Tuesday, 1 March 2016

look a blog!

wow...it's been a while.

These past few months have been equal parts wonderful and not so much. It has been a long winter, and I have been unmotivated, lazy and quite frankly in a bit of a funk. It's time to change all that! I've had some blog ideas rolling around in my head for a while now but I think it's time to get all this out of my head and into the universe - whether to find some inspiration, meaning, or just to purge the thoughts swirling around up there. Bear with me.

For the last 5 years or so I have been on the path to a "better" me; healthier, more positive ... blah blah blah - if you've read my blog you know this. I won't regurgitate a lot of what I've already said but my focus hasn't only been physical, there has been a lot of mental change as well. Learning to let go (or at the very least trying to) of a negative self image, seeing the positive in different situations, being more confident and present. In the last year I've expanded that quest to include being more ethical, conscious of my impact on the earth and the universe around me, and to just live a more transparent and honest life. I'm not going to lie - it's hard. I won't sit here and tell you how you should become a vegetarian, or why eating meat is bad. I won't preach to you on the effects of the agriculture industry on a global scale or why you should stop eating sugar, how to live a positive lifestyle or what workout you should do or why we need to save the bees. I simply do not have enough knowledge to do any of that.  You can watch any number of documentaries on any of those subjects or pick up a book or go to a lecture and come away with far more than what I could pass on.

What I can tell you is that in making the decision to change my life, I am constantly learning. Learning is necessary to living - we never actually stop learning. Some people may come to a roadblock, a mental impasse if you will, that may keep the knowledge from truly sinking in, but they've still absorbed something - enough to think either 'this is something I need to know more about', or 'this is something I just don't care to know more about'. I wish these roadblocks didn't exist - I know I have my own I have to get past but I know I do care enough to learn more on all fronts that I've opened myself up to as of late, but there are years of undoing that need to happen before the new doing starts (or maybe doesn't start but really starts to take root and grow) if that makes sense. There are years of habits and beliefs that don't just instantly go away because you choose to live differently. Some things definitely come easier than others, but those roadblocks - well they take some time. The key to getting past them I think is partly recognizing that they are there. Knowing what they are and what importance they have helps to dissect them or knock them back bit by bit. This requires that honesty and transparency I mentioned earlier. This is also the hard part. It is incredibly easy to make up a lie - to yourself, your partner, the people around you....we do it every day, most commonly I think in the very simple "how are you/I'm fine" passage between two people in greeting, but I'm sure the lady at the grocery store doesn't want to hear why you're having a crappy day. So we tell lies. When we want to change though, the most important thing to do is be honest. I cannot move past my roadblocks if I can't be honest with myself about what they are. I cannot open myself to new experiences, and if I want those experiences to really sink in I need to clear the way. I would like to think I've come a long way from where I was, in fact I know I have, but my demons still lurk there under the surface, but I am far more adept at giving them a little pat on the head and actually acknowledging that they are there and then moving on than I ever was. Of course this isn't to say that they don't ever rear their adorable little heads now and then (they're my demons, and in my head when I personalize them they're cute - kind of like the wild things from where the wild things are) but I am learning to manage them.

When we start taking accountability for ourselves and start being honest, with our own self and with others - really great things can start to happen. Letting go of all that stress around being something we aren't, being able to say "yes - I screwed up" or "I need help" can be incredibly freeing. People will respond to it. Granted some people - usually the ones who blame everyone else for their life problems - will respond a little less than favourably and probably vanish, but many will respond in kind - you will start to get honesty in return, communication happens more freely. You will draw those kinds of people to you. It is hard - so hard - to admit to your faults (and I know this, I have many) but when we do we can start either accepting them for what they are, and for the ones we can fix, we can start fixing them.

I have a long way to go - but I'm lucky that I have a lot of great people around me who support me, and who are so patient in helping me learn and tear down those roadblocks. I have lost friends along the way, I am sure I will lose more, but I am also gaining; I am becoming the person I feel I was meant to be. I feel like I bring more to the table  now than I was able to in the past. Life is far too short to waste time blaming others for our unhappiness, to be someone we are not, to please others while ignoring our own wants and needs. It is also too short to not take the time to live the best life we can. I have had a great life for almost 40 years - it's time for me to have my best life.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Pardon me while I step away from my usual musings...I wanted to share something a little different with you...

This is the story of my girl Lita. 

I have grown up with dogs my whole life. Don't get me wrong; I love cats, and other animals, I can identify better with a cat and their aloofness, their coolness, and their "pet me now but not too much or for too long and when I want you to stop I'm going to bite you or stick a claw in your hand to let you  know". I get that, y'know? But there is a certain feeling of - I don't know how to word it...completeness maybe?... in owning a dog. Even though Lita didn't live at our house anymore I still felt that wholeness because I had a dog.

 Jamie was 5 years old - we had just moved out of my parents house and I was missing having a dog, as well as the security and comfort they offer. In retrospect, were I using my grownup brain, we were not in the position to get a dog, especially a border collie (the humane society had her listed as a springer spaniel....whaaaaaaat?)  I hadn't done any research on the breed, I had a tiny back yard that wasn't enclosed, I was a single mom working and in school with a young son - in other words, and to answer my mother, Yes - I was crazy, and no I don't know what I was thinking. I just wanted....needed...that familiar canine companionship that I had grown up with. Getting a cat was out of the question because Jamie is allergic and his asthma was still quite bad at that age, and fish don't offer quite the same amount of loyalty as a dog does.

