Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fulfilled!: Book Review

Have you ever wondered why, as North Americans, we have such high rates of stress-related illnesses, anxiety and depression, despite being among the wealthiest nations in the world?

The reality is, though we may have food to eat, clothes on our backs, shelter and a peaceful society, privileges many folks around the world do not have, a lot of us feel extremely unfulfilled.

What about you, are you fulfilled? If not, do you know why? Maybe its because you were pushed into a career by your parents that you never wanted.  Or maybe you married someone who doesn't make you happy because you were together a long time and everyone expected you to.  Or perhaps you decided to pursue a career to make a lot of money because you thought material wealth is the key to happiness, and yet you realize you were wrong.  All of us end up in places we didn't expect, and often aren't ideal for us, but what can you do about it? Often we feel stuck and assume there is no way out, unfortunately, this often leads to greater discontent.

Recently, I was sent Fulfilled! a book by William A. Schiemann, PhD., CEO of the Metrus Group, a U.S. based consulting agency.

The intent of the book is to be a guide for those feeling unfulfilled with their life - not just in the area of work, but in personal relationships, physical health, etc., too.

The book provides case studies of everyday individuals, like you and I, as well as various celebrities and public figures, to show how it is possible to feel satisfied with your life, in all spheres, regardless of your age, and where you are right now.

According to Schiemann, there are 3 critical ingredients necessary for fulfillment (ACE):

Aligned - alignment with your interests, aptitudes and values;

Capable - having the capabilities to be successful; and

Engaged - being engaged/energized by what you do.

Now, this stuff isn't really new to me. As a sociology undergrad, I learned a lot about this in my sociology of work and organizations courses.  It was an area that always interested me.  What makes us enjoy certain activities? What determines if we feel fulfilled by what we do?

Ironically, after an MA in sociology, I, accidently found myself in a career I hated.  Fortunately, I eventually switched paths and now I love my work, and am very grateful for that!

So, how do you tell how much alignment, capability and engagement you have? Don't worry, the book provides all sorts of quizzes and exercises to help you determine this!

I did some of them, even though I know I love my work, but they aren't all applicable for someone self-employed.  Most of them kind of assume you are employed by someone else.

Though the book isn't that long (219 pages), it packs in a lot of information and useful tools.  It doesn't just help you determine if you are fulfilled or not, but it basically provides a blueprint for achieving fulfillment if you aren't yet there.  Like anything else you want to achieve, having a plan and setting specific goals are critical.  Having a way to measure your progress is essential.

The final chapter provides some basic tenets of living a fulfilling life, which include:

1. Keep the end in mind
2. Nurture your body
3. Build a social network
4. Seek things you are passionate about
5. Take reasonable risks
6. Never stop learning
7. Stick to your values and spirituality
8. Resilience - find the silver lining
9. Give and get
10. Check in with yourself regularly

So do I recommend this book? Absolutely! Its well written and Schiemann clearly knows his stuff.  In fact, I am going to give it to a friend of mine who is currently trying to find a new direction for her career.

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

Reno Challenge Week 1

Wow, so we have almost made it through the first week of our renos.  So far...well, we're surviving.

I feel like I'm living in a grad residence again.  I am basically eating, exercising, working and sleeping in the master bedroom. 

My meal plan is much paired down compared to normal.  No real cooking or baking for a while.  Breakfasts are overnight oats, lunches are simple salads and sandwiches, muffins and hardboiled eggs or Explore Cuisine bean-based prepared noodles tossed with veggies and heated in the microwave.

Dinners have been shirataki noodle stir fries, and veggie burgers or grilled cheese with steamed veggies.  All in all, not too shabby, but we still had access to our stove.  Once that's gone, I'll have to bring out all the small appliances, but we're so well stocked, I am not too concerned.

For Adam, who is working super long hours right now, we ordered a healthy breakfast and lunch meal plan from Fuel Foods. See, there really is no reason to ever have to resort to eating crap!

Workouts in our bedroom are going well. I have it to myself because Adam has been going to his gym a few blocks away every morning for his workouts.  Between all our weights, my fitness DVDs, the TRX Home Gym I just purchased, and our pull up bar, I am doing pretty well.  The only problem is that our room is hot - despite having central air - much hotter than the basement, so I am not liking that.

