Fall Workout Playlist

I love sharing my favourite workout songs with you all, and it’s been way too long! I keep finding gems and thinking “I need to share this one the blog” and then totally forget.

I haven’t been doing as much running as in past years, and have been favouring cycling and walking as my cardio these days, along with a lot of strength training. As a result, some of these songs are a little less “fist pump-y” than those found on previous lists, but awesome nonetheless.

A few observations:

  • Music these days is on an upswing as far as both messaging and general vibe/tempo…however;
  • I am disturbed by the fact that almost all of my choices could be classified as ‘Adult Contemporary’
  • Music videos are intense these days

So, without any rambling, here are some songs to check out if you’re in a workout rut. Please share any songs you’re loving that I’m missing, too!

Don’t Tell Em’ – Jeremih

I Heard I Had – Dear Rouge

3 Foot Tall – Classified

Angel In Blue Jeans – Train

Love Don’t Die – The Fray

Shake It Off – Taylor Swift

Fire – Gavin Degraw

Bailando – Enrique Iglesias ft. Sean Paul [I really wanted to hate this one based on a long-standing and fully rational dislike of Enrique...but I just can't keep from wiggling when this song comes on]

Maps – Maroon 5 [this video is a bit disturbing]

Alive Again – Champion

Jealous – Nick Jonas

Lovers On The Sun – David Guetta

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High-Protein Cheesecake Dip

I like a snack after dinner, and I like it to be sweet. I know many people fall into the salty-snack trap in the hours between dinner and bedtime, but not this gal – I’m on a rampage for sweets after eating a savory meal.

One night, on a whim, I decided to get creative with the standard dairy proteins that I keep stocked (greek yogurt, cottage cheese) and a box of fat free White Chocolate Jell-O pudding mix. As I ate this cheesecake-y concoction I thought “this needs a dipper.” Enter: the apple.

Without further ado, I present to you my High-Protein Cheesecake Dip.

High-Protein Cheesecake Dip

dip

Serves: 1

Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup cottage cheese (I use 1% lactose-free)
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt, plain
  • 1 serving (8g) dry Jell-O pudding mix (I use White Chocolate or Cheesecake)
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • 1 apple, cut into slices

1. Combine cottage cheese, yogurt, salt and Jell-o mix

2. Dip apples in cottage cheese, yogurt, salt and Jell-O mix.

Seriously…that’s it. And it’s SO tasty. I’m planning on experimenting with pumpkin puree and jams, too. I suppose you could add some chocolate or caramel sauce if you’re so inclined ;)

Calories: ~200

Fat: ~2g

Protein: ~16g

Carbs: ~14

 

 

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How Self Trust Is Like A Jar of Marbles

I’ve now been a bike-commuter – riding approximately 2 hours per day, 3-4 days per week – since May. This has had a few measurable impacts; of note, my thighs are like rocks boulders, and my hair is permanently helmet-flattened. I had some volume to spare, at least.

Aesthetics aside, my daily hours of biking has given me ample time to self-reflect, and loads of time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks.  I finally got around to paying off my $25 library fee (the first overdue fee I’ve ever let gestate, by the way) and watch out world!! Lock up your books. I’m on the warpath for all of the nerdy self-help and business development books that I’ve been too cheap to buy from Chapters, and I’m foraging the shelves of the Ottawa Public Library like a literary Pac-Man.

Most recently, I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly in audiobook form. Brene won me over in her Ted talks on shame and vulnerability, and we pretty much became best friends when I watched her interview with Jonathan Fields . In the book, she discusses how trust and vulnerability go hand-in-hand, and how trust is earned, not given. The illustrative example given is that of her daughter’s elementary school classroom, where the teacher places marbles in a jar when students make good decisions. Once the marble jar is full, the students get to leverage them for a celebratory party. Sounds pretty fun, no?

The elementary school marble jar example got me to thinking about trust, and how the rules that apply to awarding others with our trust also applies to our relationships with ourselves, and developing self-trust. So often I hear people – aspiring weight-losers and ‘normal’ eaters alike – lament that they can’t keep chipscandychocolatepizza in the house because they don’t trust themselves not to overeat said yummy food. Look, I get it – I have several of these black-listed foods myself. But at some point, something has to give. What kind of message are we sending ourselves when we ban foods because we “can’t” be trusted?

