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Friday, October 30, 2015

A Week of Halloween Horrors


Its been quite a week. I wish I could say TGIF, but the craziness is going to continue this weekend.

Monday, of course, began with an epic meltdown from Little A.  My parents were still here from their weekend visit and were pretty shocked with her behaviour.  They confirmed what I've long suspected: kids nowadays are lunatics, and we weren't when we were that age.

When I went to pick the girls up Monday afternoon, Little A had fully recovered. We walked through the alley we sometimes take en route home and the girls got to witness my Cat Whisperer abilities.  I heard meowing and stopped. "Girls, I hear a cat!" I told them.  I started making my "Come hither kitty" sound and an adorable short haired grey cat came running towards me. The girls were a bit scared by how fast he came, but he came right up to me and let me scratch his head. They he rolled onto his back and I scratched his back and belly and he continued meowing and purring.  The girls were delighted.  "Mommy, kitties love you!" Yep they do. And its mutual!

Tuesday I was busy baking up treats for all the girls' Halloween events.  Big A's new favorite cake is this one. For Little A, it was those green cupcakes. 

Wednesday we had such a massive rain storm here in Toronto, I thought we might have to build an ark! It was literally a dark and stormy night from the minute we woke up until the minute we went to bed.

I tried out my new strategy for getting to work without barfing due to motion sickness.  I left all my reading material at home and listened to podcasts instead.  Unfortunately, that was still not enough. By the time I got to my office I felt miserable and had to pop Gravol.  After that, I was okay for the rest of the day.  I have got to find those pressure point bracelets!

Thursday there were dark clouds moving across the sky at breakneck speed and extremely high winds.  Another eerie day.

Today the girls had to wear their costumes to school for more parties, a Halloween parade, and then the dance tonight.  Shucks, I have to work tonight, so Adam will have to take them by himself.

Tomorrow is going to be even scarier. I don't know how they convinced me, but the girls made me promise that they could dress me up and paint my face into the scariest witch you've ever seen.  They've been planning this horror show for months.  Oy! I promise I'll post pics.  Actually, I don't promise...

Have a happy, healthy Halloween and I'll be back Monday.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Creepy Cupcakes with Ghoulish Green Icing


I know many parents have nightmares about Halloween.  Its one non-stop sugar binge for kids, and not just on October 31st either.  For our girls, the festivities and candy, started last weekend.  First there was Halloween celebrations at Hebrew School, then at Big A's theatre class, then Girl Guides on Monday evening, and, of course, both their daycare and school are having class parties this week too.  Friday night there is a school dance party where pot luck, but it sounds like its going to be candy and junk, not dinner. Its way too much!

I was very pleased that Big A asked me to buy veggie dogs to bring to her school party, since, once again, she is dressing up as a hot dog.  Her costume really is awesome!  She also asked me to make my Banana Chocolate Chip Snacking Cake, which she now says is her favorite cake ever!?! Its very healthy, so I have no problem about that.

Little A didn't demand anything in particular for her school party, so I decided to bake up these little treats.  They are sugar-free, vegan, made with whole-grain flour, no food colouring. So as scary as they look, parents can rest assured there is nothing to fear.

If your kids are only used to eating store bought cakes and icings, they may not go for this, but I always think its a good idea to try and adjust their taste buds.  The kind you buy is absolutely full of crap!

I used Pines Mighty Greens powder to give everything the pale green hue.  If you want, you can use natural food colouring instead, or a different greens powder.

Creepy Cupcakes

2 cups vegan vanilla or plain yogurt (or regular yogurt)
2 flax eggs
1 cup xylitol or erythritol
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder (stevia sweetened)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat or whole spelt flour
1 tbsp. greens powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Whisk wet ingredients together in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, stir together dry ingredients and then stir into wet.  Scrape batter into greased mini muffin cups and bake at 350F for 14 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool and then remove from pan and ice, if desired.  Makes 34 mini muffins.

Ghoulish Green Icing

1/4 lb cocoa butter, melted
1.5 cups powdered erythritol (or powdered sugar, if you must!)
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
1/2 cup vegan cream cheese
1-2 tsp greens powder (depending on how strong the flavour is, you don't want kids to taste it!)
Non-dairy milk (as needed)

Whisk together icing ingredients up to greens powder.  If it gets too stiff as cocoa butter cools, add some milk, a tbsp. at a time until spreadable.  Spread on top of cupcakes with a spreader.

This recipe was shared with Urban Naturale's Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tae Bo


When people hear I do martial-arts inspired workouts, they often ask if I do, or ever did Tae Bo.  The answer until just recently was no.

Of course I have long known what it is, and who Billy Blanks is. You probably do too! But back when it first got popular (at least around here), it was before I had kids and I was busy teaching fitness classes and hanging out in gyms.  The idea of doing workout videos at home wasn't on my radar.

In any case, the last time someone asked me, I figured maybe it was high time I actually checked it out, so I found a couple of DVDs on sale on Amazon.ca and ordered them.  I got the Platinum Collection:



And the Platinum Boot-Camp Collection:

 
Both are a great value, with 4 full workouts on each DVD.

I got a bit scared when I first viewed them on my computer.  They seemed kind of cheesy, particularly with all the participants being forced to count to 8 over and over again.  Memories of early 90s group ex!! But I know from experience that you can only tell if you will enjoy the workout by doing it, so I swallowed my trepidation.

The workouts are all 40-60 minutes long.  Some use weights and some have a particular focus (like the abs one). 

My biggest critique is that he does static stretching in the beginning of most routines.  WTF, even back when he started Tae Bo, we already knew that was not only unnecessary, but possibly a way to increase the chance of injury!!

