Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

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Poll: Which inner voice carries the most weight when you’re deciding what to eat?

November 6, 2009

Last month’s poll

Our last poll asked the question, How do you like your bananas? We had 67 voters in total: 6% never eat bananas, 72% prefer their bananas au natural (peeled and eaten plain), and 22% like to mix and mash them into other foods. Bananas are such a classic standby and they are a major player in a lot of healthy/healthified recipes. Go bananas!

This month’s poll

Yesterday afternoon I got to spend a lovely hour with my nutritionist Nicole. We have so much fun together! I could rave about her and our discussion, but suffice it to say that I really enjoy our appointments.

Right now, we’re trying to work on bringing awareness to my emotional relationship with food. I (and, Nicole pointed out, nearly everyone) have control issues and mine tend to gravitate towards food and exercise. When I become depressed or stressed out, I use food and exercise as a release. We talked about how this is not a bad thing: it is simply that I need to be aware of when I am turning to food or exercise to deal with something, and that I need to identify my mood at the time and figure out what the root cause is. Then I can work on changing perspective. Instead of using exercise to burn calories, for example, I should look at it as a way to burn off the extra energy and emotion that has built up.

Most of the time, these days, I’m already doing that. But talking to Nicole reaffirmed this and I’m going to work on it even more. Unless I can fully comprehend and deal with my relationship with food and exercise, it will be too easy to slip back into negative reasoning and thought processes.

This brings me to this month’s poll. Today’s question is rather a tricky one, but I’d love it if you all take the time to think about it and give the best answer you can! Nicole gave me a worksheet which describes the different “voices” going on in our bodies when we are making a food choice. Although there are usually many factors involved (we’re all about a holistic approach!), sometimes it’s one voice that crops up more often than the others. These are the basic voices from her worksheet:

1. Emotions: “Oh, I want that… I’m craving this… I must have that…”

2. The Mind: “I should eat that… I deserve to eat that… It’s not that bad…”

3. Tastebuds: “Oh, that would be tasty…”

4. The Inner Wisdom of your Body: “I know what would benefit me right now…”

Which voice tends to be the most dominant when you make your food choices? I think that my thought process, over the years, has gone, in general, from the Emotions (when I was a child) to the Mind (when my food issues first began) to the current Inner Wisdom, with bits of Tastebuds spattered throughout. I am not quite at the height of following my intuition as much as I would like to be, so that is my new challenge! Awareness is fundamental to everything that we do, so heightening and tweaking my awareness with intuitive eating is perfect.

Leave a comment below telling me about your thoughts on intuitive eating and to elaborate on your answer from the poll. I can’t wait to hear all of your opinions on this subject and your experiences with these kinds of struggles.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook!

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Interview with a Raw Food Vegan

October 26, 2009

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet with a vegan raw foodist who lives in my city. We got together at my favourite cafe and wound up spending three hours chatting excitedly about health and nutrition. The time flew by and I’m sure we could have easily continued talking for the next three hours, swapping stories and ideas and research. It was one of the best possible ways to spend a Friday afternoon.

I went to our little interview knowing very little about the raw food lifestyle. I’ve learned some from reading Hanlie’s blog (she of the motto “Eat Produce, Not Products” that I adore), but aside from that, I knew virtually nothing. I’ve learned over the past couple years that many people in the medical profession don’t know much about nutrition, and that people who are interested and passionate in nutrition and health can be better informed than doctors or registered dietitians. Some experts in the field, such as Janel and Nicole and Gina, give fantastic advice and are incredibly knowledgeable. But I find that sometimes “experts” in health aren’t interested in considering alternative nutrition plans or working with what individuals feel comfortable with, and this is highly problematic. That is why I found it so refreshing to meet with Amanda and hear her views on raw foodism.

Amanda has a background in science from some of her university studies and she shares my passion for health and nutrition. She has been vegan for two years and a raw food vegan for one and a half years. Her 15-month-old son is also a raw food vegan, and her husband has just started this plan within the past month. The reasons why a person might choose a raw food diet are numerous, but one of Amanda’s reasons for it is because the living enzymes have a stronger nutrient content than cooked food.

The raw food diet creates even more controversy than the vegan diet. Some say that raw diets are very healthy; others say that raw diets are completely ridiculous and unnatural. I’m doing my best to keep an open mind when it comes to health and nutrition, and so I’m very interested in learning about alternative nutrition plans. My position on the nutrient content of raw vs. cooked food places more of an emphasis on balance: for many foods, the nutrient content might not necessarily be better or worse if the food is cooked or uncooked, but the nutrient content is different depending on how the food is prepared (raw or cooked- and if it’s cooked, the way it is cooked also has a dramatic impact).

