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Friday, May 29, 2015

Babies


Babies are a topic of discussion frequently in my life.  This shouldn't be surprising since at least 80% of my counselling practice clients are infertility/ART patients.

While I am admittedly obsessed with babies, this wasn't always the case.  As a kid I loved them, but then through my 20s I could not have had less interest in babies.  At 30 I decided I was ready to have my own babies, but even then, I wasn't particularly interested in other people's babies.

Now that my kids are bigger (although at 6, Little A is still cuddly and squishy to me!), I have developed an absolute baby obsession. I have finally become one of those people who wants to hold every baby and cuddle and squeeze and kiss them.  Its kind of weird!

Don't get me wrong, I DON'T WANT ANY MORE BABIES OF MY OWN!  But man, I've gone from a cat-obsessed woman to a baby-obsessed woman.  When people post baby pics on Facebook, I'm dying.  And I do sometimes miss the baby cuddles, giggles, etc.

At this week's board meeting for the girls' daycare, one mom had to bring her 9-month-old daughter. I was so distracted the whole 2 hours by this little cutie.  But as the meeting progressed and the baby got more and more tired, she got crankier.  Her poor mom had to go from sitting with her on her lap, to standing, to bouncing and swinging...eventually if she wasn't throwing her up in the air and catching her repeatedly, baby started fussing.  All of a sudden I was brought right back to that place, that combination of boredom, monotony and exhaustion that comes along with caring for an infant and I immediately realized why people always say that being a GRANDPARENT is the best thing in the world.  You enjoy the kisses and cuddles, and then give back the babies as soon as they start fussing.  Ha, my kids are only 6 and 9, and already I am looking forward to being a grandparent!  I guess it really is true, its having grandchildren that is the reward for parenting!
Speaking of parenting, we have an insane weekend.  Tonight is the girls' school spring festival, but it is also the first night of Big A's dance recital.  So  I have to go to the school, get Big A in makeup and costume, and then Adam is going with my mother-in-law to the performance while I stay at the festival with Little A.  Tomorrow the girls have gymnastics and Big A has swim lessons. I work and Little A has a birthday party and then Adam and I attend the second night of Big A's dance recital.  Sunday I teach spin, the girls have Hebrew School, Little A has swimming and then both Adam and I have our book club meetings. Whew!  Monday is almost going to feel like a holiday.

Have a lovely weekend and stay healthy and safe.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Reprogram Your Life: Book Review


Recently I was sent Reprogram Your Life: Bioscience for a Healthier You, by Dr. Steven Willey, MD. What struck me first was just how big the book is.  The hard cover is 293 pages, including the index.  But really, if you are going to reprogram your life, you have to cover a lot of ground.  And cover a lot of ground this book does.

Unlike many of the health books I review that focus exclusively on one thing (fitness, or diet, or stress management, etc.), this one covers it all, and does it very well.

That being said, if you are starting from ground zero, knowing nothing about health and wellness, than I advise you to take your time with this book so you have time to digest it all and not become overwhelmed.  There is a fair amount of science in it, so if you are not interested in the hows or whys, you will probably be tempted to skim parts of it.  But honestly, it seems to me we should all be aware of how our bodies work and the effect our lifestyle choices have on our bodies, don't you think?

Section one generally describes Dr. Willey's approach, the YOU+ Method and how it works.  Section 2 covers nutrition, section 3 focuses on exercise, and section 4 discusses sleep, stress and motivation. 

A central assumption of the YOU+ Method is the importance of insulin control in maintaining health and managing weight.  This is certainly consistent with much of the research I have read recently, and one of the reasons I have cut out sugar and cut down on my carb consumption.  Never worried about heart disease (because of my fitness level and family history), once I started to read about the possible role of insulin in the development of some cancers, I started taking this issue more seriously.

I am impressed that Willey briefly describes how to evaluate the validity of research findings, which is critical for individuals trying to decipher the confusing, and often conflicting headlines about health and nutrition.

Willey's nutrition plan is extremely flexible, which is key for increasing adherence among most individuals.  You can follow the general framework whether you are a carnivore or a vegan. His emphasis on avoiding refined carbs and added sugars, again, is consistent with my own philosophy, based on the research I have read, and unlike many health experts, he also warns about the risks of alcohol consumption, a topic often neglected. 

My one quibble is his section warning about how artificial sweeteners can make you gain weight, based on some studies on diet soda.  This conflicts with the perspective of obesity expert, Yoni Freedhoff, who has extensively reviewed this research and found it all to be highly flawed.  In addition, some of the research he describes indicates a 'theoretical' relationship, not an observed one.  In other words, just because, based on MRI reports, artificial sweeteners don't fully stimulate the reward centre of the brain like real sugar does, does not mean we know anything about how that might affect human behaviour.  Once in a while I will have a diet soda, and I never find that upon finishing it I start binging on sugar because I don't feel adequately 'rewarded'.  I usually have one because I am thirsty and just aren't in the mood for plain water.  Nevertheless, there is no doubt that diet soda is certainly not health food, no matter how you look at it, so limiting intake is probably a good thing.

While Willey emphasizes the importance of limiting carbohydrates, he recognizes - unlike many other authors of diet/health books - that a very low-carb diet is difficult for most people to maintain long-term.  What is very unique about his approach, is that he doesn't restrict veggies and fruits at all!

I was also impressed that Willey not only covers the science behind nutrition and weight loss (genetics, gut bacteria, hormones, etc.), but also addresses the social and cultural pressures we face around food.  This is critical, because what and how much we eat is affected by emotions, social customs and a whole host of other factors that are sometimes out of our control.

