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A new leg of the journey

Many of you have been following my story for some time. If so, this may be review for you, but for those of you new to my blog, I’m going to give a brief bit of history.

A number of years ago I decided that I needed to get healthy and lose weight. I had great success with Weight Watchers, and the pounds came off quickly. I held that weight off for two years until I had a bout with depression and I put it back on. Since then there’s been constant swings between choosing to be healthy and just giving up. While I’m not packing on the pound anymore, I’m now weighing a bit more than is probably actually healthy. 

Slow Down

The world around us is caught up in being busy. These days, when I ask people how they’re doing, I’m as likely to hear them say, “busy” as I am to hear them say the obligatory “fine.” It’s a world that is fast paced. We need cars to get us from point A to point B. We get frustrated at the traffic when it slows us down. We eat breakfast as we run out the door, forgetting to take time to recognize that yes, we are eating, and yes, it actually tastes like something. We opt for fast food for the midday meal, because there just isn’t enough time to make ourselves lunch in the morning. And by the time the evening comes around, we need to get dinner on the table quick before we rush out the door again for another activity, or before our favourite television show comes on.

All of this movement keeps us feeling exhausted. It also encourages us to pay less attention to what we eat, and as a result we eat the wrong things. As food is fuel for our body, this then fails to give us the proper energy we need to maintain our health and lives. Just like your car won’t run well on apple juice, so when you give your body the wrong fuel, it can’t run properly either. This is something I fall prey to all the time. Wrong food = sluggish me. Wrong food = not wanting to hit the gym because I just don’t have any energy left. 

My boyfriend and I (yes, I have a boyfriend, my how things have changed!) have been commenting for the past few months about how we’re both out of shape and it wouldn’t hurt us to hit he gym and do more healthy activities. I am always the one who adds in that we should also start looking at what we’re eating and the quantities of it that we’re eating, to which he agrees. 

Here’s the thing, you need to get past talk. You can talk until the world ends, but if it isn’t followed by actions, there will be no results. So, yesterday, after work, despite desiring to walk past the gym, I walked into the gym. I stretched myself, but didn’t punish myself. You know what? It felt great.

But when I got home, I looked in my fridge and my healthy options for eating were paltry. All my greens had gone bad and I was left with only a few carrots. This is what happens in my busy life– I forget to grocery shop and so eat out. Part of getting into healthy eating is getting in control of your food. When you cook your food, you know what’s in it. Even the healthiest looking items at a restaurant can be deceiving. 

Cooking at home can be fun. I love to cook. I love creating delicious meals that I can be proud of, that are healthy, and that my body can use. But to make time to cook at home, I need to slow down because cooking does take time. Even a quick meal takes time. Also, then there is sitting down to eat. Food is meant to be enjoyed– by sight, smell, and flavour. All of that enjoyment takes time and deliberation. Make your plate look pretty. Set down your fork between bites. Chew with awareness. 

If you’re like me, and running out the door in the morning because you hit the snooze button one too many times, then be intentional about making yourself a quick and easy breakfast and lunch the night before. It’ll take a bit of time to put it together, but at least you won’t be finding you bought a burger for lunch the next day because you were hungry enough that you decided not to care. 

Take a look at your life. Is it too busy for you to enjoy the simple things? Where could you cut back? For me that meant getting rid of my TV. Without it distracting me, I’ve been able to get so much more living done! For relaxation I choose a book, but also set myself a number of chapters to read. If you have a TV and don’t want to give it up, put a time limit on it for yourself. 

And because I know that we all have our busy days, here are a few quick and easy meal suggestions to get you started:

Breakfast:

Large Flake Oatmeal with fresh apple and cinnamon (Large flake has significantly higher nutritional value than instant/quick cooking)

Poached Egg on thin sliced toast (I like Country Hills Little Big Bread)

Yogurt with Fresh Fruit and 1/4 cup low-sugar granola

Lunch:

Rye Crackers, Sliced Turkey Breast, 1 oz of your favourite quality cheese, veggie sticks

Slow Roasted Tomato Soup (broth based) with a side salad

High fibre burrito with lots of veggies, salsa, and chicken breast

Dinner:

Poor Man’s Taco Salad (i.e. meatless)

Grilled chicken breast with steamed carrots and lemony quinoa

Cajun fish fillets with oven roasted sweet potato

For some of you, these ideas will be enough to get you off to the races. Others of you may want specific recipes. In the coming weeks, recipes will come! For now, check out some of my earlier blog posts for some great meal ideas.

