Monday, May 30, 2016

What I'm Loving This Spring

I don't feel so chipper this Monday morning because the weather has been too F-ing HOT! This heat and humidity in May is not cool (no pun intended).  Fortunately, they are predicting somewhat cooler temps for this week.

Anyways, on to things that do make me happy.  Here are a few of my favorite things as of late.

The first is my Veggetti:

Its now the 4th spiralizer I've bought.  The first I got on Groupon for like $10 and its not great. The second was a supposedly good one, one of the big kinds with several blades, from Loblaws and it did well for a bit but eventually my monstrously strong hands broke off all the handles. The next one was about the same price but a different design that I found on Amazon.  It turned out to be great for juicing and grating but not for spiralizing.  It doesn't secure the veggie and when you turn the crank, it just flies across the room. Fabulous.

Finally, I decided, on a whim, to buy the Veggetti.  Its small, designed only for spiralizing, and though its entirely done by hand, the advantage is there are no handles that can break off. I got it on sale for $20.  So far I'm loving it.  Zucchini noodles with turkey meat sauce? Yummers!!

I am also loving Moroccan Oil brand argan oil. Moroccan oil is especially essential for me in warmer weather when my very curly hair can easily get way out of control!
I went to Trade Secrets to get my usual brand, which works just as well as Moroccan Oil brand (Dermorganic):

Dermorganic Leave-In Treatment With Argan Oil, 4 Ounce

But they told me it was no longer being manufactured. I was so bummed that they managed to talk me into the Moroccan Oil, which is ridiculously expensive, like close to $50/bottle! After leaving the store, I went to Marshall's and ended up finding my beloved Dermorganic for $16/bottle! WTF Trade Secrets?? I went back to return it and they said they only do exchanges but I couldn't find a single thing I wanted so I just kept it.  As it turns out, I love it, not because it works any better than Dermorganic, but because it smells heavenly! When I use it I've even gotten compliments on my 'perfume'!! Of course, I know a lot of people avoid scented products, but I adore them. That being said, I won't be buying it again because its too damn expensive and my Dermorganic works as well, and now I know I can get it at Marshalls for $16.

I also discovered Stash Iced Tea powder, which is awesome!!

When I am on the go I have been adding the lemon ginger to my water bottle, along with a few teaspoons of cider vinegar. Its delish!! There are other flavours, including organic varieties too. Its great for folks who don't like drinking plain water and its so convenient because you can take the little packets with you.

There you are, now go have a good Monday.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Conscious Men: Book Review

Okay, before I start this review, let me be upfront about the fact that I didn't do my homework ahead of time so perhaps my perspective started out a bit biased due to my expectations. I was expecting to love this book and hoping it would be just the thing to share with many of my male clients.

If there is one thing I have come to see with more and more clarity over time through both life, and my work as a therapist, its that conventional gender stereotypes are destructive to us all.  I used to think it was only women and gay men who suffered because of them, but really they do no one any good.  They lead to power imbalances and financial inequalities, relationship problems, violence, sexual dysfunction, shame, and stigma. I was raised to highly value gender equality and social justice but over time I have begun to see the current state of things in this area as worse than I once did.  Its not that things have necessarily gotten worse for women - although I would argue, in fact, that in some ways they have - but that I have become more aware of it.  If that's because I am now the mother of 2 girls, I am simply more mature, or because I see it play out in the lives of my clients, I don't know for sure.

In any case, my tolerance for misogyny and gender inequalities is zero.  I've said it before and I will say it again, don't call me a fucking LADY! I hate that word. I am a woman, thanks. I also hate how many parents - even relatively enlightened ones - treat their sons so differently than their daughters.  Girls are snuggled and called 'sweetheart' while boys are always 'buddy' and punched on the arm. It makes me want to hurl.  Even worse, is how people refer to boy babies as 'little man' almost right away as if it is necessary to instill in boys the idea that you have to develop the qualities as soon as possible that make you a 'real man.'  They are not little men, they are babies, just as girl babies are not actually little women! These things may seem trivial to you, but believe me, I see how even little things like this shape our thinking and behaviour about gender everyday! There are still so many double standards that exist it makes me nauseated and all these little things contribute to the overall perspectives we have on what it means to be a man or woman.  Frankly though, this has to change, and hopefully soon, now that we've brought the issue of trans folks into the spotlight.  Male and female are not discrete categories!

