Category Archives: Waistlines & Wellness

The Book of Awesome is Awesome!

Katerina ReadingOne of my favourite ways to escape the hustle and bustle of my every day life, is to read a book. Sometimes I will choose something educational and aligned with my career, but a lot of the time, I forego any resemblance of a literary masterpiece in favour of immersing myself in a plot only a girl could find enjoyment in. In my world, the Shopaholic and 50 Shades of Grey series along with pretty much anything written by Sophie Kinsella or Emily Griffin fit that mould nicely.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend gave me the wonderful gift of “The Book of Awesome” by Neil Pasricha. I started reading it, and I have to say, it has not only brought a smile to my face with every entry, it is making me look at my life and surroundings differently and with a greater appreciation for the little things.

In this book, Neil highlights some the awesomeness in some of life’s most little, obscure and often taken for granted things. And he does so with a colourful humour that you will be able to relate to. The entries are short and easy to digest allowing you take even 5 minutes to appreciate something about life’s general awesomeness.

I’m nowhere near the end of the book, but here are a couple of my favourite entries so far:

Wearing underwear just out of the dryer

Now tell me: is there anything quite so nice as wrapping yourself up in a pair of steaming skivvies just out of the dryer? It’s like skinny-dipping in a hot tub, jumping on a horse that’s been in the sun all day, and lying on a warm and sandy beach… combined! Sure, the moment doesn’t last long, yes, there may be some static cling, and it’s true, you’ll soon have to get changed really quickly in the laundry room to pull it off.

But dang, girl.

Hot undies, they is fine.

AWESOME!

Seeing a cop on the side of the road and realizing you’re going the speed limit anyway

Stress level goes up.

Stress level goes down.

AWESOME!

My appreciation for life’s general awesomeness today is the discovery that there are several books of awesome, and even an iPhone app! Check out www.1000awesomethings.com for more awesome things!

Have you found the awesome in today?

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Failing to prepare is preparing to fail…

Meal Prep Sunday

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We know that our diet is the single most important contributor to our ability to maintain a good physique. So even during the busiest of weeks, if we aren’t able to find time to exercise, ensuring we don’t binge or seek convenience food is critical.

Doing weekly meal prep is a great way to free up a lot of time during the week. I know it seems daunting and requires a lot of discipline, but it’s actually not as time-consuming as it might seem. I don’t know how many times I told myself I was going to do it… Even bought a crock pot cookbook to meal prep the easiest way possible but I fell off the wagon after one attempt.

I decided this year would be the year that I disciplined myself to prep food for the week, allowing myself the weekends for dining out with friends. I’ve been doing well thus far and sticking to my plan quite well. Pat on the shoulder for me. *PAT*

Sadly, one of the biggest motivating factors for me was the purchase of fabulous glass containers for the meal prep. If only everything in life came so easy.

So… pictured above is my meal prep from last Sunday. It took me a total of 1.5 hours to complete and resulted in snacks, lunch and dinner for the entire week. Here’s a quick breakdown of each meal.

BREAKFAST

  • Protein shake, or
  • Greek Yogurt, berries, almonds and almond butter, or
  • Organic Steel Cut Oats, berries, almonds and almond butter, or
  • Whole wheat sandwich thins, avocado, 2 scrambled or sunnyside eggs

MORNING SNACK

  • Grape Tomatoes and Cucumbers, or
  • Baby Carrots and Celery

LUNCH

  • Salad comprised of baby spinach, kale, green peppers, red peppers, strawberries and avocado
  • Protein of either 2 hard boiled eggs or tuna

AFTERNOON SNACK

  • Bounce Protein Ball (LOVE THESE! Especially the peanut butter one. It’s literally a ball of peanut butter. YUM!)

DINNER

  • Either backed Chicken breast or Backed Turkey Breast
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Corn
  • Quinoa

Some people find it boring to eat the same thing every day, and I admit I struggled with that too… But I infuse a lot of flavour with spices on the meat, trying a different combination for each piece resulting in a different flavour each night. Similarly, I cook my quinoa in chicken stalk and throw some spices in there for some flavour. And then I try a different sauce every night for additional variety.

Of course, knowing that I will treat myself over the weekend is also a nice motivator to stick to my plan.

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Farmer’s Market… Cheaper? or More Expensive?

Farmers Market in Skopje

Farmers Market in Skopje, Macedonia
(Click to Enlarge)

As a little girl growing up in Macedonia, one of my favourite memories has always been going to the local farmers market with my grandfather. It was always a lively place with friendly people who often gave me a free strawberry or piece of chocolate as my grandfather and I made our way up and down the isles. I can still smell the fresh bread.