A few years ago, if someone asked me what I thought about vegetarianism, I would have likely scoffed and said that being an omnivore is the most well-rounded, healthy way to eat. Once I learned more about vegetarianism, I came to the conclusion that if done correctly, it can be very healthy. After that, the issue of veganism came up; I was convinced that veganism is not a healthy option and that it is deficient in many nutrients. After my month-long vegan experiment, I realized that I’d been wrong: if done correctly, veganism, too, can be very healthy.

During my vegan challenge, I joked to others that I was thinking about trying out a raw food diet. The most common response from others was, “Ew. Really? Don’t do that. It’s not healthy.”

But I’ve learned my lesson, after my initial presumptions about vegetarianism and veganism. I’ve learned that most of the time, if we think that a diet/lifestyle is unhealthy, it’s because we do not know much about it. Being able to speak to Amanda was wonderful because I learned so much about the concept of a raw food diet.

I would now like to pose a question to everyone who maintains that raw food is “not healthy”: is the way that most people eat now, with eating some kind of processed food from grocery stores every day, “healthy”?

Even if the “processed” foods are things like loaves of bread, which most people would not consider to be all that processed, is it really “healthy” for us when we don’t know what half the ingredients are? We don’t have to chow down on bags of chips and fast food to still be eating food that isn’t healthy. I recently gave a speech for one of my classes about the misleading claims on nutrition labels, and I found it fascinating that a loaf of bread from the Safeway bakery counter contained 43 ingredients and half a dozen kinds of sugar, whereas if you bake bread yourself, you’ll use about five well-known ingredients with one kind of sugar. To me, that’s not healthy, if we eat bread which contains ingredients we don’t recognize.

Amanda told me that people concerned with her raw food vegan lifestyle never once approached her with concern when she ate processed foods. It wasn’t until she took an interest in nutrition and began to eat really healthy that the people around her began questioning her choices.

I found this interesting because the same sort of thing has happened for me. I went through junior high without anyone batting an eyelash at my intake of trans fatty packaged sunflower seeds, microwavable popcorn, Subway sandwiches, Slurpees, and KitKat bars. When I made the effort to lose a bit of excess weight and was eating Special K vanilla crisp bars and Cup-a-soups every day, people were still supportive of me. However, choosing to forego processed food as much as possible has led to an uproar of disapproval. It boggles the mind. Can anyone explain this phenomenon to me? Because I do not understand it. “Live a little! Enjoy yourself! You don’t have to be healthy all the time!” Well, guess what: I don’t have to eat crap all the time, either.

I believe very strongly that we can all benefit from eating natural, real, whole foods, and that each one of us should experiment with different foods to see what kind of diet best suits us as individuals. We’re all human, so we’re going to have a lot of stumbling blocks and obstacles in our way, but that’s part of what’s so great about it: the constant challenge means that we’re always given another chance to try again and make progress and learn what is best for our bodies and build a better relationship with them.

Amanda has clearly found that being a raw food vegan works for her. She used to wear glasses but no longer needs them. Her skin is clear, she has bundles of energy, and she emits a healthy glow (I sound like an infomercial here, but it’s true! I haven’t seen many people who look as healthy as her). Sometimes vegans and raw foodists have a sort of emaciated look to them, but Amanda has an inspiringly energetic, healthy look to her. She says that her son is equally as healthy and that her immune system has strengthened over the past couple years, too.

One of the common myths of a raw food diet is the length of time it takes to prepare and make food. However, Amanda told me that she can make food in five to 20 minutes, and she used to spend a couple hours each day cooking up healthy meals (just like I currently do- making things from scratch is rewarding but can be very time-consuming!). She has also found that the raw food diet is very cost-effective. She now spends less money on food for three people than they used to spend when there was just her and her husband.

“Raw food is a lifestyle, not a religion,” Amanda told me. I really loved that attitude. If Winnipeg doesn’t appear to be very accommodating for vegans, it is not a raw-friendly city at all. Because of that, a raw food vegan is going to run up against some difficulties in maintaining a wholly raw food diet. This is particularly true because there are no regulations for the label “raw” on food products. All a person can do, if they are interested in adopting a raw food lifestyle, is try to eat as raw as possible but allow that there are going to be a small percentage of meals that will not be raw.

