30 Apr

day 94: EIAJ

Sorry blog ladies but there is something that I just don’t get the appeal of: Oats in a Jar. I don’t know who started this phenomenon but it can be seen here, here, here, here, here, and probably a lot of other blog posts. The idea is that when you’ve finished off a jar of nut butter, you put your cooked oats into the empty jar and eat them from it, adding any toppings you like. Maybe someone can explain what’s so great about it? The jar is sticky and you can’t get your hand in it to scrape the jar bottom. Given the choice I’d much prefer to eat my oats in a cute ceramic bowl. There’s no luxury in a plastic jar. I leave it to Bagigis.

Let’s try something else in a jar: Poached Eggs in a Jar. I heart eggs.

I got this idea from my Cooked in Africa cookbook which has a recipe for poached eggs in a tin cup. But unfortunately I don’t have a tin cup so I used a mason jar instead.

This takes quite a bit longer than just dropping the eggs in boiling water, but it makes for a really cute presentation. And they’re portable (making them almost made me late for work this morning, so I just screwed on the lid and brought them with me!).

I topped mine with sea salt, black pepper, mustard seeds, thyme, and capers. Yummy!

29 Apr

day 93: week 13 check-in

Okay, so technically my month 3 weigh in should have been last week, but since I was visiting my sister in Chicago I never got around to posting. I’ll compare today’s stats to my previous two months results.

Start: Month 1: Month 2: Month 3: Overall Change:
Weight 153.6 lb 150.6 lb 146.8 lb 149.4 lb – 4.2lb
Body Fat % 33.0% 31.7% 30.3% 31.3% – 4.0lb
Muscle Mass % 33.0% 33.6% 34.3% 33.8% – 0.2lb
Waist 81 cm 79 cm 78 cm 78 cm – 3cm

Yikes. I knew this month would be bad. I’m off the elimination diet that my naturopath put me on and I’ve been really letting myself go wild on the weekends again.

On the plus side, my numbers are all down from day 1 (I guess that’s not really a plus for my muscle mass, but .2lbs is nothing to sweat over).

So here is my goal for May: BEWARE the Weekend.

Here’s an interesting, albeit blatantly obvious fact: the weekend is 2 days long and the work week is 5. That means, excluding Friday nights, the weekend is 29% of the week. Throw in Friday night and the weekend makes up EXACTLY one third of the week.

So if I’m letting myself eat uncontrollably on the weekend that means I’m practically throwing away all the hard work I’ve done, regaining much of what I’ve lost, and being left with only a couple of days to make a real impact in my diet. I really am working for the weekend and it has to stop.

So here’s my plan of attack for the weekend:

keep hydrated. Easy during the week when I sit at a desk and sip water all day, tough on the weekend when I’m running errands all day. I guess I’ll have to keep my water bottle on me as often as possible.

plan my meals. If I’m staying in, great! If not, I’ll check a restaurant’s website before going out and scan for healthier meal options or pick the unhealthy choice that I’m hankering for and adjust my other meals during the day.

plan my snacks. I don’t usually get around to snacking on the weekends which leaves me starved at meals and looking for the quickest possible source of food (which is usually something from the junk cupboard)

treat myself on special occasions. If there’s a reason to celebrate then I’ll have a dessert or an extra drink, but no indulgence otherwise. Isn’t cake so much sweeter when you’re having it for a reason?

I’d love to hear your tips on how else I can stop chasing my weekend weight gain!

28 Apr

day 92: cleansing body & mind

Since Monday I have been doing a “Green Smoothie Cleanse” much like what I was doing on the weekends during Lent. Basically that means that for 3 meals a day I drink a smoothie primarily made up of greens (swiss chard or spinach in this case since that’s that I have at home) with fruit and nuts/seeds. I also add in 1 scoop of protein powder a day to supplement my weightlifting.

What’s in it?