Like in all relationships, self-trust is a snowball; first we build a little, and then it grows bigger and bigger and bigger. When someone violates your trust, you might hold a grudge and you might keep a mental tally of their trustworthy behaviours and activities until you feel they are to be trusted again. Some people never earn our trust, and true enough, there may be some foods that we’ll never feel comfortable ‘trusting’ to be in our homes. But if your list of untrustworthy foods is ever-growing and has expanded to include foods that were innocent a week ago or that you’ve started exploiting as you’ve crossed other foods off (think diving into peanut butter because you stopped keeping ice cream around), you might want to reconsider your strategy. I can almost guarantee one day you’ll look around and wonder what’s ‘safe’ anymore.

Here are a few practical tools to help you build your self-trust:

  • Practice. Anyone who has been through the cycle of binge-restrict-binge or even just overeat-restrict-overeat knows the nail-biting, cold-sweat inducing feeling you have when you’re in a heated mental battle with the cookies in your cupboard or the ice cream in your freezer. My advice? Whether you maintain your iron willpower and resist the food or give in and eat 10 cookies, tell yourself you’re just practicing. Because you are…and you will be, forever. It’s all just practice.
  • Start Small. If the idea of bringing home a gallon of ice cream and white-knuckling your way through every evening in an attempt not to grab a spoon and go to town, try bringing home a single-serving portion and…you guessed it – practicing eating it in a way that makes you feel proud. When you feel like you’ve mastered the single portion, bring home a slightly larger portion and (yup) practicing some more. Keep moving on to larger portions until you feel comfortable. With this strategy, you can practice going from serving yourself a single portion of something and putting the bag/box away, to eating an appropriate amount with the bag/box in plain sight, and so on progressively. This one is tough and takes time – I’m still working on it! I learned this strategy when I worked with Coach Georgie last summer.
  • Be Kind To Yourself. Most of us struggle with beating ourselves up after we eat more than we’d planned or eat something we perceive that we ‘shouldn’t’ have. This habit will not serve you in losing weight, even though it seems logical that if you punish yourself you will be ‘good’ next time. I’m going to guess that self-flagellation is your go-to reaction for when you ‘slip up’. How has this worked for you so far? We all know the old adage about the definition of insanity; doing the same thing that has failed you over and over again will not likely yield different results. Instead, try being kind to yourself. This is easier said than done, so it’s helpful to reframe your self-talk as if you were talking to a child or to someone you care deeply about. Odds are you wouldn’t tell your best friend that she’s a worthless cow for eating a pint of ice cream, so why do you think it’s OK to treat yourself that way?

So there you have it – the starter steps to help you develop some self-trust around food. Do you find you have some foods that are just no-fly in your house? I’d love to hear what they are and how you deal with not overeating them when you are around them!

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3 Simple Questions To Help You Lose Weight

I know the title sounds a bit like something you’d see on the cover of Woman’s World, but trust me. Over the last 8 months I’ve been doing some major self-reflection about body image and weight, and have made some big changes to the way that I eat and move. Over the course of this journey I’ve learned an insane amount about my body –   not just how to appreciate it more, but what makes it tick.

The idea for this post came to me other day when someone asked me, as someone who has lost 100lbs (twice), what advice I would give someone who is looking to lose weight. My biggest piece of advice – that I DID NOT follow in my weight loss journey but wish I had – is:

Pay attention to how things make you and your body FEEL.

I know this sounds obvious, but when I was in the throes of my restrict-binge cycle for the last couple years (while marathon training, no less) I didn’t care how food made me feel. During the week I would eat far too little, and then on the weekend I would eat until I felt physically ill. I didn’t even know what acid reflux felt like until last summer when I ate so much – multiple times – that I woke up choking. I know that’s nasty, but I’m being honest with you here.

Once I started eating more and scaling back my workouts a bit, I noticed some major mental shifts happening that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Once I gave it some thought, I realized that the changes in my thoughts, feelings and behaviours around food could be summarized into a 3-step questioning process. These questions are:

1) How Do I Feel?

If the answer here is positive, move on to question 2. If the answer is negative or neutral (tired, bored, angry) and not accompanied by “hungry” then I wouldn’t suggest moving on to Question 2.

2) How do I want to feel after eating _____ [whatever the food is]

Some examples would be proud, lean, happy, confident, satisfied, etc.

3) How much of _____  [food from Question 2] can I eat and still feel ______ [whatever your answer to question 2 was)

Stupid simple right? It takes practice to implement and actually listen to your answers to these questions, but I promise if you incorporate them into your day you will notice a shift.

Now that I’m actively trying to lose weight again, I use these questions often to help me cut some calories without restricting myself (I’m hyperaware of this now). Here’s how I would use these questions in a weight loss context:

1) How Do I Feel?

I feel lean, tired, and like I want a snack.

