Category Archives: Recommendation

Isolation living

Our daily in life in Canada changed very suddenly a couple weeks ago with the closing of schools and businesses. Having seen the lockdown that happened in China a couple months ago, it seemed implausible that we would see such restriction of freedom here in North American with our cultural norms being so different. Then I saw the news of lockdown for friends in Italy and started to learn that there is no discrimination for a virus. This is a global issue that will be resolved most effectively with the cooperation of humanity as a collective whole.

The field of health and wellness involves connecting with and being around groups of people. Traditional chinese medicine which I’m about to start practicing involves physical touch for diagnosis. It is a real adjustment to learn and accept that work I know as essential to being healthy is considered a health risk at the moment. All human contact is viewed as a potential health risk for now. What effect will this have on our psyche?

How do we cope with our world being so suddenly disrupted? Surely, we will be distracted on some level and we need to find a way to bring ourselves back to balance. The best way to optimize emotional, mental, physical balance and health is to focus on what is within our control. Top priority being how we utilize our time. Depending on our field of work and family situation, we may be busier than usual, adjusting to working from home or completely out of work with time on our hands. For all situations, we need to own our time and cultivate acceptance for the present moment.

Here are some mindful habits I recommend to feel more at peace at this uncertain time:

  • Practice meditation daily, any form for any length of time. I’ve made it a habit to start and end the day with meditation with additional short pieces at sunset and 3 minutes at 9pm daily to join in a collective meditation with friends around the world.
  • Prioritize sleep. With a pandemic illness circulating around the world and no treatment available, the defence is to be as strong and healthy as you can. Sleep is crucial to having optimal health and wellness.
  • Limit how the amount of news or social media you consume as it can affect your emotional/mental well being and focus. I decided to stay away from one form of social media and notice feeling much less agitated.
  • Get into a consistent hand washing habit and sanitize your smart phone and computer keyboard with alcohol wipes frequently
  • Maintain healthy eating habits-drinking water, eating veggies and fruit daily, minimizing caffeine intake, and moderate alcohol intake
  • Get fresh air and physical activity daily. We have limited access to fitness facilities at the moment and we’ll need to be creative with the resources and space we have. A yoga mat is sufficient to practice yoga, some weights, gliders, tubing, anything that works in your space for strength training.
  • Most importantly connect with family and friends any way we can, practice gratitude together and reflect on how fortunate we are to be Canadian and we are all in this together with the world.

Healthy Eating On Holiday

It’s been a week of fun in the sun with my good friend and fellow fitness professional K here in Jamaica. We taught fitness classes and enjoyed some amazing food…all included! Being fitness professionals we need to stay in shape, so I’ll share my strategies for eating all you can within reason for the sake of being healthy:

-The buffet is your friend for healthy eating with the most choice of healthy foods- prepared vegetables and fruit. Take the great variety of food as a visual meditation to see which foods you will most enjoy for that meal.

-Make it your plan to have one plate of food with an additional plate for dessert or extra food you like.

-Your main plate, start with your choices for veggies first, then add your choices of carbs and protein to create your own custom meal.

-Take time to thoroughly enjoy your meal, then check in to see if you are still hungry. If so, get some more food, otherwise take a breather and enjoy another course.

-I love desserts, so that is always on my list at a buffet. Depending on the size of the treats, I choose one or two pieces and enjoy with some fruit at the end of a meal. Papaya and pineapple contain digestive enzymes to help digest food.

-Be sure to get some exercise in between enjoying all the delicious food

Exercise Intensity: the cult of sweat

Teaching more group classes I notice January can bring more people into the gym in developing a new habit of exercise. Exercise is a lifelong habit I believe in wholeheartedly. Last week I came to the conclusion I have a passion for exercise and physical education that can be humorously described as belonging to the ‘cult of sweat’.

There seems to be a general trend to ‘high intensity’ exercise which led me to look further at the research and various programs that are widely available. It seems the concept that short, high intensity interval workouts produced more ‘results’ of fat loss has been accepted as a most effective workout to achieve an ideal body composition and overall fitness.

‘High intensity’ exercises require you to utilize most major muscle groups of your body and some of the movements can be complex compound movements. For example, a ‘burpee’ requires a pushup, squat, moving into a plank, jump to a squat and vertical jump. Many new and seasoned exercisers need work to improve any of the above mentioned movements and the emphasis on ‘intensity’ allows for poorly executed movements.

There is no magic bullet to being fit and healthy. It requires commitment and regular practice to have exercise as a part of your lifestyle. Being fit, which I will define as being able to perform a variety of physical activities and movements requires BOTH cardio vascular and strength training. HIIT workouts can only be performed well once you have the fitness to sustain physical activity at a higher heart rate AND have developed the basic strength movement skills of squats, planks, pushups, lunges, etc.

