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Friday, July 31, 2015

The Long Weekend Birthday Boy

long weekend hi5
 
Adam's birthday is tomorrow, and this means there are 5 weeks in which I am only 1, rather than 2, years older than him.  Since he makes fun of me non-stop for being older than him, I have to cherish these weeks each year.

Today is bananas work-wise, and the weekend is equally busy so I'm short on time to write a post.  I just popped in to say, have a wonderful 3 days and I'll catch up with ya'll on Tuesday.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Super Fudgy Energy Bites


Looking for a healthy, satisfying, vegan, gluten-free, sweet and tasty snack...that's portable and simple to make? Oh, and doesn't require you to turn on the oven? Got it!

These were a hit with the whole family so I will definitely be making them again.  I have recently discovered how amazing flax eggs work as a binder in unbaked recipes.  They avoid the need to add oil or liquid sweeteners while adding a ton of fibre and nutrition.  These are best made in a high speed blender.  You can make them in a food processor but you won't be able to get the nuts perfectly smooth.

Super Fudgy Energy Bites

4 cups shelled raw walnuts
1 cup soft prunes (soak in water, if they aren't soft)
4 flax eggs (4 tbsp. + 12 tbsp. hot water)
1/2 cup vegan chocolate protein powder
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup stevia baking blend (that measures equivalent to sugar)
2 droppers full of chocolate stevia liquid (optional)

Place nuts in blender and blend until very finely chopped and nuts are starting to release their oils.  Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.  Roll into balls and place on wax or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate until firm.  Keep energy bites in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Place

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Healthy On-the-Go Snacks

HEALTHY SNACKS
 
One of the reasons North Americans eat so poorly is all the on-the-go eating we do.  In other cultures, there tends to be less of this, with more of an emphasis on sit-down, family meals.  The problem with on-the-go eating is that it tends to encourage consumption of convenience foods and interferes with mindful eating, often resulting in the ingestion of too many calories and too little nutrition.

Unfortunately, because of our lifestyles, sometimes eating on-the-go cannot be avoided.  But it doesn't have to be health risk if you do it right.

First, let me suggest what not to do. Do not go down the snack food aisle! Yes, you heard me: avoid snack foods!  This would include anything processed anyways, so things like cookies, granola bars/snack bars, chips, crackers, pretzels, etc.  It doesn't matter if they are organic, gluten-free, low-fat, etc.  They are generally void of nutritional value and just empty calories.  In addition, they are generally high-carb, low protein, which gives you a temporary energy boost, followed by a drop in blood sugar, which then causes a dip in energy and leaves you hungry again fairly soon.  Most people need no more than 2 snacks a day, if they are eating 3 square meals.  So even though snacking is definitely part of a good nutrition plan, this does not mean you can graze all day long.  A 'snack' should generally, be 200 calories or less, depending on your personal energy needs.

The ideal snacks are those from whole foods, that contain protein and fibre.  Fresh fruit and veggies are the best, of course, especially paired with some protein.   But there are other good options too.

Here are some of my favorite portable snacks:

Savoury:
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Hummus or bean dip + raw veggies
  • Seaweed snacks
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Cheese
  • Boiled edamame
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Kale chips
  • Nitrite-free jerky

Sweet:
  • Unsweetened dried fruits
  • Freeze-dried fruits
  • Home-made muffins or protein bars
  • Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with berries
  • Rice cakes with nut butter
  • Fruit compotes/poached fruit with yogurt
  • Fruit-based protein smoothies
Essentially, the simpler the better.  Avoid buying stuff in a box or bag with 1,000 ingredients.  Balance out carbs with protein, fibre and some healthy fats to keep your blood sugar stable, your appetite under control and your energy going all day.

This post was inspired by https://nuts.com/healthy-snacks where you can buy lots of healthy snacks in bulk and have them delivered to your door!

Disclosure: Nuts.com asked me to write a post about healthy snacking but I received no compensation for this post and all opinions on this blog are my own.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Italian Roasted Zucchini


I often fixate on a particular fruit or veggie and just suddenly can't get enough.  Right now I am obsessed with zucchini.  Perhaps this is because it is so fresh and plentiful right now, there is always locally grown zuccs at the market these days. 

My favorite way to make it is roasted.  I don't use oil because I actually prefer it without. I find oil gives it a spongy texture.  This is a super simple recipe that just lets my favorite cooking method bring out the natural sweetness of this awesome veg.

I use Rustic Tuscan seasoning from Costco, but you can use regular Italian seasoning plus a pinch of sea salt in its place.  Or, sub it your own favorite seasoning blend.  Nowadays you can even find ones specifically for roasted veggies.

Italian Roasted Zucchini

4 zucchini, cut into rounds
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Rustic Tuscan (or other) seasoning blend

Toss zucchini with vinegar, garlic and seasoning and spread on foil or parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes.

One more complaint about the weather...it is going to be over 30 Celsius all week, feeling like at least 40 Celsius with the humidity! That's 104 F for you Americans.

I have submitted this recipe to Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop.

Monday, July 27, 2015

More Discoveries

teen running.jpg
 
Here are a few more discoveries I've had recently.  We certainly do continue learning throughout our lives, don't we?

First, I discovered that refinishing a dining room table and 6 chairs is way beyond the limits of my patience.  I'll do DIY stuff, essentially to save money, but I don't really enjoy most of these tasks.  So when the guy at the hardware store told me what a big job I was taking on, I quickly changed my plan.  With all the sanding to remove the stain and finish already on the set, and they re-staining, refinishing and sanding between coats, he estimated it was a 1 month job.  I trust him because he would have made money off all the supplies I was about to buy.  So, um, no thanks.  I was thinking 2-3 days.  Perhaps we will, in fact, just buy a new set.

