Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Moppin' Floors to CEO: Book Review

Moppin' Floors to CEO: From Hopelessness and Failure to Happiness and Success
We humans have a tendency to assume that there are only two types of people: lucky and unlucky.  We also tend to assume that if we can't see a person's challenges, they don't have any.  We'll neither of these assumptions, of course, are true.  Certainly, some people are more fortunate than others, no doubt about that, but all of us are vulnerable to misfortune, whether its an illness, loss of a loved one, or a tragic accident. Shit happens and it happens often indiscriminately.

So why do some people seem to flourish and progress even in the face of adversity, while others flounder and fall?  Well, a lot of it is resilience and perspective.  I will tell you right now, getting stuck in the 'why me' of it all is never helpful.  Life is not fair, but ruminating over that gets you nowhere.

I suppose this is one of the messages Dennis C. Miller is trying to get across in his autobiography. Moppin' Floors to CEO. Miller is an American, born in New Jersey in 1950.  His parents were emotionally neglectful and he consequently had behavioural problems as a child that negatively affected his early school achievement. 

Eventually, as a young man in his early 20s, he suffered from clinical depression and was hospitalized for a period of time.  He worked a variety of odd jobs and struggled with his mental health, self-esteem and identity.

Finally, he was inspired to return to school and ended up getting accepted into an Ivy League college to pursue an education in health care. Upon graduation he began an impressive career working in hospital management.

So what did I learn from this book? Well, personally, I only really learned about this guy, who I had never previously heard of, and about how hospitals in the U.S. are run (very differently than here in Canada because of the vast differences in our healthcare systems).

I did find the stuff about hospitals interesting, and some of the historical, economic and political context about life in the U.S. from the 1950s to present is interesting as well.  But the book meanders quite a bit, and, if you ask me, often includes a whole lot of minute details about various events in Miller's life that really aren't important or relevant.  In addition, while his career is very impressive, his life, overall is not terribly extraordinary.

To me, it is written like he is sharing life stories with his grandkids while sitting and drinking hot chocolate.  Quite a bit of editing should have been done to give the book more focus and direction.

Though Miller clearly wants to help end the stigma of depression and mental illness by being honest about his own experiences, I would not call this book a 'self-help' book by any stretch.  In fact, there is very little analysis provided about the link between his mental health and the events of his life.

What may be helpful to some readers, however, is how forthcoming Miller is about all the setbacks, failures and challenges he has had, which illustrates how someone who appears extremely fortunate and successful from the outside still may have significant struggles.  It was kind of comforting to me to see that even this smart, competent, hardworking man could face major hurtles in his career, but also that he could find a way get over them.  As I always tell my clients, progress and positive change are almost never a straight line!

So do I recommend this book? Sure, if you want a kind of interesting autobiography.  Perhaps it will be inspiring to some who struggle with mental health issues too.

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Gluten, Wheat & Dairy Conspiracy Theory

Toronto feels like a sauna/steam room right now.  Gross! While others frolicked in the weekend heat and humidity, I hid indoors.  Yesterday I took the kids to see Finding Dory.  It was cute, but I kinda miss seeing adult movies.  I've probably seen a half dozen or less in the 10 years since we became parents.  The heat is supposed to break tomorrow, thank goodness, but today is going to be horrid.

Anyways...lets talk nutrition.

Just so I don't receive any death threats over this post, let me start by saying I am well aware of the fact that many people suffer from life threatening allergies to various foods, including gluten, wheat and dairy products.  I am also well aware that people with Celiac disease cannot eat any gluten without dire consequences.  Others suffer from lactose intolerance, which I know all to well since, until my pregnancy with Little A, I had it myself.  Eating more than just a very small amount of dairy would give me extreme gas, bloating and stomach pain.  Now, for whatever reason, I have no problem with dairy at all.

But the point I want to make here is that just because some people cannot eat these things for legitimate health reasons, does not mean they are inherently unhealthy foods for everyone.  Unfortunately, it seems that these dietary items are suddenly being treated like villains for just about every health issue under the sun! I wouldn't be surprised if someone arrived at an ER with a gunshot wound, only to be told to just eliminate gluten, wheat and dairy from their diet as a 'cure'. Its ridiculous! Furthermore, anyone with any sort of digestive concern gets tested for food intolerances and seemingly EVERYONE comes back as intolerant to a zillion things, even though they may feel just fine when they eat them. 

