Monday, January 21, 2019

Niagen: Product Review

The world of supplements is confusing right? I mean, probably more confusing than food nutrition. If you eat real, unprocessed foods including lean proteins, fruits, veggies and whole grains, you are likely getting what you need, but what about supplements? Do we need them? If so, which ones?

We have to eat, but do we all need to take supplements? They're expensive!

The recommendations seem to change constantly. Take calcium...don't take calcium, it can do harm...take Vitamin D...take more Vitamin D...Take fish take plant based omegas...Take a multi...don't take a multi, few people need them...take probiotics, no probiotics should be consumed from food...ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

I will be the first to admit that just because I have been taking some sort of vitamins since childhood, I would feel uncomfortable taking nothing. But over the years what supplements I take has changed a lot. Currently I take Vitamin D, CoQ10, biotin, probiotics, B2 (for migraines) iron, and for the past month or so, Niagen.

The biotin I started recently after reviewing Seabuck Wonders Ultimate Hair & Skin supplement. I wanted to see if taking biotin all on its own would have the same effect of lessening my hair from falling out so much. Sadly, it has not worked, so when I finish this bottle, I won't continue. Clearly, it was the combo of biotin and omega-7 that was effective.

Niagen is a new product, made from a form of Vitamin B3 called nicotinamide riboside. Niagen maintains NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is an important resource found in all living cells and necessary for breathing, eating, sleeping and drinking. Apparently, NAD declines significantly as we age, hence, Niagen is purportedly an anti-aging supplement.

Scientists have started to study the potential health benefits and Niagen has a link to some of the research here. I think its too early to draw any major conclusions though it does look promising. So far, supplementation appears safe and may improve metabolism and cardiovascular health.

Is this the supplement that we all need to take? The secret to longevity and looking and feeling younger? We are definitely not yet able to draw those conclusions.

The company sent me a 3 month supply (2 capsules/day). Currently, I have been taking them daily for almost 2 months. Do I feel younger? Honestly, I haven't noticed much difference, but aside from the energy boost I felt when I started taking CoQ10 a few years ago, I have never really felt much difference from most supplements I've tried.

In my research on nicotinamide riboside, some scientists suggest double the daily dose recommended by Niagen to have any therapeutic value. Perhaps that would make a difference?

So, do I recommend Niagen? Well...the research is promising but still very preliminary in terms of the health benefits of taking this supplement. If you are impressed by it, there doesn't seem to be any risk as its safety doesn't seem to be in doubt.

Here is the catch though...the cost!! A one month supply of Niagen is $40!!!! Personally, I cannot afford that. If you can, go for it.

Disclosure: The company sent me the product to try but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Instagram Accounts That Won't Make You Feel Like Crap

I knew nothing about Instagram until several years ago when my business consultant who helped me set up my konjac business told me businesses HAVE to be on Instagram. What? Why? Well, because this is the society we have become. People don't have the interest, patience, or attention span to do anything except look at pictures.

My account is a joke because I hate taking pictures, I suck at taking pictures (though I have never bothered to try and learn anything about photography), and I hate posting. It didn't take long to figure out that certain hashtags are necessary (at least in the food business) to get likes. It's all pretty revolting to me.

I am also horrified by reports that teen girls often have 4-5 different personal accounts and can spend up to 8 hours a day on Instagram, trying to get 'likes' for their photos. WTF??? I also hear from my Millennial counselling clients that they use it to communicate with friends as well as to meet people (as in, someone might 'like' one of your photos if they are interested in you...based on nothing but the photo). I will spare you my rant about what this is all doing to interpersonal communication and relationships. But its not good.

Another issue with Instagram that comes up for my counselling clients is that they see other people's accounts (much like people often do with Facebook) and conclude that 'everyone' else's life is better than theirs. I now regularly discuss with my clients what social media they are on and what types of accounts they are exposing themselves to. Most of them admit to following people that make them feel terrible (usually posting selfies of their perfect bodies, perfect clothes, perfect relationships, etc.).