Second, apparently age 9 is the new 13.  Big A is definitely pre-pubescent with that impending blossoming right around the corner.  Her sleeping habits are a dead giveaway.  Its harder and harder to drag her out of bed in the morning.  Gone are the days when this former early bird would get up before 6am.  This morning I tried 3 times to get her up and it was way past 9am when I was finally able to rouse her.  Then she was grumpy and quickly reverted to asking like a 2-year-old when I told her we didn't have time for her to sit and eat a second bowl of cereal.  With a bag of cereal in her hand, I dragged her out the door.  I dread September when I actually need to get the girls to school before 9am!

I also discovered that sometimes you can find some very valuable information on the Internet.  For example, after we pulled a load of laundry out of the drying this weekend and found a whole bunch of our (Adam's and mine) clothes covered in greasy, pink lipstick stains because Little A left some tinted chapstick in her pocket, I discovered that if you soak the stains in rubbing alcohol or hairspray, they will actually come out.  The one caveat is that the extent to which this works depends on the fabric (Adam's cotton shorts turned out much better than did my white Handful bra).

Finally, I discovered this morning that the weather all week is going to be super hot and humid.  That pisses me off.  I don't care if that's normal for this time of year.  It still pisses me off.  I'll be staying close to A/C, but you have a great Monday!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Discoveries

 
Its been a quiet week work-wise.  A lot of clients are away and a lot of my referring doctors are on holiday.  But its still been a fruitful week in other ways.

Most importantly, I have been feeling better than ever.  For months I've been struggling with daytime sleepiness and fatigue.  I thought it was my thyroid a few months ago when after a routine check, my doctor said it was, indeed, low and I needed to bump up my thyroid meds.  Unfortunately, when we re-tested a month later, my levels were perfect but the fatigue was still there.   Next, I wondered if it could be my iron levels, but my annual physical results all came back normal.  Finally, I reluctantly concluded that perhaps it was just part of being 40.  Recently, however, the fatigue has completely evaporated and I am back to my old young, energetic self.  WTF? I realized that my energy bounced back a few days after stopping my antihistamines!  In never occurred to me that it could be the culprit as it is supposedly non-drowsy and I've been on it for a few years, since my last allergist put me on it.  Maybe its a coincidence, but who cares, once again I am an energizer bunny (that was my nickname at the first gym where I taught fitness classes because I kept going and going and going...).

Speaking of teaching fitness, I also realized that its just like riding a bicycle!  I get class sub requests all the time.  I never take them because most don't work with my schedule (either early mornings when I am with the girls or evenings when I am either working or picking up the girls).  As time has gone on, I have also felt less confident teaching class formats I haven't taught in a while.  I used to teach pretty much everything, and the only reason I have stuck it out with only spinning is that it takes less prep time.  Things like boot camp or step require you to be constantly coming up with new ideas, and even though that was never a big challenge for, I just didn't want to pressure.  Anyways, when a request came in Wednesday 7am for a 10:30am class, I realized I was available.  It was for a cardio, sculpt, core and stretch combo class.  Even though I had nothing prepared, I reminded myself that I could just pick out exercises that I do myself all the time and could probably wing it pretty well.  Besides, it was for folks 55+ so I wouldn't have to go all-out.  Well, it turned out great! Admittedly, even though I tried to keep the intensity down, they whined a bit about the class being really challenging.  Nevertheless, some of them thanked me afterwards for shaking up their usual routine.  I think I'm going to try to sub more often! After all, making a few extra bucks is always a welcome thing!

I have also decided to tackle refinishing our dining room table and chairs.  They used to belong to Adam's parents and they are pretty old and not looking their best (mostly due to the wear and tear of 2 messy kids!).  I discovered that the process is pretty straightforward (based on the info I found online) so I'm going to the big hardware store down the street and stocking up on supplies today.  Tomorrow I am going to get started.  Another recent discovery of mine is that I'm not as useless as I thought I was.  A few weeks ago I single-handedly re-landscaped our front yard to replace the horrible mess made by the landscaper we hired a few years ago.  It looks pretty good, if I do say so myself! I also repainted a few walls after our handyman removed the baby gates we had on the stairs (yeah, we left them on a bit too long), and mended a whole in the drywall Adam and I made when moving the stairmaster out of our house. 

I also discovered a fitness DVD I have had that I previously overlooked.  I was flipping through my case of UFC FIT DVDs and realized there was one at the back - Shark Attack - that I hadn't tried.  See I don't follow the program they give you, I just work all my various DVDs into my routine.  I like to change it up as much as possible, so finding something completely new was exciting.  Realizing I love this workout was even better! OF all the workouts in the UFC FIT program, I think this one is the most MMA inspired, and it is so much fun.  I did it twice this week!

So here's to new discoveries!

Its a busy weekend.  Tomorrow I have one client to see and the girls have swimming.  Sunday I teach my spin class and then we are driving out of town to some friends' place for a BBQ.  Have a healthy, happy one!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cocoa Peanut Butter Protein Bars


As promised here is the recipe for these kid-friendly treats.  The girls absolutely loved these...between them and Adam they devoured the whole pan in about 2 days!  Although they're also great for adults looking for a healthy snack, I love making stuff like this for my girls since getting protein into Big A is so often a challenge.  For young children you can cut them into smaller squares, if you wish.

The base has a strong banana flavour, so if you want the chocolate flavour to come through more, definitely use chocolate protein powder and/or add a few teaspoons of cocoa powder.

Cocoa Peanut Butter Protein Bars

Bars
1/4 cup ground flax meal
1/2 cup hot water
1/4 cup shelled hemp seeds
1/4 cup powdered peanut butter (like this one)
2 scoops chocolate or vanilla protein powder (whatever one you like)
1 large, ripe banana
1 325g box cocoa rice crisp cereal (like this one), approx. 6 1/4 cups

For the bars, whisk together flax and hot water and set aside until it thickens.  Add to food processor along with hemp seeds, powdered peanut butter, protein powder and banana.  Puree until smooth.  Add cereal, 2 cups at a time and pulse until blended in.  For final 2 cups, pulse a few times, but leave some of the cereal whole.

