Category Archives: health

The One In Which I Feel Like A Miserable Walrus Because Science

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I bet if I sat you down you could recite me a list of milk slogans and benefits that have been drilled into our collective heads ad nauseum for the past few decades. It’s a big source of calcium, It makes you grow!, Your bones need it, It has protein, Got Milk? Milk, it does a body good.

Or, does it?

But, sometimes, the benefits of a particular food ain’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Are you surprised? Don’t be. The food industry relies heavily on marketing just like any other business.

The difficult, and sometimes even dangerous part is when we allow for these marketing strategies, this loud information, to override what our own bodies are trying to say. 

See, healthy food is healthy… as long as it isn’t harmful. Doh.

Kind of obvious, right? But you’d be surprised at how many people blur the lines and ignore serious signs of potential problems simply because they continue to be convinced they should be eating x or y since they’re “healthy.”

Whole grains are healthy, as long as you don’t have Celiac disease or an intolerance.

Milk is (debatably) healthy, as long as you don’t have a lactose allergy or intolerance.

Heck, even vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, avocados, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and everything under the sun can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on whether your body loves it or hates it.

See where I’m getting at?

Enter: Me.

I grew up with the same information as you, and thus I grew up drinking many-a glass of milk. Everything was fine.

And then I became an adult. And at some point over the past five years I began noticing that milk doesn’t settle in my stomach very smoothly anymore. Sometimes it gives me a stomach ache. It causes me inflammation and bloating.

I drank milk yesterday to show you exactly what happens to my body (see what I do for you). The first picture is what my abdomen typically looks like after a normal exhalation. Then I drank one glass of milk. And about 20 minutes after, that’s what my stomach looked like after a normal exhalation. See the crazy bloating? It was painful, too, like heartburn. It becomes hard to stand up straight or move freely thanks to some sharp cramps, and all I want to do is lie down in a bundle until the pain is gone. Not pretty.

 

milkafter

 

 

Even though I never had issues with milk when I was a kid (or maybe I wasn’t paying attention?), as an adult willing to experiment I did begin noticing patterns: I discovered straight up milk gives me discomfort. Milk chocolate bars do, too. But somehow cheese, butter and yogurt don’t seem very problematic to my body.

Why the changes? I have no clue. They may be linked to the fact that as we grow we produce less of the enzyme that helps us break down milk, which in turn causes people who could tolerate milk just fine to begin having issues with it later in life.

But the reason doesn’t matter as much as the straight facts: Milk doesn’t benefit my body now. And I know this because my body yells it out loud and clear.

Should I continue drinking milk because calcium! bones! osteoporosis!  Hell no.

I get all my calcium from spinach, kale, beans, almonds, almond butter, salmon, and sardines. None of these foods make me feel like a beached whale in agony. That’s how I know they’re a superior option for me.

 

So now the question becomes… Are you ignoring any clear signals from your body?

There is a reason why our bodies react the way they do, after all.

We’re only wise to tune in and truly listen.

 

Suck It Up, Buttercup

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I hate winter. Then I love it. Which means I didn’t really hate it to begin with, it just annoys the crap out of me. The idea of six months of cold, darkness and –gasp– absolutely NO cute shoes is enough to have me in fetal position in a corner, holding myself and rocking.

But then there’s fireplaces, Christmas, playing in the snow, hot drinks, and creamy soups, and things don’t seem all that bad after all.

Creamy soups. Today’s order of the day.

Although this soup requires minimal ingredients, it is the kind of food that gives you warm, fuzzy feelings inside; it makes your innards giggle with childish joy and next thing you know you’re polar bear hugging the shit out of the mailman and the bank teller. Consider yourself warned.

For this soup I used one of my new (to me) discoveries, a favorite ingredient of mine for the cold months. Please meet Miss Kabocha:

Otherwise known as butter cup squash, this lil’ pumpkin is sweet and of beautiful, creamy, spreadable texture. Well, like butter!

And as with many other concoctions I cook, how do I know this is good? Because the husband loved it. That is all you need to know.
Ok fine, I’ll tell you more. Stephen is picky-ass-picky um, particular about his soups. They have to be just the right texture, not too watery and not too thick; they have to have the precise amount of savoring, not too salty, not too bland. The flavors need to be craftily meshed together through the right amount of simmering. You get the picture. Me? Throw shit in a pot and call it a day. There ain’t nothing that can’t be fixed with more water or salt, me says.

So maybe I’m not your most reliable source for tasty soups since my bar is low way down there, but trust the husband. He knows his shizz.

buttercup squash soup

 

Kabocha (Butter nut) Squash Soup

1 kabocha squash

2 Tbs butter (or vegan spread)

a splash of coconut milk (or your milk of choice)

sea salt to taste

Begin with slicing the squash in half and placing both halves with the cut parts facing down on a baking sheet. Broil in the oven at 350 F for about 40 minutes, until the squash is super tender. Once ready, use a spoon to remove the seeds. Spoon out all the meat and place it in a blender with a little bit of water. Blend well.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the liquified squash. Add the splash of milk and salt, and bring to a rolling boil. Once the mixture is boiling lower the temperature to leave it simmer. Adjust your seasoning to taste, and add more milk until you reach your desired consistency.