STOP! If this is you, I highly encourage you to edit what you expose yourself to. Stop looking for 'inspiration' from social media. Instead look for entertainment/enjoyment and/or validation.

Here are some examples of accounts (or types of accounts) that won't make you feel like crap.

Cute Animal Sites

No matter what type of furry (or feathery or scaly) creatures you prefer, you can guarantee there are sites out there for you.

Little A and I follow a ton of kitten fosters. We love to hear about the rescues and see the little sweeties bottle fed and getting the love and nurturing they need. Our favorite one is Kitten Faces . But there are tons of other adorable ones that make our cat-loving hearts happy!

Feminist/Body Positivity/Activism Sites

If you want to feel empowered, check out Feminist Fight Club, Beafeministgirl and Beauty Redefined.

An unexpected site that I love is actor, Matt McGorry's (from How to Get Away With Murder). Funny, I hate his character on the show, but in real life he's awesome. If you don't believe a man can truly be a feminist, he will make you rethink that!

Hobby/Interest/Creative Sites

I have clients who also find sites about art, travel, design, music, etc. can be enjoyed without making them go into a negative spiral of social comparison (though it depends on your motivation and interpretation).

Unfortunately I have found that some of the worst sites are supposedly fitness sites. I find they are actually soft porn clearly meant to attract gawkers (and perverts). No you will not be inspired to workout by seeing half naked photos of very buff people. Believe me, my clients who follow these sites just end up with a negative body image!


Almost nothing is more therapeutic than a good laugh. Check out Mr.Bean or the EllenShow or Canada's own, Baronvonsketch.

If you are a user of Instagram or other social media platforms that leaving you feeling like 'everyone' else is prettier/fitter/richer/more popular, etc. etc., than either quit using it altogether, or stop following any account that makes you feel that way. Its all bullshit anyways. No one's life is the photoshopped perfection you see online, its messy and imperfect just like yours!

Monday, January 7, 2019

But It's Your Family...Book Review

Happy 2019! How is your year going so far?

If you make one resolution for this year, I suggest its eliminating any toxic people from your life.

This is something that comes up for so many of my counselling clients. It is often easier said than done, especially if the toxic person (or people) is/are part of your family.

Nevertheless, my philosophy is that its matters not at all who the person is, your mother, sibling, uncle, cousin, etc. If they are toxic, get them out of your life! This also ties into my belief about what family actually is.

According to the dictionary, family means:
1. a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household, and
2. all the descendants of a common ancestor.

I say this is bullshit.

Family are the people around you who love and support you unconditionally. Blood and DNA be damned.

This is relevant for my fertility/infertility clients building their families using donor sperm and/or eggs, and its relevant for my clients with toxic family members. Unfortunately, most culture's are too fixated on the dictionary definition of family and with the notion that if you are related to someone by blood you owe them. If someone treats you poorly and having them in your life compromises your well-being, than no matter who they are, you owe them shit. DNA is not what's important.

Given my slightly strong feelings about this, I was very pleased to be offered the chance to review But It's Your Family: Cutting Ties with Toxic Family Members and Loving Yourself in the Aftermath by psychologist, Dr. Sherrie Campbell.

Not only has Campbell treated many patients dealing with a toxic family member, but she has them herself, and from what she says in the book, has had to cut them out of her own life.

The book starts with a discussion of what a toxic person is: malicious, manipulative, emotionally abusive, etc. There are then a  series of chapters addressing specific types of potentially toxic family members (mothers, fathers, adult children, siblings, grandparents, in-laws, etc.).

Campbell devotes a chapter to validating your feelings and desire to remove the person (since cutting off a family member goes against what our society tells us about how we have to treat family). There is a chapter explaining how and why you might choose no contact with this person, how the person may use the separation to guilt and manipulate you, and how to recover from the severing process.