2) How do I want to feel after eating these gummy bears?

I want to feel lean and satisfied.

3) How many gummy bears can I eat and still feel lean and satisfied?

Well, I’ll start with 5 and check in with myself and see how I’m feeling. If I still feel ok, maybe I’ll have a couple more, or maybe I’ll move onto a more satiating food so that I’m not hungry again in 20 minutes.

You can tweak these questions as relevant to your situation, but the basic premise is to set some intentions for yourself before you eat and to check in along the way. You can even do this now without making any changes, asking yourself how the current amount you’re eating makes you feel as compared to how you want to feel. This will give you a baseline!

You deserve to feel great after you eat – no matter the food! I know it’s tough, but thankfully you can train your brain to be on your team, and that’s more than half the battle. I know for some of you, it’s easier to just avoid foods that you tend to overeat altogether, and if that’s working for you then feel free to apply this ‘framework’ to your favourite non-triggering foods and see what you come up with.

I am practicing this daily and invite you all to join me! Like any permanent mindset shift, this takes time and practice, so go easy on yourself if you give this a shot. I suggest committing to trying it out for at least three weeks :)

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Do You Hate Mornings?

Mornings, how I love thee. There is no time in my day that is more serene than just after the sun has come up and everything is peaceful and quiet – though nature gets brownie points if there are birds chirping (and mega points taken off if there is snow…just saying). I haven’t always been a morning person, though. In fact, for as far back as I can remember, I’ve been a night-owl if left to my own devices. I know you’re probably thinking “But wait – you just said you’re a morning person!?!”. Let me explain.

In high school and university, if I didn’t have somewhere to be early in the morning, I would stay up as late as possible. I remember when my house shared 1 PC and I would make a ‘to read’ list of things I wanted to research on the internet once everyone went to bed. I would stay up until 3am reading about world events the Backstreet Boys. By the way, staying up late makes you HUNGRY! No wonder I was obese. The problem with my nasty habit of staying up late was that I couldn’t manage to sleep in, no matter how I tried…which meant I was just tired ALL THE TIME.

I didn’t really transition from night-owl to morning-lark until I was about 6 months into 9-5 life, but once I made the switch, I never looked back. I get asked a lot how I started to love mornings, so here are some tips to help you make a habit of waking up earlier and not hate your life in the process

  • The Slow Creep

It’s probably unrealistic to expect that after a lifetime of waking up ten minutes before you need to be out the door, you’ll suddenly spring out of bed, throw on your running shoes and knock out 5k. Instead, I always suggest people start by setting their alarm 5 minutes earlier than normal, and keep going in tiny increments week by week until you’re waking up an hour earlier (or however much earlier you’d like). The important thing here is consistency. I’ve found that people who decide to workout at 6am twice a week but sleep in the other three weekdays struggle waaaay more with waking up and lacking energy than those who make it a daily habit.

If you’re a real ‘rip the bandaid’ type person, you can try just getting up an hour earlier for a week. Some people do best with sweeping gestures, so if you know that you’re the go-big-or-go-home type, maybe it’s worth trying to suffer through a few sleepy days to shift your clock faster.

  • Set Some Bait

Brainstorm some things that you can do/enjoy with all of your newfound morning time. Brownie points if these are things you wouldn’t normally do at night because then you’re not just shuffling things around, you’re actually adding productive things to your day. Some ideas here could be:

* Read that book that’s laying under an inch of dust on your bookshelf

* Go for a walk. For extra motivation, see if you can find a friend who is also wanting to take advantage of mornings and arrange to meet up and go for a walk together. Friend time and exercise? Check. Check.

* Meditate

* Make a delicious healthy breakfast

* Prepare some things for dinner that night so you have more time when you get home from work (double win!)

* Take a class at your gym that you’ve heard is great but always miss out on because you’re snoozing.

* Clean. I know this sounds torturous but trust me – you will feel so satisfied when you come home at the end of the day and your house is glistening!

I remember the first time I EVER worked out before work/class. A friend from work invited me to meet her at 7am (ungodly at the time) for a spin class that she heard was fabulous at the GoodLife Fitness near our workplace. I had been having a hard time making it to the gym after work, given the adjustment to my new 9-5 job and the brutal winter weather, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I showed up to that class, yawning and wondering what  the @(*@$& I was thinking when I’d agreed to do a spin class at 7am…and my friend slept through her alarm and never showed up. But what do you know – I did the class, LOVED the feeling of having burned 450 calories by 8am, and was delighted at 3pm when I thought the usual “urrrghhhh I have to go to the gym” and then realized that I had already been.

