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Finally, here is my first recipe!

(as some of you have been requesting)

While doing some research for a blog post, I realized I was not getting enough protein. So I decided to try the infamous breakfast protein shake.

It took me a while to find a protein powder that was gluten-free, dairy free, (mostly) organic and that also did not taste like cardboard, as some do.

Then it took some testing to find a combination that tasted good.

Now I love it!

It’s very filling and sets me up for the day. When I don’t have it for breakfast I find I am hungry all day. I find starting the day with protein and then having protein at every meal keeps me satiated. If you find that you are often hungry consider upping your protein intake.

I don’t know of any other way to get this much protein at breakfast – well maybe eggs and turkey bacon, but that feels so heavy and is a lot more cumbersome to prepare.

The smoothie is pretty big and filling so I have half and then I bring the other half to have after the first class I teach in the morning.

Ingredients

1 cup organic vanilla almond milk – 30 calories (Costco)

1/2 organic banana – 50 calories (Whole Foods)

1 tbsp organic hemp oil (for shiny hair)  – 120 calories (Whole Foods)

1 tbsp organic chia seeds gives it nice thick consistency – 50 calories/2 g protein (Costco)

1/3 cup organic frozen berries – 20 calories (Costco)

1 scoop Kaizen Vegan Chocolate Protein Powder – 160 calories/25 g protein (Whole Foods)

Total calories: 430

Total protein: 27 g

I put everything in my Bullet blender except the frozen berries and protein powder, I let it sit for about 15 minutes so the Chia seeds soften.

When I’m ready to have it I add the frozen berries and protein powder and blend for a bit longer than you would think (1 full minute) so it has a really smooth whippy dessert-like consistency.

I find it’s hard to digest the protein so I take a digestive enzyme capsule from Whole Foods with it.

Once in a blue moon if I don’t have time for a meal I will have it as a meal for lunch or dinner.

Let me know if you try it!

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Have you ever read the ingredients on a candy bar?

The main ingredient of concern (among many) is hydrogenated vegetable oil.

It’s oil that’s been treated with hydrogen, if you can believe it, to make it stronger. This way when items are shipped they do not break as easily. The problem is, this oil does not break down in our bodies. In fact, we are not able to digest it at all so it sticks to our arteries collecting dust until there’s enough of it there to to block the artery all together. The only way to remove it is surgically, that is if it doesn’t cause a heart attack first!

Hydrogenated oil is also known as “trans fats” and it’s become common to see food items marked “0 trans fats”. Unfortunately this cannot be trusted. Since I always read ingredient labels I was surprised to read “hydrogenated oil” on an ingredient list on a product that was labelled “0 trans fats”. “How strange”, I thought to myself, so I called Health Canada to get to the bottom of it. Turns out Health Canada allows companies to label an item “0 trans fats” when it has under certain amount of hydrogenated oil. Can you believe it!? So always read the ingredient list even if it says “0 trans fats” (be aware that this oil is sometimes listed as “modified oil”).

This time of year those evil little candy bars seem to be everywhere. We see them in a bowl at the reception desk or in the lunch room, tempting us to have one. After all, they’re so small and cute, they can’t do that much harm, we tell ourselves.

But really, think about it, do you really want to eat this thing that is packed with artificial flavours and hydrogenated oil?! Is it really worth it?!

Ask yourself:

Is It Crap?

What are the ingredients in that tasty morsel?
Is it actually tasty & delicious or am I eating it out of: boredom? something to do? unconsciousness? feeling uncomfortable? obligation?
Is it made with artificial flavour and hydrogenated oil? Or is it real made with natural ingredients?
What are natural ingredients you wonder? If you can’t pronounce it or don’t know what it means then it’s crap. Pretty simple, huh!?
Consider how you will feel after you eat it: Crap makes you feel like crap!

Be picky! Be choosy! Don’t eat crap! Trust me it’s not worth it.

You are an adult and you can go and buy yourself some candy whenever you want.

If you really are craving a treat go buy yourself something made with real wholesome ingredients. Go to a real chocolate store or Whole Foods, there are so many choices now. You can get chocolate made with real cocoa, cheesies made with real cheese, organic popcorn that is not packed with yellow dye, homemade cookies, there’s so much out there if you really want it. You will start to be able to tell the difference between real and fake food and pretty soon you’ll have hard time eating the “crap” because it tastes like, well, crap.

Don’t eat crap!

FOR KIDS:

After I had my son and he was old enough to participate in Halloween I got worried thinking about all the hydrogenated oil, artificial flavours, dyes and general crap that would be going into his body with all that Halloween candy.

So this is what I did:

I let him have all the candy he wanted on Halloween night and the day after.
I explained to him my concerns about the candy and how bad it was.
I offered to trade his candy bag for a toy (he LOVED the idea!).

