Gratitude and Passion…

gratitude

I had such an amazing few days, I had just had to share. My mind is firing on so many cylanders that I have actually became a little ADD at work yesterday.

Let me go back to an article I read last week in the Globe and Mail. The article talks about this community in VERY Northern Ontario that traditionally hasn’t had a lot of access to fresh food, specifically produce, and when they do they have to pay an arm and a leg for it ($13 for a bag of apples?!?!). An organization in Toronto, called FoodShare, has partnered with another organization to bring this community fresh produce, at reasonable prices, via truck, train and plane. It takes 3 days to get there, and the people are so excited to get it, it usually sells out in mere hours.

So, what does this have to do with me? Well, this article reminded me how grateful I need to be for what I have, for how easy it is for me to eat healthy if I really put my mind to it. I live in a community where there are plenty of groceries stores and produce markets, where I can purchase healthy, fresh and reasonably priced food. I was reminded even more when I went to the opening day of my local Farmer’s Market on Sunday. Here, I can buy direct from the farmer’s themselves ensuring even greater freshness and usually some pretty good deals. I forget that not everybody has such easy access to this. I forget how lucky I am, and how grateful I am. Without them, it would be really hard for me to make the changes I am trying to make.

Even in my own city there are large pockets of the city which are known as food deserts. Food deserts are “areas with little or no access to large grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable foods needed to maintain a healthy diet but instead often have fast food restaurants and convenience stores“. I first became aware of the concept of food deserts a few years ago, when I was living on the outside edge of my neighborhood. My neighbourhood is a fairly wealthy one, but it is bordered by an area to the west which is considered a lower income area. I realized one day, as I walked out of my apartment building, if I walked in one direction (towards the wealthy area) there was a little market store about a 10 minute walk where I could get fresh, healthy food. However, if I walked the other direction, there was only fast food and convenience stores for many, many kilometres.

Map of Toronto's food landscape

Map of Toronto’s food landscape

The other problem is even when these areas do find a way to get to a store where they can buy the “healthier” food, they can’t always afford it. It is a reality that the cost of food had increased dramatically over the last few years, yet for the most part incomes haven’t gone up. I know that I personally spend a lot of my income on food. When I was living on my own, and I had more basic living expenses to pay, I didn’t always have enough money left over for food. I know that I was lucky, I had been taught how to get creative with my money, how to spread ingredients out to get the most from them and I could shop around for the best deals. Not everyone has this ability or access, which makes it even harder for them to be able to buy the fruit and vegetables. So they just end up eating fast food because it is easier and it is cheaper.

Ok, I am going to climb down off my soapbox now. It’s funny, I do not consider myself an activist. There are however, two causes that I am passionate about. One is literacy, the other is access to healthy, reasonably priced food. I have wanted to get involved with organizations, such as FoodShare, but they generally are looking for volunteers for during the week when I am working. But all of this has inspired me to, again, try to find ways to get involved and to get more educated. I have even signed up for a few more online courses all about this, as well as other food related issues. It has triggered a passion in me. In fact, it has given me what I like to call an “Oh-Shit” moment. This is similar to an “Ah-ha” moment, but more along the lines of “oh shit, this is my real passion, this is my real purpose”. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my job and I enjoy designing, but it doesn’t ignite the fire in me like this does.

One other things has come out of all this, a new appreciation and gratitude for my mother. My mother and I have a lot of baggage, and I often talk about all the things I think she did wrong, but I don’t give her enough credit for the things she did “right”. I don’t give her credit for the gifts she blessed me with.

My sister and I grew up in a home where we always had fresh, home-cooked meals. Sure, we had fast food and junk food as well, but those were treats and our main meals were usually healthy, nutritious and delicious. My mom was also exposing us to new and different foods, and while I didn’t always appreciate it then (alfalfa sprouts and falafel don’t generally go down well with 11 year olds) I am grateful for it now. Thanks to that exposure, I am usually open to tasting and trying a wide variety of foods. I may not always like them, but I am usually open to at least trying them. The exception to this is liver (well any organ meat really)…I don’t think I will EVER try liver again. The taste, the smell, the texture….BLECH!!

My mother also passed on to me the ability to cook without recipes. She would often cook by just throwing different ingredients in together and would have faith that it would all taste ok, and usually it was delicious. I find that this is how I cook as well. Like her, sometimes they don’t work out, but more often then not they do. It’s funny because I also find that the foods that she wasn’t the greatest at cooking, like roast beef (always overcooked and more then a bit leathery) are also the foods that I don’t particularly cook very well either. There were some foods, however, that she was really good at. Her vegetarian lasagna was AWESOME!! Super garlicky, spinachy and cheesy…soooo good! No matter how many times I try, I am still unable to make mine taste as good as hers ever did.

