Last year I visited the Sunshine Coast for the first – and second – time and wrote about my adventures for BC Living and The Province. It quickly became one of my favourite places on earth, I strongly recommend a visit if you’ve never been!
Check out Exploring the North End of the Sunshine Coast, my story for BC Living, and Hiking the province’s unknown other trail, my story for The Province, to read more about one of BC’s best getaways.
Below are some highlights from my visits. Click the titles to visit their respective websites.
VISIT: Sunshine Coast Trail
VISIT: Townsite Brewing
VISIT: Breakwater Books and Coffee
EAT: Nancy’s Bakery
EAT: The Savoury Bight
STAY: Desolation Resort
STAY: The Historic Lund Hotel
It’s no secret, I love talking about brain chemistry! Have you heard about my “Winning Trifecta of Wellness”? The trifecta includes stress management, exercise and nutrition, which are actions that produce optimal brain chemistry.
When you cultivate optimal brain chemistry, you feel good.
When you commit to consistently cultivate optimal brain chemistry, you look good.
Isn’t it incredible how your thoughts and actions directly affect your health and happiness? Isn’t it empowering to know that you’re in control of what you think and how you act?
The following ten books have given me tangible new insight into improving my health and happiness.
They’ve helped me become more aware of the effects of my thoughts and actions – and more empowered to improve my health and happiness.
I hope you’ll find them interesting and insightful too!
1. Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-body Medicine by Candace B. Pert
2. Must Have Been Something I Ate by Peggy Kotsopoulos
3. Your Brain on Nature: The Science of Natures Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality by Alan C. Logan and Eva M. Selhub
7. The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body by Drew Ramsey and Tyler G. Graham
8. Love 2.0: How our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become by Barbara Fredrickson
9. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey
10. Super Brain by Deepak Chopra & Rudolph Tanzi
I get so excited reading about new recipes, shopping for ingredients, and preparing meals for the people I love. I especially enjoy trying new flavour combinations and using herbs and spices to add flavour without adding calories.
After learning about the about the inhumane conditions that many poultry products you buy at the grocery store are raised in, I’ve solely purchased free-range or organic birds.
A local company raising free-range, medication and antibiotic free chickens is Maple Hill Farms in Abbotsford, found at numerous grocery stores and butchers in and around Vancouver. They offer whole birds, a range of cuts, and eggs.
Here are three of my favourite international chicken recipes, which you can see in their entirety, along with dozens of other recipes I’ve tested at home, at BC Living.
Visit BCLiving.ca for the Chicken, Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas recipe.
Visit BCLiving.ca for the Pineapple Cashew Chicken Fried Rice recipe.
Visit BCLiving.ca for the Jerk Chicken with Rice and Beans recipe.
(Image: The Energy Project)
I’ve had a few aha moments over at The Energy Project, so I thought I’d share some of my favourite tips from them about performance and productivity.
They offer a curriculum called peoplefuel, which “teaches people at all levels in companies to more efficiently manage their four sources of energy.” Those four sources of energy are:
This concept, of taking an inventory of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy, applies to everyone, including self-employed individuals like myself, and serves to make you aware of areas where your energy is needlessly being zapped.
I love the idea of regular self-inventories!
One of my favourite Energy Project concepts is energy rituals, which are “highly specific behaviours done at precise times.”
The idea is that if you develop rituals for your daily routine – setting your alarm for the same time every day, always working out first thing in the morning – you’ll have more energy leftover for the important stuff like productivity at work and being present with friends and family.
I cook a nice meal most nights of the week, which would take far too much time and energy if I didn’t prepare for it, but every weekend I make a menu for the week ahead and from that I make a grocery list for all of the items I’ll need. Then I pick up everything except for the produce needed for the end of the week, which I’ll pick up mid-week so it’s fresh when I go to use it.
That way, during the course of my day I never have to distract myself from work, thinking about what’s for dinner and whether or not I have everything necessary on hand.
All I have to do is turn on some music, pour myself a drink (whether that’s sparkling water or wine), and whip up a healthy meal.
For more on energy rituals, check out The Energy Project’s top ten energy rituals for performing at your best.
Also take a look at The Energy Project’s CEO Tony Schwartz’s article about energy rituals for the Harvard Business Review.
Another concept that struck me as useful is the idea of energy quadrants, which is defining your current energy as one of the following:
Schwartz says, “Human beings are actually designed to pulse. We’re most productive when we move between expending energy and intermittently renewing our four energy needs: sustainability (physical), security (emotional); self-expression (mental) and significance (spiritual).”
So, in terms of energy quadrants, alternating between performance and recovery is ideal. If you’re hanging out in the burnout or survival quadrant, it’s time to survey your energy sources, address which areas need improvement, and follow through with step-by-step actions.
Be Excellent at Anything
Lastly, Schwartz has a new book, which is on my to-read list, called Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and Live. You can have a peak at it on Google Books.