So what is his eating plan?  Essentially the framework is to consume a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of protein to starch (depending on your individual needs and goals) at each meal, and as many fruits and veggies as you wish.  Dairy is considered protein.  Although he considers potatoes a starch, corn is considered a veggie on this plan.  He also recommends eating whole, rather than processed foods.  I am pleased that he recommends limiting red meat to 1/3 or less of your total protein intake, although I would reduce it even more.  For vegans, beans and nuts are the recommended protein sources.

What's nice is he encourages flexibility, so if your ratio is off at one meal, balance it out by adjusting the ratio on your next meal, this makes it easier for people to accommodate their lifestyles. 

The only other area I disagree with him on is drinking milk.  He suggests having a glass of milk to bump up your protein at a meal.  I don't like this idea that much because many studies have shown that you don't get much satiation from drinking calories, even if the liquid contains protein.  Besides, if you ask me, drinking milk is disgusting.  And keep in mind the only non-dairy milk that has protein is soy milk, which is even more disgusting to drink.  I would suggest a hard boiled egg instead, or some almonds or tofu if you are vegan.

I concur with his advice to eat 3 square meals, and then try to snack on fruits and veggies and/or protein in between.  Personally, I find that whole eat little snacks all day theory doesn't work for me - I end up hungry and grumpy all day - and research shows it doesn't help most people lose weight either.

Aside from food, Willey also covers supplements and explains why isolating compounds from foods (i.e. Vitamin A, resveratrol, etc.) is not the same as consuming them in food, also consistent with the research I have read.

The fitness section is equally as detailed and comprehensive.  He emphasizes the importance of strength training for both weight and well-being (you know I agree about this!), and explains how to put together a training program, in addition to including a few sample workouts.  There are options for those who have access to a gym and those who do not.  Willey also has a whole section about aerobic exercise and recommends you incorporate some into your routine as well, for the health benefits.  This section covers sports nutrition, including how to time your meals around your workouts, what to eat and supplements to take.  He explains the importance of L-Glutamine for recovery, which I already take, and raves about BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) so much, that I went out and bought a bottle right away.

Although in section 4 he covers sleep, he fails to mention that anxiety disorders and clinical depression are common causes of insomnia (I see this all the time with my counselling clients), but his behavioural therapy suggestions are sound advice for dealing with sleep issues.  That being said, if an anxiety or mood disorder is to blame, counselling may also be required. 

Even more impressive is the fact that he mentions the importance of feeling one's life has meaning or having a sense of purpose.  As a counsellor I can tell you this is extremely important to well-being and I am so glad he addresses it!

If this all seems overwhelming, don't worry, Willey includes an action plan for how to put it all together and implement the reprograming of your life.

Oh, and that's not all...there's an APP for that!  Yep, if you are into devices, than you will love the YOU+ App that has customizable workouts and tutorials providing detailed instruction, as well as shopping lists and a program for tracking food intake.

So do I recommend this book/program? Absolutely.  It covers off the critical aspects of health and wellness and does it in a realistic/flexible way with evidence-based recommendations.  Good job Dr. Willey!

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Healthy Living Exchange in Support of Sick Kids Hospital





















Pamper your body, mind and soul while helping the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto!  Wellness spa, Soul 7 is hosting a Healthy Living Exchange on June 6th from 10am to 6pm

Location: 17 Yorkville Avenue, Suite 100.

Events & Activities: Products and services focusing on healthy living, complementary therapies, optimal nutrition, healthy aging, and fitness will be showcased.

Admission is FREE with any donation to the Hospital for Sick Children!

Personally, I can't wait to check out this fantastic event.  For more info, click here.
 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mighty Greens Superfood Blend: Product Review

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A while back I reviewed a couple of products sent to me by Pines, a company that is dedicated to selling top quality superfoods.  I love throwing a spoonful of their wheatgrass powder or beet juice powder into a recipe and knowing me and my family are getting an awesome nutrition boost.  So I was thrilled when they sent me a sample of their Mighty Greens Superfood Blend and asked me to come up with a recipe idea with it.

This product has just 30 calories in a tablespoon along with 3 grams of fibre, 2 grams of protein and a butt-load of vitamins and minerals. It is organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and raw.  If you are a smoothie person, this is the perfect addition to throw into your blender.  You could also use it in salad dressings, but knowing my crowd, I decided to concoct a dessert with it.  I can't tell you how quickly these disappeared, and my poor kids have no clue just how healthy these treats are! I think this recipe is a definite keeper.  Hop on over to my website to check it out!


If you are looking for great quality products to boost your health, definitely check out the stuff Pines offers.

Disclosure: Pines sent me their product for free, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

I have shared this recipe with Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Blog Hop and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Page Turners

I have a few more books to recommend, thanks to my book club.  Last month we did The Orphan Train, which was really good.

orphan

I am just amazed that such a significant piece of American history is so unknown!  Definitely worth the read.

Even more awesome though, is this book we read for our next meeting, All the Light We Cannot See:

All the Light We Cannot See Cover
 
Honestly, its just a coincidence that so far we seem to be choosing historical novels, but I don't mind.  I am particularly obsessed with World War II history and fiction set during the war.  Most of the stuff I've read is related to the Holocaust and written from the perspective of victims.  This book is from the perspective of Europeans caught up in the war - 2 youth - one German, one French.  Although its entirely fictional, it did still introduce various aspects of the war experience, and places, that I wasn't previously aware of.  Anyways, even if you aren't interested in the history, this is such an amazing book, you definitely have to read it.

 I know I harp about this, but there is even more research I've read about how reading on a device before bed interrupts your sleep.  So please, buy real books!!

Have a wonderful Monday.

Friday, May 22, 2015

You are Not Lazy!


