Delicious Comfort Dishes for Fall – But Hold the Cream Please!!

Fall has arrived!  It’s starting to cool down outside.  Aside from wrapping a scarf around my neck and pulling out my fall jacket, I find myself wanting some heavier but delicious comfort foods. A fresh green summer salad just doesn’t have the same appeal on a crisp cool day.  But it’s not grease that I’m wanting, not lots of fat, just hearty meals that won’t inhibit my runs or dial me too far back in my healthfulness.  Try these delicious recipes below!

I have to thank one of the K5 girls, my cousin Suja Maheswaran for this idea.  One thanksgiving she had prepared a delicious spaghetti squash baked dish.  Today I was craving it and found ingredients in my cupboard to mimic it but make it a little more healthier.

Spaghetti Squash and Mushroom Bake Casserole

I spaghetti squash

1 tbsp. of olive oil

1/2 onion diced

Container of fresh mushrooms

3 garlic cloves minced

One can of mushroom soup

1c of milk

Shredded cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tbsp of melted butter

1.  To prepare the spaghetti squash, cut it in half and gut the seeds with a spoon (like a pumpkin).  Place them on a baking pan with this cut side up.  Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on both halves, sprinkle some pepper on them and bake at 375 degrees for approximately 40 minutes

1b.  After spaghetti squash has cooked, in a casserole dish, and using a fork, comb the spaghetti out of the shell into the casserole dish and spread evenly once complete.

2.  In a frying pan, heat tablespoon of oil, add the diced onions and minced garlic and let soften.  Add the mushrooms and sauté.

3.  In a separate bowl add mushroom soup, milk and melted butter and stir to get an even consistency.  Add the wet mix to the frying pan.

4.  Pour the mushroom mix over the spaghetti squash, using spoon mix all together.  Sprinkle fresh ground pepper on top, cover lightly with cheese then bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees

I bet shredded chicken in the casserole, or shake and bake chicken would go great with this dish!

Chicken Chili

Unfortunately this second recipe comes from a torn magazine page that I’ve had for years.  It’s a classic recipe that never fails.  Leftover portions can be freezed in single servings for quick meal options.  This is delicious and healthy!

3 tbsp olive oil

1 package of lean ground chicken

1 onion finely chopped

3 garlic cloves minced

1 small eggplant

1 med zucchini

2 carrots chopped

1 can of stems and pieces mushrooms

¼ tsp of crushed red pepper flakes

1 can of kidney beans rinsed and drained

26oz can of chopped tomatoes with juice

2tsp salt

1tsp dried oregano

1 box of low salt chicken stock

Fresh ground pepper

Hot sauce and shredded cheese (optional)

1.  Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the ground chicken until cooked through and put aside

2.  In a large deep pot, add a little more oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft

3.  Add the chopped zucchini, eggplant, drained mushrooms, carrots and red pepper flakes.  Add some chicken stock so the veggies don’t burn.  Cook on medium heat (add more chicken stock if preferred) for 20 minutes until vegetables soften

4.  Add beans, tomatoes (with juice), salt, cumin, oregano and ground cooked chicken.  Add enough stock to submerge everything under the liquid. Bring the mixture to a boil.  Once it begins to boil, lightly cover and reduce the heat to medium and let cook for another 15-20 minutes, stirring every so often.

5.  I like serving bowls of chili with a bit of hot sauce and topped with some shredded cheese

AACCCCKKKKK!!! Where’s my Turn OFF Text Feature??

Are we are too technologically advanced to retreat back to simpler times, simpler forms of communication. Remember the good ol’ days when we use to write and mail letters?  How about the days that e-mailing just started to gain popularity?  Remember the days when people use to call each other?  Played their messages out loud on their answering machines?  Kept redialing a person until they didn’t hear that horrid busy signal anymore? Do kids born in the 90’s even know what a busy signal sounds like?  Quick what’s the current cost to mail a letter locally or inNorth America?  How I miss those simpler days that use to include more words, more thoughts, more time; but more importantly engaged more of me…

The viral Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Falon video on hashtags perfectly encapsulates the RIDICULOUSNESS of how we communicate now, how absurd we sound and how stupidly we’ve disguised our laziness with “innovative advancement” #notenglish– it’s easy to get swept up in the wave of what’s new and cool…until it occurred to me, I’m not better off today than I was 10 or 20 years ago.  I wonder how I use to convey “laughing” in a written letter before “lol” became so popular….wait a minute, maybe writing wasn’t my primary means of communication.  Maybe I actually laughed out loud while I was on the phone or talking to someone.  Maybe I only used emailing or texting as a secondary means of communication, and therefore didn’t require abbreviations to express emotion, because I wasn’t using email or text messaging to express emotion!!! 

It wasn’t that long ago that I subconsciously qualified and defined relationships by the number of texts I exchanged in a day with that special someone (good grief) – he didn’t have to ask me to be his girlfriend, I could try and guess from the rhythmic (or erratic) patterns of our text messages.  Was he texting frequently enough?  How quick was his response time?  Did he use a term of endearment? Was he my last text before bed?  (eyeroll)….ummm, I’m going to skip right over any experiences I may or may not have had with sexting….“lol”.

Or the friendships I tried to maintain with spotted text messages.  “Hey, long time! How are you?”  Really?  Really am I asking that way, and really are you going to be able to authentically respond in some way outside of a “I’m good, how are you?”??…..blech.

Or what about the ones who never say nice things to your face, but can sing your praises in writing? The ones who bite their tongue in person but send a lashing in writing?  The ones whose writing is so vastly different from what they’re like in person, you’d swear they were using a ghostwriter for all of their written communication!   The ones who will send a convenient text but won’t actually answer their phone minutes later.  And YES, I’m guilty too. I’ve been known to have killed a few relationships and friendships via e-mail rather than in person.  I understand why people hide behind their writing and the courage it takes to speak face to face as opposed to keyboard to keyboard, I just wish we could reverse some of these trends.

I do love social media and networking. I think it’s an amazing way of keeping in touch and connecting with people.  I credit the rekindling of beautiful friendships and the start of new ones to facebook….oh ya, finding husbands too!  I just don’t want these advancements to be my primary means of communication anymore.

