Archive for March, 2008

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Losing 20 Pounds = Farewell to 17 Pairs of Pants

March 31, 2008

My first day of the challenge was a success! I filled up on tasty foods:

– plain yogurt with frozen berries
– skim milk
– apples and bananas
– copious amounts of white tea
– carrots
– oatmeal with sugar and cinnamon
– salmon poached in white wine, scallops, roasted yam fries, and steamed asparagus for dinner
Today I’ve got a gigantic salad of raw veggies mixed with some canned tuna for lunch. I find that the more I think about the meals that I’ll be eating, the more delicious they sound to me. I really look forward to my lunches of fresh salads (does that make me strange?).
Yesterday was also very successful because I went through all of my clothes and sorted out what does and does not fit. Over the course of the past 6 years, I’ve accumulated a very large amount of pants, pretty much all of which I’ve kept. And I tried on every single pair yesterday. At the end of it, I counted all of my pants. Twenty pairs of jeans, cargo pants, and dress pants. That’s a pretty disgustingly high number. However! It was very liberating, because SEVENTEEN of those pairs of pants are going to Salvation Army (in addition to three pairs of capris/shorts). Why is this? Because they are all way too big on me! Every single one of those seventeen pairs of pants can slide right off of me even when they’re buttoned and zipped up (I told you I have no hips). Two more pairs are pretty loose but I’m holding on to them anyways just until I get some more.
It feels great to be able to say goodbye to all of those pants. Not only is my closet much emptier (time to fill it up again!), but my mind feels better to have less stuff cluttering up my room, and my body feels so much better in its healthier state.
Here’s a photo of the clothes I’m giving away (indulge in my excitement for a moment):

This article over at the Winnipeg Free Press is some food for thought. It seems to me that drugs are being handed out left right and center these days, as the solution to all of life’s problems. I don’t think much of most kinds of drugs and try to avoid them as much as possible; I don’t even like to take aspirin for headaches. I really think that there are some circumstances in which drugs are of immense help (recovering from getting my wisdom teeth out would have been that much more brutal if I didn’t have a bottle of T3’s for company!), but I also believe that all too often we reach for the pills when they aren’t necessary. And as our bodies become used to these drugs, they become dependent on them. It weakens the immune system and means that gradually to get the same effect you need to take two pills instead of one, and so on.

The issue with antidepressants is very concerning. How could 30.2 million antidepressant prescriptions be filled within the space of one year?! And the correlation between weight gain and taking antidepressants is staggering. I’m sure it’s resulted in tons of people becoming even more depressed and just winds up a vicious, unhappy, unhealthy cycle. As always, the problem is overprescribing and overusing these drugs. Moderation, moderation, moderation!

Please note that I’m not saying all pharmaceutical drugs are the devil, and I’m not saying it’s necessary to abstain from them altogether. Sometimes, it really might be the only thing that’ll work. But I unfortunately don’t know enough about antidepressants to say whether they’re of much help to most people. I’ve had a couple of times when I’ve become rather depressed, but I spent my time focusing on exercising and reading good books to help me get better; that combined with letting time pass was what did it for me (and possibly the approach of warmer weather:)). Taking antidepressants wasn’t even something I considered as an option. It’s just not for me.

Have any of you ever been on antidepressants and did they work? Or were there negative side effects that made it not worth it?

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The Challenge Begins!

March 30, 2008

Today marks the first day of my challenge to myself to eat only non-processed foods. That means limiting all additives and eating basically only natural, whole foods. I think it can be done, with a little bit of careful effort and preparation. We’ve been making all our own bread at home (I LOVE breadmakers!), and you can even make pizza dough using it so that will be lots of fun to try it out. I’ve got it mostly figured out how I can replace everything- instead of using commercial tomato sauce on a pizza, for example, I’ll make my own using tomato paste. Even croutons can be easily made at home in replace of the boxed kind. I will keep you all posted and let you know how my experiment goes! We’ll see how long I can keep it up for. I’m shooting for a week. Doing it for life would be ideal, but I think that for now a week might be a bit more realistic, because in our society it really will be a challenge to scout out the non-processed food from places. I haven’t quite figured out how I’ll incorporate restaurants into this plan… does anyone have any suggestions that could help me out with that?

