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.

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BODY: Ameliorate

It is inevitable that every time a New Year rolls around we get sucked into the marketing vortex of “New Year, New Me” and all the health supplements, workout clothes and gym memberships that are sold as the complete package of health.

I guess, “New Year, Same Lazy Piece of Shit” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Saying that, while it is noble to implement health goals at the start of each year, more often than not we set ourselves up for disaster. More than half of people who set New Year’s goals backslide within the first month, sometimes giving up on themselves altogether. While roadblocks occur in the pursuit of any dream, I think it is crucial to stay focused on the bigger picture.

Personally, I think setting highly specific goals, while initially effective, can become the bane of your existence, especially for weight loss. Focusing steadfastly on a “goal weight” will make you more likely to cut calories (or entire food groups) and resort to over-exercising and under-eating. Less emphasis should be placed on the number and more on the quality of your health and the way your body feels. Aches, pains, inflammation and rashes are all signs that your body is off-balance and through a healthy diet and exercise you can often alleviate or even eliminate these symptoms.

As I get older and more in tune with my body, I start to realize how sensitive my system is and the importance of good nutrition. While in my early party days I was able to indulge in all manner of vices (i.e. booze, party candy, and post-party Cora’s trips) without feeling too much damage the next day. Now… A few drinks and the next morning I can feel my body running at a sluggish pace. As such, I’m looking to significantly cut down, and by all means eliminate, my alcoholic intake over the next few years. As my Brit preaches ad nauseam, “Every extra drink robs you of happiness the next day.” I’ll cheers to that.

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Happy New Years Eve = Not So Happy Morning

Looking forward to the rest of 2016, I’m taking note of how I feel more self-aware of my body than in previous years. As such, my goals for this year are to give my body the nutrients and self-care it needs, while also setting and reaching the new goals I want to put into place. One huge drawback to working in Canada during the winter is that I find it is typically too cold to run outside, however I’ve substituted my long running route in Spain for a membership to IAM Yoga and Wynn Fitness, both of which are located quite close to my office. Having a pre- or post-office workout gives a bit of a jump start to each day.

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Exercise Gives You Endorphins = Endorphins Make You Happy

I’ve swapped my carb-heavy Spanish breakfast of olive-oil on thick whole wheat bread for a super-charged “Green Smoothie” (complete with spinach, flax, mango, banana, dates and a splash of chlorophyll) to start my day. My lunch is now more than half pure vegetables, as is my dinner. As a perpetual vegetarian and sometimes vegan, I have the tendency to lean towards carbo-loading every meal. By planning my meals at least a day in advance (and including some fresh fruit for snacks) I eliminate the risk of becoming hangry or splurging on something sweet.

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Lean, Mean… Green?

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Cold Pressery in Mississauga, ON. Easily One Of The Best Places For Vegan Food!

In the next few months I will have to adjust yet again to living in a new country (!!!!) and being 100% accountable for my budget and lifestyle choices. I think getting accustomed to a regime where I incorporate healthy eating, consistent workouts and a full-time job will make the transition a bit easier. I hope to run my first half-marathon by the end of the year, and what better place to accomplish that feat than Europe?

Good luck & good workout.

AS

 

SOL: Shall We Dance?

I started taking dance classes when I was 8 years old. I was a precocious child from an early age, so instead of pirouettes and pas de bourrées I hit the floor and started out with hip-hop, then later branched out to street-style dancing, belly dancing and even break-dancing. Throughout my adolescence it remained an after-school hobby that boosted confidence and kept me in touch with my body.

Unfortunately, throughout my early 20’s my integrity fell by the wayside and I became more focused on shallow endeavors rather than actually improving myself as a person. As a result until this October it had been roughly five years since I had attempted choreography or entered a studio.

