Friday, April 28, 2017


[This post is about women's reproductive systems. If it makes you uncomfortable, get a life. You wouldn't have a life without it whether you are a man or woman!]

As embarrassing as this is to admit, I didn't really understand human fertility until I was 30 and Adam and I decided we were ready to have children. But I know I am not alone. Many of my infertility clients admit the same.

Most of us grow up thinking if you EVER have unprotected sex, you will get pregnant. But the truth is, there are only about 2-3 fertile days every month!

Similarly, I never understood the menopause process until I hit 40 and entered into perimenopause. I thought you just go from having your usual menstrual cycle to missing periods, to complete absence of periods, and that this would all happen around age 50. HA!

Man, we women have it rough. It is so much longer a process, and far less pleasant!!

The first shock for me was that instead of periods just getting lighter until they disappear, it is often the opposite. I always had long, irregular cycles, about 40-50 days. Now, they are 28-32 days, and very very heavy. Ugh! Also, more cramping. As I write this, my poor ovaries are aching and the Advil is calling my name. Not only that, but I now get ovulation pain midway through each cycle. I NEVER had that before kids. Its infuriating as having shorter, more predictable cycles, and being able to feel myself ovulate would certainly have been helpful when I was trying to conceive. Now its just unpleasant.

Oh, and I can't forget about the acne I get regularly, that I never had during my teens. Lovely. This month I also had like 5 days of breast tenderness, which is a symptom I never experienced when I was younger. Workouts this week have had to avoid jumping because...ouch!

Despite all my complaints, I know I've gotten off relatively easy. One friend of mine just had a partial hysterectomy because of all the problems she was having. Another was put on birth control to manage her extreme suffering, and from the meds she developed blood clots in her lungs and ended up in the hospital. Holy crap!

Even more awesome is the fact that this can all go on a good 10 years before women actually hit menopause (defined by a complete absence of menses for a year). Once that happens, there are a whole other set of potential unpleasant symptoms.

I have little sympathy for any man who complains about getting a vasectomy.

The best way to manage perimenopausal symptoms are the following:

  • Exercise regularly (it helps regulate hormones and manage anxiety and elevate mood)
  • Maintain a healthy weight (excess fat tissue increases estrogen)
  • If you are noticing your body temperature increase or are starting to get hot flashes, dress in layers, and sleep in a cool environment
  • Get enough sleep (insufficient sleep affects mood, depletes resilience to stress, leads to weight gain, and messes up hormones)
Well, there is never a good time for one's period, but given how busy our weekend is, its definitely a bad time. My parents are coming tomorrow to stay with us, I have to work tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday. The girls have 500 activities, birthday parties, etc. and I have a party for some friends...but I am doubting with everything else I will even be able to drop by. There will be absolutely no time to just lie on the couch with a hot water bottle!

The one thing I will be doing is getting out for a run, something I rarely ever do. Since my parents will be here, though Adam will be out at the gym early tomorrow morning, I can leave the house and enjoy some exercise in the nice weather. I hope you get out and have a happy, healthy weekend too! 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Good Earth Sweet & Spicy Green Tea: Product Review

Though I consider myself a health food lover for sure, I think I also am a health food sinner. I don't really like quinoa (gasp!). The way it smells when it cooks is putrid actually. As you know, I don't really like smoothies or juice either, as I prefer to chew my food, thank you very much. I think coconut oil is heavy and greasy and don't buy into it being a miracle food. I refuse to use the hipster term 'bone broth' because its just bubby's chicken soup for goodness sakes, and I don't even really like broth that much (I am a double sinner here as one might argue any good Jew loves chicken soup!). I also don't really like the taste of green tea. Yes, I admit it! The horror!!

Green tea has a plentitude of health benefits though, so I would like a way to get myself drinking it more often. Consequently, I was more than happy to sample Good Earth's Sweet & Spicy Green Tea, flavoured with fruit, cinnamon, and lemongrass.

As soon as I poured boiling water over the tea bag, I knew this would be a winner. It's very aromatic! It also tastes as good as it smells. The fruit and spices add enough natural sweetness to balance out the bitterness of the green tea. Though I don't fine it has any heat, that will probably be preferable to more people who don't want a throat tingle from their tea.

Good Earth makes a huge variety of green, black, white, oolong and herbal teas to suit every taste. They are available online across North America and at Target and other stores in the U.S.

Personally, I am sold on this tea, and suspect the box will be empty very soon!! If you don't love plain green tea either, check out their different varieties and find one that suits you, because it is definitely worthwhile to add green tea into your diet!

Disclosure: I was sent this tea to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Blueberry Muffin "Quest" Bars

Are you struggling this morning? I feel great, actually. Much better than yesterday when I woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a bus, thanks to Little A's sleepover birthday party, which had all of us exhausted. But Little A got up this morning even grumpier than yesterday. Even though she slept almost 12 hours! She whined non-stop about how tired she is, how she didn't want to go to school today and she just wanted to go back to sleep. Welcome to Monday little one!

Anyways,  I have a new recipe for you today: Blueberry Muffin 'Quest' Bars!

I used the basic idea from my homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Quest bars (which the girls still say are the best protein bars ever, even better than any you can buy!) but made these nut-free, and lighter by using dried blueberries instead of chocolate chips.

These are so easy to make, you have to try them! Just remember, the base is primarily protein powder, so make sure you use a high quality protein powder that you like, because that will obviously affect how these taste!

Blueberry Muffin "Quest" Bars

1.5 Cups Vitafiber IMO syrup
2 Cups vanilla protein powder (whey or vegan, stevia-sweetened)
8 tbsp coconut flour
1 cup dried blueberries

Pour syrup into pot over medium heat until bubbling. Remove from heat and add protein powder and coconut flour. Mix until dough forms. Stir in blueberries. Press into parchment-lined 9x9 square baking pan and refrigerate until firm. Cut into bars or squares. Keep in airtight container up to 2 weeks.

I have shared this recipe with Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot-Luck Party Link-up.

