Why I Gave Up Meat.

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Why I Gave Up Meat.

Today marks the 6 month anniversary of removing all meat, poultry, fish, and eggs from my diet. To this day, I do not consider myself a vegetarian, I’m simply not eating meat right now. My reasons to avoid meat were originally out of convenience, and my reasons to continue were out of observation.

 

Late October 2016, I found myself at a yoga retreat in Malibu, CA. Meals were included and vegetarian meals were an option. Since I had dabbled with refraining from meat years before after reading “The Blood Type Diet” - where I learned that “A” Blood types are supposed to thrive on a vegetarian diet - I thought ‘Hey, it’s only 10 days, let’s see how this goes.’

 

 

Unlike eliminating caffeine, I did not suffer any physical consequences. I actually followed a vegan diet for 10 days. It clearly helped that I do not mind the taste of tofu and, as a bonus, it helped me immerse myself into vegan-yogini stereotype. *Side note: many yogis and yoginis are not vegan or vegetarian.

 

 

After the first 10 days I did not feel lacking. I did not feel weak, or tired, or hungry as I had anticipated. I felt great! Excluding meat and all animal products actually made me feel better.

 

 

I found that I was more conscious of of what I was eating -- and what I was choosing to eat. I realized just how often I would grab “whatever” to stuff in my mouth -- a pepperette, cheese string, more ‘samples’ of the dinner during preparation than I would care to admit.

 

 

My digestion was spot on. Without getting into any details, let’s just say it was effortless :) In my nutrition school, one seminar discussed the absurdity of having  magazines and books in the washroom. Now I get it. Zero effort required.     

 

 

I’ll admit, following a vegan diet was difficult. Without any dairy products, I initially tried to substitute them with ‘vegan friendly’ cheese. Gross. Really. I fooled myself into liking them for a few weeks -- but then, I became honest with myself and put an end to that.

 

 

Without meat or dairy, I found that I would plan my meals around starches like brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa. Although these foods are all natural and healthy, for me, it did not help the waistline. As a health coach, of course I experiment on myself, so this lead to minimizing starches. My experience with this will be the next blog post so stay tuned!

 

 

After one month of veganism, I began to add cheese back into my diet. To this day, I am conscious of the amount I eat -- I start with half of what the recipe calls for and, and if I'm not following a recipe -- half of what I want. 173 days later, I still have to consciously stop myself from overindulging on cheese.

 

 

Without starches and meat, I had to become super creative in the kitchen. I did not want to spend hours in the kitchen nor did I want to consume fake vegetarian ‘meats’. I began to plan my meals around vegetables; experimenting with ones I had never tried, testing new cooking techniques -- roasted broccoli is awesome -- and adding more spices to my vegetables. Last night, for example, I had steamed green beans, button mushrooms and yellow onion sauteed in coconut oil, and zucchini slices roasted with olive oil, garlic, paprika, and fresh parmesan cheese.

 

 

At the beginning of this ‘no meat’ experiment, I could not have imagined the profound effect this would have on me. 183 days later, I have lost  20 lbs (yay) and feel better about myself knowing that I am making conscious decisions to support my best health with what works for me.

 

 

More importantly, I feel calm. More calm than I have ever felt in my entire life. Part of me thinks it’s the result of eliminating meat (vegetarian websites will convince you that eating animal products make you angry lol), and part of me thinks it’s due to the change in my mindset around all of my choices.

 

 

Whatever it is… I am committed to keep riding this train that leads to living my best life.

 

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Why I Gave Up Coffee

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Why I Gave Up Coffee

Today marks the 6 month anniversary of eliminating coffee from my diet. I had never felt like I was addicted to coffee; that I needed coffee. I only consumed 1- 2 cups a day if that, and I certainly did not need it to give me that get-up-and-go. I am a morning person.

Late October 2016, I found myself at a yoga retreat in Malibu, CA. Meals were included and I soon realized that coffee was not on the menu. There was the option to travel the 1.5 miles to the nearest Starbucks but I thought, ‘Hey, it’s only 10 days, let’s see how this goes.’

 

I think we can all foreshadow what was about to happen…

 

Day-one sans coffee.

9:00 am Me: One-hour mark of a 3.5 hour yoga practice. 
‘See, I don’t need coffee.’
12:00 pm Me: Post yoga class.
‘Yep, still just fine, just a little tired from the yoga but I don’t need coffee.’
1:30 pm Me: Lying on my bed in my room [possibly holding my head].
‘I’m feeling off, I just need this tiny nap -- I’m jet lagged, and I just did 3.5 hours of intense yoga. I will muscle through this headache.’
4:00 pm Me: Half an hour into the 3 hour afternoon practice. 
‘I think my head is going to explode, I don’t know if it’s from being inverted more than normal [lying to myself] or, if it’s from lack of caffeine. I’ll just let this pass.’
4:30 pm Me: In the midst of the 2nd yoga practice. [slight whimper]
‘Does anyone have any advil?.... Anyone.. please?’
5:00 pm Me: 25 minutes after administering headache meds. 
‘All is right in the world again!! I guess I should have taken an Advil sooner.’