In Toronto, we’re lucky to have a couple of farmers markets open year round, with many springing up in the summer months at shopping malls and city halls around the suburbs. As I have been focusing on improving my diet and eating organic, locally grown food, shopping at the farmer’s market has become part of my weekly ritual… Every Saturday, I grab my reusable grocery bags, my shopping list, pick up a Starbucks latte, and make my way to St. Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto.

Last weekend, for the first time, I was struck by how inexpensive my shopping trip was compared to what I had been spending at my local Loblaws Superstore. I got all the groceries pictured below for $58.18. Not only are all of them organic, they will last me for two weeks!

Farmers Market Groceries

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I decided to compare the prices with a few of the major grocery banners in Toronto, just to make sure my memory wasn’t off. I compared the total cost of purchasing all the items on my grocery list at St. Lawrence Market, Sobeys, Metro, Loblaws Superstore and Whole Foods.

Grocery List

Click to Enlarge

Here is what I found:

St. Lawrence Market        $58.18

Metro                                 $148.32

Sobeys                               $128.56

Loblaws Superstore         $136.89

Whole Foods                     $173.44

 

 

 

Based on this shopping list, I am saving over $1800 a year on groceries by doing my shopping at St. Lawrence Market! That’s a LOT of stilettos… And sweatpants… And maybe even a vacation…

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To cleanse…. or not to cleanse…

juicesIs it just me, or is there something about juice cleanses EVERYWHERE lately? The news, Facebook, Instagram… You name it!

I have to be honest, I’ve never really understood the benefits of these things. They seem short-term and a bit extreme for my liking. As one of my dear friends points out, chewing the food you’re eating is a large part of the satisfaction of the meal. I like it when my belly feels full, the food is tasty and I am satisfied for a few hours after. The only time I will “drink” a meal is a morning protein shake.

But I’ve been seeing information on detoxes and cleanses everywhere, so I thought, maybe I’m missing something… So of course, I did some research.

While there is a lot of contradictory information out there on whether to cleanse or not to cleanse, juice or not to juice, overall there are some benefits and some things to be careful about.

Benefits

It Actually DOES Cleanse! – Did you know that the average person holds 5 – 10lbs of toxic old matter in their intestines??? Feasting is the only way to get rid of it. Doing a juice cleanse gives your digestive system a break, allowing your body to use the excess energy to clean out old matter from your small intestine.

Rapid Nutritional Intake – Juice hardly requires any digestion. Nutrients get absorbed by your body incredibly quickly, leaving you feeling energized and rejuvenated.

Increased Vitamin and Mineral Intake – Let’s face it… We all struggle with getting the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables. A juice cleanse can help you to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables (and associated vitamins and minerals) you take in daily. You can pack a looooot of veggies in a juice glass!

Juicing Right

There are some potential risks with juice cleanses, so nutritionists say to keep an eye on a few things.

1)      Use Only Organic Fruits and Vegetables – There is an increased risk that you may consume unwanted chemicals if you’re juicing with non-organic, genetically modified produce.

2)      Watch Out for Chemical Pesticides – When you juice, any chemical pesticides will be ingested in much higher quantities. Most organic produce is treated with organic, natural pesticides, but not all. Make sure you double check.

3)      Don’t Exceed 3 Weeks – for best results, nutritionists recommend doing a juice only cleanse for no more than three weeks and then resuming a nutrition rich, clean and organic diet that incorporates fresh juices to amplify vitamin intake.

4)      Cleanses Are Best for Generally Fit People – While there are some weight benefits associated with doing one, if you’re overweight and considering a juice cleanse, speak to your doctor first. Most overweight adults have an unstable glycemic index making a juice cleanse a bit too extreme for their bodies.

What’s in your juice?

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When you’re trying to get fit, throw away the scale!

scale

“What???!! Not the scale??!!! What do you mean throw away the scale??!!”

This was my immediate reaction when I was first told this by a fitness guru friend. As someone who is obsessed with and motivated by measuring my performance against objectives, the idea of throwing out the scale when I’m trying to achieve certain fitness goals is like driving blind-folded.

But, as counterintuitive as it may seem, I have learned that it is definitely the best thing you can do for yourself. Next to making the decision to get fit, of course. Here’s why…

The Problem With The Scale

Fat and muscle weigh approximately the same; however muscle takes up less space. So it’s not uncommon for your weight to plateau or stay much the same as you begin your fitness regimen. You may even gain weight as you build more muscle than fat.