My usual smoothie formula is:

3-5 cups greens
+ 1 fresh fruit
+ 1 svg dried fruit
+ 1 tbsp nuts/seeds
OR 1/4 avocado
+ 1 tsp spices

I like to add in dried fruit for extra sweetness especially if my fresh fruit isn’t at its ripest. Usually I will add 1 tsp of fish oil to one of my smoothies a day.

What’s the point?

-I end up consuming more servings of fruit and veggies than I would on a normal day. Especially leafy greens which are rich in minerals and vitamins like K, C, and E

-Produce is alkalinizing. An acidic pH in the body contributes to a host of health problems from osteoporosis to cancer.

Check out this table of acidifying/alkalinizing foods.

-I can give my digestive system a rest without fasting. I get loads of nutrients in a liquid form which is easily absorbed by the body.

-It reduces bloating and keeps me regular.

-It keeps my skin looking healthier.


(source)

In keeping with the cleansing theme today I decided to try to cleanse my mind as well. I’m a pretty pessimistic person and critical of myself; I’m betting that I would be much happier if I could release some of my negativity.

So, I took my very first Mindful Meditation class.  I’m not generally one to take time out of my day for meditation, unless you count staring blankly at my computer when I’m at work (in which case I practice meditation very often).

What did I get out of the class? That I’m not very good at mindful meditation. Not exactly the outcome I had in mind.

I found it really hard to focus on the meditation and spent a lot of tie thinking:

– Man, my feet are asleep.
– I wonder what time it is.
– What colour represents my throat chakra again?
– I wish I had something to eat
before this class.

I guess it’ll take quite a bit of practice to get  it right. I have a bit of a monkey mind.

How do you feel about meditation?

26 Apr

day 90: Indian cooking

In spite of the fact that it rained all weekend, I had a great time visiting my sister in Illinois. Saturday afternoon after a 3 mile power walk, we headed into Chicago to walk around and to take our cooking class.

We got a good deal at the Hyatt so we spent the night in the city. We wanted to take advantage of some of the time that we had before our cooking class, so we asked the concierge what neighbourhoods would be best for some cool shopping. We asked her about Wicker Park and she looked at my brother-in-law and I and said, “Y’all would fit in there.” I wasn’t sure what she was getting at, until we got to the neighbourhood.

so apparently I look like a pot smoking hippie. Or at least someone who would fit in with them.

But I did really like the neighbourhood! Lots of really funky vintage shops and a cool atmosphere. We even found this awesome spa called Mojo with homemade, all natural beauty products. Of course, I went on a bit of a shopping spree.

On to the cooking class. . .

We took a private Indian cooking class at Heat and Spice which was so much fun! It focussed on meat and seafood. We learned the techniques of toasting both dry spices and wet spices (onion, garlic, ginger) to bring out the best flavour of the dishes. Sometimes I find that my Indian dishes are bland, even with all the spices so it was good to learn ways to ramp up the flavour.

The menu consisted of:

Goa Pork Vindaloo (Matt’s favourite)

Moghul Chicken in Saffron Sauce

Banana-Toasted Coconut Raita (my favourite)


Kerala Shrimp in Coconut Curry with Turmeric Basmati Rice (Vicki’s favourite)

The last dish seemed like the easiest to make but that could be because by that point I was tired and pretty much just watching it being made.

23 Apr

day 87: geneva il

I’m currently in Illinois visiting my sister and brother-in-law. As Vicki and Sean were working today, Matt and I went into St. Charles and then into Geneva IL just to browse the shops.

We found this cool bookstore in St. Charles


We found these kids t-shirts when window shopping and I had to take a picture:

And we shopped in more than one grocery store — because that’s just how we roll

I’m amazed that you can buy booze in the grocery store. What a novelty!

Vernor’s Ginger Ale in glass bottles?? Yes please!