I fell in love with Lita at first sight. I had gone up to the Humane Society in Welland and in a cage was this beautiful black and white dog with the most ashamed look on her face. She didn't bark like the other dogs, she didn't jump up or cower....she just sat there with that look. She had pooped in the corner of her cage and had gotten some on her tail. (That was also the day she got her nickname "Princess Poopytail") Her face with this look of total emotion on it sold me in milliseconds.  She had been found a couple weeks prior with tags on her from Brantford or Brampton - I don't recall which - and they had picked her up on the run. They had tried getting in touch with her owners with no luck. So they put her up for adoption, this beautiful "spaniel springer x - spayed" (turns out she wasn't either...imagine my surprise when she went into season...)

When I picked "Lola" up with a friend of mine I was immediately told that she was not a Lola. She was a Lita. Silly me - how had I not seen that? (and no - she was not named after Lita Ford OR the WWE wrestler)

Lita-dog was very sweet. She also had a desire to run, and took off every opportunity she got in the early years. Most times I could coax her home by getting in my car and telling her we were going to go for a car ride. One particular night, I believe it was the night before Jamie's 6th or 7th birthday she got out after I had put Jamie to bed. I panicked! I couldn't go out and look for her or use my usual car trick because I couldn't leave him alone in the house. I was already dreading telling my son on the morning of his birthday that our beloved dog had run away. I kept the doors open in order to hear her tags jingling should she run by and sure enough she comes barreling towards home. So of course I throw open the door and in she runs right up on the couch....Then it hit me....the unmistakable and horrible stench of SKUNK! Immediately I call my folks and ask what to do when your dog gets sprayed and the first bit of advice I received??? "Whatever you do don't let the dog in the house..."  needless to say that was a late night of de-skunking the dog out on the front lawn with a homemade detergent (which works beautifully) and deodorizing the couch she had climbed up on when she so joyously returned to us.

One of the things I always loved about Lita was her ability to gauge peoples feelings. She knew if someone wasn't a dog person, or maybe carried a fear of dogs - she was never pushy with these people. Always gentle and kind. She also knew who she could rough and tumble with and always backed off at the first sense of the game having gone too far. She would wait for young Jamie to go down the stairs first, and when it was bedtime she would always sleep with him first, then when he was asleep she would hang out with me until I went to bed, and sleep with me, and if I woke through the night I would often find her in the hallway between our two rooms.

After Meaghan was born, we all went to live back with my folks. Hunter and Meaghan were born the same year, and he was just a pup when we moved in. Hunter and Lita got along well, she tried to herd him, and the bigger he got the harder it was for her to do so...I'm told that it was a rambunctious game of "border collie herds doberman pinscher" that resulted in a torn ACL for Hunter but I maintain it was just his goofy long legs that he never could quite fully get control of. Lita flourished in a home with a big back yard and a best friend to play and run with every day. She had bathroom issues when we were on our own due to her being alone so much and these all but disappeared at my parents house. She still barked too much, and licked a LOT but she was a good dog, very polite and well behaved. She was great with the baby and I never had to worry about the two of them together.

In another "Are you crazy moment" (yes mom - I was) some years later I decided it was time to get back out on our own and we moved into another townhouse...this patio was bigger, and fenced in, but no grass. Lita wasn't happy about moving but she was with her people and that's all that ever mattered to her.  Jamie was older now and it was his duty to run her in the morning and after school. The following spring after the move Meaghan ended up in the hospital for a few days - Jamie and Lita stayed at my parents while I spent my time at the hospital. Meaghan got better, they all came home and then Jamie ended up in the hospital. So once again Lita went off to my parents this time with Meaghan, and I spent my time between work and waiting with Jamie to have surgery to repair his knee. With Jamie out of the loop for her care, I was at a loss about what to do with my poor dog who was going back and forth and just not happy anymore. She loved us, and I loved her enough to know she deserved so much more than what I was able to give her.

I had come to the conclusion that she needed a better, more stable home. I relayed this to my mom and she had told me she had a dream the night before that they had a little black and white dog. I could not have been happier that my parents were willing to take in Lita-dog.   We were able to see her every day, she was still with "her peoples people" and she got to spend every day with her best bud.  Leaving her was always hard, and she made sure to give me "the look" every single time I left the house, like "why are you leaving me here??" but even when she would visit us she was always happy to get back home. I often call my parents house her retirement home, where she had someone there around the clock to care for her and she could spend her days lazing in the shade of the garden, asleep by the side of my parents bed, or enjoying sniffering the fall air.

As Lita got older her hearing started to go, well maybe some of it was selective ignorance in the beginning (she could hear a cheese wrapper come off but not you calling her). She had fatty lumps on her back and neck, and after suffering a seizure one night she had an occasional tremor in her head. Her legs were getting bad and after a day at the groomers or after a long walk she would be out of commission for at least a day recovering. She would sleep more often and there was more than once that my parents would have to poke at her to make sure she was still breathing.There was more than once that they thought it would be her time, but as if she sensed it she would always rally and bounce back.