So how do traditional gender stereotypes hurt men? Well first, any man who deviates from these established norms often feels shame and if his differences are visible, there is often bullying and/or social exclusion.  Second, because masculinity is associated with strength, men are particularly reluctant to seek out help when they need it - which is seen as weakness - and, when it comes to mental health issues, they end up externalizing their feelings through violence, drugs and/or alcohol.

I could rant about this stuff for hours, but I'll spare you.  Well, only sort of, because I have a lot of ranting to do about this book: Conscious Men.  To be honest, based on the title, I thought it would be a self-help book for men to develop a more enlightened perspective on gender, and I think that's what the authors intend.  Perhaps I would have known I wouldn't agree with their perspective if I'd researched co-author, John Gray's famous book Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus.  Of course, I heard about it plenty, but never read it nor really looked into what the generally argument of the book is...probably because when it came out in 1992, I was not reading self-help or psychology books, I was in .  From the reviews I read, he does actually discuss some things in that book I agree with, but seems to think these things are immutable in men and women.  So its not surprising that the biggest criticism of the book is that it stereotypes men and women.  Frankly, this book does too. Big time!

I do applaud them for admitting their perspective applies only to straight men because the two authors, John Gray, and Arjuna Ardagh, are straight.  Basically, these guys provide various arguments in each chapter, which are also sprinkled with essays written by various men who write or work in the area of men's wellbeing.  Its actually some of these dudes who really had interesting things to say!

My first major criticism is that there is no research.  The entire thing is based on their own personal and professional experiences.  There is not one single reference or a bibliography. They do refer to a 2002 study (you can read the summary here) noting that genetic variations are associated with the different ways males and females tend to respond to stress. Women tend to seek out social support while men withdraw.  This is definitely a pattern I see among straight couples sometimes.  But not all the time!

Each issue they bring us as a barrier to being a "Conscious Man" is followed by examples and suggestions for overcoming them.  This is a strength of the book as it doesn't just describe the problem, it tries to provide solutions.

The book also has a section in each chapter for how a man's 'woman' can help him reach his potential as a 'conscious man.' (this type of language I find gross...I don't think of Adam as my man, and he
doesn't see me as his woman.  We are partners and the fact that we are a man and a woman is not of primary me it sounds very proprietary, which is obnoxious). 

They recommend women be very clear and direct with their needs and wishes and, yes, I agree, this is very important.  Women relate to each other with a lot of subtle cues and subtext, but men, less so.  Men usually are more literal and expect others to be this way too.  But in actual fact, its helpful for everyone to be clear with your communication, regardless of gender!

When disagreeing with his woman, the authors recommend the conscious man let go of having to be right.  This is good advice, but again, I would say it applies universally. 

This statement directed at women makes me ill:

"A man who talks a lot about his feelings, cries with you, or wants to process feelings with you, may feel really good to you: intimate, close, and safe. But we want to tell you that in our experience, such a man quickly becomes less attractive to a woman once she gets to know him."

While they do admit a man who does not emote at all is likely to be cold and lack empathy no matter how close you get, this statement is ridiculous.  Are there some women who may be turned off by an emotional man? Sure, but to generalize is absurd!

Later on they argue that if a man learns to feel, he risks becoming dominated and wishy-washy. WTF?

If you ask me, on the topic of physical violence, they are a little too gentle, explaining to men the physiological basis of anger and violence and then giving them alternatives: Growling, hitting a cushion or punching bag.  Um, okay I guess, but most physically violent men will need more than this book and a cushion, they'll need therapy!

At the very least, they recommend that women in abusive relationships get help.  Hallelujah!

Another thing that makes me seethe is their section on standing by your bro (i.e. bromances).  Dudes have to hang out with other dudes, because if you spend too much time with your woman, you'll become estrogen dominant.  Seriously?

I can acknowledge these guys have good intentions and they do attempt to explain why men should appreciate 'the feminine' and sort of encourage men to get in touch with their feminine side (but not too much!). But there are still far too many stereotypes and unsubstantiated claims in this book for me to really see it as having much merit.

The authors claim that how a man's mother treated him will affect his 'masculinity', how he responds to stress and how he relates to women. Sure, but the same is true of one's father or whomever one's caregivers were.  Any child that is abused or neglected or rejected is at risk of developing emotional issues but you can't blame moms for everything!

