Monday, February 28, 2011

Passion, Determination and Opportunity


 If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door. ~Milton Berle

As many of you know, I went back to school last year for a career change.  I graduated last June, ready to leave the fitness world behind and look for opportunities in PR.

I hit the job search daily, sent out resumes and was quickly discovering that finding a job wasn't an easy task.  I was getting frustrated.  

That was when I found myself drifting back to this little blog.  Over the course of 6 months, I went from weekly posts to daily posts.  I wanted to talk about fitness and connect with others who felt the same.

After much reflection and discussion with family and friends, I realized that I didn't want to leave the fitness world.  I just wanted to do it differently.  I needed to find a way to marry my renewed love of health and wellness with my new interest in social media and communications.

After months of waiting for someone to knock on my door, I decided to build one.  It was time for me to create my own opportunity:  I could go into business for myself.

And that is exactly what I did.

Just a little taste of the website.  It should be up and running next week!

I am offering in-home personal training services, classes and consulting for fitness professionals.  I am beyond excited about this new venture and will continue to keep you updated.

I am not sure what the future will hold but I feel empowered, positive and hopeful.

What are you passionate about?  Have you created your own opportunity?

Stay Healthy, 

P.S Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a fantastic cookbook!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wonderful Weekend Giveaway

It is a late post today as I just got back from a visit in with my family. (You saw my adorable nephew yesterday :)

I had a great weekend and am in such as good mood, I thought to myself, "Could it be a better time for my first giveaway?"

I think not!

As luck would have it, I just happen to have an extra copy of this cookbook.

I used it for inspiration during the Vegan Challenge and think it is absolutely fantastic.  The recipes are simple, easy to follow and delicious.

To Enter
Leave a comment and tell me the best thing that happened to you this past week.

Optional Additional Entries (Leave a comment for each one)
Like my Facebook Page
Follow me on Twitter
Tweet about the contest... Yummy! Enter to win a cookbook from @tracy_simmons
Follow my blog (via RSS or Google Friend Connect)

Contest ends on Thursday March 3rd and I will announce the winner on Friday.

Good luck!

Stay Healthy,

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Experiencing Pure Joy

If there is one thing that makes me smile, it is the giggle of a little person.

Meet my nephew, Bradley. He thinks everything is funny.

He laughs after he has been pulling my hair (see above).  He was in his jolly jumper for over an hour, laughing like he had heard the best joke it the world.  I bounce him up and down and he giggles like crazy.

We often get so caught up the pressures and stress of everyday life, that we don't take the time to enjoy the simple pleasures. 

Look at that. Pure joy.

I think we could all take a lesson from baby Bradley.

When was the last time you experience pure joy?

Stay Healthy,

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Little Patience



Such a simple word, yet it can be so difficult to do.

As a child, we were often told to be patient, (I am sure that many of you are telling that to your children.) but we live in a "now" society. 

We want instant gratification.

If we are trying to lose weight, we get upset if the scale doesn't budge that week.  If we have set a goal, we are frustrated if we haven't accomplished it by our deadline. 

We want to lose weight and reach our goals now.  And if we don't?

We feel like we have failed and often times, we give up. We have all been there, focusing on the negative.

Enter patience.

We have to remember that making any kind of change takes effort and perseverance.  Take a moment to look back at what you have accomplished and get excited about the things yet to come. 

If there is one thing that I have learning in the past few months is that patience isn't just about sitting back and waiting for things to happen.  It is about being proactive with the understanding that all things come in time.

So, sit back, enjoy your coffee and be patient.

Stay Healthy,

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Crazy Fitness Gimmicks Revisited

Poor Ab Lounge
Have you ever fallen victim to a fitness fad? 

You can admit it. 

The infomercial comes on late at night with promises of a firmer butt and tigher abs in just minutes a day.

You quickly find yourself intrigued and before you know it, you are online placing your order.

You happily recieve the product 4-6 weeks later, only to discover that is not easy to assemble, it does not take minutes a day and you are out $100.

In previous posts, I have talked about the beloved Thighmaster, the Sauna Belt and a few other fun fitness gadgets.  Well, here is the lowdown on 3 more crazy fitness fads.

Crazy Gimmick # 3: Leg Magic
Do you beleive in magic?  This is the catch phrase for this crazy contraption.  The infomercial claims that this lower body toning system gives you major muscle sculpting and will change your life. 

Well, I am not too sure about that. 

While it does look like you are working your hips and inner thighs, the range of motion is limited. The handle bar is also placed quite low, which could cause back strain. 

There are many fantastic ways to work your lower body, so save your money and do some squats or hit the streets for a run.

Crazy Gimmick #2: Ab Lounge
What we really need in the fitness world is another machine to work the abs (note the sarcasm). 

I have to tell you that I actually tried the ab lounge (I found it in my apartment gym.  It has been out on the patio for months now.  Poor Ab lounge.)  I found it quite awkward to use.  You really have to pull with your arms to get it moving, which leaves very little work for your abs. 

As is the case with Leg Magic, with so many option out there to get a great abdominal workout, why would you spend money on an expensive chair that will most likely be used as a clothing rack.