Hunters health was starting to fail as well. Plagued by the same fatty lumps, and arthritic legs we knew it would be just a matter of time for the both of them. Hunter was 11 years old and Lita, estimated 1-2 years old at the time of adoption, was now at least 15-16.

Hunter went first. It was a fairly quick decline over the course of just a few days. I was lucky enough to be able to say goodbye to a wonderful dog that I had a special bond with. He was a doofus through and through - sweet, funny, neurotic and a pain in the ass - very OCD - but I could always count on him for a hug, a dobie smile, he would "whisper" in my ear (he had a huge thing for ears and loved sniffing them) and we would dance (ever see a doberman do the wiggle?) He was by far one of the most  unique dobes I've ever seen and I don't think any dog will ever quite fill his pawprints.

The day of Hunters appointment Lita got sick. My mom was up with her all night and when I was done work I picked her up for her last trip home. I slept on the couch with her and much like the 24 hours prior she was up every hour to 2 hours to go outside. She refused most food, and drank very little water. If she wasn't outside she was sleeping very heavily - and dreaming very vividly - on the couch. I honestly think she was dreaming of running with Hunter. At one point she came over to my side of the couch and we had a snuggle - our last. I called the vet first thing in the morning and I made sure my kids got the chance to say goodbye. I shared my peanut butter on toast with her, and we made our way to the vet. She was very mopey going in. I could have attributed her mopiness or lack of appetite to being depressed about Hunter, but would that explain her being sick? I didn't think so. She was checked over and found a mass on her spleen. There would be no tests. The vet was very kind and offered a treatment to get her eating again and asked if that was the answer I was looking for. I started to cry and said no. Of course I wanted her to get better, of course I could have said yes treat her and I will bring her home and subject her to more suffering as the mass got bigger, and her legs started to fail her more...but to what end? For my own selfish desire to avoid making a heartbreaking decision? If she were younger, maybe I would have tried to get the illness under control and dealt with the mass, done testing, followed up with treatments...but she was 16 years old. We were blessed with an amazing dog for 14 years. My children grew up with this beautiful soul and it was time to let her go. Do I question the decision I made? Every single second that my mind is quiet. Would it have been fair to ask her to possibly suffer something worse than she had been? I owed her my absolute best and loyal love so no - it would not have been fair.

The vet administered the first shot to make her drowsy.  I lifted her off the table and we laid on the floor together. The vet gave us some time alone as the medication took effect. She fell asleep and I told her she was a good dog. I thanked her for the many years she gave us. The vet came back in and gave her the shot that would stop her heart. I did not stop petting her until she was gone. My heart hurt like nothing I had ever felt before, and I knew that was true love. Love for someone who enriched my life and the people around her; an unconditional love that no matter how many pairs of underwear she ate, burgers she stole, or shoes she pee'd on (to date only one on record btw) never waned. She was MY dog. Without her I feel like there is something missing. I don't have that wholeness anymore. I know in time that will fade and our hearts are big enough to hold many but I will always have a special place in mine for my Princess Poopytail...Litadog...my Little Stink.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

So ...You're Not Seeing Results

You spend 5 or 6 days in the gym...you track your macros to the point...you rarely cheat on your diet and yet your weight doesn't change...your measurements don't seem to be moving no matter how hard you work and you're thinking what the heck is going on!? So what really IS going on here...let's assume that you're healthy, you have a perfectly performing thyroid, no crazy genetics working against you (and of course you will have checked all this stuff out with your DR before starting in on a weight loss/training regime, right?? RIGHT??!!) Why aren't your workouts working for you?

I am definitely no expert, but I can share what has worked for me, especially when it comes to plateaus and just not seeing what I want to see as far as progress goes.

Let's start off with the biggest obstacle most people face when trying to lose weight/body fat - being accountable and being HONEST. You can track your macros, (fat/protein/carbs) but you need to account for every. dang. thing you put in your mouth. ERRRRTHAAAAAANG. You can't track just the healthy stuff. If you have a glass of wine or 3 after work, track it. If you are making cupcakes for the kids at school and you're cleaning out the tub of icing with your finger - track it. If you're clearing the table after your dinner and you're snacking on some leftovers (come on we've all done it) TRACK IT. We often overlook a number of calories when tracking our macros if we aren't paying attention to what we are doing. It takes absolutely no time to hit a 3000 calorie day if we are not careful. It requires 100% honesty and attention. If you don't track your macros - or at least your daily calories - you should start - at least until you have a pretty solid idea of what you're eating/when/and what you're dealing with regard calories in vs. calories out. Now, I'm going to be a little blunt here, but if you want to honestly lose weight, like really commit to it, just cut out the crap. 100%  Learn how to eat clean, unprocessed foods and then once you've hit your goal weight or body fat % you can start introducing those "fun" foods back into your diet - in moderation. Including alcohol (I  know - I am NO fun whatsoever)  Cutting out the crap also means cut out the BS excuses you give yourself and others as to why you can't lose weight or workout or take a 20 minute walk every night. And hey, if you want a tray of cupcakes at 3am on a Saturday night - go for it, but don't wake up the next day wondering why your diet or workouts aren't working. If you've followed along with me long enough I'm pretty sure you know I don't like the word DIET. A diet is temporary - I don't know of anyone who wants to lose 15 lbs and then gain it back again, so along with the crap - cut out the word diet and start thinking in terms of lifestyle change - you want to lose the 15 lbs forever. (Or maybe you want to gain 15 lbs - same rules apply just differently).