I have followed all the research on this (I mean the credible research!), and there is not any evidence that these foods cause illness in most people.  In addition, those food sensitivity tests have not been proven to be actually measuring anything relevant.  There isn't clear evidence that is even such a thing as a food sensitivity.

Do some foods not agree with certain people? Sure, of course!  I am now living proof of that.

The reason I'm bringing all this up is my own recent experience with tummy troubles. I had been getting increasing bloating and abdominal pain for months now. I thought perhaps it was connected to hormones throughout my monthly cycle, or stress, even though it was happening when I didn't feel stressed or anxious.   None of that seemed to really explain it so I finally had to admit it must be something I was eating. I already knew it wasn't the big evils (gluten, wheat or dairy), because I'd been paying attention and none of that gave me any trouble.

I began playing around with my diet and trying different things but it still wasn't obvious until I finally had a lightbulb moment: it was flaxseed! I throw flaxseed in lots of things and had actually been increasingly using it because of all its health benefits, which is why I didn't initially put it all together (my morning oatmeal, lots of baked goods, as a binder for meatballs, etc.).  A clear pattern emerged and I then knew what to try eliminating. 

So was I right? Oh my, yes, what a difference! I now bake with chia instead of flax and don't add flax to anything I make (whole flax seeds don't bother me because they pass right through).  I think the flax meal was clogging up my plumbing.  This makes sense in a way, its really gummy. That's why it is used as an egg replacement: to bind things together!  But I don't want my colon binded up thanks! 

Since eliminating flax meal, I feel back to normal, thank goodness!!

Now, because flaxmeal makes me feel crappy, does that mean it is an unhealthy food and everyone should stop eating it? No! And I seriously doubt anyone would make that claim.

So if you feel good when you eat wheat, gluten and dairy, and you have no medical reasons to avoid them, or any other food group, then go for it! The key with nutrition is to eat real, unprocessed food, regardless of what it's free of (i.e. a gluten-free, vegan cupcake is still a cupcake!).

Friday, June 24, 2016

Eve Kit: At Home STI Testing

Today I'd like to talk to you about sexually transmitted diseases (STI).  Sounds fun, huh? Perhaps not, but its so important we do so. 
People tend to think of STIs as something only young people are at risk of, this isn't the case. Apparently, seniors in North America have the fastest growing rates of STIs!

Behavioural trends among young children are also concerning.  Researchers have found that oral sex is common among kids as young as aged 11-12, and that they don't consider it sex, nor are aware that it puts you at risk of STIs!  This is super scary stuff, especially as a mom of 2 girls!

Its also concerning to me from a professional perspective since untreated STIs can cause infertility. In addition HPV can cause cervical cancer!

Basically, it is important to practice safe sex regardless of your age, gender or sexual orientation. No glove, no love baby!

Unfortunately, there is so much stigma around STIs that many people avoid getting tested even if they know they are at risk.

This is where the Eve Kit comes in.  This simple system allows you to test for HPV and STIs at home.

This is a great idea, and hopefully a medical device that will help cut rates of STIs, as well as cervical cancer, and potentially infertility in Canada! Help them out if you can.

For more information, check out Eve Medical's IndieGogo Campaign site.

Have a happy, healthy weekend!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

If it Does Not Grow Say No: Book Review

I don't regale you with all the challenges I continue to have trying to feed the kids, because, really, things haven't changed much.  Both girls still have appetites like sumo wrestlers (especially Little A), so quantity isn't an issue, but there are areas where each of them could be doing a lot better. 

For Little A, its with her vegetable eating.  She'll eat cucumbers, grape tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, sweet peppers and corn.  That's about it. And only a tiny bit at any given meal, at best.  Fortunately, she is pretty good in other respects.  She loves fruit, eggs, and cheese, in particular, so it could be worse.

Then there's Big A. This kid makes me want to tear my hair out over food (not to mention almost everything else!).  She just wants sugar and carbs.  The only savoury foods she likes are pizza and hotdogs (sigh!). Ironically, however, she is better than Little A with veggies, even enjoying kale salad here and there and loving kale chips.  Left to her own devices, however, she would live on sweetened breakfast cereal, baked goods, candy, chocolate, and bread smothered in PB and honey.  She also loves salty carbs like crackers and chips too.  I have to negotiate with her at each meal to get any protein in - which is why, you may have noticed, I throw protein powder into most of my cookie and muffin recipes.  She can also go from loving a particular food or dish one day to despising it the next.  If asked to taste a new food, she will often just touch it to the front of her tongue or eat a microscopic crumb before deciding she hates it. Grrr!

