Monday, February 27, 2017
Good morning and welcome to a new week!
What are you having for breakfast today? Hopefully not cereal!!
If there is one food I am actually not sorry my kids have started to reject, its breakfast cereal. I am sure you've read at least one of my rants about cereal: most are like eating a bowl of cookies for breakfast, and even the lower sugar, higher fibre ones often leave you hangry in no time. Studies consistently show that you will have more control over your appetite all day, and more energy, if you eat a high protein breakfast.
So I find it infuriating that so many cereals market themselves as health or diet food. One of the most outrageous ones is Special K. Back when I was a kid there was only the original variety without any added fancy stuff. But even the basic cereal is almost void of any nutrition. So why commercials always showed skinny, perfect-looking women in skimpy bathing suits, I could never understand. Of course, since then Kellogg's has come up with all sorts of other products in the Special K line, including different flavours of the cereal, snack bars, pastries and protein drinks. All of them sugar-filled crap-o-la.
Then I heard they were coming out with a whole new line called "Nourish", which had these cool television ads featuring more realistic, athletic women, playing sports and living life, and telling us to go ahead and shovel in their healthy new product line into our bodies.
"Could they actually be producing something that contains nutritional value?" I asked myself.
Ha! Silly me! A company line Kellogg's? Of course not!
The first time I saw the new products in the grocery store, I ran over and picked up the boxes to read the ingredients. My advice is, eat the box, it is probably healthier!
I don't know what the heck distinguishes this line from any of their others, because it is still crap. For example, look at the ingredient list for the snack bars:
Roasted peanuts, dried cranberries (cranberries, sugar, glycerin, vegetable oil), raisins (raisins, vegetable oil), corn syrup, sugar, roasted almonds, whole grain gluten-free oats, rice flour, dates, fructose, coconut, modified palm oil shortening, salt, vegetable oil, glycerin, calcium carbonate, dextrose, soy lecithin, bht, milk ingredients, soy protein, calcium phosphate, sulphites.
I can assure you, I won't be buying these for my family!
Just a friendly reminder: Don't get swayed by marketing and advertising of food! Read every label and check both the ingredient list, and the nutritional content!!
Friday, February 24, 2017
If you are a fitness freak, like me, than chances are you are loyal to a particular brand of athletic shoe. Once you find what works for you, it makes sense to stick with it. For me, that's been Asics or New Balance running shoes for at least the last 10 years.
I choose running shoes because, though I don't do a lot of running, they just work better for me, and I like to have the option of being able to run in them, without having to have two different pairs of shoes.
But since first seeing them in a fitness magazine, I have been fascinated by HOKA ONE ONE shoes. Given my bad feet, I am definitely someone who needs lots of cushioning in a shoe, and it doesn't get any more cushioned than HOKA! Like so much cushioning, they make you taller...which is good for short little me!
It wasn't until this past weekend though, that I ever laid eyes on them in a store. We were in MEC looking around before taking Little A to the kids activities at the TIFF Lightbox.
I was more than overdo to get a new pair of shoes for my workouts, but I only buy shoes on sale and I hadn't found any good deals, or shoes in my size, over the holidays, which is when I usually buy.
Well, it just so happened that MEC had some women's HOKAs on clearance and they came in my size! The minute I slipped them on, I knew I had to have them. Its like wearing pillows on your feet! And did I mention they make me taller??
Ugly these babies may be, but I could care less. I do my workouts at home in my basement, so does it really matter?
I may just be hooked on HOKA now!
Well I'm off for day 2 of part 2 of my EMDR training. Tomorrow is the final day, and Sunday is jam packed for the whole family, so not much relaxing time this weekend. Have a good one and stay healthy.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Though this blog is mostly about health, fitness and nutrition, my career is focused primarily on infertility. About 80% of my counselling clients come for infertility support. My passion for my work comes from my own experience with infertility and pregnancy loss, and from witnessing the pain and suffering of friends, family and my clients who have been through it.
So, of course, I eagerly agreed to read the memoir of Nadine Kenney Johnstone, which describes her experiences with infertility.
