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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Loving yourself through the journey


The title of this blog is pretty self-explanatory – you gotta love yourself no matter where you find yourself in life. It sounds so cliché, but absolutely true. I think this is probably one of the key “truths” I have learned in my short life… particularly when it comes to how I view my body.
I have been a lot of shapes and sizes – having had a couple of children guarantees that experience. After having the last (absolutely beautiful) baby, I had about 40 pounds to lose to get to where I am today. As of today, I still have about 10 pounds to lose (in the next 6 weeks - eek) before I cross the stage for the Toronto Super Show. Here is the key though – I am perfectly happy with how I am today. I look in the mirror right now and I like what I see… even without the 6-pack. Yes, of course I will enjoy seeing those abs come in, but I don’t need them to define me.
You will still be you when you reach your goals. If you don’t find a way to be happy now, you will be very disappointed when you finally reach your goals. More muscle, or less fat cannot make you happy. You will have developed some character in pursuing your goals, but there is no magic bullet to make everything in your life perfect. I think the first step in that process is learning to be grateful for today, for where you are now, and the gifts you have been given in life. For instance, I am truly grateful for a body that can run, jump and do a solid 25 military push-ups (there was a time when I could do maybe two). Being grateful for what my body can do now allows me to celebrate who I am today. Being grateful right now also removes the anxiety surrounding “weight loss” or “muscle gain” so I can enjoy the process.
Be grateful. Enjoy the journey. Love yourself today.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Stress and Chocolate


Some days are hard. Some weeks are hard. Some months are hard. And yes, some years are hard. I will admit that during my rough patches – like the last few weeks of my life – my gut reaction is to use food as my drug of choice. However, the problem with that is the fact that it really is a drug of choice, not just a funny phrase. Because, food is not something that is intrinsically bad for us, like tobacco or alcohol, it can be easy to justify its use in dealing with our emotions. However, over-feeding yourself, particularly on sugar or other calorie dense foods should never be justified. It is unhealthy and it only masks the stress, frequently exacerbating it, rather than actually soothing or helping the problem.
For instance, I recently spent close to $30 on chocolate and consumed it in a three day period – and it was half-priced Easter chocolate so you can imagine the large quantity. That is completely insane!!! Not only is that a terrible way to treat my body, but I also feel like I have completely betrayed myself and everything I believe in (can you see my stress is exacerbated?!).
Now it is decision time – what do I do with this? Do I throw in the towel and think “oh well, I guess I am just meant to be mediocre and a failure at this” or do I find a way to deal with my failures and get back up? My decision? ABSOLUTELY GET UP! I will be out of bed tomorrow morning at 4:30 am ready for my cardio. I will be packing a healthy lunch (plus snacks of course) AND I will be leaving my cash and cards at home so I cannot cave to the half-priced Easter chocolate lingering downstairs.
No one is perfect and in those moments where life is particularly difficult, whether it is financial, family or job related stress, it is completely normal for your good habits to fall apart a little. However, don’t let the stresses of life completely derail you from all of the great goals and aspirations you have. Find a way to get up… even if it is in the literal sense of getting up a little earlier tomorrow to fit those good habits back into your life.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Fats


There are so many conflicting pieces of information when it comes to fat – what is good for you, what is bad for you – and it changes seemingly daily. Based on my own research and, of course, what tastes good I thought I would weigh in on the conversation with my favorite oil. (*insert note here that I am not a doctor or registered dietician so do your own research too*)
One method of classification for fats looks at the length of the carbon chain (the geometry is also in important) – remember like high school chemistry? There are short-chain, medium-chain, long-chain, and very long chain fatty acids (no joke, very long chain fatty acids are actually a thing). Sometimes you will see a triglyceride thrown in there so it might read ‘short-chain triglyceride’. You can Google all these terms, because in order not to bore you I am going to chat about the medium chain fatty acid. 
In particular, I want to chat about coconut oil. Coconut oil is interesting because unlike many of the other fats/oils/butters we eat it is predominately a medium-chain fatty acid (MCT). According to our friends in the world of science, MCTs are easily absorbed by the body because of their small molecule size (a good thing from a nutritional point of view) and because of the way they are absorbed your body is provided with a good source of energy. There is some research to show that MCTs are good for boosting metabolism (controlling weight) as well as providing better sustained energy through the day. The other major point is that they stand up well to heat. Coconut oil, for instance, does not turn into a trans fat when you cook with it at high heat, like many other oils do. This is important because trans fat = bad.
Ok, so that was the quickest science lesson of your life… and not very thorough so if you are interested do some more research. If you couldn’t care less about the science but like the idea of a good fat, just integrate coconut oil into your life. It truly is delicious and nutritious. You can get a great cold-pressed organic coconut oil from Bulk Barn.
And since you have read this far, be rewarded with a tasty cookie recipe, modified from a Meal Makeover Moms recipe (check them out) using coconut oil.
Berry Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup coconut oil (softened)
3/4 cup palm sugar (ok you can use another sugar if you don’t stock palm sugar in your house)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat or coconut flour
1½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup frozen mixed berries (yes you can use fresh)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
2. Mix all the wet ingredients, add the dry ingredients, and mix in the berries at the end.
3. Drop large spoonfuls of the batter onto an un-greased baking sheet (I line with parchment paper) and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until set around edges but still soft in the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool (I never transfer to a wire rack because I don't own one but I thought you should have the option).


