Archive for the ‘health’ Category

I’m out!

English: Rest. Mural in lunette from the Famil...

So I’m out this week nursing a very sore back, I hope to be up and running again next week.

Read Full Post »

English: Meditation

I got to work a couple of weeks ago, completely flustered. It was a totally Murphy’s Law day, where almost everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. Don’t misunderstand me, nothing was huge, but I was caught in a traffic jam—in my own parking garage, no less. This made me late for a dentist appointment, which in turn made me late for the office. Once at the office I had to scramble so that I wouldn’t be late for my flu shot appointment. But between the traffic jam before ever even leaving home, the slow pace of traffic up Yonge St. and having to deal with the computer from the movie Office Space, I was completely flustered and haggard by 10:30 in the morning. In fact, I didn’t start to relax until after my flu shot, when I said to one coworker that what I needed was to be forced to sit quietly with a cookie for 15 minutes. We laughed, because isn’t that something we could all use: 15 minutes when we’re not being pulled in every conceivable direction. Fifteen minutes to do nothing but think about breathing in and breathing out, while waiting of course to make sure the vaccine doesn’t make us sick.

In talking to another coworker I came to understand that I do this a lot. I’m chronically over-extended. In fact, this second woman went as far as to characterize me as being over-extended. This was a real shock to me. I’ve always described myself as being laid back. How could I have missed such a crucial personality flaw? All I  can figure is that people who are over-extended have very little time for introspection. Even the time I’ve set aside for meditation is tightly planned. I have a 6-minute guided meditation with a row boat, then I do 2:30 minutes of thankful prayer, then another 6 minutes of meditation—it’s not really free-form, but it’s supposed to help me sleep, so it’s not really guided either. So then, I started to wonder, do I really have time when I can let my mind be still? When I just let myself be, and enjoy that time?

The good news is that there is. Every night after dog park I bring Cadie home, and I put her in the bath tub. She really doesn’t like the tub, but she accepts that dirty little paws have to be cleaned, so she gets in the tub, and hands me her paws one after the other until all 4 are clean.

Lounging on my impossibly formal couch–or chesterfield

Then I lift her out of the tub, sit her on my lap with her little feet sticking straight out, and I rub them dry. Then I pet her back. Cadie will lay her head against my chest, and exhale deeply, making a little sound of satisfaction. Then she snuggles the crown of her head under my chin. This is where we stay…for about 2 minutes. 120 seconds. I try to take my time saying it—One-hundred and twenty seconds. Normally this amount of time would pass in the blink of an eye, but this is when I am happiest, so I try to drag it out. This is the moment that we’ve both waited for all day, and we both do our best to make this moment last.

So there, with her little head under my big chin, her little ears twitching as my breath grazes them, we both relax, reclining into the formal chesterfield, her wrapped in a towel, me sometimes under a blanket. My mind becomes still, and I focus on how much I love her, and how grateful I am to have this happy little soul in my life. It’s the cosiest moment of my day, and like meditation I’ve been known to fall asleep like this–especially if the weather is particularly cold.

But all good things must end, and I’ll do something stupid like reach for her paw, or adjust my hold of her back slightly. Cadie will push herself up, give her head a shake, and just like that the moment has passed; now we’re back to reality. The pace picks up again as I go about getting her dinner, and of course the treat she has earned by enduring the indignity of having to go in the bathtub. I also have to clean the bathtub, get my own shower, and then make my own meal and get started on whatever chore I need to tackle after dinner.

It might not be long, but I carry that stillness with me until I can recharge myself again, until I can sit and care for Cadie. It’s nice to know that in an imperfect world we can always have at least one-hundred and twenty perfect seconds to sustain us.

Read Full Post »

Ottawa Ontario Canada  March 2011 — Rideau Can...

I used to run a lot when I was in my 20s, at least 3 times a week, and sometimes more if I need a breather from school, or if I felt that I had over-indulged. Running gave me such a nice, weightless feeling. It was a place where I could escape and just feel free. I remember my hair streaming out behind my head while my breath came in regular puffs of white mist. These were the days when I loved running, when I pitied anyone who couldn’t run. I felt strong, and independent and healthy, and I loved those feelings.

Those were the good runs, but there were also bad runs: runs that were fuelled by a broken heart, or crushing disappointments. These runs always seemed to end in hyperventilating, extra-stiff muscles and lengthy delays as I tried to regulate my breathing so that I could continue on my way.