Short of becoming a swami in the Himalayas, or someone inventing a busy signal blockade for my incoming text messages; I may just need to leave my phone in my purse throughout the day.  It used to be exciting to hear my text notification go off, I use to brim with curiosity as I picked up my phone and eagerly checked my new messages…..  But am I the only one getting fed up of the current massacre of human relationship and communication?  Am I the only one feeling utterly inconvenienced by these conveniences? Or maybe I’m just getting old? Sigh… “you know, those kids nowadays….”

Thank God for the people in my life who don’t mind a little face or phone time….less filtration certainly lends to less dilution in relationships…..

The Sweaty Gardener

Weeding is a tedious and laborious task.  But it’s a necessary one.  Weeding opens the space for plentiful growth and abundance.  Sure some weeds can have some positive attributes,  but they all, on a basic level, are competitive by nature. They compete for soil, nutrients, sunlight and water.  Growth is difficult enough, never mind fighting for survival!  Regardless of our intentions, planting seeds is not enough, we need to weed our gardens too.

               There are so many ways that we can weed our lives: rid ourselves of unhealthy habits, dogmas, stereotypes, negative thoughts, excuses, clutter, bad relationships, baggage, people, things…For me, it was friendships.  It was silly of me to think that I could focus on bettering my life without weeding my life of the people that were too competitive.  Too often competing for, and getting the better of my patience, self respect and trust, leaving me feeling short changed and incomplete.  It was immature of me to think that I could keep things in my life the same, yet hope for better outcomes.

Initially weeding my life in this way felt foreign to me.  I’ve always thought that I was that person who needed to hold onto people regardless of what that actually looked like in my life;  like a friend collector of sorts, a friend connoisseur.  I thought it was comforting to surround myself with people; all sorts of people: people I party with, people I have dinner with, people I like to drink wine with, people I like to have deep conversations with, people I Iike to pray with, people that make me laugh, people that inspire me, people that engage me, people I worked with, people I work out with…which is fine enough, but my personal garden of friendship, closest to my heart cried for attention, I was letting weeds grow amoungst the flowers.  I was letting bad friendships that were once fruitful, start stifiling the things I was planting as an adult.  When something is around long enough, we can develop a tolerance to it, making us complascent and inactive.  Like learning to live with an ache, I stopped really seeing things I’d been staring at for years.  But history repeats itself and not everyone stands the test of time and evolution. I was watering without weeding, blindly giving these things more space to populate; leaving me less space to grow.

But life is a learning process, and I will continue to strive in the ways that I am able.  I’m not always ready to face lessons, so I take my time with them.  I’m not always strong enough to make changes, so I sometimes protect my fragility by turning a blind eye.  But the things I avoid weeding, God certainly has a way of pruning. At the beginning of the year, I put “quality friendships” on my vision board.  This came from a deep desire for authentic connections that come from love and not only allow me to be who I truly am, but inspire me to be more.  Friendships that I too could reciprocate the same for. I recently realized that I had friends in my life I had once considered flowers until the contents of my garden changed.  I don’t haphazardly plant anymore.  I don’t just plant the things I knew as a child, I plant differently as as adult. So I’ve let go of friends and accepted being let go of, by people that I couldn’t get to a true level of honesty, authenticity and love with.  Friends, that over the years, always maintained some level of  maliciousness, competition, isolation, gossip, judgment, dysfunction or disloyalty…And that isn’t necessarily inherent to them specifically, but our combination of water, soil, and sunlight.

Despite the weirdness, saddness and holes these presently leave having been dug out, I look forward to the space this creates for me to plant expressions of love and friendship in ways that make my heart smile and feel good to my soul.

Ask yourself what parts of your life need attention and weeding?

 

“It’s better to feel pain, then nothing at all, the opposite of love is indifference” (The Lumineers – Stubborn Love)

Tuning In

“Happiness is a journey not a destination” This is a quote that I had found for my vision board at the beginning of the year, which really came to light yesterday.  I was reading a blog about self-image perceptions passed along to us by our mothers (a really great read actually: http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/wellbeing/8760102/When-your-mother-says-shes-fat) and specifically one quote struck me, “Despite being what could only be described as famine-victim chic, she dieted every day of her life until the day she died at 79 years of age. She used to put on make-up to walk to the letterbox for fear that somebody might see her unpainted face”.

How could this lady have spent even a minute in peace or satisfaction when she was so consumed by her weight, her looks and her worry of how other people perceived her?  Imagining spending the REST OF MY LIFE worrying mortified me.  How mean HOW EXHAUSTING!!!  I want to enjoy the process, this journey.

I have a lot of friends, like me, who wait for opportune times.  Opportune times to lose weight, find a new job, get pregnant, start a business….I’ll get pregnant when I quit smoking….I’ll get back on track diet wise after this month of weddings….I’ll find a new job when I pay down my debt….I’ll eventually get back into Church.  Sometimes though, these opportune moments don’t come and we spend so much of our time stagnant and stuck in our habitual patterns of behaviour that, when you think about it, could never present “opportune moments” because we default into life on autopilot.  I mean come on, it’s easy, so much of our day is like the last, how could we not, BUT default into autopilot?  Autopilot though, gets us nowhere but here, where we’ve always been.  Instead of waiting for that so called right time, we need to intentionally jump.  We need to choose these moments and create them.   The other pitfall is we spend too much time planning, reading, researching and less time doing.  Let’s stop intending and just do.  Maybe Nike really was on to something…..

Back to that poor lady that spent 79 years of her life dieting….actually Alanis Morrisette has a song called “Incomplete” which also speaks to the realization that there is no eventual destination…the far off “one days” won’t come, despite the ways we’ve been programmed to expect and strive for.  She sings in her chorus,  “I have been running so sweaty my whole life, for the chance for a finish line. And I have been missing the rapture this whole time, of being forever incomplete”.  Doesn’t that hit home?

What if that 79 year old woman used other measures instead of the weight scale or magazine covers for her own measure of beauty and self image? What if she would have tuned into herself and tuned out society’s painted face standards of what beautiful should look like? What if she would have just stripped down?