If he was feeling really sad about giving up his candy then I’d get him a few treats made with wholesome ingredients.
Get the candy out of the house, out of sight, out of mind. If you stash it or you might eat it!

What to do with the candy? Leave it the alley, take it to your office, community centre, food bank or just throw it away, it’s garbage anyway.

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parents & kids having fun together – love this!

love the guy with the baby bjorn!

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Did you know that you have a natural girdle around your waist?!

It’s true! It’s called the Tranversus Abdominal muscle and it’s one of the four muscles that make up your “core”.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the “core” since core work has been very much in vogue for some time now.

The core is important because it is the foundation of the body.

Think of it like this, when they build a high-rise tower, first they build a foundation deep into the ground to keep the building stable. A strong core is your foundation.

The problem is that for most people the core muscles are weak and undeveloped. This can cause many problems from lower back pain to sciatica.

I do not recommend these belts. They will make your core weaker.

You’ve probably seen furniture movers wearing those belts to support their backs. That is the support a strong core would give you. The belt does the work that the core should be doing. I do not recommend these belts, as they will make your core weaker.

Why is it important to strengthen your core?

(1) CORE STABILITY

Having a strong core means you have a good foundation for everything you do. Your balance come from your core and centers you. Whatever activity you may be doing your core is there to support you. From walking to running to snowboarding you will feel stronger and more stable. Having this strong foundation helps prevent all sorts of injuries from falling to lower back pain.

(2) HEALTHY SPINE

Think of the discs in your spine as little gel filled pillows between each vertebra. With every step you take the discs absorb the pull of gravity. Over decades these discs start to wear out, they’re not as plump anymore and the spine starts to compress, that’s why we get shorter as we get older! In addition, if your spine is slightly off centre the edge of a disc can get pinched or tear.

Having a strong core keeps your spine aligned and supports the discs which slows their deterioration.

Recently I had an MRI of my spine, the doctor studied my spine and looked at me in awe and said, “What have you been doing? You have one of the healthiest spines I have ever seen, your discs are 20 years younger than you are!”, “I’m a Pilates Instructor”, I told him. “Wow”, he said, “I can see it in your spine!”. It was such a wonderful confirmation of what I have instinctively felt in my body.

(3) PREVENT LOWER BACK PAIN

One of the most frequent complaints I hear is lower back pain.

Over my 34 years of teaching I’ve come to the conclusion that the main cause of lower back pain is weak core muscles (like anything it’s not a one size fits all diagnosis, I also believe in stretching and weight-training).

When the core is weak, the stronger more superficial muscles step in to do the work of the core, namely the glutes (we tend to engage the butt muscles when we’re looking for stability) and the spinal erectors (the band on each side of the spine).

When the gluteal muscles (butt) tighten, they pull the hips forwards, engage the hip flexors and pull the tailbone down, putting us into a pelvic tilt and taking the lower back out of it’s natural curve, the “neutral spine”. This leaves all the pressure sitting in the lower back and comprises the discs in this area. Most people are stronger on one side than the other, so if they contract one glute tighter than the other it can cause the hips to go out of alignment which can then cause a further problem: sciatica.

The deep core muscles do not engage unless we consciously tell them to, that’s why we have to strengthen the core and train the subconscious to engage the core muscles instead of the stronger more superficial muscles when stability is needed. It takes time and patience to build new neural pathways in the brain so the body goes to the core muscles instead.

A strong core will keep the spine in proper alignment, “neutral spine”,  keep your hips aligned and your discs healthy.

(4) YOU WILL LOOK GOOD!

Having a strong core is like wearing a girdle, you will have tighter waist line and better posture.

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HOW TO BUILD A STRONG CORE:

Do focused exercises for the deep core muscles:

(1) Kegels

Imagine you are going to the bathroom and you stop mid-stream, that’s a kegel. So just do that over and over, squeeze, release, squeeze release. Do them as often as you can, whenever you think of it. You can do them anywhere, no one will know. (Do them right now!)

I like to say pick something that will remind you to do them, like every time you see a Starbucks logo. Focus the squeeze more in the front (#1) and less in the back (#2) and make sure you are not squeezing your butt (the gluteal muscles). I also recommend doing kegels for a focused 2 minute block at least once a day.

Not only will kegels build your core strength, they will also keep you from getting up at night to go to the bathroom!

(2) Pull in your belly

Simply pull your belly in towards your spine. It is important to integrate your breath so you exhale through your mouth as you pull your belly in. You can also do these anytime anywhere: when you’re in a line-up, going up the elevator or walking around. I also recommend doing them for a focused 2 minute block at least once a day.

These are the absolute basics.