My coach

Still, when I think back to my running days all I remember is the good: the runs where I felt invincible, where I knew I was young, healthy and strong, and there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. There was the time in Ottawa when my run was fuelled by a broken heart and had been delayed by crying fits and hyperventilating. But I managed to get myself going again, and when I reached the end of my route and set my first foot on Laurier bridge the sky exploded into bright greens, reds and blues as we started the annual Winterlude celebration. There was also the Christmas morning when I decided to head out for a run before the festivities began. The sky was so blue, the trees so bare, and the earth covered by a thin layer of crystallized frost. The memory of that run is so idyllic to me that I sometimes forget that I was running down service roads, past empty factories and warehouses. I can’t remember anything else from that Christmas day, but I relive that run regularly.

Me, out for a rare run.

My running days are well and truly behind me now. A back injury and worsening asthma make if difficult for me to commit to a running routine, though that hasn’t stopped me from going on the occasional run. These days the bulk of my exercise has to happen in the pool. I don’t love swimming, not yet; I haven’t created the kinds of memories and the emotional bond that I had with running. In the pool I feel weak and uncoordinated, and I hate these feelings. I routinely find myself clinging to  the side of the pool gasping for air,  or clutching my side, waiting for the cramps to pass. So I find myself looking for more and more opportunities to skip out, to tell myself that I’m too busy, that I can’t get in the pool because it’s too cold outside, etc. But I know that this isn’t who I am, I know that I am a fighter at heart, and that I just need to commit myself to improving my skill, to becoming a stronger swimmer, so that I can find my stride, and feel strong after each workout. Then, maybe I could love it as much as I loved running.

Read Full Post »

weight loss exercise class

Image by ninahale via Flickr

So as you know I’ve spent the last year trying to lose weight. I’ve started taking classes, forcing myself on the treadmill, I’ve kept food diaries, and I’ve tried to focus on healthy lifestyle choices. I was going about it all wrong. All I needed to do was get dental surgery.

Yup, dental surgery was the answer. I had a gum graft a little over 2 weeks ago, and the rules you have to stick to following a gum graft are pretty strict. You have to stick to soft foods, chew on the other side of your mouth, and make sure that you are constantly rinsing your mouth so that bacteria doesn’t start to form.

The truth is that the whole process has been so unpleasant; the roof of my mouth has felt so stressed and the need to rinse with warm salt water made eating a very unpleasant option. So instead of eating I’ve been drinking. I drink a lot of Carnation instant breakfast and V8. I supplement this with ice cream and yogurt. A lot of ice cream and yogurt. The truth is that I was very worried that I would gain weight. I was worried about drinking my calories–it’s so easy to lose track–but so far, so good.

I haven’t been on a scale in more than 2 weeks, so I have no idea of what I actually weigh, but I judge my weight based on my ability to fit into my clothes, and my clothes have been fitting much better. In fact, I’ve been able to get into some clothes that I haven’t worn since before I started dating my ex.

So, having finally achieved some success with my weight loss I’m feeling pretty good. Now all I need to do is find a way to keep it off once I start eating solids again.

Read Full Post »

So here we are, the 100th post, and I need to have some progress to report.

The good news is that I was so productive in January that I am feeling awesome. In fact,  2  weeks ago I felt better than I had in a long time. I mean, I felt so good that I almost posted this at that time. I didn’t, obviously, but I did treat myself to a new lipstick to celebrate.

I’ve always been curious about lip stains, it seems like such a good idea. Disappointingly, I didn’t find that it lasted much longer than regular lipstick, so I think I will just go back to my nice neutral gloss. But I digress.

As I was saying, 2 weeks ago I was on top of the world, skating 2 to 3 times a week, 2 exercise classes a week. In hindsight I should have done my post at that time, because it’s funny what 2 weeks can bring. In my case it was an insane amount of stress, both personal and professional, which means the skating was cut out from my lunch time activities first, and then my after work class last Tuesday so that I could focus on getting caught up.

Staying on track when times are good is easy. Exercise and healthy food is just part of what we do. Staying on track when things are busy is much harder, that’s when we’re tempted to take short cuts to make the routine easier. Still I have a weight loss of between 2 to 5 Lbs. to report 2 weeks ago; it’s not much, but it’s something, and I think slow and steady is the way to go.

Stress doesn’t last forever, and I’ll soon be back to my routine, and back on track. On the plus side, I’ve gained things that far outweigh weight loss (no pun intended):

  • I feel so much stronger it’s not even funny.
  • I am happier, and I spend a lot less time sleeping or moping around the apartment. Instead I use my spare time to do blog posts, bake mini muffins, read books, answer emails, do some light sewing and rug hooking, and keep the house clean. I’ve also joined some clubs, and I have tons of ideas about how I’m going to spend the rest of the winter buzzing around like a social butterfly.
  • I can keep up with the dog (well, sort of). I mean I can’t catch her if she runs away, she’s just too fast, but at least I don’t feel like I’m running through concrete trying.
  • I am starting to see minor changes in the way my clothes fit (some good, some bad), but definitely headed in the right direction.
  • I have more confidence, and I know I can do it.

