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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Quest for Yummy Protein Bars

Most people I know hate protein bars. Adam and I love them. They are convenient and satisfying for us weight lifting folks.

Some are truly terrible taste-wise, and many are far from healthy. For the most part, I stick with Quest Bars or Costco's protein bars and I probably eat 3-5 a week max (except when we travel I tend to eat them more so I don't ever get hangry).

Recently I tried 2 new (to me) Quest bar flavours because I found them on major sale (they are bloody expensive!).

First, was Mint Chocolate Chunk.


The base of the bar is chocolate and then there are crumbly chocolate cookie pieces and green mint chunks. The base is okay and I like the mint chunks but I could do without the cookie pieces. They are kind of tasteless. Overall, I did like this bar a lot, but after I finished the first box I bought, I had enough and gave the whole second box to Adam.

Next I had to try Pumpkin Pie.


I have a cinnamon/spice addiction so I was very curious how these would taste. Whelp, they don't really taste like pumpkin, pie or pumpkin spice. I don't know, to be honest, what they taste like. But I like them. Similar to the birthday cake variety, they are a soft bar with a frosting-like coating.

I won't buy these again but I do have to eat them all myself as they are not likely something either Adam nor the children will like. I'm okay with that, but will go back to my Costco bars which I think I like better than all Quest bars anyways.

I am offline for the holidays and will be back in January. Have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Winter 2019 Favorites

It seems like winter has come early this year. Though I don't mind winter nearly as much as most people - since I hate summer and hot weather - it's still been disappointing because it means that autumn, my absolute favorite season, was cut short.

No matter what the season, its important to fill your life with little pleasures, so here are ones I am enjoying right now.

Once it gets dark before I leave the office, its very important for me to be visible on my bicycle while going home in the evenings. I was sent Runlites mittens to review a few years back, and I have to tell you, I adore them! The lights are extremely bright, and I love that they are rechargeable. They came with thin glove inserts but I lost one last winter, and, besides, they weren't warm enough for Canadian winters. So when it is super cold, I wear another pair of gloves or mittens underneath.

I am often stopped by other cyclists or pedestrians who comment on how awesome they are.

I am also taking advantage of root vegetable season given my obsession with these yummies. My newest discovery is honeynut squash.

They are like butternut squash only smaller, sweeter and with a thinner edible skin (i.e. extra fiber!).

Though I always read tons and listen to podcasts (when doing meal prep or cooking), in the cold weather, there is definitely nothing I love more than hanging out at home and getting cozy with something great to listen to or read.

Recently, I discovered a new, awesome podcast called "Science VS" which is right up my alley.


It provides all the latest empirical evidence on a wide variety of medical, environmental and mental health issues. And it's clever and witty.

Finally, I have been reading novels by author, Alice Hoffman for the last 5 years. Every book I read by her absolutely blows my mind. They are fantastic. Lucky for all of us, she is quite prolific and has a long list of books she has written.


I cannot recommend her work enough!! The Museum or Extraordinary Things was the first of hers I read, but so far, I have adored every single one since.

If you dread the winter months, try to make the most of it by finding little pleasures to enjoy 😊

Monday, November 18, 2019

Top Students Top Parents: Book Review


I had an interest in counselling from an early age and looking to explore it a bit in high school, I got requested from my school permission to get a credit for tutoring other students.

The experience for me was wonderful and I learned a lot of important lessons. One lesson was that a child's home environment has a massive impact on a child's academic potential. I remember one student, a girl several years younger than me, who I assisted, who was struggling with her classes. During our sessions together she admitted to me that she experienced physical and emotional abuse at home at the hands of her mother and step-father. This was so horrific to me. I remember coming home and asking my parents, "How can anyone in that situation be expected to succeed in school?" This poor girl had to think about how not to get the crap beaten out of her, so homework is not going to be a top priority.

Of course, it takes more than just an emotionally and physically safe environment to provide a child with the ideal encouragement to flourish in school.  But many parents lack the knowledge of exactly what they can do to set their children on the right path. This is why former teacher, Kathleen Burns, wrote Top Students Top Parents. As an educator, Burns recognized how important is the home environment and a child's relationship with caregivers to a child's performance at school.

The book is divided into several sections:

Part I: Laying the Foundation for Success - Infancy and Above

This section contains research findings on child development, dangers of electronics, language, motor skills, home environment, responsibility, self-esteem, social skills, rewards, etc.

Part II: Reading and Writing

The second section is all about how to encourage learning to read and reading comprehension and provides strategies for helping your child to learn to read and write at home.

Part III: School Success

Included in this part of the book is lifestyle and habits to promote learning (sleep, organization, etc.), communication with school/teachers, dealing with homework, and handling social problems.