Friday, April 21, 2017

I 8 the Cookie

Though I am not working this weekend, aside from tonight, I don't think its going to be a relaxing one. It is Little A's 8th birthday and she is having a sleepover party (Help!).

She starts thinking about what she wants for her next party the day after her party. Luckily, its just a few friends, and, actually, its one of the least expensive parties we've ever thrown for the girls. But hopefully it doesn't cost us our sleep...or our sanity!

The plan is the girls come over for pizza (I always offer other meal choices, but they always want pizza!), and movies, and this year, Little A wanted a cookie cake like the one Adam always gets for his birthday.

I found the perfect one from a local bakery, that offers more flavours and colours than any other place I have found up to this point. She is absolutely thrilled with the heart shaped white and milk chocolate chunk variety she chose, with purple and pink icing.

The next morning I promised her we would serve the girls waffles with fruit, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Sigh! All nutrition rules go out the window at birthdays! Fortunately, I convinced her that along with the non-edible goodies, the loot bags needed only a small box of Smarties. Hopefully, the girls will be on such a sugar high, they won't complain about the limited candy in the loot bag. I am sure the parents won't mind!

Its funny how my baby is 8 and not at all a baby, but she still seems like a baby to me. Its so different than with Big A, who has always seemed, in some way wise for her years, and at almost 11, frequently gets mistaken for being 14-15. Little A is still so slight and really relishes being a kid, in a way I don't think Big A ever did. She's always just seemed in a big hurry to grow up.

Facebook keeps presenting old photos to me when I log in, and though I never ever ever ever want to have another child, I do get a bit heartsick seeing how quickly they have grown. And we haven't even hit the stage when they start to hate us yet!

Well, wish us luck, hopefully everything will go smoothly tomorrow night.

Have yourself a happy, healthy weekend!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pure & Simple: Book Review

I have been completely discombobulated this week. Since Monday was a holiday, I am just totally off kilter, though kind of in a good way. We were so busy over the 4 day weekend, it flew by. Lots of time with family and friends, which is the best way to spend it.

And now I bring you a cook book review!

Pascale Naessens is one of those women its hard not to envy. She is a model, healthy eating advocate, ceramic artist, speaker and author from Belgium.

I had not heard of her before being asked to review her latest book, but I suspect that's because I am North American, as she clearly has made a name for herself already in Europe. Nevertheless, I was eager to read her take on healthy eating.

Pure & Simple is primarily a cookbook, but it is based on her approach to nutrition (which she says is not a diet) and includes an explanation of her perspective on healthy eating. In a nutshell, she eats a low carb, high protein, high fat diet of whole foods. Its nothing ground breaking. For carbs she sticks with small amounts legumes, brown and wild rice, oats, and pseudo-grains like buckwheat and quinoa (which are actually seeds).  The bulk of the diet is non-starchy veggies and fruit, and lean proteins. She consumes some cheese, full-fat yogurt and heavy cream, but avoids dairy milk and  all processed foods.

Though there is nothing unhealthy about her way of eating, she also promotes food combining, which is based on bunk science. That being said, there is nothing harmful about this practice, so its one of those things where, if it works for you (meaning that it helps you look and feel your best and be healthy and you enjoy it), than go for it. Just don't think there is any magic behind it because there is zero evidence that it inherently has any weight loss or health benefits.

I like that she avoids being too extremist, encouraging readers to indulge their guilty pleasures 20-30% of the time, to keep themselves feeling happy and satisfied. She also stresses the importance of exercise, and limiting alcohol.

The book is full of beautiful pictures, many of them including Pascale herself, who is drop dead gorgeous. But I am sorry to say that adopting her style of eating will not transform you into looking like her. That's about genetics!

The recipes are great, primarily because they use fresh foods and have short, simple ingredient lists. The recipe chapters include:

  • Fish
  • Seaweed
  • Shellfish
  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Vegetables
There are just a few dessert recipes, and few vegan ones, but I don't have a single issue with the ingredients she uses, because, as you know, I abhor added sugars and refined flours, and there is almost none of that here.

There are no meal plans in this book, but she still claims that if you are overweight, adopting this style of eating will lead to weight loss. She is probably right, as long as you watch your portion sizes.

If you love flavourful, high quality food that is easy to make, you will very much like this book.

I recommend this book for anyone looking for simple, nutritious recipes to improve their health.

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Macaroons 2 Ways

More recipes for you today!

I always like to explore new recipes for Passover, because...well the ol' traditional stuff is pretty yucky (I am looking at you matzo!).

So I made 2 things using this basic macaroon recipe, a macaroon topped fruit crisp, and macaroon cookies. Take your pick, they are both scrumptious! As always, I didn't use sugar, just a combination of Vitafiber and stevia, and since the base is almond flour and coconut, they are gluten-free.

Macaroons traditionally use egg whites, so this recipe isn't vegan. You could try using flax eggs, but I have no idea if that would work. If you just want to make cookies, go for it. Its a big recipe so it will bake a lot! You can add in other things besides chocolate chips, such as dried fruit, if you wish.

Macaroon Recipe

1.5 Cups almond flour
1.5 Cups medium shredded, unsweetened coconut
2/3 Cup finely sliced almonds
1/2 Cup Vitafiber powder
1 tsp Pure stevia powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Pure vanilla extract
4 egg whites from extra large eggs

Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add vanilla and egg whites and stir until dough forms.

Macaroon Topped  Fruit Crisp

2/3 of macaroon recipe
1 600g bag frozen blueberries, thawed
1 600g bag frozen mixed fruit (I used a mix of strawberries, peaches, mango and papaya), thawed
2 tbsp Vitafiber powder
1 tsp konjac powder

Stir together fruit with Vitafiber and konjac powder and pour into oven safe baking dish. Top with 2/3 of macaroon dough, spreading it out evenly. Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes, or until fruit is bubbling and top is starting to get golden around the edges. Serve hot or cold.

Chocolate Chip Almond Macaroons

Taking remaining cookie dough and stir in 1/3 cup chocolate chips. Shape into balls and bake on parchment lined baking sheet at 350F for 10-12 minutes, or until golden. Be careful not to burn. Let cool and keep in air tight container.

