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Whats SOOOO bad about CARBS?! part 1 of 3

I don’t think there is another dreaded food word these days! I get asked regularly, “Can I eat carbs?”  And my answer is always YES!! So why are they getting such a bad wrap, and why are people so afraid of them?

First of all, you have to remember that carbohydrates are ALL grown from the ground. That means that this macronutrient group includes all edible plant life. Grains, fruits and vegetables are ALL part of a healthy diet. It’s the amount you choose to eat based on the diet you prefer to follow that results in how much or little you should consume.

Today I want to focus just on grains, which are known as a starchy carbohydrate.

So many people are poo-pooing them, thinking they are the reason for weight gain. And this may be true, based on what form of grain you are eating, how much grain you are eating, and how much or little you exercise or move your body. Whole grain options are not bad for us. They contain a lot of goodness, including B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate), minerals (iron, magnesium and selenium) and fibre.

When you choose refined grains however, the fibre has been stripped from the grain so it will digest a lot faster, elevating your blood sugar level. Think along the lines of white bread, hamburger and hot dog buns, ethnic breads, pitas, wraps, and baked goods (as delicious as they are, they often are full of sugar for sweetness even increasing that blood sugar level more). The more processed a grain is the quicker it becomes sugar in our body…..and that my dear is where the problem lies….and will likely result in that unwanted weight gain.

When we look at whole grain, such as oats, quinoa, brown basmati rice, etc., we are consuming them in their natural form. We have to chew it, it has to digest, it still has its good nutrients and fibre, so provides benefits to your body including better bowel function and feeling full longer. Whole grains won’t harm us when eaten in the proper portion size, which I generally recommend ½ cup serving for most females and 1 cup for most males.

Whole grains will provide us with energy to do the activities in our day if we have them 1-2 times a day, based on personal activity level. So, here is how the average day flows for adults. We wake up, go to the washroom (50% sit down for this), go to the kitchen to sit and have coffee, eat breakfast or watch the news. We then either drive or take transit to work…sitting. We take our seat at our desk, have lunch sitting, sit at our desk for the remainder of the day, sit on our way home, sit to relax for a bit, sit to eat dinner, sit and watch tv, read or fiddle with our computer. WOW! That’s a lot of sitting, aka, not moving. When you have that little physical activity in your day and are consuming processed grains at most of your meals you can see how it results in weight gain. If you have a manual job and are walking, lifting and unloading all day long you can consume more. If you choose physical exercise most days in challenging ways, yes, you can consume more.

Think about your day. Consider your activity level. Ask yourself if your grain options are adequate to your lifestyle. What positive changes can you make to improve upon that? There is no perfect answer. You need to look and listen to your body. We are all different and have varying needs. Just remember, grain isn’t the enemy. It’s provided for us naturally. It’s up to you how you choose to use it.

Good Morning Sunshine!

Are you one of “those” people that just love getting up bright and early? Or at the very least, can function well as soon as they open their eyes?  Or are you rather the one who hits snooze 2 or 3 times, drags themselves out of bed with their eyes still closed, already thinking about how they can’t wait for the day to be over?

Not everyone is a morning person. Many people would love nothing more than 10 extra minutes of pillow time, and to smack every perky and chatty morning person they run into! Did you know that according to a recent study, 57% of people hit that snooze button? With over half of the population delaying the start of a fresh new day, it made me wonder what could be done to work on improving that?

Some people are so busy in their life that they know as soon as their feet hit the ground that they will be running all day, so why not stay in bed for a few extra minutes, right? To help be prepared for your early morning start, here are a few tips that might help give you five minutes of breathing space to sit and well, smell your coffee, or tea, before inhaling it on the way out the door.

Before all else, I start my day with a water. I have a bottle at my bedside that I take 10-12 gulps from as soon as my feet touch the floor. Starting to re-hydrate immediately sets me on the right foot right away!