No matter how much, or little, money she had my mother always made sure we had healthy nutritional food. I know this is something she learnt from her mother, who had to feed a very large family on a ridiculously small budget. Thanks to her, I never felt hungry and I now have that same passion for food that she displayed. It is one area in my life where I often find I feel close to both her and my grandmother. When I am cooking something for the first time, and it works out, that little happy tasting dance I do is my way of thanking them for their gifts. In that moment, I feel the legacy both these women passed to me, and I get a little burst of love and gratitude.

So, you may have discovered by now what I have in the last few days – THIS is my passion, THIS  is my purpose. How to incorporate it into my life, I am not sure yet. My first instinct was to quit my  job and go back to school full time to study food security and equality. I managed to talk myself off that particular financial cliff (I am still paying of student loans from both my last forays into full-time education). Instead, I am going to continue taking online courses in my spare time, and am going to continue to look for ways to get involved on a volunteer basis. Eventually it may become something more, but for now it will be an extra-curricular pursuit.

Summer is here….yay?

Tell me about it!

Tell me about it!

Ok, what I am about to say might very well be considered sacrilegious – I hate summer! There I said it, I have admitted it. Let the tar and feathering begin!

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things about summer that I love. Summer is a time of flip flops, longer days, no heavy coats and outdoor BBQ’s. These are all great things, and things that I look forward to as I trudge my way through winter. However, summer for me is also a time for allergies, humidity and increased anxiety.

Earlier this week, the weather started to get a little warmer. It wasn’t incredibly warm, but there were a few days where the temperature got up to the high 20s with humidity. Everyone around me was so happy, and was even celebrating the arrival of sun and warmth. I, however, started to feel a little dread and a lot more anxious. When the weather broke, and the temperatures plummeted, everyone around me was complaining and I was secretly cheering.

I haven’t always been this way. I use to celebrate and adore summer the way most Canadians do. I am not a fan of winter either, and much prefer weather like we had yesterday – the sun was shining, but the temperature hovered around the mid teens.  However, if you had asked me 10 years ago, I would have been one of the first whining and complaining that it was too cold and asking “where the heck is our summer?!?”. Today, however, I have a real intolerance to the heat, and as the temperature inches upwards, so do my anxiety levels.

I googled to see if this is a common thing, and it turns out that it actually is quite common among people who suffer from my particular form of anxiety – health anxiety. There are several possible reasons for it. The first is something that is pretty rare, and that not many people are aware of, which is Season Affective Disorder – Summer variety. Most people have heard of the winter version of Season Affective Disorder, where a person gets depressed due to a lack of sunshine. Apparently, there is a summer variety where people get depressed from too much heat. Weird, I know, but it is true. Of course, me being the hypochondriac that I am, I immediately decided this was what was wrong me. However this form of SAD is very rare, something like 1% of winter SAD sufferers will suffer from this as well, so I highly doubt that is what causes my anxiety.

The more likely culprit is the anxiety about the panic. Believe it or not, this is actually a thing. Once you have suffered a panic attack, you are more likely to have increased anxiety about the possibility of having another panic attack. When you find yourself in similar conditions to those that caused the original panic attack, you will feel increased fear and anxiety over it happening again. This is what happens to me, which is why summer causes increased anxiety levels for me. My first panic attack happened 7 years ago, right around this time. It was actually exactly 7 years ago on the Victoria Day long weekend. I spent the friday night of that particular long weekend in the emergency room, feeling like I had absolutely lost my mind. So, the combination of it being a little bit warmer, and the long weekend, triggered the memory of that night and set off a series of mini anxiety attacks all this week.

Also, last summer was not a particularly fun summer thanks mostly to my really bad anxiety and my neck and back problems. This past Wednesday, I woke up with a really bad kink in my neck. Not only were the muscles tight, but I could also feel that my joints were jammed out of place. In addition to causing me a fair amount of pain and discomfort, it also triggered the memory of last summer. The fear of going back to that place, where I could barely function out of pain, dizziness and numbness, triggered even more anxiety.

Finally, and this is really the big one, the main reason I do not enjoy summer. One of my biggest fears, that triggers the most anxiety in me, is that I am not going to be able to breathe. It is the reason why I don’t like small, confined spaces – such as elevators, airplanes, subways and rooms without windows. With summer comes increased pollens in the air, and I suffer pretty bad with allergies in the summer. Also, I am fat, out of shape and a smoker. So, as the heat goes up so does the humidity and smog levels. I just have to move and I overheat and get winded. This immediately makes my mind jump “oh my god I can’t breathe, I am going to die!” And yes, I do see the irony in a person who is afraid she is going to stop breathing continuing to smoke. Trust me, I recognize the insanity in that every time I light up a cigarette in the summer.

