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Monday, August 12, 2019

Summer 2019 Favorites

I hate summer. If you like summer and love hot weather than I hate you too. Ha, just kidding. But I truly don't understand you. It feels like pure torture to me. I am dreaming of fresh autumn air.

Anyways, here are a few things currently making this summer more bearable for me.

To up the intensity of my workouts, I often put extra weight on my body. I don't mean eating lots of donuts. I mean using ankle or wrist weights, a weighted vest, etc. But for cardio, none of those options is always appropriate. One day I realized what would be ideal is a weighted belt. But is there such a thing? Oh yes, you can get them on Amazon.
I have been thrilled with this one. I like that it stays in place when you are doing things like burpees (unlike weighted vests that tend to shift around). It's loaded with 10lbs but you can remove some of the weights to make it lighter. I find it pretty comfortable and you can even lie on your back to do abs without it getting in the way (again, something I can't do with my weighted vest).

Of course, harder workouts mean more sweat. Usually we use all natural, biodegradable, (etc., etc.) laundry detergent, but I decided extreme heat calls for extreme measures and picked up this Persil Odor Fighter detergent. It definitely does the trick.


It smells good but doesn't leave your garments with an overpowering perfume smell.

Another 'joy' of summer is having to slather one's entire body in sunblock. I found this Neutragena zinc cream for face and I love it. It's not greasy and allows you to put your make up on over top without is sliding off your face.

Even in summer I try never to go over my 2 drinks per week limit. Besides, no matter how good it tastes going down, alcohol does not actually hydrate you, but actually does the opposite. So I always make sure to guzzle lots of liquid afterwards to counter act that.  One of my recent discoveries is this cider. The store that sells it, The Wine Store, just happens to have a location in my building where my office is located. Kind of tempting.


Though it's sweet from the pineapple flavour, I love it because of the tropical feel which seems appropriate in this weather which is basically tropical (apparently tropical fish can now be found swimming in the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of Canada due to climate change for goodness sakes!).

So there you are, that's how I am getting through this freakin' awful summer, which is apparently the new normal thanks to global warming, which means I will eventually have to move to the arctic...

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Crunchy Top Blueberry Muffins


Today its back to work after a Canadian long weekend. For some, its an opportunity to get outside in summer, go to a cottage or take part in the many festivals and activities around Toronto. But I hate that shit. Cottages are full of bugs, and summer is too hot and Toronto is too crowded and difficult to get around to make going to any festivals or attractions worth it (or remotely enjoyable). And no, my name is not the Grinch.

So on the day off yesterday, I went to the office in the morning and stayed at home, inside, in the air conditioning all afternoon. But I was sort of productive. I convinced Big A to do the Tracy Anderson fitness video I have with me. We had a lot of fun making fun of it (her boobs don't move even though it doesn't even look like she is wearing a bra...silicone perhaps?). I also agreed to bake with Little A. She had been pestering me to make "Crunchy Top Blueberry Muffins", which are essentially cake-like blueberry muffins with sugar on top to make it crunchy. Of course I found a way to make them much healthier than the muffins you would find at the bakery or coffee shop, but you kind of have to use sugar for the top. I did happen to have some organic cane sugar in the house that I use for making DIY beauty products. It isn't course, which would work even better but it did the trick.

Both kids love these muffins, in fact, Little A said they are so good, I must share them on the blog. So here is the recipe.

Crunchy Top Blueberry Muffins

2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax + 6 tbsp hot water)
2 cups milk or non-dairy milk
1/2 cup baking stevia or granulated xylitol or erythritol
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 cups whole grain flour
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1/4 cup or so course sugar for sprinkling on top

Stir together milk and vinegar and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flax eggs, stevia, milk mixture and vanilla.

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk until combined. Add dry ingredients to wet and fold until completely mixed. Stir in blueberries. Pour batter into greased muffin cups. Sprinkle the top of each one evenly with sugar. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Let cool and remove from pan. Makes 16 muffins.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Yolked: Product Review


Even if you are not trying to be a competitive body builder or athlete, muscle is something most of us need more of. It's not just a matter of aesthetics. Sedentary lifestyles lead to tight, weak muscles and atrophy. This leads to lowered metabolisms, chronic pain, increased risks of falls, and injuries.

Exercise, particularly strength training, is critical for the maintenance and building of muscle mass. In terms of nutrition, protein is a critical building block for muscle particularly when trying to increase muscle size and/or density.

According to MYOS RENS Technology Inc., there is another key to enhancing the body's ability to build muscle: Fortetropin, made from fertilized egg yolk. Obviously this is not a product for vegans!

Yolked is a powder supplement combined with dextrose (sugar) and vanilla. It is supposed to be particularly helpful for adults over age 60 to combat sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss). We talk a lot about osteoporosis but sarcopenia is also something can can lead to injury and disability as we age.

It comes in single serving packets that are 47 calories, 3.5 grams of fat and 2.2 grams of protein.

The company sent me summaries of research conducted and though the sample size is small, the results are definitely impressive.

Since I don't consume smoothies, I planned to bake with it, but right before I did so, the kids noticed on the packet it says not to heat it up. So I gave it to Adam since he makes smoothies regularly. His only comment was it needed a stronger vanilla flavour. I suspect it would have been best to use it along with his usual vanilla protein powder, instead of, especially since it is not high in protein.

So what do I think? I think it's a good idea, especially for older adults that may be at particular risk for sarcopenia and those who may have limited nutrition due to a decreased appetite. But like most supplements, it's pricey - $90USD for 30 servings. So unfortunately, the older adults who need it most (the poor) are not going to be able to afford it. But isn't this the case for most things?

Disclosure: We were sent the product to review but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Expecting Sunshine: Book Review


Though most of my counselling clients are dealing with the inability to conceive, many of them have been pregnant and experienced losses, everything from first trimester miscarriages to stillbirths, to their babies dying days or weeks after birth. There is no doubt that losing a child is one of the most painful experiences a person can go through.

Expecting Sunshine, written by Alexis Marie Chute, chronicles the author's experience losing her second child immediately after birth due to tuberous sclerosis, a condition that causes tumors to develop within organs such as the heart, brain, kidneys, etc. Alexis and her husband, Aaron, discovered this during a routine ultrasound when they were 25 weeks pregnant, and were told that their son's condition was incompatible with life.

I cannot imagine the devastation they experienced. Personally, however, like many of my clients who have found themselves in similar situations, I would have opted for termination. For me, carrying to term and delivering a child destined to die soon afterward is just additional trauma. But I understand that everyone is different in terms of the choices they make around these awful scenarios.

The book chronicles Alexis and Aaron's struggles after the loss of their son to grieve in their own unique ways and to support each other. Once Alexis conceives again, the book is divided into chapters summarizing how she copes with the anxiety each week of this subsequent pregnancy.

What people who have not experienced a perinatal loss before don't realize, is just how stressful pregnancy is after that for many women. I have written before about how anxious I was through the pregnancies with Big A and Little A because of my first pregnancy miscarrying. I really was never able to fully relax. I rented a dopplar for both so that when I panicked, I could check for the heartbeat. The distress is usually worse for any woman who has experienced a late-term loss.

Unfortunately, most loved ones of a woman experiencing pregnancy anxiety following a loss, fail to understand just how overwhelming it can be and do not know how to support someone going through it. Telling her, "Don't worry, everything will be fine," is one of the least effective things you can say. The reality is, there are no guarantees and this is what women in this situation fixate on. While the risk of another loss may be miniscule, it is not zero, ever, for anyone. Even a tiny degree of uncertainty is intolerable for many woman in this situation. Whether this is rational or not is not the point. Anxiety, is not rational. But it can be debilitating and difficult to get under control.