  1. If you are a morning shower person, have everything ready for yourself. Fresh towel, face wash, toner, toothbrush. Do it all in the shower rather than deal with different sinks and taps. Look into a microfibre towel to wrap your hair in, as these soak up water faster, so your hair will dry quicker.
  2. Set your clothes out the night before. Even though my attire tends to be workout gear every day, I always have it set out, ready to go. Right down to the undergarments. Less thinking I have to do and last minutes digging in the dark the better! In fact, I set them down within reach of the toilet so I can get right to getting dressed.
  3. Set your breakfast up the night before. Whether that’s having your smoothie ingredients ready to go, or your coffeemaker pre-set and travel mug beside it, having your first foods and drinks pre-planned, even partially, will save you a minute or two. Have the blender ready with protein powder on the counter and banana beside it. Pre-boil some eggs so you can grab them out of the fridge. Make your oats the night before so you only have to re-heat them. All simple steps to making your morning easier.
  4. Pack your lunch and snacks the night before. I am a big believer in being prepared to succeed, so I do all my veggie prep and cooking on the weekend. I actually pack my lunches for two days in a row so I can save those extra minutes as well! So easy to do, such little time when everything is already out of the fridge. If re-heating foods in the microwave, make sure you pack in glass containers. Much safer for you than plastic.

So, there you go! A few tips to help you make your early morning time a bit easier. It’s up to you how you choose to spend the extra few minutes you have created. Hitting that snooze might still feel like the answer for you. Maybe it gives you time to set an intention for how you want your day to go. Or maybe meditate, journal your gratitude, watch the sun rise, do some stretching….or just sit and slowly inhale the aroma of your coffee or tea, and enjoy it down to the last drop.

Night Time Munchies

Let’s be real, we all have these moments of weakness. Whether its boredom, emotions or actual hunger, there are always going to be some nights where we just want to eat!

I totally understand the dilemma you are in! We’ve been told not to eat too much before going to bed. That ideally, dinner should be your last meal of the day, and not to snack after 7pm. But sometimes we are feeling a bit hungry as the clock ticks down the time to bedtime. Going to bed hungry might result in waking up during the night and not being able to get back to sleep. Eating something too heavy or too much might result in unsettled sleep as your body is digesting while it should be resting.

First of all, let’s look at the fact that it might not be food that your body is longing for. You might simply just be dehydrated.   Try first to have a glass of water or a cup of herbal tea. Wait about 20 minutes to see if that accomplished what your body was asking for. Another tried and true tip is to go brush your teeth. Most of us don’t like to eat or drink anything with freshly brushed and flossed teeth!

If neither of those tips cure you, try to look for something small and on the lighter side:

  • A piece of fruit with either a handful of nuts and seeds, or a thumb-size of cheese
  • A handful of nuts and seeds on their own, or simply a scoop of natural nut butter
  • ½ cup of plain yogurt or cottage cheese with added fruit
  • Some cut up raw veggies with hummus, tzatziki or mashed avocado
  • 1-2 tuna boats on a romaine lettuce leaf, or tuna salad with raw veggies
  • 5-10 shrimp dipped in seafood sauce
  • 1-2 boiled eggs
  • Small portion of crackers (Ryvita, Mary’s, etc.) with natural nut butter

Though not necessarily all perfect options, they all contain some protein, carbohydrate and/or good fat. The key is to keep your portion on the smaller side. Don’t take the bag of nuts or box of crackers out to your tv….this leads to mindless eating. Rather, put some on a small plate. It allows you better control.

What I strongly recommend is that you don’t go for anything with minimal nutritional value, or too heavy or large. This would include items such as:

  • Ice cream, frozen yogurt, chocolate, candy, etc.
  • Chips
  • Fried foods such as fries, onion rings, deep fried pickles, chicken wings/fingers, etc.
  • Burgers or hot dogs, pizza, subs, pitas
  • Nachos with salsa, sour cream, cheese and/or meat sauce
  • A larger plate of cheese and crackers

All of these are either loaded with sugar, bad fats or include lots of refined grains (white flour). All of this in your gut while you are trying to sleep is likely only going to stress out your digestion while it should be resting. It is key to give your body a break from foods during the night when possible. And while all this busy digestion is going on inside of you as you are sleeping, there is a really good chance your sleep will be disturbed as well. And not much feels worse than waking from a troubled night of sleep.