Though religious discussions usually make me very uncomfortable, I do think it makes sense that she includes a chapter to religious beliefs since that often informs people's beliefs about family. Personally though, I could give a rats ass what any religious text says, but she gives some ideas on how to reconcile religious views on family with your need to eliminate a family member from your life.

I am always telling my clients we need to redefine what family means and I love how Campbell describes it:

"Being genetically related to our toxic family members doesn't make us family. The real definition of family refers to constructs much deeper than bloodline or DNA. Family is about love, sacrifice, honesty, protection, support, unconditional love, reciprocity, acceptance, security, respect, protection, loyalty and safety. It is is not about lying, criticism, selfishness, betrayal, or gossip. When a family is full of these negative qualities, it is a family in name only. It is really merely a group of toxic people to whom we happen to be biologically related."

Yes, yes, yes!!

I have so many clients who carry shame because they have toxic families as if it somehow compromises their own worth as a person. Coming from a 'good' family seems to carry so much weight in many cultures. But often how we define 'good' versus 'bad' families is based on surface level criteria and false public images that hide all sorts of dysfunction.

A lot of clients are fearful about what it will be like to live without a family, but I always explain to them that they can choose a family that is loving and kind and leave the toxic (blood relatives) behind. Most of us can probably think of someone (our spouse, a friend, etc.) who we love like family though there is no genetic connection.  DNA does NOT make people love you more.

Do I recommend this book? Yes, definitely for people who are struggling with a toxic family member, and also for therapists who see lots of clients in this situation.

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

Sunday, December 23, 2018

2018 in Review

So here we are at the end of 2018 already. How was this year for you?

I thought I would give you a bit more info about what's been going on around here. I haven't had much time to write personal posts. At this point, its been challenging for me to post even once a week.

The reason for my lack of time is mostly good. My counselling practice really exploded this year. Because I am self-employed, and because I enjoy my work, its been tough to set limits though, so I find myself seeing clients, either in person or virtually/by phone often 7 days a week. I do get to set my own hours, and I never see more than 6 clients a day, but it is still pretty exhausting. Nevertheless, I couldn't be happier. I love my work so much and I feel so blessed to have a job that is on my terms and provides me with so much intrinsic satisfaction. I am still doing a lot of fertility/infertility counselling as well as couples counselling, CBT for anxiety and depression, and EMDR for trauma.

I have developed a bit of an addiction to cat videos. When the girls were little I really had no interest in pets, but now that they are more independent, my obsession with felines has come back. I know I will not likely ever own cats again (not only is Adam allergic, but he doesn't like animals. Period.), so I have to indulge my obsession by living vicariously through others. I admit its a problem, I could look at cats and kittens being cute for hours. I may need an intervention.

Health-wise, I am still struggling with chronic atypical migraines. Earlier this year my doctor gave me an Rx for medical marijuana (CBD oil without THC). It seemed to help for a bit then stopped helping. At this point, the only thing I have not tried is Botox injections which I will discuss with my doctor in the new year. The past couple months I have had a lot of them but I don't ever let them stop me from pushing through with things. I am just kind of used to the pain.

I am pretty happy with my fitness and nutrition. I am the strongest I have ever been and for the past year I have had no issues with IBS that I used to struggle with. I am eating lots of protein (all kinds except red meat very rarely) and get most of my carbs from sweet potatoes (I am obsessed), squash and oats. I have also made a point of eating more fatty fish like salmon and herring and still go though huge quantities of tahini because its the best! I have also really fallen in love with Greek yogurt and have been eating it way more than I used to (or any kind of yogurt for that matter). I stick with plain and flavour it myself with fruit, natural extracts and/or stevia.

For the past year, the girls have been getting along so much better. They no longer fight 24/7 which is such a big relief as I think Adam and I were ready to lose our minds. Big A started middle school (7th grade) in September and is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah in June. She does 4+ hours of dance a week, swims, and plays basketball at school. At just 12, she is taller and heavier than I am and looks much older than she is.  We have a full on teenager here!