OK so you say but I do eat well, I track consistently and always meet my macros, I do train regularly and its still not working for me, what now smarty pants? To that I say its time to examine your cals in/out and your training regime. Most people make the mistake of not eating enough to support their goals - our bodies need a certain amount of calories just to lie on the floor and do nothing...so if you're dieting down to 1200 calories a day - your body won't be able to support that sort of lifestyle for long and metabolic damage will start to set in, your body will start holding on to everything that you're putting into it to use as energy to just get through the day (let alone support any workout you're doing) in the form of fat. As an example, I am roughly 160 lbs, my basal metabolic rate (BMR) is somewhere around 2400 calories. So just to rest my body expends 2400 cals a day. Throw some training sessions in there and the number increases. Because I am in fat loss mode, my daily calories in are approximately 1900. So a 500 calorie deficit per day - which should see me lose about a lb a week. (500 calories x 7 days = 3500 calories which is what a lb of fat 'costs') Essentially you want to aim to get 80% of your calorie deficit from nutrition and the other 20% from cardio.

So if you made it through all those numbers, really take a look at your body type and determine what your actual calories in should be (there are different BMR or TDEE calculators out there on the interwebs) and adjust them as necessary. And no need to go crazy - adjust maybe by 200-300 calories for a few weeks and see what happens - if you're seeing action, great keep it up! If you're still not seeing any movement try another hundred or two - but keep it safe! I wouldn't suggest over 500 or 600 from your BMR because remember you don't want to put your body into starvation mode! You can track your macros by protein fats and carbs, but since I went plant based, my carbs shot up and my protein went down but I have found that as long as my calories are bang on I am seeing results. So don't get too hung up on the particulars if you're eating clean, whole, unprocessed foods your individual macros won't matter too much (come at me, broscience!)

Regarding your nutrition, another factor that comes into play is what you're eating when. If you want to burn fat either do your cardio fasted (i.e first thing in the morning) or at the end of your weight training. If you're doing your cardio fasted, fat stores will be called upon to give your body the energy it needs to get through. If you go for a run or hit the gym for cardio after dinner say, your body is going to use up the glycogen it has stored away from your meal, as opposed to the fat stored. If you weight train, do your cardio afterwards - the glycogen has burned away through the hour or so of weights and your post-weights cardio will rely on those fat stores. Follow up your cardio session with some good carbs to make that burn last and give you a quick boost of energy. I know I've focused on HIIT training over steady state cardio so I won't go into too much detail here but aim for those high intensity intervals, and try and get 3 good cardio sessions in per week. An added boost of cardio on your training days can come from active rest periods. Instead of 60-90 seconds of rest, try and use that time for some plyometrics (mountain climbers, jumping jacks, jumping rope, burpees *shudder* high knees etc) and move right into your next set.

If you are new to weight training you can start with full body circuits for the first 30 days or so to get things started, but after that I would highly suggest a training split that would focus on particular body parts to really start building and toning some lean muscle. You all know I follow different programs from BBCom that will last anywhere from 4-12 and sometimes 16 weeks...my goals change between muscle building and losing body fat - and sometimes trying to do both at once - but I never do one thing for too long. This allows the muscles to keep from getting used to the same movements week in and week out and even within one program there are often lots of different changes happening. Circuits also don't allow much time to hit each different part of a muscle group to get a well-rounded symmetry. But focus maybe one workout on maybe back and biceps, and you can hit upper, mid, lower back, lats, and both the long and short head of the biceps. For your next session, focus on chest and triceps for balance. Personally I like being in the gym as much as I can so I do a 5 day split with 2 days rest from lifting, but on those "rest" days I am trying to get additional cardio in. Right now I am 5k training with the Couch to 5K running app at least 3 times a week and also doing a 30 day Yoga Challenge so my "active rest" is pretty fairly covered. If I am in pure muscle gaining mode I don't do any cardio. After my 5K is done I will go back to 3 days of cardio sessions per week.

So like I said at the beginning, I am no expert, these are just things that have worked for me, and I always go back to when I hit a wall. The most important thing is to make sure any changes you're making are done smartly with your overall health as the number one priority. It is also important to remember that changes don't happen overnight so give any change you make a good 3-4 weeks to start working. In the meantime, cut yourself some slack, if you're dedicated to the change, and you're being honest and accountable it *will* happen, it may just take some tweaking. Everyone is different and different things work for each of us in a different way.

You are a beautiful human being - let that be your mantra as you continue on your journey to a healthier you.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Work Hard. Do Good. Be Honest.

