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 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!


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.