Archive for April, 2008


That "Aha!" Moment

April 30, 2008

I’m in love I’m in love I’m in love!

(with boot camp).

Today I was a minute or two late to my boot camp and the others had already started the warm-up jog. As I lugged my 8-lbs weights, yoga mat and water bottle across the field, I half expected the trainer to blow her whistle and bark out, “Drop and give me 20 for being late!” Instead, as she led the group jogging past me, she greeted me with a cheerful, “Hi, Sagan!”. Phwew.

Our trainer Sara is pretty awesome (total girl crush!) because she pushes us without acting like a drill sargeant. She only blew on her whistle once to gather us together after the warm-up jog and at varying intervals she’d instruct us to drink water. At the end of todays session, she led us through a series of stretches and explained which muscles we were working and why they’re good for people with desk jobs and such. Then she told us all that she expects us to eat breakfast if we don’t already and to make sure we try and eat something both before and after each boot camp class.

Today we did tons of squats, jumping jacks, push-ups, walking lunges, shoulder presses, bicep curls, man-makers, and crunches (to name a few). I know that I could do it all on my own if I wanted to, but it is so much fun to be there with other people; all of us cheering each other on and jokingly competing with each other. Everyone is much more talkative and outgoing than in my bellydancing class so the atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. And there’s something really good about having an instructor calling out, “come on, hurry back now!” and hearing my teammates saying “great work!” at the end of the man-makers: just hearing that made me sprint to the finish, which I know that I would not have done if I’d been doing the exercise on my own.

In an effort to get away from my usual staples (apples, carrots, and eggs), I tried a few of your suggestions. So today I have no carrots or apples in my lunch! And I didn’t have eggs today or yesterday (yet, anyways). I did have all-natural peanut butter today (something else which I really need to vary up), but I had it on a banana and I haven’t had a banana in a while. I’ve also eaten some Laughing Cow light cheese which I never eat (I think that it’s just cheese without a bunch of bad processed junk… does anyone know if it’s natural?), an orange, and I bought myself a half of a cantaloupe! I haven’t had cantaloupe in a long time. I’m glad I found it (they’ve also got the half pineapples and half watermelons so I imagine I’ll be purchasing those sometime soon). I kind of like the idea of sticking my fork inside half a cantaloupe. It’s like eating from a tub of ice cream but without the guilt!

And now I have a question for all of you, brought on after reading Kelly’s post about what constitutes disordered eating. It got me thinking about definitions, particularly in regards to fitness. At what point does one become an athlete? What defines a person as being athletic or active? When I first signed up for boot camp, we had to state how fit we thought we were between 0 and 5 (with 5 being in excellent condition). I gave myself a 3. The organizer that I was working with asked me why I gave myself a 3, if I’m already walking every day and taking bellydancing and running and doing my own strength training. I explained that I think that there’s lots of room for improvement and I’m not nearly as strong or as fast as I’d like to be.

I don’t think I’d call myself an athlete. Even the word “athletic” doesn’t quite fit. Similarly, I wouldn’t describe myself as a runner, and yet I’m trying to train up for the half marathon, so it seems kind of funny to not think of myself as being a runner. I can’t seem to determine when it is that I’ve done enough to describe myself as such. What do you think? Was there a particular moment for you that you realized that you are ______ (fill it in with whatever you feel defines you- an athlete, a teacher, a mother etc)? It’s not so easy to define ourselves as such… we live in a very grey world! But maybe the lack of black and white teaches us to not go to extremes and to try to live in moderation, with everything.


Boot Camp

April 28, 2008

It was on a whim that I signed up for a 4-week boot camp for women a few days ago. I thought to myself that it was high time I got a personal trainer-esque situation going on and learn the correct technique for all of those strength training exercises. Plus, I’ve got my half marathon mid-June, the weathers getting warmer (no more living in comfy-but-shapeless sweaters!), and I need a little something extra to spice up my routine and keep me motivated and learning. Hence the quick decision to join a boot camp program from 6:30 to 7:30am, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next month. And the Running Knitter makes it sound like so much fun, too!