If you are celebrating Easter this weekend, I wish you a Happy Easter. I have to work today, tomorrow, and Sunday, but we all have Monday off so we are hoping to fit in a fun family activity. Unfortunately, the it is supposed to rain the next couple days, so that definitely limits our options. Have a happy, healthy weekend whatever your plans!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Apple Carrot Raisin Quinoa Kugel

Good morning and welcome to Wednesday! Lots of recipes for you this week.

Though a kugel is a traditional Jewish dish, and often one served at Passover, this is something that you can make any time of year, regardless of your background.

This recipe is healthy and only moderately sweet, so it makes a great, nutritious breakfast, brunch dish, or side dish for dinner. Most kugels contain a lot of eggs and many contain cheese, but this one is entirely vegan, as well as sugar-free and gluten-free. You can add in nuts and/or other dried fruits if you wish as well. It came together because Little A wanted to make something with me for our sedar at my in-laws and I didn't want to make another dessert, but also wanted to try and find something that would appeal to the kids. Apples and cinnamon is always a good bet!

Apple Carrot Raisin Quinoa Kugel

1 cup quinoa
946ml carton unsweetened plain or vanilla coconut drinking milk (or almond milk)
2 apples, chopped
1 lb bag shredded carrots
1/2 cup raisins
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
1/2 cup Vitafiber powder (or other sweetener, to taste)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp konjac powder

Combine quinoa and 2 cups of coconut milk in pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool for about 30 minutes. Place quinoa in large mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients and the rest of the carton of coconut milk. Pour mixture into a large greased, oven safe baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 350F. Serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days or freeze.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sugar Free Dark Chocolates

Its that time of know, when every pharmacy and grocery store has shelves filled with chocolate bunnies, Easter eggs, and Passover gelt. Most if it isn't even very good, its usually cheap chocolate, you know, the kind that almost has a waxy consistency. Blech! Skip it!

Make your own and make it sugar free. You get all the yumminess and the health benefits of chocolate minus the sugar. And, honestly, it is super fast and easy. This chocolate also is vegan and gluten-free, so very allergy-friendly.

If you can't find Vitafiber, or another brand of IMO sweetener, order it online, its widely available, including on Amazon.

If you don't have chocolate molds, you can pour it into little paper candy cups instead.

Sugar Free Dark Chocolates

6 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup Vitafiber IMO syrup
1 tsp pure stevia powder (or other sweetener, to taste)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Melt chocolate over double boiler (or heat safe bowl set over simmering water). Stir in the other ingredients and quickly pour into molds. Freeze about 20 minutes until set. Keep frozen if you want them hard, or in the fridge, if you prefer a softer consistency.

Happy Passover to those celebrating this week!

I have shared this recipe with Urban Naturale's Pot-Luck Link Up Party.

Friday, April 7, 2017


When doing mental health histories with my counselling clients, I always screen for phobias. People usually laugh at first, but then you would be surprised how many people admit to having one.

A phobia, by the way, is an anxiety disorder characterized by a persistent fear of an object, event or situation.

Sometimes they develop because of a past trauma, but sometimes they have no clear origin.

It is theorized that some of the more common ones, like phobias of spiders and snakes, actually have a biological origin, since in earlier times they may have served to keep us safe.

We tend to think of phobias as humorous, but they can truly be debilitating for the sufferer. Fortunately, I find most of my clients who have phobias don't seem to feel shame about them.

The most common ones reported to me are:

  • Spiders
  • Snakes
  • Bugs of all kinds
  • Flying
  • Needles
  • Small spaces
  • Crowds
  • The dark
  • Dental work
  • Medical procedures
Others I've had reported to me:

  • Ketchup
  • Fish 
  • Cotton balls
  • Swallowing pills
  • Intercourse/penetration
  • Having body odour (though this may have actually been more of an OCD thing)
For an unofficial list of phobias, check this out:  

Personally, I don't think I have any fears that qualify as a true phobia, though I do hate spiders, sharks and small places. I don't like flying either. But I don't require sedation or anything for any of these things.

Big A has a needle phobia, which I believe is the result of her having an anaphylactic reaction to the H1N1 vaccine when she was 3 or 4. She was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. 

If you do have a phobia and it is debilitating in any way (one of the reasons I have to ask clients is, in particular, if they are doing fertility treatments, it is critical to know if they have needle or medical-related phobias!), I urge you to get help. EMDR is extremely effective for eliminating phobias, and exposure therapy can also help.

You definitely should not feel shame about having a phobia!!

Enjoy your Friday and have a lovely, happy, healthy weekend!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April is Irritable Bowel Awareness Month

It seems that Irritable Bowel (IBS) is increasingly common these days. But I've been familiar with it since I was a kid. My dad was diagnosed with it back in the 80s. At that point, nobody was talking about it. He was put on this weird fibre supplement but I don't think it helped much because after a few years he quit taking it.

By the end of highschool, I'd been diagnosed with it too. My doctor recommended I start my day with a glass of warm water and then sit on the toilet until elimination occurred. Um. Okay...

That didn't work. Partly because drinking warm water made me gag (hot with lemon or ice cold is how I like my water!), and partly because it just didn't help me eliminate. It was only years later I realized I just needed to stop consuming milk (I was lactose intolerant and ate cereal with milk every day for breakfast) and start drinking a lot more water. I was working out regularly by 10th grade, but like most young people, drinking crap (pop, juice, etc.) or nothing at all.

My IBS symptoms have always been around since, but improved or worsened depending on what's going on with my hormones and my diet.

I am now fine with dairy, as long as I don't consume too much milk (cheese is fine). But, as I reported recently, I have had to entirely cut out chia and flax seeds. I also can't overdo it on cauliflower, beets, or beans.