Spread batter evenly into greased 9x9 square pan (or 8x8 for thicker bars).  Bake at 375F for about 16-18 minutes.  Let cool.  Use a knife to release from sides of pan and turn upside down onto a flat surface.  Spread frosting over top and refrigerate until frosting has set.  Cut into bars, makes 20 bars.  Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days or freeze.

Frosting
2 heaping tbsp. coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp. powdered peanut butter
1 scoop vanilla or chocolate protein powder

For the frosting, whisk together ingredients and then spread evenly over top of baked bars.

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What I Ate Wednesday: Snack Attacks

Happy WIAW and summer hump day!  I eat much more elaborately than most people who work 9-5 jobs, I would imagine.

When not seeing clients, I have the luxury of working from home.  I do all my report writing, admin and other tasks en casa.  Even if I have clients in the morning and the afternoon, I will come home, if I have time, to eat lunch here.  I love being at home.  I am a home body for sure!

In any case, this also gives me the luxury of whipping up yummy lunches and snacks on the fly like I did this day.

Breakfast the same as usual, only I dumped too much cinnamon into my oats.  It was still good, and I still ate ALL of it, but would have been better with a bit less.  As much as I love cinnamon, you can always have too much of a good thing!


Several coffee frappes happened, of course.

Lunch was spicy jalapeno chicken sausages, roasted zucchini and roasted kabocha squash.

 
In order to use up an overripe banana, I made these Cocoa Peanut Butter Protein Bars (recipe to come).  They make an awesome little snack, perfect for before or after a workout!  My inspiration for recipes often come from some random ingredient.  In this case the banana.  Then I go down to our cold storage room where I keep most of my cooking and baking staples and stare at them until I am hit with an idea.  Sometimes I come up with ideas in my sleep.  No joke!

 
Dinner was my absolute favorite spicy sesame shirataki noodles with squid, broccoli and bell peppers. 


I know what you're thinking! You're worried I don't eat enough vegetables, right? Ha ha!  If you're shocked by how much I eat, you must be new around here!  Muscles need energy!!

Have a lovely Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Navage Nose Cleaner: Product Review

Picture of Nav├Ąge® Nose Cleaner
Since my last visit with my allergist, I've given up taking any antihistamines, since they don't seem to make a significant difference to my congestion.  She also said I probably needn't bother with the cortisone nasal spray, however, she said to continue rinsing out my sinuses with saline.

Normally I use Hydrasense, but they are crazy expensive.  I also find even the strong spray ones not very strong.  I have some serious blocked sinuses so I need something serious to unblock them!

So, of course, I was more than happy to try out a Navage Nose Cleaner when it was offered.  I had never heard of it before, so had no idea what to expect.  It is essentially a battery powered nasal irrigator with suction.  It squirts saline into one nostril and out the other into a sealed compartment, so as long as you do it properly, there is no mess.  It requires special salt pods that are purchased separately.

I was a bit intimidated when it arrived as it had some extensive instructions in order to get it operating and I hate reading instructions.  I don't know why, but I always prefer to just wing it with stuff.  Yeah, that doesn't always work out so well.  This time I decided to be sensible and educate myself properly before getting started.  Its simple to put together, but since I didn't realize it came with the 2 required Double AA batteries, I spent a while fumbling with the screwdriver they include, to get the battery pack open.  Once it was assembled, I filled the tank with filtered water from our fridge, popped in a salt pod, stuffed it in my nose and pressed the on button.  Unfortunately, I didn't pay careful enough attention to the instructions and tried to breathe through my nose, which led to me swallowing a whole lot of the salt water.  I tried again, careful to breathe through my mouth and it worked perfectly.  It only takes a few seconds and it fairly powerfully pushes the water in one side of your nose and out the other. Done!

I was having trouble with bad pressure in my sinuses and I definitely noticed a positive difference afterwards.  I'm impressed!

The machine itself is on sale right now for $29.95, and a 30 pack of salt pods are $9.95.  Assuming the machine lasts at least a few years, this is likely no more expensive than what Hydrasense costs to use.  So do I recommend it?  Yes, definitely, if you are looking for a drug-free way to treat congestion.

Disclosure: I was sent a Navage Nose Cleaner and package of salt pods at no charge, however, all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Our Big Beach Adventure


This weekend the weather was positively hellish.  My absolute most dreaded...over 30 Celsius and super humid!

We had plans to get together with my brother and his family yesterday, so we decided to go down to the water where it would be cooler.  He suggested Bluffers Beach (the beach near the Scarborough Bluffs) and since we'd never been (we always go to Woodbine), we thought that was a splendid idea.

Its not as busy as Woodbine (of course, it's all relative...it was still busy!) but is just as lovely and, of course, has the background of the bluffs:
 
 
It was so damn hot I had to go dunk myself almost immediately after we arrived, and then went in and out a few times to keep myself from catching on fire.  I have to say, I watch the people slathering on oil and baking themselves like chickens with curiosity.  Even if you take away how dangerous that is for your health, I just don't get how feeling like you are going to ignite is pleasant.  But clearly my body chemistry is different from most people's. 
 