Do you know that to style my hair, I get out of the shower and first put in some leave in conditioner, then some mousse, then I towel dry, then I diffuse it, then I curl it, spray it, place it, shape it, set it….I’ve been doing this FOR YEARS. Aussie sprunch spray has literally been a staple in my beauty regimen for almost TWO DECADES. Styling my hair to a daily perfection…what if I just let my hair be the way it is?  What would I look like if I brought it to more of a natural state….and lets be real here, I’m not ready to be completely “au natural” but I’m ready to explore being closer to natural.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start burning my bras, trashing my make up or start growing out the hair in my armpits.  Maybe I can be a fair weather au-naturel girl.    I, of course, want to spend any time I need to, to get ready and look painted, but for the times I choose to.  I want to paint my face or have wild hair when I want to.  I want it to be based on what I feel, who I am and how I choose to express myself in any particular moment of time.  I want the freedom to strip down and just be me.

I wish someone would come up with a new measure of success and progression outside of the weight scale! What if I created a magic contraption which calculated the following things as soon as you stepped on it:

CATEGORY            MEASUREMENT

WEIGHT                     light to heavy

SLEEP                        well rested to can’t keep my eyes open

SPIRITUALITY          nourished to empty

FRIENDSHIP              supported to isolated

STRESS                      manageable to I’m going to rip my face off

LOVE                          complete to fragmented

SEX                             satisfied to starved

ENERGY                    high to dragging

BAGGAGE                 light to burdensome

STOMACH                 normal to bloated

PHLEGM                    clear to congested

MIND                          sharp to distracted

TEMPERATURE       normal to extreme hot or cold

SKIN                           clear to grody

CHEST                        open to tight

NAILS                         strong to brittle

FINANCE                   comfortable to spent

GRATITUDE              humbled to oblivious

VITAMINS/MINERALS: complete to deficient

Imagine waking up in the morning, going through the list, check check check….and then being able to specifically tend to one’s own needs….where could I be a week from now, a month from now or even a year from now? Miles and miles away from where I am…

There are so many other ways of keeping a check and balance on ourselves without a weight scale.  There are ways of tuning into ourselves, to see where we are really at in ways that are profoundly and deeply pertinent and relevant to only ourselves, how beautifully intimate!  By tuning in, we can address the areas that need our attention.  By tuning in, we can see what really works for ourselves and in our lives.

Through a wellness initiative at work yesterday I had the opportunity to see a Psychologist for the first time in my life to assess my current state of well being.  Fortunately I feel on a good upswing of life right now.  Since our wedding and honeymoon, I’ve felt refreshed, invigorated, lighter and content. One thing Dr. Shepticki had mentioned which was interesting food for thought is that our bodies all have a point of vulnerability that sensitively responds to our “insides”.  It turns out that for years I thought my periodic tight shoulders and back were a response to the number of hours I was putting in front of my desk,  but it turns out that I should tune in deeper.  The tightness in my back and shoulders could be my body’s first response to any sort of stress/dis-ease I might be feeling at that time that perhaps I haven’t even mentally registered yet.  There are just so many ways we can tune in.

My wise old owl Ginger (my thirtysome year old girlfriend who feels 150 years deep into insight and advice) said that committing to any health oriented program would be beneficial to a person. And true enough, I agree with her.  A lot of things work as long as we just commit to them, but working for us isn’t necessarily the same thing as truly serving us or being good for us.  I mean the 17 Day Diet did get me down 10lbs by my wedding day which that morning was reason to celebrate.  But what I think most of us miss, or in the least, what I missed, was tuning into myself beyond just the weight scale for measure of my success and wellbeing.  I am interested in exploring healthful ways of being, but not solely for the purpose of losing weight, but for avenues of better tuning into myself, knowing myself, optimizing myself and being good to myself.

I bought the “It’s All Good” recipe book by Gwyneth Paltrow and I was immediately attracted to her outlook and the balance she strives for in her own life.  After an unpredictable health scare, she had gone on Dr. Junger’s Elimination Diet to reset her system and detoxify.  I’ve never really tried a cleanse before, but I’m definitely interested in trying it out.  I’ve vowed to myself to get rid of my weight scale so that I’ll be forced to tune in rather than tune out.

Exploring, trying, discovering, falling, learning….what better way to experience my journey, and how meaningfully intimate to be the captain, the judge, the creator, the lover, the receiver…..to be all things but most of all beautiful plain ol’ newly married, blissfully happy me….it certainly is, “all good”.  :)

 

MY FIXER UPPER – SIX DAYS AWAY!!!!

Funny I started this fixer upper project (my body) back in August of last year, at which time I weighed 147.2lbs.    That was over seven months ago.  And here I am now, 6 six days away from my dress fitting. What was I hoping for? Big changes. What was I expecting? Miracles. What did I get? A good dose of reality.  What has this time been though? A pretty amazing journey.

I found myself creep up to 150.4lbs at the beginning of this year.  The plan to “eat clean” and be more active of last year’s resolve really left me inconsistent and unaccomplished. But baby steps right? There was a lot of great self-analysis and looking back that helped me move forward with a better understanding of myself, my flaws, my ghosts, my experiences and my path.  Then of course came Geha and my discovery of the Wellness Clinic on Whyte that helped me hone and shape my vision and plan. She made the intangible, tangible and things started to come together for me.

I went on the 17 day Diet which proved to be a good fit not just diet wise for me, but lifestyle wise. I focus more on protein, veggies, I drink green shakes every morning, I obediently take multiminerals, multivitamins, extra vitamin D, I drink lots of green tea and I stay away from refined carbs like bread and pasta.  I like to snack on seaweed and carrots, and my vice is banana chips and dark chocolate with nuts.  I can’t even think of the last time I went through a fast food drive thru, and to be honest haven’t really craved the grease I use to live off of. I definitely sleep better at night and get more rest.  I feel less lethargic and heavy. Overall these changes have felt slow yet steady.

My activity levels have been more spotted.  When I initially started the 17 Day Diet, I wasn’t working out outside of taking Teddy for walks.  But over the past couple of months, I’ve reintroduced, treadmill runs, weights, full body exercises, bootcamp workouts and outdoor runs back into my regimen.

So where did I end up? At 143.5.  Only 6.9lbs and a meagre number of inches from where I started from.    Sure some of my clothes fit better and I don’t end up with a deep waist imprint every time I wear my jeans, but it was miles away from what I was wanting.   What was I expecting and hoping for? 124lbs again.  Sigh.  The frustration and the disappointment had been seething in my bones for the past couple of weeks.   The almost anger to step on the weight scale and find no noticeable movement was almost unbearable.  I was constantly complaining to Jason about how crappy it was that I was making all of these great changes to no avail and how frustrating it was to keep seeing the same numbers on the weight scale. And Jason would try and placate me by telling me how I was creating a new environment in my body.  That I was building a new foundation that would set me up for the potential of a slim athletic healthy body.  That it was probably “just around the corner”.  Blah blah blah.  But that didn’t make me feel better.