Time Marches On

These days it seems like I’m constantly running out the door. There are places to go, people to see, and longer hours at work than there used to be. I haven’t been to the gym in months, and am simply not as healthy physically now, as I have been in the past. However, mentally, I’m doing much better than I was when I was working out and carefully tracking what I ate. For me, that time became an obsession. There was no point in my day when I wasn’t thinking about food, what I would eat next, and how I’d have to work out to burn off those calories. I remember having days where I’d be walking home from work and I’d start crying, because all I would be doing was mentally obsessing over what I would eat for dinner, rather thank enjoying my 3km walk home.
It’s now been a few years, but I still have vivid memories of that time, and I don’t want to return there– not mentally. So now, the challenge for me is to live a healthy life without obsessing over it. What does that look like? What does it take to be happy? I know from personal experience that simply losing weight doesn’t make one happy. You still are who you are. There are definitely benefits to being healthier. I was able to enjoy hikes that I probably couldn’t do easily now, and I fit into the airline’s economy seats with ease.
It’s important to remember that balance is the key to a healthy life. It’s said time and time again, but my skull seems to be thicker than most others, and that message is taking its time settling in.
One of my first steps on getting healthy has little to do with changing poor eating habits or getting to the gym. In fact, my first step focuses more on the mental and spiritual than the physical. If your mind isn’t in the right place, no new habits you adopt are going to stick. Let’s face it, will power only takes you so far before you crash and burn. You need to be mentally prepared before you can successfully make a long term change.
For me, step one is doing a one-month media fast. I’ve discovered that watching TV and movies tend to breed discontent in my life. I look at the beautiful characters on TV with their fascinating lives, and often forget that what I’m watching is fiction. It’s not real! Of course I know it’s fiction, but there is still some part of me that yearns for a life that is more glamorous than mine. It leads me to forget the brilliant ways in which I lead a blessed life, and causes me to focus on what I don’t have.
Living healthy doesn’t just come down to food and drink, or making it to the gym. It isn’t just about burning calories. This week, sit down and take a hard look at your life. Where do mental changes have to occur before you can make real, positive change in your life?

Changes are looming in my future. I am not a patient person, but in this case, I find myself biding my time and twiddling my thumbs until I find out if this change is to become reality. When changes start coming down the pipe, it’s easy to forget about the things that are currently important, and instead focus on what may be in the future. The thing is, what happens a day, a week, or a month from now, shouldn’t keep you from using today to do what needs to be done today.

As a single woman I her 20s, I know how frustratingly difficult it can be to live healthy, making sure you get the exercise you need, mental stimulation, spiritual support, and making proper decisions in regards to eating food.

It took me about a decade to become a vegetarian and to really find my niche there, occasionally allowing myself to become a social carnivore—eating meat only in certain group settings.

But being a vegetarian doesn’t mean that I’m healthy. In fact, I am often ingesting food that is anything but. Heck, some of my vegan friends mow down on Oreos on a regular basis. Vegan? Yes. Healthy? No. For me, things like chocolate call to me, and I often find myself wondering how I lost an entire evening to sugar.

I keep on vowing to make changes, and I’m sure they’re happening little by little, but sometimes it’s easy to cease to see those changes, and focus only on failure. For example, I’ve drastically reduced my use of artificial sugars and soda consumption. That’s a victory for me. But when I take a look at how far I have to go towards where I want to be, and how often I indulge in self-sabotage, it’s easy to get down on myself.

Clearly making changes in a drastic way doesn’t work for me. Baby steps will still get you to your goal. It just takes a little longer. So, for the next year I’m going to focus on changing my diet and habits in monthly stages. One good, new habit per month.  I’ll track that habit, and even invite you to join me as I make a go of this thing. Month one: acknowledge my compulsive eating trends and find a support group to help me with making a healthy change.

I’m great at making plans, this is practice at follow-through. It’s easy to say the words, not so easy to follow them up with action.

For me, I’ve noticed that food consumption and poor choices have more to do with the emotional and spiritual realm than it does with lack of nutritional education. In fact, I would say that I have at least my Master’s in dieting, if not my PhD. Following food plans only works as long as your one of those people who eat for nutrition’s sake, or are working towards a bigger goal—like running a marathon. But for most of us who struggle with food, it’s more about taming the ugly monster that rears its ugly head when we’re bored, lonely, celebrating, miserable, sick, exciting….really, choose your emotion, or choose all of them. For many people including myself, food is a coping mechanism. Time for me to face up to that fact (again) and work towards finding new coping mechanisms.