I quickly realized that the counting is very helpful for allowing you to follow the moves.  For the most part the steps are simple, but there were a few combinations that had enough different steps, punches and kicks that I was getting lost and frustrated even with the counting.  That being said, no way I'm counting along with them!  They can do that for me, even workout out alone at home I'd feel like an idiot. Blanks is definitely a gimmick, but he doesn't annoy me much, and for a guy who is like 60, he is in tremendous shape.   Little A's comment was, "Geez mommy, I hope that guy wears deodorant because he sure does sweat a lot!" That he does! The other participants vary in ability and physique so the videos aren't likely to be super intimidating for newbies.

Its essentially boxercise, and actually pretty different from what I usually do.  Aside from a few burpees here and there, he doesn't do anything that requires getting up and down, which is actually what I find challenges me most (like all the rolling and tumbling in ji jitsu).  For that reason, these workouts were much less intense than I would have liked. I think they still give me a decent workout, but not like my UFCFit or TapoutXT programs.  Like, I can do jumping jacks until the cows come home without my heart rate getting up. 

That being said, for anyone unconditioned or not as fit as me, the fitness powerhouse master [insert husband's mocking laughter], you will get a good workout.  I am a fitness nerd and I adore finding new ways to move my body, so these were good enough, I figure, to work their way into my routine occasionally.  I get bored quickly, so the more variety the better.

If you aren't interested in doing the more MMA-inspired workouts that I like, but want to get initiated with boxercise-type workouts, I think Tae Bo will be perfect for you.  I chose these 2 DVDs because they had multiple workouts and are supposedly advanced, but there are tons of Tae Bo DVDs out there and some of them are specifically geared towards beginners.

I feel like every day I read more research about the health benefits of exercise and the risks of being sedentary. So whatever you do, get moving already!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Motion Sickness


I know I complain endlessly about the challenges of getting around Toronto, but bear with me, because there is more yet to come.

I am not talking about the traffic this time though, I am talking about how sick it makes me. Literally! By the way, if you have emetophobia (fear of vomiting) you might want to stop reading now.

I have been prone to getting car sick since I was 3-years-old.  My parents discovered this that particular year because we went to live in England while my dad was on sabbatical and my parents decided we would spend the summer driving around Europe.  They still tease me about how I left a trail of vomit the whole way.

I always dreaded car trips as a kid, and, unfortunately for me, we did lots of them, since all of our relatives lived in the U.S.  I remember, in particular, the things that were sure to set me off: mint (I used to try and refuse to brush my teeth before getting in the car; gas (each time my parents filled up the tank the smell would do me in; coffee; heat (air conditioning on or windows down is a must!!).

The severity of my motion sickness has waxed and waned over the years.  It was particularly bad during my pregnancies, which isn't surprising since I was nauseous during the first trimesters anyways.  So perhaps its hormone related, I don't know, because its very up and down these days too.  My sensitivity also now extends beyond cars to airplanes, buses, subways, and rollercoasters.  No more carnival rides for me, that's for sure!

Lately though, it is so bad that even the short commute to work can leave me green.  I can't read on the bus or subway, which has always been the only thing to make using public transport tolerable for me.  Also, once I get nauseous, it lasts for hours.  In addition, its bad in the car, even when I'm driving!  WTF, I thought you're not supposed to get motion sickness when you're in the driver's seat??

As a kid, Gravol never helped. I usually just puked it up.  Now it does help, but sometimes it knocks me out. Ginger never helps me.  I've had some success with those pressure-point wrist bands.  I can't find the ones I used to have, but I need to try them again!

Just in case you suffer as much as I have, here is some info about how best to prevent motion sickness (medical name = Kinetosis):

  • There are several theories about the cause, but we don't really know for certain
  • Do not read
  • Avoid sitting backwards in moving vehicle
  • If possible, get access to fresh air
  • Try to avoid strong smells
  • Avoid travelling while over-full or with an empty stomach
  • Don't eat fatty, greasy foods
  • Try the pressure point bands (research backs up their efficacy)
Essentially, according to my research, its impossible to entirely prevent it for some people, and many of the treatments, including medications, are not always effective. 

I think I am going to try a combo of the wrist bands, and some Gravol and hopefully this bad phase will pass!!

Happy trails my friends...

Gretta Riley Cowgirl Cowboy Happy Trails To You Halloween Rs In Costume

Monday, October 26, 2015

Real Life


Monday morning.

Have to wake children.

Six-year-old in a mood from the get-go.

Child throws fit over unfair trade of gummies with her 9-year-old sister.

Nine-year-old exacerbates problem by antagonizing little one.

Little one screams her head off all morning, all the way to school, and at drop-off.

Done.  Thank goodness for coffee.  Time to start the workday.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Tea Time

Goodness, I am glad its Friday! This week Adam was away in Ottawa for his annual work trip.  Although it gets easier to handle each year, it still has its challenges.  Big A gives me extra attitude when he is away, since she is daddy's girl and resents being stuck with me.  She and Little A are also still fighting a lot, which makes me nuts.  I know I lucked out big time in the husband department, but this is never more obvious than when he is away!

When life gets tough, appreciating the little joys is important.  Like a comforting hot drink.

Most of us love tea and/or coffee. I love both.  Adam was an exception.  When I met him, he didn't drink either. Period. I thought that was super weird. Fortunately, during a trip to London, England a while back, he discovered the joys of tea.  He's still not on the coffee train though.

Personally, I oscillate between preferring one to the other.  Any time I have nausea (during pregnancy or from a flu, etc.), I can't even stand the smell of coffee, and then generally don't want it for quite a while.  But tea, at least hot tea, I can only drink in cold weather.  In summer, just not happening.

We often tend to think of tea being healthier than coffee, but this isn't really the case.  Coffee has lots of health benefits.  Its full of antioxidants and has been associated with a decreased risk of diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. 