Burns bases much of her advice on recommendations from experts. There is a full bibliography in the book. I would have been more impressed if she had also included peer reviewed literature that is more recent than some of the dated books she lists. But the book is still full of useful and thoughtful tips for parents.

Now as parents who have a combined total of 2 Bachelor's degrees, 3 Masters degrees and 2 PhDs, there was not too much that was new for me in the book. I think most of what Burns recommends came naturally to Adam and I, especially since Adam is a published expert in the field of pedagogy. But for anyone who, as a parent, is unsure how to set your child up for academic success, this book will be extremely helpful and I definitely recommend it.

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

Monday, November 11, 2019

EFF This! Meditation: Book Review


Meditation is totally trendy right now.

Unfortunately, that's the problem. Though the relaxation technique is scientifically proven to have both physical and mental health benefits, for many people, it just feels like another 'thing' they believe they 'should' do.  Recently I have seen a lot of articles slamming the pressure women get to perform 'self-care', which really just makes them more anxious and self-critical when they fail to be able to make it happen.

Typically, we think of meditation as sitting in lotus position, with our eyes closed and not moving for an extended period of time, our minds blissfully free of any thoughts at all. Though this traditional form of Buddhist meditation works brilliantly for many people, for the rest of us, myself included, it's a no go.

I detailed here what happened to me a few years ago when I did an intensive mindfulness meditation course. It didn't work for me at all. I hated the meditation exercises and felt I got absolutely nothing from them except wasting time I would never get back. I have many counselling clients who have had the same experience.

Subsequently, I have learned that I get the same benefits some people get from traditional meditation, from reading, especially the reading I do each night before falling asleep, and from the exercise I do each morning. I even get similar benefits from humour (I am part of a private pun group on Facebook where we share puns that make everyone else - lacking a decent sense of humour - cringe). There is nothing more therapeutic than a laugh or giggle! Also, looking at videos of kittens on Instagram are just as helpful for me. Nothing soothes me more than a purring kitten!

I have shared with many of my clients that mindfulness/the benefits of meditation can come from all sorts of activities if, like me, they are not fans of traditional meditation.

Given my own experiences, I was immediately excited to review the book, EFF This! Meditation and suspected that author, Liza Kindred, and I are kindred spirits. Ha ha pun intended.

Surprisingly, Kindred is actually a Buddhist meditation teacher, but works in rather unconventional views and practices. I love her already! Check out her website and you will too!

This is a brief description of her approach:

Our specific focus is on meditation as a physical, felt experience. Many mindfulness practices begin and end in the head–observing how the mind works, opening our eyes and ears, focusing on the way our breath feels on our nose or lips. We expand this awareness to include the whole body–which also includes our energetic field and the way that our emotions are manifesting in our body. While our thoughts don’t always tell us the truth, our bodies always do.

In the book, Kindred explains that she believes most of us think we are broken and must find a way to fix ourselves when really, the problem is the world we currently live in. I could not agree more! Several years ago, Kindred developed a new style of meditation better suited to the reality of most people's lives.

The exercises in the book that are meant to promote wellness incorporate meditation, nature, movement, breaking, balancing creation with consumption, creating space and employing more mindful use of technology.

The book is divided into sections based on the time required for the exercises, which range from 1 minute to 1 hour plus, commitments.

Pouring over the pages, I realized I do many of the things Kindred suggests, or recommend the practices to my clients. It's everything from positive affirmations, breathing exercises, time spent in nature, to connecting with loved ones, using technology to nurture ourselves, enjoying music or a preferred artistic endeavor, to mindfully drinking a hot cup of tea or savouring a favorite dessert.

The book is very straightforward and approachable and appealing to even the biggest mindfulness skeptic.


Monday, November 4, 2019

15 Minute Healthier Cinnamon Rolls


This recipe came about to use up 'party sandwich' bread (flat and crustless) Little A made me buy her. I should have known she wouldn't eat much of it. This has happened before with this bread (and a million other things). She says she wants to make party sandwiches but then we get home and she remembers she hates egg salad, tuna salad, etc., she makes a regular sandwich using it, remembers it's not ideal for that because the fillings tend to fall out, and then she leaves the rest over.

Hence 15 minute cinnamon rolls.

Since I abhor throwing away food, I decided I had to find another use for them and this was a total winner. And it really takes just 15 minutes! You don't need to measure anything. We made them in the toaster oven so you don't even need a real oven to make them.