So I woke up to my alarm clock this morning at 5:40am (I got all my things together the night before but I still wanted to give myself enough time to fill up my water bottle etc), and promptly dozed off again. At 6:10 I jerked myself awake, hastily pulling my hair into a ponytail and throwing on some workout clothes before dashing out the door for my very first boot camp session. So much for my careful planning!

Luckily it’s only a 10 minute drive from my house (I want to get some saddlebags for my bike so I can ride my bike there… I can just see it, riding all wobbly with my yoga mat sticking out of one side and 8-lbs weights knocking me off balance! It’ll be great), so I was only about a minute late. There was only 5 of us there today (2 people were missing), and that was so nice because that means we’ll get even more individual treatment.

It was a little chilly out but we were all dressed for the weather and we did jumping jacks and slow jogging to warm up. Our trainer got us to do a little mini fitness test/assessment in which she marked down how well we did so that we can compare it to our accomplishments at the end of these 4 weeks. I was about average for most of the strength training, but could do the least “correct form” push ups (and I did 17! These women must have MizFit-style arms). It wasn’t until later I learned that I was the only one not doing the push ups on my knees, so that was kind of cool (and boy can my arms feel it now). The cardio test, which was jogging for about a mile, was something that I did very good at (I should hope so, with training for the half!). I’m pleased with my cardio and endurance but I can improve so much on the strength training, so I’m glad that that’s mostly what we’ll be focusing on.

Like with my bellydancing class, the people in my bootcamp session are all very friendly and we’re at all varying levels of fitness. One woman has done the bootcamp program before, and another one has some problems with her lower back and knees, so our trainer really focused on showing us the regular, modified, and advanced variations of each exercise. Very useful! With such a small group there’s a lot of positive attitude and cheerful encouragement among us, and the trainer that we’ve got pushes us but doesn’t expect us to be Olympic athletes. It looks as though this is going to be a really fun and rewarding month! I’m so eager to get stronger and fitter with all of this (and at the rate that I’m signing up for all these fitness classes and such, its a good thing I’m not taking any spring session classes- there goes my paychecks!).

In addition to the classes, the bootcamp organizers have also given us each a “New Recruit Success Journal” for our own reference. I love it; they’ve got a fitness log and a nutritional log, with space to document cardio, strength, flexibility, overall energy and effort level, reflections, what we eat and what time we eat at, as well as boxes to tick off how many servings we ate from each of the food groups. There’s also a “food score” and “activity score”, in which you get points for things like drinking so many glasses of water and working out for however many minutes. Most of you are aware of how much I enjoy researching things on health and fitness, and this documenting of what I do is something else that I really enjoy immensely. I like to be able to look it all over afterwards and figure out where I’m lacking and what I’m good at and improve from there. Keeping a record of my fitness and nutrition is also motivation to stick with it. I also particularly like these journals because we don’t have to hand in our journals at the end of the boot camp; it’s totally for our own reference to help us out.

I’m hoping that with documenting my nutrition I can also try to get more variety in my diet (as usual). I love apples, carrots, and eggs so much that I eat them virtually every day, so I’m thinking that I should probably find alternatives to these staples. At least with my peanut butter obsession, I occasionally mix it up with almond butter! If you’ve got some ideas as to what I could use to replace apples, carrots and eggs from time to time, please leave a comment. I eat lots of other fruits and veggies too, but I guess I’m slightly concerned that I might go a little overboard on these ones in particular.

Has anyone else tried bootcamp? How did you like it? And what’s the verdict on documenting daily fitness/nutrition- is it useful or do you find that it takes up too much time to complete?


Book Review of "Real Food: What To Eat and Why" by Nina Planck

April 27, 2008

Ashley was interested in learning more about this book so I figured rather than add it to the list of books that will be on an upcoming post of book reviews, Nina Planck’s book deserved its very own post. First follow the link and check out Ashley’s great blog. Then (please!) come back and read this post because this book is absolutely wonderful (and if you’d like some other recommendations for health books, check out these reviews here and here).

This book is my new bible of healthy food. I love love love it. When it first caught my eye at the bookstore I was a little wary, as I usually am, because Nina Planck has no academic, scientific background in regards to nutrition. But actually, as I learned from reading this book, she’s got something that could arguably be considered to be even better: she has real-life experience.

