Tuesday, 29 January 2013

My Food Journey

Born and raised in Canada I have been very active all my life.  Growing up my mom liked to cook from scratch at home and we always sat down to eat family dinners.

I have fond childhood memories of eating bacon, eggs and home fries regularly as well as 2 slices of toast dipped in a very, very chocolaty hot chocolate for breakfast.  Cereal was also very big in my house.  Bowls of chips and diet pop were a regular Friday and Saturday night treat.

As a kid I had lots of digestive troubles.  Chronic constipation combined with bouts of very painful diarrhea.  Diagnosed as lactose intolerance.  My skin has always been very dry, with bumps which I now know are keratosis pilaris.

I was a bit of an anomaly in my family in terms of exercise.  I was the only one that was good at pretty much any sport or exercise I tried and exercise has always made me feel really good.  As a teen I started smoking and drinking.  My diet was terrible, corn chips for breakfast and a burger and fries for lunch, a lot of junky fast food but in spite of that I never lost my love of sport.

I married young at 20.  I quit smoking and drinking and had my first baby at 21.  My daughter was born and at 6 weeks we were told she was blind.  Shocked but resilient I made the best of what life gave me turning the focus of my life to being as healthy as I can be.

I started cooking everything I could from scratch.  Luckily for me I have never believed all the low fat mantra.  I've always preferred to use real ingredients like butter over margarine, thank you Mom.

I went on the blood type diet for a while in conjunction with a 40/30/30 plan and it worked well for me.  I worked out out a few times a week lifting weights and interval running and got in great shape.  Then somehow I went off that eating plan, I can't remember when or why.  Probably because trying to keep track of the ratios proved to be a pain.

Fast forward 5 years and I was pregnant with my second baby, working at Tim Hortons (a coffee and donut shop) to make extra cash while my daughter was in school.  I gained quite a bit more weight with my second pregnancy than my first.  Damn you bagels and donuts!  I went from 125 to 160.

I lost most of the baby weight though and then after watching a few videos on the PITA website I decided to become a vegan for humane reasons.  Such a bad idea for me in retrospect, I was a horrible vegan and I gained 10 lbs in a year while still exercising at the same level.

For Christmas that year I was given Nourishing Traditions by my mother in law and a lot of what I read in the book made sense to me.  I was unhappy with my weight gain and constantly hungry on my vegan diet so I started sourcing out humanely raised, grass fed local dairy and beef and pastured eggs and chickens.  I wanted to eat meat because my body craved it, but it had to be from animals that were treated well.

So I started eating meat and dairy again.  I found and joined the website Sparkpeople and put myself on a restricted calorie diet to lose my extra weight and as someone who had never paid attention to calories before I was shocked to discover that breads, pasta and grains all contain a ton of calories. But not only that, the nutrition they provide in terms of vitamins and minerals was so low that to me they became not worth eating because I considered those calories wasted.

I guess I am considered low carb now, I usually eat under 100g of carbs a day.  Although I don't track my foods anymore.  I found not only was constantly tracking a huge time suck it also isn't necessary when I eat the way I eat. A whole food diet consisting of lots of vegetables, meats, fats and some fruit.  I have also come to discover that this way of eating is Primal/Paleo although I do make some treats for the family that are not 100% Primal/Paleo.  What can I say, kids like muffins and cookies (husbands like them too), so I make some tasty gluten free ones that have all real food ingredients to satisfy those needs.

So that has been my journey so far.  It feels really natural to eat this way and I am feeling so good right now I can't imagine changing how I eat.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Pull Up Bar

This is not me.  I lost our camera in the summer and am going to buy a new one very soon.  Getting pictures from my I Phone onto the blog has proven to be a pain and I really want to take some great pictures to go on the blog.  Coming Soon!

     Last week I ordered a pull up bar online and I was so excited this week when it arrived.  I decided on the Ultimate Body Press because it had really good reviews and I liked the clean look of it, my gym is in the dining room after all.  So it arrived and Adam installed it for me on Friday night and the whole family was fighting over who got to use it first.

     When it was my turn I pumped out a measly 2 chin ups and I could do 0 pull ups!  Granted I had done a workout earlier in the day but I was a little disappointed in just 2 and 0.  I hopped on the net to check out how to do pull ups and I was introduced to a "walk the plank" technique where you just lower yourself slowly for 8 reps in order to build strength so eventually you can achieve actual pull ups.  I did a couple sets of those and then did some hanging leg circles for my core which worked amazing.

