BODY: The Physician Within

Intermittent fasting has received increased press in recent years as a revolutionary eating schedule with amazing health benefits. While I am typically all over trying new lifestyle techniques, initially I wanted to avoid fasting because it seemed like a gateway habit for a resurgence of unhealthy eating patterns and an over-dependence on rigidity in an eating schedule. Saying that, I have been following a 16-8 eating schedule for almost a year now and admittedly I can see certain health benefits associated with intermittent fasting such as better digestion, more restful sleep, less bloating and admittedly, some weight-loss.

The concept of fasting is neither new nor revolutionary; ancient Greeks believed that medical treatment could be observed from nature and saw that humans, much like other animals, actively avoid eating while sick. During a fasting period you abstain from food or drink (or both) for health, ritualistic, religious or ethical purposes.

Paracelsus, a renowned healer, wrote over 500 years ago that, “fasting is the greatest remedy, the physician within.” Fasting is now recognized worldwide as a conduit for detoxification which allows and aids the removal of toxins in the body (thought to be responsible for illness and other conditions). By tapping into this innate power, we allow the body to heal itself. (1)

Fasting as a spiritual process is practiced by followers of: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Jainism and Hinduism. While the fasting length and intensity varies, the common belief among the religions is that it is beneficial for cleansing and purification.

Although widely practiced by different religions and for health purposes, fasts have also been used to express social and political views. Gandhi famously fasted in prison to atone for the violence of his followers against the British rule in India. Fasting has been used worldwide to protest everything from war, social injustices and civil rights violations. (2)

Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t specify what food you can eat and instead focuses on when you can eat them; for this reason it is less of a diet and more of an eating pattern. The most popular IF schedule is a 16-hour fast with a daily eating window of eight hours, such as 1-9PM. Others practice the 5-2 method: fasting for 24 hours (or consuming 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week) but eating normally the other five days.

A common mistake in the beginning of starting an IF program is the tendency to indulge in more calories than normal during your eating window. As long as you eat within your window and eat normally, you should notice positive changes. It’s also quite easy to eat less calories than before, so your body will kick up its natural fat-burning; short-term fasting has been shown to help your metabolism increase by 3-14%. In the beginning of my 16-8 schedule I followed a 7PM-11AM fasting period; by doing this I noticed that when I got up in the morning I actually wasn’t physically hungry and I had been eating right away solely out of habit. The fasting window let me get in touch with my hunger cues and only eat when my body was expressing its need for food. After one or two weeks of sticking to my schedule I noticed that aside from some hunger pains before I went to slept, it was a fairly painless process.

While you’re in the fasting period, your body is undergoing a myriad of processes in order to make the most of this time. The Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is raised as much as 5x during this window which will have benefits for fat loss and muscle gain. Insulin levels also drop dramatically which makes stored body fat more accessible to burn away. Even your genes are affected and some studies show that they will undergo changes to help protect against disease and foster cellular repair. Studies are still being done on the full range of benefits, but it has been shown to help inflammation, heart health and increase protection against cancerous cells.

I would definitely recommend trying intermittent fasting if you are looking for something new to help you break through a plateau. Personally I use the BodyFast app to manage my fasting windows and I find it’s a great help. It took me a month or two to get into an easy rhythm and manage my nutrient intake within the fasting window and to stop having mild binges when I broke my fast. I definitely think that IF can be dangerous and a trigger for those who are suffering/recovering from an eating disorder so it is worth discussing IF with a doctor before beginning a program.

As always, just like with any major diet or lifestyle change, the IF schedule needs to be used in moderation; fasting times are made to be extended/shortened; give your body days off to go out for a late dinner or have an early breakfast. Play around with the concept of fasting and see what works best for your body on your own schedule.

Citations:
1. Hicks, C. “Why fasting is now back in fashion.” Telegraph, 13 Apr. 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/11524808/The-history-of-fasting.html
2. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Fasting.” Britannica, 20 Jul. 1998. https://www.britannica.com/topic/fasting
3. Gunnars, Kris. “Intermittent Fasting 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.” Healthline Media, 25 Jul. 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide.

Advertisements

BODY: Review of BeHot Yoga Toronto

untitled2
Location: 43 Colborne St, Toronto, ON
Website: http://www.behotyogatoronto.com

One of the perks about living in the GTA is that there’s no shortage of yoga enthusiasts. Much like the ever-present Starbucks, throw a rock (or a yoga mat) in downtown Toronto and it’s more than likely you will hit a studio.