Planck grew up on a farm and opened up the very first farmers markets in London, and then she went on to host a tv show and was involved in a bunch of other farmers markets and that type of thing. This book was exactly what I was looking for and as I read through it, I was really amazed at just how perfectly it fit what I am trying to do. It has been incredibly useful to me in my non-processed quest and because she’s a regular person, she explains everything in such a way that the average person can understand the complex science behind food and remain completely fascinated by it all.

She likes to talk about herself a lot and her experiences on the farm, and at first I couldn’t decide if she was being pretentious or not, but after having read it I’m really glad that she filled the pages with little anecdotes like that. It makes it so much easier to relate to and comprehend, and it adds a little extra spice to maintain the readers’ interest. She explains the differences between grass-fed and organic, extols the virtues of real butter, milk, and cheese, discusses cholesterol, explains industrial fats and real fats, praises eggs (yummy!), and provides a wealth of external information. She cites a magnitude of studies, provides a clear glossary and bibliography, and also offers a list of websites and stores of where to find “real foods”. She’s also got a great “Furthar Reading and Resources” section, some of which I’ve taken a peek at and most of which looks intriguing.

Nina Planck has done her research and she has conducted it very well. I’d say that she’s a hell of a lot more credible than a lot of the other people out there writing books and jammering on about goodness knows what (it’s probably a bad thing that university teaches you the art of bullsh*tting and gives you letters after your name for it).

Naturally, I don’t agree with absolutely everything that Planck writes. She is very much pro-saturated fats, and with all of the information she gives I’m partly convinced that saturated fats are pretty good but I’m still not one to want to go out and fill up on a huge mound of them. She also is all about the full-fat milk and cheeses, and after reading her book I can understand why she is and it makes a lot of sense but I really just can’t bring myself to switch from skim milk to even 1% (but that’s partly taste, to be honest… I’ve been drinking skim for such a long time that other types have a fatty sort of taste. It’s funny how you get used to something after you’ve developed such a habit). However, while I still like part-skim mozarella and reduced-fat when it comes to regular, more boring varieties of cheese, when it comes to quality and unusual cheeses I think I’d prefer the full-fat real stuff and enjoy it to the max.

The author of Real Food grew up drinking milk from the cow that they kept and eating fruits and veggies from their family farm. She admits to having turned vegetarian after leaving home and then quickly realizing that vegetarianism isn’t for her (she’s rather against it- but as for myself, I think that if someone really wants to be vegetarian, then by all means go for it. Just make sure that you’re getting in all of your nutrients, because it is very difficult to get the right balance if you’re a vegetarian. I don’t think I’d do it unless I’d consulted a nutritionist and had lists of all of the essential nutrients and corresponding foods etc and had done really thorough research. But that’s just me. I likes my research!). I like that she confesses her short period of getting away from the way that humans have been eating for thousands of years before returning to this “real” way of eating, because it not only makes it more easy to relate but she also talks about the difference in her health and how her body reacted to the different ways she ate. Very interesting indeed.

If you enjoy cooking, real food, farming, research, and/or learning about contamination and the way our ancestors ate, then this is an easy-to-understand guide to eating more naturally and getting away from a processed diet that will be perfect for you. I adore it. It’s a solid read, filled up with lots of little tables and lists amid the anecdotes, studies, and explanations. Real food is the way to go!


Repeat after me: "I am the best thing since sliced bread"

April 24, 2008

Tuesday’s bellydancing class introduced us to the technique of isolating your upper chest. I wasn’t even aware that I had a muscle right at my sternum! But it was great to discover a new muscle there and start to exercise it.

As we were spinning and shaking and tip-toeing about, my instructor said to us near the end of the class, “now repeat after me: ‘I am the best thing since sliced bread'”. Because everyone in the class is rather shy, we all repeated the phrase in a murmur, which resulted in more of a cult-ish chant than anything else. But it certainly brought a smile to everyones face!

Update on my all-natural, non-processed attempts: I haven’t been able to achieve my goal 100% of the time, but I’d say that I’m there about 90 or 95%. Yesterday I had two store-bought cookies (and, I’ve got to admit, they were yummy), and I have also indulged in a few pieces of bread a few days ago that had very strange, unknown names as some of the ingredients. I also ate vanilla pudding for the first time in months (years?), even though it has a little bit of hydrogenated oil in the ingredients list. Egads!

