The New Normal

23 Jul

I was at the Farmer’s Market the other day when I had a delightful realization. I am now shopping differently! Reading and comparing nutrition labels, inspecting ingredient lists, smelling and touching the produce and collecting literature on organic, sustainable, GMO-free produce as well as free-range, humanely raised, hormone and antibiotic free meats. Yes, to my shock, I have become THAT girl. Apparently I have found my new normal, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Turns out, I am a big fan of eating clean! Yes, it is a little more expensive and yes, I have to find ways to stretch my dollars. HOWEVER the benefit to the “quality over quantity” approach is a hundredfold. Not only do I feel better physically, mentally and emotionally when I eat clean, but I eat LESS. Shopping at farmers markets, growing my own when I can and choosing to source out clean alternatives can be extremely cathartic. It gives me a sense of control over my nutrition; not only do I know what I am putting in my body, but I know where it was grown / raised and how it was treated and handled. I think this is a critical piece to the wellness puzzle, and I plan to pass this value on to my children one day. Many of the local farms have tours and I plan to check a few out this summer – I think that would be a great outing with kids!

So for those of you who find this whole idea overwhelming, here are 7 easy tips for getting started:

  1. Ditch the rhetoric and decide what is important to YOU.
    This is the jumping off point, and it is the most critical because the amount of information out there is overwhelming. I remember thinking at the beginning of this journey “If I follow all these restrictions I’ll be left with water and kale and that’s about it!” But the truth is, if you like meat, then don’t be a vegan. Find what works for you, based on your lifestyle, nutrition requirements and flavor preferences. There are SO many ways to tweak recipes and to incorporate clean eating. All you need is a willingness to experiment and to discover new things. If something sucks and it’s terrible, then try something else. The worst that can happen is that you end up ordering in because you discovered you hate tofu. It happens to the best of us!
  2. Give Yourself Permission to Explore, AND to Hate Something.
    Experiment with flavors and textures. My challenge to myself is I try to buy one healthy item each time I go grocery shopping. For instance, I picked up a purple bell pepper the other day (photos on Instagram) because I had NEVER seen one before. The taste is sweeter and milder than regular peppers and I loved it! Last month it was sirracha – a spicy, zero calorie condiment, and before that it was Textured Vegetable Protein. The other day I tried Kohlrabi, a strange vegetable that tastes like a turnip potato or something. Turns out, I was NOT a fan, but that’s okay. Greek yogurt was one of the first things I tried, and it took awhile to adjust but now the creamy cornstarch and splenda based yogurt products taste so fake to me that I have switched over completely.
  1. Grow something.
    I started with the bulbs of green onions in a shot glass full of water. I left them there until they started growing roots (changing the water every few days) and then stuck them in the dirt. You can do this with lettuce, celery, and several other veggies. Growing your own, even if it is one little plant grown from leftovers, will bring mindfulness to your eating because you are caring for a living thing instead of ripping open a plastic package.
  2. Make your own Granola.
    I suggest this because the options are pretty much endless. Hate coconut? Prefer almonds or dried cranberries? There are a million recipes online to suit just about any palate. Try to use unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, sucanat or agave nectar. Use coconut oil instead of canola oil. Making your own granola is an easy way to experiment with substituting clean ingredients for processed ones.
  3. Shop Somewhere New
    Farmer’s Markets. Community Grocers. Fruit Stands. Natural Health Food Stores. There are so many places that sell unique, tasty and interesting things. Visit an apiary or honey farm and learn about the incredible benefits of using honey as a sweetener instead of white sugar. Last week I picked up some bee pollen at my local farmers market and not only is it sweet and delicious but it is packed with nutrition! Seriously amazing in granola and smoothies!
  4. Watch Documentaries
    I suggest you take this one with a grain of salt; we all know how media can skew perspective. But that being said, I did find some really interesting information in these documentaries. I would suggest snuggling up with a bowl of coconut oil popcorn and checking out FoodInc., Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, Food Matters, and Vegucated as a good start. They are all available on Netflix and you might find the motivation you need by watching these hard-hitting and polarizing documentaries.
  5. Schedule a Date with Your Kitchen
    Find a recipe online that interests you. Schedule an evening or afternoon to experiment. Tie on the apron and get testing! My latest accomplishment was reinventing this AMAZING salad I had at Earl’s a few weeks ago. Toss some greens in a bowl. Add in a half cup each of corn, black beans (canned), and shredded cheese. Chop up some dates and some grilled chicken. Crunch a small handful of tortilla chips over top. DRESSING: Using an immersion (hand) blender, blend up 1 ripe avocado, 2 small tomatoes, a couple of cloves of garlic, ¼ cup of plain greek yogurt and the juice of 1 lemon. Toss with salad and prepare to change your life.