Alexis, an artist, writer and filmmaker, does a lovely job sharing her pain and anguish in a way that is not overwhelming to the reader and is accessible even to those who have no personal connection to this type of experience.

I read the book through a lens of whether it would be useful to my clients who have had similar experiences. I definitely do, however, there is one caveat. Alexis already had a healthy child when this event occurred and I know that many women who have lost a child and still are childless will immediately feel this sets them apart from Alexis. I try to tell clients not to compare pain, but the reality is, this is often difficult to do. In any case, I applaud her courage in sharing her story in all it's rawness, and showing others that while you do not necessarily ever get over a loss like this, you can get through it.

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

Monday, July 8, 2019

Lightlife Plant-Based Burgers



You have likely heard about the new 'plant-based' burgers that have cropped up on the market. Though its not like veggie burgers are a new thing, these ones are supposed to mimic the real look, taste and texture of meat like nothing before.

Not only are they available in grocery stores but big fast food chains are now offering them as a vegan alternative.

Now I am totally fine with non-meaty veggie burgers as long as they taste good, but I was curious to try the new products, so I picked up a package of the Lightlife brand.

My first impression? Frickin' expensive! Um, $8 for 2 burgers??? Also, very high in calories (260) and fat (17g) for a small burger. In comparison, the Yves brand I usually buy is usually available for $7 for 8 burgers and each has 110 calories and 3.5g fat!

They do look like meat and when they cook they release redish 'juices' and have a delicious, meaty aroma. I fried them up in a frying pan and plopped it on a whole grain bun with vegan cheese sauce, mustard and relish.



The taste? Not bad! But I am one of those people that likes veggie fascimiles that do not taste anything like meat...sometimes I like them even more than the meat version! But for 260 calories, they didn't keep me feeling full for long.

I made one for Adam and when I asked what he thought, he said, it was "Fine". I asked him if he thought it tasted like meat and he said, "I don't remember." 😆 In all fairness, I didn't ask for his feedback until the next day.

So, what are these burgers made of?

Here is the ingredient list:

WATER, PEA PROTEIN, CANOLA OIL MODIFIED CELLULOSE, YEAST EXTRACT, ORGANIC VIRGIN COCONUT OIL, SEA SALT, FLAVOUR, AMINO ACID BLEND (I-METHIONINE, TRYPTOPHAN), POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, BEET POWDER, ONION POWDER, ASCORBIC ACID, SPICE, ONION EXTRACT, GARLIC POWDER, GREEN TEA EXTRACT, ACEROLA CHERRY EXTRACT, VITAMIN AND MINERAL BLEND [NIACINAMIDE (VITAMIN B3), FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE, ZINC OXIDE, D-CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMINE B6), THIAMINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2) CYANOCOBALAMIN (VITAMIN B12)].

Now, a bunch of people I know have put angry diatribes on Facebook about how these burgers are processed. Some upset the pea protein is GMO (who cares!), others that they contain yeast extract (again, who cares!). I mean, duh, any commercially made veggie burger or veggie meat is processed. I don't think these products are really trying to appeal to the health foodies anyways, they are trying to appeal to the vegans and vegetarians eshewing animal products for ethical and/or environmental reasons.

So will I buy them again? Nope - too expensive.

Monday, June 24, 2019

How to Be Well When You're Not: Book Review


What is intriguing about this book is it is written by Ariane Resnick, P!NK's personal chef. Yes, that P!NK, the singer (AKA Alecia Beth Moore).

How to Be Well When You're Not is actually geared towards a very specialized population: individuals struggling with serious illness. It is not a diet book. It is a guide book for people feeling sick and hopeless, "Practices and Recipes to Maximize Health in Illness".

This book was borne out of the author's own experience suffering from Lyme Disease and then soon after, chemical poisoning. In both cases, Resnick struggled to get an accurate diagnosis for a long time and was told she had little hope for recovery. She was basically left to her own devices to either find a solution or accept her suffering as a permanent state of affairs. She opted to stay hopeful and find a solution and successfully recovered from both. The book provides a framework for others to do the same.

Now as a therapist, this book interests me because I have many clients with chronic pain or health issues. I can tell you right now that for many of them, staying hopeful can be a challenge!

The forward of the book is written by P!NK herself, about what Ariane has done for her health working as her chef while on tour.

Then Resnick shares the story of her own illnesses and recovery and why she wrote this book.

In the second section of the book, Resnick provides a series of therapeutic writing exercises for readers (something us therapists often do with our clients). They touch on gratitude and making friends with your body, among other things.

The section on food does provide some recipes, but it is not at all a meal plan. She recommends journalling about your food intake, and your emotions (another thing us therapists often recommend to our clients).

Resnick's main dietary guidelines are eating whole foods (the usual sensible suspects including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins) according to what works for you (i.e. makes you feel best). She recommends avoiding tea/coffee/alcohol/pop, if possible unless you are certain they are not having a negative effect (frankly, when I am sick, coffee is usually one of the first things to go because it makes me nauseous!).

Resnick also recommends eliminating sugar and instead using stevia or monkfruit, or manuka honey if you don't like calorie-free sweeteners.

The recipes are mostly liquids: elixers, smoothies, soups and broths, which I suppose makes sense for when you are unwell, particularly if you have nausea and/or digestive issues. But there are also some raw and cooked veggie recipes and even a few rather yummy sounding desserts.

So, do I recommend this book? If you are struggling with some sort of chronic health issue and are not finding effective treatments and are losing hope, than absolutely. Besides the recipes, the book is really a blueprint for fighting off despair and remaining hopeful for recovery or remission.

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


Monday, June 17, 2019

Behind the Scenes News


Obviously my posting frequency has been declining precipitously in recent months. This is due to many other things being higher on the priority list.

My counselling practice is pretty busy so that takes up a lot of my time. I am in the office 4 days a week and work from home 3 days a week doing Skype/phone counselling with clients. And then there is all the admin work (writing reports, sending invoices, receipts, record keeping, etc.), which I hate.

April was Little A's 10th birthday. We threw her a rollerskating party with 16 of her friends. Big A also turned 13!!

This month has been particularly busy because in June Big A has all her dance recitals, and Little A was in a production of The Lion King at school.

In addition, we just had Big A's Bat Mitzvah this past weekend. This is the biggest event we planned since our wedding back in 2002! For some reason, it felt much more stressful than planning our wedding though. In any case, it was wonderful. But I really am glad it's over.

Due to everything going on, I put the relaunch of my konjac company on hold (also because one of my partners was in Poland doing an extensive Holocaust memorial tour).

Now that our crazy June commitments have passed, we can start to breathe and look forward to a, hopefully, quiet summer.

This summer the girls are both in camps for most of the time with a little daddy time (Great Wolf Lodge, Canada's Wonderland, etc.) and time with my parents in Kingston.

July 6th, me and Little A (my fellow cat lover) are attending Meow Fest at Brickworks here in Toronto, and we are very excited!!

Big A is travelling with my in-laws to Vancouver to visit my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and their kids. She has never been there and these are her favorite aunt/uncle/cousins, so I am sure she will have a wonderful time.

The rest of the summer will be spent just as I spend the rest of the year. Working. Working out. Eating. Sleeping. Reading. Spending time with friends. The only difference is, I will complain about the heat instead of the snow.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Essential Oils Diet: Book Review


If you are sick of hearing about, or experimenting with Keto and/or Paleo diets, how about the Essential Oils Diet by Eric and Sabrina Ann Zielinski?

Sounds different huh?

I will admit when I was offered the chance to review it, I thought this book was going to make my skin crawl. First off, I don't believe in diets, second, a bit of research led me to discover that the authors, a married couple, promote 'biblical health'. Typically any promotion of a lifestyle involving religion and quoting the bible makes me very uncomfortable.

