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Archive for the ‘Healthy Habits’ Category

cooking up a storm

cooking up a storm

Cadie and I got home from Christmas on Boxing Day. She had been with my Mum since December 21, and I got there on December 23, so by the time Christmas night rolled around I was ready for my own bed. I was ready for my own schedule, and also, I was anxious to get home ahead of the snow storm that was due to hit around dinner on the 26. So we woke up bright and early, and we were home by noon.

Cadie, being an adventurer, was ready to head out, to go and sniff the news and leave some gossip of her own, and she danced happily in front of the door while I made my lunch and changed my clothes.

I wanted to do something nice for Cadie. She had been gone nearly a week, and before that I had been working like a Trojan. So I decided that instead of spending Boxing day at the sales, we would spend it on the trails. There’s nothing like clean, cold air filling your lungs to encourage you to walk faster, and the sun…we hadn’t seen the sun in almost a month. So we headed out, with plans to hike through the Brickworks trail and the valley, and then come home through the cemetery. It’s one of our favourite evening walks during the nicer, warmer, lighter months.

But it had been a while since we had really walked, and as I made my way up the gentle incline of the city streets I felt my calf muscles crack, like they had been encased in wax and were just now breaking free. The further I walked the more my calves cracked, until I felt that I was totally free of my doldrums, and I could feel my muscles breathing freely. They expanded and contracted with every step, and with every step I was reminded why I like a healthy, active lifestyle. It was while I was walking my exuberant dog that I decided that I needed a make over. Not a physical make over—I decided to make over my freezer.

December is the perfect time of year to fill our freezers with yummy things like cakes, cookies, and appetizers. After living on this food for most of December I started to feel poisoned, or toxic. So I set about to fix that. I dedicated the last bit of my Christmas holiday to starting the year off with a healthy bang.

Step 1: I emptied the freezer of all of those delicious freezer cookies. This was hard work, but luckily my estimates had been pretty close, and I didn’t have to “dispose” of too much. Then I settled on 3 meals: high-yield recipes that I could make, one day at a time, and fill my freezer with nutritious meals that I could grab and eat without too much fuss.

It looks and tastes so good I couldn't eat just one serving

It looks and tastes so good I couldn’t eat just one serving

First I made Chef Chloe’s macaroni and “cheese.” It took only 45 minutes to prepare and cook, and tasted spectacular. I love mac and cheese, and I was worried that making it without any real cheese the dish would be inedible. I was wrong. I’m new to the plant-based diet thing, but I am constantly amazed at the good that nutritional yeast flakes can do. They gave the meal its cheesy taste, without adding the cheesy texture that I don’t really like. I have since made this meal again, and fed it to carnivores, who also loved it. I was able to get 8 meals out of this.

On the second day I made another of Chef Chloe’s recipes (I’ll give you two guesses at what my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas). This time I made a gorgeous apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. It was the first picture I fell in love with as I sat flipping through the book Christmas morning, and I was so excited to try it out. Lentils are really good for us, being a good source of protein, as well as offering a host of other benefits including lowering cholesterol, and stabilizing blood glucose. It’s hard to ignore food that offers so much goodness, but I needed an appealing delivery system, and this stew fills the need perfectly. It was sweet, warm and filling with an unmistakable earthiness. My stew isn’t nearly as beautiful as the one in the book, but it was oh, so tasty, and I got 7 additional meals.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Finally I made a chilli. I love chilli, and I make it all the time, so when I was buying my cooking supplies I made sure to pick up the chilli supplies. There was nothing special about it: onion, veggie round, tomatoes and beans, all simmered together until they become one. Chilli is just the most satisfying winter meal, and I got 6 meals out of it. All of this means that my freezer is just packed to the gills with tasty, vegany goodness, so now I don’t have any excuse not to eat healthy meals throughout January.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

I’m not really doing resolutions this year; I haven’t found them to be very successful in the past, so I decided not to push myself into the self-punishing exercise of self-improvement. Instead I’m going to focus on doing things that make me stronger and healthier and, most importantly, that make my life easier. So now that I have no excuse not to skip lunches in the caf, I’m hoping that a month of nothing but good, healthy food will leave me feeling like a clean, well-oiled machine.