To be honest, I felt worse these past couple of weeks than I have probably at my heaviest.

They say what you hate perpetuates.  And I literally started hating my body and myself for this perceived failure.

And then it finally dawned on me. What was causing me the dis-ease, was the way I was seeing myself. When I looked in the mirror, I was only hoping for the past me.  I saw my arms, bigger than they use to be, I saw my stomach, thicker than it used to be and my hips wider than they use to be…I saw a bigger version of who I was, well past my “best before” date.    But who really is this that I see in the mirror now?  The image I keep overlooking and seeing through?

I recognized how shitty it was for me to not accept myself for who I really am.  I realized that I needed to get over my issue of needing to be skinny the way I use to be, and be comfortable with how I am now.  But how really was I going to make that leap of actually accepting myself for who I am, right now? Could that even be possible? Could I love and accept this bigger version of myself? Could I feel confident and whole without any desire to drastically change and self loathing for not? So I started to dig.

Where really was the anxiety of not reaching my goal coming from?  It shocked me to find out it wasn’t really from me, but from my worry about other people’s perception of me.  They would see me and think to themselves, “wow she’s put on a lot of weight, she’s not as pretty as she use to be” – they would think the things George said to me that night at our highschool catch up; and I would feel the guilt and the shame of their unvoiced opinions.  It surprised me to recognize how much I was still waiting for the approval and validation of people around me.  I mean come on, I’m 36 years old now. Haven’t I stopped trying to fit in with the cool kids and conforming? Haven’t I stopped buying the latest trends and keeping up on the latest fashions?  Haven’t I grown out of my people pleasing ways?  So much of my life has turned out unconventional. So many of my adult choices have been my own and true to myself despite the cautions of people around me….but wow, old habits die hard.

I realized that if I lived in a bubble, where I wasn’t affected by the judgements and perceptions of others I would experience a freedom I’ve never fully enjoyed before.  But the irony is, these external judgements and perceptions  is wholly based on MY perception of what I THINK they might be thinking…it also stems from my own fallacy in so foolishly and selfishly judging people the way that I do.  Why would I do that or care?  Maybe to make myself feel better?  Should I be affected then by someone else’s foolishness and selfishness?  What if there was no standard for myself, or what if I created my own? Could I?

I’d never tried self affirmations before, but had heard about them so many times.  It always felt a little too Anthony Robbins, “I am good and people like me” ish for me to truly stomach or embrace.  But yesterday after my workout, after a few minutes of some deep breathing meditation, I looked in the mirror and really looked at myself.  I looked at my arms and unexpectedly said  to them, “I love you, you are beautiful, whole and complete, thank you for being part of me”, then I looked at my stomach and said “I love you, you are beautiful, whole and complete, thank you for being part of me” then I looked at my thighs and said, “I love you, you are beautiful, whole and complete, thank you for being part of me” – and for the first time in two years, I actually felt “in my skin” – I felt grounded and whole in a way I haven’t before.  For the many months of fragmentation, separation or disconnect, my body actually felt like my own, and I finally felt inside of it.  I wasn’t out of it looking in, I was inside looking out. It’s almost hard to describe really.

And then the greatest thing happened.  All of a sudden I saw my body in a different way. Instead of all of the things it wasn’t, I felt a gratitude for all that it was. This is the body, that allowed me to recklessly fall in love without care or caution. This is the body that didn’t complain when I stopped temporarily caring for it. This is the body that forgave me when I started missing workouts and didn’t reject me when I started binging on forbidden foods. This was the body that still functioned though I shorted it rest. This  is the body that took the fall, while I fell in love. And this is the same body that is still with me now. Like an old weathered friend that stands the test of time. My body, that is ready now to be strong and be healed the same way my heart and spirit have been.

It’s funny almost, when I set out last August, the first thing I wanted to fix was my weight. I wasn’t concerned about what was going on inside of me. But it’s funny, looking back now, it seems the last thing to fall into place is the first thing I was hoping to fix.  It’s amazing how each step takes us to where we are going.

A Visit to the East to Meet a Teacher

A Visit to the East

I realized recently, when my girlfriend’s father was in the hospital with a very serious brain hemorrhage, how much we rely on western medicine, and how much trust we are asked to put into what seem to be “guesses” than diagnoses.  I won’t blame the Doctors, the Nurses or the system, it is what it is here.  The congestion, the traffic, the in and out appearances of a couple of medical professionals compared to the throes of patients waiting for some attention.  Western medicine seems like a bandaid approach to sickness which, despite my rant, was deeply appreciated by me and my family when they were able to remove the start of lung cancer in my Dad’s body back in 2009.

I’ve always been amazed at the knowledge and expertise of my medical Doctor, Dr. Carol Lee.  Instantaneously she has always been able to successfully assess my ailments.  Recently after my last physical Dr. Lee was able to tell me that all of my levels were normal; cholesterol, thyroid, blood pressure etc.  But outside of my seemingly normal physical, what of my regular fatigue, my intermittment sleeps, my occasional bloating? What of this 20lbs gain? Is it just age?  Is it just lifestyle?  I always wondered if there was more than our western cultural and scientific approach to medicine….and then I met Geha, and in a quick hour and a half she introduced me to new world of possibility and insight I’d never explored before.

I went to the Wellness on Whyte clinic on the recommendation of my friends Blessie and Dan who spoke volumes of the clinic.  Walking into my appointment yesterday, I didn’t even know what to expect.  I was going in for an initial acupuncture assessment. The clinic was warm and inviting to walk into, it had a serene spa like atmosphere, with a calm lavender like fragrance.  I was nervous at first anticipating the discomfort of needles puncturing my skin and how much I’d freak out seeing them in my body (gag).   But to my surprise the assessment felt more like a warm comforting embrace than an appointment.  I left feeling loved and understood, not just by Geha, but by myself.  She introduced me to parts of myself I have forgotten, denied and quite frankly abandoned.  Her words resonated so deep within me, I was immediately impacted by her words as evidenced by the tears I sheepishly tried to hold back.