One thing I will say though, is that there is evidence that if people believe aspects of their lifestyle should be synchronous with their values, they are more inclined to stick with them. So if you are a Christian looking for something to motivate you to live a healthier lifestyle, a program like this may actually be effective for you.

Despite the bible quotes, I will start by saying I was much more impressed with this book than I ever thought I would be. I assumed that diet + essential oils + bible would = the biggest load of crap ever. I was getting prepared to write a scathing, sarcastic review of what I thought would be some weird idea 'cooked' up in this couples' kitchen.

But you know what? There is actually a lot to like in The Essential Oils Diet.

First off, there is no woo woo stuff about the healing powers of essential oils. They do say some may help with weight loss, but I honestly think you can adapt their program without even using essential oils and still improve your health.

Now we always have some essential oils lying around. Oregano oil for colds, and lavender and citrus for body care products and baths. But I have never consumed them in food, so I am curious about what that's like and might just be tempted to try it.

But essential oils are really only a small part of this book/program. It is actually quite holistic in it addresses a number of facets of wellness, not just diet/nutrition.

The authors start by asking if you are living an abundant life, and explaining that they believe this is not just about spiritual practices, but also about health. For me, I would define it as a life that is satisfying thanks to not only physical/mental health but also healthy relationships and a sense of purpose/feelings of fulfillment through work and/or social roles.

They also ask the reader, "What is Your Why?" or reason for wanting to transform yourself. They claim that you are more likely to have success if you have deeper motives such as caring for your family or serving God. Indeed, research shows that things like wanting to look better is the motive least likely to get people to stick to long term behavioural changes. You really do need a more profound reason to achieve and maintain success here.

What I think most surprised/impressed me about the book is how well researched it is. It isn't just a dinner table brain storming session written down by an over zealous couple, its actually got extensive references to peer-reviewed research articles and other credible sources! That's a heck of a lot more than I can say for many diet books!

The book does have a whole section on buying and DIYing essential oils, and how to safely use them.

Some things are predictable in terms of what they want you to avoid: GMOs, unfermented soy, farmed fish, juice, conventional meat, artificial sweeteners, etc. I am personally not concerned about GMOs nor consuming organic soy milk or edamame on occasion, and since grass fed organic meat, organic dairy, and wild fish can be crazy expensive, you may want to go vegetarian/vegan for this program if you are on a tight budget.

The Zielinskys also want readers to avoid gluten, but not because of gluten in and of itself (as they point out, the bible talks about eating gluten containing grains all over the place), but they are concerned about glyphosate (Roundup), which wasn't in existence during biblical times.

So what is the diet anyways?

  • Unprocessed, 'bioactive' foods
  • Organic, locally grown produce
  • Wild fish, nuts, legumes and vegetables for protein
  • Very limited amount of free range, grass fed, yada yada yada meat
  • Regular fasts (how biblical!)
Again, you will pay a premium for a lot of this food, but they do, at least, provide tips on how to keep costs down.


I don't know if the fasts are necessary unless you just want to keep a daily 12 hour window where you don't eat (i.e. finish eating by 7pm and don't eat again until at least 7am, or something like that).

They have a 30-Day Essential Fast Track to "Form New Habits and Kick Start Weight Loss". On the fast-track diet you are not allowed smoking, alcohol, fruit juice, dairy, conventional grains or bread, fried foods/junk foods, soda, coffee, meat or poultry.

Maybe for some people losing a bunch of weight quickly at the beginning, but for others, it will be too restrictive and simply cause frustration and feelings of futility.

They outline the 7-day meal plan and even though they do not include calorie counts, just looking at it makes me hungry. Now admittedly,  being as physically active as I am and born with a super sized appetite, I probably do not represent the 'typical' person. But a smoothie for breakfast and bowl of soup for lunch? By 2pm I would be so hangry it would be scary!

I love that they include a lot of information on incorporating exercise. I do not like that they promote colon hydrotherapy, even after admitting the medical community considers them inadvisable.

The second phase of the program is the Essential Oils  Diet, but really, a permanent lifestyle. At this point, raw dairy (huh?), specific brands of gluten-free breads, and organic gluten-free grains, occasional meat/poultry, and healthy sweets (made without processed sugars) are allowed.

Honestly, this plan is doable, but only for people who are willing to give up processed foods.  But I can tell you right now, a lot of people just are not. Perhaps if people are really moved by the spiritual beliefs part of this it will give them to motivation to do so. In my years of doing weight-loss counselling though, I can tell you getting people to change is really, really hard!

Another thing that I really like is all the helpful tips and suggestions for saving time on meal-prep (this is another thing...most people not accustomed to preparing their own meals are often reluctant to start doing so!), and for how to stay on the plan when out for dinner, travelling, entertaining, celebrating holidays, etc.

One thing I do have a beef with (or a wild salmon if you wish), is they suggest doing a 2 week carb fast before the holidays, and to do another one after. I disagree as for most people this gets them into the all-or-nothing mindset which is not helpful and often derails people's efforts to make lasting behavioural changes (definitely not advisable if you have disordered eating tendencies).

Another thing I find iffy is their recommendation to toss your microwave because of the EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies) which are also in all sorts of other household devices. They also recommend limiting cell phone use. I definitely agree with this but not so much due to EMFs as it is turning you into a zombie, destroying your relationships, compromising your sleep quality, and making you a dangerous, destracted driver (if you are addicted to your phone).

A whole chapter is devoted to this idea of having an abundant life. The Zielinskis claim abundance happens when your life is balanced and thriving in the emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, financial, occupational and social spheres, which are all interconnected. Yep, I jive with that.
There is a 12-step negative emotion detox they prescribe which includes a lot of wisdom (forgiveness, self-love, no regrets, ditch social media, etc.).

There is the recipe section which has some mains, breakfasts, salads, snacks and desserts, and finally, their recommended exercise program.

The exercise program is HIIT and they include all the exercises as well as detailed descriptions of how to do each exercise. Pictures or diagrams would be helpful for some people but there are none.

Overall, there is a lot of solid, useful information in The Essential Oils Diet, a lot having nothing to do with essential oils. But if you are curious about using essential oils either therapeutically or in your cooking, there is lots of good information about this as well.

Do I recommend this book? I think it will appeal to some people for sure. Anyone uncomfortable with the religious stuff should steer clear, but I have to admit they include it in a fairly unobtrusive way. I might not do the 30 day fast track if the idea of a restrictive diet makes you want to jump out the window. It is good for people who can eat mindfully as there is no calorie counting. They recommend eating to be satisfied but not too full. This is especially important because their recipes are not low-cal (lots of coconut oil and other calorie-dense ingredients).

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

Simply Delish Desserts: Product Review


I don't know what it is about puddings and jelly desserts, but kids usually love them. And mine are no exception.

I have made them Simply Delish vanilla and chocolate pudding before, and they have been a big hit, so I was more than happy to have the company send their other products for us to review. They generously sent all of their pudding and jelly flavours and the girls were very excited.

I have always been a big fan of these products because of what they do not contain. No sugar. No artificial colours or flavours. Bam! They are also gluten-free, nut-free, fat-free, and vegan.

The girls asked for the peach jelly first because they had never had jelly dessert in that flavour before. Big A thought it was okay, but decided peach is not her favorite. Little A loved it and was more than happy to inhale most of the entire recipe herself. The orange flavour they both equally loved. They are saving the strawberry and raspberry as they are anticipating these will be their absolute favorites.

Next, the girls wanted me to make the strawberry pudding because it was the one flavour they had not yet tried. This was a huge hit. Big A loved it but Little A went completely nutso. She couldn't stop telling me how good it was and told me I better give it a 10/10 review. Later she told me to rate the whole line of desserts 20/10!

Aside from being free of sugar and other crap, I love that they are quick and easy to make. The jelly sets faster than the conventional stuff. The pudding instructions recommend using an electric hand blender but I was too lazy to get ours out, so I did it by hand and it turned out perfectly regardless.

