Tag Archives: health

Castles and Illusions

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“Who is that?” asks a 10-year old girl in the grocery store line up. She points at a magazine cover featuring an unnamed model.

I’m not sure. Some nice lady. 

“What’s she doing?”

Standing in front of a camera.

“Why is she standing like that?”

I’m not sure. She might be trying to make herself look different than she is. 

“Why would she do that?”

I’m not sure. Good question. 

“That’s weird.”

I know. [Silence.] It’s kinda weird.  

Because I’d hazard a guess that nice lady doesn’t look or stand like that most of the time. For what it’s worth, I’ve never seen women at a business meeting, or women at the gym, or women in the school yard, or women at the beach stand like that. Someone else did that nice lady’s hair and makeup so she looked quite different from what she looked like when she got up that morning. After other people with big cameras were done taking photos of her with special lights, that lady probably washed her face, put on comfy pants, and went for a sandwich. Then later maybe she hung out with some friends or her family. Maybe walked her dog. Did some pottery, played volleyball or something. I bet she’s super cool and smart.

It’s just that things and people sometimes get depicted like they are not. Sometimes it’s art. Sometimes it’s trickery. Sometimes it’s commerce. Or entertainment.

Sometimes it’s fear.

And a lot of times it doesn’t feel quite right.

Like when we get our family portraits done. It’s awkward sitting there with hands on each others’ shoulders. With hair combed just right. All that smiling when nothing’s funny. Your face starts to twitch, and your eyes get desperate when you stare at a camera and hold a fake smile for too long.

Or like keeping the house clean when you’re trying to sell it. You make the house look like it  never looks. And you run around every morning shoving things in closets and putting out fake place-settings. And you cannot wait for it to be over so you can get back to how you actually live.

Or the recipe pictures. The shimmering green smoothie on a white marble counter in front of the vase of yellow tulips. If you pan out a couple of feet, there’s a pile of slimy, black banana peels. And spatters of spinach and almond milk on the stove top. And probably stray ice cubes melting on the floor. The smoothie still tastes sweet and rich and glorious.

There’s a furious attempt to build castles and illusions, my dear. And I’m still not sure why. I can’t see all the way through it just yet.

The work comes in the un-layering, in finding what is real to you. Because the discomfort in the pose is real. The toil and story behind every image is real. The desire to flee the illusion is real.

As is the homecoming.

 

 

Diary of a Detox

Amongst other things, I am a food-explorer.

What this means is that I’m super-interested in food and love food, but I don’t follow any particular dietary camp or dogma.  And that sometimes I find myself “exploring” a box of Girl Guide cookies. 

I’ve tried a lot of different food approaches, and what I’ve come to realize is this: there’s no right way. What’s right looks and feels different for everyone. These days, I tend to regularly eat veggies, fruit, whole grains, fish, eggs, chicken, dark chocolate (blah, blah, blah….whatever.) Sometimes I eat cheese and bread and cake (congratulations). I eat whatever strikes my fancy when out with family and friends and when on vacation (so what). Mostly I eat for energy, health, nutrition, stamina, longevity, joy, balance and social connection. Occasionally I eat for comfort and stress relief (see: Girl Guide cookies).  

Here’s a piece wrote about year ago, about going on a cleanse. I wouldn’t have written this today. The idea of needing a cleanse to “right some wrongs” resonates less for me. Because there is no “wrong”. There’s just life. And doing your best in each moment. And it’s just food. And we’ve all got other work to do. And frankly it’s all up in the goddamn air.

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Recently, I did a cleanse. While this was part of my on-going process of investigative nutrition, let’s be frank, this was also about righting some wrongs after an all-inclusive Mexican vacation. I chose the Wild-Rose Herbal D-Tox, a 12-day protocol of herbal supplementation and foods to balance system acidity/alkalinity. It meant cutting out dairy, sugar/sweeteners, flour products, alcohol and tropical fruits. What’s left? Food was 80% from a prescribed list of vegetables, nuts, fruits, and select grains; and 20% protein sources. I jumped in with abandon, hoping the result would be a good old internal scrub down.  I was also hoping it would silence the part of my brain accustomed to eating churros twice a day.