As part of my resolution to enjoy my life outside of work, when I returned from France I purchased a Groupon for 16 dance classes at O.I.P Dance Centre in Toronto for a steal of $18. The studio is located at 190 Richmond St E, a happy 1KM walk from my office. The first class I went to was taught by the owner himself and it was amazing. I figured I’d aim low and take a beginner class so as to spare my ego and I am so glad that I did. While the teacher was incredibly skilled at pacing the moves, I still found myself hauling ass across the floor and scrambling to remember what came next. The teacher was yelling “Muscle memory! Dance FULL OUT!” and I was on the verge of dislocating my shoulder as I attempted to nail each move. I was not even close to being the best in the class, but I had a lot of fun.

The thing I love about dance is that I find more so than any other activity I do (running, intervals, weights, yoga) it pulls me very much out of the typical fog I operate under and plunks me into the NOW. Akin to monk-level meditation, for one hour my mind was filled with nothing except counts of eight and the occasional muttered curse as I learned the choreography. The teacher insisted that the class was not meant as a workout, it was strictly a dance class, but I still left with a sheen of sweat on my skin and a smile on my face.

I recommend O.I.P dance studio and the pursuit of anything that makes you smile – but dance is a great place to start.

Health benefits from dance include:

  • improved condition of your heart and lungs
  • increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
  • increased aerobic fitness
  • improved muscle tone and strength
  • weight management
  • stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
  • better coordination, agility and flexibility
  • improved balance and spatial awareness
  • increased physical confidence
  • improved mental functioning
  • improved general and psychological wellbeing
  • greater self-confidence and self-esteem
  • better social skills.

Health Benefits info from: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/

BODY: The Truth Behind the Gluten-Free Movement

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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.

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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: Chlorophyll

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It’s time to talk about my nutrition supplement du jour.

Since completing my über hippie soul-searching Euro-trip I’ve begun to focus on an all-natural lifestyle approach. As a result, I have started supplementing my diet with liquid chlorophyll.

Before I discovered the numerous health benefits it bestows upon humans, my only knowledge of chlorophyll was my rudimentary Grade 12 Bio class – chlorophyll is food for plants. As it turns out, we can reap numerous health benefits from ingesting chlorophyll on a daily basis!

The construction of chlorophyll is almost identical to the molecule hemoglobin, which our bodies need to build and transport red blood cells; as a result it helps transport oxygen throughout the body. The only difference between hemoglobin and chlorophyll boils down to the centre atom; within hemoglobin the centre atom is iron while in liquid chlorophyll the center atom is magnesium. Magnesium is excellent for the body as it helps deliver oxygen to cells, tissues, bones, nerves and muscles. Not only that – nearly the entire body (cardiovascular system, digestive system, nervous system, brain, muscles, kidneys, liver, hormone-secreting glands) requires magnesium for metabolic function!

Due to its structure chlorophyll is an excellent antioxidant aid. With high levels of Vitamin A, C and E chlorophyll has been shown to lower inflammation within the body while removing excess toxins and waste. Its ability to bind to heavy metals such as mercury gives it a strong healing power.

Digestive problems? Adding a tablespoon of chlorophyll to water, juice or a smoothie two times per day can help promote a healthy digestive tract. As a result, it also helps combat bad breath stemming from an unhealthy bloodstream or colon.

Personally I prefer liquid chlorophyll because I am guaranteed 150mg per serving and it’s easy to add to smoothies on a busy day. However, there are loads of foods you can add to your daily diet to start improving your health such as: asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green cabbage, celery, collard greens, green beans, green peas, kale, leeks, green olives, parsley, romaine lettuce, sea vegetables, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnip greens.*

Since incorporating more greens into my diet I’ve noticed my energy levels improving in the morning – an impressive feat considering I have substituted a green smoothie instead of coffee!

If you aren’t ready to commit to liquid chlorophyll (it costs $26 for 1L of liquid, which lasts about a month) then start adding fresh or steamed greens to your meals!

When in doubt, GO GREEN.

Namaste,

AS

 

 

*Read more at http://naturalrevolution.org/untapping-the-secrets-of-chlorophyll/#Mi70ACi8W8GuDpKc.99

 

SOL: À Bientôt Europe!