I am pretty bummed about the flax and chia, as they are so nutritious and a great source of Omega 3s, which are vital to overall health. Fortunately, there are some other plant-based sources, such as sea buckthorn berries.  This plant also contains Omega 7 which can ease IBS symptoms for some people. You can get a variety of supplements and beauty products made from sea buckthorn through Seabuck Wonders, an awesome company whose products I reviewed for you all a few years ago.

They have provided some info on IBS in honour of April being IBS Awareness Month:

April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month

SeabuckWonders Offers Five Tips to Support Digestive Health 

Chicago, IL – March 23, 2017 – If you’re not personally affected by IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), chances are you know someone who is. Did you know that 11% of the world population suffers from IBS?[1] In the U.S. alone, 25-45 million people are affected by this disorder—with a majority being women. And it is quite possible there are many more who suffer from IBS but have not been diagnosed.

These are staggering statistics for a condition that does not have a specific cure. As a matter of fact, if you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, it is because most other digestive diseases or conditions have been ruled out—it is a diagnosis of exclusion with many variables in terms of symptoms, treatment and severity.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

The Mayo Clinic defines IBS as ...a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). Irritable bowel syndrome commonly causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. IBS is a chronic condition that you will need to manage long term.[2] It goes on to explain that only a small number of people have severe symptoms requiring prescribed medications, and that most sufferers can control symptoms through diet, exercise, lifestyle and reducing stress.

Symptoms of IBS

The signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary widely from person to person and often resemble those of other diseases. Among the most common are:
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • A bloated feeling
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation — sometimes alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
  • Mucus in the stool

For most people, IBS is a chronic condition, although there will likely be times when the signs and symptoms are worse and times when they improve or even disappear completely.[3]
5 Tips to Reduce Tummy Trouble:

  1. Drink plenty of water - Drink enough water. Many digestive problems are the result of a lack of water, as the liquid helps dissolve fats and soluble fiber. Taking a glass of water soon after waking up jumpstarts the digestive system, which helps prevent constipation. Also, drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before a meal stimulates the stomach lining and prepares it for food.[4]
  2. Probiotics - Increasing the number of good bacteria in our GI tract, by taking probiotic supplements and eating foods that contain probiotics, may help combat reduce digestive symptoms, a growing number of scientists say. New research indicates that specialized strains of these good bacteria could also alleviate mood and anxiety disorders.[5] Of course, always confer with your doctors to find out which probiotics are right for you and the optimal dosage.
  3. Low FODMAP Diet – FODMAP compounds (found in gluten containing foods) are thought to contribute to the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and similar gastrointestinal disorders.[6] Click here to learn more and find out which foods are low in FODMAPs, which may help reduce IBS symptoms
  4. Increase Omega-7 intake - Sea buckthorn has an array of essential omega fatty acids, including the rare Omega 7. These fatty acids soothe cells and support the functions of the gastrointestinal mucosa. Omega 7 provides also helps to restore moisture. When the mucous membranes are healthy, they hold moisture better. Constipation sufferers may find relief with the healthy functions of these mucous membranes.
  5. Exercise - Aerobic activity, the use of large muscles groups for at least 10 minutes, helps fight constipation. Exercise helps with digestion in several ways, including promoting the movement of food through the intestines and improving blood flow to your gut.[7]

Monday, April 3, 2017

Core de Force: Workout Program Review

Once a week in my fitness routine, Monday, as a matter of fact, is core day. I love core day, but long ago I got sick of my rotating routines. Though I like my Jillian Michaels DVDs, and continue to keep them challenging by increasing the weight I use, I am bored of them. I plain hate the Bob Harper one I have, its weird and he's annoying. But I do it to add variety. I will throw in the ones that came with my Tapout XT set, but I don't love them. I've been doing all of them for years and have been dying for something new. Unfortunately, I never found anything that seemed worth buying...until now.

I stumbled across a new workout program called Core de Force from Beach Body. It combines 2 of my favorite things: core work, and MMA inspired fitness!

Its led by trainers Jericho McMatthews and Joel Freeman and includes 3 DVDs full of workouts. Also, includes all the usual Beach Body stuff (workout plan, diet plan, etc.), but I toss that stuff.

The full workouts are between 27-47 minutes, and then there is a 16 minute floor routine, and a 5 minute plank challenge routine.

Now first things first. Its fun! Workouts have to be fun, right?

The shorter ones I don't fine too intense but I enjoy the punching and kicking work. There are 5 minute coaching sections before each full workout to help prepare you for the moves you'll need, if you are a newbie to MMA. I'd seen most of it before in my Tapout XT and UFC Fit programs.

The 16 minute floor routine and 5 minute plank challenge are solid ab workouts, and will definitely be very difficult for beginners. What I love is that none of these workouts involve any equipment, so this makes them perfect for traveling! What I don't love is that the 5 minute plank challenge is on each DVD. Since the program is supposed to focus on core, you'd think they could give you a different one on each DVD, but no, its the exact same.

The two longest workouts, MMA Power, and MMA Plyo, are by far the most challenging. Not just because they are longer, but also higher intensity. More lower body work, more level change exercises that really get your heart rate up. Everything definitely works your core!

If you hate situps or traditional core work, and the idea of learning MMA moves sounds fun to you, definitely give this a try. You will for sure have some learning curve if you've never done any of these moves before, so you do have to have some patience to learn them, but its nothing like fancy dancy moves aerobics or anything. Its also a good program for anyone who doesn't have any weights or fitness equipment and doesn't want to purchase any. You also don't need a ton of room, just enough to be able to kick without bashing into something.

My biggest criticism is that they don't always do a particular combination on both sides of your body. Occasionally they do, but I would say 2/3 times they don't, which I find weird, and very annoying, being the A Type that I am. But really, isn't it important to work both sides of your body evenly? They workouts are essentially HIIT, alternating between kicking and punching combos of varying intensity, with 'spikes' (more cardio like moves) in between. Everything is repeated twice, so there is no excuse for not doing everything on each side.

In any case, I most definitely will integrate these workouts into my routine, and will be packing up the set in my suitcase next time I want to bring a portable fitness program with me when I travel.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Go Run Lites: Product Review

TGI Friday!

