Monday, January 6, 2020

No Resolutions for 2020

As a therapist and personal trainer, my advice to you is to never set new year's resolutions. I never do.

Why? Because it is not an effective way to make changes in your life. For anyone. Most of the time resolutions fail, and then people blame themselves and assume its because they are lazy, lack self-discipline, are worthless, etc. Then people have even less confidence the next time, which pretty much sets anyone up for failure before they even start.

The problem is people usually make resolutions around things they believe they 'should' do. But 'shoulding' is not usually a driver of action. Even if you really want a particular outcome (lose weight, spend less, etc.), unless you are 100% committed to the process required to achieve that outcome, you are never going to see it through to fruition. I see this all the time with clients of mine who say they want to see a change in themselves of their life, but really are unwilling to make the behavioural or perspective changes that are necessary to make it happen.

Listen, if you are really committed to pursuing some goal, you won't wait until January 1st to take action. So get off the resolution bandwagon. We could all make improvements to ourselves, and our lives, but don't set some sort of goal because you believe you 'should', you are enough as you are. We humans are all flawed but that does not mean we lack worth. So if you set an intention for 2020, make sure you want to embark on the journey and not just miraculously end up at the destination without putting in the work. If you don't want to put in the work, don't bother and simply accept yourself for making this decision.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Quest for Yummy Protein Bars

Most people I know hate protein bars. Adam and I love them. They are convenient and satisfying for us weight lifting folks.

Some are truly terrible taste-wise, and many are far from healthy. For the most part, I stick with Quest Bars or Costco's protein bars and I probably eat 3-5 a week max (except when we travel I tend to eat them more so I don't ever get hangry).

Recently I tried 2 new (to me) Quest bar flavours because I found them on major sale (they are bloody expensive!).

First, was Mint Chocolate Chunk.

The base of the bar is chocolate and then there are crumbly chocolate cookie pieces and green mint chunks. The base is okay and I like the mint chunks but I could do without the cookie pieces. They are kind of tasteless. Overall, I did like this bar a lot, but after I finished the first box I bought, I had enough and gave the whole second box to Adam.

Next I had to try Pumpkin Pie.

I have a cinnamon/spice addiction so I was very curious how these would taste. Whelp, they don't really taste like pumpkin, pie or pumpkin spice. I don't know, to be honest, what they taste like. But I like them. Similar to the birthday cake variety, they are a soft bar with a frosting-like coating.

I won't buy these again but I do have to eat them all myself as they are not likely something either Adam nor the children will like. I'm okay with that, but will go back to my Costco bars which I think I like better than all Quest bars anyways.

I am offline for the holidays and will be back in January. Have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Winter 2019 Favorites

It seems like winter has come early this year. Though I don't mind winter nearly as much as most people - since I hate summer and hot weather - it's still been disappointing because it means that autumn, my absolute favorite season, was cut short.

No matter what the season, its important to fill your life with little pleasures, so here are ones I am enjoying right now.

Once it gets dark before I leave the office, its very important for me to be visible on my bicycle while going home in the evenings. I was sent Runlites mittens to review a few years back, and I have to tell you, I adore them! The lights are extremely bright, and I love that they are rechargeable. They came with thin glove inserts but I lost one last winter, and, besides, they weren't warm enough for Canadian winters. So when it is super cold, I wear another pair of gloves or mittens underneath.

I am often stopped by other cyclists or pedestrians who comment on how awesome they are.

I am also taking advantage of root vegetable season given my obsession with these yummies. My newest discovery is honeynut squash.

They are like butternut squash only smaller, sweeter and with a thinner edible skin (i.e. extra fiber!).

Though I always read tons and listen to podcasts (when doing meal prep or cooking), in the cold weather, there is definitely nothing I love more than hanging out at home and getting cozy with something great to listen to or read.

Recently, I discovered a new, awesome podcast called "Science VS" which is right up my alley.

It provides all the latest empirical evidence on a wide variety of medical, environmental and mental health issues. And it's clever and witty.

Finally, I have been reading novels by author, Alice Hoffman for the last 5 years. Every book I read by her absolutely blows my mind. They are fantastic. Lucky for all of us, she is quite prolific and has a long list of books she has written.

I cannot recommend her work enough!! The Museum or Extraordinary Things was the first of hers I read, but so far, I have adored every single one since.