15 Minute Healthier Cinnamon Rolls

4 slices 100% whole wheat party sandwich bread
Butter or whatever facsimile you prefer
Golden granulated monk fruit or coconut sugar
Ground cinnamon

Spread bread with butter or whatever. Sprinkle liberally with sweetener and cinnamon and roll up tightly and pinching ends so they don't unroll. Cut each one in half or into 3 pieces and place in greased baking dish. Place in oven or toaster oven at 375F for about 7-10 minutes making sure they do not burn. Remove from oven.

Optional icing: Powdered erythritol (or powdered sugar), a few drops vanilla extract, water or milk. Drizzle over top.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Manager Mom Epidemic: Book Review


Have you heard of emotional labour?

It is the invisible labour done mostly by women to manage a family and household. It goes beyond just the physical tasks of cooking, cleaning, etc. and involves the planning involved in making meals, scheduling appointments, dealing with homework, registering kids for camp, activities, etc.

Even in heterosexual couple-led households where men do a fair share of the housework, it is most often the women who do most, if not all, of the emotional labour.

I am very lucky in that this is not the case in our household. Adam is more involved in the emotional labour of caring for our children and household than any other man I know, and probably takes on more than I do. But this is not the case for most of my friends nor my clients, and it can be a huge source of stress, frustration and resentment for women.

The Manager Mom Epidemic, is a book that addresses the inordinate share of emotional labour women shoulder at home. I have to admit, I was quite surprised that the book is written by a man, clinical psychologist and author, Thomas W. Phelan. But having spent many years counselling parents and families, Phelan has a very clear understanding of the dilemma.


In Part I of the book, Phelan defines the problem and explains why it is so prevalent. In Part II, Phelan explains the various tools that can be used to rectify the problem in a household. In Part III, the author uses a number of case studies to illustrate how particular challenges can be solved, and Part IV is prevention strategies for those couples who have not yet developed the inequitable division of labour.

The book is easy to read and extremely detailed in its advice on how to implement change. Even for a household like ours, there was useful information. Adam and I are definitely guilty of 'automatic talking', which is Phelan's name for nagging. Apparently nagging children does not at all work to motivate them to listen. Yeah, pretty much, right? But most of us parents do it anyways. Phelan explains why it doesn't work and how it becomes a vicious cycle of frustration between parents and children, and provides alternative ways to engage children in domestic chores.

One of the big arguments Phelan makes is that the reason why parents nowadays feel so stressed out and 'busy' is because we coddle our children and do not get them to take more responsibility for themselves. Yup, definitely true.

So do I recommend this book? Absolutely!! Phelan even provides strategies for women who's husband's are resistant to taking on more of the load and how to communicate to them. Like I said, he really seems to get it!

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

Monday, October 21, 2019

The 3-Ingredient Baking Book: Book Review


I have always loved cooking and baking, but I started out as a baker, making both messes and marvelous things in the kitchen from the time I was about 5-years-old.

But many people, even those who love to cook, find baking intimidating. I have never understood why. Sure, there are certain things that can be tricky and require precision (pastry, souffle, etc.) but I have always found baking to be more forgiving than people often claim it is. After all, I rarely ever use recipes and just create them as I go, and for the most part they turn out great (I have had a few major failures, but that's all part of the learning process!).

I also love baking because many of the ingredients are non-perishable, so I generally have them in the pantry at all times. If you shy away from baking because it scares you but would love to overcome your fear, The 3-Ingredient Baking Book may be the perfect resource to help you get started.

The book is the latest one written by author, blogger, and fellow Canadian and cat lover, Charmian Christie, AKA the Messy Baker.

Perfect for newbie bakers, the book starts with a section outliving the necessary kitchen equipment, ingredients and pantry staples necessary for the recipes in the book. There are also some trouble-shooting tips.

Then there are sections for each of the following categories:

  • Cookies
  • Bars & Squares
  • Cakes, Muffins & Quick Breads
  • Pastries, Pies & Tarts
  • Chocolate
  • Fruit
  • Creamy Things
  • Candyland
  • Cold Things
  • Sauces & Toppings
Now, some of the single ingredients in the recipes are products you have made to stock the pantry that already contain multiple ingredients (i.e. vanilla sugar, self-rising flour, etc.), or store-bought ingredients (cereal, chocolate hazelnut spread, puff pastry,  etc.). But most are simple and provide detailed, easy-to-follow instructions. 

I would not, however, start with the candy recipes involved candy thermometers, etc., unless this is something you feel ready to tackle right away. Personally, it is still an area in the kitchen that I still feel a bit uncomfortable with. My experiences with candy making have been hit or miss, however, my tendency to modify recipes may have something to do with that. This is definitely an area where you want to closely follow the instructions.