But I think that that’s all right. If I have something that is processed once every few days, I’m pretty sure that I won’t keel over and die:) As long as I keep aiming for all-natural 95% of the time and focus on the long term, I will be successful. Also, reading this (from Nina Planck’s Real Food) was music to my ears (eyes?): “A form of trans fats does occur naturally in ruminants, or grass eaters. It is the precursor to the omega-6 fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid, the anticancer agent found in the fat of grass-fed cattle. But this natural trans fat is chemically different from industrial trans fat and quite safe”.

Was I the only one who didn’t realize that there is a difference between the trans fat in butter/meat and the industrial trans fat? After all of the classes I’ve taken, nutritionists I’ve spoken to, and books and journal/newspaper/magazine articles I’ve read, this was one of the only places that actually mentioned that there is a difference. And it was in a footnote. I’m not sure if I haven’t come across it before because it’s such common sense- that’s a possibility. But then why on earth don’t we differentiate between these fats? Why are they referred to by the same name? Couldn’t we have an extra panel on the nutrition labels to state in brackets if it is industrial or natural? Darn those nutrition labels, they’re so deceiving!

I have to direct you towards this article, which I feel very conflicted about. On the one hand, it is evident that a healthier society would be more beneficial to all aspects of our life. On the other hand, like they point out towards the end of the article, if society as a whole became trimmer and ate less garbage, we might just focus on something else such as plastic surgery. And I don’t like how the article seems to have an underlying suggestion of discrimination towards a group of people, plus I have a really hard time digesting this line: “Can Americans all be paid more and promoted more and marry more?”

Um. Excuse me? Is that what our society is all about; making money and getting “the best” (who determines what’s better than something else?) job and getting married?

Sure, wealth is great. It’s very useful. I happen to like it and I would definitely miss it if I didn’t have it. Similarly, it’s important to have a job to make said money and to do all of the things you want to do and to contribute to society. Getting married is nice, I guess. But why on earth are these three things our priorities? What’s the point in all of that money if we only squander it on (let’s face it) mostly useless “things”? What’s the use of the promotion if you’re working for some big company that’s contributing to destroying the environment or that you don’t enjoy? And why bother getting married if you’re going to get divorced a few years later (is it 2/3 marriages that end in divorce?).

We put these three things up on a pedestal and think that they are the be-all end-all. When did money and promotions and marriage (or is the wedding and the romantic idea of it the reason that people get married?) become more important than environmental degradation and cooperation and stopping world hunger and saving lives and being happy?

Let me know your opinions on this! And if you agree with me, how do you think that we can change the general perspective on it all?


Happy Earth Day!

April 22, 2008

The past couple days, for some reason my left knee was starting to bother me. It was feeling rather sore and was just irritating me to no end. After complaining about it to my mum yesterday, she sat me down, brought out her infra-red laser, and performed laser acupuncture on me.

A couple hours later, my knee felt great. The soreness was relieved, I trotted off to hot yoga class, and did very well at holding all of the poses steady.

I’ve had acupuncture done on me before, and I think that I like the needle-less laser type the best. Some people really enjoy the sensation of acupuncture needles, and most of the animals that we deal with certainly seem to just love it, but I don’t really like the feeling of having needles stuck in me for 20 minutes. It’s not that I have anything against needles, but if I can get away without needing them, then I’ll happily opt for the needle-less version of acupuncture!

There’s other forms of acupuncture, too: moxabustion, aquapuncture, acupressure, and electro-acupuncture are all other techniques. Most people are amazed with the miraculous results accompanying acupuncture treatments, but when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense: the Chinese have been using it for thousands of years with great success.

Considering this, and then considering how many of the modern drugs that we’ve designed are actually incredibly harmful to our bodies (such as ritalin), it is worth thinking about going back to our roots. People hundreds of years ago did not have the same health problems that we have today because of their diet and lifestyle. True, advances in modern medicine have been wonderful in helping to treat diseases once we get them, but the drawback to that is that there isn’t much effort being put into preventing us from getting diseases in the first place. Diabetes is now a commonplace condition, whereas it was far more rare hundreds of years ago and you likely wouldn’t have been able to live for very long with it.