The reason coffee often gets a bad rap is that (1) it is often used, because of its caffeine content, to compensate for lack of energy due to insufficient sleep, exercise, or proper nutrition, and (2) people frequently make it unhealthy by adding copious amounts of sugar and/or cream, or consuming expensive coffee-like beverages from Starbucks, etc., that are super high in sugar, chemicals and calories.

For both tea and coffee, the best way to take them is black/plain, but even I can't handle that.  So if you do need a little something in your hot drinks, try to stick with a sweetener that doesn't affect blood sugar levels (there are lots of healthy ones out there now), and either skim/low-fat milk or just a wee bit of cream.

I have found myself in a state of loving coffee and tea equally, which hasn't happened for a while.  In fact, I haven't really been into tea for a few years, and even was not as much into coffee during the summer.  Actually, I just wasn't drinking hot beverages at all, and was sticking to ice coffee frappes mostly.  But right now I am loving tea to warm me up as the temperatures are starting to dip.  There is nothing better at getting rid of a chill than a hot cup of tea.

My favorite tea is currently this Sweet Harvest Pumpkin tea from Celestial Seasonings.


In fact, I am enjoying a cup as I write this post! But the nice thing about tea is that there are zillions of varieties and flavours, so its hard not to find one you like.

Well, I am off to finish my cup so I can go personal train some clients.  This weekend is, unfortunately, nuts.  I work tomorrow, my parents are visiting, the girls have all their activities, Little A has a birthday party, and we go to our friends' place for dinner Sunday.  Time to stock up on our favorite coffees and teas!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Find Your Happy Place

 
Everyone these days talks about mindfulness and meditation.  Zen is in.  Don't get me wrong, this is a good thing.  Our society operates primarily from the other side of the coin. We focus on doing not being.  We have constructed lives for ourselves that are so spiritually empty and stressful that many of us struggle with chronic physical and mental malaise and we are getting desperate to find a better way to live.

I have struggled with anxiety since childhood, and I would say that the most common problem my clients present during counselling is anxiety. Even if you don't have an anxiety disorder, chances are there are times you have difficulty keeping your cool.  In the car? Dealing with the guy at the hardware store who won't let you return the screwdriver? The barista who got your coffee order wrong after you waiting for 10 minutes to get it? When your son forgets his homework at school...again?

I took that meditation course a few years ago and though I was completely intrigued by the philosophy behind it, I found that traditional meditation is not something I can do. I know real zen folks claim its something we can all do, but really, I can't.  My brain never shuts down, not even at night - as evidenced by the wild and crazy dreams I have every single night.  EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!  But I can think about things or do things that relax me.  I read novels before bed every night to calm my mind and help me get to sleep, and occasionally when I am doing something I find stressful (like getting dental work done), I can think about pleasant things and get myself into a state of relaxation. 

Back in September I attended a counselling conference and went to a session focused on using mindfulness techniques for those who have trauma-related anxiety.  I see many, many clients with a history of trauma, whether its from an accident, abuse, loss, etc.  The psychologist talked about how meditation can be especially difficult for those who have experienced trauma as tuning in to bodily sensations or emotions can be triggering and frightening.  He explained how a more effective technique in this situation can be to simply focus on an image that brings you feelings of calm and happiness.  Ideally, this shouldn't be a loved one, since even our loved ones can sometimes cause us anxiety!  It should be something simple about which we have no complicated feelings.  I realized as he was talking that I essentially use this technique myself every day.  Looking at pictures of cute cats makes me feel all warm and fuzzy (no pun intended) and it is instantly calming for me.  Aha, now I recognize that things like Instagram really do have a practical use!

I have started suggesting this image technique to many of my clients - lots of them struggle with traditional meditation like I do - and they love this.  For some cats or other animals are also what gives them happy feelings, or a beautiful place the have visited, or for one client, the beautiful library where he used to go to read in college.

This technique is so simple and effective, I encourage you to try it.  Just remember, no looking at your phone while driving...if you are hitting your boiling point in the car, pull over first before looking at puppies!!

Don't worry, be happy, and have a great day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Skinny on Exercise and Weight

funny excercise chewing-W630
If you haven't already gotten this message from my blog yet, here it is again: The most important thing you can do for your health is to exercise!

Exercising regularly reduces your risk of diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, Alzheimer's and many other causes of death, and helps to manage stress, alleviate depression and anxiety, boosts self-esteem, and the list goes on!

Unfortunately, motivating people to do something for their health is really tough.  Believe me, after being a fitness instructor and personal trainer for over 20 years and a therapist who supports people to make health behaviour changes, I know this all to well!

Frequently the problem is that people feel invincible. They may not yet have any health problems, so just changing their lifestyle for the sake of prevention isn't at the top of their list of priorities.  If people do have a health issue already, then they often lack energy, which makes it difficult for them to believe they are capable of exercise and they cannot fight inertia, despite the fact they may know that once they are exercising regularly they will have a lot more energy.

The reality is that probably most people who do exercise, or even aspire to exercise, are motivated by the idea that it will help them lose weight and make them look better.  After all, looking better comes with more perceived immediate benefits than fighting off chronic illness, particularly if you are young.

But most experts say that when it comes to your weight, what you eat matters far more than exercise.  In fact, some believe exercise has almost no impact on weight.  So, assuming you aren't really concerned about your long term health (you should be!), is there any point in exercising if your goal is appearance-related?

The answer is ABSOLUTELY YES!