I plan on trying a (virtually 100%) raw food diet for a month, but I think I’ll be waiting until January to do it- right now, things are a little too busy to jump into it completely. Over the next couple months I’ll be doing more research and trying out meals to slowly incorporate a few raw meals into my diet to make the transition a little smoother. A dehydrator and a food processor are two of the best kitchen tools when making the transition to a raw food diet, so I’m going to see if I can borrow those two tools from the mother dear and play with them before I try a raw food diet.

If you’d like to read more about the topic in the meantime, here are some interesting articles arguing both for and against a raw food lifestyle:

The Science Behind Raw Food

Raw Food Life

Is Raw Food More Nutritious?

My personal thoughts, at this stage, are that there appear to be health benefits to a raw food diet, but it might not be for everyone, and if someone were to try it out, they should definitely do their research to ensure that they are consuming a variety of nutrients. I also think that there are health benefits to cooked foods. We should, however, keep an open mind to all kinds of different approaches to healthy diets and lifestyles, and seek to learn more about them before we make wild assumptions about the positive or negative effects.

What do you think of the raw food diet and lifestyle? How much do you know about it? Would you be willing to learn more about it? I’m sure that there is a wide range of strong opinions on this subject and I want to hear all of your thoughts!

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Strategies to solve sleeping issues

September 28, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– A few raspberries (pre-breakfast breakfast. Whenever I go out for breakfast I always need something small to hold me over until we get to the restaurant)

– 1/2 plate of tofu scramble with a multigrain tortilla, kale, salsa, and a little bit of vegan sour cream at Fresh Cafe- this was excellent! I was wary about tofu because it was the first time I ever ordered tofu on my own. Normally I just have a taste of someone else’s (besides the Tofurky I’ve been eating, of course). But the marinade was really good and I enjoyed this immensely. I also had a taste of the mother dear’s freshly squeezed orange juice at the cafe.

– The other 1/2 of my tofu scramble with a handful of raspberries and 1/2 red pear. I’d intended on saving my leftovers for today’s breakfast, but it was so tasty that I decided to just finish it in the afternoon.

– Chickpea curry with basmati rice and roti bread at Charisma restaurant

Strategies to solve sleeping issues: the association between calcium and sleep

On Thursday afternoon, I spent about two hours talking to a nutritionist, Nicole Choptain. We got along famously; our health philosophies couldn’t be more similar! It was wonderful to sit down and have a really good chat with someone as equally passionate about health as myself. The first part of our session was so that we could assess my personal nutrition habits and needs and the second part of it was for me to interview her for my Living Well column.

A lengthy discussion led to our determination of a number of things for my personal nutrition plan. After we talked about how I feel from eating certain foods and the way that they affect my body, we agreed that the best course of action to take is to decrease the fats in my diet and increase the proteins. I run very well off of a higher ratio of carbohydrates, but a main problem of mine is that I’m not getting enough balance throughout the day of proteins. I might be eating once every couple hours, but it’s mostly carbs and fats and very little proteins. Now, I’m working on including protein more frequently throughout the day.

We also looked at calcium intake and the association between a lack of calcium and poor sleeping habits. I have struggled with sleep deprivation and nightmares my whole life. Nicole believes that it could be metabolic. As soon as she suggested that, the light bulb went off- of course! I always say that between nutrition and fitness we can balance just about everything and improve our health in all aspects of life, yet I neglected to put that belief into practice when it came to my sleeping habits.

To combat an inability to fall asleep (as well as problems with staying asleep and not waking up frequently throughout the night), Nicole recommended calcium loading. Consuming 600-800 mg of calcium (300 mg is roughly the same amount in a cup of milk; adults should have about 1200 mg of calcium per day) right before sleeping can help the body to relax and get a better sleep.

I am, for the most part, opposed to taking supplements. However, Nicole introduced me to calcium in powdered form: the only thing in this powder is calcium and magnesium, and one scoop is equal to 300mg of calcium needs. It’s a relief to find powdered supplements that are very reasonably priced without a whole host of additives! Of course, if we’re going to go the calcium loading route, we still have to make sure that we don’t wind up exceeded our intake of calcium to toxicity levels.*

She also had the idea of having a small snack about 1 1/2 hours before going to bed: specifically, a complex carb with a small amount of protein (such as a slice of whole wheat bread with some almond butter). The effects of this are that the serotonin levels in the body will balance out and help to regulate sleep. The protein in this little snack is necessary because although our bodies can run on carbs for a very long time, at some point our blood sugar is going to drop. This also might be why I have sleeping issues; if I eat at night, it tends to be something heavier on carbs (fruit or popcorn, for example). My body is going without protein for too long.