I really do think that Western medicine is very beneficial (and in conjunction with Chinese medicine, it’s especially good! If you’re going to an acupuncturist, though, make sure that they’re reputable and certified and all that jazz. Unfortunately there are some people out there practicing it who aren’t licensed to do so.), but it seems that we rely too much on it to save us once we’re already very ill, and we don’t pay attention to our health until it falls by the wayside and is in desperate need of some healing.

What do you think? Should we be shifting our thought away from “it’s okay if I get ill/diseased because it can be treated” to “let’s work on preventing getting any health problems, even though medicine could treat it if need be”? I think we’re better off taking care of our bodies as though there aren’t ways to treat illnesses… we might pay them a little more attention that way and improve our heatlh.


Adventures in Cooking and Yoga

April 21, 2008

Yesterday my friend unfortunately canceled on me (we’re going for lunch tomorrow instead), so I made myself some french toast for dinner. It was the first time I’d ever made french toast by myself and I was quite pleased with the result (in the past, my attempts have been rather disastrous and only been rescued by the fact that there was someone around to supervise). I used a modified version of a recipe from Leslie Beck’s book, which is two slices of whole wheat bread dipped in an egg/milk/cinnamon mixture, and a sliced banana placed between them. Voila! A french toast banana sandwich. She suggests putting on peanut butter as well (and then dipping the entire sandwich in the mixture); I didn’t add peanut butter but I think it would taste even better with it so next time I plan on doing that. I also used a non-stick pan so I didn’t even need to make it in any butter. I don’t understand why french toast is viewed as unhealthy, if you use whole wheat bread, cinnamon, a bit of milk and an egg. If you top it with sliced fruit and cinnamon, or even a tsp of syrup, then it’s going to be really delicious and healthy!

Today I finally got around to making some French Vanilla ice cream, using the Bag Lady’s awesome recipe (I also got a great ice cream recipe from Gena so when I get myself an ice cream maker I’m planning on trying it out, too). I made a couple of adjustments, following her advice: I used extra vanilla in place of the lemon flavouring, and 1% milk. The production of it went by with only one incident: while I was whipping the whipped cream, I used too small of a bowl and, as you can imagine, it was a case of the thick cream flying merrily off of those beaters as they whipped around. Cream splattered on the fridge, cupboard, countertop, toaster, kettle, and breadmaker (amazingly, however, it did not splatter on me- even though I was wearing a white shirt! It was a miracle). So I transferred the cream to another, slightly larger bowl, gamely shoved my beaters back into the semi-whipped substance and powered it up again. More cream making a mad dash for the fridge, cupboard, etc. On to another bowl! This was my largest bowl and while a little bit of cream managed to escape from it, too, the majority of it thankfully opted to stay in the bowl.

While my ice cream-making process created a wide array of dishes to clean up, it was all in all quite successful. We had it for dessert tonight and were duly impressed. It was super vanilla-y and “better than Blue Boy!” (to quote my mum). I’m so happy with the result and will definitely be making this again. It was also so much fun to make!

Now that university is over until next September, I have plunged myself into a number of health books that I am devouring very quickly. Too many are appealing to me at present for me to choose to read one before the other, so I’m reading them all at the same time. Because of this, I’ll also be finished them roughly at the same time, so when I am finished this current slew of books I will write up another post dedicated to a short book review of each of them and my recommendations.

On Friday I also finally went out and bought myself a bright green hula hoop and a bright orange jump rope. Naturally, it was rush hour when I went to get them, so I ended up walking down the street in broad daylight down one of the most trafficked streets in the city carrying a neon hula hoop. I considered hula-ing my way down the street, just to attract even more awkward looks, but I decided against it. I don’t think my non-existant hips could’ve lasted for that long!

The other exciting thing that I did this past week was to try out moksha hot yoga! It is really amazing and I wish I would’ve discovered it before. My sister and I went together and it wasn’t near as hard as I expected, but you sure sweat a lot. The next day I went by myself to the hot flow class (which is the same hot yoga but at a faster pace), and that was hard. I was so sore for the next couple days! I’d like to try it out some more, though (now that my muscles have recovered a little!), so I think I might sign up for the 30-day challenge sometime over the next couple months. It’s 30 days of doing hot yoga every day, which would be damn hard but incredibly rewarding.