I tried to do this same challenge for myself back in October, but unfortunately I failed miserably that very same day. I made the mistake of going to the movies that night and walking past the concession stand, I simply had to buy myself some deliciously buttery, oily popcorn. Clearly, I wasn’t quite ready to take the step to eliminate foods like that from my diet. I accepted that I wasn’t ready and enjoyed every bite of my popcorn.

The difference is that now I don’t want to put those chemicals in my body. I’ve started to understand the real dangers involved in trans and saturated fats and in eating highly processed foods, and because of that, for the most part the idea of eating those foods just isn’t appealing to me. So this challenge is a gift to myself to help to cleanse my body and keep it happy and fueled and satisfied. This is something that I 100% want to do, so I don’t think there will be much in the way of feeling deprived or restricted- the challenge part is going to be taking the time to find those recipes to make things that I would otherwise have bought from a store, and incorporating this way of eating into my lifestyle without having my family feel as though they’re restricted (supper could prove to be a bit difficult to manage!).

I remember one time when I was with a friend, she told me about how she’d eaten McDonalds earlier that day, and how guilty and horrible she felt about it. “But I hadn’t eaten in hours,” she explained. “And I was downtown and in a hurry, so fries was the only option.” As she said that, I wondered who she was saying this to: me, or herself. There’s no reason to “justify” it to me- I’m not about to stop people in indulgences!- so I can only assume that it was herself that she was trying to convince.

I have been in this situation before. The situation where you are so hungry that anything would taste good, and those french fries are just calling your name. But if you take just a couple seconds to consider your options, it then occurs to you that you’ve got tons of options. Not only are some fast food joints starting to offer healthier choices (salads or yogurt parfaits), but there are also plenty of other “fast” places that sell healthy options. Subway and The Pita Pit both sell some healthy sandwiches, soups, wraps, and salads, and they often have the nutritional information posted right there for easy access. The school cafeteria’s all sell fruit and bagels; even Tim Hortons (a place with a drive-through, if that’s your concern) sells bagels, soups, and sandwiches. A lot of time there’s hidden culprits in these healthier choices- but you can always request the salad dressing on the side, or to have less or no mayo on your sub and that sort of thing. Even vending machines have a few cereal bars in them (not that I’d normally advocate them as being healthy- but usually they’re the lesser evil to a bag of potato chips or a chocolate bar).

My point is, there is the option to eat healthier when you take a moment to consider it. And I think that it’s fine if you still want the french fries instead, and that’s the choice that you make. After all, depriving yourself of something that you really want might just create resentment or similar. So it’s best to be honest with yourself rather than insist that you did it for this reason or that reason. Why bother making excuses like you were in a rush or there was no where else for miles around if the actual reason is that you just plain wanted it? Figuring out the reason for your choice and accepting it is super important. It builds a healthier relationship with the food we eat and you never know, it might even have the affect of influencing you to take a sandwich instead next time!

If you’ve got any tips for how I can be successful with my challenge, do let me know! And if anyone knows of any good recipes using natural ingredients I would love to hear them.