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The Rhone at Avignon.

My mother and I are planning a trip to Provence. I know, I’m so excited! I haven’t been on a trip since 2006, when mum and I went on a cruise of the Adriatic. This time we will cruise down the Rhone for something like 12 days, then we’ll send 3 days in Paris, then we’ll fly back to Toronto and collapse exhaustedly into our beds. Mum will rest, and I’ll have to get up and go to work, but there are worse fates.

The point is, when we booked this trip my mother made me promise that I would try to lose some weight. Our experience on the European cruise ship in 2006 told us that we were heavier than we should be, and, in fact, we were heavier than just about everyone else around us. Mum wants to make sure that we fit in. Maybe “fit in” is the wrong way of putting it, but she doesn’t want us to stand out either.

So I wish I could stand here today and tell you that I have been trying really hard, and then show you some fabulous before and after pictures of me and my fabulous new body. Unfortunately that just isn’t the case. Not because I’m not trying. I dutifully log onto my fitness pal every day: in fact it tells me that I’ve been logged on for 100 days in a row. I watch my food intake and try to balance it out with my energy output, but in spite of that I haven’t lost a pound. Not 1 pound in a 100 days. Not a goodwill pound, not an atta-girl pound. Nothing!

I have to stop giving into temptation and making these types of treats.

Don’t misunderstand me; this isn’t a mystery. I know why I’m not losing weight. For all the tracking and balancing that I’m doing, I’m still eating yummy things like cakes, cookies and homemade peanut butter cups, and that’s just my snacks. For lunch and dinner, I’m eating my greens, and my corn, as well as squash and tomato, but I’m doing it in veggie burgers and on pizzas.

Controlling my food intake has always been a challenge for me. When I was 16 my grandmother told me that I had the appetite of a man, and went on to say that she had never seen anything like it. Still, I was young, and healthy, and active, so it seemed to me that it was only normal that I should eat like a horse.

At 12 I lost a ton of weight, maybe as much as 30 or 50 pounds. I’m not sure, I didn’t have a scale. I just worked out in secret until all of the weight was gone. My eating habits were once again the topic of conversation, as my family, some friends, and their mothers all remarked that I had lost a ton of weight; they added that they hoped that I had the good sense to know when to stop.

What was I thinking when I made these?

My goal in life has never been about being stick thin, rather it was about reaching a healthy weight and then being able to maintain it. That way, I told myself, I wouldn’t have to have these humiliating and debasing conversations with well-intentioned people. Unfortunately, I once again find myself needing to lose weight, but this time I’m struggling to find exercise that won’t hurt my back, while also struggling to get the binge eating under control. As delicious as it all is, these treats are interfering with my life, and my goals. I’d like to go to France lighter and with more energy so that I can make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

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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.

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Deutsch: Ben & Jerrys Cherry Garcia

I often think about support systems. How we keep ourselves on track, and the people who are standing beside us, urging us on, are a big part of the success we experience. For most of us, we get the majority of our support from friends and family. Some of us might have the support of health care professionals, but at the end of the day, the decision to exercise, or to have that second bowl of ice cream, is between us, the voices in our heads, and often the reflection in the mirror. So I guess it’s not all that surprising that we often make the wrong decision.

I have been lucky enough to discover a new supporter. Back in March I walked into my local convenience store and picked up a bag of chips, a two-litre bottle of Dr. Pepper, and a pint of Cherry Garcia ice cream. While I was waiting for the charges to clear my account I started chatting to the sales clerk. I told her that it was my first splurge in two weeks. She laughed and asked if I was on a diet. I laughed and said, well… yes, but also it’s about saving money, since junk food is expensive. Then we both laughed, because my three items had come to nearly twenty dollars. I took my “treasures” and went home to enjoy them.

A few weeks ago I had another series of cravings. I was in the store three more times, in as many days. On my second trip the sales clerk reminded me that I had given up junk food. I became defensive, and told her that I deserved some credit for not coming in before. She laughed and packed my treats into my Lulu Lemon bag.

