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Monday, August 12, 2019

Summer 2019 Favorites

I hate summer. If you like summer and love hot weather than I hate you too. Ha, just kidding. But I truly don't understand you. It feels like pure torture to me. I am dreaming of fresh autumn air.

Anyways, here are a few things currently making this summer more bearable for me.

To up the intensity of my workouts, I often put extra weight on my body. I don't mean eating lots of donuts. I mean using ankle or wrist weights, a weighted vest, etc. But for cardio, none of those options is always appropriate. One day I realized what would be ideal is a weighted belt. But is there such a thing? Oh yes, you can get them on Amazon.
I have been thrilled with this one. I like that it stays in place when you are doing things like burpees (unlike weighted vests that tend to shift around). It's loaded with 10lbs but you can remove some of the weights to make it lighter. I find it pretty comfortable and you can even lie on your back to do abs without it getting in the way (again, something I can't do with my weighted vest).

Of course, harder workouts mean more sweat. Usually we use all natural, biodegradable, (etc., etc.) laundry detergent, but I decided extreme heat calls for extreme measures and picked up this Persil Odor Fighter detergent. It definitely does the trick.


It smells good but doesn't leave your garments with an overpowering perfume smell.

Another 'joy' of summer is having to slather one's entire body in sunblock. I found this Neutragena zinc cream for face and I love it. It's not greasy and allows you to put your make up on over top without is sliding off your face.

Even in summer I try never to go over my 2 drinks per week limit. Besides, no matter how good it tastes going down, alcohol does not actually hydrate you, but actually does the opposite. So I always make sure to guzzle lots of liquid afterwards to counter act that.  One of my recent discoveries is this cider. The store that sells it, The Wine Store, just happens to have a location in my building where my office is located. Kind of tempting.


Though it's sweet from the pineapple flavour, I love it because of the tropical feel which seems appropriate in this weather which is basically tropical (apparently tropical fish can now be found swimming in the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of Canada due to climate change for goodness sakes!).

So there you are, that's how I am getting through this freakin' awful summer, which is apparently the new normal thanks to global warming, which means I will eventually have to move to the arctic...

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Crunchy Top Blueberry Muffins


Today its back to work after a Canadian long weekend. For some, its an opportunity to get outside in summer, go to a cottage or take part in the many festivals and activities around Toronto. But I hate that shit. Cottages are full of bugs, and summer is too hot and Toronto is too crowded and difficult to get around to make going to any festivals or attractions worth it (or remotely enjoyable). And no, my name is not the Grinch.

So on the day off yesterday, I went to the office in the morning and stayed at home, inside, in the air conditioning all afternoon. But I was sort of productive. I convinced Big A to do the Tracy Anderson fitness video I have with me. We had a lot of fun making fun of it (her boobs don't move even though it doesn't even look like she is wearing a bra...silicone perhaps?). I also agreed to bake with Little A. She had been pestering me to make "Crunchy Top Blueberry Muffins", which are essentially cake-like blueberry muffins with sugar on top to make it crunchy. Of course I found a way to make them much healthier than the muffins you would find at the bakery or coffee shop, but you kind of have to use sugar for the top. I did happen to have some organic cane sugar in the house that I use for making DIY beauty products. It isn't course, which would work even better but it did the trick.

Both kids love these muffins, in fact, Little A said they are so good, I must share them on the blog. So here is the recipe.

Crunchy Top Blueberry Muffins

2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax + 6 tbsp hot water)
2 cups milk or non-dairy milk
1/2 cup baking stevia or granulated xylitol or erythritol
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 cups whole grain flour
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1/4 cup or so course sugar for sprinkling on top

Stir together milk and vinegar and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flax eggs, stevia, milk mixture and vanilla.

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk until combined. Add dry ingredients to wet and fold until completely mixed. Stir in blueberries. Pour batter into greased muffin cups. Sprinkle the top of each one evenly with sugar. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Let cool and remove from pan. Makes 16 muffins.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Yolked: Product Review


Even if you are not trying to be a competitive body builder or athlete, muscle is something most of us need more of. It's not just a matter of aesthetics. Sedentary lifestyles lead to tight, weak muscles and atrophy. This leads to lowered metabolisms, chronic pain, increased risks of falls, and injuries.

Exercise, particularly strength training, is critical for the maintenance and building of muscle mass. In terms of nutrition, protein is a critical building block for muscle particularly when trying to increase muscle size and/or density.

According to MYOS RENS Technology Inc., there is another key to enhancing the body's ability to build muscle: Fortetropin, made from fertilized egg yolk. Obviously this is not a product for vegans!

Yolked is a powder supplement combined with dextrose (sugar) and vanilla. It is supposed to be particularly helpful for adults over age 60 to combat sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss). We talk a lot about osteoporosis but sarcopenia is also something can can lead to injury and disability as we age.

It comes in single serving packets that are 47 calories, 3.5 grams of fat and 2.2 grams of protein.

The company sent me summaries of research conducted and though the sample size is small, the results are definitely impressive.