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More Reasons to Love Milk

March 26, 2008

My final assignment for my nutrition class was to research a nutrient or supplement and determine whether or not the claim being made about it is legitimate and true, according to scientific studies. I chose the topic of calcium and its claim to aid in weight loss (that is, a decrease in fat mass, as well as helping to preserve lean muscle mass). This is what I’ve found, from scientific journal articles written within the past couple years discussing numerous case studies:

A high-calcium diet (between 1100 and 1400 mg of calcium per day) that consists of low-fat dairy products as the source of calcium is a safe and effective way to reduce the amount of fat mass in your body as well as lower your waist-to-hip ratio! All of the research stresses that the calcium needs to be from the diet and not from supplements, and that dairy products in particular were the most effective. This has something to do with the other nutrients in dairy products, like whey protein, and their combination with the calcium to produce maximum benefits. The concept also emphasizes that simply adding a few glasses of milk to the way you eat now won’t have the desired effect; those glasses of milk need to replace some other source of nutrition in your diet (otherwise, you’re just consuming a bunch of extra calories and it’ll be a case of over-nutrition).

I’d like to take this moment to say how much I adore calcium. It does so much for the body- among other things, it regulates blood pressure, aids in blood clotting and muscle contraction, and builds and maintains strong bones.

Something important to take into consideration, though, is the absorption of calcium. Calcium in milk is absorbed into the body really well; however, other foods that claim to be high in calcium (I think that spinach is one of them, although I could be wrong) don’t get absorbed very well into the body at all. So it’s not really how much of a nutrient is in a food, but how well it gets absorbed, that is the important thing to think about. And interestingly enough, combining certain foods enhances the absorption as well. Drinking tea with a meal hinders the absorption of most nutrients, so it’s better to have your tea on its own and wait an hour or two before you eat- that way, you can get the most out of your meal. And that’s why nutritional supplements aren’t going to do as much for your body as the nutrients will when they’re coming from your diet.

In case anyone’s interested, the scientific journals that I researched are: Obesity, Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, and Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Anyone can access them from the PubMed homepage.

I’ve never taken any kind of supplements- no multivitamins or omega 3’s or any of that. So I’m interested, do you take any supplements (of any variety; including those ones advertised as “Exercise In A Bottle”)? And has it had the effect that it claims on the bottle?

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Chocolate and Books!

March 25, 2008

Okay, so I’m still a bit sick- I’ve been nursing a sore throat the past couple days with ham and split pea soup, excessive amounts of green tea, yogurt, and oatmeal. Yummy! Also, this morning I made some fantastic hot chocolate: take 3 small squares of Lindor 99% dark chocolate (probably about 15 grams?), 1/2 tsp of organic cane sugar, and 1/2 cup skim milk. Stir them in a saucepan over medium heat until its almost boiling, then add another 1/2 cup of milk and stir a bit more, and you’re done! It’s great. I got the 99% stuff to try at Easter and it’s so dark that it’s hard to believe it’s even chocolate, however done like that in hot chocolate tastes delicious. Also, taking a really small amount and breaking it up and then mixing it in with plain yogurt and frozen berries is a nice way to fix a chocolate craving.

Gena asked me a couple of posts back about if I have any nutrition book that I’ve learned the most from. There’s no one book that’s taught me tons, but I figured I’d share some of my favourites with you (in no particular order):

Nutrition for Life: The no-fad, no-nonsense approach to eating well and reaching your healthy weight by Lisa Hark, PhD, RD and Darwin Deen, MD
It’s got pretty pictures, discusses food throughout the life cycle, has information on food as medicine and also gives tips on shopping for healthy food.

SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life by Steven Pratt, MD, and Kathy Matthews
Very detailed analysis of fourteen superfoods, as well as some recipes and lists of brand names that are healthier (although some of those brands are really specialty and you can only get them online or at very specific stores).

SuperFoods HealthStyle: Simple Changes to Get the Most Out of Life for the Rest of Your Life by Steven Pratt and Kathy Matthews
Any book that claims both cinnamon and dark chocolate as health foods is sold right there! It’s got some new superfoods with the same detailed information on them as well as how to incorporate physical activity into your lifestyle.

10 Steps To Healthy Eating: Boost Energy, Manage Weight and Prevent Disease with the Right Foods by Leslie Beck, RD
This was recommended to me by my nutrition prof- it’s got recipes and a 2 week meal plan, info on nutrients and physical activity.