The general tone of the book is plebeian, which I suppose is appropriate since the only people will get anything out of this book are those currently living in caves.

So do I recommend this book? Only if you are a complete Neanderthal in which case these ideas may actually seem enlightened to you and there are a few bits here and there (like recommending you let go of homophobia, etc.) that could actually make you a better person. Otherwise, this is one for the recycle bin.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Risky Business

You have nothing to fear but fear itself ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Yeah, so I will admit that I am not much of a risk taker.  Of the physical kind, anyways.  While I am happy to test my limits in the gym any day (I'm still feeling those deadlifts I did Sunday in my butt!), I am rather averse to most dangerous activities.  Even as a kid, risk wasn't for me.  After years of gymnastics and trampoline, I quit both when I was told I'd have to take it to the next level in terms of what I was willing to do. To be honest I could never do much more in gymnastics than walk on my hands, but I did get to the point of doing twists and front and back flips in trampoline.  But doing double flips? Nope, I was out of there. And I only down hill skied once, and that was one time too many.

While I am generally not at all an overprotective parent, I do get super nervous about the girls' physical safety.  Just last week I was battling in the playground with Little A because she wanted to do some trick involving sitting on a really high bar and letting go with both hands before flinging herself to the ground.  It didn't make me feel any better that she told me, "Daddy lets me do it!" No surprise though as Adam is far more relaxed about these things.

I love doing family bike rides, but I'm pretty much anxious the whole time.  Big A is pretty cautious but Little A just has no sense of danger.

Well I was pushed way beyond my comfort zone on Monday, Victoria Day, rather accidently, but I am happy to say it turned out great.  Both because none of us got hurt and because it proved that as a family, we're pretty resilient.

We made plans to go to the Evergreen Brickworks with friends.  I suggested we take public transport because I knew it would be a zoo and parking might be hard to find.  But Adam wanted us to try biking there.  It is 'supposed' to be bike-able by taking the Beltline Trail and I've always wanted to bike there, but I didn't think the girls were old enough...Little A is pretty little!  Somehow Adam convinced me as did Google Map directions which told us we could take relatively quiet city streets all the way to the Beltline, and then the trail all the way to the Brickworks. Well, while this may be theoretically true, Google Maps sucks rocks.  It took us to nowhere and we ended up having to ask some dude who told us an alternate route thanks to the GPS on his phone (I forgot my phone at home and Adam's doesn't have a SIM card - I've said it before, we aren't phone people!). 

We eventually found our way there with only about the last 15 minutes of the trip being on any sort of trail.  We figured if we followed the trail on our way home we'd have a much easier trip back.

After meeting up with our friends, gorging on food truck treats and craft beer and letting the kids run wild, we decided to head home.

We had a very enjoyable 15 minute ride until we entered the part of the trail we had not been on on the trip there.  Big mistake! This was not the Beltline, this was deep into the Toronto ravine system!  This gives you an idea of (the flattest, most benign) of what we found ourselves in:

There was a path but I definitely would not call it a trail...and certainly not a bike trail! We ended up in what seemed like an endless hike on steep, rocky, hilly, muddy, slippery and unstable terrain with no idea how to get out.  If you had told me that morning we'd end up there with the girls and all our bikes I would have FREAKED! But I will say that in the moment of crisis (or what feels like a crisis), I am good at pulling it together.  For most of it I walked/carried my bike in the lead, warning everyone when there were areas that were particularly precarious, Big A was behind me walking her bike, and sometimes getting me to lift it over bad areas or big fallen tree trunks, Little A walked behind her, scampering over the rocks and trees, and Adam took up the lead walking/carrying his bike and Little A's.  Thank goodness he's so strong!!
Admittedly, at one point, I was getting discouraged because there seemed to be no end or way out and the path was getting steeper, narrower and muddier (i.e. more dangerous!), but just then we found the exit at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, which meant we finally knew exactly where we were.  Whew!
Riding the last few kilometres on the city streets felt like a cake walk.  The girls were total troopers and except for needing to stop for a water and Cliff Bar break, they just kept going.  We arrived home sweaty, tired and filthy.  After we all showered, the girls started inhaling food like it was going out of style, they had clearly worked up quite the appetite!
So while I wouldn't have willingly gone on this little adventure, I have to say it was great in that we all felt quite the sense of accomplishment at the end and, of course, that's a great experience for the girls to have.  Hopefully it makes up for all my overprotectiveness in the playground!
Happy Hump Day, and here's to taking risks!

