Archives for January 2016

What does “Wellness” mean to me?

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I will be honest, this post is a contest entry. BUT, in order to enter the contest, I have to explain what wellness means to me. Motives aside, this is definitely an important question to ponder and reflect on and I am so happy that The Healthy Maven, Run to the Finish and Fit Foodie Finds have made me stop to think about this. In my last job, I ran the wellness program in our HR department and I often talked at length with my colleagues about what “wellness” meant. It was quickly apparent that it means different things to different people, no doubt. In the case of our job, we had to learn to separate what wellness meant to us and what we wanted it to look like, from what the organization saw wellness as (and all the complications that came with working in a large organization with a lot of complex policies, budgetary restraints, etc). That being said, our jobs may have been easier if we had just had someone tell us what wellness meant in this context.

This makes me think, because I often talk about my passion for wellness, but I haven’t exactly defined what it means to me, my perspective and where all of my actions come from. Takes me back to my undergraduate years and always making sure my research papers had an operational definition. How can I go about living my life a certain way without a starting point, a concrete philosophy to leap from? Not to say that these things cannot be flexible in the way they can’t be in a research paper. I think wellness is such a personal thing and as we grow and evolve, it makes sense that our definition of it may be a bit plastic as well.

As a classic Type “A”, I definitely struggle with letting perfectionism go. This is hard for me, because I truly used to see wellness as having a perfect body, eating a perfect diet, having perfect work/life balance. However, I (thankfully) have learned that this is not possible, and defining wellness that way is only going to achieve the opposite of what I want it to be.

I came across this saying a few years back and it definitely hits close to home and has become my mantra when it comes to my health and wellness:
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BUT, to put it in my own words; Wellness is about treating my body and mind with respect, activity and nourishment. Wellness is being emotionally present, aware and connected to myself and to others. It is having a positive relationship with my home and work environments, as well as with nature. Wellness is flourishing, living happily, healthily, holistically, and with gratitude.  It is not comparing myself to others but to personal milestones, and how far I have come, whether I have made progress or taken a few steps back and knowing how to better myself (whether this means taking a mental health break, losing weight, gaining weight, resting, connecting with loved ones). It is about doing my best under the circumstances, and not beating myself up when I can’t do my best (like today when I ran very slowly through the rain). It is fostering my ability to live life to its fullest while understanding that the good and bad must co-exist. It is about being me, it is about being okay with it.

To be able to spend a week at Wellfit Malibu would be an incredible experience, a chance to step back from the current chaos, and press the reset button on my health goals. It would be a chance to remind myself to really take care of ME and be in the moment. It would be a dream come true!
#WellnessThatFitsYou

Raw/Vegan Key Lime Pie Mousse

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Is anyone else still craving holiday treats or is it just me? Maybe it’s because I’m not working right now, or perhaps it is because it’s cold and grey out, but I also suspect that it may be directly correlated to binge-watching “Scandal” for hours every night. What is it about a good netflix binge that makes me just want to pig out?

Luckily, since I’m currently not working I have enough time to experiment with recipes and make delicious yummy treats, which is how I came up with this one!

I originally made this in the food processor but I found it a little too fibrous for me still so I threw it in my blender to make it extra creamy. I’ll leave the process vs. blender choice up to you. I got this idea from various raw key lime pie recipes I saw online as well as from this delicious Avocado Chocolate Mousse from Chocolate Covered Katie. As Katie points out Avocados are quite the super food- they are low in sugar and loaded with fibre, vitamins and minerals. Avocados are a great evening snack in my opinion because they leave me feeling full, and not ravenous for any junk I can get my hands on.

I know, I know, it’s not exactly Key Lime pie season, and I’m definitely not in the Keys. However, I think this is why my mind was thinking about a treat like this. I also can’t technically call this “Key Lime” because it doesn’t have any actual key limes, but forgive me just this once. Once I find some key limes I will definitely try it out with them.

Not only is this mousse good for you and satisfying because it is full of healthy fats, it’s also low in sugar and tastes a little bit like sunshine. Perfect winter couch indulgence. I can almost hear the waves and feel the ocean breeze….