Little A is in 4th grade and is as feisty as ever. She is a bit too much of a perfectionist which means she can come down hard on herself and on others. Its something we are trying to keep an eye on, but so far she is doing great, excelling in school, her extracurriculars and her social life. She insisted on starting piano lessons this year (on top of ballet, Girl Guides, swimming, Hebrew School, soccer, etc.) but has surprised us by her dedication (we will see if it lasts).

I haven't given much attention to my konjac business, but there are some excited developments in store for 2019 as I have some new business partners. We will be relaunching the brand. Its been a slow transition but I think a lot of things will fall in place in 2019.

I am off now for a little holiday but I will be back in January. Happy holidays to you all!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Cirque du Soleil

Its not often we can find some form of entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. The girls do not share the same musical tastes as Adam and I, who also don't always have the same taste in music. Moreover, I hate going to see live music period. Adam is the trooper who will accompany the kids to see their favorite performers.

When it comes to movies, the girls rule the roost in this house. Adam and could probably count the adult movies we have seen since becoming parents on one hand. We generally only go to movie theaters so the kids can see something they want to see. Fortunately, kids movies/animations can occasionally be enjoyable for adults too these days.

I am not much of a live theater fan, in general, but, again, if I am going, its typically because we are going to a show the kids want to see.

I have less than zero interest going to see sporting events, so again, that is something Adam does with the girls. I have also taped out when it comes to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) and any other even involving rides, crowds and line ups.  Add horrendous traffic and the expense of parking in Toronto and you have a mom no longer in really going to any attraction in this city. I know understand why my parents love living in the smaller city where I grew up!

We used to take the girls to farms outside the city for their holiday special events on Thanksgiving, Easter, etc., or to pick fresh fruits and veggies, but I think we've all grown tired of that at this point.

One thing I have always wanted to do, is see Cirque du Soleil. I suspected the girls would enjoy it too since they are very involved in gymnastics, dance, and both attend circus camp in the summers. They were enthusiastic when I suggested it, so Adam and I bought us tickets for the next show coming to Toronto, called Corteo.

We attended a matinee performance this past weekend and I am happy to say it was a success. Or relatively so, in terms of finding some form of entertainment we can all enjoy.

Usually getting anywhere in this city if is a nightmare, and parking even worse, but this went all relatively smoothly - albeit expensively as parking for 3 hours cost $30 - near the Scotia Bank Arena, where it was held.

The reviews for Corteo were mediocre, with most of the criticism being the weakness of the story. Frankly, I didn't even expect a story, I was just there for the acrobatics, and in that regard, at least for me, it didn't disappoint.

I was surprised by how nervous I got for the performers doing such dangerous stunts. I had to cover my eyes a few times, worried they would fall. Little A kept patting my hand and reassuring me, "Momma, they practice a lot, they'll be okay."

It was about 2 hours with a 20 minute intermission. The intermission was when Little A started whining that she was bored. But I suspect she was actually grumpy because we refused to buy her food to eat since the prices were absolutely outrageous ($5 just for a bottle of water, and $8 for a small bag of chips!). But we'd already promised to buy the girls dinner on the way home so we didn't have much time for her complaining.

While Corteo may not be the best Cirque production (I have nothing to compare it to), I did find it entertaining and it has no live animals which makes it suitable for those concerned with animal rights in circuses. The Cirque travels around the world so if you think your kids would enjoy it, I definitely recommend you check it out. That being said, now that we've done it once, none of us feel the need to see it again. One and done.

Happy holidays, I'll be back in January 2019.

Monday, December 3, 2018

5-Ingredient Instant Pot Cookbook: Review

Do you have an Instant Pot? Do you know what an Instant Pot is? If you like cooking, or maybe if you hate cooking but try to find motivation to avoid takeout, you do.

Its a recent (Canadian) invention that has taken the cooking and food prep world by storm. It is a multi-function, small appliance that can pressure cook, saute, steam and more. It is programmable and can cut down dramatically on the time required to prepare all sorts of different dishes.