Most people (except my husband who is super-human) avoid certain activities because, they tell themselves and others, they are lazy.

What does it mean to be lazy? Laziness, according to Wikipedia is:

...a disinclination to activity or exertion despite having the ability to do so. It is often used as a pejorative; related terms for a person seen to be lazy include couch potato, slacker, and bludger.



There is no doubt that laziness has negative connotations that are deeply ingrained in our culture.  It is, after all, one of the 7 deadly sins according to the Catholic tradition.  And in our competitive, capitalist society, we are obsessed with 'doing' as opposed to just 'being'. Most of us feel guilt if we are not constantly busy and being productive.

In any case, I often find with my clients that they attribute their refusal to adopt healthy living habits, such as exercise or cooking meals, to laziness, which they seem to assume is a stable personality trait.  Unfortunately, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in that they have convinced themselves they are unable to change and therefore don't.

Self-criticism is never an effective way to motivate yourself to make positive change.  Positive change can only happen with a positive mindset.  If you do not believe you can achieve something than this is most likely true.  So I think we need to stop telling ourselves we are lazy, not only because it is self-destructive, but because most of the time it isn't true.

My own experience recently illustrates why this is the case.  I used to ride my bike everywhere all the time whenever possible.  Basically only significant amounts of snow and ice would stop me.  But over the past several years I have been relying more and more on other less active modes of transportation like driving or taking the subway or bus.  I started getting really down on myself, accusing myself of becoming lazy.  "Why am I not motivated to ride my bike as much as I used to?" I kept asking myself, "What's wrong with me, I have become so lazy."  But laziness didn't make sense.  I am still very active and fit, I still love exercising and moving my body every day, so based on the strict definition of laziness, this wasn't true.  So what was really going on?  After thinking about it, I realized the reasons I don't bicycle as much as I used to are:
  • I am increasingly fearful about my safety due to the dangers riding in this busy city;
  • I have less tolerance for the extreme cold in winter and extreme heat in summer;
  • I am sick of destroying my bicycles by riding them in bad weather;
  • Riding in this city is getting more and more unpleasant due to the aggressive drivers;
  • The condition of many of the streets are so bad it is annoying (I am jostled so much by all the potholes I feel like I am going to cough up and ovary one day!);
  • I actually enjoy being able to read a book and/or eat a snack on my commute via subway/bus, which I can't do while riding;
Really, its not laziness at all, but specific - and I would say valid - factors about riding that have made me simply enjoy it less.

Lack of enjoyment is generally behind people's refusal to adopt healthy habits too.  But most of these can be overcome!  For example, I know a woman who detests sweating, yet she is extremely fit.  She goes for a rigorous swim at the JCC every day and, now in her 60s, is fitter than most 20 year olds.  There are so many types of exercise, there is going to have to be one you enjoy!  Likewise, if you think you don't like vegetables, you just haven't tried them prepared in a way you enjoy them yet.  With so many veggies and so many methods of preparation and recipes out there, its impossible to hate them all!  Cooking too, can be organized in a way that minimizes the stuff you dislike.  Hate cutting? Nowadays fruits, veggies and herbs all come precut.  Batch cooking can help you cook once while making food for multiple meals.

Before you berate yourself for being lazy, think about what it is you are avoiding doing and spend some time really thinking about why.  I'll bet its not because you are lazy but because it is simply something you don't enjoy.  And, hey, that's natural, after all, we are hedonistic creatures!  So do some problem solving and come up with ways to make the activity more enjoyable for you.

As for me, I think I am going to at least invest in a basket, and panniers so I don't have to lug a heavy back pack while riding, and a water bottle holder so I can have a cold drink for my rides in hot weather.  That will help overcome some of the things holding me back, but you know, I think I am done with winter riding.  Its just too unpleasant and too dangerous.  And I've made peace with that.  Its not laziness. Its wisdom!

Okay, I'm off to work now...on my bike!  Have a lovely, healthy, active weekend.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

CLIF Organic Trail Mix Bars: Product Review


Adam is a classic nosher. He loves to nibble all day, especially when he is at the office.  He tries to eat as healthy as possible and indulge his sweet cravings with things that are somewhat nutritious.  So when a generous selection of CLIF's new Organic Trail Mix Bars were sent to us, I knew he was the one to give them a try.  That being said, the kids whined about not being able to get in on the fun.  But Adam usually keeps several boxes of snack bars handy at his desk, so he could compare them to the others he usually buys.

We got one of each of their dark chocolate varieties, as well as a coconut almond peanut flavour.  Adam found them filling, thanks to the fibre, and taste-wise, he liked the dark chocolate cherry almond kind best, as he found it sweetest (he has a big sweet tooth).  His only complaint is that they are pretty hard when cold, but when warm they get sticky (he hates getting his fingers sticky when working on the computer).

Basically, if you are looking for a not-to-sweet snack bar with a bit of protein and fibre (and don't mind sticky hands!), this is a good bet.  Personally, I am not a fan of all the added sugars (tapioca syrup, cane syrup, etc.), nor of the fact that the fibre comes from inulin.  That being said, the total sugar count is 13g per bar, which isn't bad compared to other comparable bars.  In fact, they have half the sugar of regular CLIF bars.  They are also gluten-free, which is great for those who have to avoid it.  Good job CLIF!

Disclosure: We were sent a selection of CLIF Organic Trail Mix Bars for free but all of our opinions are our own.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Healthy Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing


Little A calls this a Wedgie Salad, ha ha! 

