Workouts may be the book for you.

This book is absolutely packed with information.  It too may seem intimidating because of the sheer volume of info, but if you read through it carefully, you'll realize it is actually quite straightforward.
It is particularly well suited for people who really want to understand the what and why behind things.  And really, I think anyone who works out should know that about their exercise or activity.  Too often I see folks at the gym doing weird things, which you can tell, they are doing because they saw someone else doing it, but because they don't have a clue what the purpose of the exercise is, or what muscles they are trying to target, they are doing it all wrong.  This makes it useless at best and dangerous at worst.

Delavier's Women's Strength Traning Anatomy Workouts tells you everything you need to know. Should you not be interested in the details of your anatomy, than you can ignore those parts and diagrams.  But again, its helpful to understand why you are doing what you are doing.

In Part I, there are directions for now to create a strength training program for yourself, based on your level of experience, while avoiding injuries.  It also talks about how to integrate cardio and stretching into your routine.

Part II has very, and I mean very, detailed sections organized by body part (glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, abs, shoulders, upper back, lower back, chest and arms) including instructions on how to do the foundation exercises properly (most are pretty fundamental), what muscles you are working and why, and how to avoid injury.  There are photos and diagrams for each too.

Part III puts together a whole bunch of programs for readers from beginner to advanced with all sorts of variations based on workout frequency and whether you will be training at a gym or using minimal equipment.  Again, these sections include photos of each exercise, so you don't have to go back to the previous section to figure out what they are if you forget.

Whether you simply want to stay healthy and mobile as you age or you want to be a ripped, lean, mean fitness machine, I can't stress enough the importance of strength training.  If you want to see and feel an amazing change in your body, I suggest you give it a try.  And if you want some guidance, this book is a great place to start.

Disclosure: I was presented with a complimentary copy of this book, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Please Say It Isn't Snow!?!


Yep, it snowed yesterday.  Didn't stick, thank goodness.   Nothing to build snowmen with yet at least. But there is no denying winter is here, whether its 'official' or not.  Tuesday we had a gorgeous, warm, sunny day, but I think that was it for that until spring.

I am already looking forward to our trip to Florida in the middle of December with my family.  We usually go to Orlando with Adam's folks, but in honour of her 70th birthday, my mom is treating us, and my brother's family to a vacation in West Palm at the Sandpiper Club Med resort.  Apparently its just a dream for people with kids as they keep the little ones occupied practically 24-7, giving adults time on their own.  Sweeeeeeeet!

But this does mean we will be in town over Christmas, which is going to necessitate some serious planning on my part to keep them busy when they are home from school and daycare.

I just worry that if we have another particularly bad winter, which they are predicting, that by March I'll have lost my marbles.  I wonder if a last minute get away might be possible...

I work tonight, but then the girls are staying for a sleepover at my in-laws which means Adam and I will get a bit of an evening alone, and a relaxed Saturday morning.  I see clients tomorrow but then I am thinking we should start doing our Hannukah shopping...my mother-in-law is having her party on December 7th, since both our family and my brother's will be leaving for Florida the following week so there isn't much time to get gifts for all the cousins!  Where did the fall go? I can't believe I'm thinking about Hannukah already!!

Sunday Adam has his book club but otherwise this is going to be a pretty quiet one for us.  Sunday, however, is also the Santa Clause Parade, which means getting anywhere around downtown Toronto will be a complete nightmare.

How about you?  Any snow where you are yet?  Have you done your holiday shopping?
 
Have a safe and healthy weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Frosted Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Squares


Yep, another flavour of oatmeal squares.  Why? Because having a prepared breakfast in the mornings that the kids love is brilliant.  It makes life so much easier.

Since its pumpkin everything season I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon.

The frosting is optional but it always increases the attractiveness of a baked good for the girls (of course!).  You can also choose to make it less sweet but I knew I had to mask the pumpkin taste completely if they were going to go for it.

Success was mine.  The girls fought over the frosting bowl and were covered in it before I plunked them both in the bath.  They refused to wait until morning to try these and ended up having a couple for dessert after dinner.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Squares

2 cups quick cooking steel cut oats
1/4 cup flax meal
2 cups boiling water
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder
1/2 cup granular stevia
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips (preferably stevia sweetened)

Stir together oats and flax with water in large bowl and let cool a bit.  Add everything but chips and mix well.  Fold in chips and scrape into greased 9x9 square pan.  Bake at 350F for about 24-25 minutes.  Let cool.