That being said, since we are living upstairs but storing stuff we need in the laundry room and storage room in the basement, there is endless running up and down stairs, which is a workout in and of itself! Its also very annoying how often I realize I need one more thing. Up and down, up and basically anything and everything takes longer.

But already a lot has been done and its so exciting to see the progress. I can't wait for it to be finished!

Well, it will at least be nice to have the house to ourselves this weekend with no drilling and banging.  Have a happy, healthy one!

Monday, August 22, 2016 Product Review

North Americans love cereal, whether its practically pure sugar (Corn Pops, Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, etc.) or colon blow (you know, the crazy high fibre ones that go in one end and out the other almost instantly), we can't get enough of it.

Most of the ones on store shelves are more on the junky side of things, unfortunately.  Even if they're organic and free of icky chemicals, they are often just chock full of sugar.

A lot of cereal lovers customize their breakfast bowl by mixing different boxed cereals together and adding in fruit, nuts or other items.  Now Canada has a company that allows you to design a customized cereal blend, with options you may never have though of before, and packages it up pretty and delivers it to your door (for free!).  How about that? is a straightforward website where you can choose your base and add in everything from nuts, to dried fruit, to cocao nibs, to protein powder!

They allowed me to try it out so I designed a custom blend for my cereal loving kids.  You can even name your original blend! I called mine George...which is an inside joke in our house.  I started with honey granola, and added puffed quinoa, freeze dried berries and mango and dried golden berries.  I choose the kids design packaging.  It arrived promptly and was utterly adorable.

Had I been making a recipe for myself, I could have chosen all sorts of completely unsweetened grain and seed options.

If you can't decide what to add to yours, there are all sorts of premixed blends to choose from.  I like the Hungry Like the Wolf, high protein blend for active people!

Now cereal, especially good quality cereal, is never cheap, and this is certainly the case here. You pay a premium, approx. $13-$16/700g. And you know how it goes, all the good stuff (dried fruit, nuts, etc.) is heavy!

Most people will be unable to afford this on a regular basis.  Its a great occasional treat, or, even better, I think it makes an awesome gift for the cereal lover in your life!

Disclosure: I was given a complimentary sample of the product, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Well folks, our home renos start today, so I can't promise how often I will get to post.  We may lose power, Internet, and our minds for some period of time. I will try to put something out at least once a week.  Wish me luck!!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Reno Health Challenge

Soooo, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, we are starting home renos soon.  Monday, to be exact.  Its going to be mayhem here!

I thought they would do one floor at a time but we found out just this week they are doing both the basement and entire main floor simultaneously. So we are losing our gym, Adam's study, the kitchen, dining room and living room all at once! OMG folks, this is going to be challenging, 'cause all this family does is cook, eat, exercise and watch television! Now what??

And no, moving elsewhere isn't an option, thank you very much.

After her kitchen reno last year, a friend of mine warned me that we do ours I would have to throw away my healthy eating and cooking habits and just embrace take out and prepared foods like everyone else does. Really? I think not! I am pretty stubborn. Or so I'm told. Between the microwave, an induction hot plate burner, our toaster oven, indoor grill and electric wok. I am going to make it work.  I also think I can some type of workouts done in our bedroom.  To keep myself accountable, I will report my progress as we go.  We were told the renos will take 4 weeks max, but I am sure that means 4 months or something, so we'll see how much stamina we all have.

This weekend is all about clearing out the bottom two floors of our house. I am sure it will be fabulously fun.  Enjoy yours!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Compassionate Chick's Guide to DIY Beauty: Book Review

Consumers are increasingly concerned about what's in the products they buy, whether its food, household cleaners, or cosmetics.  We have become far more aware of the many harmful ingredients that can be found in many conventional products and are looking for ones that are less toxic for our health and for the environment.  The problem is, most of the brands on the market that fit the bill in that regard are super expensive. Often way above our budget.  So what to do?  DIY!

Now, you know I'm not much of a DIYer, but if its simple and there are big payoffs, hey, I am all over it!

