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Posts Tagged ‘Health’

Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper

Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper (Photo credit: ManyLittleBlessings)

I remember a few years back, on the first Sunday of Lent, the minister at my church made a humorous observation, one that has stayed with me and that I repeat often. He said: “as good Protestants you’ve probably already given up on giving up.” I laughed then, and I laugh whenever I think of it. Up until last year I always gave something up for Lent. Usually it was chocolate, or ice cream, or some other guilty pleasure of which I was starting to feel a little ashamed.

The minister was encouraging us to see Lent as a time to broaden our understanding of spirituality, and to use the Lenten season for self improvement, if not for fasting. Last year, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything to give up, I decided that I would instead focus on adding something to my routine, and so I meditated. I meditated every night before bed, and enjoyed it so much that I shared my guided meditations with any friend who expressed an interest. Instead of giving up I decided to add in, to build up my spiritual health, rather than deny myself something I shouldn’t be eating anyhow. I added something to my life to make myself more spiritually aware, help ease my stress, and bring back a sense of calm. In fact, it was the best Lenten season I’d ever had—so good, that I swore I would never give up again.

This year, as we start Lenten anew I’ve changed my tune. I’ve decided to give up diet pop. Diet pop is more than just a guilty pleasure, it’s a daily indulgence that, I worry, is really problematic. So, for that reason, I’ve decided to give up diet pop.

We all have our Achilles heels, those foods that we know are bad for us, but that we can’t seem to pull ourselves away from. Mine is pop. A few years ago I switched to diet pop. I told myself that I needed the carbonation, but I couldn’t justify the sugar in regular pop. So I drank the diet pop, and didn’t give it another thought. But now I’ve reevaluated this indulgence, and I know that it has no place in my life. So I’m choosing to respect my belief that I deserve good health, and that good health is something I can achieve.

Over the summer I made the transition to a mostly plant-based diet. Since that time I’ve been really interested in food: how it’s made, what’s in it, and how it affects us. Then last week, when I was quite sick, I had no energy, so I found myself at home sleeping and watching movies. My second day home, I was flipping through Netflix when I found a documentary called Hungry for Change. I tried not to watch it; I was looking for a good laugh, but as nothing else really appealed to me, I decided to watch it.

Sure, there are lots of things that I took from this movie, but the one that really spoke to me was the information on diet pop. I won’t get into all of the arguments that Hungry for Change makes against diet pop, because frankly there are far too many of them, but there was one argument that really hit home with me. Aside from being full of chemicals, diet pop, the experts argued, is not calorie free. Manufacturers use artificial sweeteners, so that they can make the claim that it is calorie free. And in one sense this is true: no sugar means no calories. But these artificial sweeteners still have a lot of carbs in them, which when you ingest them are converted to sugar in the body. This is all stuff I know. I worked for many years in diabetes education, and so I have a pretty good idea about how this works. (By pretty good, I mean less than a dietician, but perhaps more than the average person.) Still, in spite of the fact that I know this, I continued to drink my stupid diet pop, and think nothing of it. But today it stops. I am giving up my diet pop, and replacing it with water, or other nutrient-rich drinks.

I struggled for a long time with this decision. I hate to “use” a time meant for spiritual reflection and personal betterment for something as base as kicking the pop habit, but I think that this is the right thing to do. I like to think that instead I’m using this time to bring myself back to a more natural diet, which will, hopefully, have other spiritual benefits.

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My coach

My coach

We all know that having a great exercise partner can mean the difference between success and failure. But why not turn your BFF into a fool-proof exercise companion?

I am going to try to train Cadie to do this. I think she’d really like it, and it would be a great way to burn some extra energy on days when we can’t get out.

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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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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.

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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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Please excuse our year-long absence, but it’s been a busy year for both Penelope and I. Penelope is now the proud mummy to a very cute and happy little boy. Penelope’s son Momo takes up a lot of her time, and some of mine, as I get to go over and be the doting aunt.

Still, you might say, why not share Penelope’s new son with the world? So many people do it, and you’re right, if ever there was a shareable baby it’s Momo (which is not his real name by the way).

Momo and mum, enjoying a sunny autumn day.

So, since this kid is cute, and babies are such a blessing, why the lengthy delay? The answer is two-pronged.

1) Penelope has been far too busy to write. Babies need a lot of attention!

2) I had what was very nearly the worst year of my life, and I shut down.

I started blogging so that I could focus on what was good in my life, and not worry about what was bad, or missing. My first blog was a simple blog, written by me, cataloguing my adventures with Cadie. But I started to realize that I wanted to talk about more than just dog walking, dog grooming, and dogs on television, so I started this blog with my best bud. Here we could talk about lifestyle, and we could be adventurous about sports, food, and social activities. But then I also started a blog detailing my love of vintage porcelain and glass. From there I had a scary moment with my finances, and I had to take on a part-time job, and then my weekday job became a nightmare. Suffice it to say that my plate was full, my outlook was bleak, and I needed to retreat.

Blogging for me was about seeing the positives in my life, focusing on what was working (Cadie and porcelain) rather than what wasn’t (my weight, my finances). I was determined to keep blogging a positive space for myself: I was going to “fake it [being happy]! until I made it!”

And I tried. I took copious amounts of pictures; every time I passed a cute little house, made a new treat, or tried something new I documented it. My plan was always to come back to this place, and to be the happy, positive person that I thought I could be.

2011 came to an end, and 2012 started out with some good and some bad. Before the 3rd of the month I was offered a new weekday job. I LOVE it! It’s the perfect environment for me, and I feel that my career is finally starting to get back on track. However, with the good, we must take the bad, and sadly my grandmother died in early January. I miss her every day, but I’m glad that she is now at peace, and no longer lonely or depressed. My grandmother and my mother also conspired to give me a little financial assistance that has allowed me to downgrade my commitment to my part-time job, and it has even opened up some new professional opportunities for me.

After a year plus of hard-core purging my home is finally starting to come together, and I am starting to feel calm and happy and I am once again looking forward to a pleasant future.

The plan.

Penelope and I have been talking about starting this back up again for quite some time, so the plan is to do two posts this week–just a little something to get us started again. From there we will do one post every week, probably on Wednesdays. Life has changed, and it’s more complicated now, so we’re not going to make this a weight loss blog; instead this is a blog about navigating life. Eating foods that make us drool, figuring out how to manage a housekeeping schedule, some talk about our hobbies, and of course we’ll keep you posted on what we did over our weekends, and why they were awesome.

I’ve been sewing. Wait until you see what I’m making Momo for his birthday.

If any of you are still left, I hope you’ll stay with us as we move into the next stage of our life and blogging adventures.

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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.

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