Archive for October, 2008

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Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2008

I have wonderful memories of Halloween. As a child, I remember going overboard for the holiday. My mum would sew our costumes, the house would be decorated to the nines, and of course there would be plenty of candy come Halloween night!

Sometimes unfortunate circumstances would arise. Such as my dog getting into my candy the day after (I swear, that puppy could eat anything and be perfectly fine afterward!). Or the time that my candy got stolen from me while I was trick-or-treating. But both of these situations worked out for the best: my dog did not get sick and there was still plenty of candy that she hadn’t broken into (huge mounds of candy, every year). When the older kid stole my candy, I chased him down the street until he realized that there was no way I was going to let him get away with my hard-earned goodies and he threw the bag into someones yard for me to retrieve before he went running off.

(No one gets between me and my favourite treats).

One of the most special treats every year was from my neighbour across the street who made caramel popcorn balls. They were so good that our other neighbours, whenever we stopped at their house to trick-or-treat, would urge us to go and get some extras and bring them back to them. And every year my sister and I would collect the extra popcorn balls, as promised, and cart them down the street to share with the adults.

Now that I’m in a healthier state of mind, I will not be going completely crazy for the Halloween treats this year. I am more interested in having fun getting dressed up-with a few indulgences in tasty treats, of course! And although I will not be giving out treats to the kids this year, I do happen to have a very special treat for all of you:

Popcorn Balls Recipe! Eight years ago I finally asked my neighbour for her popcorn balls recipe and she was kind enough to give it to me. These are messy and gooey and delicious; have fun!

Ingredients
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
pinch of salt
8 cups popped corn

1. Grease a large bowl and put in popped corn.
2. In a pot, mix brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt, and boil together for a minute or two- just long enough for it to spin a find thread when you dip in a spoon and hold it up.
3. Pour hot mixture over popped corn (be careful!) and stir until it is all covered.
4. Shape into balls. It’s less messy and not quite so hot if you use plastic bags on your hands (rub the bags with a little butter).

Disclaimer: Popcorn Balls are not a health food. Please enjoy in moderation:)

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All About Tea

October 29, 2008

I adore tea.

I didn’t always like it, but when I went to Istanbul I knew that it would be incredibly rude if I refused their Turkish cay, which everyone seems to drink round the clock there. So I found myself drinking it every day and pretty soon I loved it through no fault of my own. And now I drink all kinds of tea by the bucket!

There is always a big pot of green tea heated up at work, and when I’m at home I tend to stick to white tea. It’s tasty and warms you up and it is so good for the body! I also love how it can inspire relaxation and calming for the mind, too.

There’s lots of different kinds of tea to choose from. If you want a quick breakdown of several different kinds of teas and the health benefits, just read this. Please also note the message at the bottom of the article which advises against drinking those bottled green teas and the like. Instead of supplementing, or getting your tea benefits through bottled drinks that have a bunch of sugar and crazy chemicals added, just drink the real stuff. Want to learn more? Check out Tea Muse where they discuss a wide range of health benefits!

Add a dash of honey or experiment with adding cinnamon or milk if its too bitter for you. Try ordering a London Fog at a cafe: black tea, water, and steamed milk (I request skim!), sometimes with the option of adding vanilla to it. So delicious!

Also, the strength of the flavour can vary depending on how long you let it steep for, so if its too strong then you can always try taking out the teabag earlier than recommended. And white tea is a good place to start if you’re just getting used to it! It is a very light, mild tea, and it serves as a good initiator into the wonderful world that is tea. There are also flavoured teas and herbal teas, and also excellent yerba mate, so there’s likely going to be something out there that you will enjoy.

Are you a tea person? What type of tea do you like best?

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Preparation for Busy Days

October 27, 2008

Mondays are especially busy days for me. This 4-week boot camp session is extra early, so I wake up at 5am, go to boot camp from 5:30-6:30, race home to change and shower before walking the hour to work, work 9am-4:30pm, then walk back home for a quick bit to eat before walking the 15 minutes-ish to school for my class from 6-9pm. It’s a lot of moving about and gives me very little time to gather my things together before I switch from one activity to the next!