Crazy Gimmick #1:  The Bodi Pro
This is the first time I have ever seen this product, but it looks to me like a glorified Thighmaster.  It appears to be made out of plastic, so its durability maybe also be questionable. 

It is yet another gadget that claims to tone the entire body in no time flat.  I am alway weary of products that are "too good to be true" because they often are just that. 

For the price you would pay, go out and get yourself a few sets of hand weights, a stability ball and a resistance band to get a more verstile workout.

Have you tried any of these products?  
What are your favourite crazy fitness gadgets?

Stay Healthy,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Guest Post: Certification and the Fitness Industry, Part 2: Canada

In the first part of the series, I shared some of my general thoughts on the topic of certification in the industry.  

For Part 2, I have enlisted a friend of mine, Diana @ FITness Training, to give you the rundown on some of the most popular Canadian certifications.

Take it away, Diana...

Which organization offers the best certification for the best price and what do the courses involve? 

It seems like there is no standard across the board. Each of these organizations has different requirements and very different prices.

  • Courses available in person and/or online
  • Over the age of 18
  • Current CPR
  • 20 hours of practical experience or a degree in Kinesiology
  • 5 hours of mentor/observation time
  • Submit a personal training log
  • Achieve 75% or higher to pass both the theory and practical exam. 
  • Costs:
    •  $64.14 for membership
    • $497.20 for preparation course (includes manual)
    • $204.75 for theory and practical exam 

      • Courses available in person and/or online
      • Over the age of 16
      • Current CPR
      • Complete 25 hours of training
      • Achieve 80% or higher to pass both the theory and practical exam
      • Costs:
        • $50 for membership
        • $434 ($399 for early bird) includes online course, in class course, course manual, study guide and exam

      • Courses available in person and/or online
      • Complete 24-32 hours of training
      • Current Emergency First Aid with Heartsaver CPR
      • Achieve 80% or higher on exam
      • Costs:
        • $225-239 for fitness theory and exam
        • $65-90 for NFLA exam
        • Need to contact for rates of PT course
        • $45-65/hour for practical examination

      So, which is the best course for you? 

      At one time I held many certifications with various organizations. It looked great on my resume however; it started to get very costly to keep them current. I decided to choose one organization to continue with my certifications.   

      I went with the one that would help me continue my education credits (CEC's), online or in class, and worked around my schedule. 

      No matter which one you choose, make sure you thoroughly research your options and consider the following:
      • What is the time commitment?
      • How much money are you able to invest?
      • What are the requirements for re-certification?  Will you be able to meet them?
      • What kind of support does the association offer?

      I have met trainers who are extremely knowledgeable and hold many certifications. I have learned from them, but they have no passion and lack personality. How do you teach “personality”?

      Having personality is just one aspect, I believe being a great trainer is a combination of many things. For me this includes passion, love, education, expertise, experience and personality.

      A few years back, I was personal training in a well known gym in Brantford. I had been working there for less than 6 month and had already 20 clients.   

      One woman came up to me and said, “I’ve been watching you for a while now, and you’re the trainer I want. You’re fun, know what you’re doing and are able to push me when I need a push”.

      I am the first one to say that I don’t know everything when it comes to fitness. However, I continue to learn and educate myself.  Most importantly I build relationships with my clients; I care about my clients and have fun with them. 

      That is my secret…don’t tell anyone :) 

      Keep Moving, 

      Some questions to ponder:

      Do you think requirements and standards should be the same across the board?
      Can anyone call themselves a personal trainer?  
      Does having a passion for fitness make you knowledgeable in the fitness industry? 
      Do years of experience take presidency over education? 

      Tuesday, February 22, 2011

      Healthy Banana Raisin Bread Makeover

      I have used bananas in a few other recipes (here and here), but I wanted to make something that tasted more like banana bread.

      I was feeling creative in the kitchen and decided that instead of finding a recipe to makeover, I was going to make a healthy version myself.

      I pulled out my brownie pan and got to work.  I gathered ingredients that I thought would work well together, improvised here and there and waited patiently.

      The result was an easy to make, moist and tasty banana bread that reminded my of my youth, without the fat and more fibre.

      Banana Raisin Bread Bars (Makes 18 Bars)

      3 cups oatmeal
      1 tsp baking powder
      1 tbsp cinnamon
      1/2 tsp salt
      1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 large)
      1/4 cup maple syrup
      1 tsp vanilla
      1 flax egg
      1/2 cup raisins
      18 almonds

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease your brownie or 9x9 pan.

      Prepare flax egg and set asside.

      Mix oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  In a measuring cup, mash bananas.  Add maple syrup and vanilla and stir.

      Add banana mixture to dry ingredient and mix until just combined.  Incorporate flax egg and add raisin.

      Pour batter into greased pan and press and almond into each square.  (If you are using a regular pan, you can just eyeball the placement of the almonds)

      Bake for 40-45 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

      Nutritional Information (Approx.)
      98 calories
      1.7 g fat
      19.2 g carbs
      2.4 g protein
      2.3 g fibre
      Stay Healthy,

      Monday, February 21, 2011

      Exploring the Great Outdoors

      I had a fantastic weekend at the cottage.