Day T-1. Wildly excited about the cleanse. Feeling proud for having boiled vats of brown rice, baked chicken breasts, and for strategically removing (i.e., eating) hidden stashes of chocolate in advance. Very confident I’ll stick this out. Mostly because this cleanse involve eating lots. I can handle firm restrictions of food types, as long I don’t have to go hungry. I’m confident this won’t be like the last cleanse my husband and I tried. The one that required us to consume only diluted apple juice and celery water for the first several days. The one where my husband called me at 10:30 a.m. on the first day from the Wendy’s drive-thru with the slightly frantic declaration “I’m out”.

Day 1 – Seven minutes in, first major obstacle: the scourge that is black coffee. Mercifully, we had coconut milk. Coconuts are nuts, right? (Or fruit?).  Not on approved list; don’t care. Coconut milk happened. Other than that, day ticked along. Took batch of mysterious supplements twice daily. Low energy mid-afternoon. A few weird rumbles in the stomach, but nothing dramatic.

Day 2 – Worried about dinner at our friends’ house. Had cleanse-approved snack and supplements beforehand. Practiced ‘not for me, thanks’ mantra. But victory! Pretty much everything at dinner was cleanse-approved: chicken, broccolini, potatoes, kale salad.  Said no to ice cream and pie and stuck with strawberries. Am cleansing superstar! Home just in time for first cleanse-induced shuddering of the bowels in glorious privacy of own home.

Day 4 – Eating lots of lots of greens, brown rice, fish, yams, and almonds. Turns out eating apples, yams, and almond butter make me happy. Who knew?

Day 6 – Love affair with yams is deepening. Took 20 minute break during day specifically to “bake squash and yams” so readily available in fridge. I’m not even craving sweets or bread. Likely due to massive consumption of yams.

Day 7 – Date night. Menu navigation required. Had grilled salmon, vegetables and a baked potato with butter (cleanse allows butter!). I haven’t had a baked potato with butter in years. Why is this not harder?

Day 8 – I miss vinegar. And salsa.

Day 10 – New love affair happening: rice cakes with almond butter, raspberries and cinnamon.  Cannot get over that this is what I’m craving. Thought this was going to be brutal, but it’s not. I feel fantastic.

Day 12 –Wondering if I should carry on?

At the end of 12 days, my system felt calibrated, my body lighter, and my taste buds tuned. Just maybe, the body is meant to thrive on whole, simple food.  Go figure. I now see this style of eating as a tool kit for times when nutritional course-correction is required. I eased some things back in though. Like salsa on my eggs, vinegar in my dressings, dairy on occasion. But I’m still putting coconut milk in my coffee. And churros? Not yet, but we’ll see*.

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*April 2015. Just back from Mexico again. Churros….check.

Thoughts on Becoming Superhuman

Superhuman.  I’ve heard the phrase around a lot lately.

Before a few weeks ago, I’d heard it mostly in relation to the Tim Ferriss book The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman.  It’s a massive book with random chapters on fat loss, exercise, sleep, sex, life efficiency, and…er… how to be a better swimmer.  The dude seems a little nuts.  And I dig that.  The big message (I think): to really feel and perform your best in whatever areas matter to you, you’ve got to experiment and focus.  This feeds into my big-picture goal for the year…to experiment my way toward big, fat, deep, joyous health (I wrote about that here and here).

But what does being superhuman feel like? How do I know when I’m there? That’s not entirely clear.

So when I heard about Ben Greenfield’s March 8-9th conference “Becoming Superhuman“, I was intrigued.  May be I could get some tips and tricks.  The line up of speakers was impressive – naturopathic doctors, surgeons, wellness experts, bio-hackers, an ex-Olympian performance coach, nutritionists, fat loss gurus, a neurofeedback specialist, world-renowned endurance coaches. And Mr. Greenfield himself is a top endurance triathlete, coach,  and fitness expert.  That’s good company.  So a friend and I packed our bags and notebooks and scooted off to Spokane.

I was thinking the conference might be filled with hardcore Ironman Triathletes and endurance runners looking for the holy grail.  Or fitness and  health  professionals looking for the latest scientific nuggets.  And it some respect it was.  But it was more than that.  This was a conference for anyone who cares about their health and feeling optimal.  The  fact that a couple of moms from Canada – and up-and-coming podcasters – who are into nutrition and fitness showed up was cool.  This information is for everyone.  My mind was officially blown.