If you are wondering how you make a vegan jelly dessert (gelatin is made from animal products), Simply Delish uses carageenan, which comes from seaweed. Some alarmists health 'experts' claim carageenan is one of the many scary 'toxins' that we should avoid eating because it causes inflammation. But there is actually little evidence that this is the case.

We will be making our way through the rest of the flavours over the next week or so. I don't mind the girls enjoying these products as treats, and they love when I make them.

Do I recommend these products: Completely!

Disclosure: The company sent me the products to try but all our opinions on this blog are our own.



Friday, May 10, 2019

In Support of Children with Cancer


Looking for something fun to do in the Greater Toronto Area tomorrow? Why not attend a wonderful event the whole family will enjoy that also benefits kids with cancer?

Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children is hosting a HUGE family fun event in support of SickKids this Saturday May 11th.

It’s happening at Markham Fairgrounds, rain or shine as it is an indoor event.

There will be several well known kids performers:  Fred Penner, The Thrillusionists, Marlowe & the MiX, Girl Pow-R and so many more.

There will also be Food Trucks, Vendors, Face Painting, Fun Kids Creative activities, treats, auction, raffles and a day of fun for everyone!

There is a special discount code if you go to www.funtastical.ca and use the code FUN33 to save.

Tickets are affordable - $15 per ticket and the more you buy the more you save.

So check it out and feel good by helping kids in need and a wonderful pediatric hospital, one of the best in North America!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Your Fittest Future Self: Book Review


Happy Easter Monday to those who celebrate!

If you are one of millions of North Americans who wants to improve your lifestyle and/or health but do not know where to start, this book will be of interest to you.

What struck me several times while reading Your Fittest Future Self by Kathleen Trotter, is that it is the book (one of about 20) that I planned to write! I write books in my head on a regular basis and fantasize about actually writing them, but then decide it's way too much work.

But ultimately, this means that Trotter, a personal trainer, motivational speaker and author, is totally on the same page I am when it comes to perspectives on fitness and nutrition.

But that's no surprise as she graduated from my alma mater (Department of Exercise Sciences at the University of Toronto) and also wrote a fitness column for the Globe and Mail that I used to enjoy.

The book has sections on nutrition, fitness and mindset (i.e. motivation and ways to avoid self-sabotage). Trotter has also included a series of workout plans, complete with photos to illustrate each exercise.

Trotter's writing style is very down-to-earth, and peppered with enough personal information to give readers a bit of insight into who she is as a person, not just as an author and trainer.

I find Trotter's overarching philosophy to be similar to that of Yoni Freedhoff (author of a book I often recommend to my clients, The Diet Fix), which is basically, live the healthiest life you can enjoy and maintain long-term. This means, for most people, figuring out a lifestyle tailored to your own personal preferences and needs, not following the diet trend du jour or the advice of some dumb-ass celebrity.

In her discussion of mindset, she brings up an issue that I see often with my therapy clients that often drives emotional eating or poor health choices/behaviours: self-pity, resentment, and/or anger. Going into a spiral of, "Why do I have to stop drinking pop? Other people drink it. It's not fair, why can't I drink pop and be skinny/healthy?"

Just to add to this, I often ask clients if their choices are (often unconsciously) a fuck-you to someone or something. Frequently, clients realize they are giving the finger to someone who nags them to lose weight, to society for judging them based on their weight, etc. I remind them that using food as a way to hurt others usually just hurts them due to the long-term consequences, even if their anger and resentment is fully justified.

Trotter addresses the destructive effects of perfectionism, which can contribute to an all-or-nothing mentality about food/exercise (i.e., I ate a cookie and messed up everything, so it doesn't matter if I eat 6 more, etc.). Related to this is the self-loathing that also often interferes with people's efforts to make positive behavioural changes (i.e. I missed my workout today, I am such a lazy pig, there is no point in continuing at all).

Another recommendation Trotter gives readers, which is similar to what I tell my clients, is to constantly be exploring how to make improvements/find the right fit when it comes to nutrition and fitness. I tell my clients to be guinea pigs: try different things and if something flops, rather than give up altogether, move on and try something else.

Overall, I think this is a great book. I am still miffed at Trotter for stealing so many of my own thoughts and ideas (just kidding!), but I guess it's my own fault for never actually writing any of the books that are in my head.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. I think it will be very useful for anyone wanting to make positive changes to their health or lifestyle who feel overwhelmed and do not know where to start. In fact, it's going on the shelf at my office and I will probably be recommending it to many of my clients.

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

Monday, April 15, 2019

Things I am Loving: Spring 2019 Edition

It is ironic I am writing this on a day that does not feel like spring at all (04/11/19). It is cold and gray and has been snowing. Tomorrow it is supposed to go up to like 15C and rain...at least it is warming up! I am hoping when this post goes live, it actually does feel like spring!

I did not get sick once this winter! I was feeling very smug about that, and thinking maybe it was because as soon as flu season started, I began using my Navage Nose Cleaner again. Typically I just rinse my sinuses with a squirt of Hydrasense, but after getting the flu last winter, I decided to get out the heavy duty artillery this winter. Unfortunately, the girls brought home a nasty cold last week and even the Navage was no match for it. so my hubris was rewarded with a very sore throat, headache, and laryngitis. In any case, the Navage is indispensable when you are sick! Just imagine being totally stuffed up and having this thing suck all the snot and mucus out!! Its awesome.



I am also loving these new full finger weight lifting gloves I got.



I got a pair before but the palm was a very slippery material. WTF? Holy design fail! I have had to switch to full finger gloves as I have started lifting bigger, heavier weights. I was just having trouble gripping and getting callouses on my fingers (as opposed to my palms). These make a big difference. They are men's and the small is a bit too big, but its fine.

I just recently have gotten into podcasts. I spend so much bloody time cutting up fruits and veggies and prepping meals, I figured I should do something productive with my brain while I do it. I mostly listen to psychology podcasts that can inform my therapy practice. One of my absolute favorites is UnF*ck Your Brain.




The host is a life coach, but her work is grounded in cognitive behavioural therapy, which is my jam. It is so good and I recommend it to many of my clients!

I am currently obsessed with this smoked herring. Make fun of me if you will (Adam and the kids do), but I love this stuff and I often eat it for breakfast. I know, its high in sodium, but hey, its also got lots of good Omega 3 fats! My family hates the smell. I don't care, I will never give it up!

Back to fitness, my friend turned me on to Blogilates. It is a whole fitness site run by fitness professional, Cassie Ho, from Los Angeles. Her workout videos are the best! They range from 5 minutes to 45+ minutes. For my clients trying to find an easy, convenient way to fit in workouts, I have been recommending Blogilates.


Cassie is a total cutie, and she doesn't take herself too seriously. She also has some really cool moves, I love her ab videos!

Quite a hodge podge I've put together huh? Enjoy spring and take pleasure in the little things.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Eat Cleaner: Product Review


One of the biggest frustrations I have with the wellness industry (aside from all the bullshit people sell with zero evidence of its efficacy) is its elitism. Eat all organic! Grow your own food! Buy everything from independently owned small local shops! Its not that I do not see the value in all of this, the problem is, few people can really do these things.

Its not a coincidence that there is a strong correlation between health and socioeconomic status. Most North Americans cannot afford to live on a big property where they can grow their food, they cannot afford to buy organic food, and they cannot afford to replace their daily cup of joe for a turmeric latte.

There are certainly many ways to eat healthfully on a budget as I have outlined in past posts. Buying organic food on a budget can be tough. Does washing conventionally grown fruits and veggies remove pesticides? Apparently it can definitely reduce the amount of residue (See link).