Reluctant to stick to your gym routine? Exercising outdoors can increase your motivation, says New York Times columnist Gretchen Reynolds. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)
New York Times, March 13, 2013
For most people, exercise elevates mood. Repeated studies with humans and animals have shown that regular workouts can increase stress resistance, decrease anxiety, lessen symptoms of depression and generally leave people cheerful. But what if someone sincerely dislikes exercise and works out only under a kind of emotional duress, deeming that he or she must do so, perhaps because a doctor or worried spouse has ordered it?
Psychology Today, March 12, 2013
If you’re like most people living in our fast-paced world, you wish you could be less stressed. You are constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce your stress and that’s most likely why you clicked on this blog link. Perhaps you’ll learn something new to help you manage the many demands you feel on your time and energy. Or perhaps this will another one of those pop psych articles that tell you what you already knew or have read about many times before. I don’t want to promise what I can’t deliver, but I think you’ll be honestly surprised by the six secrets to stress that I’ll reveal in this blog. Even if you just learn from one of them, you’ll be on your way to better managing those worries, anxieties, and preoccupations that, though perhaps minor on their own, can add up to erode your mental and physical health.
Psychology Today, February 28, 2013
Healthy children come in all shapes and sizes. Being physically fit is more important than Body Mass Index (BMI) when it comes to getting good grades. A new study by Dr. Robert R. Rauner and colleagues from Lincoln Public Schools and Creighton University in Nebraska found that aerobic fitness has a greater effect on academic performance than weight. The study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that although BMI is an important indicator for overall health, it did not have a significant effect on test scores. “Although obesity is a concern for children, this study shows that aerobic fitness can have a greater effect on academic performance than weight,” the Journal said.
Chalkboard, February 22, 2013
In her book The Slim Calm Sexy Diet, author Keri Glasman walks readers through the all-important rules of getting stronger, calmer, healthier, more balanced and yes, thinner – all goals that have likely made it across your New Year’s to-do list… but, calmer? How does getting calmer fit in to all this hubbub about our health?
New York Times, February 21, 2013
While the allure of the gym — climate-controlled, convenient and predictable — is obvious, especially in winter, emerging science suggests there are benefits to exercising outdoors that can’t be replicated on a treadmill, a recumbent bicycle or a track. You stride differently when running outdoors, for one thing. Generally, studies find, people flex their ankles more when they run outside. They also, at least occasionally, run downhill, a movement that isn’t easily done on a treadmill and that stresses muscles differently than running on flat or uphill terrain. Outdoor exercise tends, too, to be more strenuous than the indoor version. In studies comparing the exertion of running on a treadmill and the exertion of running outside, treadmill runners expended less energy to cover the same distance as those striding across the ground outside, primarily because indoor exercisers face no wind resistance or changes in terrain, no matter how subtle.
New York Times, February 9, 2013
Think for a moment about your typical workday. Do you wake up tired? Check your e-mail before you get out of bed? Skip breakfast or grab something on the run that’s not particularly nutritious? Rarely get away from your desk for lunch? Run from meeting to meeting with no time in between? Find it nearly impossible to keep up with the volume of e-mail you receive? Leave work later than you’d like, and still feel compelled to check e-mail in the evenings?
New York Times, January 17, 2013
A frequent traveler, Soozan Baxter never bothers with the hotel gym. Instead, she checks with the front desk to make sure there is a tub in the bathroom, an iron in the closet and a sturdy bench or ottoman in the room. Ms. Baxter’s solution for staying in shape while on the road: a 30-minute routine designed by her Manhattan-based personal trainer, Nicole Glor, that lets her exercise without having to pack hand weights or exercise mats. “I don’t want to carry a lot of stuff with me,” said Ms. Baxter, 37, a commercial real estate consultant who travels from one to three days a week throughout the year.
New York Times, January 9, 2013
It is well established that exercise bolsters the structure and function of the brain. Multiple animal and human studies have shown that a few months of moderate exercise can create new neurons, lift mood and hone memory and thinking.
But few studies have gone on to examine what happens next. Are these desirable brain changes permanent? Or, if someone begins exercising but then stops, does the brain revert to its former state, much like unused muscles slacken?
Vancouver Sun, December 31, 2012
My favourite thought of the year came from CIHR researcher Antony Karelis at the University of Quebec, who told me that long-term studies on the effects of various weight loss programs are impossible to do because nearly everyone who loses weight puts it right back on again, usually within a few months. My second favourite thought on weight loss strategies came from Sheila Innis, the director of UBC’s nutrition and metabolism research program, who rather irritably pointed out that starving and stuffing lab mice is not a reliable means for designing a sensible diet for humans (though it is a fine way to learn about things like the effects of insulin on fat cells).
Los Angeles Times, December 12, 2012
Go take a hike – it’s good for your brain. So says a new study that supports something called Attention Restoration Theory, which holds that exposure to nature can replenish our cognitive reserves when they are worn out by overuse. And if you live a modern urban or suburban life, your cognitive reserves are surely depleted: A typical teenager spends more than 7.5 hours per day juggling a computer, cellphone, TV and other media, and the number is surely higher for a typical adult, according to the study: “Our modern society is filled with sudden events (sirens, horns, ringing phones, alarms, televisions, etc.) that hijack attention. By contrast, natural environments are associated with a gentle, soft fascination, allowing the executive attentional system to replenish.”