If you dread the winter months, try to make the most of it by finding little pleasures to enjoy 😊

Monday, November 18, 2019

Top Students Top Parents: Book Review

I had an interest in counselling from an early age and looking to explore it a bit in high school, I got requested from my school permission to get a credit for tutoring other students.

The experience for me was wonderful and I learned a lot of important lessons. One lesson was that a child's home environment has a massive impact on a child's academic potential. I remember one student, a girl several years younger than me, who I assisted, who was struggling with her classes. During our sessions together she admitted to me that she experienced physical and emotional abuse at home at the hands of her mother and step-father. This was so horrific to me. I remember coming home and asking my parents, "How can anyone in that situation be expected to succeed in school?" This poor girl had to think about how not to get the crap beaten out of her, so homework is not going to be a top priority.

Of course, it takes more than just an emotionally and physically safe environment to provide a child with the ideal encouragement to flourish in school.  But many parents lack the knowledge of exactly what they can do to set their children on the right path. This is why former teacher, Kathleen Burns, wrote Top Students Top Parents. As an educator, Burns recognized how important is the home environment and a child's relationship with caregivers to a child's performance at school.

The book is divided into several sections:

Part I: Laying the Foundation for Success - Infancy and Above

This section contains research findings on child development, dangers of electronics, language, motor skills, home environment, responsibility, self-esteem, social skills, rewards, etc.

Part II: Reading and Writing

The second section is all about how to encourage learning to read and reading comprehension and provides strategies for helping your child to learn to read and write at home.

Part III: School Success

Included in this part of the book is lifestyle and habits to promote learning (sleep, organization, etc.), communication with school/teachers, dealing with homework, and handling social problems.

Burns bases much of her advice on recommendations from experts. There is a full bibliography in the book. I would have been more impressed if she had also included peer reviewed literature that is more recent than some of the dated books she lists. But the book is still full of useful and thoughtful tips for parents.

Now as parents who have a combined total of 2 Bachelor's degrees, 3 Masters degrees and 2 PhDs, there was not too much that was new for me in the book. I think most of what Burns recommends came naturally to Adam and I, especially since Adam is a published expert in the field of pedagogy. But for anyone who, as a parent, is unsure how to set your child up for academic success, this book will be extremely helpful and I definitely recommend it.

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

Monday, November 11, 2019

EFF This! Meditation: Book Review

Meditation is totally trendy right now.

Unfortunately, that's the problem. Though the relaxation technique is scientifically proven to have both physical and mental health benefits, for many people, it just feels like another 'thing' they believe they 'should' do.  Recently I have seen a lot of articles slamming the pressure women get to perform 'self-care', which really just makes them more anxious and self-critical when they fail to be able to make it happen.

Typically, we think of meditation as sitting in lotus position, with our eyes closed and not moving for an extended period of time, our minds blissfully free of any thoughts at all. Though this traditional form of Buddhist meditation works brilliantly for many people, for the rest of us, myself included, it's a no go.

I detailed here what happened to me a few years ago when I did an intensive mindfulness meditation course. It didn't work for me at all. I hated the meditation exercises and felt I got absolutely nothing from them except wasting time I would never get back. I have many counselling clients who have had the same experience.

Subsequently, I have learned that I get the same benefits some people get from traditional meditation, from reading, especially the reading I do each night before falling asleep, and from the exercise I do each morning. I even get similar benefits from humour (I am part of a private pun group on Facebook where we share puns that make everyone else - lacking a decent sense of humour - cringe). There is nothing more therapeutic than a laugh or giggle! Also, looking at videos of kittens on Instagram are just as helpful for me. Nothing soothes me more than a purring kitten!

I have shared with many of my clients that mindfulness/the benefits of meditation can come from all sorts of activities if, like me, they are not fans of traditional meditation.

Given my own experiences, I was immediately excited to review the book, EFF This! Meditation and suspected that author, Liza Kindred, and I are kindred spirits. Ha ha pun intended.

Surprisingly, Kindred is actually a Buddhist meditation teacher, but works in rather unconventional views and practices. I love her already! Check out her website and you will too!

This is a brief description of her approach:

Our specific focus is on meditation as a physical, felt experience. Many mindfulness practices begin and end in the head–observing how the mind works, opening our eyes and ears, focusing on the way our breath feels on our nose or lips. We expand this awareness to include the whole body–which also includes our energetic field and the way that our emotions are manifesting in our body. While our thoughts don’t always tell us the truth, our bodies always do.