Friday, May 20, 2016

14 Years!

Yesterday Adam and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary.  Wow, that's a long time! It doesn't seem like its been that long...let alone 16 years since we met and started dating!!

I consider our marriage one of my biggest achievements, if not the biggest.  Why? Because few people are lucky enough to find an amazing partner - the North American divorce rate is around 40%!  I also found him at a relatively young age, as I was 25 and he 23 (about 18 in woman years) when we met.  Nowadays a lot of folks aren't tying the knot until well into their 30s, at least not the well educated in big cities.  These are the people I usually see in my office struggling with infertility due to age.  Even sadder are the unhappily single people I see. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't think I 'earned' Adam, I think I was just really lucky.  After all, a lot of it has to do with luck and chance in terms of meeting a beloved one.  But I do credit us both with growing and maturing together to develop the strong union we have.  We sure have learned a lot over the years.  But thank goodness I did find Adam because I am definitely one of those people who needs a companion...and I doubt many guys would find me an attractive mate due to my relatively boring lifestyle (wake up at crack of dawn, workout like a maniac, eat lots of healthy food, raise children, and go to bed early).  Interested in adventure sports? Clubbing? Bar hopping? Travelling to remote places with large scary insects? No thanks.  Lucky for me, Adam is just like me on all accounts.  If you're wondering how we celebrated our anniversary last night? The answer is we didn't because Adam had to take Big A to swim lessons and I had to stay home with Little A and help her study for her spelling test.  Ha!  But since next year is #15 I think perhaps we'll have to plan a bit better.

Fortunately, we have a long weekend now with few plans, so there will be lots of family time. Have a happy, healthy weekend and wonderful Victoria Day, if you're in Canada!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Vegan Pulled Pork over Cauliflower Mash

Okay, I know for sure I have a winning recipe when its vegan and Adam loves it.  That does not happen often!  As soon as we started eating this meal, he commented several times on how good it was, and wondered if the cauliflower was actually potato.  Ha!

I've been dreaming up this one in my head for a while.  BBQ is one of the big food trends here in Toronto, and being the protein lover I am, its very tempting.  The only problem is...its far from healthy! It doesn't have to be, but its mostly red meat and the sauces are generally full of sugar.  Sure, a lot of them offer pulled chicken or BBQ chicken, but the sauces are still sugary, and they are usually served with white buns and not very healthy side dishes. 
So I reimagined a BBQ meal that is both vegan and low-carb.  Oh, and also sugar-free too!

Real meat provides so much unctuous flavour because of the fat and the carmelization you get when you cook it.  Because I was using a vegan meat substitute (Soy Curls, which are less processed than most), I came up with an uber flavourful sauce to compensate.  By the way, if you didn't want to use Soy Curls, you could try using jackfruit instead.

Vegan Pulled Pork

1 onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 can Zevia gingerale (or beer, or orange or apple juice)
1 540ml jar pineapple chunks, with juice, pureed
1 bag Soy Curls (don't rehydrate them)
1 can tomato paste

Throw everything except tomato paste into a pot or skillet and simmer over medium heat until veggies and Soy Curls are softened and most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Add tomato paste and stir.  Turn heat to low and continue cooking about 10 minutes.  Season, to taste.

Cauliflower Mash

1 large or 2 small heads of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp. herbed cream cheese or butter (vegan alternatives, or whatever you want)
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

Steam cauliflower until soft and then puree, along with remaining ingredients, in food processor.  Spoon onto plates and top with desired amount of pulled pork.

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

No Period. Now What?

No Period. Now What?
I can't tell you how many times I've thought I should write a book.  A cookbook. A novel. A diet book. A book about infertility.  But I know how much work goes into writing a book and I've never really had the guts to really try it.  However, that's just what my friend did and I want to share with you all her hard work!

One of the most amazing things in my life is the incredible network of women I met through my infertility experiences.  Only a handful I have met in person, but Nicola Rinaldi, the first author of this book, is one of them! She has just published, No Period. Now What? We met up in Boston when Adam and I visited a while back.  One of her co-authors, Stephanie Buckley, I met there too!!

Nicola is actually the founder of the online support network I am a part of and she is one seriously impressive woman! She has a PhD and is mom to 3 adorable boys.