I can't remember the last time I ever bought iceberg lettuce, but its so refreshing I had a craving.  Its not something I typically go out of my way to eat because its not as nutritious as a lot of other veggies.  But since I probably eat more cruciferous and leafy green vegetables than most humans on this planet (or so I am told), I think I can afford to eat it once and a while.  While iceberg lettuce might be light, this is a very satisfying, hearty salad that you can have as a main course.  While it tastes rich and decadent, its actually light on calories and oil-free.  Its also got lots of protein power and a little nutrition boost from the grape tomatoes.  The dressing is incredibly flavourful and zingy, I think I'm in love with it.  This is a perfect dish for a hot day, served either as a first course or your main.

Wedge Salad

1 iceberg lettuce, outer leaves and core removed, cut into 4 wedges
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
4 slices nitrite-free turkey bacon

Blue Cheese Dressing

1 cup plain yogurt (non-fat is fine, or whatever)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. hot prepared horseradish (optional)
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp salt
Lots of cracked black pepper
4 tbsp. crumbled blue cheese

Arrange salad on a single serving dish, or individual plates.  Place all ingredients for dressing, except cheese in blender and puree.  Stir in crumbled blue cheese by hand.  Drizzle desired amount of dressing over salad and serve.  Keep leftover dressing refrigerated for up to 5 days.  Serves 2 as a main and 4 as a first course.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

End of an Era


Why hello...did we miss Monday?  Oh yeah, it was a long weekend...so its only a 4 day week.  Don't you love that?  We had an awesome 3 days off that were both productive and fun.  I worked Saturday and then while Little A was on a playdate the rest of us trekked up to a fitness equipment store so Adam could choose a spin bike.  Yep, we're now going to have one at home!  More about that later.  Sunday after my spin class at the JCC we did a family trip to Costco.  Yes, going to Costco is an outing for us!  We all love it there, but man, it was totally nuts there.  Then we came home and cleaned up the front and back yard.  I hate doing it, but it had to be done.  I weeded the front, which was covered in dandelions, weeded the back garden, which really has nothing growing in it anymore since every winter more and more of our raspberry bushes seem to die, we raked leaves, and put out the old play house, basketball net and kiddie lawn chair onto the front in hopes that folks would take them (yesterday someone rang our bell and asked if they could take the house. Yahoo!).  Yesterday we went to High Park with Adam's sister and her family and took the kids to the zoo, the playground and the restaurant for lunch.  Adam took the girls to the JCC to swim in the afternoon while I wrote reports.  My only complaint is the weekend ended to fast...even with an extra day!

But today is a special day.  Today Adam and I are celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary.  We met 15 years ago, and married on May 19th 2002.  This brings me back to the topic of the spin bike.  You see, in order to fit the spin bike in our little gym, we have to get rid of the stairmaster.  This made me sad, you see, because Adam and I literally met on that stairmaster.  I was stairmastering at the JCC one day in 2000 when this ripped dude got on the stairmaster next to me and struck up conversation.  I ended up marrying that hottie.  In 2003 or so, when the JCC was renovating and buying new equipment, we bought one of those stairmasters off them.  Unfortunately, I can't justify keeping it.  Since I went cold turkey on cardio machines I haven't used it once, and Adam can't use it because it hurts his calves and back.  Nevertheless, the thought of getting rid of it left me feeling bereft.  Fortunately, Adam's sister agreed to take it and put it in their home gym, so at least its staying in the family for now.  Bye bye stairmaster!

Have yourself a lovely Tuesday.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Finding the Sun through the Clouds


Wow man, it is so easy to look around at the tragedy and heartache that occurs everyday (train crashes and earthquakes this week!), and conclude that the world is one big awful place.

As a counsellor, its sometimes easy for me start feeling that way too.  I hear so many stories about the unbelievable loss, abuse, and disappointments people face and I sometimes start to feel defeated.  Just last week I had a couple in their 40s who's only child, a 15-year-old daughter, had recently been killed in a tragic accident.  As the wife sobbed, I could see how deep her pain is.  I could only imagine.  Something happening to one of my kids is by far the worst thing I can think of.  I would rather die right this minute.  The fact that people are actually able to even put one foot in front of the other and keep breathing after such as loss is amazing.  Also, last week a mother (who I didn't know personally) in our community, who's kids used to go to my kids' school, passed away after a long battle with cancer.  She was not even 50 yet.  There are no words...

So its important when good things happen to recognize and celebrate them.  Right now I am rejoicing for other clients of mine, who after a very, very long and painful infertility journey are expecting twins.  I can't think of a couple who deserves it more or needed this more and I am overjoyed.

I am also critically aware of just how fortunate I am.  No fame, no fortune, but health and a loving family.  My kids drive me nuts, but they are happy, healthy girls with good hearts and I am so lucky to have them.  I am also incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful, supportive partner, who is my best friend, and an amazing dad too.  Beyond my own blessings though, I just want to reassure you that there are good people in this world, and good things do happen.  And good things happen to good people. There is beauty around us, sometimes you just have to look a bit harder to find it.

Besides the fact that I work tomorrow morning, we have a quiet long weekend ahead, and that means lots of quality time with the family.  Also a playdate with cousins, a Costco trip, and maybe an outing to one of the many Victoria Day weekend events.  Have a happy, healthy weekend and stay safe.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

House Foods Tofu Shirataki Noodles: Product Review

As you know, I am a huge fan of shirataki noodles.  In fact, it was my discovery of shirataki noodles that led to my discovery of the konjac plant, and all the other things you can do with the flour make from it, which led me to start my new business!

That being said, I almost exclusively eat the Asian style ones made only from konjac flour, and rarely eat the Italian/American style ones made with tofu.  I just haven't had great luck with them, partly because I have yet to create a recipe that I really love.  Nevertheless, when I was offered samples of House Foods' version, I decided to give them a shot.