I decided to make poached chicken for dinner from a recipe in Vicki’s Julia Child cookbook. The recipe called for leeks. I found them in the produce section of the Jewel-Osco after some careful searching and saw they were 2.99 for a bunch of 3. That’s about what they cost in Windsor, so I didn’t think too much of it. … until I got to the cash register:

Yes, those leeks were actually 2.99/lb and came out to $6.28!!! That’s half of what it cost for the whole chicken that I bought! I told the cashier where to put them (and it didn’t involve my shopping bag). No wonder no one in that place was buying produce. At those prices? I can buy a bottle wine and call it a day. Liquid dinner.

I brought Sean and Vicki a loaf of Multigrain Struan that I made on Wednesday night. I think this might be my most successful bread yet (or maybe I’m just getting better at baking since I seem to say this about every loaf I make). The “multigrains” were cooked millet, quinoa, and wheat kernels. Hello deliciousness.

We’re off to the city tomorrow night for a cooking class! Hopefully I’ll get a chance to blog all about it on Sunday.

21 Apr

day 85: more upper body

Today was day three of my new 4-day weightlifting routine. I didn’t make it out of bed this morning to do my cardio. I was awake, but my body felt like it was superglued to the mattress. I didn’t do cardio after work either. I just skipped it. I suck.

My back is still sore from Monday’s workout so any back exercises I did today were extremely weak, but I motored through it all:

Bench Press (Narrow Grip):      4 sets of 8
Assisted Pull-ups (Wide Grip): 4 sets of 8

Superset: Reverse Flys and Front Raises: 4 sets of 10

Cable Low Row:                                 4 sets of 10
Decline Bench Press (Machine): 4 sets of 10

Superset: Tricep dips and Incline Dumbbell Bicep Curl: 4 sets of 10

Burnout: Tricep Pushups and Chin-ups until failure

My number of reps until failure for the chin-ups was 0. By the end of my workout I was so tired that I couldn’t even do a girlie chin-up. So I ended up doing a couple of negatives (ie. starting at the top of a chin-up and just lowering myself

Tomorrow night Matt and I are headed to visit my sister Vicki and her husband Sean in Geneva Illinois. I’m not sure what Matt and I will be doing while they are at work on Friday. If anyone reads this blog from that area and can make some suggestions, I’m all ears.

On Saturday night we’re heading to Chicago to do an Indian cooking class at Heat and Spice. I’m super stoked for it!

20 Apr

day 84: butter

So my week 12 check in is coming up, putting me exactly halfway to my bikini birthday on July 27th. I’m going to warn you that if my weigh in is anything like what I saw on the scale this morning then it’s gonna look a lot like I’ve wasted 3 months.

But, I took some progress pictures last night (which I probably won’t post) and now that I’m comparing them with my original pictures (which I never posted either) I think I see some improvements in my muscle tone which is EXACTLY what I was hoping for!

After yesterday’s workout my upper body was exhausted during my morning run but I feel much better tonight. That could possibly be because my legs are so sore from today’s lower body workout! Ahhh, I’m loving my new routine already:

Lower Body

Stiff Legged Deadlift –                                           4 sets of 8
Barbell Lunges –                                                     4 sets of 10
Vertical Hack Press –                                           4 sets of 10
Barbell Squats with knees & feet together -4 sets of 10
Seated Leg Curl –                                                    4 sets of 10
One-legged Deadlift –                                           3 sets of 8
Glute-Ham Raise –                                                 3 sets of 8
Weighted V-ups –                                                   3 sets of 12
Leg raises on the Roman Chair –                      3 sets of 12

Today at the gym I overheard a girl talking to her trainer about grocery shopping. She said:

“I needed butter, but I bought that Becel instead.”

To which the trainer replied:

“Good!!”

Really?? What’s wrong with good old fashioned butter? Okay, so I know that butter is higher in calories and fat than margarine. But, is it just me, or wouldn’t you rather use a little bit of rich-tasting butter made with cream and salt than a food-product that tastes like plastic and is made with chemicals you can’t even pronounce?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So inspired by this conversation, my hankering for lamb, and Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food I made Herb-Butter Lamb Loin Chops for dinner with a side of Minted Peas that I cooked in (you guessed it) butter.