I won’t recap the whole event.  Ben Greenfield has as great summary here (Ben Greenfield Fitness Becoming Superhuman Live Event re-cap).  And Feed the Human has an excellent re-cap here.  But there were things that struck me deeply and have me thinking.

 

  • Sometimes Being Uncomfortable is OK.  Ray Cronise is an ex-NASA Engineer who now lives in the world of weight-loss experimentation through thermogenesis (think cold exposure).  He spoke about the idea is that one’s “thermal load” is key to the body composition equation, along with nutrition and exercise (see this article in a recent Wired Magazine).  Ray lost 50 lbs by experimenting with being cold and is helping others achieve results.  When you’re cold your body has to expend extra energy to maintain it core temperature; this helps burn fat.  He prescribes contrast showers (10 seconds warm followed by 10 seconds cold, repeat 10 times), taking shiver walks (cover your extremities, but leave the parka at home), sleeping with a sheet not a comforter, and dunks in a cold tub.  There was also some discussion about colder body temperatures at bed time promoting sleep (think cold shower, not hot bath, before bed). I was struck by the message that it’s OK to feel uncomfortable a little bit.  In our western world with heated homes and endless food supply, we have forgotten how to tolerate being even slightly uncomfortable.   “We live in a world where winter never comes“.  This endless and unnatural comfort is showing up on our collective Western body.

 

  • Ultimate fitness is not about how much stress you can tolerate.  Dr. Todd Schlapfer is a naturopathic doctor who works personally with Ben.  He spoke gently and passionately about the mounting evidence that endurance or extreme sports are not resulting in optimum health (a brave message to a room full of endurance athletes!).  Intensity of exercise is more important than duration (he thinks anything more than 30-60 minutes a day gets into the extreme).  I’ve heard that many times before, but I loved his deeper message.  “Fitness is not about how much stress you can tolerate; it is about how easily and effortless you move through life.”  “We must embrace ‘whole-life fitness’ and move a way from competetive, heroic forms of exercise.”  “We must make sense of the ‘why’ behind our fitness”.  I loved that.  He left me quietly pondering the “why” behind my exercise practices.  Why do I want to shave two minutes off my triathlon time?  Why do I run, bike, lift heavy stuff at all?  I know I have  reasons, but I can’t articulate them clearly or quickly.  I think “why?’ is a fundamental question for us all.

 

  • Our brains and bodies need dietary fat.  Nora Gedgaudas is a holistic nutritionist, neurofeedback specialist, and author of “Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life”. She spoke about how our carbohydrate-laden western diets have made many people highly reliant on glucose for fuel.  But we can be using fat as a primary source of fuel.  Carbohydrates are like kindling.  They provide a quick burst of fuel, but are very inefficient; we have to stoke the fire often.  But fats are like a slow-burning log.  Throw fat on the fire, walk away, and live your life without energy imbalances.   “Carbohydrates are kindling; fats are the logs.” Glucose is great in an emergency (think anaerobic exercise), but fat is the brain’s super-fuel and helps stabilize neurological function (brain fog anyone?).  The bigger issue may be how our stress-filled lives put our brains in a constant state of emergency or “fight or flight”, which can accentuate sugar and carb cravings.   Have I every really allowed myself to get “fat-adapted” and see how I feel? How many carbohydrates do I really need to fuel my fitness/sports activities, my brain function, and my optimal self? How am I proactively managing my stress? Suddenly, I’m not so sure. Some experimentation may be in order.

There was so much more…hormones, mental fitness, digestion, recovery, sleep. I’m still trying to process all I heard and figure out what it means to me.

But a few things are clear.  Firstly, to become Superhuman – or to find optimal health and performance – is a personal journey.  It will be different for all of us.  Secondly, being Superhuman is not about the shape of our bodies, or how fast they move.  It’s about how we feel in them.  As Ben Greenfield says “it is about finding the ultimate balance of health, energy and life”.  Thirdly, living optimally is complex and requires integation.  Big change requires lots of little steps in many different areas and a lot of balloon-squeezing. We likely cannot achieve it all at once.  Becoming Superhuman takes patience, inquiry, and time.