I strongly encourage you to start taking baby steps, even if it’s just in the name of checking things out. Journal your experiences and share it with your friends. Invite your social circle into your journey: go to farms and local markets together. When you make eating and nutrition a wholesome, joyful experience you begin to transform your approach to food, and to life. It truly does make a difference!

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Putting the Pieces Together

10 Jun

I think as humans we tend to lean towards elaborate diets and restrictive regimes because it spares us from having to do the real footwork of discovering what makes us tick, why we do what we do, and the reasons that underpin our eating habits. I have discovered this truth in a very real way over the past few weeks, and I am curious how relevant this may be to the others out there who are on similar journeys. In her book, ‘Eating in the Light of the Moon’ Anita Johnston writes that “Food is not the problem”. Period. The difference between someone who is an alcoholic and someone who is a compulsive eater is the nature of the addiction. Someone who battles alcoholism is addicted to alcohol. Someone who battles with food is addicted to act of eating, not the substance itself. She calls it a process addiction.

This hit me like a TON of bricks. I have spent over ten years exploring this area of my life; learning to accept it, learning to talk about it and learning to accept it so I can heal and overcome. But when it gets too hard and I feel overwhelmed, the FIRST thing I do is put away my rain boots (necessary for trekking though the swamplands of the soul) and hide behind a diet. I don’t want to talk about the stuff that this process is making me think about. I don’t want to feel vulnerable. I do NOT want to be sitting in my room crying the ugly kind of cry while working out my inward-most fears. I want to be in a Special K commercial with flowing locks of golden hair, perfect white teeth and flawless skin while inspirational music plays in the background. Don’t we all.

I came across a quote this week that really resonated with me: “The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity” (Douglas Horton). I think we can all agree that weight loss itself is quite simple: calories in, calories out. But learning how to “do” permanent weight loss as a lifestyle can be complex as it requires a lot of pieces. Nutrition is a big piece, as is exercise. But there are also some less obvious pieces that are a part of this picture, and I am discovering them as I go.

So far, the three other pieces, or “tenets” of my weight loss philosophy, at least the ones I have been able to flip over and identify, are as follows:

  1.  Get Your Team in Place
    I like to think of this as an “entourage” because it makes me feel more celebrity-like. Call it what you may, but everyone needs one. Your team should be composed of supportive people (friends, family) and professionals who will both encourage and coach you through this. My team is composed of four of my closest friends, my family, my doctor, my Nutritionist and 2 personal trainers. These people are essential to your success.
  2. Get Your Resources
    Books, Podcasts, Blogs, YouTube Videos are all excellent ways to get information, make connections and keep your focus. You become what you surround yourself with.
  3. Get Honest With Yourself
    Coming out of denial took me YEARS. I could not even say the word ‘fat’ until I was 24 or 25. But getting honest about where you are at – and having the courage to love and accept yourself there – is essential.

I am really working through all of this and I am finding it difficult yet really positive. It makes me feel really vulnerable to me talking about all of this publicly but vulnerability is a necessary discomfort for me. Otherwise I end up sitting down in front of the television with my old friend Shame and eating a bag of chips and tuning out. I will be discussing these ‘tenets’ more in-depth as I go, but for now my mantra is simple: be present in my life, where I am right now, and practice kindness and acceptance to myself. Then and only then can I start to work through the anxiety and fear that keeps me isolated and trapped in the same old cycles.

Wishing you all the most wonderful day. Thank you for coming alongside my journey.

Onwards and Upwards!

26 Apr

I have been meaning to sit down and write this all week, but after trying an awesome new yoga class last night (and definitely feeling the effects this morning) I am compelled to actually sit down and get it done. And I want to talk about something I haven’t really discussed yet – EXERCISE.