Since I don't consume smoothies, I planned to bake with it, but right before I did so, the kids noticed on the packet it says not to heat it up. So I gave it to Adam since he makes smoothies regularly. His only comment was it needed a stronger vanilla flavour. I suspect it would have been best to use it along with his usual vanilla protein powder, instead of, especially since it is not high in protein.

So what do I think? I think it's a good idea, especially for older adults that may be at particular risk for sarcopenia and those who may have limited nutrition due to a decreased appetite. But like most supplements, it's pricey - $90USD for 30 servings. So unfortunately, the older adults who need it most (the poor) are not going to be able to afford it. But isn't this the case for most things?

Disclosure: We were sent the product to review but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Expecting Sunshine: Book Review


Though most of my counselling clients are dealing with the inability to conceive, many of them have been pregnant and experienced losses, everything from first trimester miscarriages to stillbirths, to their babies dying days or weeks after birth. There is no doubt that losing a child is one of the most painful experiences a person can go through.

Expecting Sunshine, written by Alexis Marie Chute, chronicles the author's experience losing her second child immediately after birth due to tuberous sclerosis, a condition that causes tumors to develop within organs such as the heart, brain, kidneys, etc. Alexis and her husband, Aaron, discovered this during a routine ultrasound when they were 25 weeks pregnant, and were told that their son's condition was incompatible with life.

I cannot imagine the devastation they experienced. Personally, however, like many of my clients who have found themselves in similar situations, I would have opted for termination. For me, carrying to term and delivering a child destined to die soon afterward is just additional trauma. But I understand that everyone is different in terms of the choices they make around these awful scenarios.

The book chronicles Alexis and Aaron's struggles after the loss of their son to grieve in their own unique ways and to support each other. Once Alexis conceives again, the book is divided into chapters summarizing how she copes with the anxiety each week of this subsequent pregnancy.

What people who have not experienced a perinatal loss before don't realize, is just how stressful pregnancy is after that for many women. I have written before about how anxious I was through the pregnancies with Big A and Little A because of my first pregnancy miscarrying. I really was never able to fully relax. I rented a dopplar for both so that when I panicked, I could check for the heartbeat. The distress is usually worse for any woman who has experienced a late-term loss.

Unfortunately, most loved ones of a woman experiencing pregnancy anxiety following a loss, fail to understand just how overwhelming it can be and do not know how to support someone going through it. Telling her, "Don't worry, everything will be fine," is one of the least effective things you can say. The reality is, there are no guarantees and this is what women in this situation fixate on. While the risk of another loss may be miniscule, it is not zero, ever, for anyone. Even a tiny degree of uncertainty is intolerable for many woman in this situation. Whether this is rational or not is not the point. Anxiety, is not rational. But it can be debilitating and difficult to get under control.

Alexis, an artist, writer and filmmaker, does a lovely job sharing her pain and anguish in a way that is not overwhelming to the reader and is accessible even to those who have no personal connection to this type of experience.

I read the book through a lens of whether it would be useful to my clients who have had similar experiences. I definitely do, however, there is one caveat. Alexis already had a healthy child when this event occurred and I know that many women who have lost a child and still are childless will immediately feel this sets them apart from Alexis. I try to tell clients not to compare pain, but the reality is, this is often difficult to do. In any case, I applaud her courage in sharing her story in all it's rawness, and showing others that while you do not necessarily ever get over a loss like this, you can get through it.

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

Monday, July 8, 2019

Lightlife Plant-Based Burgers



You have likely heard about the new 'plant-based' burgers that have cropped up on the market. Though its not like veggie burgers are a new thing, these ones are supposed to mimic the real look, taste and texture of meat like nothing before.

Not only are they available in grocery stores but big fast food chains are now offering them as a vegan alternative.

Now I am totally fine with non-meaty veggie burgers as long as they taste good, but I was curious to try the new products, so I picked up a package of the Lightlife brand.

My first impression? Frickin' expensive! Um, $8 for 2 burgers??? Also, very high in calories (260) and fat (17g) for a small burger. In comparison, the Yves brand I usually buy is usually available for $7 for 8 burgers and each has 110 calories and 3.5g fat!

They do look like meat and when they cook they release redish 'juices' and have a delicious, meaty aroma. I fried them up in a frying pan and plopped it on a whole grain bun with vegan cheese sauce, mustard and relish.



The taste? Not bad! But I am one of those people that likes veggie fascimiles that do not taste anything like meat...sometimes I like them even more than the meat version! But for 260 calories, they didn't keep me feeling full for long.

I made one for Adam and when I asked what he thought, he said, it was "Fine". I asked him if he thought it tasted like meat and he said, "I don't remember." 😆 In all fairness, I didn't ask for his feedback until the next day.

So, what are these burgers made of?