Now, the recipes are pretty classic, which means they are based on sugar, butter and white flour. This is not a nutrition cookbook. Only 2 of the recipes, as is, are ones I would make, and in fact, have made before: 

  • Peanut butter cookies made from just peanut butter, sugar and egg (I think I made them with coconut sugar)
  • Oatmeal cookies made from just oats, bananas and raisins.
So when I initially finished reading the book and decided to try one of the other recipes, I realized I did not have the right ingredients (I don't keep butter in the house and I never buy generic chocolate hazelnut spread, etc.), so I guess that will have to wait.

Although not all the recipes are pictured, the book does have lovely photos. The recipe steps are thorough and there are lots of additional tips and tricks.

So do I recommend this book? It is definitely perfect for anyone wanting to learn the basics of baking but prefers simple paired-down recipes.

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

Monday, October 7, 2019

My Personal EMS Fitness Machine


I am very happy. Very very happy.  I have finally gotten my hands on a fitness device I have been dreaming about for years.

Have you heard of EMS training?

Here's some info on it:

Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS), is the elicitation of muscle contraction using electric impulses. The impulses are generated by the device and stimulate every major muscle group through electrodes placed near to the muscles being stimulated. The electrodes are generally pads that adhere to the skin. The impulses mimic the action potential that comes from the central nervous system, causing the muscles to contract.

All muscle movement in the human body is activated by electrical nerve impulses originating in the brain and carried along the spinal cord. Each impulse causes muscle fibers to contract creating tension. The tension causes the muscle to flex, which creates movement.

EMS uses electrical impulses that mimic the very same impulses from the nervous system, causing the muscle to contract in a consistent and simultaneous manner. EMS technology enhances the impulse, resulting in a more intensive contraction when compared to classic weight or resistance training. It stimulates, sculpts and enhances all major muscle groups simultaneously, safely and effectively.

Now, if you are thinking this is some silly bogus concept like the 1950s jiggler (I actually saw one at being sold at a garage sale when I was a kid!), you got the wrong idea!


This is not some way to avoid hard workouts while getting all the benefits. It's so challenging that it gives you greater benefits in less time!

I first tried it when reviewing, Lucid Fitness, a training gym, for BlogTO a number of years ago. The owner was the first to offer EMS training in Toronto. I was very skeptical beforehand thinking it was some silly sham, but I was extremely impressed. Later I tried it again at the CANFITPRO conference trade show. Then the doctor who owns the elite women's health clinic I used to work with bought an EMS machine for herself and her clients to use. After trying it again there, I left thinking to myself, I have to get myself one of these.

At that point, however, this was a pipe dream because all the companies selling them only made machines for commercial use - for personal trainers or gym owners and the costed about $30,000. When speaking with a bunch of different companies they all tried to get me to buy one and work off the cost by personal training people on it. But I am a full-time psychotherapist, personal training is something I squeeze in when I can and I don't particularly want to do a ton of it. So I just hoped that one day someone would make a personal version for home use.

Two years ago at the CANFITPRO conference trade show, I asked one of the exhibitors of EMS equipment if they had considered creating personal versions and they said they were in the midst of developing it. About 6 months ago they finally started offering it on their website. I spoke with Adam about it and he agreed I could get it (even the home version is $4,000, so definitely something that requires a spouse's agreement!). It may seem excessive but not when you think that a good treadmill or elliptical machine can easily cost that.

I purchased the home package but let's just say the company-headquartered in Germany, was, unfortunately, dishonest. I never got my machine and my emails just got more promises and requests to be patient, until I ran out of patience. Eventually I did more research and found a Toronto company selling a different version and called them immediately. Within a week I had my new machine from BodyInvest and I am absolutely giddy with excitement already.

The workouts are so intense and efficient they tell you not to do it more than 2x a week. Right now, I am doing lower body once a week and upper body once a week because the muscle soreness lasts so long I don't want to interfere with recovery. But I think it another week or so I will amp it up to 2x a week for each half of my body.

Aside from the machine (pictures at the top) which runs on a battery that just has to be charged after about every 6 workouts by plugging it into an outlet, you get the attachment that runs from the machine to the special suit. Yep, special suit. It basically looks like a wetsuit and it has the electrodes in it positioned at each muscle (biceps, triceps, glutes, quads, hamstrings, chest, core and back). You have to spray the electrodes with water beforehand. I worried getting it all set up would take a long time and one of the benefits I was hoping for was saving time, but after the first 1-2 workouts, I was able to get myself all suited up and ready to go in no time.

If you are a total fitness fanatic who loves to work out at home and is always looking for a better way to train, I urge you to at least give EMS training a try so you know what it's like.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Ignite CBD Oil: Product Review


It seems that CBD oil is the new coconut oil. It can fix or cure anything (or so people claim). Evidence in many areas is scanty, but that has not stopped sellers for making all sorts of claims.