19 Apr

day 83: oh my aching back.

I’m lying on my back on a hard floor as I type this hoping it will provide some sort of relief to my entire upper body which is absolutely killing after today’s workout. I could barely turn the steering wheel as I drove home from the gym tonight.

I changed my weightlifting routine today after 12 weeks of the same ‘ole, same ‘ole and my body is not happy. This is muscular confusion at its finest. I probably spent as much time lifting weights as I did dropping F-bombs during my workout today– yes, I admit that I am a gym foul-mouth (luckily the gym is age appropriate).

I hate how I feel right now. But I really love it. There’s nothing better than exhausting day at the gym floor. I just hope I’m not so sore that I can’t sleep tonight.

Here’s what I did:

4 sets of 8-10 reps of the following exercises

Regular Sets: Incline Bench Press
T-bar Row
Super Set: Lat Pulldown
Straight Arm Pull-down
Regular Sets: Dumbbell Chest Flys
Upright Row
Super Set: Preacher Curls
Kickbacks
Burnout: Push-ups to fatigue

The weight amounts were kinda all over the place because I was experimenting to figure out how much I could lift.

I hadn’t been doing any supersets in my last programme, and I wanted to incorporate them in this time around.

I love working my back muscles. What`s your favourite muscle to work?

18 Apr

day 82: time for a new programme

This weekend has been awesome.  Last night Matt and I had my friend Daniel as our dinner guest and I’m sitting here chowing some leftover fattoush from the Lebanese inspired dinner that I cooked.

Fattoush is basically a big chop salad with bits of seasoned pita in it and whatever veggies you feel like adding (usually romaine, tomatoes, radishes, cucumber, mint, and green onion). The dressing is pretty simple.

Fattoush Dressing (for a huge salad)

  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 tbsp sumac
  • 1/4-1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic crushed with sea salt

I love having people over for dinner. Especially when I haven’t seen them in months because they’ve been off exploring beautiful, exotic, and dangerous places like South Africa. Especially when they have some great stories to tell. And especially when they bring me back a cookbooks from said places.

I’d say I’m pretty adventurous in the kitchen, but this book might prove a challenge because it’s filled with ingredients that I can barely pronounce (my Afrikaans is a wee bit rusty) and never knew existed (I anticipate I’ll have difficulty getting my hands on the meat from the neck of an antelope). Nevertheless there are some pretty sweet recipes in here that I’m definitely going to try, like this little ditty which involves injecting vodka into a watermelon and chilling it before cutting it up.

Nothing excites me more than getting a new cookbook!


So I have officially completed my 12 week weightlifting programme. I did the same exercises for 12 weeks and every 4 weeks I decreased the number of repetitions and increased the amount of weight.

I’m really happy with my progress.In the past 4 weeks alone I’ve seen some pretty decent improvements in most of my sets, and I’m especially happy about my new “pull-up” ability.

Here’s the progress report of my calculated 1-Rep Max (excluding any ab and lower back work):

Upper Body
Exercise Week 8 – Week 12 – Improvement
1 Rep Max 1 Rep Max
Bench Press 125 lb 122 lb -2.40%
Bent-over Barbell Row 110 lb 122 lb 10.91%
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 41 lb 41 lb 0.00%
Skull Crushers 64 lb 65 lb 1.56%
Barbell Curl 62 lb 64 lb 3.23%
Chest Dips 184 lb 184 lb 0.00%
Pullups 134 lb 151 lb 12.69%
Lateral Raises 23 lb 23 lb 0.00%
Tricep Pushdown 105 lb 107 lb 1.90%
Cable Curls 93 lb 105 lb 12.90%
Dumbbell Shrugs 99 lb 87 lb -12.12%
Lower Body
Exercise Week 8 – Week 12 – Improvement
1 Rep Max 1 Rep Max
Barbell Squat 186 lb 192lb 3.23%
Deadlift 168 lb 169 lb 0.60%
Leg Extension 155 lb 180 lb 16.13%
Lying Leg Curls 81 lb 87 lb 7.41%
Standing Calf Raises 428 lb 447 lb 4.44%
Leg Press 422 lb 447 lb 5.92%
Dumbbell Lunges 50 lb 51 lb 2.00%
Seated Calf Raises 192 lb 198 lb 3.13%

So now it’s back to the drawing board for me to come up with a new programme. I’ve been sifting through some websites to try to put something together that has exercises that I didn’t incorporate into my last 12 week routine, including maybe some supersets and some burn-out sets. If you can recommend anything that you love to do at the gym, please let me know.