Thankfully now that its spring, there is more daylight. But even so, if you are like Adam and I, and you are a super early bird, it still may be dark when you open your eyes, especially if its to fit in an early morning workout. It stays light later now that its spring, but if you work into the early evening, you may also find yourself leaving at the end of the day after the sun has gone down. Or, if the weather is terrible like it is today (raining, cold and dark), then you may see no daylight at all!

Not only can the dark be depressing, it is also an additional safety risk, especially if you live in a place like Toronto, where the roads are like the wild west. Pedestrian and cyclist deaths are at an all time high. It is absolutely critical that if you are going outside for a run, walk or bike ride, whether its for fitness or your daily commute, you make sure you are damn well visible to drivers.

Go Run Lites are gloves and mittens made for active folks, that have bright LED rechargeable lights that fit right in them to aid your visibility. Recently they sent me a pair of their fleece mittens to try and I think they are fantastic.

The size medium are a bit big for me, but they also sent the liners for added warmth. The mittens are super soft and warm, which is perfect for cycling around here in cold weather. The lights velcro into the top of them and are at least as bright, if not brighter than any bike lights that I have owned.

I am thinking it might be wise to get Adam a pair of the lighter weight gloves since he runs outside in the warmer months, but starts so early it is pretty dark out.

Do I recommend these products? Absolutely! Great idea, and great quality.

Now go get outside, be active, and have a happy, healthy and SAFE weekend!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Behind the Scenes at HLL

Happy hump day! Ready for the weekend yet?

Life here has been up and down lately. Sound familiar? When is it not really?

On the upside, I am in the midst of making some rather significant structural changes to my counselling practice that I am excited about, including renting an office space in my favorite neighbourhood in Toronto (the Annex), which also happens to be extremely convenient and close to home. One of the many benefits is that it will be much easier for me to bike to and from work when the weather cooperates.

I completed the 2nd part of my EMDR training and just have a few more group consultations before I get my certificate. Yeah, I am already seeing great results of incorporating this therapy into my practice.

I also made a somewhat radical change to my hair style: I got a fringe! The kids are iffy about it, but most people have been very complimentary. Hey, its cheaper than botox and it hides my forehead wrinkles!!

On the downside, my headaches have been frequent and unrelenting lately. These have been going on since 1998 for goodness sakes! I have tried everything, and absolutely nothing helps. Not any pain relievers (Tylenol 3, Naproxen, Celebrex, Imitrex, etc., etc.), not nasal sprays to clear my sinuses, not ice packs to my head, not standing in ice water (yes, I really tried that!), not menthol rubbed between my eye brows, not antihistamines, not decongestants, nothing! My doctor has now labelled them as atypical migraines, but really we don't know what they are. Maybe allergy related, but I don't respond to antihistamines, nor can we identify what I am allergic to on scratch tests (though clearly I am reacting to something because I am always congested). The could also be weather/pressure related. The past few weeks have been really bad. After a client recently told me she got relief from chronic headaches through botox treatment (for headaches, not for wrinkles), I went straight to the doctor to discuss this option.

Actually, my doctor is on mat leave, but her replacement (nice dude), agreed it seemed like a good alternative to try since nothing else has worked and gave me a referral to a headache specialist at Women's College Hospital. Problem is, its going to be months before I get an appointment. At the time, I thought I could handle that, but, now, I'm praying every day they'll call with the appointment, because I am having headaches almost daily.

Nevertheless, this stuff doesn't have me down that much. We've all got our challenges and this is definitely one of mine, but it could be a heck of a lot worse. Though I might struggle to agree with that on a really bad headache day!

Keep truckin' with me, because we all have our struggles, but I'll get through it all, and so will you!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dogs and Anthropologists...(Book Reviews)

Hello, happy Monday morning! Its another wet, grey day here. Blech! So its a good time to discuss one of my favorite things: books!

I have been so busy trying to keep up with the book reviews that I am committed to doing for publishers, that I haven't shared what I've been reading for my own pleasure in a long while.

But believe me, no matter what, I am pretty much always reading something! So many books, so little time...

I have enjoyed the last two so much, I thought I would share.

The first is Fifteen Dogs, by Canadian writer, Andre Alexis.

When my mom first gave it to me and said it was written from dogs' perspective, I balked. I couldn't imagine finding it interesting. I am a cat person after all!

But after overcoming my prejudice, I decided to give it a try. Its about 15 dogs that are given human-like brains (and therefore cognitive abilities, intellect and emotions). I loved it!

I actually think that dog lovers may not like it because its a pretty cynical perspective on what dogs think of humans.

In any case, read it, its awesome.

The other recent gem I read was Euphoria, by Lily King.

It is loosely based on experiences of anthropologist Margaret Mead and others, though it is a fictional story. Having always found anthropology fascinating, I also adored this book, though it is also a love story as well.

Both are short reads, so perfect for a vacation if you are planning a little spring getaway.

I hope you'll give them a try.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Think Macro, Not Micro for Better Health

Happy Friday and Happy Spring! It actually felt like spring on Tuesday, but now we have reverted back to winter. No surprise, as Toronto doesn't really get 'real' spring until May most of the time.

So, does spring make you think of spring cleaning your lifestyle? Starting a new diet, fitness program or giving up an unhealthy habit? Read this before you start the latest trend (and, of course, skip the cleanses and detoxes!!).

There are a billion theories out there about how best to be your physical best: Eat keto, eat Paleo, eat vegan, eat alkaline, don't eat after 6pm, juice, don't drink juice, do cardio, don't do cardio, lift heavy weights, only do body weight exercises, drink red wine, don't drink at all, no wheat, no gluten, whole grains, do intense exercise, just aim for 10,000 steps, etc., etc., etc.

A lot of people get so confused they don't even know where to start when it comes to improving their health!