I started doing yoga in my early teens and after a bit of research into different practices I decided to branch into Bikram Yoga. Non-heated yoga has never held much appeal to me and there’s a masochistic pleasure derived from watching rivulets of sweat pour down your body. To each their own, though – any yoga style is an excellent way to ensure athletic longevity as you age.

Bikram Yoga, created by mega-douche Bikram Choudhury, is a practice that incorporates a series of 26 postures and two breathing sequences for a total of 90 minutes in a climate-controlled environment of 105 degrees. It’s sweltering and often painful, but it does yield results.

Bikram Yoga, not to be confused with “hot yoga” is essentially trade-marked and therefore incredibly costly to practice. As it is I was lucky enough to find BeHot Bikram in downtown Toronto with an offer to new students for $49 for 30 days of unlimited yoga. Considering a drop-in class costs $25 all you have to do is go to TWO classes in one month to get your money’s worth.

untitled

This studio is right in the downtown core and is approximately a five minute walk from King Subway Station. The studio has been running for 10 years and the owner Paul McQuillan has not only literally written the book on yoga (seriously, check it out HERE) but he has also created a welcoming atmosphere for yogis of any skill level to practice in. During my month of classes I was instructed by several different teachers and by McQuillan himself; all of whom were knowledgeable, encouraging, and some were even able to make me laugh while I was contorted and praying for the sweet release of death.

While the benefits of Bikram are a source of heated debate, I did notice that I shed a bit of weight (which may be contributed to expelling a gallon of sweat at each class), my flexibility and posture improved, and my mood was better. The list of potential benefits will vary from each practitioner but the detoxifying benefits are a guarantee.

For first-timers, be forewarned that the heat will get intense. Drink a litre of water in the hours leading up to your class, hydrate during the practice and make sure you have water afterwards! Avoid eating a heavy meal beforehand and dress prepared to sweat. Lots of the die-hard yogi’s will be rocking speedos and not much else so don’t feel embarrassed about shedding layers – you’ll sweat through everything anyway.

BeHot rents out mats and towels, and sells water for a nominal fee; they also offer small lockers to store your valuables during class. The changing room gets busy quickly so getting there early is in your best interest. The doors to the studio are unlocked half an hour before each class starts.

I encourage anyone in Toronto who is looking for a change in their fitness routine to take advantage of this offer!

“Yoga is not a religion. It is a science – science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul.”
// Amit Ray

BODY: The Truth Behind the Gluten-Free Movement

glutenfree

 

I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since someone came up to me about a year ago at the grocery store where I was working and asked me, “What aisle is your gluten-free popcorn in?”

It’s time to shed a bit of light on the “gluten-free” diet fad. Before the last few years, the only people who were following a strict gluten-free diet fell into two categories; those suffering from Celiac disease, and those with a wheat allergy.

Celiac disease is a digestive ailment which causes the small intestine to halt the absorption of nutrients from food when gluten is ingested; as a result people who suffer from this infliction cannot properly digest the gluten protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Not only is gluten found in foods but it is often added to medicine, vitamins, supplements and beauty products. Approximately 1 in 133 people suffers from celiac disease – not exactly enough to justify the 450 million dollar gluten-free market that exists in North America today.

When a person who suffers celiac disease ingests gluten, the intestine essentially shuts down and refuses to absorb nutrients from food. As a result, malnourishment, anemia and osteoporosis are often possible with sufferers of this disease. There are also those who suffer from wheat allergy, which causes an anti-body response and sparks rashes, hives and sometimes anaphylaxis.

The current trend is sparking a sub-group of people who avoid gluten and can be categorized as people suffering from “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.” Unfortunately I feel the rise in declaring yourself gluten-free has been sparked from a lot of hype from celebrities and not a lot of fact – enter my Popcorn Princess anecdote.

cyrus

While I will not discredit those who are sensitive to gluten, most nutritionists will agree that even those who find themselves uncomfortable after eating certain wheat products can typically ingest one serving of gluten per day and feel fine. Most foods do not contain gluten: any food made from a grain (i.e. all forms of corn and rice), most dairy products as well as beans and legumes.

The only places you will find gluten lurking is in wheat products; cakes, cereals, pasta, couscous, bread, barley, malt, rye and beer. Any processed food may contain a wheat by-product or have come in contact with one while being manufactured. The simplest way to avoid any digestion upsets is to follow an unprocessed vegetarian diet… Although I may be biased.