Thank goodness they are happy to eat all my baked goods, which I always try to pack full of as much nutrition as possible.

Anything I can do to get the girls eating better I am up for, so I was happy to experiment with If It Does Not Grow, Say No, an interactive book on healthy eating for kids.

Its an interactive book that educates kids about healthy eating, particularly about plant-based foods, that tries to encourage them to try new things.

Big A took one look at it and said she was too old for it, which was fine, because then at least the girls weren't going to fight over it.  Little A and I sat down together with it and had fun.  I was a bit too ambitious, however, attempting to complete the whole thing at once as she started getting fidgety before we finished.

Little A loved all the opportunities the book has to think about your favorite types of foods. She likes defining the things she likes best.  She also liked the activities like drawing pictures, making lists and the word search.  Her knowledge already regarding nutrition was actually pretty good (I'll take credit for that!), though I don't think in her case this book will do much to encourage her veggie eating, but that's just her personality.

I think this book will work best in a school setting where positive peer pressure often gets kids to try new things and opens their minds to foods they might not otherwise ever accept at home. We have certainly found this to be the case with the girls' hot lunch program at school.  They eat all sorts of things that they won't touch at home.  I think this would be a great tool for teachers, so I may just recommend it to the girls' school for just such a use.

In any case, educating kids about nutrition is just as important as educating them about all other aspects of their health, and in my opinion, it is never too early to start.

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

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Faves

Its officially summer!  Not my fave though and they are predicting a particularly hot and humid one, which really doesn't make me happy. In fact, this past weekend was a scorcher and today is supposed to be even worse. Thank goodness I will only be outside getting to and from the office.  I just hope I get air conditioned buses and subways...its certainly too hot for cycling today!

No matter what life throws at you, you have to appreciate the little pleasures.  Here are a few of mine right now.

First off, I always have to be comfortable.  No stilettos or uncomfortable clothing, especially not when I am coping with uncomfortably hot weather!  I found this dress by Mondetta, a workout wear company, and I love it! Its like wearing workout clothes, but has the fit of a dress you can wear to work. 
 It comes in a few colours, but I always gravitate towards neutrals like grey. It is so comfortable to wear on a super hot day!!

Speaking of workout wear, I rarely shop at Lululemon (a Canadian company, by the way), because the prices are now astronomical.  But recently I had a gift card to spend so I went for a visit.  I quickly realized that with $60, I couldn't get much in the way of clothes, so I started to look around for something else.

Though I've bought a bajillion water bottles over the years (or been given them, won them, etc.), I have never...and I mean NEVER found one that didn't eventually start leaking.  I can't tell you how many times I've gotten to work, or even just been on the subway having just left my house, when I end up looking like I've wet myself because my bottle leaked everywhere (not to mention soaking papers and almost totalling my Ipad!).  But I am always hopeful and I have been looking for a glass one with a rubber protector for ages.  I have one for home use but wanted one for the office.  I was given a glass one last year that had no rubber cover and the second time I used it, I smashed it.  Of course.  Anyways, I am happy to say, this one is the bomb.  Even if I put carbonated water in it from our Soda Stream, it does not leak.  YAY!

hidden jaguar h20m/deep zinfandel
Though I would expect a bottle that costs $28 not to leak, but that isn't always the case.

With the remaining money, I bought a pair of underwear for an absurd $18.  They are incredibly comfortable and I love them, but I would not ever spend that much again on a pair of underwear. FYI, that is so not my body!

Me and the girls are loving Betty Lou's Just Great Stuff Powdered Peanut Butter. I use the regular or high protein and they like the chocolate one.

In terms of nut butters, I generally prefer tahini and sunflower seed butter, from a taste perspective, but this stuff has some great uses.  Its the best in smoothies, frostings and baked goods.  I was also surprised to discover it is also great just slathered on a sandwich! I actually like it more than regular peanut butter on a sandwich!

I also have finally found a natural deodorant that works. 

I'm a mega sweater (not a sweater as in a woolly thing you wear, but a person who sweats a lot!), and I need something that gets the job done.  I've tried a lot of natural brands and they just aren't up to snuff (or sniff) for my needs.  This one rocks.  I like the smell and it actually works!