Frosting

1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 tbls coconut oil, softened
1 scoop vegan chocolate protein powder
3 tbls cocoa powder
1/4 cup stevia
2 droppers full of chocolate stevia liquid

Place ingredients for frosting in blender and whip until smooth.  Ice cooled squares.  Let set before cutting.  Makes 16 squares.  Keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

This recipe was submitted to Urban Naturale's Plant Based Pot Luck Party Link Up and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Paleo Cleanse: Book Review


Given that I don't believe in cleanses/detoxes, etc. nor the Paleo diet, you might be wondering why I agreed to review this book.

Well I try not to judge a book by its cover...or its title.  You might recall I reviewed Paleo Fitness, which I expected to be ridiculous, but actually was pretty good?  So I decided to give this a chance too.

Unfortunately, that was a mistake.

Paleo Cleanse is written by Camilla Carboni and Melissa Van Dover, who both have a background in marketing.  I guess it should come as no surprise that they clearly don't understand how to do proper research.

These women are devout followers of Loren Cordain, who supposedly came up with the whole stupid Paleo Diet thing. 

The book starts with them chronicling their own health journeys are their discovery of the Paleo Diet.  Next, they compare the Paleo Food Pyramid with the traditional one here in North America.  In the third chapter they supposedly 'debunk marketing myths' about the diet.  This is where I started getting agitated. First, I want to point out that they use almost no primary data for this book, relying almost exclusively on secondary data.  For example, when making their claim that eating grains can result in leaky gut, their reference is a book called Perfect Health Diet, which is for popular consumption.  They refer to the same book to suggest that if you are going to eat any grains, you should stick with WHITE RICE because it is least likely to cause leaky gut.  Um yeah, but its also linked to diabetes and obesity!  I very strongly agree that refined carbs INCLUDING white rice should be avoided at all costs, but there is no compelling scientific evidence that those of us without intolerances or allergies benefit in any way from eliminating things like oats, quinoa, millet, etc. from our diet.

I did my own research of the primary data and was not able to find any evidence to back up some of the claims...even when I looked at Cordain's publications!  A few of his studies find evidence that dairy consumption can have negative effects, but if you want an informed perspective on this, I suggest you refer to Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, who regularly reviews recent research.

For one thing, the claim that we shouldn't be eating legumes is total hogwash.  It took me 2 seconds to find this research showing very little association between consumption of grains and legumes and weight. I did find studies linking legumes with decreased risk of osteoporosis, lower cholesterol, increased metabolism and reduced inflammation. I found no research at all on 'leaky gut' being related to consumption of grains.

The purpose of this 30 day cleanse is apparently to prepare you for the Paleo Diet.  According to these women, following the Paleo lifestyle will lead to reduced inflammation, superior physical performance, stable blood sugar, less congestion, better skin, fewer headaches, weight loss, mental clarity, better sleep, greater immunity, fewer cravings and less stress.  Most of their evidence for all this, again, comes from secondary mass media resources, not primary data.  Also, I suspect this would hold true for anyone who eliminates processed foods and switches to eating whole foods, regardless of whether you include legumes, grains and even dairy.  What the Paleo diet does have going for it is that it encourages you to eat real food and avoid all the crap.

In Chapter 8 they explain what foods are and are not permitted on the cleanse.  As with the Paleo Diet, the dos are fruits and veggies, eggs, coconut, olive and avocado oils, fish and meat.  The don'ts are dairy, gluten, grains, processed foods, legumes, refined sugars and vegetable and seed oils.

What readers may find helpful is that they provide tips on preparing for the cleanse and setting yourself up for success (i.e. do it with a buddy, substitutions for cravings, planning shopping and cooking, etc.). 

The book includes meal plans, shopping lists and recipes too, organized by week for the full 30 days.  The recipes are pretty plain and simple...they don't really appeal to me that much.  If you're vegetarian or vegan...good luck to you!  My one problem with the meal plans is the amount of meat.  Seriously bacon?  Bacon is not healthy, unless you think getting colon cancer sounds fun!  As I've said before, if you are going to do the Paleo thing, at least try and get most of your protein from eggs, poultry and fish and minimize the red meat as much as possible.  Especially the cured meats like bacon.  There is quite a bit of scientific evidence that red and processed meats is linked to cancer and mortality.  Skip it.

So there it is.  If you are intent on transitioning to a Paleo Diet, than this book can help you do so.  But honestly, ask yourself if this is a diet you can maintain long-term.  If not, there's really no point to it. 