Make it your goal to keep yourself healthy and moving well with a variety of exercise you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy exercise, you still need to move regularly to be healthy and maybe one day you will enjoy it.

The Best Pizza in Toronto

My bestie Kathryn and I love pizza. We have eaten a lot of pizza in our time around the world. She knows a pizza blogger and we’ve decided we need to share our pizza picks. We are qualified pizza connoisseurs because we’re living the dream when we eat pizza by a pool with Taylor Swift blaring. This project became more serious last year when we conducted a pizza taste test and were surprised to learn that Blaze pizza, a chain from the US was a real winner with their spicy sauce. Since then we have tried a few pizzas and here is our list so far, which will be updated as we try more pizza. 

  • 1. Blaze Pizza (150 John St)-We are huge fans of Blaze pizza for the spicy sauce, the gluten free crust option, and all the toppings you can choose for yourself. The pizzas are made to order and are thin crust deliciousness. 
  • 2. General Assembly Pizza (318 Adelaide St W)-This pizza is a winner with a light, thin, slightly chewy crust made to order from a menu of interesting topping combinations. The kale salad is excellent. 
  • 3. Via Mercanti (188 Augusta Ave)-Italian style pizza with just the right amount of chew that tastes homemade and professional, like nonna would make. 
  • 4. Farm Boy (1005 Lakeshore Boulevard E)-makes a pretty tasty cauliflower pizza for people on restricted carbohydrate diets. I was willing to eat this pizza and it was more than acceptable-good news!

Restful Sleep

As a traditional chinese medicine practitioner in training, natural wholistic health(lifestyle) is integral to the treatment approach. Having been in the field of health and fitness for 19 years this week, I learned many years ago that sleep is hugely important to being truly healthy. Sleep is a healthy habit that requires daily practice. Sleep restores your body and mind-it needs to be a priority. For many years I have advised people that quality sleep comes before the ambitious start to exercise first thing in the morning. It is also easier to make healthier food choices with better sleep. Sleep, exercise and nutrition are 3 pillars of being healthy.

Sleep has had much more air time in the field of health information in recent years. What actually happens with a person’s sleep is a different story, as sleep is a subjective experience. Here are my views on what quality sleep is:

  1. Falling asleep easily in a relaxed state
  2. Staying asleep with possible waking for urination
  3. Waking up feeling energized and well rested 7-8 hours later

This is the sleep standard I strive for. There are plenty of nights that are below this standard, and I keep practicing. Being able to manage your emotions and daily stressors is helpful to relaxing at the end of a day and letting go to fall asleep. Staying asleep and/or falling back asleep easily is a condition that I find traditional chinese medicine to be extremely helpful for. Waking up feeling energized, I find comes naturally with the habit of regular exercise, and being enthusiastic about life. Well rested, the science shows 7-8 hours of sleep is needed for optimal health. Consider it a required investment of 7-8 hours to start the day on the right track, so you can live well.

Observing your thinking

I taught yoga on Easter Sunday this year. I mentioned the idea to watch our thinking, as we can easily be carried away and fall into extreme forms of thought. I told a story of attending a church away from home and being questioned harshly that I apparently did not conform to their proclamation of accepting Jesus. Then I made a light hearted remark-here we are at the cult of yoga.

Having been in the field of fitness, health and wellness for over 18 years, I have seen various trends. Sometimes the trend easily becomes a form of entrenched belief so that people feel the need to convert others. Diet is the most obvious cycle of trends that people get caught up with and start insisting others follow their thinking. Forms of exercise with rigid programs dictate that movement must be performed in a certain way. Yoga can be an example of this with some forms of yoga being based on a very rigid, extreme routine.

After I made my comment on the cult of yoga, various articles came into my consciousness this week which highlighted the potential and existence of abuse in rigid practices of yoga. Being a yoga teacher, I felt disappointed to learn of this abuse in the community. I believe a way to prevent this type of cult following is to always be observing our thinking. 95% of our actions and thinking is unconscious, so it is a real daily practice to become more conscious of our behaviour and thinking. With consciousness and education, we are much more capable of thinking for ourselves. Add mindful meditation to thought watch, and we can have more peace within ourselves. The practice of yoga first and foremost is practicing being peaceful-

Healthy Eating at the Buffet

I was at a wonderful all inclusive resort last week in Rose Hall Montego Bay teaching fitness and enjoying some sunshine. I was planning on giving a quick nutrition talk on healthy eating on vacation and at the buffet, however the plans were changed. I still gave the talk plenty of thought and wish to share it here.

All you can eat buffet, does that mean we should eat all we can? The short answer is no it is not a good idea to eat all that you can. Food is for nourishment and enjoyment. Our body is rebuilt on a daily basis, so we need food as fuel. Eating excessive quantities of food essentially causes illness when there is too much food for your system to digest. There is a spectrum of how much food our appetite and bodies can handle. Ever notice how special occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving can prompt us to eat extra? A buffet is a similar concept with even more choice and more volume of food. At an all inclusive resort, we have the privilege to choose just about anything we want. That’s the first concept to keep in mind, it is a privilege to have access to such a vast quantity of food, so the first rule is to minimize waste.