The most important things you can do are the big-picture habits, which you've probably heard me tell you a million times:

1. Exercise regularly (who cares what kind, just do something and do it consistently!)

2. Sleep enough and practice healthy sleep hygiene

3. Eat real food, not processed (omnivore, locavore, vegetarian, vegan, whatever) and aim for 10 (yes 10!) servings of veggies and fruit daily, homemade, not from a restaurant

4. Don't smoke and minimize alcohol consumption

Its up to you to figure out a way to incorporate these habits into your life in a way you enjoy. If you try something (low carb, crossfit, whatever, whatever) that makes you miserable, than you won't stick with it. Its about being the healthiest you, you can be and enjoy life and be consistent.

So thi

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Going Semi-Paperless

As you know, I am a traditionalist when it comes to reading. I want paper! I don't own a Kindle, and don't want one. I like hard copy magazines and newspapers please!

Unfortunately, I am apparently in the minority as everything nowadays is going digital. Not only is this due to demand, but also cost. Its cheaper to publish stuff online so paper stuff is getting more and more expensive.

Because of the high cost, Adam has been bugging me for years to allow him to cancel our newspaper deliveries for Globe and Mail and Toronto Star, and start getting the digital versions instead. Noooo!

I've kicked up a big fuss because I just can't imagine enjoying scrolling through the paper on a device while having breakfast. It didn't help that Adam told me to check out Star Touch, the Toronto Star's new online subscription service, which is horrid. I hate it. Its not even the same content as the print version. Forget it, no way.

Fortunately, the online version of the Globe you can subscribe for is EXACTLY the same as print, and even appears the same way on the screen. Okay, compromise. We are now getting the Star in print, and the Globe online only.

But should there come a day when the stop selling books and magazines in print, I will launch a revolution!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Freeze Dried Fruits from

Good morning! Welcome to a new week, and the first day of spring.

What are you having for breakfast? Please say it isn't sugary cereal! Nothing wrong with some good whole grains for breakfast, just ditch the sugar. You can customize one yourself at, which now has more options...

I have always adored dried fruit. I used to seriously eat pounds of dried pineapple. Our local market would let us buy it in 20 lb bags from them at wholesale price, it was awesome! My first pregnancy turned me off it and since going sugar-free I haven't looked back. I still occasionally indulge in unsweetened varieties like apricots, raisins, dates, figs and prunes, but lets face it, dried fruit should be eaten in moderation not just because they are super high in natural sugar and calories, but they can do major damage to your teeth and, um, your digestive tract, in large quantities.

An increasingly popular alternative to dried fruit is freeze dried fruit. It is much lower in calories, usually unsweetened and not as risky for your teeth or tummy. Though after eating a bag of freeze dried blueberries on the plane once, I can tell you that they can get pretty messy (my hand was purple for 2 days!).

As a fan of yummy, crispy freeze dried fruit, I was thrilled to give's new line of them a try. They have a good selection including strawberries, raspberries, orange, mango, banana, blackberries and peaches.

Since I choose my mix for the girls' tastes last time, I made this one all about me. I selected their high fibre oatmeal as a base and then went right for the freeze fried fruits and got them all except orange and banana.

Wouldn't you know it, when it arrived, the girls complained about how unfair it is that I was saving this one for myself! I haven't decided yet if I will share with those rat bags what is left.

I tried it mixed with vanilla yogurt and blueberries and love, love, love it! My favorite things are the freeze dried berries, which I find have much more flavour than the other fruits.

I am now dreaming up other ways to use it and am thinking that making a fruity oatmeal cookie might be in order!

In any case, if you are looking for a healthy snack or yummy breakfast treat, customize yourself a cereal mix and . Its pretty lux, so if its beyond your own budget, I think it makes a great gift for the special cereal lover in your life.

Disclosure: sent me a complimentary sample, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Revisiting the Asylum

No I wasn't locked up in the looney bin...yet!

I dug out my Asylum series, which is the sequel to the Insanity exercise program by Shaun T.

When I first tried it I found it frustrating, not just because its tough, but we didn't really have enough room in our gym area, the way it was set up before our home renos. Also, the agility ladder, which is used a lot would slip and slide around on the carpeting, and I was always having to stop and adjust it.

But a few weeks ago I pulled out the ladder to use with my personal training client, and suddenly realized I hadn't tried it again since we fixed up the basement.

I decided to do the Game Day workout, which is the longest one (60 minutes) and see if it was doable in our new space. I am happy to say, yes it is! The ladder doesn't move around on the rubber flooring, and there is now plenty of space.

As for the workout itself? Very challenging! It uses different exercises to mimic drills or moves from various sports. Tough for a person like me who sucks at almost all sports, but I like it because at least it is, for the most part, easy to follow (no fancy dance moves!). If you want something that is not at all like a traditional aerobics class, you may like this, but it definitely is not for the newbie exerciser.
The drills can be pretty intense and the work intervals several minutes long, rather than 30-60 seconds in most of the HIIT training workouts I do. But I loved it, so I am definitely bringing these DVDs back into rotation!

If you don't exercise, its never to late to start. The health (physical and mental) are endless. Doing ANYTHING is better than nothing, so find something you enjoy and just....DO....a ditty ditty dumb ditty do (sorry quoting Nike just isn't my style).

Have a happy St. Patrick's Day and a happy, healthy weekend. I work late tonight, so no green beer for me...maybe tomorrow (beer but not green that is!). I work all weekend actually, so I know its going to fly by. I'll be back Monday and I hope you will too!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

You Can't Beat Beets!

If its cold and grey (and white...its snowing here!) and you feel the need for some colour in your life. There is no better way to do it than with beets.

I have always enjoyed beets, but lately I have become addicted.

Its all thanks to my lovely, generous neighbour, who always shares the goodies from her organics boxes with me. The last couple shares have involved 2 lb bags of locally grown beets.

Just look at these gorgeous babies before they've been roasted!

My favorite way to prepare them is simply peeling them, cutting, tossing with apple cider vinegar, and roasting. They are like candy!

This salad I made recently with the beets, veggies, goat cheese and a raspberry vinaigrette (made with konjac powder) was absolutely divine!