I was thrilled to review The Compassionate Chick's Guide to DIY Beauty, because (1) The recipes are simple, (2) They are affordable, and definitely way cheaper than purchasing similar products, and (3) I have 2 girls, already interested in makeup, who I thought would enjoy getting their hands dirty with this stuff - and I am not ready to buy them make up yet, they're too young!

Boy was I right about the girls! In fact, they fought over the book - which led to screaming and tears - and then poured over it making a (very long) list of all the recipes they want to try.

What was very pleasing to me is that I already have a lot of the ingredients on hand, because many of them come straight from your kitchen.  Unfortunately, I also discovered that I am all out of most of the essential oils I had, so I have to go load up on new ones. I also have to buy some appropriate containers before I can make many of the cosmetics with the girls.

The book is written by Sunny Subramanian, who writes the, and health writer, Chrystle Fiedler.

I like that its written in very playful, laid back language and isn't too judgy/preachy about veganism, though referring to eggs as chicken periods might be a bit over the top.

Before the girls and I can try the long list of recipes they want to make, we have to get the necessary supplies, so I decided to start with the product I was most interested in for myself, and is super simple: hairspray!

I don't worry much about the gel and other gunk I put in my hair because you don't absorb it into your body, but hairspray you tend to breathe in, and that worries me.  I have bought a whole lot of natural hairsprays in the past and they have all been very expensive and sucked.  Like really didn't do much at all.

They call their version Hair Spray-bilizer, and all it is, is filtered water, vegan granulated sugar, and essential oil of choice.  The process to make couldn't be simpler, just dissolve sugar in pot of boiling water, let cool and add essential oils. Pour into a spray bottle.  The more sugar you add, the stiffer the hold. 

I planned to add vanilla and grapefruit essential oils, but, as I mentioned, discovered all my bottles were empty, so I used a few drops of tea tree oil, because that's all I had.  Okay, not the best smelling stuff, but it keeps away lice, which is always useful if you have kids or work around them!

I honestly had little confidence that it work well with my difficult to manage, dry, curly hair, especially in the summer heat and humidity.  I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it does a great job of keeping my hair from frizzing, and doesn't give it that crunchy feel that commercial hairsprays do.  I am committed, this is now my go-to hairspray, I don't think I will ever buy hairspray again!

There are chapters devoted to:
  • Face care
  • Bath and body care
  • Hair care
  • Makeup and cosmetics, and
  • Unisex beauty essentials
The appendices are filled with information and tips, and there are resources for supplies and vegan living at the end.

As soon as we have a chance, the girls and I are going to go shopping so we can try out more recipes.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely! Why not make your own healthy, natural products when its easy and affordable!

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

CANFITPRO Conference 2016

This year I did just 1 day of the conference and squashed it all in so I could work Saturday and Sunday have my usual Sunday.  I was there from 7:30am to 6pm and it was a long day!

I was so excited to see that Shaun T was coming this year, and Yoni Freedhoff, too, but unfortunately, neither of them were there on Friday.

I did see Jillian Michaels, who was speaking!

I hadn't been planning to hear her talk, but it was in the trade show, so for a few minutes I couldn't help myself.  In that time, I was surprisingly impressed with her.  A woman in the audience told her she'd lost a ton of weight and it was due to her inspiration and workouts, and she told Michaels that she'd changed her life. Michaels responded by telling her never to give anyone else so much power, that they'd never met before today, so the person solely responsible for changing her life was the woman herself. I like that! Most people would have just said something like, "Thank you, that's why I do what I do."  Wow, much more humble response than I would have anticipated!!

I did a completely useless spinning session where I learned nothing, and, even worse, was in the vicinity of a dude with bad BO. Blech!

I attended the key note presentation by Harley Pasternak. I have known of Pasternak for years because he got his MA from the Exercise Sciences Department at the University of Toronto, where I did my PhD.  He was often mentioned since he is an alumnus who is a celebrity.  If you haven't heard of him, he is a trainer of Hollywood celebs and has written a few books.

I wasn't expecting much as I find some of his ideas gimmicky and overly simplistic, but I actually liked his talk.  It wasn't created for the conference though, I discovered afterwards as you can read it in this People article. But I don't disagree with any of it when it comes down to suggestions for healthy living and weight loss.