 
Anyways, the kids were all having a marvelous time and we were enjoying the beautiful scenery until suddenly a few raindrops began to fall (My brother took the above photo just as the clouds were moving in).  WTF?  We didn't move as we assumed it would be a little cloud burst.  But the burst quickly turned into a pounding until absolutely everyone was forced to pick up their stuff and bolt.  We were all stubborn and took our time as we were confident it would stop quickly but when it became torrential we followed everyone off the beach.  We got to the grassy picnic area just as things got totally nuts.  Little A started to get scared as the wind picked up (I lost my hat a few times) and we huddled under trees with other folks.  At this point we were all absolutely drenched, and now freezing.  Then just as suddenly as it started, the rain let up and then stopped completely and then the sun came back out.
 
My niece wanted to go back to the beach, but the rest of us were DONE!  We decided to head back to our cars at that point, especially since we had to park 20 minutes away.  Then Big A's brand new flip flop broke.  I couldn't let her walk barefoot all that way so I gave her my sandals and walked barefoot myself.  Thank goodness the pavement was relatively smooth!  Honestly, that was probably the furthest I have ever walked without shoes on!  The parking lot wasn't fun...believe you me!
 
By the time we got in the car, the girls and I were itchy and uncomfortable from all the sand in our bathing suits. It was a pretty icky car ride home, but I am not complaining.  The rain storm broke the humidity and now the weather for this week is looking much better (aside from today when its going to get up to 29 Celsius).

Its pretty awesome that we have a bunch of nice beaches right in the city and it took us much less time to get to this one than we anticipated.  Traffic was surprisingly light, but there is speculation that in anticipation of Pan Am Games mayhem there's been a massive exodus of locals. 

Happy Monday!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sniffles and Sinus Pain: Mystery NOT Solved


Gluten free joke

For as long as I can remember, I have always had a runny nose and congestion.  Always. 24/7, 365 days a year.  I get intense sinus headaches at times, and I snore a lot (or so Adam says!).

The runny, stuffy nose has been an issue since I was a little kid, but the sinus headaches didn't start until about 2000.  At the beginning nobody thought they were sinus allergies.  First, I was sent to an eye doctor, in case my headaches were caused by an issue with my eyes.  A prescription for eye glasses later, the headaches were still there.  Next, because I grind my teeth, I was sent to another specialist to see if I have TMJ.  Nope. I saw a homeopath (this was before I knew homeopathy was totally bogus) and took all sorts of weird tinctures and pills.  No relief.  Eventually I saw an allergist but all my scratch tests came out negative.  He suggested it was pollutants which they don't test for but really had not suggestions for treatment.  Finally, I was sent to a headache specialist at Sunnybrook and had an MRI and a CT scan of my head.  Geez, I wish back then I'd realized just how risky it is to have a CT scan!! Anyhow, everything came back clear.  He shrugged his shoulders and said maybe they were just tension headaches or some variant of migraines and gave me a prescription.  Whatever they friggin' are, they are totally unresponsive to pain meds.  I've been given Tylenol 3s, Celebrex and all sorts of other meds I don't remember and nothing helps.  I've tried every antihistamine out there and none do any good at relieving my congestion.  Nor do decongestants. My family doctor, who could look in my nose and see the inflammation of my nasal and sinus tissues said they were definitely allergy-related and prescribed me cortisone nasal spray.  This doesn't help either. She sent me to an ENT surgeon to check for structural issues (after all, my nose was broken in 2 places in 1999 in a cycling accident).  Nope, all is good there too.  Sigh!

So I just got referred to a new allergist and had the scratch tests redone this week.  Guess what?  All comes back negative.  Now this isn't unusual, Adam reminded me that after being rushed to the hospital for anaphylaxis after eating at a restaurant, his scratch tests turned up nothing either.  The allergist told him to still avoid eating the fish he'd ordered that night.  Anyways, the allergist had nothing to recommend except sending me to another ENT surgeon.  Sigh!

Desperate, I asked one of the naturopaths I work with if she had any ideas.  Not surprisingly, she suggested they do the food sensitivity testing.  Ugh!  I do want answers and would love to breath normally and not get headaches any more, but I already know how this goes.  It seems every friggin' person who does these tests gets told they are intolerant to wheat, gluten and dairy.  Like everyone!  Also, there is little to know scientific evidence that these tests are valid.  If you want to read more about that, check out this link.  By the way, I recently read a study that gave gluten to a sample of folks who all said they were gluten intolerant, without them knowing it.  And guess what?  They didn't get a reaction! Just sayin'.  Now do some people truly have food sensitivities?  Absolutely.  But these tests just aren't a reliable way to determine whether you have any.  Am I going to do them?  I dunno.  Part of me is curious just to see what will turn up.

As for the cause of my headaches and congestion? I am not too hopeful we'll ever figure it out, so I will try to be grateful that overall, I am a very healthy person.  The headaches have also been much less frequent in the past few years, so at least there's been an improvement.

This weekend is another busy one. I work tomorrow.  Adam has to drive to Kingston to pick up Big A from my parents' place.  Little A has a playdate, and Sunday we are going to see my brother and his family.  Have a good one!



Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hey, Weight a Second!

Kitty Bench Press


Oh you know how much I despise myths and misconceptions when it comes to health, nutrition and fitness!  Well one load of crap that continues to irk me, and to still be spewed by many health professionals is that lifting heavy weights will make you big and bulky so if you are looking to be lean, you should use only light weights and body weight exercises.  THIS IS A LOAD OF BULL SHIT!

Cute Cat

"But come on," you say, "Look at Gwyneth Paltrow, she does the Tracy Anderson Method!" And yes, this is the B.S. spewed by Anderson, and many other health and fitness 'experts' too.

Sorry. It isn't true. 