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Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados

1 ripe banana

1/2 cup coconut cream (place a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight, the cream will separate and harden making it easier to scoop out)

Juice from 2 limes

1 tsp. lime zest

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

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Instructions:

Place all ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender and process/blend until smooth. Serve immediately. Store any leftovers in fridge (if you have any!) for a maximum of 3 days. It’s that easy I swear!

 

27 Kilometres for 27 Years

With an early January birthday, I often feel that my birthday is the REAL beginning of a new year, because it is literally a new year, at least for me. I find it hard to believe that as of last Thursday, I am now in my 28th year of life. The highlight of my day may have been when my mum FaceTimed me from school and had her entire kindergarten class sing “happy birthday” to me. The most endearing part of this is when they did the “are you 1, are you 2, ” part and the kids stopped counting at 9. I’m not sure if they just didn’t know how to count beyond 9 or if they just couldn’t imagine that their teacher had a “kid” over the age of 9. With a bit of coaxing, they (exhaustingly) made it to 27, and I think I heard one kid say “wow!” haha. I hear ya kid, when I was that age, if someone said “27” I would have thought wow too. Yet here I am, now in my LATE twenties, when most days I still feel about…14.

I will say, as I mentioned around New Years, I’m always amazed at how quickly time seems to pass as I grow up. With each year, it just seems to go faster and 26 FLEW by, and what a year it was. Being in the latter half of my 20s has without a doubt been such an amazing stage of my life thus far. Of course it  has had its challenges, but I am so acutely aware and have enough perspective to know that these challenges are often somewhat juvenile, and in the grand scheme of things, life in my 20s has been truly charmed and dare I say “easy” (I’m being really positive today guys).

As 27 approached, and I thought about how I would like to ring in my own personal new year I knew that I wanted to start this year off by challenging myself more than I had the year before. I got the idea from a camp friend of mine who is always a big advocate for pushing yourself and making yourself better through it all. With a few big goal races in mind this year, I decided to start the year off with a big challenge of running 27km, a single kilometre for each of the 27 years I have spent on this planet. While my camp friend often does her birthday run in MILES (so impressed) I’m not quite there, but 27km would definitely be a challenge for me, and the furthest I had ever run.

So, on the dawn of my 27th birthday, I set out with a running buddy and long time friend of mine (seriously bless her soul for agreeing to this insanity) to run 27km. I decided ahead of time I would dedicate each kilometer to something that had made an impact on me in my 27th year. I figured that this would give me a reason to get through those tough kilometres when I was struggling and didn’t feel like I could go on. I knew that this would be difficult, but I wasn’t quite expecting how difficult it would actually be. The first 17kms were not that bad, however, since I haven’t really been training distances longer than 12km in QUITE some time, the distance definitely caught up with me and the last 10k was STRUGGLE CITY. All in all though, we did it! Even if that meant having to take some pretty hefty half kilometre walk breaks in the final third of our run. In the end, it felt AMAZING.

Without further ado, this is what got me through each and every kilometre and what made my 27th year one for the books:

Kilometer 1: This one went out to my dear husband (it’s sometimes still weird saying that) and the love and support he brings to my life day in and day out. Thank you for being my best friend, biggest fan and my rock. I absolutely love our little home and the life we are creating together and I can’t wait to see what the next year and all of those after it bring with it.

Kilometer 2: Dedicated to our beautiful fairytale wedding, including all of the stress that went into it and the two weeks of sleepless nights leading up to the big day. I wouldn’t have done it any other way and sometimes I still can’t believe it was real and actually happened.

Kilometre 3: For my running buddy, Sarah who somehow agreed to run 27km with me on a day when it was -3. Who does that? Well, she did, and I absolutely could not have done it without her!

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Kilometre 4: I ran this one for the sport of running. For each and every run that I was able to go on this year and for being better for it after each one. For the deep meditation that comes along with the sport and for every race I ran this year. For the people that I have connected with and re-connected with because of running and the community that I have found within it.