                The appointment started with an in depth questionnaire about my health, my history, my family’s medical history and my present complaints. Recently I had gone on the 17 Day Diet by Dr. Mike Moreno, as recommended to me by my hairdresser Sheri and my beautiful friend Mona, and had successfully lost 6lbs.  The diet too had helped alleviate some of the symptoms I complained about above in such a short period of time.  The first cycle of the 17 Day Diet focuses on the elimination of complex carbs (breads, pasta, rice, starchy vegetables etc), I was able to eat two portions of low sugar fruits, two portions of yogurt and unlimited veggies and lean proteins.  The following cycles speak to the reintroduction of carbs back into my diet in a way that doesn’t interrupt my weightloss.  I would highly recommend this diet to anyone.  It was a good introduction in my own exploration of what works for me and what doesn’t work for me.  This Diet provided the right amount of food that I didn’t feel like I was really deprived.  My energy levels were great, I was sleeping well, I was shedding pounds and I was satisfied.

It was a no brainer when Geha told me that I obviously had a wheat sensitivity which was wreaking havoc on my system.  She attributed the excess sugar and starches in my body as the cause of what she called “sticky plegm” in my body.  The glue that keeps the fat sticking to my body, the glue that makes me feel foggy, lethargic and heavy.  She told me to let “food be my medicine”.  Simple but powerful.  She asked me to put my two fists together and told me that was the size of my stomach and asked me to compare my past portion sizes to my two fists, of course I’ve been eating probably 3-4 times a day what I should be eating.  She told me to maintain the 17 Day Diet as more of a lifestyle than a diet.  To nourish my body with fruits and vegetables and to not necessarily feel the need to have protein each day. She told me to snack on nuts, seaweed and dark chocolate.  She asked me to look at organic produce and meats, despite the higher cost of them. She asked me to consider what I was eating in processed meats (the steroids, hormones and antibiotics I was ingesting) from the mass produced cows and chickens.  She put to me, why people who harvested corn had to wear full body suits with gas masks? To protect themselves from the chemicals they spray on the corn which we seemingly take no issue eating?  It was an eye opener!  She explained how processed food is so foreign to our systems that our bodies either reject it or hold on to it until it is able to figure out how to process it.  How heavily processed foods and sugar triggers a hibernation state in our bodies, and how our bodies respond by storing and hording these that we take in.

I shared with her how inconsistent my lifestyle has been for the past couple of years.   I told her how I went through bouts of craving salty, sugary or greasy food, and how a moment of weakness to a craving turned into a full fledged binge.  I told her how my energy levels affected my workouts, and how my intermittent sleeps left me feeling unrested.  I realized long ago that I have not been running optimally, but I didn’t know where to go with that, until Geha provided the map.  She explained to me that a craving is actually a sign of it leaving your body, my body craves more sugar when it’s own sugar stores are depleted.  A craving is actually a positive thing! She asked me to look at the times that I am “hungry” and determine, if I am in fact hungry, or if I’m feeling light and if that light feeling is just foreign to my lifestyle and my socialized way of being.  She also told me that cravings could be a lack of minerals in my body. I do take multivitamins (apparently not enough though) but I hadn’t ever considered taking mineral supplements. But she told me how sufficient levels of vitamins and minerals in my system would lend to a proper functioning of my body as a whole, and how my body could then really use, take in and process the nutrients I would feed it.  She made everything relate, from my body to my diet – even to my mind , body and spirit.  And this is where it all hit home:

She measured my heart rate, and checked my tongue and listened patiently to my complaints and shared all of the information above and told me it all culminated  to me being really tight and small inside (which she said was a paradox to what  I look like from the outside).  She used metaphors and descriptive examples when she spoke. She said I was a picture that didn’t quite make sense.  She said the tightness inside of me was also extremely fragile, and somehow the mystery of her words hit home and I started to cry.  She told me that I’m really good at holding it all together, but that something happened a couple of years ago that made me start to feel unsafe, and I stopped trusting, and in response to this mistrust and lack of safety I began creating my own barrier to protect myself, and how even the weight is an extension and example of this  – She said even the ways that I physically overheat is an example of the tightness inside of me imploding – and again her words, moved me and I cried harder.  She told me when I trust again, when my body trusts again it’ll open and all of the tightness inside of me  and the tightness of my muscles will relax and be whole and connected again.

She’s right.  I haven’t felt whole or complete in some time. I have felt fragmented and disconnected.  She was right, I do hold it together well, I do manage things as I feel that I have to, but inside a pressure and tightness has been building.  She was right, the transitions that I’ve experienced, the searching for love, aging of my parents, the ups and downs that Jason and I have been through, the friendships that have disintegrated, the negative experiences that some of my family and friends have been through indeed have deeply impacted me and made me mistrustful in a way I wasn’t able to identify because sure enough, I’ve been too busy managing and holding everything together as I always have; and sure enough I do believe and agree I’ve created a disconnect within myself that a diet or a new workout program would not have fixed.  It goes much deeper than that.

I am not familiar with eastern medicine.  I’ve heard about ayurvedic treatments, but I’ve never really looked into it.  But in a short hour and a half, Geha opened my eyes to things I would never have considered or looked at on my own. It was powerful, inspiring and scary.  I felt vulnerable but relieved and almost free.  I would highly recommend her service.  My Eastern visit yesterday didn’t take too much time, travel costs, packing or planning – but it instantly transformed me and my western perspective in ways I can’t wait to explore and integrate.   I feel rejuvenated and inspired in a way like only a memorable and moving trip could provide!  It is all connected, my mind, my body,  my soul, my diet, my energy, my emotions, my stress – I’m grateful to now be seeing it more wholly; even just this change in perspective makes me already begin to feel less fragmented – how very eastern of me ;)

New Year – Building a New Home

I love this time of year, fresh starts and new beginnings.  New year’s resolutions often sound cliché but isn’t it funny how a part of us buy into them, why else would January be the busiest time for gyms and trainers?  Well in all honesty, what better time to refocus and renew oneself but at the start of a brand new year?

The other week while parking at my building, I ran into a neighbour. While exchanging usual neighbourly pleastantries I noticed she was pulling a large sheet of Bristol board out of her car.  I don’t know what possessed me to ask, considering I don’t really know her all that well, but as luck/fate would have it, I did.  She shared that she was preparing to work on her annual project, her vision board for the new year.  I connected with her words immediately and felt a pang of guilt.

