Reflections on a year of exercise

Today is my daughter’s 13th birthday, exactly one year from when I measured and weighed in. While this was never about the numbers, I am pleased with the results, just the same. It is also interesting to see what the new measurements do not tell me. There is no way to record where the loss in a circumference measurement occurred. You have to feel it to understand it. That only comes with hard work.

Here is how it breaks down:

  1. Neck minus 1/2″ – also an indicator of how much less puffiness I have in my face and under my chin. Might make me look a bit older, although the decision to go to my natural hair color probably accomplishes that more. There is a lot of grey in there now.
  2. Chest minus 1″ – almost all back fat, because when I recently purchased new bra’s, cup size is pretty much the same. The whole landscape in this area changes as a woman ages and after having children. I won’t say anymore than that.
  3. Upper arm same as before – but the measurement doesn’t tell the story here because fat has been converted to muscle. So I look like I have shape in my arms when I wear a tank top. But, more importantly, I feel strong.
  4. Waist minus 3 1/2″ – this is a huge deal, because I’ve gone from the overweight category to the upper limit of healthy range. Really big accomplishment. The only thing I would say is that for the last 6 to 8 months I am holding, so it is time to kick up the exercise and make a diet change, as another kickstart of reduction. I would like to reduce another inch over the next year.
  5. Hips minus 3/4″ – but this is a strange one because I’ve gained muscles in the gluts – my clothes really show that off in a good way now. I’m down to a size 27 in my jeans now, normal ones without stretch in them.
  6. Thigh same as above – same as my upper arm, not surprising. I can see muscles when I flex my leg that are lean and pronounced, very interesting.
  7. My BMI is down 1 point to 24. That is a very good thing. I would like to lose another 4 pounds or so over the next year, I’ve also been quite stable for the past 6 to 8 months.

Today, I am pretty proud of where I sit. But my journey is not over. I’ve got a little further to go until I am safely into the healthy zones I want to live in. Then I need to maintain that position, which will take sustained effort.

The real prize is, I feel great. I’ve had no major injuries. Some small issues that a great new pair of shoes fixed. Learning a few stretching techniques have done wonders. My new clothes fit wonderfully. I’m comfortably in a size medium, (sometimes a small), from my former position in a size large, (sometimes an extra-large).

I started this journey for fear of the health risks my weight and body shape presented. I’ve managed to reposition my body into healthy zones by all indicators. This guarantees nothing, but the journey has been worth it. I committed to something and I am seeing it through. I am honouring myself in a form of self-care, which ends up extending far beyond my work outs. I am nicer to myself, which means I am nicer to other people.

There has been no downside to this journey. I highly recommend the experience, truly life changing.

On the fourth day of grateful

As the song goes, on the fourth day of grateful, (Christmas), my true love gave to me… I guess it is time to re-cap the days so far.

The first day of grateful was for sure, luck. Although the event was not joyful, we were extremely lucky none the less and we have all mentioned it several times since. It is the whole point of recognizing what we are grateful for that brings about happiness and maybe a little better luck.

The next day was calm. I was so agitated to put the accident behind us that I was starting to make myself feel nauseated. (I know, not that grateful, but I couldn’t help it). Once everything was sorted, the details had fallen into place, we all could breath a sigh of relief. It also should be mentioned that our experience with Mexican police has been conducted with due process. I don’t think they were unfair or corrupt in any way.

Yesterday was opportunity. I am rocked to the core everyday as I vacation here in Mexico. While I do not get to enjoy this wonderful weather every day, my country of birth and residency provides me with extreme privilege. This is too easy to forget.

Today, on the fourth day of grateful, my mind goes to health. This means a bunch of things to me, from cognitive brain health, to physical health, emotional and even a person’outlook on life. I have struggled with all of things over the years. In fact, this very blog has been a catalyst to help sort through all these parts of my health.

It is strange that in school, we are taught so many subjects and never focus on the health of the organ that is meant to absorb and recall all that effort. We just seem to get through it. In some cases, as quickly as possible. Yet, the cognitive health of our brain will be a major driving force of our life. I’m not an expert and I think I’m in pretty good shape, but my problem is shutting down. Or even turning down the volume of intensity. I need to better transition into different states. Give my brain a break and enjoy activities, or just rest in states of much lower demand on the brain. Get out of my head a little – try not to think so deeply about every little thing. Kind of prioritize better. Vacation really helps me do that.