Saturday, 17 March 2012

Sometimes portable meat just doesn’t cut it


Sometimes, when I can’t eat any more meat a nut-loaf can be just the ticket. This recipe is super delicious… and as with most of my food, it is portable. If it can’t go in a cooler to work, I don’t want it. I also operate on a ‘cook on Sunday and never again until at least Wednesday’ principle. This is one of 3 recipes I am cooking up this weekend to stock the fridge with healthy dinners (the other two involve a seafood chili and grilled chicken with a fruity salsa).
Anyway, I hope you give this a try and that you enjoy it as much as I do. Now onwards, and forwards to the beautiful weekend.
Vegetarian Nut Loaf
½ tbsp coconut oil
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 cups chopped mushrooms
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp ground caraway seeds
1/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (not packed in oil, the dry kind)
¼ cup vegetable broth (in honesty I use beef broth because I am not actually a vegetarian)
3 eggs
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts
½ raw unsalted sunflower seeds
½ cup strained diced tomatoes

1.     Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 350 degrees
2.     In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat, add the celery, onion, mushrooms, sundried tomato, thyme, caraway and broth. Saute/cook until no liquid (or very very little) remains.
3.     In a bowl beat together eggs, bread crumbs and baking powder; fold in mushroom mixture, walnuts and sunflower seeds. Spread in parchment paper lined load pan. Pour strained tomatoes over top.
4.     Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until slightly puffed and firm.
* Makes 4 to 5 servings (i.e. if you eat this with salad I would say 4 servings, but if you are eating it with sweet potato fries and asparagus then probably 5 servings) 
* Don’t stress if you don’t have thyme or caraway seeds, just throw in some Italian seasoning or whatever you have on hand.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Portable Meat and Ice Cream – What I need in my Life


Well I never thought I would see the day where there would be a serious need to have portable meat I could eat without heating. Now I know there are lunch meats and strange dried meats you can buy at gas stations, but I am talking about real food, not faux food with ingredients as long as the alphabet. Anyway, I decided I would share my favorite portable meat with you, in the form of Chelle’s Chicken Mini Loaves (you can go to her blog recipeforfitness.com from my links). I have adjusted her original recipe, but if follows essentially the same idea. Obviously these are a favorite because they taste good both hot and cold but I really love that I can make them in a toaster oven. Four little loaves fit perfectly on that little pan (lined with parchment paper – I am in love with parchment paper for anything that gets baked).
Ingredients:
1 pounds lean ground turkey
½ cup chopped mushrooms
½ medium sized zucchini grated
½ small onion finely chopped
1 egg
Random seasoning – whatever is in arms reach (my favorite is a little Mrs. Dash and some Italien seasoning)
Frank’s Red Hot (if the children will not be eating any)

Instructions:
1)   Mix everything togther – preferably with your hands
2)   Form into four mini-loaves
3)   Cook at 375 until done (about 25 minutes)
Now ice cream, who doesn’t love ice cream? Of course, I can’t exactly have real ice cream but the next best thing can be found in a combination of Greek Yogurt and Chocolate Protein Powder (or vanilla). If you haven't learned this about me, I kind of hoard Greek Yogurt and use if for everything from dessert to making chicken salad. It is like my culinary life was made complete when I was introduced to the stuff. I am dreading the day I have to say good bye to it for a few weeks in advance of the June 2nd show.
Ingredients:
¾ - 1 Cup Greek Yogurt (I like President’s Choice)
1 Scoop Protein Powder of Choice (I like a natural chocolate sweetened with stevia)

Instructions:
1)   Mix together
2)   Put in the freezer until ice cream like in texture (maybe an hour
Oh happy day, happy day, there is ice cream!!!

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Here we go again...