Here is why the research on the relationship between exercise and weight-loss is so confusing.  First off, any study using self-reported exercise is subject to huge reliability problems.  People often over-report their exercise to make a positive impression, just like they under-report their food intake.  In addition, even if they are attempting to report it accurately, most people are reporting the activity, not their level of effort/exertion.  For example, I would say almost 50% of the people who take my spinning class each week are not keeping up at all.  So on a survey, while they may report taking spinning classes 3x per week, and spinning might be coded on a survey as a rigorous workout, in reality, they are 'attending' a spinning class, but not working rigorously at all.

In fact, when I look around the gym, I would say a lot of people are not getting much out of their workouts.  People clamour to the elliptical machines and then hop on and read or gabber with friends, not moving fast enough to really get their heart rate up.  Folks in the weight room do a set without working to failure, and then rest for 2 minutes between each set, essentially just wasting time.  Or, they haphazardly walk around grabbing a dumbbell or cable and lift or pull without knowing what they are doing or even what body part they are trying to target. There is a big difference between 'going to the gym' and actually 'getting a workout'.

When the research is a little more refined, we get more answers about the inconsistent data.  Several studies have shown that your attitude towards exercise matters too.  People who dislike it and see it as punishment, will generally compensate by rewarding themselves with food.  Obviously this makes it impossible to lose weight, since as I have pointed out many times before, it may take an hour to burn 500 calories, but you can eat that back in minutes.  This is why exercise should be thought of as a gift (you are fortunate if you are ABLE to exercise!), and one you do for your health and wellness, rather than just calorie burning.  Just like you wouldn't wash your mouth with corn syrup just because you'd brushed your teeth that morning, you shouldn't eat a donut just because you exercised! It also speaks to the importance of finding an activity you enjoy. 

What you do also matters.  Pilates and yoga are not efficient ways to lose weight.  The best strategy is strength training and cardio, to burn fat and increase your overall metabolism.

Recent research has proven that some people's bodies respond more dramatically to exercise than others.  So if your physique is your focus, you may have to try different activities until you find the combination that works best for you.  Avoid comparing yourself to others and getting discouraged too.  We are all unique and some people will have an easier time creating muscle definition, or a flat stomach or a tiny waist. 

Longitudinal studies show that people who lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off do so by a combination of dietary changes and regular exercise.  But even if you haven't an ounce of weight to lose, you should be exercising every day.  Yes, EVERY SINGLE DAY.  This doesn't mean running or weight-lifting, necessarily. It means being active in some way, shape or form.  Our bodies are meant to move.  If you are only interested in a hotter bod, than exercise is still important, you just have to do it right, and combine it with a healthy diet and sufficient sleep/recovery.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Breathe Easy

October is National Healthy Lung Month so lets discuss these vital organs.

There are a number of factors that can affect our lung health. Smoking, of course! Genetics is one that is non-modifiable, but another significant risk factor is exposure to various toxins including air pollution, radon gas and asbestos. If you want information on asbestos and lung cancer, please visit www.mesothelioma.com.

Lung Cancer Causes Infographic

Lung cancer isn't the only disease that can afflict these organs, there is also asthma, COPD, and various viruses that can infect the lungs.

The lungs are critical to our health because they help us breathe.   So here are some things you can do to maintain healthy lung function:

1. Don't smoke or quit smoking. You have to know that the worst thing you can do for your lungs is smoke.  In fact, smoking is about the worst thing you can do for every cell in your body period. Also try to avoid second hand smoke as much as possible.

2. Exercise. Regular exercise can help you increase you lung capacity.  A greater lung capacity allows the body to circulate oxygen faster. Exercise is the best way to 'detox' your body.

3. Check your home for radon and asbestos and have any removed by certified professionals.

4. Clean and service your furnace and air conditioner in your home on a regular basis.

5. Wear a gas mask every day if you live in a polluted urban environment (kidding!).

Happy Lung Health Everyone!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Some Racy Reads

Another Monday another work week.  Need some excitement?  Maybe you should start reading...

A few months ago my neighbour gave me a novel to read called The Outlander.  Little did I know that its a cult classic that is part of a series, and already a television version has been produced from it.

I also didn't know that its considered, um, erotic fiction.  Of course, I figured that out some ways into it, but as the beginning I saw it as historical fiction, which I love, with magical realism (time travel).  Whatever you want to call it, it is definitely entertaining, and I am now hooked and wanting to see how the story progresses, so I may have to pick up the sequels.

Also, since I jumped on the 50 Shades bandwagon last year, I gave in to temptation and picked up Grey, the 4th book which looks at things from the other character's perspective. 

 
 
Now, as I mentioned before, while all the attention goes to the smut in these books, I can tell you right now, that is not what makes them so attractive to most women (remember they are referred to as "mom porn" so clearly its assumed mostly women read them).  In fact, if you aren't into BDSM or domination/submission, like myself, than those parts are just boring, if not disturbing since the female character isn't really into it either.  She's only doing it because she thinks its the only way to keep her Christian.  This rankles my feminist sensibilities, but yes, I know that there are lots of women who are into it and that women can be doms, however, that's not the case in this story.

Anyways, reading this book confirmed for me, what I argued before, that its the romance between them, not the physical relationship that is so appealing.  In this book you get a bit more insight into why Christian is the way he is, and what traumatic events shaped him and his unique 'predilections'.  But you also get more evidence of what seeped out in the other books; he is actually a very sensitive, caring guy.  If he was an arse, the book wouldn't be interesting, even if he was still drawn as being rich and gorgeous.  Nope, its the fact that he is this emotionally unavailable guy - who also happens to be very rich and gorgeous - who falls head over heels in love with Anastasia, despite his efforts to remain unaffected by her.  As a therapist, I can tell you that this is, unfortunately, a fantasy many women are plagued with.  I say plagued with because usually chasing emotionally unavailable men does not yield a positive outcome.  Also, who doesn't fantasize about finding someone so rich they can take care of your every whim and allow you to live a life of luxury, wanting for nothing? I am sure most men fantasize about that too!