That being said, I do know many people swear by it for all sorts of things. Both friends of mine and some clients have said they find CBD very effective for insomnia and anxiety. It did not work for me for my migraines, and I personally noticed no effect when I tried the CBD infused water (I reviewed a few months ago), but I was curious about its topical uses. So when Ignite asked if I wanted to try their Recharge Pain Relief cream and Calm Pain Relief roll-on, I was happy to accept.

Recharge is lemon scented and Calm is lavender. Most of the ingredients in Recharge are non-toxic (hemp extract, aloe vera, arnica, essential oils, etc), though there are a few that some people may question such as tetrasodium EDTA. Calm contains just hemp extract, lavender essential oil, arnica flower extract, grapeseed oil, and jojoba oil.

I have been struggling with Achilles tendonitis since January. My doctor recommended using Voltaren and it has helped immensely. Now it only flairs up occasionally. When it did flare up, I tried using Recharge instead. Unfortunately, it was not helpful and I ended up using the Voltaren an hour later. I also had the girls try it, Little A for a soccer-induced bruise she was complaining about, and Big A for a sore shoulder from dance. When asked if they found it helped, they both kind of gave me "meh" answers. But they are total whiners when it comes to pain and booboos, so they may not be the best testers.

I also have a mild case of Renault's syndrome. In case you are not familiar with this condition, here is the description:

Raynaud's disease is a rare disorder of the blood vessels, usually in the fingers and toes. It causes the blood vessels to narrow when you are cold or feeling stressed. When this happens, blood can't get to the surface of the skin and the affected areas turn white and blue.

My hands and feet actually turn dark red not blue or white, but they also get numb. Sometimes I find the numbness can last a while, and a few weeks ago my toes stayed numb for 2 days and I was starting to worry. On a whim, I grabbed Recharge and rubbed in on the effected toes. I didn't really expect much, so kind of forgot about it until about an hour later I realized the numbness was completely gone. Was it a coincidence?

Well apparently not, because just this morning after driving Little A to a soccer practice wearing my sweaty workout clothes despite it being chilly, I came home and realized a few of my toes were numb again. So I used the Recharge and within seconds the numbness was gone. Okay, I am a believer!

The Calm is nice just because of the lavender, so I sometimes roll some on my sore muscles before bed.

So should you try these products? Well the Recharge definitely is helpful for me, but I cannot guarantee it will treat every ache, pain or discomfort, but hey, maybe it's worth a try! Just make sure you can cover the cost ($60USD).


Monday, September 23, 2019

Good To Go: Book Review


Recently Adam gave me a book he had read which he said I might enjoy. Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn From the Strange Science of Recovery is science writer, Christie Aschwanden's new book on exercise recovery.

Adam was right, I did like this book. Even if you are not a "sciencey" type, you will likely enjoy this book. You also do not have to consider yourself an athlete to get something out of it. Even if you just workout a few times a week recreationally, there is information that is valuable here.

As soon as I started reading it, I was reminded of author, Alex Hutchinson's work (I have reviewed both of his books on this blog), and was, therefore, not surprised that he is listed in the acknowledgements and quoted on the back cover giving accolades to the book.

Its only recently that 'recovery' has become an obsession. Back when I first started in the fitness industry (1990), the only thing discussed was that you want to wait 48 hours in between strength training muscles. That was about it! Of course that was fitness not sport.

Recovery for us non-athletes is really about health and often appearance/results, but for athletes it is about performance. One thing that I have realized, however, is that recovery is conceived by many to mean reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

But one of the more recent discoveries in recovery research is that some of the strategies people find helpful for reducing DOMS (ice, ice baths, heat/sauna, etc.) actually interfere with muscle recovery. The inflammation that occurs actually assists with the healing of the muscle tissue.  Geez, kind of sucks, huh?

An interesting thing I have learned as a therapist, is that pain of any kind scares the crap out of some people, and often these folks have difficulty distinguishing DOMS from the pain of injury or illness, and it becomes a major deterrent to exercise adherence. I am still trying to come up with an effective way of helping these clients identify DOMS and get comfortable with it (or at least not view it as dangerous).

Aschwanden describes the history of the recovery industry which seems to have started in the 1960s with Gatorade and then on to Powerbar and other various bars. Ice, heat, massage, compression, various foods, beverages and supplements, and other popular recovery products and techniques are also discussed.

It was very enjoyable to read as Aschwanden describes the experiences and recovery practices of all sorts of elite athletes, which I find very interesting, as well as her own experiences trying recommended recovery products and strategies.

So what's your best bet for recovery whether you are a recreational exerciser, Olympic athlete or ultra marathoner?

Get enough sleep and listen to your body!