Because of this, I’ve learned the art of preparing everything the night before. I set out 2 sets of clothes on Sunday evening (one for boot camp, one for work), pack my lunch and school books, and get a snack prepared and set it in the fridge to take for my evening class. This saves me tons of time in the morning! I can sometimes even check out what’s going on in blogland early in the morning by looking at some of your wonderful pages between boot camp and work:)

Figuring out your schedule and understanding which days are the busy ones can be an enormous help for arranging your time wisely. Take a look at your calendar or agenda book, sort out which days you seem to be moving non-stop, and think about the different ways that you can help yourself out on those days. Even the little things, like deciding what you’ll eat for breakfast in the morning and laying it on the table (PB2, a tablespoon, and an espresso cup to mix it in for my pre-workout snack!), can save you from rushing around to complete all of these little details. No matter how minute the task, those are precious seconds that add up really quickly! You know how they say that you can gain or lose 10 lbs in a year simply by increasing or decreasing your caloric intake by 100 calories a day? It’s like that. Something so little that you won’t even seem to notice it, but your body sure will- and you will definitely appreciate it when you’re running out the door in the morning!

The key to all of this is to think about your day as a whole: what will you be doing and therefore requiring for the day tomorrow? Only thinking about the time period from waking up until noon can undermine the whole point of preparation if you haven’t thought about the afternoon and evening. That’s why I make my snack for Monday’s evening class on Sunday night. Sometimes it will just be to chop up a couple carrots or to put an apple in my bag, but the idea is that you are thinking ahead. When you have already made your decision about what you will do, then you won’t have to agonize about it later when you likely have many other things on your mind (by the way, you can do this to force yourself to exercise if you need some extra motivation, too! Don’t give yourself a chance to consider the option; instead, just pack your water bottle and gym bag and know that you will be doing it at a certain time).

Planning on going out tomorrow evening? Check your wallet right now and make sure you’ve got cash in there. No need to worry about how you are going to have to make a stop at the bank between the commute from work to your house! I’ve already got tomorrow’s theater tickets tucked in my purse so that I don’t forget about them. On Sunday evenings in particular I also like to put all of my bags by the front door, have my toiletries pulled out of the cupboards and sitting on the bathroom counter, and to keep my keys and cell phone in the same pockets in my purse so I know where to find them. It just makes the routine of boot camp-home-work-home-school-home that much easier!

What are your tips and preparations to simplify your day and make it stress-free?

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Poll: Justifying food choices

October 24, 2008

First of all, read this post from Elastic Waist.

People do this all the time around me. They seem to think that because I’m a health writer and am trying to live a healthy lifestyle, that automatically means that I’m judging them for everything that they do.

Therefore, they feel the need to justify: I haven’t eaten in hours- I’m so hungry- I haven’t indulged in a while- I walked a lot yesterday- it’s just a couple glasses of wine- I’m PMSing- I’m really stressed- there’s cream cheese in this so that’s dairy so it’s kind of healthy.

But it’s not just other people feeling guilty when they sit down to eat with me. I do it too. I constantly hear people saying to me Goodness you eat a lot- you eat nonstop- don’t let Sagan see what you’re eating, it’s not healthy enough- it’s got olive oil in it so you can eat it because it’s healthy.

I feel guilty, too. And I justify away what I am eating: I had boot camp this morning- it’s salad so it doesn’t matter if my portion is enormous- I know it’s not incredibly healthy for me, but that’s okay every once in a while.

Why do we feel the need to justify what we do to other people? We should only be doing what we feel is the right thing to do, and never mind if others are casting a critical eye over our eating choices. What’s your take on this? Answer the poll and leave a comment below!

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New form of exercise: dodging cars!

October 22, 2008

If there’s one thing that’s essential to being healthy, it’s being alive.