Not only was I quite impressed with them, I came up with a pretty awesome recipe that may just get added into the regular rotation!

So, if you haven't tried shirataki noodles yet, here is why you should:

  • Compared with regular grain or starch noodles, they are significantly lower in calories and carbs (and calorie and carb-free if you go with the konjac flour only kind!);
  • Shirataki noodles are quick to prepare;
  • Shirataki noodles are grain-free, gluten-free and vegan.
My advice, however, is do not treat them just like regular noodles.  They are not porous, so they don't absorb liquid.  Therefore, it is very easy to end up with a watery sauce that does not stick to your noodles.  That's where a little konjac powder added right into your sauce can turn your shirataki noodle recipe from meh to magnificent.

House Foods now also sells konjac only traditional style shirataki noodles, as well as Smart Noodle, which are fortified with omega-3 and fibre.

If you are trying to cut calorie and/or carbs, eliminate gluten, or just trying to improve your health, definitely give these noodles a try!

Disclosure: I received the noodles at no charge, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WIAW: My Lat is a Pain in the Butt

This is a post about yummy things (Thank you Peas & Crayons for hosting another WIAW), but I can't help but bitch about my latissimus dorsi muscle.  I pulled it somehow (as usual I don't know exactly how I hurt myself), and its been incredibly annoying.  The lat is a major muscle in the mid back, in case you didn't know, and pulling it hurts like all get out, and is very inconvenient.  Because of where its located and where it attaches, etc., I found it impossible not to trigger the pain when it was at its worst...even inhaling hurt.  Not to mention I couldn't do my usual workouts.  On Sunday, my only gym day where I lift heavy weights and use all the big equipment we don't have at home before teaching my spinning class, I was useless.  Even holding dumbbells in the opposite hand pulled the muscle so lower body work was tough too.  I ended up only being able to do circuits of light nautilus, and had to skip a whole bunch of back and chest machines that I would have otherwise used.  I also haven't been able to do my martial arts training, of course, because punching, striking, etc. is out.  Grrr!  I hate that!  Fortunately, this week it is feeling much better and I am confident it will be all healed by this weekend.  Its gone from searing pain to just a dull ache.  Wahoo!

Honestly, it is such a blessing to BE ABLE to exercise, that should be incentive enough for North Americans to get active.  It is so miserable to be in pain, or even to have limited mobility for any reason.  Use it or lose it folks!!

Anyways, here is another day of deliciousness I cooked up in my kitchen...

Breakfast was my chocolate protein mousse:


 

Snacks were an Epic turkey jerky bar I got from Whole Foods (I stocked up, as you can see) while we were in Boston and 2 massive apples (not pictured).


Lunch was homemade vegetarian borscht (hopefully will post recipe soon) and a chocolate protein plantain cake with peanut butter icing (made from PB2 and powdered erythritol), which was scrumptious:


Dinner was this Malaysian Coconut Curry Noodle dish made with shirataki noodles:

 
 
So what have you been eating, or what's eating you lately?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Promoting a Healthy Body Image in Our Daughters


Image source

As a woman, a therapist and a mom of two girls, I am intensely aware of how important a role I have in helping my kids develop a healthy body image.  My own mother didn't do a great job.  She said some pretty stupid things, likely because her own mother was very critical of weight and appearance.  She also openly dieted and tried to lose weight herself my entire childhood, which is modelling unhealthy behaviour for children.  I also got pressure from my grandmother who I remember saying to me many times, "You don't want to be fat when you grow up."  Nevertheless, I have many clients who have experienced far worse from their parents, comments about weight and appearance that can really be classified as emotional abuse.  And the effects of these experiences can last forever.

I always resolved to do a better job with my own children in this regard, but I have to admit its tough. Because of my focus on health and nutrition, I have to bite my tongue all the time about how much crap the girls eat.  I am proud to say, however, that neither my husband nor I have EVER talked about weight or body shape and, at least for the time being, my girls are both very proud of their bodies.  I would do anything to have it stay that way!

Given the importance of this issue, I am happy to share with you these tips on promoting a healthy body image in girls from author, Susan Bodiker:

BEST OF FRENEMIES: MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS AND WEIGHT
 
Barbie gets a bad rap. She’s has been the prime suspect in crimes against girls’ and women’s self-esteem, followed closely by fashion designers and photoshop artists. But is she solely to blame?
It’s complicated. Yes, society’s expectations and pop culture play a role, but for many women, our overall malaise with our bodies starts much closer to home. We define and judge who we are by what—primarily—our mothers show and tell us.

Here’s how to make sure you’re sending the right message to your daughter so that she grows into a strong, resilient woman with healthy self-esteem.

1. There’s no better role model for your daughter than you. Are you constantly denigrating your body (or others’)? Always talking about dieting or exercise? Do you put appearance on a pedestal to the exclusion of everything else? Yes, we all want to look good but be mindful about the example you set and the lessons she’s picking up from all that negative body talk.
Never let her believe that because she’s overweight, she’s unworthy of your support and none of her other accomplishments matter. She will spend the rest of her life hungering for your approval and trying to compensate for that lack in all the wrong places and in truly unhealthy ways. She will measure herself against those punishing standards for years to come and wonder why her mother of all people couldn’t love and accept her for who she was.

2. Take a positive approach. Spend some quality time going through fashion/celebrity magazines or websites and show your daughter how to identify photo-shopped or otherwise altered images that distort real women’s bodies. (Hint: a flawlessly smooth contouring line at the waist, hip or thigh is a dead giveaway that there’s been some digital plastic surgery going on. It will help her become a more discerning and self-confident consumer in the process.

