Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Moving towards more plant-based eating

As I sit at my computer munching an organic carrot, I realized that it has been a month since my last post.  It is also the penultimate day of 2015.  Do I have any resolutions for 2016?  I prefer to use the word "goals", as resolutions seem limiting and almost trite.

Part of setting new goals is looking back to see how far one has come, and to observe changes over a period of time.  2015 has seen a definite shift towards more plant-based eating.  For example:

*  I no longer buy or prepare red meat.  Previously I enjoyed steaks, recipes with hamburger, and regularly cooking according to my mother's amazing meatloaf recipe.
*  I no longer drink cow's milk by the glass or use it on cereal.  I have switched to almond milk.
*  I eat a lot less poultry and whole eggs (egg whites are my thing now).
*  I've switched my choice of frozen entrees (last day meals) from beef stew, Parmesan chicken, etc. to Amy's Kitchen choices like quinoa and black beans, tofu spinach lasagna and lentil pilaf.
*  3/4 of my plate is plant-based foods, but I still love my broiled fish :-)
*  Mixing my morning oatmeal with nuts and vegan protein powder is my regular first daily meal.

In case you're interested in dispelling some stereotypes about vegetarian diets, check out the following:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Minds are like parachutes: they work best when open

In conducting my nutritional research and delving into the course material for my upcoming certification exam (March 2016), I endeavour to keep an open mind.  I look for scientific publications backed by credible studies with medical evidence.

One very interesting and thought-provoking documentary I came across recently is called "Forks Over Knives".  It provides persuasive and compelling research and examples of real-life people who struggle with serious health issues and who changed their diet to one that is primarily plant-based, whole food and low fat.  This film also outlines traditional Western beliefs around food sources and what constitutes a "healthy" diet.  I agree with much of what is presented.  Check out the trailer here:

In my opinion, the exponential increase of lifestyle related diseased such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and due to an abundance of calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods that taste good (and therefore cause people to choose these foods), a much more sedentary lifestyle especially among younger generations, and a decline in morality values which emphasize self-respect (e.g.. body as a temple: Corinthians 1, chapter 6, verses 18-20), wholesome socializing and supportive communities, humility, gratitude, spirituality and prioritizing of holistic wellness.

However, I believe that high quality animal protein does have a modest place in the human diet.  Our physiology and digestive systems were designed to handle an omnivorous diet, and so the presence of cooked lean organic poultry, wild unpolluted fish and seafood, and the occasional small piece of tenderloin all can be accommodated within a healthy diet.  However, meat EVERY day, garbage meats (luncheon meat and sausages for example, or fast food burgers), fried eggs, battered fish sticks, fried chicken fingers, etc. - THESE do not belong on a healthy eating program.  If one was to fill every meal with a large amount of fresh produce, some protein-rich high fibre grains, nuts and legumes, and then add a small piece of animal protein...then those meals would be promote incredible nourishment and abundant health.

"Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food". - Hippocrates

Friday, October 2, 2015

Continuing Education to Expand my Horizons

I sheepishly admit that it has been well over a month since my last post.  Tsk, tsk.  I should post every couple of weeks;  more frequently if I have some newsworthy or interesting information to share.

I decided a few days ago to take the plunge and splurge for the deluxe version of the online certification program put out by ACE - the only NCCA accredited program of study for this credential.  It is a six month course with a final exam at the end, written and practical components required to pass and obtain professional standing in this field:

I already have this one:

I was the second person in Canada to acquire the MES certification....actually, I was awarded this accreditation at the same time as a gentleman from Quebec, so I suppose we were both the "first".  No one else in Canada obtained this qualification for a long time.  It was a hard program and exam and we nailed it the first time it was available in Canada, in 1998. (Or was it 1999?  It was a long time ago).

So I will be going back to school, setting time aside every week to work methodically through the material.  I have the e book version as well so I ca learn on the go with my iPad.

Let's add another certification to the mix:  in January 2016 I will be doing a one week intensive yoga teacher training to acquire my Yin Yoga Teacher qualification.  Basically a one week retreat where I will be immersed in learning and practising this style of yoga, and then be able to teach it.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Moving into the realm of cyber training

It's been over a month since I've posted, so I figured a small "Here I am!" after the prosaic drought would be appropriate.  I had a week off mid July being unplugged (stay-cation) which was wonderful but also illuminating, as it emphasized my unrequited need for more downtime.