So, keep your snacks small, healthy and goal focused!

Living like a Vacuum cleaner

What does your vacuum cleaner do for you? Easy question, right? It cleans up messes and hold onto that mess until it can be properly disposed in the garbage. It does all this by sucking up every bit dirt, scraps and dust bunny that has settled onto your floors, stairs and furniture, along with any loose change or valuables that might have landed on those surfaces needing to be cleaned.

Life can be quite the same. We are busy in our day, doing our thing, when a situation arises that requires us to stop everything, change mental and physical gears, and clean things up. This can happen randomly, or numerous times a day. It can involve work, kids, your partner, parents, pets, and even ourselves. Every time we are forced to change gears we are using up precious energy. We so willingly give of ourselves, which is great, but we also then easily end up “sucking up” the “mess”, which often equates to stress, carrying it with us as we move forward, and that can be exhausting!

How do you handle those situations? Is it easy to jump from what you are focused on, do a quick switch of gears onto another task, and then back to your previous task? If you can, awesome! If you are like most of us, it eats away at our energy, just like the valuables that sometimes end up sucked into the vacuum cleaner because they fell onto the surface being cleaned up. All these bits of energy that we contribute to clean ups can easily begin to suck the life out of you, as a vacuum cleaner does.

Mindfulness is needed on how much energy we give up to the little, or big, crisis that are part of life, and how often we allow ourselves to be the person who has to deal with them. Even more important, how we learn to handle the associated stress that comes along with it. Do you release your stresses daily, or carry it with you until the weekend comes and you can dump it in the “trash”? And to go with that, how do you dump it? Does it get released in a way that is positive and mindful, or does it get to be so much that it becomes an even bigger mess for the person you dump it on to clean up?

No one wants to feel like their life has been sucked out of them. We all need avenues to let go of our stress. For some a rigorous run, bike ride or workout helps. For some its yoga, colouring or puzzles. Others prefer meditation, prayer, journaling or reading. It doesn’t matter what it is, it just matters that you have a positive way to let it all go.

 

Why go Holistic?

You are what you eat. Most people are aware of this. They may not like it, but it’s true. But there’s more to it than that. When it comes to food, you also are what you chew, digest, absorb and discrete. The reality is your body is made of cells. Those cells depend greatly on what nutrients you choose to put in your mouth, in the form of food and beverages, and how well your body breaks them down for optimal absorption. And, the quality of output matters too. Bottom line, your body is doing what it can to work well, but if you have been choosing low quality food, that’s what your body gets to re-generate itself with.

And what about your lifestyle? Are you over worked, stressed out, and not moving enough? These too have a massive effect on your quality of living. That’s a lot to consider! Often people just don’t know where to begin.

And that’s where someone like myself comes in. Holistic nutrition looks at your body as a whole. It recognizes that each of us are individuals, with specific needs. There is not one specific plan for all people. As a holistic nutritionist I look deeper than the foods you eat. I do an assessment of your body and lifestyle based on your symptoms, to discover what is out of balance, then set up a plan on how to improve that. Yes, it always will include foods, because your body requires it for fuel, just like your car needs gas, oil and antifreeze.

You will learn so much about the best ways to assist your body in breaking down your foods for optimal absorption. You will learn about bowel function, and how to insure a good “output” regularly. Other results you likely will experience are weight loss, increased energy, better sleep, better sex, acne, eczema and psoriasis might subside. Many experience reduced cravings and hunger. Others feel brain fog reduce and increased mental clarity. And to think….it all begins with what you choose to put in your mouth.