There you are, some of things I am enjoying right now, and I hope you enjoy them too.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Gender Stereotypes

Happy Friday! Do you have any plans for Father's Day this weekend? Frankly its going to be stupid hot this weekend so I am going to want to do nothing but hide in air conditioned spaces, but unfortunately, I have to work and we have errands and a Father's Day BBQ on Sunday with Adam's family planned, so I will have to brave the elements.

Lately, many parents have been speaking out about the way toys are gendered and pushing stereotypes onto our children.  I agree, its ridiculous and its high time to let go of this crap. 

I am not saying there are no differences between males and females.  We know that there are and many are biologically based.  But there are also lots of misconceptions about 'maleness' and 'femaleness' that are due to our very antiquated gender stereotypes, and unfortunately, these are still being shoved down our children's throats.

But kids aren't the only ones who face this crap.  Adults do too.  Believe me, I see it often among my clients who experience shame because they do not believe they live up to what they have been told is the ideal for a man or woman.  Ugh, such bullshit!
After all, gender can no longer be thought of as binary anyways!

These gender stereotypes always rear their heads around holidays like Mother's Day and Father's Day.  Just take a look at any gift giving guide for them.  The past few weeks everywhere you look are ads suggesting you buy dad:

  • Golf clubs
  • BBQ accessories
  • Tools
  • Alcohol
  • Meat
  • Car wash products
I can tell you right now, none of these things would be useful or appropriate gifts for most of the men I know, and certainly not for my husband.  Adam would much prefer chocolate to alcohol, and, in fact, the only thing he ever wants for Father's Day is a Blizzard from Dairy Queen (with lots of chocolate in it). I'd be much more likely to appreciate craft beer then he would be! 
Ugh, this stuff drives me nuts, when are we going to let go of this stupid shit?

Anyways, go have a nice weekend and don't forget to buy the dads you know a gift.  Maybe some flowers? A box of chocolates? Or maybe a pink tutu, if that is what he wants!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Eat Sh*T & Die(T): Book Review

I have another weight-loss book review for you today, but first a warning: if you are easily offended/ don't like swearing, you might just want to skip this one.

Eat Sh*t & Die(T) is self published by Max Cunningham. I have no idea who he is.  There is no bio in the book and a Google search got me nowhere except to the book website. Twitter account, and Facebook page. Is he a personal trainer? A life coach? A dog walker? I am not sure. But he does say in the book that he is not a doctor nor a nutritionist.  It seems like he's just a guy for whom this diet approach worked well for so he wants to share his secret. 

What diet approach, you ask? Intermittent Fasting (IF). Nothing new, actually, but also an approach that is gaining credibility among some experts. 

You may recall I reviewed the 5:2 Diet a while back and actually had no major issues with it. Like all diets, its really effective if you follow it consistently, the question is can you (and be happy)?

When I started the book, all the swearing seemed gratuitous, but as I got further into it, I realized its written like the author - much like many of my clients and most yoyo dieters - is fed up with various experts and faddish diet plans telling him what he can and can't eat.

Despite what the many militant diet gurus out there spew out, there is little evidence that in order to lose weight and maintain the loss, you need to: eat low/no carb, high fat, Paleo, gluten-free, etc.  You need to cut caloric intake (and preferably improve diet quality/nutrition) so whatever way you are able to do it, is what is going to be effective for you, so long as it provides you with a lifestyle you enjoy enough to maintain long-term.  Get it?

Intermittent fasting is just one method of eating that allows some people to cut calories and sustain themselves on a lower calorie intake without feeling hungry or deprived. 

Some will claim that getting your body into an actual fasting state helps burn fat, but I think like all the other stuff, there isn't yet enough evidence about that to consider it fact.


Cunningham's preferred method of IF is to fast 16 hours from after his evening meal to midday the next day.  Then he eats 2 daily meals, one around noon and one in the evening.  No snacks.  He also discusses something similar to the 5:2 where you are eating normally 5 days a week and just cutting calories fairly significantly (like to 500 cals) on the other 2 days a week. 