Similar to the other books in the series, the best part is the witty email repartee between the two characters. Some of its quite funny.  That being said, none of this is fine literature, but I read so much of that, that sometimes its nice to be able to relax with something that doesn't challenge me and is just pure entertainment.

So that's what I've been reading lately.  Now that I've had a wee mental break, its back to the good stuff...my mother-in-law just gave me The Goldfinch.

Friday, October 16, 2015

My New Little Guilty Pleasure


It was only a 4 day week and I am still saying TGIF!!

Getting the girls out of the house in the mornings is about as much fun as a root canal these days.  By the time I drop them at school I am in need of a valium-laced tequila shot...or 3!

All of life's daily hassles are one of many reasons why we all need a few guilty pleasures.  HGTV shows are one of mine.

The House Hunters shows have long been a favorite, however, while I continue to watch and love International House Hunters, the U.S. version has gotten old for me.  Too many of the folks featured are materialistic idiots with an overblown sense of entitlement.  Why a single person or couple needs 2,500 square feet of living space I will never know.  Why those with almost no money refuse to settle for anything less than granite counter tops and hardwood floors is beyond me.  And my favorite is people who want to live in urban centres but are appalled by the idea of having neighbours within site, or those so lazy, the idea of having to climb a staircase is unfathomable.  Get a grip folks!

Fortunately, I have found a new focus of my obsession: Tiny House Hunters!

Its about people looking for homes that are like 600 square feet or less, often with the goal of being eco-friendly and minimizing their footprint on the earth.  Love it!  I also love the cosy quarters and amazingly efficient uses of space.  Its so cool!

This weekend is a busy mix of work (at least I work from home doing sessions by Skype and phone!), the kids' activities, errands and social engagements!  If there is time, I hope to catch an episode of Tiny House Hunters ;)

Have a good one.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What Really Gets Women Going


I am sure you have heard of the new pill that is being called the "Female Viagra".

As a therapist, I do a whole lot of sex counselling with my clients.  Its an issue for couples dealing with infertility and those who are not.  In fact, apparently the three top reasons for divorce are: (1) Sex, (2) Parenting, and (3) Money.

As I've mentioned before, the myth is that all men have insatiable libidos and women are cold and disinterested in sex.  This is totally untrue! I have counselling so many couples where it is the woman who has a greater sex drive than the man.  I have also discussed previously on this blog that men often experience andropause, physical and emotional changes akin to those women experience during menopause, due to age-related drops in hormones.  In addition, some men never have a really high libido.

Low libido due to hormonal changes/aging, however, is not usually the problem for couples, particularly those under the age of 40.  Its more often stress, fatigue, resentment, body image and other psycho-social reasons.  This is why this new super pill is not going to be of much use to a lot of people.  If you think your partner is being an arse, taking meds to increase your physical desire may do nothing to motivate you to have sex...with your partner, at least!

Interestingly, numerous studies have shown that what is most effective at increasing women's sexual desire for their partner, and both partners' satisfaction with their intimate life is men taking a greater share of responsibility for household chores and parenting duties.  Yep, no joke!  Just another reason to throw away antiquated notions of gender roles.   So you may want to forget the prescription and, instead, sit down with your spouse and divide up a new plan for household management. It could lead to some pretty sexy negotiations!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotic: Product Review

Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic 30 Billion
The benefits of many, many, many, many, many supplements are overstated.  MANY!

It is overwhelming to go into a health food store and walk down the aisles packed with products promising to change your health/body/life, and know which ones are worth spending on and which ones are totally bogus.  Many are a total waste of money, many are still unproven, but a few are gems.

I am a big fan of probiotics.  The science and research behind them is sound, which is what matters to me.  They promote healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients, bowel function, weight management and immunity.  Most of us can use some help on all these fronts!

Renew Life sent me a 10 day trial pack to take their 10-day challenge.  I really didn't expect anything because I was already taking probiotics and didn't think anything would really make a noticeable difference in such a short period of time.  To my surprise, however, by day 3, my pipes were definitely moving more smoothly! Oh I love probiotics!!

Here are the details on this particular product:

Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic 30 Billion probiotic is a high-potency once daily probiotic supplement formulated for those who want a higher culture count of good bacteria to help relieve digestive issues such as occasional gas, bloating, constipation and irritable bowel.
 
It contains 30 billion active probiotic cultures per capsule and 10 strains of beneficial bacteria, including 18 billion Bifidobacteria and 12 billion Lactobacillus cultures to support both the large and small intestines.
 
Our unique delayed release capsule helps resist stomach acid.

Ultimate Flora probiotics are made with only natural ingredients. They do not contain any dairy, soy, gluten or GMOs.
 
I like that you only need to take one a day.
 
The only drawback of probiotics is that they are quite pricey and this is no exception.  I did find some pretty good deals through amazon.ca though.
 
Honestly, if you are going to spend on a supplement but are on a limited budget, I would put probiotics at the top of your list, even before a multivitamin, which scientists are still uncertain about having any benefits.  Of course, even more important is eating a nutritious diet which means lots of fruits and veggies and whole, unprocessed foods!
 
They have also promised me some samples for followers, so follow me on Twitter and you could win some of your own! Be sure to use the hashtag #UltimateFlora10.
 
Disclosure: I was sent the product at no charge but all opinions on this blog are my own.
 
 
 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Long Weekend Bliss

My thankful face
 
In Canada we're all a little thankful this morning...that its not Monday!  What can be bad about a 4 day work week??

Another thing I am thankful for is the glorious weather we are having.  My favorite kind of weather: sunny, mild and absolutely delightful.