The most appealing aspect of a buffet is the huge variety and choice there is. I recommend taking a walk around the entire food selection and noting what seems most appealing to you. Often the desserts appeal most to me, which is something I have loved since childhood. A sweet childhood memory is going to look at the desserts right away and plotting out which ones I would try first.

Once you have taken it all in, carefully select the foods the have the most appeal to you. I like trying many different dishes, so I partake in a few bites of many things. I find inspiration in learning new flavours and cooking techniques. In addition, make yourself a proper meal that has a mixture of protein, fat, carbohydrates and most importantly, vegetables with the selection that is available.

There was one day that I tested out the possibility of eating all that I could, so I ate a bit extra. I noticed my appetite decreased the next day and then I continued to stick with the concepts I mention here for the rest of my holiday. I did manage to put on a pound or two even with daily exercise. An all you can eat buffet is a lesson in self mastery with a little self discipline.

Now is the time for workouts

At a cycle class I taught last week just after American Thanksgiving, I shared that now is the time to be extra serious about workouts. We all enjoy some extra food and drink during the upcoming festive season. Being sure to make time for exercise is an important step to staying healthy. This way January is a fresh new year without any major work such as weight loss required.

In other words the best weight loss program is prevention. Many life changes/circumstances can result in weight gain. However, the holiday season is an easily avoidable situation if we carve out the time to keep up with workouts, eating healthy while not at celebrations, and getting high quality sleep. Yes, you will skip some workouts. My recommendation is to maintain the greater majority of your activity level. For example, if you usually are active or work out 20 times/month, make a commitment to yourself to do at least 15 workouts in December. This is Making Life Good formula for enjoying the holidays and staying in shape. Cheers!

Vivian’s downtown Toronto lunch picks

After a cycle class recently at the Toronto Athletic Club I found myself stepping in and giving food recommendations to an out of town guest who needed some healthy food soon. That gave me the idea to share my picks for lunch in the downtown core.

My favourite spot is the hot table at Mcewan for the variety of absolutely delicious food. It is the best self serve hot/cold bar I have tried yet. I like to fill a box with whatever catches my fancy. Their jerk chicken is the best! I much prefer getting there before 12pm, as the selection is best with a shorter line to pay. As  lunch hour goes on, the selection dwindles.

TD Centre 66 Wellington St W http://mcewan.mcewangroup.ca

I have really enjoyed Greenbox ever since it was introduced to me by a friend this summer. The grab and go boxed salads are delicious. I also enjoy the variety of bowls they serve. The recipes are developed by the owner and I recently tried the hazelnut energy ball, all very good!

200 University Ave https://greenboxexpress.ca

Assembly Chefs Food Hall is another interesting option. Think of it as a food court with great food. Little Dailo is always a good choice

111 Richmond St W https://www.assemblychefshall.com

Forno Cultura has the most delicious cookies and sweets(I love the pistachio amaretti and apricot pastry) The grab and go sandwiches are hearty and tasty

First Canadian Place 100 King St W https://www.fornocultura.com/#first-canadian-place

I also enjoy Copper Branch as an option for tasty vegan food. The fries are particularly good here.

199 Bay St https://eatcopperbranch.com

Live From Daryl’s House

Attending the Daryl Hall and John Oates concert this month was a major source of inspiration. I joined a dear friend and her mom to enjoy music they have been long time fans of. I knew some of the music of Daryl Hall and John Oates having owned their Essential double cd for many years. She’s Gone was a favourite on first listen and they mention in the album jacket that the song is the finest they wrote together.

Before the concert, I took the time to watch Behind the Music and discovered many interesting things most important being the internet show Live From Daryl’s House. The claim was the duo have benefitted more that any other 80s act from the internet. This piqued my curiosity and clips of the show were aired at the concert as well. In addition, Daryl Hall formed a friendship with Pat Monahan of Train as a result of the show and are touring together, performing songs together.

I got on my computer the next day and checked out http://www.livefromdarylshouse.com

The show is so brilliant in how it showcases creative collaboration and musical talent new and old I couldn’t stop watching and wondered where I had been the past decade to miss it!! I have always been interested in music and even more so now that I’m teaching indoor cycle regularly. For many years now I have felt that most pop music I hear on the radio is made in a lab and I prefer older music. Live from Daryl’s House is a statement that music made by humans together is very much alive and appreciated.

What has inspired me the most from my journey into the musical world and story behind Daryl Hall and John Oates is the unwavering dedication they each have to their craft. Here I am celebrating 18 years of being in the field of health and wellness and I aspire to continue and dedicate myself for the rest of my life. We all need to make our music in making life good-