Then there’s the issue of water retention – a particular challenge for us women, especially during our cycle. This alone can make our weight fluctuate anywhere from 3 – 5 pounds.

Discouraging if you’re weighing yourself regularly, right?

Better Alternatives

There are plenty of better alternatives to measuring your progress against your fitness or weight loss goals.

  1. BMI or Body Fat Test – Most gyms will offer fitness tests to their members on an annual basis for a nominal fee – often even for free. This is a great way to measure your progress over time looking at the change in body fat percentage.
  2. How Your Clothes Fit – I don’t know about you, but the first way I can tell that my fitness regimen is working is by how my clothes fit. They start to feel loose and look more flattering. You can even use a pair of jeans that don’t fit to help you measure your progress.
  3. Visual Inspection – As I progress with my fitness plan, I often start to literally see my body looking tighter and more defined. It’s gradual, but oh so satisfying… Taking pictures throughout your progress is also a helpful way to see how your body is transforming.

How do you measure your progress against your fitness goals?

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The day of many vices…

20130424-212740.jpg
An integral part of maintaining a good balance in life is to treat yourself once in a while. Work hard, and play hard, as they say. Last Friday I bid farewell to the grey skies and frigid cold of Toronto in favour of the sunshine and warmth of San Francisco, California.

The past 5 days have been a wonderful treat to an otherwise busy and rather gruelling year. Spending time with incredible friends and taking in the sights has been really relaxing and therapeutic.

When on vacation, it’s easy to let your diet and exercise slide, so I made a concerted effort to stay active while here. I have gone running through wine country for 2 out of the 5 days I’ve been here and utilized the San Francisco hills for butt and leg sculpting the remainder of the time. By and large, I have been eating relatively healthy as well. Until today that is….

I have no idea what came over me, but today has turned into the day of many vices. I kicked off the morning with a wholesome breakfast of leftover pizza. Not having had the opportunity to try San Francisco’s famous sourdough bread, I followed this with a brunch of a sourdough turkey and avocado sandwich. For lunch, we were at Ghirardelli Square, so I thought… What the heck… A chocolate brownie sundae sounds like a great idea! So I had that for lunch… If you’ve never been to Ghirardelli Square and you find yourself in San Fran, you MUST go and have some dessert. It’s to DIE for and worth every calorie.

Following this, my friend and I headed to Pier 39 where, like good Canadians, we got comfortable on some Muskoka chairs and ordered fruity drinks complete with little umbrellas. We quickly attracted some wonderful people who were out for a work function. They joined us on the Muskoka chairs and promptly offered us a few drinks on the company. We’re not ones to refuse great conversation and free drinks with new friends, so two more fruity cocktails ensued.

Time flies when you’re having fun, so before we knew it, it was time for dinner. Off we stumbled to an Italian restaurant we had scoped out earlier. More sourdough bread with butter, olive oil and vinegar magically appeared on our table along with wine. Clearly I had to sample some before my spaghetti a la salmone arrived. It would be rude not to…

So within 12 hours, I consumed more carbs and sugar than I have eaten in at least 3 years. I would normally be feeling very guilty, but I am relishing in the glow of the wonderful tastes I sampled comforted by the fact that I have earned every calorie not just by walking the steep hills and climbing 800 steps throughout the day, but by all the hard work I have put in over the past year. Soon, vacation will be over and I will be back to the grind of work, the gym and my own carbless cooking. So for now, I am treating myself. Because I deserve it.

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Homemade Nutella – Gluten Free & Dairy Free

Nutella JarDear Nutella

I want to smother you on everything… You make me think late night binges are the best idea ever. You comfort me during “that time of the month” like nothing else can (not even Midol). I’ve eaten you by the spoonful despite adamant protests by my butt, thighs and stomach.

You are by far my longest relationship ever – my childhood sweetheart… And every attempt to break up with you has left me longing for more and inevitably reuniting with you over a piece of toast and a glass of milk.

But the time has come for us to both be better versions of ourselves… Leaner and healthier, but with all the personality ever.