We had a great long weekend that was pretty low key, and didn't actually involve a traditional Thanksgiving celebration.  Saturday and Sunday were busy with activities and errands, and Adam and I took the girls while we voted in the advanced polls, but yesterday we went, along with my brother and his family, to Whittamore's Farm so the kids could run around and enjoy the festivities.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect but the farm was more like a zoo...it was so busy! The line up to get in was an hour long!! Later in the day we took the girls, and one of Big A's friends to the park and then had her over for dinner.

Giving thanks, for some reason, seems to be a tough practice to instill in children.  It is definitely not an innate instinct.  Our girls are pretty good at saying thank you (most of the time), but I still wouldn't say they have a sense of gratitude, even at ages 9 and 6.  But Adam and I try our best to make them understand just how lucky they are.

On that note, with the impending federal election here in Canada, there are some heated debates going on about what's best for the future of this country.  Several people I know have noted, however, that no matter who wins the election and what direction certain pressing issues take, we will still be most fortunate to me living in this country.  Its hard to argue with that!

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Universe is Chaos

 
I hear about my clients' trauma and misfortune all the time, from abuse, neglect and betrayal to accidents, illnesses and loss of parents and children.  There is so much suffering in this world, and I admit I sometimes get overwhelmed by it.

As I alluded to a few days ago, the past few weeks have been particularly tough because along with clients presenting with horrific experiences that break my heart, a guy I went to highschool with lost his 18 month old son.  He died in his sleep.  For no known reason.  WTF?

Tales of horror in the media too, from the 3 siblings and their grandfather killed by a drunk driver in the area on a Sunday afternoon, to gun massacres in the U.S. and the ongoing refugee crisis overseas. 

In the middle of my short spin session last Saturday, alone, in the dark with just a dim flashlight, I suddenly burst into tears.  Thoughts of all these victims - particularly my highschool friend and his family - whirled through my head and it just all seemed too unfair.

And that's it isn't it? Life is unfair.  And there is often nothing we can do about it.  And that totally sucks. Like sucks in a really big way.

Many of my clients ask, "Why me?" as do most of us when something horrific occurs. 

My perspective is that there is no reason.  Virtually everything that happens is random. Chance. That's it.

If you believe in a higher power than I am sure you will disagree with me, and that's okay.  This is just my opinion.  I do not believe everything happens for a reason. Not at all.  So don't ever say that to me if I'm upset about something that happened, okay? 
 
Besides, even if there is a reason, it isn't likely you'll ever know what it is.  I think what can actually be helpful is to find meaning in the experience.  Lots of people do this, of course, like parents who lose a child and then find the strength to devote themselves to raising money for the disease that their child had.  Or someone who gets a DUI realizing the seriousness of their mistake and speaking out against drunk driving.

I do see how believing in a higher power can bring comfort.  Some of my religious clients will accept misfortune as "God's will."  But for others, crises simply test their faith because they cannot fathom why a higher power would deliver to them such a terrible fate.

The thing about the everything happens for a reason theory is that it often leads to feelings of low self-worth, shame and self-blame.  I see it with my clients all the time.  They believe they are being punished for something or sent a message that they are __________________ . No, not so, in my opinion.  I butterfly may have just flapped its wings...

It was rather cathartic to have a little cry but now I am feeling better.  The secret to not getting pulled down into the muck is to acknowledge the suffering and use it as a reminder to be grateful.  And boy, do I have a lot to be grateful for, which is rather timely since its Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday!

So have a wonderful weekend, I am grateful to you for stopping by and I'll be back on Tuesday.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Prana Proactivchia: Product Review

If you are a health foodie than you already know that chia seeds are nutrition bombs, full of calcium, fibre and omega 3s, and that probiotics are critical to gut health and confer many other health benefits too.  So you will be excited to know you can now get chia seeds with added probiotics!

I was sent a bag of these gems from Prana to sample recently and they've fab.  They are organic, non-GMO and certified gluten-free.  They contain 2 probiotic strains: Lactobacillus helveticus LAFTI L10 & Lactobacillus helveticus Rosell-52 ND and are made by a Quebec company (currently products are only available in Canada).  This product is already available in stores, in fact, I saw it on the shelf of my local Loblaws store just this past weekend!

Why bother buying chia with added probiotics instead of just regular chia and popping a probiotics capsule? My first thought is that this is perfect for kids who usually aren't able to swallow capsules.  Add some to their smoothie, cereal or yogurt and they are automatically getting a nutrition boost from the chia as well as the benefits from the probiotics.  Don't add them to acidic foods (citrus, vinegar, tomatoes) or hot foods (warm is okay) or you will kill off the bacteria.  Chia puddings are all the rage right now and often a hit with kids, these are perfect for that purpose.


Like all of Prana's products, these are high quality, and, I love that they are a Canadian company :) They taste no different than regular chia.

Both chia and probiotics are great additions to your lifestyle, so if you've never tried either, this is the perfect way get them.

Disclosure: I was provided the product by the company but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Tex Mex Bean Salad


This simple bean salad is quick and easy to make and super yummy.  I don't like bean salads in an oily vinaigrette, for some reason, which is why I rarely would get it from a grocery store or restaurant.  But you already know I'm not a big oil fan.  I would much rather get my healthy fats from whole foods that add a lot more flavour, like nuts or avocado.  In this case, you could definitely add diced avocado, but I didn't since this was for a dinner at my in-laws and most of Adam's family hates avocado.  I also kept it mild because they don't like spicy food, but you could definitely add some kick with a jalapeno pepper, if you want.  Honestly, I think beans are one of the most underrated healthy foods. This is also an inexpensive dish too, and a generous amount so its perfect for a pot-luck or party.