A few more things that can help with sleeping better is deep breathing and drinking tea. I have started to implement these small changes and am finding them to be very successful. I have just been taking a half scoop of calcium powder at night because I want to build myself up to a couple scoops. This is partly so that my body can get used to it and partly so that my taste buds can get used to it. The calcium powder is tasteless but there’s also a noticeable difference when it’s mixed in the water… the way that tap water is different from well water, for example. But that, as well as the deep breathing right before falling asleep, is working wonders.

This is years of having terrible sleeps, starting to turn around in one weekend. Let food be thy medicine and let thy medicine be food! How has changing your nutrition habits affected another part of your wellbeing?

*Edited to add: Dr. J sent me this link about how calcium levels predict prostate cancer in men– I’ve also known of people who got kidney stones from having too much calcium in their system. As always, too much of anything is not a good thing! That’s why we should always talk to a dietician or a doctor or do plenty of research on our own before taking any kind of supplement. If you’re not sure, feel free to send me an email; I’m not a licensed professional, but I’m sure I can either put you in touch with someone who can help you out or else I can do a little research for you. I enjoy the nutrition research.

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The stigmatized vegan

September 21, 2009

Yesterday I ate:

– Bowl of cantaloupe, apple slices, grapes, and 1/3 banana

– 3 oatmeal raisin scones with a small amount of almond butter and jam. For the scones, I subbed part of the whole wheat pastry flour for flaxseed meal, wheat germ, and 1 tbsp of FitNutz Pro. I also used unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze in place of the soymilk and added 1 tsp cinnamon (and the raisins). They were excellent.

– 3 beanballs wrapped in nori, some mushrooms with hummus, and a salad (romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, cucumber, tomato, cauliflower, carrot, and hummus)

– 2 1/2 slices gingerbread with icing and peanut butter

– Some almonds and grapes (maybe a couple tbsp of each?), and 2 tbsp PB2 with raisins

– A couple handfuls of Guiltless Gourmet blue corn tortilla chips, a couple falafel balls, and some yam fries

– 1 barbecued Tofurky frank with homemade ketchup, 1/2 beer, a few tomato slices, and 1 barbecued cob of corn

Yesterday was a tough day- I really had the munchies but was having a lot of difficulty being satisfied (as you can tell!). This resulted in me eating far too much and by the end of the day just feeling over-stuffed… though I found that the falafel, chips, and Tofurky really hit the spot, strangely enough. This was the first time in the past few weeks that, although I wasn’t craving meat, I still felt dissatisfied with what I was eating. Mentally, I don’t seem to have any issues with being vegan, but I think that physically my body is starting to wonder where the animal products are. Either that, or being cooped up indoors with studying was making me go stir-crazy and munching out of habit…

Vegetarianism, veganism, and the stigma attached to them

A month(ish) ago, I would have been the first to openly state that I don’t believe veganism is a very healthy way to eat. In fact, looking back at previous posts, I’m sure that I made my position on veganism explicit. I’ve learned a thing or two from eating vegan and doing research, and now I understand that there’s a whole lot more to it than I thought- which is what we always will find when we do a little digging! But I’m shocked at the real animosity that exists between people with different diets.

There was recently an upsetting situation at VeggieGirl’s blog, when she was “accused” of posting photos with meat in them; the commenter slandered her for it and said some rude and hurtful things toward her about displaying photos of murder etc. For the record, these pictures were of meals. Regular meals on a plate. Our dear VeggieGirl is, after all, a food blogger!

Even though she had to deal with the uncalled-for cruelty of the commenter, VeggieGirl handled it beautifully in a follow-up post in which she made it clear that food is nourishment and something to be enjoyed, and no one has any right to judge anyone else based on their food choices.

We all have our own opinions as to what way of eating is a “good” way to eat. Most of you know my personal nutrition philosophy of eating real food and trying to avoid or limit processed food (or rather, *replace it* with the real stuff), but you can read more of that on the sidebar (and, er, please ignore the above tortilla chips/Tofurky etc… well, eating real food is what I strive for; I don’t pretend it’s something I always manage to achieve ;)). I very strongly believe in it, and am wary of diets that are very high or low in any one particular nutrient or of diets that promote processed foods and supplements, but that’s just me. If other people really want to try any of those kinds of diets, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’d urge them to do a lot of research to learn more to determine if it is a safe way to eat, but I think it’s also very important to not assume our expertise on the matter.