Johnstone is a college English teacher and writing coach in the Chicago area. Her husband has compromized sperm quality due to cancer treatment he received prior to their meeting. They underwent IVF and Johnstone experienced a rare, life-threatening complication to the treatment. After doing one failed embryo transfer they managed to spontaneously conceive. In utero, it appeared their son may have a serious kidney malfunction, but he was eventually born healthy.
The book is well written, which is not surprising, since Johnstone is a professional writing instructor. It is a pleasure to read and engaging, and could just as well be a novel as a memoir. She journals regularly which allows her to include a significant amount of detail that might be forgotten during traumatic events, otherwise.
I am always very grateful to anyone willing to share their infertility and/or infant/pregnancy loss stories, because we still are not talking about it enough as it is all shrouded in shame, stigma and a lack of understanding.
If you know a loved one who is struggling with infertility, I definitely recommend this book as you may get some insight into what they are going through. If you yourself are dealing with it, I recommend it as well, however, I should caution you on two things. First, if you are about to undergo IVF and have anxiety about the procedure, maybe hold off on reading this as Nadine's experience may scare you, and, honestly, it is not typical. In all the years I have been counselling IVF patients, only 2 I can think of had serious complications, and they weren't the same as Nadine's. It is not common. Second, while Nadine and her husband managed to conceive spontaneously, this does not happen for everyone, or even the majority of infertility patients. Don't let it give you false hope.
The book title is based on an assurance Johnstone got from a relative after their failed embryo transfer, that they would have a baby eventually. But this too is not necessarily true. What I tell all my infertility clients is this: Where there is a will, there is a way as long as, (1) You have financial means because all fertility treatments and adoption, etc. is extremely expensive, (2) You are open to whatever means is necessary to create a family (many people are not open to having a non-biological child, but not everyone will be able to have a biological child), and (3) You must have the stamina to keep going until you achieve your goal. Lots of people, including Johnstone, were unwilling to continue with treatment. Its not fun. So if financial means are insufficient, you are not willing to adopt, use an egg or sperm donor, use a surrogate, etc. if it is necessary, and/or you are not willing to continue with intervention, than you are not guaranteed to have a child.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and appreciate the candor with which Johnstone shares this very personal experience.
Disclosure: I was sent this book to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.
Monday, February 20, 2017
We are enjoying Family Day here in Ontario, ending what has been a lovely long weekend.
I meant to post this recipe Friday, but the day was so busy I completely forgot. Salad might sound like a strange thing to post in February, but the weather here has been gorgeous and unseasonably warm. In any case, I eat salad all year long, they just tend to be heartier in winter, like this one.
I love my fatty fish, and since discovering I can't digest flax or chia seeds, I am trying to eat more of it to get in my Omega 3s.
The most inexpensive fatty fish are canned, like salmon, tuna, herring and sardines. I know not everyone is a fan, but fortunately, I am. Though I refuse to buy salmon with bones, blech! Only boneless thanks.
The dressing contains no oil or mayo, just yogurt. You can use Greek yogurt to bump up the protein content further, and non-dairy yogurt if you can't eat dairy. You can also use greens instead of coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage, but I adore the extra crunch it gives.
I can boneless wild salmon, drained
1 bag coleslaw mix
1 cucumber, sliced
1 pint grape tomatoes
Lemon Dill Dressing
1 cup plain yogurt
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickles
2 tbsp horseradish
1 tsp dried dill (or 2 tbsp fresh)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Prepare salad in large bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients. Add desired amount to salad and toss.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
When my kids get up in the morning, they spend 10 minutes meditating before greeting me lovingly and politely and sipping a mug of hot water with lemon.
After getting dressed, they happily eat a bowl of organic Greek yogurt with berries, pumpkin seeds and beet juice powder. Then they pack up their lunches for school, made up of bento boxes full of fresh fruits, veggies and legumes for protein.
At dinner time, whatever healthy meal I place on the table, they gleefully eat, only after thanking me profusely for the time and effort I put into making it.