Here is the ingredient list:

WATER, PEA PROTEIN, CANOLA OIL MODIFIED CELLULOSE, YEAST EXTRACT, ORGANIC VIRGIN COCONUT OIL, SEA SALT, FLAVOUR, AMINO ACID BLEND (I-METHIONINE, TRYPTOPHAN), POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, BEET POWDER, ONION POWDER, ASCORBIC ACID, SPICE, ONION EXTRACT, GARLIC POWDER, GREEN TEA EXTRACT, ACEROLA CHERRY EXTRACT, VITAMIN AND MINERAL BLEND [NIACINAMIDE (VITAMIN B3), FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE, ZINC OXIDE, D-CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMINE B6), THIAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2) CYANOCOBALAMIN (VITAMIN B12)].

Now, a bunch of people I know have put angry diatribes on Facebook about how these burgers are processed. Some upset the pea protein is GMO (who cares!), others that they contain yeast extract (again, who cares!). I mean, duh, any commercially made veggie burger or veggie meat is processed. I don't think these products are really trying to appeal to the health foodies anyways, they are trying to appeal to the vegans and vegetarians eshewing animal products for ethical and/or environmental reasons.

So will I buy them again? Nope - too expensive.

Monday, June 24, 2019

How to Be Well When You're Not: Book Review


What is intriguing about this book is it is written by Ariane Resnick, P!NK's personal chef. Yes, that P!NK, the singer (AKA Alecia Beth Moore).

How to Be Well When You're Not is actually geared towards a very specialized population: individuals struggling with serious illness. It is not a diet book. It is a guide book for people feeling sick and hopeless, "Practices and Recipes to Maximize Health in Illness".

This book was borne out of the author's own experience suffering from Lyme Disease and then soon after, chemical poisoning. In both cases, Resnick struggled to get an accurate diagnosis for a long time and was told she had little hope for recovery. She was basically left to her own devices to either find a solution or accept her suffering as a permanent state of affairs. She opted to stay hopeful and find a solution and successfully recovered from both. The book provides a framework for others to do the same.

Now as a therapist, this book interests me because I have many clients with chronic pain or health issues. I can tell you right now that for many of them, staying hopeful can be a challenge!

The forward of the book is written by P!NK herself, about what Ariane has done for her health working as her chef while on tour.

Then Resnick shares the story of her own illnesses and recovery and why she wrote this book.

In the second section of the book, Resnick provides a series of therapeutic writing exercises for readers (something us therapists often do with our clients). They touch on gratitude and making friends with your body, among other things.

The section on food does provide some recipes, but it is not at all a meal plan. She recommends journalling about your food intake, and your emotions (another thing us therapists often recommend to our clients).

Resnick's main dietary guidelines are eating whole foods (the usual sensible suspects including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins) according to what works for you (i.e. makes you feel best). She recommends avoiding tea/coffee/alcohol/pop, if possible unless you are certain they are not having a negative effect (frankly, when I am sick, coffee is usually one of the first things to go because it makes me nauseous!).

Resnick also recommends eliminating sugar and instead using stevia or monkfruit, or manuka honey if you don't like calorie-free sweeteners.

The recipes are mostly liquids: elixers, smoothies, soups and broths, which I suppose makes sense for when you are unwell, particularly if you have nausea and/or digestive issues. But there are also some raw and cooked veggie recipes and even a few rather yummy sounding desserts.

So, do I recommend this book? If you are struggling with some sort of chronic health issue and are not finding effective treatments and are losing hope, than absolutely. Besides the recipes, the book is really a blueprint for fighting off despair and remaining hopeful for recovery or remission.

Disclosure: The publisher sent me the book to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Behind the Scenes News


Obviously my posting frequency has been declining precipitously in recent months. This is due to many other things being higher on the priority list.

My counselling practice is pretty busy so that takes up a lot of my time. I am in the office 4 days a week and work from home 3 days a week doing Skype/phone counselling with clients. And then there is all the admin work (writing reports, sending invoices, receipts, record keeping, etc.), which I hate.

April was Little A's 10th birthday. We threw her a rollerskating party with 16 of her friends. Big A also turned 13!!

This month has been particularly busy because in June Big A has all her dance recitals, and Little A was in a production of The Lion King at school.

In addition, we just had Big A's Bat Mitzvah this past weekend. This is the biggest event we planned since our wedding back in 2002! For some reason, it felt much more stressful than planning our wedding though. In any case, it was wonderful. But I really am glad it's over.

Due to everything going on, I put the relaunch of my konjac company on hold (also because one of my partners was in Poland doing an extensive Holocaust memorial tour).

Now that our crazy June commitments have passed, we can start to breathe and look forward to a, hopefully, quiet summer.

This summer the girls are both in camps for most of the time with a little daddy time (Great Wolf Lodge, Canada's Wonderland, etc.) and time with my parents in Kingston.

July 6th, me and Little A (my fellow cat lover) are attending Meow Fest at Brickworks here in Toronto, and we are very excited!!

Big A is travelling with my in-laws to Vancouver to visit my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and their kids. She has never been there and these are her favorite aunt/uncle/cousins, so I am sure she will have a wonderful time.

The rest of the summer will be spent just as I spend the rest of the year. Working. Working out. Eating. Sleeping. Reading. Spending time with friends. The only difference is, I will complain about the heat instead of the snow.