      It was so nice to enjoy the quiet and spend some time outdoors.

      It was the first time I have ever been up there in the winter and got a chance to walk on the frozen lake.

      Can you tell I am excited? :)

      It was pretty cold and windy, but we hiked around for over an hour.  I was great to get some exercise and have an adventure at the same time.

      It is easy to forget how therapeutic nature can be when you spend most of your time in the crowded city.  Like I said, sometimes we need to be reminded of the good things in life.

      And nature is a good thing.

      Heading outdoors is also a great way to spend some quality time with your favourite people.

      Next stop, hot chocolate town. :)

      Did you spend any time outside this weekend? 

      Stay Healthy,

      P.S.  Check out Woman's Health magazine and nominate your favourite health and fitness blogger.

      Saturday, February 19, 2011

      Losing Stress and Gaining Perspective

      Did you happen to notice a little something different about the blog today?  

      I have a new address!  Pretty exciting, isn't it?

      (For those of you who are wondering what the heck I am talking about, the new blog site is, it may take a few days for it to show up:)

      It is a long weekend in Ontario and I am heading north to the cottage today (I will be sans computer, so no post tomorrow).  It is quaint, quiet and just what I need after a long week.

      Sometimes we go so caught up in work, family and other commitments, stress takes over (guilty) and we need be reminded of the good things in life.  

      Here are a few quotes I wanted to share with you that always help me gain perspective and put a smile on my face:


      When the world says, "Give up," Hope whispers, "Try it one more time. ~Author Unknown
      It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere. ~Agnes Repplier
      I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. ~Author Unknown
      If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door. ~Milton Berle
      Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day. ~Author Unknown
      Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you. - Walt Whitman
      Do you have a favourite quote?
      Stay Healthy,

      Friday, February 18, 2011

      Move of the Month: Plank Pose

      It is a unseasonably warm day today and I am looking forward to getting out there and enjoying it.  I am heading out for a run and hitting up some strength training today. 

      I have been listening to my body and keeping my workout on the gentle side, but today I am ready to take it on!

      One of the exercises in my plan for today is...


      The Plank Pose

      It is a fantastic exercise for the abs, back and upper body.  This picture demontrates an intermediate level of the position, but it can be modified in many different ways:

      Plank Pose on the Ball
      1. Lie on the ball and walk your hands out until the ball is resting on your thighs (to make it more challenging, go to your shins).
      2. Relax your head and neck.  (I am posing for the camera in these pics :)  Ensure that your wrists are directly below your shoulders.  Keep your shoulders away from your ears.
      3. Press your hips slightly down so the body is in a straight line (having a mirror handy is a great idea).
      4. Contract your abdominals, but don't hold your breathe. Your muscles need that oxygen.
      5. Hold the position for 30-60 seconds, then walk your hands back to the starting position.
      6. Repeat 2 more times.


      To make it more challenging for the last two sets, try lifting one leg.

      Which version of the plank is your favourite?   
      Any big plans this weekend?

      Stay Healthy,

      Thursday, February 17, 2011

      Cross Training with Aqua Fitness

      It has been a pretty stressful week and working out was the last thing I wanted to do last night.

      However, I knew in the back of my mind that as much as I didn't want to workout, some form of exercise would make me feel better (it always does).

      I didn't want to run.  I needed something a bit easier on my joints, but still intense enough to get my heart rate up.


      The answer:  Aqua Fitness

      I have talked jumping in the water as a great exercise option and here's why:
      • Increased flexibility
      • Reduced risk of injury
      • Provides resistance in all directions
      • Great for all levels of fitness
      • No impact

      Swimming and aqua fitness are also a fantastic way for all of my fellow runners to cross train.

      Many of you opt for a ride on the eliptical or take a spin on the bike, but jumping in the pool will give you a full body workout and allow you to use the muscles you never knew you had.

      It has made me a better runner and I know it will help you too.


      If you decide to take the plunge, here are a few great exercises you can try.

      Aqua Running
      In shallow water up to your chest, begin running on the spot while pumping your arms for 30 seconds.  If space permits, run the width of the pool 10 times.  Repeat for a total of five minutes.  You can also run in deep water using an aqua belt, which will help stretch the legs and improve your range of motion. 

      Jumping Jacks
      In shallow water up to your chest, do jumping jacks for a total of 2 minutes.  To really challenge your legs, move to water that is waist deep and perform the jacks from a squat position for another 2 minutes.  Your arms and shoulders are going to feel this one too! 

      Aqua Fitness Classes
      From aqua yoga to aqua boot camp, there is something to suit everyone.  Many fitness centres and community pool offer these classes, so take advantage of them.  Simply replace one of your weekly runs with a class and I guarantee you will notice a difference in a few weeks. 

      Do you workout or cross train in the water?  
      Do you want to learn more exercise options for the pool?  
      Let me know!

      Stay Healthy,

      P.S.  I loved reading all of your comments yesterday about what makes you fabulous, keep them coming!

      Wednesday, February 16, 2011

      3 Reasons Why You and I Are Fabulous

      Every week, I participate in #fitblog chat on Twitter.  At the end of the discussion, we all gets the chance to brag about something we did this week that made us proud.