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, PhD
Lots of research and studies! Also super reader-friendly because it’s all very easy to understand.

Pickles & Ice Cream
This is actually a book on nutrition for pregnant women, that my mum used when she was pregnant with me. But, it’s still got information that could be applied to anyone and it talks about the essential nutrients and which food contains what nutrients. Also very interesting to compare the view on nutrition in the 1980’s as opposed to today.

Locker Room Diaries: The Naked Truth about Women, Body Image, and Re-Imagining the “Perfect” Body by Leslie Goldman
…okay, so this isn’t a nutrition book. But it’s about body image and it’s really excellent!

There’s a few more books by Leslie Beck that I want to read and also some other health books (like In Defense of Food, which has had TONS of hype lately). University will be done very soon so then I will be able to run off to the bookstore and lose myself in health books, and I’ll let you know which ones are good! Does anyone else have any recommendations?

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What’s your favourite way to relax?

March 23, 2008

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you are all engaging in much egg and chocolate consumption (although, as I write this it occurs to me that I haven’t partaken in any egg or chocolate eating yet today. Hmm, must rectify that…). Unfortunately I’ve been sick since Thursday, which has really been incredibly inconvenient considering the workload that I’ve got for school right now. The end of my second year at university looms up (how can we be finished on April 2nd??), and that also means that the frantic scramble to write papers, study for tests, and complete the assigned readings is in full swing.

Thank goodness it’s a long weekend! I’m just about all recovered from being ill and I managed to get a decent amount of work done (although it’s never as much as I would’ve liked to have completed). It seems as though everyone is under a lot of pressure to finish all of these assignments, which brings me to the question of time management.

How do you manage your time? Ethan Hawke’s character in Before Sunrise points out how technology is useful because it gives us all this extra time, “But, what good is saved time, if nobody uses it? If it just turns into more busy work.” I think that that’s pretty true. People often complain that they don’t have enough time to do this or that, but the problem is not that there’s not enough time but that we aren’t very good at prioritizing and managing our time.

Yesterday in my Nutrition class, my prof was discussing weight loss and she said that if you want to lose a pound a week through exercise alone (that’s expending roughly 500 calories every day), then that’s the equivalent of covering 5 or 6 miles a day, in addition to your regular activities and lifestyle. She added that that’s just not very realistic, as people don’t have enough time to devote to that; at this point, my friend Evan laughed a little and said to me that it’s really not that difficult to fit in an extra 5 or 6 miles a day.

I agreed with him, but then again, he competes in marathons and triathlons on his own time. And I’d go nuts if I didn’t walk to and from school and work regularly. I think most people would just see that as a hassle and a bit of a waste of time (but when you think about it, walking for 5 miles only takes a little over an hour, which is the same amount of time as many tv shows, and somehow we find time to watch our favourite shows… hmmm). But the point is that for me, that’s a priority. Getting in activity each day is very important for me, and for someone else it might not be so important. It just depends on whether or not you know what your priorities are, and once you’ve got them figured out, if you’re able to let go of the things that aren’t as important to you. It’s the sad truth that we can’t do absolutely everything, so we’ve got to pick and choose as to what is worthwhile and necessary, and what is not. There needs to be sacrifices made so that other things are accomplished.

Time management is a skill that is overlooked way too often. Perhaps university is supposed to assist in teaching people that skill, but I think that a lot of people only half-heartedly figure it out. After all, having fun and studying are both topping the list of priorities for most students, and how do you manage to succeed in balancing those without becoming a fatigued stress case?

I try not to worry too much about getting everything done on time. Resting in between the work is essential to producing something of good quality, so I take full advantage of taking a break when my brain starts to go fuzzy from studying. And I’ve got to say, when I see my mum tackling all of her responsibilities- owning a business, volunteering on the provincial board for her womens group, and acting as a teachers assistance for a veterinary acupuncture for a week every month or so- it sure puts my difficulties with school into perspective. I figure, if she can manage to balance her life like that, then I’ll be able to finish the papers for my classes no problem. Taking into account that people are forced to find a way to accomplish these and much more difficult tasks, and that they manage to succeed in doing so, is very encouraging. It definitely puts my mind at ease!