I've been doing a lot of self-evaluation lately...some spring cleaning of the self if you will. I am trying to learn to live in absolute truth with myself and others, as well as with a higher level of ethic responsibility than I have been used to. These are both very difficult tasks, and no easy undertaking. I am only at the very tip of either with a very long way to go to achieve both. I have been feeling that maybe I haven't been honest with myself about what I want in life and what sort of person I want to be. My goals are very clearly laid out and have not wavered in the last 2 and almost half years; continue to build my physique in order to compete, go back to school for nutrition, and very simply - help people. But am I holding myself back from meeting these goals? In light of my choice to live in absolute truth I would have to say that yes - I am my own obstacle. I am at the gym faithfully - almost every single day - but do I push myself hard enough? No. I can work harder. I log my food most days, and hit my caloric requirements maybe a little less often but still fairly frequently - but do I eat optimally to make sure I am getting the best nutrition for my fitness goals, and more importantly am I feeding my family good, whole unprocessed food that has come to our table in the most ethical and humane way? No. I can work harder. I know exactly what courses I want to take at what institute but have I saved up the money to apply or taken any steps in getting to that point? No. I can work harder.

I Can Work Harder

But why would I want to work harder? I have a good life. I've lost some weight, gained a bit of muscle, we eat pretty healthy most days (girl scout cookie binges this week notwithstanding - thank you Kelly) I have a job that pays OK and gets us by that I could stay in for the rest of my life,  so why work any more than I have to? Why look for a second job that will only take time away from my family and put the burden on them to cover for me when I'm not around, and when I do have one and can afford school then spend all my free time that I do have studying?  Why push my body to exhaustion on a daily basis to achieve a look that most people get grossed out by and more still don't understand? Only then to stand on a stage - in a bikini no less!!! - and be judged by strangers? Some days I can honestly say that I have no idea...it would be so much easier to give up my dreams than to chase them...wouldn't it? Could I live every day knowing that I just gave up? Chickened out? Failed myself? Didn't even give myself the chance to see if I could make something of myself with something that I love to do?

We will never know what we are capable of if we don't try. We need to arm ourselves with as much knowledge as we can, surround ourselves with people who can help guide us in our adventures, and above all be honest with ourselves about what we are doing, WHY we are doing it, and what we want to get out of it in the end. Probably the hardest part to be honest about is why something isn't working for us! We need to hold ourselves accountable for both the good and the bad - we can't just take the credit when something is going right, we need to take responsibility for what is going wrong too.  If you want to lose weight, and you go to the gym a few times a week, eat pretty healthy, then binge eat or drink on the weekend because hey - its the weekend and I'll be at the gym again on Monday, I've "earned" a weekend off and then wonder why the weight isn't coming off, you need to look at your behaviour and understand it isn't the program, it isn't anything else but the lack of effort you are putting into it. I've been there! I am there almost every freaking day!! Especially with Girl Scout cookies in the house!! (just one box left...tucked away...hidden from view...out of sight out of mind).

This isn't just about weight loss either. This is something we need to do - *I* need to do - in every aspect of our lives. I can try and fool myself into thinking something is working in line with the life I want to lead - but deep down I will know if it is right or not. I will fail and fall back into old habits - and often do - or lose sight once in a while of where I am going, but if I am honest with myself I will always end up back on the path I was meant to walk. When these things happen, they are not cause for quitting, but rather a chance for me to say "I can work harder".

And I will.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Food Prep

Alright folks, so I've had some people ask for a blog on the hows, whats and whys of food prep. I'm going to try to break it down to show you just how easy it can be, and how you don't really need to spend hours in the kitchen to get easy, healthy meals for the week. The advantage of preparing your food in advance is always knowing what you're going to eat, and having food readily available which should help you to stop binging, grazing, or snacking on things that may be a little less healthy. It also saves you a ton of money if you're going out to eat every day, and it is a HUGE time saver in the morning (or the night before) if you're like me and hate making lunches. Also, if you're counting your macros (calories, protein, carbs and fat) you can have everything measured out and ready to go ahead of time so you're not stuck at the end of the day trying to fit x-grams of protein into your daily goal while maintaining y-grams of carbs and so on.

The one thing about food prep is you have to be prepared to eat a lot of the same thing every day, which I know doesn't appeal to some, but when you consider food to be the fuel your body needs to get through the day it makes it a little easier to get down. Not to mention, it makes the special meals that much more...special. If you are serious about trying to eat healthier, spend less cash doing so, and losing weight (or body fat depending on your goals - and yes there is a difference) and you don't have endless amounts of hours in the day to whip up super meals (and really who does?) eating pre-prepped meals 5 times a week is a small sacrifice to make.

Sundays are typically my food prep day. This is the day I dedicate to all things domestic; laundry, groceries, food prep and cooking an actual sit down meal for the 3 of us. Aside from the fact that it means Monday is up next, I actually don't mind Sundays and at the end of it I feel like I've had a productive day that ultimately makes the upcoming week that much easier.