Kilometre 5: For landing an amazing job shortly after my 26th birthday. I work in a pretty niche field and there are not many people who have finished my grad program and ended up in a job actually in the field. Through some incredibly hard work (and having the fortune of “right place, right time” on my side) I landed a dream, adult job in my field with zero connections in the organization. THAT was satisfying.

Kilometre 6: Unfortunately, said dream job was a contract filling in for someone who was on leave. This wasn’t a case where my job could be extended unless the other employee did not come back. So, in December I found myself unemployed again. Kilometre 6 went out to dealing with this frustrating reality and learning to be positive when things didn’t play out the way I wanted them to.

Kilometre 7: This one went out to my colleague Michelle who was my life line over the 10 months at said job. Seriously, I couldn’t have done it without her and I am so grateful for the friendship we formed, which helped me get through the bad and stressful days!

Kilometre 8: Went out to Jose Bautista, because Game 5, need I say more.

Kilometre 9: Went out to my family who is there for me no matter what happens. This includes the family that I was born into and the family that I have chosen as my own. It was definitely a year when I had to lean on all of you and ask for a lot of support and I was met with that and then some, every step of the way.

Kilometre 10: This one was dedicated to our new government. HALLELUJAH!

Kilometre 11: This one went out to my very first grown-up, and probably overly-generous salary. For the first time in my life I was able to save, pay all my bills and then have a solid sum left over for spending. This amazing salary allowed me to do so many great things in my 26th year and I recognize it was a real privilege. This kilometre also went out to the loss of said salary and learning to be okay with it. R.I.P. disposable income

Kilometre 12: This one went out to the beautiful Canadian rockies and the west coast. The beauty of our country is truly something that everyone should see in their lifetime. I am lucky enough that I have seen this area twice now, and it was so special to share that beauty with Zach this year.

Kilometre 13: This one went out to coffee. I don’t need to say anything else really, but living downtown has it’s perks, and FINALLY being able to walk to about 4 different incredible coffee shops in under 5 minutes was definitely a highlight of this past year.

Kilometre 14: Craft beer. 26 was a year of discovering and trying so many amazing beers both here and in the states. Enough said.

Kilometre 15: This one was for our condo, we waited a long time to find the perfect place and it is so great to have a place that we call home in (what we think is) the best neighbourhood in the city.

Kilometre 16: This one was for the sun who decided to shine on the second half of our run, making what could have been a very cold day a little more bearable. Thank you for 27 years of sunlight.

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Kilometre 17: This one went out to my new in-laws who are quite possibly the sweetest people in the world. We may come from very different places, see the world a different way and I may be really LOUD while they are pretty quiet, but I believe these differences make us have a stronger relationship and I was so happy to welcome them into my life as parents this year.

Kilometre 18: This one goes out to kleenex because god knows I cried a lot this year (which wasn’t unique to being 26, but is just me)

Kilometre 19: Went out to my mum who let me and Zach live with her well beyond our stay and gave up so much to help us as we got on our feet independently and for all that she sacrificed to help us make our dream wedding come true.

Kilometre 20: This one went out to airplanes. Airplanes are INCREDIBLE people, how do we forget this? This year airplanes brought me some REALLY special people who I hadn’t seen in a long time, and that was awesome.

Kilometre 21: This one went out to my camp friends (some of whom arrived by said airplanes this year) and having the type of people in my life that I can go years without seeing and still have the closest of relationships with, picking up right where we left off!

Kilometre 22: This one went out to the St. Lawrence Market for bringing me so much joy this year. Food=joy.

Kilometre 23: Went out to my legs. Who just could. not. at this point. But, the pain was a reminder that I am alive and I am able bodied and I am runner. This went out to my legs who carried me to and from work every day and led me to win quite a few “workweek hustle” fitbit challenges this year. Despite their flaws, and my negative feelings that I sometimes project on their appearance, they are truly the greatest thing I own.