Oh, and just for the record, there is no scientific evidence that cleanses/detoxes have any value either.  Our bodies are designed to detoxify themselves and, again, it matters little what you do for short-periods of time.  Cleanses you do for a few days, weeks or even a month cannot make up for a poor diet and lifestyle.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"The Best" Sweet Potato Brownies


Sorry that the picture is so crappy.  I snapped it quick with my phone...and also had just finished guzzling 2 beers, which likely clouded my perspective...or at least my motivation to get a decent shot.

All you have to know about these is when I asked the girls if they were good, Big A said, "No mommy, they aren't good...they're the best!"

Good thing they don't realize how healthy they are!  Low-fat.  Gluten-Free. Vegan. Sugar-Free.  Yet, super rich and fudgy.  How do you beat that?  As soon as they were cool enough to eat, both girls scarfed down 4 each before I cut them off.  About 20 minutes later they begged me for another and I gave in.  Yeah, seriously!  I feel so smug when they go nuts for things I make which they think are a major treat but are actually super healthy.  Ha!!  I kid you not, these disappeared in less than 24 hours and the girls have been begging me to bake more ever since.

"The Best" Sweet Potato Brownies

1 large sweet potato, baked and peeled
3 flax eggs (3 tbls ground flax + 9 tbls hot water)
1 cup stevia baking blend (equivalent to 1 cup sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips (preferably stevia-sweetened)

Puree sweet potato in blender with flax eggs, vanilla and stevia.  Add cocoa, flour, soda and salt and pulse to mix.  Stir in chocolate chips by hand.  Batter will be very thick.  Scrape into greased 8x8 square pan.  Bake at 350F for 14 minutes.  Let cool and then cut into squares.  Makes 16 brownies.  Keep in air tight container for up to 5 days or freeze.

This recipe was submitted to Urban Naturale's Party Blog Hop.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Morose Mondays


Sorry for the bummer blog post on Friday but man, the day just got worse from there.  One of my favorite clients got a negative on her IVF cycle...I think I took it as hard as she did.  Some times I just feel like raging about how unfair the world is.  But that's kind of pointless, because it just is.  I try to focus on making it a little less unfair, if I can, in some small way.  I guess that's why I love, love, love my job.  I can't do magic, but if I can at least support someone through a difficult time, I guess that's something, no?

I didn't work on Saturday, for a change, and even though it was cold and rainy, it was nice to have some family time.  We got new portraits done of the four of us, and they turned out pretty good!  I have to acknowledge just how lucky I am to have these guys:


The grey weather continues, but am pretty pumped about some work-related stuff happening this week.  I can't give any details yet until I know more myself, but I am very excited...

I hope you have a great start to your week!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Life Isn't Fair


In my line of work, I see so-called miracles and happy endings, but I also see an unbelievable amount of pain and loss.  I am astonished by what some of my clients have endured.  Loss of loved ones, accidents, health issues, abuse, betrayal...its heartbreaking.  But what's truly amazing to me is the ones that, despite all the seemingly insurmountable obstacles and set backs that would crush many of us, not only survive, but thrive.

Life is not fair.  It just isn't.  So often when a tragedy occurs we spend a whole lot of time asking, "Why me?"  And the answer is - in my opinion, at least - its just all random.  Bad things often happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.

Occasionally karma seems to work.  Like this whole CBC Jian Gomeshi scandal, for example.  He is hopefully going to get his comeuppance now...but, unfortunately, before that happened, this total scum bag was able to spend years getting away with sexual assault and harassment.  He hurt so many damn people, it just makes me sick.

I guess this is on my mind right now because a few of my cases lately have really hit me hard.  Clients of mine who had a long infertility journey and finally conceived using an egg donor then lost their baby girl at 21 weeks, seemingly due to physician negligence, and were subjected to cold and cruel treatment by said physician and the hospital.  I was in such a state of disbelief when they shared their story.  It completely broke my heart.  But it also made me so angry that they had to ensure such heart ache and loss and that others can act so despicably.

Another client had her IVF cycle cancelled at the last minute after dedicating her life to trying to conceive this past year, only to be fired from her job yesterday.  She feels like her whole world has fallen apart. 

That being said, the couple is moving forward, this time using a gestational carrier (due to a medical emergency when she delivered her stillborn, she now cannot carry a pregnancy), and I am confident they will have their family soon.  I also know this client of mine will get another job and be okay...eventually.

Its so easy to get bogged down in all the misery out there, whether its our own or that of those around us.  But truthfully, it isn't what happens to us in life that matters so much as how we deal with it.  The only thing we can do besides folding up or falling to pieces, is to keep going.