What about special fruit and veggie cleaners, do they make produce safer to eat? Most have been deemed no better than plain water, so I was intrigued when Eat Cleaner sent me a sample of their product, that is the only patented, lab proven produce wash on the market.

Eat Cleaner Fruit + Veggie Wash supposedly has 3 benefits:

1. Removed dirt and soil that may contain bacteria
2. Removes pesticides, chemicals, wax and heavy metals
3. Keeps product fresh for up to 5x longer  (definitely a way to help reduce food costs!)

To use it for produce you want to consume right away, you just spray it on, leave it for 2 minutes and rinse. If you want to just extend your produce's shelf life, spray, dry and place in the fridge.

It contains:

Purified water
Citric acid (Vitamin C)
Sodium citrate (a salt of citric acid)
Sea salt
Vegetable glycerin
Cancium ascorbate (an antioxidant)
Decyl-glucoside (an all natural vegetable surfactant)


Eat Cleaner wash is vegan and gluten-free and made in the US.

I tried in various fruits and veggies but for eating immediately and for storing. It has no taste or odor. It is actually very useful for our family given how much produce we consume. We also get our fresh produce twice a week at our local market and often chop and prepare it for the next few days worth of meals. Its wonderful to have a product that keeps things fresh longer. We don't tend to waste much (as you know food waste makes me bonkers!), but things like berries go bad very quickly, and lengthening their freshness is helpful.

Though people tend to worry about pesticides, harmful bacteria from produce can cause serious illness (remember the recent romaine lettuce scare?), so its great to have a product to lower the risk.

Eat Cleaner Fruit + Veggie Wash is available in US stores and online and prices are reasonable ($21.99USD for 3 spray bottles). They also ship to Canada.

So do I recommend this product? Absolutely. Its definitely less expensive than eating 100% organic, and can save you money by reducing food waste.

Disclosure: The company sent me the product to review but all opinions are my own.

Monday, April 1, 2019

You Should Read Books


I have adored reading since I learned how around age 5. I remember spending hours all through my childhood in my room reading novels. Before I became a teenager I was even happy to re-read my favorite books over and over again.

Obviously, I still love to read as I post a lot of book reviews. There is not a single day that goes by that I don't read. If not while on the subway to and from work, then for certain in the evening before bed. There is nothing I would rather do (actually nothing I am really willing to do) after 8pm, then curl up and read.

Lately, I have felt more pressure to tackle the growing list of books I want to read to help inform my work as a therapist. Since there is only so much time in a day, I decided to start reading them at night instead of fiction/literature. At first I was worried it wouldn't relax me the same way as purely pleasure reading does, but I am happy to say it seems regardless of what I am reading, it is the perfect activity to relax me just before falling asleep. Lately I have been reading everything from memoirs, to historical fiction, to existential philosophy and psychological theories.

I do not understand when people say they don't read. Like exercise, its good for the mind, body and soul!

There is evidence that reading can:

Lower stress

Preserve brain health and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Alleviate anxiety and depression

Help you fall asleep

Increase life expectancy

Boost happiness and overall life satisfaction

Reading accomplishes all of this by activating your mind, providing an escape from day-to-day life, and offering refreshed perspective for life’s challenges

A common complaint I get from a lot of my clients struggling with anxiety, low self-worth and depression is that "everyone" is doing better than them. Usually it's something like:

"Everyone else has a happy relationship"
"Everyone else gets pregnant easily"
"Everyone else has more money/a more successful career than me"
"Everyone else is thinner/prettier than me"

The clients who usually have this perspective, by the way, are not the ones in very low paid jobs, living in dingy, basement apartments and are unusually unattractive. The problem is, they consider the few people in their proximal environment as representative of "everyone". Reading is one of the ways to get beyond your own narrow view of the world, because all of us can otherwise get sucked down the "everyone else" vortex.

Reading is a great way to get out of your own life, learn more about yourself, others, and the world. Hey, maybe you can't visit every country on the planet, but you can read about them! You can read books to learn, to entertain, to relax, to laugh, to escape, you name it. While many people use social media/the Internet for these reasons, it is NOT the same. There is growing research about the harmful effects of spending too much time on screens, and the benefits of reading (paper) books. So, ideally, skip the e-reader too.

Do you really think spending hours each day posting selfies does as much good as reading? Even passive scrolling of others' selfies does little good. Put your phone down, and pick up a book!





Monday, March 18, 2019

CBD Living Water: Product Review


You can find water these days infused with just about anything from vitamins to protein, so I guess its no surprise you can now get CBD infused water. Or perhaps its more appropriate to say cannabis is turning up in everything from gummy bears to beer, so why not water? Now that cannabis is legal in Canada, the country is going crazy for any and all cannabis products.

What is CBD? It is one of the chemicals found in cannabis, like THC. Unlike THC, however, CBD does not cause a high or intoxication. But it is used for a number of therapeutic purposes.

I actually got a prescription from my doctor for CBD oil for my migraines. But it doesn't work for me (so far NOTHING works for my migraines). Aside from pain, CBD  is used stiffness, inflammation, for various dermatological conditions, and anxiety reduction. There is research being done to explore its potential benefits for diabetes control and cancer prevention and treatment as well.

CBD Living Water  is made by CBD Living, producer of all things CBD. According to the company:

CBD Living Water is made using nanotechnology, in which tiny nano-sized CBD molecules are infused in approximately 9+ pH water. This production method ensures the highest bioavailability on the market and easy absorption into the body.
CBD Living Water helps the consumer maintain homeostasis in the endocannabinoid system. The CBD infused into our water acts on CB1 and CB2 receptors to reduce pain and inflammation, decrease stress and anxiety and improve mood. 
The CBD they use is 100% and a 17 ounce bottle is $5.99US.

So, what does it taste like? Very much like water. How did it make me feel? Very hydrated.

But few substances have a strong effect on me (THC is another story, it makes me freakin' paranoid!). I cannot say I noticed feeling any more relaxed than usual but then again this past week has been extremely stressful, so it is possible I might have felt more stressed had I not been guzzling 2 of these suckers a day.

There are a few things that are potential issues with CBD Livng Water. The first is it comes in plastic bottles, which I think we all know is pretty terrible for the environment. Second, it costs $5.99 a bottle! Of course, most CBD products are extraordinarily expensive, so this is no surprise.

So do I recommend CBD Living Water? Hey, if you have the cash for it, and will donate the same amount to an environmental protection agency, and feel you get a big benefit from it, well go for it. As for me, I will go back to my tap water and Sodastream.

The company's CBD infused chocolate, however, looks delicious!

Disclosure: I was sent the water to review by the company, but all opinions on this blog are my own.




Monday, March 11, 2019

Aleva Naturals: Product Review


As consumers become more aware of the potential harm of standard cleaning products to our health and to the environment, the demand for better options is growing.

We purchase mostly green and non-toxic products and our cleaning service that comes every other week use mostly vinegar and baking soda.

Parents, in particular, are usually concerned about the cleaning and self-care products in their homes because of how it may affect their children (who tend to crawl all over, touch everything and eat off the floor!). Strong scents and toxic fumes are also things people generally want to avoid.

Recently, I was sent a number of products from Aleva Naturals to try. All of their products are non-toxic, vegan, organic and cruelty-free.

Aleva Naturals produces baby care products, baby-safe household cleaners, and maternal care products. They sent me their Bottle & Dish Liquid in Water Lily scent, their fragrance-free Multi Surface Spray, Foaming Hand Wash in Water Lily scent, and their Stain & Laundry bar.

The Bottle & Dish Liquid is a pump, which was a first for us. I can see how this is useful for bottles, and I did like that I could pump it right into our dish brush, but Adam found it a pain. He didn't like that it required 2 hands, nor did he find it was good and producing suds.

The Multi Purpose Spray works great for kitchen clean up, however, I prefer products with nice scents. For anyone with sensitivities to fragrances, this is a perfect option.