Me? I was wrong about veganism. I’m full of energy. I’m able to maintain my weight. I’m not lacking in nutrients. I’m not hungry or weak or ill. At this point I’m prepared to say that eating a mostly (key word!) vegan diet as a rule could quite possibly be one of the healthiest diets, in terms of our own physical health, environmental health, and financial health too.

Most people who, upon hearing I was going vegan for a month, immediately said “Oh but that’s not healthy, you need animals to survive”, probably haven’t done a great deal of research on the subject.* Some became downright hostile and said that they dislike people who eat this way “because they adopt a holier-than-thou attitude”. I think that’s a pretty big leap to make, and an unfair, discriminatory one at that. I don’t believe it’s a valid argument at all.

I recently found a passage from Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential to be absolutely appalling:

Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold.

The assumptions he makes are insulting and hurtful, no matter what your diet is like. There are countless reasons for why any of us eat in any particular fashion; there are ways to be healthy and unhealthy for any kind of diet, and every individual has his or her own needs with the way their body reacts to certain foods. There are so many things that are rude, hostile, nonsensical, and just plain wrong with Bourdain’s passage** that I am going to hand over a proper analysis of it to Living Rhetorically in the Real World in the future.

Hearing about how VeggieGirl was treated by another vegan, and hearing omnivores railing against vegans, is very disheartening. Why is there so much stigma? Why is there so much judgment?

I can’t help but think that everyone would have much healthier physical bodies and much healthier body image if we got rid of that stigma.

Questions are good. We learn by asking questions. Asking why one person eats that way and someone else eats a different way can broaden our perspectives and help our whole selves to become healthier. That kind of healthy curiosity is good for us all, especially because it will reduce the likelihood of making judgments and jumping to conclusions. If we find ourselves making assertive judgments on a certain nutrition plan, that’s a good indicator that it’s time to delve into some research on that topic.

Have your thoughts and opinions changed on a particular subject recently after doing more research and learning more about it?

*Yes, I do agree that we need animals to survive. On a number of levels. Hence my earlier statement about eating a mostly vegan diet.

**I’ve read about three pages of Bourdain’s book, so there’s always a chance here that I’ve completely misinterpreted his words. Maybe he has a really warped sense of humour and didn’t intend for the passage to read as it does. But I’m not very impressed with it as it stands alone.

Edited to add: Check out Westwood’s post, Pretty in Plastic, for an interesting discussion on the ethics of plastic surgery!

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9k Race Results

August 10, 2009

It started on Thursday. A sore throat. Then a headache. Then an achy body. On Friday night, somehow inexplicably a party broke out at my apartment. I went to bed at 9pm but got next to no sleep, constantly waking up in coughing fits if the noise didn’t keep me awake.

On Saturday morning I woke up feeling, to be honest, like crap. I was supposed to run the race with my friends Richard (my race buddy from the 6k) and Andrew. Richard was ill, too; he was more sick than I was and so that morning he decided not to run the 9k. I almost said to hell with it, I’m sick too and in no condition to run a race, and sleep is just much more inviting.

Then I saw this message on the whiteboard outside my room, left by some of my friends who had been hanging out at my place with my sister/roommate the night before, and I decided to go ahead and run the darn thing:

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It was a tough race- particularly at the 6k mark- and the trail was incredibly muddy!

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Somehow, my pace was actually faster for the 9k than the 6k. That just has me over the moon! My goal was to run the 9k in under an hour. I had hopes to run it in under 55 minutes. Running it in under 50 minutes was my ideal, but not something I expected I’d really be able to achieve…

Time: 48: 25.

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Andrew and I after the 9k race

I’ve been paying for it, though. All day yesterday I was too sick to do much more than whine about it on Twitter and read novels (Richard, on the other hand, is apparently on the mend). I’m very happy, however, that I ran the race. I know that mentally it would have bothered me a lot if I hadn’t ran it. Physically, though, it wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had. I’ve been resting plenty to be kind to my body- health, after all, is about appeasing all parts of ourselves.

What do you do when you’re not feeling well? Exercise your way through it? Rest to recover faster? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Poll: The Difference of Five Pounds

August 3, 2009

Last month’s poll

Last month we discussed the different diets that we have all tried. We had 103 votes: 26% have tried low fat, 25% have tried low carb, 21% have tried vegetarian, 12% have tried vegan, 9% have tried raw food, 2% have tried paleo, and 5% have tried another kind of diet not listed. The range just goes to show that we have a huge amount of options to choose from!