(Image: BC Blueberry Council)
Last week I had the pleasure of attending a breakfast lecture, hosted by the BC Blueberry Council at the Edible Canada Bistro, with author, speaker, geriatric neurologist and dementia specialist, and director of the Banner Sun Health Research Institute, Dr Marwan Sabbagh.
Sabbagh’s talk focused on how dietary habits influence the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, and how blueberries fit into that equation.
We also received a copy of his awesome new book, The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook: Recipes to Boost Brain Health, which covers the science of Alzheimer’s disease, highlights of which we learned in his talk, and contains brain-boosting recipes that he teamed up with celebrity chef Beau MacMillan to create.
Dr Marwan Sabbagh, left, and I with his new book, The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook: Recipes to Boost Brain Health, at the Edible Canada Bistro. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)
The lecture was one of those instances where I was so engaged with what I was hearing that space and time fell away.
You may or may not know that I have a neuroscience degree and that I am passionate about learning and sharing ways to cultivate optimal brain health, so what he had to say really got me excited.
Sabbagh shared a number of things that I already knew but were great to be reminded of and I also took away a handful of exciting and practical new tips for following a healthy brain diet.
Neurodegeneration Begins 25 Years Before Symptoms Appear
One thing he said really struck me. It’s compelled me to put even more thought and care into what I eat. Changes in the brain – negative changes associated with neurodegeneration – begin to occur 25 years before a clinical diagnosis is possible.
In other words, the disease starts 25 years before the first symptoms are detected.
That means there’s plenty you can do right now, through nutrition, exercise and stress management, to increase your chances of having a sharp mind till the day you drop! That, in addition to keeping a long list of nasties like heart disease, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis at bay.
The Mediterranean Diet is the Convergence of All Good Things
The quickest and most efficient way to influence change, says Sabbagh, is through diet, and he strongly suggests adopting the Mediterranean Diet, calling it “the convergence of all good things.”
The diet includes very little foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol, with a focus on consuming dark vegetables (like alfalfa, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, corn, eggplant, kale and spinach), high-antioxidant fruits (like blackberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges, plums, prunes, raspberries, strawberries and red grapes), and fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids (like halibut, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna). It even allows for a moderate amount of red wine!
Hooray, Red Wine is Good for You!
Red wine contains Resveratrol, a compound that’s “been shown to have anti-cancer, antiviral, neuroprotective, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and life-prolonging effects.”
So, is more better? Unfortunately, says Sabbagh, you’d need to drink about six bottles of red wine per day to get the optimal recommended amount of Resveratrol. Your liver would not approve.
Sabbagh’s recommendation: stick to a maximum of two glasses of red wine per day and take a Resveratrol supplement.
Herbs and Spices are Antioxidant Powerhouses
Sabbagh also suggests eating foods with high ORAC, or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, scores. He says, “USDA researchers estimate that you can derive great benefits from consuming 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units of antioxidants a day.”
I’d never heard of ORAC scores before. Exciting! Following is a list of high-antioxidant herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables, and their ORAC scores, recommended by Sabbagh.
Herbs and Spices
- Cloves, ground – 290,283 ORAC units per teaspoon
- Oregano, dried – 175,295 ORAC units per teaspoon
- Rosemary, dried – 165,280 ORAC units per teaspoon
- Thyme, dried – 157,380 ORAC units per teaspoon
- Cinnamon, ground – 131,420 ORAC units per teaspoon
- Turmeric, ground – 127,068 ORAC units per teaspoon
- Prunes – 5,770 ORAC units per 100 grams
- Raisins – 2,830 ORAC units per 100 grams
- Blueberries – 2,400 ORAC units per 100 grams
- Blackberries – 2,036 ORAC units per 100 grams
- Strawberries – 1,540 ORAC units per 100 grams
- Raspberries – 1,220 ORAC units per 100 grams
- Kale – 1,770 ORAC units per 100 grams
- Spinach – 1,260 ORAC units per 100 grams
- Brussels sprouts – 980 ORAC units per 100 grams
- Alfalfa sprouts – 930 ORAC units per 100 grams
- Broccoli florets – 890 ORAC units per 100 grams
- Beets – 840 ORAC units per 100 grams
Fun fact: Sabbagh says that since learning about cinnamon’s high ORAC score, and a study “revealing that cinnamon has direct anti-Alzheimer’s properties,” he has a teaspoon in his coffee every day.
Blueberries’ Brain-Boosting Power
Zeroing in on blueberries, Sabbagh says that the science behind the brain-boosting power of blueberries – not just berries with high a ORAC score – is “quite compelling.”
Part of his excitement about blueberries stems from animal studies of blueberry extract which show that it can reverse age-related cognitive and motor deficit, prevent free radical damage in red blood cells, and enhance memory-associated neuronal signaling.
He also calls blueberries a “medical-type food” due to another animal-based study showing their ability to “cross the blood-brain barrier and localize in various brain regions important for learning and memory.”