Don’t forget to take a break today and relax; it’ll do your body and mind some good. I took a lovely long bath today for the first time in months and it felt absolutely wonderful to indulge in that. What about you; how do you manage your time and what are your favourite ways to relax?

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The Use of Language

March 20, 2008

Leslie over at The Weighting Game wrote a post on dieting every other day, which has initiated this current train of thought (my apologies in advance for the sarcasm and cynicism throughout):
Ever since I started paying a wee bit more attention to my nutrition and general health- sometime around January 2007- it’s been really interesting to look at how people perceive the food they eat and the exercise that they partake in. In today’s society, it seems you can’t walk 10 feet without hearing about this diet or that diet. But what exactly do we mean by “diet”?

Generally associated with negative connotations, a diet is viewed as a restriction or a limitation that we put upon ourselves. Hold up a sec! “Diet” just means the way you eat. There shouldn’t be anything negative about that; it’s a very neutral term, in fact. Unfortunately, in a world where we define what we eat by “the Mediterranean Diet” or “the Atkins Diet” or “the South Beach Diet”; even the “Green Tea Diet”, “the Eat Right 4 Your Type” diet and “the Volumetrics Weight-control” diet, it would appear that we are unable to make food decisions without slapping a label on them and declaring something to be very firmly, absolutely, 100% off-limits… and then the second our willpower wavers slightly, we ravenously fall upon those foods that are so very evil otherwise. This then leads into the comfortable cycle of self-loathing, with a renewed effort to radically obliterate that food (among a whole host of other foods) from the diet, feelings of self-righteousness and pride for having done so and then- oops, there goes the willpower, dammit, I wasn’t supposed to eat that apple, it’s got carbs! Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

What. The. Hell?

To be honest, it kind of reminds me of when I first started hearing about “The Secret”. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the concept is that if you think positively, then the natural progression will be that positive things will happen to you (although, if my skeptical self seeps in, I have to wonder- was the person who “dreamt up” this concept someone who lived in a wartorn society and was starving to death? I rather doubt that). Anyhow, when I first heard about that, I didn’t really see what the big deal was (I should probably tell you right now that my natural philosophy towards life is and always has been to think positively because of the belief that it will result in a positive outcome… again, I can say this from the comfort of my middle-class condo). But how is that at all a secret? It’s basic karma and the golden rule and all that. If you do good, it’s likely that good things will come to you. If you do bad, then, the cops will likely come after you (disregarding for a moment my issues with how lenient the Canadian justice system is). But, getting back to the point, I would have thought that “the Secret” was common sense.

Eating healthy is also pretty much common sense. Eat in moderation, try to eat more wholesome, nutrient-rich foods. Everyone is pretty well aware of that. So the idea of our current conception of “diet” is really incredibly ridiculous- what’s the point in all of these different companies “dreaming up” these fantastic miracle “diets” that essentially end up hindering your body? (case and point: the Atkins diet is the equivalent of your body eating away at itself. YOU NEED CARBS TO SURVIVE!) These fad diets are just a way for the people “inventing” them to make some easy money.

Nutrition books, I love. Love love love. Can’t get enough of them. You know why? Because they teach me about how I can treat my body the best way possible. They teach health. They don’t promote ridiculous programs which consist of either starving your body of certain nutrients or causing you to lose water weight (because that number on the scale is really affecting your fat mass… cue rolling eyes).