I discovered a new protein bar and tried 2 flavours:
The Peanut Butter Perfection was meh, but the Delicious Cookie Dough was, indeed, absolutely delicious!

I did a session that was, what I think is quite possibly, the most fun session - and fitness class - EVER! I heard about Pound Fit last year, but hadn't signed up for it.  After seeing a demo in the tradeshow, I knew I had to try it. It was f*cking awesome! Its not the most intense workout, though you can adapt it to most fitness levels, but man, it was just amazing.  If it had been around 20 years ago, without a doubt I would have gotten certified to teach it.  Now, though its only a 1 day training program, its probably unlikely.

They also sell a DVD set, and I considered buying it at the tradeshow, but wasn't in the mood to drop $90, since I didn't really want a whole set anyways.  But seriously, this is a great workout for anyone who hates working out, unless you also hate loud music.

I treated myself to the newest Classical Stretch/Essentrics DVD set because they had a great tradeshow sale, and I snatched up the last copy they had!  I also listened to Miranda Esmond-White talk for a bit, but she wasn't saying anything she doesn't say in her videos.

I also attended a nutrition lecture by Gillian Mandich, which was on nutrition myths.  Though she didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, she did make me realize that if I was any kind of entrepreneur, I would myself have turned my knowledge into more money making opportunities.  She basically explained why the media misrepresents/misinterprets research findings and often misleads the public.  Geez, why didn't I start doing paid speaking engagements?  I guess it didn't help that in grad school I did everything possible to avoid public speaking...

I finished off the day with a great seminar on using foam rollers for pressure point release for recovery. I learned some new ways to release tight muscles using a roller in the back and chest (I usually only use it for lower body), as well as how to utilize it more effectively for the lower body. 

Overall, it was pretty fun, which is a lot coming from me, since I hate large groups of mostly people I don't know.  Especially considering this year it was the biggest ever with 20,000 attendees!

Have a happy Monday and move as much as possible!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Nerium Firming Body Contour Cream, OptimeraTM Formula: Product Review

Butts are in.

I can't believe I just wrote that.

What I mean is, our society seems to have developed a weird fetish about women's butts. We don't tend to fetishize men's bodies the same way.  Besides, hairy butts are just...

Personally, I find the whole thing incredibly weird. Especially the extremes it can go to, whether its getting butt implants (yes really!) or women just flashing their butts all over instagram, supposedly as "fitspiration". 

I don't know, maybe we should blame Kim Kardashian who seems to have popularized the bubble butt.  You know, the massive, but jiggle free butt that emphasizes a women's ridiculously small waist, which is below, of course, huge (most likely fake) boobs.  Just another unattainable beauty ideal for us women to live up to.

Even before Kim, however, there was mass hatred of butts among women.  Its probably one of the body parts most women would say they dislike about themselves.  I don't get why.  You can (and should?) cover it up most of the time, and you don't even have to look at it!

Nevertheless, women who may have anxiety over baring their butts for even innocuous reasons (like a medical exam, or changing at the gym) will probably be happy to know there are products that can help make your butt (or any other lumpy, bumpy body part) look smoother and tighter.

Nerium sent me their Firming Body Contour Cream, OptimeraTM Formula, to try.  Its supposed to be for cellulite, primarily, but I don't have any. Don't hate me, its definitely not because I have a perfect body! I decided to try it on my butt because my butt does have a little bit of rippleness (is that a word?) no matter how many lunges, squats and deadlifts I do.  Frankly, I could care less.  The only one who sees my butt is Adam and the kids and they don't seem to have a problem with it.  I don't see it unless I turn around in the mirror, and, really, why would I waste my time doing that? Well, only for this experiment, I guess.

Its made from some combo of forskohlii root, some plant that 'may' assist with weight loss (though I am not sure it can help you lose weight by using it topically!), caffeine (which you find in most anti-cellulite creams), some patented molecule called SIG-1273 and SAL-14, both which contain some sort of antioxidants, shea and cocoa butter, and green tea and white willow bark.

I used it for 4 weeks, following the directions by massaging it into my butt cheeks for 20 seconds daily.