During this time partially off the grid I came to some conclusions and decided to shift professional direction to a degree.  One shift will be the investment of more attention into online personal training - for busy professionals who can't make it in to see me face to face on a frequent basis due to travel or schedule issues.  This is also a very affordable option for people wanting the guidance of a trainer without forking over several hundreds of dollars a month for the service:  $100/month is the starter package price.  Of course online training online works if the client is willing and motivated to do the work and follow my instructions and the assigned programs!  Some package option available will include nutritional counselling and life coaching, as well as Skype or FaceTime access.

I am launching another business endeavour as well, a subsidiary to Smith Training Systems (under the same company umbrella), so my current brain teaser is figuring out how to launch and promote it.  Word of mouth is an incredibly powerful tool for spreading a good (or bad) reputation.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Toys R Us!

Gotta get myself one of these.....great promotional video!

This will go in my Sun Studio - where I can flow through my daily rituals of Surya Namaskar and any of the other parts of the Ashtanga series as a wonderful way to greet the day.

Click here to be inspired

Can't wait until my week off for my yoga I have a special occasion to belatedly make up since I blew off the original date in favour of work.  Yeah, I'm one of those sad cases who would miss their own graduation/wedding/50th B-day party - whatever - due to accepting freelance contract work for the "day of".

Thursday, June 11, 2015

New professional direction

To better leverage my time and reach remote clients I have decided to expand my service offerings for online personal training.  I met with an industry veteran/mentor yesterday and joined a fitness professionals' website that gives trainers access to a huge exercise library and the option to create client accounts.  As I familiarize myself with this technology and build an extra page into my website describing these services, I will be able to take on clients who would not otherwise be able to work with me face to face.  This is an excellent option for people who have a pre-existing level of fitness and familiarity with correct technique, who are highly motivated, who want to be pushed and evolve their current health and fitness level, and who aren't able to see me onsite at my current location(s) at the times I am there.  It is also less expensive than traditional personal training, even with a Deluxe Plan.  (No Frills, Standard, Deluxe are the levels of involvement, with add-on options such as nutritional coaching, life coaching, additional contact, etc.).

I have also decided to take a week off next month - unplugged - from my training job and corporate job.  A week without phone or computer (texting, calls, emails) is potentially scary, but will allow me to focus on meeting my own needs and to dive more deeply (albeit briefly) into my yoga practice.  When a person's life is based around wellness:  physical training, rest, hydration, yoga, meditation, organic whole foods cooking and eating, exploring new Primal Diet recipes, re-absorbing The Secret, brain exercises, laughter, positive self-regard and can a person be anything but abundantly healthy?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Try this to find out if you are getting all your daily nutritional requirements

Several food logging and diet apps will give you the macro and micro nutrient breakdown of your daily intake if you accurately log everything you eat, thanks to an extensive database of food items.  For example, if you log "1 medium sized banana" it will tell you how many calories, grams of protein/fat/carbs, fibre, cholesterol, and the spectrum of vitamins and minerals for the banana...along with your % of RDA.  Thus you can track your levels of all the essential nutrients to see what your regular eating patterns are like for real nutritional value, how they stack up.   I recommend trying this for 3 or 4 days minimum, preferably one week.  Do it when you are eating "normally" - not during festive season with dinner parties and cocktail buffets or when you are on vacation in a foreign country eating foods you are not accustomed to.

For my part, I have to work the hardest at getting enough potassium (I aim for 200% RDA of everything, except for vitamins C and K where I'd prefer 400-600%) and vitamin E.  The B vitamins are easy to overshoot as is - unfortunately - sodium.  I usually get 300% RDA for sodium, but then again my RDA defaults to 1500mg per day and I eat a lot of seafood.  I aim for 50g fibre per day and as little sugar as possible.  If I consume dried fruit or carrot sticks for a snack that boosts the sugar intake.  At least I don't consume processed foods that hide a lot of sugar - for example regular bread, sauces, instant meals and soft drinks.