One of the most contributing factors for the reason that there’s so much discrimination in the world, in EVERYTHING we do and see and are, is these labels we place on things. We insist that everything needs a name. Language is incredibly powerful. If we instead viewed how we eat as just that- how we eat- rather than a negative, scary, rigid “diet”, then I bet there would be a lot less eating disorders, a lot less body image issues, a lot less pressure to do or be this or that, a lot less health problems resulting from these societal pressures and issues, a lot less paper being wasted on books that assert “you can lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks!”, a lot less time and money being put into such unfortunate schemes, and perhaps a lot more emphasis being put on trying to encourage healthy lifestyles and the wellness for all of the people in the world and the earth itself.

If we lived in a world like that, it sure would be nice. But I guess if we lived in a world like that, we wouldn’t have a whole lot to strive for and improve upon.

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Belly Dancing and Independence

March 19, 2008

Last night was my first of eight belly dancing classes. It was awesome and I’m already looking forward to next week’s class- there’s only about 10 of us in the class and most of the women appear to be between their late 20’s and early 40’s. There’s all types of body shapes and sizes but everyone was very capable of performing the moves- and wow, some of those women could sure move their hips! They looked great. It helps to be curvy in a class like belly dancing. At one point the instructor teased me that I was being too dainty, and I wanted to protest, “it’s not my fault! It’s because I don’t have hips!” Not having those curves is a bit of a hindrance when you’re performing something like belly dancing.

There’s an activity for every body shape out there, and I think that that’s one of my most favourite parts about exercise: it doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can do it; the key is to find the activity that’s right for your body and that works well with you. Even if you’re trying out something that maybe your body type isn’t ideal for- like me with belly dancing- you can still have heaps of fun with it and learn to move in all sorts of new ways and stretch muscles you didn’t even know you had.

We started out the class with donning our hip scarves (they jingle!) and warming up with hula hoops. As most of us hadn’t used a hula hoop since elementary school, this resulted in much laughing as the hoops spun around our waists for a grand total of about 3 seconds before crashing to the floor. I’m going to go out this week and buy myself a hula hoop so that I can practice and learn the knack of it (it’s surprising how good of a workout kids’ games are, like hula hoops and jump ropes… and they’re fun, too!).

The class was an hour long, and we learned several moves in addition to the correct posture and where the arms (and the eyes) should be held. It’s something that I’ve never done before but I’ve always admired dancers and been in awe of their skill. Acquiring that skill for myself feels like such an accomplishment! I haven’t done too much dancing before; a few classes of salsa when I was in Costa Rica is about the extent- apart from the year of ballet that I did when I was about 5 years old. Another dance that I would really be interested in learning is flamenco. When I lived in Spain I had the opportunity to see some real traditional Spanish flamenco dancing and it was one of the most gorgeous practices I’ve ever witnessed (my video of it is kind of sketchy because there was a huge crowd of people and I was just using my little digital camera to film it, but you get the idea):

The other really fun part about the belly dancing class was experiencing it on my own. While it would have been fun if a friend had joined me, there’s something nice about going off on your own independently to have an adventure. Trying new things is wonderful, and it’s really relaxing when you’re on your own and just have yourself to take care of.

The past few days I’ve been trying to go out on my own a bit more, and meet new people. Last night after the belly dancing class I went to a trivia competition with my boyfriend and some other people that I hadn’t met before; I ended up having a great time and even knew the answers to some of the questions, shockingly enough (apparently that History of Greek Lit class is useful for something after all!). And on St. Patrick’s Day, I started off the evening with one of my best friends and some people that she knew; afterwards, she went home so I went to another bar to see my other best friend with a group of his friends. I even persuaded some of them to join me on the dance floor. Then, when they all left, I met up with my sister and she promptly left me with her best friends brother- between avoiding a bar fight and engaging in discussion with his acquaintances, we ended up staying there until close!

I prefer not having one particular group of friends that I routinely spend my time with. I like this sort of lifestyle better- meeting new people all the time even while I’m with my close friends. There’s so much to learn from others and I love to talk to people and hear their ideas and views. We all have something to offer someone else and new perspectives to share and consider.