Sincerely,

Katerina

Homemade Gluten Free Dairy Free NutellaYep… Growing up in Europe has resulted in a bit of a Nutella addiction. Ok… A MAJOR Nutella addiction. I’ve tried to kick the habit, but it seems to be ingrained in my DNA. So… I decided to try deconstructing the recipe, replace some ingredients with healthier options and hopefully reduce the saturated fat, sugar and calorie content. Without sacrificing the flavour of course…

Tall order, right? Well… I tried and am quite happy with the result. It was not only really quick and easy, it’s also Gluten Free and Dairy Free. You’re welcome.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups of raw whole hazelnuts

1 can of light organic coconut milk

½ cup of organic coconut sugar

¼ teaspoon sea salt

10 oz 100% chocolate (or if you don’t have a dairy intolerance, you can use 70% chocolate)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  1. Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes. You know they are done when the shells look lightly toasted and fill your house with that yummy hazelnut fragrance.
  2. In a medium pot, heat coconut milk, coconut sugar and salt on medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved into the milk. Set aside.
  3. In a double boiler, melt the dark chocolate and set aside.
  4. When hazelnuts have been toasted, lay them on a clean, damp towel and gently rub them to remove most of the skin.
  5. Place the hazelnuts in your blender or food processor (I use my Ninja) and process them until they are extremely fine.
  6. Add in melted chocolate and mix until you achieve a smooth texture.
  7. Add coconut milk and sugar mixture and mix again until all the ingredients are completely incorporated and smooth.
  8. Pour into a jar, let cool and spread all over everything in your fridge. Yum!

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Spice up Your Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut SquashWhether it’s a bone chilling rainy day or a frigid winter afternoon, nothing warms my soul more than a cup of home-made roasted curry butternut squash soup. I absolutely love the rich flavour and the curry spice kick. It’s extremely quick to make and comes with a whole host of health benefits.

Butternut squash is low energy density, which means it offers tremendous nutrients without a lot of calories. It’s also rich in dietary fibre and phyto-nutrients and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol, making it highly recommended by dieticians for controlling cholesterol and weight loss.

Here is my quick, delicious recipe that is sure to warm you up on a chilly day.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Medium Sized Butternut Squash
  • 1 Large Onion diced
  • 1 Litre of Organic Free Range Chicken Broth
  • 3 table spoons of curry powder
  • 1 table spoon of nutmeg
  • 1 table spoon of cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Roasting the Butternut Squash

  1. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise
  2. Place it on a foil lined baking sheet cut side up
  3. Bake for 50 minutes
  4. Scoop the butternut squash into a bowl and set aside

Preparing the Broth

  1. In large pot, brown the diced onion and curry powder
  2. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil

Putting it all Together

  1. Add scooped butternut squash and boil for 20 minutes
  2. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes
  4. Blend well using a food processor or blender (I use my Ninja. Because I love the name. )
  5. Let cool, serve and enjoy!

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Weight gain after 30… The top 3 reasons and how to beat it

I have been athletic my whole life; if I wasn’t doing layback spins, I was running like the wind, trying to hit a homerun or spiking volleyballs. Although my weight has always fluctuated somewhat, I used to be able to think about losing weight and make it happen. By and large, I have successfully maintained the same dress size for over 10 years.

Then I turned thirty and everything changed. I went up 2-3 dress sizes seemingly overnight. Ok… I was doing my MBA, working a demanding job that involved a lot of travel and adjusting to a move back to the big city. Life was crazy! Surely this was the reason. I was just reliving my Frosh 15. As soon as school finished, I’d be right back to where I was.

Well… School has been out for over a year, and I’m still struggling to drop one more size. And getting to where I am has been extremely challenging. Much more challenging than ever before! I had heard of this “weight gain after 30” phenomenon, but I was sure it wasn’t going to happen to me. Sharing my challenges with friends and colleagues has revealed that they too have been dealing with the same issues.

So, the past few months, I have made it my mission (I may have become a little obsessed) to better understand the reasons behind weight gain over 30 and how to manage it effectively. I have read countless books and articles, spoken with nutritionists, doctors and other healthcare professionals and learned from other women who have successfully managed through this challenge.

I know what you’re thinking… It’s all about hormones. They are the cause of the slowdown in our metabolism. I thought that too. But I quickly came to the sobering realization that, unless you’re dealing with thyroid challenges, hormones only play a small role in this. Everything else is about living a balanced lifestyle.

THE TOP THREE CAUSES OF WEIGHT GAIN AFTER 30

Reason 1: Busy Lifestyle

When we hit 30, most of us are at the top of our career trajectory; working long hours, sitting behind a desk all day and eating catered food at important business meetings. In addition to this, many of us are facing major life changes – buying our first homes, moving in with our partners, getting married or starting families. Balancing all this leaves very little time for healthy and nutritious meals and exercise – both of which are increasingly more critical to maintaining a healthy weight after 30.