Many drugs are unable to cross the blood-brain barrier, so this was a particularly noteworthy discovery.
Essentially, the antioxidant-rich blueberry extract was able to not just prevent memory loss, but reverse neurodegeneration.
Suddenly craving blueberries? Just wait till you see the delicious recipes below!
Actions Steps for a Healthy Brain Diet
But first, I want to share some actions steps for a healthy brain that Sabbagh left us with:
- Adhere to the Mediterranean Diet
- Decrease intake of saturated fat
- Increase intake of anti-oxidant spices
- Eat BC blueberries
- Increase exercise
As well as his favourite brain-boosting supplements:
- Vitamins B-9 (folic acid) and B-12
- DHA Omega-3 fatty acids
Smoothie and a Salad: Two Tasty Recipes for a Healthy Brain
The first recipe – which I just whipped up in my blender and am drinking while I write this – was developed by the wonderful staff at the Edible Canada Bistro and served at Sabbagh’s breakfast lecture, while the second one comes from The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook, which is full of fantastic recipes.
Green Zinger Smoothie
(Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)
- 2 cups spinach
- 5 stalks kale
- 1 cup beets
- 2 tsp fresh ginger
- 2 1/2 cups blueberries
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 3 tbsp honey
- 1 1/2 cups green tea
- 1/2 cup water
- Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.
Kale, Blueberry and Pomegranate Salad
(Image: Ten Speed Press)
- 3 bunches kale, stemmed and chopped
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
- 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 cup almonds, sliced and toasted
- 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup soy-sesame vinaigrette (recipe below)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Combine the kale, blueberries, carrots, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and mint in a medium bowl and toss well.
- Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss again.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve right away.
Makes 2 cups
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp garlic, chopped
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup peanut oil
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp water
- Combine the ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, sesame oil, and peanut oil in a blender and puree until creamy.
- Pour the mixture into a medium sauté pan and cook, stirring, over low heat until aromatic and golden in colour, about 6 minutes.
- Add the vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar to the sauté pan.
- In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water, and then stir the cornstarch slurry into the content of the pan.
- Set the pan over low heat and bring the mixture to a boil to thicken, stirring to dissolve the sugar, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer the dressing to a bowl and let cool.
- Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
(Image: Nissa Miller)
Chatelaine, January 16, 2013
Just because the mistletoe is tucked away for another year, doesn’t mean you should neglect the importance of kissing. A recent Polysporin study revealed that while 75 percent of Canadians believe kissing fosters deeper connections, half say they don’t kiss as often as they’d like. We asked relationships expert Dr. Karyn Gordon to address the importance of kissing and tips on how to do it more often.
New York Times, January 14, 2013
When people fall in love and decide to marry, the expectation is nearly always that love and marriage and the happiness they bring will last; as the vows say, till death do us part. Only the most cynical among us would think, walking down the aisle, that if things don’t work out, “We can always split.” But the divorce rate in the United States is exactly half the marriage rate, and that does not bode well for this cherished institution. While some divorces are clearly justified by physical or emotional abuse, intolerable infidelity, addictive behavior or irreconcilable incompatibility, experts say many severed marriages seem to have just withered and died from a lack of effort to keep the embers of love alive.
Single Dad Laughing, October 2012
The other night I was sitting with my family, most of whom are very successfully married. We were going in a circle giving our best marriage advice to my little sister on the eve of her wedding. It’s somewhat of a family tradition. But that’s not what blows. What really blows is that I realized I don’t have any good marriage advice to give. After all, I’ve never had a successful marriage out of the two marriages I did have. And so, when it was my turn, I just made a joke about divorce and how you should always remember why you loved your spouse when you first met her so that when times get tough, you can find someone new that is just like she was. There were a couple courtesy giggles, but overall my humor wasn’t welcome in such a beautifully building ring of profundity. They finished round one, and for some reason started into another round. And that’s when I realized. Hey. I don’t have marriage advice to give, but I have plenty of “keep your marriage from ending” advice (two equivocally different things), and that might be almost as good.
Psychology Today, October 22, 2012
The truth is, over time, our feelings in our relationships do change. The sparkly and exhilarating rush of falling in love is not permanent. But that does not mean that this feeling disappears; it simply evolves. The idea that the excitement of a relationship is sentenced to only the first months or even years a couple is together is completely false. When it comes to a long-term relationship with a partner we ourselves chose, we can maintain the thrill of being in love, and deepen our feelings of passion and intimacy. However, to do this means avoiding certain behaviors, habits, and traps that couples commonly fall into the longer they stay together. Staying in love means taking the hard road and differentiating from negative past influences. It means challenging our own defenses and facing our, often subconscious, fears about intimacy. Fighting for a relationship means being stubborn about not getting in our own way of staying close to someone else. Here are six tips that I have found to help couples stand the test of time.
Love, Sex, Relationships and the Brain: Does neuroscience hold the key to a lifetime of passionate love?