16 Apr

day 80: peanuts

To know me is to know that I love all things peanut. Raw peanuts, shelled peanuts, salted peanuts, roasted peanuts, beer nuts, and especially peanut butter (even the processed stuff!). So imagine my delight when I “HAD TO” reintroduce peanuts back into my diet to see if I have any sensitivities. I eliminated peanuts during my cleansing diet per my naturopath’s request, but I had actually stopped eating peanut butter even before that. There was a full jar in my cupboard that I refused to open not long after starting my bikini birthday programme.

So yesterday I finally dug the peanut butter bears, Smoothie and Crunchy (did you know they had names?), out of hibernation and we rekindled our love affair.

Instead of just diving into the jar with a spoon, I decided to actually try to use the peanut butter as an ingredient rather than a main dish. I came across this African inspired recipe from Michael Smith and thought “Peanut butter AND soup? This is too good to be true.” And it was.

Curried Butternut Squash Peanut Butter Soup
(Adapted From FoodNetwork.ca)

Ingredients

  • 2 stalks of chopped celery
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 c. each butternut squash, sweet potato, and carrot, all peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Sauté the celery and garlic in the olive oil until they soften and smell great. Add the curry powder, salt, and pepper and stir for a few minutes.

Add the squash and add water just to cover. Cook until the squash softens, about 30 minutes.

Add the peanut butter and puree until smooth. Taste and season with salt.

I topped the soup with some toasted peanuts and pepitas for some extra crunch. So good!


This morning when I got up I headed for the peanut butter jar once again and came up with a crazy (but DELICIOUS) concoction. Pear, protein, and peanut butter. I thought this was a really good alternative to oatmeal.

3 P’s Breakfast Bowl


(236 calories, approx 4 g fat, 27 g protein, 29 g carbs)

Directions

Cut the pear into cubes (peel it first if you want a creamier consistency, but I like the taste and nutrients in the skin). Put into a bowl and microwave on high for 1:30.

The pear will soften and the juices will be released.

Add the protein and peanut butter and stir vigorously (or blend with a handmixer for a creamier consistency)

Enjoy!


I have read that peanuts are high in pesticides and often contain aflatoxin, a potent carcinogenic mold, but I think the benefits of peanuts outweigh the risks.

Here’s what Dr. Weil has to say about aflatoxins:

Source

The lowest amounts [of aflatoxins] were found in the big supermarket brands such as Peter Pan, Jif and Skippy. The highest levels were found in peanut butter ground fresh in health food stores.


The U.S. government tests crops for aflatoxin and doesn’t permit them to be used for human or animal food if they contain levels over 20 parts per billion. While we don’t know much about the dangers of long-term exposure to low levels of aflatoxin, my colleague Kathleen Johnson, a dietician here at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, points out that there hasn’t been an outbreak of liver cancer among U.S. kids, who as you know, consume enormous amounts of peanut butter.

If you love peanuts, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t continue to eat them – and peanut butter – in moderation. While they’re really legumes, not true nuts, peanuts (and peanut butter) do contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. However, I still prefer almond butter and cashew butter, because they have a better fatty acid profile. And for snacking, I tend to choose raw, unsalted cashews, almonds or walnuts (an omega-3 source). If you do go for peanut butter, look for brands containing only peanuts or peanuts and salt (such as Laura Scudder’s and Adams). Avoid those with hydrogenated oils, sugar and other additives.