Kilometre 24: This one went out for a year of a really healthy mind. I’m not sure that there have been many others in my life that have been this healthy. Of course I had my moments, BUT I believe that is just what we call life. Our mental health is so precious, and I am so grateful to have had such a healthy year.

Kilometre 25: Went out to my Aunt Janet who was so sadly taken from us this year, much too early. Aunt Janet was a force to be reckoned with. She was an incredibly successful and determined business woman who often reminded me to work hard if I want to get where I want to get. I still can’t believe she is gone and I am so happy I was able to spend time with her before her passing.

Kilometre 26: Went out to my country and the gratitude I feel every day for living in a place where I feel safe and have the power to make the choices I want surrounding my life and my body. It was a bit of a scary year and I often have to remind myself how lucky I am to have been born by some random chance in a country like Canada. There are so many other people out there who didn’t get that lucky, and it is so important to remain humble about this.

Kilometre 27: This one was for no one else other than ME. For freaking doing it and running further than I had ever run before and living to tell the story. And for my 28th year and everything it is going to bring. For being the best I can be.

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Easy healthy meals for when you just don’t wannnnnnna

It’s January and it’s the first Monday of the new year and well, that just kind of stinks. I’ve been there, and I’ve experienced that awful feeling of leaving for work when it’s still barely light out and then leaving work and finding it’s already dark again. You may sit in front of a computer all day with little access to natural light and that little light only comes from a window if you’re very very lucky. If you’re like me, you are probably struggling hard right now with breaking that post-Christmas sugar and junk food addiction. Pair all of this with that sadness of returning to a normal routine after a week or so of relaxation, sleep and time with loved ones and you’re left with a perfect recipe for low low energy.

As New Year’s Eve rolls around most of us are inspired to get back on track with health goals whether it’s getting back to the gym or eating well. I am pretty proud of myself for staying active over the holidays but I’m always in need of resetting my eating habits after the holidays. I have a lot of motivation to do this….until Monday rolls around and I just want to come home from work and crawl into my bed and stay there until Spring.

I find days at work really suck the energy out of me, even when I’m inspired to make a healthy change. If I make myself get to the gym after work, I feel pretty good, but I still come home and just do. not. want. to. when it comes to cooking. Take-out and netflix always sound like a better idea!

How do I get through this? If I plan my meals ahead of time and make sure I have all of the ingredients at the beginning of the week, I’m much more likely to come home and cook a healthy meal. However, the key here is that it has to be easy as can be, or more likely than not, I probably will reach for that take out menu.

Without further ado, I present to you my go-to easy-peasy after work struggle healthy meals!

Thai Red Curry

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Photo by Cookie + Kate

I more or less follow this recipe by Cookie + Kate. Only I take a down a notch to make it even easier. I usually eat it over quinoa since I don’t eat much eat much meat, and I find the extra protein in the quinoa keeps me much fuller for longer. I also omit the ginger (hubs does not like fresh ginger), soy sauce, rice vinegar and coconut sugar, though these things would not take too much effort to add in. I find that the key here is the red curry paste that you use. I really don’t like the one that is linked in the original post. I use one that I found at the local market, which is much more flavourful and authentic (and probably why I don’t feel the need to use the other seasonings), you can get it here, just be aware that this paste contains shrimp, so this isn’t a good option if you are a vegetarian. I usually make this recipe with whatever vegetables I have left in my fridge. The hardest part of this recipe is remembering to make the quinoa before you start and the chopping of the veggies. However, it’s not that bad if you do these things ahead of time, or just turn up some tunes and chop away (it takes 15 mins max). Easy as pie and DELICIOUS!

Portobello “burger”

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Photo by www.cookinglight.com

This one is extra simple, and a good way to sneak in some extra veggies while still feeling like you’re eating an indulgent meal. If you’re super motivated, you can marinate a portobello mushroom the night before or in the morning before you go to work and keep it in the fridge. To make the actual burger, all you have to do is throw it on a skillet on medium heat or on the grill until it is juicy and tender. I usually marinate mine with balsamic vinegar, some onion powder and some garlic. The possibilities are endless here but we’re going for simple. Once the mushroom is cooked, I throw it on a piece of bread if I want an open faced burger or a bun (those thin buns work well for this) and top it like a burger. I usually throw on some avocado, salad greens, hummus, caramelized or fresh onions, a slice or two of cheese (omit if vegan), some greens, and this Oh She Glows hemp pesto (I make this every other month and keep it in my fridge for occasions like this). When I have extra energy I’ll even slice up some sweet potato and roast it as a side. BOOM.