My physical health has been put back on track this year. I’ve been eating well, sleeping wonderfully and now my mornings, more often than not, include exercise. To that end, I look forward to exercise now. It helps centre my day to start off properly. As Gillian Michaels says, “…take this strength with you and use it in all parts of your day.” (Or something to that effect). I’ve been practising exercise for 10 months now. 5 times per week on average for 30 to 45 minutes, start to finish. It is not a huge time commitment, but the results of this sustained effort have been nothing short of amazing to me. (And that is what counts most). It is then, with this confidence and strength that I feel like I can face anything.

Emotions are a roller coaster. If they are not, then the highs are not so big and the lows are not so deep. Over the years, I’ve strived for this middle between high and low. I so deeply fear the low that I strive for balance. But, in recently I have discovered, this method of control has lopped off the peaks. I have not really experienced as much joy as I could have. These ups and downs are 2 sides of the same coin. Without one, you can’t have the other. So I’ve been trying to experience the swings again. When I’m feeling low the trick is to own that and then embrace joy. Or at least step into joy, even generate it a little more.

All this probably leads to my outlook on life. That has been an interesting ride. In fact, I would summarize my whole life that way. I’ve charted my own course. Some days I get a little of track. I even head way out from the pack of “normal” sometimes getting lost out there for long stretches of time. But I have somehow carved out what is right for me. I feel much more comfortable in my own skin. That is probably what helps drive me forward into uncertainty, I know who I am now.

The fine print

It is officially my last day. The end of 6 weeks to a new body. Having completed the program to the best of my ability, (I may have cheated a bit here and there), it is time to take stock of what I learned.

Bodies bounce back – even after 30+ years, muscles remember how to build up, they take shape, the body rewires itself, springs into a new way of being. A body is not tied to the failures of the past. It has no opinion on your exercise goals. It just responds in kind. I like that.

Difficult becomes easy (ier) – after only 6 weeks, nothing is easy, especially as the intensity ramped up weekly with the goal to keep you challenged. Each new set of exercises was doable. I was never left feeling so frustrated and despondent, like I could not go on. Maybe I was not in as bad a shape to begin with, as I thought going in.

Happy I started – as with any challenge, your future self thanks your past self for making the effort in the first place. Of course, it takes sustained effort, but I treated each day, every decision as a form of starting new.

Goals must be fluid – in the beginning I had the usual S.M.A.R.T. goals. Time bound, specific, realistic, measurable, yada, yada. The only thing I’m glad I did was to take body measurements. Because the changes have occurred a little bit each day, without the hard numbers to refer back to, I would have had a hard time understanding how significant the results were. I can also see how differently my clothes are fitting, but I have long ago adopted a style of dress to hide my waist. So when I get ready each day, the mirror image kind of looks the same. It is going to take more time and confidence to start dressing differently. In the final assessment, if I had used weight loss alone as my indicator of success, I would be VERY disappointed.

Now what? Maintenance. That is where the fine print comes in. The next few pages in the book explain several techniques to maintain this new level of fitness. I did not read this very well in the beginning. Or maybe I forgot. The fine print on this is to do another 6 weeks at the intensity of the ending week. Evidently people generally quit between the 2 to 3 month mark. So this lifestyle shift needs to be maintained for a full three months! So the title – 6 weeks is a little misleading. But I’m hooked now. Can’t turn back. This is my new life. It’s not all that bad, this exercise thing.



Roasted Roots Salad

This is a recipe that I use all the time, but it constantly changes depending on what I have in the house. I seem to always have some root vegetables on hand. Lettuce, kale, spinach or arugula are always in the fridge. Quinoa is in the pantry. While this takes some time to prepare, it is worth it to have 4 days of salad ready to pack and go in the morning. As well, when vegetables are cooking, I can do other things. So in that sense, I only need a timer to make sure nothing gets forgotten. I should also mention that I am usually not so precise on measurements, but for the sake of accuracy and my attempt to watch calories a bit more, I have tested all these values and they produce good results.