This is something which Winnipeg drivers, if my recent experiences as a pedestrian are any indication of, have a conflicting interest with.

I happen to value my life. And I’m going to just make the wild assumption right now that if all of you are alive and reading this, you likely feel similarly and echo my sentiment! We all enjoy living, right? Right.

So I am sure that you’ll all join with me in a chorus of “CARS PLEASE SLOW DOWN WHEN I’M CROSSING THE STREET AND CLEARLY HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY”. Apparently those big flashy lights and large red signs at various intervals along the road aren’t quite self-explanatory enough. Same goes for the cameras openly marked at specific intersections.

That’s why I think that this idea is fantastic. But I would also like to point out that it is certainly not only young people who are speeding and acting reckless on the road- in fact, I’d go so far as to say that most of the idiots who veer straight towards me (10 points for hitting that girl on her way to school!) are middle-aged. Maybe a parental feature is needed in these cars, too?

Anyway, the good thing about drivers being irresponsible is that it gives me a nice brisk bit of exercise in the morning on my way to work or school. Especially during this rest-week between boot camp sessions. Between chin-up challenges and body-weight routines, I’ll be dodging traffic to keep my energy levels up and brain alert today! How will you be squeezing in your workout?

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Book Review: "Joining the Thin Club" by Judith Lederman

October 20, 2008

Look at my cute little cousins!!!

My auntie was telling me that there’s a lot of things she didn’t know about pregnancy and after the birth that no one thought to tell her. Even simple things, like fluid remaining in the body. Some things, you just have to learn from experience, and the doctors won’t realize that it’s something they should be telling you. I’m sure that there’s a book somewhere that helps explain what to expect after the birth, but it’s surprising that there’s not more information about it out there. For some reason, it would appear that we have the idea that you only need information up to a point, and as soon as you’ve reached that point- you’ll instantly know it all!

I find that this is very much the same when it comes to weight loss. There’s all kinds of diet books out there but what about once you’ve reached your goal, and you’re trying to maintain? What happens when you need to stop losing and start just living that way? Again, it’s all just supposed to come naturally to us, with no guidance whatsoever.

Luckily enough, there’s some places that do offer this information. One of them is Judith Lederman’s Joining the Thin Club (Mark was giving away a copy of this book on his site, and I was the lucky winner- thanks, Mark!).

This book, while it is designed for people who have lost considerable amounts of weight (Lederman herself lost 80 lbs), can also be used for anyone who has turned their life around by becoming healthy. As I read through the book, a lot of it resonated with me. In describing one woman’s challenges with losing weight and becoming healthier, Lederman writes “Interestingly, people used to give her disgusted looks when she’d eat huge amounts of greasy food, but no one said anything. Now, people seem to feel justified to say ‘Stop reading the nutrition labels all the time- you’re skinny now.’ People have a hard time adjusting to change.”

I have had many difficulties with this exact issue. Somehow, it is more socially acceptable to eat junk food than it is to eat healthfully. If you order healthier foods at a restaurant, it’s amazing how critical people can be. Lederman discusses how to deal with these situations, how to get people used to your new lifestyle, and how to respond to the emotions you go through. It really focuses on the importance of changing your attitudes and becoming more positive- the very subtitle of this book is Tips for Toning Your Mind After You’ve Trimmed Your Body. She also details the necessity of figuring out why and how you got to being unhealthy, and why and how you became healthy, so that you can stick with it and “prevent backslides”. It’s a great read for anyone going through a major lifestyle adjustment or change!

Happy Monday:)

Psst… if you take a look on the side there, I’ve now got a link that you can click on to subscribe to Living Healthy in the Real World! Blog updates are just a click away!

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Life Lessons: Try and Try and Try Again

October 17, 2008

I’m still getting used to the oven at my new apartment. It is very hot so I learned quickly that I need to turn it down about 25 degrees less than the temperature should be. Even so, sometimes I have a few problems with it, like yesterday.