If you would like to know more about what I do and the services I offer, please check out my website at www.nutritionbyshirley.ca, email me at shirley@nutritionbyshirley.ca, or call 905-688-7447.

circle of friends

I’m lounging around on this Sunday morning, after a wonderful potluck dinner evening with friends. It was so amazing to hang out with everyone as being grounded in relationships with these wonderful people is such a blessing! The really cool thing is everyone who was here is connected to Jer and I, but not with each other. So, coming to our event brought a variety of people together that don’t really know each other too well. Yet, we all sat together to share a meal, glass of wine and some amazing conversations, discussion and laughter….and grow.

The relationships you build around you should feel like a blessing to you, relax and enlighten you. You likely have your core group that is you “go to” crew. You might share your deepest secrets or laugh until you cry with them. But there likely is your co-workers, your church or association friends, the single mom down the road, or the elderly gentleman who takes the same bus you do every day. All of these people need companionship just as you do. It doesn’t mean you are besties with all of them, but you can still be friends.

Imagine how boring the world would be if we only intertwined with those who are so much like us that we don’t even recognize what makes us unique anymore. It happens so easily. Growing up my siblings and I went to a school that was started and supported through our Dutch church community. It made sense, as all our parents’ families immigrated from the Netherlands after WW2. They felt a need to establish a set of values and education for their children. I totally get it. However, this meant that I went to school with the same kids from grade 1-12. There was barely a new kid in sight. And even more rare was a child of a different skin colour or ethnicity. We were encircled with so much of the sameness that at times it could feel limiting. A number of kids were bussed in from the country and didn’t really know life past their home, bus, church and school. One gal told me the day after her grade 12 graduation was so scary because she never knew life outside that realm. Her whole identity was wrapped up in it. At least I got to take the city bus and live in a neighbourhood where I connected with other kids. It gave me a small amount diversity, taught me that just because we were raised differently and had varying views, that we could still be friends and not need to dislike each other because we had differences.

I encourage you to do a quick review of who you connect with. Is there security within it? Great! We need our tribe, but do your friends and acquaintances hold mostly the same views you do? Maybe its time to go past that and stretch your boundaries a bit. Start looking where you can connect with a few new people who were raised differently, believe differently or have a different lifestyle than you do. Try and find a friend that challenges you. Makes you think outside the box. Sign yourself up to an art class, a running group or a book club where you don’t know anyone. Push your boundaries a bit and allow yourself to feel uncomfortable and challenged. Talk with people. Ask them questions, and really listen to their answers. Be willing to learn and be a bit vulnerable, because we learn so much from the people we grow with.

 

the rafiki moment

Yes! The Lion King Live is coming to a theatre near you in 8 months! I can’t wait! I’ve watched it on VHS with my niece and nephew, DVD with my kids, and even took my mom and daughter to see the live musical in Toronto….. I LOVE the Lion King! Just hearing and seeing it being announced on a news entertainment segment yesterday got my daughter and I excitedly talking about it.

Who’s your favourite character? So many will say Simba, Nala, Timon or Pumba. And trust me, they are all great. But for me, it’s Rafiki, the “creepy little monkey”, as Simba referred to him. He speaks so much truth to Simba. It’s awesome! As many of you know, he brings Simba on an emotional reality check back in time, a type of vision quest. He helps Simba see, that even though, as a young cub, some choices and comments were made that changed his life dramatically, he still has a journey and path to follow that can lead him to his role of leadership and family.

This was the best part! It always makes me think back over my life. Yes, I have made some awesome decisions! And in many ways my life is truly blessed. But, I have also made some questionable ones. They might not have been life altering, but they definitely had put me in a mindset of doubting who I am and what I can become. Do I deserve success? Am I good enough? Can I make my way back to the path where I can make a difference in other peoples’ lives? How about you? Are you destined to stay on your current path because any goodness you had is all part of your past?

Here is where Rafiki smacks Simba on the head with his Bakora staff, aka, his walking stick. Simba is obviously not impressed. Who would be? But Rafiki says that it doesn’t matter….because now that a few moments have passed, it’s all in the past. I love this part. I call it, “The Rafiki moment.” The past can hurt, but you can either run from it, or learn from it.