In the end, I believe each of us needs to develop a suite of personal wellness indicators that measure our whole-life fitness.  Then we need to observe them and stay present to them over time.  Sure, we can work with doctors, trainers, and health professionals for ideas and guidance.  We can look to other athletes for motivation and inspiration.  But ultimately we’ve got to own our own journeys.  And we’ve got to be accountable for our own outcomes.

For me, I’m learning that my personal wellness indicators need to go beyond the surface ones that I have – until now – focused on (things like the scale, body fat percentage, amount of weight I can lift, and race times).  I need to learn more about my heart rate variability, my hormone levels, my cholesterol levels…and other physical things going on in my body.  I also need to find ways of monitoring my stress, mental clarity, food sensitivities, spiritual self…and so on.  My sense of wellness must become vast and wide.

So deep thinking has begun.  What does being Superhuman mean – what does it feel like – to me?  What will my personal wellness indicators be?  What are yours?

And so this journey continues.

Big, Fat, Deep, Joyful Health

Against expert advice that says New Year’s resolutions should be specific and actionable, this year I’m going with big sweeping concepts.

That’s because lately I’ve been in a big, sweeping concept sort of mood.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my health.

Over the last few years I’ve been really focused on my fitness.  I’ve been “getting in shape”, “eating clean”, “working out”, “training”.  All well and good, and these concepts resonated for a while.

But am I healthy?  This question has been nagging me.  What does “being healthy” even mean? I’m not ill or overweight.  I’m fit.  But sometimes – a lot of times – I don’t feel like I’m there.

Because it’s fun and sexy, let’s quote the World Health Organization.

The WHO says health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.  I perused around their website a bit.  Nowhere did they say anything about “getting a six pack” or “taking two minutes off your triathlon time”.  Weird.

My personal health narrative is changing.  “Being in shape” is no longer enough.  The body aesthetic is no longer meaningful. Performance goals are less important.  I’m seeking a bigger sense of health.  A feeling of health.  I’m learning, slowly, there are so many pieces of the puzzle. And they all matter immensely.

So this year I’m going deeper.  Yet at the same time I’m lightening up. My goal for the year is to maximize the following:

Nourishment.  This is a big one for me.  It’s weird.  I’ve been eating my whole life, yet some days I feel still don’t know how to eat.  I’ve tried a lot of theories and plans, and I have seen “results”.  But looking back, I find I swing between restriction and overindulgence, awareness and lack of awareness, caring and not caring.  I have yet to find a simple way to eat that optimizes how well I feel and then live it consistently.

So this year I’m going to do some personal experimentation, some bio-hacking if you will. I’m going to pay close attention to hunger, levels of energy, cravings.  No more white-knuckling and praying for willpower.  Do I have food intolerances?  What do I need more of? How do I reduce toxins and stuff that isn’t even really food? Does what and how I eat reflect my core values?

Bottom line: I want to learn how to nourish myself, not just eat.  And I want to support my kids and husband in their sense of nourishment.

Rest.  This is another big one.  Anyone else out there exhausted? Like all the time?  For me, this means physical rest as well as mental.  Sleeping more and sleeping better.  Unplugging more.  Not “doing stuff” all the time.  Stopping the chase.  For me, it is about recognizing there is a point in the day where there is simply nothing more do be had.  At that point, I will train myself to stop.  I will turn off my mind.  And I will rest.

Connection.  I am blessed with great friends.  Some live near, some live far.  But here’s the thing.  I rarely see them.  I get that everyone is busy.  We’re all working, raising kids, taking care of homes and businesses, and such.  We’re all running around like crazy.  But  this year I’m going to book more time with my friends.  Regular time.  What’s-going-on-with-you time. Let-me-see-the-whites-of-your-eyes-time.  More dinners together.  More fitness stuff together.   More little trips.  This may be the year I personally initiate the renaissance of the potluck.  My world needs more potlucks.

Presence. I have a habit – as I think many do – of looking down the line.  What’s going on this afternoon?  Next week? What’s for dinner? What’s next on the list?  Oooh, that (new idea, food, place, whatever) sounds good.  How do I solve this uncomfortable problem? I spend more time in the future than the present.