ARE YOU F@CKING KIDDING ME?
Just because I am a health nut, doesn't mean this is what it looks like in our home! I wish, but no.
The girls are impossible when it comes to food, just like most kids, and could do a lot better when it comes to nutrition.
We are going through a particularly tough time right now because suddenly a lot of kid-friendly foods they used to love, they now hate. Little A won't touch veggie dogs and has lost her taste for eggs. Big A doesn't like pasta anymore nor tuna nor smoked salmon. One day she likes eggs the next day they make her burst into tears. Neither of them like tacos. Also off the list now is miso soup, chicken noodle soup and fish sticks. Like WTF?
Every day its a surprise what foods they will want to eat and what will make them shriek in horror. I often can't even find something both will agree on as their tastes are so different. Preparing food for them is a nightmare!
Their nutrition lacks in all sorts of ways. Little A eats hardly any vegetables, and Big A eats far too many carbs, and is very stubborn about protein. They both eat way too much junk food, which always seems to be in abundance everywhere they go (I'm sure you've heard my rants about this already!).
You'd think I would be freaking out about all this, and truthfully, a few years ago, I would have. But I've realized 2 things: (1) Its not a battle I can win through force, and (2) The best thing we can do, as parents, is model the desired behaviour.
As a parent, what you do is far more important than what you say, when it comes to teaching behaviours and habits. If you smoke, don't think telling your children not to start smoking will actually work. The same goes for exercise and healthy eating. You gotta walk the walk.
Most of my counselling clients who need weight loss support grew up in homes with parents who, if they weren't overweight themselves, did not model healthy behaviours. They didn't exercise and they served and ate mostly prepared foods. This does not set up a child for success when it comes to health and weight management!
There is a strong focus on the importance of health and fitness in this house, without any talk of weight or body shape. The girls see Adam and I exercising daily and paying attention to our nutrition intake. They see me cooking and baking from scratch and watch us fill the fridge with fresh fruit and veggies from the market twice weekly. I am comforted that research shows this is one of the most effective ways to encourage children towards a healthy lifestyle.
I am prepared for it to get worse before it gets better. Already, they are discovering that they can take their allowance money and spend it anyway they want, including on candy. As much as this pains me to watch, I am reminded that I did exactly the same thing at their age and lived to tell the tale. As they get older and their freedoms increase, I can only hope I have given them the confidence, knowledge and tools to make good choices. As a parent, that's really all you can do!
Monday, February 13, 2017
Did you know that women claim one of the biggest barriers to using their lunch hour to workout is concern about their hair and makeup? What a shame, to bypass the million benefits of exercise just to avoid smudged makeup and frizzy hair!
If this is you, then you will be happy to know, there are beauty products that are sweatproof!
I was very pleased with Oxygenetix foundation when I tried it before, so I was very happy to offer to test it out as smudgeproof. This time I ordered a darker shade (Ivory instead of Pearl) and found I like it even better. They offer their makeup in 14 shades!
Now, I workout at home and at 5am, so you better believe I do not wear makeup when I am exercising, but it is easy for me to test sweatproof makeup anyways, because I am always sweating, even in winter. I find my office, and most buildings way overheated. Before taking this selfie, I not only had spent several hours in my office sweating, but it was pouring rain outside (which later turned to an ice storm), and I had come home and done some cooking over a hot stove. Believe you me, I perspired!
I can attest to the fact that Oxygenetix held up to its sweatproof claim as I burned my forehead with my flat iron the day before, and you can't even see the red mark. Nice!
I don't like taking selfies, but I promised, so here it is. I probably should have put on some lipstick, but anyways...
So go ahead and doll yourself up, but don't skip the gym, you've got too much to gain if you go!!
Friday, February 10, 2017
So, despite my love of step and longing to find a good step workout DVD that doesn't require a PhD in Dancing with the Stars to be able to follow, I gave up my search. I decided it just probably didn't exist.
The world has moved on from step to other fitness trends. You know how much I hate trends. Social evolution is not the same as progress. Often we move from one trend to another because of social, cultural or economic influences, not because we are improving on what we had in the past. The fitness industry is a perfect example of that!