Something else that I’ve never done before is gone to a movie by myself. So I’ll have to do that soon. Has anyone else gone to movies by themselves? What about going out for lunch by yourself? I have yet to do that. But it’s pretty important, and very healthy, to take some time for yourself like that.

Let me know if you’ve done belly dancing or any other kind of dancing (or some other more unusual sports)- I’d like to hear about your adventures (and which ones you’ve liked the best)!

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Discussions on "Junk-food Dieters"

March 17, 2008

Today I read an article by Lesley Rotchford that really made me shake my head. You can view it here.

Basically, it’s a review of how people will take extensive measures to achieve the “ideal” of being thin, no matter what the health costs. Because as long as we’re all skinny as rakes, nothing else matters. Choosing between one of those Coca-Cola Zero’s or a banana? Well, the Coke is zero calories and the banana’s got about 100. Clearly, the correct choice is the Coke! Choosing between munching on carrot sticks or smoking a cigarette to keep your mouth and hands occupied? Another no-brainer; the cigarette has zero calories!

Where has the logic gone? When did everyone start drinking diet soft drinks to curb hunger? When did it become better to choose large quantities of (potentially dangerous) artificial sweeteners rather than small or even moderate amounts of real, natural sugar? And why is it that even though so many people are aware that these choices are the unhealthy and possibly very harmful ones, they remain the option that the majority of people stick with?!

It’s a pretty sad society when we have come to this point that we willingly sacrifice nutrients our body needs for weird chemicals, all in the name of vanity and convenience. I don’t care how many of the “low calorie” and “reduced fat” frozen dinners you eat, or how many “diet” drinks you consume on a daily basis, or how many “sugar-free” baked goods are on your shopping list, that doesn’t make you a healthy eater. It’s probably just contributing to a poor, nutrient-deficient diet.

The really ironic thing is that if you choose the real stuff, the fruits and veggies and whole grains and the like, those foods fill you up quicker and give you the nutrients you need. You can keep your weight healthy while also gaining the benefits of healthier skin and improved eyesight and all of the rest of the amazing things that vitamins and minerals will do for your body (which you SERIOUSLY miss out on when you don’t eat whole, natural foods). Hey, I’m vain too- I like to look pretty. That’s part of the reason why I try to get my reccommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals every day, to keep my skin clear and my hair soft and my nails strong in addition to having all of my organs function to the best of their ability. I’m getting all of these things while choosing real food, not fake man-made “food”.

So… let’s see, the choice is between a chemical-filled, processed diet with little nutrient value and being skinny as a stick (if it even works, which in most cases I imagine it really backfires), or the route of a natural, yummy diet packed with lots of nutrients to keep your body functioning really well for years to come, being strong and youthful and maintaining a healthy weight.

I think I’ll stick with the latter, thanks. As I’ve stated in previous posts, I’m all about the occasional indulgences and enjoying some deliciously processed foods from time to time (I have a total weakness for pub food, to be honest), but the basis of your diet shouldn’t be these processed, unhealthy types of food. Sometimes the stuff that screams “DIET” and declares that it’s a healthfood can be the worst stuff for you, if you replace real food with those things. Avoid the junk-food dieting! The idea is to work with your body, not against it.

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Happy St. Patricks Day!

March 17, 2008

I adore holidays. I see them as the perfect opportunity to enjoy time with family and friends, eat good food, and dress completely head-to-toe in one colour (today I’ve got a green shirt, green sweater, and green scarf to celebrate the Irish! I’m also drinking green tea and have a huge salad full of a mixture of various fresh greens for lunch, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary so I guess I can’t really count that towards a part of my efforts to be festive). Any excuse to celebrate and go out partying is quite necessary. St. Patrick’s Day isn’t really much of a holiday, more a reason to drink beer, but Easter is right around the corner and it’s one that’s usually celebrated pretty extensively. So here’s to holidays!