First step, acknowledge that food is about so much more than food. I’m enrolling in OA—overeaters anonymous—which recognizes that it’s not just about following a food plan, but sees the spiritual aspect as well. It’s like AA for gluttons. Well, guilty as charged. Add on a slow metabolism, and it’s a struggle that is apparent for the world to see. So, I am going to cancel my optometrist appointment this Wednesday after work and reschedule, because I’ve waited long enough to deal with my compulsive eating. It’s time.

I am a sugar junkie. Cookie Monster and I are tight. I love frozen yogurt, ice cream, icing, rhubarb crisp, and candied cashews. While there is nothing inherently wrong about loving these things, it’s no so great when they become a regular part of one’s diet.

One of my friend’s status update on Facebook one night was, “Cake for dinner! Yum.” The next morning? “Cake for breakfast! Yum.” Directly under the status update was a post from one of her friends, “Come on, you’re better than that.” It made me take pause and look at my own life. I haven’t had anyone say those words to me in a long time, “Come on, you’re better than that.” But how often don’t I need to hear them? Too often when I stress about weight loss or food choices, I’m met with sympathy and understanding. The typical refrains are, “I know, it’s hard for all of us.” or “Don’t worry, tomorrow is a new day.” Yes, tomorrow is a new day, and if I say that everyday and then eat a litre of ice cream, I will still grow to be the size of a house. Tomorrow is a new day, but today, right now, is what I have control over. Time to stop making bad choices.

For me, sugar is a trigger food. I eat sugar, and I crave more of everything. It’s a scientific fact that sugar triggers cravings. We live in a sugar laden society. This past week I went to the local food fest and saw all sorts of indulgences– maple bacon, ice cream stuffed crepes with caramel sauce, deep fried mars bars, sweet ginger chicken, frozen yogurt, bubble tea. Notice what these things all have in common? They’re all laden with sugar! And lets not forget the beer gardens and the wine tent. All sugar. It’s to the point where we have made sugar one of our food groups. At no other time in history has the consumption of refined sugars and carbohydrates been so prevalent, Why then do  we wonder that obesity is becoming such a problem?

And don’t trick yourself, all those artificial sweeteners, while not laden with calories, are laden with man-made chemicals to that make them taste sweet. Sadly, these sweeteners trick the body so well, that they too trigger sugar cravings. So while your soda may have zero calories, those chips that you’re craving to pair with it, certainly don’t. And once you’re done, you will crave more, until you look at the bag and think, “Hey, where did all those chips go?” 

So today is the day that I start my no-sugar challenge again. Yes, I could opt for smarter sweetener chocies like Agave (doesn’t cause cravings), or Stevia (a natural, low calorie plant-based extract). But really, why even keep those in my diet? Are they necessary? And if I’m not craving sugar, than why would I eat it?

I’ve tried the no-sugar challenge before, and it was a bit of a trick, and I think I only lasted three days. I’m going to include bananas in the list of things not to eat, because while they are fruit, with nutritional value, they’re also nature’s equivalent to a candy bar.  I’m cutting all refined sugars, as well as artificial sweeteners. No more trips to the bakery!  And this also includes all forms of alcohol– that should be interesting seeing as I work at a brewery. 

So here’s to day one of seven. When I make it to seven, we’ll up the ante to 14. And when I make it to 14, I’ll go for 21.

It’s time for me to put sugar in its place, and that isn’t in my body.

If you’re inspired by this post, I invite you to join me. Maybe for you, sugar isn’t a factor, but what about fatty or salty items? Maybe you need to watch your sodium intake, or lay off that fried food. Let me know what you’re committing to, and we’ll keep each other accountable. Success my friends, lays in community. It always has, and always will.

Suburban Obesity

Today I hopped in my friend’s car and zoomed out to the suburbs to meet a lady about a bike. And no, that’s not code for something. I really miss biking and need a replacement one for the one that got stolen. I arrived in the land of cookie-cutter houses and an overabundance of affluence early, and so stopped at a local store to pick up some groceries. If the sprawling property and house sizes hadn’t already made me feel uncomfortable in their opulence, my trip to the store made me feel absolutely sick. It was like stepping into obesityville. I lie to you not, 90% of the people in the store were not only overweight, but obese. This small city on the edge of the big city is eating itself to death. People have become so entitled that the big house and big yard aren’t enough. Now it’s being followed up with big bodies. After all, bigger is better, right? Wait. No. I have this crazy feeling that there is something wrong with that statement.