I honestly don't have a problem with anything he says in this book, though I don't like that the focus is mostly on fat loss rather than health.  But I suppose he's trying to appeal to those (and I have clients like this), absolutely adamant they will never give up (fast food/ice cream, chips, etc.).  The point is that if you time your meals appropriately and eat an appropriate amount when you do, they you will lose fat no matter what you are eating.  He does recommend trying to stick with healthier foods, and points out what I have repeatedly lectured you all on, that healthier foods are often lower in calories so you can eat more of them, which means you will feel more full (i.e. 100 calories baked potato versus 5 French fries for 100 cals).  He also recommends staying away from refined carbs because they have so little satiating power.  Again, I agree.  Protein and fibre and some good fat go a long way making you feel more full!  Protein is also essential when dieting to prevent muscle loss.

So my only problem with IF is that I just don't think it can work for many highly active people.  He says he works out hard and still manages to do it no problem, but for me, I just don't see how I could make it work. But that's because of when I do my workouts. 

Since I do my workouts right upon waking at 5am on an empty stomach, there is no way I could wait until noon to eat.  I would be all kinds of hangry.  Actually, I could probably do it if I could divide my food into 3 meals.  Because even if I could wait until late morning to eat, I couldn't go without anything else until evening (which is what Cunningham recommends if you tend to be hungry in the evening, which I am). But maybe if I ate an early dinner it would work? But then I think I'd be so hungry after my workout in the morning that I wouldn't be able to delay my meal.  So yeah, maybe if I ate 3 meals within the eating window hours.

Again, I will warn you that this book is not for the faint at heart.  On one page he reminds readers that you have to avoid ingesting sperm during your fasting hours because it contains calories.  That kind of blew my mind (pun intended!).

Cunningham gives general calorie recommendations but aside from suggesting readers avoid refined carbs, he leaves what you eat up to you.  I am sure this will be welcome news to most folks who want to be able to continue eating their favorite foods. 

He claims the diet will work even if you exercise, but says exercise will boost your weight loss and even provides quite a few workout tips and a weight lifting sample program at the end.

So do I recommend this book? F*ck yes! But only if this whole IF idea appeals to you and you can handle all the swearing, etc.

Just make sure you consult your doctor before trying IF because it is not appropriate for all individuals (pregnant/breastfeeding women, diabetics, etc.) and can be dangerous.

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

Monday, June 13, 2016

Mediterranean Egg White Scramble

Welcome to another week!  If another Monday isn't depressing you, then likely the events over the weekend are.  The gay nightclub shooting in Orlando has us absolutely horrified.  There are just no words.  When is all this hatred and violence going to stop??

Not sure how to segue from that to a recipe, but here you go...

I love making massive egg white omelets or scrambles.  There is so many ways to flavour them and they provide a huge hit of high quality, low calorie protein.  Don't get me wrong, I am happy to eat yolks.  Its just I try to keep my whole egg consumption in line with the recommending 6/week max.  I often make fried or hard boiled whole eggs, but for an omelet or scramble, I stick with the whites and make honking huge ones, using a full cup of egg whites.  Believe me, if you want to quash hunger, these are great!

The ways you can dress them up are limitless...with Mexican, Italian flavours, Greek, Japanese or Korean...even Indian.  I've tried the sweet omelet thing and that did NOT do it for me.  But perhaps blueberries and cinnamon were just not the best choices.  Anyways, I'll stick with savoury, thanks.

This one is one of my favorites, probably because I absolutely adore kalamata olives and feta.  If you don't want to use kale, baby spinach works great too, and it takes even less time to a second!  Other things you could add in here would be red onion, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and/or sundried tomatoes.

I have eaten these for breakfast, lunch and dinner and I promise you they are fabulous for any meal, any time of day.

I actually made this more like an omelet, cooking the egg on the bottom, and topping with all the other ingredients, but kind of chopped it up once on the plate, so it looks like a scramble in the photo.  If you want a true scramble, just add egg whites and just after they start forming curds, stir in remaining ingredients, with cheese added last.  It doesn't really matter how you do it, it will be delicious!

Mediterranean Egg White Scramble

1 cup egg whites
1 tsp konjac powder

2 cloves garlic,
1 large bunch curly kale, chopped
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 can tomato paste
Crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup crumbled feta

Saute garlic, kale and oregano with vinegar until kale wilts.  Stir in olives, tomato paste and seasonings.  Remove from heat.

Pour egg whites into large non-stick skillet or pan set over medium heat, and sprinkle with konjac powder.  After a minute or 2, add kale mixture and cover.  Let cook about 3-4 minutes and then top with feta.  Cover again and continue cooking until egg is firm and cheese has melted. Serves 1 me, or possibly 2 normal eaters.