Psychology Today, October 18, 2012
The qualities of true, romantic love have inspired playwrights, poets, and philosophers throughout the ages. Love is an ideal; an inspiration — a feeling of passion and commitment that adds richness and joy to life. A loving relationship provides a secure base from which to grow, expand and explore the world. Yet, until recently, we did not know for sure whether romantic love could last, or whether it inevitable transformed into companionate love — enduring friendship characterized more by shared interests, commitments and values than passion and excitement. Or, even more disappointing, perhaps love inevitably fades and couples stay together in miserable or passionless relationships because of social convention, convenience, and duty.
Catherine Roscoe Barr, left, and Mana Mansour talk about multi-muscle exercises at Steve Nash Fitness World and Sports Club.
I was so happy to share a little of what I’ve learned along the way through my work as a fitness professional and wellness writer, as well as my voracious appetite for new books and information on how to live your best life.
Everyone talks about fat loss and dieting and this pill and that exercise. But being well is simple.
I shared with Mana what I call The Winning Trifecta of Wellness: actions that produce optimal brain chemistry.
If you strive for optimal brain chemistry, everything else will fall into place.
The Winning Trifecta of Wellness includes stress management, exercise and nutrition.
The effects of stress management, exercise and nutrition on the mind are more powerful than their effects on the body – think of fat loss, muscle tone, flexibility, strength and endurance as pleasant side effects.
The effects on the mind are immediate. You feel happy, alert, positive, creative, vibrant, energetic and confident when you take time to rejuvenate your mind, move your body and provide it with the right fuel.
Once you discover the immediate effects of the Trifecta on your brain chemistry – how you feel – you’ll be more motivated to regularly take time for stress management, exercise and nutrition, much more motivated than working towards long term goals like losing 6 inches or dropping 15 pounds.
See the go! Vancouver segment below.
You can’t control what’s going on in the world around you but you can control how you react to it. Thoughts and feelings are chemical communication in your mind and body so do as much as you can to create a healthy environment, not a toxic stew.
- Take 10 deep breaths
- Start a gratitude journal
- Get out in nature
- Take time to pursue a hobby
- Build community – get together with friends and family, perform random acts of kindness, volunteer your time or money to help others
- Move. Period. Look at housework in a whole new light. Be thankful you have to walk your dog. Dance more. Take a quick stretch break. Do 20 jumping jacks. Walk to as many errands and meetings as possible. Have sex! Anything is better than nothing – just 10 minutes a day will produce positive changes.
- Move as many muscles as possible in as many different ways as possible. Choosing multi-muscle exercises will give you the most bang for your buck, by revving up your metabolism and moving oxygen and nutrients throughout your body.
- Have a contingency plan. Listen to your body and be flexible with your schedule. Some days a vigorous workout, where you break a sweat and get your heart pumping, will feel great. Some days you need gentle movements like a bike ride along the seawall or a restorative yoga class. Sometimes, if I can’t be bothered to drag myself to the gym, I workout in my living room. If I’m too tired or running too late for a morning workout, I’ll workout right before I eat lunch, and if that fails, I’ll workout right before I eat dinner.
- Choose fresh and un-processed products – if you do this, you can’t go wrong
- Shopping local, sustainable and seasonal may cost you a little more in the short term but the long term benefits to your health and wellbeing are priceless, not to mention the deposits into your karmic bank account by supporting your planet and community.
- Every time you make a purchase, you’re voting with your money. When you purchase local, sustainable, seasonal, free-range, organic, un-processed foods, you’re voting for the humane treatment of animals and products that aren’t pumped full of hormones or sprayed with chemicals.
- Also, by knowing where your ingredients come from and preparing most meals from scratch you can control what you’re putting in your body and eliminate as many chemicals, fillers and junk as possible.
- Hydrate with water! Drink a glass when you first wake up because you’re likely dehydrated and keep drinking throughout the day. If you’re not keen, try making it more fun by adding citrus, cucumber or frozen berries or have a mug of hot water with a squeeze of lemon.
- Fuel your body throughout the day, especially after a workout and after fasting overnight – going to bed on an empty stomach improves sleep quality because your body is able to focus on repair and rejuvenation, not digestion.
- Ideal day of eating: 7AM, 10AM, 1PM, 4PM, 7PM = 12 hour fast
- Eating every 3 hours ensures that your blood sugar levels stay steady
- Spreading calorie intake throughout the day increases metabolism and also helps you to avoid binge eating and poor choices because you’re starving
So, forget about the long-term goals and focus on the now. Focus on how you feel. Don’t make weight loss your new year’s resolution – resolve to feel good by creating optimal brain chemistry through stress management, exercise and nutrition.
By making optimal brain chemistry your new year’s resolution, you can immediately feel energized, positive, creative, happy and vibrant – and fat loss, muscle tone, flexibility, strength and endurance will be icing on the cake of health and happiness!
Last January, the lovely Dawn Chubai told me about a new workout called Ugi. I went to investigate for myself and co-founder Sara Shears led me through a workout at her former studio in South Granville, which I wrote about for BCLiving.ca. Read the full story here.