Step is such an amazing cardio, fat burning, low-impact, weight bearing workout, yet we have since moving to spinning, barre and boot camps and tossed the step aside. Why why why? What makes step better than spinning, for example, is that spinning is a singular, repetitive movement and not weight bearing. With the step you move in all planes and directions and therefore work all the muscles in your lower body.
A few weeks ago after doing one of my Cathe DVDs that has a traditional step cardio warm-up, and realizing just how much I miss doing step, I decided to start searching again.
Low and behold, I finally found it! Finally, a step cardio DVD accessible to the masses! No degree in dance lessons required.
Its called Timeless Step Workout by fitness celebrity, Kathy Smith. I felt like she was reading my mind, with the title...step is timeless!
Admittedly, there are some aspects of this DVD that are mucho dated. When I turned it on, Adam exclaimed, "Oh my god, what is up with that guy in the back, does he think its the 1970s?" So I replied, "Okay, yeah, he has a mullet, so what?" Adam exclaimed, "No, I'm talking about his short shorts."
Yeah, its bad. The women are all wearing thong spandex. Adam couldn't believe it when I told him I wore thong spandex for years. With tights on underneath, mind you, seriously, I'm not a sicko!
The workout has a warm-up, and then 3 segments: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced, and abs and toning at the end. You can do all the segments to make it a more advanced full hour workout.
It is super straightforward choreography, so if you want a Dancing with the Stars kind of thing, this is not for you. Instead, check out these DVDs. It is good for beginner steppers as it slowly introduces the basic moves and progresses the level of difficulty. Nevertheless, by adjusting step height, and adding ankle and/or wrist weights (like I did), you will definitely start sweating and get your heart rate up. Its perfect for me to shove into the DVD player at 5am when my brain isn't fully awake yet. No wasted time staring at the screen trying to follow ridiculously complicated moves and getting pissed off because I am not getting a workout whatsoever. Its fun, and a good workout, and for me, that makes it perfect.
Remember, the best workout for you, is the one you'll do, so make it fun. Working out should not be a punishment, it should be a celebration of what you can do.
Have a happy, healthy and active weekend!
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Anxiety is extremely common among kids. What could a child possibly have to worry about, you wonder? Oh man, where do I start?
For one thing, anxiety has a genetic component. If you and/or your partner, or someone in your immediate families struggles with anxiety or depression, you and/or your child may have a predisposition. Parents also model behaviour for their children, so if your kids see you getting anxious over your weight, finances or health, they may develop anxiety about these things too.
Either way, kids these days, have tons to worry about, from bullying, body image, and academics, to parental strife and divorce, household financial strains, global crises, and a million other issues!
I have read several articles that suggest many behavioural issues we see among children are really a manifestation of anxiety. Unfortunately, we focus on the behaviour (anger, violence, withdrawal, defiance) without exploring the true cause.
Unfortunately, it can be tough to treat anxiety in children, especially when they may be too young developmentally for effective treatments. In addition, depending on where you live, mental health resources for kids may be unavailable and/or unaffordable.
For this reason, psychologist, Bonnie Zucker, Psy.D., wrote Anxiety-Free Kids for parents. She doesn't intend for it to be an alternative to counselling or other treatment, but, rather, to compliment it. To use as an additional tool at home with your child.
The book has 2 sections, one for parents, and the "Kids Only" Companion guide. Parent and child are supposed to read the corresponding chapter simultaneously and then come together to do the exercises collaboratively.
The first chapter explains and defines anxiety and the disorders on the anxiety spectrum, such as phobias, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, panic attacks, etc.
The second chapter provides instruction for setting up a support team for your child as well as team goals.
Chapter three explains how to relax the body through breathing, guided imagery, meditation, and yoga.
I love the fourth chapter because it encourages kids to distinguish between useful and useless worry, or stress versus distress. I love this because it is something even most adults cannot do! It is also important for people to realize that the goal should never be to eliminate all stress or worries. That's neither productive nor realistic.