I had first read about a vision board in my reading of the Secret written by Rhonda Byrne a number of years ago.  It was a wonderful book which I would highly recommend for anyone who believes in the power of positive thinking and the law of attraction.  Though I believe in God, I certainly also believe that I have been given the power to change, create or configure my experiences in a very intentional way.  I do believe we create and attract the things we focus on. Ever notice when you feel blessed the blessings seem abundant but when “it rains it pours”? There is a basic and simple reality to the power of our own thoughts and perspectives.  As quoted in the book, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions” (Albert Einstein).

After reading about it, I had meant to create my own vision board but had shelved the idea until my neighbour reminded me of it again.  So finally after years of good intentions, I created a collection of my ALL for this new year, 2013.  A brilliant compilation of my goals, the things I aspire for, the things I want to experience, feel, create, build, purchase, own, share, dream or believe in.  Images and words that move me, revitalize me or remind me of who I am and where I want to be.  Instead of falling into my usual ruts or routines mid year, I want the wonderment and hope that this time of year brings, to last.  What better sustenance than a vision board to help me focus on the extraordinary each and every day.  I spend my first cup of coffee before my vision board each morning, and each morning I walk away from it with my soul smiling.  Last year, I was waiting to be inspired…until I realized, I have the power to inspire myself.

 

 

 

 

I commit to starting this new year in action not contemplation.  What I described last year as a transitionary period might have been more of a period of preparation.  I recognize now, it’s time to find a new home, metaphorically speaking.

What does home feel like to you?  To me, home feels safe and comforting.  Home is familiar and welcome. Home is second nature, warm and secure.  When I am “at home” I feel true to myself and I feel like I belong.  In an ever changing world, how often do we uproot, pack our bags and wander until we find a new home?   I find myself doing that in cycles.  Cycles marked by my growth spurts, my life experiences, my maturity or developmental stages – or maybe wider still, my destiny, my fate, the chapters in my story, the lessons I need to learn – It almost feels like we are chronically leasing, because true permanency seems impossible; the world and all of life is constantly in motion and dynamic.

We make new homes in new friendships, in the birth of children, when siblings move away, when best friends marry, in a new partner, by ourselves, in the absence of a parent, after a fight, when trust is broken, career changes, after the death of a loved one, after a first love or in the heart of a last.  Building a home is finding our place, our peace and ourselves in a new situation; not only adapting but thriving again.

I was talking to my girlfriend at work and found myself complaining of a long standing issue in my life, particular relationships in my life that feel unbalanced or unfair.  And she said to me “when you have kids you’ll understand because your priorities will change and what will matter most to you is your family.  The things that matter to you now, won’t seem so significant because you will see what will matter to you more.” Wise words. She didn’t mean it in a negative or demeaning way, she simply described the natural evolution of cycles and how we all go through them and experience the conflicts when we are inbetween them.

Last year there were dynamics in my life that dramatically changed in ways I had not expected.  Friends, family, work, Church, love – things shifted; and I called it a transitionary period.   But what felt transitionary and unsettled was simply my attachment to those things staying the same, or staying the way I had always expected them to.  It was my naïve resistance to changing cycles.  But I see now that it’s the right time to build a new home.  Build a new home in this body I have, this love I am blessed to share in, this new phase for my retired parents, in facetime with my sister, in new friendships I have acquired or old friends I have weathered with,  in my new four legged best friend, in new ways of expressing my spirituality that aren’t just passed down to me….it’s time to build a new home, and what better time than the start of a new year.

Happy New Years!

Monkey See Monkey Do – Part III

While some weight loss is intentional, that certainly  isn’t always the case.  Typical weight loss is ego based, lending to specific action and intention, we want to look better, so we do these things to accomplish that.  But when weight loss is medically based; it’s an entirely different ballgame.  I have a girlfriend who I recently found out has Celiac Disease, which prevents her from consuming gluten.  The forced dietary change based on this medical necessity made weight loss just a happy byproduct. Obviously her main priority was her health and feeling good throughout the day.  The flip side of that coin is when a medical condition causes a person to gain weight; and the adjustments one needs to make to mitigate those forced circumstances.  When Nancy found herself in that situation, she didn’t just succumb and give in to her condition, she fought back and not only conquered it but also the things that were (literally) weighing her down.

Meet my beautiful friend Nancy Ng .  Funny how Nancy became a friend to me just late last year, yet it feels like a friend I’ll have for the rest of my life. Nancy is one of those friends that I can have dinner with, and before I know it hours and hours have passed.  Not only is a Nancy a beautiful girl, she’s a kind and generous soul. She is a fearless person who seems to keep striving, learning and challenging herself.  Just recently Nancy became a published author.  She’s certainly taking the world by storm and conquering it one mountain at a time…Nancy’s weight loss is a little less intentional, not so conventional but nonetheless successful. Nancy went from a size 10 to a size 2.  Unfortunately Nancy got rid of all of her old before pictures (burnt them I believe!).  But knowing Nancy now, and how tiny she is, I cannot even begin to fathom her as a size 10 (I imagine seeing her image in one of those funhouse distorted mirrors and it just seems ludacris!)

STARTING POINT:  Nancy grew up in Venezuela and initially assumed her weight gain to be a product of the delicious deep fried culinary culture. She found however that her weight issues stemmed much deeper once she immigrated to Canada. Nancy endured a lot of stress caused by her family situation at the time which took it’s toll on her body, “I have to say that food is just part of my weight gain when I was young. A huge part of my weight gain is psychological. There were a lot of problems at home, and it threw my thyroid out of wack because of it. I was young and didn’t know how to handle all this stress, so, I ate.”  The stress of Nancy’s family, her affected thyroid and her coping mechanisms brought her to a bad place emotionally and physically.

THE BREAKING POINT:  Nancy unintentionally fell into a weight loss plan when she was working on her graduate studies in Ottawa, “It was a stressful time during my graduate studies in 1999. My stomach was taking in a lot of the stress from the pressure, so it wasn’t working properly. I was staying with my sister and her family in Ottawa at the time I was going to school there.”  