The only pose that I find myself having a real difficulty with (there’s quite a few that are very hard but I can still manage, if I really focus) is with making my heels connect with the floor for downward dog. Is anyone out there a yoga enthusiast? Can anyone do downward dog the way you’re actually supposed to do it, with the whole foot resting on the ground? If you’ve got any pointers please let me know! I’d love to learn how to do it properly. Maybe I just need to work more on my flexibility, which I’m sure will be improved if/when I do the 30-day challenge.

I was kind of disappointed about not going travelling extensively for the summer, but the prospect of spending it cooking and experimenting and activity-ing (looking forward to the half marathon, belly dancing, hot yoga, boot camp!) and reading is really very appealing. I think as long as I feed my travel bug by going on a couple of shorter trips I will be quite content to stick around here and focus on this sort of thing!



April 18, 2008

I would like to take this moment to say I’m done exams! Second year university is over for me! Hurrah! and dance ecstatically.

(Okay, I’m finished now. Carry on reading).

The other day I made these cookies for the second time and was once again astonished at how tasty, easy, and healthy they are (because, frankly, if we’re going to prioritize aspects of recipes, taste then convenience and then health is usually the order that we’re working with, right?), so I felt the need to share the recipe with you today:

Take 12 pitted dates and pop them in a food processor; pulse until they’re nice and gooey (they’ll form a sort of ball). Then, put them in a small mixing bowl, and add 1 tbsp of all-natural peanut butter and 1/3 cup of rolled oats. Mix them all up until they’re well combined (I just use my hands as that’s easiest, but if you want to make the clean up more annoying feel free to use an electric mixer). Then form small balls with them (divide the recipe maybe into about 8 balls) and press them between sheets of wax paper so that they’re flattened into cookie-form. Then stick them into the fridge and let them sit for a little while (the colder they are, the better). Enjoy!

Yes, these cookies are the healthiest cookies I’ve ever found. They make the perfect snack- it’s just fruit, oatmeal, and peanuts, with no additives or anything. Can you get any better than that? I mean, that’s what most people eat for breakfast. But because dates are so sweet, you’ll honestly be amazed at how sinfully delicious they are. Everyone I’ve fed these cookies to really loved them and wanted me to make more, and my dad pointed out that they are basically a power bar and would be excellent for a snack if you’re hiking or on a longer trail run or something. You’ve got protein and fat from the peanut butter (but make sure it’s the all-natural kind! Just straight peanuts. Otherwise you’ve got unnecessary added sugars and salt and hydrogenated oils), carbs from the oats, and sugar from the dates. If you’re the type to gobble up protein bars and power bars, I highly recommend you give these a try, because they’re going to be healthier for you and quite likely much more tasty, plus a lovely chewy texture which I’m rather partial to.

I found this recipe posted on iVillage, from The Biggest Loser cookbook. As an aside, could someone please explain to me the fascination everyones got with The Biggest Loser tv show? I hear people raving about it all the time. I’ve only ever seen 10 minutes of it, but I wasn’t very impressed with what I saw- the coach of one team was really pissed off because one of her team members had *only* lost 5 lbs or something and she’d expected them to lose twice as much… in one week. (Don’t quote me on those numbers as this was a good couple months ago that I saw this short sequence of the show… actually I think it was more like 8 lbs that the person had lost or something). Even if you’ve got personal trainers and nutritionists dictating every move you make and the purpose of your life for however long you’re on the show for is to lose weight, isn’t losing a consistent 5 or 10 lbs a week for the duration of the show a little extreme? And unhealthy?

Granted, like I’ve said, I’ve only seen 10 minutes of the show. So maybe I just flipped on the tv at the wrong time- but I’m highly curious about the fascination that seems to be circulating over this show, so if someone could explain it to me and fill me in on it, it’d be greatly appreciated. At any rate, even if I wasn’t very impressed with the show, I have to say that I am pretty impressed with the recipes that their cookbook features- the only other recipe of theirs that I’ve tried is the roast beef roll-ups several months ago, and they were exceptionally good. Check out the other links that they’ve got, because the recipes that they’ve got posted on iVillage do look pretty yummy.