Not only are they sweet and delicious, but beets are packed with health benefits. They are a great source of fibre, folate, manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin C. They have been shown to improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and enhance athletic performance, thanks to their high nitrate content. One cup of beets has only 58 calories, and provides 2 grams of protein.
So go ahead and indulge. Just don't indulge too much like I did...they are high in fibre! Also, be prepared to have a lot of pink and purple tinted, um, stuff, for the next couple of days. But, really, its worth it.

I have shared this post with Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot-Luck.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Spring 2017 Favorites

Okay, yes, it isn't really spring yet, but I am optimistic it will happen soon. Like by May at least!

Here are some of the things I am enjoying right now...

Lemon Water

I have replaced some of the cold drinks I consume during the day (i.e. coffee frappes, soda stream carbonated water with stevia/flavours, etc.) with lemon water. I absolutely adore it!

The key is to squeeze juice out of the lemon first before dropping it in. Also, the longer it sits, the better it tastes. At the of the day, I eat the lemon slice. Maybe I'm weird, but I love that.

Sweet Potatoes

I have always loved sweet potatoes, but during my pregnancies, my tastes really shifted and those changes lasted a while. I suddenly craved white potatoes and red meat over sweet potatoes and fish. But I have reverted back and now I am all about the sweet potatoes. Combined with all the squash and carrots I eat, its amazing I am not bright orange like Donald Trump (who Little A says looks like a big Cheeto).

I have been eating them whole steamed, tossed with cider vinegar and cinnamon and roasted (as they are in the photo), and as a base for chocolate protein mousse. Really, I love it any way you can prepare it!

Trader Joe's Chili Lime Seasoning

Now that I am back to loving fish again (I'll take it over red meat any day!), I am using this seasoning I got at Trader Joe's in Florida, all the time.

Its got just the right level of spice and salt. I don't add anything else to the fish, just a sprinkle of this stuff and its awesome!

Green P Parking App

If you live in Toronto, you have to have this App! You know I mean it since I am not really an app user. Like this is basically one of the only apps I use period.  You can park and start walking away towards your destination and just plug in the location code. Then choose your duration and it automatically charges your credit card.

Its so amazing when I have a client session run late. Instead of panicking and sprinting to my car, I can just put a few more minutes on my 'meter'.

If you don't live in Toronto, maybe they have something similar where you live.

Ombrelle Weightless Face Lotion

This stuff is the absolute bomb!

I wear sunscreen on my face every day all year. And you should too! I put it on first, before I put on any makeup in the morning.

This stuff has an SPF of 60, but is so light, yet smoothing and moisturizing at the same time. I absolutely love it, I don't think I will ever use another sunscreen on my face!!

Its a cold, gray Monday and I am going on week 3 of having chronic headaches. Its times like these when the simple pleasures matter the most. Enjoy your simple pleasures and have a great day!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Where the Ryka Shoes

Good morning and welcome to Friday. You made it through another week!

So after my post about my new Hoka shoes, Adam called me out. He asked why I would wear runners for all my workouts when I only run once a week (I've been doing it since the fall to keep some endurance work in my routine), and spend the rest of the time weight training and HIIT, with a lot of lateral movements.

Its a good question. Especially since I should really know better. Before I had the girls, when I taught fitness classes on a regular basis, I had several pairs of shoes, which I rotated, depending on the type of activity. I was very careful to wear running shoes only for running, and fitness shoes for my aerobics classes. I guess after I had the kids and stopped teaching and started working out at home instead, it felt too indulgent to have several different pairs of shoes. It didn't matter so much when I was mostly using our treadmill and stairmaster, but now that I do mostly HIIT workouts with a lot of martial arts moves and lateral movement, running shoes really aren't ideal.

I have already told Adam he was right and he's already gloated, so moving on from that...

After our discussion, I immediately ordered a pair of fitness shoes from Ryka. Yes, I order shoes online...I do most shopping online because the malls in Toronto are nuts (i.e. too crowded!!), and the traffic to get there so bad, that I can't bear it. But this is one of the reasons I am brand loyal most of the time, I know from experience which shoes work for me and which ones don't. For example, Nike and Reebok are no-goes for me. But for fitness shoes/cross-trainers, Ryka and Avia have always worked well. They are what I always wore to teach fitness classes.

They arrived a few days later and the minute I slipped them on, I knew Adam was right (you already rubbed that in my face dear!). For the HIIT training I do, they are much better than runners. They have far more stability for the lateral movement thanks to a lower outsole and the fact that they mold very close to the foot. I used to wear high cuts for added stability for my ankles, but, actually, I think the low cuts are even more comfortable.

So I've swapped things up and now wear the Hokas just for running, and the Rykas for everything else. I really do feel like my performance is improved just by wearing them. Thanks Hubby!

Moral of the story is, there are certain things you should never cheap out on, and shoes is one of them. Our feet are so important to our health and mobility.

Aside from wearing the right shoes for your activity, also remember to get rid of worn shoes. If you have a high activity level like Adam and I, you should be replacing your athletic shoes on an annual basis. If you do a lot of endurance activity, possibly even more often!

We have a busy weekend ahead. I work tomorrow, the girls have all their activities (Adam spends all day Saturday driving them back and forth!), and Sunday evening we have friends coming for dinner. I also need to apply to have my passport renewed. I hate doing that kind of stuff! Thankfully, most of it can be done online now.

Have a lovely, happy, healthy weekend and take care of your tootsies!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Endometriosis Health & Diet Program: Book Review

Before becoming an infertility counsellor, I knew almost nothing about endometriosis. I am now, unfortunately, all to aware of this horrible disease because so many of my clients suffer from it. And suffer they do.

Endo is typically characterized by unbearable pelvic pain from anywhere from several days to several weeks per month, and extremely heavy menstrual bleeding. Women with endo are often incapacitated for at least several days per month, often experiencing dizziness, depression and vomiting as accompanying side effects. When not caught early on, endo can do severe damage to a woman's reproductive organs and cause permanent infertility.

What upsets me so much about endo is that most of my clients with it spend years going from one doctor to another looking for help and are usually brushed off and told to suck it up, that their symptoms are just typical menstrual cycle symptoms. They are not! This is just pure sexism and misogyny.