Not only is it not backed by science, it actually violates the underlying principles of fitness.  Ever heard of progression??  Well, basically, the body adapts to the demands you place on it relatively quickly.  So you will stop making gains and get diminishing returns on your fitness routine unless you increase the difficulty.  So all these folks who recommend you should just do body weight exercises or use super light dumbbells are...dumbbells!  Take body weight exercises, for example.  Sure, they may initially allow you to improve your cardio and strength if you are starting out relatively unconditioned.  But if you lose weight, than these exercises become easier.  In addition, when you lose weight your metabolism declines because it takes less energy to move your body.  Also, unless you are actively building muscle, a decrease in calorie intake leads to a loss of muscle along with fat mass.  The proportion of lean mass (muscle) you have, is what determines your metabolic rate.  Get it?

As Dr. Willey points out in his book, research has demonstrated that training should be progressive to get the best results.  That means increasing your weight/resistance load!


Unfortunately, misunderstandings about training principles abound.  In my Essentrics program, I hear this B.S. all the time.  Creator, Miranda Esmond-White, goes on about how the program can help with weight loss.  Now, while it is fabulous for preventing pain and maintaining mobility because of the P.N.F. and dynamic stretching, this is no weight loss exercise!  Sure, some of my very unconditioned, obese clients say it gets them huffing and puffing, but for me, it doesn't even get my heart rate up a single beat.  It is not the 'no-impact cardio' she claims it is.  It also is not going to create long, lean muscles, rather than the 'bulky' ones you get from using weights, like she claims.  Sorry!  Again, the body weight exercises will certainly help improve your strength if you've been previously sedentary and certainly the plies and leg lifts get challenging after a while, but, again, this whole light weights = lean while heavy weights = bulk is crap.

 In his book Beat the Gym, Tom Holland points out that the reason yoga and Pilates class devotees tend to be lean is not that these classes are great for burning fat, its because they are self-selecting.  Absolutely true!  Gwyneth Paltrow has always been lean.  Miranda Esmond-White is a former professional ballet dancer.  Lean folks gravitate towards these activities because they don't need to lose fat.  They are likely genetically inclined to be lean and have never had excess weight to begin with.  Remember, its harder for those who have excess fat cells to lose weight and keep it off than it is for those who have never had excess fat cells to keep lean.

A recent study discussed in the New York Times demonstrated that there are significant differences in the way different people respond to exercise, whether its cardio or weight training.  Ultimately, the best combination for keeping you lean may be different than the person beside you.  But if you need to lose fat, than it is likely that the easiest way to do that will be with progressive strength training along with cardio.

That being said, other studies, like those by Dr. Stuart Phillips, have found that the actual amount of weight you lift, heavy or light, doesn't matter, the key is lifting to failure.  But the thing is, if you lift lighter weights, this will take longer, like 20-25 reps rather than 8-15.  In addition, if you adhere to the principle of progression you will have to either eventually increase your weight, or keep upping your reps and/or sets, which again makes your workout take longer.  Thus, its more efficient to lift heavier weights.

Over the last few years I have increasingly focused on strength training, including heavy weights, and have not turned into the Incredible Hulk.  In fact, my clothing size has stayed the same and I am as lean as I have ever been...despite the fact that I eat like a wild animal.

"But I don't want to look muscular", you say?  The extent to which you will develop muscle definition depends on genetics, what type of training you do (# of reps, sets, rest, etc.) as well as the amount of body fat you have.  So yes, according to everyone who sees me, you can tell I lift weights.  Here's the thing though, if you are not naturally long and lean, and most of us aren't, than you will have to do a heck of a lot more than body weight leg lifts to get that way.  You will have to eat a very low calorie diet and possibly even do a lot of high intensity cardio.  This is neither healthy nor an enjoyable way to live (unless you like being hungry all the time).  If you can accept having a strong, muscular body, you can maintain that eating heartily and healthfully, which, seems preferable, if you ask me.

Remember, we lose a significant percentage of muscle mass each year after age 30.  This is why many people gain weight as they age.  Actually, your absolute weight may not change noticeably but your proportion of lean mass is decreasing while your proportion of fatty tissue is increasing, putting you at increased risk of chronic illness, loss of mobility and injury.  So yes, moving your body is key, but also lift some weights too!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer Reading List

As always, I've been reading away and I've read some good ones!  Here are a few that I've enjoyed.

A House in the Sky is the autobiography of Amanda Lindhout, the Canadian journalist who was kidnapped, along with an Australian photo journalist, in Somalia and held captive for 14 months.

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

I found this book incredibly fascinating.  I plan to do a whole post about this book at some point because it got me thinking about all sorts of things, but in any case, its a very interesting read...I definitely recommend it!

I also read The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.


 I loved this book for a few reasons.  First, all the characters are flawed, just as we all are.  Life doesn't work out perfectly for anyone, which is usually true.  It depicted characters who came of age in the 70s and 80s and brought back all sorts of fond memories of 80s pop culture.  I plan to pick up a few of her other books because I so enjoyed this one.

Next up was The Killing Circle...although I've read tons of mysteries before, this is the first thriller, bordering on horror novel I've ever read.

The Killing Circle - CAN edition

What was great about this book was, first, it had a million surprising twists and turns and was not the least bit predictable.  Also, written by a local author, Andrew Pyper, it is set in modern day Toronto, in neighbourhoods I am very familiar with, which was super cool!  I might have to check out some of his other work now too.

Now I'm just into the Last Chance Saloon. 

 
I picked it up because my neighbour lent me Sushi for Beginners a few months ago, written by the same author and I really enjoyed it.  This is light reading when you want to relax and not work too hard.  Both are written by Marian Keyes, whose books all seem to be set in Ireland and/or England with young female protagonists struggling through midlife angst, romantic ups and downs and career challenges.  Every day, real life stuff!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

CurcuminRich: Product Review

If you follow nutrition news than you likely have heard that turmeric, a spice used frequently in Indian cuisine, is supposed to be packed with health benefits.