Within the past week, I somehow coincidentally ran into not one of my former best friends, but two! One of them I hadn’t seen for several years (I went to junior high with her), and it turns out she’s moved to a neighbourhood near mine and is currently working at the VitalHealth store a couple blocks away from my place (I was there searching for some trans fat-free butter or whipping cream… no such luck, even at an organic/vegan store!). The other was my best friend from high school, whom I hadn’t seen since December. It was nice to bump into them both, and it made me realize that I haven’t had a proper girls night with my one good girlfriend (besides my sister, that is) in a really long time. So I called her up and we are going to get together on Saturday- April is some kind of chocolate fest all around Winnipeg, so I think we’ll hit up some restaurant and enjoy a slice of chocolate cake or sample chocolate at the market at the Forks. I’m looking forward to seeing her. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our own lives that we forget to call people or take the time to enjoy the day with old friends. I invite all of you to consider a friend you haven’t seen in a while but have been meaning to get a hold of: get thee to a calendar, book some time off, and arrange a date to see your friend! You’ll be glad you did.


France Fines for Pro-Anorexia (and a Carb Discussion)

April 16, 2008

First, I’d like you all to take a look at this, which is likely only one of the many articles about the topic currently circulating major newspapers. What do you think about it? While this article does mention a few of the problems involved with such a ban, I still think that the concept is wonderful. Theoretically, having such hefty consequences for promoting extreme thinness will ultimately lead to less of an emphasis on being thin and more of an emphasis on being healthy. But will it work, put into practice? I think it could work very well; yes, the definition of extreme thinness will need to be more specific, but if it’s going to be a law then I’m sure that the government will cover all their bases in that regard. By the way, these “critics” that the article talks about… who are they? Because just taking a stab in the dark, I’d guess that the critics are the people involved in modeling agencies and fashion design and all the rest (in other words, the only people that will likely experience a severe amount of abuse from the public because of it, and will have to change their agendas, standards, and whole way of operating). So- discuss! What’s your opinion on all of this?

And on an unrelated note, my favourite MizFit recently wrote a post regarding protein shakes, which led me to start thinking about the way that carbs, proteins, and fats are distributed in our diets. I have a very vivid memory of going to a friend’s place a year ago and seeing a chart that her mum had tacked to the fridge which listed a number of different foods and their corresponding amounts of carbs. I surveyed it for a while, studying all of the different foods- most of them things like veggies and fruit- and the grams of carbs associated with them. When she saw me looking at it, she pointed out apples (no doubt because she was well aware of my love affair with them). “Look how many carbs are in apples,” she said, shaking her head. “I had no idea.” Apples had become off-limits for her. Oh- and I should probably also mention that at the time her dad was on the Atkins Diet. I don’t like to say that parenting should be conducted one way or another, but when you’ve got two teenage daughters in the house who have body image issues, is dieting and posting charts around the house really the best way to set an example for living a healthy lifestyle and improving body relationships (especially when the parents themselves haven’t exactly researched said diet and understand no more about nutrition than what they’ve learned from Dr. Atkins)?

The odd thing is that at that point, neither she nor I really understood the meaning of carbs. There was just a guilty pleasure associated with carbs, so they must be The Devil. Celebrities always proclaim that when they want to “drop a quick 10 pounds”, they eliminate bread and cut back drastically on carbs. And we all know that what celebrities claim absolutely must be truth.

I like my carbs. They’re tasty! But seriously, carbs are awesome, especially if you’re into endurance sports. For most people, carbs should take up a significant portion of your daily intake of food (45-65%. And most athletes should have a minimum of 55% of their calories coming from carbs, with it increasing to as much as 70% during intense training and competitions!). They provide an energy source for the body that is immediate and continuous, they are very necessary for metabolizing fat, and they maintain tissue protein.

To anyone who is skittish around carbs, don’t be! Because really, choosing a greasy meat patty from a fast food joint over an apple because one has carbs and the other doesn’t is just plain silly. It’s obvious which one is the more nutritious choice. Thank goodness that the anti-carb craze is starting to diminish… just as long as it isn’t replaced by an anti-protein or anti-fat craze or some other such nonsense, it’ll be clear sailing! (Wishful thinking, I know. But maybe one day, common sense will be all the rage, there’ll be less emphasis on specific and rigid “diets”, and we will all be happily focusing on more important things like curing cancer and living life to the fullest).