The book is on hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) and may be the only book out there dedicated to this topic.  This refers to the absence of menstrual cycle and is a diagnosis of exclusion.  If no apparent reason is found, it is often the diagnosis, but too few doctors misdiagnose it as 'skinny PCOS' or fail to address lifestyle factors that can cause it.  Essentially, too much exercise and too few calories can cause a woman's menstrual cycle to stop.  For some women, it is only when their activity and diet become too extreme, but for others, they may have a very sensitive endocrine cycle which is interrupted even by slight increases in activity level or decreases in caloric intake.  The bigger problem is, some women cannot seem to restore their cycle even after adjusting their lifestyle and gaining a significant amount of body fat.

Nicola did a ton of research on HA and at this point is probably the world expert (no joke!).  I have ordered my copy through (which fortunately ships it to Canada), and I can't wait until it arrives, I know the book is going to be fantastic. 

Now what am I going to write a book about?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ligol Apples

Ligol apple
I know, I have a bit of an apple addiction. I hoard them, I eat tons of them, I adore them, they are ranked up there as one of my favorite foods.

Not all apples mind you, I am discriminating.  You can definitely keep Macintosh, Granny Smith (except I loved them during both my pregnancies), and red and yellow Delicious apples to yourself.

But nothing gets me more excited than discovering something produced by Mother Nature that I haven't yet particular new varieties of apple.  So despite being very disappointment that the market where I regularly get my beloved Mutsus was out of them, I was intrigued by a basket of a variety I'd never seen or heard of before: Ligols?

Definitely not locally grown, these had stickers saying they are the product of the E.U. European apples? That's unusual.  Normally our apples are either Canadian or from the U.S.  Well, I had to try these, of course. I did a little research and discovered, for the most part, they are grown in Poland.

So what's the verdict? They're yummy! They actually remind me of Asian Pears a bit.  Not nearly as good as Mutsu apples, but nothing compares to them.  Definitely not as good as Honeycrisp or good Fujis either, but pretty good. 

Have you tried a Ligol?  Makes me wonder how many other varieties of yummy apples are out there that I haven't tried!

After some gorgeous weather here, its pouring rain this Friday morning and its supposed to continue all weekend.  We're looking forward to taking it easy with no real plans besides all the girls' usual activities, and the clients I have to see tomorrow.  Have a wonderful weekend and remember: An apple a day keeps the doctor away!  I wonder if that still applies if its in the form of hard cider...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Reading Railroad

I have been so busy trying to keep up with the book review requests I've been getting, I haven't been able to share with you all the amazing books I've been reading during my sacred book time (in bed every night before going to sleep!). But believe me, I'm still reading every night, and over the past few months I have read a slew of fantastic books.  Unfortunately, the list has gotten so long I just don't have time to you catch up.

But fear not, I have two fantastic books to recommend, which just happen to be the last few I finished.

The first is Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (I also recently read The Children Act by him which is also good).  I thought I would hate this book because it involved spy stuff and MI5.  I am not generally drawn to that kind of thing, but boy am I glad that didn't stop me from reading this one! I am not actually going to tell you much except that I adored it, and the ending had the best twist ever!!

The other one isn't actually a novel, its a historical book based on the Chicago World Fair and a serial killer (with a sordid connection to Toronto, as a matter of fact!).  Fear not though, you don't have to be a history buff to appreciate this one, its one heck of a story!  The author, Erik Larson, did an impressive job with his research, I just found it incredibly fascinating.  I remember seeing stuff about the Chicago Fair when Adam and I visited the Chicago History Museum, but I didn't pay much attention, I was more interested in reading about the great fire, at the time.  I had never heard of this serial killer, H.H. Holmes. I now want to read everything he has written!!

There you go, there are 2 gems I recommend...go read them, now!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Breakfast of Champions

So did you have a Mother's Day Brunch yesterday?  We didn't, because as Big A once told people when she was about 3, "We don't celebrate brunch in our home." Like it was some religious thing, ha ha!

In reality, I think Adam and I look at like, "Why would we eat only 2 meals in a day, when we can have 3?"

If I had to identify one thing in common most of my clients with food or weight issues have, its not eating enough quality food at breakfast.  They either don't eat at all, or they don't eat enough, or they just eat some sort of high carb item like a bagel.  The result is that at some point later in the day their body retaliates for failing to fuel it properly and they get cravings, mood and energy dips and/or extreme hunger and inevitably end up indulging in high calorie, low nutrition foods like chips, candy baked goods or chocolate.  It then becomes a vicious cycle as they end up full of shame and guilt, and wake up the next morning without much appetite, which steers them away from eating a good breakfast, and, hence, the pattern continues.