      This is my favourite part of the chat.  It is so great to hear all of the fantastic accomplishments of my cyber friends.

      Without hesitation, everyone tweets about recent weight loss, running that extra mile or completing a project at work.

      Funny how we have pride in the things we have done, yet we don't feel the same way about our bodies or our minds?

      Being body proud isn't about vanity, it is about loving yourself and being happy with the skin you are in.  Don't be afraid to love who you are, what you look like and the qualities you possess.

      I'll start.

      I am fabulous just the way I am because...

      My laugh is infectious.  It is hearty, distinct and can be heard from across a crowded room. 

      My back is strong.  Through  running and strength training, I love how my back is becoming more defined and toned.

      I have a baby face.  My cousin's daughter thought I was in my early 20's.  This truly made my day.  For the record, I am not in my early 20's :)

      Now it's your turn.

      Write down 3 reasons why your are fabulous just the way you are!

      Stay Healthy,

      Tuesday, February 15, 2011

      Building a Better Blog(ger) for Fitness Professionals

      A few weeks ago,  I talked about the benefits of blogging for fitness professionals. It is a great way to increase your online presence and brand.

      As you can see, I use Blogger (I know many of you prefer Wordpress, but lets save that talk for another post :) Over the last few months, I have been looking for ways to  improve my blog and I have stumbled across some pretty cool features.

      When I tweeted about it, I got this request by the lovely Lisa @ Vegan Culinary Crusade

       Ask and you shall receive.

      I am happy to share some of my discoveries in the hopes that they will help you build a better blog(ger).

      Google Friend Connect. When friends follow you, they are able to get updates about you on their Blogger Dashboard.  This makes it easy for them to come back for more of your fantastic posts.  You can also use Friend Connect to allow users to subscribe to a newsletter, by adding the feature found here.  It is super easy to use and it is a great way to keep your fans updated.

      Stats.  This is a relatively new feature for Blogger, which you can find  in your Dashboard under "Manage Your Blog."  It keeps track of how many people visit your blog, which pages they are viewing and how they got there.  It is a great tool for you to see which topics are most popular, when people visit and to give you some direction for future posts.

      Social Media Gadgets.  Do you use Twitter?  Have a Facebook page?  Add them to your blog! You may only have your reader's attention for a few minutes so make it easy for them to connect with you.  Many of these other sites have gadgets ready for you to use.  All you have to do is copy the HTML code, click "Add Gadget", select "HTML/Javascript", paste and save. You can find the Twitter badges here and the Facebook page badges here.

      Which gadgets have you added to your blog?
      Any Blogger tips to share?

      Stay Healthy,

      Monday, February 14, 2011

      Healthy Coconut Cupcake Makeover

      Happy Valentines Day!

      I want to start off by thanking everyone for all of your support and encouragement as I embarked on the Vegan For A Week Challenge.  It was truly a life changing experience.

      In honour of this day of of love, I decided that some baking was in order.  A dessert that I have wanted to tackle for a long time is Ina Garten's Coconut Cupcakes.  These decedant little gems are probably the most delicious things I have ever laid my eyes on, but at about 700 calories and 44 grams of fat each, healthy they are not.

      It was makeover time!

      I ditched the butter, eggs and cream cheese and reduced the sugar content.  The result was a much denser cupcake, but with just enough coconutty goodness to satisfy your sweet tooth.  A defininte winner for a first try.  I would like to experiement a little more to get a lighter and fluffier cake.

      If anyone has any tips, I am all ears. :)

      Strawberry Coconut Cupcakes (Makes 12)

      1 cup whole wheat flour
      1/2 cup wheat germ
      1/4 cup white flour
      1 tsp baking soda
      1/2 tsp salt
      1/4 cup sugar
      1 cup applesauce
      1/2 cup coconut milk
      1 tsp vanilla
      1 flax egg
      1/2 cup unsweetened coconut

      1/4 cup icing sugar
      1 tbsp strawberry jam
      1 tbsp unsweetened coconut
      1 tbsp coconut milk

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line or lightly grease your muffin tin.

      Prepare your flax egg and set asside

      Sift together flours, wheat germ, baking soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, cream (with a hand blender or stand up mixer) sugar, applesauce, coconut milk and vanilla for about 2 minutes.  Add the flax egg and coconut.

      While still mixing, slowly add the dry ingredients and blend for 2-3 minutes until the batter lightens up (if it seems a bit stiff, add a 1/4 cup of coconut milk).

      Fill your muffin tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from pan and allow to cool.

      Mix sugar, jam and coconut milk.  Dip the tops of the cooled cupcakes in the glaze and swirl to coat.  Feel free to add festive sprinkles or pipe flowers, hearts or leaves.

      Nutritional Information (Approx.)
      150 calories
      4.8 g fat
      24 g carbs
      3.2 g protein
      2 g fibre

      How are you celebrating Valentines Day?

      Stay Healthy,

      P.S. Check it out, I am featured on Fitblogger today!  It is a fantastic site where you can find fun, inspiring and healthy people from all over the blog world.

      Sunday, February 13, 2011

      Going Vegan, Day 7: Reflection and Wrap Up

      It is the last day of the challenge and I have certainly learned a lot by going on this journey.