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Et voilà – approximately twenty two weeks after I left Canada I am awaiting a plane to bring me home.

I am at a loss for words to express the depth of my appreciation for this experience. I am tempted to say that these months have flown by but each month and sometimes each week presented its own challenges.

From start to finish, this was a personal struggle; my goal was more “deep rehab of the soul” than “I bet I can drink my way across Europe.” I came here to see the world, yes, but also to fix the cracks in my soul. It is not an exaggeration to say that when I arrived in France this April I was a broken and extremely depressed individual. I felt increasingly unstable, unhappy and panicked about life and more specifically, my place in life. I can honestly say I was a nervous wreck and for lack of a more eloquent description, I felt like an all-around piece of shit.

Having said that I must confess that on this trip three wonderful things happened:

1) I fell out of love with the people and memories I was holding onto with the toxic hope I would one day have them back again. In doing so I realized that without the grey tinge of the past haunting me my present life became more beautiful.

2) I slowly realized that although I have done terrible things in the past I am actually (and it feels odd to acknowledge this) proud of the person I have become. I realized that my past does not define the person I am today and in doing so I shook off years of angst and guilt and made a home out of my body.

3) I woke up one morning and realized that I had shaken my plaguing depression and had fallen in love with both myself and my life. This is not to say I do not still have lows, but I am much better equipped to deal with them; I now see each low as preparation for a new high and that alone is a beautiful thing.

It is a wonderful moment when you realize that the love you put into your life will be returned. Obviously I still struggle; I still have bad days and shitty moods, but I have embraced the wonderful complexity of life and relish each event, both good and bad. I do not expect myself or my life to be perfect; the bad days and my worst traits only make me value the positive that much more.

It feels bittersweet to be leaving this beautiful country but I am comforted by the fact that I will soon be able to see my family and friends. This trip has utterly revolutionized my worldview and travel itself. When I first voiced my desire to embark on this trip I had numerous people tell me it would be too difficult to do by myself, that I’d get scared or lonely, that I’d be back before the five months were up or that I was completely deluded as to how expensive and confusing traveling can be. I was admittedly petrified that I was biting off more than I could chew but I realized that people often have more tenacity than they give themselves credit for. Humans are resilient – we are durable and capable of much more than the limits we impose upon ourselves. While at times it was difficult to navigate solo-travel I am proud of myself for being strong enough to do it on my own.

My takeaway from this journey is simple:

DO MORE OF WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY.

Life is too short to be miserable. Be honest with yourself about what you want. If you wait for the right time you will be waiting your whole life – do it now! Always remember the best things in life happen when you step outside your comfort zone.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: +

Over the summer I’ve realized that the easiest way to ensure you are surrounded by positive energy is to be the source of energy.

Look for the small pleasures in an otherwise lackluster day.
Improve the lives of the people around you with a tailored compliment or genuine smile.

Life is hard, yes, but there’s no need to make it more difficult than it already is.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: Champagne Problems

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Four days of relentlessly pounding pavement in Amsterdam have left me absolutely knackered. I’m fairly certain my feet have eroded and I’m hobbling on stumps at this point. My whirlwind tour was 110% worth it and my only regret is that I can’t spend more time here. I am already anticipating my future stays in this captivating city. Dank je wel, Holland!

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Considering I decided to be carefree and careless during my tourist session this is my dinner – thrice times super juice and green tea. I wanted to indulge in everything Amsterdam has to offer. Life is too short to not sample the coffee, stroopwafel and poffertjes! I regret nothing.

I have another hellish trip back to Paris on the night bus, arriving around 7AM tomorrow and then it is my LAST DAY IN EUROPE. The past few months have flown by; it feels like it was just yesterday I was planning this adventure as a way to pass time at work.

I want to thank everyone who has followed my posts thus far and to my friends and family who have supported me and kept in touch throughout my journey! I am so absolutely blessed to have such amazing people in my life.

Safe travels,
AS

BODY: Workout Review

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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

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