This doesn't mean giving up exercise because you would rather sleep past your alarm every day and because you hate exercise (you have to be able to find SOMETHING that you enjoy!). It means making sleep a priority (which everyone should do period!), and taking breaks from training or lessening training intensity when you are feeling unwell.

The macro stuff matters most: sleep, eat nutritious food, move your body.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Atlas Biomed: DNA Test Review

Another post about genetics!

You are likely aware that direct-to-consumer DNA tests are all the rage right now. There are companies like 23andme, Ancestry.com, Ancestry,ca, etc. These ones focus primarily on ancestry (obviously!). A few years ago I did 23andme for that reason. I was pretty sure I wouldn't find any surprises in my ancestry but was curious anyways. The results were, well, unsurprising. It told me I was 99.6% Ashkenazi Jewish and 0.4 percent 'other' European. But through the database, I connected with cousins through my mom's side of the family that we weren't aware of, living in California and Wisconsin. That was fun! Also, discovered a cousin right here in Toronto and briefly made contact with her.

23andme also sends health info, but it's pretty top line. There was nothing at all alarming in it, basically telling me I am not a carrier of any diseases at all. Some of it was funny too, like it said I probably like cilantro (true!), and my pee smells like asparagus when I eat it (true!) and I am not very affected by caffeine (also true!).

But both my family doctor, and my best friend, who happens to be a genetic counsellor, were concerned when I told them the company had sent health information. Both told me to take it with a grain of salt and expressed frustration that these companies send this information directly to consumers who mostly do not have enough knowledge to interpret it. I wholeheartedly agree but do not regret doing the tests.

Recently a company called Atlas Biomed reached out and asked if I wanted to try their DNA and gut microbiome tests. The tests are more focused on health than ancestry, and though I had been warned by my doctor and friend about this, I thought it could not hurt to see what came out of it. Besides, I had never had my gut microbiome tested, and it is getting increasing attention as something that may influence many aspects of physical and mental health.

Atlas Biomed is a European company that has just entered the Canadian market. It works like all the other companies in that you spit into a vial and sending it back for DNA testing. For the gut microbiome one, you have to scoop some poop into a vial. Yes, that's right, scoop some poop. That one was not fun!

Before getting my results, I received a bunch of emails containing information about the information I was going to receive. Then, about 4 weeks after sending back the vials, I got my results. This is where things got a little strange.

The Microbiome test results arrived first.


Now, let me start by saying that the week I did the poop sample, I had been eating my purple power bowl for lunch and I had immediately wondered if what you just ate would affect the results. My purple power bowl is Greek yogurt, oats, a beet and berry compute made with the konjac I sell, hemp seeds, and a small scoop of spirulina powder. This is an unusual meal for me as it is pretty high carb and low protein compared to most meals I eat...which probably explains why it doesn't keep me that full for very long. I did some research and read that what you have recently eaten can definitely affect these tests. One thing I can tell you for sure is that there were beets in the sample I sent 💩.

Based on my results, I am defined as a "Grain Lover". What? Aside from having oats a few times a week at most and whole grain bread maybe a few times a week, I do not really eat grains at all! This result is definitely puzzling.

I have normal levels of beneficial bacteria (despite taking a probiotic daily!), normal capacity for fiber (that's not what everyone who knows me thinks!!), and 'good' diversity of microorganisms. The report says I am lactose intolerant (very common for Ashkenazi Jews), but, in fact, since my pregnancy with Little A, I have been able to eat all forms of dairy no problem.

What was especially funny is that my report was followed up by recommendations on what foods I should eat. I should stay away from all dairy, of course, but then it listed a whole bunch of high fibre foods I should eat more of, many of which I already eat tons of (like sweet potatoes, squash, etc.).

In your profile, you can track foods you start eating more of to see if your 'health' improves (I guess this means if you feel 'better' but don't say what you are suppose to do if you already feel good).

The actual report contains so much detailed information about all the little creatures in my gut, it is almost overwhelming. There were some pieces of data that were actually concerning like supposedly I am at a reasonably high risk of obesity. Huh? Given my fitness level and lifestyle, even the kids balked at this. In the end, I didn't find it all that interesting and really had to wonder about the validity and reliability of the test.

The DNA test results arrived a day later.


Certain things made a lot of sense. I am at high risk for hypothyroidism (been on meds for it for 14 years!), and Type II diabetes (runs in my mom's side of the family). But I am at HIGHER risk of Alzheimer's??? What??? Also HIGHER risk of osteoporosis, Paget's bone disease, Crohn's disease (also common among Ashkenazi Jews), and urolithiasis (kidney stones, etc.).