Roasted Roots Salad_web

Roasted Roots Salad

425 grams 2 small sweet potatoes
375 grams 3 small turnips
200 grams 2 small beets yellow
200 grams carrots
150 grams 1 medium red onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
300 grams 2 small zucchini
2 teaspoons jalapeno chiles finely chopped
3 tablespoons lemon juice +lemon zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup quinoa
200 grams Romaine lettuce


Chop and or slice the root vegetables according to taste. For example slice the sweet potatoes and dice everything else. In a large bowl add olive and paprika as well as salt and pepper to taste. Toss root in the large bowl and shake to cover evenly with olive oil mixture. Lay sweet potatoes on a parchment lines cookie sheet. Spread everything else on another. Roast the potatoes for about 20 minutes at 400F, turn and cook for another 10 minutes. Repeat with second tray.

Spiral the zucchini and then cut into smaller lengths. Finely chop jalapeno. Zest the lemon and then add to zucchini along with juice and 1T olive oil.

Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer. Place in a pot set over high heat with 1 3/4 cups water and a big pinch of salt. Bring to boil, lower the heat, cover the pot and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa’s germs look like little spirals, 12 to 15 minutes. Turn the heat off, place a dry paper towel between the pot and the lid and let the quinoa sit for at least 5 minutes before giving it a fluff with a fork.

Cover the bottom half of the container with lettuce. Layer on quinoa, roots and finish with zucchini and some of the dressing that runs away from it.

Nutritional Information
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 471
Calories from Fat: 144
% Daily Value
*Total Fat 17g 26%
Saturated Fat 2g 11%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 134mg 6%
Total Carbohydrates 68g 23%
Dietary Fiber 12g 47%
Protein 12g 21%
Vitamin A 440%
Vitamin C 59%
Calcium 12%
Iron 16%

Serves: 4
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes

The Stages of Change

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
-Reinhold Niebuhr

Dr. James Prochaska of the University of Rhode Island identified 5 stages of change. Until I read about them in Maureen Hagan’s, “6 Weeks to a New Body”, I didn’t realize there are formal labels associated to some of the struggles I have been going through. As it relates to fitness, I have been stuck in stage one and two for an extremely long time. And feeling quite bad about myself.

Stage one: pre-contemplation, (not ready)
This was were I spent about 20 years, give or take. Here, you have little knowledge of the consequences of your behavior. As my fitness level declined, it happened slowly. So every year it got a bit worse. Then I spent many years being pregnant and recovering, (no small feat). Then I was in a kind of denial. Things were OK with my health in general and I hated exercise.

Stage two: contemplation, (getting ready)
I have been here for about 5 years. I was constantly evaluating the costs and benefits of changing. This produced profound ambivalence that caused me to remain in this stage. This phenomenon is often characterized as chronic contemplation or behavioral procrastination. Seems a little funny to look at this stage from where I am now. I was negotiating action or inaction with myself on both sides of the debate.

Stage three: preparation, (ready)
This is where I am now. I’ve selected a fitness program – “6 Weeks to a New Body”, with Maureen Hagan. The book is very detailed in goal setting, journal writing, exercises, eating plans, schedule planning, etc. I’ve picked a start day – February 21, 2015.

Stage four: action
In stage 3, everything will be sorted so that I’m ready to hit the ground running on my start date. Maureen has laid out excellent advise for each day of the entire 6 weeks. Nothing is really left to chance. Her words of encouragement are sprinkled throughout the pages of the book. I’m even excited to start! Which is more than I can say for any other program I have ever tried.

Stage five: maintenance
For about 5 years it is advised to remain on guard and to continuously monitor progress. Up until this time the chances of slipping back into old patterns are high. This will take me to age 50, which is a great milestone. A fantastic age to be set with a healthy way of living.

Stage six: termination
After 5 years, it is considered that a new habit is formed. There is very little chance of slipping back into old ways. This seems very exciting to me. A new stage of life, with a strong and healthy body at my core.

I have learned so much already, which has made this part of the journey very interesting. I’m not leaving things to chance anymore. I picked “brave” as my word this year. It is all falling into place. While I don’t anticipate this life changing program to be easy, I feel the strength to see it through. (At least from where I sit tonight!)

I’m going to post about this program regularly and maybe even include some before and after pics, (maybe just after). Will see how brave I feel about sharing that much detail!

The morning before

White Rock foggy morning - August 2013

White Rock foggy morning – August 2013

It is my last morning of sitting in bed with a large coffee and cream. The end of an era. Time to shake things up. Try something new. I might return to this habit in 3 weeks time, I might not.