The tragedy is that most of my clients don't discover they have endo (because doctors are constantly telling them nothing is wrong!), until they are having difficulty conceiving, and by then often the endo is severe enough to have damaged their egg quality, and/or damaged their uterus, so that they either have to do IVF, use an egg donor and/or use a gestational carrier (surrogate). Like WTF?

Hopefully the way women with endo are treated by the medical community will change. One doctor, Dr. Andrew S. Cook, a physician in the U.S. specializes in treating endo and pelvic pain and has just written a book entitled: The Endometriosis Health and Diet Program.

Since for most of my clients endo is usually treated with surgery, I was very interested to review this book which takes a lifestyle approach to it.

The book contains 4 parts:

Part 1:
Chapters 1 and 2 define the disease, examine different causes of pelvic pain (not just endo), and describe the symptoms. Chapter 3 outlines ways to diagnose it, and Chapter 4 summarizes the leading theories about the causes. Chapter 5 goes through the various conventional medical treatments for endo from hormones, to surgery.

Part 2:
This part of the book covers lifestyle/environmental factors that may be associated with endo: Chapter 6 covers toxins, 7 stress, 8 sleep, 9 exercise, 10 energy, 11 herbal treatments and supplements.

Part 3:
Dr. Cook's 3 phase diet plan

Part 4:

The chapters in Part 1 are clear and well organized and accessible even to those without much of a science or health background, though they are detailed and not dumbed down either. Cook does veer into territory that is a bit eyebrow raising for me, due to the relative lack of evidence. For example, there is a whole page about how wheat/gluten may cause health problems and there are no citations provided. It sounds like he just wrote out the Coles Notes version of Wheat Belly, a book which has been heavily criticized for its lack of credible evidence. Fortunately, in other areas of the book, footnotes show he is getting at least some info from peer-reviewed scientific journals.

I love that Part 2 addresses all key aspects of wellness, including stress, sleep, exercise, etc. The section on herbal treatments and supplements is where I might advise caution. There is little research on these products for treating endo. Don't run out and start taking a daily cocktail of them before consulting your doctor and/or naturopath who is aware of your entire health history and knows what other meds you are taking (herbs and supplements can cause interactions). This is particularly important if you are trying to conceive or undergoing fertility treatments.

The diet plan in Part 3 starts as an elimination diet to see if particular things may be triggering your pelvic pain and endo symptoms. Phase 1 of the plan is not at all appropriate if you are vegetarian or vegan as the only allowable protein sources are meat and seafood. Aside from ghee, dairy is also off the table as are all grains (kinda sounds like a lot of trendy low-carb diets!).

After 1-2 months on Phase 1, Phase 2 reintroduces eggs, nuts, seeds, gluten-free grains, and lentils along with cheese and yogurt.

Following 4 weeks on Phase 2, Phase 3 brings back most whole foods as long as you tolerate them without any flare up of symptoms.

The actual meal plan is a bit problematic for me. First, the breakfasts are tiny. I starve just reading them. Secondly, again, not possible for vegans or vegetarians. Third, your daily snack is bone marrow broth. I will be honest, I hate broth! I also hate this stupid, hipster term for what is essentially bubby's chicken (or beef) soup!

There is nothing wrong with the recipes, though they tend to be really heavy on the coconut oil, which is also a much over-hyped trendy food. I would say, if you try this meal plan and are hungry, lower the amount of coconut oil (and/or ghee or other 'magical' fat sources) and you can add in other foods in larger quantity for the same number of calories.

Though obviously some things about this book irk me, I do recommend it for individuals struggling with endo or pelvic pain, if only because it may help you navigate through a hostile health care system. By educating yourself about the disease you can press for the treatment you need when met with resistance and claims that you are fine and it is all in your head.

The lifestyle suggestions are, for the most part, what we should all be doing: managing stress, eating whole foods, exercising, and getting adequate sleep. Perhaps these factors are even more important for women with endometriosis.

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, March 6, 2017

FITJOY Protein Bar Review

Welcome to a new day and a new week. No better time to start taking better care of your only get one!

If you want to start by finding a healthier alternative to your 3pm candy bar, look no further.

We recently received 2 new flavours of FITJOY Protein bars to try: Chocolate Raspberry and Cookies and Cream.

As usual, my family got their paws on them and I only got to see them briefly, before they were all devoured. I actually was given an Iced Cinnamon while at GNC a few months ago, that I was looking forward to trying, but Adam ended up taking it with him on a work trip. Sigh!

At least they all had the decency to give me their feedback, which was very very positive.

Big A ate the Raspberry Chocolate one. She made a face as she took the first few bites, explaining that it felt very sticky on her teeth, but eventually, she decided she loved it. Little A really liked it too, describing it as very chocolately, and very filling.

Little A loved the Cookies and Cream one even more, which she described as having a chocolate layer, a cookie dough layer, and then a dark chocolate, mini chocolate chip layer....pure heaven! Big A liked that one too, and so did Adam, who said it tasted like a malted milk chocolate bar.

I like that they have 20g of protein, are high in fibre and low in sugar. Here are the nutrition stats for Cookies and Cream flavour:

Serving Size: 1 bar (60g)
Servings Per Container:12
Calories from Fat80      
% Daily Value *
Total Fat9 g14%
Saturated Fat3.5 g18%
Trans Fat0 g      
Cholesterol10 mg3%
Sodium140 mg6%
Potassium160 mg5%
Total Carbohydrate25 g8%
Dietary Fiber10 g40%
Sugars5 g      
Protein20 g40%
Vitamin A0%
Vitamin C0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Do I recommend these? Yes, as an occasional snack, when you are looking for something that will fill the hunger gap, and satisfy a sweet craving without breaking your calorie bank. Little A is already asking when we can get more. Just remember for kids, and adults with lower energy or protein needs, you may want to eat half the bar at a time.
Disclaimer: We were sent these bars to review, but all opinions on this blog are our own.