I could make no such protestation when I arrived the next day with my Lulu Lemon bag in font of my face. She laughed as soon as she saw me slink into the store. Undeterred, I got my treats, said a few self loathing words to her, and turned to leave. In a pathetic attempt to salvage some dignity and pretend that I have willpower, I said “you won’t see me now for a long time.” “Good,” she said, “I’m here all the time.” And with that I left, knowing that I had lost my anonymity, but had gained a new supporter. And an important supporter at that; now that I know there is another set of eyes on me I think twice before spur of the moment over indulgencies.

It’s been two months since that last meeting, and my only interaction with this kind sales clerk is when I stop my dog walk to wave at her through the open door. It’s good to know that she’s keeping me on track.

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Women in a Publix grocery store: Tallahassee, ...

Image by State Library and Archives of Florida via Flickr

As you know, adding Step classes once a week was one of my goals for 2011. That being said, I haven’t had much luck getting to Step Class this month. I had to work late last Tuesday, and this week I had to hurry home because I was worried about Cadie. Originally, the plan had been to take Cadie for a good, long walk, then head out to Body Pump at 7, but I was without food, so instead of going to Body Pump, I decided to do my grocery shopping. I hate grocery shopping, it’s kind of like ironing to me; that being said, I love having fresh food waiting for me at home. Here are some of my treasures.

Firstly, I did not buy pizza, french fries and chicken strips. How these items ended up being photographed in my kitchen is inexplicable to me.

Feed me tomatoes! I think I’ve been eating too much comfort food; I want fresh food that makes me feel light and happy. Tomatoes always make me light and happy, plus they are cancer fighters. So they got a big check as I added 2 different varieties to my cart.

I have also been craving zucchini. These zucchini don’t look all that good–in fact, I think you can see just how beaten up they are, even in this picture. Still, the heart wants what it wants, and my heart wants zucchini. Until tomorrow my sweet.

Root vegetables–so you can see that I’m not totally over comfort food. I can’t wait to play around with these vegetables. Oh, and wipe the stove. Life is good!

Some necessities. I can’t stand not having milk in the apartment. So yes, I buy 4L, and it’s all for me! I also bought eggs and butter, so now I can bake again.

If I’m going to take my journey for health to the next level I need to start addressing some of my weaknesses. I bought these lovelies to take to work for easy snacking. I have no idea if they are seeded or seedless (though my money is on seeded). I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. (I have so many plans to eat so many things tomorrow–this is the upside of grocery shopping:D).

I was so excited to find the Quinoa, oh the things I will do with this…will tomorrow never get here?

A little treat for after dinner. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I don’t believe in depriving myself of the things that I love, and I LOVE ice cream, but I can nudge myself closer to a healthier lifestyle by choosing frozen yogurt.

My colonial mind is addicted to crumpets. So warm and buttery. MMMMMMM.

What goes with crumpets? Tea, of course. I’ve got Lady Grey for the office and lemon ginger for right before bed. A word on Lady Grey, if you haven’t tried it yet you should. It’s a lovely, light black tea with a hint of citrus.

I never buy shrimp, let alone cook with it, so here’s hoping I don’t ruin it. I also bought chicken, but I consider it to be a staple, like milk and eggs.

Oh no, that’s the end. Still, it’s a good haul for one trip to the grocery store.

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It’s been a long time since our last hike, so Penelope and I decided that we would take the dogs out for a nice winter hike. We decided to stay within the city’s ravine and park systems, rather than risk driving out  of the city.

The weather was spectacular: bright sun, blue skies, and warm temperatures. When we first arrived on the trail it was like we’d fallen into a movie. There were kids tobogganing, people skiing, and tons of dogs leaping and barking at the ends of their owners’ leashes. It was a huge party.

The only thing that went wrong was the huge patch of ice we had to cross — you can see some of it behind Penelope there. I started out going across it too quickly, and nearly fell. From that point on Penelope and I decided it would be best to support each other, so we held hands, laughing about it the whole way.

The views were spectacular. The snow was so picturesque, and the dogs had the funnest time.

As you can see, Cadie did not want to wait behind while Toby strode on ahead.

It was so nice to be able to get our exercise outside, to be out talking to people, and having a nice catch up session ourselves.

The truth is that it was a great workout. We finished this hike as tired as we were after our hike back in the fall. The best news is that there was no salt to irritate the dogs’ paws, and it’s right in the city, so it’s a quick trip.

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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

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