Spaghetti Squash

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Photo by www.ohsheglows.com

The convenience of spaghetti without all the carbs and calories. The hardest part of this meal is cutting open the squash. Yes, I’m serious. Cut open a spaghetti squash (this doubles as a workout if you skipped the gym) and scrape out the seeds. Place it open side down on a cookie sheet and poke some holes in the skin. Roast that squash at 400 for about 40 minutes (I know this is a long time but if you do it when you get home it’s not that bad) or until the inside fleshy bits are stringy and cooked. You alternatively could roast this with the flesh up and some seasoning but that’s extra effort. Once done, scoop out the flesh and put it in a bowl. Now top that squash how you would spaghetti. On an adventurous night for me this means with shrimp, sautéed veggies and some marinara. But let’s get real, thats a lot of work. This tastes equally as good with some good old jarred sauce (just look for one with no added sugars!) and a sprinkle of parmesan.

Polenta with eggs and caramelized mushrooms

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Photo by Half Baked Harvest

This one has a few more steps than the others but it is really simple and beyond delicious. Click here for recipe!

Omelette

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Photo by http://wishfulchef.com

Okay, this one is easier than the spaghetti squash and it doesn’t involve opening any large, hard vegetables. I often forget how easy it is to make an omelette, but once I remember, I find myself eating these bad boys at least once a week. This is the ultimate, easy as pie dinner that fills you up with protein and veggies. Sauté whatever salad greens you have with some onion and garlic. Once fragrant, add to a bowl with two cracked eggs, and throw in whatever chopped veggies you desire. Throw on a skillet and fold over half way through cooking. VOILA. Doesn’t get easier than that!

Enjoy my friends. Eating healthy doesn’t always have to be hard!

Reflections

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The hangovers have (hopefully) subsided, afternoon naps have been taken and the champagne bottles are now empty. As I grow, it is always so amazing to me how quickly the first day of a new year rolls around. As we say hello to 2016 I find myself reflecting on what was one of the best years yet. A year ago today, I was in this exact same place, yet so many wonderful things were about to unfold over the next 365 days, some planned and some unexpected. 2015 saw a lot of change and some amazing much anticipated experiences- a big move and a big wedding. Of course, like many people, 2015 handed me some loss as well, and with this loss, a healthy reminder that even a perfectly planned year will never be perfect. However, when taking the time to reflect today sitting in front of a crackling fire surrounded by those I love, I find myself pondering over the unexpected events that shaped 2015 and the smaller day-to-day lessons that have made me grow so much in one short year. What stands out about the unexpected and the day-to-day in 2015 is all of the love that surrounded me as these experiences unfolded.

While I don’t know what the year ahead will hold and I of course have some goals and resolutions I want to reach and keep, unlike last year I am most excited for the unexpected- the large and the small- the notion that 2016 begins with nothing but possibility. It’s a little exciting, a little anxiety provoking perhaps, but mostly calming.

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What I do know is that no matter what happens, the love that has been given to me in 2015 and every year prior will continue to be here. I will foster that love, with myself, my husband, my friends and my family. I will hold on to that through the ups and the downs and rely on it at the core of any lessons that life throws me. I will spread it on the happiest days and perhaps more importantly, on the darkest of days as well. Whatever you do this year, do it with love. We don’t always know what will happen in a year, but if you hold on to that love through it all, you may just find that no matter what happens, you’ll end up where you want to be. And, if you’re as lucky as I am, you may find that you start the next year in the same place you started the year before. A year older, maybe a little bit wiser, but most importantly, surrounded by love.

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