  • Burn a One-Ended Candle

I used to say that I wasn’t a morning person because I always felt sleepy when I woke up early. Well, it turns out I felt sleepy when I woke up early because I was staying up later than I should have. Say what? The morning wasn’t making me sleepy…the lack of sleep was. Insert *face palm* here. Once I started making an effort to get to bed earlier – just a 1/2 hour at first, and then eventually a couple hours – I realized that the mornings weren’t the enemy. In fact, they were AMAZING! I was won over pretty quickly by the sense of tranquility and calmness that you’ll find at 6am just about anywhere you go…except maybe Ibiza. Or a Full Moon Party. I digress.

  • Treat Yo’ Self

Offer yourself a reward for waking up earlier.  Tell yourself that if you wake up earlier every day for a week, you’ll get a massage on Saturday morning, or have pancakes, or get a pedicure. Eventually (and I can almost guarantee this) waking up early will be its own reward. Or hey, get a dog. I hear they’re great at ‘persuading’ people to wake up earlier ;)

So there you have it. A few tips to help you make the most of mornings. This habit, by the way, is a bajillion times easier to implement in the summer months when the sun rises at 5am and sets at 9 (just in time for bed, amiright?!). For myself, sleeping late feels like wasting precious summer sounds and sunshine, so I make early rises a priority. Give it a try!

 

 

 

 

* This post was written in contribution to the GoodLife Fitness Blogger Ambassador Program* 

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Health Hack: Front-Loading.

Sometimes I resist blogging because I feel like I have to make these long, sprawling posts. And then I realize – I hate reading other peoples’ long sprawling posts, so maybe you guys would like a break from them here!

I figured I’d swing by with a super quick, easy, and effective tip to make losing weight and maintaining/improving general health a relative breeze (which sounds like a band name to me. Anyone?).

Most of us are savvy about the fundamentals of health and weight loss in terms of getting plenty of protein, limiting processed foods, and making sure to eat lots of protein and healthy fats. The problem is, we’re all busy and truthfully, it can be a real PITA to plan out every bite in advance; on the other hand, free-styling can sometimes lead to us choosing the easiest options, subsisting on frozen yogurt and sour patch kids. Not speaking from experience or anything…

To make your life as easy as possible in your quest for optimal health or along your weight loss journey, I suggest the following simple approach:

  1. Prioritize your goals – and particularly the goals with which you’re struggling the most. Maybe it’s to eat 100g of protein, or to get 5-7 servings of veggies per day, or to eat more fiber.
  2. Come up with some ways that you can meet your goals as early in the day as possible. If you are aiming to eat more protein and to get more green veggies, for example, maybe start your day off with a protein shake and add some dark leafy greens to the blender to kill two birds with one stone.

See? I said it was simple.

So, if your goal is to eat 10 servings of fruits & veggies/day but you find yourself falling short at the end of the day and craving anything but a stir-fry, try sneaking veggies into your breakfast and lunch (and snacks!). I like to take the path of least resistance here…so if your absolute favourite meal on earth is your breakfast pancakes, then don’t torture yourself by trying to add pureed kale to the mix. Instead, enjoy your pancakes but have some baby carrots, celery, and cucumber with some hummus or dip as your snack, and a nice big salad for your lunch.

If, on the other hand, you can take or leave breakfast but really enjoy a hearty sandwich for lunch, then maybe your breakfast could be a smoothie with 1 scoop of protein powder, a few handfulls of greens, and some frozen fruit. To add even more veggies, you could use a superfood powder like Shakeology or Vega One, or a greens powder like VegeGreens. Then, with your sandwich at lunch, have a green salad on the side or some cut-up veggies. For dessert, enjoy some fresh berries, watermelon, or pineapple (can you tell I love the summer fruit?). By the time dinner rolls around, any veggies/fruit you add should be proverbial gravy ;)

But wait! The wonders of front-loading don’t stop here. I like to apply front-loading to any situation where I’d normally procrastinate; dreading going to the gym after work? Do it in the morning or at lunch. Dreading a task around the house/at work? Do it first thing. It’s so basic it’s silly to be posting about, and yet lots of people put stuff off until they “feel like it,” which often never comes. Better to do it before you’ve even chiseled at your willpower yet.