And this is the part where you can make things interesting. If you wish, go crazy with the toppings. Here are some ideas of things you can sprinkle on top:

-Crumble cheese (like Feta or Panela)

-Roasted pumpkin seeds

-Hemp seeds

-Nutritional yeast

-A dash of chipotle adobo, to make it hot and spicy.

-Crumbled walnuts

Many possibilities for different flavors! Suddenly winter doesn’t seem so looming and dark. Now we just gotta work on designing high heel cute snow boots.

Still Counting Calories? At Least You’re Not Working Out To Jane Fonda. Are You?

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Fad diets come and go with the times, as did leotards and fuzzy headbands– though leg warmers seem to be making an interesting comeback. (I still don’t know what to make of that.)

But something that needs to go away already is the useless practice of calorie counting. But. BUT. You’re going to say. And I’m going to wiggle my finger in your face because Nuh huh.

The control that calorie counting offers is more of an illusion, because it allows too big a room for unhealthy practices to be justified. “I’m 300 calories short for the day! This means I get to have a slice of chocolate velvet cake deep fried in butter stuffed with lard.” You know what I mean. If at the end of one day you discover you have consumed a smaller amount of calories than what your goal is it will be easier for you to convince yourself it’s totally fine to snarf down a bag of chips, raid the leftover cake, or finish the extra big chocolate bar. And it’s not.

I honestly believe counting calories sets you up for failure, because there is no specification about the quality of said calories. Two hundred calories of cookies is not the same as 200 calories of raw veggies. You know which one is the smartest option and yet, given the chance by having “spare space” in your calorie count for the day, you’ll choose the unhealthy sugary shit. You know I’m right.

Besides, tell me the truth: Do you really want to be a slave to counting that shit every day for the rest of your life? Do you think it’s  healthy mental practice to obsess about amounts and counts of this or that? Do you honestly want to be that person that brings their motherfucking scale to parties and reunions? Please don’t be. Those people suck the fun right out of getting together with friends.

BUT. You’ll argue. That’s what they do in The Biggest Loser, and they lose a lot of weight! And you’d be correct. But what you don’t see much of in the show is the kind of food they eat. They aren’t limiting their caloric intake and still consuming crap foods. They have a team of people showing them how to eat, when to eat it, how much to eat… it’s television and it’s in the show’s best interest that these peeps lose a lot of weight, and fast. Ratings, babeh. Their meals consist mostly of fresh food. REAL FOOD. Food that is alive and in turn gives life, because that’s the food that allows the body to shed unnecessary weight.  My guess is that thorough nutritional explanations aren’t what most of the population would describe as enthralling TV entertainment, and this is what they don’t show us much of that. Seriously, if you think they lose weight by pure magic of the brutal workouts they’re subjected to, you’ll be highly disappointed. It’s been proven time and time again, you can even repeat after me: You cannot out-train unhealthy eating habits.

You cannot out-train unhealthy eating habits.

You cannot out-train unhealthy eating habits.

YOU CANNOT OUT-TRAIN UNHEALTHY EATING HABITS.

Basically this means you can kill yourself in the gym, on the treadmill, or run your dog to the ground, and the changes in your body will likely remain insignificant for as long as you keep eating the same shit you’re still eating.

And this brings us back to the calorie conundrum. You’re right in that there are amounts of nutrients the body needs for optimal functioning, so how can we know how much to have of what? I’m glad you asked.
Enter the Calorie Control Guide, from the geniuses at Precision Nutrition.

FOR THE GUYS:

                                     FOR THE LADIES:

Click on either picture to be taken to the full article, with more reasons why counting calories sucks and to access printable versions of this guide. It’s very simple to remember! Everything you need is… wait for it… in the palm of your hand. Ba dum tss.

Cranberry Walnut Salad With Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette

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You may have noticed a lack of posts lately and all I can do is blame the summer. It’s busy and hot and I’m pregnant and hot which means I don’t want to even look at the stove, let alone have to cook on it.

There has been a lot of grilling going on but I suck at grilling and end up burning half the shit, so no blog-worthy pictures there.

BUT today it hit me that I haven’t shared with you the salad that has been my main mid-day sustenance for the past few weeks. It’s fresh, flavorful, filling… and fucking fantastic (so many ‘f’s. I just had to.)

I was introduced to this salad a couple of months ago at a breastfeeding course with fellow doula friends. It was a potluck get together with lots of good stuff to eat, and we all at some point swarmed this salad until it was gone. I even tried pulling my I’m pregnant so you should totally leave that for me card with no success: The salad was gone before I could go back for (ahem) fourths. Bitches.

So of course I had to email my friend and ask her what this yummy greenness was all about. Today I ate an entire head of romaine lettuce by myself in this salad. I’m waiting to start growing roots on my feet any moment now.