I do not have one. Why? The reason is that I just don't feel the need at this point in time. I have used the slow cooker we got as a wedding gift once in almost 18 years.  But I have family and friends that are obsessed with it.

For that reason, I agreed to review the 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Cookbook by cookbook author, Marilyn Haugen.

People who like simple recipes and/or are short on time will appreciate the simplicity of these recipes.

The first section of the book provides tips and information about using an Instant Pot. The following section is"Instant Pot Staples" and contains recipes such as broth, and stocks, quinoa, brown rice, marinara sauce and BBQ sauce. I know a lot of people find cooking brown rice daunting because it can take a long time and end up too chewy or too mushy. In the Instant Pot, it takes less than 30 minutes, which is pretty impressive. Though you still have to soak dried beans, you only need to cook them for a few minutes! That's amazing.

Other sections include:

  • Breakfasts
  • Soups, Stews and Chilis
  • Beef and Pork
  • Chicken
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Beans, Grains and Pasta
  • Vegetables and Sides
  • Desserts
Each recipe includes tips and many have variations as well. But only a handful are photographed, so this book isn't great for people who need visuals.

This isn't a healthy cooking book so things I try to avoid like added sugar and refined flours show up in some recipes, but you can probably make substitutions. It also is limited in terms of vegan/vegetarian recipes but is great for anyone who eats a varied diet.

A few standouts are "Almost Rotisserie Chicken", "Maple Rice Pudding" and "Hearty Steel-Cut Oats" which all cook in much less time than conventional recipes.

So do I plan to get an Instant Pot? Nope. But I do recommend this book if you have one. There are 150 recipes that cover the gamut and are all relatively simple and easy to follow. I am going to give my copy of this book to my sister-in-law who has an Instant Pot, and adores it. I know she will love it!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Nature's Touch Frozen Fruit: Product Review

I have written many a post about how important I think it is to use your freezer to maintain a healthy diet and to reduce food waste.

I don't mean buying processed frozen foods. I mean making food in big batches and freezing, freezing leftovers, etc.

The one type of frozen food I buy often is frozen fruit. I buy a few types of frozen veggies too (green beans, peas, Brussels sprouts, etc.) but I buy a ton of frozen fruit. I use it for compotes, salads, and baking, and Adam and the girls use it for smoothies and snacking. It is particularly useful in the summer when a lot of the fruit we eat is not in season, and since frozen fruit (and veggies) is always picked fresh and ripe, its very nutritious (the same is not true for canned produce).

So when Nature's Touch offered to send me samples of their products, I immediately jumped at the chance. They sent 2 of their newest products,


and Strawberry-Rhubarb Harvest

The grapes come as 5 individual packages in a bag you can take for snacking. Unfortunately, 3 of the bags had opened and all the grapes were at the bottom of the bag. This feature, in my opinion, is unnecessary, especially now that we are more conscious of trying to reduce single use plastics. Its just as easy to grab a handful and put it in a reusable container to take on the go.

While some kids might love taking these bags for lunch, my weirdo kids don't like grapes. I like them in savoury dishes, so I will use them for that purpose. But in any case, the grapes were firm, sweet and juicy, yummy frozen or thawed.

I love the Strawberry-Rhubarb Harvest mix because its such a great combo and its so hard to find rhubarb in winter.

I used it to make a strawberry rhubarb balsamic salad dressing and tossed it over wilted kale, roasted beets and goat cheese. Delish!

The company sells products in Taiwan, Japan, Australia, US and Canada. Apparently, their head office is in Montreal, QC.

They source their produce from a variety of places but I don't think you can assume its local, if that's something that is a concern to you. Most of their products are organic and they are all non-GMO.

Do I recommend Nature's Touch products? Absolutely! I think its a great idea to keep your freezer stocked with healthy staples, and frozen produce is one of the best.

Disclosure: Nature's Touch sent me product samples to try but all opinions on this blog are my own.