It is about 13 weeks until the OPA Provincials at the Toronto Super Show. I have stocked my fridge with produce and meat (I always have enough oats and quinoa to feed a small army). Going back to work has put a bit of a strain on my eating habits – namely 2 pm and Peanut M&Ms have put a strain on my eating – so I am actually pretty excited to get going on a stricter meal plan. Although, I have been packing healthy (clean) food everyday, my self-discipline as it pertains to those dag M&Ms has been lacking. To fix the M&M problem I am no longer bringing money, bank cards, or credit cards into the office tower. I will have to eat what I have planned or nothing at all. I assume at some point I will let myself have my cards back but while I am de-toxing from sugar-garbage I may need the extra barrier.
The moment of truth, what does my starting point look like? In terms of measurements (in inches) – waist: 27.5 – hips: 37 – thighs: 22. In terms of body fat, according to a combination of my magic scales and some calipers I am at around 17.5% and my weight… 148. This is the part where I would like to recommend everyone look into the concept of body fat because although I believe in weighing oneself I believe in using multiple calculations. For instance, if I were just to look at my weight I might feel ‘fat’ but when you look at my body fat it becomes pretty apparent that there is a lot of muscle in there. Check out this great article for a quick guide to body fat with pictures: http://www.leighpeele.com/body-fat-pictures-and-percentages.
And where am I going? Including water weight lost, hopefully down to about 130 pounds, 13% body fat, and measurements of waist: 25 - hips: 35 - thighs: 20.5. This would be approximately where I was in November for the last show so it seems like an appropriate ballpark goal. Again, I need to be clear that in now way, shape or form do I believe it is appropriate for me to live at a state of 13% body fat. I do not believe that would be healthy and at that weight I would be miserable with no energy.
So the really big question – why am I doing this? Good question. In part, it is because I have just always wanted to do compete. However, that is not really a reason. The real reason is that I find having a goal and a focus outside of work, and family provides me with balance and determination. Working on self-discipline in one area truly helps me with other areas – in the past few days I have already seen better results at work in my focus and in my patience with my children.  I go to bed more satisfied at night and that is a huge benefit for my life.
Well, wish me luck and I will be keeping you all updated with my stats as we move along… and maybe I will get brave enough to throw up a photo or two (but it is unlikely because I don’t even wear a bikini to the beach on vacation – yes there is a lot of irony there).

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Calories – Why I find them useful once in a while


I generally don’t count calories, but once in a while I find them helpful as a marker.
Before going any further, I want us all on the same page so let’s start with a quick definition of a calorie. By definition a calorie is the energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. In short, a calorie is energy. It is a way to measure the energy that fuels our bodies.  What a calorie will not tell you is whether or not that calorie came from a nutrient-dense food or if it came from some pretend food like deep fried butter balls. This is the basic reason why I would never encourage anyone to only look at calories.
But calories have a place as one indicator in our tool kit for fueling our bodies. In particular relation to weight loss or gain, it takes an excess of 3500 calories above your needs to gain one pound. Likewise you have to reduce your calorie intake by 3500 calories to lose one pound. But how many calories do you need to begin with?
Even if you stayed in bed all day you would burn a certain amount of calories. This is your Basic Metabolic Rate, or BMR. Once you know your BMR you can use the Harris Benedict Equation to find the approximate value of  how many calories you need based on your level of activity. To find your BMR with the Harris Benedict Equation, you could use this online calculator : http://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-and-daily-calorie-calculator.html
Using that particular calculator my daily calorie requirements are around the 2300 calorie range. I find it helpful to check in once in a while to make sure I am eating that appropriate amount. I frequently use this website to look up caloric values: http://caloriecount.about.com/. When it comes to weight loss I have found that once I go below 1900 calories/day for a few days I will likely find myself on a binge. For whatever reason my body is not a happy camper below that point. Therefore when I need to lose a few pounds (i.e. if I have spent a few weeks overindulging over the holidays) I know I can easily do it by cutting about 400 calories per day. That means it takes me a little more than a week to lose a pound, which might not sound exciting, but it is the point at which my body is happy to work with me.  If I go below 1900 calories that is the hard way to lose weight. I am miserable and I will self-sabotage by eating 6 ice cream bars after the children are in bed or eating a half jar of peanut butter with a spoon. I would encourage you to find out what range you should be eating in and check in once in a while to see how you are doing. It is just one way to gauge things and I personally find it helpful.
One caveat, calories listed in food (anywhere) are not an exact science. They are an approximation, because food items can vary. That said, it is still helpful to figure out how much you are eating as compared to how much you should be eating. Finally, remember you should be getting these calories from lean protein, fresh or frozen veggies/fruit and whole grains not from processed or fast food sources.