Nancy’s stomach issues made her reassess her dietary habits and activity levels; “In response to my stomach problems, I changed my meals to include more vegetables in it, even though I still love my carbs and protein. Equally important, I would often be home before everybody else, so, I would take their dog Chewy (may he rest in peace) for walks. Every time he heard me opening and closing the closet door, he knew we were going for a walk and he was SOOO excited. And walk we did. After a few months, I noticed my clothes were much looser, but never really connected to eating better and walking Chewy. It’s been 13 years now, and I’ve kept the weight off since.”

STAYING ON TRACK:  Nancy engaged in a more conscious healthful and active lifestyle, “In the last 13 years, I developed a love for rock climbing and sport climbing and hiking/climbing mountains, AND including more vegetables in my meals. Also, whenever there were plans to climb a mountain in some far-away-corner of the world, I would start physically and mentally training one year ahead of time. Training involved sprinting up the stairs in the river valley, yoga, indoor rock climbing, and running. For once in my life, I feel a love for exercising and working out, whereas before, it was an obligation or a burden. I actually feel 500% better when I have a routine involving exercise. But I noticed I am not a gym person. I find it so boring. I feel whole…I feel all the stars are aligned….when the rock and I are one.”

SUSTAINABILITY:  Since her active lifestyle became second nature to her, Nancy hasn’t found a severe adjustment in adapting to life lasting goals; “I don’t have labels on my tupperwear containers or a food scale in my kitchen. I just make sure I have a balanced meal, AND I can have anything I want (Miss Vickies chips or red velvet cupcakes) once or twice a week. I make sure my meals have an equal portion of veges, meat, and carbs. I don’t deprive or punish myself. Everything has to be in moderation. But come Christmas time….watch out!”

GREATEST SUCCESS:  Nancy’s greatest successes so far have to be her amazing mountain climbs including Mount Everest Basecamp, Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Aconcagua (to name a few).  She’s travelled, witnessed and been imprinted by these amazing once in a lifetime experiences.  She describes her love for climbing; “I actually love it! I’m not doing it because of health problems, for a competition, or because there are a lot of men in the sport (well, that helps). I think it was very unexpected that I found a love for climbing. I was never good at any sports when I was younger, and didn’t think I would find it as an adult. But I did. Climbing has been my greatest success. The more I climb or sprint or run, the more appreciation I have for my body, my health, and for myself.”

 Thanks for your story Nancy; you’re another inspiration to me! 

Everyone has a story. 

I’d like to learn mine.  What I most want is to simply find myself; and get good at being me.  I want to find my motivation, my commitment and my will to take a stand for myself and not waiver.  I want to discover for myself what feels good, right and healthful. I want to learn me inside out.  What fuels me, what energizes me, what inspires me.  I want to learn what I need to do for myself.  It’s difficult to start cold though, so I turned to my friends for a little guidance and some insight into how they found themselves. I approached my gurus and healthful trailblazers with questions stemming from my own challenges in fighting the chub, and they responded perfectly.  Thanks girls, I appreciate your openness and could never thank you enough!! Thanks so much for letting this monkey see what she can do….

Monkey See Monkey Do – Part II

It’s pretty amazing the transformations people are able to effect over themselves and in their own lives.  I must admit that when I see those typical “before and (ridiculously different) after” shots on infomercials, I grimace.  I subconsciously and suspiciously take them with a grain of salt.  ARE THEY SERIOUS, they’re trying to make it look easy!! Transformation is hard, almost an impossibility it seems!  I mean I know that! You know that! Doesn’t Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and Herbal Magic know that?  If I order this video now I can look like what?? Better yet, if I order it in the next fifteen minutes I’ll enjoy the special offer too?? Bah! (eyeroll)  There’s certainly a disconnect from seeing results on tv and buying into those seemingly fictitious stories.  But seeing it in real life is a whole other story, believe you me, seeing is believing!

Meet my EFF Christa Krywiak-Parenteau 

I call Christa my EFF because she’s my eternal friend forever (you have to appreciate the sentiment beyond the redundancy). Christa has always been like a soul mate to me, someone I met back in high school and immediately connected with. We share so many silly and serious memories together. Despite our periods of physical disconnect, neither time nor distance seems to ever deter the incredible bond we share.  I wasn’t physically present in Christa’s life when she put on her excessive weight, but her pictures leave me speechless.  Christa successfully lost 80 pounds in just nine months!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wait a minute, did you really catch that?  It isn’t smoke and mirrors, this is real:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRIGGER: Christa’s breaking point sits heavy on my heart. It’s ironic how people unintentionally kick us while we’re down, or how someone’s mindlessness can  so unexpectedly hits us like a ton of bricks.  Often though, the worst times of our lives, prove to be for the best.  This is how she explained her breaking point: “I was sitting in my chiropractors office, with no idea that the next 5 minutes was going to, literally, impact the rest of my life. The doctor walked in, looked at me and said “Wow. I wouldn’t have recognized you, you’ve gained so much weight”. I was shocked and mortified. That was on Monday March 6, 2006. The following Monday I made a major ‘lifestyle change’, and lost +80 lbs over the next 9 months. And have proudly kept (most) of it off, now, over 6 years later.”

ROAD TO SUCCESS:  Christa’s commitment is really almost unearthly!  Like flipping a coin, she managed to flip around her entire lifestyle in a weekend!  She began running every morning, without exception and followed a strict diet for the nine months it took her to lose the weight.  She describes, “A typical day for me, meal wise, was a protein shake with fresh fruit for breakfast. Fruit or vegetable for a late morning snack. A sandwich on whole grain bread for lunch. Fruit or vegetable for a late afternoon snack. Meat and vegetables for supper. and more fruit for an evening snack. Every meal had to have between 90g-120g of protein. no more, no less. And absolutley NO refined sugar of any kind. Pasta’s, BBQ sauce, ketchup, white bread etc”.  Christa generally focused on her healthy consumption of fruits and vegetables, limited her whole grain intake and ensured she physically weighed and consumed 90-120g from a protein source.

STAYING ON TRACK:  Similar to Lisa, what kept Christa committed to her plan was noticing the little changes she was experiencing and letting that momentum carry her, “I weighed myself every Monday morning. No more, no less. Seeing the weight come off every week, helped me stay focused and excited about what was happening to my body. That was all I needed to stay ‘in check’ and not go back to my old ways. And I was in such a routine with exercising and better eating habits, that after a while, it was like second nature to me. That being said, it wasn’t an easy thing to do. But definitely worth it in the end.”