I usually don't like foaming soap, but the Aleva one was pretty good. I liked the soft Water Lily scent. Big A loved this soap! She declared it the best soap ever and asked me to get it again. I was pleased that Little A was less tempted to waste it compared to when we have liquid soap. She loves to watch the soap drip off her hands into the sink, for some reason, which makes me crazy.

I only got one chance to try the stain bar, after Little A got slime all over her favorite sweater and it left a whole lot of stains. I rubbed it with the bar before throwing it into the wash. It got most of it off, but we still had to throw it in for a second wash to get all the slime stains off it (why are kids so obsessed with slime these days??).

So do I recommend Aleva Naturals? The Multi Purpose Spray and Hand Soap are definitely winners, If you have anyone in your family with allergies, eczema and/or sensitivities, than you will love all of the companies products. The trade off for less sudsy dish soap, in that case, is probably worth it!

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


Monday, March 4, 2019

The BUILD Framework: Book Review


I have to admit, I do love self-help books. Some (like anything written by Brene Brown) are freakin' awesome. Others can be absolute garbage and time wasted that you will never get back. But I am always open to giving books a chance.

Recently I was sent The BUILD Framework: A Heart-Based System for Personal and Professional Growth written by high performance coach, John Peitzman.

The book promises to get you from "Struggleville," which seems to mean that your life is out of balance and you are feeling unfulfilled and burning out personally and professionally, to "Smooth Sailing," or lasting success and happiness.

The BUILD Framework® is a strategy for personal transformation. BUILD is an acronym that stands for:

Build Relationships
Understand the Business
Implement Strategies
Lead and Inspire
Deliver Excellence

BUILD in practice involves "centrifugal looping". This means you don't just move from B to U to I to L to D and then you are done. Instead the pattern involves continuously going back to the beginning as you progress through the steps:

BU
BUI
BUIL
BUILD

Peitzman says everything in this process has to be done from the heart. You have to "feel" it. I think he is saying you have to be your authentic self and build a business and life that truly resonates with your personal values.

There is a section for every letter in BUILD and includes an Action Benefit Challenge at the end of the chapter to help you implement the concept.

Peitzman claims that you have to lead by leading, not by pulling other people along. I am guessing he means you have to truly inspire people to want to help you realize your vision. But frankly, this is far too vague to really be useful advice. It can be interpreted a myriad of ways and one thing that is a huge problem in organizations (not just corporate ones) is that there are tons of terrible 'leaders' who just bully and intimidate to get people to do things.

The argument about the importance of building relationships and a strong network is solid. Having connections helps in every facet of life.That being said, introverts will have a very difficult time putting this into practice since he suggests initiating calls and meetings and taking responsibility for keeping the relationship going. A lot of people will need coaching just on how they can build the confidence to do this.

Understand the business is also sound advice. As a former researcher, I am always keen on doing the homework. Peitzman says, Be Curious; Know What You Don't Know; and, Ask Questions and Listen With Your Heart.

Implement is to get you off your butt and not wait to apply what you have learned.

Once strategies have been implemented, that's when you focus on leading. When Peitzman starts to get deeper into this he does address the fact that some people at the top of organizations have egos which create a poor work environment. He advises you to demonstrate and embody the behaviour, thinking, and attitudes you want in your team members. The problem here is that sociopaths and narcissists (over-represented in positions of power) will not see themselves as egotistical or abusive, they do not have the capacity for that type of self-reflection. Even leaders who may not be quite as maniacal, lead through intimidation due to insecurity or simply a complete lack of knowledge around management. Those people may see their weaknesses but not have the skills to work on them.

Frankly, I believe ANYONE who is going to be in a leadership position, must first have to take a series of personality tests (to weed out the psychopaths!) and extensive training FIRST.

Delivering excellence meaning providing not only an exceptional product but also a superior customer experience. I cannot argue with this! The book, however, does not provide a lot of specifics around how you do this aside from not cutting corners and attending to the needs of your team so that they can perform optimally.

Well, that's the book. To me, it is useful as a starting point for someone looking to launch a business or new career, or make a change in their life, but it is not enough to make this happen on its own. Yet, I think this may be the point. I thought maybe there would be more resources for readers on the website but everything, even the blog, provides limited information and seems like just another way to convince you to buy more (the course, the coaching, etc.).

Do I recommend this book? Maybe? Again, it may be helpful if you are completely new to all this personal growth/professional development, but I highly doubt the book alone is going to transform your life.

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

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Most Comfortable Bra Ever


If you have boobs, you know how annoying it can be to be wearing an ill-fitting and/or uncomfortable bra.

You would think it isn't that hard to find a good bra, but it definitely can be. Partly because there are a lot of bad bras out there, partly because every woman's body is different, and partly because women's bodies change so much over their lifetime.

Since having my children, my bra size has changed countless times. Now I find my bra size changes each month depending on where I am in my menstrual cycle!

Its very irritating and distracting to have a bra strap falling down, or something digging into your rib cage.

I went to one of the fancy bra stores in our neighbourhood and I tried on a crazy comfortable bra. But when I saw the $200 price tag, I got my ass out of there. Considering I would need several to get me through between washes, and ideally a couple different colours, that was just not happening.

Poor Big A also has a tough time. She is bigger than me (in all dimensions) and is extremely athletic. It drives her crazy to not have a good bra on and she seems to wear them out quickly.

Given the stellar reputation of Knix, the Canadian company that makes period proof underwear, and now bras, I decided to take a chance and order from them. Best decision ever!!

I ordered Big A a sports bra and regular Evolution model bra and ordered myself 2 of the padded Evolution bras. I also got big A some of the underwear. We are both thrilled with everything we received. The Evolution bras have detachable, adjustable straps and a second set up straps in a different colour. Each bra has a different colour on each side and can be worn either way (i.e. there is no inside out). They are smooth, seamless, wireless, fit like a glove, and SO SO comfortable.

Hallelujah!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Heart Healthy Snacking: Product Review

FEBRUARY IS HEART HEALTH MONTH! Time to think about taking care of your ticker and those of your loved ones.

I am always trying to get my husband and kids to get excited about healthy food. Its often hit or miss. Most times Adam will like something if there is at least some meat in it, or chocolate (for desserts, of course). With the kids, its pretty unpredictable.

Anything individually packaged, though horrible for the environment, seems to be more appealing to the girls, for some reason. So I was happy to receive some heart healthy samples to try.

I was sent the following:

Ceres Fruit Smoothies To Go (3 flavours)


The minute I opening the box, the girls snatched up the smoothies. They were a bit hit. The girls guzzled them in seconds. I like that they have no added sugar, but they aren't that smoothie like, in my opinion, as I usually think of smoothies as having added protein and other nutrients. But I have no big issue with them eating pureed fruit. Especially when its organic.

On The Go Snacks Edamame Fusion Snacks



Big A is not a big dried fruit eater, so she didn't touch these. Little A loves this type of thing, though she doesn't like roasted edamame. So she dumped out the contents and just picked out all the edamame.

Adam dumped a pouch on his salad one evening (he usually has nuts, seeds and dried fruit he adds anyways), and he liked it. He really liked the additional protein the edamame adds.

Neither of us were thrilled that all the dried fruit is sweetened though. But only 140 calories and 9g protein per pack!

Simply Delish chocolate pudding mix

I have bought the girls Simply delish vanilla pudding and their jelly dessert before but never the chocolate. I made it with some unsweetened soy milk I had lying around and they LOVED it. I love that it takes just minutes to make and these products are all made with stevia and erythritol instead of sugar. We will continue to buy this stuff because the girls really love it and consider it a big treat.

The pudding was the clear winner in terms of everyone's preference, but also I like that it is not in an individual serving...cause better for the environment!