Facing our past can be difficult. Running from it often seems the easier thing to do. Making the decision to face it, work through it, grow from it and move forward can be heart wrenching, but so rewarding on the other side. I believe we were meant for greatness. Every one of us. I’m still learning this part too.

We weren’t meant to be small and just exist. We all had dreams, talents and passions when we were young. The great thing about your life is you get to be in charge of it. Look back a bit. Connect with that person you remember that longed for something. Go find it. Dig it up, work hard on it, and celebrate it! Be the person that the good Lord designed you and gifted you to be. Be completely you because you can!

what about bread?!

Bread….so good….but not always so good for you.  There are a few exceptions to this of course, such as sprouted grain breads, organic breads and non-grain bread options.

Sprouted grain breads are made from pretty much any grain, though the majority of them are sourced from wheat.  Sprouted grains have some health benefits. They are at their best when catching the sprouts during the germination process. This process breaks down some of the starch, which makes them easier to digest and it’s percentage of absorbable nutrients higher than regular grains. This occurs because the germination process breaks down phytate, a form of phytic acid that can decrease absorption of vitamins and minerals within the body. This results in more available nutrients than mature grains, including folate, iron, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and protein.

Organic breads are also made from a variety of grains. Regardless of the grain, if it’s made with white flour it’s going to cause a quick spike and drop in blood sugar. That is the reality, even if it’s organic. White breads contain little to no fibre to help slow down this reaction within you. When consuming organic, keep in mind the bread doesn’t contain the preservatives found in conventional bread, so it will not have the same shelf life. Organic breads tend to be a “bake or purchase” item that is consumed within the following 2 days, or it likely is already going stale. Organic grains are commonly more beneficial because of what they don’t have…fewer irrigation practices and no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides being used to support a bigger crop. A higher amount of significant nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants can be found in organic grains as well. Organic farming not only is beneficial in quality and safety of grain and grain-based products, but it also has a great impact on our environment.

Non-grain options, such as coconut, almond, farro and arrowroot flours all are gluten free. It can be a bit tricky working with these flours, as gluten is what gives flour its nice texture. I personally prefer to use these flours more for pancakes, muffins or little buns rather than breads. Gluten is the protein that sort of holds the bread together that is found in wheat, rye and barley. There are many people who need to stay away from gluten, as it can cause reactions ranging from digestive issues, constipation/diarrhea to headaches, joint aches/pains, fatigue, depression and anxiety. Some state it is the herbicide glyphosate, found in Roundup, which is made by Monsanto. This product is sprayed on grain crops, and might be triggering the issues people experience. Whatever might be causing it, if it doesn’t agree with you, be wise and don’t consume it.

Bread is an easy “go-to” for so many people around the world. Our Canada Food Guide recommends that adults consume 6-8 servings/day. To me that is way too much. I’m not going to argue whether bread can contain nutrients that our body can benefit from or not. Grains are a carbohydrate, and a starchy one at that, and it provides us with energy. I believe we don’t move enough in our lifestyle to consume that much grain. Most of us can likely get enough grain carbs from 1-2 servings/day. Whether we like it or not, grain is better consumed in its natural form, as a grain. Not always the most convenient way to eat it, but once it is processed and combined with other ingredients to become bread, or other baked goodies for that matter, it has lost a lot of its goodness, as now it has become a processed food.

I’m not saying don’t eat grains. I am saying, eat them wisely. Learn to listen to your body and examine how it responds to these foods. You truly are the best judge of what works for you, and what doesn’t.

when things go wrong….. as they some times will…..

Have you ever had your whole day planned out and your “to do” list ready to tackle, and then something happens? Maybe your child is sick, your basement floods, your password to your website doesn’t work, or the watermain breaks at your studio location and you have a full afternoon of clients…. Hopefully it’s only one thing that messes up your day, and not a few, as listed above.