      What did I learn, you may ask?


      Everything is Connected
      Drawing some wisdom from Michael Pollen, we are deeply connected to everthing on this earth.  From the soil that feeds the plants, to the plants that feed us, to how we dine with each other. We need to take more time to remember and respect these connections.

      This challenge has made me more aware of not only what I eat, but how I treat my body and myself.  This mindfulness has changed the way I approach how I eat and how food affects my mind, body and spirit.


      Organic is Good
      Like many people, I was skeptical (or perhaps uneducated) about the benefits of eating locally-grown, organic food.  While I may not always be able to make these choices with everything I eat, I am going to make a conscious effort to choose organic ingredients more often.  My body deserves it.

      Veganism is a Movement
      This I already knew, but this challenge has given me even more respect for people who practice this lifestyle. Going vegan requires planning, awareness and conviction.  Vegans stand up for what they believe in and speak with their actions, choices and their dollars.


      I am a Flexitarian
      As I have already mentioned, I believe that there is room in my world for a little bit of everything.  I will continue to include meat, dairy and eggs in my diet, but much differently than before. (See points, 1, 2 and 3).  I was so happy to go on this trip of self-discovery to figure out what works for me.

      If there is an ultimate lesson, it is this:  
      Every body is different, listen to yours.

      What did you learn this week? 

      Stay Healthy,

      Saturday, February 12, 2011

      Going Vegan, Day 6: Food and Fitness

      We are in the home stretch of the challenge and have I realized that being vegan doesn't necessary make you healthier (check out Stephanie @ Lunges and Lunch for a great myth busting post).

      However, I believe that the goal of most people who practice veganism is to live a balanced, mindful and healthy lifestyle.

      In my preoccupation of all things food this week, I have left out a very vital component of living this balanced lifestyle:

      Exercise and how it is affected by making changes in your diet.

      Here is what I have noticed:



      I have been experiencing some nausea, which has made intense exercise tough.  I think this it due to the drastic and sudden changes to my diet.  I liken these changes to that of a detox (which is what this essentially is).

      Some experts believe that the body is releasing more toxins as it tries to clean out our systems and as a result, we may experience some unpleasant side effect such as, upset stomach, constipation and fatigue.

      Lesson:  Listen to your body and don't push it (that sounds familiar).  This may be a good time to practice yoga or go for a light stroll after dinner.


      For the few days that I did hit the road this week (I am a runner, after all :), I found that I had to add a lot more fuel to the fire (read: I am hungry all the time) to give me the energy to get moving.

      A possible reason for this is that when you are eating better food, your body is able to use it more quickly and efficiently.  As a result, you need to eat much more to sustain your active lifestyle.

      Lesson:  It is okay to eat more and more often.  Have lots of healthy snacks ready to go when hunger hits, so you are not tempted to reach for the fruit loops (which, as Susan pointed out, are indeed vegan).

      Has food made you feel any different this week? How does diet affect your exercise routine?

      Stay Healthy,

      Friday, February 11, 2011

      Going Vegan, Day 5: My Vega Smoothie

      As I mentioned yesterday, I am decidedly an omnivore and a flexitarian, but I am pressing forward with the vegan lifestyle until Sunday to see what other valuable insight that I might glean from this experience :)

      When I told one of my friends about the challenge, she gave me this to try:

      I have heard great things about Vega products and have read many an article by Brendan Brazier, so I was excited to give it a whirl.

      For those not familiar, Brazier is a vegan triathlete who has written extensively on the benefits of veganism, including the book, The Thrive Diet.

      He created the line of Vega products to help people supplement their whole foods, plant-based diets.

      The package says to mix the product with water, but my girlfriend told me that she likes to add some fruit, so that is what I did.

      Frozen strawberries, watermelon, water and two tablespoons of Vega.

      So, what's the verdict?

      The flavour is very strong and distinct:  earthy, with a touch of sweetness.  The fruit really helped to balance this out, by adding a little freshness to the mix.

      It was not bad, but it would not be first choice.  I prefer my protein powders and smoothie mixes to be more neutral so I can add in any of my favourite goodies. 

      Perhaps the other flavours available are not quite as powerful and I would definitely be open to trying them.

      For those interested, here is the nutritional breakdown (per 25 grams):
      100 calories
      2.5 g fat
      9 g carbs
      11 g protein
      3 g fibre

      Hare you tried any Vega products?  Which vegan-friendly protein powders are on the top of your list?

      On a side note, I a pleased to announce that my car is fixed!  It was the battery and much to our delight, cost less than expected.  The good stuff just keeps coming this week. :)

      Stay Healthy,

      Thursday, February 10, 2011

      Going Vegan, Day 4: I am a Flexitarian

      Another day of vegan eating under my belt and I have to admit that this challenge is, well, challenging.

      I signed up with an open mind and a willing stomach. As I progress, I am learning more about myself and what is right for me.

      While I absolutely love being more creative in the kitchen, introducing more real foods into my diet and being more aware of what I eat, I am finding that I fit into the category of a flexitarian.

      What is a flexitarian and how is that different than say, a vegetarian?