Is gluten actually crap? In moderation, no. While many find themselves losing weight when adopting a gluten free diet it is most likely because they have cut out a heavy-carb food group (bread and pasta, for example) and have failed to substitute it with a healthy, gluten-free alternative. In this case, you may be losing weight, but you are ultimately depriving your body of the carbohydrates it needs to function. By the same token, any postive changes you see in regards to your health after cutting out gluten-laden products may be due to eliminating crappy foods that just so happen to contain gluten, i.e. anything heavily processed and laden with chemicals, fat, excess carbohydrates and not much else.

Over-eating anything will cause symptoms – instead of cutting out your baguette sandwich immediately, instead try reducing your gluten intake and see how you feel. If nothing else, do your research. Paying extra for gluten-free foods that are naturally gluten-free is ridiculous! Above all, my favourite health mantra is this – everything in moderation.

Namaste,

AS

 

For more information please visit:

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/

http://healthydebate.ca/2014/07/topic/non-celiac-gluten-sensitivity

BODY: Workout Review

image

I mentioned in an earlier post that since I’ve been at my second placement I’ve been doing a lot of running. I initially started up with an easy 5KM per day, but I’ve slowly increased to a 8KM to 10KM loop. I like running; I’ve always enjoyed it and the numerous health benefits it bestows upon me.

That said, cardio is not enough.

I like workout videos because they’re easy to pop in at home without having to trek to an expensive gym or aerobics studio. I’ve been purchasing workout videos for years (because I prefer having the physical DVD, most are easily downloadable these days) and some are worth the money while others are downright cheesy or impossible to follow.

I brought along a few workout videos with me on this trip, one of which being Jillian Michaels “Banish Fat Boost Metabolism.” I noticed that after a few weeks of solely running, I wasn’t getting the muscle mass or toned look that I wanted. I popped this DVD in on a whim – and instantly regretted it.

The first time I did this workout my chalet was approximately 30 degrees. Jillian’s circuit training absolutely murdered me; I was dripping with sweat and swearing like a sailor by the second circuit. This woman means business.

The workout is 45 minutes long, plus a warm-up and cool-down and consists of seven circuits. Every muscle on your body will be targeted throughout the workout and there are variations for every move depending on your physical ability. The first few days after starting this workout I noticed my legs were tighter, my abs more defined, and my upper body ached as muscles were being formed. I felt amazing!

I’ve also noticed that since supplementing my fitness regime with strength exercises, my cardio has improved drastically. My legs and hips are stronger during my running route and I am able to run longer, faster and better.

I highly recommend trying this workout!

Namaste,
AS

SOL: Bodies

1. Even the models from magazines admit they don’t look like that in real life.

2. The media will point out your flaws so that you buy more products to help you assimilate to their idea of beauty. I want you to step away from technology for a day and then look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m beautiful.

3. Your ass might have a few dimples. Your upper arms might jiggle when you wave. Your thighs might even, heaven forbid, touch when you stand with your feet together. These factors do not determine the quality of your life or the beauty of your soul.

4. When you’re an old, frail, saggy woman I bet you’ll be wishing you ate that cupcake or had that second glass of wine when you were out with friends. Indulge in moderation and you will not gain a pound.

5. Even if you do gain a pound – who cares? All it means is that there’s more of you to love and I love you more than anyone in the world.

6. Be in love with yourself (every inch of it) and your life (every second of it).

7. Please please please maintain a healthy relationship with food. Praying to a porcelain god will only leave you full of regret and empty of feeling and people tend to glamorize starvation. You know who I admire? Someone who glows with health and feasts with relish. Don’t compromise the simplest joys of life.

8. If you have food available throughout the day, EAT IT. The majority of the world struggles to find clean water and food to eat so I hope you understand how blessed and privileged you are.

9. Do not ever compare your body to someone else’s. Stress less about your neighbour and appreciate yourself. You have been made differently. Women come in all shapes and sizes and all of them are beautiful. Strive to be the best version of yourself, but keep your goals realistic and healthy.

10. You. Are. Beautiful.

11. Embrace your imperfections; bear-hug them until they suffocate because if you don’t face them now someone else will try to wield their power over you. I want you to be able to look anyone who dares comment on your body in the eye and tell them to fuck off.

12. If anyone ever tries to bully you, call me. I’ll take care of you as long as you need me to.

13. I have spent 16 years loathing my body, and I am only now acknowledging its value. I aspire to a better fate for you sweetheart.

14. Take care of yourself. We take our health for granted under the misguided notion that it will always be there. You have hands, arms, legs, feet and a heart that want nothing more than to support you. Support them too. I’ll be here to fill in the cracks.