Tomorrow morning, I start a 3-week cleanse. I am using the principles outlined in the book called “Clean”, by Dr. Junger M.D. I borrowed his book from the library and am going over to my local “Choices” grocery store to procure some of the more unusual recommended ingredients. However, I am choosing to use food as the main ingredient. No powder drinks, no supplements, just a wide variety of fresh food. I am really crowding out the space on my plate where all the potential irritants are sitting. (Cleanprogram recipes are available for free online).

This idea started in June of this year with the purchase of a cookbook. (Ahh, the feeling of acquiring a new cookbook) And, I have been intrigued to know more about the food sensitivity to gluten, so many people have.  So when Gwenyth Paltrow was smiling out at me in such a happy, clean and bright way, I had to know more. This is where I first learned about the long list of processed foods that cause digestion problems. So many common and irritating ailments are a sign of poor digestion. (Who knew?) As each new “health type problem” was added to my running list, I just assumed these were signs of getting older. New and not exciting signs of ways that my body was betraying me. And that I was doomed to accept these forever more.

I had thought, up until that time, I practised a pretty healthy diet. But, if I looked closely, took the time to learn a few new things, it was surprising to uncover a some rather unhealthy habits. My kitchen cupboards contained a whole lot of processed food ingredients. I was then combining them all together, with a bunch of time and effort to create a home-made version of what was available at the store. Sure my baked goods had slightly less sugar in them, maybe a few bits of grated carrots or zucchini thrown in, but they were essentially a processed food. When the main ingredients are finely milled flour + processed sugar + butter, it is hard to say that is a going to produce a healthy product.

Once I looked beyond the big food manufacturers widely available at every grocery store, there is a small, (but growing quickly), and secret door into a world of TRULY healthy and tasty options. Every time I shopped for groceries I challenged myself to try a few new ingredients. So I became to experiment with coconut oil, chia seeds and cocao. My children know what agave nectar, stevia and mulberries are.

As I began to experiment in the kitchen and focus on what each and every meal contained, I was surprised by a few things:

  • I began to find sweetness in vegetables. Evidently, we have become accustomed to expect a very high level of sweetness in our food. High fructose corn syrup is present in a wide variety of processed foods. As the name indicates, it only requires a small amount to yield a highly sweetened result. As I shifted away from adding sugar or ingredients containing sugar, I started to really enjoy naturally sweet vegetables.
  • Home made milk alternatives ROCK. I have never enjoyed the feeling of drinking milk. I had long suspected it created excess mucus, and it does! But a freshly made  almond milk with a touch of vanilla, still frothy from the blender is amazing!
  • Needing caffeine to get going in the morning is not good. I have long thought this, but have so enjoyed the feeling and rush it gives. As my husband and I have experimented with smoothies in the morning, first thing, we have forgotten to drink the coffee afterwards. Maybe because the smoothie is filling and leaves a feeling of satisfaction, different from coffee.
  • Substituting flour with my home-made almond milk, flour-like leftovers has given us the most amazingly moist, rich and gluten-free muffins. I am throwing in all kinds of fresh or frozen fruits. The experimentation has only just begun. More on this to follow. I just got from the library, (after paying over $20 in fines! Travel to Oslo wreaks havoc on my library routines), “babycakes“, by Erin McKenna. A gluten-free New York City bakery I have heard about and will be trying in November.

Timing is everything. This is a great time of year to focus on fresh food. The local farmer’s markets are over flowing with local produce. A trip to Mary’s Garden yesterday yielded $60 worth of the most amazing vegetables and fruit. As I have slowly been changing over my pantry supplies, the investment today, should not be significant. (Will see about that. Is probably like doing a house renovation, double the time and capital from the budget!)


It will be an interesting journey, for sure. I am going to keep a detailed daily journal. I’m not sure how much of it will make its way to this blog. I have read that this journey will be profound. The changes will happen on many levels and effect every part of me. Probably more information than anyone else needs to know. My husband will suffer all the details like a champion. My children will probably only question why I need to “drink” my dinner each evening while they enjoy a proper “chewing” meal.

But I am excited. This is not a diet-to-loose-weight kind of thing. Everything has led to this moment. At age 43, I am finally ready to formally commit to a healthier way of living. My children are young enough to benefit greatly from this effort. I will set them free in the world with an abundance of great recipes, happy memories and the enthusiasm for life that comes from the foundation of good health.

Check out the website for Clean.