Tex Mex Bean Salad

2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 tbsp. chili powder, mild
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt

Toss ingredients together in large serving bowl.  Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.

This was shared with Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot-Luck Party and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Truvia Brown Sugar Product Review & Apple Spice Cake Recipe

Truvia Brown Sugar Blend - 1 lb - Low Carb Canada

Am I an extremist about nutrition? Well extremism is all relative!

I eat all food groups, I don't follow any type of diet and I eat a wide array of things.  The only things I really try my best to exclude are added sugars and refined flours/grains, as well as trans fats.  Frankly these are habits WE SHOULD ALL BE DOING.  The only reason this may seem extreme to some people is that the BAD (basic American diet) is so full of this crap.

Now perhaps I am extreme because I have eliminated this stuff from my diet - well, mostly anyways - rather than 'cut down' but I'll bet most people who have 'cut back' on this stuff still eat too much. 

I don't cook or bake with sugar at all anymore.  I exclusively use stevia, xylitol, erythritol and coconut sugar.  I use limited amounts of even maple syrup, molasses and honey because they still affect your blood sugar the same way white sugar does.  Brown sugar is no better than white as its just white with a bit of molasses added.

Because of my anti-sugar stance, I was reluctant to try Truvia's new Brown Sugar Blend.  Why use any sugar?  Coconut sugar is much lower on the glycemic index, is much less processed, is a great substitute, and has a fantastic caramel flavour.  But I decided to entertain the interests of the moderates out there by giving it a shot.

Now I love stevia, but I know not everyone else feels the same.  Some brands are terrible, while others are amazing.  Nevertheless, there are some who are still sensitive to the slightly bitter aftertaste even in small quantities.  For this reason it is often blended with erythritol or regular sugar.  In this case, regular brown sugar (sugar and molasses) is combined with it as well as erythritol.

It looks and tastes exactly like brown sugar but has 75% less sugar since you use less based on its sweetness relative to regular brown sugar.   It has that soft, moist consistency whereas coconut sugar is rather granular.  You can always grind coconut sugar in a high powered blender to make it finer, but I've never tried this.  If you absolutely need to consistency of brown sugar this will do the job.

Anyways, since we were hosting a neighbourhood party I figured this was a perfect opportunity to try it out.  A lot of folks are not accustomed to healthy foods, particularly desserts, and there were going to be a lot of kids, so I wanted to make something with wide appeal.

I settled on an apple cake, inventing the recipe as I went along, as I tend to do.  It was awesome.  I say was because it disappeared very quickly.  Little A actually insisted on having a few pieces for breakfast the day after the party.  Healthier than most cakes, I agreed and we were all happy.

Now personally, I prefer to avoid sugar altogether as much as possible, but in cases like this, Truvia Brown Sugar Blend is a good option and may be good for you folks out there trying to cut down on sugar but not a big fan of pure stevia or other alternatives.

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary bag of the product to try but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Apple Spice Cake

1.5 cups unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup Truvia Brown Sugar Blend
2 extra large eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups whole grain flour (I used sprouted organic whole wheat, but spelt is great too)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Apple pie spice blend (or pumpkin spice blend)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

4 small apples, cored and diced
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. Truvia Brown Sugar Blend
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Stir together apples with lemon juice, Truvia and cinnamon and set aside.

Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir dry ingredients together and add to wet.  Stir just until combined.  Batter will be thick.  Put 2/3 of batter into greased bundt tin.  Add apples next, and then spread remaining cake batter evenly over top of apple layer.  Bake at 350F for about 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cover with foil half way through if top browns too quickly.  Remove from over and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Let cool.  Keep in airtight container for 3 days or freeze.

Monday, October 5, 2015

#WYCWYC: Your Best Effort is Good Enough

cover

Its Monday. Its morning.  What could be better? A fresh start!

I have long been a fan of Carla Birnberg, a blogger, author, speaker, mom and wife, who is also a fitness professional.  Unlike most health and fitness blogs though, hers is really more philosophical musings about life that many of us can relate to.  She's smart, daring and complex and I love reading her posts.

She recently published a book called What You Can When You Can, which is based on the notion that no one should strive for perfection with their lifestyle (which doesn't exist anyways), but instead, aim to do your best in each situation that you find yourself in.  This is very consistent with research that the more flexible you are, the more likely you are to be successful with your efforts.  Its often our black and white thinking (oh no, I ate a cookie and blew my diet, so I guess it doesn't matter if I eat the whole bag), that stops us for achieving our goals. Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity and health expert, whom I highly respect, has said he thinks perfectionism is one of the central reasons many people fail to lose weight or keep it off.  By the way, he did a post about something I sent him recently!

I haven't bought the book yet, but definitely plan to, and one of my weight loss clients did, and she is loving it.

Admittedly, I am prone to perfectionism and black and white thinking, although since becoming a counsellor I am somewhat reformed. I now understand the futility in trying to achieve perfection and am willing to accept my best effort in a given situation...sometimes!

This was put to the test this past weekend.  Saturday I woke up at 5am so I could get a workout in before going to the clinic for work.  Adam was already at the gym (he starts his workouts at 4am!!). My alarm went off and I hopped out of bed very excited to do a Muay Thai workout DVD.  I love Saturday mornings because I don't have to rush to get the girls to school and its kind of my wildcard workout day where I do whatever I'm in the mood for.  Unfortunately, about 2 minutes after getting up, our power went out.  Well, no DVDs.  No electricity period.  No Internet. No phone. Um, and no hot water!!

Once up I can never go back to bed so I was at a loss as to what to do.  I am not in a mental state to do work at that hour.  I couldn't even make coffee!!  Too dark to do weights or HIIT without potentially breaking furniture or injuring myself, and with the girls asleep upstairs I couldn't leave the house for a run or even to go grab a coffee.