So did I see a difference? Who knows! I think maybe I did, but I didn't take before and after photos.  What, did you think I was going to post photos of my butt? You sicko!

I couldn't find any research to confirm its efficacy and I do know it isn't possible that it eliminates cellulite, and I am sure that whatever effect it does have to improve the appearance of your jiggly parts, it isn't permanent. You probably have to keep using it.

So if you are one of those weirdos flashing your body parts online, and particularly if you are making money doing it, sure, why not drop $170CAD on a tube of this cream to ensure everything looks less lumpy and bumpy (at least in the areas you don't want lumps and bumps)?

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

This week its the CANFITPRO conference, so I'll be busy checking out the latest fitness trends. I'll be back Monday with lots more health and wellness info!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Listen - Hand in Hand Parenting: Book Review

I don't post much about parenting anymore because aside from all the funny stories I could share with you about what the girls do and say, I don't have much new to report.  Not much wisdom, anyhow. I think parenting an area where my skills are lacking, to be honest.

I must be doing something right because both kids are doing very well. 

Little A got straight As on her final report card this year, which blew us away, she is super social, and really the only negative feedback we get from teachers is that she can be bossy. No, she doesn't get that from me ;)

Big A does well in school, is extremely self-confident, is a very independent thinker, and she shows compassion and a remarkable interest in social justice (this summer she has become determined to help the homeless woman who has taken residence in our neighbourhood, bringing her food and ice water whenever she can, and even asking if she can give the woman her allowance). Teachers generally rave about her.

At home is a different story.

Overall, Big A causes us the biggest headaches, primarily because she is messy to an extreme.  We have endless battles with her over this and it just never seems to get better.  Also, she is often defiant about following rules or just completing daily tasks.  She gets distracted easily and is often slow to get moving in the morning so getting her to move quickly is a challenge, and she is a very picky eater who changes what she likes and dislikes on a daily basis.  I feel like her and I are engaged in battle all the time.

Our challenges with Little A are around television (she is an addict) and her sense of entitlement (give her a treat or privilege and she just wants more...and more...). 

The greatest challenge with have with the girls, however, is the fighting, and in that, they are on equal ground.  They are both competitive with each other, and often selfish and inconsiderate.  They fight ALL THE TIME!

I'm a psychotherapist. I have analyst the situation from every angle. I have read lots of books, consulted experts, bounced ideas off my friends...and I still feel like I come up empty in terms of finding any solutions. I haven't bothered reading any more parenting books for a while because I'd kind of given up.

But giving up doesn't mean I am not still frustrated and wishing I had more skills to deal with my parenting dilemmas, and, in particular, the sibling rivalry stuff we have going on. So I happily agreed to review Listen from the folks at Hand in Hand.

If I had to boil down the philosophy behind this approach. I would say its that the secret to addressing almost every challenge with your children is making them feel heard and connected to you.  This isn't all that unique and I've heard it before.  I've tried it before, but like most things, it has worked only inconsistently.  For example, Big A is a complete drama queen over every bump and bruise.  This is quite normal for toddlers, but it got so annoying that I explored the best way to handle it and read that if you provide empathy even when the child's reaction is disproportionate to the situation (which hers always is!), then they will stop using it as a go-to for attention. Um, well, fast forward to today and she's 10-years-old, and still a drama queen about this stuff! 

Admittedly, we long ago gave up the pretend empathy (it really does get old after a while!), so perhaps we do need another kick at the can.

The authors, Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore, describe a strategy they call "Staylistening" is giving your child your full attention and ear when they are upset, regardless of how ridiculous or irrational the trigger.  You don't try and fix the problem, but just ensure they feel their emotions are being heard. Also, they suggest "Playlistening", which is a strategy Adam uses a lot, which is basically distracting the girls out of a mood by goofing around with them and making them laugh.

As a psychotherapist, I will tell you that everyone definitely needs to feel heard and to have their emotions validated.  But it isn't always easy to do this as a parent.  I often didn't feel heard by my own parents, so I am great at supporting my girls in the ways I feel my emotional needs were not met, but they seem to get upset by much different things than I did as a kid, so I have a great deal of difficulty remaining patient and empathetic about their concerns. This is my big challenge as a parent: my kids have very different personalities than I do (or did), and I lack patience.  I also have a lot of sensitivity to noise.  Certain noises, in particular, drive me nuts, like the bathroom fans, our screaming tea kettle, and the girls fighting.  As soon as I hear conflict start to arise, I can feel my anxiety escalate. I am always at a loss as to how to handle it.