Day-two without coffee.

* See Day-one.

 

By the third day, I had completely recovered from my coffee detox. Wow, who knew such a relatively small daily intake could have such a profound effect on me. Needless to say, I did not include in a coffee beverage for the entire 10 day period.

 

Upon my return, I was a bit apprehensive to indulge in a cup of java. I really did not want to risk going through the headache-of-the-century again. Every single morning, as my husband brewed this magical brew, I would breathe it in. I mean a really deep ujjayi pranayama -- yoga breathing style that helps calms the mind during challenging physical practices and, can be applied to any mental challenge in our lives.

 

Over the next 173 days, I continued to refrain from coffee. I’ll have to admit, that I have become borderline fearful of coffee now. I know it’s not the caffeine that concerns me -- as I do enjoy an ‘English Breakfast Black Tea’ from time to time. I have come to realize that it's the habits of coffee that I wanted (and still want) to abandon.

 

Now, I am definitely not saying that coffee is bad -- in fact, a quick google search gave me the ‘19 Good Health Reasons To Drink Coffee”.

 

For me, I started to feel like coffee owned me. It was the necessary 15-minute stop before work; it caused the scrambling for change in the most obscure reaches of my car; it lead to the additional financial support of the breath-freshening industry; and it served as that crucial afternoon pick-me-up when things weren’t going well.

 

Although these reasons may not sound like a cause to abstain, I began to see the similarities in my thought processes, or mindset, between coffee and when I used to smoke cigarettes. (Something I did for a short while a LONG time ago -- but that’s another story).  

 

So my friends, that is why (and how) I gave up coffee.

 

P.S. This date also marks the anniversary of 6 months since I removed meat, poultry, fish, and eggs from my diet for entirely different reasons. Check out my next blog.

 

 

 

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Healthy Recipes that don't taste like crap

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Healthy Recipes that don't taste like crap

I experiment a lot with recipes. I am not a chef; I am not even enrolled in cooking school. I am simply trying to enjoy the monotonous task that cooking has become after my 20+ years of actually having to make meals on a regular basis.

I emphasize the word “experiment” -- as that is what some of my recipes fails look like. Yes, sometimes the dogs won’t even eat my creation. But don’t worry, there isn’t any room for those recipes here. Below you will only find tried, tested, and dog-worthy culinary delights:)

I have two specific parameters that MUST be met. First, they have to be healthy, and second, they have to be easy to make; a.k.a. relatively zero effort.

There are a few “themes” that I generally follow when I experiment;

  1. Something Old : “clean up” a regular family favourites

  2. Something New: something I have never tasted before

  3. Something formerly known as ‘gross’: I try to find a recipe for a food that I think is gross -- to try and learn to like it:)

SOMETHING OLD -  Pasta bake

This one is super tasty, super easy, and there isn’t a huge mess to clean up. I can also hide random vegetables in this and no one knows. I hate carrots, but I put them in this bad boy and I can’t taste them!!

Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb/ 455g ground turkey (or chicken, pork, beef, or none - you decide)
1 ½ cups shredded or diced carrots and/or zucchini
1 small onion diced
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup of water
26oz / 740g can crushed tomatoes
8oz / 225g brown rice pasta elbows (or penne or fusilli - pick a short noodle)
2 Tbsp fresh basil (you can use dried but the fresh makes a huge difference)
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

How to make it

  1. In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil.

  2. Cook the ground meat (if using).

  3. Add carrots and/or zucchini, onion, and garlic and cook for 3 minutes.

  4. Add water, crushed tomatoes, and pasta.

  5. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.

  6. Stir in shredded cheese until it melts.

*slightly altered from The Eat-Clean Diet for Family & Kids,Tosca Reno 2008
 

SOMETHING NEW - Spaghetti squash w/ spinach & artichokes

Most of my life, I had an aversion to squash - it always sounded gross, and I stayed far away from it. I had never tried spaghetti squash until recently. Not only is this recipe yummy, it’s also kind of fun to eat out of the squash itself!

Ingredients
1 spaghetti squash, seeded
3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onions
salt & pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sour cream
3 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
3 cups packed baby spinach
1 1/4 cups artichoke hearts, chopped
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

How to make it

  1. Cut the spaghetti squash in half.

  2. Place the spaghetti squash in a deep oven-safe dish, cut side up.

  3. Pour about half an inch of water in the dish, cover and bake at 350℉ until soft, about 40 minutes.

  4. Remove and let cool slightly, and scrape up the strings from the squash with a fork.

  5. Put the spaghetti squash string in a separate bowl.

  6. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pan.