Eating healthy can be enjoyable, there are so many options out there now that are better for you and really yummy.


Monday, February 4, 2019

Spiral Nutrition: Product Review


There seems to be an ever growing list of so-called 'superfoods'. Some health experts cringe at the label as they think its a marketing gimmick, but the word does now exist in the dictionary and is defined as:

...a food (such as salmon, broccoli, or blueberries) that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person's health.
So there are such things as superfoods, but they are not just uber expensive, specialty foods like acai, goji berries, and wheat grass juice.

One superfood that has been around for a while is spirulina. In case you don't know, spirulina is blue green algae. Mmm! I remember my brother adding it to his smoothies 20 years ago, which is why I say its been around for a while. Its been available in health food stores here in North America for a long time.

What makes spirulina a superfood? Spirulina is is a rich plant source of numerous essential nutrients, particularly protein, B vitamins (thiamin and riboflavin), and dietary minerals, such as iron and manganese, as well as fatty acids, gamma-linolenic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, linoleic acid, stearidonic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and arachidonic acid.

I have never actually purchased spirulina. I can't say why, except maybe its because I don't consume smoothies, and never thought about how else you might use it. So when Spiral Nutrition offered to send me their products to sample, I was curious and eager to give them a try.

They sent me all their products:

Spirulina Maxima 500 Balls (pills)
Spirulina Maxima powder
Spirulina Maxima Cocoa Blend powder (has cocoa and oat fibre added)

The company, based in Chile, provides the following description of their product, and what makes it superior to other spirulina:
Most of the Spirulina in the World is Spirulina platensis, which is not as complete as Spirulina Maxima in terms of content of protein, clorophyl and phycocyanin.

One size of Spirulina Maxima on daily basis provides nutrients, including B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and gamma linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid). Furthermore is the source of the easiest digestible natural protein. 

We are privileged located at the Heart of Atacama Desert, one of the most pristine places on earth. That place is called La Pampa del Tamarugal; it is a huge valley surrounded by the Cordillera de los Andes by one side, and the Cordillera de la Costa from the other. So the most pure water comes all the way from the top of these mountains to our facility. And this is where our Spirulina grows, not only in the purest water, but also in the purest land.

It is important to mention that the Sun at the Atacama Desert is always illuminating. La Pampa del Tamarugal is a place free of rain and it is very hard to find a cloud day. That helps in a very unique way the Spirulina to grow, because it receives all its energy from sun Light.

Also the air is very important, because Spirulina turns CO2 into oxygen. In a place like ours CO2 comes only from trees and other plants that habit there, it is very pure, and that helps Spirulina to be of the highest quality.

The last issue is concerned to the purity of water. In some cases when Spirulina grows in polluted water, with heavy metals, it attracts all the dirt and the heavy metals. That way our Spirulina is always free from heavy metals and other toxins. In some farms for example, Spirulina is often polluted with bacteria and that is why they need to irradiate the product. The process of irradiation affects Spirulina a lot.
The company apparently uses ecofriendly for production and manufacturing and solar-power. The product is certified organic, Kosher, and non-GMO.

There is a lot of research backing up the nutrition provided by spirulina, but not much showing a direct link between consumption and health benefits. But I suspect this is the case with most superfoods on the market.

Adam, the smoothie eater (drinker?) tried them all in his breakfast smoothies.  I was a bit worried he wouldn't like them as, particularly the Maxima powder, has a fishy smell. But he didn't notice any change in taste or smell of his smoothies. The only let down was the balls as they say they can be added to food, but they just stayed whole even after a long whirl in our Vitamix. Maybe better in hot liquids like soups where they will dissolve? You can also swallow or chew them like a supplement.

I have been adding the Maxima powder to my yogurt, fruit and oat bowls when I make them. I don't detect any taste at all and I like knowing I am getting an adding whack of nutrients.

I also added some to a Shirataki noodle stir-fry I made and similarly didn't find it affected the flavour. You can use the Cocoa Blend powder to bake with, so I plan to throw some in next time I make muffins or cookies.

You can purchase the products on their website for $30/half pound bag, which is pretty good since you only need a tsp a day, max.

Do I recommend these products? Absolutely. They are a great way to add plant protein and fatty acids to your diet, so particularly great for vegetarians/vegans.

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


Monday, January 28, 2019

Liv B's Vegan on a Budget: Book Review


One of the things that makes me reluctant to go all in with my own food company is that the wellness/nutrition industry is incredibly elitist. Whether you choose products for health, nutrition or for environmental awareness, you are going to have to pay a premium. That's why there is such a strong relationship between health and socioeconomic status!

So I was thrilled to be offered the chance to review Liv B's Vegan on a Budget cookbook.

Who is Liv B? Honestly, I had never heard of her (aka Olivia Biermann) before now. Perhaps that is because I am not vegan, though I suspect it has more to do with the fact that she is a Youtube star and I don't watch Youtube. In any case, turns out she is a 24-year-old (a baby!) with a huge following already.

I have written before about how to eat healthy on a budget, but I was curious to see what Liv's take on it is for eating vegan.

The book is packed with 112 recipes divided into chapters including:

  • Staples & Sauces
  • Breakfast & Brunch
  • Snacks & Small Bites
  • Soups & Sides
  • Sandwiches, Wraps & Salads
  • Mains
  • Sweets
The book has 2 pages at the beginning with tips on how to be vegan on a budget: 
  • Cook at home
  • Buy in bulk
  • Make recipes that use similar ingredients
  • Use leftovers
It also provides a list of things to stock your kitchen with in terms of tools and pantry staples, etc.

Unfortunately, these tips can be said to be useful for eating ANY way on a budget. In addition, there is no other mention of cost or budgeting anywhere in the book.

Each recipe has a beautiful photo included, along with tips. number of servings and cooking/prep time.

Honestly, I found the book extremely disappointing. Liv doesn't say how each recipe is cost-effective and I didn't find a single recipe to be particularly unique. I've seen many variations of each one a hundred times. In the Sweets section, she has a recipe that requires fresh strawberries and not a single mention of how to buy them on a budget (only when in season!).

Also, many are far from healthy. Remember vegan doesn't mean healthy! She uses white flour and sugar (organic cane sugar is just friggin' sugar) in many recipes when there are far more nutritious alternatives. Really, not a single recipe particularly caught my interest.

So do I recommend this book? Only if you are looking for fairly simple vegan recipes with pretty pictures.

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










Monday, January 21, 2019

Niagen: Product Review



The world of supplements is confusing right? I mean, probably more confusing than food nutrition. If you eat real, unprocessed foods including lean proteins, fruits, veggies and whole grains, you are likely getting what you need, but what about supplements? Do we need them? If so, which ones?

We have to eat, but do we all need to take supplements? They're expensive!

The recommendations seem to change constantly. Take calcium...don't take calcium, it can do harm...take Vitamin D...take more Vitamin D...Take fish oil...no take plant based omegas...Take a multi...don't take a multi, few people need them...take probiotics, no probiotics should be consumed from food...ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

I will be the first to admit that just because I have been taking some sort of vitamins since childhood, I would feel uncomfortable taking nothing. But over the years what supplements I take has changed a lot. Currently I take Vitamin D, CoQ10, biotin, probiotics, B2 (for migraines) iron, and for the past month or so, Niagen.

The biotin I started recently after reviewing Seabuck Wonders Ultimate Hair & Skin supplement. I wanted to see if taking biotin all on its own would have the same effect of lessening my hair from falling out so much. Sadly, it has not worked, so when I finish this bottle, I won't continue. Clearly, it was the combo of biotin and omega-7 that was effective.

Niagen is a new product, made from a form of Vitamin B3 called nicotinamide riboside. Niagen maintains NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is an important resource found in all living cells and necessary for breathing, eating, sleeping and drinking. Apparently, NAD declines significantly as we age, hence, Niagen is purportedly an anti-aging supplement.