I want to improve my ability to see, feel, and appreciate what is right here, right now.  In a sense, it’s tied back to the rest concept.  There is enough right now.  No more is required.  And I can handle whatever is right in front of me.  It’s all ok; in fact, it’s all wondrously perfect.  This doesn’t mean giving up or settling.  For me,  it means appreciation and acceptance while moving consciously with the flow of life.

Movement. I feel like I kind of have this down in a way that is working for me.  I love to move everyday.  I like to run.  Bike.  Jump. Swim. Lift, push and pull heavy things.  I like to sweat, and to feel strong and nimble.  I’m going to keep doing what I do.  But I’m going to ease up. I’m learning that more and longer is not better.  You cannot outsmart your body, and it will ultimately shout back when you push it too hard.  I’m going to play with the movement I love.  And I’m going to walk more.  And stretch.

Joy.  I’m grateful to know this feeling – those rare but sparkling moments of aligned perfection.  But I’ve noticed it hasn’t been coming around as much lately.  I hope my old friend joy will show up more as I work on all of the above.  For me, joy comes with laughter, levity, authenticity, connection, compassion, and creativity.  This year I’m going for maximum joy-buzz. Yo.

So there you have my new years resolutions.  Nourishment.  Rest. Connection. Presence. Movement. Joy.  And the maximization thereof.  All totally high level.  For now, all completely unactionable.

I’m not sure what form this will all take.  But I believe progress in these areas will show up on the body. And in the mind and soul. I’m hoping it will foster a deeper sense of health.

Big, fat, deep, joyful health.  Yeah, that sounds good.

Happy new year!

 

 

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I go without goals like I go without pants. Uncomfortably.

This post is dedicated to Debby Simms, whom I quote in the title. 

It is also part of Fitness Blog World, a group of bloggers with a passion for fitness who write about a given fitness-related topic every month or so.   The question this month was “What’s next for you? What are your goals for the short and long term?”

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Over the last year, I’ve had a some pretty focused fitness-related goals. 

This time last year I was musing about hiring a personal trainer.  I wanted to inject something new into my home fitness routine, and I wanted to learn more about weight training. That lead to a six month process of preparing for an all-natural bodybuilding competition on April 9, 2011.  It was a wild experience not likely to be repeated by moi. 

I immediately transitioned into training for a 32-kilometre leg of an off-road ultramarathon.  I kept up my weight training, but from April through July, I took to the pavement with more frequency and intensity. The race was on July 9th.   It was awesome.  It was perhaps the best race I’ve ever had. 

But since July 9th? 

I have been goal-less (not including the goal of being able to walk in a functional manner after the race). 

At first, I loved it. 

I loved the freedom of working-out just because.  No strategy.  No plan. No looming races or competitions.  No program to complete. If I wanted to run,  I ran.  If I wanted to lift weights, I lifted them.   If I wanted to try a CrossFit class and swing around on a pull-up bar like a crazed monkey?  Game on.  

But I’m starting to get antsy. 

I’m feeling a little uncomfortable with all the freedom.  I have a nagging sense that I should be focusing on something.  There should be some big thing.    

But, simply, there isn’t. 

I’m sure there will be one again.  I can’t see it just yet.  So for now, I live in the question.  

And as I live in the question, I see there a hundred other types of fitness goals that I can have.  They’re not short-term or long-term.  They just are.  Like working-out consistently each week in response to my energy levels and daily desires. Like lifting, pushing and pulling heavy things at least three times a week. Like continuing to work on eating whole, real, unprocessed foods, consciously and with gratitude. Like limiting my personal embarrassment in a twice-weekly CrossFit class I’m taking in September. Right now, I like those goals.  They make me happy. 

So, yeah, I’m a little uncomfortable over here.  But I’m good. 

And I’m realizing that when I choose to show up every day and work hard, I am training for something bigger than a race or competition.  I am training for my health.  My sense of balance.  My kids.  Our family.  I am in training for the other 23 hours of my day.

For my future self. 

You know, for life.

i heart food bloggers

I’m new to blogging.  I’ve been doing it for about two months.  For me, it’s about practicing my writing and seeing what emerges when I put fingers to keyboard.  I’m finding my creative voice. Or something like that. I write about my life, my take on the world.  I write about parenting and my interest in fitness.  Sometimes I make fun of politicians.  It’s cutting edge, riveting stuff.   

