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.

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My homeopathic life…

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

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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 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!

Struggling to balance my food

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So far I have been having a few challenges with the whole “healthy eating” aspect of my journey.
I have been tracking my food, and monitoring my percentages of carbs, fats and protein. I have done quite a bit of research, and decided on a balance of 40% Carbs, 30% Protein and 30% Fat. However, actually coming in at those numbers hasn’t been going well. Despite my best efforts I keep going over in Fat and Carbs, and coming in under in Protein.

Take yesterday for example. I ended up eating 56% carbs, 20% fat and 24% protein. By the time I got home from work yesterday I was starving, and I only had 400 calories left for dinner. I ended up having salad with turkey sausages and cottage cheese, which is how i got my protein up to 24%. Before that it was only at 16%.

I have always been a high-protein person. Thanks to my never ending stream of diets over the years, I know this about myself. Not only do I find that it is the method that helps me lose the most weight, but it also helps to keep full longer, and therefore less likely to overeat. So I need to find more foods that are high in protein, yet low in carbs and unhealthy fats.

Some suggestions I found are tuna, cottage cheese, nuts and seeds and lentils and beans. Lentils and beans I have to be careful of, because they do have higher carbs. Nuts and seeds I can only eat in limited quantities, because they are high in Arginine. Arginine, if consumed in high quantities, makes me break out in cold sores (lovely). I can take a Lysine supplement to counteract this, but really I already take so many supplements in a day, I don’t really want to add any more.

So that leaves Tuna and Cottage Cheese. I like both of these foods, but I often find I get bored easily when eating them. I think its because I can’t think of interesting ways to prepare them. I mean really, what can you really do to cottage cheese to make it more interesting? I guess more research is required.

The other part I am still having a hard time with is the amount of sugar I consume in a day. This one is really important, because it directly impacts my insulin levels and my insulin resistance.

I am not eating piles of refined sugar or junk food, and yet I can’t seem to come in at the 30g I am limited to each day. And I am not talking about going over by a little, yesterday it was 83g – almost 3x what I should be eating. I know that this is contributing to my carbs coming in high as well.

I reviewed which foods I ate yesterday that were higher in sugar, and they are not unhealthy foods. The 2 biggest culprits were my vanilla greek yogurt and the sweet potatoes in my Quinoa & Sweet Potato Salad. I know, why don’t I eat plain yogurt instead of vanilla? Because, quite frankly, I hate plain yogurt. I think it tastes bitter and sour. I could try using it in smoothies, so the taste of the fruit masks the flavour of the yogurt I suppose.

I guess I have more work to do in the form of research. I have started taking a nutrition class online, so hopefully that will help. It’s funny, because after 20+ years of dieting, you would think I have all this figured out. But there is still so much to learn.

A beautiful day in the neighbourhood…

Bloomin' Daffodils!

Bloomin’ Daffodils!

Oh my goodness! It was an absolutely glorious day here in Toronto. The sun was shining, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and there was a nice breeze blowing. It was, in my opinion, the perfect day. Or maybe that’s just the lack of warmth and sunshine this spring talking. Either way, I loved it!

Today was also the first day of the David Suzuki 30×30 Challenge. What’s that you ask? Well the David Suzuki Foundation is challenging us to get outside and enjoy nature for 30 minutes for 30 days in May (if you’re doing the math that means you get 1 day off lol). Since this happened to coincide with the beginning my lifestyle changes, I thought it would be a perfect thing for me to add. The challenge doesn’t specifically say that you have to exercise, just that you have to spend 30 minutes outdoors enjoying the natural wonder that surrounds you. I have decided to try and spend my 30 minutes walking, biking, or doing some kind of physical activity.

This challenge will be a great way for me to make sure I get some kind of physical activity in every day. It will also be good for me to get Vitamin D from a source that doesn’t come from a bottle.

I am also going to use it as a time for me to get spiritually grounded again. As I have mentioned, I am not a religious person but I do try to live a life based on spiritual values. For me that means living a life which allows me to feel connected to the world around me, both nature and human, and that helps my spirit (inner essence) to grow and thrive. I don’t know if that makes much sense to anyone else, but it works for me.  For me, I have always found the most profound connection when I am in nature. Whether it be the local park, or a field in the middle of nowhere, nature is where I find my grounding.

This is why I love where I live. Not only do I live in a city that has so many amazing green spaces to choose from, I am also fortunate enough to live in a neighbourhood right on the water with a beautiful beach and boardwalk. Unfortunately, I haven’t been taking advantage of this the last couple of years, since I had to put my dog down. So, I will use the David Suzuki challenge as a way to get back to enjoying that.

Alright, time for me to get some studying done. Thanks to a crazy couple of weeks at work I am two weeks behind and need to get caught up before my quiz on friday. Enjoy the beautiful weather, and Happy May Day to all!