The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin and there is preliminary data showing its potential as an antimicrobial, insecticidal, larvicidal, antimutagenic, radioprotector, and anticancer agent. It shows promise of being protective against proinflammatory diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, depression, diabetes, obesity, and atherosclerosis. In some clinical trials, turmeric has shown efficacy to treat conditions such as lupus nephritis, cancer, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, acne, and fibrosis.

Since I love Indian cuisine, and curries from other cuisines, which often use turmeric, I frequently use it in my cooking and thought that that was enough to reap the rewards of this spice.  Unfortunately, a research study conducted in 2006 (Tayyem et al.) found that turmeric and curry powders contain a very small amount of curcumin, not enough to have a therapeutic effect. So I was happy to accept a sample of Natural Factors' Curcumin supplements.

The good news for those of us who cook with turmeric is a 2013 study by Aggarwal et al. found that even turmeric without curcumin has some similar health benefits.

So should you be taking a turmeric or curcumin supplement?

Unfortunately, like many natural supplements, studies show significant variation in the amount of active compounds in one product to another.  Its very hard to know, as a consumer, if you are buying a product with any efficacy at all.  I found a recent article (Tweed, 2015) that recommended Natural Factors' curcumin. 

There are other studies, however, that warn that many curcumin supplements may also be high in lead...definitely not something you want to be consuming!  In addition, it is still not definitive how the promising anti-inflammatory/anti-carcinogenic properties of the compound may translate into real-world therapeutic efficacy in human bodies. 

I have been taking the vivid golden capsules for a few weeks now.  One person is certainly not evidence of scientific evidence, but having reluctantly put aside my Omron pain therapy device to test the curcumin, I have noticed less muscle soreness after my toughest workouts.  Is it placebo effect? Who knows!  But Delayed Muscle Soreness (DOMS) from my tough strength training routine is my biggest source of inflammation and my only way to even try to determine whether the capsules might have any efficacy.

So do I recommend them? Well, as long as there isn't a high lead content in them (I couldn't find any data on this particular product), then why not?  I know several cancer survivors who take curcumin supplements religiously because of what they've read about its anti-carcinogenic properties.  If you have the moula, and are confident in the brand, then go for it.

Disclosure: I was sent the supplement for free, but all the opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Independance Day


Wow, today is going to be a cooker! Even early this morning it was so hot I felt like I was going to spontaneously combust!

Yesterday Adam drove Big A to Kingston to spend the week with my parents.  She is going to be attending an indoor climbing and swimming camp.  From the sounds of it, she is going to be both exhausted and in great shape by the end of the week!

Both my girls are so much more confident and independent than I was as a kid, it amazes me.  Big A, in particular, doesn't show the least bit of self-consciousness.  My mother reported that she walked right in to her new camp, with not a single familiar face, without a moment of hesitation. 

I was such a shy and insecure child I would have been clinging to my mother for dear life.  In fact, I never went to sleepover camp, just the thought of it terrified me.  Big A is game, however, so we might send her next summer, and even Little A said she might be open to it.

I think I made a mistake dropping Little A off at her new camp today though...When you arrive, you take them to the community centre's gym.  The gym was packed with kids of various ages and was loud and crazy.  Kids were throwing and kicking balls all over the place and running around everywhere.  But as soon as one of the counsellors told her where to go, she obediently walked over and sat with a few other kids watching quietly on the sidelines while the rest zoomed around like wild beasts.  I waved at her and could have left but she looked so little and timid, that I walked over and asked if she wanted me to stay until the camp started.  She nodded yes so I sat down with her.  This probably was a mistake. As it turns out, a ton of kids she knows from her school are also doing this camp, and had I left immediately, she likely would have started playing with them.  But since I was there, she ignored them all and then began wailing when I left, she looked so sad that my heart felt very heavy leaving her there, although I am quite sure she was fine soon afterwards.

I can't believe how quickly they are growing up...I am sure when they get ready to leave home I will be wailing and clinging to their ankles, but at least I know these 2 strong girls will do just fine for themselves.

cartoon

Happy Monday!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Panamdemonium

Logo - Toronto 2015 Pan Am / Parapan Am Games
Um, not sure if you heard, but the 2015 Pan Am Games start today and they are being held in Toronto.

Sadly, few people I know are too excited.  Maybe a couple are planning to see an event here or there, but most people are dreading the whole thing because of the impact it is going to have (and already has had!) on our city.

For the last bunch of years construction in the downtown has been at an all-time high, and one reason is the creation of all the facilities for the games.  This has made an already congested city, just crazy to get around in.

There are now reserved High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to control traffic and already sneaky (but stupid) people are trying to outsmart the cops by doing things like sticking mannequins in their car.  This picture hit the news yesterday when I guy got busted for this:

Two mannequins in car of man ticketed for HOV lane violation
 
 
Sigh!  But it does give you some idea of just how frustrating it is to try to get anywhere these days and what lengths people will go to make it somehow easier.
 
I will admit, I fall on the side of the complainers (shocker, huh?).  But I hate watching most sports events so I wouldn't be excited about the games anyways.  That doesn't mean I don't support them in theory though!  Obviously anything that celebrates physical activity and athleticism in my mind is a good thing.  However, ask just about anyone in Toronto and they will tell you that living in this city has gotten exceedingly difficult due to the sub-par transit system and rapid increase in population.  Its just too crowded, too busy and takes too long to get anywhere!
 
I wish signs said silly things like this when I am stuck in traffic! Comedic relief may decrease accidents d/t road rage... just a thought ;)
 
This city does have some very unique and amazing things going for it, but I'll save that discussion for another post.  Right now, I ask you to cross your fingers for all of us here, that everything goes well: for the athletes and organizers, and for the residents, holding our breath to see just how much this event will disrupt an already disgruntled city!
 
Have a wonderful weekend...and check out the games on television if you're into that sort of thing!
 