So, rather than focus on the fact that I have not accomplished my goal, strictly speaking, I am going to post this picture of me, and know that I will definitely make my next goal. A new dress for Easter…and maybe a new hat too ;D

Read Full Post »

Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x.

Image via Wikipedia

Last week the new Health Canada (Canadian version of the FDA) released their updated fitness guidelines. The biggest change is to the requirement for children, and oddly enough, the guidelines call for a reduction to their physical activity requirements. Previous guidelines called for 90 minutes of physical activity a day for children; the new guidelines call for 60 minutes. Adults require 150 minutes a week of physical activity, and no meandering through stores either: we need cardiovascular exercise and resistance training; in other words, the heart needs to be pumping. 

While some people, including Olympian Silken Laumann, have slammed the changes to the guidelines as being too watered down to help combat childhood obesity, Health Canada officials defend the changes on the grounds that lower expectations will encourage more people to get active.

What do you think? Are you more willing to try to meet the lower physical activity goals or is this just watering down the message? Also, do you think the goals are worth promoting even if they are too low, according to research, to have an optimum benefit for those looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight? Or is making any progress at all in the battle against a sedentary lifestyle enough?

Finally, how do you stack up: are you getting your 150 minutes a week? If you have kids are they getting their 60 minutes day? How easy/difficult would it be for them to get 90 minutes a day? I tabulated all of my physical activity per week, and so far it looks like I’m doing pretty good.

Step Class: 60 mins (Tues)
Body Pump: 60 Mins (Thurs)
Skating (3x): 90 Mins (Mon/Wed/Fri)

Total =             210 mins/week

Read Full Post »

I was flipping through my usual blogs Friday morning when I saw that one of my favourites had posted an interesting question. I thought about responding on her page, but instead I’m going to steal the idea and write my own post. However, in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, I’m going to direct you back to her page for the initial question:  http://pursuitofhealthfulness.com/2011/01/07/up-in-the-air/ .

Her question is a valid one: is there too much information on celebrity diets? The surface answer is yes. Every week it seems Women’s World, or Hello, or People has a new feature on some celebrity’s new body…and the diet that got her there.  These diets tend to be based on partial science at best, unscrupulous science at worst, and they are always focused on getting the perfect body instead of living a healthy lifestyle.

I’m inclined to think that this is kind of a trick question; I don’t blame the author at Pursuit, rather I think it’s fair question with a trick answer.

A person’s answer to the question “is there too much information on celebrity diets?” really has to go back a step and ask themselves if they think the masses (read: us) are able to make sound judgments for ourselves and the current and future health of our bodies and minds. If you think that every reader has the right to choose how they pursue the health of their bodies then your answer to the first question is probably no, there could be more information, and it’s not harmful at all. If your answer is no, you have to decide if too many readers are just incapable of understanding the pitfalls of celebrity diets, or if everyone has the potential to be trained to be more discerning readers. That is, that people could be taught to read scientific articles (either about health procedures or general lifestyle like diet and exercise) with a grain of salt, and that they could identify true science from pure fiction. As a former health communicator, I place myself firmly in this last category.

My concern is that stemming the tide of information on celebrity diets is a slippery slope. As reasonable people we see right through the gimmicks and scams and easily write these articles off “bubkis” or “fraud” and as reasonable and concerned readers of science we may feel an instinctive desire to protect our fellow, more gullible, readers from the pitfalls we’ve identified. The tricky thing though is in choosing who has the right to decide what is legitimate and what is bubkis. This question is especially fraught in the field of health (even more so in women’s health) where political agendas have historically kept important information out of the hands of potential users (contraceptives, etc.).

Rather than limiting information, and worrying about an individual’s ability to make smart choices, I believe that we should focus our energy on reader education and empowerment that help people make smart decisions. Admittedly there will always be people out there whose decisions will be questionable, regardless of training and education,  but any need to protect them can’t outweigh out another person’s right to access and evaluate this same information.

Still it’s a good question, and one I’m glad I had a chance to think about. Though I’d like to ask a follow up question, and that’s “Why is it that we’ve vested celebrities with so much authority that we’ve made actors and singers ‘experts’ in living a healthy lifestyle?”