I know some people just don't feel like eating when they wake up, and that isn't a problem.  Despite what some people say that you must eat within an hour of waking, research doesn't support that.  If you have to wait a bit, they do so.  Bring your breakfast to work and eat when you get there if you must.  The problem is, too many people get caught up in the belief that skipping a meal will ultimately help them lose weight, but as you can see from the troubling pattern that often develops from that, you'll see it usually does just the opposite.  If you have to wait until 10am to eat, fine.  Then eat lunch at 2-3pm, and dinner at 7pm (the theory that eating after 7pm with make you gain weight is also BS).  This style of eating is often purposefully adopted by individuals practicing intermittent fasting.  Just don't binge on ice cream at 11pm!!

Personally, I have to have a good breakfast every day, but probably anyone like myself that does early morning workouts is the same.  I do my workouts on an empty stomach, so afterwards, I'm ready to eat (following my coffee, which I have first).

For many, many years, breakfast for me has been oatmeal, which I love.  The only exception was during my 2 pregnancies when just the thought of it made me projectile vomit.  Pregnancy hormones do weird things!! 

But as my workouts have become more strength based, my craving (need) for protein has surpassed my love of carbs.  I started finding that no matter how much oatmeal I ate, and what I added to it (protein powder, egg whites, chia or flax seeds, etc.), it doesn't keep me full long.  This is problematic with my job because as a psychotherapist, I can't just pull out a snack during a session, and if I have several back-to-back sessions, I don't even have a chance to shove a single thing in my mouth for a few hours.  So its really important I have something that keeps me going for a while.

For this reason I've started switching it up at breakfast time to see what works best.  For months I just whipped up a batch of my high protein chocolate mousse.  Its very filling, but come winter, I was craving something a bit warmer.  Another winner is a couple of fried egg sandwiches.  I just take 2 flat buns and top them with cheese and fried eggs.  Yum! 

Using bananas and sweet potatoes to make grain-free pancakes, served with fruit and nutbutter is another favorite, but I don't always have time for this.

These are banana pancakes made with egg whites, cottage cheese and konjac powder:

These sweet potato pancakes also had vanilla protein powder, egg whites and konjac powder (topped with peanut butter and cinnamon!)

I also love omelets because they provide a great hit of protein and they are so versatile and a great way to get veggies into your breakfast, either right in them, or on the side.  The sundried tomato, herbed cream cheese variety is awesome!

Here is my latest favorite:

Yogurt I flavour myself, swirled with homemade fruit compote, or konjac powder jam.  In this case, lemon yogurt and raw konjac blueberry jam (recipes below).  Oh, and a side of chicken sausages.  Man, this kept me going for hours and is so yummy!!  It also gets me eating a few superfoods I don't eat tons of: fruit and yogurt.  I usually eat only apples, and rarely just eat yogurt on its own, despite its benefits.

Honestly, another mistake I see among my clients with disordered eating or obesity, is that they are fearful of trying new things, or give up making positive changes too quickly.  They will try eating something new (or eating something at all!), and decide it didn't work for them (didn't enjoy it, made them feel bloated, etc.) and immediately go back to their old habit.  I urge them to keep trying new things.  Experimentation is something most health-conscious people are always doing with their cooking and with their diets: looking for new healthy foods to try, new flavour combinations, seeing how different foods and meals affect how we look and feel.  Just because you try broccoli and hate it, don't assume you hate all green veggies.  Or just because you don't like steamed broccoli, don't assume you won't like it cooked a different way.  Keep an open mind and always be open to trying new things!

This week I am going to experiment with breakfast salads.  Yes, seriously! If there are any keepers, I'll let you know.

Okay, now for the recipes...

Lemon yogurt is a personal favorite, but only a few brands make it and all are either full of sugar or artificial sweeteners and tons of additives.  Making it yourself is simple and delicious, and I urge you try it.  If you don't like lemon, there are so many other options.  Its easy to find pure flavour extracts in vanilla, maple, almond, orange, and many more!!  You can leave it entirely unsweetened, or add some no-sugar sweetener of choice.  If you aren't concerned with calories and sweeteners that affect your blood sugar, use maple syrup or honey. Coconut sap will give you a lower glycemic index.  For lower cal options, xylitol, erythritol, monk fruit or stevia are good choices.

 Homemade Lemon-flavoured Yogurt

750ml container plain, unsweetened yogurt (dairy or non-dairy)
1-2 tsp pure lemon extract (or other flavour) (don't add lemon juice because it will curdle the yogurt!)
2 droppers full of lemon stevia liquid (optional)
1/2 tsp pure stevia powder (or other sweetener, to taste)

Mix yogurt with the other ingredients.  Keeps in fridge up to 1 week.

Raw No-Sugar Blueberry Jam

600ml frozen blueberries, thawed
1/4 cup water
Sweetener, to taste (optional)
2 tsp konjac powder

Toss ingredients well and refrigerate overnight.  Keeps for up to 5 days.

I have submitted these recipes to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday Linkup.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Sleep Revolution: Book Review

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night At A Time
As we move into Mother's Day Weekend, if you are a mom requesting a sleep in opportunity, than this book may be for you.  The occasional sleep in can't compensate for chronic sleep deprivation and it is critical to make adequate sleep a priority.  Not just for moms, but for everyone!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, than you know how important I believe sleep is.  Its equally as important to physical and mental health as proper nutrition and exercise.  As someone who spent many many years suffering from insomnia, I know this from first hand experience!!!

For this reason, I was happy to agree to review Arianna Huffington's new book, The Sleep Revolution.  Ms. Huffington is founder of The Huffington Post, in case you are not aware.  I must say, given that my politics and hers differ greatly (although apparently she has moved towards the left since she was married to Michael Huffington), I am surprised by how much I liked this book.  I would not expect a conservative to have such progressive views on work and life balance.  She provides nap rooms to her employees!

Her motivation for writing this book comes from her own experience of suffering the repercussions of living on insufficient sleep.  Passing out and injuring herself due to exhaustion served as her wake-up call, and from her discussions with others, which she details in the book, this isn't an uncommon consequence of chronic sleep deprivation.

The first part of the book is my favorite because she explores the history of sleep and science of sleep, and this touches on social history, sociology, and psychology, all of which interest me greatly.  I am quite impressed with her research into all of this.  It also explores our society's current sleep crisis. 

Essentially, industrialization created the idea that sleep deprivation = devotion to work.  We developed idolization of those who sacrifice sleep for work and see them as heroes.  The problem is, which Huffington believes we are just starting to acknowledge, when you sacrifice sleep, you also sacrifice quality of work, physical and mental health and safety.

To be honest, I can't relate to any of that.  I have never been one to willingly sacrifice sleep...well except, perhaps as an undergrad, when I was still young enough to get away with it.  By the time I started my first real job at the age of 23, and at that point developed insomnia which lasted on and off (mostly on) for 10 years or so, I discovered that a tired me = a catastrophe.  I don't just feel sleepy when I don't get sufficient sleep, I have a constant headache impervious to any medication or therapy, I am grumpy, clumsy, and miserable.  I experience fogginess, memory lapses, shakiness, and basically just want the day to end.  Given that life is finite, being in that state, to me, is a total and utter waste, and makes me feel useless and very sad.  I prioritize sleep above almost everything else because when I am rested, I feel like I can do almost anything and have so much more resilience for coping with life demands.  Its been obvious to me from day one of my sleep struggles that insufficient sleep is hardly an efficient way to live for me because I really don't function at my best. Its like night and day!

But I do know people...lots of people, both in my personal life, and many clients, who readily sacrifice sleep, either for work, or for various past times (video games, Internet, television, etc.) and pay the price in various ways.  One of the first questions I ask my counselling clients is about their sleep because insomnia is often a symptom of anxiety or depression, or it can be related to food cravings, an inability to lose weight, etc.

The second part of the book goes over dos and don'ts for improving/increasing your sleep and various strategies for bettering your sleep hygiene.  It also outlines recent research on the power of sleep and how it can improve cognitive functioning and sport performance.

Huffington includes various appendices at the end that provide a host of resources from guided meditations to sleep-friendly hotel chains, to quality mattresses.

So do I recommend this book?

I do recommend it for anyone who hasn't yet realized the importance of sleep and is still drinking the cool-aid of the sleep deprivation cult.  In particular, all the research she discusses about the benefits of getting enough sleep should motivate you to change your ways.  Who doesn't want to work better, look better and perform better athletically?