So, you can see, summer and I don’t have a really great track record the last few years. Which makes why my anxiety levels go up in summer completely understandable. However, I do not want another summer like last year. Thankfully, the Farmer’s Almanac says that while we are going to have a warm summer, with temperatures about as high as last year, it is going to be broken up with many more days of cooler more manageable heat. This will go a long way to help control my anxiety levels. However, I also recognize that I need to do some work myself. One of the things that helped this week, was researching and understanding why my anxiety got so bad this week. Recognizing that I was actually suffering from anxiety over the anxiety/panic attack returning, helped me to calm myself down and recognize that I was over thinking again.

Talking about it helps a lot as well. So, I am going to make a real effort to reach out either here, to my friends or DBF when I feel my anxiety rearing it’s ugly head. I am also going to start doing more cardio. I recognize that if I start doing more cardio, I won’t feel so winded when walking or exercising, which will help stop the “oh my god I can’t breathe” bullshit that my brain starts spouting. I know the big one, the one that will help with that the most, is quitting smoking. But, quite frankly, I am just not ready for that one yet. Just the idea of it triggers a whole other litany of anxieties, mostly around the idea of gaining even more weight. I know that is just my addiction looking for reasons not to quit, but it is something that I am just not ready to tackle yet.

So, here is to a better summer then I have had in 7 years. I believe that if I can make this summer a good summer, it will go a long way to help diminish the negative triggers I associate with summer. Because, quite frankly, I miss the carefree, happy feeling that comes with loving and enjoying our oh-so-short summer season!

My homeopathic life…

This post was written several days ago and I just got to loading it now. Sorry for the delay!

SONY DSC

A friend of mine has told me several times in the last few weeks that she thinks I have lost weight. Personally, I don’t see it. I have, however, noticed that some of my other chronic conditions seem to be improving or have gone away.

I first noticed the other day when I realized my butt and legs weren’t falling asleep at work anymore. This has been an ongoing problem for me for quite awhile now. Thanks to tight muscles in my lower back, the nerves in my gluts kept getting pinched, which caused numbness and tingling all down my legs. I can’t remember the last time this happened.

I have also noticed that the acne on my face seems to be clearing up. Yay! There is nothing more annoying then being 36 and still breaking out in pimples.

The other things that have been improving are a little tmi. I have debated back and forth whether to mention them, because it is a little embarrassing. Let’s just say that Johnny Cash is no longer singing about me 🙂 If you get that, then sorry for the over personal information LOL

I am not sure whether it is the food or the homeopathic remedies that are making the difference. I like to think it’s both. I have briefly touched on some of the remedies I am adopting into my life, but have never really said what they were. Here is my most recent list from my Naturopathic Doctor:

  • Drink a glass of water with a freshly squeezed lemon first thing in the morning. This is meant to help detox my liver and jumpstart my metabolism.
  • Morning smoothie with fruit, coconut milk, cinnamon, hemp protein powder, chia seeds and flax seeds
  • Supplemental regimen which includes:
    • EstroSmart: helps to bring my estrogen/progesterone levels into balance
    • D-chiro inositol: helps control my insulin levels to reduce my insulin resistance
    • Vitamin B Complex
    • Vitamin D (3,000 u/i)
    • Vitamin C
    • a really strong Probiotic
    • 2 fish oil capsules with dinner
    • Magnesium and Triphala (an ayurvedic medicine) before bed, along with my anxiety meds and hormone therapy.
  • I also take 30 drops of a herbal tincture 3x a day in water. This is meant to help clean some of the toxin build up in my system, as well as help jumpstart my metabolism
  • 1-2 a week I do a Castor Oil pack on my stomach to help reduce bloating and get things moving in my stomach, bowels and colon area

So there it is, my homeopathic regimen. Some people in my life think I am crazy for all of the things I am doing, but like I said something is working. I may not be losing weight yet, but some of the benefits I have had outweigh weight loss for me right now. Eventually though, let’s be real, we gotta start shifting the weight. But for now, I am just gonna go with it.

I’m baaaaaacccckkkk!

Do not give up

A little reminder from Mark’s Daily Apple

So I have  been neglecting my blog over the last week or so for a couple of reasons.

The first reason, was I was having an issue with DBF reading these posts. While I like the fact that he was taking an interest, he was also misunderstanding the point of this blog. Part of my journey is accepting that I am not going to be perfect. That I am going to have slips and slides along the way. The important part is realizing this, catching myself before I fall too far, and getting back up again. Unfortunately, every time I mentioned something I had eaten that I wasn’t suppose to, or something that I did/didn’t do, he was taking my lack of perfection as reasons I should feel guilty. I refuse to feel guilty or beat myself up for these things, so it was causing a little bit of conflict. He has, however, agree to either stop reading, or at least stop commenting to me about it.