      Glad you asked.  Here is a quick breakdown:


      Vegetarian. A diet that includes fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.
      • An ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs, but no dairy.  
      • A lacto-vegetatian diet includes dairy, but no eggs.

      Flexitarian. A mainly vegetarian diet including some meat products.
      • Pollotarians eat chicken and fish, but no read meat.  
      • Pescetarians eat fish, but no chicken or red meat.

      I am a middle of the road kind of girl and I believe there is room in my diet for just about anything (including organic, grass-fed animal products). I have adapted an "In Defense of Food" atittude to use meat as a side dish rather than the focus of my meal.

      However, my mind is still open and I will complete the challenge to see what other surprises it may bring!

      Speaking of surprises,  I got two gifts in the mail yesterday.

      A new breadmaker.  The one I got for Christmas decided to fall off the counter while it was busy making bread so the good people at Black and Decker sent me a new one :) and...

      A copy of Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Car, which I won from Natalie Duhamel. I was so excited, I never win anything.

      So for the rest of Work-In Wednesday, I made bread and dug into the book (review to come!)

      What revelations have you had this week
      (food related or otherwise)?

      Have you read Crazy Sexy Diet?  What did you think of it?

      Stay Healthy,

      Wednesday, February 09, 2011

      Going Vegan, Day 3: Work-in Wednesday

      Veggie Hummus Pizza
      Now, I know I mentioned last week that I will not be taking pictures of my food for this challenge, but I am so proud of this.

      I couldn't resist sharing my masterpiece.

      A pizza made from scratch.  It was healthy, delicious and now, gone. :)

      I have been so happy to read some of the great discussions surrounding veganism this week.

      For many vegans, food is just one piece of the puzzle.  Susan @ The Great Balancing Act points out that many vegans are concerned with animals being hurt for our benefit.

      Over with Samantha @ Health, Happiness & Skinny Jeans, she wonders whether true vegans would be offended by this "challenge".

      One of the reasons many of us signed up was to be more mindful of the food we eat and to better understand the vegan way of life.

      Veganism encompasses a spectrum of beliefs.  For some, they are choosing to eliminate animal products in their diet simply for health reasons.  For others, their choices run a bit deeper and they have ethical and/or ecological reasons for going vegan.

      I think there is room for everything in between.  Whether you decided to just go meatless once a week or shun all animal products forever, it is about learning more about yourself and your connection with the world around us.

      This brings me to the title of this post.

      In the spirit of being mindful, I have declared today a day of rest and reflection.  No workout for me today, rather a work-in.

      A day to take care of myself.  Perhaps with some meditation, reading, revisiting my goals or just journaling my thoughts.

      It is so important to set aside some time for you and use that opportunity to do something that is going to nurture your mind, body and spirit.

      Have you had any discussions surrounding veganism this week?  

      What are you going to do today to take care of yourself?

      Stay Healthy,

      Tuesday, February 08, 2011

      Going Vegan, Day 2: Healthy Peanut Butter Balls Makeover

      Well friends, Day 1 was successful and challenging.

      I don't think I have ever spent so much time at the grocery store scrutinizing labels.

      I have always considered myself pretty food savvy, but you really need to do your research when you are shopping vegan.  There are so many animal products used in food under names you may not recognize (such as gelatin) or in the processing of a product (white sugar is often filtered through bone charcoal).

      I have to admit that I am learning a lot and over the weekend in order to prepare for the week, I decided to make some balls, vegan style.

      I used this recipe as my inspiration and made a few minor adjustments to up the fibre. These were such as hit in my house that I made a third batch last night. :)

      They are tasty, super easy to make and great to have on hand for a quick snack.

      Crispy Peanut Butter Balls (Makes 30)

      1/2 cup natural peanut butter
      1/4 cup maple syrup
      1 tsp vanilla
      1/2 cup oat flour
      1/4 cup wheat bran
      1/2 cup rice cereal
      1/4 cup ground flax
      1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
      1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips

      Line a large cookie sheet with wax paper.

      Mix peanut butter, maple syrup and vanilla in a microwave safe bowl.  Heat for 45-60 seconds.  At the same time, combine oat flour, wheat bran, cereal, flax, coconut and chocolate chips.

      Remove peanut butter mixture and stir.  If it has not liquefied, heat for another 10-20 seconds.

      Pour into dry ingredients and mix with a fork until incorporated.  Take about a heaping tablespoon of the mixture and squeeze in your hand to form into a ball.

      Place balls on the cookie sheet and freeze for 15-20 minutes.  Store in the fridge.

      Nutritional Information (Approx.)
      59 calories
      3.5 g fat
      5.6 g carbs
      2 g protein
      1 g fibre

      Have you gone vegan for the week?  
      Have you ever tried any vegan dessert recipes?

      Stay Healthy,

      Monday, February 07, 2011

      Going Vegan, Day 1: In Defense of Food

      Welcome to Day 1 of the Vegan for a Week Challenge.  I still have to head to the store to pick up a few things, but I am raring to go!

      I looked at my Inspiration Board this morning and had totally forget that I had included veganism as one of the things I wanted to try this year.  What great timing. :)

      In preparation for this challenge, I mentioned that I was reading "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollen.  I had every intention of making detailed notes for my review, but I got so into the material that by the time I realized that I wanted to take notes, I was done.