What I like in this book, is that they address the stresses and strains parents deal with, how we bring our own emotional baggage to our parenting, and that we need support, and to support each other.  But I am not sure their approach is the magic bullet. 

First off, you don't just need a lot of patience for Staylistening, but you also need time.  If you have 15+ minutes to let the tantrum/conflict play out in the way they describe, great, but, unfortunately, this isn't always the case.  For me, a great deal of the conflict happens in the morning when we have no time.  I am usually dragging them out of bed, and there is no way I am going to do that earlier so we have "special time" like they suggest.  Special time is time set aside for each child to do whatever he/she wants and to give each child undivided attention.  I do think this is a great idea, but in our house, mornings will not work.  But it does have me thinking about designating a bit of special time for each of them each week (not when we're rushing to school/work). I do already try and do this, but during the school year things are nuts because the girls want to be involved in so many activities, and I work a lot of weekends and evenings, and my schedule is unpredictable.

In terms of sibling rivalry solutions, there is a section on it, albeit a small one.  I decided to try their suggestion of offering empathy to both children, regardless of who's to blame.  The thing is, often both kids are equally 'guilty' because its stupid stuff like fighting over who gets the cereal box first. Yes, I guess I could empathize how hard life is because they each don't have their own cereal box but its tough when what I really want to do is dump it over their heads.

One day after picking them up at camp I said I wanted to stop at the grocery store.  Both of the girls said they wanted to stay in the car.  Fine. I was going to be 5 minutes and no coaxing would change their minds anyways.  As I grabbed my purse to go in, Little A asked if she could sit in the passenger seat.  Sure, why not? Immediately Big A wanted to sit in the driver's seat, and I knew this was leading towards a battle. I suggested she stay where she was and keep the whole backseat to herself while Little A moves to the front so that they are as far away from each other as possible and both have ample space.  She began complaining about how unfair it was, so finally I told her she could sit where every she wants and I stormed off into the grocery store. 

I fully expected to get back to a full on civil war, so was surprised to see Big A sitting in the passenger seat, and Little A back in her booster seat.  Huh? When I asked what happened, Little A reported that Big A screamed and cried demanding the passenger seat so finally Little A gave in. I commended her for accommodating her sister's wishes, but things quickly deteriorated as Little A explained it was only because of Big A carrying on, which led Big A to burst into tears and start screaming again, justifying herself by saying her back was hurting and the only place she felt comfortable was the passenger seat. WTF? This was the first I'd heard of her back hurting. I wanted to throw the eggs I just bought at both of them, but instead decided to try the empathy thing so they both felt heard. As they began bickering over it again, I cut in and said to Little A, "I'm sorry, that must have been hard to have to listen to her crying." Than I said to Big A, "I am very sorry your back is hurting, back pain sucks, when we get home we'll see what we can do about that."

The result? Dead silence from both of them! Not sure, however, if the empathy was enough to pacify them, or if they were just in complete shock that I wasn't yelling at them to stop fighting, as per usual.  I guess I'll have to try it again and see what happens.

So do I recommend this book? I actually do, particularly if you are more patient than I am and if these ideas are new to you.  Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that any particular strategy will work for you, its kind of trial and error, but I guess its worth it to keep trying.

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

Friday, August 5, 2016

Inspiration not Outspiration

I am really disappointed in the world. But if you read my rants regularly than you already know that.

The issue I am bitching about today pertains to standards of beauty for women. There has never been a point in my lifetime where thin wasn't in.

Growing up, I read all the critiques around the cult of beauty and thinness by the day's feminist writers: Naomi Wolf, Susie Orbach, Susan Bordo, etc.  It was exciting because if felt we were on the cusp on a breakthrough. We weren't.