Obesity is the disease of the privileged  Many in our culture drive to work, sit at a desk, then sit in their car on the way home from work, and spend the evening noshing in front of the tv while, you guessed it, sitting on the couch or in their recliner. Obesity and slothfulness go hand in hand. And to be frank, it’s disturbing.

For some, their metabolisms simply work slow. For me, I can eat the same amounts as my friends and gain while they maintain. I can exercise and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I’ve come to the conclusion that no amount of my griping about how life isn’t fair, is going to make me lose weight. It’s true, life isn’t fair. Suck it up princess. Eat less, exercise more. That is the grand secret to weight loss. Is it easy? Not in a culture that is built around food, that’s for sure. But it doesn’t look like that will be changing anytime soon. Instead, those of us who are on the heavier side need to realize that our weight is up to us. We are the ones who stick the food in our mouths. We are the ones who would rather watch another episode of Grey’s than hit up the gym or go for a swim. Then we wondering why we don’t look like all the beautiful, slim people on TV. Why? Well, we know why. Getting your body to look like that and stay that way takes hard work and intentionality. So now, instead of booting up Netflix, I’m going to take the dog for a walk. For snack, I’ll reach for fruit before processed foods. And I will reduce my portion sizes. Plate sizes have increased by 3″ in the past forty years, That’s a 25% increase. No surprise then that our bodies have also probably increased by the much. 

People, it’s time to wake up! Don’t let the screen keep you from living your dream.

(Note: My BMI falls into the overweight category, but I’m working at it one day at a time. Don’t tell me I don’t know what it’s like. I do. I too used to be obese. But at the end of the day, that’s not who I am inside, and I want to make sure my outside reflects the real me.)

A Very Berry Smoothie

The other day I ran into a neighbour while I was out downtown. She too is on a journey towards leading a healthier lifestyle. We chatted for a few minutes about strategies and best practices. She told me that she has a go-to smoothie recipe for her breakfast each morning. Intrigued, I asked her to share. She was delighted to, saying it was fresh and invigorating. Once she gave me the list of ingredients I was a bit sceptical, however I’ll try almost anything once. I thanked her and we both went on our way.

This morning, I got up, drank some water, took the dog for a nice long walk, and came home craving a smoothie. I dug up the recipe my friend had given me and started slicing and dicing my produce into chunks for the blender. The list included apple, celery, cucumber, cantaloupe, fresh ginger root, carrot, and some spinach. I had forgotten to get spinach, so I simply omitted it. I added a scoop of protein powder to the mix, along with some water and whizzed it up. Excited, I grabbed a big glass and poured myself some. I took one sip and had to restrain myself from tossing the lot of it. I must use very fresh ginger, because the taste was overwhelming. I added more water to even out the ginger taste. But even without the bite of the ginger, there was a gritty after texture, and the flavour was, to be frank, less than stellar.

Our culture has somewhere fallen prey to the lie that healthy eating can’t be good eating. And it is a lie. I make smoothies all the time that have great mouth feel, taste, and a healthy for me too. The other evening I was watching a show on TV and one of the characters was doing a detox, and she grimaced with every sip of the smoothie she took. The message? To be healthy, you gotta suck it up, because what you eat and drink is going to be nasty.

Quite frankly, I think the smoothie I made would be better off split into two salads—one fruit and one veggie. Then, both would have been delicious. But the slop I had in my blender was fit for the pigs. But, being the frugal person I am, I couldn’t let all that produce go to waste, so I poured it into two ice cube trays and set it in the freezer. Next time I make frozen yogurt, I’ll chuck in a few of the ice cubes. The taste of the frozen yogurt should cover up the flavour of the smoothie, and I’ll get an extra nutritional boost out of it.

But now, for a basic smoothie recipe that won’t leave you gagging:

1 cup frozen mixed berries

½ cup cranberry juice

½ cup milk or non-dairy alternative

1 scoop of your favourite protein powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

Whiz up in a blender or food processor until smooth. Sweeten to taste.

2 servings of fruit, one of protein, and one of dairy (or at least half)

Done and done.