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If you want to take it further then I recommend  Pilates or a “core” focused class, just make sure your instructor teaches in a way that actually focuses on the deep core muscles and constantly reminds you to engage them.

Be patient and persistent, with regular practice you will start to see and feel a difference. But remember, it’s like showering, it doesn’t last, you have to do it regularly.

If you are suffering from lower back pain or sciatica, know that it will take time and patience to redirect the body. Consistency is key.

You can find my Pilates class schedule HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recently I listened to a podcast by Joe Rogan and Dr. Rhonda Patrick.

He beautifully expressed many of my feelings regarding exercise and it made me want to share it with you (warning: swearing):

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or you can read my summary below
I hope it motivates you!

Some people don’t want to exercise; they’d rather go to a doctor and get a pill. There’s a fear of discomfort, they don’t want to sweat and strain. It’s an extreme feeling in the mind.

What it really is however is the discomfort of the beginnings of getting in shape. Because once you’re fit, exercise is something you look forward to. It alleviates stress and makes you feel good: relaxed, carefree, more appreciative of things and less reactive.

Neuro-imaging studies show that exercise improves executive function and calms the amygdala – the brains emotional centre. Exercise helps you think logically and be less reactive from the gut. Meditation has similar effect.

So how to get started? Create momentum. Resist the resistance. Realize that discomfort is your friend. The choice to resist creates momentum, just as the choice to avoid creates momentum. The more you resist the more you can resist. The more you avoid, the more you continue to avoid. When we consistently resist the avoidance it creates a force that propels us forward.

Often when we are not happy and content with life it’s because we have given into the avoidance. We have stayed in our comfort zone. The need to act is so strong yet we avoid it. We feel that resistance all the time and we have to fight it in order to get past it so we can progress and succeed.

When we choose to avoid working out, it’s not only bad for us physically but also mentally. When we decide to stay on the couch we tell ourselves that it’s an option, that avoiding is an option that is at our disposal and that creates momentum to continue avoiding. Our choices create neuro-pathways in the brain: to avoid or to resist. Once the neuro-pathway is created we tend to stay on that path. If we choose to avoid, we may then find ourselves avoiding other things in life too: conflict, uncomfortable decisions and making changes.

When we get off the couch and go workout we feel successful and a sense of accomplishment. A year from now you could have a completely different body working out just 2 -3 times a week. It’s not a huge commitment and the outcome is incredible. You could add ten years to your life! It’s not about vanity; it’s about the quality of your life, not only as you age but also right now, how it affects you today. And it not only affects you but everyone that comes into contact with you.

When we live a sedentary lifestyle and eat badly we accelerate aging; we become broken and start to fall apart. We can delay the aging process and improve the quality of our life simply by being active and eating well. What could me more important?!

If you could take a pill to prevent your body and mind from a decaying from old age would you take it? Everyone would say yes, but there is no such pill. The pill is exercise and healthy eating. Actual pills don’t always work and they have side effects. And a pill is not going to make you feel better in a true sense. A pill is not going to clear your mind, change the shape of your body and give you confidence and ease. Yes pills are sometimes necessary for a medical condition but often the medical condition is caused by unhealthy habits to begin with.

Our consciousness is in charge of making the choice. What will you choose?

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Gord, who attends my Stretch Class, shared this beautiful short film with me and I want to share it with you.  It’s a beautiful story, a beautiful film and a beautiful project. I hope you will take the time to watch it.

I think any exercise program, not just yoga, can have a significant impact on your life.

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runnersonbrooklynbridgeRecently I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts: The Tim Ferriss Show, he referenced a short essay called “It’s Always Your Fault” written by his guest David Heinemeier Hansson.  The essay refers to business systems and the question it asks is “How are you complicit in creating the conditions you say you don’t want?”. It talks about being accountable, about situations being a feedback loop and that you can take action and have the control to change.

As a fitness instructor, I immediately thought of how this relates to health and fitness. Our daily actions have consequences that affect our physical and emotional well-being and can lead us to a condition we don’t want. Inactivity and unhealthy eating habits can lead us to being out of shape, overweight, lethargic and unmotivated – or to more serious health issues.

There are many reasons we may not take care of ourselves; life gets busy, we don’t know where to start, it’s overwhelming, we never got into the habit in the first place, ignorance, etc. Most people are disconnected from the their bodies and don’t stop to realize how they feel.

Unhealthy habits become a feedback loop; lack of sleep can increase sugar or caffeine consumption to gain energy, lack of exercise causes fatigue so we’re too tired to workout, and so on. And then we tend to shirk responsibility for our actions and blame external factors.

The fact is we have the control to change and take action. So ask yourself: Are you in a condition you don’t want to be in? If the answer is yes, then consider:

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“How am I complicit in creating the condition I say I don’t want?”
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 Realize that you have the control to change and take action!

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