If you find that your results are not balanced then add or subtract foods which will bring you into better balance.  Final option - especially when you are travelling or during party season - is to take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement.  I can make some recommendations there if you are curious :-)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Food for travel

I do my best to ensure smooth, stress-free traveling.  This includes planning, packing, flying, appointments, accommodations and FOOD.  No matter how disciplined one is, however, eating the regular primal diet while traveling is pretty darn tough.
Scenarios to contend with:
* Grocery and "Fine Foods" stores which have few or no fresh vegetables (seriously???), where you are lucky to find a bag of (non organic) carrots.
*  Restaurants where you order vegetables and they serve a pea-sized amount of food or just a bunch of potatoes and onions (their definition of mixed vegetables) drowning in oil.
*  Restaurants that blank out when you request steamed/no sauce or oil and serve you fatty, slimy stuff anyway.
*  Being stuck with canned stuff ( bonus points if you packed a can opener) because your hotel room fridge isn't working properly.

That being said I have loaded up with supplements and extra vitamins.  Should one take vitamins to get all the daily needed micronutrients?  My advice is to get as much of your daily nutritional requirements as possible from food.  When a balanced diet is not available or when the body is under extra stress (eg. during travel) then I recommend extra vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and hydration.  Nuts, low sodium V8 juice, almond-oat kashi bars, protein powder, canned fish, bagged baby carrots and single serving sizes of plain yogurt have been a big part of my travel diet.  Three times I went out for Chinese dinner and ordered lots of vegetables and tofu, with enough food to take away in a doggie bag and stash in my hotel fridge (we got it working again) for breakfast the next day.

It's eye-opening to see the kind of food offered in restaurants and sold in grocery stores, obviously there to appeal to the masses.  Wow, can people really enjoy eating so much fat, salt and sugar?

The sad answer is yes - that is why such food is available in abundance.  Business owners stock what people want to buy.

Peace out.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Have nutrition app, will travel

Eating clean regular meals while traveling (especially when air travel and hotels are involved) can be challenging!

I'm bringing my protein tracker app to help me stay on top of my macro and micro nutrient intake.  I've become really good at estimating portion size (BTW most people underestimate their portions by 25-40%!).

Sometimes it comes down to making the best choice of an uninspiring collection.  I'm sure that Air Canada's Executive service will at least have SOMETHING edible.  Ditto for airports.  I'm willing to sacrifice variety for cleanliness of food (not processed, fried, etc.), so if I end up subsisting on protein shakes and simple mini-fridge snacks (plain yogurt, carrot sticks, canned fish, unadulterated nuts, low sodium V8 juice, bag salads, nuke-able frozen veggies) that's OK.

Nothing beats home cooked grilled vegetables and salmon though, or a huge veggie tofu stir fry with a few herbs and spices.  Or a Whole Foods plain roasted chicken with a crisp, crunchy organic salad!

How do people live on processed food and fast food?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The good ol' days

I've been interested in nutrition for decades, ever since as a young schoolgirl my mother repeatedly stressed the importance of "Three square meals a day", "Brush your teeth after you eat" and "You are what you eat".  The whole dinner table scenario of a plate featuring some kind of protein (roast beef, chicken, maybe fish or lamb on occasion) with a scoop of either potatoes, rice or pasta, and two different kinds of vegetables (carrots and peas along with broccoli or asparagus for example), and a glass of milk to drink may seem a bit quaint nowadays.  Back in the 70's it was considered really healthy eating.  I went to school every day fuelled with porridge and eggs, and lunched on a sandwich with some kind of meat inside along with a thermos of soup and some fresh produce as a snack.  I was happy to trot along with my Scooby Doo lunchbox, pleased that I had helped my mother prepare my lunch.  In high school I studied Home Economics and learned everything from how to properly iron trousers, to preheating an oven prior to baking, to creating a grocery list, to table setting and different kinds of stitch patterns on a sewing machine.  To this day I love making one of the recipes I chose as my Grade 8 "Cook lunch for the class" projects:  lasagna.  Now I modify by using organic ingredients and gluten free noodles, and low fat mozzarella on top :-)

I never worried about calories or fat content until it was suggested that I should watch my weight.  I was always an athletic kid, on the slim side with good muscle tone.  There was only one "fat kid" in the class at the time.  I never gave any thought to weighing myself often or changing my diet until external pressure urged me to do so.

Fast forward to present day.   What percentage of kids are overweight?  What do they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner?  I bet the picture is very different than it was in my elementary school days.