SUSTAINABILITY:  Christa has come to a comfortable and great place with her body and is able to loosen the restrictive reigns but still stay in control, “I still eat very similar to the above. The main changes I have made are I have increased the amount of protein per meal and allow myself to eat refined sugar if the mood strikes.”

GREATEST SUCCESS:  Chris ran her first half marathon this year, coming from a girl who couldn’t sustain mere minutes on the treadmill! Chris is proof that anyone can condition themselves to be in any shape they want.

Again, I commend Chris on such an amazing and really no short of MIRACULOUS transformation!  Love you buddy (forever!)

Stay tuned for Monkey See Monkey Do – Part III featuring my friend Nancy

Monkey See Monkey Do – Part I

The reason that I know, somewhere deep down inside of me (deep deep down inside of me) that I can successfully transform myself is because of the amazing women I personally know, that have done it before me.  My healthful trailblazers if you will, my ex-chubby gurus.  They’ve shown me that sure, we all fall sometimes but we all can pick ourselves up. It doesn’t matter why we let ourselves go (relationships, babies, age etc) we all start from the same starting point; chubbier than we care to be.  All it truly takes is heart and commitment.

In meeting with each of them, I saw a new found energy, pride, happiness and warmth I couldn’t help bask in, almost envy.  Gosh, I am so proud of their accomplishments, speaking from personal experience this past year, it’s no small feat!  But their examples so make me want to strive for their level of success; catch it like a contagious cold!  I want to be so overcome and so inspired by their stories that I’m left with no choice and no excuses but to succeed the way they have.

These women aren’t superstars.  These aren’t Janet Jackson types fluctuating at the drop of a new single; or Jessica Albas losing baby weight a mere months after giving birth.  There are no personal chefs or highly paid fitness trainers at their beckon call. These are everyday normal women who just simply chose to undo the damage and commit to the cause of caring for themselves.  They tell me it’s not easy, but that it’s worth it.  Judging from the way they shine now, I have not the slightest doubt otherwise. I truly do love my friends, the wonderful companions God intended into my life.

I appreciate their shining examples and use it as encouragement along my journey.  Like friends lining my path with cups of water encouraging me not to stop running until I hit that finish line.  Like a night of defeat fading into the hope of a new morning; they help me see the potential of accomplishing this battle despite my constant setbacks.  I realize though that at the end of the day I cannot mirror what they’ve done; but can eagerly blaze my own path the way they have theirs.  Real life inspiration is amazing because it is, just that, real life. We’re all in the same boat; real life. Some however are stuck in it, some are living it, while others are creating it.  I would like to feature three of my beautiful, inspirational healthful trailblazers.  I’ll start with Lisa.

Meet my beautiful friend Lisa Dutchak:

Lisa and I worked at the Edmonton House Suite hotel together way back when.  It was a reckless, carefree and wonderful time of being young and experimental. Did I mention the Edmonton Eskimos and Oilers use to contract there…(wink wink).. Not only could we quickly check someone in with amazing customer service and efficiency, we managed to check out all the eye candy in between (an unwritten job perk).  Lisa and I managed to keep in touch here and there over the years, but when we reconnected again last summer I was ASTOUNDED by her transformation, not only physically but emotionally too.  She scoffs when I tell her how much she’s grown over the years, saying that she would expect to, over a 12 year period!  But her growth far surpasses people I know far older than she.  Lisa, to date has lost 65lbs and 33 inches. While she hasn’t yet attained her preferred end goal, she certainly has come farther than I could have imagined possible.

 

 TRIGGER:  It seems that there is always a trigger that prompts someone into at least the consideration of change.  For Lisa, the trigger was the realization that she was starting to buy bigger clothes, as she puts it “again”.  She had gotten to a point where she couldn’t stand looking at pictures of herself, and when even her head shots made her cringe, she knew she had gone too far and needed to change.

ROAD TO SUCCESS:  How did she start out?  Lisa opted for a low calorie diet of 1200 calories/day.  She would have a Visalus shake for breakfast and for lunch, and then a sensible dinner and snack. She found that logging her daily intake of calories allowed her to be more accountable and responsible for what she was putting into her mouth.  Despite Lisa starting her weight loss journey in September 2011, she didn’t start regularly exercising until January 2012. She started off my walking on the treadmill and then explored Jillian Michael DVD’s and Zumba.

STAYING ON TRACK:  What kept Lisa motivated were the small successes she celebrated along the way.  The first was being able to fit into her smaller clothes again and being able to pack away her “fat” clothes….for good.  She described the awesome feeling of buying new clothes and walking into a “skinny girl” store to find them being new and euphoric for her; making it worth the commitment of staying on track.  She found her new lifestyle becoming a proud and contagious habit for her.  The positive reinforcement internally, along with the external recognition she was receiving from people around her certainly helped her keep her eye on the prize.

To Lisa though, fitness and health weren’t just a passing fad or a quick fix, as she puts it: “Educating myself about fitness and nutrition is 100% what has kept me from going back to my old ways. So many people, especially women, are under the impression that they have to eat next to nothing and do an insane amount of cardio which is simply not the case. A true lifestyle change is a journey. It doesn’t take you 2 months to gain a pile of weight, so why would it take 2 months to lose (and keep off) that same weight.”

SUSTAINABILITY:   Lisa’s transformation has been constant and consistent.  Her changes have been permanent and long lasting.  As she puts it in her own words, “The way I do things now are very different from when I started! I have learned so much and have realized that the only sustainable way for me to lose weight and keep it off is by really changing my lifestyle. By eating enough and eating clean (although I still track my calories and use my kitchen scale every day!) and by really pushing myself physically. I have learned that killing myself with cardio will not necessarily produce the results that I want, but that hitting the weights and lifting heavy will! I still eat things I love, but in moderation. And although I have come so far, I have also realized that I still struggle with my relationship with food; that is something that I think I will battle forever.”

GREATEST SUCCESS SO FAR:  Lisa quit smoking!  Lisa came to realize the contradiction and eventual impossibility of being a fitness nut addicted to smoking.

I’m proud of you Lis! Thanks for being one of my real life inspirations!

Stay tuned for Monkey See Monkey Do – Part II featuring my EFF Christa