This month’s poll

After remaining at exactly the same weight for about a year now, going up or down only about a pound on occasion, I have gained five pounds in the past two months. It’s not muscle, either: exercising considerably less (someone please kick my butt into strength training!) but still eating the same amount that I did while participating in boot camp naturally leads to weight gain.

Realistically, I know that five pounds is nothing. Five pounds extra is still healthy. Five pounds less would be vanity weight. It’s not changing my athletic abilities or hindering my lifestyle at all. And I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person who can actually see that I’ve gained five pounds.

But a few pounds really does make a difference. One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed is that the extra five pounds is actually keeping me warmer. It might be August, but it still feels as though it’s spring in my city. Even on the cooler days when it’s raining the way it was all last week, I haven’t felt nearly as miserably chilly as I normally would. I’ve actually been able to function in the cooler weather. For the past year whenever it’s been cold I have just curled up and been grumpy and unable to do anything except shiver and complain.

Maybe it isn’t really physical. Maybe five pounds doesn’t make that much of a difference physically, and my new-found tolerance to the cold is actually a state of mind. Personally I doubt that it’s purely mental but I’m sure that a big part of it is. Read any magazine and it will tell you how to drop five or ten pounds, but if you are already a healthy weight, what is five pounds going to do?

Reading Spring Girl’s post last week, this paragraph jumped out at me:

A few months back I’d played with a friend’s bio electrical impedance scale so I had an idea of where I was at then and where I should be now. I was horrified to discover that the fat percentage had remained the same. Instantly I felt huge, like I’d just gained back about 5kg as the number flashed up in front of me. As soon as I got home I had to try on my measuring pants. They still fit, but that doubt that I am fat didn’t.

I think that if the clothes still fit, we’re probably doing alright. If we’re exercising regularly and eating fairly healthy, then what do a few pounds mean? This is why it can be dangerous to use any kind of measuring device besides our clothes. We rely too much on the “science” and not about how we actually look and feel (measuring devices can also be faulty, muscle weighs more than fat, and our weight can fluctuate by five pounds in one day. What I’m talking about here, however, is if we set aside those potentially contributing factors).

On the other hand, losing five pounds can decrease your risk of diseases by 25-50% (presumably this is if you are overweight), which would lead to the conclusion that a few pounds does make a physical difference. What do you think? Does losing or gaining five pounds make a physical difference, a mental difference, or both? Answer the poll and elaborate in the comments!

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Award-winning chocolate chip cookies, learning how to use a typewriter, and ANOTHER race!

July 27, 2009

My weekend with my grandparents in their beautiful little beach town in Ontario was wonderful. The last few days, for me, have looked something like this:

– got lost while using a GPS. Well, we didn’t exactly get lost, but the GPS wanted us to take the scenic route to Port Elgin, gravel back roads and all. I liked the nice little adventure, but it was a good reminder that technology doesn’t always know best. Sometimes reading a map is your best bet.

– went for two runs (20 minutes and 45 minutes)* and a few long, much-needed after-dinner walks.

– ate 3 pieces of angel food cake, 14 (or was it 15? I lost count) chocolate chip cookies, 4 blueberry muffins, 7 biscuits spread with butter, and 2 (3?) blueberry/cherry tarts in addition to bowlfuls upon bowlfuls of fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. And steak. And roast chicken. And cold pork sandwiches. And mashed potatoes. And piles of raw vegetables. It was an eat-a-thon of the best sort. And my grandma’s chocolate chip cookies won an award 5o years ago! Obviously, we had to indulge in a few more cookies after hearing that news and seeing her first-place ribbon.

Devin eats a cookie:

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Sagan eats a cookie (surrounded by desserts. Yum):

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– finished reading The Angel’s Game. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is an excellent author and the book is brilliant (his writing is beautiful, and I’m not just saying that because he hails from Barcelona a.k.a. the city that holds my heart), but it’s a very disturbing story all the same.

– enjoyed a couple old movies, The Third Man (which has been a favourite of mine for a long time) and Monsignor Quixote (the book of which I’ve read but had never seen the film version. The movie made me just as teary-eyed as the book did. One of the best stories ever written. Graham Greene, you complete me).

– wandered and drove alongside the shore in between bouts of rain.

– engaged in many a political/philosophical/rhetorical conversation with my grandparents.

– assisted my grandma with cooking delicious food.

I loved the visit. My cookbook collection has expanded from the couple that my grandma has given me- her entire basement seems to be lined with cookbooks; it’s a foodie’s dream. A writer’s dream was also had: my grandpa pulled out his old typewriter and taught me how to use it.