  7. Add the onion and cook until tender, 5-8 minutes. Season with salt & pepper.

  8. Add the garlic and cook about 60 seconds.

  9. Add in the sour cream, cream cheese and half of the parmesan cheese and stir until the cream cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth.

  10. Stir in the spinach and artichoke hearts and cook until the spinach has wilted.

  11. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the spaghetti squash strings and combine.

  12. Scoop the combined spaghetti squash string back into the squash halves.

  13. Top each squash with the shredded mozzarella and the remaining parmesan.

  14. Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  

*slightly altered from Taste and Tell Blog, 2014

 

SOMETHING FORMERLY 'GROSS' - Cauliflower pizza w/ grilled veggies & yogurt sauce

Things that make you go “eww”. For me, that is cooked cauliflower. Unless of course, it is doused in some kind of cheese sauce. It even smells bad and looks kind of like a brain. Gross. I was very apprehensive trying this on; positive this was going to suck I had an alternate meal on stand-by. Lo and behold -- I was wrong. Absolute awesomeness.

Ingredients for the crust
12 cups cauliflower cut into florets (about 2 medium heads)
1 Tbsp garlic minced
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp thyme
¼ tsp oregano
¼ tsp basil
¼ tsp pepper
1 ½ cups parmesan cheese
2  egg whites

How to make the crust

  1. Preheat your oven to 400℉ and line a pizza pan with parchment paper.

  2. Steam cauliflower florets until soft, about 10 minutes.

  3. Let it cool.

  4. Chop the cauliflower until it is the size of rice. I use a manual food processor. I have to do it in several batches.

  5. This step is KEY. Dump the cauliflower into a thin kitchen towel, it may take a few batches, and wring out all of the excess moisture.

  6. Transfer the cauliflower back into a large bowl and add in the garlic, salt, spices pepper, parmesan cheese, and egg whites. Mix until well combined.

  7. Divide the cauliflower into 4 balls, then flatten so you see a ridge around the perimeter.

  8. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Ingredients for the sauce
½  cup Plain greek yogurt
½  cup firmly packed fresh basil roughly chopped
2 tsp garlic minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt/pepper to taste

How to make the sauce

  1. Combine the greek yogurt, basil, garlic and oil in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.

Ingredient-ideas for the toppings
1 zucchini sliced
2 roma tomatoes sliced thick
½  Tbsp olive oil
½  cup parmesan cheese
Fresh basil for garnish

How to make the toppings

  1. Preheat your broiler to high heat.

  2. Combine the sliced zucchini, tomato and olive oil in a small bowl and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

  3. Broil about 2-3 minutes a side and remove from the oven.

  4. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top of each pizza crust and broil for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown and melted.

  5. Remove from the oven, and spread some sauce on each pizza.

  6. Top with the grilled veggies.

*slightly altered from Food, Faith, Fitness, 2015

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How to eat healthy when you're as hungry as #$@&%*!

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How to eat healthy when you're as hungry as #$@&%*!

Most of us try to eat healthy and, kudos to you for making the effort! Trying to eat healthy can be difficult; especially when you’re attempting to just "get on the wagon”.

In this post, I’m not going to tell you what specific foods you need to eat to be healthy. I think we all know (generally speaking) what foods are good and what foods are bad. For example: McDonald’s Big Mac with super-sized fries and a milkshake = bad; steamed asparagus with wild rice and grilled chicken = good.

Simple concept. But…not always easy to follow through with. Am I right?

I want to talk about those times that cause us the most trouble… the times we know what we should do; what we really want to do; but we are just too freaking hungry to do the ‘right’ thing.
 

On the way home from work
You’re on your way home; physically tired; mentally exhausted. Now, ‘What to cook?’ says your brain. Your first thought is, ‘Why don’t I just stop off and pick up some food, but not fast food’ [you know better than that.] But…[you start to rationalize] if I buy food at a grocery store - like a cooked chicken or a ‘healthy’ frozen lasagna - that still counts as home cooking right?  

At home after work
You’ve survived another day; still exhausted but managed not to pick up food on the way home. You are starving! There’s got to be something here to cook. You open the cupboard [munch on a few crackers while you look]; you look in the freezer [take a scoop or two out of the ice cream bucket while you’re poking around]; you look in the refrigerator [chomp on a few pepperoni sticks - protein is good right?]. Before you’ve even decided what to cook, you have just consumed the caloric requirement of your entire dinner!

After a workout
You just worked out. You mentally start to count the calories you “burned”. You know you’re right… the machine told you so. You feel like a rockstar -- and so you should! And now, your stomach is telling you that it’s time to eat like a king. You believe all of your efforts need to be rewarded; that it’s ‘OK’ to eat a little less healthy after all of the hard work you just put in.

