Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Cool Aunt Does Yoga

My Aunt is 56. She is quite possibly the youngest 56 year old I know. Sometimes I think she may be a vampire with her inability to age, her love of Twilight...or quite possibly she is Benjamin Buttoning herself. Now, my mother (her younger sister) quickly attributes this to not being married or having kids. Funny how when she mentions these reasons, her eyes seem to twitch with a tad disdain towards us kids and my dad.

I however, believe that it has been her commitment to yoga for the last 20-30 years that has kept her youthful glow. That and I think all of her disposable income goes directly to the Clinique counter -which always works out in my favour because she gives me the gifts with purchases!

My Aunt did yoga before it was cool. She even did yoga before Madonna did yoga (however, my Aunt does not have those crazy arms).  I remember a long time ago, she tried to teach my brother (then a rambunctious 5 year old) and myself (at 7) some breathing techniques. Needless to say, she never...ever...tried again.

I always knew that my Aunt did yoga, but only recently, with the numerous Lululemons popping up everywhere, did I actually think much of it. Now all of a sudden, my cool Aunt Margot was "My cool Aunt Margot, who does yoga".

My decision to join a yoga studio came about from a couple of reasons. The first being that I wanted to expand my repertoire of exercises. I pretty much stick to my basement. It has my treadmill, weights and a plug for my lap top - all I need. My intro to yoga has been poorly shot youtube videos. I pretty much sucked. I needed something that was interactive and had someone that could assist me.  Fortunately there was a great and highly recommended yoga studio in my town! The other reason was that my boyfriend and I were looking for something to do together.  With the start up of school, our time together has been shortened. We wanted to something together, and I really wanted it to be in line with a healthy lifestyle. So cheap ticket movie night was kind of out of the question.

Yoga isn't exactly a social exercise. Yes you are in a studio filled with people, but as my boyfriend pointed out you are so focused on your own centre and breathing that you really don't care what other people are doing - and you know that they don't care about what you're doing (which is great. my balance certainly needs work...I like having him there, because if I know I'm going to fall I just need to lean a little bit to the left and crash into him).

There are a number of ways to experience and practice yoga. Here is what I do and my suggestions:

1. If you are new to yoga, like I am, do your research. I won't get into it here, but there are actually different types of yoga - each one slightly different from the other. The yoga that you are probably familiar with is called "hatha" with is a general, basic and gentle yoga. Vinyasa is another "general" type of yoga. It is a bit more vigorous, and focuses on connecting movement with breath. This is the type of yoga that I take - and it certainly helps me break a sweat!  This is a great website that explains the various styles, and which one would work for you. 

2. Sign up for a class. While your gym may offer a weekly class, I have heard that this isn't the best way to experience yoga (I have never gone to a yoga class at a gym, so this is just what I have heard - you however may be perfectly satisfied with your gym's class). From what I gather, the classes seem a bit rushed and the area in which you practice isn't conducive to meditation and creating a sense of calm (think of the bright lights, some classrooms have all glass walls so you are on display, and they may not be very sound proof. I don't think I would be able to meditate with the possibility of music pumping through the walls or even worse, the sound of grunting men lifting weights).  Instead, look for a class or studio that is dedicated purely to yoga. While our class isn't held in a "yoga studio", our instructor makes it peaceful and welcoming.  She lights candles, sets up a scented diffuser, and has a music stream that works perfectly with the class.

3. I can't stress how imperative it is to go to a yoga class first before you start practicing at home. I have signed up for a 10 week yoga class. It is $140, and each class is 80 minutes. It is money well spent - however, I can't afford to (both $ and time wise) to sign up for another class which is why I also practice at home.  Yoga is just like any other activity. You don't have to go gangbusters on it, but you will certainly notice it's benefits if you practice regularly.  I am incredibly impressed by those who can put on some music and just "flow". There is no way in hells bells that I could do this. At least not yet. So I rely on videos to help guide me. The problem was that I started getting pretty frustrated with the little amount that YouTube offered. First off, they were mostly poor quality, and secondly, they weren't much longer than 10 minutes. I did some research, and came across this website: My Yoga Online.  I will do a review on this later on - but it is a paid service ($9.95/mnth or $89.95 for year), that offers lots of videos on yoga, Pilate's and dance. What I love most is that they offer not just yoga videos, but videos of actually classes. They are all great quality, and are varying in lengths. Some are quick 12 minute exercises, while others area  full 75 minute class. I don't usually sign up for internet things but I got a coupon that gave me 2 months for $16 - so I thought it would be worth a try.

What to wear:

As much as you may like to, and trust me, I like to - you don't have to outfit yourself head to toe in lululemon. I personally prefer to wear pants and a tank while practicing (I find pants gives me a better grip when I have to place my hands on my legs).  You can wear pretty much whatever, so long as you are comfortable in it, and you can do flexible poses in it. My boyfriend wears shorts and a t-shirt. I do love lululemon for their quality of clothing, so I have no problems plunking down the cash - but it is not necessary. The only thing I can say is please respect those who are behind you. If you are wearing low rise crops, or too short shorts - you may be giving the guy behind you quite the eyeful as you downward dog.