If parental examples, peer pressure and media influence are such huge factors in determining what young people eat, then why isn't everyone on board with promoting a genuinely healthy approach to nutrition?

OK, that's a whole other discussion.  But hey - think about it - the toll of an obesity epidemic in an era where parents will outlive their children is something that CAN be reversed.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Keep track of your food!

There are hundreds of food logging and diet apps out there, so I thought I'd briefly share one of my faves with you.  I use it daily and have been doing so for about a year and a half.  It's become a habit: eat a meal or snack, log it in full, get the nutrient breakdown.  I like the pie chart representation of macronutrients (fats, carbs and protein) plus the micronutrients and percentage of my daily requirements.  I can adjust my food intake according to what I want as I go along - for example, if my goal is 200g protein per day and I see that by lunchtime I have only consumed 75g protein, I make sure the rest of the day is loaded with fish, eggs,  low fat cottage cheese, tofu and a protein shake!

It takes a bit of setup (list your favourites and create custom food items from labels of comestibles NOT found in their database) but once you're good to go it's as easy as a few clicks of the mouse to stay fully informed.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tweaking the macronutrient ratios

Do you remember when fat was bad?  Then it was all about having a high carb diet (heaven forbid that any fat enter into the picture though) comprised mostly of fruits and vegetables.  Then all of a sudden carbs were BAD and Dr. Atkins was in the spotlight, promoting a protein and fat based diet.  Then the 40-30-30 Zone diet was all the rage.  Percentages of macronutrients (fats, carbs and proteins) change and then come back into fashion.  I'm operating on a 35% fat, 35% protein, 30% carb diet most days.  That seems like a lot of fat, right?  But take a look at me - am I fat?  Not in the least.  That's because the fats and oils in the large quantities of nuts, seeds, hardboiled eggs, fatty fish and olive oil I consume are not sticking to my ribs so to speak.  If I wanted to get fat I would be sedentary and eat high glycemic carbs and foods containing added sugar (pretty much every packaged food on the grocery store shelf).

Humans are designed to be omnivorous and to consume foods containing fat.  Our digestive tracts are not equipped to handle artificial comestibles, refined sugar and all those additives with unpronounceable names.  No wonder there are so many sick and overweight people in this day and age....ironically there are more "diets" than ever available to be followed (each guaranteeing rapid weight loss) and our medical knowledge and technology is growing exponentially.  And yet now we live in a society where parents are outliving their children....due to lifestyle disease.  When I was in elementary school there was perhaps one obese kid in the class and like only eight year olds can be, the rest of us were cruel and called him/her "Fattie" or "Miss Piggy".  Fast forward 40 years and go to an elementary school now and thin/athletic kids are the exception rather than the rule.

In a nutshell, here are my suggestions for becoming healthier:
*  Eat better quality food and REAL food.  No sugar.
*  Drink a lot of water.  No soft drinks.
*  Sleep 7-8 (or more) hours per night to renew the brain and metabolism, and get rid of stress hormones which make you fat (cortisol and insulin response).
*  Be physically active every day for an hour, to the point of sweating and getting the heart rate up to 70-75% max.
*  Stretch and play with balance....use it or lose it.
*  Surrounds yourself with healthy and inspiring people, and have fun.  Laugh a lot.  Do volunteer work and practise gratitude meditation every day.

There you have it.  I'll toast you with one of my green smoothies!  :-)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Excellent documentaries

I recently watched three food-ucational documentaries:  Fed Up (reveals the alarming omnipresence of sugar in the North American diet and how type 2 diabetes and obesity are the rule rather than the exception amongst more and more teenagers), Food Matters (advocates a CLEAN organic diet rather than processed food and drugs to deal with a sick body), and finally Hungry for Change (it was my favourite of the three).

Based on these documentaries I was encouraged to buy a small blender.  Previously I only owned a juicer, but being able to make an instant smoothie snack that keeps the fibre and gives you the whole vegetable rather than just the juice makes a lot of sense to me.  I've experimented with different smoothies and my current go-to green concoction of choice blends spinach, celery, parsley, kale and spirulina.  Churned up with a cup of unsweetened almond milk it has the consistency and hue of a sci-fi magic brew.  It looks like chunky, foamy absinthe from another time and place.  Talk about a nutrient powerhouse though!  :-)

I'm working on rehabbing a shoulder injury using the common sense approach to exercises:  "If it hurts, don't do it".  This has limited my arm balances in yoga and temporarily scratched pushups, bench press, pec flies, straight arm lateral raises above 70 degrees abduction and a few others off my list.  I'm also taking a break from my ergogenic aids until I see an improvement in my shoulder - seems pointless to waste these types of supplements when I'm not doing the kind of training that would maximize their effects.