The Ugi at home system – currently on sale for$169, regularly $189 – has quickly become my go-to workout. I love how challenging it is (I call it hysterically hard), varied it is (the DVD and workout book have 5 different workouts), it only takes 30 minutes, and I can do it in my living room or anywhere I can carry the Ugi ball to.
Here are some highlights from the BCLiving.ca story:
- Developed by Vancouver celebrity trainer Sara Shears
- 30 exercises, 30 minutes, and just one piece of equipment – the Ugi ball
- Barefoot training is encouraged to challenge the underused muscles in the ankles and feet
- Ugi stands for “you’ve got it!” You’ve got the tools, you’ve got the power, and now you’ve got it, so show it off!
- The at home system includes a Ugi ball (which comes in six fun colours and 6-, 8-, 10- or 12-pound weights), a DVD with five total body workouts (drawing from 140 exercises), a Ugi workout flipbook with pictures of the exercises, a healthy eating guide, access to Ugi’s online exercise library, and a smartphone app that provides an interval timer for the workouts
- The initial intention was solely an at-home workout but the concept proved so popular that Ugi has taken off and landed in studios, gyms, bootcamps, schools, and even seniors’ centres around the world
It was just my husband and I for the holidays this year and I miraculously made the perfect amount of everything for Christmas dinner.
I bought a 4.3 kg local, antibiotic-free, grain-fed turkey from JD Farms Specialty Turkey, and for four days we ate turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
All that was left today was a large handful of leftover turkey, which I planned on doing something with for lunch.
I felt like staying in my pajamas – not going to the grocery store – so I endeavoured to make lunch with what we had on hand: whole wheat pitas, BBQ sauce, a tin of pizza sauce, a red onion, and cheese.
I cut the turkey into the teeniest, tiniest pieces and mixed it with BBQ sauce, and there was the perfect amount for four pita pizzas. Four super delicious pita pizzas!
- 1 1/2 cups turkey, chopped
- 2 tbsp BBQ sauce
- 1 small tin pizza sauce
- 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups grated cheese
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Pick through turkey to make sure there are no bones or cartilage, and chop into small pieces.
- In small bowl, combine turkey and BBQ sauce.
- Place two pitas each on two baking trays.
- Spread 1/4 of pizza sauce on each pita and top with 1/4 of turkey, 1/4 of red onion and 1/4 of cheese.
- Place baking sheets side by side on middle shelf of oven and cook pizzas for 10 minutes.
- Turn broiler on high and cook for 3 more minutes, until cheese begins to brown and bubble.
- Remove pizza from oven and let cool for at least 3 minutes before cutting into quarters and serving.
The cover image of Dearie, pictured above, was taken by Paul Child. Used here with permission from Bob Spitz.
Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, by Bob Spitz, was an enormous (576 pages) yet wonderful and captivating book. I didn’t know much about Julia Child going in – I know, I know, it’s crazy – but was absolutely fascinated to learn about her life, and Bob Spitz told her story with such respect and spunk.
I adored this book and am both looking forward to reading more by Spitz and more about Child. What a firecracker of a woman she was!
Here are five rules to live by that I gleaned from her life through the book.
1. Be confident in who you are. She seemed to have incredible self-confidence and a capacity to quickly charm people into her corner by being authentic, friendly and open.
2. Follow your heart, gut and stomach. She sought pleasure and passion at every turn – through the incredible love of her husband Paul, the conviction that she could learn to cook and teach others to do the same, and food, glorious food.
3. Seek out friendship and companionship. The Childs always seemed to have either friends over for dinner or dinner dates with friends. Even after her husband was moved into a long-term care facility and after his passing she regularly sought out social engagements with a very wide circle of friends.
4. Stay positive and uplift others even in the face of tragedy or discord. Nothing seemed to get this woman down! She seemed to keep her eye on the desire to live a life highlighted by happiness.
5. It’s never too late to discover your life’s purpose. Her journey to becoming The French Chef really struck a chord with me, as I struggled with finding a fulfilling career throughout my 20s. She didn’t even learn to cook until she was in her 30s and was 50 when she made her first TV appearance.
In Good news about good news, writer Misty Harris shares “that happiness craves an audience” and quotes researcher Nathaniel Lambert: “When you show others that you’re a safe person to share their good news with, you make a huge deposit in their emotional bank account,” says Lambert. “Being an active, constructive listener is one of the least utilized, least-taught skills there is.” Pictured above, my husband is always willing to lend an ear and make a deposit in my emotional bank account.
Globe and Mail, October 29, 2012
Can a little bit of exercise make you smarter? Or, stated more precisely, can regular activity help slow the cognitive declines associated with aging? A small but intriguing study suggests that the answer to those two questions is Yes. “The message from this research is that exercise is not just good for your heart, it’s good for your brain,” Dr. Martin Juneau, director of prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute, said in an interview. “If you’re looking for a little bit more motivation to exercise, hopefully this is it.”