I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Less Style, More Substance Please!

CTV's 'Your Morning' team
Good Friday morning!

Though I'm excited to start this beautiful day and welcome the weekend, I feel like ranting.  Yep, I'm still going on about the loss of my favorite morning show, Canada AM.

They've announced the new show that will replace it: Your Morning.

One of the hosts will be Anne-Marie Mediwake, a seasoned journalist, along with Ben Mulroney, who has years of experience as an entertainment journalist (!).  I actually really like Ben Mulroney. He's bright and seems quite down to earth (for the son of a former prime minister).  But my greatest fear for my morning television viewing seems to be coming true: they are replacing Canada AM with an entertainment show! No, say it isn't so!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Joining Mediwake and Mulroney, are Melissa Grelo, Lindsey Deluce and Kelsey McEwen.

Grelo also has a journalism background but she is one of the co-hosts of The Social, sort of like Canada's version of The View, but with a focus on social media, and, in my opinion, one of the most atrociously stupid shows out there.  At least Grelo seems to be the brightest one on that show...

I don't know much about Lindsey Deluce, though she does have an impressive education (no surprise there as Robert Deluce, CEO of Porter Airlines, is her father) and prior experience as a news anchor.  Okay, sigh of relief.

Likewise, I am previously unfamiliar with McEwen.  She is coming over from CTV Calgary where she's been working as their Meteorologist. Okay fine.

But here is what bothers me most.  Aside from the fact that apparently news is going to be sidelined in exchange for a bigger focus on entertainment (WTF, come on Canadians, we're not supposed to be into celebrity worship as much as our southern neighbours!), every one of these hosts is relatively young and very gorgeous.

Why is it we need those delivering news, weather, or even entertainment news to look a certain way (never mind be from wealthy, prominent Canadian families)?

I know that television is all visual, so this isn't anything new. But as I've ranted about before, our tech and social media obsession have turned us into complete slaves to physical beauty. Millennials can't be bothered to read words, everything has to be presented as a visual image in the form of photo of video.  I just read an article that said a recent survey of Millennials found that the most important characteristic of the food they eat is how it looks (i.e. how Instagrammable it is)!  Goodness, what is this world coming to! If we make all our life decisions including who we trust to deliver information and what to eat based on physical appearances, we're in for trouble.

I guess I may be shopping around for a new morning show that focuses on NEWS! I think I might check out Global's show while I do my early morning workouts.  On top of that, I read both the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail newspapers while I eat breakfast.  Remember newspapers? Those things you get delivered to your door, that have mostly words?

Okay, rant over, have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Out There - A Story of Ultra Recovery: Book Review

There are many theories about addiction.  Some feel that anyone can become addicted to particular substances which have particular chemical properties.  Some think that there is an 'addictive personality type', or that it is hereditary.  Nowadays, I think most experts believe its a complex issue that likely has multiple causes and is a combination of genetics and environment.

I'm no addiction expert, as a therapist its not a presenting problem I see in my client population very often.  The only exception is what some people might call, 'food addiction', but, honestly I don't think its an addiction so much as a dysfunctional coping strategy.  Likewise, I don't believe that all people who misuse alcohol or drugs have an actual chemical dependence.  Again, its often just a dysfunctional coping strategy.  We all use certain consumables or behaviours to self-medicate or numb ourselves from time to time, whether its a tub of ice cream after a breakup, a glass of wine after a hard day of work, or a shopping binge when we're feeling down.  These aren't really active problem solving strategies, but they distract us from our anxiety or pain.  For some people though, the misuse of a substance becomes extreme enough that it destroys not just bodies, but lives.  Alcohol causes more social problems (crime, violence, etc.) than just about anything else, however, in our culture consumption is not only condoned but often encouraged. Its something we all need to be mindful of.

Even though I am a health nut, I can easily see how alcohol or something like prescription pain meds can start becoming a problem.  That's because I am very much an all-or-nothing person, and one who has experienced anxiety and depression in the past.  Luckily, the only thing I've probably gone too far with is exercise. It was easy to over train back in grad school, and justify it, because I was getting paid to do it (teach fitness classes and personal train).  Fortunately, I learned that more isn't always better, even for good things.

But because I know I can take things to extremes, addiction fascinates and scares me.  This is probably why I was absolutely mesmerized by David Clark's memoir, Out There.