And finally, my latest wish list "toy":

Since my condo doesn't have a community compost bin or participate in such a program I figured it would be cool to make my own rich, dark, organic compost (better than throwing all my vegetable scraps in a landfill) and regularly gift it to acquaintances who have a garden, as I don't even have a balcony.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review of the Zodiac Element Diet

One week into 2015 and I wrapped up my 12 day "non fasting detox" diet this past Sunday.  It was a revelatory experience following this diet for almost a fortnight.  I found it harder to keep my protein consumption over 200g/day (but I did it) because protein supplements were not part of the diet, and I was getting about 50g protein per day from powders and shakes.  This meant I had to eat more REAL food.  My diet was very clean - no processed foods such as my beloved Lean Cuisine entrees.

Going on a diet implies that at some point one will go off the diet.  The trial run period is over but I am keeping some of the practices, such as reducing the amount of artificial food, buying more organic stuff, and appreciating my food more.  The whole "buy ugly produce" idea appeals to me too :-)

I would recommend this diet to anyone who wants to clean out their system for 12 days without fasting or following severe calorie restriction.  The saving grace is the fact that it has to be a balanced diet and nutritionist-approved.  The diet scores points for variety, simplicity, quality of food and the fact that it respects peoples' preferences.  I found that my gastrointestinal health improved in that I got rid of the bloating, heartburn, intestinal cramps and gas that I had been experiencing from time to time before embarking on this diet.

The quality of your health is fully correlated to the quality of the food you eat.

If you are interested in learning more about this diet or giving it a try, send me a message and we can work something out for you.  It's only 12 days so if you decide it isn't for you, at least you're not stuck with it for a month or more.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, same you?

"Wherever you go, there you are" - Jon Kabat-Zin.

Think for a moment of three goals you have for 2015:  one small, one medium, and one really grandiose.

They don't have to be fitness or nutrition goals, simply ones that INSPIRE and MOTIVATE you.

We are the product of our thoughts.  Cool!  Delve into some CBT techniques reading and watch "The Secret" and you will be pleasantly surprised how powerful the tools to shape your life actually are.

Two tidbits for the time being:

Consider buying "unattractive" produce at the grocery store.  30-50% of food grown for human consumption gets wasted in the multistep process from planting to eating:  growing, harvesting, transportation, storage, purchase, storage in consumer's fridge or pantry.  People buy only the best looking apples, bananas, cucumbers, carrots, etc.  How about ones that are a little lumpy or asymmetrical?  If you are going to use a potato within a day or two, it's fine to get one that looks a little old.  Otherwise these less than gorgeous produce items will likely end up as waste.  Plants have a lot of good energy in them - not just calories and nutrients but also universal vibrational energy.

If you view exercise as something fun, you will be less likely to reward yourself with food treats later.  If physical activity is seen as an unpleasant chore, then it is far more likely you will want to compensate for the experience by having that creamy chocolate sundae, or extra slice of pizza, or creme brûlée....afterwards.  How about viewing the activity as fun and its own reward?

Thanks to IFJ October 2014 issue for these two ideas!

BTW, my Zodiac Element diet is nearing completion.  I haven't gained any weight despite eating a lot, in fact when I weighed myself yesterday at the gym I was a few pounds below my normal.  This could either be to the better quality food that this diet has afforded me - meaning my body enjoys and uses the good nutrients and calories rather than storing it as "junk" (fat) while it decides what to do with it.  It could also be due to the fact that overall I have dropped a bit of weight from workload stress and rigorous intake quantity regulation AND not having the time and energy I would ideally like to train hard and maintain muscle mass.  I'm certainly not fat or overweight, but I wouldn't mind feeling more robust and having more energy,  as being tired sucks!  That being said, if I want to change this or anything about my life, it is entirely up to me to do so.  Complaining doesn't help!  Back to The Secret :-)