Find ways to encourage her to develop her own sense of style that will bring out her natural beauty and enhance her confidence. Help her find clothes that fit and flatter—whatever her body type and weight. (Hint: buying her something in a size too small is not motivating. It’s cruel.) Ask her to join you in a workout or find a physical activity you both enjoy and can do together on a regular basis.
And please, oh please, bite your tongue before you nag, punish or lash out in fat shaming, no matter how frustrated you may get. It never works. Ever. It will color your relationship long after she grows up and moves out of your house. And it will not have the positive impact you seek. It will only make things worse.

3. Make meals a celebration not a battle. Family time is precious. Serve everyone the same healthy foods in healthy portion sizes but don’t make an issue of who’s eating what and how much.
Sure, clean out the pantry and don’t bring junk food into the house. (Seriously, there is not willpower enough to resist it.) But, more importantly, keep the conversation away from food or weight. Treat the dinner hour as a time for nourishing minds and manners, not serving up more misery.
4. Be the mother you wish you had. Nurture yourself (and your children) with the love and support you may not have received but always wanted. Support your self-worth and theirs by learning how to dismiss external judgments and find approval from within. Forgive and let go of the past (you can’t change it anyway) and put your energies into what you can influence—the present moment and (maybe) the future.

Take charge of your own transformation. Your daughter will take her cues from you.
5. Create a safe haven. Our culture says, “Be thin.” Our commercial interests say, “Eat this. Drink that.” There are mean girls and interfering institutions that do more harm than good with public weigh-ins and institutional shaming.
Advocate for your daughter by educating her about what is true and real by giving her the emotional wherewithal to deal with bullies outside the home. And take a stand against well meaning but wholly ineffective policies that impose one-size-fits-all metrics on young girls and women. Show her that you’re her champion and that you will work through this together.

6. Listen for the subtext. When your daughter comes to you and asks, “Am I fat?” don’t answer right away. Think about the context. Maybe it’s her way to start a conversation about something else that’s bothering her about her body or her life and her weight is an easy conversational hook.
Whatever her motivation, listen and find a way to reassure and prove to her that she can talk to you. About anything. Without judgement. Because one day it may be about something far bigger than the numbers on a scale. You want to build that trust today so she can talk to you throughout her life.

7. Love means always being able to say you’re sorry. We always want to do right by our kids and when it comes to weight, we are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Not talking, ignoring the “elephant in the room” is not the solution. It creates more angst and stigma. Sometimes you will say or do the wrong thing and if you do, don’t be afraid to say “I’m sorry.” Apologize sincerely and work to find a more loving and helpful way to address the problem (e.g. Health, not weight. Confidence, not calories.)
Don’t let the paradox of perfect parenthood be a barrier to being there when your child needs you.

8. Outsource the cure. We all practice selective deafness. And if you and your daughter seem to be stuck in the same unhealthy patterns, don’t hesitate to ask for professional help. Sometimes the very same thing you’ve said over and over again resonates better and is much more palatable when it comes from someone else (i.e. not her mom).
An objective source with the right experience and manner can provide a new perspective and a safe space where you and your daughter can find new, more loving ways to heal the wounds, move forward and perhaps, one day, be the best of friends.

Susan Bodiker founded One Girl Wellness to help girls and women overcome the image disorders that eat away at their self-esteem and keep them from engaging confidently in their world. Her new e-book, “Fat Girl: how to let go of your weight and get on with your life,” is now on sale. Visit www.susan-bodiker.com for details.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Acid Trip: Health Benefits of Vinegar

vinegar

If you have been following this blog for a while and pay attention to the recipes, than you know I am a heavy user of vinegars in my cooking.

Vinegar has to be one of my favorite condiments.  There are so many types of vinegar, it adds so much flavour, and is essentially calorie, fat and sodium free!  Vinegar also has positive effects on blood sugar, some varieties contain anti-oxidants, and there is some evidence it may even have anti-carcinogenic properties.  Oh, and it also makes a great non-toxic cleaner for around your house.

Here is a general guide how to use different kinds of vinegar (provided by Whole Foods):

Asian vinegar: While early Westerners were fussing over sour wine, the Chinese and Japanese were perfecting the art of making vinegar from alcohol created from whole grains. Choices in this category—which includes rice and plum vinegars—range from quite savory to mild and sweet so experiment with using them in salad dressings, sauces, or as condiments on fish, vegetables and grain dishes.


Balsamic vinegar: The tradition of this beloved sweet Italian vinegar deserves a full page unto itself. But we know your time is important, so we'll cut to the chase. Genuine balsamic vinegar is made by artisans in the towns of Modena and Reggio, Italy from unfiltered, unfermented grape juice. It's aged for many years, sometimes for even more than a century. These days it's splashed on everything from salads and cheese to ice cream and cake, and we don't mind a bit.


Cider vinegar: Cider vinegar is the product of yeast-fermented apple juice, giving it a decidedly apple-like aroma and golden color. It's a great choice for mixed fruit and vegetable salads, marinades, chutneys and other robust condiments and pickles.


Distilled vinegar (a.k.a. white vinegar): The most popular vinegar in the U. S. It's used commercially for pickles, salad dressings and mustard. It's no secret that it's great for cleaning, too.


Herb vinegar: Herb vinegars are made by steeping herbs—such as rosemary, basil or oregano—in vinegar, imparting herbal flavors later on to delicate sauces and vinaigrettes.


Malt vinegar: Unhopped beer—i.e. cereal grains and sprouted barley—is the source for malt vinegar. It's popular in Britain and Canada as a condiment for fish and chips, but don't underestimate its value for pickling, too.


Sherry vinegar: This artisanal vinegar has much in common with balsamic vinegar since it's dark and intensely flavored, with a sweet aftertaste. It's a terrific choice for fruit salads or vegetable salads featuring cheese.