I know an unfortunately large number of people who really strongly dislike holidays- either because they don’t have family to spend time with, or the amount of stress (and high-caloric food) is too much to handle, or the whole idea of the commercial holiday just disgusts them. But I think that holidays are great. Sure, they might just be incredibly commercialized and kind of pointless, but they’re fun. Why complain about the decorations and colours? I take full advantage of holidays in that way. It brightens my mood to feel festive, and these silly little holidays provide a break from the everyday routines.

I can understand that the stress of cooking huge meals and dealing with family that might not get along so well would be something to dread. I’ve been fortunate in that my family for the most part gets along really well together, so that’s never been a problem. As for the large amounts of food… well, I say, enjoy yourself while listening to your body. It’s probably not really necessary to down half a dozen green beers tonight, but there’s nothing wrong with unwinding with one or two (myself, I get too full after one or two beers to be able to drink any more. But maybe that’s a good thing!). As long as we pay attention to what we’re putting in our bodies and how much we’re putting into them, we can know when it’s necessary to slow down or stop. The formula is simple enough- it’s applying it that is the tough part! But because it’s so tough, it becomes that much more of a victory when you recognize how happy your body is with you (for myself, that sense of success is present every time I go to the movies and resolutely do not order a big vat of popcorn:)

Instead of feeling contempt for these (sometimes made-up) holidays, let’s relax and enjoy them. If nothing else, it’ll be a break from your busy life and it’ll rejuvenate you for getting back into all of that busy-ness. Taking a day off, or taking a few moments to let yourself get excited over a holiday, can do wonders for your mental health. Yesterday, I spent the day shopping with my mum and sister and it was some excellent retail therapy and girl bonding time. Plus, I got some really sweet pink plaid heels out of it! We did get ourselves some mini eggs in early celebration of Easter (I tried to avoid them by getting myself a small bar of dark chocolate… and then I finished that and the mini eggs were calling my name, so I allowed myself to indulge in a few. Delicious!), but I find that because I so rarely let myself have a treat like that, it tastes that much better when I do give in and have a little bit. And enjoying yourself and life is absolutely vital when you’re on a mission to live life in the most healthy way possible!

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That’s it- I’m converted!

March 16, 2008

Earlier today I was considering really buckling down on the four (cringe!) research papers that I have to have completed in the next couple weeks, when my dad announced that he was going for a run. I haven’t gone running since Tuesday, and I wasn’t quite in the mood to read endless articles on dynastic propaganda in artwork during the early Roman Empire, so I volunteered to join him. My first outdoor run since last October, I believe.

It was one of the best runs I’ve had in a while. We kept up a fairly decent pace, about the pace that I normally run at, and we ran roughly 5km (usually I go for 5-6 miles), but it was exhilarating and fun. I had forgotten about the total difference between running on a treadmill and running outdoors. The terrain means that you’ve got to concentrate on where your feet take you, and dodging the slippery patches and slushy puddles contributed to the general feel-good mood that it put me in by the time we’d finished. We started off with the intention of doing a loop of about 4km but it was such a nice steady pace, and the temperature was beautiful, so we decided to add on that extra little loop and push ourselves a bit furthar. It was nice to be able to run with someone else for once, too. You get to have that added bit of encouragement and friendly competition.

And now I’m converted. No more of this boring, ho-hum treadmill running! I’m taking it outdoors from now on, where there’s some actual scenery to take in, and some obstacles (jumping across puddles, anyone?) to maneuver around. If I’m going to run I’m going to darn well enjoy it. I’m determined to be ready for that half-marathon come summertime!

If you’ve found yourself getting bored with your workout, I’d really recommend trying a simple switch like taking it from the gym to the outdoors. That’s not going to be feasible for everyone, but even changing the machines that you use at the gym can make your workout more interesting and enjoyable. Or, try a completely different activity: starting Tuesday, I’ll be taking belly dancing classes once a week for eight weeks! You’ll hear all about it, I promise. But now, I think it’s time I stopped procrastinating and got to reading my academic journal articles- gotta have that balance of work and play!