New York Times, October 26, 2012
Remaining physically active as you age, a new study shows, may help protect parts of your brain from shrinking, a process that has been linked to declines in thinking and memory skills. Physical exercise not only protected against such age-related brain changes, but also had more of an effect than mentally and socially stimulating activities. In the new report, published in the journal Neurology, a team at the University of Edinburgh followed more than 600 people, starting at age 70. The subjects provided details on their daily physical, mental and social activities.
Vancouver Sun, October 25, 2012
A team of experts has cooked up a new book that interweaves scientific facts about brain health with some tips on lifestyle choices in an effort to reduce users’ likelihood of developing dementia. The e-book, called “Mindfull,” was inspired by a belief that scientific information about brain health hasn’t been presented in a way that people can incorporate into their daily lives, said co-author Carol Greenwood, a scientist and professor of nutrition and brain health.
Vancouver Sun, October 25, 2012
Everyone knows misery loves company, but a new study shows that happiness craves an audience as well. And in this case, there are rewards. Researchers find that sharing good news amplifies its positive benefits, above and beyond the pleasure that comes from reliving the event and the social interaction itself. The boost is so powerful, in fact, that individuals who impart uplifting news to another person at least twice a week report greater life satisfaction than those who simply journal their good news with the same frequency. The hitch, however, is that not just any company will do: the listener must be someone who responds in an enthusiastic and supportive way.
New York Times, October 24, 2012
Is laughter a kind of exercise? That offbeat question is at the heart of a new study of laughing and pain that emphasizes how unexpectedly entwined our bodies and emotions can be. For the study, which was published this year in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers at Oxford University recruited a large group of undergraduate men and women. They then set out to make their volunteers laugh. Most of us probably think of laughter, if we think of it at all, as a response to something funny — as, in effect, an emotion. But laughter is fundamentally a physical action.
New York Times, October 17, 2012
Just as we were all settling in front of the television to watch the baseball playoffs, two new studies about the perils of sitting have spoiled our viewing pleasure. The research, published in separate medical journals this month, adds to a growing scientific consensus that the more time someone spends sitting, especially in front of the television, the shorter and less robust his or her life may be. To reach that conclusion, the authors of one of the studies, published in the October issue of The British Journal of Sports Medicine, turned to data from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, a large, continuing survey of the health habits of almost 12,000 Australian adults.
Clockwise, from bottom left: fig and olive tapenade, blue cheese and caramelized onion dip, oat and seed Raincoast Oat Crisps, and oat and rosemary raisin Raincoast Oat Crisps
I am so blessed to have the most beautiful, brilliant girlfriends, and many of them live in the same city as I do. Once a month, one group of gals I lovingly refer to as the GNOs (for Girls Night Out) gets together somewhere around town or at one of our residences for some good-old-girl-talk over food and drinks.
October’s event was at my place and I made a signature cocktail and two fabulous appetizers.
For the cocktail, I tried to replicate one I had at an event at Reflections in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia. It was amazing, a revelation – Disaronno amaretto, pear nectar, lemon juice and cardamom. The cardamom was surprising and totally delicious.
Since then, the hotel has kindly shared the real recipe (I used ground cardamom, which I don’t recommend because although still very tasty, it’s a bit gritty), which you’ll find below.
For the appetizers, I made two dips from The Lesley Stowe Fine Foods Cookbook, an awesome cookbook and one of my favourites (her black bean linguine with prawns has become a staple of my kitchen repertoire).
I served both dips with Stowe’s new Raincoast Oat Crisps, the gluten-free version of her famous Raincoast Crisps, which currently come in two flavours: oat and seed, and oat and rosemary raisin.
This was the first time I made Stowe’s blue cheese and caramelized onion dip and it turned out incredibly good. The stinky cheese and sweet onions were a lovely match.
I love Bleu Bénédictin Cheese, which is made by Benedictine monks at the Fromagerie de L’Abbaye Saint-Benoît in Quebec, Farmhouse Natural Cheeses’ Castle Blue Cheese, made in Agassiz, and Moonstruck Organic Cheese’s Beddis Blue, made on Salt Spring Island.
The olive and fig tapenade is one of my go-tos for entertaining, it’s always a hit with its combination of sweet and salty.
Hope you enjoy!
Pear and Cardamom Coupe Cocktail
The cocktail menu at the Disaronno Contemporary Terrace event at Reflections Lounge (left), and my homemade version of the Pear and Cardamom Coupe cocktail.
- 2 oz Disaronno amaretto
- 2 oz pear nectar (I used Triple Jim’s Organic Pear Juice, made in Chilliwack, purchased at Urban Fare)
- 3 cardamom pods, muddled
- 1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Combine all ingredients in a pitcher, stirring well.
- Strain into an old fashioned glass, over ice, and garnish with a slice of pear.
Olive and Fig Tapenade
- 1 cup Mission figs, quartered
- 1 cup pitted nicoise olives or other brined black olives
- 1 tbsp capers, drained
- 1 large clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- In food processor, roughly chop figs.
- Add olives, capers, garlic, and thyme, pulsing until combined and slightly coarse.
- Add oil and lemon juice, pulsing to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper.
Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Dip
- 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 3 oz blue cheese
- 6 oz cream cheese
- 4 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Heat olive oil in small frying pan over medium-low heat.
- Add onion, cover and cook until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Let cool.
- Whisk together mayonnaise and sour cream in a medium bowl.
- Add blue cheese and cream cheese and mash with rubber spatula until smooth.
- Stir in caramelized onion.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Starring Jonny Weston, Gerard Butler and Elisabeth Shue
Opens October 26, 2012
Starring Denzel Washington, John Goodman and Don Cheadle
Opens November 2, 2012
Silver Linings Playbook
Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro
Opens November 21, 2012
A Late Quartet
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener
Opens November 23, 2012
Playing for Keeps
Starring Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel and Dennis Quaid
Opens December 7, 2012
Starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland
Opens December 21
Starring Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy and Jon Favreau
Opens February 8, 2013
Starring Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough and Cobie Smulders
Opens February 8, 2013
Starring Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford and Christopher Meloni
Opens April 12, 2013
No need to exercise “like a maniac” says the Globe and Mail’s Andrew Picard in Why the sedentary life is killing us. “Activity really matters – to your heart, to your brain, to your bones and to your sexual health.” In the picture above, taken at a Semperviva Yoga retreat, I’m celebrating hiking to the top of Mount Galiano on Galiano Island, BC.
Globe and Mail, October 15, 2012
“You may think you can get by on four or five hours of sleep, but your fat cells beg to differ. Lack of shut-eye reduces fat cells’ ability to respond to insulin, a hormone that regulates energy, researchers have found. In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, participants were limited to 4-and-a-half hours in bed each night. After four nights of reduced sleep, their fat cells behaved like those of obese people and patients with Type 2 diabetes.”
Globe and Mail, October 15, 2012
“Sitting is the new smoking. Get used to that expression because you’re going to be hearing it a lot. Inactivity has become public enemy No. 1. The reason sedentary behaviour is so worrisome is well-illustrated by a new study, published on Monday. The research, led by Dr. Emma Wilmot of the diabetes research group at the University of Leicester in Britain, analyzed 18 existing studies involving almost 800,000 people. The paper, published in the medical journal Diabetologia, compared disease rates between the most active and least active among a broad cross-section of adults.”
Globe and Mail, August 28, 2012
“Jamie Burr is not one to sit around – not even when he’s meeting with colleagues at the University of Prince Edward Island, where he’s a kinesiology professor in the faculty of applied human sciences. An expert in the health effects of inactivity and a proponent of “walk-and-talk” meetings, Dr. Burr maintains that moving around makes your brain work better. “Research shows that it’s not just fitness that’s important for overall health but that sedentary time can have negative health consequences,” he adds. “People shouldn’t be sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time. Doing so affects everything from mental health to the musculo-skeletal system to cardiovascular health and brain health.”
New York Times, August 29, 2012
“Can people become better, more efficient runners on their own, merely by running? That question, seemingly so innocuous, is remarkably divisive at the moment, with running experts on one side suggesting that runners should be taught a specific, idealized running form, while opponents counter that the best way to run is whatever way feels right to you. Little published science, however, has been available on the subject of whether runners need technical instruction or naturally intuit the skill. Now a timely new study suggests that new runners eventually settle into better running form — just by running more.”
New York Times, August 27, 2012
“What would it take to persuade you to exercise? A desire to lose weight or improve your figure? To keep heart disease, cancer or diabetes at bay? To lower your blood pressure or cholesterol? To protect your bones? To live to a healthy old age? You’d think any of those reasons would be sufficient to get Americans exercising, but scores of studies have shown otherwise. It seems that public health experts, doctors and exercise devotees in the media — like me — have been using ineffective tactics to entice sedentary people to become, and remain, physically active.”
Huffington Post, October 15, 2012
“Both professional athletes and weekend warriors alike hydrate themselves silly with any number of sport drinks, electrolyte-enhanced waters, gels, blocks, or jelly beans. Gatorade and similar products can be purchased at any grocery store, gas station, hardware store, or vending machine. Beyond athletes, these specialized hydration drinks are used by other laborers as well as the public in general. We have fully embraced the ideas of hydration and proper nutrition. The revolution has come, and what was once radical is now mainstream. What was the advantage of a few is now in the hands of many. Sure, there will be variants and nuance when it comes how we achieve our proper nutrition and hydration balance, but this is largely academic (and clever marketing). So what will be the next big performance revolution?”
Sports Illustrated, December 26, 1960
“Beginning more than 2,500 years ago, from all quarters of the Greek world men thronged every four years to the sacred grove of Olympia, under the shadow of Mount Cronus, to compete in the most famous athletic contests of history—the Olympian games. During the contest a sacred truce was observed among all the states of Greece as the best athletes of the Western world competed in boxing and foot races, wrestling and chariot races for the wreath of wild olive which was the prize of victory. When the winners returned to their home cities to lay the Olympian crowns in the chief temples they were greeted as heroes and received rich rewards. For the Greeks prized physical excellence and athletic skills among man’s great goals and among the prime foundations of a vigorous state.”