Wine vinegar: The very best wine vinegars — white or red — are still made using the ancient OrlĂ©ans process, requiring a lot of patience. Some commercially produced wine vinegars are not made from wine at all but from yeast fermented grape juice.

Personally, I tend to use cider vinegar for Mexican/Tex Mex and Indian dishes (in place of lemon juice), wine and balsamic for Italian dishes, and sherry vinegar for Spanish food and for things like lentils and mushrooms, because it works really well with their earthy flavour.  I use rice and plum vinegars for Asian dishes.

There is also coconut vinegar which can be used as a substitute for the Asian vinegars.  Champagne vinegar can be used in place of wine vinegars, ideally in salad dressings, etc.

Just be sure you choose good quality, natural vinegars that have not been 'pre-seasoned' (i.e. had sugar and salt added to them).  Vinegars on their own provide so much flavour, you don't need all that.

Here is a guide from Whole Foods for using vinegar around the house:

  • To clean lime deposits from hard water on sinks, place a cloth or a few paper towels tightly around fixtures, pour vinegar onto the towels and leave for 10 to 30 minutes.
  • To remove hard water buildup in your favorite tea kettle, simply fill with vinegar and let sit for about 30 minutes. Rinse well.
  • Clean drains by pouring 1/2 cup baking soda down first, followed by ½ cup vinegar, and then cover the drain for 10 minutes. Turn the faucet on and flush thoroughly.
  • To clean a coffee maker, pour half pot of vinegar in the reservoir and run it through the cycle. Then run one or two cycles of plain water.
  • Housebreaking a puppy or rescued dog? Clean up those little "accidents" on the carpet by applying full-strength white vinegar for about 10 minutes and then blot dry. (Test in an inconspicuous area to ensure the vinegar doesn't harm your carpet.)
  • Have fleas in the house? Pour 1 ounce of vinegar for every 6 ounces of water into a spray bottle then spray carpets, rugs and floors to get rid of the adult fleas. (Again, test the carpet in an inconspicuous area to ensure the vinegar doesn't harm your carpet.) Wait one week, then spray again to get rid of the offspring.
  • For a simple, effective cleaner for eyeglasses, mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a small spray bottle.
  • For windows and mirrors, combine 2 parts water, 1 part vinegar and a drop of liquid dish detergent.
  • To clean and deodorize your dishwasher, add a cup of vinegar to a dishwashing cycle.
  • Remove stains and oxidation from stainless steel and copper-clad cookware with a solution of two tablespoons of white vinegar mixed with two teaspoons of table salt.
I have shared this post with Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Blog Hop.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Treat a Mom (With Cancer) this Mother's Day!

Growing up we never celebrated Mother's Day or Father's Day as my parents hate maudlin stuff and they just saw these holidays as ploys by card and candy companies to make more money.

In contrast, they have always been a big deal in Adam's family.  Given the struggles we had to have our children, I happily embraced the whole celebrating parenthood once I was a parent.  Also, Adam has always spoiled me rotten on Mother's Day by giving me a shopping spree.  Who can pass that up?

That being said, it really shouldn't be about the material stuff since family is about not about that stuff.  Family is about loving, caring, giving and nurturing.  So when the Nanny Angel Network asked if I would share this post for them today, I wholeheartedly agreed.

In case you missed my posts about them last year, here is some info about the Nanny Angel Network (NAN):

The Nanny Angel Network (NAN) is a registered charity and the only organization of its kind in Canada to provide free in-home childcare support for mothers who have been diagnosed with cancer, for those requiring palliative care and for families requiring additional relief during the bereavement period.
Cancer diagnosis and treatment is traumatic for everyone, but particularly for young mothers. They worry about being able to protect and support their children; without support, they may end up postponing appointments or neglecting treatment based on their children’s care.
NAN helps mothers feel assured that their children are in safe, caring hands. That confidence gives them the chance to focus on their medical treatments, doctors’ visit, and taking the time they need to rest and recover. For a minimum of five hours per week, Nanny Angels volunteer their time so mothers can get much needed rest, go to appointments or run errands or simply have time for themselves. Delivering these services in the family’s own home reduces stress and allows women to focus on their own well-being.
To qualify, mothers must be currently undergoing cancer treatment, or be in the early stages of recovery, with a child under the age of twelve.
 
Here is an informational video about NAN:


After my good friend J was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I called NAN and put them in touch with her.  They sent a fabulous babysitter to their place a few times to allow J and her wife some opportunities to relax and have some time to themselves during her gruelling treatment.  They raved about the program and I will be eternally grateful to NAN for providing this service to them.

A donation to the Nanny Angel Network in a mom's name is a great way to honour her kind heart for Mother's Day.
Have a wonderful weekend!  Its an extra special one around here because on Sunday, Mother's Day, it is also Big A's 9th birthday!  I can't believe I have been a parent for almost a decade!!

Looking for a scrumptious but healthy treat to make mom (or yourself!) on Mother's Day?  Hope on over to my Konjac for Life website for the recipe.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

No Time For Diets: Book Review


Well, this book review will be brief.  Not just because the book is short, but because I have very little to say about it.  You know, as your mother always said, "If you don't have anything nice to say..."

No Time for Diets is written by a registered dietician in the U.S. with many years of experience, so I had hope, when it was sent to me for review, that it would be a sensible guide for people looking to lose and manage their weight in a healthy way.

The book is self published by author, L. Raynes, and while I have no problem with self-publishing, I think a manuscript being sold on Amazon and other places, should at least be edited by someone who knows what they're doing!  Not only is the book repetitive (like she could have fit all the unique relevant points into 9 rather than 129 pages), but there are numerous grammatical errors and typos.  Not cool!