It’s happening to me right now. Not sick kids or a flooded basement, but my password apparently requires “authentication” (where’s my business partner when I need him?), and we have a watermain break at the studio. I was thinking I would get computer work done at home before heading into the studio and a packed afternoon/evening with clients, which I might need to now cancel. I was stopped. Dead in my tracks. What do you do when this happens to you? Does this rattle you with irritation, or do you just move right along to the next best thing to accomplish?

I believe when life gives you lemons you can either make lemonade and roll with it, add a twist with a shot of vodka and switch gears, or stomp on that lemon and completely crush it.

If you feel like crushing it, find a way to take a few moments to re-group. This might be a perfect time for a bit of yoga, meditation, or to ponder a few things to be grateful for, in spite of the speedbumps you’re dealing with. Are you a person who needs to get rid of your “Grrrr”? Maybe grab a quick workout and pound it out in a run or interval strength training. You’ll likely feel so much better after!

Adding the bit of vodka might look a bit like changing your outlook for the day. If what you are doing can wait until tomorrow, maybe call up a friend or your mom and head to the mall to do some retail therapy or grab lunch together.

Or, keep it simple and drink the lemonade. I just read this morning that to reduce our stress around situations, we can choose how to act, or react, to the issue. Let’s face it, there are things that are out of our control, but we don’t need to let the issue control us. When allowing it to do so we get into that “fight or flight” reaction that only drains our adrenals, energy, and total outlook for the moment.  Why give it that much power? You might not be control of your whole day, your focus just had to change a little due to circumstance.

When we choose to react, it tends to be quick and with frustration. Not much gets accomplished this way. When choosing to act we can still get things done. Maybe not exactly what you were planning, but your day isn’t ruined, it’s just different than you envisioned. You might even find a hidden blessing or two tucked into the change….and those blessings are the best because they are unexpected.

time keeps ticking

Where does the time go? We all ask this when reflecting back on pictures, events and memories from days gone by, realizing in hind sight, that time is so precious. The reality is this moment right now is equally as precious. Moments of time that we give to family, friends, work, chores and hobbies, that all adds up to create how our days play out. What happens though when we want to do something different, like start to exercise, learn an instrument, join a book club or simply go to a movie, and we just don’t know where or how we are going to fit it in? We feel we just don’t have any time.

What if it’s not just about those minutes or hours? Time, in this reference, reflects on a moment or moments in the past, present or future, while energy actually reflects the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity. It’s easy to see how we may need to not only consider the moments we commit to something or someone, but also the energy required for us to truly take part. Depending on the situation, some events require less on actual moments of time, and greater amounts on the energy to take another activity on. How do you determine its worth to you? Is it time you are committing, or energy?

A few years back, while relaxing on my couch watching repeats of Seinfeld, I thought to myself that I needed to get off my butt and do some cardio. In spite of that, I was pretty content to keep watching tv. As one episode ended and the next one began, I realized the moments spent, as each one is 30 minutes. I asked myself, “What else could I do with this 30-minutes?” Whether it was the current episode I was on, or the next one, they all follow the same pattern so I really wasn’t missing anything valuable by turning the tv off and going for my run, so I did.

The next time I was out running with my gal pal and workout partner, we were struggling a bit to get through it, so intending to encourage us, I blurted out, “What else could you do with this 30-minutes?” This became her phrase to throw back at me on occasion, when my legs were tired and not wanting to keep pace. In this essence it was all about energy, as we had already committed the time.

Your commitment likely is different. It might not be about exercise, but rather committing to meal prep, putting in overtime, doing a girls’ night, or joining that bowling league. It’s your time and energy, not someone else’s, that is being spent.

So, again I ask, is it time you are committing, or is it energy? As your day or week fills up, are you spending your moments and energy on the things you truly need to? This is where we sometimes have to dig a bit to determine the value to ourselves and our souls. Choose wisely, create the boundaries needed to not overdue your time AND energy consumption. Always leave a little in the tank for yourself to allow to re-fuel and re-focus with whatever fills you.