I had decided to make some yam fries for dinner. I’ve got a great recipe adapted from Hungry Girl; just slice up the sweet potato, shake some cumin on each slice along with a sprinkle of black pepper and a pinch of salt, spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and pop them into the oven at 425 degrees (400, for my oven). After 15 minutes, I flipped my potatoes, and then went off to read while I waited for them to cook. Less than 15 minutes later I returned to take them out of the oven… and they looked like this:

Hmph. But I managed to salvage a few:

I was all set to give up and just eat a jar of peanut butter for dinner (stop looking at me like that. Starving student, right here), but then I remembered that there was some regular potatoes rolling around in the bottom of our pantry. No match for a sweet potato, but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got. So I sliced one up, laid it out on the baking sheet, added the spices, and baked them for just 10 minutes. Flipped them and baked them for 10 minutes longer, and voila!

Potato chips! Lovely golden brown. And they actually tasted exactly like chips do. Which I guess shouldn’t surprise me that much, but I’ve only ever eaten the sweet potatoes this way, not regular potatoes, and there’s a very distinct difference in taste. Also, because the vegetable is naturally quite juicy, it lends a slight oily feel to the chips so that you don’t even miss the oil! They were delicious and I shall be for sure making these again.

So that’s this weeks lesson! If you burn stuff, don’t give up. Try again and see if you can get it right the second time. You might be pleasantly surprised.

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Don’t leave room for regret

October 15, 2008

Whether we like it or not, we are defined by the choices we make- be they active choices or indirect. We notice when people change their ways, and we make assumptions and draw conclusions from that. After eating the turkey leg at Thanksgiving for the first 18ish years of my life and then switching to the white meat, I received a lot of strange and perplexed looks.

The world must indeed be falling apart!

My change in diet has been noticed by everyone who has known me for any length of time, and it generates a great deal of curiosity, confusion, and teasing. My choices in that have shaped who I am, and regardless of if I want them to, I am defined by them.

Another critical choice that we make has to do with politics: what our ideals and values are, who we want to win, which party we vote for, and whether or not we vote at all. Last night the votes came in for our Canadian election, and my sister and I hosted a mini election party to watch the news coverage on CBC. There was a mix of people there; most of them felt very strongly that it is absolutely essential that everyone votes, but one person had completely forgotten about voting and another hadn’t because she just didn’t want to. Gasps of horror! (These are the kinds of things you just don’t bring up in a room full of politics students).

But everyone reserves the right to vote. However, you can’t choose to not have an opinion when it comes to anything, including politics: by choosing not to vote, that in itself is saying something. By choosing not to participate or engage in the discussions, that is, in the words of Deborah Tannen, “marking” you.

Remember this the next opportunity you have to vote or make a statement in your community. Remember this when you buy food at the grocery store and go exercising (or when you don’t). Remember this when you’re choosing for both big and small things- remember it, so that you are choosing what you really believe in and truly value, rather than making a half-hearted choice.

Remember that what you do, or what you don’t do, tells the world who you are and defines your identity.

Are you making choices that you’re going to stand by and stick to?

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Happy Thanksgiving!

October 13, 2008

We celebrated Thanksgiving this year with our usual big family dinner yesterday- although our number was reduced by two around the table because of something special that happened last week… my auntie had twins! Girls (Taylor and Alexa) and so so cute. So my uncle and aunt were unable to attend but we sent over a Thanksgiving dinner plate for them to have a delicious meal at the hospital. I am incredibly excited to have two little cousins to play with:)

We had a nice big feast: turkey, stuffing, sweet and sour meatballs, brussel sprouts, glazed carrots, homemade buns, and mashed potatoes (a fantastic recipe from Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Cookbook), followed by my mum’s heavenly apple pie and pumpkin pie. Very tasty.