When I prep food for the week it is usually only my lunches for the week and possibly a second meal or snack through the day. But like most of you, I am thinking about my other meals as well in order to come up with a grocery list for the week. One of the tips I read recently in The Forks Over Knives Plan (which I highly suggest reading btw) is to come up with a meal plan for the week on a sheet of paper, or an excel spreadsheet, and on one side have the meals you plan to make, and on the other side a list of the groceries you need to make these meals. Switch it up every week and in a month or so you will have 4 different meal plans - already laid out with corresponding grocery lists. I LOVE this idea and while I'm definitely not there yet, I did make this weeks list according to recipes that used similar ingredients so I wasn't over-buying. You will no doubt have a system that works for you but if not, try this one out. I am famous for making lists and not adhering to them, or leaving the grocery store without getting key ingredients for something I had planned to make - you think I'm kidding? Emily at No-Frills knows now to ask me if I remembered everything.

So what is it that I make and eat ALL WEEK LONG...Based on the Forks Over Knives plan I have been transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle but I can share pre- and a little bit of post- switch-up meals with you - its only been a couple of weeks going plant based so I'm still figuring stuff out but the basics are the same whether you're a meat eater or the most hardcore of vegans.  My go-to meals through the week would be as follows:

Breakfast (post workout)
  • scrambled eggwhites, slice ezekiel bread and maybe some fruit, or some avocado, rice or ground chicken/turkey if I had any left over from the weeks prep, spinach, veggies etc. 
  • Plant-based option - 1/3 cup overnight oats and half a grapefruit. The extra carbs here feed the workout and keep me full until meal 2
Meal 2 (mid-morning)
  • 1/3 cup of oats with a scoop of protein powder (thrown together in the morning unless I had abundant tupperware available which started dwindling when my daughter started prepping her own lunches)  When I was eating an abundance of dairy I was having greek yogurt with no sugar added instead of the oatmeal - which I would often do a few days worth at a time
  • Plant-based - veggies and hummus (garlic breath in the morning - lovely!!)
Meal 3 (lunch!)
  • 4 oz chicken breast, 1 cup steamed broccoli, 1/2 sweet potato (or ground chicken/turkey, rice, asparagus, brussels sprouts etc)
  • Plant-based - baked tofu, 1/2 sweet potato and quinoa salad, or lentils and rice, and some fruit or applesauce
Meal 4 (mid-afternoon)
  • Usually by this time I am pretty full but a protein shake or oatmeal (if I didn't eat any at meal 2) or fruit
Meal 5 (dinner)
  • Since we have a small family we do a lot of leftovers - I can cook a full meal and it will last us 2+ days (usually 2 nights of dinners and maybe a lunch for me or the kids) 
Some people prep all their meals every day - this level of prep is something I aspire to but for now  doing my lunches and having a meal plan through the week for the rest of my meals relieves me of a ton of stress, and because of what a lot of what is being done is through batch cooking it does save money as well. Buy your oats, rice, quinoa, lentils all in bulk. Many fruits and veggies can be purchased fresh on sale and then frozen. (Grab a head of cabbage, shred it and throw it in the freezer). When I was buying meat I would get 4 packs of ground turkey at Costco, or chicken breast that was already filleted if boneless/skinless wasn't on sale. Costco is also good for yogurt and eggwhites.


photo courtesy of www.kimtoslim.com

On my Sunday afternoons, after doing my groceries, the prep begins. I usually start with preparing what I need to get dinner on the go, and while that is cooking  I do the rest of my prep, and finish up after dinner when the kids are getting ready for the start of the school week. Broccoli is steamed, rice or lentils can be left cooking on the stove while we eat dinner. Once the oven is free, the chicken can be done. I normally would drizzle with olive oil, add garlic salt and dried basil and bake for 25-45 mins at 375 degrees (depending on if it was filleted or full breast). If I had asparagus I would lay that over the chicken and bake at the same time. If I had ground chicken or turkey I would brown it with the garlic salt and basil, and occasionally add dijon mustard. For my macro goals I was usually able to split a breast in half after it was baked per meal, or a package of ground meat would cover me for 3 meals - this of course would vary depending on what your personal macro goal is. Sweet potatoes are done in the microwave every couple of days (less time than if I baked them)  I find that if I'm already in dinner mode it doesn't seem like an extra chore to do more. If you're making a batch of pancakes for breakfast, make some extra and freeze them! They heat up nice for a quick and easy breakfast to-go. Hard boiled eggs, salads, edamame, roasted chickpeas, hummus, guacamole, chopped vegetables, fruit....so many options to make in bulk and have ready to go in the fridge! You can pre-slice cheese, open a bag of pretzels and separate servings into baggies, divvy up pretty much anything that can be divvied! And don`t even get me started on the things you can do on the bbq! You can batch grill veggies, do a whack of chicken, portabello mushrooms, beef, turkey, chicken, bean or quinoa burgers - the list is endless!
Here are a few additional recipes I`ve mentioned to get you going:

Beanoa Salad
Cook 1 cup of dry quinoa and set aside to cool (I put it in the fridge while I am making the rest of the salad)
Combine 1 can black beans, a couple celery stalks - diced, a red pepper - diced, 2 green onions - diced, 1 clove of garlic - diced, a handful of cilantro - chopped. Add 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbs lime juice (i use a bit more) 1 or more tbs chili powder and a half tsp salt. Mix it with the quinoa and let it sit in the fridge overnight to absorb all the flavours. This salad will last me all week at a half to full cup serving.