In contrast, it feels like things have actually gotten worse for women in this regard.  I wrote about this in the Huffington Post a while back.  In the late 1990s, there was a dramatic shrinking that took place among women in Hollywood.  Already lean actresses, even at the time became known as popsicle sticks, because they were so thin, their heads looked disproportionately large (i.e. Calista Flockart and the whole cast of Ally McBeal, and Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston from friends, for example).

Now, with the Internet and social media, its even worse!  Its not just images of celebrities we are exposed to, its images of anyone who wants to share photos of themselves.  Showing off one's body used to be referred to as 'thinspiration'.  Inspiring others to be thin?  According to Wikipedia, this is actually pro-anorexia culture. There are some folks who think anorexia and other eating disorders are a 'lifestyle choice' not a mental illness!?!

A few years ago, a new movement cropped up: Fitspiration.  Images of fit bodies to inspire others to be fit?  With it has come a whole slew of meme's, such as "Strong is the new skinny."

When I first heard"Strong is the new skinny", I was thrilled, I thought maybe it was a movement meant to shift the focus from what women's bodies look like, to what they can do.  Soon, though, I discovered fitspiration has just shifted the body ideal for women from impossibly skinny to impossibly thin and ripped.  Oh, and images are not about how much weight a woman can lift or any other physical feat, they are just half naked bodies.  In fact, I am always shocked when I see even legit fitness professionals filling their Instagram account with practically pornographic content of themselves.  At first my only response was 'yuck' because I figured it was just to titillate viewers.  But then I discovered the fitspiration movement has an even more sinister side-effect: it is just as bad as the glorification of skinny for women's/girls body image and self-esteem!

Moreover, many of the associated, so-called motivational messages, are actually shaming.

Research by Bryan Karazsia, and Catherine Benton, from the College of Wooster in Ohio, found that exposure to images of thin athletic bodies is just as detrimental as images of thin bodies to women's body satisfaction!  The problem is that a super lean, ripped body is not easy for most people to achieve.  In fact, it may be just as out of reach as a super thin body.  As the researchers point out, exercise should be done for health reasons/and with sport or physical achievement goals in mind, not to try and attain a particular physique ideal.  The fact that we now have 2 ideal body types for women is hardly much progress compared to when I was a kid, considering that neither of them are realistic for most of us, even with extreme dieting and exercise.  The real solutions is to abolish the idea of an ideal to begin with. Don't worry, I'm not na├»ve enough to think that will happen any time soon! I just hope things get better before my girls are old enough to really be affected by it.

If you need inspiration, whether its to exercise, eat better, or make any positive change in your life, let it come from within.  Comparing yourself with others is rarely effective or helpful. Especially if you are comparing yourself with social media images. Your goal should always be to achieve the best possible you, not to look like or be like anyone else. 

The weather continues to be obscenely hot here and there is no sign it will end soon. The weekend will most likely involve INDOOR activities like the mall and a movie or two. Have a good one and stay cool!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

African Groundnut Noodle Stew

Okay, this recipe isn't as weird or fusion as it sounds! Well maybe it is.  But I don't care because its delicious! Besides, there actually are some noodle dishes eaten in Africa.

I decided to recreate my African Groundnut Stew, and then at the last minute decided to throw in Kanten noodles (made from agar agar, and carb/calorie free).  Really it was just because I had the noodles and had forgotten about them and was really curious to give them a try.  To be honest, they have no taste and in a hearty dish like this, not much of a discernable texture either, so you can leave them out.  This stew is yummy on its own or served over rice, quinoa or millet.

I love the sweet, savoury, salty notes of this dish, and the different textures from the onion, collards, beans, and sweet potato.  So good! And it gets bonus marks for being packed with nutrition, protein, good fats and fibre.  Not to mention its free of sugar, gluten and completely vegan. 

African Groundnut Stew II

1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Chunk fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1 large bunch collard greens, washed and finely chopped
1 can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 large (or 2 small) cooked, peeled and mashed sweet potatoes

200g kanten noodles, prepared according to package instructions

Over medium heat, cook onion, garlic, ginger and spices with vinegar in a large pot until onion is soft.  Add peanut butter, collard greens and black eyed peas and simmer until collards cook down.  Stir in sweet potato, adjust seasoning, add noodles, if using, and serve.