Scientists have started to study the potential health benefits and Niagen has a link to some of the research here. I think its too early to draw any major conclusions though it does look promising. So far, supplementation appears safe and may improve metabolism and cardiovascular health.

Is this the supplement that we all need to take? The secret to longevity and looking and feeling younger? We are definitely not yet able to draw those conclusions.

The company sent me a 3 month supply (2 capsules/day). Currently, I have been taking them daily for almost 2 months. Do I feel younger? Honestly, I haven't noticed much difference, but aside from the energy boost I felt when I started taking CoQ10 a few years ago, I have never really felt much difference from most supplements I've tried.

In my research on nicotinamide riboside, some scientists suggest double the daily dose recommended by Niagen to have any therapeutic value. Perhaps that would make a difference?

So, do I recommend Niagen? Well...the research is promising but still very preliminary in terms of the health benefits of taking this supplement. If you are impressed by it, there doesn't seem to be any risk as its safety doesn't seem to be in doubt.

Here is the catch though...the cost!! A one month supply of Niagen is $40!!!! Personally, I cannot afford that. If you can, go for it.

Disclosure: The company sent me the product to try but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Instagram Accounts That Won't Make You Feel Like Crap


I knew nothing about Instagram until several years ago when my business consultant who helped me set up my konjac business told me businesses HAVE to be on Instagram. What? Why? Well, because this is the society we have become. People don't have the interest, patience, or attention span to do anything except look at pictures.

My account is a joke because I hate taking pictures, I suck at taking pictures (though I have never bothered to try and learn anything about photography), and I hate posting. It didn't take long to figure out that certain hashtags are necessary (at least in the food business) to get likes. It's all pretty revolting to me.

I am also horrified by reports that teen girls often have 4-5 different personal accounts and can spend up to 8 hours a day on Instagram, trying to get 'likes' for their photos. WTF??? I also hear from my Millennial counselling clients that they use it to communicate with friends as well as to meet people (as in, someone might 'like' one of your photos if they are interested in you...based on nothing but the photo). I will spare you my rant about what this is all doing to interpersonal communication and relationships. But its not good.

Another issue with Instagram that comes up for my counselling clients is that they see other people's accounts (much like people often do with Facebook) and conclude that 'everyone' else's life is better than theirs. I now regularly discuss with my clients what social media they are on and what types of accounts they are exposing themselves to. Most of them admit to following people that make them feel terrible (usually posting selfies of their perfect bodies, perfect clothes, perfect relationships, etc.).

STOP! If this is you, I highly encourage you to edit what you expose yourself to. Stop looking for 'inspiration' from social media. Instead look for entertainment/enjoyment and/or validation.

Here are some examples of accounts (or types of accounts) that won't make you feel like crap.

Cute Animal Sites

No matter what type of furry (or feathery or scaly) creatures you prefer, you can guarantee there are sites out there for you.

Little A and I follow a ton of kitten fosters. We love to hear about the rescues and see the little sweeties bottle fed and getting the love and nurturing they need. Our favorite one is Kitten Faces . But there are tons of other adorable ones that make our cat-loving hearts happy!

Feminist/Body Positivity/Activism Sites

If you want to feel empowered, check out Feminist Fight Club, Beafeministgirl and Beauty Redefined.

An unexpected site that I love is actor, Matt McGorry's (from How to Get Away With Murder). Funny, I hate his character on the show, but in real life he's awesome. If you don't believe a man can truly be a feminist, he will make you rethink that!

Hobby/Interest/Creative Sites

I have clients who also find sites about art, travel, design, music, etc. can be enjoyed without making them go into a negative spiral of social comparison (though it depends on your motivation and interpretation).

Unfortunately I have found that some of the worst sites are supposedly fitness sites. I find they are actually soft porn clearly meant to attract gawkers (and perverts). No you will not be inspired to workout by seeing half naked photos of very buff people. Believe me, my clients who follow these sites just end up with a negative body image!

Comedians

Almost nothing is more therapeutic than a good laugh. Check out Mr.Bean or the EllenShow or Canada's own, Baronvonsketch.

If you are a user of Instagram or other social media platforms that leaving you feeling like 'everyone' else is prettier/fitter/richer/more popular, etc. etc., than either quit using it altogether, or stop following any account that makes you feel that way. Its all bullshit anyways. No one's life is the photoshopped perfection you see online, its messy and imperfect just like yours!

Monday, January 7, 2019

But It's Your Family...Book Review


Happy 2019! How is your year going so far?

If you make one resolution for this year, I suggest its eliminating any toxic people from your life.

This is something that comes up for so many of my counselling clients. It is often easier said than done, especially if the toxic person (or people) is/are part of your family.

Nevertheless, my philosophy is that its matters not at all who the person is, your mother, sibling, uncle, cousin, etc. If they are toxic, get them out of your life! This also ties into my belief about what family actually is.

According to the dictionary, family means:
1. a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household, and
2. all the descendants of a common ancestor.

I say this is bullshit.

Family are the people around you who love and support you unconditionally. Blood and DNA be damned.

This is relevant for my fertility/infertility clients building their families using donor sperm and/or eggs, and its relevant for my clients with toxic family members. Unfortunately, most culture's are too fixated on the dictionary definition of family and with the notion that if you are related to someone by blood you owe them. If someone treats you poorly and having them in your life compromises your well-being, than no matter who they are, you owe them shit. DNA is not what's important.

Given my slightly strong feelings about this, I was very pleased to be offered the chance to review But It's Your Family: Cutting Ties with Toxic Family Members and Loving Yourself in the Aftermath by psychologist, Dr. Sherrie Campbell.

Not only has Campbell treated many patients dealing with a toxic family member, but she has them herself, and from what she says in the book, has had to cut them out of her own life.

The book starts with a discussion of what a toxic person is: malicious, manipulative, emotionally abusive, etc. There are then a  series of chapters addressing specific types of potentially toxic family members (mothers, fathers, adult children, siblings, grandparents, in-laws, etc.).

Campbell devotes a chapter to validating your feelings and desire to remove the person (since cutting off a family member goes against what our society tells us about how we have to treat family). There is a chapter explaining how and why you might choose no contact with this person, how the person may use the separation to guilt and manipulate you, and how to recover from the severing process.

Though religious discussions usually make me very uncomfortable, I do think it makes sense that she includes a chapter to religious beliefs since that often informs people's beliefs about family. Personally though, I could give a rats ass what any religious text says, but she gives some ideas on how to reconcile religious views on family with your need to eliminate a family member from your life.

I am always telling my clients we need to redefine what family means and I love how Campbell describes it:

"Being genetically related to our toxic family members doesn't make us family. The real definition of family refers to constructs much deeper than bloodline or DNA. Family is about love, sacrifice, honesty, protection, support, unconditional love, reciprocity, acceptance, security, respect, protection, loyalty and safety. It is is not about lying, criticism, selfishness, betrayal, or gossip. When a family is full of these negative qualities, it is a family in name only. It is really merely a group of toxic people to whom we happen to be biologically related."

Yes, yes, yes!!

I have so many clients who carry shame because they have toxic families as if it somehow compromises their own worth as a person. Coming from a 'good' family seems to carry so much weight in many cultures. But often how we define 'good' versus 'bad' families is based on surface level criteria and false public images that hide all sorts of dysfunction.

A lot of clients are fearful about what it will be like to live without a family, but I always explain to them that they can choose a family that is loving and kind and leave the toxic (blood relatives) behind. Most of us can probably think of someone (our spouse, a friend, etc.) who we love like family though there is no genetic connection.  DNA does NOT make people love you more.

Do I recommend this book? Yes, definitely for people who are struggling with a toxic family member, and also for therapists who see lots of clients in this situation.

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