     The kids each did a few sets of assisted chin ups, pull ups and some hanging knee raises and Adam bless him can actually do chin ups and pull ups!  One of the best things about the bar I've discovered is that it is great for stretching.  My upper body was/is pretty sore from being introduced to the new exercise and I must have hung on the bar 6 different times yesterday just to stretch because it feels so good.

     I will keep you posted on my pull up progress.  I will be super pumped when I am able to do 8 straight!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Gluten Free - My Skin Improvement Story

Since I was little I have always had really dry, rough, itchy skin.  My arms, legs and buttocks were covered with bumps and the rest of my skin was just really dry.  As a kid I was diagnosed with immature skin cells.  It was explained to me as when my skin cells die they don't fall off like they are supposed to, they just stay on my skin creating bumps and looking terrible.  I tried all kinds of creams, lotions and soaps but nothing seemed to help.  I have had this skin issue for so long I had kinda resolved myself to having it forever.

Then one day I decide to Google skin issues and low and behold I diagnose myself with something called keratosis pilaris.  A a common skin condition that is manifested by the appearance of rough, slightly red, bumps on the skin. It most often appears on the back and outer sides of the arm (though the forearm can also be affected), and can also occur on the thighs, hands, and tops of legs, sides, or buttocks.  It is said to be incurable.

It looks like this -

Well just over a year ago I decided that maybe I should try going gluten free to see if it would help me with some digestive issues I've had.  Painful gas and bloating that I've had since I was little as well.  And also because I have a family history or diabetes and high carb breads and cereals tend to make my blood sugar spike and then plummet making me feel like crap.  Cutting out most breads and baked goodies really made a difference.  My gas and bloating went away and my blood sugar levels stayed even throughout the day.  I didn't want to cut out wheat completely though because I just couldn't give up the weekly family homemade pizza night.

Another thing I noticed after eating wheat was something very strange that I hadn't expected.  On days when I did eat wheat my legs, arms and buttocks would get super itchy an within two hours of eating it.  So itchy that I just couldn't stop scratching.  It led me to believe I was having some sort of reaction to the wheat.  So I finally decided to cut out wheat completely to see what would happen.

I have been completely gluten free for about 6 weeks now, with the exception of Christmas day when I ate a small amount of wheat.  I have to say that my skin is vastly improved over these 6 weeks.  The bumps on my buttocks, arms and lower legs are close to being gone.  The skin is smooth and soft, something that shocks and surprises my every time I feel it.  I never thought I would have smooth skin.  I still have some bumps on my thighs though but it has also seen a big improvement.  Another thing I have noticed is my joint swelling has gone down.  I used to have a really hard time taking my wedding rings off because my fingers had swollen joints but now they slide off easily.

I don't know if my skin condition is technically KP or immature skin cells and I don't know if I have celiac disease because I haven't been tested and I don't plan on being tested anytime soon because the tests sound invasive and unreliable.  I do think I have a gluten sensitivity or allergy so I am going to continue to eat gluten free for the foreseeable future and keep listening to my body for signs.

Have an awesome day everyone!

My workout yesterday - After my Killer Leg Workout my legs were toast so I just did 35 minutes of Yoga to stretch everything out.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Yoga Thoughts and a Killer Lower Body Workout

I have been doing yoga for a few years now.  I went to a free yoga class once and wasn't very impressed with it, maybe it was the type of yoga or the thought of having to pay to go to classes.  I loathe having to pay for working out, which is why I have never belonged to a gym.  So I just popped over to the library and borrowed, for free, the Yoga Zone - Ultimate Collection 6-Pack and I played the videos on my lap top for a few months until I felt comfortable with the common moves.  Libraries are wonderful!

This year for Christmas I received The Athlete's Guide To Yoga which I had also from the library for the past couple years because it is a great resource for yoga poses.  It contains beginner through advanced moves and the book is broken down into body sections.  So if your back is tight flip to the back bender and chest opener section and pose away. Now I don't have to borrow or renew the book every three weeks anymore, again sorry about that Brant County Library.

I like to do yoga for 10-15 minutes directly after a workout to really stretch out the muscles and then on recovery days I will often do a longer 20-30 session.  I keep my Gymboss set for 45 second intervals while stretching because it reminds me to switch poses and then I am stretching both sides of my body for the same time keeping everything even.

Since starting yoga I have noticed my muscles have become much longer and my flexibility has improved by leaps and bounds.  I am also much calmer and relaxed in all things.  I really recommend giving yoga a try if you haven't already.

Today is a Yoga day, my ass is killing me from yesterdays workout!