He starts by describing his childhood, which was fraught with instability due to his family's numerous moves across the U.S., and volatile financial situation.  Although his parents seem to have been nothing but loving and supportive, the family oscillated between periods of relative comfort to being completely broke and homeless (living in their truck and driving around in search of employment opportunities). By his late teens/early 20s, his alcohol consumption had already become problematic.  Clark describes in detail his drinking and associated risky behaviours (driving under the influence, taking pain pills with the alcohol, eating nothing but fast food), which reminded me just how amazing the human body can be.  But reading it all made me absolutely cringe just imagining the damage he was doing to himself!  He was very lucky to have not killed himself or someone else.  At the height of all this, his weight tipped the scales at 320 lbs.

He was very fortunate to have a supportive wife and healthy children from it all.  Though he says me went to great lengths to try not to let his alcoholism affect them, it had to, so I was very impressed that his wife stayed by his side through it all.

After many years in denial that he really had serious problem, he finally hit rock bottom.  What is fascinating to me is what happened next.  He made a conscious decision that running would be part of his recovery.  Of course, given my background I know that physical activity is very effective for helping individuals with all sorts of mental health problems. But he literally makes the steadfast decision before he is even physically capable of running at all.  He reframes his self-definition from alcoholic/obese man, to runner.  He goes out and buys runners and sweats and then begins running from the ground up (one minute+).  Of course, this is a great way to make any major change - incrementally so you don't get burned out or overwhelmed.  But since this guy, no matter what he does, knows no limits, he quickly surpasses running regular marathons to becoming an ultramarathoner (i.e. 100 mile races, etc.)!

Being a personal trainer, however, I could see what was coming next.  He didn't cross train and he began overtraining and eventually injured his back and had to have back surgery.  But he then rehabbed his way back up to those crazy ultramarathons.  I say crazy because, to me, even the monotony of a half marathon is too much, long distance running is just never something I think I could enjoy, especially at the extreme level Clark does it at! 

I don't consider this book a self-help book but it definitely is an inspirational memoir, which I think will resonate with anyone who has had, or does have an addiction issue.  Being a therapist, I would have preferred to hear more of his introspection and spiritual awakening along this journey, but he gives very little insight into the 'why' until close to the end.  At that point he does start to divulge more detail into how the instability of his childhood caused him tremendous anxiety.  This isn't surprising, but I would have liked to know more, like did being poor and homeless at times make him feel shame, fear, or give him an inferiority complex.  Reading between the lines I think it made him doubt that he matters, as he often mentions returning to the place of seeing himself as just 'the kid from the block'.  Certainly, having a sense of purpose is extremely important to each and every one of us, and his running and the social activism he now does around addiction, likely give him that sense of purpose he may have been missing.

I was very disappointed that at the end, he admits to having cheated on his wife, who by his account stayed by his side through all this chaos and turmoil.  This finally led to the demise of their marriage, but he claims they are still close friends.  Seriously dude, after all that, you cheated on her??? But I know, every single one of us can make mistakes and he admits that this was one of his biggest.

Even if you don't have addiction issues, you may find Clark's story fascinating and inspirational.  Not just because he ends up an uber elite athlete, but because he is so honest in disclosing his troubled past. If you do struggle with addiction issues, I definitely recommend you give it a read.  I know some experts believe that there are some people who can only recover from an addiction by replacing it with another activity, and if that's the case, exercise is a better replacement addiction than just about anything else!

Good job to Clark for sharing his story, I am sure it will help lots of others.

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

Monday, June 6, 2016

Salted Caramel Granola

Its a beautiful Monday morning! Hopefully it won't get too hot.  Yesterday was rainy but okay, however, Saturday was way too hot and muggy.


One of the trendiest flavours these days is salted caramel.  Not that I care about what's trendy. I usually find trends silly and pretentious, but in this case, it can be quite delicious. I've always appreciated the sweet/salty combination.

This is a variety of granola I haven't made before, so it was also born out of my ongoing obsession with kitchen experimentation.  This one is definitely a success! It is also low-sugar/refined sugar-free, gluten-free and vegan.

I kept this nut-free and added freeze-dried apple and mango, and raisins, but you can add whatever you like.  Pecans would be delicious, as would chopped figs, apricots or dates.