It’s all good

“It’s all good.” ~Albert Einstein

I’ve always been intrigued by the kind of people who use this phrase on a regular basis. They are so chill, relaxed and laid back – probably hippies. They take everything in stride. I want to be like that, I really do. I just can’t seem to achieve it.

Maybe it has to do with what you eat? Everything seems to be related to that these days. I’m already, pretty much converted to that idea, so it wouldn’t surprise me one bit. But how does one go about figuring out what to eat? There is so much information on what we should not be eating, but why start a project with a negative thought?

I’ve been on a hunt for the one resource, could be a book, or a website, a course, whatever. But I’ve continually come up short. I’m also skeptical of the ideas related to juice fasting, detox, etc. Extreme deprivation for relatively long periods of time just doesn’t sound healthy to me. (More than a day is a long time in my food life.) And, am I prepared for the consequences? Could I possibly have a food sensitivity? Would I be able to give up any of the foods which I enjoy so much?

Time will tell. I’m going “all in” for the next couple of months. My inspiration circles back to where I started this post – “It’s all good” by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Its all good

Let me digress. I came by this cookbook in the usual way of things. By accident. I was grocery shopping, (there should not be an entire book aisle in a grocery store, really, I’ve spent so much money this way), and there she was. Smiling out so nicely, she looked great. She always looks great, but in this photo, particularly so. So I bit. (All puns intended).

Once I got the book home and read Gwyneth’s story about discovering her food sensitivities and allergies when her body started to give off some pretty serious signs of problems, I stopped in my tracks. I just thought, it’s time. I can’t put this off any longer.

Enter another new way of eating, that will drive my family crazy, and have me questioning my sanity – the 21-day elimination diet.

There is a bunch of information about the idea of an elimination diet on the web and with Alternative Medicine practitioners. Simply put, this is a process to determine which foods may be causing problems, understanding how great you can feel, then moving forward in that new way. Won’t be entirely simple to do, but seems quite worth the effort.

I’m preparing in this first week. I’ve tried a bunch of recipes from the cookbook with great success. Leaving out certain things has little effect on the finished product. In fact, by adding certain other things, the flavour turns out to be better! The quinoa flakes granola is the most amazing breakfast cereal / snack I have ever had. (I didn’t know there was such a thing as quinoa flakes).

The next post about this topic will include the story of acquiring a high power blender. That journey has taken 2 years and significant expense. But, in order to make the amazing smoothies, nut butters, nut milks, etc. I had to have the real deal. Stay tuned…


Food medicine

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”    ~Hippocrates

I am a strong believer in the statement, “you are what you eat.” That is not to say that I am perfect at practising this. At times my diet has been as bad as anyone else in the Western world. Highly processed, too much refined sugar, nowhere near enough whole foods.

The more I learn about the power of food, the more I am convinced that eating a proper mix of whole foods is not only pleasurable and satisfying, but incredibly healthy.

So how did so many of us in the West become so disconnected with such an elemental part of our health?

I hear people saying that only exercise matters. Along as you are expending significant calories and working all your major muscles, you will have good health. That idea only holds water if the food going in is high quality. What does it matter that you have managed to sweat out a bunch of horrible calories?

People also tell me that, food is only fuel. Well that is an interesting way to look at a part of our lives that uses up so much time and resources. But even if that were true, then only the best quality “fuel” should be acceptable? Unfortunately, there are people who care more about what goes into their cars than their bodies.

What about all the other aspects of good health? It is a well-known fact that too much stress leads to bad health and sickness, so it would seem that to have good health a program for stress management is required. But who has that in their day timer? Drinks after work doesn’t count. Although it sure seems like it at the moment of the first few sips.

Our thoughts can work for us or against us. How much time do we devote in a week to enhancing that part of our health?

But it all comes back to food. If a person starts there, draws a line in the sand and says, “enough”, so many other good things follow. Because once we take control of our food intake, the quality and the quantity, so many other benefits come our way. You become the kind of person who also starts to care more about reducing stress. You think in a more constructive way.

What kind of world could this be if we starting treating our diet as if it were preventing the need for any kind of future conventional medicine? In other words food is medicine, or that is the way I am thinking these days.

And on a Friday night after work, and a 1 1/2 hour drive home, I raise my glass to the weekend and the medicine of a glass of wine. Dinner reservations in an hour, yipee!