Night time munchies
You’ve just returned home from an evening out with the girls, or boys, or both -- you know what I am saying -- adult friends/family funtime. You’re tired, but hungry. You inhibitions may be lowered due to the contents of your chosen beverage. You want junk. You crave junk. And you need food now!!

How can we handle these situations?

  • Plan your meals.
    Not just in your head - write them down and post it on the fridge. Each morning, take a look at your list, choose a meal option, and take out and foods that you need to defrost. This eliminates any frantic thoughts after work, or the mindless chomping while you look for inspiration in your cupboards.     
     

  • Sip something awesome while preparing foods.
    It going to take some time to prepare the foods - the Jetson's conveyor belt of food did not come to fruition and, we now know that putting a frozen something in the microwave is not the best choice. Curb that feeling of starvation with a satisfying drink -- not a milkshake :). Try to choose something that is good for you, like water (I love sparkling water), or any kind of herbal tea.
     

  • Snack healthy.
    Prepare yourself for snack time. Think about what you LOVE when you want to snack and find a comparable alternative. Try yogurt instead of ice cream, try hummus and vegetable sticks or pita instead of chips. Have your chosen snack on-hand all of the time. 'Come on!' (I can hear you saying) 'Hummus and pita instead of chips?!?' I know, I know it’s not the exact same - but I can assure you, your body will thank you.
     

  • If it’s not there, you can’t eat it.
    If you really want to live a healthy lifestyle… stop buying crappy foods. It’s really that simple. Sure, there may be a short period where you may mentally (or even physically) crave these foods. That will pass.

Here’s a thought… when it feels like you need to eat the processed junk food; that your body is craving it; I want you to think about the healthy whole foods that you crave. Do you ever need to eat an apple -- you just can’t think about anything else until you get it? Do you ever pull into the quick-stop store at night to pick up broccoli to scarf down the moment you get home? Probably not.


If you would like free read on “discovering why you crave what you do” feel free to download my guide here.

 

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Evolution of My Diet

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Evolution of My Diet

Have you ever tried a diet that worked so well in the past; only to fail the next time you tried it? Ya, me too! A lot of times. You feel that incredible sense of frustration; you re-read the specifics of the plan, and you force yourself to keep trying only to make yourself more and more irritated and annoyed!! 

It’s like the NEW definition of insanity -- trying the same thing over and over and expecting the same results.

I started thinking (and reading), and came across the concept that my body’s needs are ever-evolving. Hmmm… That. Makes. Sense.

Think about yourself as a child. Were you a picky eater? (I was.) Do you still dislike everything you did then? (Nope, I LOVE all vegetables; except carrots, I still hate carrots.) Think about yourself as a young adult. Do you still have that “get up and go” after a late night of socializing? (Not a chance!)

I started to nod yes -- yes my tastes and needs have changed since my childhood and young adulthood. Maybe, just maybe, I am still changing! Maybe that is why what worked for me 10 years ago, five years ago, or even just three years ago is not what my body needs today.

I started to listen to my body. Granted, this takes some practice. Instead of fueling myself on autopilot, I thought I would pause: take a minute to think about what I wanted to eat.

After I thought about having ice cream and potato chips -- I quickly remembered that I am an adult and although I’m allowed to eat whatever I want to eat for dinner, that my body is probably not asking for junk food.   

At first, I would attempt to create random healthy meals. This was interesting (and a little annoying) as I found I did not always feel my best. I was eating healthy, what the heck -- why aren’t I thriving!?!

I started to document (journal -- whatever you want to call it) what I ate, the time I ate, and how I felt immediately after, a few hours after, and the following day.

Lo and behold -- I saw a pattern!!

For me, I discovered I felt my best;

  • When I ate almost zero meat/animal protein.
    My digestion has never been this easy. I had never entertained the idea of not eating meat; I did not (and still don’t) think eating meat was bad. After this experiment, I now realize that for me, eating like a vegetarian feels great. At least for now.    
     

  • When I ate my last meal/snack a few hours before I went to sleep.
    I now regularly sleep through the night. I hadn’t really realized that my evening snacks would have such an effect on my sleep.  I’ve discovered that a full night’s sleep is precious, and I want to give myself that.  
     

  • When I ate when I was actually hungry. 
    I used to be a habitual eater. Somewhere, somehow I was programmed into eating like a pavlovian dog. Ding - it’s morning, time for breakfast; ding - it’s noon, time for lunch. I discovered that I ate at times because it was time to -- not because I was hungry. Now I listen for my body’s signs of hunger - a slight growl in my stomach - before I eat.   


I am not suggesting that what is right for me is right for you. I’ve learned the hard way [insert lots of $$ here] that trying to replicate what works for others is not always going to work for me, or you. Sometimes, we need to remember that we are constantly evolving and may need to tweak our dietary choices from time to time.

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