Salted Caramel Granola

2.5 cups unsweetened apple sauce
1/3 cup coconut oil
2 tbsp. coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 droppers full of English Toffee or caramel flavour stevia liquid (or add 2 more tbsp. coconut sugar)
1/2 tsp salt

170g bag puffed millet
4 cups oats (certified gluten-free, if necessary)
1 cup millet
2 tbsp. chia seeds
1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt (or to taste)

Add ins: 2 cups freeze-dried fruit, 1/2 cup raisins (or whatever you want)

Warm apple sauce, oil, sugar, vanilla, stevia and salt together in a small sauce pan until oil is melted and mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat. 

Toss dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Poor wet ingredients over dry and toss well until evenly coated. Spread mixture out over 2 very large baking sheets and bake at 350F for 15 minutes.  Stir granola on both pans, and then return to oven shifting their positions.  Bake another 15 minutes.  Turn off heat and keep in oven for another 30 minutes.  Granola should be golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Toss with fruit and/or nuts and store in air tight container for up to 3 months.

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

Friday, June 3, 2016

Goodbye Canada AM!

I am feeling a bit bereft this morning.

Just last night I found out, only because Adam had heard earlier in the day, that my favorite morning show, Canada AM aired for the last time today.  Not much notice they gave viewers!?!

It is the only morning show I've ever liked. I hate the American ones, and don't like the other Canadian network shows either.  But I've always loved to start my day watching Canada AM. I love the various hosts they have and no matter who is on (they've changed a lot over the years) they always manage to have great chemistry, and you can tell they are actually friends off air.

Its a great mix of high quality news coverage as well as human interest stories.  As a matter of fact, Adam has been on the show a few times as a foreign policy expert!

Apparently, they are going to be replacing it with something younger and hipper.  Sigh!

I am neither young nor hip so I'm not so sure I'm gonna like it!

I started watching the show back in 1998 when I was a grad student. I moved into the no longer existing grad house at the University of Toronto. My dorm room was large enough to have a sitting area, so I had a futon, coffee table, and television.  While most of my peers slept in most mornings, taking advantage of a flexible schedule of student life, I was already waking at the crack of dawn to teach fitness classes before my school classes.  Afterwards, I'd come back to my dorm, shower, and then eat breakfast and watch Canada AM.

The show is 43 years old, so its been around just a few years more than I have!

Well, nothing lasts forever, so I'm going to try and keep an open mind about this new hip show...

Have a lovely weekend and stay healthy!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Gomacro Macrobars

We were thrilled to receive a whole box of Gomacro Macrobars recently.  We got one of, I believe, every flavour, except peanut butter chocolate chip - thankfully because the girls each grabbed immediately for those!

As usual, the girls divided them up on the assumption they were going to eat them all, but then decided to give Adam the apple walnut variety, because that wasn't to their liking.  A few they both wanted, so I cut them in half for them to share, and without their knowledge took a sliver for myself.

The bars are organic, gluten-free and vegan.  What's cool is they are not all the same size nor do they have identical nutritional info.  I say that's cool because I always wonder how other manufacturers make every bar, regardless of flavour, exactly the same calories, fat, etc.?

Gomacro Macrobars range from about 57g to 65g.  Calories range from 200 to 260.  The bars don't have a ton of protein, so I would classify these as a 'snack' or 'energy' bar, but they do also have a few grams of fibre, which is nice.

The ingredients are mostly fruit, nuts and seeds, but they are sweetened with brown rice syrup, which isn't my favorite sweetener, which is also the first ingredient in most of the bars.

Given some of the unusual flavours (almond butter carob, tahini and date, etc.) I wasn't certain the girls would go for them, but they LOVED them. All of them, except the tahini date, which is ironic because that was the flavour I had my eye on.  Fortunately, I snuck a taste before giving it to them, and before they gave theirs to Adam to eat.  As for Adam, he said the apple walnut had good flavour but not for 250 calories (this is because for that many calories Adam wants a bar to have chocolate and taste like candy!).

Aside from devouring the bars, the girls were also thrilled that each one has a ticket for a chance to win a trip to LA to hangout with Ellie Goulding and have a training session with Ellie and her personal trainer. Ellie Goulding is apparently a huge fan of these bars.  This contest is open until August 31st, 2016.

So would I buy them again? Yes, I absolutely would for the girls if - as often happens - they wanted a snack and they were available.  They are definitely better than most other snack bars! As for me, I prefer a higher protein bar if I am going to have one, but these might do in a pinch and they are extremely yummy!

Disclosure: We were sent the bars for free, but all opinions on this blog are our own.