      I loved this book.

      For those of you not familiar with the premise, Pollen feels that we need to re-think our current relationship with food and view it more as our ancestors did. We should be mindful about all the connections that have brought our food to the table; how the soil is connected to the plants, the plants are connected to us and we are connected to our culture.

      We live in a society that views food in term of nutrients (i.e. low-fat, cholesterol free, high in protein, bad carbs etc) instead of looking at the food as whole.  The whole being much greater as the nutritional sum of its parts.  (Guilty, as I am sure many of you are.)

      So what is his proposed solution:  Eat food.  Mostly plants.  Not too much.

      He takes a very balanced approach when looking at food and his message couldn't be simpler:  Choose locally-grown, organic foods more often, plants are the best, but meat is beneficial too and always go for quality over quantity.

      Many people (including me) were skeptical of the the benefits of organic.  It is costly and if I am eating plenty of conventional whole foods, what difference does it make if they are organic or not?  Well, as it turns out, a lot.  The richer the soil, the more nutrients and goodness in the plants and the animals who eat those plants. This results is a tastier food that is better for you and me.

      I am a believer, all his connections just make good common sense.

      I could go on and on toting the wisdom of this book, but I highly recommend that you read it yourself.  It will truly change the way you look at food.
      Have you read "In Defense of Food"?  
      What are your thoughts on mindful eating?

      Stay Healthy,

      Sunday, February 06, 2011

      Self-Esteem and Body Image

      I was checking over my blog stats yesterday and I noticed that one of the most comment phrases to direct people to my blog is:

      "you are not as fat as you think you are."


      I did a post a few year ago with that exact title about what we often see in the mirror is not necessary how others see us in society.  We are often our worst critics.

      Caitlin @ the Healthy Tipping Point is paving the way for people, young and old, to not only feel better about themselves, but to help others feel better too with her Operation Beautiful.

      For those not familiar with the movement, the idea is that you write an encouraging and positive phrase on a post-it note and leave it a public place for others to read.

      To me, the heart of this movement is self-esteem.  When you feel better about yourself, your healthy attitude will rub off on others.  While there are many factors that affect our self-esteem (family, friends, television, magazines etc.), I do feel that it is something that needs to be fostered inside of us.

      What really matters is how you feel about yourself, not what other people think you should feel.

      So how do you begin this journey of self-discovery to improve your self-esteem?

      Here are a few things that have helped me over the years.

      • Reflection.  Think about the people, places and things that have influenced your life. Did they positively or negative contribute to the way you feel about yourself?  How does that affect your life now?  Should it affect your life now?
      • Daily Affirmations.  Self-talk can go a long way in determining how we feel and what we present to the world.  Try this:  Choose a phrase to state your intentions for the day like, "I will cherish my body today."
      • Journaling.  Write down inspiring quotes, exciting events in your life and interesting people you have met. Make sure to look at this book daily.
      • Laugh.  Have fun.  Spend time with people who make you smile. Laughing always makes you feel better, guaranteed.

      What are your thoughts on self-esteem?  
      What tips could you add to list?

      Stay Healthy,

      Saturday, February 05, 2011

      Confessions of a Runner

      I always say "runner" with hesitation, as I don't really consider myself a runner.  I think it is because we often define a "runner" as someone who is hardcore - they go for 20k runs, compete in every event and train constantly.

      Am I right?

      However, a runner is simply defined as "a person, animal or thing that runs".  I run, so I am a runner, I should embrace the title and from now on I will. :)

      Many of you may recall my hate/love relationship with running.  I am presently in love with running, but I have some confessions to make.

      • I am not very fast.  To be honest, I am not sure what my speed is, but I have seen the times of other runners and I am most decidely slow :)
      • I still can't run 5k without having to walk part of the way so most of time I run in intervals (which is actually a great way to train :).  
      • I haven't invested in some good running gear (not always necessary as I wrote about here, but can be important when you are dealing with cold weather.)
      • None of that matters.  

      Me after a run :)


      Because I enjoy doing it.  Three times a week, I can't wait to get outside, feel the wind on my face and the quiet time with my thoughts.

      I don't need to run a marathon, try and beat a record time or compete.  I run for me.  For my health and well-being.  Not for anyone else.

      The lesson:  Chose and activity that makes you smile and do it for you.  I promise that if you love what you do, you will always be motivated to do it. 

      What is your favourite activity?  Why?

      Stay Healthy,

      Friday, February 04, 2011

      Certification and the Fitness Industry, Part 1

      This series of posts was inspired by a discussion over at my friend Lisa's blog when she spoke to the "Biggest Loser's" newest trainer, Cara Castronuova about her certifications.  (You can read it here.)

      It sparked a wonderful conversation about what skills and education are necessary for fitness professionals and what makes a good personal trainer (PT).