Chapter six is about how to change negative thoughts to more positive ones and seven is about how you can encourage your child to change their behaviours once they have started to address their dysfunctional thoughts and feelings.
Does this all sound familiar? It's cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), one of the gold-standard treatments for anxiety. The problem with CBT, though, is you need a certain degree of cognitive development and intellectual acuity to benefit from it. What Zucker has done, however, has packaged it into a process using very accessible language and exercises for children.
Chapter seven suggests ways to continue to build your child's confidence in the face of their fears, eight is focused on getting parent and child to reflect on their progress through the program, and nine suggests how you might motivate your child to start the program with you (this should probably be read before you start, actually).
Chapter 10 gives more detail about different anxiety disorders and a whole chapter (11) is devoted to bedtime/nighttime anxiety and sleep problems.
Finally, chapter 12 gives parents suggestions for coping.
The book doesn't specify what age range its for, so I am assuming it is left to the discretion of the parents whether or not the child is ready for it. They have to be able to read and write, for sure!
I really like this book, I think Zucker did a great job of taking standard CBT strategies and packaging them for kids. Actually, I think they would work for a lot of adults, who otherwise might struggle with CBT homework exercises. So I definitely recommend this book if you have a child who is dealing with anxiety of any kind. Not all kids may be willing to do the program, nor will all benefit from it, as is the case with any treatment program, but it is definitely worth a shot!
Disclosure: I was sent the book to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.
Monday, February 6, 2017
Good Monday morning! I want to talk apples again. Come on, they are my obsession.
You know how most people these days get excited when a new smart phone or gadget comes out? Ya, well that's how I get when I discover a new fruit or vegetable I haven't tried! Giddy!
No, I'm not weird, you're weird!
I was recently at our market when I saw a new variety of apple I hadn't seen before: Pacific Rose Apples! They taste like a cross between a Red Delicious and a Honeycrisp, though apparently they are a natural cross of a Gala and a Splendour (some New Zealand variety of apple). Yum!
If you think you don't like a particular fruit or veggie, try a different variety, or try cooking it in new ways. Remember, we were designed to eat plants (as well as meat), and you really can't be healthy without them.
If you need to improve your diet, the easiest way to start is the 1/2 your plate method. Just make every meal 1/2 a plate of veggies/fruit, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 starch. Just don't drench your veggies in high calorie sauces.
Have a great day and go eat some plants!!
Friday, February 3, 2017
Lots of parents are concerned, given everything happening around the world right now, about what and how much, to tell their children. Do we shelter them from it? Some people believe that children should be left to be carefree, and not burdened with adult worries. The problem is, it isn't really possible to do this anymore unless you live in a very remote community and restrict your child's access to media. Information is everywhere and kids do a better job finding it than we do!
I think the decision partly has to depend on your child. In principle, I think kids should know what is going on in the world around them, including injustices, and crises, but I have friends and family members who have sensitive children that are easily traumatized. Too much exposure to the wrong information can lead to anxiety, insomnia and nightmares. Obviously, if your child is this sensitive, it makes sense to tread carefully.
We are fortunate in that our kids are curious, thoughtful and empathetic, yet not prone to serious anxiety over imminent threat to their safety or security. They seem to have a sense of our distance from danger (i.e. we live a long way away from Syria!).
But I am starting to wonder if they will eventually develop anxiety as worldwide tension increases. As a kid in the 80s, I grew up with the (mushroom) cloud of the Cold War hanging over my head. I did, perhaps worry about it more than other kids, since my parents discussed politics all time time, and news via television or radio was on in our home multiple times daily. It was enough of a concern for me that anytime I heard airplane engines in the sky, I would wonder if it could be nuclear missiles launched by the U.S.S.R. and every time I had the opportunity to wish for anything (found a penny, birthday candles, etc.) I wished there would NOT be a nuclear war. I couldn't think of anything more important to wish for!