Actually, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m just writing stuff down. 

In the process of writing and thinking about my blog, I’ve come across a lot of other blogs.  Man, I never knew so many blogs existed.  There’s a zillion of them out there.  Like regular people – who aren’t professional writers or famous for some other thing whereby it makes sense to have a blog to promote themselves – have blogs.  I would have expected Jamie Oliver, for example, to have a blog (I actually don’t know if he has one).  Or even Rick Mercer (he, I know, does have a blog).  But I wasn’t expecting  all the regular folk.  For example, there’s a million people who blog about their lives as parents.  Hilarious stuff about trying to keep it together when chasing down possessed children.   There are people who blog about books and writing.  About photography.  About running and fitness.  Whatever the topic or issue, I’ll bet there’s a blog.  Or several hundred blogs.

But my favorite discovery has to be the food bloggers.  These are people who blog every day about what they cook and eat.  Most that I’ve come across are not chefs or restauranteurs or nutritionists.  Though I’m sure there’s many professional food types out there blogging about their culinary exploits.  But the ones I’ve come across so far and that I’m drawn to are regular people who appear to simply love food and care deeply about what they eat and the health of their bodies. 

Some document every meal and snack on their blog.  They put up recipes.  They come up with their own recipes.  They analyze and report the nutritional content of their recipes.  They share their shopping lists and talk about their favourite food products.  They take photos, sometimes extraordinarily beautiful photos, of their meals and snacks and post them on their blog.  Sometimes every day.

This amazes and inspires me. 

Why?  Because I love food. 

But despite of (or maybe because of) my love of food, for most of my life I have been fairly unconscious about what I eat.  I ate what looked good at the time.  I think I have had a reasonably informed understanding of what I should and shouldn’t be eating.  My mom always made me eat my vegetables and drink my milk.  And, come on, I took food science in high school.  And as I grew into my life as an independent adult, I began to read running and other magazines filled with nutrition tips and ideas. I intellectually understand the basics of good nutrition.

But my food choices haven’t always reflected that.  There has been a disconnect between what I know and what I do.  It’s not that I would get crazy and eat whole pots of chili (though I have been known to eat large portions of pans of brownies).  I just wouldn’t think much about it at all.  I didn’t really think about how many fruits or vegetables I was consuming in a day.  Or whether I was getting enough protein or calcium.  I’d just kinda eat.  Probably a little too much.  And I never really stood up to my fierce desire to consume any form of chocolate that entered my line of sight.  Big picture, I never worried about it because I was relatively healthy and active, and didn’t appear to be packing on the pounds. 

This changed for me about eight months ago.   Motivated by some force that is still not entirely clear to me, I’ve become really interested in healthy food and conscious eating.   As part of my get-really-fit-by-40-and-stay-with-it-project, something has clicked in me (that’s not actually a name for the project, but is has become a whole “thing” in my life so I feel the desire to name it.  Apparently, badly.  For more on that, see this post).  

For whatever reason, I’ve changed the way I eat.  I am eating meals balanced in nutrients.  I eat more protein.  I eat less sugar and fewer simple carbohydrates.  I drink more water.  I eat smaller meals, but I eat more often.  I never go more than three hours without eating.   I enjoy preparing a meal or a snack.  It’s becoming kind of like a series of neat science experiments every day.  How will this taste?  How long will it keep me full? Can I bear the suspense?  And I’ve watched my body respond to conscious eating and meal planning.  And I’ve felt my body respond, in the form of more energy and less guilt. 

I’m nowhere near perfect.  I slip up all the time.  But I am changing and forming new habits.  And I like it. I want to learn more about food and balanced eating, and I want to keep it interesting.  Mostly, I want to stay healthy and I want to keep it together for my two young girls.  I want them to  learn how to protect their health, and I want to be a good role model for them.

I think I really now understand that food is fuel.  Food is a gift to my body and my health.  Food is also creative.  And food is a social and communal ritual.  Food and meals bond a family and bond friends.  Food, in the end,  is a life long project.  I’m going to have to eat several times a day for the rest of my life.  Every day for the rest of my life.  So why not make it interesting?   And purposeful. Why not – now here’s a crazy thought – take proper care of my body. 