In the book, Kindred explains that she believes most of us think we are broken and must find a way to fix ourselves when really, the problem is the world we currently live in. I could not agree more! Several years ago, Kindred developed a new style of meditation better suited to the reality of most people's lives.

The exercises in the book that are meant to promote wellness incorporate meditation, nature, movement, breaking, balancing creation with consumption, creating space and employing more mindful use of technology.

The book is divided into sections based on the time required for the exercises, which range from 1 minute to 1 hour plus, commitments.

Pouring over the pages, I realized I do many of the things Kindred suggests, or recommend the practices to my clients. It's everything from positive affirmations, breathing exercises, time spent in nature, to connecting with loved ones, using technology to nurture ourselves, enjoying music or a preferred artistic endeavor, to mindfully drinking a hot cup of tea or savouring a favorite dessert.

The book is very straightforward and approachable and appealing to even the biggest mindfulness skeptic.

Monday, November 4, 2019

15 Minute Healthier Cinnamon Rolls

This recipe came about to use up 'party sandwich' bread (flat and crustless) Little A made me buy her. I should have known she wouldn't eat much of it. This has happened before with this bread (and a million other things). She says she wants to make party sandwiches but then we get home and she remembers she hates egg salad, tuna salad, etc., she makes a regular sandwich using it, remembers it's not ideal for that because the fillings tend to fall out, and then she leaves the rest over.

Hence 15 minute cinnamon rolls.

Since I abhor throwing away food, I decided I had to find another use for them and this was a total winner. And it really takes just 15 minutes! You don't need to measure anything. We made them in the toaster oven so you don't even need a real oven to make them.

15 Minute Healthier Cinnamon Rolls

4 slices 100% whole wheat party sandwich bread
Butter or whatever facsimile you prefer
Golden granulated monk fruit or coconut sugar
Ground cinnamon

Spread bread with butter or whatever. Sprinkle liberally with sweetener and cinnamon and roll up tightly and pinching ends so they don't unroll. Cut each one in half or into 3 pieces and place in greased baking dish. Place in oven or toaster oven at 375F for about 7-10 minutes making sure they do not burn. Remove from oven.

Optional icing: Powdered erythritol (or powdered sugar), a few drops vanilla extract, water or milk. Drizzle over top.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Manager Mom Epidemic: Book Review

Have you heard of emotional labour?

It is the invisible labour done mostly by women to manage a family and household. It goes beyond just the physical tasks of cooking, cleaning, etc. and involves the planning involved in making meals, scheduling appointments, dealing with homework, registering kids for camp, activities, etc.

Even in heterosexual couple-led households where men do a fair share of the housework, it is most often the women who do most, if not all, of the emotional labour.

I am very lucky in that this is not the case in our household. Adam is more involved in the emotional labour of caring for our children and household than any other man I know, and probably takes on more than I do. But this is not the case for most of my friends nor my clients, and it can be a huge source of stress, frustration and resentment for women.

The Manager Mom Epidemic, is a book that addresses the inordinate share of emotional labour women shoulder at home. I have to admit, I was quite surprised that the book is written by a man, clinical psychologist and author, Thomas W. Phelan. But having spent many years counselling parents and families, Phelan has a very clear understanding of the dilemma.

In Part I of the book, Phelan defines the problem and explains why it is so prevalent. In Part II, Phelan explains the various tools that can be used to rectify the problem in a household. In Part III, the author uses a number of case studies to illustrate how particular challenges can be solved, and Part IV is prevention strategies for those couples who have not yet developed the inequitable division of labour.

The book is easy to read and extremely detailed in its advice on how to implement change. Even for a household like ours, there was useful information. Adam and I are definitely guilty of 'automatic talking', which is Phelan's name for nagging. Apparently nagging children does not at all work to motivate them to listen. Yeah, pretty much, right? But most of us parents do it anyways. Phelan explains why it doesn't work and how it becomes a vicious cycle of frustration between parents and children, and provides alternative ways to engage children in domestic chores.

One of the big arguments Phelan makes is that the reason why parents nowadays feel so stressed out and 'busy' is because we coddle our children and do not get them to take more responsibility for themselves. Yup, definitely true.

So do I recommend this book? Absolutely!! Phelan even provides strategies for women who's husband's are resistant to taking on more of the load and how to communicate to them. Like I said, he really seems to get it!

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