Read Full Post »

Step Aerobics Class at a Gym Category:Step aer...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve had no trouble adding Step Class to my routine; I discovered that the gym closest to my office runs a Step Class at 4:30, which is perfect timing for me (lots of time to get there and get changed, but I’m still home to walk the dog by 6).

The problem I’m having is keeping Body Pump in my routine. It’s not that I don’t like the Body Pump, or that I’m looking for excuses not to go to class, it’s just that things always seem to come up on Thursdays. Last week I had to do some banking, and this week we had a largish (by Toronto standards) snow fall, and since I’m nervous about driving in the snow I decided to head straight home.

I was disappointed; I’ve always thought the combination of Body Pump (weight training class) mixed with Step Class (cardiovascular training) would make for a good training schedule. Plus, classes are Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is good because it leaves Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for me to fuss about the dog. Oh well, I remain optimistic that this is a good plan, I just have to get to the gym, and I might have better luck next week.

The silver lining to last night’s snow is that it gave me the chance to walk Cadie’s legs off. We started at a park where I threw the ball for her, then we walked a little bit, and then finished off at another park, with more ball throwing. She was thrilled; it’s kind of like taking a kid to an amusement park. She was practically airborne as she bounded around the park, and tried to pull me back to the park when it was time to leave. In total we were out for 2 hours, and while we were in the park she was attentive and responsive (i.e. she came when she was called), she was well-behaved, and when I got her home she was calm and sweet…in short, she was my dog again. So even though I didn’t get my workout, the night was a total success.

Read Full Post »

This is like half of the work I need to do before next Friday

I spent most of yesterday afternoon thinking it was Tuesday. I told myself over and over again that I had tons of time–3 more days in which to work on work. At 4 as I stood to start packing up my desk and change into my boots I heard someone say something about Wednesday. That’s when the dream died, and came crashing down around  my ears. I have a million things to do at work before I feel like I can leave for a break.

Thank God the Christmas stuff is in hand, because now I’m going to need to marshal all of my energy to tackle those remaining 9 tasks on my to do list at work. Plus, I really need to clean this desk; I mean the dust on the monitor alone is several inches thick. This is the time of year when I start slashing my to do list, when I start asking myself “what absolutely has to get done?” Then I focus on that and let the rest wait.

This is also the time of year that I really have a hard time sticking to my exercise plans. Tonight is BodyPump, but I won’t be going. In addition to feeling a little overwhelmed at work I’m also starting to feel a little run down, which is manifesting itself as a little lump building at the bottom on my throat. Since I have so many personal and professional chores to get done in the next week or so I’m not going to push myself, instead I’m going to focus on feeling better and wrapping up all my loose ends.

Read Full Post »

As you know I’ve decided to add vegetables to my diet in a systematic way–by using an alphabetic approach to trying new foods. You might also know, because you are literate, that P doesn’t follow A. I’ve decided to vary the order of the alphabet in conducting this experiment, for a couple of reasons:

1) I do not feel like eating broccoli, Brussels sprouts and bok choy this week.

2) I worry that tackling these vegetables in order alphabetically would see me eating parsnips in April or May and turnips in May or June. And since “root” vegetables are one of those vegetables that I do not eat enough of, I intend to play fast and loose with the order of the letters.

So this week is dedicated to the letter P, because I was able to snag some wonderful parsnips root, peppers and potatoes at the grocery store.

Firstly, I intend to make stuffed peppers. Essentially stuffed peppers are just peppers stuffed with pilaf (ha! the Ps just keep coming!). Again, though, I intend to shake it up a bit. I think I will add some parsnip to my pilaf, as well as some beef seasoned with chutney. I have no idea how this is going to taste; but, in the spirit of being adventurous, I will throw caution to the wind, and see what I get.

So I started with the single biggest time eater–making rice. I didn’t do anything fancy, just regular rice.

I had purchased shallots for use in the artichoke soup, and they didn’t look all that good, so I made up my mind that I would use them up as quickly as possible. So I combined them, and some garlic, in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil.

Once the shallots were softened I added the beef and some green onions. I let them sit for a few minutes and then added my chutney.

With a little less than 30 minutes to go still on the rice I added the parsnips, and prepped the pepper for stuffing. I got a little overzealous, and ended up slicing the pepper in half, which is unfortunate, but not the end of the world. From there I set all of my “flavour” to simmer, and waited out the clock on the rice with a glass of pino grigio.

Once the rice was finished I added it to the pan so that it could simmer. And from there I stuffed the pepper and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.

The end result was something not entirely pleasant. It was a little too sweet, so I covered it in pepper before putting it in the oven.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »