omnomnom: gluten free pumpkin chocolate muffins

Last year, I dabbled in grain-free baking and found a couple of really tasty and pretty easy recipes. One thing I noticed, though, was that it could get pretty expensive: most recipes called for a mixture of eggs, coconut in various forms (butter, oil, flour, flakes, etc.), almond flour, and butter (plus chocolate if you know where it’s at!).

While I’d like to pretend that it makes no difference whether or not a muffin or a cookie I eat is made with regular flour or not, I’ll admit that if I take the time to bake something that’s gluten free I feel better about eating it and while I don’t always notice if I have something with gluten in it, the times I do notice remind me that it’s better safe than sorry when it comes to things I make for myself or eat on a regular basis (birthday cakes and cupcakes aside). But since I’m not obsessing over whether or not I eat (certain) grains or not these days, I’ve branched out in my baking and this week, I got creative and, inspired by a recipe for sweet potato muffins on food.com, I whipped up some pumpkin muffins made with brown rice and quinoa flours–much cheaper than using almond flour. I dropped the sugar from the original recipe significantly but I think if I made them again, I would go even lower and see if they’re still tasty (because they definitely were sweet enough and I see myself making these on the regular for afternoon snacks and something to keep in the freezer).

Verdict: they’re delicious!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Chocolate Muffins
Makes ~16 muffins

Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 7.37.48 PM

Ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup pumpkin
3/4 cup quinoa flour
3/4 cup brown rice flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream coconut oil and sugar. Add eggs and stir ’til evenly combined. Mix in pumpkin. Add flours and baking soda, mixing until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, mixing until evenly distributed. Spoon into lined muffin tins*. Bake for ~20 minutes or ’til a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool and enjoy!

*Next time, I am going to try doing these right in a (greased) tin because they stuck a bit to the liners.

 

 

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the gift of CrossFit

My life as of late has been mostly devoted to school (reading—largely about working out), writing, working out, and teaching fitness. What’s been on my mind as I’ve been thinking more and more about what my thesis might be all about next year has been whether or not I’m prepared to go into a year of critically analyzing something I have come to really appreciate: CrossFit. My plan is to do just that—to critically analyze representations of the (fit) female body in CrossFit to explore the ways in which it might offer a site of control and oppression—or offer empowerment and liberation. A lot of the motivation behind this is that I think my personal experience with the sport has been largely empowering but the experiences I’ve had with the media don’t match up. Anyways, enough rambling aside—part of what I’ve been doing is keeping my eye on CrossFit media lately and seeing where I might want to go with things.

If you watch the news, you’ve probably seen a fair share of celebrations and bashing when it comes to CrossFit. This week, especially, there’s been a lot of talk following the injury of a CrossFit coach during a competition that left him paralyzed. My thoughts on this are that any sport comes with injury, this was a freak accident where I don’t think the blame lies with CrossFit, and that the way in which people use this as a way to bash the sport without giving it a chance or really trying to understand it is pathetic. A telltale sign in my books that you’re a close-minded jerk not worth my time is being unwilling to listen to the opposite side of an argument or to entertain the possibility that you could be wrong, as is making sweeping generalizations about anything to do with health or fitness.

what if the opposite were true

I keep this around as a reminder to keep an open mind.

So with all the Debbie downers out there talking about why CrossFit is killing us, I thought I’d contribute to the other side of the coin: here are six reasons why I think CrossFit is a gift to individuals, the fitness industry, and our world alike.

1. CrossFit takes a lot of training techniques and disciplines and packages them into one. Plenty of adults take up CrossFit. How many of them, otherwise, do you think would give a freestanding handstand a shot? It’s not just gymnastics that CrossFit exposes people to—rowing, Olympic lifting, powerlifting, etc. also come with the territory. Given that the vast majority of people struggle to make exercise a habit, I think this kind of exposure is a good thing and the trickle down effects—making sports like Olympic lifting and powerlifting more accessible to the average individual—can only be a good thing.

2. CrossFit is changing “fitness”. For lots of former athletes, CrossFit is a perfect fit: there’s competition, there’s striving for excellence, there’s camaraderie. People see your name on a board every day—or they don’t and they call you out for it. CrossFit is fun the way practicing for a sport is fun–you have a goal and things to work towards and people to work towards those things with. Also, the kind of community possible in a CrossFit gym was never the norm before. Now that CrossFit is getting so popular, I think that people will start to realize that they can get this kind of quality from a gym and just might start demanding it outside of just the CrossFit box. In this way, CrossFit is helping the fitness industry and challenging big box gyms and smaller facilities alike to up the ante in terms of the services they provide.


 my “ante” reference required this vid be included in this post 😉

3. CrossFit forces you to be fit in more than one way and in a variety of skills—10 of them to be exact: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. The idea is to be good at any task imaginable, which requires that you not specialize in one (CrossFit’s “specialty is not specializing”). While that means that for the specialized athlete, CrossFit might not be the perfect program, that doesn’t mean that athletes (endurance athletes notably) who take up sports in the pursuit of better health and fitness can’t benefit from incorporating plenty of the elements that inform CrossFit.

4. CrossFit forces you to leave your comfort zone. You might find yourself striving towards what sometimes seems like stupid heavy weights or pie in the sky goals for how quickly you move through a set of thrusters and pullups, for instance. But for some people—and women especially, I think—seeing that a prescribed workout is, for instance 5 rounds for max reps of bodyweight bench presses and pull-ups (Lynne) can inspire a holy shit moment. Long gone are the pink dumbbells, along with the notion that girls and strong don’t go together. As you get fitter, you go faster or heavier so the intensity keeps building and the challenge doesn’t disappear–uncomfortable is built into CrossFit.

comfort zone

5. CrossFit invites you to question conventional (training, medicine, and nutrition advice). I’m not saying that we should live in paranoia or buy into all of the conspiracy theories out there, but I think a healthy dose of skepticism—the kind inspired by being part of a community that questions just about everything when it comes to training—can be eye opening.

Think about the debates in the popular media and on the interwebs over the pregnant CrossFitter last year: whether or not you buy into the notion that this woman was endangering her unborn child and should be in the pool doing aquaerobics with all the cautious moms to be out there or if you think she should snatch until her water breaks, the dialogue challenged us to think into the recommendations and what we think is “okay” or “normal” for pregnant women when it comes to exercise. Until the 1990s, there wasn’t much research regarding safe exercise during pregnancy—the female body, especially the pregnant female body, was simply considered pathological. The fact that it was just recently that pregnant women were “allowed” to exercise, albeit within a set of guidelines where they were still seen as risky exercisers, probably has something to do with the appalled reactions of the people who thought the pregnant CrossFitter was in the wrong. It’s only by pushing the limit and being willing to engage in debates about what makes something acceptable that we’ll make progress—so props to everyone who waged in on the conversation.

6. CrossFit emphasizes performance over aesthetics. At the simplest level, I think of the absence of mirrors in most CrossFit boxes as a testament towards a shifted focus on what your body can do instead of how it looks while it’s doing it. Yes, there are some issues with some of the “Women of Crossfit” type things that I see floating around—empowering language alongside the same old unrealistic images, for instance—but as I’ve thought about it more and more, I’ve realized that the reason that the empowering language about what a gal’s body can do is so often accompanied by images of lean and mean women is because the women at the highest level of the sport just look that way. Whether they have those bodies and are good at CrossFit as a result or whether they do a lot of CrossFit and their bodies wind up looking that way is something you can debate about as much as you want to, but like I said: the notion of thinking of your body in terms of what it can do and doing things that challenge you for the sake of doing them instead of thinking of your body as a project to be perfected and using exercise as a way to shape it to fit a feminine ideal is a big and powerful shift. Even if some women come into CrossFit hoping to look like Christmas Abbott or Andrea Ager (these are the women I hear my friends ogling over most often), if their leaving behind inactivity or working out on a hamster wheel trying to change the shapes of their bodies and the switch takes them to CrossFit, they’ll be fitter for it.

ager CHRISTMAS ABBOTT in Inked Magazine

On a personal level, if I look at some of the girls kicking my ass in terms of weight lifted or performance on WODs, appearances don’t tell the whole story. There are women who look just like me who can lift twice as much as me and there are girls who look as fit as a fiddle who are terribly out of shape in some of the domains CrossFit forces you to test out. At the end of the day, it comes down to what your body can do—not how it looks while you do it—and for that, I think CrossFit offers up a site of potential empowerment. Sure, striving for an Rx on your workout might be reaching for a tough ideal, but I buy into the fact that if we work hard enough we can improve and move closer to that performance goal  and feel good along the way far more than I buy into the notion that training ourselves towards an unrealistic aesthetic ideal could be.

i love crossfit

If my reasons didn’t convince you, maybe this last bit of CrossFit love will…

If you’ve made it through my word vomit, I’d love to hear your thoughts:
What do you think of CrossFit? Is it the worst thing to happen to fitness? The best?  

 

the most zen: top songs for getting stretchy to

A few years ago when I attended one of the CanFit Pro conferences in Toronto, I did some YogaFit Level training that gave me the the credentials to teach “Yoga Stretch” classes. I don’t have my Yoga teacher training (but getting it is on my bucket list) but I do teach at the rec centre. Lately, I’ve been teaching lots of classes to the swim team (along with spin classes). It’s a really fun opportunity and I had forgotten how much I enjoy teaching yoga.

In the spirit of that, I thought I’d share some of my favourite music to use in these classes. I’m only as good as the instructors who inspired me and usually the songs I choose have been borrowed from some of the amazing instructors I’ve encountered in my own practice. Here are my top 10 choices for songs for a perfect yoga class (or study sesh, to be honest!)…

1. Skinny Love – Birdy

2. Promise – Ben Howard

3. Orange Sky – Alexi Murdoch

4. Bloom – The Paper Kites

5. Perth – Bon Iver

6. Lullaby – Trevor Hall

7. Thank You – Alanis Morissette

8. Holocene – Bon Iver

9. Baba Hanuman – Krishna Das

10. Lime Tree – Trevor Hall

got resolutions? why all or nothing thinking isn’t helping

It’s the third week of January, which means everyone in the world is healthier than they’ve ever been and are killing their New Year’s Resolutions, right? While that’s the case in my fantasy world where we’re all living the healthiest and happiest lives we can, I know there are people out there who are struggling and even people who have given up on their “get healthy” resolutions by now.

I want to talk about one of the big reasons I see people (and have seen myself) fail when it comes to making our healthy goals into happy realities: all or nothing thinking. 

get out of your own way

While there are lots of things that are black and white in this world (zebras, pandas, Oreos), classifying health, exercise, and nutrition in that way is a recipe for disaster in my world. For perfectionists, black and white thinking when it comes to healthy living can be a big way of setting ourselves up for failure. For example:

  • Your New Year’s Resolution was to save desserts for the weekend and special occasions. Come one Tuesday evening, however, you’re baking cupcakes for your friend’s birthday on Wednesday. You find yourself licking the spatula and the icing spreader before tossing them in the sink and start beating yourself up about it. Thinking you’ve blown your resolution, you figure you might as well go ahead and have a cupcake now. You end up eating the cupcake hovering over the sink and hoping your partner doesn’t see you–he knows about your resolution–and end up not enjoying the cupcake and feeling guilty about it. You, feeling like a failure, go back to your old habit of nightly indulgences and give up on your resolution, eating a cupcake every night that week. If you’d just accepted that one cupcake is still less than five, you’d have ended up moving in a healthier direction than your previous self. Lesson: Don’t compare yourself to perfection if it means you’re going to feel like you don’t measure up. Look at which direction you’re moving in and appreciate the progress, overall, that you’re making on your goals. 
  • Your New Year’s Resolution was to work out for 45 minutes five times a week. When things get busy with a stressful week, you have to miss your regular spin classes. You decide that since you can’t do the full 45 minutes, you might as well not do anything. You end up feeling out of shape and even on the days when you do find yourself with time to hit the gym for the classes you love, you lack motivation. If you’d just recognized that all exercise counts and done what you could, you’d have kept the momentum going and would be reaping the benefits of moving your body on a regular basis. Don’t employ all or nothing thinking when it comes to your workouts: all movement counts and even fifteen minutes is better than zero minutes. 

In either case (and so many other times), it is our own perfectionism that winds up bringing us down. Perfectionism is a cop out, in this case, if you use it as a reason to give up. Remember, what’s important isn’t whether or not you’re perfect (yet), it’s which way you’re moving. Are your actions bringing you to a healthier, happier place? If you start moving in the wrong direction, can you get back on track? 

progress

If you made New Year’s Resolutions, how are they going?
Are you a perfectionist? Does it work for you?

less dieting: a cause for celebration or deeper consideration?

As an advocate for more healthy and happy in the world, news that less people are dieting should be a big win for me. According to USA Today’s “Fewer people say they’re on a diet”, that’s exactly the case:

 “On average, about 20% of people said they were on a diet during any given week in 2012, down from a high of 31% in 1991, according to new data from the NPD Group, a market research firm.

Women showed the biggest decline, with 23% reporting being on a diet in 2012, vs. 36% in 1991.”

The title of the piece points towards what I think is going on (and what it suggests) – less people say they’re dieting. I’m going to hold off on tossing the confetti and popping the champagne.

Does this mean less people are dieting?

It seems to me that more people than ever are working on their bodies. I see all kinds of new diet foods on the shelf (gluten free is the diet du jour). There seems to be just as many magazines offering ways to drop 10lbs fast or TV spots talking about the latest research on which workout is best for dropping pounds (or not).

I think I have some insight into what could be going on. The poll allowed people to define for themselves what “dieting” meant–something I think is important to take into consideration.

Let’s face it: it’s not ”sexy” to be on a diet any more. Powerful women don’t diet – they accept their bodies. We spend hours and hours and all kinds of money in the pursuit of body acceptance. I know I would hesitate to tell anyone I was on a diet, even if I was (let’s say theoretically for a medical condition OR for aesthetic reasons).

stop dieting

In this culture where “dieting” is taboo, it’s become the socially acceptable—and celebrated—behaviour to eat for our health. I know plenty of people who are afraid of the gluten ghost today and who bought fat free everything in the name of their health. Depending on the “lifestyle” flavor of the week, it can become easy to see a “diet” as a way of life, especially when marketers encourage us to see things that way.

dieting

dieting 2

I think eating with our health in mind is a wonderful thing, but I’m not naïve. In our society, taking responsibility for your health carries moral significance. I know that—and so do marketers. The person who doesn’t take responsibility for their health—the overweight person who you see ordering French fries, for instance—is seen as any host of undesirable things: lazy, gross, unhealthy, a burden on the tax system, etc. It’s no surprise to me that people want people to know that they eat healthy. Dieting, however, has come to be seen not only as something that doesn’t work but also as an indication that you’re vain or narcissistic. No wonder the people they polled aren’t on diets!

It’s interesting: “Orthorexia” emerged in the 1990s (in the years between the polls in the article). This diagnosable eating disorder is the extreme effect of what focusing on “eating healthy” can do (“an eating disorder in which a person is obsessed with “eating right”). Whether you call it a diet obsession or a healthy eating obsession, no one wins when food takes over your life.

Part of me still wants to celebrate that less people are dieting. Maybe all the anti-dieting workers in the world and the intuitive eating advocates have made a difference. But given that there are still so many overweight and obese individuals who have to struggle with their weight as well as with the ways that people view their weight, I don’t think the battle has been won. I don’t think stigmatizing dieting fixes the issue–it just gives it a new name. Though I think that shifting a focus to eating for health is a good thing, I think people need to be careful not to take “health” information exactly as it comes. Figuring out what you define as health and moving towards that will help you keep an eye out for things that are misleading and simply using health as a way to market or legitimize themselves.

Do you have a special approach to eating? Would you call it a diet?
If something is labeled or called “healthy,” do you assume it is good for you? What does that mean to you?

12 ways to save enough money to buy yourself a CrossFit membership

A pretty common excuse reason people who are interested in CrossFit but don’t make the commitment give for holding back is about the cost of a membership. While I could (and will) write a whole post about the value of joining a good CrossFit gym, I can see why someone who’s used to paying a third of what they’re looking at to join a CrossFit box might need a little convincing. The same could be said for a yoga membership or personal training or anything that will cost you in terms of dollars but pay ya back in terms of health and happiness.

crossfit expensive

As someone who’s always had my gym membership paid for (by my parents, then through school, then as a perk of being an instructor), when I started CrossFit last year I realized just how much of a commitment joining could be. That being said, there are all kinds of ways to save money. Here are twelve of my ideas–consider me the bearer of a year of CrossFit bliss:

  1. Cancel your cable. Mine was costing me almost 100$ a month and when I had a TV I hardly turned it on. The shows I did watch were mostly online. I took up listening to podcasts and just reserve television watching for my favourite shows before bed in episode form now. If you need something to watch, why not dive into CrossFit videos on YouTube? They’re free and you’ll probably end up fired up.
  2. Stop buying a coffee every day. $3.00 a day on an Americano (a cheaper option at Starbucks) will end up costing you $90 a month. Buy yourself a nice tumbler and start brewing your own stuff at home to save money (and trees!), or give up the stuff and see what happens.
    coffee is a drug
  3. Get a library card. And use it.  I know I can easily justify spending 30$ on a new book here and 20$ on a couple of magazines there. Go to the library and borrow them instead and you’ll be saving all kinds of money!
    lib card
  4. Pay attention to your phone bills. What are you spending extra money on? If you’re like me, you’re baffled when every month your bill seems to cost more than it “should.” Do you make long distance calls that you could use Skype for instead? Do you use data when you could just log onto a wifi network? Do you even need data? You’ll be amazed at what you can cut down on when you start looking for ways to save.
  5. Sell an old outfit online. If you’re like me, you have more clothes than you could possibly need. Chances are there are things in your closet that you won’t miss but that someone else would be willing to pay good money for (I’m thinking about the 10 lululemon hoodies I’ve accumulated over the past 5 years). I like the strategy of turning all of your hangers around in your closet and then giving yourself a certain amount of time where you turn them back as you wear the clothes on each one. When the time’s up, the hangers you haven’t turned are the clothes you might as well get rid of!
    clothes
  6. Cook for yourself. Commit to only eating at home. If you’re used to grabbing a few lunches ($10 x 3) and maybe a dinner ($25) out each week, you could easily save yourself enough for a membership over the course of a month where you decide to make your own meals. Bonus: you’ll probably eat healthier too!
    brown bag lunch
  7. Shop with a list and a plan. I know of two dangerous situations in which I should not go shopping:  one, when I’m hungry and two, when I’m without a list. I am a sucker for impulse buys and grabbing a $6 bag of kale chips (or two) or buying too much food is way easier to do when I don’t have a meal plan and shopping list to work off of.

    She's smiling because she has a list!

    She’s smiling because she has a list!

  8. Choose free or community yoga classes instead of paying for classes every week. I can be a bit of a yoga snob and choose the classes I go to based on the instructors and the timing, more than anything. But the yoga studios around here offer some pretty awesome $5 and even free yoga classes, which I think is pretty standard practice. When you’re budgeting and you find that you don’t have much left but you know you need to get your zen on, swapping your class time in favour of sticking to your budget is an easy switch.
  9. Refuse to pay for parking. I don’t mean park illegally. If you know you’re going somewhere where you’ll need to pay for a parking spot, consider taking public transit or asking someone who’s going with you for a ride. Whether it’s $3 in a metre or $12 on your credit card, if you do this often enough, you’ll start seeing your savings add up.
  10. Stay in instead of going out on the town. Rather than heading to a bowling alley or for drinks with friends, host an evening in. When friends bring their own beverages and when the entertainment is free (video games, board games, etc.), this can save you all kinds of money (food, drinks, cab fares, etc.).
  11. Do something (free and) sentimental for a friends’ birthday. Rather than spending money on a gift card and a greeting card (which can be pricey!), think of something a friend will really value that you can do on the cheap. Could you knit them a scarf? Get crafty? Make them a cake?  Invite them over for a dinner you make from scratch? Write them a letter about how much your friendship means to you? There’s a lot of things you can do. If you’re still stuck, let me introduce you to Pinterest.
    birthday cake
  12. Buy used textbooks. At the beginning of the term, there’s nothing I love more than ripping the cellophane off a brand new textbook and being the first person to flip through the pages—except seeing all kinds of savings in my bank account. Especially if you’re buying multiple textbooks, picking up or ordering a used copy can save you big bucks and often, people don’t even read their textbooks and used copies can be as good as new.

How do you budget for your lifestyle endeavours?
Do you do any of these things already? Will you take any of them up?
Do you have other ideas? 

spinning, weight gain, and health

This post will be the short and sweet and maybe saucy kind that I write in response to something I’ve seen on the interwebs that rubs me the wrong way. Today I was perusing Today Show videos and immediately went to a clip called “Gaining weight? It might be your spin class.”

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 9.03.11 AM

The (female) hosts chatted about celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson’s assertion that spin classes can make you gain weight, something that’s getting plenty of attention elsewhere (people love spinning almost as much as other people love instilling fear about gaining weight!).

1. ‘I don’t buy that c**p’: SoulCycle instructors slam Tracy Anderson over her claim that ‘spinning bulks thighs and causes weight gain’ on the daily mail
2. Weight loss experts rip Tracy Anderson for saying spinning makes your thighs fat on examiner.com

In the article for Redbook called “Why Spinning Might Not Be Worth it After All,” Anderson talked about how spinning might burn calories but is also a recipe for “bulking” up your thighs and how she’s seen women come to her after spinning for months wondering why they can’t fit into their jeans.

Really?

Before I go any further, let me put this disclaimer out there: I’m a spin instructor, yes. But I’m also a bootcamp instructor, dabble in yoga, an avid CrossFitter, and a bit of a triathlete. I also like rock climbing and hiking. I do not discriminate over what kind of exercise is “best” or what someone else “should” do–I just think people should get moving. My response to this clip has less to do with redeeming spinning and more to do with getting real about what they’re talking about–and it’s not “health.

What put my panties in a twist about the Today Show clip was the assertion that gaining weight was a bad thing, regardless of what kind of weight that is. I agree that spinning can help you gain muscle. Notice that I say “help you to gain muscle” not “doom you to pack on the pounds.” I know from my personal experience as well as my job and my education that gaining weight is not universally bad. Lately, intellectual masturbation grad school readings have taken me into articles on the way obesity is represented. One article I read (Articulating Fatness: Obesity and the Scientific Tautologies of Bodily Accumulation in Neoliberal Times, if you’re nerdy), talked about the “anorexic ideation” that drives us to think thinner and lighter is always better. I don’t blame the reporters on the Today Show for (likely unconsciously) suggesting that weighing more is inherently bad—it’s something most people take as a given. That being said, to liken gaining weight to “getting fat,” given the way that we think of “fat” in our culture is a mistake.

I liked how, in response to one host’s “As you know, muscle weighs more than fat,” (false, for the record) comment, another chimed in about how gaining muscle is a good thing. Unfortunately, she went on to complain about how spinning hurt her butt (her instructor should have told her that a few classes and getting used to the seat would change that).

My take?  This kind of sensationalism in the media’s coverage of weight, often masqueraded as coverage that is important to our health, reaffirms that it’s not really about our health or even our weight—it’s about fitting our bodies into a (gendered) ideal. I can confidently say that if this were targeted at men, the story wouldn’t fly. What guy wouldn’t want to put on muscle? I’m making a big generalization here, but it’s okay and celebrated for men to gain the same muscle that women are cautioned against. If we’re looking out for our health, that doesn’t seem right. Regardless of sex, muscle is health promoting, protecting, and something that we want to build and preserve as we get older. The original article in Redbook does a good job of explaining that muscle is good and encourages variety. It’s all the media that goes along with the darn thing that is misled and misleading.

So, unlike that host who talks about spin classes hurting her bum, I think the only pain in the butt here is the fact that this even made the news. If your goal is to lose weight at all costs, maybe it all means you won’t take up spinning (sad Cheryl). If it’s to improve your body composition, maybe you’ll make the connection that muscle is a good thing and that building muscle will help you towards that end. If you want to improve your health, maybe you’ll cut through all this fluff and realize that if you love spinning and it’s an exercise you’ll actually do, there’s no reason to abandon a form of exercise you actually enjoy.

love spin

Do you like spinning?
How do you choose what kind of exercise routine you do? Health? Aesthetics? A mixture of the two? 

Also: Tracy Anderson is kind of on a roll, in my books. First, with her program for men (“Anderson’s made-for-guys routines look girly—you won’t lift a weight over 10lbs”) and then with her risqué line of gym wear (“as little fabric between the bellybutton and crotch”).

it’s not rocket science: my top tips for living a healthy, happy life

As a healthy living blogger, I thought it might make sense to put together a little summary of what I do on a regular basis to keep myself healthy. Thus, my top 10 tips for being happy and healthy. There’s nothing surprising or revolutionary here–I don’t think healthy living is rocket science. Enjoy!

  1. Cook for yourself. Lots of people use time as an excuse for not cooking. In reality, there are plenty of ways to get around this problem: doing a big meal prep on the weekend, choosing quick recipes (that take less time than driving to the chinese food restaurant or ordering wings), for instance. Cooking for yourself can be relaxing and usually means you end up with less junk going into your meals and snacks–a big win, in my books! Plus, you wind up saving money.
  2. Have a (rough) meal plan. I used to think that if I wanted to be an intuitive eater, meal planning was out of the question. This made grocery shopping, cooking/meal prep, and living, to be honest, more difficult than it needed to be. I’ve since realized that if intuitive eating and meal planning are mutually exclusive, it’s not for me–I do better when I give myself a rough plan for the week, including what kinds of snacks and when I’ll eat them. Whether or not I end up hungry for all the snacks and meals I plan, knowing that I will be eating again makes me less likely to overeat at each meal and snack and having a plan saves me trips to the grocery store and lots of money along the way.
  3. Eat real food as often as you can. When I make my meal plan, I try to include as many real foods that don’t come in a wrapper as I can. As Jillian Michaels (who I have a love/hate–mostly love–relationship with) suggests, if it didn’t come from the ground or have a mother, you shouldn’t be eating it. That means my snacks are things that are either as is (fruit, veggies, yogurt, nuts, etc.) or that I make for myself (muffins, etc.). I still end up grabbing a bar here or there, but I don’t plan on eating very many processed things are part of my daily routine.
  4. Schedule your workouts. I know that if I have an appointment, I will keep it. One thing that keeps me sane and moving is writing down when I’ll work out ahead of time. Sometimes I literally just schedule in “work out” (if I’m not sure how sore I’ll be or what I’ll be in the mood for), but I’m most likely to get a work out in when I schedule a specific class or plan into the mix. Bonus points if I invite someone along with me to hold me extra accountable.  
  5. Focus on the big picture. I used to stress and stress and stress over every little thing I put in my body (was that yogurt 1% or fat free?) and over the smallest details of my workouts (I should have done 3 more minutes on that treadmill!). Realizing that these things are not what dictate whether or not I’m healthy and happy—but that worrying about them actually takes away from my health—has been freeing. The big picture and considering whether or not what I’m doing is moving me in the direction of a healthier and fitter version of myself keeps me saner and calmer than getting caught up in the little things.
  6. Strength train. I cannot think of a reason why getting stronger could possibly be a bad thing. With CrossFit getting more popular and the “strong is the new skinny” motto out there (a blessing and a curse, in my opinion), I think more women are hitting the weights regularly. Yay! My favourite part of being strong and lifting on a regular basis is seeing how it carries over into my day to day life: I can move my own furniture and can carry all kinds of things up the 2 flights of stairs to my apartment. It’s the small things that count! Also, on a purely vain and aesthetic level, filling out a pair of jeans and having broader shoulders (hullo, smaller-looking waist) are not so bad side effects.
  7. Do something that gets your heart pumping most days of the week. As a recovered cardio junkie, I still think there are huge benefits to getting sweaty on a regular basis. Whether or not it helps you lose weight or maintain your weight aside, I don’t think people would be less healthy for hitting the trails or hopping on their bicycles a few times a week. Maybe it’s playing a sport or going for a hike, but whatever it is, I think there’s a mental and a physical benefit from doing activities that are aerobic in nature and keep your heart pumping. In the midst of all the “cardio is death” messages out there, it can be hard to admit that hopping on a stationary bike with your iPod and a podcast is one of your favourite ways to unwind, but for me, that’s the case. Following this kind of activity, I feel calmer, clearer-headed, and restored.
  8. Take up yoga.  From CrossFit to triathlon to climbing to just wanting to be a healthier, fitter person, yoga will help. Whether it’s an athletic style that challenges you physically and mentally or something deeply restorative and meditative that feeds your soul, there’s something to be said for doing a yoga class once or twice a week to supplement whatever else it is you do for your mental and physical health.
  9. Move every day. Whether it’s a walk or 15 minutes of stretching on your living room floor, there’s something to be said for giving yourself and your body the love you deserve. Most people, when they put in the effort to exercise or to take care of their bodies, will make better choices throughout the day—I know if I’ve gone for a run or made time for the gym, I’m more likely to choose the apple over the cookie when decision time comes.
  10. Reflect on where you’re at and where you’re going. Maybe it’s not a blog that you share with the world, but documenting your health and fitness journeys – in a diary, on some kind of forum, with photos – is one way to keep yourself honest and to give yourself something to look back on. If you end up injured or overtired, it’s helpful to be able to see what led up to it all. If you feel like a million bucks and have a great race or competition, you’ll want to know what you did to set yourself up for that success. I also use vision boards and goal setting to keep me looking ahead to how I want to keep striving and improving.

take care

What is your top tip for living a healthy lifestyle?

sucking at it but doing it any way: what’s the exercise you love the most?