So next time you’re planning – whether it’s a food you want to be consuming, an activity you wan to do, or just a task that needs to get done, think about front-loading. Ask yourself “if all I did today as far as eating veggies and fruits was to drink this smoothie with kale/spinach/vegegreens/shakeology/banana/cherries/whatever, would I be ok with that?”. If yes, then freaking do it!! Do it now!! And then all the other veg and fruit you eat will just be brownie (mmmm) points. Those are points you can trade for a brownie since you already had your fruits & veggies ;)

 

 

 

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Sup? (Or: 4 Supplements I’m Loving).

No lengthy into here, folks. I just wanted to share with you some supplements I am using and enjoying these days, and that are getting me great results for my goals…which are:

  • #1. Preserve muscle mass and build as I can (difficult as you’re trying to lose weight)
  • #2. Lose fat. This goes in hand with #1. Instead of focusing on losing weight, as in the past, my big goal lately has been to preserve the muscle that I built in the winter while eating at my TDEE, while losing fat.
  • #3. Sleep better. I have suffered from terrible insomnia in the past and it SUCKS.
  • #4. Fix my hormones. For years I’ve been dealing with irregular periods, spotting, awful PMS, blah blah blah. I’m on quest to stop feeling shitty for 1/2 the month :D

So here’s the roster, in no particular order.

1. L-Carnitine I’m not going to show a photo here, because I don’t have an allegiance to any one brand. I mostly buy what’s on sale as long as the capsules contain 500mg at least of L-Carnitine Tartrate. To be honest, I take this because Examine.com told me to, as someone who doesn’t eat meat and rarely eats seafood. L-Carnitine touts lots of benefits for everything from infertility to diabetes (and fat burning, duh!) which you can read about here. I take 1000mg in the afternoon and 1000mg before bed.

2. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)bcaa

These are the tree best BCAAs I’ve tried. L-R we have:

  • Aminocore Blue Raspberry BCAAs by Allmax. This flavour is delicious but DO NOT get fancy and try the Carribean or Cherry Lime. Yuck.
  • ProteinCo BCAAs in Fruit Punch. Flavour wise, this stuff is mild but it is pretty much the ONLY BCAA I was able to find that is sweetened with stevia. Plus, I love supporting Canadian companies when I can! Plus, these are cost effective. Can’t beat em’!
  • Cellucor BCAAs in Watermelon. These are the best tasting BCAAs I’ve tried, hands down. The con is that these are expensive.

I don’t eat in the morning before I work out, and that’s when I rely on BCAAs. BCAAs are excellent, in my experience, for appetite reduction, muscle preservation during fasted exercise, and energy. I’ll defer to the experts for more info on why BCAAs are amazing.

3. Lorna Vanderhaeghe EstroSmart

I started taking this in January 2014 after figuring out, after doing a TON of research, that a lot of my hormonal issues were related to an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone. The key ingredients in this that are helpful for women with hormonal imbalances (particularly estrogen dominance) are Indole-3-Carbinol and DIM. Everything else in there is gravy! I noticed differences within weeks of taking this in terms of the length of my cycle (used to be very short, and now is longer…yay!). It has also helped to improve the hormonal insomnia I’ve been dealing with for years. I take this now in conjunction with Shakeology as ‘insurance’, as excess estrogen has been linked to autoimmune disorders, breast cancer, uterine cancer, infertility, ovarian cysts, increased blood clotting, and acceleration of the aging process. So basically, no thank you…pass the EstroSmart.  I buy mine here because they offer the best prices I’ve found, and this stuff is expensive, too.

3. Shakeology

Shakeology is all the rage these days, and it’s damn expensive. I was a hard sell to try it because of the price and general cynicism, but after struggling to overcome some digestive issues I’ve been experiencing since last spring (2013) I figured I might as well try it. A quick google shows that people rave about Shakeology’s benefits on everything from digestion and weight loss to hormone health and sleep.

Personally, I’ve found it to help with my digestion, sleep, and hormones. I never really talked about it here, but I’ve been trying for three years to regulate my hormones, and have been dealing with irregular periods, awful PMS, and hormonal migraines. All of these have improved since trying Shakeology in March, in conjunction with the next product I’m going to mention!  I also generally like knowing that if I drink this, I’ve gotten a good dose of antioxidants, probiotics, prebiotics, phytonutrients, digestive enzymes, and adaptogens (these are what’s been helping to regulate my cycle, I’m sure), among other benefits. If you’re interested in more info, I can do a more detailed post down the line. If you want to check it out, feel free to go here…but know that that is an affiliate link, as I signed up as a coach to reap the discount benefits. I recommend the chocolate and the strawberry, if you do decide to check it out. 

That’s a wrap for now. There will likely be a Part 2 to this post in the next few weeks, as I’m trying out a couple of new products I’m really enjoying. Stay tuned!

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