      I have addressed this topic in other posts, but today I would like to offer my reflections after participating in this discussion:
      • There exists no law (that I am aware of) that requires one to be certified or educated to call themselves a "personal trainer".  For this reason, good trainers should be upfront and honest about the education that they do or do not have.
      • I cannot stress enough how important education (both theory and practical) is to the industry.  We are dealing with a client's health, well-being and safety.  Furthermore, regulation of this education would give our profession more credibility, prestige and value.
      • That being said, having a dozen certifications certainly implies that a person is knowledgeable, but it does not mean that they are a great PT, nor does it mean that they are the right trainer for you.  A good trainer is a combination of personality, passion, skill and education.
      • One does not necessarily need to be "certified" in everything.  For example, if you are a certified fitness instructor and you may not have to take separate certifications in other specialties such as fitness boxing or a yoga-inspired class.  This is provided that you have had adequate training and have proven yourself competent and safe through practical experience. 

      Are you a fitness professional? 
      What do you think about certification in the industry? 

      Stay Healthy, 

      P.S. Thank you so much for your fantastic comments and support for the Vegan For A Week Challenge.  If you would like to join us, please check out  Morgan @ Life After Bagels for more information.

      Thursday, February 03, 2011

      Vegan for a Week Challenge

      I am sure that many of you have heard about the episode of Oprah this week as she and 378 of her staff embarked on the challenge of living vegan for a week.

      Well, the gauntlet has been thrown and my friend Morgan from Life After Bagels will be hosting a "Vegan for a Week Challenge" from February 7-13.

      Morgan was kind enough to invite me to be part and my immediate response was "I'm in!".

      I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to examine that way I look at food and to be more aware of what I put in my mouth.

      I am not a food blogger, so I will not be taking pictures of my daily fare.  Rather, I will be updating you on how I feel, any challeneges I might have and offer a post inspired by what I am learning as I go through this processs.

      Sparked by this challenge, I started to read "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollen this week (which I will review in a later post) to help me get in the right mind set and prepare for next week.

      Here is what you can do:
      • Head over to Morgan's blog for more details about the challenge
      • Follow along (or contribute) on Twitter using the hashtag #7daychallenge
      • Join us on Facebook
      • Blog about it, share your experience and ask you readers to join us

      So, I only have one question for you:  Are you in?

      Stay Healthy,

      Wednesday, February 02, 2011

      Healthy Carrot Cake Makeover

      It is a snowy day in Southern Ontario.  I am not sure if we got as much snow as predicted, but it sure looks blustery out there.  Glad I am safe and warm inside :)

      Yesterday I decided to bring out the brownie pan (if you don't have one of these, find one. It is fantastic) and make one of my most favourite desserts:  carrot cake.

      I took this recipe, halved it so it would fit in the pan (my lesson learned from last time), reduced the sugar, and added some fibre.  The result was a moist, delicious carrot cake that will statisfy any sweet tooth. 

      Coconut Carrot Cake (Makes 18 Squares)

      1/2 cup whole wheat flour
      1/2 cup wheat germ
      1 tsp baking powder
      1 tsp baking soda
      2 tsps cinnamon
      1/4 tsp sea salt
      1/2 cup sugar
      1 1/2 cups applesauce
      2 tbsp milk
      1 flax egg
      1 tsp vanilla1 cup grated coconut
      1 1/2 cups grated carrot

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease your brownie pan (or an 8x8 pan).

      Prepare flax egg and set aside.

      Combine flour, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix sugar, applesauce, milk, flax egg, vanilla, coconut and carrot.

      Add your dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined.

      Pour batter into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes.  Allow to cool and pop out of brownie pan or cut into squares.

      Enjoy, guilt free :)

      Nutritional Information (Approx.)
      79 calories
      2 g fat
      14.5 g carbs
      1.6 g protein
      2.6 g fibre

      Did you have a snow day today?  
      Are you going to do some baking to stay warm?

      Stay Healthy,

      Tuesday, February 01, 2011

      Resolutions Revisited

      It has been a month since the start of the new year and I thought it would be a good time to do a resolution check.

      I set 7 different goals this year and I have to say that I am doing pretty well.   Making an inspiration board was one of the best things I have ever done to help me stay positive and focused.

      I have been managing my health and keeping up with my runs (except for a minor sickness setback last week :), blogging every day (and love it!) and have been looking in to some volunteer work.

      Achieving your goals can be tough and often seem impossible at times.  Work, family responsibilities and our own doubts can sometimes get in the way.

      Here are some tips to help you achieve those resolutions:

      Review and Revise
      Choose a regular time to review your goals (at the end of the week, the beginning of each month etc.) and check in with yourself.  Have you achieved any of your goals? If so, check them off and set some new resolutions.

      Break Down Barriers
      After you have taking some time to review your goals, think about any barriers that may be preventing you from achieving them.  Are they too unrealistic?  Are you no longer interested in that particular goal?  Is something standing in your way of making your goals a reality?  Write it all down and figure out what you can do to make these changes.

      Reward Yourself
      This is so important to help you stay positive and motivated.  Treat yourself to a spa day or take the family out for a fun afternoon adventure. 

      This is how I rewarded myself yesterday after a run:

      A berry smoothie and a magazine (A copy Elevate Magazine with my article about new years resolutions *wink*).

      Have you been reaching your goals that you set out for yourself?   

      What are some tips that you can share about keeping your resolutions?

      Stay Healthy,


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