How to Beat It:

  • Give up unnecessary commitments and make more time for YOU
  • Make Sunday a cooking day and make as much snacks, lunches and dinners as you can to free up some time during the week
  • Use the time this frees up to add regular exercise to your routine and protect this time as much as possible
  • Engage in active social activities with friends and loved ones or your kids

Reason 2: Increased Stress

With a busy lifestyle comes increased and chronic stress. Chronic stress produces the stress hormone cortisol which not only slows down metabolism, but makes it more difficult to shed unwanted weight. In addition, prolonged stress can cause changes in your blood sugar levels that could result in hyperglycemia or metabolic syndrome, which significantly impair your metabolic functioning. Plus the stress can cause us to eat unhealthy foods. How many of us turn to cookies, chips or wine to help reduce some of the stress? Guilty!

How to Beat It:

  • Yoga is a great way to relieve stress and remain centered through life’s toughest challenges
  • Try having bubble baths at night to help you unwind from your busy day. If you’re married or in a relationship, this can also be a nice way to spend time with your partner and infuse romance into your relationship
  • Go for a manicure and/or pedicure, or treat yourself to a spa day. Doing something nice for yourself will automatically enhance your mood and give you the recharge you need to get through whatever is on your plate.

Reason 3: Inadequate Sleep

Our busy lifestyle and stress often leads to inadequate sleep. We have so much on our plate, we`re staying up late and getting up early just to keep up. And when we do sleep, it`s poor quality sleep. We`re reliving the stressful day we had, thinking about all that needs to be done tomorrow, etc. Lack of sleep also produces hormones that impede the proper functioning of our metabolism. Plus we`re taking in more calories we realize through the consumption of caffeinated drinks and sugary treats for that boost of energy to get us through the day.

How to Beat It:

  • Use fruits for sustained energy boosts during the day
  • Avoid caffeine after 2pm
  • Aim to exercise 5 hours before you go to sleep to optimize the quality of your sleep
  • Aim for 7.5 hours of sleep a night

How you do you manage your weight?

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Feeling stressed about the fact that you’re stressed?

Statue of Bouddha

I don’t know about you, but I’m always running a mile a minute. Stress is such a common aspect of my life, that I barely notice it anymore. And when I do, it’s more of a nuisance than the trigger for self-preservation that it should be. So I frequently ignore the warning signs and plow through life, determined not to let it get the better of me. But inevitably, it does… I hit a wall and quarantine myself for a few days to recuperate before repeating the cycle over again.

I was talking about this to a friend recently and through our conversation, it hit me… We cannot avoid stress; we cannot control or ignore it. But we can manage it effectively. The key is to pay special attention to our emotions or stress indicators, and treat them as a signal that something in our life is out of balance. Then determine what that is and address it in order to re-center.

Here are some stress management tips that may help you feel better and less stressed each and every day:

  • Accept that you cannot control everything and just let go – Easier said than done, I know… But breathe through it, imagine setting it sail on a paper boat in the ocean – whatever you need to do in order to relieve the anxiety and just let it go.
  • Maintain a positive attitude and outlook – It’s easy to get caught up in thoughts like “Nothing ever goes right”, “why does this always happen to me”, etc. Try to catch these thoughts in their tracks and reframe them with “I’m doing my best”, “How can I get some help” and just go into problem solving mode rooting yourself in the belief that a solution exists and you will find it.
  • Take a breather – if you’re starting to feel the stress bubbling up, stop what you’re doing and go for a walk. Take deep breaths and force yourself to smile. You will feel the stress dissipating immediately.
  • Set aside daily “Me Time” – I indulge in bubble baths just about daily. I find the warmth and candle light incredibly soothing and have come to view them as a reward for a job well done through the day. Find something you like doing and that gives you a sense of peace and relaxation and do it every day.
  • Get enough sleep! – Sleep is the single most powerful way to manage stress. If you are well rested, you accomplish more, maintain a positive attitude and persevere through difficult situations much more effectively.
  • Exercise regularly – Ok… I admit I’m bad at this one. I do better when I schedule workouts with friends or through organized sports. But since learning that about myself, I ensure I have a team sport at least once if not twice a week to make sure I get out there. And I always try unique exercise trends and try to make them into social affairs.
  • Eat healthy – I know… It’s hard to make nutritious meals all the time. I have used that excuse a million times… But if it only takes me 1 hour on a Sunday to prepare my lunches for the week and stick them in the fridge. And sometimes, I make some stews and crock pot recipes that I can freeze in single serve portions throughout the week. It is possible…
  • Get Social! – Nothing is more therapeutic during a stressful time, than spending time with loved ones that lift your spirits, can help you trouble shoot problems and just make you feel loved and supported amidst the craziness that life can be sometimes.

And if all else fails, pour yourself a glass of wine, snuggle up on the couch and escape reality for a while with a solid chick flick.

What are your stress management secrets?

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