The title also doesn't seem to really represent what the book is about...although its really tough to know what this book is actually about because its kind of unfocused rambling.  The first chapter isn't horrible and she makes some valid points like:

"...whether you think that you can or you can't accomplish something...you're right!" 

Set small, manageable goals, like, "What do you want to accomplish today."

"Always be goal setting." (i.e. don't set a weight loss goal and then reach it and go right back to your old lifestyle)

And a few more in Chapter 2:

"Success in losing weight permanently will be more likely to occur in an environment of positive thoughts."

After that it all breaks down and becomes extremely redundant, as she repeats these things over and over.  A few anecdotes about some past clients are thrown in as examples, but the book has no focus, it is all over the place.  The content of chapters, in my opinion, doesn't match their titles.  Its like she wrote down her random musings and stream of consciousness about weight loss, without organizing them.  There is no bibliography, no foot notes and just a few references to (very dated) journal articles.

So do I recommend this book?  What do you think?

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Boston Strong!


Adam and I had the best time in Boston last weekend and it was the perfect balance of exploration and activity, and just self-indulgent relaxation.

In the past, when we would visit cities, I would schedule us to the max.  I always worried that I would never have a chance to get back there again, so I would try to pack in as many sites and experiences as possible.  While it was always fun, it also left us drained...particularly the time we went to San Francisco and went everywhere (over those darn hills!) by foot.  We were absolutely spent when we got home, which made it not at all a physical or mental break.  Now in my old age state of maturity and wisdom, I realize there is value in just taking it easy when on holiday.  So that is just what we did!

We stayed at the lovely Revere Hotel, which had great service and facilities (I was most impressed with their toiletries  - 2 types of shampoo, conditioner and body wash to choose from, along with hand soap and hand lotion - all in big bottles, far more eco-friendly than the tiny ones, and attached to the walls so you can't steal them;)

On Friday we checked in and then went to the Boston Tea Party Museum, a fun and interactive experience. Not cheap though, at $25US a ticket!!  Friday night, like old people, we passed out in bed rather early and then slept for about 12 hours.  Seriously!

Saturday we took the subway to Harvard Square, and wandered around and had lunch.  Then we headed back to Boston and visited the African Heritage Museum.  It was a bit disappointing...very small, with the exhibits being mostly books you can't touch...only a little 17 minute film was very interesting.

Saturday late afternoon, Adam met up with a mutual friend of ours who lives in Boston now, and I met some dear girlfriends of mine for drinks in the hotel restaurant.  Then Adam and I went out for a nice dinner at an Indian restaurant near the hotel, called Tantric.  We had an amazing dinner of eggplant, potato and cauliflower, lamb and chicken in rich, heavy sauces...then went back to the hotel and passed out early again.  And then slept another 12 hours!

Sunday we left the hotel around 11:30am (so lazy for us!) and did the Freedom Trail.  We also stopped in at the Paul Revere House Museum, which I loved because I love social history, and it is an interesting snapshot of how people lived in the 18th century. We didn't quite make it to the end though, because I got hangry and had to stop for lunch.  Then we decided we wanted to go back to the hotel.  Just after we arrived, at 4pm, my mother-in-law called as the girls wanted to talk to us.  We chatted with them and then decided we had no desire to leave the hotel again (yes, clearly we are getting old!).  Instead, we ordered a movie to the room (Boyhood), and ordered in pizza, and ate dinner in bed while watching the film.  Then, yes, you guessed it, we passed out early again.  Monday we had breakfast at the hotel (I went to Whole Foods and brought us back a feast from their buffet), and then packed up and took a cab back to the airport.  We felt so refreshed and relaxed...until we got home and picked up the girls from school and had to face reality of everything with life and work.  Ah but that's how it goes right?

If you want a great vacation, I highly recommend Boston, its easy to get to, very easy to get around in (on foot!), and we found the people extremely helpful and friendly. I also love that its a fit city...which makes sense since its home to the most famous marathon!  Lots of joggers and folks coming to and from the many fitness clubs.  Go Boston!

So what city should we visit next...hmm...

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Malaysian Curried Almonds


I'm back!

Adam and I had a little getaway in Boston.  It was a belated 40th birthday present to me.

Why Boston?  Because I am obsessed with exploring cities and the more historic, the better (and we can't afford Europe or anywhere that far).  Adam was born in Boston and has been there a bunch of times, but me, never.  My grandparents had a summer home in the Berkshires, but I never wanted to drive into the city because I used to get uber car sick.

I'll describe our trip tomorrow, but lets just say, a little R&R was exactly what we both needed.  We both probably slept more in the 3 nights we were there, than we usually do in a whole week!

Now on to a little spicy snack recipe...

Malaysian curry powder is both sweet and spicy, and highly aromatic.  I love it.  One of the best things about Toronto is the diversity of food that is available.  If you have the time to go looking, you can find just about anything.  I get my Malaysian curry spice blend from House of Spice, here in Kensington Market.  If you can't find it where you live, you can find it online or even make your own.

Curried nuts of various kinds can be found in Toronto's Little India, but I decided to put a little twist on it by using Malaysian curry powder and using almonds, which are one of Adam's snacks of choice.  Malaysian cuisine uses lots of coconut, so the flavour of the extra virgin coconut oil is perfect here.

Malaysian Curried Almonds

3 lbs whole almonds (I used a big bag from Costco)
3 tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp. Malaysian curry powder
1/2-1 tsp salt

Toss almonds with oil and seasonings and spread evenly on non-stick baking sheet (you may have to do several batches).  Bake at 350F for 10 minutes. Keep in an air tight container for up to 6 months.

I have shared with recipe with Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.