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I adored typing on it. I will definitely be investing in one of those in the near future. Something like that would be so much fun for writing my novel!

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And we spent much of our holiday laughing together:

P7250925How was your weekend?

* The main reason for those runs was because one race this summer was apparently not enough! Almost immediately after we had finished the first race, my friend Richard (the one that I ran the 6k with) suggested we sign up for a 9k race that is scheduled for August 8th. For some reason I happily agreed to it. I’m excited! It will be very challenging, I’m sure. The 6k that I ran was actually closer to 6.5k because of the trail that we were on, and I think that my usual runs are close to 8k, so I should be able to run 9k without too much difficulty. But it definitely will not be easy! And that’s the point of a good challenge.

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Recap of an indulgent weekend

July 15, 2009

Guest Posting

I’m guest posting at Dr. Mommy Health Tips! Check it out to learn more about almost-vegetarianism (as opposed to flexitarianism). Speaking of guest posts, I’ll be going away next weekend to Ontario and later on in the summer I’ll be going away for another short trip, so if anyone is interested in writing a guest post here at Living Healthy in the Real World (or even for Living Rhetorically in the Real World!), do let me know. I’d love to have you!

Camping, great music, partying, socializing…

This past weekend I spent four days camping at Birds Hill Park with thousands of other people at Folk Fest. It was fantastic. The music was out of this world- between Elvis Costello, Neko Case, Josh Ritter, Hey Rosetta!, Iron and Wine, Mirah, Steven Page, Xavier Rudd, Serena Ryder, Martha Wainwright, and Patrick Watson among many many others, it would be pretty hard to beat. The performances were amazing.

Camping was a whole other experience in itself. Although I used to go camping every year, it’s been quite a while since I last went camping and I’ve never been out there with such an enormous group of people. It was so healthy for the soul to meet new people and run into old friends. A big bundle of fun!

While my mind was boosting it’s health with enormous strides, my body perhaps didn’t receive quite the same treatment. I tried to prepare beforehand, and I think that I definitely managed to lessen the damage by stocking up on healthier foods. I made a gigantic batch each of crackers, hummus, and energy bars. The people I was camping with- my sister and our friend- and I also brought along bread, nut butter, jam, plenty of fruits and veggies, chocolate covered raisins, chips, and Kraft Dinner. I got a can of Annie’s pasta in tomato and cheese sauce (I don’t recommend it. Far too salty; I didn’t even finish it) as well as Guiltless Gourmet blue corn tortilla chips (delicious!) in a weak attempt to maintain some good nutrition.

There was plenty of food available to buy at Folk Fest, too, including some food stalls catered by local/organic/vegan restaurants. I indulged in those vendors a couple times but also enjoyed plenty of kettle corn. Considering that I had Kraft Dinner one night and some fried tofu another, I was surprised that I felt fine all weekend except for Saturday night when my tummy was sore (although that might have been alcohol consumption rather than food). “Exercise” consisted of hauling beer, walking from the campground to the festival grounds multiple times a day, and dancing at the shows.

It was really good to get away from a mirror for a few days. It really does wonders for the body image when you don’t look in the mirror and see what you perceive to be flaws, but which no one else even notices or cares about. I also made the decision to leave my pedometer behind at home and to not track anything. Normally I track how much money I spend each day, how many steps/miles I walk each day, and what/how much I eat each day. But I took four days off from doing that. I walked and danced and ate and spent money when I wanted to and stopped when it became too much. It was indulgent, but I was also more intuitive about it than usual.

I’m back to wearing my pedometer and tracking everything again now that I’ve returned home. The main reason for that is because I honestly enjoy writing lists and keeping track of it all. But I enjoyed the experiment of not doing it, too. I enjoyed just completely letting loose and having fun and drinking as much sangria from a watermelon bowl as I felt inclined to. Taking a break from the norm, from the usual restrictions- yes, even to eat Kraft Dinner– put it all back into perspective for me. Focusing on improving our health is incredibly important. Knowing the reasons for why we’re doing it, and having fun with it, and making sure that it remains a part of our lifestyle rather than getting in the way of living, is equally as important!

Last chance to enter my giveaway!

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How does music affect your health?

July 6, 2009

Living Rhetorically in the Real World

Just so you all know, I now have a subscription feature at Living Rhetorically in the Real World– subscribe and you will get a notification when I update posts (twice weekly)!

Baking in the Blogosphere

My friend and temporary roommate Caroline has started up her own food blog, called Baking with Caroline! Check it out for some tasty recipes.