From the DNA test I apparently have an AVERAGE risk of obesity and Parkinson's disease. Okay. But also of macular degeneration (apparently my risk is higher than average since my dad has it), and migraines (which I get!). After reading over the report once and feeling like it was telling me I am a ticking time bomb, I decided to get professional feed back. I sent it to my genetic counsellor friend.

A few days later she called me, and boy did she have a lot to say!

Her area of expertise is Alzheimer's disease, so she focused on that analysis to illustrate her concerns. My HIGHER risk of getting the disease is a 10.45% chance in my lifetime compared to the average of 7.7% for European women. She pointed out that it is still relatively low and not really something to be overly worried about. The report lists my variants on a long list of genes and what they contribute to my risk. My friend was utterly baffled by all this. She said first, the gene most strongly associated with Alzheimer's risk (apolipoprotein E or APOE) is not even listed. She also said that grouping a whole bunch of genes together to asses disease risk is something not well understood and therefore not yet really utilized until scientists understand it all better.

My friend was fortunately able to completely put my mind at ease about the entire report. Not that I was all that freaked out as I had assumed context is important. Also, I already live the healthiest life I can, so what more can I do anyways?

Some of the results of the sports/personal trait sections were way off. Apparently I am at high risk of hernias and degenerative disk disease. I have never had any back problems or hernias. Also, I am predisposed to getting grey hair prematurely. Hmm, at 44, I don't have a single one.

What was particularly interesting to me were the ancestry results. I am much less pure bred according to Atlas Biomed, in comparison to 23andme. Here are my results:

Ashkenazi Jews • 69.23%
South Europe • 23.08%
Greeks • 11.54%
Spanish • 7.69%
Albanians • 3.85%
West Europe • 3.85%
French • 3.85%
Asia 3.85%
West Asia • 3.85%
Azerbaijanis • 3.85%

Whoa, okay! But once again, my friend explained how there could be such a discrepancy in the results. Ultimately, all these companies have unique databases (they either compile them themselves or buy them). The more samples in the database that are similar to yours, the more detailed and accurate your results will be. For example, if you are Korean and there are very few Koreans in the particular database, your results will be very vague. So I asked her if the results were maybe more specific in the Atlas Biomed database because the company is European, and possibly has a higher proportion of similar samples to mine. She said this is likely the case.

So, what do I make of all this? Not much. It's fun and interesting but for me, its not going to change anything.

Do I recommend Atlas Biomed testing for you? Sure, if this stuff interests you! But several caveats. Do your research first, about the strengths and weaknesses of these direct-to-consumer DNA tests. Second, do not draw any conclusions about your health testing results on your own. If you don't have a best friend who is a genetic counsellor, at the very least, take your report to your family physician so it can be explained to you properly.

Similarly, if your ancestry results reveal some surprises, do your research about the limitations of these analyses before you go accusing one of your mother of having an affair with the mailman.

Disclosure: Atlas Biomed provided me with the testing kits for review but all opinions on this blog are my own.








Monday, September 2, 2019

You Are What Your Grandparents Ate: Book Review


I have another book review for you today and I am really excited about this one! You Are What Your Grandparents Ate: What You Need to Know About Nutrition, Experience, Epigenetics & the Origins of Chronic Disease is written by author, and fellow Toronto resident, Judith Finlayson and it is absolutely fascinating.

Finlayson has previously written many cookbooks and has a long standing interest in nutrition, but she is not a scientist or researcher, nevertheless, she does a great job of using published data to back up her claims. Perhaps because she is not a scientist, she is able to present the information in a very accessible way to readers. Finlayson provides definitions to many of the scientific terms within chapters and also in a comprehensive glossary at the back.

The topic of this book is of great interest to me, not just because I too have a long standing interest in health and nutrition, but because genetics and epigenetics are things that are critical in my professional work as a fertility/infertility counsellor.

I am assuming most of you know what genes are, but you may not be familiar with epigenetics. Essentially, epigentics refers to changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. In other words, how certain environmental or experiential factors can turn off or on particular genes.

Finlayson is skilled at telling a story so her background on the history of epigenetics will draw you in even if you do not think you are a 'sciency' person. One issue she covers is how your grandparents exposure to particular risk factors (malnutrition, toxins, etc.) can affect your health. The long and short of it is, prenatal nutrition and the prenatal environment is very important. For many of my clients this is a concern either because they are trying to become pregnant or they are using a surrogate or egg donor so they are wondering how the third party's lifestyle may affect their child's future health.