And these food bloggers?  The food blogs are working for me more so much more than recipe books and professional recipe web-sites.  I think because they are live.  They are informal.  These are real choices that people are making every day, and they’ll often say “well, that was crap”.   And sometimes they set their kitchens on fire.  Readers can ask  questions, and the blogger will mostly likely respond. It’s like a conversation about food is right there if you want it. 

And these food bloggers inspire me because, by way of writing about their meals and choices every day and sharing it with the world, they are obviously eating consciously.  They are setting a great example.  These are people with other things going on, but who are somehow making time for conscious eating and food preparation, and just making it part of what they do.  How in the world they then find time to write about it and take photos of it every day, I’ll never know.  But I’m just glad they do.

These are some of the food blogs I’ve found that I like:

Foods of April

The Great Balancing Act

How Sweet It Is

Kath Eats Real Food

Oh She Glows

The Pink Peppercorn

There are thousands more out there.  If you have recommendations, please let me know. 

Food bloggers, I salute you.

agony and the early morning work-out

One of the things about my maternity leave ending is that I now cannot work-out in the middle of the day.  I sense it might be wise to be showered and appropriately attired at some point before 8:00 a.m. so that work-type people I come in contact with during the day do not feel compelled to avert their eyes.  Plus I actually now have to…well… work during the day.  That rules out doing a lot of other stuff right off the bat. 

So I’ve been thinking for some time about how I’m going to keep up my newly found and much-loved fitness routine.  I’ve talked to some friends who work full-time and are pretty committed to their daily work-outs.  How in the world do they do it?  Later in the evening is tough.  The day wipes you out, and too many other excuses can pop up.  The only thing that seems to work consistently is this:  one must work-out first thing in the morning.  Like early in the morning.  Like while the kids are still sleeping.  And so there is enough time afterwards to still shower, dress, put on the coffee, make lunches, glance at headlines…do whatever else you need to do.  I did the math on this.  I sketched it out.  The result?  I must work-out at 6:00 a.m. 

I had to sit for a while and let this sink in.  6:00 a.m.  The thought terrifies me. 

The number itself does not.  I am often awake by 6:00 a.m.  One the many things that changed for me after my first daughter was born – and my body was tortured with getting up many times in the night for many months – was my sleep rhythms.  For more than a year, I couldn’t sleep.  Even when baby was sleeping well, I just tossed and turned.  It was hell.  But the insomnia’s now dealt with, and I can sleep most nights.  But I can never (and I mean ever) sleep in.  I’m just awake, no matter what, by about 6:00 a.m.  Everyday.  No alarm clock required.  And I’ve accepted that.  I’ve learned to just get up and enjoy that time to myself.  I read the headlines, do some emailing, drink coffee.  I ease quietly into the day.   

But working out at 6:00 a.m.?   That does not sound like easing quietly into anything.  That sounds nuts.  But I’ve thought about it and decided it must be attempted.  My new year’s resolution to stay in the best shape of my life and enter my forties with a bang depends on it.  And I hear lots of people do it.  Apparently there’s a whole silent community of folks that get up every morning at an ungodly hour to go the gym, get on their bike, hit the sidewalk, unroll their yoga mat… whatever’s their bag.  They do it because it’s the only time they have.  And they do it because it makes them feel whole.  These people amaze me.  And they stand as proof that it can be done.   

Day one.  I woke on my own just before six.  I had laid my work-out clothes on the floor the night before so I could get dressed easily in the dark.  I managed to roll out of bed and dress without disturbing my husband.  I went down to the kitchen, ate half a banana, and drank a few sips of water.  I made my way down to the dark cold basement.  Put on running shoes.  Put in DVD and set my heart rate monitor.  As the program started up, I stood in unblinking disbelief of I was about to do.  Why am I not in a warm house coat drinking coffee? 

But I stuck it out.  I did the work-out.  The first few minutes were a bit creaky.  But the first few minutes of any work-out are a bit creaky.  I just kept moving, like any other day.  And before I knew it, it was over and I was in cool down.    Triumph!  Workout complete!  I was wide awake, drenched in sweat, and had pure blue energy coursing through my veins.  They key was then to keep moving.   Back upstairs I went.  I was showered, dressed, had coffee on and lunches made by 7:20.  I felt like a multi-tasking superstar.  And I felt great all day.  Energized.  Alive.  Raring to go. 