I had a lovely break over Christmas that I spent largely baking cookies, celebrating with friends and family, getting myself organized for a new year, and working out. I told myself heading into the break that I wouldn’t stress over figuring out the perfect workout schedule but that I’d just do the classes, workouts, and exercise that felt the best for me and my schedule.

I ended up dabbling in plenty of Olympic lifting, spinning, yoga, some CrossFit, and a swim here or there.

Know the saying, “Jack (Jill?) of all trades, master of none”? Since I dabble in a bunch of things, I don’t really consider myself “good” or “great” at any of them. On occasion, this leads to me getting into a negative spot that only wine or the gentle words of my oh so patient boyfriend can drag me out of where I’m thinking that I’m “not good enough” instead of valuing how awesome it is to be able to do a whole variety of activities with competence and enjoyment. I sometimes wonder what would happen if I actually poured my heart and soul into being a hardcore cyclist or a die-hard yogi or whatever the flavour of the week is. But the question I usually come back to is “what for?” and the realization I end up with over again–cheese alert–is that I don’t have to be the best, I just have to be my best. 

doing your best

So a helpful question I like to ask myself is: Would I still do _______ if I sucked at it? 

When I get into that comparison trap, reminding myself that I would still do CrossFit, for instance, even if my times were always the slowest or my weights were always the lightest, is a good way to get me out of it and to remind me that the point is not to be the best at it, it’s to enjoy it and the benefits that come along the way. Ditto for cycling or yoga or whatever activity I’m stressing over not being “the best” at. Then, it’s way less important that I feel like I don’t measure up.

compare and despair

It’s also a nice reminder to think about the fact that no matter what, there will be someone better out there. But in so many things–and beyond exercise–there’s no point in deciding that just because someone else is doing the same thing you are but better, you should stop. My gut reaction is to remind myself that what I’m doing is important and to use the fact that there is someone doing a better job out there to do even better. Whether or not we’re the best at something, we have something to offer.

woods

Now that I’m sufficiently off track, I’ll wrap this up by encouraging you to look at the things you do and the things you “love” and to check in: do you love them enough to do them even if you suck? Remember that when you’re feeling unmotivated or need a reminder that you rip…

awesome

What do you suck at but do anyways? 

cold calls for cookies: gluten free peanut butter oatmeal cookies, to be exact

 

 

It may have been a long time since I’ve posted a recipe, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still getting creative in the kitchen. This week, I’ve braved making soup from scratch with leftover chicken bones (something that’s been on my to tackle list ever since I realized how many chickens it takes to deliver one of those oh so convenient club packs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts at the grocery store) and today, with the freeze your face off temperatures outside, I decided that turning on my oven and baking something was a great idea.

I bought a package of quinoa flour at the grocery store a few weeks ago and when I started looking for recipes to use it up, I came across one on the Bob’s Red Mill website for peanut butter cookies. I chose quinoa flour as an alternative to almond flour, which I find pricey. I’m not anti-quinoa and the bag sure made it seem like a good choice:

“Organic Quinoa Flour (pronounced keen-wa) is the most nutritious grain available. It is also one of the oldest cultivated grains in the world. Quinoa is high in protein, calcium and iron. Use this delicate flour when baking. You can substitute this flour for half of the all-purpose flour in many recipes or completely replace wheat flour in cakes and cookie recipes.”

I used the recipe, loosely, to get me started on my own version of a cookie with peanut butter and oatmeal and raisins. They’re gluten free, easy to make, and delicious. Some of mine fell apart but that’s a gift: the baker is obligated to eat the ugly ones!

20140107-171930.jpgGluten Free Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:
½ c. peanut butter (mine happened to be light)
½ c. quinoa flour
½ c. sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1/3 c. rolled oats (gluten free)
¼ c. raisins
¼ c. sunflower seeds

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix peanut butter, flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, and egg ‘til combined. Add remaining ingredients, stirring ‘til blended evenly.

Roll dough into balls (the cookies won’t expand much while baking) and place on cookie sheet. Press down a bit using a spoon.

Bake for 8-12 minutes (depending on size) or ‘til golden on the edges. Remove from oven and cool on rack or wax paper.

Enjoy!

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What is your favourite thing to bake?
Have you baked with quinoa flour before?
Do you experiment with recipes or stick with what’s suggested?