Killer Lower Body Workout - 20 minutes

About a year ago I discovered the power of single leg exercises, I had been working out with heavy weights doing squats and dead lifts forever but by taking it to the next level doing single leg exercises I have really seen an amazing difference in my body.  Not only do you work legs with the workout because you have to balance the whole time you're working out so your core gets and amazing workout as well.

Using my Gymboss timer I did 3 sets of 30/10.  30 seconds workout/10 seconds transition and writing down how many reps I've done.

Set                                                               1                  2                 3

Jumping Lunges                                         34                30               32
Pistol Squats, each side                                 8                  8                 8
One Legged Deadlift, each side                     7                  7                 7   (12kg kettlebell)
Box Jumps                                                   9                  9                 9
Step Ups, each side                                      10                10               10   (12kg kettlebell)
Bulgarian Squats, each side                         10                  9               10   (12kg kettlebell)

Yoga - 16.5 minutes

Total workout time 36.5 minutes.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Keeping a Workout Journal

This year for Christmas my husband gave me a wonderful new book.  It is a beautiful green journal with a ribbon for a book mark. I love it and it couldn't have come at a better time, my old journal is almost completely full of my past 7 months workouts.  I love writing down my workouts.  I know the weight and reps I've done for each given exercise and it helps to keep me consistent and  mindful of what part of the body I have worked and what I need to workout next.

Before Christmas I did two longer whole body workouts so for my next few workouts I have decided to focus either core, lower body or upper body.  Yesterday I did a core workout and it is sore today but not painful.  Here it is.

Using my Gymboss timer I did 3 sets of 30/10.  30 seconds workout/10 seconds transition and writing down how many reps I've done.

Core Workout - 12 minutes

Set                                                  1                2               3

Hanging Leg Raises -                       10               7              10
Back Extensisons on Ball -               10              10             24    (Add weight next time.)
Turkish Get Ups (each side) -            5                4               5    (8kg kettle bell)
Hanging Knee Circles -                    12              12             12
Supermans -                                   yes             yes           yes

Yoga - 15 minutes

Total workout time 27 minutes.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Healthy weight loss and maintenance. Is it all about calories or is it about just eating real foods?

Happy New Year!

Since it is the start of another new year, a time when frustrated people try all kinds of things to lose weight I think a post about healthy eating is in order.

I belong to the website Sparkpeople so I can track the micro-nutrients in my food from time, I am not really big on consistently tracking though because I find I get a little OCD about it.  I find myself eating because I have extra calories for my day left even though I'm not really hungry or conversely, beating myself up because I am extra hungry on a given day and eat over my "limit".

So my question is, Can one maintain/lose weight without obsessively tracking calories?  Most weight loss websites and message boards participants would have you believe that it is simply not possible, and on the message boards if you dare to suggest such a thing may be possible your intelligence and sanity will be put into question because everyone knows weight loss and maintenance is all about the laws of thermodynamics.  Eat more than you burn = weight gain.  Eat less than you burn = weight loss.  Right?

Or is it?

What if every single human isn't exactly the same?  Our bodies are complex and ever changing.  Since the day we were born and every day since what we eat, drink, put on and even breathe into our bodies affects how our bodies function.  Our digestive systems are seemingly the same and yet the types of bacteria and organisms that live in our bodies and help us digest food could never be exactly the same in any two people.  Two different people can eat the exact same meal and digest different amounts of nutrients from that food based on how well they chewed, how much stomach acid they have and how efficient the bacteria in the gut are at extracting nutrients from the food.

I am also of the opinion that the human body is better able to digest real foods, foods that have no additives, preservatives and "modified" foods in them.  I think that these additives, preservatives and "modified" foods confuse the body so it doesn't know what to do with these foods.  That's why I choose to eat a clean diet.  Whole unprocessed foods, low/no added sugars, limited grains.  When I shop I buy ingredients, my cart looks like a rainbow and I love it!  The more colour the better.  If it comes in a box, read those ingredients carefully.

I don't subscribe to everything in moderation either.  I don't believe things like Skittles should ever be eaten as part of a healthy diet.  Although I do like to eat homemade apple/rhubarb crisp with fresh whipped cream on top or a homemade gluten free cookie from time to time so I do enjoy treats.  I just think even treats should be made from real foods.  And believe it of not treats can have nutritional value too!

Amazingly I have been able to maintain my weight for years without tracking every single calorie consumed.  And considering all it takes is 20 extra calories a day to gain 10 lbs over 10 years I'd say my body is doing a fantastic job of regulating my weight on it's own.  Is it because I only eat real whole foods?  I think so.

So before you try any new diet ask yourself is it sustainable and healthy?  Eating real foods is something everyone can do to be healthy and happy in 2013!