A great example of this type of courage and resilience is a couple I saw last year.  They had lost their 5 year old daughter to cancer.  They had no other children at the time.  They were trying to conceive again but discovered that the husband had a sperm issue leaving him essentially infertile.  This meant that their daughter had been somewhat of a miracle.  They were going to have to use a sperm donor this time.  I expected this couple to be sad and angry but they were just the opposite.  They spoke of how grateful they were to have had their beautiful daughter for as long as they did.  Although they did shed tears as we spoke, it was clear that this couple never asked, "Why us." Wow!  I found them so incredibly inspirational.  I don't think I will ever forget them.


I don't mean to sound like Debbie Downer on a Friday.  Actually, I am trying to make a point about that is hopeful.  People are incredibly resilient.  No matter what you are facing, you are much stronger than you think.  Most pain fades with time and most things have a way of working themselves out.  The point is to never give up, no matter what!

So there you go, some food for thought.  Enjoy the weekend.  Hold your loved ones close and look for all the beauty in the world.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Carrot Cake Oatmeal Squares with Cream Cheese Icing (Vegan, Sugar-free, & Gluten-Free)


I admit, throwing carrots into a breakfast dish for the girls was risky...but it turned out great.  These are marvelous as a breakfast or snack.  While tasting absolutely decadent, they are actually really healthy.

Unlike my other oatmeal square recipes, however, these take a bit more prep and have a much longer cooking time, so best not to leave them to the morning of...make them the day ahead so they are ready to go for your busy day.

If you are wondering why the cream cheese icing is tan in colour, its because of the protein powder.  I find that vegan protein powders, even the vanilla flavours tend to be kind of tan/greenish.  I used this one, which is quite good:


Carrot Cake Oatmeal Squares with Cream Cheese Icing (Vegan, Sugar-free, & Gluten-Free)

2 cups quick-cooking steel cut oats
1/4 cup flax meal
2 cups boiling water
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder
1 540ml jar golden pineapple plus juice
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1/4 cup granulated stevia
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves or allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda

Pour boiling water over oats and flax in a large bowl.  Place pineapple and carrot in blender or food processor and process until desired consistency.*  Add carrot mixture, protein powder and remaining ingredients to oats and flax and mix well.  Scrape batter into greased 9x12 pan.  Bake at 350F for 1 hour.  If top begins browning too quickly, cover with foil.

Cream Cheese Icing

1/2 cup non-dairy cream cheese
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder
1 dropper full of vanilla stevia
3-4 tbls non-dairy milk (or more)

Whisk together all the icing ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.  Add additional milk as needed.  Spread over cooled oatmeal base and cut into squares. 

Keep refrigerated up to 5 days or freeze.

*If your audience, like mine is averse to 'bits', then process until practically pureed.

I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot Luck Party.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Extremely Ripped & Chiseled with Jari Love: Fitness DVD Review


Although I had never heard of Jari Love before, when I was approached to review her new DVD, I was excited: I love fitness DVDs!

As it turns out, she's a fellow Canadian, but resides across the country in Calgary with her husband and 2 kids...I've never been to Alberta, by the way.

She actually has a whole series of workout DVDs that you can purchase. Love is a personal trainer and fitness expert who has been featured in media across North America.

This particular DVD offers a full hour of strength-based exercise segments.  The cover says it is split into 30 minutes for lower body and 30 minutes for upper body.  Perhaps my copy is messed up, but it actually has only 20 minutes of lower body exercises and the rest is upper and core.  Not sure what's up with that.

You need several sets of hand weights, and a step, although, you can do the DVD without the step and modifications are shown.

The whole idea is similar to those Group Power classes from Les Mills where you use relatively light weight and do high reps in time to music.  Unfortunately, the music in the DVD is unidentifiable, generic music, not the latest hits and familiar music you get in those classes.  I guess they didn't want to pay the royalties.

The video also feels dated.  I don't know if its the music, some of the hairdos, the discoteque lighting, or what, but I feel like I'm doing a toning class from the 1990s.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing!  I used to enjoy teaching such classes back in the day.  I also like that she offers lots of variation in timing to the moves, like 3 counts down/1 up, and the reverse, 2 up/2 down, etc.  In the gym, we tend to spend most of our time doing up, down, up, down, etc.  Doing resistance exercises slowly is a great way to activate those muscle fibres!

If you use enough weight, this can absolutely be a very challenging workout.  I actually think its perfect for someone who wants to start strength training at home but wants some guidance.  I would not recommend it for someone who has never done a group ex class or any weight lifting before, but I suppose if you start with light enough weight the chance of injury would be lower.

Overall, if you are an intermediate level exerciser who is looking for a strength training routine to do at home, this may be for you.