Finally, I settled on peddling for a bit Adam's spin bike, with our flashlight to provide me with some ability to see in our basement.  I still had juice left in my Ipod, so I found some headphones and put on one of my playlists I use for my spinning class.  I got a sweat up, but that could certainly have been because I couldn't turn our fans on, unfortunately, it wasn't long before both girls got up...2 hours before their usual Saturday wake up time for some freakin' reason. 

The rest of the morning was a total gong show.  The girls were distraught over no television and then started fighting over their Ipad.  I had to take it away.  Of course, with no electronics or screens they didn't know what to do with themselves except complain.  We had to take freezing cold showers and afterwards I was so chilled my toes went numb.  No coffee.  NO COFFEE FOLKS!  Many mornings I wake up not even in the mood for coffee...this was not one of those mornings!

When Adam got home I packed up my stuff and headed to work early so I could make a hot breakfast in the kitchen there and buy some coffee...there is a Starbucks in the building so that's where I went even though I HATE Starbucks coffee.  Of course, as I arrived at the Starbucks eager to get my coffee but when I pulled my wallet out of my bag, the change purse was open and my coins and subway tokens spilled out all over the store.  Oh yes they did.

By the way, since we had no power, I couldn't blow dry my hair or flat iron it so I looked like Medusa. 

Yep, one of those days.

But by the time my first client arrived I was able to laugh about it all, and realize that I'd done the best I could given the situation.  Getting on the spinning bike was not my preference, I would much rather do martial arts, HIIT or strength training than any form of endurance cardio, and I teach spin on Sundays. But since it was really my only good option, I took it, and a bit of cycling is better than nothing!  Surprisingly, I did actually enjoy it as I played some awesome tunes, and it was kind of Soul Cycle-like with just a flashlight providing almost the equivalent of candle light.  It also turned out to be suitably emotionally cathartic after an emotional week (I'll explain more about that later). In addition, I managed to get my healthy breakfast and coffee in when it finally dawned on me that I could just go to work and make it.  It wasn't a fun morning, that's for sure, but it was the best I could do and that's good enough! Not the workout I'd hoped for, not the morning I'd looked forward to, but whatever.

Does perfectionism or rigidness get in the way of your healthy lifestyle progress? Have you read Carla's book?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Autumn Wellness

 
 
From Wednesday onward, this week has been my paradise: sunny and just cool enough for long pants.  Hello jeans, I missed you so!!!  I love autumn: the colours, smells, and, of course, flavours. I just wish it lasted longer.  Torontonians know we basically have two seasons: winter and summer, with two tiny little transitional periods called fall and spring.

While the temperatures may be cooling, that doesn't mean you need to start hiding under blankets sipping hot toddies and fueling up with heavy comfort food.  This time of year is full of opportunities for health and fitness if you look for it.

Now that the stifling heat and humidity is gone, its a perfect time to take a walk, go cycling, go for a hike, get outside and go apple picking, check out a farmer's market, or explore the country side.

This is also the time of year when all sorts of scrumptious produce are at their peak.  You know I love apples!!!  Just one of the many things I love about fall. I always look for new varieties to try and enjoy my tried and true favorites.  Don't forget about root vegetables and brassica veggies too, all packed with nutrition and fibre and so satisfying.  And don't forget about pumpkin spice everything!!
 
Don't fall into the trap of consuming high calorie coffee-like beverages full of sugar and chemicals from the coffee chains, instead try a new flavoured tea for a healthy, hot drink.  This one is currently my favorite:

And there's Halloween, which the kids have been planning in detail since November 1st of last year...and Thanksgiving, which celebrates nature's bounty.

I am very excited because this Sunday I am doing a presentation on konjac, and providing samples of some of my yummy recipes, as part of Marni Wasserman's Fall into Health Retreat. I'll be speaking about its health benefits and uses in the kitchen and sharing healthy chocolate chip blondies, pumpkin spice cookies, and no-sugar strawberry jam!


Have a lovely weekend and go out there and enjoy all that fall has to offer, you gotta get out there while it lasts!! Oh and if you live in a tropical climate where there is no real autumn...well it sucks to be you!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Aquafaba & Vegan Marshmallow Fluff

 


I am a total science nerd that loves playing around in the kitchen.  I guess that's why I love finding healthier alternatives to conventional recipes...its fun and games to me, and you literally get to have your cake and eat it too! For me cooking and baking is both art and science and I love it. I always have, and have been whipping up all sorts of treats since I was about 5 years old.

Because of my fascination with cooking and baking science, I had to try using aquafaba the moment I heard about it.  If you are vegan than you are probably at least familiar with what it is: the liquid from canned chickpeas that can be used as a substitute for egg whites.

After baking up some of my Healthy Chocolate Chip Blondies, I took the reserved chickpea liquid and got to work.  I thought I might have to whip it for a super long time so literally took the bowl and beaters and sat in front of the television, but to my surprise, it thickened rather quickly!

Now, from what I understand your success with this stuff will vary based on the brand of beans you buy and how concentrated the starch is in the liquid.  I think mine was pretty concentrated.  I used Bombay Dine organic chickpeas:

Organic Chick Peas

The can yielded 1 cup of liquid.

Here is how I made the marshmallow fluff (pictured is the 'fluff' about one third of the way through beating)...


Vegan and Sugar-Free Marshmallow Fluff

1 cup aquafaba
1 tsp guar gum
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1 cup baking stevia
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder (optional)

Whip liquid with guar gum and lemon juice with beaters until thickened.  Add stevia and vanilla and continue to whip to desired stiffness.  Beat in protein powder, if using.  Make sure you use a protein powder that tastes good to you!  Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

I have shared this recipe with Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot-luck Party and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-free Friday.