Day two.  Woke up at 6:15 (miracle).  That extra 15 minutes meant my schedule was now shot to hell.  I couldn’t make myself get out of bed.  

Could. Not. Do. It.

So I just laid there for a while.  I eventually got up, put on my warm house coat, and made some coffee.

I’d better fire up the alarm clock.  This is going to be tougher than I thought.

the two week eating challenge

Today I am starting an eating challenge.  Not the classic pie-eating-contest or who-can-get-most-for-their-money-at-the-Chinese-buffet kind.  Too bad, because I always thought I’d be really good at that kind of thing.  No, today I’m starting a two-week clean-eating challenge.  Nothing too dramatic or life-changing.  Just an effort to kick-start the new year and get the left-over holiday sludge out of my system.  As I wrote on January 1 (“the best shape of my life”), I’ve really been working on fitness and healthy eating for the last six months.  On the food front, I’ve been recording my food intake most days, cutting back on portions, being aware of when I’m hungry and when I’m just bored, trying to slay the sugar dragon, and trying to eat a better balance of nutrients.  I still eat, and eat plenty.  But just better stuff and in a more balanced way.   

Yeah, that all sort of went south around the holidays.   I tried to keep it together.  Days when there were no special events going on I stuck to my healthy ways.  But for the days when there were parties, gatherings or visitors – and there were many – bad habits started to sneak back in.  You know, a few extra pieces of cheese, a sniff of pate, roughly half a pan of chocolate brownies I was making for “when the visitors come”.  Also, the “use-one-eat-one” strategy I employed during the mom-and-me gingerbread house decorating party at my daughter’s preschool was not a particularly great one.  Plus, the holidays are extra tough in our household because both our daughters have December birthdays (note to self: stop going on holidays in March).  So added to the mix were two birthday parties and the associated birthday cakes.  It’s not the eating of the birthday cakes when they’re done that’s the problem; it’s the making process.  I’m not much of a cake-maker and cannot gauge a crowd to save my life, so I made two cakes for each party just in case, which means double batches of icing and all those bowls to lick.  All I’m going to say is that, between my four-year old and I, not a lot of that extra icing made it into the garbage.   

But, remarkably, on the scale and in the big scheme of things not too much damage was done.  I kept working out diligently through the holidays.  But my eating habits and instincts have gotten out of whack.  I need a couple of strict weeks to get it together and recalibrate my system.

Thus comes the eating challenge.  Who am I challenging and being challenged by, other than my willpower and the chocolate demons?  I have an on-line coach who coaches a bunch of people in our workout programs.  It’s a great system.  We log-on, discuss our workouts, and talk about challenges, injuries, ideas.  I find it motivates me and keeps me accountable, and it appeals to my competitive side.  If I want to discuss health and fitness everyday I better have made the effort to work out myself.  And every now and again, our coach throws out a challenge and those interested jump on board.  So as of today, it’s a new eating-clean challenge for the group.  Whoever eats clean for two weeks, doesn’t miss a work-out, and logs it with the group every day goes in a random lottery for a small prize.   We can have a cheat meal once a week (don’t go crazy) and one slip up (let’s keep it real) and still be in the running.   It’s not about the prize, of course, it is simply about being accountable to something. 

Eating clean, in my little world, is not too scientific.  It’s about eating real, unprocessed, whole, fresh foods – and doing so in moderation.  No sugar, alcohol, wierd sweeteners, really refined or sweetened stuff.  No hugely high-fat stuff either (so long cheese and butter).  Lots of veggies, fruits, whole grains, fish, other lean protein, nuts.  You get the idea.  Nothing new here. 

It will take some focus, and some throwing away of the hidden post-Halloween stash, but I believe it can be done.  Two strict weeks to get my habits back on track.  It’s not that I will never eat sugar or cheese again.  I just need to remind my system that iced sugar cookies and smoked gouda are not their own categories in the Canada Food Guide requiring 4-6 servings a day. 

So game on.  This can be done.  Anyone else care to join?  Should be easy as…well…pie.