Baked Tofu
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1 (or more) packages of extra firm tofu sliced into 1 cm-ish slices (i like mine a bit thicker and 2 pkgs last me 5 days)
Marinate tofu in sauce of choice - I use a couple tbs of olive oil, honey, dijon mustard and garlic salt all to taste but bbq sauce is delish too! I let it sit for about a half hour and then put in the oven for 20 minutes. Flip the tofu, add the sauce to the new side and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Overnight Oats (this one has a million different combinations - put whatever you want in it)
add 1 third cup of quick oats (or oats of choice), enough milk of choice - I use almond, my daughter uses soy - to cover oats, blueberries and a sprinkling of chia seeds to a bowl and let sit overnight. I add a drizzle of honey in the morning and eat cold but you can warm it up in the microwave if the thought of eating cold oats eeks you out.

Protein Pancakes (the complicated way)
half cup oats, one third cup egg whites, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder, 1 tbs flax seed, 1tbs greek yogurt, 1tsp vanilla extract, blueberries 

Protein Pancakes (the easy less fancy reckless way)
one third cup oats, eggwhites to moisten, 1 scoop protein powder, unsweetened applesauce for added moisture or maybe a little milk of choice - mix and hope for the best (I haven`t been disappointed yet)

So hopefully that has helped a little bit and as always if you have questions feel free to get in touch with me! Happy Prepping!

Friday, 10 October 2014

blow out the candles

This weekend marks my 38th birthday and our Canadian Thanksgiving. What better time to reflect on where I am in my life and the things in it that I am thankful for.  Now, I am not one to really make much of a fuss about my birthday...but this year is a tad different. I'm still not making a fuss about it but it does have some significance to my journey on a whole...It means I have 2 years to make my goals of competing in a fitness competition (that seems redundant?) by the time I am 40 happen. One of the great things about fitness competitions is that 40 is actually not a stretch age wise by any means. I have 2 years to continue learning and applying the knowledge to my training to dial in my physique naturally, research coaches, learn posing, and make the changes to my diet (as well as training) in a safe and healthy way so that I am not damaging my metabolism, or otherwise harming my body.   Two years seems like a long time but to change your body safely, naturally and effectively time is your best ally. Not to mention 2 years is the end time. If I am ready before that it could happen before that. But it *will* happen by 40. So you can see that I have no issue getting older. I am so much better now than I was 5-10 years ago, and in such a better place mentally, physically and emotionally I can only hope that the upswing continues - and I will do what I can to assist that. I don't miss the partying or excessive drinking to ring in my birthday. Presents are nice and I am grateful for the kindness of my people but I really just like spending time with them - which is especially easy with the proximity of Thanksgiving which brings us to the Top Five Things I Am Thankful For!! (who doesn't love a good Top Five list?

1) It would be easy to say my family and leave it at that. But it's more than just my family. I am thankful for my parents for always supporting me, regardless of the decisions I've made through my lifetime. They allowed me to make my mistakes no matter how painful or frustrating it was to watch, which allowed me to learn and grow and get to this wonderful place I am at today. Still much to learn, but I know they have given me the tools to use the knowledge that comes with the lessons. My brother and sister, for being my bookends; an older sister who maybe didn't carve a path so much for me (hard to do when you're me and insist on going the long route) but was there none the less to bring me back to the main road, and my younger brother for being my protector, from a young age sleeping on his bedroom floor after the haunted house at Prudhommes scared me too much to sleep alone, to present day.  I have many aunts and uncles, cousins, second cousins and my dear inlaws (Meaghans dads family) who have shown so much love and support to me and the kids. I could really write an entire book on how much every individual means to me. Maybe one day.

2) Yes my kids get a separate bullet. My son changed my life. As a misguided girl in a bad relationship, he gave me the strength to admit I needed help and to go back to my parents and  start putting my life together. From day one we have been a team. He has grown into a young man I am incredibly proud of that I continue to learn from and we are constantly evolving as a family unit. My daughter completed our little family group. She has always been independent, but it has been a conscious effort to be mindful of the lessons we should be passing on to our daughters so that they grow up to be strong and confident. She changes every day and I can see those changes, whereas with my son every once in a while I get surprised by his maturity. I am happy and thankful that I can be both friends and a parent to both of my children.

3)  I am thankful for being given the opportunity to learn what my body can do and what I am capable of. After years of not really caring about what I was putting into it, and not using it to even a reasonable extent I have finally learned to appreciate what it can do and how it works in relation to how I fuel it. It has given me something I am passionate about and I love sharing with others. The motivation and  inspiration I have received from so many people has further incensed that drive and for the first time I feel like I have direction. (now i just need the funds to go in that direction ha ha)

4) My ladies most specifically, and my friends in general. I know I am pretty much a hermit but they are my link to the outside world. They forgive my absence and they keep me in the loop. The people who message me on a daily basis and bear with me through my rants, raves, and ridiculousness and those who touch base every few months or so. The ones who lift me up and bring me back down to Earth.