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

Wishing all moms a Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

HiiT by Cathe: Another Fitness DVD Review!

Okay, so this is the last of the DVDs I got from Cathe. Its another good one!

This one has 3 half hour workouts.  The first is 30/30 (30 seconds HiiT, 30 seconds rest), the second is 40/20, with 3 1 minute breaks, and the third is a Double Wave Pyramid (HiiT intervals increase in duration, then 1 min rest, then back to HiiT with intervals decreasing in duration).

Workout 1 (30/30)

I love this workout and its super tough! The warm-up is classic step, and, again, it reminds me how awesome step is.  Why its fallen out of fashion in the fitness industry I don't know, its a fabulous workout, and fun too!  Yes, if you have never done a step class, you'll have a learning curve with this, but if you really don't like it, you can always do your own warm-up and just go directly into the workout.

You need the step for the whole workout, and the intervals are very challenging.  Again, if you have a home gym, buying a step is a worthwhile investment.  They are very versatile (aside from cardio, you can use them as a bench for strength training), and I'm sure they are available used for pretty cheap these days.

This is definitely not a workout for beginners nor anyone who cannot jump or do high impact activities.  It's plyo!

Workout 2 (40/20)

This one also starts with a step cardio warm-up.  Cathe mentions that this is the easier of the HiiT workouts and I definitely agree.  For me though, it isn't the fact that its 40/20, its the fact that most of the moves are on the floor, not using the step.  This is one of the few workouts where moves are modifiable if you can't keep up, or if you need to keep things low-impact.  Its a good one, but not my favorite.

Workout 3 (Double Wave Pyramid)

This workout doesn't use the step at all, but its actually still pretty challenging because its basically all high impact/plyo.  You can make modifications if you find it too difficult, but again, this is not a workout for anyone who are beginners or can't do high impact activity.

The warm up is like classic high/low aerobics.  The choreography is simple, thankfully, so its easy to follow. Its very similar to how I used to teach fitness classes and, again, I love it.  Oldies are goodies sometimes.  Fun and effective, you can't beat it.

Its another tough one and fun.  My only criticism about Cath, in general, is that she tells you what move is coming next, but doesn't physically demonstrate it.  The problem is her terminology isn't the same as mine, or many other instructors.  For example, she doesn't call burpees burpees.  She has another name for them. So I don't know what the heck she's talking about when she tells us what's next, even when its something familiar like a burpee.  But this isn't a huge deal.

There you go, essentially I give top ratings to all 3 Cathe DVDs I purchased.  They are as challenging as I hoped for and fun.  In fact, I am already dying to get more.  There are 3 more I've got my eye on...

My message is to you that no matter how much space, time or money you have, it is possible to get fit. You don't need a gym membership, you don't need fancy equipment.  Just move!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Orange, Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

I make myself giggle these days when I think about how much dairy I now consume.

For years I had to keep it to a serious minimum due to lactose intolerance.  It went away when I was pregnant with Big A, came back with a vengeance afterwards, went away again during my pregnancy with Little A, and seems to not have returned.  Lucky me!

Now I'm making up for lost time, especially when it comes to cheese.  Goat, blue, name it! I especially love cheese in a salad and this one is so awesome.  Its actually got 2 types of cheese in it: goat cheese, crumbled over top, as well as quark, in the dressing.

Quark is a soft cheese that is incredibly versatile.  It has a consistency almost like cream cheese, but is very low in fat, sodium and calories and high in protein.  Yeah baby! Its great for sauces, frostings, baked goods, etc.

I love the sweet and tangy flavours in this salad, and the colours are gorgeous too!  This is happy food for me, I get excited just thinking about eating it.

Orange, Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

1 box organic mixed greens

1 navel orange, peeled, and chopped*
2 beets, peeled and chopped or spiralized
30g light goat cheese, crumbled

Orange Dijon Dressing

1/2 cup quark(or Greek yogurt)
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Juice of 2 navel oranges
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Arrange salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Combine dressing ingredients in blender or food processor, blending until smooth.  Pour desired amount of dressing over salad and toss.  Serve immediately.  Makes 1 serving for me, probably 2 or more for a normal person.  Store leftover dressing in fridge for up to 1 week.

I have submitted this recipe to the latest edition of No Croutons Required, Urban and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.