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Punctuality


Are you someone who is chronically late getting everywhere?  If so, you and I are a different breed.

The idea of keeping someone waiting horrifies me.  If anything, I tend to be chronically early, although since having kids that's lessened quite a bit.  Now I am at least right on the minute.


Not only am I rarely ever late, but I despise it when other people are.  I think it is incredibly rude and disrespectful.  One of the reasons I quickly knew Adam was the man for me is he showed up right on time for our dates every time.  No head games, no keeping me waiting.  It was so honest and refreshing, I was thrilled.  But if you know Adam and I, its not surprising, as we share many personality traits. 

Research has indeed found a significant link between personality characteristics and punctuality.  Those higher in conscientiousness (i.e. actively manage their goals, to be organized, dependable, dutiful, orderly, self-confident, self-disciplined, and deliberate) are more likely to be punctual, as are people higher in agreeableness (i.e. traits like trust, straightforwardness, altruism, cooperativeness, courtesy, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness) and neuroticism (i.e. very sensitive and tend to destabilize under stress. They are described as anxious, depressive, self-unsure, impulsive, vulnerable, nervous, and irritable. To be late at a meeting is probably a very uncomfortable situation for anxious, overcautious, self-conscious persons, because there is a good chance that they will stand out and will be criticized).*  Yep, sounds like both of us.

While we many not be chronically late types, there are a whole lot of people out there who are!  Even my brother, the person closest to me in this world genetically, is chronically late.  My parents are like me so we often muse about where this tendency comes from.  My mother suspects it is a deliberate rebellion against our neuroticism.  Although like it or not, my brother is neurotic in his own way too.  I have to admit though, ironically, since having kids he's gotten quite a bit better.  Maybe its suddenly having a sense of responsibility to others.

Punctuality is very culturally specific though.  In North America punctual means being right on time.  According to my parents, when they lived in Kenya, they were shocked to discover that showing up 2 hours after the specified time is the norm.  That would make me lose my shit.

But I think even here in North America, the confluence of increasing distractions, coddling from parents, and growing narcissism is starting to change our own notions about the importance of punctuality.  I've heard employers talk about job candidates showing up late for interviews.  I can't even fathom why someone would that is okay! 

As a professional in private practice, I can tell you it is practically the norm now for clients to be late.  Everything from a few minutes to a half hour.  Yes, some of it may be living in a big, congested city plagued by transit issues, but really some people are just consistently LATE!  I find it absolutely mind-boggling.  If I showed up late for a doctor appointment, for example, I would fully expect that they would have given my appointment time to someone else.

We were positively speechless at the fertility clinic a few months ago when a patient called to say she would be late to see one of the fertility doctors because, although she was at the subway station a block away, it had started raining and she didn't want to get wet, so she was going to wait there until the rain stopped. WTF?

The other thing about failing to be punctual, is it often causes the late folks undue stress and grief too.  Way back when I did my counselling training, I had a lot of anger management clients.  One big source of road rage and that kind of thing is people running late and then taking it out on everyone around them.  Duh, leave yourself more time!



If you need some tips on how to improve your punctuality, check out this link.

Have a great day folks...and be on time!

*Source:  Back, M.D., Schumkle, S.C., & Egloff, B. (2006). Who is late and who is early? Big Five  personality factors and punctuality in attending psychological experiments. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, pp.841-848.

 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Vegan Buckwheat Blueberry Pancakes


Little A has a habit of asking for elaborate breakfasts on weekdays when we are in a rush.  Lately she's been asking for blueberry pancakes, so I promised her I would make some when I had the time, in advance so they are ready to go for busy mornings.  I finally got around to it and decided to try making vegan ones.  I don't know why, but I have never made pancakes without eggs before, as it turns out, they turn out just fine!  They are also gluten-free because I used nutritious whole buckwheat flour. In addition, I snuck in extra protein with some vanilla hemp protein powder, to keep the girls energized through their busy mornings.  When I make pancakes ahead, I simply freeze them with wax paper in between and then take them out as needed.  You can either defrost them the night before or defrost in the microwave or toaster oven.

Vegan Buckwheat Blueberry Pancakes

2 flax eggs (2 tbsp. ground flax + 6 tbsp. hot water)
1/2 cup baking stevia (or other sweetener)
1 scoop vanilla vegan protein powder (stevia sweetened)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups non-dairy milk or water

2 cups buckwheat flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Whisk together flax  eggs, stevia, protein powder and vanilla.  Stir in dry ingredients and then start whisking in milk or water, a little at a time.  Batter will be thick.  Stir in blueberries and then drop large spoonfuls onto greased, hot skillet, flipping half way through cooking until golden on both sides.  Makes a bakers dozen (13).  Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days or freeze.

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Litehouse Instantly Fresh Herbs: Product Review

 
If, like me you enjoy cooking, than you know just how much fresh herbs can add to a dish.  Many of them are also packed with important nutrients and have amazing health benefits.

But you also probably share the same problem I have, that the big bunch you get from the market or grocery store goes bad before you use it all up.  Sure, there are tricks to keeping them fresh, like sticking the stems in water in the fridge, but frankly, we rarely have enough space in our fridge to do that.  I will also be honest: I hate prepping fresh herbs.  They are often full of dirt and the ones you have to pull of the stem are a pain if your recipe needs a lot.

So when Litehouse offered to send me some of the newest flavours of their Instantly Fresh Herbs line, I was all for it.  They generously sent over Thyme, Mint, Sage and Lemongrass.  The herbs are freeze dried and have absolutely no additives.  All you do is add water (or add them directly to a liquid).

When friends came by this past weekend, I made these smashed potatoes and sprinkled some of the thyme over top.  To say these were a hit is an understatement!  The platter was empty in no time.  The herbs hydrated quickly and were very flavourful.  I loved how easy they are to use!!