My relationship with exercise really got off to the wrong foot. Growing up I loved being active. I played on basketball and volleyball teams, and every recess it was soccer or football with my friends. However Jr. High gym class was a nightmare for me –  the “chubby girl” (who, at age 13 was 5’4″ and 155 pounds, was far ahead of her class in ‘development’ but not really all that fat in hindsight) and I dreaded it. I remember in eight grade we had to do this wretched fitness testing. Everyone had already finished their run and I still had 3 laps around the soccer field to go. So I ran…by myself…while the entire class sat and watched me and pointed and snickered. This is, quite possibly, the worst feeling for an insecure teenage girl and I was mortified; running and panting and crying and wishing a hole would open up a swallow me. Over a decade later and that memory still makes me squirm. Eventually my friend Craig Iffla came and ran the last bit with me, encouraging me and making me feel a little less alone in a horrid and awful situation. To this day I owe him a debt of gratitude for showing such solidarity. Regrettably, that experience was the end of me and fitness for a LONG, long time, which was truly unfortunate because I think I would have been in a much different situation now if I didn’t have such negative associations formed between my body and fitness. In despair, I completely gave up at such a young age. It wasn’t until later in High School that I even dared to try exercise again, and it was well into my 20’s that I started to gain the confidence to approach this scary beast that had so brutally humiliated me.

Now, I can happily say that after some intense lessons in self-love, acceptance and growing up, exercise has been an important – but inconsistent – part of my life over the past five years. I loved my Deep Water Workout classes, loathed cardio, enjoyed strength training (until I had to get sweaty, that is), occasionally ran when I was super upset and even dabbled in a little bit of yoga here and there. The trouble was consistency. I was so scared to go to a class by myself (or maybe just scared of fat-shaming), so my workout schedule was contingent on my friends and what they were doing. And it was also really easy to skip classes – there was no real accountability, which was awesome for someone like me who tends to be pushed around by how I’m feeling. Hmmm…. Hard day at work? Potato chips and Netflix OR working out. Guess which one turned out to be my go-to? I’ll give you a hint: I didn’t get to this point in my life my working out all my stress at the gym!!

So allow me to introduce to you the AMAZING benefits of personal trainers. On April 12th 2013 I started working out at Preventous Collaborative Health twice a week, and since then I have noticed some pretty significant and exciting changes. My work out schedule has been as follows:

  • Monday – Deep Water Workout (45 mins)
  • Tuesday – Deep Water Workout (45 mins) OR some quality time with Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred at home
  • Wednesday – Personal Training with Colin Davis @ Preventous (60 mins)
  • Thursday – Yoga Class (75 mins)
  • Friday – Personal Training with Shantelle Meaney at Preventous (60 mins)
  • Saturday – Rest Day
  • Sunday – Aquacize & Deep Water Class, back to back (120 mins)

So I know that may seem pretty intense to some of you – and believe me, it feels intense to me! But when I think about it, I was doing “most” of those things on semi-regular basis before I started training with Colin and Shantelle. So what difference does personal training add, and what are the immediate results? I thought you’d never ask!!

Personal Training – The Difference Maker

  • Colin and Shantelle use a heart rate monitor to constantly observe where I am at, and adjust the intensity accordingly. Because of this I have a much better understanding of where my heart rate should be when I am working out.
  • Paying closer attention to my technique and form means I am more in tune with my body in terms of alignment, flexibility and endurance. It also gives me a baseline idea of how far I can and need to push myself in my workouts.
  • Colin and Shantelle use a variety of equipment and they switch up the routines each time so I actually have a ton of FUN when working out.
  • They design workouts to pair small and large muscle groups for maximum results. Because these results are tangible I am more motivated to work out more frequently throughout the rest of the week.

The Immediate Results – 2 weeks into my program

  • I am down just over 4 pounds
  • My endurance is already increasing – I can go longer and harder on the treadmill
  • My clothes are looser
  • My body feels stronger
  • My alignment is getting better (my hips are slightly uneven, causing balance issues)
  • I’m sleeping better
  • I have more energy during the day
  • I’m walking more – for FUN! What’s with that??