The other reason was, I too was giving myself grief for my lack of perfection. As I have mentioned, this is something I really struggle with. If I can’t be perfect then why bother? The idea of continually failing (or not being 100%) in front of people who are reading this (thank you all by the way, the comments and likes are pretty cool!) was really really scary. However, I know that I just need to get over it. One thing that I am realizing from all your comments has been that I am not alone in this struggle. There are a lot of us out there, and this is my way of reaching out to you all. So my “you can’t do this” brain just needs to shut the heck up!

So, the plan is to pick myself up and start all over again. I am giving myself today as a do what I like (within reason) day, as I am going to see “The Book of Mormon” tonight with DBF and we are going to a really yummy restaurant for dinner beforehand. Tomorrow, however, the journey starts again – at least the food and exercise portion. Although, to be honest, I haven’t been really bad food-wise, but I have been overindulging in chocolate and sugar. It’s not my fault! I was at a BBQ on Sunday where we had chocolate fondue for dessert, how was I suppose to turn that down?!? Ok, so nobody made me dip the peanut butter cookie in the chocolate, but tell me you wouldn’t have tried it as well? lol

Some of the other changes I have made over the last few weeks, I have been sticking to quite diligently. I have got rid of all my plastic Tupperware and water bottle, and have replaced them with glass and metal. This is because the chemicals in plastic (even if they are BPA free) can leach into whatever I am eating or drinking. The problem, for me, here is that these chemical then begin to mimic hormones in my body, and suddenly I find myself with severe Estrogen dominance. So, in order to try and minimize this, I am slowly removing toxins from my daily life. I had already switched from store-bought face wash to coconut oil/olive oil/castor oil for washing my face, as well as a laundry detergent that is lower in chemicals. This was just the next step for me.

So, I will be diligent in keeping up with my writing. I have found it really helpful in keeping me grounded, and have felt the difference this week with not writing. I also started writing a post last week about my daily supplement regimen, so I will finish that up and post it later today or tomorrow. In the mean time, I going to take the advice from Mark’s Daily Apple, and start working on these few things to help keep me motivated.

I did it!

For the last two weeks, I have been setting my alarm for 5:40am with the intention of getting up and working out. However, for the last two weeks I have continued to hit snooze until the last possible minute, then getting up late and rushing to get ready for work. Last night, I made the decision to either s**t or get off the pot (I love that expression sorry). Either get up when the alarm goes off the FIRST time and workout, or accept the fact you aren’t going to do it and stop setting the alarm for so darn early. Today was my last shot, if I wasn’t able to didn’t do it then I was just going to let it go and find another time to work out. But I got up! It wasn’t when the alarm went off the first time, more like the second, but I still got up and went and did a 20 minute workout.

I know a 20 minute workout doesn’t sound like a lot, but for it is a big step. I realized I need to set my standards a bit lower if I am going to actually do these things. That is something that I have had a hard time with in the past. I set these crazy goals, and then am not able to achieve them. This is almost inevitably followed by a good thrashing session on my ego, self-esteem and self-worth. So, I figured it would be easier to set smaller, more achievable goals and then celebrate myself for accomplishing them. Eventually, I can work up to the bigger ones.

Although the workout was short, it did nearly kill me. Damn, I am so out of shape! Here is what I did:

  • 1 minute – Lunges with Bicep curls (8lb weight)
  • 1 minute – Wall pushups
  • 1 minute – Squats with Kettlebell raises (8lb)
  • 1 minute – Plank (ok more like 30 seconds and 10 seconds)
  • 1 minute – Calf raises with 3lb weights
  • 1 minute – Burpees
  • Repeat series
  • 1 Sun Salutation with Downward facing dog, and Power Pigeon series
  • Stretch

Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is a start.

In other news , yesterday wasn’t the greatest food day. It started out when my beloved immersion blender died while making my morning protein shake. Since I wasn’t able to make a shake (and I was running late because of that whole exercise avoidance thing) I decided to just grab breakfast at Starbucks. Unfortunately, this meant that I ate grains in the form of an english muffin. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but even this little bit of grain set off a carb craving in me for the whole day. I just couldn’t stop. In the end, I also ended up having a bun with my sandwich at lunch, and a giant chocolate bar. I tried to convince myself the chocolate bar was healthy (it was organic 85% dark chocolate) but really who am I kidding. Trust me though, I felt this at the end of the day. I was nauseous, bloated and just really tired (more so then usual).

Today will be better, though I will have to make do with other breakfast options until I can replace Immi (yes I name my inanimate objects…my computer is called Precious 4). I have also been making other changes to my life that don’t involve food or exercise, but more about that later. For now, I am going to celebrate the fact that I got up and exercised this morning!