What do you think about the distribution between carbs, proteins, and fats? Do any of them have you running for the hills? I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this.


First Barbecue of the Season!

April 14, 2008

Dinner today was homemade turkey burgers on homemade wholewheat buns. We demolished them pretty effectively! It’s amazing how similar ground turkey is to ground beef; do you also find that a lot of food that is healthier or made with less fat tends to taste virtually identical to the usual stuff? I mean, I can’t tell the difference between regular boxed chicken broth (1/2 of your sodium intake for the day in 1 cup- yum?) and the reduced-sodium type. But the broth with less sodium is obviously heaps better for you. And yet, so much of the time when someone suggests going with a healthier option, they’ll get somewhat skeptical reactions and bewildered looks from other people. Why this aversion, this fear of foods that are depicted as healthier?

Part of the issue is marketing strategies. Who wants to have something with 50% LESS FAT stamped across it? Why would you want to be eating from a box that screams “I’m dieting!” (which is what a lot of healthier choices end up unfortunately conveying)? Self-consciousness is huge these days. No one wants to appear this way or that way, and with all of the discrimination going on, who can blame us for caring so much about what other people think? The problem with freedom of speech is that it’s just that; freedom of speech. Anyone can say whatever they want, regardless of the potentially negative affects it’ll have on those that they say it to. There’s nowhere left to be safe from critical eyes.

I think it’s interesting in the show Super Slim Me (similar to Super Size Me, you can view it on YouTube- thanks to Sister Skinny for their post on it!) how the girl conducting the experiment takes around a cake and tries to ask various people what portion of the cake they feel they should take, if the cake represents their personal responsibility to the size zero phenomenon. No one wants to take responsibility, not even the modeling agencies. In fact, at one point, a man working for a modeling agency remarks flippantly, “take your cake to clothing designers”. All of this shuffling of responsibility isn’t going to get us very far at all. That’s why it’s up to all of us regular people to accept responsibility and take action in fighting against the increasing amounts of eating disorders and body image issues that are threatening countless women (and men) all across the world. I have so much respect for people partaking in experiments such as Super Slim Me (and Super Size Me, for that matter), in that they are just regular people like you and I, demonstrating to the world the horrifying reality of our health.

Check out the show on YouTube (there’s a link from the Sister Skinny site… it’s only about an hour long and it features a really cute British girl so her perspective upon arriving in the States makes it all the more fascinating), and while you’re at it, check out their blog too! It’s super.


Don’t eat smoked mussels if you’re craving chocolate

April 10, 2008

Short post today because of the excessive amounts of studying that is piling up (a week from today and I’m finished exams!), but I wanted to share this with all of you- I thought you might appreciate it and be able to relate.

It’s not too often I have a serious chocolate craving. And when I do, I usually assume that it’s because my body needs a little extra sugar. So, when I felt my tummy rumbling today and wanted chocolate, I decided instead to try out the can of smoked mussels I’d bought.

I’ve never had smoked mussels before. But let me tell you, if it’s chocolate you’re after, mussels are just not going to cut it! I tried satisfying my sweet tooth with an apple, and then with yogurt and berries, and I even tried honey on bread- usually one of these will work. Nope. My body still wanted the chocolate. Luckily, there was a bar of dark chocolate in our house, so I satisfied my cravings with a few (okay, maybe a bit more than just a few…) squares of chocolate. I was very happy to finally have the chocolate, but also not very happy with the over-stuffed feeling from my unsuccessful attempts to diminish the craving.

Moral of the story? Even though usually when you’re craving something it’s because your body requires some kind of nutrient that can be found elsewhere, sometimes, you really just need that piece of chocolate. Today I learned that yes, I can swap an Aero bar for a bar of the more pure dark chocolate, but chocolate itself simply cannot be swapped for anything else. Maybe I was trying to listen a little too hard to my body!

What about you? Is there a particular treat that you like that absolutely cannot be replaced with anything else?