I also made this Thai Lemongrass Noodles for Adam and I and the lemongrass was a cinch to use.  I didn't find it as flavourful as the thyme, however, generally lemongrass and ginger are both things I insist on using fresh because otherwise the flavour is just never the same.


So do I recommend these products?  Absolutely! If you find yourself skipping fresh herbs in your cooking because you think they're a hassle or always end up throwing most of them out, than these are definitely for you. 

Check out their website for recipes and ideas on how to use these herbs (even summer cocktails!).

Disclosure: I was sent these products at no cost but all the opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer Bitchin'

After a delightful, comfortable (albeit rainy) spring and early summer, the usual heat and humidity has arrived.  Rather than complaining like I usually do, I'll just share my thoughts with you through pictures.

We have summer of the mind today with the first official day of spring. A little dermatology humor!


Don't let this happen to you! Put on #sunscreen! #humor #cartoon #summer
 
winter-summer-complain-weather-job-seasonal-ecards-someecards

I'll try to be gracious and acknowledge that compared to places is Asia where they have recently had heat waves with temps around 50 Celsius, I have little to complain about, but that won't stop me from complaining...

Have a lovely, sweaty Monday.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Peel the Onion


Hello, and happy Friday!

Warning: I am about to go on one of my rants, so if you want to, click away from this page and come back another day.  If you enjoy my pontifications, well here you go:

You know that saying, "We eat with our eyes"? Well its bullshit.

North Americans eat far too much of this:


...and far too little of this:

fresh, whoe organic raw food

Now you tell me, which one is nicer to look at?  Even if you love fried food and hate fruits and veggies, you can't tell me the fried food is more attractive! Well, I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I have never been one to be that concerned with food presentation.  Obviously!  Even the plates I picture on the blog here are generally gussied up more than the ones that are not.  I just heap the food on the plate and eat.  Yet I still consider myself a foodie.  I love to cook, I know all about various cooking techniques (if there were a culinary-focused Jeopardy I would win!) and I have knowledge of a wide variety of cuisines.  Our house is full of a thousand herbs and spices, various baking ingredients, condiments, grains, etc.  But whether or not the finished product looks beautiful to me - if it is just for me - matters not at all.

To me, when a restaurant is very focused on food presentation, what that means to me is I AM GOING GO LEAVE HUNGRY!

 

Really, one of the many reasons we don't eat out much is that often the more you pay, the less you get.  And sometimes the quality of so-called upscale places does not justify the 'quality over quantity' argument, especially when I can cook most things at home cheaper and more to my taste anyways.

Eating with our eyes is often why so much food in our world goes to waste.  We are so fixated on how food looks, we throw away perfectly good food we deem ugly.  Fortunately, Canadian grocery stores are going to start selling 'ugly' food at a discount rather than throwing it away.  Halleluyah, its about time!!

As I've always said on this blog, I am not too concerned with food presentation.  Just taste and nutrition.  If there are any pretty looking plates on this blog, you can be guaranteed I staged it that way for your benefit.  But there aren't many anyways.

In any case, it isn't just esthetics that drive our food choices, its culture, psychology, physiology, socioeconomic status and a host of other things.

But my beef is not just with this fixation on pretty food.  We are obsessed with visuals.  We need to see everything, judgements are made based on how things look. The most important thing on dating websites, of course, are people's photos.  Most people look very different from their photos anyways, but also, a photo tells you almost nothing about a person, including whether or not you will have chemisty!  Unless you are a totally superficial arse, it is the entire person, not just their appearance, that determines attraction.  The explosion of Instagram puzzles me completely.  I never was on it until my business consultant told me every food business need a presence there.  I wish this wasn't the case.  I am a terrible photographer and I hate taking pictures of food.  If I describe an ooey gooey chocolate chip blondie, do you really need to see it to imagine how yummy it is?  Its not only food on there either, people post everything.  I get the pictures of people's kids and families, which allows you to easily share them with other loved ones, but some of the stuff on Instagram (ahem, a billion selfies), to me, just shows what a completely narcissistic, bunch of navel gazers we've become.

How to take the perfect selfie - Do's and Don'ts!. #Photography #Images #SelfPhotography
 
I was horrified to hear from one of my 20-something clients that it is now de rigeur to follow someone you are dating or 'hooking up with' on Instagram.  Even Facebook has too much written content!  Why have a conversation with anyone when you can just post photos of yourself?  The irony is, all the 20-somethings in my practice despise this stuff too, but feel no choice since this is just 'what you do'.  In fact, texting and all the social media crap seems to have replaced phone calls or even face-to-face contact within the dating world.  Don't get me wrong, people can connect through social media and find epic romance, but too often those playing the game see it as just that.  The people they meet online are 'disposable'. You can 'hook up' with them and then never speak to them again, since your only connection to them was online.  Its so messed up I thank goodness I found Adam long before all this shit came on to the scene!

We have seemingly become a society with no attention span.  Everything has to be a picture, diagram or 40 characters or less.  This trend started even before all this explosion of social media.  When I returned to the research industry in 2007 after Big A was born, already written reports were passe. All anyone wanted was everything summarized onto a single Powerpoint Slide.  No one has time to read long reports everyone would say.  Really? So this is where a world of high tech gadgets that supposedly do everything for us and take out food has gotten us?  If people don't have the time its usually because they are wasting it looking at pictures!

Personally, I find I get little out of seeing pictures online (or eating food arranged into a tower with a bow on top).  I still value the written word.  Give me books, and if I am online, give me Wikipedia (I am still addicted to it!).  And as for people, lets talk rather than exchanging selfies.  Lets meet for coffee and confess our deepest secrets. At the very least, email me, don't send me some weird text code because I won't know what the heck you are saying anyways!

Have a lovely weekend folks.