Recently, I heard on the news that scientists were making predictions based on the Doomsday Clock (pictured above), one of the many things that fueled my fear as a kid. I probably wouldn't have worried so much if my parents had reassured me, but I don't think I ever told them about my anxiety over nuclear war, it just never dawned on me to mention it to them.
For this reason, I make sure that I am talking to the girls about everything. Not just letting them overhear stuff that might be scary, but talking to them and letting them ask questions. They are very interested.
Little A came into the room Monday morning this week when they were talking about the Mosque massacre in Quebec City. She asked what happened and I explained. Somehow the conversation led to a discussion about the Holocaust, which she didn't know about (Big A does). Every day since, she has asked me more questions, either about the hate crime in Quebec (Why did the man do that? What is going to happen to the guy? Did anyone ever do that at our synagogue?) or the Holocaust. The question that was heartbreaking was, "Mommy, why did everyone let Hitler do that?"
I am watching closely to see if she seems anxious, but so far not at all. She just seems very confused by it all. As I said previously, the girls seem to have a good grasp of whether something is or is not a real threat to us.
That being said, I've realized my anxiety may be growing. As a Jewish person, I bristle when anyone claims fears about the growing hate and discrimination are an overreaction. There have already been far too many parallels to the path to Hitler's rise to power. Here we are talking about the Doomsday Clock again, something I hadn't heard mentioned since I was a kid! I have actually started to wonder if we really are safe?
I honestly never thought I'd be dealing with this stuff in 2017 and it frightens and saddens me beyond belief. As a parent, my goal right now is to make sure the girls have accurate information and just enough to understand why what is going on is wrong, but also don't become fearful and suspicious of the whole world around them. I tell you, talking to them about sex, drugs and alcohol is a piece of cake in comparison!
On that sombre note, I hope you have a lovely weekend, that's happy, healthy, peaceful and safe!
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
My kids don't eat at all the way I would like them to, and this has been the case since each of them reached the age of 1 or so. Up until then it was breastmilk only to 6 months, and then only organic fruits, veggies, oats, rice, eggs and meat, Once too old for 'baby' food (or exposed to other foods at daycare) it became a total shit show. Its pretty tough to control given that we live in such a toxic food environment. Their real food, salt, sugar and refined grain-free diet went right out the window.
I do manage to get a good amount of nutrition in them with all my healthy baking recipes, but they have a long way to go in the savoury food department. Big A could live on carbs and sugar, and getting protein into her is a major challenge. Little A falls short in the vegetable area. But both of them like many different fruits, at least, and they have no problem with the fact that I only allow whole grains and grain products in the house, and cook and bake with alternatives to sugar (like stevia, etc.).
What is most frustrating, however, is how stubborn and non-adventurous they are with food. Getting them to try new things is like pulling teeth.
I am sure if you are a parent, this is all familiar to you (though if it isn't and your precious, perfect child eats nothing but kale, chickpeas and blueberries, you can go take a hike, 'cause you and I can't be friends!).
Always hoping for a breakthrough with the kids in the nutrition department, I was happy to accept a review copy of Squash Boom Beet, written by nutrition journalist, Lisa Maxbauer Price.
It is a beautiful book full of gorgeous photos, which goes from A to Z naming fruits and veggies and cute rhyming little descriptors of each.
The produce she chooses for each letter are sometimes unexpected (e.g. dinosaur kale and dragon tongue beans for D), but I like that its getting kids familiar with fruit and veggie varieties that go beyond what they already know.
I was hoping Little A would read it, but she declared it a book for babies, because of the A to Z thing. Nevermind that she would actually be quite challenged by many of the words, but the kid is stubborn, so I had to review the book all by myself.
Nevertheless, I think it is a great educational book, and I intend to give it to the teachers at Little A's daycare for circle time. I know they are going to love it, and, frankly, I think these types of things work best in that type of setting because peer pressure can be a good thing when it comes to food (the kids will eat all sorts of things outside the house, that they wouldn't touch if I served it to them!).
For parents this book may be helpful depending on your kids, but I think overall, its probably best used as a resource for teachers.
Disclosure: I was sent this book to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.