5) I am thankful for everyone who has challenged me, because when I have faced a challenge I have retaliated with change. I have learned about myself from the obstacles that I have overcome. My feelings have been hurt, my trust broken, I've been made to question my own self worth. From that my skin has grown thick, my senses sharpened, and I've discovered that regardless of what anyone thinks of me, I am unapologetically  ME. I even make up new words from time to time - like unapologetically.  If I am true to myself, and if I am good to people, even on the days where I may not be at my best, I am still the best me.  

There are many more things I am thankful for; the roof over our heads, the beauty of the changing leaves on the trees, beards, and Bapas Burritos to name a few, but those are my top five...take a few minutes this holiday weekend (yes you too 'Merica) to think about your own, and not just what they are but why they are. And regardless of what number you are celebrating on your next birthday, strive to make that year better than the last...that is what I am going to do.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends and family, and a Happy Columbus Day to my American buds.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

sometimes speaking from the heart is the easiest hard thing to do.

Today was the 6th anniversary of the Children's Advocacy Center here in St. Catharines...sorry - make that the Kristen French Children's Advocacy Center - as today not only were they celebrating a birthday, but also a name change...a pretty important one in my eyes. If you aren't familiar with what they do I copied this from their webpage: "the Centre serves Niagara’s 12 municipalities, helping children and families cope with the life altering impact of child abuse. CACN’s partners are Niagara Regional Police Service, Family and Children’s Services Niagara, Family Counselling Centre Niagara and medical professionals."  It is the first dedicated facility of its kind in Canada and it has served thousands of children in the Niagara Region since it first opened its doors. I had the very special honour of being one of the speakers at todays event, having been a close friend of Kristen's in highschool. She was my best friend and I still love her dearly. 

When I originally started thinking about what I wanted to say it was hard; not emotionally, I have always been open to speaking about Kristen...but more so because I didn't quite see the connection at first - aside from the obvious contributions from the French Family on the original committee when the center opened.  As I thought more about what I wanted to say, and started putting words on paper, in particular one thought that kept rolling around in my head it became clear to me that this name change made perfect sense. Bear with me and I will try to get it out....The center is a place for children to come to feel safe, to share what happened with the people who are trained to help put these kids lives back together after unspeakable abuse, victimization, or witness to these things. As a parent, we do everything we can to keep our kids safe - or we are supposed to anyways. At some point we need to let them go to spread their wings - we let them walk home from school, ride their bike around the block, head out with friends for the evening, even just having a play date with a friend is part of that letting go. We arm them with the tools to make the right decisions - we hope - and trust them that they will do so. No matter how hard we try, or how well we teach them, bad things sometimes happen. We could not keep Kristen safe from physical harm. Not me, or any of her other friends, her devoted boyfriend, or her very close-knit and loving family. That is something that the people closest to her no doubt go over again and again again - the what ifs - I know because I still think about it almost every day. But what Kristen did have was unwavering strength, and faith. Her spirit was unbreakable and even if we can't keep the kids who come through the center doors safe from physical harm, her name will serve as a reminder to build their spirit up to give them the tools to cope, heal and move forward. That there even needs to be a center like this is heartbreaking...how can anyone hurt a child...but we are so lucky that we have this service and I truly believe it is making a difference in many lives. I am going to include what I had written for today's ceremony:

 When we were kids, we were immortal. We would live forever and nothing bad could touch us. In all the conversations we had about our futures, even our most whispered and intimate, the possibility of either of us not making it past highschool never entered our minds. I didn't realize until I was older that the idea or the truth of immortality lies in what we leave behind -  not in how long we live. It is because of the memories, the people who knew her, and the community who embraced her as their own, that Kristen will live forever.

Kristen's name is synonymous with the idea of community. We all know it takes a village to raise a child, and our village came together when we lost one of our own. 

Kristen's name is synonymous with serenity, as it graces various peaceful settings throughout the city, from her memorial bench in Port Dalhousie, to the Green Ribbon Trail, and her monument in Jaycee Gardens.

Now Kristen's name will be synonymous with the feeling of safety. For the countless children who are helped by the advocacy center each year, may her name be one they think of in troubled times, as a place they can come to find peace. I know that for myself, I have never stopped calling on her when I need advice, or just to feel comfort from one of  my dearest friends. 

We know that by all accounts, Kristen never stopped fighting. No one could touch the one thing that made her uniquely  - her - and that was her spirit. It is this part of her that lives on even though she is no longer with us in body. Having her name on this building is a reminder to every child who comes through its' doors that they too have one thing that they get to keep, that cannot be broken or taken away. 

I know Kristen would accept this honour with great humility and grace. Thank you for allowing me to share in that honour on her behalf.

It truly was a great honour being a part of the ceremony today. Being amongst her family, who have always made me feel a part of them, speaking to people who saw a need in the community and made something wonderful happen, and mostly just remembering. We don't ever get over something like this, but we do process it differently as we get older. The grief matures but never fades - it becomes a part of us. My life was changed not for what happened to Kristen, but from knowing her. <3

If you would like to make a donation to the Kristen French Advocacy Center, or volunteer please visit their website here. If you know of or suspect a child is being abused please call 911 if the child is in imminent danger or go here to make a report.