So at the end of the day, my opinion is this: Find something that works for you, and make sure you enjoy it. And if you can, get it to see a personal trainer to make sure you are getting the most you can out of your workouts. It really, honestly, does make a difference.

I wish you all a happy weekend!!

Fear. Fear Less. Fearless.

17 Apr

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

I have to get honest here. Not that I am not usually honest, because that is the entire point of this blog. But I need to get really, really honest. Like frighteningly authentic. I have a notion that has been brewing over the past week and I am going to just put it on the table. Here it is:

“I AM SCARED OF LOSING WEIGHT”

Okay, now that I have said that out loud, I would like to unpack this statement a little bit. It all began when my Dietitian at Preventous Collaborative Health, Fabijana Jakulj, started working with me on my eating habits. Interestingly enough, she did the complete opposite of what I expected, and did NOT hand me a menu plan. Instead, she listened when I told her that I wanted to explore my relationship with food, and took it to heart. Her plan for me, in her words,  is to help me learn to “eat intuitively”, which means listening to my body, listening to my emotions, listening to my inner-gremlin (my term, who she compares to a small child in a grocery store begging for ice cream, potato chips, pizza pops and candy) and to practice self-love and self-kindness through this experience. Talk about the antithesis of a diet mentality approach. I love it!

So as  I have been paying more attention this week, I am realizing that I am actually quite scared of eating healthy. Of losing weight. Of comparing myself to and competing with the skinny girls. I used to subconsciously think that us fat girls (orange) and those skinny girls (apples) were in different categories; what will I do when I become one of “them”?? I am scared to change my idea of beauty, because it’s hard to love something about yourself when you are so intent on changing it. And I am really afraid of having small breasts, excess skin, and low self-esteem. I have spent SO LONG getting to the place where I love and accept myself at my current weight. What if I become someone I don’t like? And even worse, what if I lose all this weight and gain a whole bunch of NEW insecurities?!

Oh boy… I feel like I am off my rocker here.  I have lost four pounds and I am already freaking out. Does anyone else feel this way?

I have decided that for now, at least, I will cross that bridge when I come to it. I am off to a personal training session now, and I am going to have to choose to believe that this journey is worth it and that the positive results will outweigh any negative outcomes.

If anyone else has or is going through this I would really love to hear your thoughts or stories.

Go love your dragons.

A Journey of a Thousand Miles… Is Really Long!

1 Apr

For most of my life I have been really obsessed with starting things. And equally obsessed, it seems, with not finishing them. I tend to also procrastinate, but that’s not even my biggest enemy. If I’m honest, I also find that waiting until a certain “time” to begin something is an excellent excuse to allow myself to indulge and eat whatever I want because after next Monday, or the first, or in one hour, etc. I will NEVER eat any of this junk again! (Um… reality check?)

So, today being April 1st AND a Monday, naturally I felt the need to create a whole new methodology and jump ship to some new diet just so I could start something, since it is clearly the best possible day to do so.

This mental routine of procrastinating, indulging, starting a plan I am not mentally or physically prepared for, failing because I am not being able to sustain it and then starting all over again at the next “acceptable” time is not unique to any one area of my life, but it is especially relevant to my weight loss journey. Does any one else go though this?

As I was pondering my sanity this morning, I realized something simple yet profound: This is the core of dieting mentality. This is at the centre of why I fail, and why the weight loss industry is raking in billions of dollars.

Now that I am realizing my pattern I am working hard to resist the urge to give in to it. I think the dieting approach is is largely grounded in fear of lack, denial and desperation. The battle to change, to be in control, and the desire to achieve results without actually having to go through some deep-level of transformation ends up with me imposing ridiculous expectations and demands onto myself in order to feel like I’m accomplishing something – at least for this week. This cycle is devastatingly counterproductive and always sets me up for the classic diet-binge-quit-repeat pattern. I am DONE with that.

Here’s the truth of it: Every step on your journey is JUST as important as the first one, maybe even more so. Transformation is the goal here, and if lasting life changes are to be accomplished then consistency is the key. Hmmm… Good things to think about.

Off to see my trainer for a sweat-fest now. Happy Easter Monday and April Fools Day to you all. Go do something that scares you 🙂

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