15. Exercise for your endorphins. Stay active and fit. Sweat once a day because you can. Learn to love the feeling of being strong and capable.

16. It is more socially acceptable to hate your body than it is to love it. Let that sink in.

17. Remember that I love you, always and forever, no matter what you look like.

3AM Thoughts // AKA “Things I Will Teach My Sister About Body Confidence.”

BODY: Grilled Avocado

BODY: Grilled Avocado

Have I mentioned my slight (read: all-consuming, literally) obsession with avocados?

I love them. I eat them daily, use them for face masks and hair masks, and would happily run away to live on an avocado farm for the rest of my life.

Aside from adding avocado to sandwiches and salads, last summer I discovered the mouth-watering appeal of the grilled avocado.

Easiest meal ever: half the avocado, remove the pit, place both halves in tin foil. Drizzle some coconut oil and add any seasoning you like. I add the Clubhouse Cajun mix, even though it’s full of sodium because it tastes So.Damn.Good.

Toss it in the oven (350 degrees) or on the BBQ for 10-15 until the top has browned and it’s sizzling.

I eat it out of the skin using multigrain crackers like Wheat Thins, but you can serve in with tortilla chips, pita, or whatever you like!

Some health benefits of avocado include:

Healthy Fats: While you might be tempted to shy away from avocados because they are high in fat, (three quarters of the calorie count), have no fear! Avocados contain monounsaturated fat which has been proven to reduce bad cholesterol and lower your risk of stroke & heart disease.

Vitamins & Minerals: Avocados contain Potassium, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and B Vitamins to keep your inner and outer appearance healthy & glowing!

Dietary Fiber: Avocados contain approximately 11 grams of fiber, which is half of your daily quota.

Waist Not, Want Not: People who eat avocado on a regular basis have been shown to have a lower body weight, BMI and waist circumference than those who don’t.

Clean Body, Clean Mind: Avocados contain glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight free radicals in the body. It also boosts the immune system, prevents dementia, slows the aging process (!!!) and encourages a healthy nervous system.

F*ck Cancer: Avocados are rich in phytochemicals which have been reported to prevent certain cancers. The chemopreventative characteristics of avocados show that they offer a dietary advantage in the prevention of cancer.

Try it now!
Namaste,
AS

BODY: Benefits of Smoothies

IMG_0035[1]

Lean, Mean… Green?

I’m a huge advocate of smoothies as a “meal” replacement, and here’s why – using the ever efficient Magic Bullet, I can blend several complete servings of vegetables, fruits, protein, carbs and fats together to make a delicious meal on the go! I’m guilty of being perpetually late, so smoothies are a godsend on mornings when I wake up with barely enough time to find a matching outfit, let alone make oatmeal and coffee.

I’m current adding ProGreens+ Vegan Smoothie powder to my smoothies, but I generally don’t recommend adding any type of substitute – let your foods do the work for you.  Diet supplements are typically a waste of money as you can find all nutrients in your food. With my current job I find I’m hungry very easily (and all the time) so the protein tends to keep me full longer. Fun fact – it can take your body over a day to completely digest 25 grams of protein!

Buying a Magic Bullet, or any juicer/food processor, is an absolute must for anyone looking to eat healthy. Smoothies allow you to experiment with all the foods in your kitchen to produce one SUPERMEAL.

As of late, my smoothies are consisting of lots of greens, (think kale, spinach, celery, broccoli), lots of fruit, (namely blueberries, bananas, raspberries, strawberries, mango), and a serving of protein (soy milk or Greek yogurt). Adding fresh juice, especially the Bolthouse brand, for a more “liquid” smoothie is also amazing.

My smoothies are my wonder food! After a light breakfast (fruit) I wait until I get to work and drink this nutritional powerhouse. Although my ingredients vary depending on what is in my fridge, I can rest assured I am getting copious amounts of Vitamin A, iron, fiber, antioxidants, calcium, Vitamin C, protein, potassium, Vitamin B – all in just one meal!

I also find by substituting a meal for a smoothie, it takes me longer to eat, and therefore it is easier for my body to digest. I’m guilty of cramming my face the minute food is in front of me so by drinking a smoothie, I’m forced to pace myself.

Start off by substituting one meal a day with a smoothie. Notice how your body adapts to the surplus of vitamins and minerals you are providing. Introducing smoothies to your diet is also a great way to ease your body into a detox.

Not sure where to start? Google “GREEN SMOOTHIE” and modify to your needs.