What is even more interesting is how adverse experiences affect our health. Adverse childhood experiences significantly increase a person's risk of physical and mental health issues. Stress during pregnancy from traumatic events can also have a massive impact on the future health of the child. But findings such as this need to be presented carefully. Women tend to already be highly anxious about doing what they can to get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy. A huge proportion of my infertility clients are convinced (thanks to misinformation) that the cause of their infertility is their anxiety over the infertility, or because of their life stress. It is important to note that typical life stress is not the same as going through a massive trauma (like war, natural disaster, etc.).

Finlayson also points out that the chronic stress of poverty is a major determinent of health. Again, homelessness, living with food insecurity, etc. is different than the life stress that many of worry is toxic (i.e. parenting, jobs, finances, etc.) but really a normal part of life.

One thing that is exceptionally clear, in case you had any doubts, is smoking is terrible for your health, the health of your current and future children, and pretty much everyone around you. There is almost nothing worse for health in absolutely every way. I always tell my clients it is the one lifestyle factor we know, without a doubt, can compromise fertility for both men and women.

One thing that irks me is that most people don't realize that men play a part in fertility. Traditionally, people think the woman is responsible for absolutely everything about offspring's health and wellbeing. Just another mansifestation of misogyny my friends. Men are just as likely to be a heterosexual couple's cause of infertility as are women. I see it ALL THE TIME. So I was thrilled that Finlayson includes a section about the role of sperm in epigenetics.

One thing that I've noticed in my clinical experience is that clients seem to lose more male fetuses and babies than females. Finlayson explains why this is the case. (HINT: boys are more demanding!). Low birth weight is a significant predictor for both gender of future health problems.

The first 2 years of a person's life is critical in terms of nutrition and how this affects future health. This gives me comfort as those are about the only years of my 2 children's life where I had any control over what they ate. Now they eat a typically crappy diet like most North Americans and I can only hope that the example Adam and I set will eventually have an impact on their choices.

My friends always laugh when I tell them my theory when it comes to the obesity epidemic: It will never end. They think its funny that I am so cynical, but here is why I believe this. First, we are designed to exist in an environment of food scarcity that requires an active lifestyle. We live in an environment of food abundance that requires little to no physical activity. Most human brains are incapable of not adapting to this new environment. The environment has to change, meaning governments and industry have to force populations to change the way we live, but this is not realistic especially since too many people are profiting from keeping things the way they are. Also, when obese people have children, their children are already predisposed to obesity. This latter point is discussed by Finlayson.

Readers will like that Finlayson outlines nutrition requirements for pregnancy and for prevention of chronic illnesses. I like that she includes information about how critical exercise is to health.

The book is chock full of interesting information and I am very happy I got the chance to read it. Already, I have mentioned it a bunch of times in various client sessions when we have been discussing fertility and health, etc.

So do I recommend this book? Absolutely!!

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


Monday, August 26, 2019

The 15 Minute Rule for Forgiveness: Book Review


There is probably not a human being on earth who has not felt angered, let down, betrayed, etc. by someone in your life. If we have been hurt, it is not always easy to forgive, yet holding a grudge can do just as much or more harm to ourselves as it does to the other person. Anger, as they say, is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to drop dead.

Forgiving ourselves for mistakes can be just as challenging. Many of my clients struggle to forgive themselves for past decisions or actions. Unfortunately, it can significantly impair our ability to move forward in life unless we can let go.

So I was definitely intrigued when I was sent The 15 Minute Rule for Forgiveness by UK author and counsellor, Caroline Buchanan.

The title is a bit misleading. I initially thought it was claiming forgiveness can happen in 15 minutes. Which like a 6-week 6 pack, seems like an unrealistic goal, but it really just refers to a series of 15 minute writing and mental exercises that she asserts can help you work towards forgiveness.

Though the book is only just over 100 pages, it is broken into 16 chapters, almost all containing a 15 minute task to complete related to the subject of that particular chapter. It is pretty easy to read and succinct and covers both the process of forgiving others and forgiving oneself.

There is some sound wisdom in this book, such as examining all the benefits of forgiveness as well as addressing your perceived drawbacks and fears around forgiveness in terms of what it will mean for you or others. Buchanan also looks into the role of guilt and shame in forgiveness and encourages readers to acknowledge and let go of these barriers. Buchanan includes lots of case studies to illustrate her points.

Buchanan spends a lot of time on self-awareness and self-acceptance which is definitely critical, not just in the realm of forgiveness, but of overall emotional health as well.

One thing that I don't love about the book is Buchanan's assertion that even if we are not religious, we need to believe in a higher power. I get the value in spirituality but this is inevitably going to turn some people off.

Overall, the book may be useful for some people but it's hard to know for sure. It is not based on research, but, I think, a theory and program Buchanan has developed herself. There is no data to back its efficacy. Nevertheless, forgiveness and how to achieve it is definitely an area that deserves more attention.

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




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!