For yoga, you will need a good mat. When I asked my instructor, she said that you wanted one that wasn't too thick for stability purposes (so not a Pilate's mat), and you want one that isn't shiny. If you have a shiny mat you will know what I mean - ut apprently if you tend to sweat like I do, those shiny mats may become quite the hazard and cause you to easily slip. Again, lululemon sells a good quality one called "The Mat", however, it is $70. I picked mine up for $20 at a local discount department store (Winners, if you are Canadian). Perhaps in the future, if I find I am really committed to the yoga scene, I will purchase the lululemon Mat - or go even more extreme and get the Manduka $90 Mat (which boasts a lifetime warranty along with that hefty price tag!).

Blocks and straps are usually provided by your yoga instructor and help assist in several movements if you are less then flexible. I use these a lot.

Most of all, yoga isn't just for the body but it helps with your overall well-being. It brings me back to centre, reminds me to focus and be calm, and generally makes me really happy and giddy!  I can go into a yoga class exhausted and cranky from a day of work (I have a "no work or school talk" rule with my bf on the car ride there because I just don't want to hear yah..just a tad cranky), and I leave feeling just purely happy. Maybe a bit loopy I shouldn't be driving's wonderful.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Friday Night Eating Tips!

My dad was so pleased when my mom came home Friday. She had phoned earlier in the day with the

promise of dinner.  It came in the form of 7 packages of left over hot dogs from her schools bbq. I don't know what's more disturbing about this: 1. The selling feature was that it was a 1/4 pound of dog (I thought this honour was reserved only for a well known burger chain). 2. Each serving was 26g of Fat with 11g of heart hugging saturated fat, 3. The fact that they served and fed this to high school students or finally 4. My beloved father ate two.

I realize that I am being quite judgmental right now, because there are plenty of people that are able to enjoy a large hot dog, and still maintain a balanced, healthy lifestyle. My family however are not those people. I realize that the last thing most people want to do when they get home from a long and stressful week is cook for themselves. With the glean of a bright and shiny weekend ahead of you, it's easy to put on the holy sweat pants (sorry. I mean holey), defrost a microwave dinner, and let the relief of the week ending wash over you.


And there is a big but in this (hardy har- pun intended), as K&K of TIU note, if you cheat every weekend, there goes almost half the month.

Here are my tips to make sure you start the weekend strong and healthy for a Friday night:
  1. Eat 1/2 a larabar, medjool date, 1/2 a banana, veggie sticks etc. on the commute home. I found this was one of the biggest reasons why I was successful to completing my workouts after work, and then making myself a healthy dinner. It's like clockwork when I crash. Always around 3:30 - 4:00, and I'm always in the car on the ride home. I started bringing a banana with me to work, and saving it for the ride home. It raises my blood sugar just enough that I don't crave carby/salty (ie unhealthy) foods the moment I get home. 
  2. Save a portion of the best meal of the week for Friday night left overs (i.e. don't use it for lunch the next day). Perhaps this isn't the most healthy attitude - but I certainly look forward to food. It excites me. Eating a balanced, clean diet excites me. I know. I'm weird. I know my mouth will be salivating all week if I save a portion of my favourite mac'n'cheeze or veggie patties for a Friday night dinner.
  3. When you are prepping your lunch (if you do that) Thursday night, spend a few minutes and prep dinner also (check out my adapted recipe below).
  4. If you are going out for dinner that night, have a small snack prior to leaving. Being on a diet doesn't mean having to be anti-social. Have a healthy snack prior to going out, and then perhaps have an appetizer and small salad. 
  5. Instead of ordering a pizza for the gang, have a "make your own pizza" night. It is becoming increasingly easier to buy chopped up veggies - check out the veggie packs made for omelets or grilled vegetables - they often have the best variety of different ones. You can offer whole wheat pitas and tortillas to save on the calories. 

For dinner on Friday I adapted this burger recipe. It was amazing! So delicious and filling. The best news? The mix can be made the night ahead and separated into patties. It also works really well for sliders.

Best Veggie Pattie (adapted from Oh She Glows)

  (photo source)
 Ingredients (4 patties)
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Flax eggs: 1 tbsp + 1 tsp ground flax + 1/4 cup warm water, mixed in bowl
  • 1/2 cup oats, processed into flour (other flours might work)
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (I processed 3 pieces of Ezekiel bread until fine crumb)
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup cooked black beans, rinsed and roughly pureed or mashed
  • Heaping 1/4 cup finely chopped spinach (or fresh herb of choice)
  • 1/2 cup mix of sunflower, pumpkin and hemp seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tbsp Tamari (soy sauce)
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste (I used about 1/4 tsp kosher salt)
  • 1. Preheat oven to 350F (if baking). In a large skillet, sauté onions and garlic in 1/2 tbsp oil. Mix your flax egg together in a small bowl and set aside for at least 10 mins while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  • 2. Place all ingredients (except spices and salt) into a large mixing bowl and stir very well. Now, add seasonings and salt to taste.
  • 3. With slightly wet hands, shape dough into patties. I made 4 medium patties.
  • 4. Cooking methods: You can fry the burgers in a bit of oil on a skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side. If baking in the oven, bake for 20 minutes on each side at 350F, until golden and crisp. For the BBQ, pre-bake the burgers for about 15 minutes in oven before placing on a pre-heated grill until golden and crisp on each side.
  • GF Note: To make these burgers gluten-free, use certified GF oats, GF Tamari, and gluten-free breadcrumbs.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reflection: Enjoying myself as a Healthy Person