I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Monday, August 1, 2016

8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS: Book Review

Many of my infertility patients have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It is a hormonal condition that affects around 15% of women across the world. Aside from infertility, it also causes weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles and anovulation, hair growth on face, back and chest, and increased risk of Type II diabetes.

Because of the prevalence, and emotional suffering caused by PCOS, I was happy to agree to review, Naturopathic Doctor, Fiona McCulloch's new book, 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS.

McCulloch is an ND located in North Toronto.  Given my work, I am surprised I hadn't previously heard of her!

The book's introduction gives a brief description of the 8 steps and includes a number of quizzes so readers can determine if they likely have PCOS.

Her 8 steps to reversing PCOS are:

1. Addressing inflammation
2. Treating insulin resistance
3. Balancing Adrenals
4. Treat excess androgens
5. Addressing hormonal imbalances
6. Balancing the thyroid
7. Creating a healthy environment
8. Eating a Balanced diet

The first chapter defines PCOS.  There is a lot of detailed 'science-y' information here, so if that interests you, you'll love it, if not, you'll gloss over it.

I am pleased that she mentions other conditions that mimic PCOS (and are often misdiagnosed as such), like hypothalamic amenorrhea).  For a great book on HA, check out this book.

The following chapters are dedicated to the 8 steps in her program.  Again, they contain a lot of information about the science behind everything, so some people may skim that stuff if they do not find it of interest. That being said, I think its useful to understand a health condition that you suffer from, and what causes it, so this information is important to include.

There are a few things McCullough takes about that make me uncomfortable.  One is leaky gut syndrome.  I have researched this before and found little evidence that the condition exists.  Also, she mentions the food sensitivity tests that I have discussed several times before.  I have found no concrete data that they are particularly useful tests that have any valid results. 

McCullough suggests a number of supplements and most are harmless except green tea EGCG, which can have very serious, potentially lethal side effects. I would recommend just drinking green tea instead.

I am pleased that she emphasizes the importance of regular exercise for women with PCOS, which is consistent with the research I have read.  It helps reduce insulin resistance and inflammation.

I am also thrilled that she mentions glucomannan to help manage insulin resistance.  What is it?  Its my beloved konjac! I have discussed on several occasions with some of the fertility doctors I work with, the potential of using it to help treat our PCOS patients. 

The only other thing that I don't love is her discussion of adrenal fatigue. But I will acknowledge that there is a lot of debate about it.  Alternative and integrative health care practitioners seem to believe its a real condition, but Western medicine just sees it as the result of too little sleep, too much chronic stress and/or poor nutrition.  In a way, I guess it doesn't really matter what you call it, the causes and consequences are essentially the same.

McCullough recommends a long list of herbs and supplements to help balance the adrenals.  I would first try regulating your sleep and minimizing/managing stress, if those areas are out of balance, first.  Then, before you take anything, consult a health professional, particularly if you are trying to conceive or are doing fertility treatments.

I do commend McCullough for suggesting women with PCOS try meditation/mindfulness/yoga, seek social connections with others dealing with PCOS, practice self-care and compassion, and, most importantly, seek counselling!

Following the chapters on each of the 8 steps, there is a large chapter devoted to PCOS and fertility, followed by one on menopause.  Again, this is awesome that she has given these important issues due attention.  I will stress, however, that you shouldn't start taking any herbs or supplements without consulting an ND and your fertility doctor first.

In the appendices, there are a number of PCOS-friendly recipes and a meal plan.  The recipes look fine, though many seem to have a shit-load of fat in them.  I think you can still get the benefits of healthy fats if you consume them in smaller doses, and eat lots of protein, while limiting your carb intake.  The problem with the recipes being very high fat is it makes them very high calorie.  If you can manage on very small portions, fine, but if you have a larger appetite, you may want to stick with less calorically dense meals so you can eat a larger volume.

Finally, there is a section with various resources about PCOS.

All-in-all, I am pretty impressed by the book.  I like that McCullough stresses that none of the supplements will give you really positive results if you don't also change your lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise. Here here! 

If you or someone you love is suffering from, or may be suffering from PCOS, than you will definitely benefit from reading this book.

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