Music for Health

This coming weekend, from July 9th to 12th, I’m taking four days off to get out of the city and enjoy the infamous Folk Fest, so I will be away from the blogging world from Wednesday to Monday. I’ve got some posts already pre-written so be sure to check back throughout the week! Some exciting things are in store, including a product review and giveaway, and an interview with a yoga instructor. You definitely do not want to miss out on those 🙂  I’m even going to take a break from wearing my pedometer while I’m at the campsite. That’s a big deal for me! There is a great lineup of musicians set for this year and it’s sure to be an excellent time.

My iPod has been acting up lately and so I have been without it for a month because the cables that I require for fixing it mysteriously disappeared around the time that my sister/roommate left for Montreal. I’m not the kind of person who absolutely needs to have music, but I do enjoy it very much and I have been missing it. Apart from simply enjoying music, I also really like what music does for the soul. Usually considered a form of entertainment, music is not often thought about as a way to improve our health.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know there was such thing as the Canadian Association for Music Therapy until yesterday. Just as exercise can be used as a treatment for depression and other ailments, music has the potential to inspire people and help them to heal. It serves to calm us and can change our mood drastically depending on how much we like or dislike what we’re hearing.

I really feel that with such an extensive list of things that music can allegedly heal or help to treat, it demonstrates that our mental limitations are often the real stumbling block. Physically we are capable of truly amazing feats, but we do not realize our full potential because mentally we are not in the right place. Music therapy, it would appear, has some affect on this. I’m sure, in fact, that we can all confirm this notion just by thinking about our own experiences with listening to music. Sometimes music is the reason that we’re able to push through a tough session of exercise. Or we need it to be able to fall asleep at night. Or listening to music helps us to concentrate when we’re working on a paper. Or perhaps you use music to escape from a mind that is over-crowded with thoughts. Whatever the case, music certainly has a place for all of us.

Do you think that there’s something to this notion of music therapy? Had you heard of this before? What kind of impact has music had on your life?

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Success Policies

June 29, 2009

Last week I received a really touching email from a fellow blogger about how the notion of “just this once” (which we discussed when brainstorming about overeating) made a big difference in her life. I can’t express just how glad I am that it helped at least one person! I feel that there are so many more places that we can go with “just this once” as the starting point, and I’d like to open up the discussion now.

For that motivation to keep going, to make changes, to succeed in the journey to achieving our ambitions, I’ve found that there’s one other thing which has been just as useful to me as the “just this once” philosophy:

Roll with it: accept and move on

I talk about this one a lot, but I feel that it’s important to discuss within the context of struggles, particularly with health issues of overeating or slacking off on exercising and such, so bear with me!

We can’t control absolutely everything. Regardless of how many control issues we might have, life has a way of throwing obstacles at us in a way that sometimes feels as though it’s just to screw with our heads. But just because it appears as though we do not have a choice, or we do not have control of a situation, doesn’t mean that we have to give up or surrender instantly. Instead, accepting that something unexpected came up, and moving on past it, is what will ultimately bring that control back into our own hands.

Saturday, for example, was a rainy, miserable day. I would have liked to have gone for a run in the morning, but the weather made me want to roll over and go back to bed rather than tie up my shoes and freeze in the cold rain. So instead, I flipped on the 30 Day Shred and had a quick twenty minute workout without needing to leave the comfort of my warm and dry home. Exercise dilemma solved. I tend to shy away from the workout dvd’s in the summer months, and hadn’t done the 30 Day Shred (or, admittedly, much strength training at all) in a very long time, so changing my routine was very helpful. I changed up my usual routine by popping in the dvd, telling myself that “just this once” I would do the dvd instead of lounging about.

If “just this once” falls through, and you don’t quite manage it, do not despair! What’s done is done, and it won’t help any to worry about it. Looking back regretfully is a waste of time that could be far better spent looking forward, hatching ideas and putting them into action.

So for me, the “just this once” policy is closely related to my “roll with it” policy. The combination of these two can get you past your struggles and set you up for success. It’s inevitable that things aren’t always going to go exactly the way we plan and hope for- but that’s part of the fun, right? You never know what’s going to happen, and every obstacle in our path is a new opportunity to be creative in figuring out the best way to get to where we want to be, or to discover that there is somewhere else we’d rather be than where we originally thought.

Just this once. Change your routine. Roll with it. What policies do you try to abide by? Which ones help you through it all? What has helped you out in improving the way you deal with life? And is there something that just plain does not work for you? Share in the comments!