As we all dug into the apple pie, the conversation turned to the question of if we had any cheddar cheese to eat with the pie. Apparently my grandpa used to always eat a slice of cheddar cheese with his apple pie. The idea of this never occurred to me before, although Macs and Spartan apples taste delicious with a slice of cheddar cheese, so it would make sense that it would go well with apple pie, too. There was also the mention of how people generally eat whipped cream with pumpkin pie, but ice cream with apple pie (I prefer mine bare- pie tastes so good, why would you want to mask the flavours with all those toppings?!).

This conversation reminded me of how strange it was when my family and I first moved to the Netherlands and saw all the Dutch eating their french fries with mayo. It seemed such a strange idea! Similarly, the British kids that I went to school with there all liked to eat potato chips alongside their hot dog in the bun- such an oddity to my mind.

When you’ve been eating the same food combinations for much of your life, it’s difficult to even recognize them as being unusual. I don’t think that many of my food pairings these days are so very unusual, but when I was little I used to love eating buttered bread with peanut butter smeared over it (sometimes I think that my family is convinced that my passion for health is a sham. After all, how can a kid possibly grow up insisting on white bread, buttery popcorn, lots of chocolate, slurpees, and croissants in excess, and suddenly switch over to the other side? Must be some kind of compensation going on there:)). Do you have any peculiar food pairings? Heard of any strange ones? Got an idea for something you think would be interesting but have yet to give a try?

Yesterday was also the day that I was supposed to do as many crunches in a minute as I could manage, to see how much I’ve progressed so far with the challenge. I gave it my all and managed to complete 64 crunches in 60 seconds– surpassed the challenge goal! Two challenges down, one more to go (so far).

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Life Lessons: Fashion Choices for Exercising

October 10, 2008

Lace up those shoes! We had such a nice discussion going about walking the other day that I feel the need to elaborate some more on it today.

I am lopsided. My right leg is a good inch (roughly) shorter than my left leg. All of my shoes have to get lifts built into the bottoms of them so that my right leg is propped up to the same height as my left leg (somehow this doesn’t do much for overriding my natural clumsiness, though). Because I have to find very specific shoes that can allow for the lift to be added on, shoe shopping is pretty much hell for me. Did I mention that I lovelovelove shoes?

This all results in me wearing shoes until they are falling apart on me. A couple weeks ago I sadly threw out an awesome pair of pink skater-type shoes because the cloth had worn through and there was plastic poking out, causing it to cut into my heel. I spent one very painful morning hobbling my way to work with my foot bleeding for a solid 45 minutes. My recommendation is to not try that out for yourself!

It’s important to wear the proper workout attire when you’re going out for a walk, or doing any form of exercise. We all know the common sense rules- “don’t wear high heels” is a given, of course- but then there’s the more elusive tips that never occur to you until you’re placed in a situation which alerts you to the fact real quick. Such as my experience last week at boot camp, when I wore the wrong kind of underwear and it decided to start slipping down over my (lack of) hips. I have never been more grateful for the darkness of 6:00 am for providing cover while I discreetly pulled up my underwear mid-run.

As the weather gets colder, it’s also important to wear lots of layers. You don’t want to freeze, but you also don’t want to overheat! Now that it’s just the beginning of fall, I like to wear my regular shirt and a sweater or jacket with a big fleece over the top so that I can make the choice partway through the walk/workout if it would be more comfortable to take off the fleece. It’s not quite cold enough yet, but once the river freezes over and I start skating again I’ll be wearing long underwear beneath my jeans for extra protection from the cold.

I am just beginning the 20 chin ups challenge (which is going excellently, by the way!) and there is a park just a couple blocks away from my house, so I’m taking advantage of the monkey bars while I do it. As I found out yesterday while it was raining, though, it can be difficult to hold onto those cold and wet bars when the weather is less than ideal! Investing in warm gloves with a bit of traction is definitely on my list of items that I need to add to my exercise wardrobe.

What kind of workout gear are you stocking up on as the weather changes? Any insights that you’ve had recently about what not to wear when exercising?