I must apologize for the lack of photo editing. My laptop got sent back for fixing and I’m barred from installing any software into my husband’s computer. Like, infect the man’s laptop with a virus ONCE and suddenly your downloading privileges are nonexistent. Sheesh.

Cranberry Walnut Salad With Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette

Salad greens (spring mix or all lettuce. I used romaine.)

Feta cheese

Apple chunks (optional. I didn’t have any, but I highly recommend you add some)

Dried cranberries

Walnuts (toasted or raw)

Dressing
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
Shake together in small mason jar.
Do I really need to tell you how to assemble this? I figured. Just toss it all together and enjoy the goodness.

Ah, Sunday

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If you’re anything like me, Sunday means kicking back and relaxing. And doing laundry and baking for the week and freezing meals… When you’re done showering the dads of your life with love and chocolate (of the organic, sustainable, fair trade kind *wink*) take some time to catch up on your reading. Come on. It does your brain good. Here are some cool articles I read during the week and that you may find interesting!

And the video at the very end? Also very cool.

Growing Up With A Fat Dad, The New York Times.

A complex story, with a savior and a dash of hope.

Ultramarathon Running: How a Vegan Diet Helped Me Run 100 Miles  by Scott Jurek, for the Huffington Post

I don’t have to remind you how much I love Scott Jurek, right? I mean, we did share a moment, after all.

Ironman Champ: Train Your Brain, Then Your Body

Beautiful article in which four-time World Ironman champion Chrissy Wellington reminds us what we already know but consistently choose to ignore: To win the race, you must first win it in your head.

Brilliant TED talk by Christopher McDougall on what he learned about endurance running from living with the Tarahumara indians in Mexico. Must watch!

Field Trip For Sanity Preservation Purposes

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Some people go to church on Sunday. We go to the health food store. Wut.

Nature’s Emporium Wholistic Market, located in Newmarket ON.

I’ve said before I’m lucky to have found a bunch of friends who are into the same kind of stuff that currently rocks my interest, and it’s particularly lucky if you have a husband with no desire to sort through the latest health trends.

This is how my friends and I left our hubses and kids behind (sanity!) and spent three hours of our Sunday looking at every product, reading every label and comparing every price in the huge health food store located 45 minutes outside of our hometown. Pure heaven.

I took the liberty of highlighting the most important aspects in this picture. In case you’re wondering it took me forever to figure out how to add the text. Every duck-faced girl in Facebook was smarter than me for a second there. Glad that’s over.

Health food stores are tricky. The title itself, health food store, imposes an image of wellness or of wholeness, like is the case in Nature’s Emporium, described as a wholistic market. As in Did you go to the market? No, I went to the wholistic market. Bitch.

However, a bit of label reading will shed a whole new light on the reality. One quick look at the ingredients on an unreasonably priced box of meager, weightless cookies proved that yes, said cookies were in fact sugar free, but they still contained a bunch of ingredients I didn’t want my 10 year-old daughter eating. Can I make something better and cheaper at home? Absolutely.

If honesty was the name of the game, health food stores would really be somewhat healthy but still full of shit- stores. Or depends on your concept of health food-stores.

Just like with any other business, these shops are popular because they have a niche, an appeal, an allure. I guess some people think shopping here gives them automatic respectability, because they’re, you know, better. Of course going to a wholistic market doesn’t make us magically health oriented, better than others or worthy of recognition. It’s a store.

But one thing is certain: health food shops are a great place in which one can find items and ingredients not commonly available in the average supermarket. The fact that they provide a lot of different options to what is found in the usual stores is very valuable, even if we do have to be careful and sort through the junk to find the really beneficial stuff. It’s ok and it’s part of being an observant consumer.

They do have some great deals and some very low prices but, again, make sure you sort through until you find what’s right for you.

Stepping into a health food store for the first time can be daunting, at least for me it was. It seemed like such a different world full of things I had never heard about before.

Here’s what I did to make shopping easier for me:

-The list. Have a list of the specific ingredients or items you know you need, along with an idea of their prices (check online or call other similar stores beforehand). You want to make sure you’re getting the best deal, especially because costs at a holistic store can add up very quickly.

-The no-no’s. As you become aware harmful things you no longer want to consume make a list of ingredients to avoid. For example, if you want to avoid sugar make sure you know all the alternative names with which companies hide it in their ingredients. If you’re avoiding hormone-disrupting chemicals in your skincare and body wash products, know which ingredients are harmful and buy only a product that does not contain them.

-Take notes in the store. You’ll come across so.many.things. you didn’t even know existed that it’s very likely your interest will be piqued. Write down the things you want to learn more about when you get back home before deciding if they’re a worthy purchase for you.

-Bring friends! Aside from making it all more fun, they’re also a big help. At least a couple of times I would have ended up buying things I could easily find at my hometown grocery store if it hadn’t been because Amy gave me the heads up. No harm would have been done, but really this was a trip to stock up on the things that aren’t easily available in our hometown.

Ignore your husband wanting to know how much you spent. What?