So, it looks like I will not be reaching my deadline of November 14th for losing 20 lbs - or rather 22 lbs now. For the second week in a row, I have gained weight. Approx. 2 lbs since I started this 12 week challenge. What the what!?

I'll admit that I certainly slipped up a bit on Sunday and Monday - but in no way should that have undone my good, healthy lifestyle I had been maintaining over the course of last week. I was active, ate the nutrient dense food, and really enjoyed myself as a healthy person!

What do I mean by "enjoying myself as a healthy person"?  I was in love with the fact that I would walk down to the grocery store to pick up my daily fresh vegetables, stocked up at the farmer's market, would take advantage of the nice weather and workout outside...etc. It made me feel not only "good", but empowered - like I can conquer this weight loss battle.

It doesn't matter what excuses I could give for the weight gain - what is more important to me is how disappointed I was in myself for gaining weight. When am I going to get off of this obsession with what the scale says, as opposed to how awesome I feel - like when i rocked out size 8 lululemon workout gear the other day! Or how great I felt when at the Farmer's Market I had a conversation with someone who was a "raw foodie". I felt not only like I could keep up with the convo, but that I could add to it.

I need to remind myself that small successes count - and will add up to big success in the end.

Here is my breakdown of what I think I need to do to get myself not just on track - but losing weight:

1. More intense workouts - I am really loving the splitting my workouts into 3x10 min sessions - but I need to amp up the intensity!

2. Cleaner eats, more aware of what I am eating.

3. Record my daily workouts and eats on the given TIU journal/recording page that you get if you sign up for the TIU Diet Plan.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Upgrade Your Meal!

How easy is it to get into a dieting rut with the food that we put in our mouths. How many times a week do we succumb to choosing quinoa and steamed kale - just because it's easy and good for you?

I am a firm believer that in order to maintain momentum on any healthy lifestyle journey you need to keep things exciting and fun!  Use meal time as a chance to present yourself something worth while - something worthy of you and your body!

There are 2 ways you can achieve this: 1. Serving Ware, and 2. Choosing the right foods.

Obviously, I'm going to start with the first one, because it requires some shopping.

Why do we only use our "good" china just for special occasions? Shouldn't every time we choose a healthy, balanced meal be cause for celebration?  Here are my suggestions to get yourself excited just by serving ware:

Forget the idea of using smaller plates to limit calorie intake. Loading up on nutrient dense, delicious foods is reason to get yourself some fancy, gorgeous plates! While it's not economical to purchase sets of dishes just because you like the design, lots of stores now are offering the opportunity to buy individual pieces:
Verdant Acres DinnerwareSliced Persimmon Dinnerware

Anthropologie have some beautiful dinner ware options. To out fit your entire cupboard would be outrageous in price - but picking up a piece or two is quite reasonable!

If you aren't quite thrilled about paying anywhere from $18-$24 a plate, then your local thrift store is a great place to start a collection of retro and vintage china. Our thrift store sells china plates for $0.25! Pick up some fine china to serve some delightfully light tea sandwiches. Grab some vintage parfait glasses for Overnight Oats, or your yogurt and granola!

Focusing on serving ware - try something like "amuse bouche" spoons to dress up your snacks or chop sticks for the extra challenge! I would save a lot of calories if the only way I could feed myself was from chopsticks.

Amuse bouches are a great place to bring up the second component to making your meals exciting and enticing. While we would all love either a. the time required to come up with master piece dishes, or b. and perhaps, more likely, someone to just make us gourmet food. all. the. time.  clearly this is unrealistic. This doesn't mean however that your food has to be boring and repetitive.  Here are some tips that I frequently use:

  • Take a look at the standard foods you regularly eat. Could you use some new spices or maybe incorporate fresh herbs to give it a new kick? If you are constantly stuck on that same "Mrs. Dash" spice, try out curry powder, fresh herbs like oregano, thyme or rosemary, or my favourite smoked paprika!
  • Go to the farmer's market, or even your produce aisle and pick up a vegetable that you have never used before, or something that intrigues you. Yesterday at the farmer's market I picked up some Patty Pan squashes. 
  • Once a week pick up something that is pure decadence, but still maintaining your healthy lifestyle. Things like a raw&organic cheese, large&scrumptious prawns, smoked salmon, or perhaps some extraordinary, organic produce from Whole Paycheck
  • Find some fancy, artisan spreads (like gourmet mustard, organic dressings, or something new from a cuisine you have never tried before). They may be initially expensive, but a little goes a long way.
Resources to check out:
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